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Readers complain, that in none of these departments is there, in modern writing, much pretension to originality. In science, they say, so much has been already discovered, that all a modern writer has left, is, to explain and enforce the systems of our predecessors; and, in literature, our fathers have so exhausted the acuteness of reasoning, the flashes of wit, the luxuriance of description, and the invention of incident, that an author nowadays can only give new form, not matter, to his argument; a new turn, not thought, to his epigram ; new attitudes, not object, to his picture; new language, not situation, to his
ory However true this complaint may be in the main, there is one class of writers to whom the charge of triteness does, I apprehend, very little apply. They are generally of the first species mentioned above, who publish useful information to mankind; yet in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, their information is often as new as if they had written in the infancy of art and of science, when every field was open to the researches of industry and the invention of genius. The writers I allude to, are the authors of those little essays which appear in the learned world under the title of ADVERTISE
The necessary and ornamental arts of life are equally the objects of the class of authors whom I describe. In both, I will venture to assert, that the novelty of their productions is equal to their useful
It was formerly imagined that disease was an evil which mankind had inherited as a punishment for the lapse of their progenitor. Milton has given, in his Paradise Lost, a catalogue of some of those tormenting maladies which were to be felt by the
race of fallen Adam. - So has Dr. Dominiceti, in an advertisement which is now lying before me; but, with the most extraordinary force of original discovery, has informed us, that, in his treatment of those disorders, there is no evil, no pain, but, on the contrary, much pleasure, and even luxury. “I
engage," says the Doctor, “ with pleasure, and even luxury, to the patient, to increase or diminish the vital heat, and the circulatory, secretory, and excretory functions ; to soften and relax the too hard and dry muscular and nervous fibres, and contracted ligaments; and to harden and make compact, and give the proper tone and elasticity to the too moist and flabby muscular and nervous fibres, and relaxed sinews, and provide and establish an equilibrium between the fluids and vessels ; to sweeten acrid, corrosive, and saline humours; and to cure the dropsy, asthma, consumptions, colic, gravel, rheumatism, palsy, pleurisy, and fevers, stone and gout, scurvy and leprosy ; to mollify and destroy inveterate callosities, to deterge and cure obstinate ulcers, &c. “ These are not the representations of a quack's
I detest the arts of quackery as much as any man living. I deal not in nostrums, or mysteries, or magic, or expedient, to captivate:
“Non sibi, sed toto genitum se credere mundo."
If he who invented one new pleasure was formerly thought entitled to imperial munificence, what reward does the doctor deserve who has added as many luxuries to the list as there are diseases in the catalogues of nosology? Scotland, though not remarkable in this department of literature, has the honour of producing an author, who, in an adver
tisement published not long ago, has added to the stores of natural history the following very curious facts with regard to the properties
of air and heat. Mr. Fair, mason, opposite to the White Hart Inn, Grass Market, Edinburgh, thus delivers himself on the subject of pneumatics : “Air and smoke," says he,
are two elastic fluids, capable of being condensed and expanded. Heat, or the fire in the grate, expands the air. Being expanded, it becomes lighter. And as it is in nature for light matter to swim to the top of heavier, it rises up the vent, carrying the smoke along with it. This is the principle by which fire burns and smoke ascends. Now, that the particles of air may be brought above the fire, that they may be heated to expand and carry off the smoke, should be the chief care of a mason in finishing of the fireplaces. On the contrary, it is the cause of smoke.
“ The other cause of smoke is the wind. Wind is a current of the air always rushing into voids. At the same time it goes forward, by the law of gravity, it has a tendency to press downwards. Now, when it blows over any one object higher than the chimney-top, gravity brings it downward, pressing the smoke before it.”
It will be observed, that, like many other great theorists, Mr. Fair uses a language in some places a little obscure, and that in others, as where he mentions the tendency of wind to press downwards, his expression borders on the jocular, a liberty in which some of the greatest philosophers have frequently indulged.
These discoveries, however new and astonishing, are not supernatural. But I have just now read an advertisement, which carries its information beyond the bounds of space and time; and though
the modesty of its author allows that she has borrowed something from the Eastern Magi, may fairly be deemed an original. “ Mrs. Corbyn, at No. 41 Stanhope Street, Clare Market, London, by the genuine rules of the real astronomical arcana, for which the wise men of the East were so noted, undertakes to answer all legal astrological questions, in a most surprising manner.
Continues to give the most amazing accounts of persons by sea and land. Gives attendance at the warehouse every day, from ten in the morning to eight at night.” The wise men of the East and some other astrologers might, perhaps, retail some predictions, but the idea of a warehouse of prophecy was, I am persuaded, reserved for Mrs. Corbyn, of Clare Market.
In the ornamental department of science, has there been any thing, since the days of Medea, that could so effectually give beauty to homeliness, or restore youth to age, as the Circassian wash, or the Venetian Flower-water? or has the cunning of art ever rivalled the productions of nature more successfully than in the Elastic Cushion and Spring Curls, “which,” says the advertisement, “are as natural and becoming, nay, by many thought more so, than the natural hair itself!”
Nor is the merit of those gentlemen much inferior, where they apply arts already discovered, to purposes which their inventors never dreamed of. Socrates was said to have brought down philosophy from heaven to dwell with men. I think the same eulogium may be fairly bestowed on the very ingevious artist who has informed us in an advertisement “ that he' makes leather breeches by the rules of trigonometry.”
Having thus done justice to the merit of those authors in point of substance, I proceed to show
their excellence in the composition and style of their productions. Amidst a variety of instances, I shall make choice of one, merely because it strikes my view in last night's Public Advertiser. It is the production of a very voluminous writer in this department, Mr. Norton, of Golden Square.
E. S., Gent., of Tenterden, in Kent, was long afflicted with an inveterate scorbutic disorder. It first broke out in hot pimples and dry scales all over his face, then appeared in great blotches on various parts of his body, and edematous swellings in his legs, which terminated in dreadful excoriations and fetid ulcers. All this was attended with a total loss of appetite, and, at last, with such extreme languor and debility, that the poor gentleman was utterly despaired of by several of the most eminent of the faculty who attended him, till, at last, by the providential discovery in the newspapers, of the efficacy of Maredant's Drops, by taking a few bottles of them, all the above terrible symptoms began gradually to disappear, his appetite returned, his complexion regained its pristine bloom, his skin became as smooth as that of a new-born babe, and his flesh recovered the soundness and elasticity of the most vigorous habit. He has ever since been perfectly stout, hale, and active, and has had three children born to him, all thriving and healthy."
This may be considered as a sort of tragi-comic recital, and, if examined by the rules of Aristotle, will be found to contain all the requisites of the best dramatic composition. Here is a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning, the breaking out of Mr. S.'s disorder; the middle, the progress of the disease; the end, its perfect cure. Here, too, in some sort, is the 'Ayvápious, and here evidently the