صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

• Being now childless, by the will of Providence, (in which I trust I acquiefce), I have made a new settlement in my small affairs ; the only particular of which that needs to be mentioned at present is, that the organ, built by my eldest son and you, is now yours.

"I am much obliged to the kind friends who sympathize with me. Montagu was indeed very popular wherever he went. His death was calm, resigned, and unaffectedly pious ; he thought himself dying from the firft attack of his illness. “ I could wish,” said he, “ 'to live to be old, but am neither afraid nor unwilling to die.” II. 310. 311.

Sir William Forbes has likewise described the effects of this calamity, in a manner which does honour to his feelings.

• The death of his only surviving child, completely unhinged the mind of Dr Beattie, the first symptom of which, ere many days had elapsed, was a temporary but almost total loss of memory respecting his son. Many times he could not recollect what had become of him ; and after searching in every room of the house, he would say to his niece, Mrs Glennie, “ You may think it strange, but I must ask you if I have a son, and where he is ?” She then felt herself under the painful necessity of bringing to his recollection his son Montagu's sufferings, which always restored him to reason. And he would often, with many tears, express his thankfulness, that he had no child, saying, “ How could I have borne to see their elegant minds mangled with madness ! ” When he looked for the last time on the dead body of his son, he said, " I have now done with the world :" and he ever after seemed to act as if he thought fo. For he never applied himself to any sort of study, and answered but few of the letters he received from the friends whom he moft valued. Yet the receiving a letter from an old friend never failed to put him in fpirits for the rest of the day. Mufic, which had been his great delight, he could not endure, after the death of his eldest son, to hear from others; and he disliked his own favourite violoncello. A few months before Montagu's death, he did begin to play a little by way of accompaniment when Montagu sung: but after he loft him, when he was prevailed on to touch the violoncello, he was always discontented with his own performance, and at last feemed 'to be unhappy when he heard it. The only enjoyment he seemed to have was in books, and the fociety of a very few old friends. It is impossible to read the melancholy picture which he draws of his own fituation about this time, without dropping a tear of pity over the forTows and the sufferings of so good a man thus feverely visited by affliction.' II. 307. 308.

It is scarcely necessary to pursue this melancholy narrative any further. His spirits were never restored, and his health continued gradually to decline, till, in 1799, he was struck with palsy, which affected his speech and memory; and, after being reduced to a state of permanent insensibility, by repeated attacks of the same disease, at last expired in June 1803. We should now proceed to lay before our readers some speci. M 4

mens

mens of those epistolary compositions, which fill the greater part of the volumes. They are almost all, as we have already inti. mated, of the nature of dissertations; and most of them dissertations on trite subjects. The critical remarks, we think, are not in general worth extracting : they are for the most part safe, sound, and common opinions of common authors. Virgil, Lucretius, Tasso, Ariosto, Fenelon, Ossian, Metastasio, Rousseau, Richardson, Armstrong, Young, and a dozen more as to whom' the public opinion has fluctuated as little, aré characterized and decided on with as much minuteness and solemnity of method, as if their names had never been heard of in literature ; and, from all that we can perceive, Dr Beattie is just of the common way of thinking on those subjects, and writes sometimes prettily, and sometimes tediously, in exposition of it. At all events, what he writes bears no sort of resemblance to familiar letters; and he very seldom submits even to conterfeit that style by any sen, tences of easy introduction. One epistle begins, ' I promised to give you my opinion of the Henriade.' Another, I have just been reading Tasso.' And a third, 'I betook myself lately to the reading of Cæsar :'-which striking and appropriate introductions are followed by long disquisitions on the peculiar merit of those respective performances, very much in the manner and spirit of what we must infallibly meet with from any given lecturer on rhetoric. We scarcely think our readers would thank us for retailing any of this criticism. It will be more in favour of Dr Beattie, that they should peruse the following disquisition on public and private education ;--a topic which, trite as it is, is judiciously treated, we think, in the following epistle.

• Could mankind lead their lives in that folitude which is so favour. able to many of our most virtuous affections, I should be clearly on the fide of a private education. But most of us, when we go out into the world, find difficulties in our way, which good principles and innocence alone will not qualify us to encounter; we must have some address and knowledge of the world different from what is to be learned in books, or we shall foon be puzzled, disheartened, or difguited. The foundation of this knowledge is laid in the intercourse of schoolboys, or at least of young men of the same age. When a boy is always under the direction of a parent or tutor, he acquires such a habit of looking up to them for advice, that he never learns to think or act for himself; his memory is exercised, indeed, in retaining their advice, but his invention is suffered to languish, till at last it becomes totally inactive. He knows, perhaps, a great deal of history or science ; but he knows pot how to conduct himself on those ever-changing emergencies, which are too minute and too numerous to be comprehended in any system of advice. He is astonished at the most common appearances, and discouraged with the most trifling (because unexpected) obstacles; and he

is often at his wit's end, where a boy of much less knowledge, but more experience, would instantly devise a thousand expedients.'

" Another inconvenience attending private education, is the fuppres. fing of the principle of emulation, without which it rarely happens that a boy prosecutes his studies with alacrity or success. I have heard private tutors complain, that they were obliged to have recourse to flattery or bribery to engage the attention of their pupil; and I need not observe, how improper it is to set the example of such practices before children. True emulation, especially in young and ingenuous minds, is a noble principle; I have known the happiest effects produced by it ; [ never knew it to be productive of any vice. In all public schools it is, or ought to be, carefully cherished. - I shall only observe further, that when boys pursue their studies at home, they are apt to contract either a habit of idleness, or too close an attachment to reading : the former breeds innumerable diseases, both in the body and soul ; the late ter, by filling young and tender minds with more knowledge than they can either retain or arrange properly, is apt to make them superficial and inattentive, or, what is worse, to strain, and consequently impair, the faculties, by overftretching them. I have known several instances of both.'

- The great inconvenience of public education arises from its being dangerous to morals. And indeed every condition and period of human life is liable to temptation. Nor will I deny, that our innocence, during the first part of life, is much more secure at home, than any where else; yet even at home, when we reach a certain age, it is not perfectly secure. Let young men be kept at the greatest distance from bad company, it will not be easy to keep them from bad books, to which, in these days, all persons may have easy access at all times. Let us, however, suppose the best ; that both bad books and bad company keep away, and that the young man never leaves his parents' or tutor's fide, till his mind be well furnished with good principles, and himself arrived at the age of reflection and caution ; yet temptations must come at laft; and when they come, will they have the less strengtlı, because they are new, unexpected, and surprising? I fear not. The more the young man is surprised, the more apt will he be to lose his presence of mind, and consequently the less capable of self-government. Besides, if his passions are strong, he will be disposed to form comparisons between his past state of restraint, and his present of liberty, ve. ry much to the disadvantage of the former. His new associates will laugh at him for his reserve and preciseness ; and his unacquaintance with their manners, and with the world, as it will render him the more obnoxious to their ridicule, will also disqualify him the more, both for supporting it with dignity, and also for defending himself agaiost it.' • A young man, kept by himself at home, is never well known, even by his parents ; because he is never placed in those circumstances which alone are able effectually to rouse and interest his passions, and conse. guently to make his character appear. His parents, therefore, or tutors, never know his weak fide, nor what particular advices or cautions he ftands most in need of; whereas, if he had attended a public school, and mingled in the amusements and pursuits of his equals, his virtues and his vices would have been disclosing themselves every day; and his teachers would have known what particular precepts and examples it was most expedient to inculcate upon him. Compare those who have · had a public education with those who have been educated at home; and it will not be found, in fact, that the latter are, either in virtue or in talents, superior to the former. I speak, Madam, from observation of fact, as well as from attending to the nature of the thing.' I. 180-185.

tors,

The following reniarks upon the second-sight, and other superstitions of the Highlands, we think we have seen somewhere else. We extract them now from a letter to Mrs Montagu, and think they afford a favourable specimen of the author's powers of diffuse, easy, and descriptive illustration.

• I have been told, ihat the inhabitants of some parts of the Alps do also lay claim to a sort of second-fight : and I believe the same superfti. tion, or something like it, may be found in many other countries, where the face of nature, and the solitary life of the natives, tend to impress the imagination with melancholy. The Highlands of Scotland are a picturesque, but glooiny region. Long tracts of folitary mountains covered with heath and rocks, and often obscured by milt ; narrow vallies, thinly inhabited, and bounded by precipices that resound for ever with the fall of torrents ; a foil fo rugged, and a climate so dreary, as to admit neither the anrusements of pasturage, nor the cheerful toils of agriculture ; the mournful dashing of waves along the friths and lakes that every where intersect this country; the portentous sounds, which every change of the wind, and every increase and diminution of the wa. ters, is apt to raise in a region full of rocks and hollow cliffs and caverns; the grotesque and ghaitly appearance of such a landscape, especially by the light of the moon ;-objects like these diffuse an habitual gloom over the fancy, and give it that romantic cast, that disposes to invention, and that melancholy, which inclines one to the fear of unseen things an unknown events. It is observable too, that the antient Scottish Highlanders had scarce any other way of supporting themselves, than by hunting, fishing, or war; professions, that are continually exposed to the most fatal accidents. Thus, almost every circumstance in their lot tended to rouse and terrify the imagioation. Accordingly, their poetry is uniformly mournful; their music melancholy and dreadful, and their fuperftitions are all of the gloomy kind. The fairies confined their gambols to the Lowlands : the mountains were haunted with giants and angry ghosts, and funeral processions, and other prodigies of direful import. That a people, beset with such real and imaginary bug. bears, should fancy themselves dreaming, even when awake, of corpses, and graves, and coffins, and other terrible things, seems natural enough; but that their visions ever tended to any real or useful discovery, I am much inclined to doubt.' I. 221.222.

OF Of the fame degree and fort of merit are the following remarks on the credit due to voyagers reporting marvellous facts as to character and manners. · · When a European arrives in any remote part of the globe, the natives, if they know any thing of his country, will be apt to form no favourable opinion of his intentions, with regard to their liberties ; ¡f they know nothing of him, they will yet keep aloof, on account of his strange language, complexion, and accoutrements. In either case he has little chance of understanding their laws, manners, and principles of action, except by a long residence in the country, which would not suit the views of one traveller in five thousand. He therefore picks up a few ftrange plants and animals, which he may do with little trouble or danger; and, at his return to Europe, is welcomed by the literati, as a philosophic traveller of moft accurate observation, and unquestionable veracity. He describes, perhaps with tolerable exactness, the soils, plants, and other irrational curiofities of the new country, which procures credit to what he has to say of the people ;, though his accuracy in describing the material phenomena, is no proof of bis capacity to explain the moral. One can easily dig to the root of a plant, but it is not so easy to penetrate the motive of an action ; and till the inotive of an action be known, we are no competent judges of its morality; and in many cases the motive of an action is not to be known without a moft intimate knowledge of the language and manners of the agent. Our traveller chen delivers a few facts of the moral kind, which perhaps he does not understand, and from them draws fome inferences suitable to the taste of the times, or to a favourite hypothesis. He tells us of a Californian, who fold his bed in a morning, and came with tears in his eyes to bég it back at night ; whence, he very wisely infers, that the poor Californians are hardly one degree above the brutes in understanding, for that they have neither foresight nor' memory sufficient to direct their conduct on the most common occasions of life. In a word, they are quite a different species of animal from the European ; and it is a gross mistake to think, that all mankind are descended from the same first parents. But one needs not go so far as to California, in quest of men who sacrifice a future good to a present gratification. In the metropolis of Great Britain one may meet with many reputed Christians, who would act the same part for the pleasure of carousing half-a-day in a gin-shop. Again, to illustrate the same important truth, that man is a beaft, or very little better, we are told of another nation, on the banks of the Orellana, so wonderfully Atupid, that they cannot reckon beyond the oumber three, but point to the hair of their head, whenever they would fignify a greater number; as if four, and four thousand, were to them equally inconceivable. But, whence it comes to pass, that these people are capable of speech, or of reckoning at all, even so far as to three, is a difficulty, of which our historian attempts not the solution. But till he shall folve it, I must beg leave to tell him, that the one half of his tale contradicts the other as effectually, as if he had told us of a

people

i

« السابقةمتابعة »