H́nh ảnh trang

Nor was it feldom that the characters of the fcholar, and of the man of rank, were united in the fame perfon. Of this Giovanni Pico, of Mirandula, to whom we have before frequently adverted, is perhaps the most illuftrious inftance. This accomplished nobleman, of whom many extraordinary circumftances are related, and who certainly exhibited a wonderful example of the powers of the human mind, was born at Mirandula in the year 1463, and was one of the younger children of Giovan-Francefco, Pico, prince of Mirandula and Concordia. So quick was his apprehenfion, fo retentive his memory, that we are told a fingle recital was fufficient to fix in his mind whatever became the object of his attention. After having spent feven years in the moft celebrated univerfities of Italy and France, he arrived at Rome in the twenty-first year of his age, with the reputation of being acquainted with twenty-two different languages. Eager to fignalize himself as a difputant, Pico proposed for public debate nine hundred questions, on mathematical, theological, and fcholaftic fubjects, including alfo inquiries into the most abftrufe points of the Hebraic, Chaldaic, and Arabic tongues. This meafure, which in its worst light could only be confidered as an ebullition of youthful vanity, might, without any great injuftice, have been fuffered to evaporate in neglect; but the Romish prelates inftead of configning thefe propofitions to their fate, or debating them with the impartiality of philofophers, began to examine them with the fufpicious eyes of church-men, and felected thirteen of them as heretical. To vindicate himself from this dangerous imputation, Pico

[ocr errors]

compofed a Latin treatife of confiderable extent, which he is faid to have written in the space of twenty days, and which he infcribed to Lorenzo de' Medici, under whofe protection he had sheltered himself from perfecution at Florence. The character and acquirements of Pico afforded to his contemporaries a fubject for the most unbounded panegyric. He was a man," fays Politiano," or rather a hero, on whom nature had lavished all the endowments both of body and mind; erect and elegant in his perfon, there was fomething in his appearance almost divine. Of a perfpicacious mind, a wonderful memory, indefatigable in ftudy, diftinét and eloquent in fpeech, it feems doubtful whether he was more conípicuous for his talents or his virtues. Intimately converfant with every department of philofophy, improved and invigorated by the knowledge of various languages, and of every honorable fcience, it may truly be faid that no commendation is equal to his praife."

The inftances before given of the critical talents of Pico, whatever may be thought of their accuracy, will at leaft juftify him from the reproof of Voltaire, who is of opinion that the works of Dante and Petrarca would have been a more fuitable study for him than the fummary of St. Thomas, or the compilations of Albert the great. But the literary purluits of Pico were not confined to commentaries upon the works of others. From the fpecimens which remain of his poetical compofitions in his native language, there is reafon to form a favourable judgement of those which have perithed. Crefcimbeni confesses, that by his early death the Tufcan poe


try fuftained a heavy lofs, and that his accomplished pen might have refcued it from its degraded ftate, without the intervention of fo many other eminent men, whose labours had been employed to the fame purpofe. The few pieces which remain of his Latin poetry induce us to regret the feverity of their author. Thefe poems he had arranged in five books, which he fubmitted to the correction of Politiano, who having performed his tafk, returned them to their author, with an elegant apology for the freedoms which he had taken. Soon afterwards Pico committed his five books to the flames, to the great regret of Politiano, who has perpetuated this incident by a Greek epigram. If the works thus deftroyed were equal in merit to his Latin elegy addrelled to Girolamo Benivieni, pofterity have reason to lament the lofs.'

From the eighth chapter, we have already extracted the character of the celebrated Girolamo Savonarola; with whofe eventful hiftory most of our readers are probably acquainted.

The fubject of the ninth chapter is the arts; of which Mr. Rofcoe has deduced the hiftory from their firft rude beginnings in Italy, to the commencement of the golden age

of Leo.

The tenth and laft chapter contains an account of the death, and a review of the character, of Lorenzo; a narrative of the expulfion of his fon from Florence, and of the convulfions which agitated that republic; and a brief hiftory of his defcendants, till the houfe of Medici at length acquired the fovereign authority in that country of which they had been fo long the firft citizens;—a revolution which was ac

complished by Cofmo de' Medici, who became the firft grand duke of Tuscany.

We have now presented to the public fuch ample extracts from this valuable work, that they will be able to form their own opinion both of its general excellence and its diftinguishing qualities.

It must be no inconfiderable confolation to the lovers of literature, to obferve that, in the midft of those furious political animofities which threatened to banith every mild fentiment and elegant purfuit from among us, there should still remain a fufficient portion of calm literary tafte to render a work like the prefent fo generally acceptable and popular. Solid and permanent reputation the intrinfic merit of the work itself must in time have secured : but it was fcarcely to have been hoped that it fhould have acquired fuch rapid fame, without treating any temporary topic, or adopting any temporary fafhion; without ftooping to the meretricious allurements of ftyle which feduce a depraved taste; and without either flattering or provoking any of the paffions which divide an agitated public. It is not often at any time, but it is very seldom in fuch times as the prefent, that the means of obtaining early popularity are the fame with thofe of fecuring a lafting reputation.-We congratulate the author on having combined both thefe objects, without having debafed the dignity of hiftory fo far as to minifter to any of the reigning prejudices of the age. He has obtained public applaufe, without any facrifice either of the purity of his tafte or of the independence of his principles. He has paid no court to the prepoffeffions of that body of Englifhmen, among whom


the very name of liberty feems in danger of becoming unpopular; nor does he betray the flighteft taint of thofe extravagant and chimerical opinions concerning government, which have infected another part of his countrymen. We may fay that of him which cannot always be faid of hiftorians of great name, that, as an inftructor in morals and politics, be is uniformly fafe. Juftice, humanity, liberty, and public tranquillity have in him an enlightened and inflexible advocate. Faithful to thefe-the invariable interefts of mankind-he pronounces with rigid impartiality the judgement of hiftory on all their enemies, whatever pretext they may aflume by whatever motives they may be inftigated, and under whatever disguises they

may appear.

The fuccefs of fuch a work, we hope, will ftimulate and encourage thofe fcholars and philofophers, who have perhaps too haftily fuppofed that politics had abforbed every other lentiment, and whom that apprehenfion has hitherto induced to withold their works from the public. Some fuch we ourselves have the honour of knowing; and many more, we have no doubt, are actuated by fimiliar apprehenfions. The example of Mr. Rofcoe is fufficient to prove to them that all tafte for fcientific difcuffion and literary research is not extinguished, and that the public ftill feel an intereft in the hiftory of Poggius and Politian, of Michael Angelo and Raphae!; and even if the world were more exclufively occupied by politics, it would be worthy of men of genius to attempt to foften the harfhnefs of a political temper by the infufion of elegant literature into the mind. We should be far, indeed, from

wifhing that the people of England were more employed even in the moft delightful amufements, that letters can afford, than concerned about the great interefts of their country: but it is the nature of welldirected literary purfuits to calm and mitigate the animofity of faction, without extinguishing or even enfeebling public fpirit.

An Enquiry into the Foundation and Hifiory of the Law of Nations in Europe, from the Time of the Greeks and Romans to the Age of Grotius. By Robert Ward of the Inner Temple, Ejq. Barrister at Law, 2 vols. 8vo.

to English lawyers, that, howT has been a frequent reproach ever profound and extenfive may be their knowledge of the laws and conftitution of their own country, they are remarkably ignorant of the laws and conftitutions of other countries, and are little acquainted either with diplomatic jurifprudence, or with the law of nations. In almost every other art and science, England has produced authors whose works hold a diftinguished rank in the republic of letters: but he has fcarcely given birth to one writer on general law, whofe works are cited out of her own courts of juftice, or read by the learned of other nations. Lord Bolingbroke, who fometimes took a pleafure in expofing the defects of his countrymen, has, on more than one occafion, made this remark in his writings.

We have now before us, however, a work on the law of nations that may, perhaps, contribute much towards redeeming us from this reproach.

Mr. Ward

Mr. Ward commences his labours by endeavouring to fettle the exact import of the expreffion, the law of nations, and by pointing out the real foundation of that law. The author admits that the law of nature forms a part of it: but, obferving (to use his own expreflions) how difcordant the opinions of many are, upon the ramifications of the law of nature, he concluded it to be necef fary, that the foundations of the law of nations fhould be fomething more fixed and definite; and therefore in addition to the law of nature, not with a view to reject it, he holds revealed religion, and the moral fyftem engrafted upon it to be the fureft foundation.'

The author then treats of the law of nations, as it is obferved by the Christian world. This is the fubject of the first three chapters. In the fourth, he endeavours to fhew that the law of nations is not to be confidered as the law of the world, but only as the law of particular claffes of nations, united together by fimilar religious and moral inftitutions. In the fifth chapter, which clofes this part of his publication, he fhews how different claffes of nations may be diftinguifhed; this chapter is, in our opinion, the most important of this part of the work: for, though we think that the author has difcovered great ingenuity and ability, in his inquiry into the foundation of the law of nations, yet the principles both of the law of nature and of the law of nations are neceffarily fo broad, that it is extremely difficult, and fometimes impoffible, to exprefs them in fuch a manner as to give perfectly diftinct and exact notions of the ideas which they are defigned to convey; and in this refpect, writers on municipal law

have greatly the advantage. On this imperfection of the law of nations, Mr. Ward has the following pertinent remark:

As the principles of all civil and muncipal laws must be founded in natural reafon, but derive the form and manner in which they are brought into ufe from pofitive inditutions; fo alfo the law of nations muft put in force the dictates of nature, in fome known mode agreed upon by all who conform to them. The only difference is, that in the one cafe, it is individuals who are called upon to fettle the mode; in the other, it is whole nations acting through the organs of their governments; that in the one, almoft every thing that can exercife the judgement of an individual in his various relations, is fettled for him by written law, or by precedent; while among ftates, (from their comparatively little intercourfe and the want of a common fovereign,) much is left without precedent, wavering, as accident, or whimor the varying ideas of natural juf tice, may direct.'

He then proceeds to give a chronological account of the law of nations as it has been obferved in Europe: of the ftrange ideas that were formerly entertained of it; of the gradual changes which took place in thofe ideas, and the causes of thofe changes; together with the improvements which were given to them, fo as to elevate the law into the rank of the fciences. He begins with the hiftory of the law of nations in Europe as obferved by the Greeks and Romans. After having remarked, in general terms, the high eminence which they attained in arts and arms, he thus continues;


One thing however was wanting to the perfection which, had they poffeffed it, they would probably have acquired; and that was, the knowledge of the doctrines of a religion which, whatever may be its points of controverfy, has had the uniform effect, wherever it has taken root, of producing a more equitable notion of things, and a milder fyftem of manners.

Accordingly, from the want of this great advantage, we may obferve that the people in queftion, while they were in the firft fcale of eminence in almost all other respects, fall far fhort of their pofterity in the their ideas of the law we treat of. The want of a principle fufficiently binding in their schemes of morality, had a palpable effect upon their characters in private life; and, as might be expected, it transferred itfelf into the fpirit of their law of nations. However, therefore, we may be accustomed to hear of their politenefs, their arts, their refinements in elegance, or their knowledge of laws, we find upon inquiry, that their politenefs, while it fharpened their understandings, had no effect upon their hearts; that their refinements were for the most part fenfual and when we come to contemplate the general fcope of their laws of war and peace they will be found too often to refemble the barbarians they defpifed. The author then comes to the period at which Rome,

obferves that, with fuch morals and maxims, their law of nations must have been far different from that comparatively regular one of the Romans. Thefe rules of right, far from checking their dreadful and murderous inclinations, were themfelves to warped and adapted to them, that they gave them fresh force.

He then gives the hiftory of the law of nations in Europe, from the above period down to the eleventh century; and he afterwards purfues it to the 15th. He fhews the influence of the feudal law, and afterwards that of chivalry, on the law of nations; and he points out the regularity and improvement which it received from the inftitutions of chivalry: inftitutions, (he fays,) which have long gone by, and faded before the general improvement of manners which time had brought on. In the ages however when they flourished, they were of effential confequence to the well being of the world, and as far as they went fupplied the place of philofophy itfelf."

A confiderable portion of the work is employed in fhewing the influence of Chriftianity, and the ecclefiaftical eftablishments, on the law of nations.

Mr. Ward then proceeds to dif cufs the influence of treaties and conventions; and this we confider as the most useful part of his work. It is followed by an entertaining account of the rank and claims of With heaviest found, a giant ftatue fell; the nations of Europe: but we do



and he draws an interefting, but frightful, picture of that calamitous After having given a fuccinct account of the maxims and morals of the northern nations, he

not find that he takes any notice of one of the most curious events in the hiftory of the rank and precedence of the English nation, viz. the difpute for precedence between the French and English, at the


« TrướcTiếp tục »