Friday, December 29, 2006

Item of the Day: Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1797)

Full Title: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. By Edward Gibbon, Esq. Volume the First. A New Edition. London: Printed for a. Strahan; and T. Cadell Jun. and W. Davies (Successors to Mr. Cadell) in the Strand, M.DCC.XCVII.


It is not my intention to detain the reader by expatiating on the variety, or the importance of the subject, which I have undertaken to treat: since the merit of the choice would serve to render the weakness of the execution still more apparent, and still less excusable. But as I have presumed to lay before the Public a first volume only of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, it will perhaps be expected that I should explain, in a few words, the nature and limits of my general plan.

The memorable series of revolutions, which, in the course of about thirteen centuries, gradually undermined, and at length destroyed, the solid fabric of human greatness, may, with some propriety, be divided into the three following periods.

I. The first of these periods may be traced from the age of Trajan and the Antonines, when the Roman monarchy, having attained its full strength and maturity, began to verge towards its decline; and will extend to the subversion of the Western Empire, by the barbarians of Germany and Scythia, the rude ancestors of the most polished nations of modern Europe. This extraordinary revolution, which subjected Rome to the power of a Gothic conqueror, was completed about the beginning of the sixth century.

II. The second period of the Decline and Fall of Rome, may be supposed to commence with the reign of Justinian, who by his laws, as well as by his victories, restored a transient splendour to the Eastern Empire. It will comprehend the invasion of Italy by the Lombards; the conquest of the Asiatic and African provinces by the Arabs, who embraced the religion of Mahomet; the revolt of the Roman people against the feeble princes of Constantinople; and the elevation of Charlemagne, who, in the year eight hundred, established the second, or German Empire of the west.

III. The last and longest of these periods includes about six centuries and a half; from the revival of the Western Empire, till the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, and the extinction of a degenerate race of princes, who continued to assume the titles of Caesar and Augustus, after their dominions were contracted to the limits of a single city; in which the language as well as manners of the ancient Romans had been long since forgotten. The writer who should undertake to relate the events of this period, would find himself obliged to enter into the general history of the Crusades, as far as they contributed to the ruin of the Greek empire; and he would scarcely be able to restrain his curiosity from making some inquiry into the state of the city of Rome, during the darkness and confusion of the middle ages.

As I have ventured, perhaps too hastily, to commit to the press, a work, which, in every sense of the word, deserves the epithet of imperfect, I consider myself as contracting an engagement to finish, most probably in a second volume, the first of these memorable periods; and to deliver to the Public the complete History of the Decline and Fall of Rome, from the age of the Antonines, to the subversion of the Western Empire. With regard to the subsequent periods, though I may entertain some hopes, I dare not presume to give any assurances. The execution of the extensive plan which I have described, would connect the ancient and modern history of the World: but it would require many yeas of health, of leisure, and of perseverance.

February 1, 1776.

P.S. The entire History, which is now published, of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in the West, abundantly discharges my engagements with the Public. Perhaps their favourable opinion may encourage me to prosecute a work, which, however laborious it may seem, is the most agreeable occupation of my leisure hours.

March 1, 1781.

An Author easily persuades himself that the public opinion is still favourable to his labours; and I have now embraced the serious resolution of proceeding to the last period of my original design, and of the Roman Empire, the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, in the year one thousand four hundred and fifty-three. The most patient Reader, who computes that three ponderous volumes have been already employed on the events of four centuries, may, perhaps, be alarmed at the long pros0pect of nine hundred years. But it is not my intention to expatiate with the same minuteness on the whole series of Byzantine history. At our entrance into this period, the reign of Justinian, and the conquests of the Mahometans, will deserve and detain our attention, and the last age of Constantinople (the Crusades and the Turks) is connected with the revolutions of Modern Europe. From the seventh to the eleventh century, the obscure interval will be supplied by a concise narrative of such facts, as may still appear either interesting or important.

March 1, 1782.

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is now delivered to the Public in a more convenient form. Some alterations and improvements had presented themselves to my mind, but I was unwilling to injure or offend the purchasers of the preceding editions. The accuracy of the Corrector of the Press has been already tried and approved; and, perhaps, I may stand excused, if, amidst the avocations of a busy winter, I have preferred the pleasures of composition and study, to minute diligence of revising a former publication.

April 20, 1783.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Walpole's Private Correspondence

Full Title: Private Correspondence of Harace Walpole, Earl of Orford. Now first collected. In four volumes. Vol. I. 1735-1756. London: Printed for Rodwell and Martin, Bond-Street; and Colburn and Co., Conduit-Street, 1820.

To Richard West, Esq.

Florence, Jan. 24, 1740, N.S.

Dear West,

I don't know what volumes I may send you from Rome; from Florence I have little inclination to send you any. I see several things that please me calmly, but à force d'en avoir vù I have left off screaming, Lord! this! and Lord! that! To speak sincerely, Calais surprised me more than any thing I have seen. I recollect the joy I used to propose if I could but once see the Great Duke's gallery; I walk into it now with as little emotion as I should into St. Paul's. The statues are a congregation of good sort of people, that I have a great deal of unruffled regard for. The farther I travel, the less I wonder at any thing: a few days reconcile one to a new spot, or an unseen custom; and men are so much the same every where, that one scarce perceives any change of situation. The same weaknesses, the same passions that in England plunge men into elections, drinking, whoring, exist here, and show themselves in the shapes of Jesuits, Cicisbeos, and Corydon ardebat Alexins. The most remarkable thing I have observed since I came abroad, is, that there are no people so obviously mad as the English. The French, the Italians, have great follies, great faults; but then they are so national, that they cease to be striking. In England, tempers vary so excessively, that almost every one's faults are peculiar to himself. I take this diversity to proceed partly from our climate, partly form our government: the first is changeable, and makes us queer; the latter permits our queernesses to operate as they please. If one could avoid contracting this queerness, it must certainly be the most entertaining to live in England, where such a variety of incidents continually amuse. The incidents of a week in London would furnish all Italy with news for a twelve-month. The only two circumstances of moment in the life of an Italian, that ever give occasion to their being mentioned, are, being married, and in a year after taking a cicisbeo. Ask the name, the husband, the wife, or the cicisbeo of any person, et voila qui est fini. Thus, child, 'tis dull dealing here. Methinks your Spanish war is a little more lively. By the gravity of the proceedings, one would think both nations were Spaniard. Adieu! Do you rmember my maxim, that you used to laugh at? Evert body does every thing, and nothing comes on't. I am more convinced of it now than ever. I don't know wheterh S****'s was not still better, Well, 'gad, there is nothing in nothing. You see how I distil all my speculations and improvements, that they may lie in a small compass. Do you remember the story of the prince, that after travelling three years brought home nothing but a nut? They cracked it: in it was wrapped a piece of silk, painted with all the kings, queens, kindgoms, and every thing in thw world: after many unfoldings, out stepped a little dog, shook his ears, and fell to dancing a saraband. There is a fairy tale for you. If I had any thing as good as your old song, I would send it too; but I can only thank you for it, and bid you good night.

Yours ever,

P.S. Upon reading my letter, I perceive still plainer the sameness that reigns here; for I find I have said the same things ten times over. I don't care; I have made out a letter, and that was all my affair.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Item of the Day: The General History of the Wars of the Romans, by Polybius (1812)

Full Title: The General History of thw Wars of the Romans, by Polybius. Translated from the Original Greek. By Mr. Hampton. And now reprinted and enlarged with several additions. Complete in one volume. London: Printed and published by J. Davis, 38, Essex Street, Strand, and sold by all the booksellers, 1812.


Among all the historians of antiquity, whose works have been adjudged worthy of the admiration or regard of later times, there is none, perhaps, so little known, as the author who is now offered to the public. The words grave, judicious, excellent, are, indeed, transmitted from pen to pen, and fill the mouth of every critic. But though the name of Polybius be thus still accompanied with some mark of respect and honour, his real character has remained almost unnoticed; and his writings, even though confessed to be the objects of esteem and praise, by degrees have fallen under that kind of neglect and general disregard, which usually foreruns oblivion.

It may be useful, therefore, to consider some of the chief among the causes that have concurred to produce so perverse an accident, before we attempt to lead the reader into a closer view of those many excellences that are peculiar to the following history, and which drew towards it the attention of the wise and learned, in the enlightended times of the Greeks and Romans.

Amidst all the advantages which the moderns are by many supposed to have gained against the ancients, with respect to the points of useful knowledge, and the enlargement of all true and solid science, it cannot but be allowed, that, in the art of writing, the latter still maintain their rank unrivalled; and that the graces and charms, the exactness, strength, and energy, which make severally the character of their most perfect compositions, are in vain sought for in the productions of the present age. Those, therefore, that take into their hands the remains of any celebrated name either of Greece or Rome, are, in the first place, accustomed to expect, if not a faultless work, yet some display, at least, of that superiority which the warmest emulation has not yet been able to exceed; some beaming of those excellences, which strike and captivate the mind, and render irresistible the words of wisdom, when delivered through the lips of beauty. It is not, therefore, judged sufficient, that the matter be grave and weighty, unless the manner also be enchanting. In vain are things disposed in order, and words made expressive of the sense. We demand, likewise, an arrangement that may please the fancy, and a harmony that may fill the ear. On the other hand, if the style be such as rejects the embellishments of art, yet let us find in it at least that full and close conciseness, that commanding dignity, that smooth and pure simplicity, in a word, those naked graces which outshine all ornament.

Such are the expectations of every reader, who has gained a taste sufficient to discern, that these beauties are, in fact, diffused through all the finished pieces of antiquity. For though, even among the antients, there were as many different styles as authors, yet nature, and sound criticism which drew its rules from nature, referred them all to two or three different kinds, of which each had its established laws; which, while they served to instruct the writer in his art, afforded likewise a sure criterion by which his works were either censured or approved. Was it the purpose of an author to recite past events, or convey lessons of instruction, in a language simple and unadorned? It was demanded by these laws that his style should be concise and pure; that the sentiment and diction should be closely joined, and no word admitted that did not add somewhat to the sense: that through the whole should be found a certain air of ease and freedom, mixed, however, with strength and dignity; and that, void of all appearance of study and art, he should strive to make even negligence itself alluring. If on the contrary, his desire was to excel in the florid kind, the same laws required that the simple charms of nature should be adorned with all the elegance and pomp of art; that splendid images should flatter and delude the fancy; that the diction should be noble, polite, and brilliant; that every word should be dressed in smiles; and that the periods should be measured with the nicest care, joined together in the softest bands of harmony, and flow intermingled without obstacle or pause. Lastly, with respect to that likewise which was called the intermediate kind of compositon, these laws were careful also to prescribe the proper temperament in which the beauties of the former two should meet and be united; and to adjust the mixture of graceful and austere, the artificial and the simple, in such exact proportion, that the one never should prevail against the other, but both govern through the whole with a kind of mingled sway . . .

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

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Item of the Day: Howard's Lazarettos in Europe (1789)

Full Title: An Account of the Principal Lazarettos of Europe; With Various Papers Relative to the Plague: Together with Further observations on some Foreign Prisons & Hospitals; and additional remarks on the present state of those in Great Britain and Ireland, By John Howard London: T. Cadell, 1789.



Having now given the plans of the principal lazarettos in Europe, I shall in what follows take the same liberty that I took with respect to prisons, and draw the outlines of a proper lazaretto. – Many lazarettos are close, and have too much the aspect of prisons; and I have often heard captains in the Levant trade say, that the spirits of their passengers sink at the prospect of being confined in them. In those of them which I have visited, I have observed several pale and dejected persons, and many fresh graves. To prevent as much as possible these disagreeable circumstances, a lazaretto should have the most cheerful aspect. A spacious and pleasant garden in particular, would be convenient as well as salutary.

But waving this observation, I will offer a few remarks respecting quarantines and lazarettos in general; after which I will take notice of some advantages in respect of commerce as well as health, which may accrue from such an establishment in England. I will farther, in the sequel, give the answers of some physicians abroad to a set of questions which I was led to propose to them, by considering that should a lazaretto be erected among us, and this country be ever visited with a scourge so dreadful as the plague, the opinions of eminent physicians experienced in this calamity might be of particular service.


1. All vessels subject to a quarantine, arriving on our coast, should be obliged to hoist a red flag, or some other signal, at the main top-gallant mast head; in order to warn all persons coming on board notwithstanding such warning, should be detained to perform the quarantine.

2. All boats belonging to any ship in quarantine, as well as all craft employed in unloading the same, should be obliged to carry a red pendant at the mast head, whenever sent from the ship.

3. The ship’s hatch-ways ought not to be opened till the captain and mate have given in their depositions; and all the passengers, the secretary, and such of the sailors who may be permitted to leave the ship, should be landed at the lazaretto, under a very severe penalty.

4. The place appointed for receiving deposition should be so contrived, that the person who takes them may at all times place himself to windward of those who make them. This should also be observed as much as possible, at the barrier of the lazaretto, where people are permitted to speak with those in quarantine. But if not, they should be placed on this account at a greater distance from one another.

5. A fort of quarantine having been performed during the long voyage to England and there being, in my opinion, a great probability that the infection cannot remain in any person without shewing itself, beyond forty-eight hours; the persons under quarantine ought to be allowed to quit the lazaretto sooner than is now customary in other countries. Perhaps a residence of twenty-two days may be fully sufficient.

6. Fumigating of passengers as practiced at Marseilles is an advantage; for a person may carry the infection in his clothes, and communicate it to others, without taking it himself, as in the gaol-fever. But this implies, that it ought to be done at the end of the quarantine, to those only who go out with the clothes which they wore when they came in.

7. Great care should be taken, to keep at a proper distance from persons performing quarantine, all sailors and passengers as well as others. My reason for giving this caution is, that I have seen persons just arrived in ships with foul bills, permitted at the bar of a lazaretto, to come very near to persons whose quarantine was almost over; and thus danger was produced of communicating the plague. – And here I shall take occasion to observe, that in my opinion, this distemper is not generally to be taken by the touch, any more than the gaol-fever, or small-pox; but either by inoculation, or by taking in with the breath in respiration the putrid effluvia which hover round the infected object, and which when admitted set the whole mass of blood into a fermentation, and sometimes so suddenly and violently as to destroy its whole texture, and to produce putrefaction and death in less than forty-eight hours. These effluvia are capable of being carried from one place to another upon any substance where what is called scent can lodge, as upon wool, cotton, &c. and in the same manner that the smell of tobacco is carried from one place to another.

It is by these ideas of the communication of the plague that the foregoing rules have been suggested; and were the regulations for performing quarantine directed by them, some of the restrictions in lazarettos would be abolished, and more care would be taken to improve and enforce others.*

It may be asked, how it is possible, if the plague be communicated by infected air, that a whole body of men in a town where it rages should be capable of being preserved from it, as is the case with Englishmen in Turkey: and also, why every individual in such a town is not taken with it? In answer to the first of these questions, it may be observed, that the infection in the air does not extend far from the infected object, but lurks chiefly, (like that near carrion) to the leeward of it. I am so assured of this, that I have not scrupled going, in the open air, to windward of a person ill of the plague and feeling his pulse. The next question may be answered, by asking why, of a number of persons equally exposed to the infection of the small-pox, or of the gaol-fever, some will not take it? Perhaps physicians themselves are not capable of explaining this sufficiently. It is, however, evident in general, that it must be owing to something in the state of the blood and the constitutions of such persons which renders them not easily susceptible of infection. – The rich are less liable to the plague than the poor, both because they are more careful to avoid infection, and have larger and more airy apartments, and because they are more cleanly and live on better food, with plenty of vegetables; and this, I suppose, is the reason why Protestants are less liable to this distemper than Catholics during their times of fasting; and likewise, why the generality of Europeans are less liable to it than Greeks, and particularly Jews. And would not the former be still more secure in this respect, were they more attentive to the qualities of their food, and lived more on plain and simple diet?**

*It is remarkable, that when the corpse is cold of a person dead of the plague, it does not infect the air by any noxious exhalations. This is so much believed in Turkey, that the people there are not afraid to handle such corpses. The governor at the French hospital in Smyrna told me, that in the last dreadful plague there, his house was rendered almost intolerable by an offensive scent (especially if he opened any of those windows which looked toward the great burying-ground, where numbers every day were left unburied); but that it had no effect on the health either of himself or his family. An opulent merchant in this city likewise told me, that he and his family had felt the same inconvenience, without any bad consequences.

**The poorer sort of Greeks and Jews use much oil with their food; and this I reckon a disadvantage to them. I have heard of instances of servants in European families, who through imprudence and carelessness, have been attacked with the plague, while the rest of the family escaped it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Item of the Day: Harris's Hermes (1751)

Full Title: Hermes: or, a Philosophical Inquiry concerning Language and Universal Grammar. By James Harris, London, J. Nourse and P. Vaillant, 1751.

Chap. I
Design of the Whole.
If Men by nature had been framed for Solitude, they had never felt an Impulse to converse one with another. And if, like lower Animals, they had been by nature irrational, they could not have recogniz'd the proper Subjects of Discourse. Since Speech then is the joint Energie of our best and noblest Faculties, (that is to say, of our Reason and our social Affection) being withal our peculiar Ornament and distinction, as Men; those Inquiries may surely be deemed interesting as well as liberal, which either search how Speech may be naturally resolved; or how, when resolved, it may be again combined.
Here a large field for speculating opens before us. We may either behold Speech, as divided into its constituent Parts, as a Statue may be divided into its several Limbs; or else, as resolved into its Matter and Form, as the same Statue may be resolved into its Marble and Figure.
These different Analyzings or Resolutions constitute what we call Philosophical, or Universal Grammar.
When we have viewed Speech thus analyzed, we may then consider it, as compounded. And here in the first place we may contemplate that Synthesis, which by combining simple Terms produces a Truth; then by combining two Truths produces a third; and thus others, and others, in continued Demonstration, till we are led, as by a road, into the regions of Science.
Now this is that superior and most excellent Synthesis, which alone applies itself to our Intellect or Reason, and which to conduct according to Rule, constitutes the Art of Logic.
After this we may turn to those inferior Compositions, which are productive of the Pathetick, and the Pleasant in all their kinds. These latter Compositions aspire not to the intellect, but being addressed to the Imagination, the Affections, and the Sense, become from their different heightnings either Rhetoric or Poetry.
Nor need we necessarily view these Arts distinctly and apart. We may observe, if we please, how perfectly they co-incide. Grammar is equally requisite to every one of the rest. And though Logic may indeed subsist without Rhetoric or Poetry, yet so necessary to these last is a sound and correct Logic, that without it, they are no better than warbling Trifles.
Now all these Inquiries (as we have said already) and such others arising from them as are of still sublimer Contemplation, (of which in the Sequel there may be possibly not a few) may with justice be deem'd Inquiries both interesting and liberal.
At present we shall postpone the whole synthetical Part, (that is to say, Logic and Rhetoric) and confine ourselves to the analytical, that is to say Universal Grammar. In this we shall follow the Order, that we have above laid down first dividing Speech, as a Whole into its Constituent Parts; then resolving it, as a Composite, and its Matter and Form; two Methods of Analysis very different in their kind, and which lead to a variety of very different speculations.
Should any one object, that in the course of our Inquiry we sometimes descend to things, which appear trivial and low; let him look upon the Effects, to which those things contribute, then from the Dignity of the Consequences, let him honour the Principles.
The following Story may not improperly be here inserted. "When the Fame of Heraclitus was celebrated throughout Greece, there were certain persons, that had a curiosity to see so great a Man. They came, and, as it happen'd, found him warming himself in a Kitchen. The Meanness of the place occasioned them to stop, upon which the Philosopher thus accosted them -- Enter (says he) Boldly, for here too there are Gods."
We shall only add, that as there is no part of nature too mean for the divine Presence; so there is no kind of Subject, having its foundation in Nature, that is below the Dignity of a philosophical Inquiry.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Item of the Day: Mandeville's Fable of the Bees (1723)

Full Title:

The Fable of the Bees: or, Private Vices, Publick Benefits. The second edition, enlarged with many additions. As also an essay on Charity and Charity-Schools and a Search into the Nature of Society. By Bernard Mandeville. Printed in London for Edmund Parker at the Bible and Crown in Lombard Street, 1723.

The Introduction:

One of the greatest Reasons why so few People understand themselves, is, that most Writers are always teaching Men what they should be, and hardly ever trouble their heads with telling them what they really are. As for my part, without any Compliment to the Courteous Reader, or my self, I believe Man (besides Skin, Flesh, Bones, &c. that are obvious to the Eye) to be a Compound of various Passions, that all of them, as they are provoked and come uppermost, govern him by turns, whether he will or no. To shew, that these Qualifications, which we all pretend to be asham'd of, are the great support of a flourishing Society, has been the subject of the foregoing Poem ["The Grumbling Hive"]. But there being some Passages in it seemingly Paradoxical, I have in the Preface promised some explanatory Remarks on it; which, to render more useful, I have thought fit to enquire, how Man no better qualify'd, might yet by his own Imperfections be taught to distinguish between Virtue and Vice: And here I must desire the Reader once and for all to take notice, that when I say Men, I mean neither Jews nor Christians; but meer Man, in the State of Nature and ignorance of the true Deity.

From An Enquiry into the Origin of Moral Virtue:

All untaught Animals are only Sollicitous of pleasing themselves, and naturally follow the bent of their own Inclinations, without considering the good or harm that from their being pleased wiill accrue to others. This is the Reason, that in the wild State of Nature those Creatures are fittest to live peaceably together in great Numbers, that discover the least of Understanding, and have the fewest Appetites to gratify, and consequently no Species of Animals is without the Curb of Government, less capable of agreeing long together in Multitudes than that of Man; yet such are his Qualities, whether good or bad, I shall not determine, that no Creature besides himself can ever be made sociable: But being an extraordinary selfish and headstrong, as well as cunning Animal, however he may be subdued by superior Strength, it is impossible by force alone to make him tractable, and receive the Improvements he is capable of.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Item of the Day: Paley's Philosophy (1787)

Full Title: The Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy. By William Paley, M.A. Archdeacon of Carlisle. Dublin: Printed by Brett Smith, For Messrs. P Byrne, W. McKenzie, and W. Jones.



Moral Philosophy, Morality, Ethics Casuistry, Natural Law, mean all the same thing; namely, That science which teaches men their duty and the reasons of it.
The use of such a study depends upon this, that, without it, the rules of life, by which men are ordinarily governed, oftentimes mislead them, through a defect either in the rule, or in the application.
These rules are, the Laws of Honour, the Law of the Land, and the Scriptures.
The Law of Honour is a system of rules constructed by people of fashion, and calculated to facilitate their intercourse with one another; and for no other purpose. Consequently, nothing is adverted to by the Law of Honour, but what tends to incommode this intercourse.
Hence this law only prescribes and regulates the duties betwixt equals; omitting such as relate to the Supreme Being, as well as those which we owe to our inferiors.
For which reason, profaneness, neglect of public worship or private devotion, cruelty to servants, rigorous treatment of tenants or other dependants, want of charity to the poor, injuries done to tradesmen by insolvency or delay of payment, with numberless examples of the same kind, are accounted no breaches of honour; because a man is not a less agreeable companion for these vices, nor the worse to deal with, in those concerns which are usually transacted between one gentleman and another.
Again, the Law of Honour being constituted by men occupied in the pursuit of pleasure, and for the mutual conveniency of such men, will be found, as might be expected from the character and design of the law-makers, to be, in most instances, favourable to the licentious indulgence of the natural passions.
Thus it allows of adultery, drunkenness, prodigality, duelling, and of revenge in the extreme; and lays no stress upon the virtues opposite to these.
That part of mankind, who are beneath the Law of Honour, often make the Law of the Land their rule of life; that is, they are satisfied with themselves, so long as they do or omit nothing, for the doing or omitting of which the law can punish them.
Whereas every system of human laws, considered as a rule of life, labours under the two following defects.
I. Human laws omit many duties, as not objects of compulsion; such as piety to God, bounty to the poor, forgiveness of injuries, education of children, gratitude to benefactors.
The law never speaks but to command, nor commands but where it can compel; consequently those duties, which by their nature must be voluntary, are left out of the statute book, as lying beyond the reach of its operation and authority.
II. Human laws permit, or, which is the same thing, suffer to go unpunished, many crimes, because they are incapable of being defined by any previous description -- Of which nature is luxury, prodigality, partiality in voting at those elections in which the qualification of the candidate ought to determine the success, caprice in the disposition of men's fortunes at their death, disrespect to parents, and a multitude of similar examples.
For this is the alternative; either the Law must define beforehand and with precision the offences which it punishes, or it must be left to the discretion of the magistrate to determine upon each particular accusation, whether it constitutes that offence which the law designed to punish, or not; which is in effect leaving to the magistrate to punish or not to punish, at his pleasure, the individual who is brought before him: which is just so much tyranny. Where, therefore, as in the instances above-mentioned, the distinction between right and wrong is of too subtile or of too secret a nature, to be ascertained by any pre-concerted language, the law of most countries, especially of free states, rather than commit the liberty of the subject to the discretion of the magistrate, leaves men in such cases to themselves.

Whoever expects to find in the Scriptures a specific direction for every moral doubt that arises, looks for more than he will meet with. And to what a magnitude such a detail of particular precepts would have enlarged the sacred volume, may be partly understood from the following consideration. The laws of this country, including the acts of the legislature and the decisions of our supreme courts of justice, are not contained in fewer than fifty folio volumes; and yet it is not once in ten attempts that you can find the case you look for, in any law-book whatever, to say nothing of those numerous points of conduct, concerning which the law professes not to prescribe or determine anything. Had then the same particularity, which obtains in human laws so far as they go, been attempted in the Scriptures, throughout the whole extent of morality, it is manifest they would have been by much too bulky to be either read or circulated; or rather, as St. John says, "even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written."
Morality is taught in Scripture in this wise. General rules are laid down of piety, justice, benevolence, and purity: such as worshipping God in spirit and in truth; doing as we would be done by; loving our neighbour as ourself; forgiving others, as we expect forgiveness from God; that mercy is better than sacrifice; that not that which entereth into a man, (nor by parity of reason, any ceremonial pollutions) but that which proceedeth from the heart, defileth him. These rules are occasionally illustrated either by fictitious examples, as in the parable of the good Samaritan; and of the cruel servant who refused to his fellow-servant that indulgence and compassion which his master had shewn to him: or in instances which actually presented themselves, as in Christ's reproof of his disciples at the Samaritan village; his praise of the poor widow, who cast in her last mite; his censure of the Pharisees, who chose out the chief rooms -- and of the tradition, whereby they evaded the command to sustain their indigent parents: or lastly, in the resolution of questions, which those who were about our Saviour proposed to him; as in his answer to the young man who asked him, "What lack I yet?" and to the honest scribe, who had found out, even in that age and country, that "to love God and his neighbour was more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifice."
And this is in truth the way in which all practical sciences are taught, as Arithmetic, Grammar, Navigation, and the like. -- Rules are laid down, and examples are subjoined; not that these examples are the cases, which less all the cases which will actually occur, but by way only of explaining the principle of the rule, and as so many specimens of the method of applying it. The chief difference is, that the examples in Scripture are not annexed to the rules with the didactic regularity to which we are now-a-days accustomed, but delivered dispersedly, as particular occasions suggested them; which gave them however, especially to those who heard them, and were present to the occasions which produced them, an energy and persuasion, which beyond what the same or any instances would have appeared with, in their places in a system.
Beside this, the Scriptures commonly pre-suppose, in the persons to whom they speak, a knowledge of the principles of natural justice; and are employed not so much to teach new rules of morality, as to enforce the practice of it by new sanctions, and by a greater certainty: which last seems to be the proper business of a revelation from God, and what was most wanted.
Thus, the "unjust, covenant breakers and extortioners" are condemned in Scripture, supposing it known, or leaving it, where it admits of doubt, to moralists to determine, what injustice, extortion, or breach of covenant are.
The above considerations are intended to prove that the Scriptures do not supersede the use of the science of which we profess to treat, and at the same time to acquit them of any charge of imperfection or insufficiency on that account.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Item of the Day: Dunlap’s Memoirs of the life of George Frederick Cooke (1813)

Full Title: Memoirs of George Fred. Cooke, Esq. late of The Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. By William Dunlap, Esq. Composed principally from the personal knowledge of the author, and from the manuscript journals left by Mr. Cooke. Comprising original anecdotes of his theatrical contemporaries, his opinions on various dramatic writings, &c. Vol. I. London: Printed for Henry Colburn, British and Foreign Public Library, Conduit-Street, Hanover-Square; and sold by George Goldie, Edinburgh; and John Cumming, Dublin, 1813.

The following work was undertaken by me with reluctance, but has increased upon me in interest, very far beyond what I could have conceived at the commencement.

In the month of May, 1811, Mr. Cooke asked me, rather sportively, to be his Biographer, and I, in the same spirit, promised. Hen then said, that he had several manuscript journals, which he would put into my hands; but as nothing further passed, and the subject was not recurred to, I thought no more of it.

After his death, which happened during a visit I was making to New Jersey, the business was pressed upon me, and three manuscripts put into my hands. His “Chronicle,” or a retrospect of his theatrical life, including the first dramatic impressions made upon his mind, with their growth and consequences, was the most important of the three. This work is brought up to 1807. Accompanying it, were two books of diary, kept at different periods, after his coming to London; without connexion, and at first view, not very intelligible, or interesting. These were the materials upon which I was to build. I knew, however, that I could obtain every information, relative to his American engagement, and the subsequent events of his life; and that I possessed a fund of knowledge, derived from my connexion with the New York theatre, and my intercourse for many months with the subject of the work.

Under these circumstances, I undertook my labour, with the determination to exhibit a faithful picture of this extraordinary man, the events of whose varied life cannot but prove an impressive lesson to every reader. The man of genius will see that he must not rely upon genius along; and the man who is conscious of mediocrity, will be taught that he must keep a strict watch over his conduct, when he sees, that even the most brilliant talent, cannot avail to produce usefulness or happiness, without virtue and prudence.

If I have succeeded in portraying the image formed in my mind, by the knowledge I possess of Mr. Cooke, I have rendered service to the cause of morality, and consequently promoted human happiness.

Actors, and drastic writers, as connected with the subject of my book, necessarily form a part of it. I have given Mr. Cooke’s opinions upon them, as I found those opinions: my own, according to the extent and accuracy of my critical judgment.

An actor, as a subject of biography, is not important because he is an actor, but because he is a man who has been placed in situations interesting to his fellow men; and because his conduct, through an eventful life, if faithfully related, excites attention, interests the feelings, and strikingly indicates to others, the path they should pursue for the attainment of the world’s, and their own approbation. Much dramatic biography is censurable, as frivolous, or worthless, or hurtful to the reader; but there are respectable and valuable works of the kind, which though not perfect, add to the mass of innocent amusement, and useful information. In this last class, I would place Davis’s and Murphy’s Lives of Garrick, and Kirkman’s Life of Macklin. I hope the life of Cooke will at least rank as high, in a moral point of view, it must be my fault, if, from the character of the subject, it does not rank higher, as a work of entertainment.

After commencing my work, I found several other manuscripts of Mr. Cooke’s writing, of an earlier date than those I possessed, and of a more energetic and interesting character. These, with his books, and the parts from which he studied, marked by him in the hour of application, formed a rich mass, not only for the ornament, but for the more essential purpose of strengthening my fabric, and rendering it permanently useful.

By publishing my work both in England and America, I present to the many thousands, who have received delight from witnessing Mr. Cooke’s unrivalled talents, a mass of facts, which could not be given to them by any other person; and I have presumed that there is, throughout Great Britain, Ireland, and the United States, much curiosity respecting a man so eccentric in his conduct, and so eminent in his profession. The closing scenes of such a man’s life, are more interesting and impressive than the preceding acts. These scenes have come immediately under my observation, and the description of them is more peculiarly the gift which I could, alone, make to the public.

What value will be set upon it, is yet to be determined; I doubt not that it will be a fair one. When the public forms an unbiased decision on the merits of a literary work, it is seldom, if ever, erroneous.


August 1st, 1813.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Item of the Day: Franco-Gallia (1711)

Full Title: Franco-Gallia: or, an account of the ancient free state of France, and most other parts of Europe, before the loss of their liberties. Written originally in Latin by the famous civilian Francis Hotoman i.e. Hotman], in the year 1574. And translated into English by the author of The Account of Denmark. London: Printed for Tim. Goodwin, at the Queen’s Head against St. Dunstan’s Church, Fleetstreet, 1711.

The following Treatise was composed by that most Learned and Judicious Civilian FRANCIS HOTOMAN, a grave, sincere, and unexceptionable Author, even in the Opinion of his Adversaries. This Book give an Account of the Ancient Free State of above three Parts in four of all Europe; and has a long time appeared to me so convincing and instructive in those Important Points he handles, that I could not be satisfied whilst it remained unknown, in a manner, to Englishmen; who, of all People living, have the greatest Reason to be thoroughly instructed in what it contains; as having, on the One hand, the most to lose; and, on the Other, the least Sense of their Right to it. Therefore a sincere Desire of Instructing the only Possessors of True Liberty in the World, what Right they have to that Liberty, of how great a Value it is, what Misery follows the Loss of it, and how easily, if Care be taken in time, it may be preserved, has induced me to Translate and send Abroad this small Treatise. And if it either opens the Eyes, or confirms the Honourable Resolutions of any of my Worthy Countrymen, I have gained Glorious End; and done that in my Study, which I would have promoted any other way, if I had been called to it. I hope to dye with the Comfort of Believing, that Old England will continue to be a free Country, and know its self to be such; that my Friends, Relations, and Children, with their Posterity, will inherit their share of this inestimable Blessing, and that I have contributed my part to it.

I have often wish’d, in regard to my Author, that he had omitted his Nineteenth Chapter, wherein he discovers a great Aversion to Female-Governments; having nothing to say in Excuse of him, but that being a Lawyer and a Frenchmen, he was Vindicating the Constitution of his Country: Certain it is (how little favourable soever such Governments have proved to France) other Nations have never flourish’d more, in good Laws, Wealth and Conquests, than under the Administration of Women: There are not brighter Characters in Antiquity, than of Semiramis, Thalestris, Thomiris, Zenobia, and many Others. I am sure our Island in particular has never been able to boast of so much Felicity as under the Dominion of Queens; never been more enriched by Commerce, improved by just Laws, adorned with more excellent Examples of Virtue, or more free from all those Struggles between Prerogative and Liberty, which have stained the Characters of our Otherwise most Glorious Kings. But Providence by yet more extraordinary Dispensations, has endeared them to us, by chusing them to be its Instruments of pulling down or bridling the proudest Empires, which threatned Universal Ruin. Our Ancestors under Boadicia made that noble Effort for Liberty, which shook the Old Roman Dominion amongst us. Queen Elizabeth freed us from the double Tyranny of New Rome and Spain: And the Destruction of the present Grand Oppressor of Europe, seems reserved by Heaven to Reward the Piety and Virtue of our Excellent Queen.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Item of the Day: The Farmer's Almanack 1817

Full Title: The Farmer's Almanack, calculated on a new and improved Plan, for the Year of our Lord 1817. Being the first after bissextile or Leap-Year, and Forty-First of the Independence of America. Fitted to the Town of Boston, but will serve for any of the adjoining states, Containing, besides the large number of Astronomical Calculations, and the Farmer's Calendar for every month in the year, as great a variety as any other Almanack, of New, Useful, and Entertaining Matter. By Robert B. Thomas.

DECEMBER, twelfth Month. 1817

Thus man, endow'd with reason's pow'r,
Shall, like the leaf, which Autumn's show'r
Now scatters o'er the ground,
To him who gave, resign his breath,
And, sinking in the arms of death,
Receive his mortal wound (Selected from Ladies' Mon. Mur.)


"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time, and all our yesterdays have lighted fool the way to dusky death!" So, my friend, another year of this restless life is gone beyond the flood. Look back upon the past, and see how you have been employed. Have you cultivated your mind, as well as your farm? Have you done your best endeavours to promote temperance, prudence, gratitude, modesty, humility, justice, sincerity, diligence, benevolence, mercy, peace, religion, and Charity. Here, my friend, if you have been a faithful farmer, you will have stores laid up in the granary of heaven; a supply sufficient for a life everlasting where no moth shall corrupt, or thief break through and steal. Let your children be kept at school with as little interruption as possible; draw off, our accounts, and settle peaceably with your neighbours, and live happy -- "Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more."



When I see a young man possess no more honor than to be dunned, I guess he will never make a man of respectability. When I see a man quit work because he has three or four hired men to oversee, I guess he will have to go to jail to pay them. When I see a man suffer a simple wife to run in debt at the stores for whatsoever she fancies, I guess he will soon wish he had never been married.

When I pass a house and see the yard covered with stumps, old hoops, and broken earthern, I guess the man is a horse-jockey, and the woman a spinner of street yarn. When I pass a house and see the windows broken, a bundle of rags in one, and a hat in another, I guess the mistress is a slut and the master loves RUM. When I see a country merchant hire two clerks to tend his store while he sets by the stove, drinking wine, I guess he will soon have to take the benefit of the Insolvent Act, or take a tour to Vermont.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Item of the Day: Coxe's Travels (1787)

Full Title: Travels into Poland, Russia, Sweden, and Denmark. Interspersed with Historical Relations and Political Inquiries. Illustrated with Charts and Engravings. By William Coxe, A.M.F.R.S. One of the Senior Fellows of King's College, Cambridge; Chaplain to his Grace the Duke of Marlborough; Member of the Imperial Economical Society at St. Petersburgh, And of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Copenhagen. In Four Volumes. The Third Edition. Volume the First. London: Printed for T. Cadell, In the Strand, MDCCLXXXVII.

Book III. Travels into Russia.

August 20. We came into Russia at the small village of Tolitzin, which in 1772 belonged to Poland; but is now comprised in the portion of country ceded to the empress by the late partition treaty. The province allotted to Russia comprises Polish Livonia; that part of the palatinate of Polotsk which lies to the east of the Duna; the palatinates of Bitepsk, Michislaw, and two small portions to the north-east and south-east of the palatinate of Minsk: this tract of land (Polish Livonia excepted) is situated in White-Russia, and includes at least one third of Lithuania.

. . .

At Tolitzin we were greatly astonished at the cheapness of the post-horses: and when our servant had discharged the first account, which amounted to only two copecs, or about a penny a verst* for each horse, we should have concluded, that he had cheated the postmaster in our favour; if we had not been well convinced, from the general character of the Russians, that they were not likely to be duped by strangers. Indeed we soon afterwards discovered, that even half of the charge, which we thought so extremely moderate, might have been saved; if we had taken the precaution of obtaining an order from the Russian embassador at Warsaw.

From Tolitzin, through the new government of Mohilef, the road was excellent, and of considerable breadth, with a double row of trees planted on each side, and ditches to drain off the water. We passed through several wretched villages; ferried at Orsa over the Dnieper, there only a small river; went through Dubroffna; and arrived in the evening at Lady. The country from Tolitzin to Lady is waving and somewhat hilly, abounds in forest, and produces corn, millet, hemp, and flax. In the largest villages we observed schools and other buildings, constructing at the expense of the empress, and also churches with domes, intended for the Polish dissidents of the Greek sect, and the Russians who chuse to settle in the country.

Lady is situated in the government of Smolensko, and, before the late dismemberment, was one of the Russian frontier towns: we took up our quarters at the post-house, where we procured a very comfortable apartment. These post-houses, which frequently occur in the principal high-roads of Russia, are mostly constructed upon the same plan, and are very convenient for the accommodation of travellers: they are large square wooden buildings, enclosing a spacious court-yard, in the center of the front is a range of apartments intended for the reception of travellers, with a gate-way on each side leading into the court-yard; the remainder of the front is appropriated to the use of the post-master and his servants; the other three sides of the quadrangle are divided into stables and sheds for carriages, and large barns for hay and corn. We were agreeably surprized, even in this remote place, to meet with some English strong beer; and no less pleased to see our supper served in dishes of our countryman Wedgewood's cream-colored ware. The luxury of clean straw for our beds was no small addition to these comforts.

Upon calling for our bill in the morning, we found our charge as reasonable as the entertainment was good. The satisfaction we expressed at our reception, perhaps, induced the secretary ( as the post-master himself was absent) to think us proper subjects of imposition. The distance to the next station was about ten miles, and the secretary demanded three times the sum allowed by the public regulations, under pretence of our not being provided with an order for post-horses. We hinted some surprize at this charge: the intimation, though conveyed in the mildest terms, the secretary thought proper to answer with expressions of contempt and defiance; he ordered the horses again into the stables, and declared we should not stir from the place until we discharged the full sum. Though we might easily have been prevailed upon by the slightest apology to have submitted to the fraud, we determined to chastise his insolence. We repaired to the director of the custom-house, and were immediately admitted: to our great satisfaction he spoke German; and after we had laid our case before him he told us, that the Russian had demanded treble the sum he was intitled to; he assured us, we should receive instant redress, and that the offender should be punished for his imposition. Having dispatched a messenger, to whom he whispered a private order, he desired us to wait his return, and offered us coffee. While we were drinking it, he gave us various information relative to the Russian posts; added several hints, which afterwards proved singularly useful; and he particularly cautioned us to procure an order for horses from the governor of Smolensko. In the midst of this conversation we heard a carriage drive to the door, which we perceived to be our own, with all things ready for our immediate departure: our old friend, the post-master's secretary, made at the same time his appearance in a very submissive attitude; we interceded with the director for his back, and obtained a promise that he should only be reprimanded. After making those acknowledgements to our friendly director, which were due to his politeness; we took our leave, and proceeded on our journey.

. . .

The Russians differ widely in their appearance and dress from the Polish peasants. The most striking contrast arises from their method of wearing their hair: the Poles shave their heads, leaving only a small tuft upon the crown; whereas the others suffer their hair to hang quite down to the eye-brows and over the ears, and cut it short round the neck. The country was undulating and hilly, and more open than usual until we arrived within a few miles of Smolensko; when we plunged into a thick forest, which continued almost to the gates of that town, without the intervention of a single village, or scarcely of a single cottage.

*Three quarters of a mile.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Item of the Day: The Complete Angler (1784)

Full Title:

The Complete Angler, or Contemplative Man's Recreation; being a Discourse on Rivers, Fish-Ponds, Fish, and Fishing: in Two Parts; the First being written by Mr. Isaac Walton, the Second by Charles Cotton, Esq; with the Lives of the Authors, and Notes Historical, Critical, and Explanatory. By Walton and Cotton, ed. Sir John Hawkins, Knt. Fourth edition, "with large Additions." Contains illustrations, songs, diagrams, commendatory poems, laws, and instructions. London: for John, Francis, and Charles Rivington at the Bible and Crown, St. Paul's Churchyard, 1784.

On the art of fly-making, from Chapter V:

First, let your rod be light, and very gentle, I take the best to be of two pieces, and let not your line exceed, especially for three for four links next to the hook, I say, not exceed three or four hairs at the most, though you may fish a little stronger above in the upper part of your line: but if you can attain to angle with one hair, your shall have more rises and catch more fish. Now you must be sure not to cumber yourself with too long a line, as most do: and before you begin to angle, cast to have the wind on your back, and the sun, if it shines, to be before you, and to fish down the stream; and carry the point or top of your rod downward, by which means the shadow of yourself and the rod too, will be the least offensive to the fish; for the sight of any shade amazes the fish, and spoils your sport, of which you must take great care.

In the middle of March, till which time a man should not in honesty catch a Trout, or in April, if the weather be dark, or a little windy or cloudy, the best fishing is with the palmer-worm, of which I last spoke to you; but of these there be divers kinds, or at least of divers colours; these and the May-fly are the ground of all fly-angling, which are to be thus made.

First, you must arm your hood with the line in the inside of it, then take your scissars, and cut so much of a brown mallard's feather as in your own reason will make the wings of it, you having withal regard to the bigness or littleness of your hook; then lay the outmost part of your feather next to your hook, then the point of your feather next the shank of your hook; and having so done, whip it three or four times about the hook with the same silk with which your hook was armed; and having made the silk fast, take the hackle of a cock or capon's neck, or a plover's top, which is usually better; take off the one side of the feather, and then take the hackle, silk, or crewel, gold or silver thread, make these fast at the bent of the hook, that is to say, below your arming; then you must take the ahckle, the silver or gold thread, and work it up to the wings, shifting or still removing your finger, as you turn the silk about the hook: and still looking at every stop or turn, that your gold, or whatever materials soever you make your fly of, do lie right and neatly; and if you find they do so, then when you have made the head, make all fast: and then work your hackle up to the head, and make that fast: and then with a needle or pin divide the wing into two, and then with the arming silk whip it about cross-ways betwixt the wings, and then with your thumb you must turn the point of the feather towards the bent of the hook, and then work three or four times about the shank of the hook, and then view the proportion, and if all be neat and to your liking, fasten.

I confess, no direction can be given to make a man of a dull capacity able to make a fly well: and yet I know, this with a little practice will help an ingenious angler in a good degree: but to see a fly made by an artist in that kind, is the best teaching to make it; and then an ingenious angler may walk by the river and mark what flies fall on the water that day, and catch one of them, if he sees the Trouts leap at a fly of that kind: and then having always hooks ready hung with him, and having a bag also always with him, with bear's hair, or the hair of a brown or sad-coloured heifer, hackles of a cock or capon, several-coloured silk and crewel to make the body of the fly, the feathers of a drake's head, black or brown sheep's wool, or hog's wool, or hair, thread of gold and of silver, silk of several colours, especially sad-coloured, to make the fly's head; and there be also other coloured feathers, both of little birds and of peckled fowl; I say, having those with him in a bag, and trying to make a fly, though he miss at first, yet shall he at last hit it better, even to such a perfection, as none can well teach him; and if he hit to make his fly right, and have the luck to hit also where there is store of Trouts, a dark day, and a right wind, he will catch such a store of them, as will encourage him to grow more and more in love with the art of fly-making.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Item of the Day: Shaftesbury's Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (1773)

Full Title: Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times. In Three Volumes. By the Right Honourable Anthony, Earl of Shaftesbury. The Fifth Edition. Birmingham: Printed by John Baskerville. M.DCC.LXXIII.

TREATISE I. Viz. A Letter Concerning Enthusiasm to My Lord *****.

Sept. 1707.

My Lord,

Now, you are return'd to . . . . . and before the Season comes which must engage you in the weightier Matters of State; if you care to be entertain'd a-while with a sort of idle Thoughts, such as pretend only to Amusement, and have no relation to business or Affairs, you may cast your Eye slightly on what you have before you; and if there be any thing inviting, you may read it over at your leisure.

It has been a establish'd Custom for Poets, at the entrance of their Work, to address themselves to some Muse: and this Practice of the Antients has gain'd so much Repute, that even in our days we find it almost constantly imitated. I cannot but fancy however, that this Imitation, which passes so currently with other Judgments, must at some time or other have stuck a little with your Lordship; who is us'd to examine Things by a better Standard than that of Fashion or the common Taste. You must certainly have observ'd our Poets under a remarkable Constraint, when oblig'd to assume this Character: and you have wonder'd, perhaps, why that Air of Enthusiasm, which fits so gracefully with an Antient, shou'd be so spiritless and aukward in a Modern. But as to this Doubt, your Lordship wou'd have soon resolv'd your-self: and it cou'd only serve to bring a-cross you a Reflection you have often made, on many occasions besides; That Truth is the most powerful thing in the World, since even Fiction it-self must be govern'd by it, and can only please by its resemblance. The Appearance of Reality is necessary to make any Passion agreeably represented; and to be able to move others, we must first be mov'd ourselves, or at least seem to be so, upon some probable Grounds. Now what possibility is there that a Modern, who is known never to have worshhip'd Apollo, or own'd any such Deity as the Muses, shou'd persuade us to enter into his pretended Devotion, and move us by his feign'd Zeal in a Religion out of date? But as for the Antients, 'tis known they deriv'd both their Religion and Polity from the Muses Art. How natural therefore must it have appear'd in any, but especially a Poet of those times, to address himself in Raptures of Devotion to those acknowledg'd Patronesses of Wit and Science? Here the Poet might with probability feign an Extasy, tho he really felt none: and supposing it to have been mere Affectation, it wou'd look however like something natural, and cou'd not fail of pleasing.

But perhaps, my Lord, there was a further Mystery in the case. Men, your Lordship knows, are wonderfully happy in a Faculty of deceiving themselves, whenever they set heartily about it; and a very small Foundation of any Passion will serve us, not only to act it well, but even to work our-selves into it beyond our own reach. Thus, by a little Affectation in Love-Matters, and with the help of a Romance or Novel, a Boy of Fifteen, or a grave Man of Fifty, may be sure to grow a very natural Coxcomb, and feel the Belle Passion in good earnest. A Man of tolerable Good-Nature, who happens to be a little piqu'd, may, by improving his Resentment, become a very Fury for Revenge. Even a good Christian, who wou'd needs be over-good, and thinks he can never believe enough, may, by a small Inclination well improv'd extend his Faith so largely, as to comprehend in it not only all Scriptural and Traditional Miracles, but a solid System of Old-Wives Storys. Were it needful, I cou'd put your Lordship in mind of an Eminent, Learned, and truly Christian Prelate you once knew, who cou'd have given you a full account of his Belief in Fairys. And this, methinks, may serve to make appear, how far an antient Poet's Faith might possibly have been rais'd, together with his Imagination.

But we Christians, who have such ample Faith our-selves, will allow nothing to poor Heathens. They must be Infidels in every sense. We will not allow 'em to believe so much as their own Religion; which we cry is too absurd to have been credited by any besides the mere Vulgar. But if a Reverend Christian Prelate may be so great a Volunteer in Faith, as beyond the ordinary Prescription of the Catholick Church, to believe in Fairys; why may not a Heathen Poet, in the ordinary way of his Religion, be allow'd to believe in Muses? For these, your Lordship knows, were so many Divine Persons in the heathen Creed, and were essential to their System of Theology. The Goddesses had their Temples and Worship, the same as the other Deitys: And to believe the Holy Nine, or their Apollo, was the same as to deny Jove himself; and must have been esteem'd equally profane and atheistical by the generality of sober Men. Now what a mighty advantage must it have been to an antient Poet to be thus orthodox, and by the help of his Education, and a Good-will into the bargain, to work himself up to the Belief of a Divine Presence and Heavenly Inspiration? It was never surely the business of Poets in those days to call Revelation in question, when it evidently made so well for their Art. On the contrary, they cou'd not fail to animate their Faith as much as possible; when by a single Act of it, well inforc'd, they cou'd raise themselves into such Angelical Company.

How much the Imagination of such a Presence must exalt a Genius, we may observe merely from the Influence which an ordinary Presence has over Men. Our Modern Wits are more or less rais'd by the Opinion they have of their Company, and the Idea they form to themselves of the Persons to whom they make their Addresses. A common Actor of the Stage will inform us how much a full audience of the Better Sort exalts him above the common pitch. And you, my Lord, who are the noblest Actor, and of the noblest Part assgn'd to any Mortal on this earthly Stage, when you are acting for Liberty and Mankind; does not the publick Preference, that of your Friends, and the Well-wishers to your Cause, add something to your thought and Genius? Or is that Sublime of Reason, and that power of Eloquence, which you discover in publick, no more than what you are equally Master of, in private; and can command at any time, alone, or with indifferent Company, or in any easy or cool hour? This indeed were more Godlike; but ordinary Humanity, I think, reaches not so high.

For my own part, my Lord, I have really so much need of some considerable Presence or Company to raise my thoughts on any occasion, that when alone, I must endeavour by Strength of Fancy to supply this want; and in default of a Muse, must inquire out some Great Man of a more than ordinary Genius, whose imagin'd Presence may inspire me with more than what I feel at ordinary hours. And thus, my Lord, have I chosen to address myself to your Lordship; tho without subscribing my Name: allowing you as a Stranger, the full liberty of reading no more than what you may have a fancy for; but reserving to myself the privilege of imagining you read all, with particular notice, as a Friend, and one whom I may justifiably treat with the Intimacy and Freedom which allows.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Item of the Day: More From a Provincial Glossary (1790)

Full Title: A Provincial Glossary; with a Collection of Local Proverbs, and Popular Superstitions. By Francis Grose, Esq. F.A.S. The Second Edition, Corrected, and Greatly Enlarged. London: Printed for S. Hooper, 1790.


It will scarcely be conceived how a great number of superstitious notions and practices are still remaining and prevalent in different parts of these kingdoms, many of which are still used and alluded to even in and about the metropolis; and every person, however carefully educated, will, upon examination, find that he has somehow or other imbibed and stored up in his memory a much greater number of these rules and maxims than he could at first have imagined.

To account for this, we need only turn our recollection towards what passed in our childhood, and reflect on the avidity and pleasure with which we listened to stories of ghosts, witches, and fairies, told us by our maids and nurses; and even among those whose parents had the good sense to prohibit such relations, there is scarce one in a thousand but may remember to have heard, from some antiquated maiden aunt or cousin, the various omens that have announced the approaching deaths of different branches of the family; a copious catalogue of things lucky and unlucky; a variety of charms to cure warts, the cramp, and tooth-ache; preventatives against the night-mare; with observations relative to sympathy, denoted by shiverings, burning of the cheeks and itchings of the eyes and elbows. The effects of ideas of this kind are not easily got the better of; and the ideas themselves rarely, if ever, forgotten.

In former times these notions were so prevalent, that it was deemed little less than atheism to doubt them; and in many instances the terrors caused by them embittered the lives of a great number of persons of all ages, by degrees almost shutting them out of their own houses, and deterring them from going from one village to another after sun-set. The room in which the head of a family had died, was for a long time untenanted; particularly if they died without a will, or were supposed to have entertained any particular religious opinions. But if any disconsolate old maiden, or love-crossed bachelor, happened to dispatch themselves in their garters, the room where the deed was perpetrated became for ever after uninhabitable, and not unfrequently nailed up. If a drunken farmer, returning from market, fell from Old Dobbin, and broke his neck -- or a carter, under the same predicament, tumbled from his cart or waggon, and was killed by it -- that spot was ever after haunted, and impassable. In short, there was scarcely a bye-lane or cross-way but had its ghost, who appeared in the shape of a headless cow or horse; or, clothed all in white, glared with its saucer eyes over a gate or stile. Ghosts of superior rank, when they appeared abroad, rode in coaches drawn by six headless horses, and driven by headless coachmen and postilions. Almost every ancient manor-house was haunted by some one at least of its former masters or mistresses; where, besides diverse other noises, that of telling money was distinctly heard: and as for the churchyards, the number of ghosts that walked there, according to the village computation, almost equalled the living parishioners: to pass them at night was an atchievement not to be attempted by any one in the parish, the sextons excepted, who perhaps being particularly privileged, to make use of the common expression, never saw any thing worse than themselves.

Terrible and inconvenient as these matters might be, they were harmless, compared with the horrid consequences attending the belief of witchcraft, which, to the eternal disgrace of this country, even made its way into our courts of judicature, and pervaded and poisoned the minds of judges. At present, no one can, without a mixture of shame, remorse, and indignation, read of hundreds of poor innocent persons who fell victims to this ridiculous opinion, and who were regularly murdered under the sanction of, and with all the forms of, the law. Sometimes, by the combination of wicked and artful persons, these notions were made stalking-horses to interest and revenge.

The combinations here alluded to, were practiced by some popish priests during the reign of King James I. who was himself a believer in witchcraft. These priests, in order to advance the interest of their religion, or rather their own emolument, pretended to have the power of casting out devils from demoniacs and persons bewitched; and for this purpose suborned some artful and idle youths and wenches to act the part of persons bewitched, and to suffer themselves to be dispossessed by their prayers, and sprinklings with holy water. In order to perform these parts, they were to counterfeit violent fits and convulsions, on signs given them; and, in compliance with the popular notions, to vomit up crooked nails, pins, needles, coals, and other rubbish, privately conveyed to them.* It was, besides, generally thought necessary to accuse some person of having bewitched them; a poor superannuated man, or peevish old woman, and therefore pitched on, whose detection, indictment, and execution, were to terminate the villainy. Luckily these combinations were at length discovered and exposed; but it must make the blood of every human person thrill with horror, to hear that in New England there were at one time upwards of three hundred persons all imprisoned for witchcraft. Confuted and ridiculed as these opinions have lately been, the seeds of them still remain in the mind, and at different times have attempted to spring forth; witness the Cock-lane Ghost, and the disturbance at Stockwell. Indeed it is within these very few years that witchcraft has been erased from among the crimes cognizable by a jury.

*Since the printing of the first edition of this work, a farce somewhat similar was performed in the vestry-room of the Temple church, in the city of Bristol, by one George Lukins, a taylor, of Yatton, Somersetshire. This impostor pretended to have been possessed by the Devil for eighteen years, and at that present time to have no less than seven devils quartered in him; in proof of which he howled, barked, and counterfeited the most violent convulsions, occasionally swearing and blaspheming in a manner too shocking to repeat: at other times he sung several jovial and hunting songs, in different voices. But what seems the most extraordinary, is, that seven clergymen were found (one to each devil) so extremely weak and credulous as to be imposed on by this nonsense, and seriously to join in expelling these evil spirits by prayer; and one of them carried it still father, by returning publick thanks in Yatton church for the success of their endeavours, and the happy delivery of their patient.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Item of the Day: William Shenstone's Works (1764)

Full Title: The Works in Verse and Prose, of William Shenstone, Esq; Most of which were never before printed. In Two volumes, With Decorations. Vol I. London: Printed for R. and J. Dodsley in Pall-mall. MDCCLXIV.


Ophelia's Urn. To Mr. G------.

Thro' the dim veil of ev'ning's dusky shade,
Near some lone fane, or yew's funereal green,
What dreary forms has magic fear survey'd!
What shrouded spectres superstition seen!

But you secure shall pour your sad complaint,
Nor dread the meagre phantom's wan array;
What none but fear's officious hand can paint,
What none, but superstition's eye, survey.

The glim'ring twilight and the doubtful dawn
Shall see your step to these sad scenes return:
Constant, as crystal dews impearl the lawn,
Shall Strephon's tear bedew Ophelia's urn!

Sure nought unhallow'd shall presume to stray
Where sleep the reliques of that virtuous maid:
Nor aught unlovely bend its devious way,
Where soft Ophelia's dear remains are laid.

Haply thy muse, as with unceasing sighs
She keeps late vigils on her urn reclin'd,
May see light groups of pleasing visions rise;
And phantoms glide, but of celestial kind.

Then same, her clarion pendent at her side,
Shall seek forgiveness of Ophelia's shade;
"Why has such worth, without distinction, dy'd,
Why like the desert's lilly, bloom'd to fade?

Then young simplicity, averse to feign,
Shall unmolested breathe her softest sigh:
And candour with unwonted warmth complain,
And innocence indulge a wailful cry.

Then elegance with coy judicious hand,
Shall cull fresh flow'rets for Ophelia's tomb;
And beauty chide the sates' severe command,
That shew'd the frailty of so fair a bloom!

And fancy then with wild ungovern'd woe,
Shall her lov'd pupil's native taste explain;
For mournful sable all her hues forego,
And ask sweet solace of the muse in vain!

Ah gentle forms expect no fond relief;
Too much the sacred nine their loss deplore;
Well may ye grieve, nor find an end of grief --
Your best, your brightest fav'rite is no more.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Item of the Day: Chesterfields’s Letters to his Son (1774)

Full Title: Letters Written by the Late Right Honourable Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, to his Son, Philip Stanhope, Esq; Late Envoy Extraordinary at the Court of Dresden. Together with Several Other Pieces on Various Subjects. Published by Mrs. Eugenia Stanhope, from the Originals now in her Possession. Vol. I. Dubline: Printed by G. Faulkner, 1774.


London, February the 7th, O.S. 1749


Your are now come to an age capable of reflection, and I hope you will do, what, however, few people at your age do; exert it, for your own sake, in the search of truth and sound knowledge. I will confess (for I am not unwilling to discover my secrets to you) that it is not many years since I have presumed to reflect for myself. Till sixteen or seventeen, I had no reflection; and, for many years after that, I made no use of what I had. I adopted the notions of the books I read, or the company I kept, without examining whether they were just or not; and I rather chose to run the risk of easy error, than to take the time and trouble of investigating truth. Thus, partly from laziness, partly from dissipation, and partly from the mauvaise bonte of rejecting fashionable notions, I was (as I since found) hurried away by prejudices, instead of being guided by reason; and quietly cherished error, instead of seeking of rejecting fashionable notions, I was (as I since found) hurried away by prejudices, instead of being guided by reason; and quietly cherished error, instead of seeking for truth. But, since I have taken the trouble of reasoning for myself, and have had the courage to own that I do so, you cannot imagine how much my notions of things are altered, and in how different a light I now see them, from that in which I formerly viewed them, through the deceitful medium of prejudice or authority. Nay, I may possibly still retain many errors, which, from long habit, have perhaps grown into real opinions; for it is very difficult to distinguish habits, early acquired and long entertained, from the result of our reason and reflection.

My first prejudice (for I do not mention the prejudices of boys and women, such as hobgoblins, ghosts, dreams, spilling salt, &c.) was my classical enthusiasm, which I received from the books I read, and the masters who explained them to me. I was convinced there had been no common sense nor common honesty in the world for these last fifteen hundred yeas; but that they were totally extinguished with the ancient Greek and Roman governments. Homer and Virgil could have no faults, because they were ancient; Milton and Tasso could have no merit, because they were modern. And I could almost have said, with regard to the ancients, what Cicero, very absurdly and unbecomingly for a Philosopher, says with regard to Plato, Cum quo errare malim quam cum aliis recte sentire. Whereas now, without any extraordinary effort of genius, I have discovered, that nature was the same three thousand years ago, as it is at present; that men were but men than as well as now; that modes and customs vary often, but that human nature is always the same. And I can no more suppose, that men were better, braver, or wiser, fifteen hundred or three thousand years ago, than I can suppose that the animals or vegetables were better then, than they are now. I dare assert too, in defiance of the favourers of the ancients, that Homer’s Hero, Achilles, was both a brute and a scoundrel, and consequently an improper character for the Hero of an Epic Poem; he had so little regard for his country, that he would not act in defence of it, because he had quarreled with Agamemnon about a w—e ; and then afterwards, animated by private resentment only, he went about killing people basely, I will call it, because he knew himself invulnerable; and yet, in invulnerable as he was, he wore the strongest armour in the world; which I humbly ap0prehend to be a blunder; for a horse-shoe, clapped to his vulnerable heel, would have been sufficient. On the other hand, with submission to the favourers of the moderns, I assert, with Mr. Dryden, that the Devil is in truth, the Hero of Milton’s poem; His plan, which he lays, pursues, and at last executes, being the subject of the Poem. From all which considerations, I impartially conclude, that the ancients had their excellencies and their defects, their virtues and their vices, just like the moderns; pedantry and affectation of learning, decide clearly in favour of the former; vanity and ignorance, as peremptorily, in favour of the latter. Religious prejudices kept pace with my classical ones; and there was a time when I thought I impossible for the honestest man in the world to be saved, out of the pale of the church of England: not considering the matters of opinion do not depend upon the will; and that it is as natural, and as allowable, that another man should differ in opinion from me, as that I should differ from him; and that, if we are both sincere, we are both blameless: and should consequently have mutual indulgence for each other.

The next prejudices that I adopted, were those of the beau monde; in which, as I was determined to shine, I took what are commonly called the genteel vices, to be necessary. I had heard them reckoned so, and, without farther inquiry, I believed it; or, at least, should have been ashamed to have denied it, for fear of exposing myself to the ridicule of those whom I considered as the models of fine gentlemen. But I now neither ashamed nor afraid to assert, that those genteel vices, as they are falsely called, are only to many blemishes in the character of even a man of the world, and what is called a fine gentleman, and degrade him in the opinions of those very people, to whom he hopes to recommend himself by them. Nay, this prejudice often extends so far, that I have known people pretend to vices they had not, instead of carefully concealing those they had. . . .