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The
Works
of
Anna Lætitia Barbauld.

With a Memoir
by Lucy Aikin.

“Bright-eyed Fancy hovering o’er Scatters from her pictured urn Thoughts that breathe and words that burn.”

in two volumes.
vol.volume II.

Boston.
published by David Reed.
18261826.

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Cambridge:
University Press—Hilliard & Metcalf.

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1(1)r

Correspondence.

1(1)v 1(2)r

Correspondence.

To Dr. Aiken.

Dear Brother,

To my sister and yourself, Mr. Barbauld and I have
a request to make, in which, though perhaps it may
be rather singular, we are very seriously in earnest;
and therefore, whether you grant or deny, we hope
you will neither laugh at us nor take it amiss. Without
further preface, it is this. You enjoy a blessing
Providence has hitherto denied to us,—that of children:
you have already several, and seem very likely
to have a numerous family. As to ourselves, having
been thus long without prospect of any, it is, to say
the least, very uncertain whether that hope, which
most I believe form when they marry, will ever be
fulfilled. Some, indeed, say to us, that considering
how large a family we have of others children, ’t is
rather fortunate we have none of our own. And true
it is, that employed as we are in the business of
education, we have many of the cares and some of
the pleasures of a parent; but the latter very imperfectly.
We have them not early enough to contract
the fondness of affection which early care alone can
give; we have them not long enough to see the fruit
of our culture; and we have not enough the disposal 1(2)v 4
of them to follow our own plans and schemes in their
education. We wish for one who might be wholly
ours: and we think that if a child was made ours by
being given young into our hands, we could love it,
and make it love us so well, as to supply in a great
measure the want of the real relationship. We know
there are many instances of people, who have taken
the greatest satisfaction in, and felt the highest fondness
for, children who by some accident have been
thrown upon their arms. Why then should not we
seek out and choose some object of such an affection?
and where can we better seek it than in a brother’s
family?

Our request then, in short, is this: that you will
permit us to adopt one of your children; which of
them, we leave to you;—that you will make it ours
in every sense in which it is possible to make it,—
that you will transfer to us all the care and all the
authority of a parent; that we should provide for it,
educate it, and have the entire direction of it, as far
into life as the parental power itself extends. Now
I know not what to say, to induce you to make us
such a gift. Perhaps you will entirely deny it; and
then we must acquiesce: for I am sensible it is not a
small thing we ask; nor can it be easy for a parent
to part with a child. This I would say, from a
number, one may may more easily be spared. Though
it makes a very material difference in happiness
whether a person has children or no children, it makes,
I apprehend, little or none whether he has three,
or four; five, or six; because four or five are enow
to exercise all his whole stock of care and affection.
We should gain, but you would not lose. I would
likewise put you in mind that you would not part with
it to strangers; the connexion between you and it
would not be broken off: you would see it (I hope,) 1(3)r 5
hear of it often; and it should be taught to love you,
if it had not learnt that lesson before. Our child must
love our brother and sister. Its relation to you is
likewise a presumption that we shall not be wanting in
that love for it, which will be necessary to make it
happy. believe both Mr. Barbauld and myself
are much disposed to love children, and that we
could soon grow fond of any one who was amiable
and entirely under our care. How then can we
fail to love a child, for whom at setting out we shall
have such a stock of affection as we must have for
yours? I hope, too, we should have too right a sense
of things to spoil it; and we see too much of children,
to indulge an over-anxious care. But you know us
well enough to be able to judge in general how we
should educate it, and whether to your satisfaction.
Conscience and affection, I hope, would unite in inciting
us to fulfil an engagement we should thus
voluntarily take upon ourselves, to the best of our
abilities.

Our situation is not a certain one, nor have we long
tried it; but we have all the reason in the world to
hope that if things go on as they have hitherto done,
we should be able to provide for a child in a decent
and comfortable manner.

Now, my dear brother and sister, if you consent,
give us which of your boys you please: if you had
girls, perhaps we should ask a girl rather; and if we
might choose amongst your boys, we could make
perhaps a choice;—but that we do not expect you
will let us. Give us, then, which you will; only let
him be healthy, inoculated, and as young as you can
possibly venture him to undertake the journey. This
last circumstance is indispensable: for if he were not
quite young, we should not gain over him the influence,
we could not feel for him the affection, which would 1* 1(3)v 6
be necessary; besides, if at all able to play with our
pupils, he would immediately mix with them, and
would be little more to us than one of the schoolboys.
Do not, therefore, put us off by saying that
one of yours, when he is old enough, shall pay us a
visit. To see any of yours at any time, would no
doubt give us the highest pleasure; but that does not by
any means come up to what we now ask. We now
leave the matter before you; consider maturely, and
give us your answer.

O no! I never promised to fill this second sheet.
Good bye to you.

To Dr. Aikin.

You have given us too much pleasure lately, not
to deserve an earlier acknowledgement. I hope you
will believe we were not so dilatory in reading your
book, An Essay on the Application of Natural History to poetry.—
Editor.
as we have been in thanking you for it. It is
indeed a most elegant performance; your thought is
very just, and has never, I believe, been pursued before.
Both the defects and beauties which you have
noticed are very striking, and the result of the whole
work, besides the truths it conveys, is a most pleasing
impression left upon the mind from the various and
picturesque images brought into view. I hope your
Essay will bring down our poets from their garrets
to wander about the fields and hunt squirrels. I am
clearly of your opinion, that the only chance we have
for novelty, is by a more accurate observation of the
works of Nature, though I think I should not have 1(4)r 7
confined the track quite so much as you have done
to the animal creation, because sooner exhausted than
the vegetable; and some of the lines you have quoted
from Thomson, show with how much advantage the
latter may be made the subject of rich description.
I think too, since you put me on criticising, it would
not have been amiss, if you had drawn the line between
the poet and natural historian; and shown how
far, and in what cases, the one may avail himself of
the knowledge of the other,—at what nice period that
knowledge becomes so generally spread, as to authorize
the poetical describer to use it, without shocking
the ear by the introduction of names and properties
not sufficiently familiar, and when at the same time it
retains novelty enough to strike. I have seen some
rich descriptions of West Indian flowers and plants,—
just, I dare say, but unpleasing merely because their
names were uncouth, and forms not known generally
enough to be put into verse. It is not, I own, much
to the credit of poets,—but it is true,—that we do
not seem disposed to take their word for any thing,
and never willingly receive information from them.

We are wondrous busy in preparing our play, The
Tempest
; and four or five of our little ones are to
come in as fairies; and I am piecing scraps from the
Midsummer Night’s Dream, &c., to make a little
scene, instead of the mask of Ceres and Juno. We
have read Gibbon lately, who is certainly a very
elegant and learned writer, and a very artful one.
No other new books have we yet seen,—they come
slow to Norfolk,—but the Diaboliad, the author of
which has a pretty sharp pen-knife, and cuts up very
handsomely. Many are the literary matters I want
to talk over with you when we meet, which I now
look forward to as not a far-distant pleasure.

We will come and endeavour to steal away Charles’s 1(4)v 8
heart, before we run away with his person. Adieu!
Heaven bless you and yours.

To Miss Dixon, afterwards Mrs. Beecroft.

I have long been determined to seize the first
moment of leisure to write to my dear Miss Dixon;
but leisure is one of those things of which I enjoy
the least, so I am at length determined to write without
it. By the way, do you know the pedigree and
adventures of Leisure?

She was born somewhere amongst the Chaldean
shepherds, where she became a favourite of Urania;
and having been instructed in her sublime philosophy,
taught men to observe the course of the stars, and to
mark the slow revolution of seasons. The next we
hear of her, is in the rural mountains and valleys of
Arcadia. In this delightful abode her charms made
a conquest of the god Pan, who would often sit whole
days by her side, tuning his pipe of unequal reeds.
By him she had two beautiful children, Love and
Poetry, the darlings of the shepherds, who received
them in their arms, and brought them up amidst the
murmur of bees, the falls of water, the lowing of
cattle, and the various rural and peaceful sounds with
which that region abounded. When the Romans
spread the din of arms over the globe, Leisure was
frightened from her soft retreats, and from the cold
Scythian to the tawny Numidian could scarcely find
a corner of the world to shelter her head in. When
the fierce Goth and Vandal approached, matters were
still worse, and Leisure took refuge in a convent on
the winding banks of the Seine, where she employed 1(5)r 9
herself in making anagrams and cutting paper. Her
retirement, however, did not pass without censure, for
it is said she had an intrigue with the superior of the
convent, and that the offspring of this amour was a
daughter named Ennui.

Mademoiselle Ennui was wafted over to England
in a north-east wind, and settled herself with some of
the best families in the kingdom. Indeed the mother
seldom makes any long residence in a place without
being intruded on by the daughter, who steals in and
seats herself silently by her side.

I hope, however, my amiable friend is now enjoying
the company of the mother, without fear of a visit
from the daughter, whom her taste and liveliness will,
I am sure, ever exclude from her habitation.

To Miss Dixon.

Thanks to my dear Miss Dixon for her frank and
affectionate letter. A thousand good wishes attend
her; but as I hope to breathe them soon from my
lips, I shall spare my pen a task to which it is not
adequate.

You have rejoiced my heart by allowing me to
hope that we shall still see you at Palgrave before
the important event takes place. If you had not
acknowledged that you were going to be married,
I should naturally have concluded it from your saying
you have not time to read Cecilia. Not time to read
a novel!—that is so grave!—Nay, if I had not known
you, I should have supposed you had been actually
married a dozen years at least. But you must read Cecilia, and you must read Hayley’s poem, and you
may read Scott’s poems if you like, and at least you
must look at the plates, &c.

1(5)v 10

To Dr. Aikin.

It is a real concern to me that I could not write
to you from London…Let me now then begin
with telling you, that we two, Miss B――, and one
of our boys, got safe to Palgrave this afternoon. And
now for the first time, Mr. Barbauld and I experienced
the pleasure of having something to come home for,
and of finding our dear Charles in perfect health and
glad to see us again; though wondering a little, and
rather grave the first half-hour. Well, and what have
you seen, you will say, in London? Why, in the first
place, Miss More’s new play, which fills the house
very well, and is pretty generally liked. Miss More
is, I assure you, now very much the ton, and moreover
has got six or seven hundred pounds by her play:
I wish I could produce one every two winters; we
would not keep school. I cannot say however, that
I cried altogether so much at Percy, as I laughed at
the School for Scandal, which is one of the wittiest
plays I remember to have seen; and I am sorry to
add, one of the most immoral and licentious;—in
principle I mean, for in language it is very decent.
Mrs. Montague, not content with being the queen of
literature and elegant society, sets up for the queen of
fashion and splendour. She is building a very fine
house, has a very fine service of plate, dresses and
visits more than ever; and I am afraid will be full as
much the woman of the world as the philosopher.
Pray, have you read a book to prove Falstaff no
coward? I want to know what you think of it: the
present age deals in paradoxes. A new play of
Cumberland’s, and another of Home’s, are soon to
come out. Charles’s little book is very well, but my
idea is not executed in it: I must therefore beg you 1(6)r 11
will print one as soon as you can, on fine paper, on
one side only, and more space and a clearer line for
the chapters. Prefix, if you please, to that you are
going to print, the following “Advertisement.This little publication was made for a particular
child, but the public is welcome to the use of it. It
was found that amidst the multitude of books professedly
written for children, there is not one adapted to
the comprehension of a child from two to three years
old. A grave remark, or a connected story, however
simple, is above his capacity, and nonsense is always
below it; for folly is worse than ignorance. Another
great defect is the want of good paper, a clear and
large type
, and large spaces. Those only who have
actually taught young children, can be sensible how
necessary these assistances are. The eye of a child
and of a learner cannot catch, as ours can, a small,
obscure, ill-formed word, amidst a number of others
all equally unknown to him. To supply these deficiencies
is the object of this book. The task is humble,
but not mean; for to lay the first stone of a noble
building, and to plant the first idea in a human mind,
can be no dishonour to any hand.”

To Dr. Aikin.

You are a pretty fellow to grumble, as my mother
says you do, at my not writing! Do not you remember
when you sent a sheet of Charles’s book, you
said you did not mean the line you sent with it for a
letter, but would write soon; so that by your own
confession, you are in debt to me. Charles bore a 1(6)v 12
part in our examination, by repeating a copy of verses
on the boy who would not say A, lest he should be
made to say B: and we, let me tell you, deserve great
praise for our modesty and self-denial, in not making
a parade with his Greek, for he could have repeated
an ode of Anacreon. But notwithstanding this erudition,
a few English books will still be very acceptable.

We are just returned from Norwich, where we
have been so much engaged in dinners and suppers,
that though I fully intended to write from thence, and
began a letter, I really could not finish it. The heads
of all the Norwich people are in a whirl, occasioned
by the routs which have been introduced amongst
them this winter; and such a bustle with writing cards
a month beforehand, throwing down partitions, moving
beds, &c. Do you know the different terms?
There is a squeeze, a fuss, a drum, a rout; and lastly,
a hurricane, when the whole house is full from top to
bottom. It is a matter of great triumph to me, that
we enjoy the latter for ten months in the year.

To Dr. Aikin.

Well, my dear brother, here we are in this busy
town, nothing in which (the sight of friends excepted)
has given us so much pleasure as the balloon which is
now exhibited in the Pantheon. It is sixteen feet one
way, and seventeen another; and when full (which
it is not at present) will carry eighty-six pounds.
When set loose from the weight which keeps it to the
ground, it mounts to the top of that magnificent dome
with such an easy motion as put me in mind of Milton’s
line, “rose like an exhalation.” We hope to see
it rise in the open air before we leave town. Next to 2(1)r 13
the balloon, Miss B. is the object of public curiosity;
I had the pleasure of meeting her yesterday. She
is a very unaffected, modest, sweet and pleasing
young lady:—but you, now I think of it, are a Goth,
and have not read Cecilia. Read, read it, for shame!
I begin to be giddy with the whirl of London, and to
feel my spirits flag. There are so many drawbacks,
from hair-dressers, bad weather, and fatigue, that it
requires strong health greatly to enjoy being abroad.
The enthusiasm for Mrs. Siddons seems something
abated this winter. As the last season was spent in
unbounded admiration, this, I suppose, will be employed
in canvassing her faults, and the third settle her in
her proper degree of reputation.

To Dr. Aikin.

My dear brother,

We arrived at Palgrave yesterday. I much wished
to have written again from London; but I could not
get further than half a letter, which was therefore
committed to the flames. Bating the circumstance of
being greatly hurried, we spent our time very pleasantly
in London, and had a great deal of most agreeable
society. Our evenings, particularly at Johnson’s,
were so truly social and lively, that we protracted
them sometimes till…But I am not telling tales.
Ask ―― at what time we used to separate. Our
time, indeed, in London was chiefly spent in seeing
people: for as to seeing sights, constant visiting and
the very bad weather left us little opportunity for any
thing of that kind. There is a curious automaton
which plays at chess. His countenance, they say,
is very grave and full of thought, and you can hardly Vol. II. 2 2(1)v 14
help imagining he meditates upon every move. He
is wound up, however, at every two or three moves.
The same man has made another figure, which speaks:
but as his native tongue is French, he stays at home
at present to learn English. The voice is like that of
a young child.

We spent two very agreeable days at Mr. ――’s.
We saw there many Americans, members of the
congress, and plenipos. We were often amused with
the different sentiments of the several parties in which
we passed the day. At Mr. Brand Hollis’s, the
nation was ruined; notwithstanding which, we ate
our turkey and drank our wine as if nothing had happened.
In the evening party there was nobody to be
pitied but the poor king: and we criticised none but
Mrs. Siddons. It is impossible, however, not to be
kept awake by curiosity, at learning the extraordinary
manœuvres and rapid changes that have happened
lately. Do you know that at two o’clock on the day
the Parliament met, Mr. Pitt had not received his
return; so that Mr. Fox had almost begun the debates,
before Pitt knew he was even a member!

To Dr. Aikin.

Let me begin with telling you, what you have
some reason to complain of me for not having told
you before, that we are very well. Mr. B. has begun
to eat his dinners; and we smile upon the year,
as the year begins to smile upon his. We propose
going to Birmingham this vacation, and we understand
Oxford and Daventry are in the way; so that we
hope a great deal lies before us, to please the eye and 2(2)r 15
touch the soul of friendship: but busy must we be
before we have earned our vacation.

What do you think of the behaviour of our great
ladies on the present election? I thought the newspapers
had exaggerated: but Mr. ―― says, he himself
saw the two Lady ――’s and Miss ――’s go
into a low alehouse to canvass, where they staid half
an hour; and then, with the mob at their heels offering
them a thousand indignities, proceed to another.
These he mentioned as unmarried ladies, and therefore
less privileged. The Duchess of ――, Mrs. ――,
and many others, equally expose their charms for the
good of the public.

Have you got Hoole’s Ariosto? We are reading
it; but think the translation, except in a few passages, wonderfully flat and prosaic: the adventures are entertaining,
however.

To Dr. Aikin.

“Fair stood the wind for France When we our sails advance; Nor now to trust our chance Longer would tarry…”

It is not very fair neither, for there is scarcely
wind enough; but what there is, is in our favour.
We are just got here, and a packet sails to-night, so I
suppose we shall go in a few hours; for the night is
the most beautiful, the most brilliant, that ever rivalled
day. The moon, which is nearly full, illuminates the
majestic chalky cliffs, the stately Castle, and the
element we are going to trust ourselves to. The
views about Dover are very bold and very beautiful.—
But let me give a regular account of ourselves. From 2(2)v 16 London we had the good fortune to take part of a
chaise to Dover with Dr. Osborn. He is a most entertaining,
agreeable companion; and we never had
a more agreeable journey, especially to-day, for yesterday
it was rainy, and we did not get into Rochester
till nine at night; consequently lost in a great measure
the windings of the silver Medway. But to-day
was uniformly fine; and greatly delighted we were
with the view of Chatham, Stroud, and Rochester,
from a hill just above the town, which we walked up.
The Medway makes a fine bend here. The hoppickers
were at work as we went along, but not with
their usual alacrity; for the late storm has blasted
them to such a degree, that twenty thousand pounds
worth of damage, they say, is done. The country is
beautifully variegated all the way, and has many fine
seats; among which Sir Horace Man’s was pointed
out. From this rich inclosed country you come to
the open downs, more grand and striking. The first
view of Dover castle is noble; and still more finished
that of the town, which we saw from Dr. O.’sOsborn’s house
where we dined. It has the castle on one side, hills
on the other, a valley between (in which is the town,)
and the sea beyond. I think we shall hardly see more
beautiful scenes in France. We here took leave of
our last English friends.—I forgot to say we took a
hasty peep at the venerable cathedral of Canterbury,
to which I would at any time willingly go a pilgrimage
—though not barefoot.

To Dr. Aikin.

Dear brother,

I wrote letters from Calais and from Troyes, the
contents of which have, I hope, been communicated 2(3)r 17
to you. From Troyes we proceeded to Dijon by a
road so delightful, that I strongly wished my sister
and you could have been with me,—a wish, which I
cannot help forming, though a vain one, whenever
any object particularly pleasant presents itself. During
the greatest part of this road we had the full view of
the Seine, which we traced upwards to within half a
league of its source, and saw it grow less and less,
untwisting, as it were, to a single thread. The valley
in which it ran was narrow, of a beautiful verdure,
and bounded by hills of the most gentle ascent, covered
with trees or herbage: cattle of all sorts, among
which were several flocks of goats, were feeding in
sight. The road often ran upon the ascent; and we
saw the river, sometimes bordered with trees and
sometimes fringed with grass or rushes, winding beneath
in the most sportive meanders,—for we saw
and lost it nine times from one spot. The scene was
in general solitary; but if we came to a spot particularly
pleasant, it was sure to be marked by a convent,
the neatness of which, (generally white,) added to
the beauty of the scene. After we had lost the
Seine, we came to the Val de Suson, a still more romantic
place, and very like Middleton Dale, only that
the rocks were richly covered with trees. Through
the first part of this valley runs the river Suson; the
rest is still narrower, and between high rocks.

At Dijon we delivered our first letter of recommendation,
which introduced us to M. de Morveau, a
man of great merit, who was avocat-général, but has
quitted his profession for the sake of applying himself
to philosophical studies, and chiefly chemical. He
writes all the chemical articles in the New Encyclopedie.
He esteems Dr. Priestley, Dr. Black, and
Mr. Kirwan, to be the chief men in England in the
philosophical way. M. de Morveau was one of the 2* 2(3)v 18
first who ascended in a balloon. He showed us their
Academy, which is one of the first provincial ones.
The Palais des Etats in Dijon is the finest building
in it; the front of it forms one side of a very handsome
square, and the wings extend much beyond it.
It is adorned with statues and paintings by the pupils
of the drawing-school. From the tower, on which is
an observatory belonging to this building, is a charming
view of the country: the hills of Burgundy covered
with vines; the rivers of Ouche and Suson,
which encircle the town; and the town itself, which
is large though not very populous. In our way from
Dijon to Dole we saw more of the vintage than we
had hitherto done,—and a gay scene it is, though I
must confess my disappointment at the first sight of
the vines,—which are very low, and nothing like so
beautiful as our apple-trees. They say they have
more wine this year than they can possibly find vessels
to put it in; and yet the road was covered with
teams of casks, empty or full, according as they were
going out or returning, and drawn by oxen whose
strong necks seemed to be bowed unwillingly under
the yoke. Men, women, and children were abroad:
some cutting with a short sickle the bunches of grapes;
some breaking them with a wooden instrument; some
carrying them on their backs from the gatherers to
those who pressed the juice; and, as in our harvest,
the gleaners followed. From Dole we should have
gone directly to Besançon, but were induced to strike
out of the road, to visit the grottes stalactites of Auxcelles,
to see which we crossed in a ferry the river
Doux, a fine stream with banks beautifully wooded,
and got into a place most wild and solitary, through
such terrible bad roads, that what we thought would
have been the affair of a few hours, detained us there
the whole night: the grotto, however, repaid our 2(4)r 19
trouble. Had you been there, you would have seen
it with a more philosophical eye, and have told us
how the continual dropping of waters through those
rocks, forms those beautiful petrifications, which when
polished, as they sometimes are, have the lustre and
transparency of crystal. But it required only eyes,
to be struck with the view of a vast subterranean
running through a whole rock, which had the appearance
of a most magnificent Gothic church;—tombs,
images, drapery, pillars, shrines, all formed without
much aid from fancy, by nature working alone for
ages in these long and lofty caverns. We walked in
it, I believe, about two furlongs, and it might be another
to the end. Besançon is by far the best town
we have seen; the streets are long and regular, the
hotels of the chief inhabitants, palaces for princes, and
the public buildings noble. But you would have been
most struck with the hospital, managed in all the internal
part by those good nuns Les Hospitalieres, with
such perfect neatness, that in a long chamber containing
thirty-five beds, most of them full, there was not
any closeness or smell to be perceived. The beds
were of white cotton, and by each bed a table and
chair. Some of the nuns were attending here; others
in the dispensary making up medicines; others in
the kitchen making broths, &c.: and all this they do
without salary, and many of them are of good families.

Noyon, --10-13Oct.October 13th.—I could not finish my letter
time enough to send it from Besançon, which gives
me an opportunity to tell you in brief that we are got
to within a stage of Geneva, and are now sitting in a
room which overlooks the delightful lake. We were
too late last night for Geneva, as they shut the gates
at half-after-six, and open them for no one. We
hope to get there this morning, and to receive letters 2(4)v 20
from you, which my heart longs for. I have only to
tell you further, that I have seen the Alps,—a sight
so majestic, so totally different from any thing I had
seen before, that I am ready to sing Nunc dimittis.

Tell me in your next how long you have been sitting
by a coal fire. We have had no fire, but twice
or three times a little in the evening, since we set
out; and in the middle of the day the heat has been
very strong. I suppose, however, we shall find it
colder at Geneva.

And so much in French; which, though it begins
to be easier for me, is still to me, either in writing or
speaking, like using the left hand; and I now want the
language the most familiar to me, the most expressive,
that with less injustice to my feelings, I may thank you
for your charming letter. It is not necessary for you to
travel in order to write good verses; and indeed to say
truth, in the actual journey many things occur not altogether
so consonant with the fine ideas, one would wish
to keep upon one’s mind. The dirt and bustle of inns,
and the various circumstances, odd or disgusting, of a
French diligence, are not made to shine in poetry.
I shall, however, keep your exhortation in mind; and
when, to complete the inspiration, I have drunk of the
fountain of Vaucluse, which we are going to do, if the
Muse is not favourable, you may fairly conclude I no
longer possess her good graces. From Lyons we
took the diligence d’eau down the Rhone to this place,
a voyage which in summer, and in a vehicle more
neat and convenient, would have been delightful. But
we had incessant rain for two of the days; and the
third, though bright, was very cold, with a great deal
of wind; so that we did not reach Avignon till the 2(5)r 21
morning of the fourth day. The Rhone is rapid all
the way; but at Pont St. Esprit particularly so, insomuch
that many passengers get out there: we did
not. The Rhone has high banks all the way, or
rather is inclosed between hills, covered in many
places with vines and pasturage, in others pretty barren.
Near St. Esprit begins the olive country. This
was the first time we had been in a public voiture; it
is a very reputable one, and yet you cannot conceive
the shabbiness and mal propreté of the boat.

We are now in a land of vermicelli, soup, and macaroni,
—a land of onions and garlic,—a land flowing
with oil and wine. Avignon is delightfully situated;
the Rhone forms two branches here, and incloses a
large fertile island. The Durance (another fine river,
at present so overflowed that it is not passable,) joins
the Rhone some way below the town. The churches
here are numerous, highly adorned, and have several
good paintings. The streets are darkened with cowls
and filled with beggars; drawn here, they say, by the
strangers,—for the people are no ways oppressed by
the government, the revenue to the pope hardly
paying the expenses. We are not yet, however, in
the climate of perpetual spring;—like an enchanted
island, it seems to fly from us. All along the course
of the Rhone there are cold winds. Lyons is disagreeable
in winter, both with fogs and cold. At Geneva,
every body had fires and winter dresses before
we left it; and Avignon, though much warmer, is not
enough so to invite us much abroad, or permit us to
dispense with fires. To-morrow we set off for Orange,
and from thence shall go to Lisle, perhaps to Marseilles;
but where we shall spend these next two
months, we have not yet determined. May you and
my dear sister spend them with health and pleasure
in that dear society, where our hearts perpetually 2(5)v 22
carry us, and to which we hope to return with inincreased
affection!

I forgot to tell you that all the people speak patois
to one another, though they speak French too; and
when we landed, the people who came about us to
carry our things, had absolutely the air of demoniacs,
with their violent gestures and eager looks, and their
coarsest exclamations at every second word.

To Miss E. Belsham, afterwards Mrs. Kenrick.

My dear Eliza has desired me to write to her during
our tour. She could not have put me upon an
employment more agreeable to myself, for I am continually
wishing those I love in England could share
the pleasure we receive, by the new scenes and objects
which are continually passing before our eyes;
and though I can give you but a very inadequate idea
of them, it will be without any drawback from fatigue,
bad inns, dirt, and various other &c.’s which may be
put on the opposite side when the travelling account is
balanced. We landed at Calais, --09-18Sept.September 18th, and you
may wonder that we have as yet only reached Geneva;
but Mr. B.Barbauld from kind regard to my health, and
indeed the convenience of us both, thought it best to
make short stages; besides which, we have stopped
wherever there were churches or fine things to be
seen. One very agreeable ornament of the towns
abroad, which in England we are strangers to, is their
fountains, the more pleasing as they connect public
utility with a degree of magnificence. They excel
us likewise in public walks, and in every fortified town
the ramparts alone afford very fine ones.

We find ourselves very happy at Geneva; and if 2(6)r 23
the season was not so far advanced, should like to
spend a month or two here: indeed we have been
singularly fortunate, for Mr. B.Barbauld has found out a family
of relations here, of the name of Rochemont, very
amiable and respectable people; and the society here
in general seems easy, sprightly, and literary. English
is much understood, and very tolerably spoken by
many. The town is still divided into parties, and one
side will tell you that Geneva is no longer what it
was, that it has lost its liberty, and every thing worth
living for; and thus far is true, that the government
is become entirely aristocratical, and is at present so
strict, that half a dozen people cannot have a weekly
meeting at each other’s houses, unless they choose to
declare they keep an open tavern. The situation of
Geneva, as you well know, is delightful. I am just
returned from an excursion to the mountain of Saléve,
within a league of the town; from whence on one
side you have a view of Geneva, with its lake of the
purest blue, a large plain between the chain of Mount
Jura
and that of the Alps, cultivated like a parterre,
and full of villages, country houses and farms, watered
by the Arve, which meanders through it in the
most sportive manner, making several islands, and
beyond Geneva falls into the Rhone. The vintage is
not here got in, so that the vineyards are still in their
beauty. On the other side Saléve, the mountains
open upon you in all their grandeur. Mr. B.Barbauld is gone
to the Glaciers, to feast his eyes with a nearer view
of these stupendous mountains; but I thought the expedition
beyond my strength, and I am during his
absence in a family of Genevois, who are very good
kind of people.

Will you hear how they pass the Sunday at Geneva?
They have service at seven in the morning, at
nine, and at two; after that they assemble in parties 2(6)v 24
for conversation, cards, and dancing, and finish the
day at the theatre. Did not you think they had been
stricter at Geneva, than to have plays on the Sunday,
especially as it is but two or three years since they
were allowed at all? The service at their churches
is seldom much more than an hour, and I believe few
people go more than once a day. As soon as the
text is named, the minister puts on his hat, in which
he is followed by all the congregation, except those
whose hats and heads have never had any connexion;
for you well know that to put his hat upon his head,
is the last use a well-dressed Frenchman would think
of putting it to. At proper periods of the discourse,
the minister stops short, and turns his back to you, in
order to blow his nose, which is a signal for all the
congregation to do the same; and a glorious concert
it is, for the weather is already severe, and people
have got colds. I am told, too, that he takes this
time to refresh his memory by peeping at his sermon,
which lies behind him in the pulpit.

Nobody ought to be too old to improve: I should
be sorry if I was; and I flatter myself I have already
improved considerably by my travels. First, I can
swallow gruel soup, egg soup, and all manner of soups,
without making faces much. Secondly, I can pretty
well live without tea; they give it, however, at Geneva.
Thirdly, I am less and less shocked, and hope
in time I shall be quite easy at seeing gentlemen, perhaps
perfect strangers, enter my room without ceremony
when I am in my bedgown. I would not have
you think, however, I am in danger of losing my
modesty; for if I am no longer affected at some
things, I have learned to blush at others; and I will
tell you, as a friend, that I believe there is but one
indecency in France, which is, for a man and his wife
to have the same sleeping-room. “Est ce votre chambre, 3(1)r 25
madame, ou celle de M. votre époux?”
said a
lady to me the other day. I protest I felt quite out of
countenance to think we had but one.

It is time to leave Geneva, for I see from my window
the tops of Mount Jura, which are already covered
with snow; and we have had a vent de bise so
severe, that I have been confined to my chamber, it
is now the sixth day, with a very painful swelled
face.

To Dr. Aikin.

Health to you all—poor mortals as you are,
crowding round your coal fires, shivering in your
nicely closed apartments, and listening with shivering
hearts to the wind and snow which beats dark
December! The months here have indeed the same
names, but far different are their aspects; for here I
am sitting without a fire, the windows open, and
breathing an air as perfectly soft and balmy as in our
warmest days of May; yet the sun does not shine.
On the day we arrived here, the --12-055th of December, it
did; and with as much splendour and warmth, and
the sky was as clear and of as bright a blue, as in our
finest summer days. The fields are full of lavender,
thyme, mint, rosemary, &c.; the young corn is above
half a foot high: they have not much indeed in this
neighbourhood, but from Orange to Lisle we saw a
good deal. The trees which are not evergreens have
mostly lost their leaves; but one sees every where
the pale verdure of the olives, mixed with here and
there a grove, or perhaps a single tree, of cypress,
shooting up its graceful spire of a deeper and more
lively green, far above the heads of its humbler but
more profitable neighbours. The markets abound Vol. II. 3 3(1)v 26
with fresh and dried grapes, pomegranates, oranges
with the green leaves, apples, pears, dried figs, and
almonds. They reap the corn here the latter end of
May or the beginning of June. The gathering of the
olives is not yet finished: it yields to this country its
richest harvest. There are likewise a vast number of
mulberry-trees, and the road in many places is bordered
with them; but they are perfectly naked at
present. Marseilles is, however, not without bad
weather. The vent de bise, they say, is penetrating;
and for this last fortnight they have had prodigious
rains, with the interruption of only a few days; so
that the streets are very dirty and the roads broken up.
But they say this is very extraordinary, and that if
they pass two days without seeing a bright sun they
think Nature is dealing very hardly with them. I
will not, however, boast too much over you from
these advantages; for I am ready to confess the
account may be balanced by many inconveniences,
little and great, which attend this favoured country.
And thus I state my account.

  • Advantages of Travelling.
    • A July sun and a southern breeze.

    • Figs, almonds, &c. &c.

    • Sweet scents in the fields.
    • Grapes and raisins.
    • Coffee as cheap as milk.
    • Wine a demi-sous the bottle.

    • Provençal songs and laughter.

    • Soup, salad and oil.
    • Arcs of triumph, fine churches,
      stately palaces.
    • A pleasant and varied country.
  • INTERNAL ERROR. Please report to wwp@neu.edu that cb is unmatched.
  • Per Contra.
    • Flies, fleas, and all Pharaoh’s
      plague of vermin.
    • No tea, and the very name of
      a tea-kettle unknown.
    • Bad scents within doors.
    • No plum-pudding.
    • Milk as dear as coffee.
    • Bread three sous the half-penny
      roll.
    • Provençal roughness and scolding.No
    • beef, no butter.
    • Dirty inns, heavy roads, uneasy
      carriages.
    • But many, many a league from
      those we love.

3(2)r 27

From Avignon (whence I wrote to you last) we
went to Orange, where we were gratified with the
sight of an arc of triumph entire, of rich architecture;
and though the delicacy of the sculpture is
much defaced by time, it is easy to see what it must
have been when fresh. There is likewise a noble
ruin of an amphitheatre built against a rock, of which
you may trace the whole extent, though the area is
filled with cottages. These were the first remains of
antiquity of any consequence I had seen, and they
impressed me with an idea of Roman grandeur.
Orange is a poor town, but the country is green and
pleasant, and they have all country houses. When
the principality came under French government, it
was promised that they should have no fresh taxes
imposed; but peu à peu, say they, taxes are come.
They had salt springs which more than supplied them
with that article;—they are forbidden to work them.
They grew tobacco;—now, if any one has more than
three plants in his garden, he is punished. From
Orange we went to Lisle. In the way we stopped
at Carpentras, where we were shown another arc
of triumph, over which a cardinal, the bishop of
Carpentras, built his kitchen; very wisely judging
that nothing was more worthy to enter through an
arc of triumph, than a noble haunch of venison or
an exquisite ragoo. Lisle is a small town, very
pleasant in summer, because it is surrounded with
water; and still more noted for its neighbourhood
to the source of that water, the celebrated fountain
of Vaucluse.

During the few fair days we have had, the warmth
and power of the sun has been equal to our summer
days: it is truly delightful to feel such a sun in
December; to be able to saunter by the shore of the
Mediterranean, or sit on the bank and enjoy the prospect 3(2)v 28
of an extensive open sea, smooth and calm as a
large lake. It is likewise very pleasant to gain an
hour more of daylight upon these short days. However,
though the middle of the day is so warm, in the
mornings and evenings a fire is acceptable, I must
confess.

The Marseillians value themselves upon being a
kind of republic, and their port is free: the lower
rank are bold and rude; the upper, by what I hear,
very corrupt in their manners. There are 30,000
Protestants: their place of worship is a country house,
which they have hired of the commandant himself.
They meet with no molestation, and hope from the
temper of the times that they shall ere long have
leave to build a church. The minister is an agreeable
and literary man, and is very obliging towards us;
his wife has been six years in England, and speaks
English well. Her family fled there from persecution;
for her grandfather, (who was a minister) was
seized as he came out from a church where he had
been officiating, by the soldiers. His son, who had
fled along with the crowd and gained an eminence at
some distance, seeing they had laid hold on his father,
came and offered himself in his stead; and in his
stead was sent to the galleys, where he continued
seven years. L’honnête Criminal is founded on this
fact. Besides this family we have hardly any acquaintance
here, nor are like to have. We have,
however, been two or three times with the Chanoines
de St. Victor
, who are all of the best families of
France, as they must prove their nobility for 150
years. They are very polite and hospitable, and far
enough from bigots; for we were surprised to find
how freely to us they censured auricular confession,
the celibacy of the clergy, and laughed at some of
their legendary miracles. I forgot to say that the 3(3)r 29
country about Marseilles is covered with countryhouses;
they reckon 10,000. They were first begun
to be built on account of the plague: every body has
one. There is a fine picture of the terrible plague
here at the Consigne, and another at the Town-house.
They are very exact at present in their precautions.
I am sure the plague cannot be occasioned merely by
want of cleanliness, for then Marseilles could not
escape.

Remember that we are longing for letters, and that
news from you will be more grateful to us, than groves
of oranges or Provençal skies.

With regard to ourselves, we have at length quitted
Marseilles; where, to confess the truth, we stayed
long enough to be pretty well tired of it; for we
had scarce any acquaintance, and no amusements
(the Play excepted), but what we could procure to
ourselves by reading or walking. Some delightful
walks we did take under a bright sun and a clear blue
sky, which would have done honour to the fairest
months in the English calendar. We sailed one fine
day to the little chateau d’If, a league from the port.
It is used as a prison for extravagant or disorderly
young men, whom their parents get shut up here—
sometimes to avoid the disgrace of a more public
punishment. We had a great pleasure at Marseilles
in seeing your friend Mr. Howard: he was well, and
in good spirits. He went by the name of the English
Doctor, and as such has prescribed, he told us, with
tolerable success. If you have a mind to strike a
good stroke in London, introduce magnetism; ’t is in 3* 3(3)v 30 France the folly of the day. There is a society at
Marseilles for that purpose composed of gentlemen.
They boast they can lay asleep, when they please,
and for as long as they please; and that during this
sleep or trance, the mind can see the operations going
forward in the corporeal machine, and predict future
events. One of them offered to try his skill on Mr.
Barbauld
; but after a long and unpleasant operation
of rubbing the temples and forhead, he was obliged
to desist without success. Mr. Howard will tell you,
however, they operate better at Lyons, as he saw
several women at the hospital put to sleep in a minute
by only passing the hand over their forehead.

At Marseilles we again bought a carriage (an English
chaise), in which we hope to perform the rest of
our journey, at least to Paris. The road from Marseilles
to Toulon is over mountains which, though not
very high, are the beginning of the Alps. They are,
in many parts, quite naked and craggy; in others, covered with forests of pines! and in many, they have
had the industry to make terraces one over another
to the very top, on which they have planted vines,
though the culture must demand prodigious labour,
for they must bring all the earth. The almond trees,
which are now in full flower, scattered here and there,
embellish the scene. At Toulon we saw the arsenal,
which contains the corderie, the salle d’armes, the
naval stores, &c. There is something horrible in the
clanking of the chains of the galley-slaves, who are
chained two-and-two, and employed in various works
within the place. Three or four galleys lie in the
harbour, but they are not used except for lodging the
forçats. From Toulon we went to Hieres;—and
how, think you, did we go? On foot every step of the
way, and it is nine miles at least. We went on foot
because the roads are still so bad we dared not venture 3(4)r 31
in a carriage. Hieres is a specimen of the Italian
climate and Italian productions: to the south it is
open to the sea; every other quarter is fenced with
hills. The town lies on the descent of a hill, and is
surrounded with groves of orange and lemon trees,
glowing in the brightest beauty, and with all the
variety of colour, from the palest lemon to the deep
and almost blood-red species of orange. The leaves,
of a vivid green, give a relief to the fruit, which is in
so great an abundance that I have hardly seen apple-
trees so full. It is a delicious spot, quite the gardens
of the Hesperides, and enjoys a constant verdure.
The hedges are composed of myrtle, holm-oak, and
lentisk, of the ashes of which latter they make a lye,
with which they preserve their raisins. They gather
green peas soon after Christmas: every month brings
its peculiar harvest. Besides the corn, wine, and oil,
which they share in common with their neighbours,
they have vast quantities of strawberries, peaches,
kidney-beans, all kinds of fruit and garden stuff.
Sweet waters and essences are distilled from the
orange flowers, and the peel of the bergamot, the
cedrat, and some other kinds valuable for their fragrance.
Some of the orange gardens are worth from
twenty to twenty-six thousand livres a year. From
an opposite hill there is a view of the town; above it,
a convent of Bernardines, and higher still, the ruined
walls and castle of the old town; the whole surrounded
with a bright circle of green and gold, and houses
of a shining white in the midst of the orange gardens;
further, the paler green of the olives; to the south,
the sea, and the fishery salt-works; and opposite,
the islands of Hieres, where is plenty of game.
Winter is seen peeping at this little paradise from
the top of a distant mountain covered with snow; and
sometimes, indeed, he sends a hoar frost—after which,
the oranges drop by hundreds from the trees.

3(4)v 32

To complete our expedition and vary the mode of
travelling, we returned as follows: I upon the bourique
of a paisanne, between two loaded panniers, Mr. B.Barbauld
walking before; and the woman, a stout, sunburnt,
cheerful Provençal, by the side of the ass, driving,
guiding, and hallooing it onward. Bread and figs,
which we put in the pannier and ate as we went along,
were our breakfast. I rode thus two leagues, and
walked with Mr. B.Barbauld the third. And now, having
touched the utmost limit of our long tour, it is with
inexpressible pleasure we reflect, that every step we
shall for the future take will bring us nearer again to
those dear friends, in whose society we hope to spend
the rest of our life. We propose returning by Nismes,
Montpelier, and Bourdeaux. Aix is a clean, pretty
town: the baths and the fountains of hot water are
worth seeing. It is full of clergy and men of the
law. We got acquainted with two gentlemen (an
officer and an ecclesiastic), who were very civil to us;
but we could not help being diverted with the eagerness
with which they recited their own verses (for
they were both versifiers), their gestures, their compliments
to each other, and their total freedom from
that awkward bashfulness which hangs on us English,
when we have written something clever that we long
to bring to notice, and do not know how to bring it
about.

To Dr. Aikin.

I begin this letter from Thoulouse, though I shall
propbably not finish before we get to Bourdeaux.—
We got here last night, and hoped to have walked
about the town to-day, where they say there is a 3(5)r 33
good deal to be seen; but we are confined to our
room by a pretty heavy fall of snow, which has continued
the whole day. We are at present convinced
that it is a vain expectation to escape from winter by
going to the southern climates,—at Bengal I suppose
it may be done: but the southern provinces of France
differ more in the duration than in the degree of their
winter; and beyond all doubt they have more sudden
and violent changes of weather than we have. In
consequence they dress warmer than we do. The
pelisse, the muff, the fur gloves and shoes, the hussar
cloak and flannel linings, are all common here, and
found necessary. Yet it is also true that through a
great part of the winter they enjoy the most delicious
weather; and that with regard to one or other of
their productions, there is not any time of the year in
which you do not meet with harvest or blossoms; for
before the gathering of olives is over, the almond-tree
is in flower. Till within these four days we have had
fine weather for a long time; and Lower Languedoc,
through which our route has lain since we crossed the
Rhone, has worn all the lovely features of spring.
At Pezenas (the last place where we made any stay)
the peach, apricot, and bean were beginning to blossom;
the gardens were all green with various vegetables,
the fields with corn, and a few trees were even
in leaf. But their springs are apt to be premature.
Here (in Upper Languedoc) it is colder.

Gratified as we have been by the spring of Nature,
we have been no less so by the hoary ruins of Antiquity.
The vast cirque of the amphitheatre at Nismes
fills the mind with an amazing idea of Roman
greatness. It is defaced by a number of buildings in
the area; which, however, are to be demolished, and
the venerable ruin kept in better repair. To repair
a ruin, carries a better sound with it than to build a 3(5)v 34
ruin, as we do in England. La maison Carrée is a
bijou; it has all that the utmost delicacy and richness
of architecture can give. But we prefer to them both,
the Pont du Gard.

Nismes is the very centre of the Protestants.
They are computed to be 30,000, and the richest
part of the inhabitants: for here, as the Dissenters in
England, they give themselves to trade. They have
no church, nor even barn; but assemble in the desert,
as they call it, in the open air, in a place surrounded
by rocks which reverberate the voice. The pulpit is
moveable, and there are a few seats of stone for the
elders. On their great festivals, they say, the sight is
very striking.

I wish you, who have a quarrel to some of our
English axioms of taste in gardening, could see the
public walks of Nismes and Montpelier; both, (especially
the latter) laid out with great magnificence,
but quite in the old style of terraces, fountains, straight
alleys, and exact symmetry: but the whole is great, and
was to me very new. We intended to have taken
the canal at Beziers, but the bad weather prevented
us. From Narbonne till near Thoulouse we had on
our left a long chain of mountains, the Pyrenees. I
love to see those everlasting boundaries of nations.
We had not, however, any wish to cross them and try
the Spanish accommodations—there are difficulties
enow of that kind in France. This is the height of
the Carnival, and we have seen as we came along,
the dance on the green, and the mask by torchlight;
but in general I am afraid there is a good deal
of coarseness in the mirth of the vulgar, and of licentiousness
in the gaiety of the rich. From Narbonne
to Thoulouse there are a great many chateaus, pompous
buildings with towers, but no ornamented grounds
about them as in England, nor any thing in the 3(6)r 35
avenues, hedges, &c. that has a look of neatness. I
fancy the rats hold a glorious sabat in some of them.—
I should tell you that at Montpelier we saw the anatomical
theatre, where they have two hundred students,
who shave and dress hair, to pay their board and lodging,
and attend dissections and study surgery with
great application the rest of their time: and they say
they make a better progress than those that have
money. I am sorry I cannot send you a slip of
Rabelais’ scarlet gown, with which sacred relique the
students are invested when they take their degrees.
The meaning of which I take to be this,—that laughing
may cure you when physic would miss.

The situation of Thoulouse seems calculated for
trade, as the noble canal of Languedoc meets there
the still more noble river of the Garonne; yet it is
not commercial, as the great ambition of all the rich
inhabitants is directed towards gaining a seat in parliament,
which ennobles them; and then they leave
trade. You may guess with what feelings we saw
the seat of that parliament which condemned Calas.
The spirit of the times, however, thank Heaven! is
greatly altered.

.—

We arrived here to-day.
The road from Thoulouse to this town is remarkably
pleasant. It lies mostly along the banks of the Garonne,
and several fine rivers which fall into it; the Tarne,
the Aveyron, &c. On the other side is a ridge of
hilly ground quite sandy, covered with vines, which
indeed have a most desolate appearance at this time
of the year; but fancy can spread the foliage and
change the purple clusters. On the river-side are fine
rich valleys covered with corn, and here and there
pasture ground:—no more olives, but groves of oak;
no more almond-blossoms, but hedges of hawthorn.
On Shrove Tuesday (which was a remarkably fine 3(6)v 36
day) every town and every village was poured out
upon the road, all dressed, and dancing each lad with
his lass. What I should not have supposed, they
dance too on Ash Wednesday; for though the churches
were pretty full in the morning, of dismal-looking
figures in black hoods, who came to confess the sins
of the Carnival, the greater part put the English interpretation
upon a holy day, and considered it as a
holiday. Though we have not yet seen much of
Bourdeaux, a walk this afternoon has convinced us, it
is a more magnificent town than any we have yet
seen in France. It happens too to be the fair.

…The road from Tours to Orleans on the
winding banks of the Loire, is delightfully pleasant;
but we had not fine weather enough to enjoy all its
beauty; for we have had the second winter you speak
of, in all its severity of snow and frost. We were
particularly pleased, however, with Tours. It has
one street of more complete beauty than any street I
have yet seen, terminated at one end, by a fine bridge
over the Loire, at the other, by one of the noblest
malls in the kingdom. Blois is delightful from its
situation, and interesting from the events which have
taken place within its now deserted walls. Orleans
is entirely a town of commerce; and it seems to
flourish, for they live remarkably well there. Trade
may have been despised formerly in France; but I
am sure it cannot, now there are such towns as Lyons,
Bourdeaux, and Orleans, where it displays its effects
in all the pride of opulence. We have been now a
month in Paris, and here the objects of curiosity
crowd upon us. In the provinces, they are scattered
here and there; but in the capital,—palaces, pictures, 4(1)r 37
statues, public gardens, meet you at every step, and
all the powers of observation and organs of perception
are agreeably filled. The societies of Paris do not
obtrude themselves in like manner on your notice; on
the contrary, it is pretty difficult to get sufficiently
into them to judge of their complexion and character.
We shall have been, however, in a few of them, and
shall have seen many agreeable individuals. English
is very much studied here at present: there are a
great many who read, and some who talk it. Every
thing of English fabric and workmanship is preferred
here, and not without reason. They have an idea
here very contrary to ours; for they say, The English
invent, and the French bring to perfection. They are
going to inclose all Paris and its suburbs by an immense
wall: it puts one in mind of hedging in the
cuckoo; but it is to prevent smuggling. We have
had the good fortune to get very clean lodgings: they
are near the Pont Royal and the Tuilleries, both
which we often cross, and never without fresh admiration
at the number of beautiful buildings and gay
objects. I like the gardens of the Tuilleries better
than our St. James’s Park; for though they are somewhat
disgraced by the old-fashioned parterre, yet on
the whole they are more gay, more lively: the view
from the terrace commands a greater variety of objects;
the Tuilleries is more adorned; and the various
groups of all ranks,—some taking lemonade, some
sitting on the grass, some even reading,—give an air
of ease and enjoyment more than is to be seen in our
Park. This is rather an unfortunate time for seeing
paintings, as the king’s pictures are all taken down in
order to be arranged and put up in the gallery of the
Louvre, which is preparing for their reception: and
when that fine building is filled with so noble a collection,
it will have few things in Europe superior.

Vol. II. 4 4(1)v 38

One great advantage which Paris has as a town
over London is its quais, by which means they enjoy
their river and the fine buildings upon it. As to the
streets, most of them are certainly narrow, but not
absolutely impracticable to the poor piéton, as I had
been taught to believe; for when not dressed, I walk
about a good deal. They say, however, a great
many accidents happen, which their boasted police
takes more care to stifle than to prevent: if a man is
run over by a coach, they dare not put it in any public
papers. The streets are full of little cabriolets,
which drive very fast: they are forbidden, but people
have them notwithstanding. We have been at two of
their Academies, that of Sciences and that of Belles-
lettres
. Several éloges were read, well drawn up;
prizes proposed, &c. They clap hands as at the
play-house, when a sentiment or expression pleases
them. The theatre sinks in France as well as
England; for as Mrs. Siddons stands alone, we may
well say it sinks. They are building a very fine
church, St. Geneviève; and in general there is a
good deal of new building, as well as in London. We
have yet a vast deal to see; but we shall see it as
fast as we can, that we may return to those friends
who will be only dearer to us from absence.

To Mrs. Beecroft.

If at any time, and in any place, a letter from my
dear Mrs. Beecroft has always given me a sensible
pleasure, she will judge how grateful it must have
been to my heart to be remembered by her with so
much kindness and affection, and to be informed of
her welfare, when the long absence, when the tracts 4(2)r 39
of land and seas between us and those most dear to
our hearts, render accounts from England doubly
interesting. And indeed when I reflect that I am
transported from the banks of the Waveney to the
shores of the Mediterranean, I am ready to cry out
with Simkin, “Methinks we’re a wonderful distance from home.”
The scenes we have passed through, gratify curiosity
and fill the imagination; but you, my dear friend, in
the mean time have found yourself in situations which
awaken feelings the most tender and interesting
…May you experience, may you feel, all
the sympathies, all the tender charities of every relation,
all of which you are so fitted to adorn!

The ladies of this country, if I may trust what
their own countrymen say of them, are not fond of
these domestic ties; they wish not to be mothers of
a numerous offspring: and their husbands, whose
claim to the honour is somewhat more dubious, are
still less flattered with being fathers to them. But
let me give you some account of our route. From
Calais we coasted, as I may say, the rich plains of
Flanders and Artois, which however had lost their
peculiar beauty, as the harvest was got in. We passed
through a part of Haute Picardie, and leaving
Paris on our right, advanced into Champagne, where
we first saw the production that most distinguishes
the climate of France from ours,— the boasted vineyards.
Having visited the venerable cathedral of
Rheims, we crossed several pleasant streams, and
from Troyes traced the delightful windings of the
Seine to its very source. We next visited Dijon in
the midst of the vine-clad hills of Burgundy, and from
thence, crossing the Saone, struck into Franchecomté;
and from Dole to Besançon travelled along the banks 4(2)v 40
of the Doux, a fine, full stream, through a country
more varied and rich with prospects than we had yet
seen. From varied, the country became romantic,
and from hilly, mountainous; Nature preparing, as it
were, for her more majestic scenes, till at length she
swells into full grandeur; and from the heights of
Mount Jura the Alps are discovered to the astonished
traveller.

At Geneva we were greatly delighted with the
society and the situation; but the winter advanced
so fast upon us, that we were obliged to abandon our
design of visiting Switzerland. From Geneva to
Lyons we were still in the midst of les belles horreurs,
steep mountains, cascades, and lakes. At Lyons the
winter was still at our heels, so down the rapid Rhone
we sailed in search of the climate of perpetual spring,
but like some enchanted island it seemed to fly from
our pursuit. At Lyons it was the vent du Rhone, at
Avignon la bise, at Marseilles the mistral—which
opposed our wishes; till at length, in the orange
groves of Hieres, we found the most delicious temperature
of air and a verdure perpetually flourishing.
But long before we reached Hieres, between Lyons
and Avignon, we got amongst the olive-grounds, the
figs, the almonds, and pomegranates, which spread
over all Provence and Languedoc. But they have
not here the green pasture, the lowing herd, the hawthorn
hedge, the haunt of birds, nor the various family
of lofty trees which give us shade in summer and
shelter in winter. As we have been chiefly at inns
hitherto, I cannot say a great deal of the inhabitants
in general: that they are more lively and eager in
their gestures and manner than the English is evident;
but as to that great air of gaiety you mention, and
which one naturally expects to find in France, it has
not struck us; perhaps it might if we were more intimately 4(3)r 41
admitted into their families, and saw the
young and the gay; but this I can assure you, they
are not to be found, even in Provence, singing and
dancing under every green tree. We have lately
visited Nismes, a place interesting by its antiquities.
La Maison Carrée is the most delicate and finished
piece of architecture that can be conceived; and the
amphitheatre gives the most striking idea of Roman
greatness. It is calculated to hold 18,000 people;
its vast cirque cannot be beheld from a distance
without astonishment,—all the other buildings sink into
nothing before it. An antiquity perhaps more
beautiful still than either of them is the Pont du Gard,
some leagues from Nismes, constructed to convey
water to the town. It looks great as if made by the
hands of the giants, and light as if wrought by fairies.
Nismes has likewise a more modern work, of which
they boast much,—the fountain and walks belonging
to it. This, as well as the Place de Perou at Montpelier,
is laid out in a style which a Brown or a Shenstone
would but little approve; long strait walks, trees
cut into form, water stagnating in stone basons and
exactly symmetrized. All this suits but ill with what
we have been taught to call taste; yet there is an
air of magnificence, and even of gaiety, that in its
kind gives pleasure. The very exhibition of art and
expense gives an air of grandeur. Its being a work
made by men, suggests the cheerful idea that it was
made for men; whereas our more rustic scenes seem
made, if not for melancholy, at least for solitary musing:
and in the last place, the exact proportion contrasts
it with the surrounding country.

You know, probably, that Montpelier is famous
for perfumes. One man, who has got a large fortune
by them, has planted a garden with rosetrees, several 4* 4(3)v 42
thousands in number, which in summer perfume the
air to a considerable distance.

I hoped to have finished this letter where I began
it, at Montpelier; but not having been able to do it,
gives me an opportunity to tell you, that we have
seen at Pesenas an echantillon of the diversions of the
Carnival. The young men of the town, with the
young ladies, masked, followed by the paysans and
paysannes, danced by torch-light in the streets, upon
the esplanade, and all round the town, to the music of
the drum and fife, followed by a number of spectators
of all ranks, all enjoying the cheerful scene. Pesenas
is a delightful place; the peach and apricot already
are in blossom there, so is the bean; numbers of
almond-trees are in full bloom; various shrubs are
green with spring, and some trees begin to put out.
To crown all, we found there a lovely Englishwoman,
with whom and her husband we spent two
pleasant days. We are now going to Bourdeaux, and
so to Orleans and Paris; after which I am sure we
shall long to return home.

To Dr. Aikin.

The affair of Cardinal Rohan, which has
so much engrossed the talk at Paris, is at length decided:
but we have not been able to see, without indignation,
the decisions of the Parliament altered in
almost every instance by the pleasure of the king; so
that judicial proceedings are mere child’s play in this
country. A grocer has got himself into the Bastille
by writing a pamphlet on this occasion; in which he
insinuates that the queen herself was in the plot, and
that Madame Oliva was the cloud by means of which 4(4)r 43
she played the fable of Ixion on the poor Cardinal.
In short, people’s conjectures are as much afloat since
the decision as before. The king of Prussia is reported
to have said, “Qu’il falloit que le Cardinal
montrat beaucoup d’esprit pour prouver qu’il n’avoit
été que bête.”
Among the long list of titles which
figure at the head of his Memoire, that of Academicien
is not found: the reason, they say, is, that his
avocat, at the request of the Academy, (who feared
they might be disgraced by the fellow-ship of such an
associate,) persuaded him to leave it out, by telling
him that, for the other titles, they implied no parts;
but that of Academicien— supposing a man of superior
genius and knowledge—might hurt him in his trial,
as his only defence must rest on his proving himself
un imbecille.—And so much for the Cardinal.

We were the other day at the Museum, a place
lately set up, intended as a repository for works of
art; likewise as a centre of communication with the
learned in any part of Europe, who, by corresponding
with M. de la Blancherie, may have their discoveries
published or their questions answered, if possible to
answer them: nay, I believe I need not have put in
that restriction, for a Frenchman is never at a loss to
answer any question. The plan seems good: but I
was greatly diverted with the following question, published
in one of their weekly papers; “Whether the
societies called Clubs in England, and now imitated
in Paris, might not tend to render their members
morose and taciturnes; since by the laws of such
meetings only one person must speak at a time, and
that only for a certain number of minutes?”
An
author may read his piece at this Museum; but as
the doors are not locked, it may chance that the company
may slip away one by one and leave him alone, as I
suspect might be the case with a young novel-writer, 4(4)v 44
whom we in like manner escaped from there the other
day. By the way, I have found out the reason why
the French have so little poetry: it is because every
body makes verses.

We have been at Versailles and St. Cloud: the
latter is now fitting up for the queen. The situation
is far more delightful than Versailles; but that, by
force of expense, has a magnificence which no palace
I have seen can compare with. We saw it on Whitsunday,
when the waters play. The environs of Paris
are now very pleasant; and they are very animated,
without being, I think, quite so crowded as those of
London. They do not make hay here till St. John’s
day, (--06-24the 24th of June), which I think is later than
near London; yet the weather has been very hot.

I was recommended to an English nun; and after
going to see her twice, she had the goodness to send
a parcel of books to convert me: so you see there is
some zeal left in the female convents at least: as to
the priests and monks, I believe they have very little
indeed.

To Mrs. J. Taylor.

Dear Madame

,

Though we expect now very soon to finish our
long pilgrimage, I cannot quit this country without
giving you a little testimonial that in it we think of
those beloved English friends from whom the sea now
divides us: they are often recalled to my mind by
different and opposite trains of thinking—for contrast,
you know, is one source of association; and when I
see the Parisian ladies covered with rouge and enslaved
by fashion, cold to the claims of maternal
tenderness, and covering licentiousness with the thin
veil of a certain factitious decency of manners, my 4(5)r 45
thoughts turn away from the scene, and delight to
contemplate the charming union formed by deep
affection and lasting esteem,—the mother endowed
with talents and graces to draw the attention of polite
circles, yet devoting her time and cares to her family
and children—English delicacy, unspoiled beauty,
and unaffected sentiment,—when I think of these,
(and your friends will not be at a loss to guess where
I look for them,) it gives the same relief to my mind
as it would to my eye when wearied and dazzled by
their sand-walks and terraces, if it could repose upon
the cheerful and soft green of our lawny turf. I would
not, however, have you imagine that I am out of humour
with Paris, where we have enjoyed much pleasure;
only it is the result of our tour, that taking in all
things, manners and government as well as climate,
we like our own country best: and this is an opinion
certainly favourable to our happiness, who shall probably
never leave England again. The weather with
us is, and has been, extremely hot. The trees are
in their freshest green; but one sees that the grass
will soon be burnt if we have not rain. Indeed they
are obliged every day to water the turf in all their
gardens where they are solicitous about verdure. The
environs of Paris are charming, yet I think evidently
inferior to those of London. Yesterday (Whitsunday)
we were gratified with a view of all the magnificence
of Versailles. In compliment to the day
the water-works played, and there was the brilliant
procession of the cordon bleu; in consequence of
which all Paris in a manner was poured into Versailles;
and I was ready to forgive the enormous expense and
ostentation of this palace, when I saw a numerous
people of all sorts and degrees filling the rooms and
wandering in the gardens, full of admiration, and
deriving both pleasure and pride from their national 4(5)v 46
magnificence; and many a one, I dare say, exulted
in the thought that the grand monarque’s horses are
better lodged than is the king of England himself.
The grand gallery filled with Le Brun’s paintings is
of a striking beauty; the gardens are full of water
thrown up in artificial fountains, and glittering through
artificial bosquets; the walks are adorned with whole
quarries of marble wrought into statues. In short,
art and symmetry reign entirely; and I hope they
will never attempt to modernize these gardens, because
they are a model of magnificence in their kind,
and Art appears with so much imposing grandeur,
that she seems to have a right to reign. The petit
Trianon
belonging to the queen is in another style;
with cottages and green lawns and winding walks of
flowering shrubs in the English mode, which indeed
prevails very much at present.

There is a person here, the Abbé d’Hauy, who
teaches the blind to read by means of books printed
expressly for them in a relief of white. The undertaking
is curious; but they are at present somewhat
in the state of the blind men brought up for painters
in the island of Laputa, who were not so perfect in
the mixing of their colours but that they sometimes
mistook blue for red.

The French stage is not, I think, at present very
brilliant; three of their best actors have lately left it.
But at the Italian theatre they have a delightful little
piece, which under the name of a comic opera draws
tears from all the world. It is called Nina, or La
Folle d’Amour
, and Mademoiselle du Gazon acts
the part of Nina; and does it with such enchanting
grace, such sweet and delicate touches of sensibility
and passion, as I never saw upon any theatre. It is the
sweet bells jangled out of tune, but not harsh: no raving,
no disorder of dress; but every look and gesture 4(6)r 47
showed an unsettled mind, and a tenderness inimitable.
At the Opera they have likewise an actress full of
grace, Mademoiselle St. Huberti; but there it is a
grace beyond mere nature. Everybody (that is everybody
who follows the fashion) leaves Paris in the
summer, which was not the case some years ago.
We stay now for a fine show,—the procession on
the Fête Dieu, in which all the tapestry of the Gobelins
is exposed in the streets. We shall return by
Calais and proceed immediately to London, where
we shall take lodgings for some time.

Will you do me the favour to remember us with
grateful affection to all our friends at Norwich? There
are so many that claim our esteem, I do not attempt
to enumerate them; but do not forget to give a kiss
for us to each of your dear boys, and to assure Mr.
Taylor
of Mr. Barbauld’s and my affectionate esteem.

To Dr. Aikin.

my dear brother

,

I am happy to write to you again from English
ground. We set out from Paris on the 1786-06-1717th, but
went no further than Chantilly, as we meant to devote
the whole of the next day to seeing that noble seat of
the prince of Condé, which, both for the house and
grounds, is the finest we have seen in France. The
stables, which hold three hundred horses, are a most
beautiful piece of architecture. There is a noble
museum and armory in the palace; a fine piece of
artificial water in the gardens, which are laid out partly
in the English, partly in the French style, and in the
best taste of both; a dairy floored and lined with
marble, and in which all the utensils are of marble
or fine porcelain; a menagerie; an orangerie, all the 4(6)v 48
plants of which (some hundreds) being set out and in
full blossom, diffused the richest perfume I ever was
regaled with. L’isle d’Amour is one of the prettiest
parts of the garden, abounding with alleys and walks,
some close, others gay and airy, formed by light
lattice-work covered with privet and adorned with the
greatest profusion of honeysuckles and roses. In the
centre of the island is a statue of a Cupid without
wings or quiver, holding a heart with these lines:
“N’offrant qu’un coeur à la beauté,Aussi nud que la vérité,Sans armes comme l’innocence,Sans ailes comme la constance,Tel fut l’Amour au siècle d’or;On ne le trouve plus, mais on le cherche encore.”

The temple of Venus is a large saloon, in which
are fountains continually throwing up water, which
falls again in agate vases; leaning over which are
Cupids of marble. The whole room is painted,
and breathes a coolness and gaiety quite enchanting.
As we were walking in these gardens we had the
pleasure of seeing a balloon fly over our heads: it
was in full sail for England with M. Tetu, who had
set off from Paris that morning. However, with our
humbler mode of travelling we got to Dover first; for
the lightning caught the car; and though the aërial
traveller received no damage from it, he was obliged
to lie by to refit his balloon, which descended not far
from Boulogne. From Boulogne we took our passage.
We had intended to have gone on to Calais,
but it was four posts more; and besides, we were
told that the passage from Boulogne, though longer,
was generally performed in less time, and was now
preferred; which we found to be true. We were
obliged indeed to wait a day for a vessel, but we got
over in less than four hours. And not without a pleasing 5(1)r 49
emotion did we view again the green swelling hills
covered with large sheep, and the winding road bordered
with the hawthorn hedge, and the English vine
twisted round the tall poles, and the broad Medway
covered with vessels, and at last the gentle, yet majestic
Thames. Nor did we find these home scenes had
lost of their power to strike or charm us, by all we had
seen abroad.

To Mrs. Beecroft.

I feel an impatience at being again on English
ground, and yet not being able to hear news of you.
My imagination pictures you with a lovely burden in
your arms,—whether boy or girl she is not able to
determine, but a charming infant however, that exercises
your sweet sprightliness in entertaining it, and
delights your sensibility by its early notice. But of
this delightful circumstance I want to be certain…
In the mean time let me give you some account of ourselves.
After having spent so much time at Paris, that
we were obliged to give up our original design of visiting
Flanders, we returned by way of Chantilly......

I could not help being struck with the neatness
and civility of all the inns on the road from Dover
to London. In neatness the English are acknowledged
to excel; and though the upper rank in
France may practise politeness with more ease and
grace than we do, yet it is certain that the lower order
are much less respectful and more grossier than
ours of the same class.

I do not know how it is, I think verily London is a
finer town than Paris; and yet it does not appear to
me since my return so magnificent as it used to do: Vol. II. 5 5(1)v 50
I believe the reason is, that Paris has so much the
advantage in being built of stone. Another advantage
to the environs derived from that is, that they are not
fumigated by the abominable brick-kilns which are so
numerous near our metropolis.

There is not much new at present in French polite
literature. M. Florian has published a didactic romance,
Numa Pompilius, an imitation of Telemachus,
but it is heavy.

To Dr. Aikin.

I do not owe you a letter ’t is true; but what of
that? I take it for granted you will like to hear from
me; and to hear from or write to you gives me more
pleasure than most things in this great city. The
hive is now full; almost every body that intends to
come to town is come, and the streets rattle with carriages
at all hours. Do not you remember reading
in the Spectator of a great black tower, from which
were cast nets that catched up every body that came
within a certain distance? This black tower I interpret
to be this great smoky city; and I begin to
be afraid we are got too much within its attraction, for
the nets seem to be winding round about us; nay,
we had some serious thoughts last week of setting up
our tent here…

We are got into the visiting way here, which I
do not consider quite as idle employment, because it
leads to connexions; but the hours are intolerably
late. The other day at Mrs. Chapone’s, none of the
party but ourselves was come at a quarter before eight;
and the first lady that arrived, said she hurried away
from dinner without waiting for the coffee. There
goes a story of the Duchess of D――, that she said 5(2)r 51
to a tradesman, “Call on me to-morrow morning at
four o’clock;”
and that the honest man, not being
aware of the extent of the term morning, knocked the
family up some hours before daybreak. Last week
we met the American bishops at Mr. V.’s, —if bishops
they may be called, without title, without revenue,
without diocess, and without lawn sleeves. I wonder
our bishops will consecrate them, for they have made
very free with the Common Prayer, and have left out
two creeds out of three. Indeed, as to the Athanasian
creed, the king has forbidden it in his chapel, so
that will soon fall.

I have been much pleased with the poems of the
Scottish ploughman, of which you have had specimens
in the Review. His Cotter’s Saturday Night
has much of the same kind of merit as the Schoolmistress;
and the Daisy, and the Mouse, which I believe
you have had in the papers, I think are charming.
The endearing diminutives, and the Doric
rusticity of the dialect, suit such subjects extremely.
This is the age for self-taught genius: a subscription
has been raised for a pipe-maker of Bristol, who has
been discovered to have a poetic turn; and they have
transplanted him to London, where they have taken
him a little shop, which probably will be frequented
at first, and then deserted. A more extraordinary instance
is that of a common carpenter at Aberdeen,
who applied to the professors to be received in the
lowest mathematical class: they examined him, and
found he was much beyond it; then for the next, and
so on, till they found he had taught himself all they
could teach him; and instead of receiving him as a
student, they gave him a degree.

Miss Bowdler’s Essays are read here by the graver
sort with much approbation. She is the lady who
betook herself to writing upon having lost her voice; 5(2)v 52
but above all, the Political State for 17871787 is read by
every body. The Eaton boys have published a periodical
paper among themselves, which they say is
clever. Dr. Price has a letter from Mr. Howard,
dated Amsterdam; he says the Emperor gave him a
long audience. A pasquinade was fixed upon the
gate of the lunatic hospital at Vienna. “Josephus,
ubicunque secundus, hic primus.”

To Dr. Aikin.

I am very glad to be informed what is the proper
method to engage you to write verses, and should inclose
herewith an order for a score or two of lines, if
I thought the command were certain to be as efficacious
as the lovely Anna’s.

The generous Muse, whom harsh constraint offends,

At Anna’s call with ready homage bends;

Well may she claim, who gives poetic fire,

For what her lips command, her eyes inspire.

Come va l’Italiano? I have read a volume of
Goldoni’s Plays; which are not all worked up to
superior excellence, as you may suppose, since he
wrote sixteen in a season. Two are taken from
Pamela; but he has spoiled the story by making
Pamela turn out to be the daughter of an attainted
Scotch peer, without which salvo for family pride, he
did not dare to make her lover marry her. Goldoni’s
great aim seems to have been to introduce what
he calls comedies of character, instead of the pantomime,
and the continual exhibition of harlequin and
his cortége, which was supported by the extempore
wit of the actors. There is in his Teatro Comico 5(3)r 53
a critique which puts me much in mind of Shakspeare’s
instructions to the players. It abounds with
good sense,—which, and a desire to promote good
manners, seem in what I have read to be his characteristics.
I find by him that the prompter repeats the
whole play before the actors.

Our plot begins to thicken; as—says. We
have taken into our family for six months, and perhaps
longer, a young Spaniard who comes solely to
learn English. We dined with the young man, his
uncle, and another Spaniard, who is secretary to the
ambassador, at Mr. W――’s, where there was a
great mixture of languages. The secretary, as well
as French and Spanish, spoke English very well;
the young man, Spanish and French; and the uncle,
though he had been several years in England, only
Spanish. As Mr. W. had told us they were strict
Catholics, we expressed a fear lest we should not be
able to provide for the youth agreeably on fast days:
but he said, “Tout jour est jour gras pour moi:” to
which the uncle learnedly added,—that it was not
what went into the mouth, but what came out of it,
that defileth. As far as we have yet seen, (but he
has been with us only two days), we find him very
well behaved and easy in the family; but the great
difficulty is to entertain him: he is quite a man, of
one or two-and-twenty, and rather looks like a Dutchman
than a Spaniard. Did you ever see seguars
leaf-tobacco rolled up of the length of one’s finger,
which they light and smoke without a pipe?—he uses
them. “And how does Mr. B. bear that?” say you:
O, he keeps it snug in his room. I would not advise
the boys to imitate his accent in French, for he pronounces
it with a deep guttural: I fancy he would
speak Welsh well.

5* 5(3)v 54

It gave very great pleasure the other day to see
my father’s old friend, Dr. Pulteney, whom Dr. Garthshore
brought to us. It is a strange and mixt emotion,
however, which one feels at sight of a person one has
not seen for twenty years or more. The alteration
such a space of time makes in both parties, at first
gives a kind of shock;—it is your friend, but your
friend disguised.

We are making a catalogue of our books; and I
have left a great deal of space under the letters A.
and B. for our future publications.

To Dr. Aikin.

We are waiting with great impatience for two
things, your book and my sister,—your child and your
wife, that is to say…

I have been reading an old book, which has given
me a vast deal of entertainment,—Father Herodotus,
the father of history; and the father of lies too, his
enemies might say. I take it for granted the original
has many more beauties than Littlebury’s humble
translation, which I have been perusing: but at any
rate, a translation of an original author gives you an
idea of the times totally different from what one gains
by a modern compilation. I am much entertained in
observing the traces of truth in many of his wildest
fables; as where he says it was impossible to proceed
far in Scythia on account of vast quantities of feathers,
which fell from heaven and covered all the the country.

We are reading too Sir. T. More’s Utopia. He
says many good things; but it wants a certain salt,
which Swift and others have put into their works
of the same nature. One is surprised to see how 5(4)r 55
old certain complaints are. Of the frequent executions,
for instance: twenty men, he says, being hung
upon one gibbet at a time: of arable land turned to
pasture, and deserted villages in consequence.

I hope the exertions which are now making for the
abolition of the slave-trade will not prove all in vain.
They will not, if the pleadings of eloquence or the
cry of duty can be heard. Many of the most respectable
and truly distinguished characters are really busy
about it, and the press and the pulpit are both employed;
so I hope something must be done. I expect to
be highly gratified in hearing Mr. Hastings’s trial, for
which we are to have tickets some day. This impeachment
has been the occasion of much pomp,
much eloquence, and much expense; and there I
suppose it will end. As somebody said, it must be
put off for the judges to go their circuit, resumed late,
and so it will fall into the summer amusements.

To Mrs. Beecroft.

I often please my mind with the sweet scenes of
domestic happiness which you must enjoy; yourself
in the arms of Mr. and Mrs Dixon, and your children
in yours. Apropos of the sweet children,—I should
not be at all alarmed at their speaking Norfolk; depend
upon it, it will be only temporary where the
parent does not speak it: and after all, they should
know the language of the country. I remember
when I was in Lancashire, being reproved for my
affectation in not speaking as the country folks did,
when in truth it was beyond my abilities.

London is extremely full now: the trial, the parliamentary
business, and fêtes and illuminations, and 5(4)v 56
the Shakspeare Gallery, have all contributed to fill
the great hive. But among these various objects,
none is surely so interesting as the noble effort making
for the abolition of the slave-trade. Nothing, I think,
for centuries past, has done the nation so much honour;
because it must have proceeded from the most
liberal motives,—the purest love of humanity and
justice. The voice of the Negroes could not have
made itself heard but by the ear of pity; they might
have been oppressed for ages more with impunity, if
we had so pleased.

To Mrs. Beecroft.

…I do not doubt but your attention, as well as
that of every one else, has been engaged lately by
the affairs in France. We were much gratified a
fortnight ago by seeing Lord Daer, who had been at
Paris at the beginning of the commotions, and had
seen the demolition of the Bastille, and with hundreds
more ranged through that till now impregnable castle
of Giant Despair. He told us, that after all the prisoners
in the common apartments had been liberated,
they heard for a long time the groans of a man in one
of the dungeons, to which they could not get access,
and were at length obliged to take him out by making a
breach in the wall, through which they drew him out
after he had been forty-eight hours without food;
and they could not at last find the aperture by which
he was put into the dungeon.

My Dear Mrs. Beecroft

,

It is but lately that I heard you were returned
from your delightful expedition, or I should have 5(5)r 57
written sooner; for I am sure so kind and charming
a letter as yours demanded an early acknowledgement.
I do not say I envy you your party and your
tour, because I have in some measure enjoyed it
along with you. I have tracked you to the top of Skiddaw;
seen you impress the mountains with your
light and nymph-like step, and skim over the lakes
with a rapid and smooth motion, like a bird that just
touches them with her wing without dipping it. I
have contemplated the effect such scenes must produce
on minds so turned to admire the beauties of
nature as yours and your poetical companions; and I
have watched till imagination has kindled, and beauty
has swelled into sublimity. Indeed, independently
of scenes so wildly picturesque, a journey is the most
favourable thing in the world for the imagination;
which, like a wheel, kindles with the motion: I shall
therefore certainly expect it to produce some fruit.

I suppose you are now returned to your course of
instructive reading, and your sweet employment of
instructing your little charge. Pray have you seen
Sacontala, an Indian drama translated by Sir William
Jones
? You will be much pleased with it. There is
much fancy and much sentiment in it,—much poetry
too, and mythology: but these, though full of beauties,
are often uncouth and harsh to the European ear.
The language of nature and the passions is of all
countries. The hero of the piece is as delicate and
tender a lover as any that can be met with in the
pages of a modern romance; for I hope you can
pardon him a little circumstance relative to the costume
of the country, which is just hinted at in the poem: I
mean the having a hundred wives besides the mistress
of his heart.—So much for works of entertainment!
There is a publication of higher merit set on foot in
France by Rabaut St. Etienne and some others,— 5(5)v 58 La Feuille Villageoise, of which I have seen the first
number. The respectable object of it is to instruct
the country people (who are there remarkably ignorant)
in morals, in the new laws and constitution of
their country, in the state of the arts and new discoveries,
as far as can be of practical use to them; and
in short, to open their minds and make them love
their duties. M. Berquin is engaged in something
similar; but this is more extensive. There is room
for all true patriots to exert themselves in every way
in France, for their situation seems still but too precarious.

To Mrs. Beecroft.

You ought, I think, to come to London
every spring, to peep into the Exhibition and Shakspeare
Gallery
, and to see our proud metropolis when
she adorns her head with wreaths of early roses, and
perfumes her crowded streets with all the first scents
of the spring. So uncommonly fine has the weather
been this year, that in March, if you were in a flowershop,
you might have imagined it the glowing month
of June.

I last Sunday attended with melancholy satisfaction
the funeral sermon of good Dr. Price, preached by
Dr. Priestley, who, as he told us, had been thirty
years his acquaintance, and twenty years his intimate
friend. He well delineated the character he so well
knew. I had just been reading an eloge of Mirabeau,
and I could not help in my own mind comparing both
the men and the tribute paid to their memories. The
one died when a reputation raised suddenly, by extraordinary
emergencies, was at its height, and very 5(6)r 59
possibly might have ebbed again, had he lived longer:
the other enjoyed an esteem, the fruit of a course
of labours uniformly directed through a long life
to the advancement of knowledge and virtue, a reputation
slowly raised, without and independent of popular
talents. The panegyrist of the one was obliged
to sink his private life, and to cover with the splendid
mantle of public merit, the crimes and failings of the
man:—the private character of the other was able
to bear the severest scrutiny; neither slander, nor
envy, nor party prejudice, ever pretended to find a
spot in it. The one was followed even by those who
did not trust him: the other was confided in and
trusted even by those who reprobated his principles.
In pronouncing the eloge on Mirabeau, the author
scarcely dares to insinuate a vague and uncertain
hope that his spirit may hover somewhere in the void
space of immensity, be rejoined to the first principles
of nature; and attempts to soothe his shade with a
cold and barren immortality in the remembrance of
posterity. Dr. Priestley parts with his intimate friend,
with all the cheerfulness which an assured hope of
meeting him soon again could give, and at once dries
the tear he excites.

To Dr. Aikin.

What do you say to Pitt and Fox agreeing so
well about the affair of libels? Is there any thing behind
the curtain? I hope not; for I own I have felt
myself much interested for Fox since his noble and
manly behaviour, mixed with so much sensibility and
tempered with so much forbearance, towards Burke.
It puts one in mind of the quarrel between Brutus and
Cassius.

5(6)v 60

I am reading with a great deal of interest Ramsay’s
History of the American Revolution; and I do not
wonder that the old story of Greece and Rome grows,
as you say, flat, when we have events of such importance
passing before our eyes, and from thence acquiring
a warmth of colour and authenticity which it
is in vain to seek for in histories that have passed from
hand to hand through a series of ages. How uniformly
great was Congress, and what a spotless character
Washington! All their public acts, &c, are remarkably
well drawn up. We are reading in idle moments,
or rather dipping into, a very different work, Boswell’s
long-expected Life of Johnson. It is like
going to Ranelagh; you meet all your acquaintance:
but it is a base and a mean thing to bring thus every
idle word into judgment—the judgment of the public.
Johnson, I think, was far from a great character;
he was continually sinning against his conscience, and
then afraid of going to hell for it. A Christian and a
man of the town, a philosopher and a bigot, acknowledging
life to be miserable, and making it more miserable
through fear of death; professing great distaste
to the country, and neglecting the urbanity of
towns; a Jacobite, and pensioned; acknowledged to
be a giant in literature, and yet we do not trace him,
as we do Locke, or Rousseau, or Voltaire, in his influence
on the opinions of the times. We cannot say
Johnson first opened this vein of thought, led the way
to this discovery or this turn of thinking. In his style
he is original, and there we can track his imitators.
In short, he seems to me to be one of those who have
shone in the belles lettres, rather than, what he is held
out by many to be, an original and deep genius in
investigation.

6(1)r 61

To Dr. Aikin.

I do not know whether I said so before,
but I cannot help thinking that the revolution in France
will introduce there an entire revolution in education;
and particularly be the ruin of classical learning, the
importance of which must be lessening every day;
while other sciences, particularly that of politics and
government, must rise in value, afford an immediate
introduction to active life, and be necessary in some
degree to everybody. All the kindred studies of the
cloister must sink, and we shall live no longer on the
lean relics of antiquity.

Apropos of France, Mrs. Montague, who entertains
all the aristocrats, had invited a marchioness of
Boufflers and her daughter to dinner. After making
her wait till six, the marchioness came, and made an
apology for her daughter, that just as she was going
to dress she was seized with a degout momentanée du
monde
, and could not wait on her.

There is a little Frenchman here at Hampstead,
who is learning the language, and he told us he had
been making an attempt at some English verses. “I
have made,”
says he, “four couplets in masculine and
feminine rimes.”
“O sir,” says I, “you have given
yourself needless trouble, we do not use them.”

“Why, how so,” says he; “have you no rules then
for your verse?”
“Yes sir, but we do not use masculine
and feminine rimes.”
Well, I could not make
him comprehend there could be any regular poetry
without these rimes.

Mr. Brand Hollis has sent me an American poem,
The Conquest of Canaan, —a regular epic in twelve
books; but I hope I need not read it. Not that the
poetry is bad, if the subject were more interesting. Vol. II. 6 6(1)v 62
What had he to do to make Joshua his hero, when
he had Washington of his own growth?

We are at present reading Anacharsis, and are
much pleased with it. There is nothing of adventure,
nothing like a novel; but the various circumstances
relating to the Greeks are classed and thrown together
in such a manner as to dwell on the mind. It has just
the effect which it would have if in the Museum, instead
of being shown separately the arms and dresses of
different nations, you had figures dressed up and
accoutred in them: the Otaheitan mourner walking
to a morai; the warrior full-armed in the attitude
of attack; and the priest with all the various instruments
of sacrifice before the altar. Thus they become
grouped in the mind.

I want you to propose a metaphysical question to
your Society, which Mr. B.Barbauld and I have had great
debates upon; and I want to know your opinion and
my sister’s. It is this: If you were now told that in
a future state of existence you should be entirely deprived
of your consciousness, so as not to be sensible
you were the same being who existed here,—should
you, or should you not, be now interested in your
future happiness or misery? or, in other words, is
continued consciousness the essence of identity?

My Dear Mrs. Beecroft,

Is it permitted me to renew a correspondence
which has been too long interrupted, though our
friendship, I trust, never has?—strange indeed would
it be, if the esteem and affection I owe you could
ever subside, or if I could ever forget the marks of
kindness and attention I have always received from
you. How good it was of you, to invite Mr. Barbauld 6(2)r 63
while I have been rambling! I should have been
more satisfied with being away, if he had accepted
your offer; for I should have known then, that he
would have no occasion to regret any of the beautiful
scenes I have enjoyed without him. I have been
much pleased with Scotland. I do not know whether
you ever extended your tour so far: if you have
not seen it, let me beg that you will; for I do not
think that in any equal part of England so many interesting
objects are to be met with, as occur in
what is called the little tour; from Edinburgh to
Stirling, Perth, and Blair, along the pleasant windings
of the Forth and Tay; then by the lakes, ending
with Loch Lomond, the last and greatest, and so
to Glasgow; then to the Falls of the Clyde, and back
by Dumfries; which last, however, we did not do;
for we returned to Edinburgh. Scotland is a country
strongly marked with character. Its rocks, its woods,
its water, its castles, its towns, are all picturesque,
generally grand. Some of the views are wild and
savage, but none of them insipid, if you except the
bleak, flat, extended moor. The entrance into the
Highlands, by Dunkeld is striking; it is a kind of
gate. I thought it would be a good place for hanging
up an inscription similar to that of Dante, “Per me
si va…”

Edinburgh is so commanding a situation for a
capital, I almost regretted it was not one, and that
the fine rooms at Holyrood-house are falling into
ruins. The Old and New town make the finest contrast
in the world: but beautiful as the New town is,
I was convinced, after being some days in it, that its
perfect regularity tends towards insipidity, and that a
gentle waving line in a street, provided it is without
affectation, and has the advantage of some inequality
of ground, is more agreeable than streets that cut one
another at right angles.

6(2)v 64

We were much struck with the Falls of the Clyde
and its steep banks richly wooded. Indeed, wherever
the country is wooded, it is beautiful, and it is every
where improving in that respect: millions of trees are
planted every year; but it is some time before planted
trees form a feature of the country. A belt of
wood, dotted clumps, a circlet of firs on a hill, have
not the easy and natural appearance of a wood that fills
the hollow of a valley, and shapes itself to the bendings
and risings of the ground. And now let me
whisper in your ear that I long very much to be at
home again: the limits which I had set myself not to
exceed, are expired; and besides, I do not like this
country, which has all the dreariness, without the
grandeur of scenery, of that which we have left. The
Crescent, however, has a beautiful appearance in a
deep hollow surrounded by hills. It looks like a
jewel at the bottom of an earthen cup.

To Mrs. Beecroft.

Your emigrants are very interesting people.
I think the English character has never appeared
in a more amiable light, than in the kind and
hospitable attentions which have been pretty generally
shown to these unfortunate people. I was much
amused with Louvet, and interested; though I confess
the interest was somewhat weakened by the reflection,
that he was by profession a bookseller and a
writer of romances; and I think one may discover a
few traits de plume in the high colouring he gives to
the attachment between himself and his wife. What
has still more interested me,—because I have a higher
opinion of her character, and greater confidence in 6(3)r 65
her sincerity,—is L’Appel de Madame Roland.
What talents! what energy of character! what powers
of description! But have you seen the second
part, which has not been printed here, and which
contains memoirs of her life from the earliest period
to the death of her mother, when she was one-and-
twenty? It is surely the most singular book that has
appeared since the Confessions of Rousseau; a book
that none but a Frenchwoman could write, and wonderfully
entertaining. I began it with a certain fear
upon my mind—What is this woman going to tell me?
Will it be any thing, but what will lessen my esteem
for her? If, however, we were to judge of the female
and male mind by contrasting these confessions with
those I just now mentioned, the advantage in purity,
comme de raison, will be greatly on the side of our sex.

To Mrs. Beecroft.

Hampstead,

…I do not know the present course of your
reading, but I imagine that two works, at least, have
employed the leisure of both of us; Roscoe’s Lorenzo,
and Mrs. d’Arblay’s Camilla. The former is a very
capital work: I only wish that instead of making
Lorenzo the Magnificent, the centre round which
every thing revolves, he had made the history of
literature itself the professed subject of his work, and
taken the Medici only in connexion with that.—And
how do you like Camilla? Not so well, I am afraid,
as the former publications from the same hand. I
like, however, the story of Eugenia, where the distress
is new; and the character of that amiable imbecille
the uncle: and Mrs. Arlberry’s character is very well
drawn. I was struck on reading the work with the 6* 6(3)v 66
persuasion, that no second work of an author, who
has written the first after being in full possession of his
powers, can help falling off, and for this reason: ――
every one has a manner of his own, a vein of thinking
peculiar to himself; and on the second publication,
though the incidents may be all new, the novelty resulting
from this originality is gone for ever. I think
Gibbon says, in his very entertaining Memoirs, that
nothing can renew the pleasure with which a favourite
author and the public meet one another for the first
time.

I am just now reduced to regret, my dear friend,
that I have taken such small paper. It cuts short
what I was going to tell you of General Paoli, whom
I met the other day. Had it been thirty years ago,
it would have made my heart beat stronger. He told
us a good deal about his god-son and aid-de-camp
Bounaparte, who was going to write Paoli’s annals,
when he was called upon to give ample matter for his
own annals.

To Mrs. Carr.

Bristol,

We are here very comfortably with our friend
Mr. Estlin, who, like some other persons that I know,
has the happy art of making his friends feel entirely
at home with him:—he and Mrs. E.Estlin follow their occupations
in the morning, and we our inclinations.
The walks here on both sides the river are delightful;
and the scenery at St. Vincent’s rocks, whether viewed
from above or below, is far superior, in my opinion,
even to the beautifully dressed scenes that border the
Thames, though these exceed it in fine trees…

I have seen Dr. Beddoes, who is a very pleasant
man: his favourite prescription at present to ladies 6(4)r 67
is, the inhaling the breath of cows; and as he does
not, like the German doctors, send the ladies to the
cow-house, the cows are to be brought into the lady’s
chamber, where they are to stand all night with their
heads within the curtains. Mrs.—, who has a
good deal of humour, says the benefit cannot be mutual;
and she is afraid, if the fashion takes, we shall
eat diseased beef. It is fact, however, that a family
have been turned out of their lodgings, because the
people of the house would not admit the cows: they
said they had not built and furnished their rooms for
the hoofs of cattle.

To Mrs. Kenrick.

My dear friend,

Whether or no I received the letter which you
forgot to write, I shall not tell you; I only know that
I am often reproached by my correspondents for negligence;
and for the life of me I cannot think of any
thing that has hindered the arrival of my letters, except
the cause to which you are inclined to attribute
the failure of yours. Be that as it may, I most certainly
have received from you one letter which has
given me a great deal of pleasure, and for which I
will no longer defer my affectionate thanks. And
what shall I tell you first? That we are well, that
we have rubbed tolerably through the winter, and that
we have been enjoying the sudden burst of spring,
which clothed every tree and every hedge in verdure
with a rapidity seldom observed in our climate. The
blossoms were all pushed out at once, but unfortunately
few have remained long enough to give the expectation
of fruit. I fear it may be the same with your beautiful
apple-orchards. We often picture to ourselves 6(4)v 68
the beautiful country, and still oftener the affectionate
friends and interesting family with whom we
spent so happy a fortnight last summer.

If all that has happened had not happened, or the
memory of it could be washed away with Lethe, how
usefully and respectably might Dr. Priestley now be
placed at the head of the Royal Institution, which is
so fashionable just now in London! I went a few
mornings ago to hear Dr. Garnet, who is at present
the only lecturer, and was much pleased to see a
fashionable and very attentive audience, about one
third ladies, assembled for the purposes of science
and improvement. How much is taught now, and
even made a part of education, which, when you and
I were young, was not even discovered! It does
some credit to the taste of the town, that the Institution
and the Bishop of London’s lectures have been the
most fashionable places of resort this winter. I have
received, however, great pleasure lately from the
representation of De Montfort, a tragedy which you
probably read a year and a half ago, in a volume entitled
A Series of Plays on the Passions. I admired it then,
but little dreamed I was indebted for my entertainment
to a young lady of Hampstead whom I visited,
and who came to Mr. Barbauld’s meeting all
the while with as innocent a face as if she had never
written a line. The play is admirably acted by Mrs.
Siddons
and Kemble, and is finely written, with great
purity of sentiment, beauty of diction, strength and
originality of character; but it is open to criticism,—
I cannot believe such a hatred natural. The affection
between the brother and sister is most beautifully
touched, and, as far as I know, quite new. The play
is somewhat too good for our present taste.

6(5)r 69

My dear Mrs. Carr,

Though I hope the time approaches when we
shall be within reach of one another again, I feel
the want of our accustomed intercourse too strongly
not to wish to supply it in some manner by a letter.
Besides, I want to wish you joy on the peace,
which came at last so unexpectedly, and almost overwhelmed
us with the good news. We have hardly
done illuminating and bouncing and popping upon the
occasion. The spontaneous joy and mutual congratulations
of all ranks show plainly what were the wishes
of the people, though they dared not to declare
them. And now France lies like a huge loadstone
on the other side of the Channel, and will draw every
mother’s child of us to it. Those who know French,
are refreshing their memories,—those who do not,
are learning it; and every one is planning in some
way or other to get a sight of the promised land.

Our Hampstead neighbours are returning to us from
the lakes, and the sea, and the ends of the earth. I
have been puzzling myself to account for this universal
disposition amongst us to migrate at a certain time
of the year and change our way of life; and I have
been fancying that we English lie under the same
spell which the fairies are said to do,—by which, during
a month every year, they are obliged to be transformed,
and to wander about exposed to adventures.
So some of our nymphs are turned into butterflies for
the season, others into Naiads, and sport about till
the sober months come, when they resume their usual
appearance and occupation of notable housewives,
perhaps in Cheapside or the Borough. As to you,
you carry your cares with you, and therefore must be
pretty much the same, except the dripping locks of 6(5)v 70
the Naiad; but Sarah, I imagine, is at this moment
skimming along the shore like a swallow, or walking
with naked feet like a slender heron in the water, or
nestling among the cliffs. Wherever she is, my love
to her.

My Dear Mrs. Carr,

Have you ever seen the Isle of Wight? if not, you
have not seen the prettiest place in the king’s dominions.
It is such a charming little island! In this
great island, which we set foot on half an hour ago,
the sea is at such a distance from the greater part of
it, that you have no more acquaintance with it than if
you were in the heart of Germany; and even on the
coast, England appears no more an island to the eye
than France does; but in this little gem of the ocean,
called the Isle of Wight, you see and feel you are in
an island every moment. The great ocean becomes
quite domestic; you see it from every point of view;
you have it on the right hand, you look and you have
it on the left also; you see both sides of the island at
once,—you look into every creek and corner of it,
which produces a new and singular feeling. We have
taken three different rides upon and under high cliffs,
corn-fields, and villages down to the water’s edge, and
a fine West India fleet in view, with the sails all spread,
and her convoy most majestically sailing by her. We
saw Lord Dysart’s seat, and Sir Richard Worsley’s:
at the former, there is a seat in the rock which shuts
out every object but the shoreless ocean,—for it looks
towards France: at the latter, there is an attempt at
an English vineyard; the vines are planted on terraces
one above another. Another day’s excursion was to
the Needles; we walked to the very point, the toe of 6(6)r 71
the island: the seagulls were flying about the rock
like bees from a hive, and little fleets of puffins with
their black heads in the water. Allum bay looks like
a wall of marble veined with different colours. The
freshness of the sea air, and the beauty of the smooth
turf of the downs on which we rode or walked, was
inexpressibly pleasing. The next day we visited the
north side of the island, richly wooded down to the
water’s edge, and rode home over a high down with
the sea on both sides, and a rich country between;
the corn beginning to acquire the tinge of harvest
time. In short, I do believe that if Buonaparte were
to see the Isle of Wight, he would think it a very
pretty appanage for some third or fourth cousin, and
would make him king of it—if he could get it.

To Mrs. Smith.

Dear Madam,

It would have given me great pleasure to have
been among those friends who crowd about you to
congratulate your arrival again on English ground;
but the distance,—first the severity of the weather, and
then indisposition consequent upon it, prevent my having
that pleasure. I cannot content myself, however,
without writing a line to welcome you all home. We
hear you have been very much pleased with Paris,
which indeed was to be expected. The canvass
people and the marble people must be sufficient to
make a rich voyage of it, even if the French people
had not opened their mouths…

We are apt to accuse some of you travellers of
bringing us over an influenza from Paris, softened
indeed in passing over the Channel, but severe enough 6(6)v 72
to set us all a coughing. We try to amuse ourselves,
however, with reading; and among other things have
been greatly amused and interested with Hayley’s
Life of Cowper, which I would much advise you to
read if it comes in your way. Hayley, indeed, has
very little merit in it, for it is a collection of letters with
a very slender thread of biography; but many of the
letters are charming, particularly to his relation, Lady
Hesketh
; and there is one poem to his Mary, absolutely
the most pathetic piece that ever was written.
We have also read, as I suppose you have done,
Madame de Stael’s Delphine. Her pen has more of
Rousseau than any author that has appeared for a
long time. I suppose you have heard it canvassed
and criticised at Paris

To Mrs. Beecroft.

I am glad to find you have spent the spring so
pleasantly. But when you say you made the excursion
instead of coming to London, you forget that
you might have passed the latter end of a London
winter in town after enjoying the natural spring in the
country. We have been spending a week at Richmond,
in the delightful shades of Ham walks and
Twickenham meadows. I never saw so many flowering
limes and weeping-willows as in that neighbourhood;
they say, you know, that Pope’s famous willow
was the first in the country; and it seems to corroborate
it, that there are so many in the vicinity. Under
the shade of the trees we read Southey’s Amadis,
which I suppose you are also reading. As all Englishmen
are now to turn knights-errant and fight
against the great giant and monster Buonaparte, the 7(1)r 73
publication seems very seasonable. Pray are you
an alarmist? One hardly knows whether to be frightened
or diverted on seeing people assembled at a dinner-table,
appearing to enjoy extremely the fare and
the company, and saying all the while, with a most
smiling and placid countenance, that the French are
to land in a fortnight, and that London is to be sacked
and plundered for three days,—and then they talk of
going to watering-places. I am sure we do not believe
in the danger we pretend to believe in; and I
am sure that none of us can even form an idea how
we should feel, if we were forced to believe it. I
wish I could lose in the quiet walks of literature all
thoughts of the present state of the political horizon.

My brother is going to publish Letters to a young
Lady on English Poetry
; he is indefatigable. “I
wish you were half as diligent!”
say you. “Amen!”
say I. Love to Eliza and Laura, and thank the former
for her note. I shall always be glad to hear
from either of them. How delightful must be the
soft beatings of a heart entering into the world for the
first time, every surrounding object new, fresh, and
fair,—all smiling within and without! Long may every
sweet illusion continue that promotes happiness, and
ill befall the rough hand that would destroy them!

To Miss Taylor, now Mrs. Reeve.

I may call you dear Susan, may I not? for I can
love you, if not better, yet more familiarly and at my
ease under that appellation than under the more formal
one of Miss Taylor, though you have now a train
to your gown, and are, I suppose, at Norwich invested
with all the rights of womanhood. I have many things Vol. II. 7 7(1)v 74
to thank you for:—in the first place for a charming
letter, which has both amused and delighted us. In
the next place, I have to thank you for a very elegant
veil, which is very beautiful in itself, and receives
great additional value from being the work of your
ingenious fingers. I have brought it here to parade
with upon the Pantiles, being by much the smartest
part of my dress. O that you were here, Susan, to
exhibit upon a donky—I cannot tell whether my
orthography is right, but a donky is the monture in
high fashion here; and I assure you, when covered
with blue housings, and sleek, it makes no bad figure:
—I mean a lady, if an elegant woman, makes no
bad figure upon it, with a little boy or girl behind,
who carries a switch, meant to admonish the animal
from time to time that he is hired to walk on, and
not to stand still. The ass is much better adapted
than the horse to show off a lady; for this reason,
which perhaps may not have occurred to you, that
her beauty is not so likely to be eclipsed: for you
must know that many philosophers, amongst whom is
――, are decidedly of opinion that a fine horse is a
much handsomer animal than a fine woman; but I
have not yet heard such a preference asserted in
favour of the ass,—not our English asses at least,—
a fine Spanish one, or a zebra, perhaps…

It is the way to subscribe for every thing here;—
to the library, &c.; and among other things we were
asked on the Pantiles to subscribe for eating fruit as
we pass backwards and forwards. “How much?”――
“Half-a-crown.” “But for how long a time?” “As
long a you please.”
“But I should soon eat a half-a-
crown’s-worth of fruit.”
“O, you are upon honour!”

There are pleasant walks on the hills here, and
picturesque views of the town, which, like Bath, is
seen to advantage by lying in a hollow. It bears the 7(2)r 75
marks of having been long a place of resort, from the
number of good and rather old built houses, all let for
lodgings; and shady walks, and groves of old growth.
The sides of many of the houses are covered with
tiles; but the Pantiles, which you may suppose I saw
with some interest, are now paved with freestone.

We were interested in your account of Cambridge,
and glad you saw not only buildings but men. With
a mind prepared as yours is, how much pleasure have
you to enjoy from seeing! That all your improvements
may produce you pleasure, and all your pleasures
tend to improvement, is the wish of

Your ever affectionate.

To Mrs. Beecroft.

We came hither to take lodgings somewhere
in this beautiful country, but found none vacant;
so we have been some time at Burford-Bridge, a
little quiet sort of an inn in the centre of the pleasant
walks; and a few days with our friends the C――s.
This is very much of a corn country, and we are
in the midst of harvest; the window at which I am
now writing, looks into a corn-field, where a family
have established their menage. The man and his
wife are reaping the corn; a cradle with a young
child in it, is brought into the field by break of day,
and set under a hedge; the mother makes a sort of
tent with her red cloak to shelter it from the weather;
and there she gives it suck, and there they take their
meals: two older children either watch the cradle, or
run about the fields. A young baronet here has incurred
great and deserved odium by forbidding the
poor to glean in his fields; and effectually to prevent 7(2)v 76
them, the plough immediately follows the sickle: yet
probably this man can talk of the wisdom of our forefathers,
and the regard due to ancient observances.
This country is remarkable for great richness of wood,
which Autumn has as yet only touched with his little
finger;—in a month’s time they will be enchanting.
Another agrément here is, that you see no soldiers;
though I confess you are put in mind of them by a
military road lately cut over Box-hill, —I hope a very
needless precaution.

To Mrs. J. Taylor.

I am now reading Mr. Johnes’s Froissart, and I
think I never was more struck with the horrors of
war,—simply because he seems not at all struck with
them; and I feel ashamed at my heart having ever
beat with pleasure at the names of Cressy and Poitiers.
He tells you the English marched into such a district;
the barns were full, and cattle and corn plentiful; they
burned and destroyed all the villages, and laid the
country bare; such an English earl took a town, and
killed men, women and children;—and he never
makes a remark, but shows he looks upon it as the
usual mode of proceeding.

My Dear Mrs. Taylor,

A thousand thanks for your kind letter; still
more for the very kind visit that preceded it—though
short, too short, it has left indelible impressions on
my mind; my heart has truly had communion with
yours,—your sympathy has been balm to it; and I 7(3)r 77
feel that there is no one now on earth, to whom I
could pour out that heart more readily, I may say so
readily, as to yourself. Very good also has my dear
amiable Mrs. Beecroft been to me, whose lively sweetness
and agreeable conversation has at times won me
to forget that my heart is heavy.

I am now alone again, and feel like a person who
has been sitting by a cheerful fire, not sensible at the
time of the temperature of the air, but the fire removed,
he finds the season is still winter. Day after day
passes, and I do not know what I do with my time;
my mind has no energy, nor power of application.
I can tell you, however, what I have done with some
hours of it, which have been agreeably employed in
reading Mrs. Montague’s Letters. I think her
nephew has made a very agreeable present to the
public; and I was greatly edified to see them printed
in modest octavo, with Mrs. Montague’s sweet face
(for it is a very pretty face) at the head. They certainly
show a very extraordinary mind, full of wit,
and also of deep thought and sound judgment. She
seems to have liked not a little to divert herself with
the odd and the ludicrous, and shows herself in the
earlier letters passionately fond of balls and races and
London company; this was natural enough at eighteen.
Perhaps you may not so easily pardon her for having
early settled her mind, as she evidently had, not to
marry except for an establishment. This seems to
show a want of some of those fine feelings that one
expects in youth: but when it is considered that she
was the daughter of a country gentleman with a large
family and no fortune to expect, and her connexions
all in high life, one is disposed to pardon her, especially
as I dare say she would never have married a
fool or a profligate. I heard her say,—what I suppose
very few can say,—that she never was in love 7(3)v 78
in her life. Many of the letters are in fact essays;
and I think had she turned her thoughts to write in
that way, she would have excelled Johnson.

I have also turned over Lamb’s Specimens of Old
Plays
, and am much pleased with them. I made a
discovery there, that La Motte’s fable of Genius, Virtue,
and Reputation, which has been so much praised
for its ingenious turn, is borrowed from Webster, an
author of the age of Shakspeare; or they have taken
it from some common source, for a Frenchman was
not very likely to light upon an English poet of that
age; they knew about as much of us then, as we did
fifty years ago of the Germans. It is surprising how
little invention there is in the world; no very good
story was ever invented. It is perhaps originally some
fact a little enlarged; then, by some other hand, embellished
with circumstances; then by somebody else,
a century after, refined, drawn to a point, and furnished
with a moral. When shall we see the moral of
the world’s great story, which astonishes by its events,
interests by the numerous agents it puts in motion,
but of which we cannot understand the bearings, or
predict the catastrophe? It is a tangled web, of which
we have not the clue. I do not know how to rejoice
at this victory, splendid as it is, over Buonaparte,
when I consider the horrible waste of life, the mass of
misery, which such gigantic combats must occasion.
I will think no more of it; let me rather contemplate
your family: there the different threads all wind evenly,
smoothly, and brightly.

My Dear Mrs. Kenrick,

I have been thinking what to liken our uncertain
and unfrequent correspondence to. I cannot liken it 7(4)r 79
to the regular blow of flowers that come out and blossom
in their proper season. It is rather like the aloe,
that after having been barren season after season,
shows signs of life all on a sudden, and pushes out
when you least expect it. But take notice, the life
is in the aloe all the while, and sorry indeed should
I be, if the life was not all the while in our friendship,
though it so seldom diffuses itself over a piece of paper.
How much I long to see you again! I wish you would
come and see me this summer, the journey I should
hope would not be too much for you; and in coming
to me, you would be near all your friends. Do think
of it!

…I believe I am writing you an enormous
letter; but I have been in a course of letter-reading.
I am wading through the letters of Madame du Deffand,
in four volumes. Have you read them? Walpole
and she wrote every week, and they were continually
grumbling at one another, yet they went on. Walpole,
poor man, seems to have been terribly afraid that this
old blind lady was in love with him; and he had
much ado to reduce her expressions of friendship to
something of an English standard. This lady appears
to have been very unhappy. She was blind, indeed,
but she had every thing else that could make age
comfortable; fortune, friends, talents, consideration
in the world, the society of all the wits and all the
people of rank in Paris, or who visited Paris, but she
totally wanted the best support of all,—religious feelings
and hopes; and I do not know any thing that is
likely to impress their importance more on the mind,
than the perusal of these letters. You see her tired
of life, almost blaspheming providence for having
given her existence; yet dreading to die, because she
had no hopes beyond death. A lady told me, she
would not on any account let her daughter read the 7(4)v 80
letters. I think, for my part, they give in this view as
good a lesson as you can pick out of Mrs. More’s
Practical Piety, which, if you have not read, I cannot
help it.

Adieu! do let me hear from you soon. I wonder,
say you, the woman has the face to ask it. That’s
true, but I hope you will, notwithstanding. Nothing
will give more pleasure to

Your ever affectionate friend.

To Mrs. Beecroft.

Many happy new years to you, my dear friend,
and may they bring you increasing joy in your children
and your children’s children, and in your circle of
friends, and in the various occupations of all sorts,
which the exercise of your talents or the offices of
kindness engage you in! To you I may wish this,
with cheerful hope of its fulfilment. At my time of
life, to look forward to new years, is to contemplate
the prospect of increasing languor and growing infirmities.
Not, I am sure, that I have any reason to
complain, for Time deals gently with me; and though
I feel that I descend, the slope is easy; and greatly
thankful I am that I have, so accessible and so near
me, the friends and relations that were assembled at
Christmas in order to help me to dispatch your noble
turkey. It was indeed so large, that I had some
difficulty in persuading them that it came to me inclosed
in a letter
; but I pleaded your known veracity,
and they submitted. Accept, my dear friend, my
best thanks, and believe me, though my pen (it is a
naughty pen) has been idle, I did not want it to put
me in mind of so dear a friend.

7(5)r 81

Yes, I have been at Bristol this summer, and spent
there almost the only month that could be called
summer in the last year. I spent some days at Bath,
some at that delightful place Clifton; and I spent a
day with Hannah More and her four sisters at her
charming cottage under the Mendip hills, which she
has named Barley Wood, and which is equally the
seat of taste and hospitality. We have had a meeting
here for an auxiliary Bible Society. Many ladies
went, not indeed to speak, but to hear speaking; and
they tell me they were much entertained and interested.
I honour the zeal of these societies; but it is
become a sort of rage, and I suspect outgoes the occasion.

To Mrs. J. Taylor.

There is certainly at present a great
deal of zeal in almost every persuasion;—certainly
much more in England, as far as I am able to judge,
than when I was young. I often speculate upon what
it will produce, not uniformity of opinion certainly;
that is a blessing we seem not destined here to enjoy,
if indeed it would be a blessing. But will it tend to
universal toleration and enlarged liberality of thinking?
or, with increase of zeal, will the church spirit of bigotry
revive, and unite with the increasing power of
government to crush the spirit of research and freedom
of opinion? Bible societies, missionary schemes,
lectures, schools for the poor, are set on foot and
spread, not so much from a sense of duty as from
being the real taste of the times; and I am told that
Mrs. Siddons’ readings are much patronized by the
evangelical people, as they are called, of fashion, who
will not enter the doors of a theatre. Would that 7(5)v 82
with all this, there could be seen some little touch of
feeling for the miseries of war, that are desolating the
earth without end or measure! One should be glad
to see some suspicion arise, that it was not consistent
with the spirit of the Gospel; but this you do not see
even in good people.

…Friends at a distance do not want some
medium of sympathy though they do not meet. I
have sometimes looked upon new books in that light.
When I peruse a book of merit to be generally read,
I feel sure, though not informed of it, that precisely
the same stream of ideas which is flowing through
my mind, is flowing through my friend’s also; and
without any communication, either by word or letter,
I know that he has admired and criticized, and laughed
and wept as I have done.

To Dr. and Mrs. Estlin.

If you ask what I am doing—nothing.
Pope, I think, somewhere says, “The last years of
life, like tickets left in the wheel, rise in value.”
. The
thought is beautiful, but false; they are of very little
value,—they are generally past either in struggling
with pains and infirmities, or in a dreamy kind of existence;
no new veins of thought are opened; no
young affections springing up; the ship has taken in
its lading, whatever it may be, whether precious stones
or lumber, and lies idly flapping its sails and waiting
for the wind that must drive it upon the wide ocean.

Have you seen Lord Byron’s new poem.— The
Bride of Abydos
? and have you read Madame de
Stael’s
Germany? You will find in the latter many 7(6)r 83
fine ideas, beautiful sentiments, and entertaining remarks
on manners and countries: but in her account
of Kant and the other German philosophers, she has
got, I fancy, a little out of her depth. She herself is,
or affects to be, very devotional; but her religion
seems to be almost wholly a matter of imagination,—
the beau ideal impressed upon us at our birth, along
with a taste for beauty, for music, &c. As far as I
understand her account of the German school, there
seems to be in many of them a design to reinstate the
doctrine of innate ideas, which the cold philosophy,
as they would call it, of Locke, discarded. They
would like Beattie and Hutcheson better than Paley
or Priestley. I do not like Lord Byron’s poem quite
so well as his last; and I cannot see any advantage
in calling a nightingale bulbul, or a rose gul, except
to disconcert plain English readers.

My Dear Mrs. Beecroft,

There are animals that sleep all winter;—I
am, I believe, become one of them: they creep into
holes during the same season;—I have confined myself
to the fireside of a snug parlour. If, indeed, a
warm sunshiny day occurs, they sometimes creep out
of their holes; so, now and then, have I. They exist
in a state of torpor;—so have I done: the only difference
being, that I have all the while continued the
habit of eating and drinking, which, to their advantage,
they can dispense with. But my mind has certainly
been asleep all the while; and whenever I have attempted
to employ it, I have felt an oppression in my
head which has obliged me to desist. What wonderful
events have passed during the last few months! 7(6)v 84
How new is the very name of peace to us all; and
to those of thirty and under, it is a state that, since
they were able to reflect at all on public affairs, they
have never known. London seems to have nothing
to do now, but to give feasts and pop away all the
spare gun-powder in rockets and feux-de-joie in honour
of its illustrious guests. Everybody has been idle
since these royal personages came amongst us. It is
in vain even to bespeak a pair of shoes,—not a man
will work; and I imagine Alexander must be greatly
puzzled, when the concourse in the streets from morning
till night, shows how many there are that are doing
nothing, and the shops and manufactures how much
has been done.

To Dr. and Mrs. Estlin

My days of travelling are now nearly over; yet I
find a little variety as necessary, perhaps, to relieve
the tedium of life, as once it was to recruit from its
toils and avocations. I do not know how it is with
you at Bristol, but in most places there has been lately
a migration into France of almost all who could
command money and time. I was amused with the
contrast between a lively pleasant-tempered man and
a poco curante. “How do you like France?” said
I to the first. “I have spent,” said he, “seven weeks
of uninterrupted happiness.”
“How do you like
France?”
to the second. “I have been there, because
one must go, one is ashamed not to have been,
it is a thing over.”
“A lively nation?” “Manners
quite spoiled, no agreeable company.”
“It is possible
they may not be partial to the English just now,
as we have so lately been with fire and sword into 8(1)r 85
their territory:—but the museums?”
“Valuable to
be sure; but they do not properly belong to Paris.”

“The theatres, sir?” “Now and then, when Talma
acts: but to visit all their little paltry theatres, and
every evening, as some do, I had rather sit at home
in my chamber and read.”
And so ended my dialogue
with the poco curante. Not with such indifference,
but with the strong feelings which you who
witnessed the destruction of the Bastille can appreciate,
Mr.—says he should abhor going to Paris. As
to the ladies who go, they think of nothing but smuggling
lace and silk shawls.

My Dear Mrs. Estlin,

I have just been reading, as probably you have
also, six close volumes of Miss Seward’s letters, which,
she informs us, was only a twelfth part of her correspondence
in, I think, twenty years. I have also been
reading a letter of the poet M――’s to my brother,
in which, apologizing for his long silence, he says, “I
verily believe, that if I had been an antediluvian, I
could have let a hundred years pass between every
letter, and feel the most violent twinges of conscience
every day of that century for my omission, without
their working any reformation in that respect.”
Now
I look upon myself to be between both these characters,
—to which I approximate most, I must leave you
to determine.

Everybody has been abroad this uncommonly fine
summer, but my brother and sister and myself. I
spent one day only at Hampstead, where I met Walter
Scott
, the lion of this London season, and one
day at Chigwell. The road to Chigwell is through a
part of Hainault Forest; and we stopped to look at
Fairlop oak, one of the largest in England; a completevol. II. 8 8(1)v 86
ruin, but a noble ruin, which it is impossible to
see without thinking of Cowper’s beautiful lines,
“Who lived, when thou wast such.” The immoveable
rocks and mountains present us rather with an
idea of eternity than of long life. There they are,
and there they have been before the birth of nations.
The tops of the everlasting hills have been seen covered
with snow from the earliest records of time. But
a tree, that has life and growth like ourselves, that,
like ourselves, was once small and feeble, that certainly
some time began to be,—to see it attain a size
so enormous, and in its bulk and its slow decay bear
record of the generations it has outlived,—this brings
our comparative feebleness strongly in view. “Man
passeth away, and where is he?”
while “the oak
of our fathers”
will be the oak of their children and
their children.

To Mrs. Fletcher.

What do I think of the French!—In the first
place, it requires some time before one can think
at all, events succeed each other with such astonishing
rapidity. The constitution held out to the king’s
acceptance was indeed all one can wish,—the principles
of liberty were carried further than even in
ours,—but you see he has not signed it; and if he
had, it is a jest to talk of a constitution, when three
or four foreign armies are in the kingdom.

France, proud France, gallant France, is a conquered
country. I do not think we yet know her
real inclinations; convulsed by a revolution, tyrannized
over by a despot, and owing her deliverance to her
very enemies, how she is humbled, how much she 8(2)r 87
has suffered; but how much she has inflicted! The
French, however, have a better chance for happiness
with the mild imbecility of the Bourbons, than with
Napoleon.

This was written a week ago: and now Spain ――
Spain has disappointed all our hopes: “Down with
the Cortes,—up with the Inquisition!”
and, as at
Naples some years ago, the few fine spirits who would
have rejoiced in a better order of things, will be consigned
to dungeons. I do not know what we can
gather from the contemplation of all these revolutions,
but this; that the concerns and destinies of all the
world are too high for us; that we must wait the
winding up of the drama, and be satisfied in promoting
and enjoying the happiness of our own little circle…

The three persons who have most engaged the
attention of London societies this year, have been women:
Miss Edgeworth, Madame de Stael, and now
the Duchess of Oldenburg, who shows, they say, a
most rational and unsated curiosity. But kings and
emperors are now appearing on the stage, and the
lesser lights must “pale their ineffectual fires.” Dear
madam, will not you and Miss F. come to London to
see all these sights? You are much mistaken if you
think, as you seem to do, that you shall find us anxiously
speculating about the liberties of Europe. We
shall be squeezing to get a sight of Alexander, and
taking tickets for fêtes, and looking at the prince’s
fireworks, and criticizing the Oldenburg hat, and
picking up anecdotes to shine with in the next party.
Shall I be equally mistaken, or shall I not, when I
suppose that you in Edinburgh are deep in mathematics
and metaphysics with Dugald Stewart? I want to
know how his work is relished. I am glad he has
spoken a good word for final causes, the search for
which, under the guidance of judgment and impartiality, 8(2)v 88
certainly assists investigation, as truly as it is the
reward of it.

To Mrs. Fletcher.

What an alteration a few weeks has made
in London! If you crossed the street a month ago,
you had a chance of meeting a prince or an emperor;
and now it is empty beyond the usual emptiness of
summer, and everybody you meet has been, or is
planning to go, across the Channel. I am sorry to
say, that among my female acquaintance the joy of
bringing home, cleverly concealed, shawls, lace, &c.,
seems to dwell more upon the fancy than museums of
art or new scenes of nature; and truly, some of the
young men seem better able to criticise French cookery
than French conversation, or the Venus and
Apollo
. Is there not something strange and rather
revolting in speaking of the French, as most have
done for these twenty years past, with the utmost
abhorrence and contempt,—and pouring ourselves
over their country the moment it is accessible, to mix
in their parties and bring home their fashions?…
We have been full fed with novels lately, and shall be
with poems. Think of a thick quarto of—’s, entitled
Fragments, being only a taste of the second part
of a poem, which I suppose he means to give us some
time or other. I should like to supply him with a
motto:—“And of the fragments there were taken up
twelve baskets full.”

8(3)r 89

To Mrs. Beecroft.

Our tourists are mostly now returned. Such
numbers have resided more or less abroad, that I
cannot help thinking the intercourse must influence in
some degree the national manners, which I find by
Madame de Stael, are not yet to the taste of our
neighbours. They allow us to be respectable, but
they plainly intimate they do not think us amiable.
When I read such censures, I cannot help saying in
my mind to the author,—I wish you knew such a one,
and such a one, of my acquaintance; I am sure you
could not but love them.—Yet, after all, I fear we
must acknowledge something about us dry, cold, and
reserved; more afraid of censure, than gratified by
notice; very capable of steadiness in important pursuits,
but not happy in filling up the pauses and intervals
of life with ingenious trifles and spontaneous,
social hilarity…

It seems to me that there is more room for authors
in history than in any other department. It is continually
growing. It is like a tree, the dead leaves
and branches of which are continually pruned and
cleared away, and fresh green shoots arising. How
much less interesting since the French Revolution are
the glories and conquests of Louis XIV.! What is the
whole field of ancient history, which knew no sea but
the Mediterranean, to the vast continent of America,
with its fresh and opening glories! Will they be wise
by our experience, peaceable, moderate, virtuous?
No: they will be learned by our learning, but not
wise by our experience. Each country, as each man,
must buy his own experience.

8* 8(3)v 90

To Mrs. Taylor.

I will write, now my dear friend is better, is recovering,
is, I hope, in a fair way to be soon quite
well, and all herself again; and she will accept, and
so will Mr. T. and Mrs. R. my warmest congratulations.
To tell you how anxious we have been, would,
I trust, be superfluous, or how much joy we have
felt in being relieved from that anxiety. It is pleasant
to have some one to share pleasure with; and though
I could have had that satisfaction in a degree with
every one who knows you, it is more particularly
agreeably to me at this time to have your dear Sarah
to sympathize with and talk to about you. Among
other things we say, that you must not let mind wear
out body, which I suspect you are a little inclined to
do. Mind is often very hard upon his humble yokefellow,
sometimes speaking contemptuously of her,
as being of a low, mean family, in comparison with
himself; often abridging her food or natural rest for
his whims. Many a headache has he given her,
when but for him, she would be quietly resting in her
bed. Sometimes he fancies that she hangs as a dead
weight upon him, and impedes all his motions; yet it
is well known, that though he gives himself such airs
of superiority, he can in fact do nothing without her;
and since, however they came together, they are
united for better for worse, it is for his interest as
well as hers, that she should be nursed and cherished,
and taken care of.—And so ends my sermon.

8(4)r 91

To Miss—.

The enigma you do me the honour to
ask for, will accompany this; but I have first to find
it; for though I have looked a good deal, I have not
yet been able to lay my hands on it. I beg to make
proviso, that if I should want myself to insert it in any
publication, I may be at liberty to do it. Though,
truly, that is not very likely: for well do I feel one
faculty after another withdrawing, and the shades of
evening closing fast around me; and be it so! What
does life offer at past eighty (at which venerable age
I arrived one day last June); and I believe you will
allow that there is not much of new, of animating, of
inviting, to be met with after that age. For my own
part, I only find that many things I knew, I have forgotten;
many things I thought I knew, I find I know
nothing about; some things I know, I have found not
worth knowing; and some things I would give—O
what would one not give to know? are beyond the
reach of human ken. Well, I believe this is what
may be called prosing, and you can make much better
use of your time than to read it.

I saw yesterday two boys, modern Greeks in the
costume of their country, introduced by Mr. Bowring,
who has the charge of them—“du Grec—ah, ma
sœur, du Grec; ils parlent du Grec!”
I have been
reading one or two American novels lately. They
are very well, but I do not wish them to write novels
yet. Let them explore and describe their new country;
let them record the actions of their Washington,
the purest character perhaps that history has to boast
of; let them enjoy their free, their unexpensive government,
number their rising towns, and boast that
persecution does not set her bloody foot in any corner 8(4)v 92
of their extensive territories. Then let them kindle
into poetry; but not yet,—not till the more delicate
shades and nicer delineations of life are familiar to
them,—let them descend to novels. But, tempted
by writing to you, I am running on till my eyes are
tired, and perhaps you too. Compliments to Mrs.
――
, and all your family. If I find the riddle, I will
send it to you; meantime I am, with the truest esteem
and friendship,

Your affectionate friend.

8(5)r

Miscellaneous Pieces.

8(5)v 8(6)r

Miscellaneous Pieces.

The Hill of Science.

A Vision.

In that season of the year when the serenity of the
sky, the various fruits which cover the ground, the
discoloured foliage of the trees, and all the sweet, but
fading graces of inspiring autumn, open the mind to
benevolence, and dispose it for contemplation; I was
wandering in a beautiful and romantic country, till
curiosity began to give way to weariness; and I sat
me down on the fragment of a rock overgrown with
moss, where the rustling of the falling leaves, the
dashing of waters, and the hum of the distant city,
soothed my mind into the most perfect tranquillity,
and sleep insensibly stole upon me, as I was indulging
the agreeable reveries which the objects around me
naturally inspired.

I immediately found myself in a vast extended
plain, in the middle of which arose a mountain higher
than I had before any conception of. It was covered
with a multitude of people, chiefly youth; many of
whom pressed forwards with the liveliest expression of
ardour in their countenance, though the way was in 8(6)v 96
many places steep and difficult. I observed, that
those who had but just begun to climb the hill, thought
themselves not far from the top; but as they proceeded,
new hills were continually rising to their view;
and the summit of the highest they could before discern,
seemed but the foot of another, till the mountain
at length appeared to lose itself in the clouds. As I
was gazing on these things with astonishment, my
good Genius suddenly appeared. “The mountain
before thee,”
said he, “is the Hill of Science. On
the top is the temple of Truth, whose head is above
the clouds, and whose face is covered with a veil of
pure light. Observe the progress of her votaries; be
silent, and attentive.”

I saw that the only regular approach to the mountain
was by a gate, called the gate of languages. It was
kept by a woman of a pensive and thoughtful appearance,
whose lips were continually moving, as though she
repeated something to herself. Her name was Memory.
On entering this first enclosure, I was stunned with a
confused murmur of jarring voices, and dissonant
sounds; which increased upon me to such a degree,
that I was utterly confounded, and could compare the
noise to nothing but the confusion of tongues at Babel.
The road was also rough and stony, and rendered
more difficult by heaps of rubbish, continually tumbled
down from the higher parts of the mountain; and by
broken ruins of ancient buildings, which the travellers
were obliged to climb over at every step; insomuch
that many, disgusted with so rough a beginning, turned
back, and attempted the mountain no more: while
others having conquered this difficulty, had no spirits
to ascend further, and sitting down on some fragment
of the rubbish, harangued the multitude below with
the greatest marks of importance and self-complacency.

About half way up the hill, I observed on each side 9(1)r 97
the path a thick forest covered with continual fogs,
and cut out into labyrinths, cross alleys, and serpentine
walks, entangled with thorns and briars. This was
called the wood of error: and I heard the voices of
many who were lost up and down in it, calling to one
another, and endeavouring in vain to extricate themselves.
The trees in many places shot their boughs
over the path, and a thick mist often rested on it; yet
never so much, but that it was discernible by the light
which beamed from the countenance of Truth.

In the pleasantest part of the mountain were placed
the bowers of the Muses, whose office it was to cheer
the spirits of the travellers, and encourage their fainting
steps with songs from their divine harps. Not far
from hence were the fields of fiction, filled with a
variety of wild flowers springing up in the greatest
luxuriance, of richer scents and brighter colours than
I had observed in any other climate. And near them
was the dark walk of allegory, so artificially shaded,
that the light at noon-day was never stronger than that
of a bright moonshine. This gave it a pleasingly
romantic air for those who delighted in contemplation.
The paths and alleys were perplexed with intricate
windings, and were all terminated with the statue of a
Grace, a Virtue, or a Muse.

After I had observed these things, I turned my
eyes towards the multitudes who were climbing the
steep ascent, and observed amongst them a youth of
a lively look, a piercing eye, and something fiery and
irregular in all his motions. His name was Genius.
He darted like an eagle up the mountain, and left his
companions gazing after him with envy and admiration:
but his progress was unequal, amd interrupted by a
thousand caprices. When Pleasure warbled in the
valley, he mingled in her train. When Pride beckoned
towards the precipice, he ventured to the tottering Vol. II. 9 9(1)v 98
edge. He delighted in devious and untried paths;
and made so many excursions from the road, that his
feebler companions often outstripped him. I observed
that the Muses beheld him with partiality; but Truth
often frowned and turned aside her face. While
Genius was thus wasting his strength in eccentric
flights, I saw a person of a very different appearance,
named Application. He crept along with a slow
and unremitting pace, his eyes fixed on the top of the
mountain, patiently removing every stone that obstructed
his way, till he saw most of those below him who
had at first derided his slow and toilsome progress.
Indeed there were few who ascended the hill with
equal and uninterrupted steadiness; for, beside the
difficulties of the way, they were continually solicited
to turn aside by a numerous crowd of Appetites, Passions,
and Pleasures, whose importunity, when they
had once complied with, they became less and less
able to resist; and, though they often returned to the
path, the asperities of the road were more severely
felt, the hill appeared more steep and rugged, the
fruits which were wholesome and refreshing, seemed
harsh and ill-tasted, their sight grew dim, and their
feet tript at every little obstruction.

I saw, with some surprize, that the Muses, whose
business was to cheer and encourage those who were
toiling up the ascent, would often sing in the bowers
of Pleasure, and accompany those who were enticed
away at the call of the Passions. They accompanied
them, however, but a little way, and always forsook
them when they lost sight of the hill. Their tyrants
then doubled their chains upon the unhappy captives,
and led them away without resistance to the cells of
Ignorance, or the mansions of Misery. Amongst the
innumerable seducers, who were endeavouring to
draw away the votaries of Truth from the path of 9(2)r 99
Science, there was one so little formidable in her appearance,
and so gentle and languid in her attempts,
that I should scarcely have taken notice of her, but
for the numbers she had imperceptibly loaded with
her chains. Indolence (for so she was called), far
from proceeding to open hostilities, did not attempt
to turn their feet out of the path, but contented herself
with retarding their progress; and the purpose
she could not force them to abandon, she persuaded
them to delay. Her touch had a power like that of
the Torpedo, which withered the strength of those who
came within its influence. Her unhappy captives still
turned their faces towards the temple, and always
hoped to arrive there; but the ground seemed to slide
from beneath their feet, and they found themselves at
the bottom before they suspected that they had changed
their place. The placid serenity which at first
appeared in their countenance, changed by degrees
into a melancholy languor, which was tinged with
deeper and deeper gloom as they glided down the
stream of insignificance; a dark and sluggish water,
which is curled by no breeze, and enlivened by no
murmur, till it falls into a dead sea, where the startled
passengers are awakened by the shock, and the next
moment buried in the gulph of oblivion.

Of all the unhappy deserters from the paths of
Science, none seemed less able to return than the followers
of Indolence. The captives of Appetite and Passion
could often seize the moment when their tyrants
were languid or asleep, to escape from their enchantment;
but the dominion of Indolence was constant and
unremitted, and seldom resisted till resistance was
in vain.

After contemplating these things, I turned my eyes
towards the top of the mountain, where the air was
always pure and exhilarating, the path shaded with 9(2)v 100
laurels and other evergreens, and the effulgence which
beamed from the face of the Goddess seemed to shed
a glory round her votaries. “Happy,” said I, “are they
who are permitted to ascend the mountain!”
—but
while I was pronouncing this exclamation with uncommon
ardour, I saw standing beside me a form of
diviner features and a more benign radiance. “Happier,”
said she, “are those whom virtue conducts to the
mansions of Content!”
“What,” said I, “does Virtue then
reside in the vale?”
“I am found” said she, “in the vale,
and I illuminate the mountain. I cheer the cottager
at his toil, and inspire the sage at his meditation. I
mingle in the crowd of cities, and bless the hermit in
his cell. I have a temple in every heart that owns
my influence; and to him that wishes for me I am already
present. Science may raise you to eminence,
but I alone can guide you to felicity!”
While the Goddess
was thus speaking, I stretched out my arms towards
her with a vehemence which broke my slumbers.
The chill dews were falling around me, and
the shades of evening stretched over the landscape.
I hastened homeward, and resigned the night to silence
and meditation.

9(3)r 101

On Romances.

An Imitation.

Of all the multifarious productions which the efforts
of superior genius, or the labours of scholastic industry,
have crowded upon the world, none are perused
with more insatiable avidity, or disseminated with more
universal applause, than the narrations of feigned events,
descriptions of imaginary scenes, and delineations of
ideal characters. The celebrity of other authors is
confined within very narrow limits. The Geometrician
nd Divine, the Antiquary and the Critic however
distinguished by uncontested excellence, can
only hope to please those whom a conformity of disposition
has engaged in similar pursuits; and must be
content to be regarded by the rest of the world with
the smile of frigid indifference, or the contemptuous
sneer of self-sufficient folly. The collector of shells
and the anatomist of insects is little inclined to enter
into theological disputes: the Divine is not apt to
regard with veneration the uncouth diagrams and
tedious calculations of the Astronomer: the man
whose life has been consumed in adjusting the disputes
of lexicographers, or elucidating the learning of antiquity,
cannot easily bend his thoughts to recent transactions,
or readily interest himself in the unimportant
history of his contemporaries: and the Cit, who
knows no business but acquiring wealth, and no pleasure
but displaying it, has a heart equally shut up to
argument and fancy, to the batteries of syllogism, and 9* 9(3)v 102
the arrows of wit. To the writer of fiction alone,
every ear is open, and every tongue lavish of applause;
curiosity sparkles in every eye, and every bosom is
throbbing with concern.

It is, however, easy to account for this enchantment.
To follow the chain of perplexed ratiocination,
to view with critical skill the airy architecture of
systems, to unravel the web of sophistry, or weigh the
merits of opposite hypotheses, requires perspicacity,
and presupposes learning. Works of this kind, therefore,
are not so well adapted to the generality of
readers as familiar and colloquial composition; for
few can reason, but all can feel; and many who cannot
enter into an argument. may yet listen to a tale.
The writer of Romance has even an advantage over
those who endeavour to amuse by the play of fancy;
who, from the fortuitous collision of dissimilar ideas
produce the scintillations of wit; or by the vivid glow
of poetical imagery delight the imagination with
colours of ideal radiance. The attraction of the magnet
is only exerted upon similar particles; and to
taste the beauties of Homer, it is requisite to partake
his fire; but every one can relish the author who represents
common life, because every one can refer to
the originals from whence his ideas were taken. He
relates events to which all are liable, and applies to
passions which all have felt. The gloom of solitude,
the languor of inaction, the corrosions of disappointment,
and the toil of thought, induce men to step aside
from the rugged road of life, and wander in the fairy
land of fiction; where every bank is sprinkled with
flowers, and every gale loaded with perfume; where
every event introduces a hero, and every cottage is
inhabited by a Grace. Invited by these flattering
scenes, the student quits the investigation of truth, in
which he perhaps meets with no less fallacy to exhilarate 9(4)r 103
his mind with new ideas, more agreeable, and
more easily attained: the busy relax their attention by
desultory reading, and smooth the agitation of a ruffled
mind with images of peace, tranquillity, and pleasure:
the idle and the gay relieve the listlessness of leisure,
and diversify the round of life by a rapid series of
events pregnant with rapture and astonishment; and
the pensive solitary fills up the vacuities of his heart
by interesting himself in the fortunes of imaginary beings,
and forming connexions with ideal excellence.

It is, indeed, no ways extraordinary that the mind
should be charmed by fancy, and attracted by pleasure;
but that we should listen with complacence to
the groans of misery, and delight to view the exacerbations
of complicated anguish, that we should choose
to chill the bosom with imaginary fears, and dim the
eyes with fictitious sorrow, seems a kind of paradox
of the heart, and can only be credited because it is
universally felt. Various are the hypotheses which
have been formed to accouunt for the disposition of the
mind to riot in this species of intellectual luxury.
Some have imagined that we are induced to acquiesce
with greater patience in our own lot, by beholding
pictures of life, tinged with deeper horrors, and loaded
with more excruciating calamities; as, to a person
suddenly emerging out of a dark room, the faintest
glimmering of twilight assumes a lustre from the contrasted
gloom. Others, with yet deeper refinement,
suppose that we take upon ourselves this burden of
adscititious sorrows, in order to feast upon the consciousness
of our own virtue. We commiserate others,
say they, that we may applaud ourselves; and the
sigh of compassionate sympathy is always followed
by the gratulations of self-complacent esteem. But
surely they who would thus reduce the sympathetic
emotions of pity to a system of refined selfishness, have 9(4)v 104
but ill attended to the genuine feelings of humanity.
It would, however, exceed the limits of this paper,
should I attempt an accurate investigation of these
sentiments. But let it be remembered, that we are
more attracted by those scenes which interest our
passions or gratify our curiosity, than those which delight
our fancy: and, so far from being indifferent to
the miseries of others, we are, at the time, totally
regardless of our own. And let not those on whom
the hand of Time has impressed the characters of
oracular wisdom, censure with too much acrimony
productions, which are thus calculated to please the
imagination, and interest the heart. They teach us
to think, by inuring us to feel; they ventilate the
mind by sudden gusts of passion: and prevent the
stagnation of thought, by a fresh infusion of dissimilar
ideas.

9(5)r 105

Seláma.

An Imitation of Ossian.

What soft voice of sorrow is in the breeze? what
lovely sun-beam of beauty trembling on the rock? Its
bright hair is bathed in showers; and it looks faint
and dim, through its mist on the rushy plain. Why
art thou alone, maid of the mournful look? The cold
dropping rain is on the rocks of Torléna, the blast of
the desart lifts thy yellow locks. Let thy steps be in
the hall of shells, by the blue winding stream of Clutha:
let the harp tremble beneath thy fingers; and the sons
of heroes listen to the music of songs.

Shall my steps be in the hall of shells, and the
aged low in the dust? The father of Seláma is low
behind this rock, on his bed of withered leaves: the
thistle’s down is strewed over him by the wind, and
mixes with his grey hair. Thou art fallen, chief of
Etha! without thy fame; and there is none to revenge
thy death. But thy daughter will sit, pale, beside
thee, till she sinks, a faded flower, upon thy lifeless
form. Leave the maid of Clutha, son of the stranger!
in the red eye of her tears!

How fell the car-borne Connal, blue-eyed mourner
of the rock? Mine arm is not weakened in battle;
nor my sword without its fame.

Connal was a fire in his youth, that lightened
through fields of renown: but the flame weakly glimmered
through grey ashes of age. His course was 9(5)v 106
like a star moving through the heavens: it walketh
in brightness, but leaveth no track behind; its silver
path cannot be found in the sky. The strength of
Etha is rolled away like a tale of other years; and
his eyes have failed. Feeble and dark, he sits in his
hall, and hears the distant tread of a stranger’s steps;
the haughty steps of Tonthormo, from the roar of
Duvranno’s echoing stream. He stood in the hall
like a pillar of darkness, on whose top is the red
beam of fire: wide rolled his eyes beneath the gloomy
arch of his bent brow; as flames in two caves of a
rock, over-hung with the black pine of the desart.
They had rolled on Seláma, and he asked the daughter
of Connal. Tonthormo! breaker of shields!
thou art a meteor of death in war, whose fiery hair
streams on the clouds, and the nations are withered
beneath its path. Dwell, Tonthormo! amidst thy
hundred hills, and listen to thy torrent’s roar; but the
soft sigh of the virgins is with the chief of Crono;
Hidallan is the dream of Seláma, the dweller of her
secret thoughts. A rushing storm in war, a breeze
that sighs over the fallen foe; pleasant are thy words
of peace, and thy songs at the mossy brook. Thy
smiles are like the moon-beams trembling on the
waves. Thy voice is the gale of summer that whispers
among the reeds of the lake, and awakens the
harp of Moilena with all its lightly-trembling strings.
Oh that thy calm light was around me! my soul should
not fear the gloomy chief of Duvranno. He came
with his stately steps.—My shield is before thee, maid
of my love! a wall of shelter from the lightning of
swords. They fought. Tonthormo bends in all his
pride, before the arm of youth. But a voice was in
the breast of Hidallan, shall I slay the love of Seláma?
Seláma dwells in thy dark bosom, shall my steel enter?
Live, thou storm of war! He gave again his 9(6)r 107
sword. But, careless as he strode away, rage arose
in the troubled thoughts of the vanquished. He
marked his time, and sidelong pierced the heart of
the generous son of Semo. His fair hair is spread on
the dust, his eyes are bent on the trembling beam of
Clutha. Farewell, light of my soul! They are
closed in darkness. Feeble wast thou then, my
father! and in vain didst thou call for help. Thy
grey locks are scattered, as a wreath of snow on the
top of a withered trunk; which the boy brushes away
with his staff; and careless singeth as he walks.
Who shall defend thee, my daughter; said the broken
voice of Etha’s chief. Fair flower of the desart!
the tempest shall rush over thee; and thou shalt be
low beneath the foot of the savage son of prey. But
I will wither, my father, on thy tomb. Weak and
alone I dwell amidst my tears, there is no young warrior
to lift the spear, no brother of love! Oh that
mine arm were strong! I would rush amidst the battle.
Seláma has no friend!

But Seláma has a friend, said the kindling soul of
Reuthamir. I will fight thy battles, lovely daughter
of kings; and the sun of Duvranno shall set in blood.
But when I return in peace, and the spirits of thy foes
are on my sword, meet me with thy smiles of love,
maid of Clutha! with thy slow-rolling eyes. Let
the soft sound of thy steps be heard in my halls, that
the mother of Reuthamir may rejoice. Whence, she
will say, is this beam of the distant land? Thou shalt
dwell in her bosom.

My thoughts are with him who is low in the dust,
son of Cormac! But lift the spear, thou friend of the
unhappy! the light of my soul may return.

He strode in his rattling arms. Tall, in a gloomy
forest, stood the surly strength of Duvranno. Gleaming
behind the dark trees was his broad shield; like 9(6)v 108
the moon when it rises in blood, and the dusky clouds
sail low, and heavy, athwart its path. Thoughts, like
the troubled ocean, rushed over his soul, and he struck,
with his spear, the sounding pine. Starting, he mixed
in battle with the chief of woody Morna. Long was
the strife of arms; and the giant sons of the forest
trembled at their strokes. At length Tonthormo fell
—The sword of Reuthamir waved, a blue flame,
around him. He bites the ground in rage. His
blood is poured, a dark red stream, into Oithona’s
trembling waves. Joy brightened in the soul of Reuthamir;
when a young warrior came, with his forward
spear. He moved in the light of beauty; but his
words were haughty and fierce. Is Tonthormo fallen
in blood, the friend of my early years? Die, thou
dark-souled chief! for never shall Seláma be thine,
the maid of his love. Lovely shone her eyes, through
tears, in the hall of her grief, when I stood by the
chief of Duvranno, in the rising strife of Clutha.

Retire, thou swelling voice of pride! thy spear is
light as the taper reed. Pierce the roes of the desert;
and call the hunter to the feast of songs, but speak not
of the daughter of Connal, son of the feeble arm!
Seláma is the love of heroes.

Try thy strength with the feeble arm, said the rising
pride of youth. Thou shalt vanish like a cloud of
mist before the sun, when he looks abroad in the
power of his brightness, and the storms are rolled
away from before his face.

But thou thyself didst fall before Reuthamir, in all
thy boasting words. As a tall ash of the mountain,
when the tempest takes its green head and lays it
level on the plain.

Come from thy secret cave, Seláma! thy foes are
silent and dark. Thou dove that hidest in the clefts
of the rocks! the storm is over and past. Come 10(1)r 109
from thy rock, Seláma! and give thy white hand to
the chief who never fled from the face of glory, in all
its terrible brightness.

She gave her hand, but it was trembling and cold,
for the spear was deep in her side. Red, beneath
her mail, the current of crimson wandered down her
white breast, as the track of blood on Cromla’s mountains
of snow, when the wounded deer slowly crosses
the heath, and the hunters cries are in the breeze.
Blest be the spear of Reuthamir! said the faint voice
of the lovely, I feel it cold in my heart. Lay me by
the son of Semo. Why should I know another love?
Raise the tomb of the aged, his thin form shall rejoice,
as he sails on a low-hung cloud, and guides the wintry
storm. Open your airy halls, spirits of my love!

And have I quenched the light which was pleasant
to my soul? said the chief of Morna. My steps
moved in darkness, why were the words of strife in
thy tale? Sorrow, like a cloud, comes over my soul,
and shades the joy of mighty deeds. Soft be your
rest in the narrow house, children of grief! The
breeze in the long whistling grass shall not awaken
you. The tempest shall rush over you, and the bulrush
bow its head upon your tomb, but silence shall
dwell in your habitation; long repose, and the peace
of years to come. The voice of the bard shall raise
your remembrance in the distant land, and mingle your
tale of woe with the murmur of other streams. Often
shall the harp send forth a mournful sound, and the
tear dwell in the soft eyes of the daughters of Morna.

Such were the words of Reuthamir, while he raised
the tombs of the fallen. Sad were his steps towards
the towers of his fathers, as musing he crossed the
dark heath of Lena, and struck, at times, the thistle’s
beard.

Vol. II. 10 10(1)v 110

Against Inconsistency in Our
Expectations.

“What is more reasonable, than that they who
take pains for any thing, should get most in that particular
for which they take pains? They have taken
pains for power, you for right principles; they for
riches, you for a proper use of the appearances of
things: see whether they have the advantage of you
in that for which you have taken pains, and which
they neglect: If they are in power, and you not, why
will not you speak the truth to yourself, that you do
nothing for the sake of power, but that they do every
thing? No, but since I take care to have right principles,
it is more reasonable that I should have power.
Yes, in respect to what you take care about, your
principles. But give up to others the things in which
they have taken more care than you. Else it is just
as if, because you have right principles, you should
think it fit that when you shoot an arrow, you should
hit the mark better than an archer, or that you should
forge better than a smith.”
Carter’s Epictetus.

As most of the unhappiness in the world arises
rather from disappointed desires, than from positive
evil, it is of the utmost consequence to attain just
notions of the laws and order of the universe, that we
may not vex ourselves with fruitless wishes, or give
way to groundless and unreasonable discontent. The 10(2)r 111
laws of natural philosophy, indeed, are tolerably understood
and attended to; and though we may suffer
inconveniences, we are seldom disappointed in consequence
of them. No man expects to preserve orange-
trees in the open air through an English winter; or
when he has planted an acorn, to see it become a
large oak in a few months. The mind of man naturally
yields to necessity; and our wishes soon subside when
we see the impossibility of their being gratified. Now,
upon an accurate inspection, we shall find, in the moral
government of the world, and the order of the intellectual
system, laws as determinate, fixed, and invariable
as any in Newton’s Principia. The progress of
vegetation is not more certain than the growth of habit;
nor is the power of attraction more clearly proved,
than the force of affection or the influence of example.
The man therefore who has well studied the operations
of nature in mind as well as matter, will acquire a
certain moderation and equity in his claims upon
Providence. He will never be disappointed either in
himself or others. He will act with precision; and
expect that effect and that alone from his efforts, which
they are naturally adapted to produce. For want of
this, men of merit and integrity often censure the dispositions
of providence for suffering characters they
despise, to run away with advantages which, they yet
know, are purchased by such means as a high and
noble spirit could never submit to. If you refuse to
pay the price, why expect the purchase? We should
consider this world as a great mart of commerce,
where fortune exposes to our view various commodities,
riches, ease, tranquillity, fame, integrity, knowledge.
Every thing is marked at a settled price. Our
time, our labour, our ingenuity, is so much ready
money which we are to lay out to the best advantage.
Examine, compare, choose, reject; but stand to your 10(2)v 112
own judgment; and do not, like children, when you
have purchased one thing, repine that you do not possess
another which you did not purchase. Such is
the force of well-regulated industry, that a steady and
vigorous exertion of our faculties, directed to one end,
will generally insure success. Would you, for instance,
be rich? Do you think that single point worth the
sacrificing every thing else to? You may then be
rich. Thousands have become so from the lowest
beginnings by toil, and patient diligence, and attention
to the minutest articles of expense and profit. But
you must give up the pleasures of leisure, of a vacant
mind, of a free, unsuspicious temper. If you preserve
your integrity, it must be a coarse-spun and vulgar
honesty. Those high and lofty notions of morals
which you brought with you from the schools, must be
considerably lowered, and mixed with the baser alloy
of a jealous and wordly-minded prudence. You must
learn to do hard, if not unjust things; and for the nice
embarrassments of a delicate and ingenuous spirit, it
is necessary for you to get rid of them as fast as possible.
You must shut your heart against the Muses,
and be content to feed your understanding with plain,
household truths. In short, you must not attempt to
enlarge your ideas, or polish your taste, or refine your
sentiments; but must keep on in one beaten track,
without turning aside either to the right hand or to the
left. “But I cannot submit to drudgery like this—
I feel a spirit above it.”
’T is well; be above it then;
only do not repine that you are not rich.

Is knowledge the pearl of price? That too may
be purchased—by steady application, and long solitary
hours of study and reflection. Bestow these, and
you shall be wise. “But,” says the man of letters,
“what a hardship is it that many an illiterate fellow who
cannot construe the motto of the arms on his coach, 10(3)r 113
shall raise a fortune and make a figure, while I have
little more than the common conveniences of life.”

Et tibi magna satis!—Was it in order to raise a fortune
that you consumed the sprightly hours of youth
in study and retirement? Was it to be rich that you
grew pale over the midnight lamp, and distilled the
sweetness from the Greek and Roman spring? You
have then mistaken your path, and ill employed your
industry. “What reward have I then for all my
labours?”
What reward! A large comprehensive
soul, well purged from vulgar fears, and perturbations,
and prejudices; able to comprehend and interpret the
works of man—of God. A rich, flourishing, cultivated
mind, pregnant with inexhaustible stores of entertainment
and reflection. A perpetual spring of fresh ideas;
and the conscious dignity of superior intelligence.
Good heaven! and what reward can you ask besides?

“But is it not some reproach upon the economy of
Providence that such a one, who is a mean dirty fellow,
should have amassed wealth enough to buy half a
nation?”
Not in the least. He made himself a mean
dirty fellow for that very end. He has paid his health,
his conscience, his liberty for it; and will you envy
him his bargain? Will you hang your head and blush
in his presence because he outshines you in equipage
and show? Lift up your brow with a noble confidence,
and say to yourself, I have not these things, it is true;
but it is because I have not sought, because I have
not desired them; it is because I possess something
better. I have chosen my lot. I am content and
satisfied.

You are a modest man—You love quiet and independence,
and have a delicacy and reserve in your
temper which renders it impossible for you to elbow
your way in the world, and be the herald of your
own merits. Be content then with a modest retirement,10* 10(3)v 114
with the esteem of your intimate friends, with
the praises of a blameless heart, and a delicate, ingenuous
spirit; but resign the splendid distinctions of the
world to those who can better scramble for them.

The man whose tender sensibility of conscience and
strict regard to the rules of morality makes him
scrupulous and fearful of offending, is often heard to
complain of the disadvantages he lies under in every
path of honour and profit. “Could I but get over
some nice points, and conform to the practice and
opinion of those about me, I might stand as fair a
chance as others for dignities and preferment.”
And
why can you not? What hinders you from discarding
this troublesome scrupoulosity of yours, which stands so
grievously in your way? If it be a small thing to enjoy
a healthful mind, sound at the very core, that does
not shrink from the keenest inspection; inward freedom
from remorse and perturbation; unsullied whiteness
and simplicity of manners; a genuine integrity
“Pure in the last recesses of the mind;”
if you think these advantages an inadequate recompense
for what you resign, dismiss your scruples this
instant, and be a slave-merchant, a parasite, or—what
you please.
“If these be motives weak, break off betimes;”
and as you have not spirit to assert the dignity of
virtue, be wise enough not to forego the emoluments
of vice.

I much admire the spirit of the ancient philosophers,
in that they never attempted, as our moralists often
do, to lower the tone of philosophy, and make it
consistent with all the indulgences of indolence and
sensuality. They never thought of having the bulk of
mankind for their disciples; but kept themselves as 10(4)r 115
distinct as possible from a worldly life. They plainly
told men what sacrifices were required, and what
advantages they were which might be expected.
“Si virtus hoc una potest dare, fortis omissis
Hoc age deliciis—”

If you would be a philosopher, these are the terms.
You must do thus and thus; there is no other way.
If not, go and be one of the vulgar.

There is no one quality gives so much dignity to a
character, as consistency of conduct. Even if a man’s
pursuits be wrong and unjustifiable, yet if they are
prosecuted with steadiness and vigour, we cannot withhold
our admiration. The most characteristic mark
of a great mind is to choose some one important object,
and pursue it through life. It was this that made Cæsar
a great man. His object was ambition; he pursued
it steadily, and was always ready to sacrifice to it,
every interfering passion or inclination.

There is a pretty passage in one of Lucian’s dialogues,
where Jupiter complains to Cupid that though
he has had so many intrigues, he was never sincerely
beloved. In order to be loved, says Cupid, you must
lay aside your ægis and your thunder-bolts, and you
must curl and perfume your hair, and place a garland
on your head, and walk with a soft step, and assume a
winning, obsequious deportment. But, replied Jupiter,
I am not willing to resign so much of my dignity.
Then, returns Cupid, leave off desiring to be loved—
He wanted to be Jupiter and Adonis at the same time.

It must be confessed, that men of genius are of all
others most inclined to make to make these unreasonable claims.
As their relish for enjoyment is strong, their views
large and comprehensive, and they feel themselves
lifted above the common bulk of mankind, they are
apt to slight that natural reward of praise and admiration 10(4)v 116
which is ever largely paid to distinguished abilities;
and to expect to be called forth to public notice and
favour: without considering that their talents are commonly
very unfit for active life; that their eccentricity
and turn for speculation disqualifies them for the business
of the world, which is best carried on by men of moderate
genius; and that society is not obliged to reward
any one who is not useful to it. The Poets have been
a very unreasonable race, and have often complained
loudly of the neglect of genius and the ingratitude of
the age. The tender and pensive Cowley, and the
elegant Shenstone, had their minds tinctured by this
discontent; and even the sublime melancholy of
Young was too much owing to the stings of disappointed
ambition.

The moderation we have been endeavouring to inculcate,
will likewise prevent much mortification and
disgust in our commerce with mankind. As we ought
not to wish in ourselves, so neither should we expect
in our friends contrary qualifications. Young and
sanguine, when we enter the world, and feel our affections
drawn forth by any particular excellence in a
character, we immediately give it credit for all others;
and are beyond measure disgusted when we come to
discover, as we soon must discover, the defects in the
other side of the balance. But nature is much more
frugal than to heap together all manner of shining
qualities in one glaring mass. Like a judicious painter,
she endeavours to preserve a certain unity of style
and colouring in her pieces. Models of absolute perfection
are only to be met with in romance; where
exquisite beauty, and brilliant wit, and profound judgment,
and immaculate virtue, are all blended together
to adorn some favourite character. As an anatomist
knows that the racer cannot have the strength and
muscles of the draught-horse; and that winged men, 10(5)r 117
gryffons, and mermaids must be mere creatures of
the imagination; so the philosopher is sensible that
there are combinations of moral qualities, which never
can take place but in idea. There is a different air
and complexion in characters as well as in faces,
though perhaps each equally beautiful; and the excellencies
of one cannot be transferred to the other.
Thus, if one man possesses a stoical apathy of soul,
acts independent of the opinion of the world, and fulfils
every duty with mathematical exactness, you must
not expect that man to be greatly influenced by the
weakness of pity, or the partialities of friendship: you
must not be offended that he does not fly to meet you
after a short absence; or require from him the convivial
spirit and honest effusions of a warm, open, susceptible
heart. If another is remarkable for a lively,
active zeal, inflexible integrity, a strong indignation
against vice, and freedom in reproving it, he will probably
have some little bluntness in his address not altogether
suitable to polished life; he will want the winning
arts of conversation; he will disgust by a kind
of haughtiness and negligence in his manner, and often
hurt the delicacy of his acquaintance with harsh and
disagreeable truths.

We usually say—that man is a genius, but he has
some whims and oddities—such a one has a very
general knowledge, but he is superficial; &c. Now
in all cases we should speak more rationally did
we substitute therefore for but. He is a genius, therefore
he is whimsical; and the like.

It is the fault of the present age, owing to the freer
commerce that different ranks and professions now
enjoy with each other, that characters are not marked
with sufficient strength: the several classes run too
much into one another. We have fewer pedants, it
is true, but we have fewer striking originals. Every 10(5)v 118
one is expected to have such a tincture of general
knowledge as is incompatible with going deep into
any science; and such a conformity to fashionable
manners as checks the free workings of the ruling passion,
and gives an insipid sameness to the face of society,
under the idea of polish and regularity.

There is a cast of manners peculiar and becoming
to each age, sex, and profession; one, therefore,
should not throw out illiberal and common-place censures
against another. Each is perfect in its kind.
A woman as a woman: a tradesman as a tradesman.
We are often hurt by a brutality and sluggish conceptions
of the vulgar; not considering that some there
must be, to be hewers of wood and drawers of water, and that cultivated genius, or even any great refinement
and delicacy in their moral feelings, would be a
real misfortune to them.

Let us then study the philosophy of the human
mind. The man who is master of this science, will
know what to expect from every one. From this man,
wise advice; from that, cordial sympathy; from another,
casual entertainment. The passions and inclinations
of others are his tools, which he can use
with as much precision as he would the mechanical
powers; and he can as readily make allowance for
the workings of vanity, or the bias of self-interest in
his friends, as for the power of friction, or the irregularities
of the needle.

10(6)r 119

On Monastic Institutions.

I happened the other day to take a solitary walk
amongst the venerable ruins of an old Abbey. The
stillness and solemnity of the place were favourable to
thought, and naturally led me to a train of ideas relative
to the scene; when, like a good protestant, I began
to indulge a secret triumph in the ruin of so many
structures which I had always considered as the haunts
of ignorance and superstition.

Ye are fallen, said I, ye dark and gloomy mansions
of mistaken zeal, where the proud priest and lazy
monk fattened upon the riches of the land, and crept
like vermin from their cells to spread their poisonous
doctrines through the nation, and disturb the peace of
kings. Obscure in their origin, but daring and ambitious
in their guilt! See how the pure light of heaven
is clouded by the dim glass of the arched window,
stained with the gaudy colours of monkish tales and
legendary fiction; fit emblem how reluctantly they
admitted the fairer light of truth amidst these dark
recesses, and how much they have debased its genuine
lustre! The low cells, the long and narrow aisles, the
gloomy arches, the damp and secret caverns which
wind beneath the hollow ground, far from impressing
on the mind the idea of the God of truth and love,
seem only fit for those dark places of the earth, in
which are the habitations of cruelty. These massy
stones and scattered reliques of the vast edifice, like
the large bones and gigantic armour of a once formidable
ruffian, produce emotions of mingled dread and 10(6)v 120
exultation. Farewell, ye once venerated seats!
enough of you remains, and may it always remain, to
remind us from what we have escaped, and make
posterity for ever thankful for this fairer age of liberty
and light.

Such were for a while my meditations, but it is
cruel to insult a fallen enemy, and I gradually fell into
a different train of thought. I began to consider
whether something might not be advanced in favour
of these institutions during the barbarous ages in which
they flourished, and though they have been productive
of much mischief and superstition, whether they might
not have spread the glimmering of a feeble ray of
knowledge, through that thick night which once involved
the western hemisphere.

And where, indeed, could the precious remains of
classical learning, and the divine monuments of ancient
taste, have been safely lodged amidst the ravages
of that age of ferocity and rapine which succeeded the
desolation of the Roman empire, except in sanctuaries
like these, consecrated by the superstition of the times
beyond their intrinsic merit? The frequency of wars,
and the licentious cruelty with which they were conducted,
left neither the hamlet of the peasant nor the
castle of the baron free from depredation; but the
chuch and monastery generally remained inviolate.
There Homer and Aristotle were obliged to shroud
their heads from the rage of gothic ignorance; and
there the sacred records of divine truth were preserved,
like treasure hid in the earth in troublesome times,
safe, but unenjoyed. Some of the barbarous nations
were converted before their conquests, and most of
them soon after their settlement in the countries they
over-ran. Those buildings which their new faith
taught them to venerate, afforded a shelter for those
valuable manuscripts, which must otherwise have been 11(1)r 121
destroyed in the common wreck. At the revival of
learning, they were produced from their dormitories.
A copy of the pandect of Justinian, that valuable remain
of Roman law, which first gave to Europe the
idea of a more perfect jurisprudence, and gave men
a relish for a new and important study, was discovered
in a monastery of Amalphi. Most of the classics
were recovered by the same means; and to this it is
owing, to the books and learning preserved in these
repositories, that we were not obliged to begin anew,
and trace every art by slow, uncertain steps from its
first origin. Science, already full grown and vigorous,
awaked as from a trance, shook her pinions, and soon
soared to the heights of knowledge.

Nor was she entirely idle during her recess; at
least we cannot but confess that what little learning
remained in the world, was amongst the priests and religious
orders. Books, before the invention of paper
and the art of printing, were so dear, that few private
persons possessed any. The only libraries were
in convents; and the monks were often employed in
transcribing manuscripts, which was a very tedious,
and at that time a very necessary task. It was frequently
enjoined as a penance for some slight offence,
or given as an exercise to the younger part of the
community. The monks were obliged by their rules
to spend some stated hours every day in reading and
study; nor was any one to be chosen abbot without
a competent share of learning. They were the only
historians; and though their accounts be interwoven
with many a legendary tale, and darkened by much
superstition, still they are better than no histories at all;
and we cannot but think ourselves obliged to them for
transmitting to us, in any dress, the annals of their
country.

Vol. II 11 11(1)v 122

They were likewise almost the sole instructers of
youth. Towards the end of the tenth century, there
were no schools in Europe but the monasteries, and
those which belonged to episcopal residences; nor
any masters but the Benedictines. It is true, their
course of education extended no further than what
they called the seven liberal arts, and these were
taught in a very dry and uninteresting manner. But
this was the genius of the age, and it should not be
imputed to them as a reproach that they did not
teach well, when no one taught better. We are guilty
of great unfairness when we compare the school-men
with the philosophers of a more enlightened age: we
should contrast them with those of their own times;
with a high-constable of France who could not read;
with kings who made the sign of the cross in confirmation
of their charters, because they could not write
their names; with a whole people without the least
glimmering of taste or literature. Whatever was their
real knowledge, there was a much greater difference
between men of learning, and the bulk of the nation,
at that time, than there is at present; and certainly,
some of the disciples of those schools, who, though
now fallen into disrepute, were revered in their day
by the names of the subtle, or the angelic doctors,
showed an acuteness and strength of genius, which,
if properly directed, would have gone far in philosophy;
and they only failed because their inquiries
were not the objects of human powers. Had they
exercised half that acuteness on facts and experiments,
they had been truly great men. However, there were
not wanting some, even in the darkest ages, whose
names will be always remembered with pleasure by
the lovers of science. Alcuin, the preceptor of Charlemagne,
the first who introduced a taste for polite
literature into France, and the chief instrument that 11(2)r 123
prince made use of in his noble endeavours for the
encouragement of learning; to whom the universities
of Soissons, Tours, and Paris owe their origin: the
historians, Matthew Paris, William of Malmsbury; Savanarola; the elegant and unfortunate Abelard;
and, to crown the rest, the English Franciscan, Roger
Bacon
.

It may be here observed, that forbidding the vulgar
tongue in the offices of devotion, and in reading the
scriptures, though undoubtedly a great corruption in
the Christian Church, was of infinite service to the
interests of learning. When the ecclesiastics had
locked up their religion in a foreign tongue, they
would take care not to lose the key. This gave an
importance to the learned languages; and every
scholar could not only read, but wrote and disputed
in Latin, which without such a motive would probably
have been no more studied than the Chinese. And
at a time when the modern languages of Europe were
yet unformed and barbarous, Latin was of great use as
a kind of universal tongue, by which learned men
might converse and correspond with each other.

Indeed the monks were almost the only set of men
who had leisure or opportunity to pay the least attention
to literary subjects. A learned education (and
a very little went to that title) was reckoned peculiar
to the religious. It was almost esteemed a blemish
on the savage and martial character of the gentry, to
have any tincture of letters. A man, therefore, of a
studious and retired turn, averse to quarrels, and not
desirous of the fierce and sanguinary glory of those
times, beheld in the cloister a peaceful and honourable
sanctuary; where, without the reproach of
cowardice, or danger of invasion, he might devote
himself to learning, associate with men of his own
turn, and have free access to libraries and manuscripts. 11(2)v 124
In this enlightened and polished age, where learning
is diffused through every rank, and many a merchant’s
clerk possesses more real knowledge than half the
literati of that æra, we can scarcely conceive how
gross an ignorance overspread those times, and how
totally all useful learning might have been lost amongst
us, had it not been for an order of men, vested with
peculiar privileges, and protected by even a superstitious
degree of reverence.

Thus the Muses, with their attendant arts, in strange
disguise indeed, and uncouth trappings, took refuge
in the peaceful gloom of the convent. Statuary carved
a madonna or a crucifix; painting illuminated a
missal; eloquence made the panegyric of a saint;
and history composed a legend. Yet still they breathed,
and were ready, at any happier period, to emerge
from obscurity with all their native charms and undiminished
lustre.

But there were other views in which those who devoted
themselves to a monastic life, might be supposed
useful to society. They were often employed either
in cultivating their gardens, or in curious mechanical
works; as indeed the nuns are still famous for many
elegant and ingenious manufactures. By the constant
communication they had with those of their own order,
and with their common head at Rome, they maintained
some intercourse between nations at a time when
travelling was dangerous, and commerce had not, as
now, made the most distant parts of the globe familiar
to each other: and they kept up a more intimate bond
of union amongst learned men of all countries, who
would otherwise have been secluded from all knowledge
of each other. A monk might travel with more
convenience than any one else; his person was safer,
and he was sure of meeting with proper accommodations.
The intercourse with Rome must have been 11(3)r 125
peculiarly favourable to these northern nations; as
Italy for a long time led the way in every improvement
of politeness or literature: and if we imported
their superstition, we likewise imported their manufactures,
their knowledge, and their taste. Thus Alfred
sent for Italian monks, when he wanted to civilize
his people, and introduce amongst them some tincture
of letters. It may likewise be presumed that they
tempered the rigour of monarchy. Indeed they, as
well as the sovereigns, endeavoured to enslave the
people; but subjection was not likely to be so abject
and unlimited where the object of it was divided, and
each showed by turns that the other might be opposed.
It must have been of service to the cause of liberty, to
have a set of men, whose laws, privileges, and immunities
the most daring kings were afraid to trample on;
and this, before a more enlightened spirit of freedom
had arisen, might have its effect in preventing the
states of christendom from falling into such entire slavery
as the Asiatics.

Such an order would in some degree check the
excessive regard paid to birth. A man of mean origin
and obscure parentage saw himself excluded from almost
every path of secular preferment, and almost
treated as a being of an inferior species by the high
and haughty spirit of the gentry; but he was at liberty
to aspire to the highest dignities of the church; and
there have been many who, like Sextus V. and cardinal
Wolsey, have, by their industry and personal merit
alone, raised themselves to a level with kings.

It should likewise be remembered that many of the
orders were charitable institutions; as the knights of
faith and charity
in the thirteenth century, who were
associated for the purpose of suppressing those bands
of robbers which infested the public roads in France; the brethren of the order of the redemption, for redeeming11* 11(3)v 126
slaves from the Mahometans; the order of St.
Anthony
, first established for the relief of the poor
under certain disorders; and the brethren and sisters
of the pious and christian schools
, for educating poor
children. These supplied the place of hospitals and
other such foundations, which are now established on
the broader basis of public benevolence. To bind up
the wounds of the stranger, was peculiarly the office
of the inhabitants of the convent; and they often shared
the charities they received. The exercise of
hospitality is still their characteristic, and must have
been of particular use formerly, when there were not
the conveniences and accomodations for travelling
which we now enjoy. The learned stranger was always
sure of an agreeable residence amongst them;
and as they all understood Latin, they served him for
interpreters, and introduced him to a sight of whatever
was curious or valuable in the countries which he visited.
They checked the spirit of savage fierceness,
to which our warlike ancestors were so prone, with
the mildness and sanctity of religious influences; they
preserved some respect to law and order, and often
decided controversies by means less bloody than the
sword, though confessedly more superstitious.

A proof that these institutions had a favourable
aspect towards civilization, may be drawn from a late
history of Ireland. “Soon after the introduction of
christianity into that kingdom,”
says Dr. Leland, “the
monks fixed their habitations in deserts, which they
cultivated with their own hands, and rendered the
most delightful spots in the kingdom. These deserts
became well policed cities, and it is remarkable enough,
that to the monks we owe so useful an institution in
Ireland, as the bringing great numbers together into
one civil community. In these cities the monks set
up schools, and taught, not only the youth of Ireland, 11(4)r 127
but the neighbouring nations; furnishing them also
with books. They became umpires between contending
chiefs, and when they could not confine them
within the bounds of reason and religion, at last terrified
them by denouncing divine vengeance against
their excesses.”

Let it be considered too, that when the minds of men
began to open, some of the most eminent reformers
sprung from the bosom of the church, and even of the
convent. It was not the laity who began to think.
The ecclesiastics were the first to perceive the errors
they had introduced. The church was reformed from
within, not from without; and like the silk-worm,
when ripened in their cells to maturer vigour and perfection,
they pierced the cloud themselves had spun,
and within which they had so long been enveloped.

And let not the good protestant be too much startled
if I here venture to insinuate, that the monasteries
were schools of some high and respectable virtues.
Poverty, chastity, and a renunciation of the world,
were certainly intended in the first plan of these institutions;
and though, from the unavoidable frailty of
human nature, they were not always observed, certain
it is, that many individuals amongst them have been
striking examples of the self-denying virtues; and as
the influence they acquired was only built upon the
voluntary homage of the mind, it may be presumed
such an ascendancy was not originally gained without
some species of merit. The fondness for monkery is
easily deduced from some of the best principles in
the human heart. It was indeed necessity, that in the
third century first drove the christians to shelter themselves
from Decian persecution in the solitary
deserts of Thebais, but the humour soon spread, and
numbers under the name of hermits, or eremites,
secluded themselves from the commerce of mankind, 11(4)v 128
choosing the wildest solitudes, living in caves and hollows
of the rocks, and subsisting on such roots and
herbs as the ground afforded them. About the fourth
century they were gathered into communities, and increased
with surprising rapidity. It was then that,
by a great and sudden revolution, the fury of persecution
had ceased, and the governing powers were
become friendly to christianity. But the agitation of
men’s minds did not immediately subside with the
storm. The christians had so long experienced the
necessity of resigning all the enjoyment of life, and
were so detached from every tie which might interfere
with the profession of their faith, that upon a more
favourable turn of affairs they hardly dared open their
minds to pleasurable emotions. They thought the life
of a good man must be a continual warfare between
mind and body; and having been long used to see
ease and safety on the one side, and virtue on the
other, no wonder if the association was so strong in
their minds, as to suggest the necessity of voluntary
mortification, and lead them to inflict those sufferings
upon themselves, which they no longer apprehended
from others. They had continually experienced the
amazing effects of christianity in supporting its followers
under hardship, tortures, and death; and they thought
little of its influence in regulating the common behaviour
of life, if it produced none of those great
exertions they had been used to contemplate. They
were struck with the change from heathen licentiousness
to the purity of the gospel; and thought they
could never be far enough removed from that bondage
of the senses, which it had just cost them so violent a
struggle to escape. The minds of men were working
with newly-received opinions, not yet mellowed into a
rational faith; and the young converts, astonished at
the grandeur and sublimity of the doctrines which 11(5)r 129
then first entered their hearts with irresistible force,
thought them worthy to engross their whole attention.
The mystic dreams of the Platonist mingled with the
enthusiasm of the martyr; and it soon became the
prevailing opinion, that silence, solitude, and contemplation,
were necessary for the reception of divine
truth. Mistaken ideas prevailed of a purity and perfection
far superior to the rules of common life, which
was only to be attained by those who denied themselves
all the indulgences of sense; and thus the
ascetic severities of the cloister succeeded in some
degree to the philosophic poverty of the Cynic school,
and the lofty virtues of the Stoic porch.

Indeed, it is now the prevailing taste in morals to
decry every observance which has the least appearance
of rigour; and to insist only on the softer virtues.
But let it be remembered, that self-command and
self-denial are as necessary to the practice of benevolence,
charity, and compassion, as to any other duty;
that it is impossible to live to others without denying
ourselves; and that the man who has not learned to
curb his appetites and passions is ill qualified for those
sacrifices which the friendly affections are continually
requiring of him. The man who has that one quality
of self-command will find little difficulty in the practice
of any other duty; as, on the contrary, he who has it
not, though possessed of the gentlest feelings, and most
refined sensibilities, will soon find his benevolence sink
into a mere companionable easiness of temper, neither
useful to others nor happy for himself. A noble enthusiasm
is sometimes of use to show how far human
nature can go. Though it may not be proper, or desirable,
that numbers should seclude themselves from
the common duties and ordinary avocations of life, for
the austerer lessons of the cloister, yet it is not unuseful
that some should push their virtues to even a 11(5)v 130
romantic height; and it is encouraging to reflect in
the hour of temptation, that the love of ease, the
aversion to pain, every appetite and passion, and even
the strongest propensities in our nature, have been
controlled; that the empire of the mind over the
body has been asserted in its fullest extent; and that
there have been men in all ages capable of voluntarily
renouncing all the world offers, voluntarily suffering
all its dreads, and living independent, and unconnected
with it. Nor was it a small advantage, or ill
calculated to support the dignity of science, that a
learned man might be respectable in a coarse gown,
a leathern girdle, and bare-footed. Cardinal Ximenes
preserved the severe simplicity of a convent amidst
the pomp and luxury of palaces; and to those who
thus thought it becoming in the highest stations to
affect the appearance of poverty, the reality surely
could not be very dreadful.

There is yet another light in which these institutions
may be considered. It is surely not improper to provide
a retreat for those who, stained by some deep and
enormous crime, wish to expiate by severe and uncommon
penitence those offenses which render them
unworthy of freer commerce with the world. Repentance
is never so secure from a relapse as when it
breaks off at once from every former connexion, and
entering upon a new course of life, bids adieu to every
object that might revive the idea of temptations which
have once prevailed. In these solemn retreats, the
stillness and acknowledged sanctity of the place, with
the striking novelty of every thing around them, might
have great influence in calming the passions; might
break the force of habit, and suddenly induce a new
turn of thinking. There are likewise afflictions so
overwhelming to humanity, that they leave no relish
in the mind for any thing else than to enjoy its own 11(6)r 131
melancholy in silence and solitude; and to a heart
torn with remorse, or opprest with sorrow, the gloomy
severities of La Trappe are really a relief. Retirement
is also the favourite wish of age. Many a
statesman, and many a warrior, sick of the bustle of
that world to which they had devoted the prime of
their days, have longed for some quiet cell, where,
like cardinal Wolsey, or Charles the Fifth, they might
shroud their grey hairs, and lose sight of the follies
with which they had been too much tainted.

Though there is, perhaps, less to plead for immuring
beauty in a cloister, and confining that part of the
species who are formed to shine in families and sweeten
society, to the barren duties and austere discipline of
a monastic life; yet circumstances might occur, in
which they would, even to a woman, be a welcome
refuge. A young female, whom accident or war had
deprived of her natural protectors, must, in an age of
barbarism, be peculiarly exposed and helpless. A
convent offered her an asylum where she might be
safe, at least, if not happy; and add to the consciousness
of unviolated virtue the flattering dreams of angelic
purity and perfection. There were orders, as well
amongst the women as the men, instituted for charitable
purposes, such as that of the Virgins of Love, or
Daughters of Mercy, founded in 16601660, for the relief of
the sick poor; with others for instructing their children.
These must have been peculiarly suited to the softness
and compassion of the sex, and to this it is no doubt
owing, that still, in catholic countries, ladies of the
highest rank often visit the hospitals and houses of the
poor; waiting on them with the most tender assiduity,
and performing such offices as our protestant ladies
would be shocked at the thoughts of. We should also
consider, that most of the females who now take the
veil, are such as have no agreeable prospects in life. 11(6)v 132
Why should not these be allowed to quit a world which
will never miss them? It is easier to retire from the
public, than to support its disregard. The convent is
to them a shelter from poverty and neglect. Their
little community grows dear to them. The equality
which subsists among these sisters of obscurity, the
similarity of their fate, the peace, the leisure they
enjoy, give rise to the most endearing friendships.
Their innocence is shielded by the simplicity of their
life from even the idea of ill; and they are flattered
by the notion of a voluntary renunciation of pleasures,
which, probably, had they continued in the world,
they would have had little share in.

After all that can be said, we have reason enough
to rejoice that the superstitions of former times are
now fallen into disrepute. What might be a palliative
at one time, soon became a crying evil in itself. When
the fuller day of science began to dawn, the monkish
orders were willing to exclude its brightness, that the
dim lamp might still glimmer in their cell. Their
growing vices have rendered them justly odious to
society, and they seem in a fair way of being for ever
abolished. But may we not still hope that the world
was better than it would have been without them;
and that He, who knows to bring good out of evil, has
made them, in their day, subservient to some useful
purposes. The corruptions of christianity, which have
been accumulating for so many ages, seem to be now
gradually clearing away, and some future period may
perhaps exhibit our religion in all its native simplicity.

“So the pure limpid stream, when foul with stains Of rushing torrents, and descending rains, Works itself clear, and as it runs refines, Till by degrees the floating mirror shines; Reflects each flower that on its borders grows, And a new heaven in its fair bosom shows.”
12(1)r 133

An Enquiry into Those Kinds of Distress
Which Excite Agreeable
Sensations:

With a Tale.

It is undoubtedly true, though a phenomenon of
the human mind difficult to account for, that the representation
of distress frequently gives pleasure; from
which general observation many of our modern writers
of tragedy and romance seem to have drawn this inference,
that in order to please, they have nothing
more to do than to paint distress in natural and striking
colours. With this view, they heap together all
the afflicting events and dismal accidents their imagination
can furnish; and when they have half broke
the reader’s heart, they expect he should thank them
for his agreeable entertainment. An author of this
class sits down, pretty much like an inquisitor, to
compute how much suffering he can inflict upon the
hero of his tale before he makes an end of him; with
this difference, indeed, that the inquisitor only tortures
those who are at least reputed criminals; whereas the
writer generally chooses the most excellent character
in his piece for the subject of his persecution. The
great criterion of excellence is placed in being able to
draw tears plentifully; and concluding we shall weep
the more, the more the picture is loaded with doleful
events, they go on telling “…of sorrows upon sorrows,Even to a lamentable length of woe.”

Vol. II. 12 12(1)v 134

A monarch once proposed a reward for the discovery
of a new pleasure; but if any one could find out
a new torture, or non-descript calamity, he would be
more entitled to the applause of those who fabricated
books of entertainment.

But the springs of pity require to be touched with
a more delicate hand; and it is far from being true
that we are agreeably affected by every thing that
excites our sympathy. It shall therefore be the business
of this essay to distinguish those kinds of distress
which are pleasing in the representation, from those
which are really painful and disgusting.

The view or relation of mere misery can never be
pleasing. We have, indeed, a strong sympathy with
all kinds of misery; but it is a feeling of pure unmixed
pain, similar in kind, though not equal in degree,
to what we feel for ourselves on the like occasions;
and never produces that melting sorrow, that thrill of
tenderness, to which we give the name of pity. They
are two distinct sensations, marked by very different
external expression. One causes the nerves to tingle,
the flesh to shudder, and the whole countenance to be
thrown into strong contractions; the other relaxes the
frame, opens the features, and produces tears. When
we crush a noxious or loathsome animal, we may
sympathize strongly with the pain it suffers, but with
far different emotions from the tender sentiment we
feel for the dog of Ulysses, who crawled to meet his
long-lost master, looked up, and died at his feet.
Extreme bodily pain is perhaps the most intense suffering
we are capable of, and if the fellow-feeling with
misery alone was grateful to the mind, the exhibition
of a man in a fit of the tooth-ach, or under a chirurgical
operation, would have a fine effect in a tragedy.
But there must be some other sentiment combined
with this kind of instinctive sympathy, before it becomes 12(2)r 135
in any degree pleasing, or produces the sweet
emotion of pity. This sentiment is love, esteem, the
complacency we take in the contemplation of beauty,
of mental or moral excellence, called forth and rendered
more interesting, by circumstances of pain and
danger. Tenderness is, much more properly than
sorrow, the spring of tears; for it affects us in that
manner, whether combined with joy or grief; perhaps
more in the former case than the latter. And I believe
we may venture to assert, that no distress which
produces tears is wholly without a mixture of pleasure.
When Joseph’s brethren were sent to buy corn, if they
had perished in the desart by wild beasts, or been
reduced (as in the horrid adventures of a Pierre de
Vaud
) to eat one another, we might have shuddered,
but we should not have wept for them. The gush of
tears breaks forth when Joseph made himself known
to his brethren, and fell on their neck, and kissed
them. When Hubert prepares to burn out prince
Arthur’s eyes, the shocking circumstance, of itself,
would only affect us with horror; it is the amiable
simplicity of the young prince, and his innocent affection
to his intended murderer, that draws our tears,
and excites that tender sorrow which we love to feel,
and which refines the heart while we do feel it.

We see, therefore, from this view of our internal
feelings, that no scenes of misery ought to be exhibited
which are not connected with the display of some
moral excellence, or agreeable quality. If fortitude,
power, and strength of mind are called forth, they
produce the sublime feelings of wonder and admiration:
if the softer qualities of gentleness, grace, and beauty,
they inspire love and pity. The management of these
latter emotions is our present object.

And let it be remembered, in the first place, that
the misfortunes which excite pity must not be too 12(2)v 136
horrid and over-whelming. The mind is rather stunned
than softened by great calamities. They are
little circumstances that work most sensibly upon the
tender feelings. For this reason, a well-written novel
generally draws more tears than a tragedy. The
distresses of tragedy are more calculated to amaze
and terrify, than to move compassion. Battles, torture
and death are in every page. The dignity of the
characters, the importance of the events, the pomp
of verse and imagery, interest the grander passions,
and raise the mind to an enthusiasm little favourable
to the weak and languid notes of pity. The tragedies
of Young are in a fine strain of poetry, and the situations
are worked up with great energy; but the pictures are
in too deep a shade; all his pieces are full of violent
and gloomy passions, and so over-wrought with horror,
that instead of awakening any pleasing sensibility,
they leave on the mind an impression of sadness mixed
with terror. Shakspeare is sometimes guilty of
presenting scenes too shocking. Such is the trampling
out of Gloster’s eyes; and such is the whole play
of Titus Andronicus. But Lee, beyond all others,
abounds with this kind of images. He delighted in
painting the most daring crimes, and cruel massacres;
and though he has shewn himself extremely capable
of raising tenderness, he continually checks its course
by shocking and disagreeable expressions. His pieces
are in the same taste with the pictures of Spagnolet,
and there are many scenes in his tragedies which no
one can relish who would not look with pleasure on
the flaying of St. Bartholomew. The following
speech of Marguerite, in the massacre of Paris, was,
I suppose, intended to express the utmost tenderness
of affection.
“Die for him! that’s too little; I could burnPiece-meal away, or bleed to death by drops,12(3)r137Be flay’d alive, then broke upon the wheel,Yet with a smile endure it all for GuiseAnd when let loose from torments, all one wound,Run with my mangled arms and crush him dead.”

Images like these will never excite the softer passions.
We are less moved at the description of an
Indian tortured with all the dreadful ingenuity of that
savage people, than with the fatal mistake of the lover
in the Spectator, who pierced an artery in the arm of
his mistress as he was letting her blood. Tragedy
and romance-writers, are likewise apt to make too
free with the more violent expressions of passion and
distress, by which means they lose their effect. Thus
an ordinary author does not know how to express any
strong emotion otherwise than by swoonings or death;
so that a person experienced in this kind of reading,
when a girl faints away at parting with her lover, or a
hero kills himself for the loss of his mistress, considers
it as the established etiquette upon such occasions,
and turns over the pages with the utmost coolness
and unconcern; whereas real sensibility, and a more
intimate knowledge of human nature, would have suggested
a thousand little touches of grief, which though
slight, are irresistible. We are too gloomy a people.
Some of the French novels are remarkable for little
affecting incidents, imagined with delicacy, and told
with grace. Perhaps they have a better turn than
we have for this kind of writing.

A judicious author will never attempt to raise pity
by any thing mean or disgusting. As we have already
observed, there must be a degree of complacence
mixed with our sorrows to produce an agreeable
sympathy; nothing, therefore, must be admitted
which destroys the grace and dignity of suffering;
the imagination must have an amiable figure to dwell
upon; there are circumstances so ludicrous or disgusting,12* 12(3)v 138
that no character can preserve a proper decorum
under them, or appear in an agreeable light. Who
can read the following description of Polypheme, without
finding his compassion entirely destroyed by aversion
and loathing? “…His bloody handSnatch’d two unhappy of my martial band,And dash’d like dogs against the stony floor;The pavement swims with brains and mingled gore;Torn limb from limb, he spreads his horrid feast,And fierce devours it like a mountain beast;He sucks the marrow, and the blood he drains,Nor entrails, flesh, nor solid bone remains.”
Or that of Scylla, “In the wide dungeon she devours her food,And the flesh trembles while she churns the blood.”
Deformity is always disgusting, and the imagination
cannot reconcile it with the idea of a favourite character;
therefore the poet and romance-writer are
fully justified in giving a larger share of beauty to their
principal figures than is usually met with in common
life. A late genius, indeed, in a whimsical mood,
gave us a lady with her nose crushed for the heroine
of his story; but the circumstance spoils the picture;
and though in the course of the story it is kept a good
deal out of sight, whenever it does recur to the imagination,
we are hurt and disgusted. It was an heroic
instance of virtue in the nuns of a certain abbey, who
cut off their noses and lips to avoid violation; yet this
would make a very bad subject for a poem or a play.
Something akin to this, is the representation of any
thing unnatural; of which kind is the famous story of
the Roman charity, and for this reason I cannot but
think it an unpleasing subject for either the pen or the
pencil.

12(4)r 139

Poverty, if truly represented, shocks our nicer
feelings; therefore, whenever it is made use of to
awaken our compassion, the rags and dirt, the squalid
appearance and mean employments incident to that
state must be kept out of sight, and the distress must
arise from the idea of depression, and the shock of
falling from higher fortunes. We do not pity Belisarius
as a poor blind beggar; and a painter would succeed
very ill who should sink him to the meanness of that
condition. He must let us still discover the conqueror
of the Vandals, the general of the imperial armies,
or we shall be little interested. Let us look at the
picture of the old woman in Otway: “… A wrinkled hag with age grown double,Picking dry sticks, and muttering to herself;Her eyes with scalding rheum were galled and red;Cold palsy shook her head; her hands seem’d wither’d;And on her crooked shoulder had she wraptThe tatter’d remnant of an old strip’d hanging,Which serv’d to keep her carcase from the cold;So there was nothing of a piece about her.”
Here is the extreme of wretchedness, and instead of
melting into pity, we should turn away with digust, if
we were not pleased with it, as we are with a Dutch
painting, from its exact imitation of nature. Indeed
the author only intended it to strike horror. But
how different are the sentiments we feel for the lovely
Belvidera! We see none of those circumstances which
render poverty an unamiable thing. When the goods
are seized by an execution, our attention is turned to
the piles of massy plate, and all the ancient, most domestic
ornaments
, which imply grandeur and consequence;
or to such instances of their hard fortune as
will lead us to pity them as lovers: we are struck and
affected with the general face of ruin; but we are not
brought near enough to discern the ugliness of its 12(4)v 140
features. Belvidera ruined, Belvidera deprived of
friends, without a home, abandoned to the wide world—
we can contemplate with all the pleasing sympathy
of pity; but had she been represented as really sunk
into low life, had we seen her employed in the most
servile offices of poverty, our compassion would have
given way to contempt and disgust. Indeed, we may
observe in real life, that poverty is only pitied so long
as people can keep themselves from the effects of it.
When in common language we say a miserable object,
we mean an object of distress which, if we relieve,
we turn away from at the same time. To make pity
pleasing, the object of it must not in any view be disagreeable
to the imagination. How admirably has the
author of Clarissa managed this point! Amidst scenes of
suffering which rend the heart, in poverty, in a prison,
under the most shocking outrages, the grace and delicacy
of her character never suffers even for a moment:
there seems to be a charm about her which prevents
her receiving a stain from any thing which happens;
and Clarissa, abandoned and undone, is the object
not only of complacence, but veneration.

I would likewise observe, that if an author would
have us feel a strong degree of compassion, his characters
must not be too perfect. The stern fortitude
and inflexible resolution of a Cato may command
esteem, but does not excite tenderness; and faultless
rectitude of conduct, though no rigour be mixed with
it, is of too sublime a nature to inspire compassion.
Virtue has a kind of self-sufficiency; it stands upon
its own basis, and cannot be injured by any violence.
It must therefore be mixed with something of helplessness
and imperfection, with an excessive sensibility,
or a simplicity bordering upon weakness, before it
raises, in any great degree, either tenderness or familiar
love. If there be a fault in the masterly performance 12(5)r 141
just now mentioned, it is that the character of Clarissa
is so inflexibly right, her passions are under such perfect
command, and her prudence is so equal to every
occasion, that she seems not to need that sympathy
we should bestow upon one of a less elevated character;
and perhaps we should feel a livelier emotion of
tenderness for the innocent girl whom Lovelace calls
his Rose-bud, but that the story of Clarissa is so
worked up by the strength of colouring, and the force
of repeated impressions, as to command all our sorrow.

Pity seems too degrading a sentiment to be offered
at the shrine of faultless excellence. The sufferings
of martyrs are rather beheld with admiration and sympathetic
triumph than with tears; and we never feel
much for those whom we consider as themselves raised
above common feelings.

The last rule I shall insist upon is, that scenes of
distress should not be too long continued. All our
finer feelings are in a manner momentary, and no art
can carry them beyond a certain point, either in intenseness
or duration. Constant suffering deadens
the heart to tender impressions; as we may observe
in sailors and others, who are grown callous by a life
of continual hardships. It is therefore highly necessary,
in a long work, to relieve the mind by scenes of pleasure
and gaiety; and I cannot think it so absurd a
practice as our modern delicacy has represented it,
to intermix wit and and fancy with the pathetic, provided
care be taken not to check the passions while they
are flowing. The transition from a pleasurable state
of mind to tender sorrow is not so difficult as we
imagine. When the mind is opened by gay and
agreeable scenes, every impression is felt more sensibly.
Persons of a lively temper are much more susceptible
of that sudden swell of sensibility which occasions
tears, than those of a grave and saturnine cast: for 12(5)v 142
this reason women are more easily moved to weeping
than men. Those who have touched the springs of
pity with the finest hand, have mingled light strokes
of pleasantry and mirth in their most pathetic passages.
Very different is the conduct of many novel-writers,
who, by plunging us into scenes of distress without
end or limit, exhaust the powers, and, before the conclusion,
either render us insensible to every thing, or
fix a real sadness upon the mind. The uniform style
of tragedies is one reason why they affect so little.
In our old plays, all the force of language is reserved
for the more interesting parts; and in the scenes of
common life there is no attempt to rise above common
language: whereas we, by that pompous manner and
affected solemnity which we think it necessary to preserve
through the whole piece, lose the force of an
elevated or passionate expression where the occasion
really suggests it.

Having thus considered the manner in which fictitious
distress must be managed to render it pleasing, let us
reflect a little upon the moral tendency of such representations.
Much has been said in favour of them,
and they are generally thought to improve the tender
and humane feelings; but this, I own, appears to me
very dubious. That they exercise sensibility, is true;
but sensibility does not increase with exercise. By
the constitution of our frame our habits increase, our
emotions decrease, by repeated acts; and thus a wise
provision is made, that as our compassion grows weaker,
its place should be supplied by habitual benevolence.
But in these writings our sensibility is strongly called
forth without any possibility of exerting itself in virtuous
action, and those emotions, which we shall never
feel again with equal force, are wasted without advantage.
Nothing is more dangerous than to let virtuous
impressions of any kind pass through the mind without 12(6)r 143
producing their proper effect. The awakenings of
remorse, virtuous shame and indignation, the glow of
moral approbation—if they do not lead to action, grow
less and less vivid every time they recur, till at length
the mind grows absolutely callous. The being affected
with a pathetic story, is undoubtedly a sign of an
amiable disposition, but perhaps no means of increasing
it. On the contrary, young people, by a course
of this kind of reading, often acquire something of
that apathy and indifference which the experience of
real life would have given them without its advantages.

Another reason why plays and romances do not
improve our humanity is, that they lead us to require
a certain elegance of manners and delicacy of virtue
which is not often found with poverty, ignorance and
meanness. The objects of pity in romance are as
different from those in real life as our husbandmen
from the shepherds of Arcadia; and a girl who will
sit weeping the whole night at the delicate distresses of
a lady Charlotte, or lady Julia, shall be little moved at
the complaint of her neighbour, who, in a homely phrase
and vulgar accent, laments to her that she is not able
to get bread for her family. Romance-writers likewise
make great misfortunes so familiar to our ears, that we
have hardly any pity to spare for the common accidents
of life: but we ought to remember, that misery has a
claim to relief, however we may be disgusted with
its appearance; and that we must not fancy ourselves
charitable, when we are only pleasing our imagination.

It would perhaps be better, if our romances were
more like those of the old stamp, which tended to
raise human nature, and inspire a certain grace and
dignity of manners of which we have hardly the idea.
The high notions of honour, the wild and fanciful
spirit of adventure and romantic love, elevated the
mind; our novels tend to depress and enfeeble it. 12(6)v 144
Yet there is a species of this kind of writing which
must ever afford an exquisite pleasure to persons of
taste and sensibility; where noble sentiments are mixed
with well-fancied incidents, pathetic touches with
dignity and grace, and invention with chaste correctness.
Such will ever interest our sweetest passions.
I shall conclude this paper with the following tale.

In the happy period of the golden age, when all
the celestial inhabitants descended to the earth, and
conversed familiarly with mortals, among the most
cherished of the heavenly powers were twins, the offspring
of Jupiter, Love and Joy. Where they appeared,
the flowers sprung up beneath their feet, the sun
shone with a brighter radiance, and all nature seemed
embellished by their presence. They were inseparable
companions, and their growing attachment was
favoured by Jupiter, who had decreed that a lasting
union should be solemnized between them as soon as
they were arrived at maturer years. But in the mean
time, the sons of men deviated from their native innocence;
vice and ruin overran the earth with giant
strides; and Astrea, with her train of celestial visitants,
forsook their polluted abodes. Love alone remained,
having been stolen away by Hope, who was his nurse,
and conveyed her to the forests of Arcadia, where
he was brought up among the shepherds. But Jupiter
assigned him a different partner, and commanded him to
espouse Sorrow, the daughter of Ate. He complied
with reluctance; for her features were harsh and disagreeable,
her eyes sunk, her forehead contracted into
perpetual wrinkles, and her temples were covered with
a wreath of cypress and wormwood. From this
union sprung a virgin, in whom might be traced a
strong resemblance to both her parents; but the sullen 13(1)r 145
and unamiable features of her mother were so mixed
and blended with the sweetness of her father, that her
countenance, though mournful, was highly pleasing.
The maids and shepherds of the neighbouring plains
gathered round, and called her Pity. A redbreast
was observed to build in the cabin where she was
born; and while she was yet an infant, a dove, pursued
by a hawk, flew into her bosom. This nymph
had a dejected appearance, but so soft and gentle a
mien that she was beloved to a degree of enthusiasm.
Her voice was low and plaintive, but inexpressibly
sweet; and she loved to lie for hours together on the
banks of some wild and melancholy stream, singing
to her lute. She taught men to weep, for she took a
strange delight in tears; and often, when the virgins
of the hamlet were assembled at their evening sports,
she would steal in amongst them, and captivate their
hearts by her tales full of charming sadness. She
wore on her head a garland, composed of her father’s
myrtles, twisted with her mother’s cypress.

One day, as she sat musing by the waters of Helicon,
her tears by chance fell into the fountain; and ever
since, the muses’ spring has retained a strong taste of
the infusion. Pity was commanded by Jupiter to
follow the steps of her mother through the world,
dropping balm into the wounds she made, and binding
up the hearts she had broken. She follows with her
hair loose, her bosom bare and throbbing, her garments
torn by the briars, and her feet bleeding with the roughness
of the path. The nymph is mortal, for her
mother is so; and when she has fulfilled her destined
course upon the earth, they shall both expire together,
and Love be again united to Joy, his immortal and
long-betrothed bride.

Vol. II. 13 13(1)v 146

Thoughts on the Devotional Taste,
and on
Sects and Establishments. This Essay was first printed in 17751775, and prefixed to Devotional
Pieces compiled from the Psalms of David
.

It is observed by a late most amiable and elegant
writer, that religion may be considered in three different
views. As a system of opinions, its sole object
is truth; and the only faculty that has any thing to do
with it is reason, exerted in the freest and most dispassionate
inquiry. As a principle regulating our
conduct, religion is a habit, and like all other habits,
of slow growth, and gaining strength only by repeated
exertions. But it may likewise be considered as a
taste, an affair of sentiment and feeling, and in this
sense it is properly called devotion. Its seat is in the
imagination and the passions, and it has its source in
that relish for the sublime, the vast, and the beautiful,
by which we taste the charms of poetry and other
compositions that address our finer feelings; rendered
more lively and interesting by a sense of gratitude for
personal benefits. It is in a great degree constitutional,
and is by no means found in exact proportion to the
virtue of a character.

It is with relation to this last view of the subject
that the observations in this essay are hazarded; for
though, as a rule of life, the authority and salutary
effects of religion are pretty universally acknowledged,
and though its tenets have been defended with sufficient 13(2)r 147
zeal, its affections languish, the spirit of devotion
is certainly at a very low ebb amongst us, and what is
surprising, it has fallen, I know not how, into a certain
contempt, and is treated with great indifference,
amongst many of those who value themselves on the
purity of their faith, and who are distinguished by the
sweetness of their morals. As the religious affections
in a great measure rise and fall with the pulse, and
are affected by every thing which acts upon the imagination,
they are apt to run into strange excesses;
and if directed by a melancholy or enthusiastic faith,
their workings are often too strong for a weak head, or
a delicate frame; and for this reason they have been
almost excluded from religious worship by many persons
of real piety. It is the character of the present
age to allow little to sentiment, and all the warm and
generous emotions are treated as romantic by the supercilious
brow of cold-hearted philosophy. The
man of science, with an air of superiority, leaves them
to some florid declaimer who professes to work upon
the passions of the lower class, where they are so
debased by noise and nonsense, that it is no wonder if
they move disgust in those of elegant and better-
informed minds.

Yet there is a devotion, generous, liberal, and
humane, the child of more exalted feelings than base
minds can enter into, which assimilates man to higher
natures, and lifts him “above this visible diurnal
sphere.”
Its pleasures are ultimate, and, when early
cultivated, continue vivid even in that uncomfortable
season of life when some of the passions are extinct,
when imagination is dead, and the heart begins to contract
within itself. Those who want this taste, want a
sense, a part of their nature, and should not presume
to judge of feelings to which they must ever be strangers.
No one pretends to be a judge in poetry or the 13(2)v 148
fine arts, who has not both a natural and a cultivated
relish for them; and shall the narrow-minded children
of earth, absorbed in low pursuits, dare to treat as
visionary, objects which they have never made themselves
acquainted with? Silence on such subjects
will better become them. But to vindicate the pleasures
of devotion to those who have neither taste nor
knowledge about them, is not the present object. It
rather deserves our inquiry, what causes have contributed
to check the operation of religious impressions
amongst those who have steady principles, and are
well disposed to virtue.

And, in the first place, there is nothing more prejudicial
to the feelings of a devout heart, than a habit
of disputing on religious subjects. Free inquiry is
undoubtedly necessary to establish a rational belief;
but a disputatious spirit, and fondness for controversy,
give the mind a sceptical turn, with an aptness to call
in question the most established truths. It is impossible
to preserve that deep reverence for the Deity
with which we ought to regard him, when all his attributes,
and even his very existence, become the subject
of familiar debate. Candor demands that a man
should allow his opponent an unlimited freedom of
speech, and it is not easy in the heat of discourse to
avoid falling into an indecent or careless expression;
hence, those who think seldomer of religious subjects,
often treat them with more respect than those whose
profession keeps them constantly in their view. A
plain man of a serious turn would probably be shocked
to hear questions of this nature treated with that ease
and negligence with which they are generally discussed
by the practised theologian, or the young, lively
academic, ready primed from the schools of logic and
metaphysics. As the ear loses its delicacy by being
obliged only to hear coarse and vulgar language, so 13(3)r 149
the veneration for religion wears off by hearing it
treated with disregard, though we ourselves are employed
in defending it; and to this it is owing that
many who have confirmed themselves in the belief of
religion, have never been able to recover that strong
and affectionate sense of it which they had before
they began to inquire, and have wondered to find their
devotion grow weaker, when their faith was better
grounded. Indeed, strong reasoning powers and
quick feelings do not often unite in the same person.
Men of a scientific turn seldom lay their hearts open
to impression. Previously biassed by the love of system,
they do indeed attend the offices of religion, but
they dare not trust themselves with the preacher, and
are continually upon the watch to observe whether
every sentiment agrees with their own particular
tenets.

The spirit of inquiry is easily distinguished from
the spirit of disputation. A state of doubt is not a
pleasant state. It is painful, anxious, and distressing
beyond most others; it disposes the mind to dejection
and modesty. Whoever therefore is so unfortunate
as not to have settled his opinions in important points,
will proceed in the search of truth with deep humility,
unaffected earnestness, and a serious attention to every
argument that may be offered, which he will be much
rather inclined to revolve in his own mind, than to
use as materials for dispute. Even with these dispositions,
it is happy for a man when he does not find
much to alter in the religious system he has embraced;
for if that undergoes a total revolution, his religious
feelings are too generally so weakened by the
shock, that they hardly recover again their original
tone and vigour.

Shall we mention philosophy as an enemy to religion?
God forbid! Philosophy, 13* 13(3)v 150 “Daughter of Heaven, that slow ascending stillInvestigating sure the form of things,With radiant finger points to heaven again.”
Yet there is a view in which she exerts an influence
perhaps rather unfavourable to the fervour of simple
piety. Philosophy does indeed enlarge our conceptions
of the Deity, and gives us the sublimest ideas of
his power and extent of dominion; but it raises him
too high for our imaginations to take hold of, and in
a great measure destroys that affectionate regard
which is felt by the common class of pious christians.
When, after contemplating the numerous productions
of this earth, the various forms of being, the laws,
the mode of their existence, we rise yet higher, and
turn our eyes to that magnificent profusion of suns
and systems which astronomy pours upon the mind;
when we grow acquainted with the majestic order of
nature, and those eternal laws which bind the material
and intellectual worlds; when we trace the footsteps
of creative energy through regions of unmeasured
space, and still find new wonders disclosed and pressing
upon the view—we grow giddy with the prospect;
the mind is astonished, confounded at its own insignificance;
we think it almost impiety for a worm to lift
its head from the dust, and address the Lord of so
stupendous a universe; the idea of communion with
our Maker shocks us as presumption, and the only
feeling the soul is capable of in such a moment, is a
deep and painful sense of its own abasement. It is
true, the same philosophy teaches that the Deity is
intimately present through every part of this complicated
system, and neglects not any of his works: but
this is a truth which is believed without being felt; our
imagination cannot here keep pace with our reason,
and the sovereign of nature seems ever further removed
from us, in proportion as we enlarge the bounds of his
creation. 13(4)r 151
Philosophy represents the Deity in too abstracted
a manner to engage our affections. A Being without
hatred and without fondness, going on in one steady
course of even benevolence, neither delighted with
praises, nor moved by importunity, does not interest
us so much as a character open to the feelings of indignation,
the soft relentings of mercy, and the partialities
of particular affections. We require some
common nature, or at least the appearance of it, on
which to build our intercourse. It is also a fault of
which philosophers are often guilty, that they dwell
too much in generals. Accustomed to reduce every
thing to the operation of general laws, they turn our
attention to larger views, attempt to grasp the whole
order of the universe, and in the zeal of a systematic
spirit, seldom leave room for for those particular and personal
mercies which are the food of gratitude. They
trace the great outline of nature, but neglect the colouring
which gives warmth and beauty to the piece.
As in poetry it is not vague and general description, but
a few striking circumstances clearly related and strongly
worked up—as in a landscape it is not such a vast extensive
range of country as pains the eye to stretch to
its limits, but a beautiful, well-defined prospect, which
gives the most pleasure—so neither are those unbounded
views in which philosophy delights, so much
calculated to touch the heart, as home views and nearer
objects. The philosopher offers up general praises
on the altar of universal nature; the devout man, on
the altar of his heart, presents his own sighs, his own
thanksgivings, his own earnest desires: the former
worship is more sublime, the latter more personal and
affecting.

We are likewise too scrupulous in our public exercises,
and too studious of accuracy. A prayer strictly
philosophical must ever be a cold and dry composition. 13(4)v 152
From an over-anxious fear of admitting any expression
that is not strictly proper, we are apt to reject all
warm and pathetic imagery, and, in short, every thing
that strikes upon the heart and the senses. But it
may be said, “If the Deity be indeed so sublime a
being, and if his designs and manner are so infinitely
beyond our comprehension, how can a thinking mind
join in the addresses of the vulgar, or avoid being overwhelmed
with the indistinct vastness of such an idea.”

Far be it from me to deny that awe and veneration
must ever make a principal part of our regards to
the Master of the universe, or to defend that style of
indecent familiarity which is yet more shocking than
indifference: but let it be considered that we cannot
hope to avoid all improprieties in speaking of such a
Being; that the most philosophical address we can
frame, is probably no more free from them than the
devotions of the vulgar; that the scriptures set us an
example of accomodating the language of prayer
to common conceptions, and making use of figures
and modes of expression far from being strictly defensible;
and that, upon the whole, it is safer to trust to
our genuine feelings, feelings implanted in us by the
God of nature, than to any metaphysical subtleties.
He has impressed me with the idea of trust and confidence,
and my heart flies to him in danger; of mercy
to forgive, and I melt down before him in penitence; of
bounty to bestow, and I ask of him all I want or wish
for. I may make use of an inaccurate expression, I
may paint him to my imagination too much in the
fashion of humanity; but while my heart is pure,
while I depart not from the line of moral duty, the
error is not dangerous. Too critical a spirit is the
bane of every thing great or pathetic. In our creeds
let us be guarded; let us there weigh every syllable;
but in compositions addressed to the heart, let us give 13(5)r 153
freer scope to the language of the affections, and the
overflowing of a warm and generous disposition.

Another cause which most effectually operates to
check devotion, is ridicule. I speak not here of open
derision of things sacred; but there is a certain ludicrous
style in talking of such subjects, which, without
any ill design, does much harm; and perhaps those
whose studies or profession lead them to be chiefly
conversant with the offices of religion, are most apt to
fall into this impropriety; for their ideas being chiefly
taken from that source, their common conversation is
apt to be tinctured with fanciful allusions to scripture
expressions, to prayers, &c. which have all the effect
of a parody, and, like parodies, destroy the force of
the finest passage, by associating it with something
trivial and ridiculous. Of this nature is Swift’s well-
known jest of “Dearly beloved Roger,” which whoever
has strong upon his memory, will find it impossible
to attend with proper seriousness to that part of
the service. We should take great care to keep clear
from all these trivial associations, in whatever we wish
to be regarded as venerable.

Another species of ridicule to be avoided, is that
kind of sneer often thrown upon those whose hearts
are giving way to honest emotion. There is an extreme
delicacy in all the finer affections, which makes
them shy of observation, and easily checked. Love,
wonder, pity, the enthusiasm of poetry, shrink from
the notice of even an indifferent eye, and never indulge
themselves freely but in solitude, or when
heightened by the powerful force of sympathy. Observe
an ingenuous youth at a well-wrought tragedy.
If all around him are moved, he suffers his tears to
flow freely; but if a single eye meets him with a
glance of contemptuous indifference, he can no longer
enjoy his sorrow; he blushes at having wept, and in 13(5)v 154
a moment his heart is shut up to every impression of
tenderness. It is sometimes mentioned as a reproach
to Protestants, that they are susceptible of a false
shame when observed in the exercises of their relili
gion, from which Papists are free. But I take this
to proceed from the purer nature of our religion; for
the less it is made to consist in outward pomp and
mechanical worship, and the more it has to do with
the finer affections of the heart, the greater will be
the reserve and delicacy which attend the expression
of its sentiments. Indeed, ridicule ought to be very
sparingly used; for it is an enemy to every thing sublime
or tender: the least degree of it, whether well
or ill founded, suddenly and instantaneously stops the
workings of passion; and those who indulge a talent
that way, would do well to consider, that they are
rendering themselves for ever incapable of all the
higher pleasures either of taste or morals. More especially
do these cold pleasantries hurt the minds of
youth, by checking that generous expansion of heart
to which their open tempers are naturally prone, and
producing a vicious shame, through which they are
deprived of the enjoyment of heroic sentiments or
generous action.

In the next place, let us not be superstitiously afraid
of superstition. It shows great ignorance of the human
heart, and the springs by which its passions are
moved, to neglect taking advantage of the impression
which particular circumstances, times, and seasons,
naturally make upon the mind. The root of all superstition
is the principle of the association of ideas,
by which objects, naturally indifferent, become dear
and venerable, through their connexion with interesting
ones. It is true, this principle has been much
abused: it has given rise to pilgrimages innumerable,
worship of relics, and priestly power. But let us not 13(6)r 155
carry our ideas of purity and simplicity so far as to
neglect it entirely. Superior natures, it is possible,
may be equally affected with the same truths at all
times, and in all places; but we are not so made.
Half the pleasures of elegant minds are derived from
this source. Even the enjoyments of sense, without
it, would lose much of their attraction. Who does
not enter into the sentiment of the poet, in that passage
so full of nature and truth: “He that outlives this hour, and comes safe home,Shall stand on tiptoe when this day is named,And rouse him at the name of Crispian:He that outlives this day and sees old age,Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,And say, To-morrow is St. Crispian.”
But were not the benefits of the victory equally apparent
on any other day of the year? Why commemorate
the anniversary with such distinguished
regard? Those who can ask such a question, have
never attended to some of the strongest instincts in
our nature. Yet it has lately been the fashion,
amongst those who call themselves rational christians,
to treat as puerile, all attentions of this nature when
relative to religion. They would “Kiss with pious lips the sacred earthWhich gave a Hampden or a Russel birth.”
They will visit the banks of Avon with all the devotion
of enthusiastic zeal; celebrate the birth-day of
the hero and the patriot; and yet pour contempt upon
the christian who suffers himself to be warmed by
similar circumstances relating to his Master, or the
connexion of sentiments of peculiar reverence with
times, places, and men, which have been appropriated
to the service of religion. A wise preacher will not,
from a fastidious refinement, disdain to affect his hearers
from the season of the year, the anniversary of a 13(6)v 156
national blessing, a remarkable escape from danger,
or, in short, any incident that is sufficiently guarded,
and far enough removed from what is trivial, to be
out of danger of becoming ludicrous.

It will not be amiss to mention here, a reproach
which has been cast upon devotional writers, that they
are apt to run into the language of love. Perhaps
the charge would be full as just, had they said that
Love borrows the language of Devotion; for the votaries
of that passion are fond of using those exaggerated
expressions, which can suit nothing below Divinity;
and you can hardly address the greatest of all
Beings in a strain of more profound adoration, than
the lover uses to the object of his attachment. But
the truth is, devotion does in no small degree resemble
that fanciful and elevated kind of love which depends
not on the senses. Nor is the likeness to be
wondered at, since both have their source in the love
of beauty and excellence. Both are exceeding
prone to superstition, and apt to run into romantic
excesses. Both are nourished by poetry and music,
and felt with the greatest fervour in the warmer climates.
Both carry the mind out of itself, and powerfully
refine the affections from every thing gross, low,
and selfish.

But it is time to retire; we are treading upon enchanted
ground, and shall be suspected by many of
travelling towards the regions of chivalry and old romance.
And were it so, many a fair majestic idea
might be gathered from those forgotten walks, which
would well answer the trouble of transplanting. It
must, however, be owned, that very improper language
has formerly been used on these subjects; but
there cannot be any great danger of such excesses,
where the mind is guarded by a rational faith, and
the social affections have full scope in the free commerce
and legitimate connexions of society.

14(1)r 157

Having thus considered the various causes which
contribute to deaden the feelings of devotion, it may
not be foreign to the subject to enquire in what manner
they are affected by the different modes of religion.
I speak not of opinions; for these have much less influence
upon the heart, than the circumstances which
attend particular persuasions. A sect may only differ
from an establishment, as one absurd opinion differs
from another: but there is a character and cast of
manners belonging to each, which will be perfectly
distinct; and of a sect, the character will vary as it
is a rising or a declining sect, persecuted or at ease.
Yet while divines have wearied the world with canvassing
contrary doctrines and jarring articles of faith,
the philosopher has not considered, as the subject deserved,
what situation was most favourable to virtue,
sentiment, and pure manners. To a philosophic eye,
free from prejudice, and accustomed to large views of
the great polity carried on in the moral world, perhaps
varying and opposite forms may appear proper, and
well calculated for their respective ends; and he will
neither wish entirely to destroy the old, nor wholly to
crush the new.

The great line of division between different modes
of religion, is formed by establishments and sects. In
an infant sect, which is always in some degree a persecuted
one, the strong union and entire affection of
its followers, the sacrifices they make to principle, the
force of novelty, and the amazing power of sympathy,
all contribute to cherish devotion. It rises even
to passion, and absorbs every other sentiment. Severity
of manners imposes respect; and the earnestness
of the new proselytes renders them insensible to injury,
or even to ridicule. A strain of eloquence, often
coarse indeed, but strong and persuasive, works like
leaven in the heart of the people. In this state, all 14 14(1)v 158
outward helps are superfluous, the living spirit of devotion
is amongst them, the world sinks away to nothing
before it, and every object but one is annihilated.
The social principle mixes with the flame, and renders
it more intense; strong parties are formed, and
friends or lovers are not more closely connected than
the members of these little communities.

It is this kind of devotion, a devotion which those
of more settled and peaceable times can only guess
at, which made amends to the first christians for all
they resigned, and all they suffered: this draws the
martyr to a willing death, and enables the confessor
to endure a voluntary poverty. But this stage cannot
last long: the heat of persecution abates, and the fervour
of zeal feels a proportional decay. Now comes
on the period of reasoning and examination. The
principles which have produced such mighty effects
on the minds of men, acquire an importance, and become
objects of the public attention. Opinions are
canvassed. Those who before bore testimony to their
religion only by patient suffering, now defend it with
argument; and all the keenness of polemical disquisition
is awakened on either side. The fair and generous
idea of religious liberty, which never originates in
the breast of a triumphant party, now begins to unfold
itself. To vindicate these rights, and explain these
principles, learning, which in the former state was
despised, is assiduously cultivated by the sectaries;
their minds become enlightened, and a large portion
of knowledge, especially religious knowledge, is diffused
through their whole body. Their manners are
less austere, without having as yet lost any thing of
their original purity. Their ministers gain respect as
writers, and their pulpit discourses are studied and
judicious. The most unfavourable circumstances of this
era is, that those who dissent, are very apt to acquire 14(2)r 159
a critical and disputatious spirit; for being continually
called upon to defend doctrines in which they differ
from the generality, their attention is early turned to
the argumentative part of religion; and hence we see
that sermons which afford food for this taste, are with
them thought of more importance than prayer and
praise, though these latter are undoubtedly the more
genuine and indispensible parts of public worship.

This then is the second period; the third approaches
fast; men grow tired of a controversy which becomes
insipid from being exhausted; persecution has not
only ceased, it begins to be forgotten; and from the
absence of opposition in either kind, springs a fatal
and spiritless indifference. That sobriety, industry,
and abstinence from fashionable pleasures, which distinguished
the fathers, has made the sons wealthy; and,
eager to enjoy their riches, they long to mix with
that world, a separation from which was the best
guard to their virtues. A secret shame creeps in
upon them, when they acknowledge their relation
to a disesteemed sect; they therefore endeavour to
file off its peculiarities, but in so doing they destroy
its very being. Connexions with the establishment,
whether of intimacy, business, or relationship, which
formerly, from their superior zeal, turned to the advantage
of the sect, now operate against it. Yet these
connexions are formed more frequently than ever;
and those who a little before, soured by the memory
of recent suffering, betrayed perhaps an aversion from
having anything in common with the church, now
affect to come as near it as possible; and, like a little
boat that takes a large vessel in tow, the sure consequence
is, the being drawn into its vortex. They
aim at elegance and show in their places of worship,
the appearance of their preachers, &c., and thus impoliticly
awaken a taste it is impossible they should 14(2)v 160
ever gratify. They have worn off many forbidding
singularities, and are grown more amiable and pleasing.
But those singularities were of use: they set a mark
upon them, they pointed them out to the world, and
thus obliged persons, so distinguished, to exemplary
strickness. No longer obnoxious to the world, they
are open to all the seductions of it. Their minister,
that respectable character which once inspired reverence
and affectionate esteem, their teacher and their
guide, is now dwindled into the mere leader of the
public devotions; or, lower yet, a person hired to
entertain them every week with an elegant discourse.
In proportion as his importance decreases, his salary
sits heavy on the people; and he feels himself depressed
by that most cruel of all mortifications to a generous
mind, the consciousness of being a burden upon those
from whom he derives his scanty support. Unhappily,
amidst this change of manners, there are forms of
strictness, and a set of phrases introduced in their first
enthusiasm, which still subsist: these they are ashamed
to use, and know not how to decline; and their
behaviour, in consequence of them, is awkward and
irresolute. Those who have set out with the largest
share of mysticism and flighty zeal, find themselves
particularly embarrassed by this circumstance.

When things are come to this crisis, their tendency
is evident: and though the interest and name of a
sect may be kept up for a time by the generosity of
former ages, the abilities of particular men, or that
reluctance which keeps a generous mind from breaking
old connexions; it must, in a short course of years,
melt away into the establishment, the womb and the
grave of all other modes of religion.

An establishment affects the mind by splendid
buildings, music, the mysterious pomp of ancient ceremonies;
by the sacredness of peculiar orders, habits, 14(3)r 161
and titles; by its secular importance; and by connecting
with religion, ideas of order, dignity, and antiquity.
It speaks to the heart through the imagination
and the senses; and though it never can raise devotion
so high as we have described it in a beginning
sect, it will preserve it from ever sinking into contempt.
As, to a woman in the glow of health and beauty, the
most careless dress is the most becoming, but when
the freshness of youth is worn off, greater attention is
necessary, and rich ornaments are required to throw
an air of dignity round her person; so while a sect
retains its first plainness, simplicity and affectionate
zeal, it wants nothing an establishment could give;
but that once declined, the latter becomes far more
respectable. The faults of an establishment grow
venerable from length of time; the improvements of
a sect appear whimsical from their novelty. Ancient
families, fond of rank, and of that order which secures
it to them, are on the side of the former. Traders
incline to the latter; and so do generally men of
genius, as it favours their originality of thinking. An
establishment leans to superstition, a sect to enthusiasm;
the one is a more dangerous and violent excess,
the other more fatally debilitates the powers of
the mind; the one is a deeper colouring, the other a
more lasting dye; but the coldness and languor of a
declining sect produces scepticism. Indeed, a sect is
never stationary, as it depends entirely on passions
and opinions; though it often attains excellence, it
never rests in it, but is always in danger of one extreme
or the other; whereas an old establishment, whatever
else it may want, possesses the grandeur arising from
stability.

We learn to respect whatever respects itself; and
are easily led to think that system requires no alteration,
which never admits of any. It is this circumstance,14* 14(3)v 162
more than any other, which gives a dignity to
that accumulated mass of error, the church of Rome.
A fabric which has weathered many successive ages,
though the architecture be rude, the parts disproportionate,
and overloaded with ornament, strikes us with
a sort of admiration, merely from its having held so
long together.

The minister of a sect, and of an establishment, is
upon a very different footing. The former is like the
popular leader of an army; he is obeyed with enthusiasm
while he is obeyed at all; but his influence
depends on opinion, and is entirely personal; the
latter resembles a general appointed by the monarch;
he has soldiers less warmly devoted to him, but more
steady, and better disciplined. The dissenting teacher
is nothing, if he have not the spirit of a martyr; and
is the scorn of the world, if he be not above the world.
The clergyman, possessed of power and affluence, and
for that reason chosen from among the better ranks of
people, is respected as a gentleman, though not venerated
as an apostle; and as his profession generally
obliges him to decent manners, his order is considered
as a more regular and civilized class of men than
their fellow-subjects of the same rank. The dissenting
teacher, separated from the people, but not raised
above them, invested with no power, entitled to no
emoluments, if he cannot acquire for himself authority,
must feel the bitterness of dependence. The ministers
of the former denomination cannot fall, but in
some violent convulsion of the state: those of the latter,
when indifference and mutual neglect begin to
succeed to that close union which once subsisted between
them and their followers, lose their former influence
without resource; the dignity and weight of
their office is gone for ever; they feel the insignificancy
of their pretensions, their spirits sink, and, except 14(4)r 163
they take refuge in some collateral pursuit, and
stand candidates for literary fame, they slide into an
ambiguous and undecided character; their time is too
often sacrificed to frivolous compliances; their manners
lose their austerity, without having proportionally
gained in elegance; the world does not acknowledge
them, for they are not of the world; it cannot esteem
them, for they are not superior to the world.

Upon the whole, then it should seem, that the strictness
of a sect (and it can only be respectable by being
strict) is calculated for a few finer spirits, who make
religion their chief object. As to the much larger
number, on whom she has only an imperfect influence,
making them decent if not virtuous, and meliorating
the heart without greatly changing it; for all these
the genius of an establishment is more eligible, and
better fitted to cherish that moderate devotion of which
alone they are capable. All those who have not
strength of mind to think for themselves, who would
live to virtue without denying the world, who wish
much to be religious, but more to be genteel, naturally
flow into the establishment. If it offered no motives
to their minds, but such as are perfectly pure and
spiritual, their devotion would not for that be more
exalted, it would die away to nothing; and it is better
their minds should receive only a tincture of religion,
than be wholly without it. Those too, whose passions
are regular and equable, and who do not aim at abstracted
virtues, are commonly placed to most advantage
within the pale of the national faith.

All the greater exertions of the mind,—spirit to
reform, fortitude and constancy to suffer,—can be
expected only from those who, forsaking the common
road, are exercised in a peculiar course of moral discipline:
but it should be remembered, that these exertions
cannot be expected from every character, nor 14(4)v 164
on every occasion. Indeed, religion is a sentiment
which takes such strong hold on all the most powerful
principles of our nature, that it may easily be carried
to excess. The Deity never meant our regards
to him should engross the mind: that indifference to
sensible objects, which many moralists preach, is not
perhaps desirable, except where the mind is raised
above its natural tone, and extraordinary situations
call forth extraordinary virtues.

If the peculiar advantages of a sect were well understood,
its followers would not be impatient of those
moderate restraints which do not rise to persecution,
nor affect any of their more material interests: for,
do they not bind them closer to each other, cherish
zeal, and keep up the love of liberty? What is the
language of such restraints? Do they not say, with
a prevailing voice, Let the timorous and the worldly
depart; no one shall be of this persuasion, who is not
sincere, disinterested, conscientious. It is notwithstanding
proper, that men should be sensible of all
their rights, assert them boldly, and protest against
every infringement; for it may be of advantage to
bear, what yet it is unjustifiable in others to inflict.

Neither would dissenters, if they attended to their
real interests, be so ambitious as they generally are,
of rich converts. Such converts only accelerate their
decline; they relax their discipline, and they acquire
an influence very pernicious in societies which ought
to breathe nothing but the spirit of equality.

Sects are always strict in proportion to the corruption
of establishments and the licentiousness of the
times, and they are useful in the same proportion.
Thus the austere lives of the primitive christians counterbalanced
the vices of that abandoned period; and
thus the puritans in the reign of Charles the Second
seasoned with a wholesome severity, the profligacy of 14(5)r 165
public manners. They were less amiable than their
descendants of the present day; but to be amiable
was not their object: they were of public utility; and
their scrupulous sanctity (carried to excess, themselves
only considered), like a powerful antiseptic, opposed
the contagion breathed from a most dissolute court.
In like manner, that sect, one of whose most striking
characteristics is a beautiful simplicity of dialect, served
to check that strain of servile flattery and Gothic
compliment so prevalent in the same period, and to
keep up some idea of that manly plainness with which
one human being ought to address another.

Thus have we seen that different modes of religion,
though they bear little good-will to each other, are
nevertheless mutually useful. Perhaps there is not
an establishment so corrupt, as not to make the gross
of mankind better than they would be without it.
Perhaps there is not a sect so eccentric, but that it
has set some one truth in the strongest light, or carried
some one virtue, before neglected, to its utmost
height, or loosened some obstinate and long-rooted
prejudice. They answer their end; they die away;
others spring up, and take their place. So the purer
part of the element, continually drawn off from the
mighty mass of waters, forms rivers, which, running
in various directions, fertilize large countries; yet,
always tending towards the ocean, every accession to
their bulk or grandeur but precipitates their course,
and hastens their re-union with the common reservoir
from which they are separated.

In the mean time, the devout heart always finds
associates suitable to its disposition, and the particular
cast of its virtues; while the continual flux and reflux
of opinions prevents the active principles from stagnating.
There is an analogy between things material
and immaterial. As, from some late experiments in 14(5)v 166
philosophy, it has been found that the process of vegetation
restores and purifies vitiated air; so does that
moral and political ferment which accompanies the
growth of new sects, communicate a kind of spirit and
elasticity necessary to the vigour and health of the
soul, but soon lost amidst the corrupted breath of an
indiscriminate multitude.

There remains only to add, lest the preceding view
of sects and establishments should in any degree be
misapprehended, that it has nothing to do with the truth
of opinions, and relates only to the influence which
the adventitious circumstances attending them, may
have upon the manners and morals of their followers.
It is therefore calculated to teach us candour, but not
indifference. Large views of the moral polity of the
world may serve to illustrate the providence of God in
his different dispensations, but are not made to regulate
our own individual conduct, which must conscientiously
follow our own opinions and belief. We may see
much good in an establishment, the doctrines of which
we cannot give our assent to without violating our integrity;
we may respect the tendencies of a sect, the
tenets of which we utterly disapprove. We may think
practices useful, which we cannot adopt without hypocrisy.
We may think all religions beneficial, and
believe of one alone that it is true.

14(6)r 167

The Curé of the Banks of the
Rhone.

Written in 17911791.

A friend of minde, who pretends to have very good
information from the Continent, communicated to me
the following account: I confess it comes in a shape
a little questionable: however, I send it you, Mr.
Editor, exactly as my friend read it to me, from a
private letter which he said he had just received.

“A few days after the bishop of Paris and his
vicars had set the example of renouncing their clerical
character, a curé from a village on the banks of the
Rhone, followed by some of his parishioners with an
offering of gold and silver saints, chalices, rich vestments,
&c., presented himself at the bar of the House.
The sight of the gold put the Convention in a very
good humour, and the curé, a thin venerable looking
man with gray hairs, was ordered to speak. ‘I come,’
said he, ‘from the village of ――, where the only
good building standing (for the chateau has been pulled
down) is a very fine church; my parishioners beg
you will take it to make an hospital for the sick and
wounded of both parties,—they are both equally our
countrymen: the gold and silver, part of which we
have brought you, they entreat you will devote to the
service of the state, and that you will cast the bells into
cannon to drive away its foreign invaders: for myself,
I come with great pleasure to resign my letters of
ordination, of induction, and every deed and title by 14(6)v168
which I have been constituted a member of your
ecclesiastical polity. Here are the papers; you may
burn them, if you please, in the same fire with the
genealogical trees and patents of the nobility. I desire
likewise, that you will discontinue my salary.
I am still able to support myself by the labour of my
hands, and I beg of you to believe that I never felt
sincerer joy than I now do in making this renunciation.
I have longed to see this day; I see it, and am glad.’
When the old man had done speaking, the applauses
were immoderate. You are an honest man,
said they all at once; you are a brave fellow; you
do not believe in God;—and the president advanced
to give him the fraternal embrace. The curé did not
seem greatly elated with these tokens of approbation;
he retired back a few steps, and thus resumed his
discourse. ‘Before you applaud my sentiments, it is
fit you should understand them; perhaps they may
not entirely coincide with your own. I rejoice in this
day, not because I wish to see religion degraded, but
because I wish to see it exalted and purified. By
dissolving its alliance with the state, you have given it
dignity and independence. You have done it a piece
of service which its well-wishers would, perhaps, never
have had courage to render it, but which is the only
thing wanted to make it appear in its genuine beauty
and lustre. Nobobdy will now say of me, that I am
performing the offices of my religion as a trade; he is
paid for telling the people such and such things; he
is hired to keep up an useless piece of mummery.
They cannot now say this, and therefore I feel myself
raised in my own esteem, and shall speak to them
with a confidence and frankness which, before this, I
never durst venture to assume. We resign without
reluctance our gold and silver images and embroidered
vestments, because we have never found that gold and 15(1)r169
silver made the heart more pure, or the affections
more heavenly: we can also spare our churches, for
the heart that wishes to lift itself up to God, will never
be at a loss for room to do it in: but we cannot spare
our religion; because, to tell you the truth, we never
had so much occasion for it. I understand that you
accuse us priests of having told the people a great
many falsehoods. I suspect this may have been the
case; but till this day we have never been allowed to
inquire, whether the things which we taught them were
true or not. You required us formerly to receive
them all without proof, and you would have us now
reject them all without discrimination; neither of these
modes of conduct becomes philosophers, such as you
would be thought to be. I am going to employ myself
diligently along with my parishioners to sift the
wheat from the chaff, the true from the false: if we
are not successful, we shall be at least sincere. I do
fear, indeed, that while I wore these vestments which
we have brought you, and spoke in that gloomy
building which we have given up to you, I told my
flock a great many idle stories. I cannot but hope,
however, that the errors we have fallen into have not
been very material, since the village has been in general
sober and good, the peasants are honest, docile,
and laborious, the husbands love their wives, and the
wives their husbands; they are fortunately not too
rich to be compassionate, and they have constantly
relieved the sick and fugitives of all parties, whenever
it has lain in their way. I think therefore, what I
have taught them cannot be so very much amiss.
You want to extirpate priests; but will you hinder the
ignorant from applying for instruction, the unhappy
for comfort and hope, the unlearned from looking up
to the learned? If you do not, you will have priests,
by whatever name you may order them to be called; Vol. II. 15 15(1)v170
but it certainly is not necessary they should wear a
particular dress, or be appointed by state-letters of
ordination. My letters of ordination are my zeal, my
charity, my ardent love for my dear children of the
village; if I were more learned, I would add my
knowledge, but alas! we all know very little; to man
every error is pardonable, but want of humility. We
have a public walk with a spreading elm at the end of
it, and a circle of green around it, with a convenient
bench. Here I shall draw together the children
as they are playing around me. I shall point to the
vines laden with fruit, to the orchards, to the herds of
cattle lowing around us, to the distant hills, stretching
one behind another; and they will ask me, How came
all these things? I shall tell them all I know or have
heard from wise men who have lived before me; they
will be penetrated with love and veneration; they will
kneel,—I shall kneel with them; they will not be at
my feet, but all of us at the feet of that good Being,
whom we shall worship together; and thus they will
receive within their tender minds a religion.—The old
men will come sometimes from having deposited under
the green sod, one of their companions, and place
themselves by my side; they will look wistfully at
the turf, and anxiously inquire—Is he gone for ever?
Shall we soon be like him? Will no morning break
over the tomb? When the wicked cease from
troubling, will the good cease from doing good? We
will talk of these things: I will comfort them. I will
tell them of the goodness of God; I will speak to
them of a life to come; I will bid them hope for a
state of retribution.—In a clear night, when the stars
slide over our heads, they will ask what these bright
bodies are, and by what rules they rise and set? and
we will converse about different forms of beings, and
distant worlds in the immensity of space, governed by 15(2)r171
the same laws, till we find our minds raised from what
is grovelling, and refined from what is sordid.—You
talk of Nature,—this is Nature; and if you could at
this moment extinguish religion in the minds of the world,
it would thus be kindled again, and thus again excite
the curiosity, and interest the feelings of mankind.
You have changed our holidays; you have an undoubted
right, as our civil governors, so to do; it is
very immaterial whether they are kept once in seven
days, or once in ten; some, however, you .will leave
us, and when they occur, I shall tell those who choose
to hear me, of the beauty and utility of virtue, of the
dignity of right conduct. We shall talk of good men
who have lived in the world, and of the doctrines they
taught; and if any of them have been persecuted,
and put to death for their virtue, we shall reverence
their memories the more.—I hope in all this there is
no harm. There is a book, out of which I have sometimes
taught my people; it says, we are to love those
who do us hurt, and to pour oil and wine into the
wounds of the stranger. It has enabled my children
to bear patiently the spoiling of their goods, and to
give up their own interest for the general welfare. I
think it cannot be a very bad book. I wish more of
it had been read in your town, perhaps you would not
have had quite so many assassinations and massacres.
In this book we hear of a person called Jesus: some
worship him as a God; others, as I am told, say it is
wrong to do so;—some teach, that he existed from
the beginning of ages; others, that he was born of
Joseph and Mary. I cannot tell whether these controversies
will ever be decided; but in the mean time
I think we cannot do otherwise than well, in imitating
him; for I learn that he loved the poor, and went
about doing good.
15(2)v 172

Fellow citizens, as I travelled hither from my
own village, I saw peasants sitting among the smoking
ruins of their cottages; rich men and women reduced
to miserable poverty; fathers lamenting their children
in the bloom and pride of youth: and I said to myself,
these people cannot afford to part with their
religion. But indeed you cannot take it away; if,
contrary to your first declaration, you choose to try
the experiment of persecuting it, you will only make
us prize it more, and love it better. Religion, true
or false, is so necessary to the mind of man, that even
you have begun to make yourselves a new one. You
are sowing the seeds of superstition; and in two or
three generations your posterity will be worshipping
some clumsy idol, with the rights, perhaps, of a bloody
Moloch, or a lascivious Thammuz. It was not worth
while to have been philosophers and destroyed the
images of our saints, for this; but let every one choose
the religion that pleases him; I and my parishioners
are content with ours,—it teaches us to bear the evils
your childish or sanguinary decrees have helped to
bring upon the country.”

The curé turned his footsteps homeward, and the
Convention looked for some minutes on one another,
before they resumed their work of blood.

15(3)r 173

Zephyrus and Flora.

Letter to Mrs. W――.

Dear Madam,

I think it my duty, as well from the high esteem
I bear yourself, as from the tender and solicitous
affection I feel for your lovely daughter, to inform you
of an affair between her and one who has lately been
fluttering about her; and for whom, young as she is,
she seems to have conceived an extraordinary inclination.
Of this you will be convinced, madam,
when I assure you she often walks in the fields purposely
to meet him; and that on her return I have
seen her lips and cheeks improved in their colour by
his kisses. It is but within these few weeks that this
lover of hers has frequented the environs of Hampstead,
for he spent the winter between Lisbon and the Canary
Islands
; and since his return, which by her has been
passionately longed for, her fondness for walking has
been much more apparent. Her excursions to the
Heath, and her parties to West-end, particularly when
she gave me the slip the other day, have been all
planned with the hope of meeting him. Nor can I
wonder, indeed, that she admires so pretty a fellow;
for he is a light airy being like herself, as playful and
as frolicksome. He dresses in a light garment of the
thinnest blue silk, fluttering in a thousand different
folds, and by way of epaulette two silver wings peeping
above his shoulders. His breath is made up of
sighs, and perfumed with violets; and his whispers, 15* 15(3)v 174
especially at this season of the year, have a certain
prevailing languishment and softness in them, that few
can resist. He is fond of caressing the opening roses;
and no birthnight beau is more powerfully scented
with Mareschal powder than he is with every blossom
of the spring. But then he is a general lover, inconstant
as he is gay; noted for levity, here today and
gone tomorrow, hovering about every beautiful object
without attaching himself to one. To fix him, would
be as difficult as to arrest a sunbeam or to hold a wave
between your fingers. Yet I am sorry to say, madam,
your daughter absolutely courts this volage, and allows
him liberties which a prudent mother like yourself
must tremble at. He delights to play with her fair
hair; sometimes he throws it over her forehead, and
almost covers her face with it. Sometimes he takes
a single lock, and plays it about her temples; now he
spreads her tresses all over her graceful shoulders;
and then lifts them up, or gently parts them, to discover
the elegant turn and whiteness of her neck, giving
them all the while a thousand kisses. Why need
I mention what passes before your eyes, under your
own window? It is there that I have seen him busied
in wafting her to and fro with an easy motion, when
her light form dances through the air in the swing
you have lately put up, while he catches her fluttering
garment and throws it into every varying fold his
fancy dictates. It may be, however, that you may
not think these sportive liberties of great consequence
to one so young as your daughter is: but I am not
without apprehensions that he may some day or other
absolutely run away with her. I the rather fear this,
as a brother of his, a rough, blustering fellow, did once
carry off a young lady whose parents had rejected
his addresses, as is well known to all who are acquainted
with the anecdotes of the family. It is true, he 15(4)r 175
that I speak of, has neither the strength nor the impetuosity
of his brother; but when I consider the
peculiar lightness and airiness of the nymph in question,
the enterprise appears to me very practicable.

I have only to add, that his amour with Flora The name of this young lady was Flora. is
of long standing; and so little is it a secret in the
world, that every schoolboy is acquainted with it. I
doubt not, madam, but you will take the measures
your prudence must suggest on this occasion. All
my motive in this affair has been to prove with how
much zeal and affection I am,

dear madam,
Your devoted and obedient.
15(4)v 176

On Evil:—A Rhapsody.

O evil, creature abhorred of God and man!—
whence is thy origin? how did so deformed and monstrous
a birth gain entrance into the fair creation?
Canst thou be from God,—since thou art so opposite
to his nature? And if from man,—why was he suffered
to produce thee? Weak, unexperienced, unsuspecting
man,—why was he permitted to bring such enormous
ruin on his own head, and that of all his posterity?
Was there no warning voice, no sheltering hand, to
save him from such a fall—to save thy image, O God,
from pollution? Let us sit down in sad shades, and
join the moral poet, “Who mourns for virtue lost, and ruined man.”

What fair, what amiable creatures were our first
parents when they came from the hands of their
Maker! They knew neither Pain, nor Sin, the sire
of Pain; nor Shame, the daughter of Sin. Innocent,
happy, and immortal:—so far from practising evil,
that they had not even the knowledge of it. Their
passions, nicely balanced, admitted no internal war.
A milky innocence in their veins, their eyes beaming
with smiles,—the smiles of candour and simplicity,—
they were the head of the happy creation, till one
fatal moment ruined all:—the garden of paradise is
shut for ever; and man (unhappy outcast!)—exposed
to the war elements without and passions within;
his peace broken, his heart torn by the conflict of
jarring emotions; his life worn away by perplexing 15(5)r 177
doubts and heart-withering care,—moistens his daily
bread with tears: and after struggling a few years in
the hard, unequal warfare, he returns to the dust from
whence he was taken.

Such is the dark side of the picture.—But let us
change the view, and see whether in reality the human
race have such great reason to lament the fall of their
first progenitor. Whether virtuous man now, is not a
nobler creature than sinless man then?—the pupil of
reason, than the child of nature?—the follower of the
second, than the offspring of the first Adam? Man in
his first state had a mind untainted with crimes; but
unformed, uncultivated, void of moral ideas, he could
not rise, but by his fall; he could not attain to more
perfection, but by moral discipline; he could not know
the joys of self-approbation, without being subject to
remorse,—of sympathy, without feeling distress. Had
he been always innocent, he had been nothing more
than innocent;—had he never known his weakness,
he had never acquired strength. Behold him now,
fashioned by the hand of culture, and shining through
the dark cloud of ruin, guilt and pain, that is spread
over him. What a different creature from the former
man! He now knows vice, but abhors it; temptation,
but resists it; error, but he laments it. His
passions were once balanced, they are now subdued;
he has tasted good and evil, and he knows to choose
the one and refuse the other. Intellectual ideas
crowd upon him, and a new world opens within his
breast. His nature is raised, refined, exalted: he
lives by faith, by devotion, by spiritual communion,
by repentance—he, weeping beneath the bitter cross,
washes off the stain of sin. The world is beneath
his feet; for behold he prayeth, and things unseen
become present to his soul. Meek resignation blunts
the edge of suffering; and triumphant hope looks beyond 15(5)v 178
all suffering, to glory and to joy. Thus advancing
through life, he learns some new lesson at every
step,—till by receiving, but still more by conferring,
benefits; by bearing, and still further by forgiving,
injuries,—his mind is disciplined, his moral sense
awakened, his taste for beauty, order and rectitude,
unfolded. He becomes endeared to those he has
wept and prayed and struggled with through this vale
of sin and suffering; he learns to pity and to love his
fellow-partners of mortality; till at length the divine
flame of universal charity begins to kindle in his
breast. Then is the æra of a new birth; then does
he become partaker of a divine nature: sense is
mortified, passion is subdued, self is annihilated. And
is not this a noble creature? a being worth forming
by so expensive and painful a process? a being God
may delight in? a faithful, well-disciplined soldier, fit
to cooperate in any plan, or mingle with any order of
rational and moral beings throughout the wide creation?
Place him where you will, he has learned to follow,
to trust in, the Supreme Being; he has learned
humility from his errors, steadiness and watchfulness
from his weakness; his virtues depend not now on
constitution, but on firm principles and established
habits. Is this the feeble being whose infant mind
was unable to resist the allurements of forbidden fruit?
who so easily listened to the seduction of the tempter?
See him now resisting unto blood, superior to principalities
and powers, to wicked men and bad angels:—
neither terrors nor pleasures can move him. He once
believed not the living voice of his Maker; having not
seen, he now believes. His gratitude once was faint
and languid, though he was surrounded with pleasant
things: he now loves God, though overwhelmed with
sorrow and pain; trusts in him, though surrounded
with difficulties; hopes even against hope, and prays 15(6)r 179
without ceasing. His hopes now are superior to his
joys then. Glorious exchange! from reposing on
flowers, to tread upon stars,—from naked purity, to a
robe of glory,—from the food which cometh out of the
earth, to the bread which cometh down from heaven.
For ignorance of ill, he hath knowledge of good; for
smiles of innocence, tears of rapture; for the bowers
of paradise, the gates of heaven. Hadst thou, Adam,
never fallen, shepherds and husbandmen only would
have sprung from thee;—now patriots, martyrs, confessors,
apostles!

15(6)v 180

Dialogue
Between Madame Cosmogunia and a Philosophical
Inquirer of the Eighteenth Century.

1793-01-01January 1, 1793.

E. I rejoice, my good madam, to see you. You
bear your years extremely well. You really look as
fresh and blooming this morning as if you were but
just out of your leading strings; and yet you have—
I forget how many centuries upon your shoulders.

C. Do not you know, son, that people of my standing
are by no means fond of being too nicely questioned
about their years? Besides, my age is a point by
no means agreed upon.

E. I thought it was set down in the church register?

C. That is true; but every body does not go by
your register. The people who live eastward of us,
and have sold tea time out of mind, by the great wall,
say, I am older by a vast deal; and that long before
the time when your people pretend I was born, I had
near as much wisdom and learning as I have now.

E. I do not know how that matter might be; one
thing I am certain of, that you did not know your
letters then, and every body knows that these tea-
dealers, who are very vain, and want to go higher than
any body else for the antiquity of their family are noted
for lying.

C. On the other hand, old Isaac, the great chronicler,
who was so famous for casting a figure, used to
say that the register itself had been altered, and that 16(1)r 181
he could prove I was much younger than you have
usually reckoned me to be. It may be so:—for my
part, I cannot be supposed to remember so far back.
I could not write in my early youth, and it was a long
time before I had a pocket-almanack to set down all occurrences
in, and the ages of my children, as I do now.

E. Well; your exact age is not so material;—but
there is one point which I confess I wish much to ascertain.
I have often heard it asserted, that as you
increase in years, you grow wiser and better; and that
you are at this moment, more candid, more liberal, a
better manager of your affairs, and, in short, more amiable
in every respect, than ever you were in the whole
course of your life; and others,—you will excuse me,
madam,—pretend that you are almost in your dotage;
that you grow more intolerable every year you live;
and that whereas in your childhood you were a
sprightly, innocent young creature, that rose with the
lark, lay down with the lamb, and thought or said no
harm of any one; you are become suspicious, selfish,
interested, fond of nothing but indulging your appetites,
and continually setting your own children together
by the ears for straws. Now I should like to know
where the truth lies?

C. As to that, I am, perhaps, too nearly concerned
to answer you properly. I will, therefore, only observe,
that I do not remember the time when I have
not heard exactly the same contradictory assertions.

E. I believe the best way to determine the question
will be by facts. Pray be so good as to tell me how
you have employed yourself in the different periods of
your life; from the earliest time you can remember,
for instance?

C. I have a very confused remembrance of living
in a pleasant garden full of fruit, and of being turned
out because I had not minded the injunctions that Vol. II.1616(1)v182
were laid upon me. After that I became so very
naughty, that I got a severe ducking, and was in great
danger of being drowned.

E. A hopeful beginning, I must allow! Pray what
was the first piece of work you recollect being engaged
in?

C. I remember setting myself to build a prodigious
high house of cards, which I childishly thought I could
raise up to the very skies. I piled them up very high,
and at last left off in the middle, and had my tongue
slit for being so self-conceited. Afterwards I baked
dirt in the sun, and resolved to make something very
magnificent, I hardly knew what; so I built a great
many mounds in the form of sugar-loaves, very broad
at bottom and pointed at top:—they took me a great
many years to make, and were fit for no earthly purpose
when they were done. They are still to be seen,
if you choose to take the trouble of going so far.
Travellers call them my folly.

E. Pray what studies took your attention when you
first began to learn?

C. At first I amused myself, as all children do, with
pictures; and drew, or rather attempted to draw,
figures of lions and serpents, and men with the heads
of animals, and women with fishes’ tails; to all which
I affixed a meaning, often whimsical enough. Many
of these my first scratches are still to be seen upon
old walls and stones, and have greatly exercised the
ingenuity of the curious to find out what I could possibly
mean by them. Afterwards, when I had learned
to read, I was wonderfully entertained with stories of
giants, griffins, and mermaids; and men and women
turned into trees, and horses that spoke, and of an old
man that used to eat up his children, till his wife deceived
him by giving him a stone to eat instead of
one of them; and of a conjurer that tied up the wind
in bags, and—

16(2)r 183

E. Hold, hold, my good madam! you have given
me a very sufficient proof of that propensity to the
marvellous which I have always remarked in you. I
suppose, however, you soon grew too old for such
nursery stories as these.

C. On the contrary, I amused myself with putting
them into verse, and had them sung to me on holidays;
and, at this very day, I make a point of teaching
them to all my children in whose education I take
any pains.

E. I think I should rather whip them for employing
their time so idly; I hope at least these pretty stories
kept you out of mischief?

C. I cannot say they did; I never was without a
scratched face, or a bloody nose, at any period I can
remember.

E. Very promising dispositions, truly!

C. My amusements were not all so mischievous. I
was very fond of star-gazing, and telling fortunes, and
trying a thousand tricks for good luck, many of which
have made such an impression on my mind, that I
remember them even to this day.

E. I hope, however, your reading was not all of
the kind you have mentioned?

C. No. It was at some very famous races, which
were held every four years for my diversion, and which
I always made a point to be at, that a man once came
upon the race-ground, and read a history-book aloud
to the whole company: there were, to be sure, a
number of stories in it not greatly better than those I
have been telling you; however, from that time, I began
to take to more serious learning, and likewise to
reckon and date all my accounts by these races,
which, as I told you, I was very fond of.

E. I think you afterwards went to school, and
learnt philosophy and mathematics?

16(2)v 184

C. I did so. I had a great many famous masters.

E. Were you a teachable scholar?

C. One of my masters always used to weep when
he saw me; another used always to burst into a fit of
laughter. I leave you to guess what they thought of
me.

E. Pray what did you do when you were in middle
age?—that is usually esteemed the most valuable part
of life.

C. I somehow got shut up in a dark cell, where I
took a long nap.

E. And after you waked—

C. I fell a-disputing with all my might.

E. What were the subjects that interested you so
much?

C. Several.

E. Pray let us have a specimen?

C. Whether the light of Tabor was created or uncreated;
whether one be a number; whether men
should cross themselves with two fingers or with three;
whether the creation was finished in six days, because
it is the most perfect number; or whether six is the
most perfect number, because the creation was finished
in six days; whether two and one make three, or
only one.

E. And pray what may be your opinion, of the
last proposition, particularly?

C. I have by no means made up my mind about it;
in another century, perhaps, I may be able to decide
upon the point.

E. These debates of yours had one advantage,
however; you could not possibly put yourself in a
passion on such kind of subjects.

C. There you are very much mistaken. I was
constantly in a passion upon one or other of them;
and if my opponent did not agree with me, my constant 16(3)r 185
practice was to knock him down, even if it were
in the church. I have the happiness of being able to
interest myself in the most indifferent questions, as
soon as I am contradicted upon it. I can make a
very good dispute out of the question, Whether the
preference be due to blue or green, in the colour of a
jockey’s cap; and would desire no better cause of a
quarrel than whether a person’s name should be spelt
with C or with K.

E. These constant disputes must have had a very
bad effect on your younger children. How do you
hope ever to have a quiet house?

C. And yet, I do assure you, there is no one point
that I have laboured more than that important one of
family harmony.

E. Indeed!

C. Yes; for the sake of that order and unanimity,
which has always been dear to me, I have constantly
insisted that all my children should sneeze and blow
their noses at the same time, and in the same manner.

E. May I presume to ask the reason of this injunction?

C. Is it possible you do not see the extreme danger,
as well as indecorum, of suffering every one to
blow his nose his own way? Could you trust any
one with the keys of your offices, who sneezed to the
right when other people sneezed to the left; or to the
left when they sneezed to the right?

E. I confess I am rather dull in discerning the inconvenience
that would ensue:—but pray have you
been able to accomplish this desirable uniformity?

C. I acknowledge I have not: and indeed I have
met with so much obstinate resistance to this my wise
regulation, that, to tell you the truth, I am almost on
the point of giving it up. You would hardly believe
the perverseness my children have shown on the occasion;16* 16(3)v 186
blowing their noses, locked up in their rooms,
or in dark corners about the house, in every possible
way; so that, in short, on pretense of colds, tender
noses, or want of pocket-handkerchiefs, or one plea
or another, I have been obliged to tolerate the uncomplying,
very much against my will. However, I contrived
to show my disapprobation, at least, of such
scandalous irregularities, by never saying God bless
you
, if a person sneezes in the family contrary to established
rule.

E. I am glad, at least, you are in this respect got
a little nearer to common sense. As you seem to
have been of so imperious a disposition, I hope you
were not trusted with any mischievous weapons?

C. At first I used to fight with clubs and stones;
afterwards with other weapons; but at length I contrived
to get at gunpowder, and then I did glorious
mischief.

E. Pray, had you never any body who taught you
better?

C. Yes; several wise men, from time to time, attempted
to mend my manners, and reform me, as they
called it.

E. And how did you behave to them?

C. Some I hunted about; some I poisoned; some
I contrived to have thrown into prison; some I made
bonfires of; others I only laughed at. It was but the
other day that one of them wanted to give me some
hints for the better regulation of my family; upon
which I pulled his house down: I was often, however,
the better for the lesson, though the teacher had seldom
the pleasure of seeing it.

E. I have heard it said, you are very partial to
your children; that you pamper some, and starve
others. Pray who are your favourites?

C. Generally those who do the most mischief.

16(4)r 187

E. Had you not once a great favourite called Louis,
whom you used to style the immortal man?

C. I had so. I was continually repeating his name;
I set up a great number of statues to him, and ordered
that every one should pull off his hat to them
as he went by.

E. And what is become of them now?

C. The other day, in a fit of spleen, I kicked
them all down again.

E. I think I have read that you were once much
under the influence of an old man with a high-crowned
hat, and a bunch of keys by his side?

C. It is true. He used to frighten me by setting
his arms a-kimbo, and swearing most terribly; besides
which, he was always threatening to put me in a dark
hole, if I did not do as he would have me. He has
conjured many pence out of my pocket, I assure you;
and he used to make me believe the strangest stories!
But I have now pretty nearly done with him; he
dares not speak so big as he used to do; hardly a
shoeblack will pull off his hat to him now; it is even
as much as he can do to keep his own tight upon his
head; nay, I have been assured that the next high wind
will certainly blow it off.

E. You must doubtless have made great advances
in the art of reasoning, from the various lights and
experiments of modern times; pray what was the last
philosophical study that engaged your attention?

C. One of the last was a system of quackery, called
Animal Magnetism.

E. And what in theology?

C. A system of quackery, called Swedenborgianism.

E. And pray what are you doing at this moment?

C. I am going to turn over quite a new leaf. I am
singing Ça Ira.

16(4)v 188

E. I do not know whether you are going to turn
over a new leaf or no; but I am sure, from this account,
it is high time you should. All I can say is,
that if I cannot mend you, I will endeavour to take
care you do not spoil me; and one thing more, that I
wish you would lay your commands on Miss Burney
to write a new novel, and make you laugh.

16(5)r 189

Letter of John Bull. The following jeu d’esprit was written about the year 17921792, and
refers to the unqualified declarations of attachment to the constitution
then promulgated by certain associations to prove their loyalty.

Sir,

I have long had the happiness of being married,
as I have often said and sworn, to the best of all
possible wives; but as this best of all possible wives
has a few fancies, which I should be glad she were
cured of, I have taken the liberty to lay my case before
you.

My wife, sir, has been much admired in her time,
and still is, in my eye, a very desirable woman. But
you well know, sir, that let wives wear as well as you
can suppose, they will be the worse for wear;—and
so it is with my dame: and if I were to say that I can
see in her neither spot, nor wrinkle, nor any such thing,
I should belie my own eyesight. I like her however,
altogether, better than any woman I know; and we
should jog on quietly enough together,—but that, of
late, she has been pleased to insist upon my declaring,
in all companies, that she is absolutely the handsomest
woman under the sun; and that none of my neighbours’
wives are fit to hold the candle to her: and there
is one ’Squire Edmund, a hectoring bullying fellow,
who, they say, is a little cracked (a great favourite
with my wife, notwithstanding, ever since he has flattered
and spoke her fair; for it is not long ago that
he used to be drawing caricatures of her);—he, I say, 16(5)v 190
goes about everywhere, telling people I ought to challenge
any one who presumes to assert to the contrary.
“Cara sposa,” have I often said to her, “is it not
sufficient if I love thee best, and that for the best reason,
because thou art my wife? I chose thee freely, and
am content to be ‘to thy faults a little blind;’ but to
be entirely so, is neither good for thee nor for me.”

She lately made me sign a paper, that she was, in all
parts, of the exact proportions of the Venus de’ Medici;
though, Heaven knows! I never measured them together:
and that not only there never was a more
beautiful creature produced upon God’s earth, but
that it was utterly impossible for the imagination of
man to conceive a more beautiful. I confess I was a
good deal ashamed to make such boasts; nevertheless,
I complied, for the sake of peace. My wife, moreover,
entertains an idea, that every man who sees her is
in love with her: and, like Belise in the Femmes
Sçavantes
, she is resolved not to give up the point,
though the best compliments she has met with of late
from her neighbours have been, “that she looks very
well for a woman of her years; that she wears well,
considering; that she has fine remains, and that one
may easily see she has been a handsome woman in her
time.”
These are speeches, one would think, not
very apt to feed her vanity; yet, whenever she hears
of a match that is likely to take place, she cannot help
fancying the lover was attracted by some remote
resemblance to her admired person. “Yes,” she will
cry on such occasions, “there was a tint of my complexion,
which did the business; not so brilliant indeed
—something of my majestic look—and an evident
imitation of my walk.”
With all this opinion of herself,
my poor wife, especially of late, has been distractedly
jealous of me. She is continually teasing me
with embarrassing questions; as, “whether I love her 16(6)r 191
as well as I did on my wedding-day; whether I will
promise to love her if she should be blind, or decrepid,
or out of her wits,”
&c.—A circumstance has
occurred lately, which has increased this jealousy
tenfold. My next-door neighbour, you must know,
is married again; and ever since that event she
watches me as a cat watches a mouse. I cannot
look out of the window, or enquire which way the
wind sets, but it is in order to admire my neighbour’s
new wife. She pretends to have found love-letters
which have passed between us; and is sure, she
says, I design to part with her, “false hearted man as
I am;”
upon which, the other day, she threw herself
into violent hysterics, and alarmed the whole family
and neighbourhood.

To be sure, the bride did send me a favour, which
I wore in my hat, openly; and I do not deny but I
may have paid her a few compliments, and written
some verses upon her, for she is a showy, fine-spoken
woman; but for all that, I would not marry her if I
were free tomorrow; for, to tell you the truth, I
suspect her to be too much of a termagant for me;
and besides, John Bull is not given to change.

My wife has another failing, sir. She is fond of
every thing that is old, because it is old; and she
never will give any reason, except a woman’s reason,
which, you know, is no reason at all, for any one
thing she does. If I presume to hint things might be
better after a different fashion, I can get no other answer
than “that it is her way—that her grandmother
and great-grandmother did so before her; and that it
is her maxim never to alter the family management.”

I can scarcely stir about my house, it is so filled with
heavy lumbering furniture, half of which is worm-eaten,
and of no use but to harbour vermin; but my wife
cannot persuade herself to part with any of it, she has 16(6)v 192
such a respect for a fine piece of antiquity: “and
then,”
says she, “old furniture has such a creditable
look!”
“So it might, my dear,” says I, “if it were
all of a-piece; but you know, we are continually buying
new; and when one article does not suit with another,
you must be sensible nothing can have a worse
effect. For instance, now; this dismal old tapestry,
how preposterous it looks along with the Indian matting
and painted rout-chairs! I wish you would let it
come down, it is fit for nothing but for the rats to play
at hide-and-seek behind it.”
“I would not have it
down my dear,”
says she, “for the world; it is the
story of the Spanish Armada, and was done in the
glorious days of Queen Bess.”
“Then give it a
thorough cleaning, at least,”
returned I.—“If you
offer to draw a nail,”
rejoined she, “there are so
many private doors and secret passages made in the
wall, you will be blinded with dust and mortar; and,
for aught I know, pull an old house over your head.”

“Let me, at least, give a brushing to the beards of the
old Dons,”
replied I.—“A stroke of the brush would
shake them to pieces,”
insisted my wife; “they are
as tender as a cobweb, I tell you, and I positively will
not have them meddled with. Nobody, who has any
regard for his ancestors, would think of pulling down
a venerable set of hangings, made in the glorious days
of Queen Elizabeth.”
Now I care little when a thing
was made; the question is, what is it good for? and
know nothing so much useless lumber is good for,
but to oblige us to keep a great many supernumerary
servants, at high wages, to look after it.

I have still another grievance, sir. If you are a
married man, you may chance to know, that it is often
as much as a man can do to manage his wife; but to
manage one’s wife and mother too, is a task too hard
for any mortal. Now, my mother, sir, lives with us, 17(1)r 193
and I am sure I have always behaved myself as a
dutiful and obedient son; her arm-chair is always set
in the best place by the fire; she eats of the best, and
drinks of the best; neither do I grudge it her, though
the poor children’s bellies are often pinched, while she
is feasting upon nice bits. But with all this, I have
much ado to keep her in good humour. If I stir
about a little more briskly than ordinary, my mother
has weak nerves, and the noise I make over her head
will throw her into fits. If I offer but to dust the books
in my study, my mother is afraid some of them should
fall upon her head:—indeed, the old lady did get an
unlucky blow with one or two of them, which has
shaken her not a little. Besides which, she insists,
and my wife stands by her in it, that I should consult
her in all matters of business; and if I do not, I am
cried out against as a graceless, atheistical wretch; and
a thousand idle reports are raised, that I am going to
strip and turn my poor old mother out of doors.
Then, my mother is rather particular in her dress;
and the children sometimes will be tittering and making
game, when she is displaying some of her old
fallals; upon which my wife always insists I should
whip them, which I used to do pretty severely, though
of late, I confess, I have only hung the rod up over
the chimney, in terrorem;—on such occasions my
wife never fails to observe, “how becoming it is in
one of my mother’s age to keep the same fashion in
her dress.”
This, by the way, is not true, for I
remember my mother stuck all over with crosses and
embroidery, to her very shoes, with strings of beads
and such trumpery; yet she says, as well as my wife,
that she never changes any thing.

I am, myself, Mr. Editor, an easy, peaceable, plain-
spoken man as any that exists; and am a man of little
or no expense for my own gratification: yet so it is, Vol. II. 17 17(1)v 194
that what with the large establishment of servants
which we are obliged to keep, and the continual drains
upon my purse to supply my extravagant neighbours,
I run out every year, and cannot help having many
serious thoughts and melancholy forebodings where all
this may end. But I apprehend, the first step ought
to be for my wife and I to consult together, and make
a reform in the family management wherever there
may be occasion. If therefore, you can persuade her
to lay aside her groundless jealousies, and talk a little
reason, I shall be highly obliged to you, and am your
humble servant,

John Bull.
17(2)r 195

Letter on Watering-Places.

Sir,

I am a country gentleman, and enjoy an estate in
Northamptonshire, which formerly enabled its possessors
to assume some degree of consequence in the
country; but which, for several generations, has been
growing less, only because it has not grown bigger.
I mean, that though I have not yet been obliged to
mortgage my land, or fell my timber, its relative value
is every day diminishing by the prodigious influx of
wealth, real and artificial, which for some time past
has been pouring into this kingdom. Hitherto, however,
I have found my income equal to my wants. It
has enabled me to inhabit a good house in town for
four months of the year, and to reside amongst my tenants
and neighbours for the remaining eight with credit
and hospitality. I am indeed myself so fond of the
country, and so averse in my nature to every thing of
hurry and bustle, that, if I consulted only my own
taste, I should never feel a wish to leave the shelter
of my own oaks in the dreariest season of the year;
but I looked upon our annual visit to London as a
proper compliance with the gayer disposition of my
wife, and the natural curiosity of the younger part of
the family: besides, to say the truth, it had its advantages
in avoiding a round of dinners and card-parties,
which we must otherwise have engaged in for the winter
season, or have been branded with the appellation
of unsociable. Our journey gave me an opportunity
of furnishing my study with some new books and prints; 17(2)v 196
and my wife of gratifying her neighbours with some
ornamental trifles, before their value was sunk by becoming
common, or of producing at her table or in
her furniture some new-invented refinement of fashionable
elegance. Our hall was the first that was lighted
by an Argand lamp; and I still remember how we
were gratified by the astonishment of our guests, when
my wife, with an audible voice, called to the footman
for the tongs to help to the asparagus with. We found
it pleasant too to be enabled to talk of capital artists
and favourite actors; and I made the better figure in
my political debates from having heard the most popular
speakers in the House.

Once too, to recruit my wife’s spirits after a tedious
confinement from a lying-in, we passed a season at
Bath. In this manner, therefore, things went on very
well in the main, till of late my family have discovered
that we lead a very dull kind of life; and that it is
impossible to exist with comfort, or indeed to enjoy a
tolerable share of health, without spending good part of
every summer at a Watering-place. I held out as
long as I could. One may be allowed to resist the
plans of dissipation, but the plea of health cannot
decently be withstood.

It was soon discovered that my eldest daughter
wanted bracing, and my wife had a bilious complaint,
against which our family physician declared that seabathing
would be particularly serviceable. Therefore,
though it was my own private opinion that my daughter’s
nerves might have been as well braced by morning
rides upon the Northamptonshire hills as by evening
dances in the public rooms, and that my wife’s
bile would have been greatly lessened by compliance
with her husband, I acquiesced; and preparations were
made for our journey. These indeed were but slight,
for the chief gratification proposed in this scheme was, 17(3)r 197
an entire freedom from care and form. We should
find every thing requisite in our lodgings; it was of no
consequence whether the rooms we should occupy
for a few months in the summer were elegant or not;
the simplicity of a country life would be the more
enjoyed by the little shifts we should be put to; and
all necessaries would be provided in our lodgings. It
was not therefore till after we had taken them, that
we discovered how far ready-furnished lodgings were
from affording every article in the catalogue of necessaries.
We did not indeed give them a very scrupulous
examination; for the place was so full, that when
we arrived, late at night, and tired with our journey,
all the beds at the inn were taken up, and an easychair
and a carpet were all the accommodations we
could obtain for our repose. The next morning, therefore,
we eagerly engaged the first lodgings we found
vacant, and have ever since been disputing about the
terms, which from the hurry were not sufficiently ascertained;
and it is not even yet settled whether the
little blue garret, which serves us as a powdering room,
is ours of right or by favour. The want of all sorts
of conveniences is a constant excuse for the want of
all order and neatness, which is so visible in our apartment;
and we are continually lamenting that we are
obliged to buy things of which we have such plenty
at home.

It is my misfortune that I can do nothing without
all my little conveniences about me; and in order to
write a common letter I must have my study-table to
lean my elbows on in sedentary luxury; you will
judge therefore how little I am able to employ my
leisure, when I tell you, that the only room they have
been able to allot for my use is so filled and crowded
with my daughters’ hat boxes, bandboxes, wig-boxes,
&c., that I can scarcely move about in it, and am at 17* 17(3)v 198
this moment writing upon a spare trunk for want of a
table. I am therefore driven to saunter about with
the rest of the party: but instead of the fine clumps
of trees and waving fields of corn I have been accustomed
to have before my eyes, I see nothing but a
naked beach, almost without a tree, exposed by turns
to the cutting eastern blast and the glare of a July sun,
and covered with a sand equally painful to the eyes
and to the feet. The ocean is indeed an object of
unspeakable grandeur; but when it has been contemplated
in a storm and in a calm, when we have seen
the sun rise out of its bosom and the moon silver its
extended surface, its variety is exhausted, and the
eye begins to require the softer and more interesting
scenes of cultivated nature. My family have indeed
been persuaded several times to enjoy the sea still
more, by engaging in a little sailing-party; but as,
unfortunately, Northamptonshire has not afforded them
any opportunity of becoming seasoned sailors, these
parties of pleasure are always attended with the most
dreadful sickness. This likewise I am told is very
good for the constitution: it may be so for aught I
know; but I confess I am apt to imagine that taking
an emetic at home would be equally salutary, and I
am sure it would be more decent. Nor can I help
imagining that my youngest daughter’s lover has been
less assiduous since he has contemplated her in the
indelicate situation of a ship-cabin. I have endeavoured
to amuse myself with the company, but without
much success; it consists of a very few great people,
who make a set by themselves, and think they are
entitled, by the freedom of a watering-place, to indulge
themselves in all manner of polissonneries; and
the rest is a motley group of sharpers, merchants’
clerks, kept-mistresses, idle men, and nervous women.
I have been accustomed to be nice in my choice of 17(4)r 199
acquaintance, especially for my family; but the greater
part of our connexions here are such as we should
be ashamed to acknowledge anywhere else; and the
few we have seen above ourselves will equally disclaim
us when we meet in town next winter. As to the
settled inhabitants of the place, all who do not get by
us view us with dislike, because we raise the price of
provisions; and those who do,—which, in one way or
other, comprehends all the lower class,—have lost
every trace of rural simplicity, and are versed in all
arts of low cunning and chicane. The spirit of
greediness and rapacity is nowhere so conspicuous as
in lodging-houses. At our seat in the country, our
domestic concerns went on as by clock-work; a
quarter of an hour in a week settled the bills, and few
tradesmen wished, and none dared, to practise any
imposition where all were known, and the consequence
of their different behaviour must have been their being
marked, for life, for encouragement or for distrust.
But here the continual fluctuation of company takes
away all regard to character, the most respectable
and ancient families have no influence any further than
as they scatter their ready cash; and neither gratitude
nor respect are felt where there is no bond of mutual
attachment besides the necessities of the present day.
I should be happy if we had only to contend with this
spirit during our present excursion, but the effect it
has upon servants is most pernicious. Our family
used to be remarkable for having its domestics grow
grey in its service, but this expedition has already corrupted
them; two we have this evening parted with,
and the rest have learned so much of the tricks of their
station, that we shall be obliged to discharge them as
soon as we return home. In the country I had been
accustomed to do good to the poor: there are charities
here too;—we have joined in a subscription for 17(4)v 200
a crazy poetess, a raffle for the support of a sharper,
who passes under the title of a German count, and a
benefit-play for a gentleman on board the hulks.
Unfortunately, to balance these various expenses, this
place, which happens to be a great resort of smugglers,
affords daily opportunities of making bargains. We
drink spoiled teas, under the idea of their being cheap;
and the little room we have is made less by the reception
of cargoes of India taffetas, shawl-muslins, and
real chintzes. All my authority here would be exerted
in vain; for (I do not know whether you know it
or no) the buying of a bargain is a temptation which
it is not in the nature of any woman to resist. I am
in hopes, however, the business may receive some little
check from an incident which happened a little time
since; an acquaintance of ours, returning from Margate,
had his carriage seized by the Custom-house
officers, on account of a piece of silk which one of his
female cousins, without his knowledge, had stowed in
it; and it was only released by its being proved that
what she had bought with so much satisfaction as contraband,
was in reality the home-bred manufacture of
Spitalfields.

My family used to to be remarkable for regularity in
their attendance on public worship; but that too here
is numbered amongst the amusements of the place.
Lady Huntingdon has a chapel, which sometimes attracts
us; and when nothing promises us any particular
entertainment, a tea-drinking at the Rooms, or a concert
of what is called sacred music, is sufficient to
draw us from a church where no one will remark either
our absence or our presence. Thus we daily become
more lax in our conduct, for want of the salutary
restraint imposed upon us by the consciousness of
being looked up to as an example by others.

In this manner, sir, has the season passed away. 17(5)r 201
I spend a great deal of money, and make no figure;
I am in the country, and see nothing of country
simplicity or country occupations; I am in an obscure
village, and yet cannot stir out without more observers
than if I were walking in St. James’s Park; I am
cooped up in less room than my own dog-kennel,
while my spacious halls are injured by standing empty;
and I am paying for tasteless unripe fruit, while my
own choice wall-fruit is rotting by bushels under the
trees.—In recompense for all this, we have the satisfaction
of knowing that we occupy the very rooms
which my Lord ―― had just quitted; of picking up
anecdotes, true or false, of people in high life; and of
seizing the ridicule of every character as they pass
by us in the moving show-glass of the place,—a pastime
which often affords us a good deal of mirth, but
which, I confess, I can never join in without reflecting
that what is our amusement is theirs likewise. As to
the great ostensible object of our excursion,— health;
I am afraid we cannot boast of much improvement.
We have had a wet and cold summer; and these
houses, which are either old tenements vamped up,
or new ones slightly run up for the accommodation
of bathers during the season, have more contrivances
for letting in the cooling breezes than for keeping them
out, a circumstance which I should presume sagacious
physicians do not always attend to, when they order
patients from their own warm, compact, substantial
houses, to take the air in country lodgings; of which
the best apartments, during the winter, have only been
inhabited by the rats, and where the poverty of the
landlord prevents him from laying out more in repairs
than will serve to give them a showy and attractive
appearance. Be that as it may; the rooms we at
present inhabit are so pervious to the breeze, that in
spite of all the ingenious expedients of listing doors, 17(5)v 202
pasting papers on the inside of cup-boards, laying sand-
bags, puttying crevices, and condemning closet-doors;
it has given me a severe touch of my old rheumatism;
and all my family are in one way or other affected
with it: my eldest daughter has got cold with her
bathing, though the sea-water never gives any body
cold!

In answer to these complaints, I am told by the
good company here that I have stayed too long in the
same air, and that now I ought to take a trip to the
continent, and spend the winter at Nice, which would
complete the business. I am entirely of their opinion,
that it would complete the business, and have therefore
taken the liberty of laying my case before you;
and am, sir,

Yours, &c.

Henry Homelove

17(6)r 203

On Education.

The other day I paid a visit to a gentleman with
whom, though greatly my superior in fortune, I have
long been in habits of an easy intimacy. He rose in
the world by honourable industry; and married,
rather late in life, a lady to whom he had been long
attached, and in whom centered the wealth of several
expiring families. Their earnest wish for children
was not immediately gratified. At length they were
made happy by a son, who, from the moment he was
born, engrossed all their care and attention.—My
friend received me in his library, where I found him
busied in turning over books of education, of which
he had collected all that were worthy notice, from
Xenophon to Locke, and from Locke to Catherine
Macauley
. As he knows I have been engaged in the
business of instruction, he did me the honour to consult
me on the subject of his researches, hoping, he
said, that, out of all the systems before him, we should
be able to form a plan equally complete and comprehensive;
it being the determination of both himself
and his lady to choose the best that could be had, and
to spare neither pains nor expense in making their
child all that was great and good. I gave him my
thoughts with the utmost freedom, and after I returned
home, threw upon paper the observations which
had occurred to me.

The first thing to be considered, with respect to
education, is the object of it. This appears to me to
have been generally misunderstood. Education, in 17(6)v 204
its largest sense, is a thing of great scope and extent.
It includes the whole process by which a human being
is formed to be what he is, in habits, principles, and
cultivation of every kind. But of this, a very small
part is in the power even of the parent himself; a
smaller still can be directed by purchased tuition of
any kind. You engage for your child masters and
tutors at large salaries; and you do well, for they are
competent to instruct him: they will give him the
means, at least, of acquiring science and accomplishments;
but in the business of education, properly so
called, they can do little for you. Do you ask, then,
what will educate your son? Your example will educate
him; your conversation with your friends; the
business he sees you transact; the likings and dislikings
you express; these will educate him; the society
you live in will educate him;—your domestics
will educate him; above all, your rank and situation
in life, your house, your table, your pleasure-grounds,
your hounds and your stables will educate him. It is
not in your power to withdraw him from the continual
influence of these things, except you were to withdraw
yourself from them also. You speak of beginning
the education of your son. The moment he
was able to form an idea his education was already
begun; the education of circumstances—insensible
education—which, like insensible perspiration, is of
more constant and powerful effect, and of infinitely
more consequence to the habit, than that which is direct
and apparent. This education goes on at every
instant of time; it goes on like time; you can neither
stop it nor turn its course. What these have a tendency
to make your child, that he will be. Maxims
and documents are good precisely till they are tried,
and no longer; they will teach him to talk, and nothing
more. The circumstances in which your son is 18(1)r 205
placed will be even more prevalent than your example;
and you have no right to expect him to become
what you yourself are, but by the same means. You,
that have toiled during youth to set your son upon
higher ground, and to enable him to begin where you
left off, do not expect that son to be what you were,
—diligent, modest, active, simple in his tastes, fertile
in resources. You have put him under quite a different
master. Poverty educated you; wealth will
educate him. You cannot suppose the result will be
the same. You must not even expect that he will be
what you now are; for though relaxed perhaps from
the severity of your frugal habits, you still derive advantage
from having formed them; and, in your
heart, you like plain dinners, and early hours, and old
friends, whenever your fortune will permit you to enjoy
them. But it will not be so with your son: his
tastes will be formed by your present situation, and in
no dgree by your former one. But I take great
care, you will say, to counteract these tendencies, and
to bring him up in hardy and simple manners; I
know their value, and am resolved that he shall acquire
no other. Yes, you make him hardy; that is
to say, you take a country-house in a good air, and
make him run, well clothed and carefully attended,
for, it may be, an hour in a clear frosty winter’s day
upon your gravelled terrace; or perhaps you take the
puny shivering infant from his warm bed, and dip him
in an icy cold bath,—and you think you have done
great matters. And so you have; you have done all
you can. But you were suffered to run abroad half
the day on a bleak heath, in weather fit and unfit,
wading barefoot through dirty ponds, sometimes losing
your way benighted, scrambling over hedges, climbing
trees, in perils every hour both of life and limb.
Your life was of very little consequence to any one; Vol. II. 18 18(1)v 206
even your parents, encumbered with a numerous
family, had little time to indulge the softnesses of affection,
or the solicitude of anxiety; and to every one
else it was of no consequence at all. It is not possible
for you, it would not even be right for you, in
your present situation, to pay no more attention to
your child than was paid you. In these mimic experiments
of education, there is always something
which distinguishes them from reality; some weak
part left unfortified, for the arrows of misfortune to
find their way into. Achilles was a young nobleman,
dios Achilleus, and therefore, though he had Chiron
for his tutor, there was one foot left undipped. You
may throw by Rousseau; your parents practised
without having read it; you may read, but imperious
circumstances forbid you the practice of it.

You are sensible of the advantages of simplicity of
diet; and you make a point of restricting that of your
child to the plainest food, for you are resolved that
he shall not be nice. But this plain food is of the
choicest quality, prepared by your own cook; his
fruit is ripened from your walls; his cloth, his glasses,
all the accompaniments of the table, are such as are
only met with in families of opulence: the very servants
who attend him are neat, well dressed, and have
a certain air of fashion. You may call this simplicity;
but I say he will be nice,—for it is a kind of simplicity
which only wealth can attain to, and which
will subject him to be disgusted at all common tables.
Besides, he will from time to time partake of those
delicacies which your table abounds with; you yourself
will give him of them occasionally; you would be
unkind if you did not: your servants, if good-natured,
will do the same. Do you think you can keep the
full stream of luxury running by his lips, and he not
taste of it? Vain imagination!

18(2)r 207

I would not be understood to inveigh against wealth,
or against the enjoyments of it; they are real enjoyments,
and allied to many elegancies in manners and
in taste;—I only wish to prevent unprofitable pains
and inconsistent expectations.

You are sensible of the benefit of early rising; and
you may, if you please, make it a point that your
daughter shall retire with her governess, and your son
with his tutor, at the hour when you are preparing to
see company. But their sleep, in the first place, will
not be so sweet and undisturbed amidst the rattle of
carriages, and the glare of tapers glancing through the
rooms, as that of the village child in his quiet cottage,
protected by silence and darkness; and moreover,
you may depend upon it, that, as the coercive power
of education is laid aside, they will in a few months
slide into the habitudes of the rest of the family,
whose hours are determined by their company and
situation in life. You have, however, done good, as
far as it goes; it is something gained, to defer pernicious
habits, if we cannot prevent them.

There is nothing which has so little share in education
as direct precept. To be convinced of this, we
need only reflect that there is no one point we labour
more to establish with children, than that of their
speaking truth; and there is not any in which we
succeed worse. And why? Because children readily
see we have an interest in it. Their speaking
truth is used by us as an engine of government—
“Tell me, my dear child, when you have broken any
thing, and I will not be angry with you.”
“Thank
you for nothing,”
says the child; “if I prevent you
from finding it out, I am sure you will not be angry:”

and nine times out of ten he can prevent it. He
knows that, in the common intercourses of life, you
tell a thousand falsehoods. But these are necessary
lies on important occasions.

18(2)v 208

Your child is the best judge how much occasion he
has to tell a lie: he may have as great occasion for it,
as you have to conceal a bad piece of news from a
sick friend, or to hide your vexation from an unwelcome
visitor. That authority which extends its claims
over every action, and even every thought, which insists
upon an answer to every interrogation, however
indiscreet or oppressive to the feelings, will, in young
or old, produce falsehood; or, if in some few instances
the deeply imbibed fear of future and unknown
punishment should restrain from direct falsehood, it
will produce a habit of dissimulation, which is still
worse. The child, the slave, or the subject, who, on
proper occasions, may not say, “I do not choose to
tell,”
will certainly, by the circumstances in which you
place him, be driven to have recourse to deceit, even
should he not be countenanced by your example.

I do not mean to assert, that sentiments inculcated
in education have no influence;—they have much,
though not the most: but it is the sentiments we let
drop occasionally, the conversation they overhear when
playing unnoticed in a corner of the room, which has
an effect upon children; and not what is addressed
directly to them in the tone of exhortation. If you
would know precisely the effect these set discourses
have upon your child, be pleased to reflect upon that
which a discourse from the pulpit, which you have
reason to think merely professional, has upon you.
Children have almost an intuitive discernment between
the maxims you bring forward for their use, and those
by which you direct your own conduct. Be as cunning
as you will, they are always more cunning than
you. Every child knows whom his father and mother
love and see with pleasure, and whom they dislike;
for whom they think themselves obliged to set out
their best plate and china; whom they think it an 18(3)r 209
honour to visit, and upon whom they confer honour
by admitting them to their company. “Respect
nothing so much as virtue,”
says Eugenio to his son;
“virtue and talents are the only grounds of distinction.”
The child presently has occasion to inquire why his
father pulls off his hat to some people and not to
others; he is told, that outward respect must be
proportioned to different stations in life. This is a
little difficult of comprehension: however, by dint of
explanation, he gets over it tolerably well. But he
sees his father’s house in the bustle and hurry of preparation;
common business laid aside, every body in
movement, an unusual anxiety to please and to shine.
Nobody is at leisure to receive his caresses or attend
to his questions; his lessons are interrupted, his hours
deranged. At length a guest arrives: it is my Lord
――
, whom he has heard you speak of twenty times
as one of the most worthless characters upon earth.
Your child, Eugenio, has received a lesson of education.
Resume, if you will, your systems of morality
on the morrow, you will in vain attempt to eradicate
it. “You expect company, mamma, must I be dressed
today?”
“No, it is only good Mrs. Such-a-one.”
Your child has received a lesson of education, one
which he well understands, and will long remember.
You have sent your child to a public school; but to
secure his morals against the vice which you too justly
apprehend abounds there, you have given him a private
tutor, a man of strict morals and religion. He may
help him to prepare his tasks; but do you imagine it
will be in his power to form his mind? His schoolfellows,
the allowance you give him, the manners of
the age and of the place, will do that; and not the
lectures which he is obliged to hear. If these are different
from what you yourself experienced, you must
not be surprised to see him gradually recede from the 18* 18(3)v 210
principles, civil and religious, which you hold, and
break off from your connexions, and adopt manners
different from your own. This is remarkably exemplified
amongst those of the Dissenters who have
risen to wealth and consequence. I believe it would
be difficult to find an instance of families, who for
three generations have kept their carriage and continued
Dissenters.

Education, it is often observed, is an expensive
thing. It is so; but the paying for lessons is the
smallest part of the cost. If you would go to the
price of having your son a worthy man, you must be
so yourself; your friends, your servants, your company
must be all of that stamp. Suppose this to be the
case, much is done: but there will remain circumstances,
which perhaps you cannot alter, that will still have
their effect. Do you wish him to love simplicity?
Would you be content to lay down your coach, to
drop your title? Where is the parent who would do
this to educate his son? You carry him to the workshops
of artisans, and show him different machines
and fabrics, to awaken his ingenuity. The necessity
of getting his bread would awaken it much more
effectually. The single circumstance of having a
fortune to get, or a fortune to spend, will probably
operate more strongly upon his mind, not only than
your precepts, but even than your example. You
wish your child to be modest and unassuming; you
are so, perhaps, yourself,—and you pay liberally a
preceptor for giving him lessons of humility. You do
not perceive, that the very circumstance of having a
man of letters and accomplishments retained about
his person, for his sole advantage, tends more forcibly
to inspire him with an idea of self-consequence, than
all the lessons he can give him to repress it. “Why
do not you look sad, you rascal?”
says the undertaker 18(4)r 211
to his man in the play of The Funeral; “I
give you I know not how much money for looking sad,
and the more I give you, the gladder I think you are.”

So will it be with the wealthy heir. The lectures
that are given him on condescension and affability,
only prove to him upon how much higher ground he
stands than those about him; and the very pains that
are taken with his moral character will make him
proud, by showing him how much he is the object of
attention. You cannot help these things. Your servants,
out of respect to you, will bear with his petulance;
your company, out of respect to you, will
forbear to check his impatience; and you yourself, if
he is clever, will repeat his observations.

In the exploded doctrine of sympathies, you are
directed, if you have cut your finger, to let that alone,
and put your plaster upon the knife. This is very
bad doctrine, I must confess, in philosophy; but very
good in morals. Is a man luxurious, self-indulgent?
do not apply your physic of the soul to him, but cure
his fortune. Is he haughty? cure his rank, his title.
Is he vulgar? cure his company. Is he diffident or
mean-spirited? cure his poverty, give him consequence
—but these prescriptions go far beyond the
family recipes of education.

What then is the result? In the first place, that we
should contract our ideas of education, and expect no
more from it than it is able to perform. It can give instruction.
There will always be an essential difference
between a human being cultivated and uncultivated.
Education can provide proper instructors in the various
arts and sciences, and portion out to the best advantage
those precious hours of youth which never will
return. It can likewise give, in a great degree, personal
habits; and even if these should afterwards give
way under the influence of contrary circumstances, 18(4)v 212
your child will feel the good effects of them; for the
later and the less will he go into what is wrong. Let
us also be assured, that the business of education,
properly so called, is not transferable. You may engage
masters to instruct your child in this or the other
accomplishment, but you must educate him yourself.
You not only ought to do it, but you must do it,
whether you intend it or no. As education is a thing
necessary for all; for the poor and for the rich, for
the illiterate as well as for the learned; Providence
has not made it dependent upon systems uncertain,
operose, and difficult of investigation. It is not necessary,
with Rousseau or Madame de Genlis, to devote
to the education of one child the talents and the time
of a number of grown men; to surround him with an
artificial world; and to counteract, by maxims, the
natural tendencies of the situation he is placed in in
society. Every one has time to educate his child:
the poor man educates him while working in his
cottage—the man of business while employed in his
counting-house.

Do we see a father who is diligent in his profession,
domestic in his habits, whose house is the resort of
well-informed, intelligent people—a mother whose
time is usefully filled, whose attention to her duties
secures esteem, and whose amiable manners attract
affection? Do not be solicitous, respectable couple,
about the moral education of your offspring! do not
be uneasy because you cannot surround them with the
apparatus of books and systems; or fancy your must
retire from the world to devote yourselves to their
improvement. In your world they are brought up
much better than they would be under any plan of
factitious education which you could provide for them:
they will imbibe affection from your caresses; taste
from your conversation; urbanity from the commerce 18(5)r 213
of your society; and mututal love from your example.
Do not regret that you are not rich enough to provide
tutors and governors, to watch his steps with sedulous
and servile anxiety, and furnish him with maxims it is
morally impossible he should act upon when grown up.
Do not you see how seldom this over culture produces
its effect, and how many shining and excellent characters
start up every day, from the bosom of obscurity,
with scarcely any care at all?

Are children then to be neglected? Surely not:
but having given them the instruction and accomplishments
which their situation in life requires, let us reject
superfluous solicitude, and trust that their characters
will form themselves from the spontaneous influence
of good examples, and circumstances which impel
them to useful action.

But the education of your house, important as it is,
is only a part of a more comprehensive system.
Providence takes your child where you leave him.
Providence continues his education upon a larger
scale, and by a process which includes means far
more efficacious. Has your son entered the world at
eighteen, opinionated, haughty, rash, inclined to dissipation?
Do not despair; he may yet be cured of
these faults, if it pleases Heaven. There are remedies
which you could not persuade yourself to use, if
they were in your power, and which are specific in
cases of this kind. How often do we see the presumptuous,
giddy youth, changed into the wise counsellor,
the considerate, steady friend! How often the
thoughtless, gay girl, into the sober wife, the affectionate
mother! Faded beauty, humbled self-consequence,
disappointed ambition, loss of fortune,—this
is the rough physic provided by Providence to meliorate
the temper, to correct the offensive petulancies of
youth, and bring out all the energies of the finished 18(5)v 214
character. Afflictions soften the proud; difficulties
push forward the ingenious; successful industry gives
consequence and credit, and developes a thousand
latent good qualities. There is no malady of the
mind so inveterate, which this education of events is
not calculated to cure, if life were long enough; and
shall we not hope, that He, in whose hand are all the
remedial processes of nature, will renew the discipline
in another state, and finish the imperfect man?

States are educated as individuals—by circumstances:
the prophet may cry aloud, and spare not; the
philosopher may descant on morals; eloquence may
exhaust itself in invective against the vices of the age:
these vices will certainly follow certain states of poverty
or riches, ignorance or high civilization. But
what these gentle alternatives fail of doing, may be accomplished
by an unsuccessful war, a loss of trade, or
any of those great calamities by which it pleases
Providence to speak to a nation in such language as
will be heard. If, as a nation, we would be cured of
pride, it must be by mortification; if of luxury, by a
national bankruptcy, perhaps; if of injustice, or the
spirit of domination, by a loss of national consequence.
In comparison of these strong remedies, a fast, or a
sermon, are prescriptions of very little efficacy.

18(6)r 215

On Prejudice.

It is to speculative people, fond of novel doctrines,
and who, by accustoming themselves to make the
most fundamental truths the subject of discussion,
have divested their minds of that reverence which is
generally felt for opinions and practices of long standing,
that the world is ever to look for its improvement
or reformation. But it is also these speculatists who
introduce into it absurdities and errors, more gross
than any which have been established by that common
consent of numerous individuals, which opinions long
acted upon must have required for their basis. For
systems of the latter class must at least possess one
property,—that of being practicable; and there is
likewise a presumption that they are, or at least originally
were, useful; whereas the opinions of the speculatist
may turn out to be utterly incongruous and eccentric.
The speculatist may invent machines which
it is impossible to put in action, or which, when put
in action, may possess the tremendous power of tearing
up society by the roots. Like the chemist, he is
not sure in the moment of projection whether he shall
blow up his own dwelling and that of his neighbour,
or whether he shall be rewarded with a discovery
which will secure the health and prolong the existence
of future generations. It becomes us, therefore,
to examine with peculiar care those maxims
which, under the appearance of following a closer
train of reasoning, militate against the usual practices
or genuine feelings of mankind. No subject has been 18(6)v 216
more canvassed than education. With regard to that
important object there is a maxim avowed by many
sensible people, which seems to me to deserve particular
investigation. “Give your child,” it is said,
“no prejudices: let reason be the only foundation of
his opinions; where he cannot reason, let him suspend
his belief. Let your great care be, that as he
grows up he has nothing to unlearn; and never make
use of authority in matters of opinion, for authority is
no test of truth.”
The maxim sounds well, and flatters
perhaps the secret pride of man, in supposing him
more the creature of reason than he really is; but, I
suspect, on examination we shall find it exceeedingly
fallacious. We must first consider what a prejudice
is. A prejudice is a sentiment in favour or disfavour
of any person, practice, or opinion, previous to and
independent of examining their merits by reason and
investigation. Prejudice is prejudging; that is, judging
previously to evidence. It is therefore sufficiently
apparent, that no philosophical belief can be founded
on mere prejudice; because it is the business of
philosophy to go deep into the nature and properties
of things: nor can it be allowable for those to indulge
prejudice who aspire to lead the public opinion; those
to whom the high office is appointed of sifting truth
from error, of canvassing the claims of different systems,
of exploding old and introducing new tenets.
These must investigate, with a kind of audacious boldness,
every subject that comes before them; these,
neither impressed with awe for all that mankind have
been taught to reverence, nor swayed by affection for
whatever the sympathies of our nature incline us to
love, must hold the balance with a severe and steady
hand, while they are weighing the doubtful scale of
probabilities; and with a stoical apathy of mind, yield
their assent to nothing but a preponderancy of evidence. 19(1)r 217
But is this an office for a child? Is it an
office for more than one or two men in a century?
And is it desirable that a child should grow up without
opinions to regulate his conduct, till he is able to
form them fairly by the exercise of his own abilities?
Such an exercise requires at least the sober period of
matured reason: reason not only sharpened by argumentative
discussion, but informed by experience.
The most sprightly child can only possess the former;
for let it be remembered, that though the reasoning
powers put forth pretty early in life, the faculty of
using them to effect does not come till much later.
The first efforts of a child in reasoning resemble those
quick and desultory motions by which he gains the
play of his limbs; they show agility and grace, they
are pleasing to look at, and necessary for the gradual
acquirement of his bodily powers; but his joints must
be knit into more firmness, and his movements regulated
with more precision, before he is capable of
useful labour and manly exertion. A reasoning child
is not yet a reasonable being. There is great propriety
in the legal phraseology which expresses maturity,
not by having arrived at the possession of reason,
but of that power, the late result of information, thought,
and experience—discretion, which alone teaches, with
regard to reason, its powers, its limits, and its use.
This the child of the most sprightly parts cannot have;
and therefore his attempts at reasoning, whatever
acuteness they may show, and how much soever they
may please a parent with the early promise of future
excellence, are of no account whatever in the sober
search after truth. Besides, taking it for granted
which however is utterly impossible) that a youth
could be brought up to the age of fiteen or sixteen
without prejudice in favour of any opinions whatever,
and that he is then set to examining for himself some Vol. II. 19 19(1)v 218
important proposition,—how is he to set about it?
Who is to recommend books to him? Who is to
give him the previous information necessary to comprehend
the question? Who is to tell him whether
or no it is important? Whoever does these, will infallibly
lay a bias upon his mind according to the ideas
he himself has received upon the subject. Let us
suppose the point in debate was the preference between
the Roman catholic and protestant modes of
religion. Can a youth in a protestant country, born
of protestant parents, with access, probably, to hardly
a single controversial book on the Roman catholic
side of the question,—can such a one study the subject
without prejudice? His knowledge of history, if he
has such knowledge, must, according to the books he
has read, have already given him a prejudice on the
one side or the other; so must the occasional conversation
he has been witness to, the appellations he
has heard used, the tone of voice with which he has
heard the words monk or priest pronounced, and a
thousand other evanescent circumstances. It is likewise
to be observed, that every question of any weight
and importance has numerous dependencies and points
of connexion with other subjects, which make it impossible
to enter upon the consideration of it without
a great variety of previous knowledge. There is no
object of investigation perfectly insulated;—we must
not conceive therefore of a man’s sitting down to it
with a mind perfectly new and untutored: he must
have passed more or less through a course of studies;
and, according to the colour of those studies, his mind
will have received a tincture,—that is, a prejudice.—
But it is, in truth, the most absurd of all suppositions,
that a human being can be educated, or even nourished
and brought up, without imbibing numberless prejudices
from every thing which passes around him. 19(2)r 219
A child cannot learn the signification of words without
receiving ideas along with them; he cannot be impressed
with affection to his parents and those about him,
without conceiving a predilection for their tastes,
opinions, and practices. He forms numberless associations
of pain or pleasure, and every association
begets a prejudice; he sees objects from a particular
spot, and his views of things are contracted or extended
according to his position in society: as no two individuals
can have the same horizon, so neither can
any two have the same associations; and different
associations will produce different opinions, as necessarily
as, by the laws of perspective, different distances
will produce different appearances of visible objects.
Let us confess a truth, humiliating perhaps to human
pride;—a very small part only of the opinions of the
coolest philosopher are the result of fair reasoning;
the rest are formed by his education, his temperament,
by the age in which he lives, by trains of thought
directed to a particular track through some accidental
association—in short, by prejudice. But why, after
all, should we wish to bring up children without prejudices?
A child has occasion to act, long before he
can reason. Shall we leave him destitute of all the
principles that should regulate his conduct, till he can
discover them by the strength of own genius? If it
were possible that one whole generation could be
brought up without prejudices, the world must return
to the infancy of knowledge, and all the beautiful fabric
which has been built up by successive generations,
must be begun again from the very foundation. Your
child has a claim to the advantage of your experience,
which it would be cruel and unjust to deprive him of.
Will any father say to his son, “My dear child, you
are entering upon a world full of intricate and perplexed
paths, in which many miss their way, to their final 19(2)v 220
misery and ruin. Amidst many false systems, and
much vain science, there is also some true knowledge;
there is a right path: I believe I know it, for I have
the advantage of years and experience, but I will instill
no prejudices in your mind; I shall therefore
leave you to find it out as you can; whether your
abilities are great or small, you must take the chance
of them. There are various systems in morals; I
have examined and found some of a good, others
of a bad tendency. There is such a thing as religion;
many people think it the most important concern of
life: perhaps I am one of them: perhaps I have
chosen from amidst the various systems of belief,—
many of which are extremely absurd, and some even
pernicious, that which I cherish as the guide of my
life, my comfort in all my sorrows, and the foundation
of my dearest hopes: but far be it from me to influence
you in any manner to receive it; when you
are grown up, you must read all the books upon these
subjects which you can lay your hands on, for neither
in the choice of these would I presume to prejudice
your mind: converse with all who pretend to any
opinions upon the subject; and whatever happens to
be the result, you must abide by it. In the mean
time, concerning these important objects you must
keep your mind in a perfect equilibrium. It is true
you want these principles now more than you can do
at any other period of your life; but I had rather you
never had them at all, than that you should not come
fairly by them.”
Should we commend the wisdom
or the kindness of such a parent? The parent will
perhaps plead in his behalf, that it is by no means his
intention to leave the mind of his child in the uncultivated
state I have supposed. As soon as his understanding
begins to open, he means to discuss with him
those propositions on which he wishes him to form an 19(3)r 221
opinion. He will make him read the best books on
the subject, and by free conversation and explaining
the arguments on both sides, he does not doubt but
the youth will soon be enabled to judge satisfactorily
for himself. I have no objection to make against this
mode of proceding: as a mode of instruction, it is
certainly a very good one: but he must know little of
human nature, who thinks that after this process the
youth will be really in a capacity of judging for himself,
or that he is less under the dominion of prejudice
than if he had received the same truths from the mere
authority of his parent; for most assuredly the arguments
on either side will not have been set before
him with equal strength or with equal warmth. The
persuasive tone, the glowing language, the triumphant
retort, will all be reserved for the side on which the
parent has formed his own conclusions. It cannot be
otherwise; he cannot be convinced himself of what
he thinks a truth, without wishing to convey that conviction,
nor without thinking all that can be urged on
the other side, weak and futile. He cannot in a matter
of importance neutralize his feelings: perfect
impartiality can be the result only of indifference.
He does not perhaps seem to dictate, but he wishes
gently to guide his pupil; and that wish is seldom
disappointed. The child adopts the opinion of his
parent, and seems to himself to have adopted it from
the decisions of his own judgment; but all these
reasonings must be gone over again, and these opinions
undergo a fiery ordeal, if ever he comes really to think
and determine for himself.

The fact is, that no man, whatever his system may
be, refrains from instilling prejudices into his child in
any matter he has much at heart. Take a disciple
of Rousseau, who contends that it would be very pernicious
to give his son any ideas of a Deity till he is 19* 19(3)v 222
of an age to read Clarke or Leibnitz, and ask him if
he waits so long to impress on his mind the sentiments
of patriotism—the civic affection. O no! you will
find his little heart is early taught to beat at the very
name of liberty, and that, long before he is capable of
forming a single political idea, he has entered with
warmth into all the party sentiments and connexions
of his parent. He learns to love and hate, to venerate
or despise, by rote; and he soon acquires decided
opinions, of the real ground of which he can know
absolutely nothing. Are not ideas of female honour
and decorum imprest first as prejudices; and would
any parent wish they should be so much as canvassed
till the most settled habits of propriety have rendered
it safe to do it? In teaching first by prejudice that
which is afterwards to be proved, we do but follow
Nature. Instincts are prejudices she gives us: we
follow them implicitly, and they lead us right; but it
is not till long afterwards that reason comes and justifies
them. Why should we scruple to lead a child to
right opinions in the same way by which Nature leads
him to right practices!

Still it will be urged that man is a rational being,
and therefore reason is the only true ground of belief,
and authority is not reason. This point requires a
little discussion. That he who receives a truth upon
authority has not a reasonable belief, is in one sense
true, since he has not drawn it from the result of his own
inquiries; but in another it is certainly false, since the
authority itself may be to him the best of all reasons
for believing it. There are few men who, from the
exercise of the best powers of their minds, could derive
so good a reason for believing a mathematical truth,
as the authority of Sir Isaac Newton. There are two
principles deeply implanted in the mind of man, without
which he could never attain knowledge,—curiosity, 19(4)r 223
and credulity; the former to lead him to make discoveries
himself, the latter to dispose him to receive
knowledge from others. The credulity of a child to
those who cherish him, is in early life unbounded.
This is one of the most useful instincts he has, and is
in fact a precious advantage put into the hands of the
parent for storing his mind with ideas of all kinds.
Without this principle of assent he could never gain
even the rudiments of knowledge. He receives it, it
is true, in the shape of prejudice; but the prejudice
itself is founded upon sound reasoning, and conclusive
though imperfect experiment. He finds himself weak,
helpless, and ignorant; he sees in his parent a being
of knowledge and powers more than his utmost capacity
can fathom; almost a god to him. He has often
done him good, therefore he believes he loves him;
he finds him capable of giving him information upon all
the subjects he has applied to him about; his knowledge
seems unbounded, and his information has led him
right whenever he has had occasion to try it by actual
experiment: the child does not draw out his little
reasonings into a logical form, but this is to him a
ground of belief, that his parent knows every thing,
and is infallible. Though the proposition is not exactly
true, it is sufficiently so for him to act upon: and
when he believes in his parent with implicit faith, he
believes upon grounds as truly rational as when, in
after life, he follows the deductions of his own reason.

But you will say, I wish my son may have nothing
to unlearn, and therefore I would have him wait to
form an opinion till he is able to do it on solid grounds.
And why do you suppose he will have less to unlearn
if he follows his own reason, than if he followed yours?
If he thinks, if he inquires, he will no doubt have a
great deal to unlearn, whichever course you take with
him; but it is better to have some things to unlearn,
than to having nothing learnt. Do you hold your own 19(4)v 224
opinions so loosely, so hesitatingly, as not to think
them safer to abide by, than the first results of his
stammering reason? Are there no truths to learn so
indubitable as to be without fear of their not approving
themselves to his mature and well-directed judgment?
Are there none you esteem so useful, as to feel anxious
that he be put in possession of them? We are solicitous
not only to put our children in a capacity of
acquiring their daily bread, but to bequeath to them
riches which they may receive as an inheritance.
Have you no mental wealth you wish to transmit, no
stock of ideas he may begin with, instead of drawing
them all from the labour of his own brain? If, moreover,
your son should not adopt your prejudices, he
will certainly adopt those of other people; or, if on
subjects of high interest he could be kept totally indifferent,
the consequence would be, that he would
conceive either that such matters were not worth the
trouble of inquiry, or that nothing satisfactory was to
be learnt about them: for there are negative prejudices
as well as positive.

Let parents, therefore, not scruple to use the power
God and Nature have put into their hands for the
advantage of their offspring. Let them not fear to
impress them with prejudices for whatever is fair and
honourable in action—whatever is useful and important
in systematic truth. Let such prejudices be
wrought into the very texture of the soul. Such truths
let them appear to know by intuition. Let the child
never remember the period when he did not know them.
Instead of sending him to that cold and hesitating belief
which is founded on the painful and uncertain
consequences of late investigation, let his conviction
of all the truths you deem important, be mixed up with
every warm affection of his nature, and identified with
his most cherished recollections—the time will come
soon enough when his confidence in you will have received 19(5)r 225
a check. The growth of his own reason and
the developement of his powers will lead him with a
sudden impetus to examine every thing, to canvass
every thing, to suspect every thing. If he finds, as
he certainly will find, the results of his reasoning different
in some respects from those you have given
him, far from being now disposed to receive your assertions
as proofs, he will rather feel disinclined to
any opinion you profess, and struggle to free himself
from the net you have woven about him.

The calm repose of his mind is broken, the placid
lake is become turbid, and reflects distorted and
broken images of things; but be not you alarmed at
the new workings of his thoughts,—it is the angel of
reason which descends and troubles the waters. To
endeavour to influence by authority, would be as useless
now as it was salutary before. Lie by in silence,
and wait the result. Do not expect the mind of your
son is to resemble yours, as your figure is reflected
by the image in the glass; he was formed, like you,
to use his own judgement, and he claims the high
privilege of his nature. His reason is mature, his
mind must now form itself. Happy must you esteem
yourself, if amidst all lesser differences of opinion, and
the wreck of many of your favourite ideas, he still
preserves those radical and primary truths which are
essential to his happiness, and which different trains of
thought and opposite modes of investigation will very
often equally lead to.

Let it be well remembered that we have only been
recommending those prejudices which go before reason,
not those which are contrary to it. To endeavour
to make children, or others over whom we have
influence, receive systems which we do not believe,
merely because it is convenient to ourselves that they
should believe them, though a very fashionable practice,
makes no part of the discipline we plead for. 19(5)v 226
These are not prejudices, but impositions. We may
also grant that nothing should be received as a prejudice
which can be easily made the subject of experiment.
A child may be allowed to find out for himself
that boiling water will scald his fingers, and mustard
bite his tongue; but he must be prejudiced
against ratsbane, because the experiment would be
too costly. In like manner it may do him good to
have experienced that little instances of inattention or
perverseness draw upon him the displeasure of his
parent; but that profligacy is attended with loss of
character, is a truth one would rather wish him to
take upon trust.

There is no occasion to inculcate by prejudices
those truths which it is of no importance for us to
know, till our powers are able to investigate them.
Thus the metaphysical questions of space and time,
necessity and free-will, and a thousand others, may
safely be left for that age which delights in such discussions.
They have no connexion with conduct;
and none have any business with them at all, but those
who are able by such studies to exercise and sharpen
their mental powers: but it is not so with those truths
on which our well-being depends; these must be
taught to all, not only before they can reason upon
them, but independently of the consideration whether
they will ever be able to reason upon them as long as
they live. What has hitherto been said, relates only
to instilling prejudices into others; how far a man is
to allow them in himself, or, as a celebrated writer
expresses it, to cherish them, is a different question, on
which perhaps I may some time offer my thoughts. It is to be regretted that Mrs. Barbauld never fulfilled the intention
here intimated.—Editor.

In the mean time I cannot help concluding, that to
reject the influence of prejudice in education is itself
one of the most unreasonable of prejudices.

19(6)r 227

Dialogue in the Shades.

Clio. There is no help for it, —they must go.
The river Lethe is here at hand; I shall tear them
off and throw them into the stream.

Mercury. Illustrious daughter of Mnemosyne,
Clio! the most respected of the Muses, —you seem
disturbed. What is it that brings us the honour of a
visit from you in these infernal regions?

Clio. You are a god of expedients, Mercury; I
want to consult you. I am oppressed with the continually
increasing demands upon me: I have had
more business for these last twenty years than I have
often had for two centuries; and if I had, as old Homer
says, “a throat of brass and adamantine lungs,”
I could never get through it. And what did he want
this throat of brass for? for a paltry list of ships,
canoes rather, which would be laughed at in the Admiralty
Office
of London. But I must inform you,
Mercury, that my roll is so full, and I have so many
applications which cannot in decency be refused, that
I see no other way than striking off some hundreds of
names in order to make room; and I come to inform
the shades of my determination.

Mercury. I believe, Clio, you will do right: and
as one end of your roll is a little mouldy, no doubt
you will begin with that; but the ghosts will raise a
agreat clamour.

Clio. I expect no less; but necessity has no law. 19(6)v228
All the parchment in Pergamus is used up, —my roll
is long enough to reach from earth to heaven; it is
grown quite cumbrous; it takes a life, as mortals
reckon lives, to unroll it.

Mercury. Yet consider, Clio, how many of these
have passed a restless life, and encountered all manner
of dangers, and bled and died only to be placed
upon your list,—and now to be struck off!

Clio. And committed all manner of crimes, you
might have added;—but go they must. Besides,
they have been sufficiently recompensed. Have they
not been praised, and sung, and admired for some
thousands of years? Let them give place to others:
What! have they no conscience? no modesty?
Would Xerxes, think you, have reason to complain,
when his parading expeditions have already procured
him above two thousand years of fame, though a
Solyman or a Zingis Khan should fill up his place?

Mercury. Surely you are not going to blot out
Xerxes from your list of names?

Clio. I do not say that I am: but that I keep
him is more for the sake of his antagonists than his
own. And yet their places might well be supplied
by the Swiss heroes of Morgarten, or the brave
though unsuccessful patriot, Aloys Reding.—But pray
what noise is that at the gate?

Mercury. A number of the shades who have received
an intimation of your purpose, and are come
to remonstrate against it.

Clio. In the name of all the gods whom have we
here?—Hercules, Theseus, Jason, Œdipus, Bacchus,
Cadmus with a bag of dragon’s teeth, and a whole
tribe of strange shadowy figures! I shall expect to
see the Centaurs and Lapithæ, or Perseus on his flying
courser. Away with them; they belong to my
sisters, not to me; Melpomene will receive them
gladly.

20(1)r 229

Mercury. You forget, Clio, that Bacchus conquered
India.

Clio. And had horns like Moses, as Vossius is
pleased to say. No, Mercury, I will have nothing to
do with these; if ever I received them, it was when
I was young and credulous.—As I have said, let my
sisters take them; or let them be celebrated in tales
for children.

Mercury. That will not do, Clio; children in this
age read none but wise books: stories of giants and
dragons are all written for grown-up children now.

Clio. Be that as it may, I shall clear my hands
of them , and of a great many more, I do assure you.

Mercury. I hope “the tale of Troy divine—!”

Clio. Divine let it be, but my share in it is very
small; I recollect furnishing the catalogue.—Mercury,
I will tell you the truth. When I was young, my
mother (as arrant a gossip as ever breathed) related
to me a great number of stories: and as in those days
people could not read or write, I had no better authority
for what I recorded: but after letters were
found out, and now since the noble invention of printing,
—why do you think, Mercury, any one would
dare to tell lies in print?

Mercury. Sometimes perhaps. I have seen a
splendid victory in the gazette of one country dwindle
into an honourable retreat in that of another.

Clio. In newspapers, very possibly: but with regard
to myself, when I have time to consider and lay
things together, I assure you, you may depend upon
me.—Whom have we in that group which I see indistinctly
in a sort of twilight?

Mercury. Very renowned personages; Ninus,
Sesostris, Semiramis, Cheops who built the largest
pyramid

Vol. II. 20 20(1)v 230

Clio. If Cheops built the largest pyramid, people
are welcome to inquire about him at the spot,—room
must be made. As to Semiramis, tell her her place
shall be filled up by an empress and a conqueror from
the shores of the wintry Baltic.

Mercury. The renowned Cyrus is approaching
with a look of confidence, for he is introduced by a
favourite of yours, the elegant Xenophon.

Clio. Is that Cyrus? Pray desire him to take off
that dress which Xenophon has given him; truly I
took him for a Greek philosopher. I fancy queen
Tomyris would scarcely recognise him.

Mercury. Aspasia hopes, for the honour of her
sex, that she shall continue to occupy a place among
those you celebrate.

Clio. Tell the mistress of Pericles we can spare
her without inconvenience: many ladies are to be
found in modern times who possess her eloquence
and her talents, with the modesty of a vestal; and
should a more perfect likeness be required, modern
times may furnish that also.

Mercury. Here are two figures who approach
you with a very dignified air.

Solon and Lycurgus We present ourselves, divine
Clio, with confidence. We have no fear that
you should strike from your roll the lawgivers of
Athens and Sparta.

Clio. Most assuredly not. Yet I must inform
you that a name higher than either of yours, and a
constitution more perfect, is to be found in a vast continent,
of the very existence of which you had not the
least suspicion.

Mercury. I see approaching a person of a noble
and spirited air, if he did not hold his head a little on
one side as if his neck were awry.

20(2)r 231

Alexander.— Clio, I need not introduce myself; I
am, as you well know, the son of Jupiter Ammon,
and my arms have reached even to the remote shore
of the Indus.

Clio. Pray burn your genealogy; and for the
rest, suffer me to inform you that the river Indus and
the whole peninsula which you scarcely discovered,
with sixty millions of inhabitants, is at this moment subject
to the dominion of a few merchants in a remote
island of the Northern Ocean, the very name of which
never reached your ears.

Mercury. Here is Empedocles, who threw himself
into Ætna merely to be placed upon your roll;
and Calanus, who mounted his funeral pile before
Alexander, from the same motive.

Clio. They have been remembered long enough
in all reason: their places may be supplied by the
two next madmen who shall throw themselves under
the wheels of the chariot of Jaggernaut, —fanatics are
the growth of every age.

Mercury. Here is a ghost preparing to address
you with a very self-sufficient air: his robe is embroidered
with flower-de-luces.

Louis XIV.— I am persuaded, Clio, you will recognise
the immortal man. I have always been a
friend and patron of the Muses; my actions are well
known; all Europe has resounded with my name,—
the terror of other countries, the glory of my own: I
am well assured you are not going to strike me off.

Clio. To strike you off? certainly not; but to
place you many degrees lower on the list; to reduce
you from a sun, your favourite emblem, to a star in the
galaxy. My sisters have certainly been partial to
you: you bought their favour with—how many livres
a year? not much more than a London bookseller
will give for a quarto poem. But me you cannot
bribe.

20(2)v 232

Louis. But, Clio, you have yourself recorded my
exploits;—the passage of the Rhine, Namur, Flanders,
Franche Compté.

Clio. O Louis, if you could but guess the extent
of the present French empire;—but no, it could never
enter into your imagination.

Louis. I rejoice at what you say; I rejoice that
my posterity have followed my steps, and improved
upon my glory.

Clio. Your posterity have had nothing to do with
it.

Louis. Remember too the urbanity of my character,
how hospitably I received the unfortunate James
of England,— England, the natural enemy of France.

Clio. Your hospitality has been well returned.
Your descendants, driven from their thrones, are at
this moment supported by the bounty of the nation
and king of England.

Louis. O Clio, what is it that you tell me! let
me hide my diminished head in the deepest umbrage
of the grove; let me seek out my dear Maintenon,
and tell my beads with her till I forget that I have
been either praised or feared.

Clio. Comfort yourself, however; your name,
like the red letter which marks the holiday, though
insignificant in itself, shall still enjoy the honour of
designating the age of taste and literature.

Mercury. Here is a whole crowd coming, Clio, I
can scarcely keep them off with my wand: they have
all got notice of your intentions, and the infernal regions
are quite in an uproar,—what is to be done?

Clio. I cannot tell; the numbers distract me: to
examine their pretensions one by one is impossible; I
must strike off half of them at a venture: the rest
must make room,—they must crowd, they must fall
into the back-ground; and where I used to write a 20(3)r 233
name all in capitals with letters of gold illuminated, I
must put it in small pica. I do assure you, Mercury,
I cannot stand the fatigue I undergo, much longer. I
am not provided, as you very well know, with either
chariot or wings, and I am expected to be in all parts
of the globe at once. In the good old times my business
lay almost entirely between the Hellespont and
the Pillars of Hercules, with sometimes an excursion
to the mouths (then seven) of the Nile, or the banks
of the Euphrates. But now I am required to be in a
hundred places at once; I am called from Jena to
Austerlitz, from Cape Trafalgar to Aboukir, and from
the Thames to the Ganges and Burampooter; besides
a whole continent, a world by itself, fresh and
vigorous, which I foresee will find me abundance of
employment.

Mercury. Truly I believe so; I am afraid the old
leaven is working in the new world.

Clio. I am puzzled at this moment how to give
the account, which always is expected of me, of the
august sovereigns of Europe.

Mercury. How so?

Clio. I do not know where to find them; they
are most of them upon their travels.

Mercury. You must have been very much employed
in the French revolution.

Clio. Continually; the actors in the scene succeeded
one another with such rapidity, that the hero
of today was forgotten on the morrow. Necker, Mirabeau,
Dumourier, La Fayette, appeared successively
likely pictures in a magic lanthern—shown for a
moment and then withdrawn: and now the space is
filled by one tremendous gigantic figure, that throws
his broad shadow over half the globe..

Mercury. The ambition of Napoleon has indeed
procured you much employment.

20* 20(3)v 234

Clio. Employment! There is not a goddess so
harassed as I am; my sisters lead quite idle lives in
comparison. Melpomene has in a manner slept
through the last half-century, except when now and
then she dictated to a certain favourite nymph. Urania,
indeed, has employed herself with Herschel in
counting the stars; but her task is less than mine.
Here am I expected to calculate how many hundred
thousands of rational beings cut one another’s throats
at Austerlitz, and to take the tale of two hundred and
thirteen thousand human bodies and ninety-five thousand
horses, that lie stiff, frozen and unburied on the
banks of the Berecina;—and do you think, Mercury,
this can be a pleasant employment?

Mercury. I have had a great increase of employment
myself lately, on account of the multitude of
shades I have been obliged to convey; and poor old
Charon is almost laid up with the rheumatism: we
used to have a holiday comparatively during the winter
months; but of late, winter and summer I have
observed are much alike to heroes.

Clio. I wish to Jupiter I could resign my office!
Son of Maia, I declare to you I am sick of the horrors
I record; I am sick of mankind. For above
these three thousand years have I been warning them
and reading lessons to them, and they will not mend:
Robespiere was as cruel as Sylla, and Napoleon has
no more moderation than Pyrrhus. The human
frame, of curious texture, delicately formed, feeling,
and irritable by the least annoyance, with face erect
and animated with Promethean fire, they wound, they
lacerate, they mutilate with most perverted ingenuity.
I will go and record the actions of the tigers of Africa;
in them such fierceness is natural—Nay, the human
race will be exterminated, if this work of destruction
goes on much longer.

20(4)r 235

Mercury. With regard to that matter, Clio, I can
set your heart at rest. A great philosopher has lately
discovered that the world is in imminent danger of
being over-peopled, and that if twenty or forty thousand
men could not be persuaded every now and then
to stand and be shot at, we should be forced to eat one
another. This discovery has had a wonderful effect
in quieting tender consciences. The calculation is
very simple, any schoolboy will explain it to you.

Clio. O what a number of fertile plains and green
savannahs, and tracts covered with trees of beautiful
foliage, have never yet been pressed by human footsteps!
My friend Swift’s project of eating children
was not so cruel as these bloody and lavish sacrifices
to Mars, the most savage of all the gods.

Mercury. You forget yourself, Clio; Mars is not
worshipped now in Christian Europe.

Clio. By Jupiter but he is! Have I not seen the
bloody and torn banners, with martial music and military
procession, brought into the temple,—and whose
temple, thinkest thou? and to whom have thanks
been given on both sides, amidst smoking towns and
wasted fields, after the destruction of man and devastation
of the fair face of nature!—And Mercury, god
of wealth and frauds, you have your temple too,
though your name is not inscribed there.

Mercury. I am afraid men will always love
wealth.

Clio. O if I had to record only such pure names
as a Washington or a Howard!

Mercury. It would be very gratifying, certainly;
but then, Clio, you would have very little to do, and
might almost as well burn your roll.

20(4)v 236

Knowledge and Her Daughter:

A Fable.

Knowledge, the daughter of Jupiter, descended
from the skies to visit man. She found him naked
and helpless, living on the spontaneous fruits of the
earth, and little superior to the ox that grazed beside
him. She clothed and fed him; she built him palaces;
she showed him the hidden riches of the earth,
and pointed with her finger the course of the stars as
they rose and set in the horizon. Man became rich
with her gifts and accomplished from her conversation.
In process of time Knowledge became acquainted
with the schools of the philosophers; and being
much taken with their theories and their conversation,
she married one of them. They had many beautiful
and healthy children; but among the rest was a
daughter of a different complexion from all the rest,
whose name was Doubt. She grew up under many
disadvantages; she had a great hesitation in her
speech; a cast in her eye, which, however, was keen
and piercing; and was subject to nervous tremblings.
Her mother saw her with dislike: but her father,
who was of the sect of the Pyrrhonists, cherished and
taught her logic, in which she made a great progress.
The Muse of History was much troubled with her intrusions:
she would tear out whole leaves, and blot
over many pages of her favourite works. With the
divines her depredations were still worse: she was
forbidden to enter a church; notwithstanding which, 20(5)r 237
she would slip in under the surplice, and spend her
time in making mouths at the priest. If she got at a
library, she destroyed or blotted over the most valuable
manuscripts. A most undutiful child; she was
never better pleased than when she could unexpectedly
trip up her mother’s heels, or expose a rent or
an unseemly patch in her flowing and ample garment.
With mathematicians she never meddled; but in all
other systems of knowledge she intruded herself, and
her breath diffused a mist over the page which often
left it scarcely legible. Her mother at length said to
her, “Thou art my child, and I know it is decreed
that while I tread this earth thou must accompany my
footsteps; but thou art mortal, I am immortal; and
there will come a time when I shall be freed from
thy intrusion, and shall pursue my glorious track from
star to star, and from system to system, without impediment
and without check.”

20(5)v 20(6)r

Occasional Tracts.

20(6)v 21(1)r

Address

to the
Opposers of the Repeal
of the
Corporation and Test Acts:
17901790.

Gentlemen,

Had the question of yesterday been decided in a
manner more favourable to our wishes, which however
the previous intimations of your temper in the
business left us little room to expect, we should have
addressed our thanks to you on the occasion. As it
is, we address to you our thanks for much casual
light thrown upon the subject, and for many incidental
testimonies of your esteem (whether voluntary or involuntary
we will not stop to examine) which in the
course of this discussion you have favoured us with.
We thank you for the compliment paid the dissenters,
when you suppose that the moment they are eligible
to places of power and profit, all such places will at
once be filled with them. Not content with confounding,
by an artful sophism, the right of eligibility with
the right to offices, you again confound that right with
the probable fact, and then argue accordingly. Is
the Test Act, your boasted bulwark, of equal necessity
with the dykes in Holland; and do we wait, like
an impetuous sea, to rush in and overwhelm the land? Vol. II. 21 21(1)v 242
Our pretensions, gentlemen, are far humbler. We
had not the presumption to imagine that, inconsiderable
as we are in numbers, compared to the established
church; inferior too in fortune and influence; labouring,
as we do, under the frown of the court, and the
anathema of the orthodox; we should make our way
so readily into the secret recesses of royal favour;
and of a sudden, like the frogs of Egypt, swarm
about your barns, and under your canopies, and in
your kneeding troughs, and in the chamber of the
king. We rather wished this act as the removal of a
stigma than the possession of a certain advantage, and
we might have been cheaply pleased with the acknowledgement
of the right, though we had never
been fortunate enough to enjoy the emolument.

Another compliment for which we offer our acknowledgments,
may be extracted from the great ferment
which has been raised by this business all over
the country. What stir and movement it has occasioned
among the different orders of men! How
quick the alarm has been taken, and sounded from
the church to the senate, and from the press to the
people; while fears and forebodings were communicated
like an electric shock! The old cry of “The
church is in danger”
has again been made to vibrate
in our ears. Here too, if we gave way to impressions
of vanity, we might suppose ourselves of much greater
importance in the political scale than our numbers and
situation seem to indicate. It shows, at least, we are
feared, which to some minds would be the next grateful
thing to being beloved. We, indeed, should only
wish for the latter; nor should we have ventured to
suppose, but from the information you have given us,
that your Church was so weak. What! fenced and
guarded as she is with her exclusive privileges and
rich emoluments, stately with her learned halls and 21(2)r 243
endowed colleges, with all the attraction of her wealth,
and the thunder of her censures; all that the orator
calls “the majesty of the church” about her,—and
does she, resting in security under the broad buckler
of the state, does she tremble at the naked and unarmed
sectary? him, whose early connexions and
phrase uncouth, and unpopular opinions, set him at distance
from the means of advancement; him, who in
the intercourses of neighbourhood and common life,
like new settlers, finds it necessary to clear the ground
before him, and is ever obliged to root up a prejudice
before he can plant affection? He is not of the
world, gentlemen; and the world loveth her own. All
that distinguishes him from other men to common observation,
operates in his disfavour. His very advocates,
while they plead his cause, are ready to blush
for their client; and in justice to their own character,
think it necessary to disclaim all knowledge of his
obscure tenets. And is it from his hand you expect
the demolition of so massy an edifice? Does the
simple removal of the Test Act involve its destruction?
These were not our thoughts. We had too
much reverence for your establishment to imagine
that the structure was so loosely put together, or so
much shaken by years, as that the removal of so slight
a pin should endanger the whole fabrick—or is the
Test Act the talisman which holds it together, that,
when it is broken, the whole must fall to pieces like
the magic palace of an enchanter? Surely no species
of regular architecture can depend upon so slight
a support.—After all what is it we have asked?—to
share in the rich benefices of the established church?
to have the gates of her schools and universities
thrown open to us? No: let her keep her golden
prebends, her scarfs, her lawn, her mitres. Let
her dignitaries be still associated to the honours of 21(2)v 244
legislation; and in our courts of executive justice, let
her inquisitorial tribunals continue to thwart the spirit
of a free constitution by a heterogeneous mixture of
priestly jurisdiction. Let her still gather into barns,
though she neither sows nor reaps. We desire not to
share in her good things. We know it is the children’s
bread, which must not be given to dogs. But
having these good things, we could wish to hear her
say with the generous spirit of Esau, “I have
enough, my brother.”
We could wish to be considered
as children of the state, though we are not so
of the church. She must excuse us if we look upon
the alliance between her and the state as an ill-assorted
union, and herself as a mother-in-law, who with the
too frequent arts of that relation, is ever endeavouring
to prejudice the state, the common father of us all,
against a part of his offspring, for the sake of appropriating
a larger portion to her own children. We
claim no share in the dowry of her who is not our
mother, but we may be pardoned for thinking it hard
to be deprived of the inheritance of our father.

But it is objected to us that we have sinned in the
manner of making our request, we have brought it
forward as a claim instead of asking it as a favour.
We should have sued, and crept, and humbled ourselves.
Our preachers and our writers should not
have dared to express the warm glow of honest sentiment,
or even in a foreign country glance at the
downfall of a haughty aristocracy. As we were suppliants,
we should have behaved like suppliants, and
then perhaps—No, gentlemen, we wish to have it
understood that we do claim it as a right. It loses
otherwise half its value. We claim it as men, we
claim it as citizens, we claim it as good subjects. We
are not conscious of having brought the disqualification
upon ourselves by a failure in any of these characters.

21(3)r 245

But we already enjoy a complete toleration—It is
time, so near the end of the eighteenth century, it is
surely time to speak with precision, and to call things
by their proper names. What you call toleration,
we call the exercise of a natural and inalienable
right. We do not conceive it to be toleration, first
to strip a man of all his dearest rights, and then to
give him back a part; or even if it were the whole.
You tolerate us in worshipping God according to
our consciences—and why not tolerate a man in the
use of his limbs, in the disposal of his private property,
the contracting his domestic engagements, or
any other the most acknowledged privileges of humanity?
It is not to these things that the word toleraation
is applied with propriety. It is applied, where
from lenity or prudence we forbear doing all which in
justice we might do. It is the bearing with what is
confessedly an evil, for the sake of some good with
which it is connected. It is the christian virtue of
long-suffering; it is the political virtue of adapting
measures to times and seasons and situations. Abuses
are tolerated, when they are so interwoven with
the texture of the piece, that the operation of removing
them becomes too delicate and hazardous. Unjust
claims are tolerated, when they are complied with
for the sake of peace and conscience. The failings
and imperfections of those characters in which there
appears an evident preponderancy of virtue, are tolerated.
These are the proper objects of toleration,
these exercise the patience of the christian and the prudence
of the statesman; but if there be a power that
advances pretensions which we think unfounded in
reason or scripture, that exercises an empire within
an empire, and claims submission from those naturally
her equals; and if we, from a spirit of brotherly
charity, and just deference to public opinion, and a 21* 21(3)v 246
salutary dread of innovation, acquiesce in these pretensions;
let her at least be told that the virtue of forbearance
should be transferred, and that it is we who
tolerate her, and not she who tolerates us.

But this, it is again imputed to us, is no contest for
religious liberty, but a contest for power, and place,
and influence. We want civil offices—And why
should citizens not aspire to civil offices? Why
should not the fair field of generous competition be
freely opened to every one? A contention for power
—It is not a contention for power between churchmen
and dissenters, nor is it as dissenters we wish to enter
the lists; we wish to bury every name of distinction
in the common appellation of citizen. We wish not
the name of dissenter to be pronounced, except in our
theological researches and religious assemblies. It is
you, who by considering us as aliens, make us so. It
is you who force us to make our dissent a prominent
feature in our character. It is you who give relief,
and cause to come out upon the canvass, what we
modestly wished to have shaded over, and thrown into
the back-ground. If we are a party, remember it is
you who force us to be so. We should have sought
places of trust—by no unfair, unconstitutional methods
should we have sought them, but in the open
and honourable rivalship of virtuous emulation; by
trying to deserve well of our king and our country.
Our attachment to both is well known.

Perhaps, however, we have all this while mistaken
the matter, and what we have taken for bigotry and a
narrow-minded spirit is after all only an affair of calculation
and arithmetic. Our fellow subjects remember
the homely proverb, “the fewer the better cheer,”
and, very naturally, are glad to see the number of
candidates lessened for the advantages they are themselves
striving after. If so, we ask their excuse, their 21(4)r 247
conduct is quite simple; and if, from the number of
concurrents, government were to strike out all above
or under five feet high, or all whose birthdays happened
before the summer solstice, or, by any other mode
of distinction equally arbitrary and whimsical, were
to reduce the number of their rivals, they would be
equally pleased, and equally unwilling to admit an alteration.
We are a mercantile people, accustomed to
consider chances, and we can easily perceive that in
the lottery of life, if a certain proportion are by some
means or other excluded from a prize, the adventure
is exactly so much the better for the remainder. If
this indeed be the case, as I suspect it may, we have
been accusing you wrongfully. Your conduct is
founded upon principles as sure and unvarying as
mathematical truths; and all further discussion is needless.
We drop the argument at once. Men have now
and then been reasoned out of their prejudices, but it
were a hopeless attempt to reason them out of their
interest.

We likewise beg leave to apologize to those of the
clergy whom we have unwillingly offended by endeavouring
to include them as parties in our cause.
“Pricked to it by foolish honesty and love,” we
thought that what appeared so grievous to us, could
not be very pleasant to them: but we are convinced
of our mistake, and sorry for our officiousness. We
own it, sirs, it was a fond imagination that because we
should have felt uneasy under the obligation imposed
upon you, it should have the same effect upon yourselves.
It was weak to impute to you an idle delicacy
of conscience, which perhaps can only be preserved
at a distance from the splendid scenes which you
have continually in prospect. But you will pardon
us. We did not consider the force of early discipline
over the mind. We are not accustomed to those salvos, 21(4)v 248
and glosses, and accomodating modes of reasoning
with which you have long been familiarized.
You have the happy art of making easy to yourselves
greater things than this. You are regularly disciplined
troops, and understand every nice manœuvre and
dexterous evolution which the nature of the ground
may require. We are like an unbroken horse; hard-
mouthed, and apt to start at shadows, Our conduct
towards you in this particular, we acknowledge may
fairly provoke a smile at our simplicity. Besides,
upon reflection, what should you startle at? The
mixture of secular and religious concerns cannot to
you appear extraordinary; and in truth nothing is
more reasonable than that, as the state has been
drawn in to the aggrandizement of your church, your
church should in return make itself subservient to the
convenience of the state. If we are wise, we shall
never again make ourselves uneasy about your share
of the grievance.

But we were enumerating our obligations to you,
gentlemen, who have thwarted our request; and we
must take the liberty to inform you that if it be any
object of our ambition to exist and attract notice as a
separate body, you have done us the greatest service
in the world. What we desired, by blending us with
the common mass of citizens, would have sunk our
relative importance, and consigned our discussions to
oblivion. You have refused us; and by so doing,
you keep us under the eye of the public, in the interesting
point of view, of men who suffer under a
deprivation of their rights. You have set a mark of
separation upon us, and it is not in our power to take
it off; but it is in our power to determine whether it
shall be a disgraceful stigma or an honourable distinction.
If, by the continued peaceableness of our demeanour,
and by the superior sobriety of our conversation, 21(5)r 249
—a sobriety for which we have not yet quite
ceased to be distinguished; if, by our attention to
literature, and that ardent love of liberty which you
are pretty ready to allow us, we deserve esteem, we
shall enjoy it. If our rising seminaries should excel
in wholesome discipline and regularity, if they should
be schools of morality, and yours, unhappily should
be corrupted into schools of immorality, you will entrust
us with the education of your youth, when the
parent, trembling at the profligacy of the times, wishes
to preserve the blooming and ingenuous child from
the degrading taint of early licentiousness. If our
writers are solid, elegant, or nervous, you will read
our books and imbibe our sentiments, and even
your preachers will not disdain, occasionally, to illlustrate
our morality. If we enlighten the world by
philosophical discoveries, you will pay the involuntary
homage due to genius, and boast of our names when,
amongst foreign societies, you are inclined to do credit
to your country. If your restraints operate towards
keeping us in that middle rank of life where
industry and virtue most abound, we shall have the
honour to count ourselves among that class of the
community which has ever been the source of manners,
of population, and of wealth. If we seek for fortune
in that track which you have left most open to us, we
shall increase your commercial importance. If, in
short, we render ourselves worthy of respect, you cannot
hinder us from being respected—you cannot help respecting
us—and in spite of all names of opprobrious
separation, we shall be bound together by mutual esteem
and the mutual reciprocation of good offices.

One good office we shall most probably do you is
rather an invidious one, and seldom meets with
thanks. By laying us under such a marked disqualification,
you have rendered us—we hope not uncandid 21(5)v 250
—we hope not disaffected—May the God of love
and charity preserve us from all such acrimonious
dispositions! But you certainly have, as far as in you
lies, rendered us quick-sighted to encroachment and
abuses of all kinds. We have the feelings of men;
and though we should be very blameable to suffer
ourselves to be biassed by any private hardships, and
hope that, as a body, we never shall, yet this you will
consider, that we have at least no bias on the other
side. We have no favours to blind us, no golden
padlock on our tongues, and therefore it is probable
enough, that, if cause is given, we shall cry aloud
and spare not. But in this you have done yourselves
no disservice. It is perfectly agreeable to the jealous
spirit of a free constitution, that there should be some
who will season the mass with the wholesome spirit of
opposition. Without a little of that bitter leaven, there
is great danger of its being corrupted

With regard to ourselves, you have by your late
determination given perhaps a salutary, perhaps a
seasonable check to that spirit of worldliness, which of
late has gained but too much ground amongst us.
Before you—before the world—we have a right to
bear the brow erect, to talk of rights and services;
but there is a place and a presence where it will become
us to make no boast. We, as well as you, are
infected. We, as well as you, have breathed in the
universal contagion: a contagion more noxious, and
more difficult to escape, than that which on the plains
of Cherson has just swept from the world the martyr
of humanity. The contagion of selfish indifference
and fashionable manners has seized us; and our languishing
virtue feels the debilitating influence. If you
were more conversant in our assemblies than your
prejudices will permit you to be, you would see indifference,
where you fancy there is an over proportion 21(6)r 251
of zeal: you would see principles giving way,
and families melting into the bosom of the church
under the warm influence of prosperity. You would
see that establishments, without calling coercive measures
to their aid, possess attraction enough severely
to try the virtue and steadiness of those who separate
from them. You need not strew thorns, or put bars
across our path; your golden apples are sufficient to
make us turn out of the way. Believe me, gentlemen,
you do not know us sufficiently to aim your
censure where we should be most vulnerable.

Nor need you apprehend from us the slightest danger
to your own establishment. If you will needs
have it that it is in danger, we wish you to be aware
that the danger arises from among yourselves. If
ever your creeds and formularies become as grievous
to the generality of your clergy as they already are to
many delicate and thinking minds amongst them; if
ever any material articles of your professed belief
should be generally disbelieved, or that order which
has been accustomed to supply faithful pastors and
learned inquirers after truth, should become a burden
upon a generous public, the cry for reformation would
then be loud and prevailing. It would be heard.
Doctrines which will not stand the test of argument
and reason, will not always be believed; and when
they have ceased to be generally believed, they will
not long be articles of belief. If, therefore, there is
any weak place in your system, any thing which you
are obliged to gloss over and touch with a tender hand,
any thing which shrinks at investigation—look ye to it,
its extinction is not far off. Doubts and difficulties,
that arise first amongst the learned, will not stop there;
they inevitably spread downwards from class to class:
and if the people should ever find that your articles
are generally subscribed as articles of peace, they will 21(6)v 252
be apt to remember that they are articles of expense
too. If all the dissenters in the kingdom, still believing,
as dissenters do, were this moment, in order to
avoid the reproach of schism, to enter the pale of your
church, they would do you mischief; they would
hasten its decline: and if all who in their hearts
dissent from your professions of faith, were to cease
making them, and throw themselves amongst the dissenters,
you would stand the firmer for it. Your
church is in no danger because we are of a different
church; they might stand together to the end of time
without interference: but it will be in great danger
whenever it has within itself many who have thrown
aside its doctrines, or even, who do not embrace them
in the simple and obvious sense. All the power and
policy of man cannot continue a system long after its
truth has ceased to be acknowledged, or an establishment
long after it has ceased to contribute to utility.
It is equally vain as to expect to preserve a tree whose
roots are cut away. It may look as green and flourishing
as before for a short time; but its sentence is
passed its principle of life is gone, and death is already
within it. If then you think the church in danger, be
not backward to preserve the sound part by sacrificing
the decayed.

To return to ourselves and our feelings on the
business lately in agitation—You will excuse us if we
do not appear with the air of men baffled and disappointed.
Neither do we blush at our defeat;—we
may blush, indeed, but it is for our country: but we
lay hold on the consoling persuasion, that reason, truth
and liberality must finally prevail. We appeal from
Philip intoxicated to Philip sober. We know you
will refuse us while you are narrow-minded, but you
will not always be narrow-minded. You have too
much light and candour not to have more. We will 22(1)r 253
no more attempt to pluck the green unripe fruit. We
see in you our future friends and brethren, eager to
confound and blend with ours your interests and your
affections. You will grant us all we ask. The only
question between us is, whether you will do it today;
tomorrow you certainly will. You will even entreat
us, if need were, to allow you to remove from your
country the stigma of illiberality. We appeal to the
certain, sure operation of increasing light and knowledge,
which it is no more in your power to stop, than
to repel the tide with your naked hand, or to wither
with your breath the genial influence of vegetation.
The spread of that light is, in general, gradual and
imperceptible; but there are periods when its progress
is accelerated, when it seems with a sudden flash to
open the firmament, and pour in day at once. Can
ye not discern the signs of the times? The minds of
men are in movement from the Borysthenes to the
Atlantic. Agitated with new and strong emotions,
they swell and heave beneath oppression, as the seas
within the polar circle, when at the approach of spring,
they grow impatient to burst their icy chains; when
what, but an instant before, seemed so firm,—spread
for many a dreary league like a floor of solid marble,
at once with a tremendous noise gives way, long fissures
spread in every direction, and the air resounds
with the clash of floating fragments, which every hour
are broken from the mass. The genius of Philosophy
is walking abroad, and with the touch of Ithuriel’s
spear is trying the establishments of the earth. The
various forms of Prejudice, Superstition, and Servility
start up in their true shapes, which had long imposed
upon the world under the revered semblances of
Honour, Faith, and Loyalty. Whatever is loose must
be shaken, whatever is corrupted must be lopt away;
whatever is not built on the broad basis of public utility Vol. II. 22 22(1)v 254
must be thrown to the ground. Obscure murmurs
gather, and swell into a tempest; the spirit of Inquiry,
like a severe and searching wind, penetrates every
part of the great body politic; and whatever is unsound,
whatever is infirm, shrinks at the visitation.
Liberty, here with the lifted crosier in her hand, and
the crucifix conspicuous on her breast; there, led by
Philosophy, and crowned with the civic wreath, animates
men to assert their long-forgotten rights. With
a policy, far more liberal and comprehensive than the
boasted establishments of Greece and Rome, she
diffuses her blessings to every class of men; and even
extends a smile of hope and promise to the poor
African, the victim of hard, impenetrable avarice.
Man, as man, becomes an object of respect. Tenets
are transferred from theory to practice. The glowing
sentiment and the lofty speculation no longer serve
“but to adorn the pages of a book;” they are brought
home to men’s business and bosoms; and, what some
centuries ago it was daring but to think, and dangerous
to express, is now realized and carried into effect.
Systems are analyzed into their first principles, and
principles are fairly pursued to their legitimate consequences.
The enemies of reformation, who palliate
what they cannot defend, and defer what they dare
not refuse; who, with Festus, put off to a more convenient
season what, only because it is the present
season, is inconvenient, stand aghast, and find they have
no power to put back the important hour, when nature
is labouring with the birth of great events. Can ye
not discern—But you do discern these signs; you
discern them well and your alarm is apparent. You
see a mighty empire breaking from bondage, and
exerting the energies of recovered freedom: and
England—which was used to glory in being the as
sertor of liberty and refuge of the oppressed—England, 22(2)r 255
who with generous and respectful sympathy, in times
not far remote from our own memory, afforded an
asylum to so many of the subjects of that very empire,
when crushed beneath the iron rod of persecution;
and, by so doing, circulated a livelier abhorrence of
tyranny within her own veins— England, who has
long reproached her with being a slave, now censures
her for daring to be free. England, who has held the
torch to her, is mortified to see it blaze brighter in her
hands. England, for whom, and for whose manners
and habits of thinking, that empire has, for some time
past, felt even an enthusiastic predilection; and to
whom, as a model of laws and government, she looks
up with affectionate reverence— England, nursed at
the breast of liberty, and breathing the purest spirit of
enlightened philosophy, views a sister nation with
affected scorn and real jealousy, and presumes to ask
whether she yet exists:—Yes, all of her exists that is
worthy to do so. Her dungeons indeed exist no longer,
the iron doors are forced, the massy walls are thrown
down; and the liberated spectres, trembling between
joy and horror, may now blazon the infernal secrets
of their prison-house. Her cloistered monks no longer
exist, nor does the soft heart of sensibility beat behind
the grate of a convent; but the best affections of
the human mind, permitted to flow in their natural
channel, diffuse their friendly influence over the
brightening prospect of domestic happiness. Nobles,
the creatures of kings, exist there no longer: but man,
the creature of God, exists there. Millions of men
exist there, who only now truly begin to exist, and
hail with shouts of grateful acclamation the better
birthday of their country. Go on, generous nation,
set the world an example of virtues as you have of
talents. Be our model, as we have been yours.
May the spirit of wisdom, the spirit of moderation, the 22(2)v 256
spirit of firmness, guide and bless your counsels!
Overcome our wayward perverseness by your steadiness
and temper. Silence the scoffs of your enemies,
and the misgiving fears of your timorous well-wishers.
Go on to destroy the empire of prejudices, that empire
of gigantic shadows, which are only formidable while
they are not attacked. Cause to succeed to the mad
ambition of conquest the peaceful industry of commerce,
and the simple, useful toils of agriculture. Instructed
by the experience of past centuries, and by many a
sad and sanguine page in your own histories, may you
no more attempt to blend what God has made separate;
but may religion and civil polity, like the two necessary
but opposite elements of fire and water, each in its
province do service to mankind, but never again be forced
into discordant union. Let the wandering pilgrims
of every tribe and complexion, who in other lands find
only an asylum, find with you a country; and may you
never seek other proof of the purity of your faith than
the largeness of your charity. In your manners, your
language, and habits of life, let a manly simplicity, becoming
the intercourse of equals with equals, take the
place of overstrained refinement and adulation. Let
public reformation prepare the way for private. May
the abolition of domestic tyranny introduce the modest
train of household virtues, and purer incense be burned
upon the hallowed altar of conjugal fidelity. Exhibit
to the world the rare phenomenon of a patriot
minister, of a philosophic senate. May a pure and
perfect system of legislation proceed from their forming
hands, free from those irregularities and abuses,
the wear and tear of a constitution, which in a course
of years are necessarily accumulated in the best-formed
states; and like the new creation in its first gloss and
freshness, yet free from any taint of corruption, when
its Maker blessed and called it good. May you never 22(3)r 257
lose sight of the great principle you have held forth,—
the natural equality of men. May you never forget
that without public spirit there can be no liberty; that
without virtue there may be a confederacy, but cannot
be a community. May you, and may we, consigning
to oblivion every less generous competition, only contest
who shall set the brightest example to the nations;
and may its healing influence be diffused, till the reign
of Peace shall spread
… from shore to shore,Till wars shall cease, and slavery be no more.

Amidst causes of such mighty operation, what are
we, and what are our petty, peculiar interests? Triumph
or despondency at the success or failure of our
plans, would be treason to the large, expanded, comprehensive
wish which embraces the general interests
of humanity. Here then we fix our foot with undoubting
confidence, sure that all events are in the
hands of him, who from seeming evil
“… is still educing good;And better thence again, and better still,In infinite progression.”
In this hope we look forward to the period when the
name of Dissenter shall no more be heard of than that
of Romanist or Episcopalian; when nothing shall be
venerable but truth, and nothing valued but utility.

A Dissenter.

22* 22(3)v

Sins of Rulers, Sins of the Nation:

A
Discourse for the Fast.
1793-04-19April 19, 1793.

My brethren,

We are called upon by high authority to separate,
for religious purposes, this portion of our common
time. The shops are shut: the artisan is summoned
from his loom, and the husbandman from his plough;
the whole nation, in the midst of its business, its pleasures,
and its pursuits, makes a sudden stop, and wears
the semblance, at least, of seriousness and concern. It
is natural for you to inquire, What is the purport of
all this?—the answer is in the words of my text:
“Ye stand this day, all of you, before the face of the
Lord.”
INTERNAL ERROR. Please report to wwp@neu.edu that regMe is unmatched.Deuteronomy, xxix. 10. You stand all of
you, that is, you stand here as a nation, and you stand
for the declared purpose of confessing your sins, and
humbling yourselves before the Supreme Being.

Every individual, my brethren, who has a sense
of religion, and a desire of conforming his conduct
to its precepts, will frequently retire into himself to
discover his faults; and having discovered, to repent
of,—and having repented of, to amend them. Nations
have likewise their faults to repent of, their conduct
to examine; and it is therefore no less becoming 22(4)r 259
and salutary, that they, from time to time, should
engage in the same duty. Those sins which we have
to repent of as individuals, belong to such transactions
as relate to our private concerns, and are executed
by us in our private capacity; such as buying, selling,
the management of our family economy, differences
arising from jarring interests and interfering claims between
us and our neighbours, &c. Those sins which,
as a nation, we have to repent of, belong to national
acts.

We act as a nation, when, through the organ of the
legislative power, which speaks the will of the nation,
and by means of the executive power which does the
will of the nation, we enact laws, form alliances, make
war or peace, dispose of the public money, or do any
of those things which belong to us in our collective
capacity. As, comparatively, few individuals have
any immediate share in these public acts, we might be
tempted to forget the responsibility which attaches to
the nation at large with regard to them, did not the
wisdom and piety of the governing powers, by thus
calling us together on every public emergency, remind
us that they are all our own acts; and that, for every
violation of integrity, justice, or humanity in public
affairs, it is incumbent upon every one of us to humble
himself personally before the tribunal of Almighty
God.

That this is the true and only rational interpretation
of the solemnities of this day, is evident from hence,
that we are never enjoined to confess the sins of other
people; but our own sins. To take upon ourselves
the faults of others, savours of presumption rather than
humility. There would be an absurd mockery in
pretending to humble ourselves before God for misdeeds
which we have neither committed, nor have any
power to amend. Those evils which we could not help, 22(4)v 260
and in which we have had no share, are subjects of
grief indeed, but not of remorse. If an oppressive
law, or a destructive war, were of the nature of a volcano
or a hurricane, proceeding from causes totally
independent of our operations,—all we should have
to do would be to bow our heads in silent submission,
and to bear their ravages with a manly patience. We
do not repent of a dangerous disorder or a sickly constitution,
because these are things which do not depend
upon our own efforts. If, therefore, the nation at
large had nothing to do in the affairs of the nation,
the piety of our rulers would have led them to fast
and pray by themselves alone, without inviting us to
concur in this salutary work. But we are called upon
to repent of national sins, because we can help them,
and because we ought to help them. We are not
fondly to imagine we can make of kings, or of lawgivers,
the scapegoats to answer for our follies and
our crimes: by the services of this day they call upon
us to answer for them; they throw the blame where
it ought ultimately to rest; that is, where the power
ultimately rests. It were trifling with our consciences
to endeavour to separate the acts of governors sanctioned
by the nation, from the acts of the nation; for, in
every transaction the principal is answerable for the
conduct of the agents he employs to transact it. If
the maxim that the king can do no wrong throws upon
ministers the responsibility, because without ministers
no wrong could be done, the same reason throws it
from them upon the people, without whom ministers
could do no wrong.

The language of the Proclamation then may be
thus interpreted:—People! who in your individual
capacities are rich and poor, high and low, governors
and governed, assemble yourselves in the unity of
your public existence; rest from your ordinary occupations, 22(5)r 261
give a different direction to the exercises of
your public worship, confess—not every man his own
sins, but all the sins of all. We, your appointed
rulers, before we allow ourselves to go on in executing
your will in a conjuncture so important, force you to
make a pause, that you may be constrained to reflect,
that you may bring this will, paramount to every thing
else, into the sacred presence of God; that you may
there examine it, and see whether it be agreeable to
his will, and to the eternal obligations of virtue and
good morals. If not, the guilt be upon your own
heads; we disclaim the awful responsibility.

Supposing that you are now prepared by proper
views of the subject, I shall go on to investigate those
sins which a nation is most apt to be betrayed into,
leaving it to each of you to determine whether, and
how far, any one of them ought to make a part of
our humilation on this day.

Societies being composed of individuals, the faults
of societies proceed from the same bad passions, the
same pride, selfishness, and thirst of gain, by which
individuals are led to transgress the rules of duty;
they require therefore the same curb to restrain them,
and hence the necessity of a national religion. You
will probably assert, that most nations have one: but,
by a national religion, I do not mean the burning a
few wretches twice or thrice a year in honour of
God, nor yet the exacting subscription to some obscure
tenets believed by few, and understood by
none; nor yet the investing a certain order of men
dressed in a particular habit, with civil privileges and
secular emolument;—by national religion I understand,
the extending to those affairs in which we act
in common, and as a body, that regard to religion, by
which, when we act singly, we all profess to be guided.
Nothing seems more obvious; and yet there are 22(5)v 262
men who appear not insensible to the rules of morality
as they respect individuals, and who unaccountably
disclaim them with respect to nations. They will not
cheat their opposite neighbour, but they will take a
pride in overreaching a neighbouring state; they
would scorn to foment dissensions in the family of an
acquaintance, but they will do so by a community
without scruple; they would not join with a gang of
housebreakers to plunder a private dwelling, but they
have no principle which prevents them from joining
with a confederacy of princes to plunder a province.
As private individuals, they think it right to pass by
little injuries, but as a people they think they cannot
carry too high a principle of proud defiance and sanguinary
revenge. This sufficiently shows, that whatever
rule they may acknowledge for their private conduct,
they have nothing that can properly be called
national religion; and indeed, it is very much to be
suspected, that their religion in the former case is very
much assisted by the contemplation of those pains
and penalties which society has provided against the
crimes of individuals. But the united will of a whole
people cannot make wrong right, or sanction one act
of rapacity, injustice, or breach of faith. The first
principle, therefore, we must lay down is, that we are
to submit our public conduct to the same rules by
which we are to regulate our private actions: a nation
that does this is, as a nation, religious; a nation that
does it not, though it should fast, and pray, and wear
sackcloth, and pay tithes, and build churches, is, as a
nation, profligate and unprincipled.

The vices of nations may be divided into those
which relate to their own internal proceedings, or to
their relations with other states. With regard to the
first, the causes for humiliation are various. Many
nations are guilty of the crime of permitting oppressive 22(6)r 263
laws and bad governments to remain amongst
them, by which the poor are crushed, and the lives of
the innocent are laid at the mercy of wicked and
arbitrary men. This is a national sin of the deepest
dye, as it involves in it most others. It is painful to
reflect how many atrocious governments there are in
the world; and how little even they who enjoy good
ones, seem to understand their true nature. We are
apt to speak of the happiness of living under a mild
government, as if it were like the the happiness of living
under an indulgent climate; and when we thank God
for it, we rank it with the blessings of the air and of
the soil; whereas we ought to thank God for the
wisdom and virtue of living under a good government;
for a good government is the first of national duties.
It is indeed a happiness, and one which demands our
most grateful thanks, to be born under one which
spares us the trouble and hazard of changing it; but
a people born under a good government will probably
not die under one, if they conceive of it as of an indolent
and passive happiness, to be left for its preservation
to fortunate conjunctures, and the floating and
variable chances of incalculable events;—our second
duty is to keep it good.

We shall not be able to fulfil either of these duties,
except we cultivate in our hearts the requisite dispositions.
One of the most fruitful sources of evil in
the transaction of national affairs, is a spirit of insubordination.
Without a quiet subordination to lawful
authority, peace, order, and the ends of good government,
can never be attained. To fix this subordination
on its proper basis, it is only necessary to establish
in our minds this plain principle,—that the will of the
minority should ever yield to that of the majority. By
this simple axiom, founded on those common principles
of justice which all men understand, the largest 22(6)v 1264
society may be held together with equal ease as the
smallest, provided only some well-contrived and orderly
method be established for ascertaining that will.
It is the immediate extinction of all faction, sedition,
and tyranny, It supersedes the necessity of governing
by systems of blinding or terrifying the people.
It puts an end equally to the cabinet cabal, and the
muffled conspiracy, and occasions every thing to go
on smoothly, openly, and fairly; whereas, if the minority
attempt to impose their will upon the majority,
so unnatural a state of things will not be submitted to
without constant struggles on the one side, and constant
jealousies on the other. There are two descriptions
of men who are in danger of forgetting this excellent
rule; public functionaries and reformers. Public
functionaries, being intrusted with large powers for
managing the affairs of their fellow-citizens,—which
management, from the nature of things, must necessarily
be in the hands of a few,—are very apt to
confound the executive power with the governing
will; they require, therefore, to be observed with a
wholesome suspicion, and to be frequently reminded
of the nature and limits of their office. Reformers,
conceiving of themselves as of a more enlightened class
than the bulk of mankind, are likewsie apt to forget
the deference due to them. Stimulated by newly
discovered truths, of which they feel the full force,
they are not willing to wait for the gradual spread of
knowledge, the subsiding of passion, and the undermining
of prejudices. They too contemn a swinish
multitude
, and aim at an aristocracy of talents. It is
indeed their business to attack the prejudices, and to
rectify, if they can, the systems of their countrymen,
but, in the mean time to acquiesce in them. It is
their business to sow the seed, and let it lie patiently
in the bosom of the ground,—perhaps for ages,—to 23(1)r 265
prepare, not to bring about revolutions. The public
is not always in the wrong for not giving in to their
views, even where they have the appearance of reason;
for their plans are often crude and premature,
their ideas too refined for real life, and influenced by
their own particular cast of thinking: they want people
to be happy their way; whereas every one must
be happy his own way. Freedom is a good thing;
but if a nation is not disposed to accept of it, it is not
to be presented to them on the point of a bayonet.
Freedom is a valuable blessing; but if even a nation
that has enjoyed that blessing evidently chooses to
give it up, the voice of the people ought to prevail:
men of more liberal minds should warn them indeed
what they are about; but having done that, they should
acquiesce. If the established religion, in any country,
is absurd and superstitious in the eyes of thinking men,
so long as it is the religion of the generality, it ought
to prevail, and the minority should not even wish to
supplant it. The endeavouring to overthrow any system,
before it is given up by the majority, is faction;
the endeavouring to keep it, after it is given up by them,
is tyranny; both are equally wrong, and both proceed
from the same cause,—the want of a principle of due
subordination.

If we find reason to be satisfied with the general
sketch and outline of government, and with that basis
of subordination on which we have placed it, it becomes
us next to examine, whether the filling up of the plan
be equally unexceptionable. Our laws, are they mild,
equal, and perspicuous; free from burdensome forms
and unnecessary delays; not a succession of expedients
growing out of temporary exigencies, but a compact
whole; not adapted to local prejudices, but
founded on the broad basis of universal jurisprudence?
Are they accessible to rich and poor, sparing of human Vol. II. 23 23(1)v 266
blood, calculated rather to check and set bounds to
the inequality of fortunes than to increase them, rather
to prevent and reform crimes than to punish them?—
If good, are they well administered?—Is the lenity of
the laws shown in moderation of the penalties, or in
the facility of evasion and the frequency of escape?—
Do we profit from greater degrees of instruction and
longer experience, and from time to time clear away
the trash and refuse of past ages? What all are bound
to observe, are they so framed as that all may understand?
—Is there any provision for instructing the
people in the various arbitrary obligations that are laid
upon them, or are they supposed to understand them
by intuition, because they are too intricate to be explained
methodically?—Are punishments proportioned
to crimes, and rewards to services; or have we two
sets of officers, the one to do the work, the other to
be paid without doing it?—Have we any locusts in
the land, any who devour the labours of the husbandman,
without contributing any thing to the good of
society by their labours of body or of mind?—Is the
name of God, and the awfulness of religious sanctions,
profaned among us by frequent, unnecessary, and
ensnaring oaths, which lie like stumbling blocks in
every path of business and preferment, tending to
corrupt the singleness of truth, and wear away the
delicacy of conscience; entangling even the innocence
and inexperience of children?—Have we calculated
the false oaths which, in the space of one sun, the
accusing angel has to carry up from our custom-houses,
our various courts, our hustings, our offices of taxation,
and—from our altars?—Are they such as a tear, if
we do shed tears on a day such as this, will blot out?
Have we calculated the mischief which is done to the
ingenuous mind, when the virgin dignity of his soul is
first violated by a falsehood?—Have we calculated 23(2)r 267
the wound which is given to the peace of a good man,
the thorns that are strewed upon his pillow, when,
through hard necessity, he complies with what his soul
abhors? Have we calculated the harm done to the
morals of a nation by the established necessity of perjury?
We shall do well, being now, by the command
of our rulers, before the Lord, to reflect on these things;
and if we want food for our national penitence, perhaps
we may here find it.

Extravagance is a fault, to which nations, as well
as private persons, are very prone, and the consequences
to both are exactly similar. If a private man
lives beyond his income, the consequence will be loss
of independence, disgraceful perplexity, and in the
end certain ruin. The catastrophes of states are slower
in ripening, but like causes must in the end produce
like effects. If you are acquainted with any individual,
who, from inattention to his affairs, misplaced confidence,
foolish law-suits, anticipation of his rents, and
profusion in his family expenses, has involved himself
in debts that eat away his income,—what would you
say to such a one? Would you not tell him, Contract
your expenses; look yourself into your affairs;
insist upon exact accounts from your steward and
bailiffs; keep no servants for mere show and parade;
mind only your own affairs, and keep at peace with
your neighbours; set religiously apart an annual sum
for discharging the mortgages on your estate.—If this
be good advice for one man, it is good advice for nine
millions of men. If this individual should persist in
his course of unthrifty profusion, saying to himself,
The ruin will not come in my time; the misery will
not fall upon me; let posterity take care of itself!
would you not pronounce him at once very weak and
very selfish? My friends, a nation that should pursue
the same conduct, would be equally reprehensible.

23(2)v 268

Pride is a vice in individuals; it cannot, therefore,
be a virtue in that number of individuals called a nation.
A disposition to prefer to every other our own habits of
life, our own management, our own systems, to suppose
that we are admired and looked up to by others—
something of this perhaps is natural, and may be pardoned
as a weakness, but it can never be exalted into
a duty; it is a disposition we ought to check, and not
to cultivate: there is neither patriotism nor good sense
in fostering an extravagant opinion of ourselves and
our own institutions, in being attached even to our
faults, because they are ours, and because they have
been ours from generation to generation. An exclusive
admiration of ourselves is generally founded on
extreme ignorance, and it is not likely to produce any
thing of a more liberal or better stamp.

Amongst our national faults, have we any instances
of cruelty or oppression to repent of? Can we look
around from sea to sea, and from east to west, and
say, that our brother hath not aught against us? If
such instances do not exist under our immediate eye,
do they exist any where under our influence and
jurisdiction? There are some, whose nerves, rather
than whose principles, cannot bear cruelty—like other
nuisances, they would not choose it in sight, but they
can be well content to know it exists, and that they are
indebted to it for the increase of their income, and the
luxuries of their table. Are there not some darkercoloured
children of the same family over whom we assume
a hard and unjust control? And have not these
brethren aught against us? If we suspect they have,
our would it not become us anxiously to inquire into the
truth, that we may deliver our souls; but if we know
it, and cannot help knowing it, if such enormities have
been pressed and forced upon our notice, till they are
become flat and stale in the public ear, from fulness 23(3)r 269
and repetition, and satiety of proof; and if they are
still sanctioned by our legislature, defended by our
princes—deep indeed is the colour of our guilt. And
do we appoint fasts, and make pretences to religion?
Do we pretend to be shocked at the principles or the
practices of neighbouring nations, and start with affected
horror at the name of Atheist? Are our consciences
so tender, and our hearts so hard? Is it possible
we should meet as a nation, and knowing ourselves
to be guilty of these things, have the confidence
to implore the blessing of God upon our commerce
and our colonies: preface with prayer our legislative
meetings, and then deliberate how long we shall continue
human sacrifices? Rather let us “Never pray more, abandon all remorse.”
Let us lay aside the grimace of hypocrisy, stand up
for what we are, and boldly profess, like the emperor
of old, that every thing is sweet from which money is
extracted, and that we know better than to deprive
ourselves of a gain for the sake of a fellow-creature.

I next invite you, my friends, to consider your conduct
with regard to other states. Different communities
are neighbours, living together in a state of nature;
that is, without any common tribunal to which
they may carry their differences; but they are not
the less bound to all the duties of neighbours,—to
mutual sincerity, justice, and kind offices.

First, to sincerity. It is imagined, I know not why,
that transactions between states cannot be carried on
without a great deal of intrigue and dissimulation.
But I am apt to think the nation that should venture
to disclaim this narrow and crooked policy, and
should act and speak with a noble frankness, would
lose nothing by the proceeding; honest intentions
will bear to be told in plain language: if our views 23* 23(3)v 270
upon each other are for our mutual advantage, the
whole mystery of them may be unfolded without danger;
and if they are not, they will soon be detected
by practitioners as cunning and dexterous as ourselves.

Secondly, we are bound to justice—not only in executing
our engagements, but in cultivating a spirit of
moderation in our very wishes. Most contrary to
this is a species of patriotism, which consists in inverting
the natural course of our feelings, in being afraid
of our neighbour’s prosperity, and rejoicing at his misfortunes.
We should be ashamed to say, My neighbour’s
house was burnt down last night, I am glad of
it, I shall have more custom to my shop. My neighbour,
thank God, has broken his arm, I shall be sent
for to attend the families in which he was employed;
—but we are not ashamed to say, Our neighbours
are weakening themselves by a cruel war, we shall
rise upon their ruins. We must act in opposition to
the peacemakers; we must hinder them from being
reconciled, and blow the coals of discord, otherwise
their commerce will revive, and goods may remain in
our crammed warehouses. Our neighbours have bad
laws and a weak government: Heaven forbid they
should change them! for then they might be more
flourishing than ourselves. We have tracts of territory
which we cannot people for ages, but we must take
great care that our neighbour does not get any footing
there, for he would soon make them very useful to
him.—Thus do we extend our grasping hands from
east to west, from pole to pole; and in our selfish
monopolizing spirit are almost angry that the sun
should ripen any productions but for our markets, or
the ocean bear any vessels but our own upon its
broad bosom. We are not ashamed to use that solecism
in terms natural enemies; as if nature, and not
our own bad passions, made us enemies; as if that 23(4)r 271
relation, from which, in private life, flows confidence,
affection, endearing intercourse, were in nations only
a signal for mutual slaughter; and we were like animals
of prey, solitarily ferocious, who look with a
jealous eye on every rival that intrudes within their
range of devastation—and yet this language is heard
in a christian country, and these detestable maxims
veil themselves under the semblance of virtue and
public spirit. We have a golden rule, if we will but
apply it: it will measure great things as well as small;
it will measure as true at the Antipodes, or on the
coast of Guinea, as in our native fields. It is that
universal standard of weights and measures which
alone will simplify all business: Do to others, as ye
would that others should do unto you.

There is a notion which has a direct tendency to
make us unjust, because it tends to make us think
God so; I mean the idea which most nations have
entertained, that they are the peculiar favourites of
Heaven. We nourish our pride by fondly fancying
that we are the only nation for whom the providence
of God exerts itself; the only nation whose form of
worship is agreeable to him; the only nation whom
he has endowed with a competent share of wisdom to
frame wise laws and rational governments. Each
nation is to itself the fleece of Gideon, and drinks exclusively
the dew of science: but as God is no respecter
of person, so neither is he of nations: he has
not, like earthly monarchs, his favourites. There is
a great deal even in our thanksgivings which is exceptionable
on this account; “God, we thank thee,
that we are not like other nations;”
yet we freely
load ourselves with every degree of guilt; but then
we like to consider ourselves as a child that is chidden,
and others as outcasts.

When the workings of these bad passions are swelled 23(4)v 272
to their height by mutual animosity and opposition,
war ensues. War is a state in which all our feelings
and our duties suffer a total and strange inversion; a
state in which “Life dies, Death lives, and Nature breedsPerverse, all monstrous, all prodigious things.”
A state in which it becomes our business to hurt and
annoy our neighbour by every possible means; instead
of cultivating, to destroy; instead of building, to pull
down; instead of peopling, to depopulate: a state in
which we drink the tears, and feed upon the misery of
our fellow-creatures. Such a state, therefore, requires
the extremest necessity to justify it; it ought not to be
the common and usual state of society. As both parties
cannot be in the right, there is always an equal chance
at least, to either of them, of being in the wrong; but
as both parties may be to blame, and most commonly
are, the chance is very great indeed against its being
entered into from any adequate cause; yet war may be
said to be, with regard to nations, the sin which most
easily besets them. We, my friends, in common with
other nations, have much guilt to repent of from this
cause, and it ought to make a large part of our humiliations
on this day. When we carry our eyes
back through the long records of our history, we see
wars of plunder, wars of conquest, wars of religion,
wars of pride, wars of succession, wars of idle speculation,
wars of unjust interference; and hardly among
them one war of necessary self-defence in any of our
essential or very important interests. Of late years,
indeed, we have known none of the calamities of war
in our own country but the wasteful expense of it;
and sitting aloof from those circumstances of personal
provocation, which in some measure might excuse its
fury, we have calmly voted slaughter and merchandized 23(5)r 273
destruction—so much blood and tears for so
many rupees, or dollars, or ingots. Our wars have
been wars of cool, calculating interest, as free from
hatred as from love of mankind; the passions which
stir the blood have had no share in them. We devote
a certain number of men to perish on land and
sea, and the rest of us sleep sound, and, protected in
our usual occupations, talk of the events of war as
what diversifies the flat uniformity of life.

We should, therefore, do well to translate this word
war into language more intelligible to us. When we
pay our army and our navy estimates, let us set down
—so much for killing, so much for maiming, so much
for making widows and orphans, so much for bringing
famine upon a district, so much for corrupting citizens
and subjects into spies and traitors, so much for ruining
industrious tradesmen and making bankrupts (of that
species of distress at least we can form an idea,) so
much for letting loose the dæmons of fury, rapine, and
lust, within the fold of cultivated society, and giving to
the brutal ferocity of the most ferocious, its full scope
and range of invention. We shall by this means know
what we have paid our money for, whether we have
made a good bargain, and whether the account is
likely to pass—elsewhere. We must take in too, all
those concomitant circumstances which make war,
considered as battle, the least part of itself, pars minima
sui
. We must fix our eyes, not on the hero returning
with conquest, nor yet on the gallant officer
dying in the bed of honour,—the subject of picture
and of song,—but on the private soldier, forced into
the service, exhausted by camp-sickness and fatigue;
pale, emaciated, crawling to an hospital with the prospect
of life, perhaps a long life, blasted, useless, and
suffering. We must think of the uncounted tears of
her who weeps alone, because the only being who 23(5)v 274
shared her sentiments is taken from her; no martial
music sounds in unison with her feelings; the long
day passes, and he returns not. She does not shed
her sorrows over his grave, for she has never learnt
whether he ever had one. If he had returned, his
exertions would not have been remembered individually,
for he only made a small imperceptible part of
a human machine, called a regiment. We must take
in the long sickness, which no glory soothes, occasioned
by distress of mind, anxiety and ruined fortunes.
These are not fancy-pictures; and if you
please to heighten them, you can every one of you
do it for yourselves. We must take in the consequences,
felt perhaps for ages, before a country which
has been completely desolated, lifts its head again;
like a torrent of lava, its worst mischief is not the
first overwhelming ruin of towns and palaces, but the
long sterility to which it condemns the tract it has
covered with its stream. Add the danger to regular
governments which are changed by war, sometimes to
anarchy, and sometimes to despotism. Add all these,
and then let us think when a general performing these
exploits, is saluted with, “Well done, good and faithful
servant,”
whether the plaudit is likely to be echoed
in another place.

In this guilty business there is a circumstance which
greatly aggravates its guilt, and that is the impiety of
calling upon the Divine Being to assist us in it. Almost
all nations have been in the habit of mixing with
their bad passions a show of religion, and of prefacing
these their murders with prayers and the solemnities
of worship. When they send out their armies to
desolate a country and destroy the fair face of nature,
they have the presumption to hope that the Sovereign
of the Universe will condescend to be their auxiliary,
and to enter into their petty and despicable contests. 23(6)r 275
Their prayer, if put into plain language, would run
thus: God of love, father of all the families of the
earth, we are going to tear in pieces our brethren of
mankind, but our strength is not equal to our fury, we
beseech thee to assist us in the work of slaughter.
Go out, we pray thee, with our fleets and armies; we
call them christian, and we have interwoven in our
banners and the decorations of our arms the symbols
of a suffering religion, tht we may fight under the
cross upon which our Saviour died. Whatever mischief
we do, we shall do it in thy name; we hope,
therefore, thou wilt protect us in it. Thou, who hast
made of one blood all the dwellers upon the earth,
we trust thou wilt view us alone with partial favour,
and enable us to bring misery upon every other quarter
of the globe.—Now if we really expect such
prayers to be answered, we are the weakest, if not,
we are the most hypocritical of beings.

Formerly, this business was managed better, and
had in it more show of reason and probability. When
mankind conceived of their gods as partaking of like
passions with themselves, they made a fair bargain
with them on these occasions. Their chieftains, they
knew, were influenced by such motives, and they
thought their gods might well be so too. Go out with
us, and you shall have a share of the spoil. Your altars
shall stream with the blood of so many noble captives;
or you shall have a hecatomb of fat oxen, or a golden
tripod. Have we any thing of this kind to propose?
Can we make any thing like a handsome offer to the
Almighty, to tempt him to enlist himself on our side?
Such things have been done before now in the christian
world. Churches have been promised, and
church lands,—aye, and honestly paid too; at other
times silver shrines, incense, vestments, tapers, according
to the occasion. Oh how justly may the 23(6)v 276
awful text be here applied! “He that sitteth in the
heavens shall laugh, the Lord shall have them in derision.”
Christians! I shudder, lest in the earnestness
of my heart I may have sinned, in suffering such
impious propositions to escape my lips. In short,
while we must be perfectly conscious in our own
minds, that the generality of our wars are the offspring
of mere worldly ambition and interest, let us, if we
must have wars, carry them on as other such things
are carried on; and not think of making a prayer to
be used before murder, any more than of composing
prayers to be used before we enter a gambling-house,
or a place of licentious entertainment. Bad actions
are made worse by hypocrisy: an unjust war is in itself
so bad a thing, that there is only one way of making
it worse,—and that is, by mixing religion with it.

These, my friends, are some of the topics on which,
standing as a nation this day before the Lord, it will
be proper that we should examine ourselves. There
yet remains a serious question: How far, as individuals,
are we really answerable for the guilt of national
sins? For his own sins, it is evident, every man is
wholly answerable; for those of an aggregate body, it
is as evident he can be only answerable in part; and
that portion and measure of iniquity, which falls to
his share, will be more or less, according as he has
been more or less deeply engaged in those transactions
which are polluted with it. There is an active
and a passive concurrence. We give our active concurrence
to any measure, when we support it by any
voluntary exertion, or bestow on it any mark of approbation;
when, especially, we are the persons for
whose sake, and for whose emolument, systems of injustice
or cruelty are carried on. The man of wealth
and influence, who feeds and fattens upon the miseries
of his fellow-creatures; the man in power, who 24(1)r 277
plans abuses, or prevents their being swept away, is
the very Jonas of the ship, and ought this day to stand
foremost in the rank of national penitents. But there
is also a passive concurrence; and this, in common
cases, the community appears to have a right to expect
from us. Society could not exist, if every individual
took it upon himself not only to judge, but to
act from his own judgement in those things in which
a nation acts collectively. The law, therefore, which
is the expression of the general will, seems to be a
sufficient sanction for us, when, in obedience to its
authority, we pay taxes, and comply with injunctions,
in support of measures which we believe to be hurtful,
and even iniquitous; and this, not because the
guilt of a bad action, as some fondly imagine, is diluted
and washed away in the guilt of multitudes; but
because it is a necessary condition of political union,
that private will should be yielded up to the will of
the public. We shall do well, however, to bear in
mind the principle on which we comply, that we may
not go a step beyond it.

There are, indeed, cases of such atrocity, that even
this concurrence would be criminal. What these are,
it is impossible to specify; every man must draw the
line for himself.—I suppose no one will pretend, that
any maxims of military subordination could justify the
officers of Herod in the slaughter of the children of
Bethlehem; and certainly the orders of Louvois, in
the Palatinate, and of Catherine de’ Medici, on the
day of St. Bartholomew, were not less cruel. In our
own country, it has been the official duty of magistrates
to burn alive quiet and innocent subjects, who
differed from them in opinion. Rather than fulfil
such duties, a man of integrity will prepare himself to
suffer, and a christian knows where such sufferings
will be rewarded.—The honourable delinquency of Vol. II. 24 24(1)v 278
those who have submitted to be the victims, rather
than the instruments of injustice, has ever been held
worthy of praise and admiration.

But though, for the sake of peace and order, we
ought, in general cases, to give our passive concurrence
to measures which we may think wrong, peace
and order do not require us to give them the sanction
of our approbation. On the contrary, the more strictly
we are bound to acquiesce, the more it is incumbent
on us to remonstrate. Every good man owes it
to his country and to his own character, to lift his
voice against a ruinous war, an unequal tax, or an
edict of persecution; and to oppose them, temperately,
but firmly, by all means in his power: and
indeed this is the only way reformations can ever be
brought about, or that governments can enjoy the advantage
of general opinion.

This general opinion has, on a recent occasion,
been sedulously called for, and most of you have complied
with the requisition. You, who have on this
occasion given warm and unqualified declarations of
attachment to the existing systems, you have done
well—You, who have denounced abuses, and declared
your wishes for reform, you have done well likewise,
provided each of you has acted from the sincere,
unbiassed conviction of his own mind. But if you
have done it lightly, and without judgement, you have
done ill; if against judgement, worse: if, by any improper
influence, you have interfered with the liberty
of your neighbour, or your dependent, and caused
him to act against his judgement and his conscience,
—worse still. If the ferment of party has stirred up
a spirit of rancour and animosity among friends and
townsmen, or introduced the poison of distrust amidst
the freedom and security of social life, we stand this
day before the Lord; and if our brother hath aught 24(2)r 279
against us, “let us go first, and be reconciled to our
brother, and then come and offer our gift.”

If any of us have disturbed or misled weaker minds
by exaggerated danger and affected alarm, and, practising
on their credulity or their ignorance, have raised
passions which it would have better become us to
have moderated—or if, on the other hand, we have
cried, “Peace, peace, where there is no peace”
we are this day before the Lord, let shame and remorse
for these practices make a distinguished part of
our national humiliation.

Repend this day, not only of the actual evil you
have done, but of the evil of which your actions have
been the cause.—If you slander a good man, you are
answerable for all the violence of which that slander
may be the remote cause; if you raise undue prejudices
against any particular class or description of
citizens, and they suffer through the bad passions your
misrepresentations have worked up against them, you
are answerable for the injury, though you have not
wielded the bludgeon, or applied the firebrand; if you
place power in improper hands, you are answerable
for the abuse of that power; if you oppose conciliatory
measures, you are answerable for the distress
which more violent ones may produce. If you use
intemperate invectives and inflammatory declamation,
you are answerable if others shed blood. It is not
sufficient, even if our intentions are pure; we must
weigh the tendencies of our actions, for we are answerable,
in a degree at least, for those remote consequences
which, though we did not intend, we might
have foreseen. If we inculcate the plausible doctrine
of unlimited confidence, we draw upon ourselves the
responsibility of all the future measures which that
confidence may sanction. If we introduce tenets
leaning towards arbitrary power, the generations to 24(2)v 280
come will have a right to curse the folly of their forefathers,
when they are reaping the bitter fruits of them
in future star-chambers, and courts of inquisitorial jurisdiction.
If the precious sands of our liberty are,
perhaps, of themselves running out, how shall we be
justified to ourselves or to posterity, if, with a rash
hand, we shake the glass.

If, on the other hand, through vanity, a childish
love of novelty, a spirit of perverse opposition, or any
motive still more sordidly selfish, we are precipitated
into measures which ought to be the result of the
most serious consideration—if by “foolish talking or
jestings, which are not convenient,”
we have lessened
the reverence due to constituted authorities, or slackened
the bonds which hold society together; ours is
the blame, when the hurricane is abroad in the world,
and doing its work of mischief.

The course of events in this country has now, for
a number of generations, for a long reach, as it were,
of the stream of time, run smooth, and our political
duties have been proportionally easy; but it may not
always be so. A sudden bend may change the direction
of the current, and open scenes less calm. It
becomes every man, therefore, to examine his principles,
whether they are of that firmness and texture as
suits the occasion he may have for them. If we want
a light gondola to float upon a summer lake, we look
at the form and gilding; but if a vessel to steer through
storms, we examine the strength of the timbers, and
the soundness of the bottom. We want principles,
not to figure in a book of ethics, or to delight us with
“grand and swelling sentiments;” but principles by
which we may act and by which we may suffer.
Principles of benevolence, to dispose us to real sacrifices;
political principles, of practical utility; principles
of religion, to comfort and support us under all 24(3)r 281
the trying vicissitudes we see around us, and which
we have no security that we shall be long exempt
from. How many are there now suffering under such
overwhelming distresses, as, a short time ago, we
should have thought it was hardly within the verge of
possibility that they should experience! Above all, let
us keep our hearts pure, and our hands clean. Whatever
part we take in public affairs, much will undoubtedly
happen which we could by no means foresee,
and much which we shall not be able to justify; the
only way, therefore, by which we can avoid deep remorse,
is to act with simplicity and singleness of intention,
and not to suffer ourselves to be warped,
though by ever so little, from the path which honour
and conscience approve.

Principles, such as I have been recommending, are
not the work of a day; they are not to be acquired
by any formal act of worship, or manual of devotion
adapted to the exigency; and it will little avail us,
that we have stood here, as a nation, before the Lord,
if, individually, we do not remember that we are always
so.

24* 24(3)v

Remarks
on
Mr. Wakefield’s Enquiry

Into the
Expediency of Social Worship.

“… in swarming cities vast, Assembled men, to the deep organ join The long resounding voice, oft breaking clear, At solemn pauses, through the swelling base; And, as each mingling flame increases each, In one united ardour rise to heaven.”
Thomson.

There are some practices which have not been
defended because they have never been attacked.
Of this number is public or social worship. It has
been recommended, urged, enforced, but never vindicated.
Through worldliness, scepticism, indolence,
dissatisfaction with the manner of conducting it, it has
been often neglected; but it is a new thing to hear it
condemned. The pious and the good have lamented
its insufficiency to the reformation of the world,
but they were yet to learn that it was unfriendly to it.
Satisfied with silent and solitary desertion, those who
did not concur in the homage paid by their fellowcitizens
were content to acquiesce in its propriety, and 24(4)r 283
had not hitherto assumed the dignity of a sect. A
late pamphlet of Mr. Wakefield’s has therefore excited
the attention of the public, partly, no doubt, from the
known abilities of the author, but still more from the
novelty and strangeness of the doctrine. If intended
as an apology, no publication can be more seasonable;
but if meant as an exhortation, or rather a dehortation,
it is a labour which many will think, from the
complexion of the times and the tendencies of increasing
habits, might well have been spared. It is an
awkward circumstance for the apostle of such a persuasion,
that he will have many practical disciples
whom he will hardly care to own; and that if he succeeds
in making proselytes, he must take them from
the more sober and orderly part of the community;
and class them, as far as this circumstance affords a
distinction, along with the uneducated, the profligate,
and the unprincipled. The negative tenet he inculcates
does not mark his converts with sufficient precision:
their scrupulosity will be in danger of being
confounded with the carelessness of their neighbours;
and it will be always necessary to ask, Do you abstain
because you are of this religion, or because you are
of no religion at all?

It would be unfair, however, to endeavour to render
Mr. Wakefield’s opinions invidious; they, as well
as every other opinion, must be submitted to the test
of argument; and public worship, as well as every
other practice, must stand on the basis of utility and
good sense, or it must not stand at all: and in the
latter case, it is immaterial whether it is left to moulder
like the neglected ruin, or battered down like the
formidable tower.

It will stand upon this basis, if it can be shown to
be agreeable to our nature, sanctioned by universal
practice, countenanced by revealed religion, and that 24(4)v 284
its tendencies are favourable to the morals and manners
of mankind.

What is public worship? Kneeling down together
while prayers are said of a certain length and construction,
and hearing discourses made to a sentence
of Scripture called a text!—Such might be the definition
of an unenlightened person, but such would
certainly not be Mr. Wakefield’s. The question
ought to be agitated on much larger ground. If these
practices are shown to be novel, it does not follow
that public worship is so, in that extensive sense which
includes all modes and varieties of expression. To
establish its antiquity, we must therefore investigate its
nature.

Public worship is the public expression of homage
to the Sovereign of the Universe. It is that tribute
from men united in families, in towns, in communities,
which individually men owe to their Maker. Every
nation has therefore found some organ by which to
express this homage, some language, rite, or symbol,
by which to make known their religious feelings; but
this organ has not always, nor chiefly, been words.
The killing an animal, the throwing a few grains of
incense into the fire, the eating bread and drinking
wine, are all in themselves indifferent actions, and
have apparently little connexion with devotion; yet
all of these have been used as worship, and are worship
when used with that intention. The solemn
sacrifices and anniversary festivals of the Jews, at
which their capital and their temple were thronged
with votaries from every distant part of the kingdom,
were splendid expressions of their religious homage.
Their worship, indeed, was interwoven with their
whole civil constitution; and so, though in a subordinate
degree, was that of the Greeks and Romans,
and most of the states of antiquity. There has never 24(5)r 285
existed a nation, at all civilized, which has not had
some appointed form of supplication, some stated
mode of signifying the dependence we are under to
the Supreme Being, and as a nation imploring his
protection. It is not pretended that these modes
were all equally rational, equally edifying, equally
proper for imitation, equally suitable for every state of
society; they have varied according as a nation was
more or less advanced in refinement and decorum,
more or less addicted to symbolical expression—to
violent gesticulation—and more or less conversant
with abstract ideas and metaphysical speculation.
But whether the Deity is worshipped by strewing
flowers and building tabernacles of verdure; by
dances round the altar, and the shouts of a cheerful
people; by offering the first-fruits of harvest, and partaking
in the social feast; by tones of music, interpreted
only by the heart; or by verbal expressions of
gratitude and adoration—whether the hallelujahs of
assembled multitudes rise together in solemn chorus;
or whether they listen with composed and reverential
attention to the voice of one man, appointed by them
to be the organ of their feelings—whether a number
of people meet together like the Quakers, and each
in silence prefers his mental petition—wherever men
together perform a stated act as an expression of
homage to their Maker, there is the essence of public
worship; and public worship has therefore this mark
of being agreeable to the nature of man,—that it has
been found agreeable to the sense of mankind in all
ages and nations.

It is, indeed, difficult to imagine that beings, sensible
of common wants and a common nature, should
not join together in imploring common blessings; that,
prone as men are in every other circumstance to associate
together, and communicate the electric fire of 24(5)v 286
correspondent feelings, they should act with unsocial
reserve only where those interests are concerned
which are confessedly the most important. Such is
the temperament of man, that in every act and every
event he anxiously looks around him to claim the
gratulation or sympathy of his fellows. Religion,
says Mr. Wakefield, is a personal thing: so is marriage,
so is the birth of a child, so is the loss of a beloved
relative; yet on all these occasions we are
strongly impelled to public solemnization. We neither
laugh alone, nor weep alone,—why then should we
pray alone? None of our feelings are of a more communicable
nature than our religious ones. If devotion
really exists in the heart of each individual, it is
morally impossible it should exist there apart and single.
So many separate tapers, burning so near each
other, in the very nature of things must catch, and
spread into one common flame. The reciprocal advantages,
which public and private worship possess
over each other, are sufficiently obvious to make both
desirable. While the former is more animated, the
latter comes more intimately home to our own circumstances
and feelings, and allows our devotion to
be more particular and appropriated. To most of
the objections made against the one, the other is
equally liable. Superstition can drop her solitary
beads, as well as vociferate the repetition of a public
collect: if symptoms of weariness and inattention may
be observed in our churches, we have only to look into
the diaries of the most pious christians, and we
shall find still heavier complaints of the dullness and
deadness of their spiritual frame: the thoughts may
wander in the closet when the door is shut: folly and
selfishness will send up improper petitions from the
cell as well as from the congregation. Nay, public
worship has this great advantage,—that it teaches 24(6)r 287
those to pray, who, not being accustomed to think,
cannot of themselves pray with judgement. To all, it
teaches that we are not to pray for exclusive advantages,
but to consider ourselves as members of a community.
Our inmost wishes learn restraint while our
petitions are thus directed, and our desires by degrees
conform themselves to that spirit of moderation and
justice, without which we cannot join in the comprehensive
prayer, that must include the joint supplications
of a numerous assembly. Public worship has
this further advantage over private, that it is better
secured against languor on one side, and enthusiasm
on the other. If the devotional sentiment has not
taken deep root in his mind, a man will scarcely keep
up, in silence and in solitude, an intercourse to which
he is prompted by no external appearance, and of
which he is reminded by no circumstance of time or
place. And if his sense of invisible things is strong
enough to engage his mind in spite of these disadvantages,
there is room to fear, lest, by brooding in silence
over objects of such indistinct vastness, his bewildered
ideas and exalted imagination should lead
him to the reveries of mysticism; an extreme no less
to be dreaded than that of indifference. When Mr.
Wakefield
, to strengthen his argument for seclusion in
our religious exercises, directs our attention to the
mount of Olives and the garden of Gethsemane, he
should recollect that our Saviour sustained a character
to which we cannot presume to aspire; and that,
however favourable the desert and the wilderness
have been to prophets visited by extraordinary illuminations,
they cannot be equally suitable to the regular
devotion of ordinary christians. From the gloom of
the cloister and the loneliness of the cell have proceeded
the most extravagant deviations fom nature
and from reason. Enthusiasm is indeed most dangerous 24(6)v 288
in a crowd, but it seldom originates there.
The mind, heated with intense thinking, adopts illusions
to which it is not exposed when its devotion is
guided and bounded by addresses which are intended
to meet the common sentiments of a numerous assembly.
Religion then appears with the most benignant
aspect, is then least likely to be mistaken, when the
presence of our fellow-creatures points out its connexion
with the businesses of life and the duties of society.
Solitary devotion, for wordly minds, is insufficient,
for weak minds it is not profitable, for ardent
minds it is not safe.

We must however do that justice to the author of
the Enquiry, as to confess that he betrays no disposition
to carry these exercises to any extreme. On
the contrary, some of his expressions seem to strike
at the root of all prayer, properly so called, as being
the weak effort of an infirm and unphilosophical mind
to alter the order of nature and the decrees of Providence,
in which it rather becomes the wise man to
acquiesce with a manly resignation. Without entering
into a discussion, in which, perhaps, we might
misrepresent his sentiments; as, in the greater part
of his pamphlet, he has taken the ground of Scripture,
which undoubtedly countenances the earnestness,
and almost the importunity of petition; it may be
sufficient for the present purpose to observe, that if
there exists a man who, believing himself to be in the
continual presence of Infinite Power, directed by infinite
love and tender compassion to all his creatures
—thinking often of this Being, and habitually referring
every disposition of events to his providence—
feeling himself more constantly and intimately connected
with him than with all creation besides—can,
in every vicissitude of his life, in sickness and in sorrow,
in imminent danger, anxious uncertainty, desertion 25(1)r 289
or loss of friends, and all the trying circumstances of
humanity that flesh is heir to; forbear, for himself or
for those dearer to him than himself, to put up one
petition to the throne of God,—such a one may be
allowed to strike out every petition in the Lord’s
Prayer, but that comprehensive one, “thy will be
done.”
If his faith be equally lively, his devotional
feelings equally fervent, his sense of dependence upon
God equally felt in his inmost soul, we dare not presume
to censure the temperance of his religious addresses.
We respect the subdued sobriety of his
wishes; and we do not, we cannot suppose him deserted
by the Supreme Being for that modest forbearance
which proceeds from a resignation so absolute
and complete. Others, however, whose philosophy is
not of so firm a texture, may plead the example of
him who prayed, though with meek submission, that
the cup of bitterness might pass from him; and who,
as the moment of separation approached, interceded
for his friends and followers with all the anxiety of
affectionate tenderness. But we will venture to say
that practically there is no such philosopher. If
prayer were not enjoined for the perfection, it would
be permitted to the weakness of our nature. We
should be betrayed into it, if we thought it sin; and
pious ejaculations would escape our lips, though we
were obliged to preface them with, God forgive me
for praying!

To those who press the objection, that we cannot
see in what manner our prayers can be answered,
consistently with the government of the world according
to those general laws by which we find, in fact,
that it is governed; it may be sufficient to say, that
prayer, being made almost an instinct of our nature,
it cannot be supposed but that, like all other instincts,
it has its use; that no idea can be less philosophical Vol. II. 25 25(1)v 290
than one which implies, that the existence of a God
who governs the world, should make no difference in
our conduct; and few things less probable, than that
the child-like submission which bows to the will of a
father, should be exactly similar in feature to the
stubborn patience which bends under the yoke of necessity.

It may be further observed, that petitions for temporal
advantages,—such, I mean, as a spirit of moderation
will allow us to wish with sufficient ardour to
make them the subject of our prayers,—are not liable
to more objections than petitions for spiritual blessings.
In either case the weak man does, and the wise man
does not expect a miracle. That the arrogant, the
worldly, and the licentious, should on a sudden, and
without their own strenuous endeavours, be rendered
humble, simple-minded, and pure of heart, would be
as great a violation of the order of nature in the moral
world, as it would be in the natural world that the
harvest should ripen without the co-operation of the
husbandman, and the slow influence of the seasons.
Indeed, as temporal blessings are less in our power
than dispositions, and are sometimes entirely out of it,
it seems more reasonable of the two to pray for the
former than for the latter; and it is remarkable that,
in the model given us in the Lord’s Prayer, there is
not a single petition for any virtue or good disposition,
but there is one for daily bread. Good dispositions,
particularly a spirit of resignation, are declared and
implied in the petitions, but they are not prayed for:
events are prayed for, and circumstances out of our
own power, relative to our spiritual concerns, are
prayed for,—as, the not being led into temptation;
but there is no prayer that we may be made holy,
meek, or merciful. Nor is it an objection to praying
for health, that sickness may possibly turn out a blessing, 25(2)r 291
since it is no objection to the using all the means
in our power to get rid of of sickness, which we do as
eagerly and as unreservedly as if we had not the least
idea that it ever could be salutary. And we do right;
for the advantages of sickness are casual and adventitious;
but health is in itself, and in its natural tendencies,
a blessing devoutly to be wished for. That
no advantage of this nature ought to be prayed or
wished for, unqualified with the deepest submission to
the will of God, is an undoubted truth; and it is a
truth likewise universally acknowledged by all rational
christians.

It cannot be denied, however, that great reserve is
necessary in putting up specific petitions, especially of
a public nature; but generally the fault lies in our
engaging in wrong pursuits, rather than in imploring
upon our pursuits the favour of Heaven. Humanity
is shocked to hear prayers for the success of an unjust
war; but humanity and Heaven were then offended
when the war was engaged in; for war is of a
nature sufficiently serious to warrant our prayers to be
preserved from the calamities of it, if we have not
voluntarily exposed ourselves to them. The frivolous
nature of most national contests appears strongly in
this very circumstance, that petitions from either side
have the air of a profanation; but if, in some serious
conjuncture, our country was ready to be overwhelmed
by an ambitious neighbour,—as that of the Dutch
was in the time of Louis the Fourteenth,—in such a
season of calamity, the sternest philosopher would
give way to the instinctive dictates of nature, and implore
the help which cometh from on high. The
reason why both sides cannot pray with propriety, is
because both sides cannot act with justice.

But supposing we were to discard all petition as
the weak effort of infirm minds to alter the unbroken 25(2)v 292
chain of events; as the impatient breathings of craving
and restless spirits, not broken into patient acquiescence
with the eternal order of Providence—the
noblest office of worship still remains: “Praise is devotion fit for mighty minds,The jarring world’s agreeing sacrifice.”

And this is surely of a social nature. One class of
religious duties separately considered, tends to depress
the mind, filling it with ingenuous shame and
wholesome sorrow; and to these humiliating feelings,
solitude might perhaps be found congenial: but the sentiments
of admiration, love, and joy, swell the bosom
with emotions which seek for fellowship and communication.
The flame indeed may be kindled by silent
musing; but when kindled it must infallibly spread.
The devout heart, penetrated with large and affecting
views of the immensity of the works of God, the harmony
of his laws, and the extent of his beneficence,
bursts into loud and vocal expresions of praise and
adoration; and, from a full and overflowing sensibility,
seeks to expand itself to the utmost limits of creation.
The mind is forcibly carried out of itself; and,
embracing the whole circle of animated existence,
calls on all above, around, below, to help to bear the
burden of its gratitude. Joy is too brilliant a thing to
be confined within our own bosoms; it burnishes all
nature, and with its vivid colouring gives a kind of
factitious life to objects without sense or motion.
There cannot be a more striking proof of the social
tendency of these feelings, than the strong propensity
we have to suppose auditors where there are none.
When men are wanting, we address the animal creation;
and, rather than have none to partake our sentiments,
we find sentiment in the music of the birds,
the hum of insects, and the low of kine: nay, we call 25(3)r 293
on rocks and streams and forests to witness and share
our emotions. Hence the Royal Shepherd, sojourning
in caves and solitary wastes, calls on the hills to
rejoice and the floods to clap their hands; and the
lonely poet, wandering in the deep recesses of uncultivated
nature, finds a temple in every solemn grove,
and swells his chorus of praise with the winds that
bow the lofty cedars. And can he who, not satisfied
with the wide range of existence, calls for the sympathy
of the inanimate creation, refuse to worship with
his fellow-men? Can he who bids “Nature attend,”
forget to “join every living soul” in the universal
hymn? Shall we suppose companions in the stillness
of deserts, and shall we overlook them amongst friends
and townsmen? It cannot be! Social worship, for the
devout heart, is not more a duty than it is a real
want.

If Public Worship is thus found to be agreeable to
the best impulses of our nature, the pious mind will
rejoice to find it, at least not discountenanced by revealed
religion. But its friends, in endeavouring to
prove this, must carry on the argument under some
disadvantage, as Mr. Wakefield, though he lays great
stress on the presumptive arguments which seem to
favour the negative side of the question, will not allow
the same force to those which may be urged on the
other side. The practice of Christ, he tells us, is an
authority to which all believers will bow the knee, a
tribunal by which all our controversies must be awarded:
yet he gives us notice at the same time, that to
this authority, if brought against him, he will not bow
the knee; and from this tribunal, if unfriendly to his
cause, he will appeal; for that prayers and all external
observances are beggarly elements, to be laid
aside in the present maturity of the christian church;
and that, even if social worship were an original appendage25* 25(3)v 294
of the Gospel, the idea of a “progressive
christianity”
would justify us in rejecting it. With
this inequality of conditions, which it is sufficient just
to notice, let us consider the array of texts which are
drawn up against the practice in question; and particularly
those precepts which, Mr. Wakefield says,
are evidences that directly and literally prove public
worship to be unauthorized by christianity, and inconsistent
with it, and which he distinguishes from those
which condemn it merely by inference.

The first of these direct evidences is the injunction,
not to worship as the hypocrites, who are fond of exhibiting
in the most public places. “And when thou
prayest, be not as the hypocrites, for they love to pray
standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the
streets, that they may be seen of men; verily I say
unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when
thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou
hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret.”
But is it not evident, that the force of this
precept is not aimed against public prayer, but against
private prayer performed in public; against the ostentatious
display which seeks to distinguish us from
others, not the genuine sympathy which makes us
desirous of blending our feelings with theirs? It was
devotion obtruding itself in the face of business, amidst
the show and bustle of the world. It did not seek
for fellowship, but observation. It did not want
the concurrence of men, but to be seen by them.
Even in the synagogue it was silent, solitary, unsocial,
and with sullen reserve and cold disdain kept itself
aloof from communion, and invited only applause.
The Pharisee and the Publican both went up to the
temple to worship, but they worshipped not together.
Certainly the delicate and modest nature of sincere
piety must shrink from an exhibition like this; and 25(4)r 295
would not wish to have its feelings noticed, but where
at the same time they may be shared. This text
therefore seems to be only a caution respecting the
proper performance of our closet duties.

“Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the
hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain,
nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. But the
hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers
shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the
Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a
spirit.”
True it is, the hour is come in which it is
allowed by all rational believers, that the acceptableness
of prayer does not depend on the sacredness of
any particular place. The Jews wanted to be informed
of this. They, naturally enough, were apt to consider
their temple as the habitation of the Divine
Being, in the same manner as a palace is the habitation
of an earthly sovereign,—a place where men may
come to make their court, and bring presents, and ask
favours in return. These ideas have been done away
by those more honourable notions of the Divine Being
which our Saviour, and good men after him have laboured
to inculcate. We conceive of a church as of
a building, not for God to reside, but for men to assemble
in; for, though God is a spirit, men have
bodies, and they cannot meet to do any thing without
having some place to do it in. “Neither in this
mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem,”
means therefore exclusively,
with an idea of any peculiar sacredness, or
superstitious preference to any other structure which
might be equally commodious.

With regard to the character of our Saviour himself,
it is certain he did not always call upon his disciples
to share that more intimate, and, if I may say
so, confidential intercourse with his heavenly Father,
which he may be supposed to have been favoured 25(4)v 296
with; and it must be confessed, there is no formal
mention made of any exercises of this kind either
with them, or with the people at large. But his
whole life was a prayer. He, who in his most familiar
and convivial moments was raising the thoughts
of his hearers to God, and nourishing their piety by
occasional instruction, could not be supposed to leave
them disinclined to the intercourses of social piety.
The beautiful commendatory prayer which he offered
up when about to leave the world, though it was not
entirely of the nature of social prayer, as his disciples
did not join in it, yet, its being uttered in their presence,
and their being the object of it, seems to place
it nearly on the same ground. In the very miracle of
the loaves, which Mr. Wakefield has produced as an
instance of an incident which might have given rise to
public prayer, and which was suffered to pass without
it—in the account of this very miracle there is a direct
precedent for the practice in question; for, looking
up to heaven, “he blessed” before he brake the
bread. This, indeed, appears to have been his constant
practice. It certainly does not belong to private
devotion, and is a species of prayer more apt, perhaps,
than any other, to degenerate into a mere form.

But if we do not find public worship, properly so
called, in the life of our Saviour, it is because we look
for it in the wrong place. It is not to be sought for
in his instructions, either to the multitude at large, or
to his disciples in their more private conversations.
His public worship was paid where the rest of the
Jews paid theirs—in the Temple. He came up,
with the concourse of assembled multitudes, to the
appointed religious festivals; he ate the passover, and
associated with his fellow-citizens, even in those rites
and that form of worship which he knew was so soon
to be abolished.

25(5)r 297

Our Lord seems indeed to have been an early and
regular frequenter of whatever public worship the
Jews had among them. What this was, besides their
sacrifices and ceremonial observances, Mr. Wakefield
is infinitely better able than the author of these remarks
to collect from the volumes of Rabbinical
learning; but, without going deeper into their antiquities
than what may be gathered from those records of
their history which are in the hands of every one, it
may be seen that verbal addresses to the Divine Being
often accompanied the public expressions of their
thanksgiving. In their earliest times we have the
song of Moses, in the burden of which the whole people,
led by Miriam, joined in chorus. In a more
polished age, the fine prayer of Solomon at the dedication
of the Temple, a composition which has never
been excelled, comes yet nearer to our ideas of an
address to the Divine Being; and the whole people
bore a part in the worship by the response, “For he
is good, for his mercy endureth for ever.”
A still
more regular service is recorded by Nehemiah, when
the people, after their return from the captivity, entered
into that solemn renewal of their law described
with so much affecting solemnity. They stood and
confessed their sins, then they read the law; after
which the Levites called upon them to stand up and
bless the Lord their God. They stood up accordingly,
and joined in what, I suppose, the author of the
Enquiry would call a pretty long prayer. And when
Ezra blessed the Lord, the people answered, Amen,
Amen. All this is sufficiently similar not only to the
spirit, but to the very routine of our present modes of
worship. If it be said, that these instances all arose
from peculiar and striking occasions, it may be answered,
that it is not likely any other would be recorded;
and that the regularity and grace with which 25(5)v 298
they seem to have been performed, indicate a people
not unaccustomed to such exercises. Indeed the
Psalms of David afford every variety which any of
our prayers do; confession, ascription, thanksgiving,
&c. These, it should seem, were many of them set
to music, and sung with proper responses; for even
in the Temple, the chief business of which was not
prayer but sacrifice, the Levites and other singers, at
the time of the morning and evening sacrifice, sung
psalms of praise to God before the altar, and in the
conclusion the priests blessed the people. See Prideaux’s Connection, vol. ii. p. 528. And it is
not probable, that in a later period of their history,
amidst a greater degree of refinement and cultivation,
they should have contented themselves with mere
ritual observances. This at least is evident, if in the
time of our Saviour they had no worship similar
to ours, he could not mean by any thing he said to
hint a dislike of it; and if they had, he must have
sanctioned the practice by conforming to it. But indeed
it is acknowledged by most, and Mr. Wakefield
seems to admit, that after their return from the Babylonish
captivity, when their hearts were purified by
adversity and more attached to their religion, they
had regular and stated worship in their synagogues,
consisting of forms of prayer, reading the Scriptures,
and expounding. In the former, we are told, a minister,
called from his office the angel or messenger of
the church, officiated as the mouth of the congregation;
but for the latter part of the service it was usual
to call upon any stranger to take his share, who appeared
to be sufficiently qualified to read and expound
the lessons of the day. And hence probably it was,
that our Saviour did not pray in the synagogues,
though he often taught there, and interpreted the
Sciptures. Ibid. p. 538. Of their forms of prayer eighteen are 25(6)r 299
given, held to be of high antiquity and peculiar sacredness;
and these are in a strain not dissimilar to the
Liturgies of more modern times. In short, if we
trace the accounts given us both of the plan of the
service, and of its presbyters, ministers, and deacons,
it will be found, that the christian church, in its corresponding
officers, its collects, litanies, and expositions,
is the legitimate daughter of the Jewish synagogue;
and we shall be led to admire the singular
fate of a nation, decreed to be at once imitated and
despised.

Thus much may be sufficient to say upon a subject
which, after all, is purely a question of historical
curiosity.

To return to the character of our Saviour. His
great business in the world was instruction; and this
he dispensed, not in a systematic, but a popular manner;
nor yet in a vague and declamatory style, but in
a pointed and appropriated one; not where it would
most shine, but where it was most wanted. He was
the great reformer, the innovator of his day; and the
strain of his energetic eloquence was strongly pointed
against abuses of all kinds, and precisely those points
of duty were most insisted on which he found most
neglected. Almost all his discourses are levelled
against some prevailing vice of the times, some fashionable
wordly maxim, some artful gloss of a well
known precept, some evasion of an acknowledged
duty. They were delivered as occasion prompted,
and therefore it was that they came so home to men’s
business and bosoms; for he might have delivered
the most elaborate lectures on morality, and religion
too, without offending the Scribes and Pharisees, if he
had confined himself to system, and not attacked corruption.
We shall therefore meet with continual disappointment
if, in the few scattered discourses, most 25(6)v 300
of them too conversations, which are preserved to us
of our Saviour, we expect to find any thing like a
regular code of laws, and still less a formulary of
rules. He referred to known laws, and only endeavoured
to restore the spirit of them, and to exalt the
motive of obedience. The great duty of honouring
our parents had probably not found a place in his instructions,
but to expose the tradition which had made
it of none effect. It is therefore a very inconclusive
argument against a practice, either, that we are not
expressly enjoined it in the Gospel, or that the abuses
of it are strongly dwelt upon; and this may serve for
a general answer to Mr. Wakefield’s objections built
upon the animated denunciations against those who,
for a pretence, make long prayers, and who cry,
“Lord, Lord”—against vain repetitions—upon the
exhortations to worship in spirit and in truth—the declaration
that the Sabbath is made for man, and not
man for the Sabbath—with a thousand others in the
same strain, with which the Gospel undoubtedly
abounds. But is the utility of a practice destroyed
by the abuse of it; or is it of none, because it is not
of the chief value? Are none of our duties subordinate,
yet real? or have they all the proud motto, Aut
Cæsar, aut nullus.
—As to the idea of a “progressive
Christianity,”
on which the author of the Enquiry
lays so much stress, as no new revelation has been
pretended subsequent to its original promulgation, it is
difficult to conceive of any progress in it, distinct from
the progress of reason and civilization in the different
countries where it may be received. Now I do not
know what right we have to suppose that the Jews in
the time of our Saviour, were so gross in their ideas
as to require a mode of worship which deserves to be
stigmatized with the appellation of “beggarly elements
and the twilight of superstition.”
They were probably 26(1)r 301
as different from their countrymen in the time of
the Judges, as we are from our ancestors of the Saxon
heptarchy. They had long had among them most of
those causes which tend to develope the mental powers.
A system of laws and polity, writers of the most
distinguished excellence, commercial and political intercourse
with other nations; they had acute and
subtle disputants, and an acquaintance with different
sects of philosophy; and, under these circumstances,
it is probable that most of those questions would be
agitated which, at similar preiods, have exercised and
perplexed the human faculties. Be that as it may,
Mr. Wakefield, by considering public worship as a
practice to be adapted to the exigencies of the times,
evidently abandons the textual ground, in which narrow
path he seemed hitherto to have trod with such
scrupulous precaution, and places it on the broader
footing of utility. The utility of this practice, therefore
comes next to be considered.

It is an error, which is extremely incident to minds
of a delicate and anxious sensibility, to suppose that
practices do no good which do not all the good that
might be expected from them. Let those who, in a
desponding mood, are apt to think thus of public worship,
calculate, if they can, what would be the consequence
if it were laid aside. Perhaps it is not easy
to estimate how much of the manners as well as the
morals—how much of the cultivation as well as the
religion of a people is derived from this very source.
If a legislator or philosopher were to undertake the
civilization of a horde of wild savages, scattered along
the waste in the drear loneliness of individual existence,
and averse to the faces of each other—if he
had formed a plan to gather them together, and give
them a principle of cohesion; he probably could not
take a more effectual method than by persuading Vol. II. 26 26(1)v 302
them to meet together in one place—at regular and
stated times—and there to join together in a common
act, imposing from its solemnity and endearing from
the social nature of its exercises. If an adventurer
were stranded on some foreign shore, and should find
the inhabitants engaaged in such an act, he might draw
the conclusion, that the blessings of order, internal
peace, mutual confidence, and a considerable degree
of information, existed there, as surely as the philosopher
drew a similar inference from the discovery of
mathematical diagrams traced upon the sand. And
thus, in fact, it was, that in the early beginnings of
society, legislators called in the assistance of religious
ideas, and with the charm and melody of solemn
hymns, like those of Orpheus or of Linus, gathered
round them the stupid, incurious barbarians, roused
them to attention and softened them into docility.
Agreeably to this train of thinking, our great dramatic
moralist places the influences of social worship upon a
par with the sacred touches of sympathetic sorrow,
and the exhilarating pleasures of the hospitable board,
and makes it one of the features which distinguish the
urbanity of polished life from the rude and unfeeling
ferocity which belongs to a clan of unprincipled banditti.
“If ever you have looked upon better days,If ever been where bells have knolled to church,If ever sate at any good man’s feast,If ever from your eyelids wiped a tear,And known what ’t is to pity and be pitied;Let gentleness your strong enforcement be――”

For, independent of the peculiar object of public
religious assemblies, many collateral advantages are
derived from them which the liberal thinker will by
no means despise. The recurrence of appointed
days of rest and leisure, which, but for this purpose, 26(2)r 303
would never have been appointed, divides the weary
months of labour and servitude with a separating line
of a brighter colour. The church is a centre of union
for neighbours, friends, and townsmen; and it is a reasonable
and a pleasing ground of preference in our
attachments, that we have “walked to the house of
God in company.”
Even the common greetings that
pass between those who meet there, are hallowed by
the occasion of the meeting, and the spirit of civic
urbanity is mingled with a still sweeter infusion of
christian courtesy. By the recurrence of this intercourse,
feuds and animosities are composed, which
interrupted the harmony of friends and acquaintance:
and those who avoided to meet because they could
not forgive, are led to forgive, being obliged to meet.
Its effect in humanizing the lower orders of society,
and fashioning their manners to the order and decorum
of civil life, is apparent to every reflecting mind.
The poor who have not formed a habit of attending
here, remain from week to week in their sordid cells,
or issue thence to places of licentiousness more sordid;
while those who assemble with the other inhabitants
of the place, are brought into the frequent view of
their superiors; their persons are known, their appearance
noted; the inquiring eye of benevolence
pursues them to their humble cottages, and they are
not unfrequently led home from social worship to the
social meal. If the rich and poor were but thus
brought together regularly and universally, that single
circumstance would be found sufficient to remove the
squalidness of misery, and the bitterness of want; and
poverty would exist only as a sober shade in the picture
of life, on which the benevolent eye might rest
with a degree of complacency when fatigued with the
more gaudy colouring of luxury and show.

26(2)v 304

The good effect of public worship in this light is
remarkably conspicuous in the Sunday schools. Many
of the children who attend have probably not very
clearly comprehended any religious system; but the
moving and acting under the public eye, together with
a sense of duty and moral obligation, which, however
obscure, always accompanies the exercises of religion,
soon transforms them into a different kind of beings.
They acquire a love of neatness and regularity; a
sense of propriety insinuates itself into their young
minds, and produces, instead of the sullen and untamed
licentiousness which at once shuns and hates
the restraints of better life, the modest deference and
chastened demeanour of those who respect others because
they respect themselves.

Public worship conveys a great deal of instruction
in an indirect manner. Even those didactic prayers
which run out into the enumeration of the attributes
of the Divine Being, and of the duties of a virtuous
life, though, perhaps, not strictly proper as prayer,
have their use in storing the minds of the generality
with ideas on these important subjects; and the beauty
and sublimity of many of these compositions must
operate powerfully in lifting the heart to God, and inspiring
it with a love of virtue. Improper as public
prayers may have sometimes been, private prayers
are likely to be still more so. Whatever contempt
Mr. Wakefield may choose to throw on the official
abilities of those who lead the service, it will not be
denied that they are generally better informed than
those who follow. Men to whom spiritual ideas are
familiar from reading and study, do not sufficiently
appreciate the advantage which the illiterate enjoy by
the fellowship and communication of superior minds,
who are qualified to lead their ideas in the right
track.

26(3)r 305

Public worship is a means of invigorating faith.
Though argument be one means of generating belief,
and that on which all belief must ultimately rest, it is
not the only means, nor, with many minds, the most
efficacious. Practical faith is greatly assisted by
joining in some act in which the presence and persuasion
of others give a sort of reality to our perception
of invisible things. The metaphysical reasoner,
entangled in the nets of sophistry, may involve himself
in the intricacies of contradictory syllogisms till
reason grows giddy, and scarcely able to hold the
balance; but when he acts in presence of his fellow-
creatures, his mind resumes its tone and vigour, and
social devotion gives a colour and body to the deductions
of his reason. Berkeley, probably, never doubted
of the existence of the material world when he
had quitted his closet. Some minds are not capable
of that firmness of decision which embraces truth upon
a bare preponderancy of argument—some, through a
timorous and melancholy spirit, remain always in a
perplexed and doubting state, if they rest merely on
the conclusions built upon their own investigation.
But every act in consequence of our faith, strengthens
faith. These, when they enter a place of worship,
amidst all the animating accompaniments of social
homage, are seized with a happy contagion; slow
hesitating doubts vanish in a moment, and give way
to sincere and cordial feeling. These are not proofs,
it is true; but they are helps, adapted to our nature,
necessary to the generality, expedient for all. As
for the multitude, so unaccustomed are they to any
process of abstruse reasoning, and so much do they
require the assistance of some object within the grasp
of their senses, that it is to be doubted whether they
could be at all persuaded of the existence of a spiritual
invisible power, if that existence was not statedly acknowledged26* 26(3)v 306
by some act which should impress the
reality of it upon their minds, by connecting it with
places, persons, and times.

Let it be observed, in the next place, that Public
Worship is a civic meeting. The temple is the only
place where human beings, of every rank and sex and
age, meet together for one commone purpose, and join
together in one common act. Other meetings are
either political, or formed for the purposes of splendour
and amusement; from both which, in this country,
the bulk of inhabitants are of necessity excluded.
This is the only place, to enter which nothing more is
necessary than to be of the same species;—the only
place where man meets man not only as an equal but
a brother; and where, by contemplating his duties,
he may become sensible of his rights. So high and
haughty is the spirit of aristocracy, and such the increasing
pride of the privileged classes, that it is to
be feared, if men did not attend at the same place
here, it would hardly be believed they were meant to
go to the same place hereafter. It is of service to
the cause of freedom therefore, no less than to that
of virtue, that there is one place where the invidious
distinctions of wealth and titles are not admitted;
where all are equal, not by making the low, proud;
but by making the great, humble. How many a man
exists who possesses not the smallest property in this
earth, of which you call him lord; who, from the narrowing
spirit of property, is circumscribed and hemmed
in by the possessions of his more opulent neighbours,
till there is scarcely an unoccupied spot of
verdure on which he can set his foot to admire the
beauties of nature, or barren mountain on which he
can draw the fresh air without a trespass. The enjoyments
of life are for others, the labours of it for
him. He hears those of his class spoken of, collectively, 26(4)r 307
as of machines, which are to be kept in repair
indeed, but of which the sole use is to raise the happiness
of the higher orders. Where, but in the temples
of religion, shall he learn that he is of the same
species? He hears there (and were it for the first
time, it would be with infinite astonishment,) that all
are considered as alike ignorant and to be instructed;
all alike sinful, and needing forgiveness; all alike
bound by the same obligations, and animated by the
same hopes. In the intercourses of the world the
poor man is seen, but not noticed; he may be in the
presence of his superiours, but he cannot be in their
company. In every other place it would be presumption
in him to let his voice be heard along with
theirs; here alone they are both raised together, and
blended in the full chorus of praise. In every other
place it would be an offence to be near them, without
showing in his attitudes and deportment the conscious
marks of inferiority; here only he sees the prostrations
of the rich as low as his, and hears them both
addressed together in the majestic simplicity of a language
that knows no adulation. Here the poor man
learns that, in spite of the distinctions of rank, and the
apparent inferiority of his condition, all the true goods
of life, all that men dare petition for when in the presence
of their Maker—a sound mind, a healthful
body, and daily bread,—lie within the scope of his
own hopes and endeavours; and that in the large inheritance
to come, his expectations are no less ample
than theirs. He rises from his knees, and feels himself
a man. He learns philosophy without its pride,
and a spirit of liberty without its turbulence. Every
time Social Worship is celebrated, it includes a virtual
declaration of the rights of man.

It may be further observed, that the regular services
of the church are to us the more necessary, as 26(4)v 308
we have laid aside many of those modes and expressions
which gave a tincture of religion to our social
intercourse and domestic manners. The regard to
particular days and seasons is nearly worn off. The
forms of epistolary correspondence, and the friendly
salutations which, in the last century, breathed a spirit
of affectionate piety, are exchanged for the degrading
ceremonial of unmeaning servility. The “God be
with you”
, “God bless you”, “If God permit”,
“Heaven have you in its keeping”,—like the graceful
Salam, or salutation of peace among the eastern
nations, kept up in the mind a sense of surrounding
providence of the Divine Being, and might, in
some measure, supersede the necessity of more formal
addresses; whereas, in the present state of society,
a stranger might pass day after day, and week
after week, in the bosom of a christian country, without
suspecting the faith of its inhabitants (if public
worship were laid aside) from any circumstance, unless
it were the obscure, half-pronounced blessing,
which is still sometimes murmured over the table.

Let it therefore be considered, when the length and
abstracted nature of our public prayers is objected to,
that we have nothing to take their place. If our attention
was excited by processions, garlands, altars,
and sacrifices, and every action of our lives intermixed
with some religious rite, these expressions of our
homage might be more readily dispensed with; but,
in reality, tedious as Mr. Wakefield may think long
prayers, they suit better with the gravity of the national
disposition and the philosophic turn of our ideas,
than any substitute which could be suggested by the
most classic taste. Our prayers are become long,
because our ceremonies are short.

If we may suppose these views of the subject to
have established the general utility of public worship, 26(5)r 309
a question still arises, Is the obligation to it universal?
Is attendance on its exercises to be expected from
those whose own minds are temples more hallowed
than any they can enter; and whose knowledge and
cultivation render it probable, that in every popular
service they will meet with much to object to, and
little to interest a taste rendered fastidious by critical
accuracy and elegant refinement? Without presuming
to condemn the conduct of those who are in every
respect so competent to form their own plans according
to their own judgement, I would mention some
considerations which, even to them, may present it in
a light not unworthy their attention. It is, in the first
place, an act of homage, and as such equally incumbent
on all. It is a profession of faith, less dubious
even than the performance of moral duties, which
may proceed from a well-directed prudence, or the
harmony of a happy temperament. It is right and
proper that Religion should have the honour of those
who are calculated to do her honour. It is likewise
useful for a pious man to be connected with pious
people as such. Various associations are formed upon
the ground of something which men wish to improve
or to enjoy in common. Literary men associate,
musical men associate, political men associate
together; and as there is a great deal of the commerce
of the world in which it would be impossible
to introduce religion, there ought by way of balance
to be some society of which that is the ground and
principle; otherwise, from the very nature of our
connexions with each other, we shall find religion less
in our thoughts than almost anything else in which
we have an interest, and insensibly it will waste and
die away for mere want of aliment. But the attendance
of men of literature and knowledge is perhaps
most important from its effects upon others. The unenlightened 26(5)v 310
worship with most pleasure where those
worship whose opinions they respect. A religion that
is left for the vulgar will not long satisfy even them.
There is harshness in saying to the bulk of mankind,
“Stand aside, we are wiser than you.” There is
harshness in saying, “Our affections cannot move in
concert; what edifies you, disgusts us; we cannot
feel in common, even where we have a common interest.”
In the intercourses of life, the man of urbanity
makes a thousand sacrifices to the conciliating
spirit of courtesy and the science of attentions. The
exercises of devotion, Mr. Wakefield says, are wearisome.
Suppose they were so; how many meetings
do we frequent, to how many conversations do we
listen with benevolent attention, where our own pleasure
and our own improvement are not the objects to
which our time is given up? He who knows much
must expect to be often present where he can learn
nothing. While others are receiving information, he
is practising a virtue. He, who in common life has
learned to mix a regard to the feelings and opinions
of others with the pursuit of his own gratifications,
will bear, in the spirit of love and charity, the instruction
which to him is unnecessary, the amplification
which to him is tiresome, the deficiencies of method
or of elocution, to which his ear and his judgement
are acutely sensible; the imperfections, in short, of
men or of societies inferior to himself in taste or knowledge;
—as in conversation he bears with the communicative
overflowings of self-importance, the repetition
of the well-known tale, and the recurrence of the
numerous, burthensome forms of civilized society.

It becomes us well to consider what would be the
consequence, if the desertion of men of superior sense
should become general in our assemblies. Not the
abolition of public worship,—it is a practice too deeply 26(6)r 311
rooted in the very propensities of our nature; but this
would be the consequence, that it would be thrown
into the hands of professional men on the one hand,
and of uninformed men on the other. By the one
it would be corrupted; it would be debased by the
other. Let the friends of moderation and good sense
consider whether it is desirable, whether it is even
safe, to withdraw from the public the powerful influence
of their taste, knowledge, and liberality. Let
them consider whether they are prepared to take the
consequences of trusting in the hands of any clergy, so
powerful an engine as that of public worship and instruction,
without the salutary check of their presence
who are best able to distinguish truth from falsehood,
to detect unwarrantable pretensions, and to keep within
tolerable bounds the wanderings of fanaticism.
Attentive to the signs of the times, they will have
remarked, on the one hand, a disposition to give into
deception, greater than might naturally have been
presumed of this age, which we compliment with the
epithet of enlightened. Empiric extravagancies have
been adopted, which violate every sober and consistent
idea of the laws of nature, and new sects have
sprung up, distinguished by the wildest reveries of
visionary credulity. On the other, they will have observed
indications of a desire to discourage the freedom
of investigation, to thicken the veil of mystery,
and to revive every obsolete pretension of priestly
power, which, in the most ignorant periods, the haughtiest
churchman has ever dared to assume. They
will have read with astonishment, an official exhortation
to the inferior clergy—it was not fulminated from
the Vatican, it was not dragged to light from the
mould and rust of remote ages—It was delivered by
an English divine of the eighteenth century, brilliant
in parts and high in place: he knew it was to meet 26(6)v 312
the notice and encounter the criticism of an enlightened
and philosophic people, and he has not scrupled
to tell them—that good works of a heretic are sin;
and that such a one may go to hell with his load of
moral merit on his back. He has not scrupled to
rank the first philosopher of this kingdom, and the man
in it perhaps of all others most actively solicitous for
the spread of what he at least believes to be genuine
christianity, with infidels and athieeists; and thus, by
obvious inference has piously consigned him to the
same doom. He has revived claims and opinions
which have upon their heads whole centuries of oblivion
and contempt; and by slandering Morality, has
thought to exalt Religion.—Reflecting on these things,
they will consider whether the man of judgement does
not desert the post assigned him by Providence, when
he withdraws from popular assemblies both the countenance
of his example and the imposing awe of his
presence; they will conceive themselves as invested
with the high commission to take care nequid respublica
detrimenti capiat
; they will consider themselves
as the salt of the earth, the leaven of the lump,
not to be secluded in separate parcels, but to be mingled
in the whole mass, diffusing through it their own
spirit and savour.

The author of the Enquiry chooses to expatiate,—
it is not difficult to do it,—on the discordant variety of
the different modes of worship practised amongst men,
and concludes it with characterizing this alarming
schism by the comparison of the poet: “One likes the pheasant’s wing, and one the leg;The vulgar boil, the learned roast an egg.”

But might we not venture to ask,—Where, pray,
is the harm of all this? unless indeed I will not allow
my neighbour to boil his egg because I roast mine. 27(1)r 313
Eggs are good and nutritious food either way; and
in the manner of dressing them, fancy and taste, nay
caprice, if you will, may fairly be consulted. If I
prefer the leg of a pheasant, and my neighbour finds
it dry, let each take what he likes. It would be a
conclusion singularly absurd, that eggs and pheasants
were not to be eaten. All the harm is in having but
one table for guests of every description; and yet
even there, were I at a public ordinary, good in other
respects, I would rather conform my taste in some
measure to that of my neighbour, than be reduced to
the melancholy necessity of eating my morsel by myself
alone.

The dissenters cannot be supposed to pass over in
silence Mr. Wakefield’s strictures upon the manner
in which they have chosen to conduct their public and
social worship. They are surprised and sorry to find
themselves treated with such a mixture of bitterness
and levity by a man whose abilities they respect, and
whom they have shown themselves ready to embrace
as a brother. They have their prejudices, they acknowledge
—and he perhaps has his. Many forms
and observances may to them be dear and venerable,
through the force of early habit and association, which
to a stranger in their Israel may appear uncouth, unnecessary,
or even marked with a shade of ridicule.
They pity Mr. Wakefield’s peculiar and insulated situation.
Separating through the purest motives from
one church, he has not found another with which he
is inclined to associate; divided by difference of opinions
from one class of christians, and by dissonance of
taste from another, he finds the transition too violent
from the college to the conventicle: he worships alone
because he stands alone; and is, naturally perhaps,
led to undervalue that fellowship which has been lost
to him between his early predilections and his later Vol. II. 27 27(1)v 314
opinions. If, however, the dissenters are not so happy
as to gain his affection, they must be allowed to
urge their claims upon his esteem. They wish him
to reflect, that neither his classical knowledge, not his
critical acumen, nor his acknowledged talents, set him
so high in the esteem of good men, as that integrity
which he possesses in common with those whom he
despises; they believe further consideration would
suggest to him, that it were more candid to pass over
those peculiarities which have originated in a delicate
conscience and the fervour of devotion; and they cannot
help asking, Whether they had reason to expect
the severity of sarcastic ridicule from him, whose best
praise it is that he has intimated their virtues and shared
their sacrifices?

The dissenters, however, do not make it their boast
that they have nothing to reform. They have, perhaps,
always been more conspicuous for principle than
for taste; their practices are founded upon a prevalence
of religious fervour, an animation and warmth of
piety, which, if it no longer exists, it is vain to simulate.
But what they do make their boast is, that they
acknowledge no principle which forbids them to reform;
that they have no leave to ask of bishops,
synods, or parliaments, in order to lay aside forms
which have become vapid. They are open to conviction;
they are ready to receive with thankfulness
every sober and liberal remark which may assist them
to improve their religious addresses, and model them
to the temper of the public mind. But, with regard
to those practices of superabundant devotion, which
have drawn down upon them the indignation of the
critic, it is the opinion of those who best know the
dissenters of the present day, that they might have
been suffered to fall quietly of themselves: they are
supported by no authority, defrayed by no impost. 27(2)r 315
If they make long prayers, it is at the expense only of
their own breath and spirits; no widows’ houses
are devoured by it. If the present generation yawn
and slumber over the exercises which their fathers
attended with pious alacrity, the sons will of course
learn to shorten them. If the disposition of their
public services wants animation, as perhaps it does,
the silent pews will be deserted one by one, and
they will be obliged to seek some other mode of
engaging the attention of their audience. But modes
and forms affect not the essence of public worship;
that may be performed with a form or without one;
by words alone, or by symbolical expressions, combined
with or separated from instruction; with or
without the assistance of a particular order appointed
to officiate in leading the devotions: it may be celebrated
one day in seven, or in eight, or in ten. In
many of these particulars a certain deference should
be had to the sentiments of that society with which,
upon the whole, we think it best to connect ourselves;
and, as time and manners change, these circumstances
will vary; but the root of the practice is too strongly
interwoven with the texture of the human frame ever
to be abandoned. While man has wants, he will pray;
while he is sensible of blessings, he will offer praise;
while he has common wants and common blessings,
he will pray and praise in company with his fellows;
and while he feels himself a social being, he will not
be persuaded to lay aside social worship.

It must, however, be acknowledged, that, in order
to give public worship all the grace and efficacy of
which it is susceptible, much alteration is necessary.
It is necessary here, as in every other concern, that
timely reformation should prevent neglect. Much
might be done by judgement, taste, and a devotional
spirit united, to improve the plan of our religious assemblies. 27(2)v 316
Should a genius arise amongst us, qualified
for such a task, and in circumstances favourable to
his being listened to, he would probably remark, first,
on the construction of our churches, so ill adapted are
a great part of them to the purposes either of hearing
or seeing. He would reprobate those little gloomy
solitary cells, planned by the spirit of aristocracy,
which deform the building no less to the eye of taste
than to the eye of benevolence, and, insulating each
family within its separate inclosure, favour at once the
pride of rank and the laziness of indulgence. He
might choose for these structures something of the
amphitheatrical form, where the minister, on a raised
platform, should be beheld with ease by the whole
wave of people, at once bending together in deep humiliation,
or spreading forth their hands in the earnestness
of petition. It would certainly be found desirable
that the people should themselves have a large
share in the performance of the service, as the intermixture
of their voices would both introduce more
variety and greater animation; provided pains were
taken by proper teaching to enable them to bear their
part with a decorum and propriety, which, it must be
confessed, we do not see at present amongst those
whose public services possess the advantage of responses.
The explaining, and teaching them to recite,
such hymns and collects as it might be thought proper
they should bear a part in, would form a pleasing and
useful branch of the instruction of young people, and
of the lower classes; it would give them an interest in
the public service, and might fill up agreeably a vacant
hour either on the Sunday or on some other leisure
day, especially if they were likewise regularly
instructed in singing for the same purpose. As we
have never seen, perhaps we can hardly conceive,
the effect which the united voices of a whole congregation, 27(3)r 317
all in the lively expression of one feeling,
would have upon the mind. We should then perceive
not only that we were doing the same thing in the
same place, but that we were doing it with one accord.
The deep silence of listening expectation, the
burst of united praises, the solemn pauses that invite
reflection, the varied tones of humiliation, gratitude,
or persuasion, would swell and melt the heart by
turns; nor would there be any reason to guard against
the wandering eye, when every object it rested on
must forcibly recall it to the duties of the place.—
Possibly it might be found expedient to separate
worship from instruction; the learned teacher from
the leader of the public devotions, in whom voice, and
popular talents, might perhaps be allowed to supersede
a more deep and critical acquaintance with the doctrines
of theology. One consequence, at least, would
follow such a separation, that instruction would be
given more systematically.—Nothing, that is taught at
all, is taught in so vague and desultory a manner as
the doctrines of religion. A congregation may attend
for years, even a good preacher, and never hear the
evidences of either natural or revealed religion regularly
explained to them; they may attend for years,
and never hear a connected system of moral duties extending
to the different situations and relations of life:
they may attend for years, and not even gain any clear
idea of the history and chronology of the Old and
New Testament, which are read to them every Sunday.
They will hear abundance of excellent doctrine,
and will often feel their hearts warmed and their
minds edified; but their ideas upon these subjects will
be confused and imperfect, because they are treated
on in a manner so totally different from every thing
else which bears the name of instruction. This is
probably owing, in a great measure, to the custom of 27* 27(3)v 318
prefixing to every pulpit-discourse a sentence, taken
indiscriminately from any part of the Scriptures, under
the name of a text, which at first implying an
exposition, was afterwards used to suggest a subject;
and is now, by degrees, dwindling into a motto.—
Still, however, the custom subsists; and while it
serves to supersede a more methodical course of instruction,
tends to keep up in the minds of the generality
of hearers a very superstitious idea,—not now entertained,
it is to be presumed, by the generality of those
who teach,—of the equal sacredness and importance
of every part of so miscellaneous a collection.

If these insulated discourses, of which each is complete
in itself, and therefore can have but little compass,
were digested into a regular plan of lectures,
supported by a course of reading, to which the audience
might be directed, it would have the further
advantage of rousing the inattentive and restraining
the rambling hearer by the interest which would be
created by such a connected series of information.
They would occupy a larger space in the mind, they
would more frequently be the subject of recollection
and meditation; there would be a fear of missing one
link in such a chain of truths; and the more intelligent
part of a congregation might find a useful and interesting
employment in assisting the teacher in the instruction
of those who were not able to comprehend
instruction with the same facility as themselves. When
such a course of instruction had been delivered, it
would not be expected that discourses, into which
men of genius and learning had digested their best
thoughts, should be thrown by, or brought forward
again, as it were, by stealth; but they would be regularly
and avowedly repeated at proper intervals. It is
usual upon the continent for a set of sermons to be
delivered in several churches, each of which has its 27(4)r 319
officiating minister for the stated public worship; and
thus a whole district partakes the advantage of the
labours of a man eminent for composition. Perhaps
it might be desirable to join to religious information
some instruction in the laws of our country, which
are, or ought to be, founded upon morals; and which,
by a strange solecism, are obligatory upon all, and
scarcely promulgated, much less explained.—Many
ideas will offer themselves to a thinking man, who
wishes not to abolish, but to improve the public worship
of his country. These are only hints, offered
with diffidence and respect, to those who are able to
judge of and carry them into effect.

Above all it would be desirable to separate from
religion that idea of gloom which in this country has
but too generally accompanied it. The fact cannot
be denied; the cause must be sought, partly in our
national character, which, I am afraid, is not naturally
either very cheerful or very social, and which we shall
do well to meliorate by every possible attention to our
habits of life;—and partly to the colour of our religious
systems. No one who embraces the common
idea of future torments, together with the doctrine of
election and reprobation, the insufficiency of virtue to
escape the wrath of God, and the strange absurdity
which, it should seem, through similarity of sound
alone, has been admitted as an axiom, that sins committed
against an infinite being do therefore deserve
infinite punishment—no one, I will venture to assert,
can believe such tenets, and have them often in his
thoughts, and yet be cheerful. Whence a system has
arisen so incompatible with that justice and benevolence,
which, in the discourses of our Saviour, are
represented as the most essential attributes of the
Divine Being, is not easy to trace. It is probable,
however, that power, being the most prominent feature 27(4)v 320
in our conceptions of the Creator, and that of
which we see the most striking image here on earth,
(their being a greater portion of uncontrolled power
than of unmixed wisdom or goodness to be found
amongst human beings), the Deity would naturally
be likened to an absolute monarch;—and most absolute
monarchs having been tyrants, jealous of their
sovereignty, averse to freedom of investigation, ordering
affairs, not with a view to the happiness of their
subjects, but to the advancement of their own glory;
not to be approached but with rich gifts and offerings;
bestowing favours, not in proportion to merit, but
from the pure influence of caprice and blind partiality;
to those who have offended them, severe and unforgiving,
except induced to pardon by the importunate
intercession of some favourite; confining their enemies,
when they had overcome them, after a contest,
in deep dark dungeons under ground, or putting them
to death in the prolonged misery of excruciating tortures
—these features of human depravity have been
most faithfully transferred to the Supreme Being; and
men have imaged to themselves how a Nero or a
Domitian would have acted, if from the extent of their
dominion there had been no escape, and to the duration
of it no period.

These ideas of the vulgar belief, terrible, but as
yet vague and undefined, passed into the speculations
of the schoolmen, by whom they were combined with
the metaphysical idea of eternity, arranged in specific
propositions, fixed in creeds, and elaborated into systems,
till at length they have been sublimed into all
the tremendous horrors of the Calvinistic faith. These
doctrines, it is true, among thinking people are losing
ground; but there is still apparent, in that class called
serious christians, a tenderness in exposing them; a
sort of leaning towards them,—as in walking over a 27(5)r 321
precipice one should lean to the safest side; an idea
that they are, if not true, at least good to to be believed,
and that a salutary error is better than a dangerous
truth. But that error can neither be salutary
nor harmless, which attributes to the Deity injustice
and cruelty; and that religion must have the worst of
tendencies, which renders it dangerous for man to imitate
the being whom he worships. Let those who
hold such tenets consider, that the invisible Creator
has no name, and is identified only by his character;
and they will tremble to think what being they are
worshipping, when they invoke a power, capable of
producing existence in order to continue it in never-
ending torments. The God of the Assembly’s Catechism
is not the same God with the Deity of Thomson’s
Seasons, and of Hutcheson’s Ethics. Unity of
character, in what we adore, is much more essential
than unity of person. We often boast, and with reason,
of the purity of our religion, as opposed to the
grossness of the theology of the Greeks and Romans;
but we should remember that cruelty is as much worse
than licentiousness, as a Moloch is worse than a satyr.
—When will christians permit themselves to believe
that the same conduct which gains them the approbation
of good men here, will secure the favour of Heaven
hereafter? When will they cease making their
court to their Maker by the same servile debasement
and affectation of lowliness by which the vain potentates
of the earth are flattered? When a harmless and
well-meaning man, in the exaggerated figures of theological
rhetoric, calls himself the vilest of sinners, it is
in precisely the same spirit of false humility, in which
the courtier uses degrading and disqualifying expressions,
when he speaks of himself in his adulatory addresses
to his sovereign. When a good man draws 27(5)v 322
near the close of a life, not free indeed from faults,
but pure from crime, a life spent in the habitual exercise
of all those virtues which adorn and dignify human
nature, and in the uniform approach to that perfection
which is confessedly unattainable in this imperfect
state; when a man—perhaps like Dr. Price,
whose name will be ever pronounced with affectionate
veneration and deep regard by all the friends of philosophy,
virtue, and mankind—is about to resign his
soul into the hands of his Maker, he ought to do it,
not only with a reliance on his mercy, but his justice;
a generous confidence and pious resignation should be
blended in his deportment. It does not become him
to pay the blasphemous homage of deprecating the
wrath of God, when he ought to throw himself into
the arms of his love. He is not to think that virtue is
one thing here, and another in heaven; or that he, on
whom blessings and eulogiums are ready to burst from
all honest tongues, can be an object of punishment
with Him who is infinitely more benevolent than any
of his creatures.

These remarks may be thought foreign to the subject
in question; but in fact they are not so. Public
worship will be tinctured with gloom while our ideas of
its object are darkened by superstition; it will be infected
with hypocrisy while its professions and tenets
run counter to the genuine unperverted moral sense of
mankind; it will not meet the countenance of philosophers
so long as we are obliged to unlearn our ethics,
in order to learn divinity. Let it be considered that
these opinions greatly favour immorality. The doctrine
that all are vile, and equally merit a state of punishment,
is an idea as consolatory to the profligate,
as it is humiliating to the saint; and that is one
reason why it has always been a favourite doctrine. 27(6)r 323
The indecent confidences of a Dodd, “And admitted, as I trust I shall be, to the realms of bliss before
you, I shall hail your arrival there with transport, and rejoice to acknowledge
that you was my comforter, my advocate, and my friend.”

Letter from Dr. Dodd. to Dr. Johnson. See Boswell’s Life of Johnson,
vol. ii. p.140.
and the debasing
terrors of a Johnson, or of more blameless men
than he, spring from one and the same source. It
prevents the genuine workings of real penitence, by
enjoining confessions of imaginary demerit; it quenches
religious gratitude, because, conceiving only of two
states of retribution, both in the extreme, and feeling
that our crimes whatever they may be, cannot have
deserved the one, we are not sufficiently thankful for
the prospect of the other, which we look upon as only
a necessary alternative. Lastly, it dissolves the connexion
between religion and common life, by introducing
a set of phrases and a standard of moral feeling,
totally different from those ideas of praise and blame,
merit and demerit, upon which we do and must act,
in our commerce with our fellow-creatures.

There are periods in which the human mind seems
to slumber, but this is not one of them. A keen spirit
of research is now abroad, and demands reform.
Perhaps in none of the nations of Europe will their
articles of faith, or their church establishments, or their
modes of worship, be able to maintain their ground for
many years in exactly the same position in which they
stand at present. Religion and manners reciprocally
act upon one another. As religion, well understood,
is a most powerful agent in meliorating and softening our
manners; so, on the other hand, manners as they advance
in cultivation, tend to correct and refine our religion.
Thus, to a nation in any degree acquainted with
the social feelings, human sacrifices and sanguinary
rites could never long appear obligatory. The mild spirit
of christianity has, no doubt, had its influence in softening 27(6)v 243324
the ferocity of the Gothic times; and the increasing
humanity of the present period will, in its turn, produce
juster ideas of christianity, and diffuse through
the solemnities of our worship, the celebration of our
sabbaths, and every observance connected with religion,
that air of amenity and sweetness, which is the
offspring of literature and the peaceful intercourses of
society. The age which has demolished dungeons,
rejected torture, and given so fair a prospect of abolishing
the iniquity of the slave-trade, cannot long retain
among its articles of belief the gloomy perplexities of
Calvinism, and the heart-withering perspective of cruel
and never-ending punishments.

The End.