« TrướcTiếp tục »
like the vernal delight and joy of Milton, is " enough to drive all fadness but defpair.'
Sometimes he amufed himfelf with collecting useful information for the illuftration of the hiftory of hiscountry; fometimes flitting over the furfaces of fugitive events, and moralifing on the flippery fortunes of the paffing world of the day; but oftener fetting down with poignant remark what escaped the notice of others, and making his obfervations fubfervient to that noble art of idleness, which is the fubject of my prefent refearch.
About fix years ago, I received a letter from this charming companion, and inftructive friend, which I felect as an inftance of the moft ingenious and ingenuous application of fenfe, wit, and good humour, to the drawing forth of agreeable reflections from the occurrences of the day.
"You are too condefcending, when you incline to keep up a correfpondence with one who can expect to maintain it but a fhort time, and whofe intervals of health are refigned to idlenefs, not dedicated, as they have fometimes been, toliterary purfuits; for what could I purfue with any profpect of accomplishment? or what avails it to ftore a memory that muft lofe fafter than it acquires? Your zeal for illuminating your country and countrymen is laudable, and you are young enough to make a progrefs; but a man, who touches the verge of his fixty eighth year, ought to know, that he is unfit to contribute to the amufement of more active minds. This confideration makes me much decline correfpondence; having nothing new to communicate, I perceive that I fill my letters with apologies for having nothing to fay. The difcoveries made by Herfchell, which you have been fo good as to communicate, are fluenduous indeed You have launched my meditations into fuch a vaft field, that if I tapped one channel, I should
write a volume, and perhaps finish in the clouds. How puny, how diminutive are thofe difcoveries we used formerly to boast of, when compared to those of Herfchell, who puts up millions of cavies of worlds at a beat. My conception is not ample enough to take in even a fketch of his glimpses; and left I should lofe myself in attempting to follow his investigations, I recal my mind home, and apply it to reflect on what we thought we knew, when we imagined we knew fomething (which we deemed a vast deal) pretty correctly, Segrais, I think it was, who faid with much contempt, to a lady who talked of her star; "Your ftar! there are but two thousand stars in all; and do you ima66 gine, madam, that you have a whole one to yourself?” The foolish dame, it feems, was not more ignorant than Segrais himfelf. If our fyftem includes twenty millions of worlds, the lady had as much right to pretend to a whole ticket, as the philofopher had to treat her like a fervant-maid, who buys a chance for a day in a ftate lottery.
Stupenduous as Mr. Herschell's investigations are, and admirable as his talents, his expreffion of our retired corner feems a little improper. When a little. emmet ftanding on its ant-hill, could get a peep into infinity, how could he think he faw a corner of it? a retired corner! Is there a bounded fide to infinitude? If there are twenty millions of worlds, why not as many and as many more? Oh! one's imagination cracks! I long to bait within distance of home, and reft at the moon. Mr. Herfchell will content me, if he can difcover thirteen provinces there, well inhabited by men and women, and protected by the law of nations; that law which was enacted by Europe for its own emolument, to the prejudice of the other three parts of the globe, and which beftows the property of the whole realms on the first person who happens to espy them, çan annex them to the crown of Great Britain, in lieu of those it has loft beyond the Atlantic.
"I am very ignorant in astronomy, as ignorant as Segrais, or the lady, and could wish to afk many questions; as, whether our celeftial globes must not be infinitely magnified? Our Orreries too, muft not they be given to children, and new ones conftructed, that will at leaft take in our retired corner, and all its outlying constellations? Muft not that host of worlds be christened? Mr. Herschell himself has stood godfather for his Majesty to the new Sidus. His Majefty, thank God, has a numerous iffue; but they, and all the princes and princeffes in Europe, cannot fupply appellations enow for twenty millions of new-born stars; no, though the royal progenies of Auftria, Naples, and Spain, who have each two dozen of faints for fponfers, fhould confent to split their beadroll of names among the foundlings :-But I find I talk like an old nurfe; and you at last will be convinced, that it is not worth your while to keep up a correspondence with a man in his dotage, merely because he has the honour to be
Your moft obedient humble fervant
"P. S. One wish I cannot help adding to this letter: It is, that fince our eyes can be fo wonderfully affifted, we could also improve others of our fenfes. Since we contrive to fee 1710 millions of miles beyond the fun, one should think it poffible to form a trumpet for hearing what is said in the moon, which, in comparison is but juft over the way. I do not wonder that Bishop Wilkins was ambitious of getting thither, even upon the very narrow fund of knowledge that we then poffeffed."
From this fpecimen of the happy difpofition of the refined and glorious fons of idlenefs, to draw pleasure and to diffuse it all around them, from whatever offers on the gliding current of the everflowing tide of the affairs of men, I hope to recommend this study to my readers; and remain, their devoted fervant
Differtation to justify the Account of the Trojan War, given by Homer, in oppofition to that of John MacLaurin, Efq. Lord Dreghorn.
AN attempt to prove that Troy was not taken by the Greeks, seems to me more calculated to fhew the very great ingenuity of the writer, than to convince the reader.
It may, with fafety, be maintained, that letters were ufed in Greece a confiderable time prior to the Trojan They are mentioned by a variety of authors, as brought into Greece from Phoenicia, by Cadmus the founder of Thebes, who lived, from the best accounts, above a century previous to that period. It appears from the Pentateuch, there were letters before the decalogue; and the Egyptians are supposed to have been the original inventors. Suidas too gives us part of the writings of Orpheus, who was one of the Argonauts ; But fuppofe the Greeks had, in general, known little of writing, it is very plain from Homer, they had bards in every court; and the kingdoms then in Afia and Greece were little better than those of the thirty kingdoms into which Britain was formerly divided, as mentioned by Dr. Henry, in which they also had their bards in this country. The accounts of the Trojan war were communicated by means of these bards, little flower than those of others are at prefent, by means of printing. The accounts of different bards were checks one upon another, and popular tradition, upon them all. It was, therefore, a work which required infinite judgement, taste, and genius, from all these to fearch out the truth; to make it one confiftent flory, divisible into proper parts for finging or rehearsing; and thus to be the first in inventing a new species of poem, of such a nature, and fuch an extent, and executed fo as nes er to be equalled.
That Homer was fo much later than the Trojan war, as fome have imagined, is not fufficiently inftructed: Plutarch and others have held Homer and Hefiod as co-temporaries; it is even faid, they were competitors for a prize in finging; and Hefiod tells he lived in the age after the wars of Thebes and Troy. It is far lefs deducible from that part of Homer's works, which mentions the degeneracy of men betwixt these different periods. We have been told of Highland foldiers, in the late rebellions, who would, at one stroke of a broad sword, cut through a horse's neck, or a mufket-barrel, and have feen an inftance of a perfon twifting asunder a horfe's fhoe: Comparing thefe to the generality of men in the prefent generation, might look like degeneracy in the latter, in place of the difference among mankind.
Nobody can be at any lofs to comprehend the story of Leda's fwan; the ladies in high life frequently fathered their backflidings on their deities; when these ftories gained any credit, they were foon followed by others. For this we have the authority of both Milton and Fontenelle. That the names of Caftor and Pollux, from their fuppofed affinity to the inhabitants of Olympus, or poffibly from their skill in aftronomy, were given to two of the heavenly bodies, does not, make Helen an allegorical perfon. The account of their deaths, in the Greek way of understanding them, does not hurt the above account. Their afhes might be in Sparta, their fhades below, and they alternately above; like Hercules, who was buried in mount Æta, his fhade in Pluto's dominions, and he, at the fame time, in Olympus, married to the beautiful Hebe.
Homer appears to have travelled through all Greece, part of Afia, and poffibly into Egypt, to find the most perfect accounts; even fo minutely as to have viewed all the places he mentions in each. Is the account of an Egyptian prieft given to Herodotus, who lived 400 years at least after Homer, to be credited, more than