Monthly Archives: May 2007

Item of the Day: Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind (1793)

Full Title: Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind. By Dugald Stewart. Philadelphia: Printed by William Young, Bookseller, No. 52, Second-Street, the Corner of Chestnut-Street, M, DCC, XCIII.

INTRODUCTION.

PART FIRST.

Of the Nature and Object of the Philosophy of the Human Mind.

 

THE prejudice which is commonly entertained against metaphysical speculations seems to arise chiefly from two causes: First, from an apprehension that the subjects about which they are employed, are placed beyond the reach of the human faculties; and , secondly, from a belief that these subjects have no relation to the business of life.

The frivoulus and absurd discussions which abound in the writings of most metaphysical authors, afford but too many arguments in justification of these opinions; and if such discussions were to be admitted as a fair specimen of what the human mind is able to accomplish in this department of science, the contempt, into which it has fallen of late, might with justice be regarded, as no inconsiderable evidence of the progress, which true philosophy has made in the present age. Among the various subjects of the inquiry, however, which, inconsequence of the vague use of language, are comprehended under the title of metaphysics, there are some, which are essentially distinguished from the rest, both by the degree of evidence which accompanies their principles, and by the relation which they bear to the useful sciences and arts: and it has unfortunately happened, that these have shared in that general descredit, into which the other branches of metaphysics have fallen. To this circumstance is probably to be ascribed, the little progress which has hitherto been made in the PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN MIND; a science, so interesting in its nature, and so important in its applications, that it could scarcely have failed, in these inquisitive and enlightened times, to have excited a very general attention, if it had not acceidentally been classed, in the public opinion with the vain and unprofitable disquisitions of the school-men.

In order to obviate these misapprehensions, with respect to the subject of the following work, I have thought it proper, in this preliminary chapter, first, to explain, the nature of the truths which I propse to investigate; and, secondly, to point out some of the more important applications of which they are susceptible. In stating these preliminary observations I may perhaps appear to some to be minute and tedious; but this fault, I am confident, will be readily pardoned by those, who have studied with care the principles of that science of which I am to treat; and who are anxious to remove the prejudices which have, in a great measure, excluded it from the modern systems of education. In the progress of my work, I flatter myself that I shall often have occasion to solicit the indulgence of my readers, for an unnecessary diffuseness.

The notions we annex to the words, matter, and mind, as is well remarked by Dr. Reid,* are merely relative. If I am asked what I mean by matter? I can only explain myself by saying, it is that which is extended, figured, couloured, movable, hard or soft, rough or smooth, hot or cold; –that is, I can define it no other way, than by enumerating its sensible qualities. It is not matter, or body, which I perceive by my senses; but only extension, figure, colour, and certain other qualities, which the constitution of my nature leads me to refer to something, which is extended, figured, and coloured. The case is precisely similar with respect to mind. We are not immediately conscious of its existence, but we are conscious of sensation, thought, and volition; operations, which imply the existence of something which feels, thinks, and wills. Every man too is impressed with the irresisitible conviction, that all these sensations, thoughts, and volitions, belong to one and the same being; to that being, which he calls himself; a being, which he is led, by the constitution of his nature, to consider as something distinct from his body, and as not liable to be impaired by the loss or mutilation of any of his organs.

From these considerations, it appears, that we have the same evidence for the existence of mind, that we have for the existence of body; nay, if there be any difference between the two cases, that we have stronger evidence for it; inasmuch as the one is suggested to us, by the subjects of our own consciousness, and the other merely by the objects of our perceptions: and in this light, undoubtedly, the fact would appear to every person, were it not, that, from our earliest years, the attention is engrossed with the qualities and laws of matter, an acquaintance with which is absolutely necessary for the preservation of our animal existence. Hence it is, that these phenomena occupy our thoughts more than those of mind; that we are perpetually tempted to explain the latter by tha analogy of the former, and even to endeavour to refer them to the same general laws; and that we acquire habits of inattention to the subjects of our consciousness, too strong to be afterwards surmounted, without the most persevering industry.

If the foregoing observations be well founded, they establish the distinction between mind and matter, without any long process of metaphysical reasoning: for if our notions of both are merely relative; if we know the one, only by such sensible qualities as extension, figure, and solidity; and the other, by such operations as sensation, thought, and volition; we are certainly entitled to say, that in so far as body and mind are known to us, they appear to be substances of different natures. Perhaps, indeed, it would be more accurate to say of the scheme of materialism, that it is inconceivable, than it is false; –for let us consider only what it implies: Is it not the object of those who propose it, to explain the nature of that substance which feels, thinks, and wills? But when they attempt to do so, by saying that it is material, they surely forget, that body, as well as mind, is known to us by its qualities and attibutes alone, and that we are as ignorant of the nature of the former, as of that of the latter.

As all our knowledge of the material world is derived from the information of our senses, natural philosophers have, in modern times, wisely abandoned to metaphysicians, all speculations concerning the nature of that substance of which it is composed; concerning the possibility or impossibility of its being created; concerning the efficient causes of the changes which take place in it; and even concerning the reality of its existence, independent of that of percipient beings: and have confined themselves to the humbler province of observing the phenomena it exhibits, and of ascertaining their general laws. By pursuing this plan steadily, they have, in the course of the two last centuries, formed a body of science, which not only does honour to the human understanding, but has had a most important influence on the practical arts of life. —This experimental philosophy, no one now is in danger of confounding with the metaphysical speculations already mentioned. Of the importance of these, as a seperate [sic] branch of study, it is possible that some may think more favourably than others; but they ware obviously different in their nature, from the investigations of physics; and it is of the utmost consequence to the evidence of this last science, that its principles should not be blended with those of the former. . . .

*Essays on the Active Powers of Man.

 

 

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Filed under 1790's, Enlightenment, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: An Inquiry into the Human Mind, on the Principles of Common Sense (1817)

Full Title: An Inquiry into the Human Mind, on the Principles of Common Sense. By Thomas Reid. Glasgow: Printed by W. Falconer, and sold by the booksellers, 1817.

[First published 1764].

TO

THE RIGHT HONOURABLE

JAMES, EARL OF FINDLATER AND SEAFIELD

CHANCELLOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OLD ABERDEEN

My Lord,

Though I apprehend that there are things new and of some importance, in the following inquiry, it is not without timidity that I have consented to the publicaiton of it. The subject has been canvassed by men of very great penetration and genius: for who does not acknowledge DES CARTES, MALEBRANCHE, LOCKE, BERKELEY, and HUME, to be such? A view of the human understanding, so different from that which they have exhibited, will, no doubt, be condemened by many without explanation, as proceeding from temerity and vanity.

BUT I hope the candid and discerning Few, who are capable of attending to the operations of their own minds, will weigh deliberately what is here advanced, before they pass sentence upon it. To such I appeal, as the only competent judges. If they disapprove, I am probably in the wrong, and shall be ready to change my opinion upon conviction. If they approve, the Many will at last yield to their authority, as they always do.

HOWEVER contrary my notions are to those of the writers I have mentioned, their speculations have been of great use to me, and seem even to point out the road which I have taken: and your Lordship knows, that the merit of useful discoveries is sometimes not more justly due to those that have hit upon them, than to others that have ripened them, and brought them to the birth.

I ACKNOWLEDGE, my Lord, that I never thought of calling in question the principles commonly received with regard to human understanding, until the Treatise of Human Nature was published in the year 1739. The ingenious author of that treatise, upon the principles of LOCKE, who was no sceptic, hath built a system of scepticism, which leaves no ground to believe any one thing rather than the contrary. His reasoning appeared to me to be just: there was therfore a necessity to call in question the principles upon which it was founded, or to admit the conclusion.

BUT can any ingenuous mind admit this sceptical system without reluctance? I truly could not, my Lord: for I am persuaded, that absolute scepticism is not more destructive of the faith of a Christian, than  of the science of a philospher, and of the prudence of a man of common understanding. I am persuaded, that the unjust live by faith as well as the just; that, if all belief could be laid aside, piety, patriotism, friendship, parental affection, and private virtue, would appear as ridiculous as knight-errantry; and that the pursuits of pleasure, of ambition, and of avarice, must be grounded upon belief, as well as those that are honourable or virtuous.

THE day-labourer toils at his work, in the belief that he shall receive his wages at night; and if he had not this belief he would not toil. We may venture to say, that even the author of this sceptical system, wrote it in the belief that it should be read and regarded. I hope he wrote it in the belief also, that it would be useful to mankind: and perhaps it may prove so at last. For I conceive the sceptical writers to be a set of men, whose business is to pick holes in the fabric of knowledge wherever it is weak and faulty; and when these places are properly repaired, the whole building becomes more firm and solid than it was formerly.

FOR my own satisfaction, I entered into a serious examination of the principles upon which this sceptical system is built; and was not a little surprised to find, that, it leans with its whole weight upon a hypothesis, which is ancient indeed, and hath been very generally received by philosophers, but of which I could find no solid proof. The hypothesis I mean, is, That nothing is perceived but what is in the mind which perceives it: That we do not really perceive things that are external, but only certain images and pictures of them imprinted upon the mind, which are called impressions and ideas.

IF this be true; supposing certain impressions and ideas to exist in my mind, I cannot, from their existence, infer the existence of any thing else: my impressions and ideas are the only existences of which I can have any knowledge or conception; and they are such fleeting and transitory beings, that they can have no existence at all, any longer than I am conscious of them. So that, upon this hypothesis, the whole universe about me, bodies and spirits, sun, moon, stars, and earth, friends and relations, all things without exception, which I imagined to have permanent existence, whether I thought of them or not, vanish at once;

And, like the baseless fabric of a vision,

Leave not a track behind.

I THOUGHT it unreasonable, my Lord, upon the authority of philosophers, to admit a hypothesis, which, in my opinion, overturns all philosophy, all religion and virtue, and all common sense: and finding that all the systems concerning the human understanding which I was acquainted with, were built upon this hypothesis, I resolved to inquire into this subject anew, without regard to any hypothesis.

WHAT I now humbly present to your Lordship, is the fruit of this inquiry, so far only as it regards the five senses; in which I claim no other merit, than that of having given great attention to the operations of my own mind, and of having expressed, with all the perspicuity I was able, what I conceive every man, who gives the same attention, will feel and perceive. The productions of imagination, require a genius which soars above the common rank; but the treasures of knowledge are commonly buried deep, and may be reached by those drudges who can dig with labour and patience, though they have not wings to fly. The experiments that were to be made in this investigation suited me, as they required no other expence, but that of time and attention, which I could bestow. The leisure of an academical life, disengaged from the pursuits of interest and ambition; the duty of my profession, which obliged me to give prelections on these subjects to the youth; and an early inclination to speculations of this kind, –have enabled me, as I flatter myself, to give a more minute attention to the subject of this inquiry, than has been given before.

MY thoughts upon this subject were, a good many years ago, put together in another form, for the use of my pupils, and afterwards were submitted to the judgment of a private philosophical society, of which I have the honour to be a member. A great part of this inquiry was honoured even by your Lordship’s perusal. And the encouragement which you, my Lord, and others, whose friendship is my boast, and whose judgment I reverence, were pleased to give me, counterbalance my timidity and diffidence, and determined me to offer it to the public.

IF it appears to your Lordship to justify the common sense and reason of mankind, against the sceptical subtilties which, in this age, have endeavoured to put them out of countenance; if it appears to throw any new light upon one of the noblest parts of the divine workmanship; your Lordship’s respect for the arts and sciences, and your attention to every thing which tends to the improvement of them, as well as to every thing else that contributes to the felicity of your country, leave me no room to doubt of your favourable acceptance of this essay, as the fruit of my industry in a profession wherein I was accountable to your Lordship; and as a testimony of the great esteem and respect wherewith I have the honour to be,

My Lord,

Your Lordship’s most obliged,

and most devoted servant,

Tho. Reid.

 

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Filed under 1760's, Common sense, Enlightenment, Philosophy, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Essays, Political, Economical, and Philosophical (1800)

Full Title: Essays, Political, Economical, and Philosophical. By Benjamin Count of Rumford . . .  Volume I. Fifth Edition. London: Printed by A. Stahan, for T. Cadell Jun. and W. Davies, Strand, 1800.

 

 AN ACCOUNT

OF AN

ESTABLISHMENT FOR THE POOR

AT MUNICH.

Together with

A Detail of various Public Measures, connected with that Institution, which have been adopted and carried into effect for putting an End to Mendicity, and introducing Order, and useful Industry, among the more Indigent of the Inhabitants of Bavaria.

CHAP. I.

Of the Prevalence of Mendicity in Bavaria at the Time when the Measures for putting an End to it were adopted.

Among the various measures that occurred to me by which the military establishment of the country might be made subservient to the public good in time of peace, none appeared to be of so much importance as that of employing the army in clearing the country of beggars, theives, and other vagabonds; and in watching over the public tranquility.

But in order to clear the country of beggars, (the number of whom in Bavaria had become quite intolerable,) it was necessary to adopt general and efficacious measure for maintaining and supporting the Poor. Laws were not wanting to oblige each community in the country to provide for its own Poor; but these laws had been so long neglected, and beggary had become so general that extraordinary measures, and the most indefatigable exertions were necessary to put  a stop to this evil.

The number of itinerant beggars, of both sexes and all ages, as well foreigners as natives, who strolled about the country in all directions, levying contributions from the industrious inhabitants, stealing and robbing, and leading a life of indolence, and most shameless debauchery, was quite incredible; and so numerous were the swarms of beggrs in all the great towns, and particularly in the capital, so great their impudence, and so persevering their importunity, that it was almost impossible to cross the streets without being attacked, and absolutley forced to satisfy their clamorous demands. And these beggars were in general by no means such as from age or bodily infirmities were unable by their labour to earn their livelihood; but they were for the most part, stout, strong, healthy, sturdy beggars, who, lost to every sense of shame, had embraced the profession from choice, not necessity; and who, not unfrequently, added insolence and threats to their importunity, and extorted that from fear which they could not procure by their arts of dissimulation.

These beggars not only infested all the streets, public walks, and public places, but they even made a practice of going into private houses, where they never failed to steal whatever fell in their way, if they found the doors open, and nobody at home; and the churches were so full of them that it was quite a nuisance, and a public scandal during the performance of divine service. People at their devotions were conintually interupted by them, and were frequently obliged to satisfy their demands in order to be permitted to finish their prayers in peace and quiet.

In short, these detestable vermin swarmed every where; and not only their impudence and clamourous importunity were without any bounds, but they had recourse to the most diabolical arts, and most horrid crimes, in the prosecution of their infamous trade. Young children were stolen from their parents by these wretches, and their eyes put out, or their tender limbs broken and distorted, in order, by exposing them thus maimed, to excite the pity and commiseration of the public; and every species of artifice was made use of to agitate the sensibility, and to extort the contributions of the humane and charitable.

Some of these monsters were so void of all feeling as to expose their own children, naked, and almost starved, in the streets, in order that, by their cries and unaffected expressions of distress, they might move those who passed by to pity and relieve them; and in order to make them act their part more naturally, they were unmercifully beaten when they came home, by their inhuman parents, if they did not bring with them a certain sum, which they were ordered to collect.

I have frequently seen a poor child of five or six years of age, late at night, in the most inclement season, sitting down almost naked at the corner of a street, and crying most bitterly; if he were asked what was the matter with him, he would answer, “I am cold and hungry, and afraid to go home; my mother told me to bring home twelve creutzers, and I  have only been able to beg five. My mother will certainly beat me if I don’t carry home twelve creutzers.” Who could refuse so small a sum to relieve so much unaffected distress? –But what horrid arts are these, to work upon the feelings of the public, and levy involuntary contributions for the support of idleness and debauchery!

But the evils arising from the prevalence of mendicity did not stop here. The public, worn out and vanquished by the numbers and perservering importunity of the beggars; and frequently disappointed in their hopes of being relieved from their depredations, by the failure of the numberless schemes that were formed and set on foot for that purpose, began at last to consider the case as quite desperate; and to submit patiently to an evil for which they saw no remedy. The consequences of this submission are easy to be conceived; the beggars, encouraged by their success, were attached still more strongly to their infamous profession; and others, allured by their indolent lives, encouraged by their successful frauds, and emboldened by their impunity, joined them. The habit of summission on the part of the public, gave them a sort of right to pursue their depredations; –their growing numbers and their success gave a kind of eclat to their profession; and the habit of begging became so general, that it ceased to be considered as infamous; and was, by degrees, in a manner interwoven with the internal regulations of society. . . .

In the great towns, besides children of the poorer sort, who almost all made a custom of begging, the professional beggars formed a distinct class, or cast, among the inhabitants; and in general a very numerous one. There was even a kind of political connection between the members of this formidable body; and certian general maxims were adopted, and regulations observed, in the warfare they carried on against the public. Each beggar had his particular beat, or district, in the possession of which it was not thought lawful to disturb him; and certain rules were observed in dsposing the districts in case of vacancies by deaths or resignations, promotions or removals. A battle, it is true, frequently decided the contest between the candidates; but when the possession was once obtained, whether by force or arms, or by any other means, the right was after considered indisputable. Alliances by marriage were by no means uncommon in this community; and, strange as it may appear, means were found to procure legal permission from the civil magistrates for the celebration of these nuptials! The children were of course trained up in the profession of their parents; and having the advantage of an early education, were commonly great proficients in their trade.

And there is no very essential difference between depriving a person of his property by stealth, and extorting it from him against his will by dint of clamorous importunity, or under false pretence of feigned distress and misfortune; so the transition from begging to stealing is not only easy, but perfectly natural. That total insensibility to shame, and all those other qualifications which are necessary in the profession of a beggar, are likewise essential to form an accomplished thief; and both these professions derive very considerable advantages from their union. A Beggar who goes about from house to house to ask for alms, has many opportunities to steal, which another would not so easily find; and his profession as a beggar gives him a great facility in disposing of what he steals; for he can always say it was given him in charity. No wonder then that thieving and robbing should be prevalent where beggars are numerous . . .

 

 

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Filed under 1790's, Beggars, Europe, Germany, Poor, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Reform

Item of the Day: Swift’s Rules for Servants (1753)

Full Title:  Miscellanies.  By Dr. Swift.  The Eleventh Volume.  London:  Printed for C. Hitch, C. Davis, C. Bathurst, R. Dodsley, and W. Bowyer.  MDCCLIII.

RULES that concern All Servants in general.

 When your Master or Lady calls a Servant by Name, if that Servant be not in the Way, none of you are to answer, for then there will be no end of your Drudgery:  And Masters themselves allow, that, if a Servant comes when he is called, it is sufficient.

When you have done a Fault, be always pert and insolent, and behave yourself as if you were the injured Person; this will immediately put your Master or Lady off their Mettle.

If you see your Master wronged by any of your Fellow-Servants, be sure to conceal it, for fear of being called a Tell-tale:  However there is one Exception, in case of a favourite Servant, who is justly hated by the whole Family; who therefore are bound in Prudence to lay all the Faults you can upon the Favourite.

The Cook, the Butler, the Groom, the Market-man, and every other Servant who is concerned in the Expences of the Family, should act as if his Master’s whole Estate ought to be applied to that Servant’s particular Business.  For instance, if the Cook computes his Master’s Estate to be a Thousand Pounds a Year will afford Meat enough, and therefore he need not be sparing; the Butler makes the same Judgment, so may the Groom and the Coachman, and thus every Branch of Expence will be filled to your Master’s Honour.

When you are chid before Company (which with Submission to our Masters and Ladies is an unmannerly Practice) it often happens that some Stranger will have the Good-nature to drop a Word in your Excuse; in such a Case, you will have a good Title to Justify yourself, and may rightly conclude, that, whenever he chides you afterwards on other occasions, he may be in the wrong; in which opinion you will be the better confirmed by stating the Case to your Fellow-servants in your own Way, who will certainly decide in your Favour:  therefore, as I have said before, whenever you are chidden, complain as if you were injured.

It often happens, that Servants sent on Messages are apt to stay out somewhat longer than the Message requires, perhaps, two, four, six, or eight Hours, or some such Trifle, for the Temptation to be sure was great, and Flesh and Blood cannot always resist:  When you return, the Master storms, the Lady scolds; stripping, cudgelling, and turning off, is the Word.  But here you ought to be provided with a Set of Excuses, enough to serve on all occasions:  For instance, your Uncle came Fourscore Miles to Town this Morning, on purpose to see you, and goes back by Break of Day To-morrow:  A Brother-servant, that borrowed Money of you when he was out of Place, was running away to Ireland:  You were taking Leave of an old Fellow-Servant, who was shipping for Barbados:  Your Father sent a Cow to you to sell, and you could not get a Chapman till Nine at Night:  You were taking leave of a dear Cousin, who is to be hanged next Saturday:  You wrencht your Foot against a Stone, and were forced to stay three Hours in a Shop, before you could Stir a Step:  Some Nastiness was thrown on you out of a Garret-Window, and you were ashamed to come Home before you were cleaned, and the Smell went off:  You were pressed for the Sea-service, and carried before a Justice of Peace, who kept you three Hours before he examined you, and you got off with much a-do:  A Bailiff by mistake seized you for a Debtor, and kept you the whole Evening in a Spunging-house:  You were told your Master had gone to a Tavern, and came to some Mischance, and your Grief was so great that you enquired for his Honour in a hundred Taverns between Pall-mall and Temple-bar.

Take all Tradesmen Parts against your Master, and when you are sent to buy any Thing, never offer to cheapen it, but generously pay the full Demand.  This is highly to your Master’s Honour ; and may be some Shillings in your Pocket; and you are to consider, if your Master hath paid too much, he can better afford the Loss than a poor Tradesman.

Never submit to stir a Finger in any Business but that for which you were particularly hired.  For Example, if the Groom be drunk, or absent, and the Butler be ordered to shut the Stable Door, the Answer is ready, An please your Honour, I don’t understand Horses:  If a Corner of the Hanging wants a single Nail to flatten it, and the Footman be directed to tack it up, he may say, he doth not understand that sort of Work, but his Honour may send for the Upholsterer.

Masters and Ladies are usually quarrelling with the Servants for not shutting the Doors after them:  But neither Masters nor Ladies consider, that those Doors mus be open before they can be shut, and that the Labour is double to open and shut the Doors; therefore the best, and shortest, and easiest Way is to do neither.  But if you are so often teized to shut the Door, that you cannot easily forget it, then give the Door such a Clap as you go out, as will shake the whole Room, and make every Thing rattle in it, to put your Master and Lady in Mind that you observe their Directions.

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Filed under 1750's, Culture, Jonathan Swift, Manners, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Satire

Item of the Day: The Adventurer (1770)

Full Title:  The ADVENTURER. By John Hawkesworth. Volume the Fourth.  New Edition.  London:  Printed for W. Strahan, J. and F. Rivington, etc.  MDCCLXX.

Tuesday, November 27, 1753.

The evils inseparably annexed to the present condition of man, are so numerous and afflictive, that it has been, from age to age, the task of some to bewail, and of others to solace them;  and he, therefore, will be in danger of seeming a common enemy, who shall attempt to depreciate the few pleasures and felicities which nature has allowed us.

Yet I will confess, that I have sometimes employed my thoughts in examining the pretensions that are made to happiness, by the splendid and envied conditions of life; and have not thought the hour unprofitably spent, when I have detected the imposture of counterfeit advantages, and found disquiet lurking under false appearances of gaiety and greatness.

It is asserted by a tragic poet, that “est miser nemo nisi comparatus,” “no man is miserable but as he is compared with others happier than himself:” this position is not strictly and philosophically true.  He might have said, with rigorous propriety, that no man is happy but as he is compared with the miserable; for such is the state of this world, that we find in it absolute misery, but happiness only comparative; we may incur as much pain as we can possibly endure, though we can never obtain as much happiness as we might possibly enjoy.

Yet it is certain likewise, that many of our miseries are merely comparative:  we are often made unhappy, not by the presence of any real evil, but by the absence of some fictitious good, of something which is not required by any real want of nature, which has not in itself any power of gratification, and which neither reason nor fancy would have prompted us to wish, did we not see it in the possession of others.

For a mind diseased with vain longings after unattainable advantages, no medicine can be prescribed, but an impartial enquiry into the real worth of that which is so ardently desired.  It is well known, how much the mind, as well as the eye, is deceived by distance; and, perhaps, it will be found, that of many imagined blessings it may be doubted, whether he that wants or possesses them has more reason to be satisfied with his lot.

The dignity of high birth and long extraction, no man, to whom nature has denied it, can confer upon himself; and, therefore, it deserves to be considered, whether the want of that which can never be gained, may not easily be endured.  It is true, that if we consider the triumph and delight with which most of those recount their ancestors who have ancestors to recount, and the artifices by which some who have risen to unexpected fortune endeavour to insert themselves into an honourable stem, we shall be inclined to fancy that wisdom or virtue may be had by inheritance, or that all the excellencies of a line of progenitors are accumulated on their descendant.  Reason, indeed, will soon inform us, that our estimation of birth is arbitrary and capricious, and that dead ancestors can have no influence but upon imagination:  let it then be examined, whether one dream may not operate in the place of another; whether he that owes nothing to fore-fathers, may not receive equal pleasure from the consciousness of owing all to himself; whether he may not, with a little meditation, find it more honourable to found than to continue a family, and to gain dignity than transmit it; whether, if he receives no dignity from the virtues of his family, he does not likewise escape the danger of being disgraced by their crimes; and whether he that brings a new name into the world, has not the convenience of playing the game of life without a stake, an opportunity of winning much though he has nothing to lose.

There is another opinion concerning happiness, which approaches much more nearly to universality, but which may, perhaps, with equal reason be disputed.  The pretensions to ancestral honours many of the sons of earth easily see to be ill-grounded; but all agree to celebrate the advantage of  hereditary riches, and to consider those as the minions of fortune, who are wealthy from their cradles, whose estate is “res non parta labore sed relicta;” “the acquisition of another, not of themselves; ” and whom a father’s industry has dispensed from a laborious attention to arts and commerce, and left at liberty to dispose of life as fancy shall direct them.

If every man were wise and virtuous, capable to discern the best use of time, and resolute to practice it; it might be granted, I think, without hesitation, that total liberty would be a blessing; and that it would be desirable to be left at large to the exercise of religious and social duties, without the interruption of importunate avocations.

But since felicity is relative, and that which is the means of happiness to one man may be to another the cause of misery, we are to consider, what state is best adapted to human nature in its present degeneracy and frailty.  And, surely, to far the greater number it is highly expedient, that they should by some settled scheme of duties be rescued from the tyranny of caprice, that they should be driven on by necessity through the paths of life with their attention confined to a stated task, that they may be less at leisure to deviate into mischief at the call of folly.

When we observe the lives of those whom an ample inheritance has let loose to their own direction, what do we discover that can excite our energy?  Their time seems not to pass with much applause from others, or satisfaction to themselves:  many squander their exuberance of fortune in luxury and debauchery, and have no other use of money than to inflame their passions, and riot in a wider range of licentiousness; others, less criminal indeed, but surely, not much to be praised, lie down to sleep, and rise up to trifle, are employed every morning in finding expedients to rid themselves of the day, chase pleasure through all the places of public resort, fly from London to Bath and from Bath to London, without any other reason for changing place, but that they go in quest of company as idle and as vagrant as themselves, always endeavouring to raise some new desire that they may have something to pursue, to rekindle some hope which they know will be disappointed, changing one amusement for another which a few months will make equally insipid, or sinking into languor and disease for want of something to actuate their bodies or exhilarate their minds.

Whoever has frequented those places, where idlers assemble to escape from solitude, knows that this is generally the state of the wealthy; and from this state it is no great hardship to be debarred.  No man can be happy in total idleness:  he that should be condemned to lie torpid and motionless, “would fly for recreation,” says South, “to the mines and the gallies,” and it is well, when nature or fortune find employment for those, who would not have known how to procure it for themselves.

He, whose mind is engaged by the acquision or improvement of a fortune, not only escapes the insipidity of indifference, and the tediousness of inactivity, but gains enjoyments wholly unknown to those, who live lazily on the toil of others; for life affords no higher pleasure, than that of surmounting difficulties, passing from one step of success to another, forming new wishes, and seeing them gratified.  He that labours in any great or laudable undertaking, has his fatigues first supported by hope, and afterwards rewarded by joy; he is always moving to a certain end, and when he has attained it, an end more distant invites him to a new pursuit.

It does not, indeed, always happen, that diligence is fortunate; the wisest schemes are broken by unexpected accidents; the most constant perseverance sometimes toils through life without a recompense:  but labour, though unsuccessful, is more eligible than idleness:  he that prosecutes a lawful purpose by lawful means, acts always with the approbation of his own reason; he is animated through the course of his endeavours by an expectation which, though not certain, he knows to be just; and is at last comforted in his disappointment, by the consciousness that he has not failed by his own fault.

That kind of life is most happy which affords us most opportunities of gaining our own esteem; and what can any man infer in his own favour from a condition to which, however prosperous, he contributed nothing, and which the vilest and weakest of the species would have obtained by the same right, had he happened to be the son of the same father.

To strive with difficulties, and to conquer them, is the highest human felicity; the next, is to strive, and deserve to conquer:  but he whose life has passed without a contest, and who can boast neither success nor merit, can survey himself only as a useless filler of existence; and if he is content with his own character, must owe his satisfaction to insensibility.

Thus it appears that the satirist advised right, when he directed us to resign ourselves to the hands of Heaven, and to leave to superior power the determination of our lot:
Intrust thy fortune to the pow’rs above:

Leave them to manage for thee, and to grant

What their unerring wisdom sees thee want.

In goodness as in greatness they excel:

Ah! that we lov’d ourselves but half so well.

DRYDEN.

What state of life admits most happiness, is uncertain; but that uncertainty ought to repress the petulance of comparison, and silence the murmurs of discontent.

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Filed under 1750's, Culture, England, Enlightenment, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: Horace Walpole on the Death and Funeral of George II from Walpole’s Private Correspondence (1760)

Full Title:  Private Correspondence of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford. Now First Collected.  In Four Volumes.  vol. II. 1756-1764.  London:  Printed for Rodwell and Martin, Bond-Street; and Colburn and Co., Conduit-Street. 1820.

To the EARL of STRAFFORD.

Arlington-street, October 26, 1760.

My Dear Lord,

I beg your pardon for so long a silence in the late reign; I knew nothing worth telling you; and the great event of this morning you will certainly hear before it comes to you by so sober and regular a personage as the postman.  The few circumstances known yet are, that the king went well to-bed last night; rose well at six this morning; went to the water-closet a little after seven; had a fit, fell against a bureau, and gashed his right temple:  the valet-de-chambre heard a noise and a groan, and ran in:  the king tried to speak, but died instantly.  I should hope this would draw you southward:  such scenes are worth looking at, even by people who regard them with such indifference as your lordship or I.  I say no more, for what will mix in a letter with the death of a king!

I am my lady’s and your lordship’s most faithful servant.

To George Montagu, Esq.

Arlington-street, November 13, 1760.

. . . Do you know, I had the curiosity to go to the burying t’other night; I had never seen a royal funeral; nay, I walked as a rag of quality, which I found would be, and so it was, the easiest way of seeing it.  It is absolutely a noble sight.  The prince’s chamber, hung with purple, and a quantity of silver lamps, the coffin under a canopy of purple velvet, and six vast chandeliers of silver on high stands, had a very good effect.  The ambassador from Tripoli and his son were carried to see that chamber.  The procession, through a line of foot-guards, every seventh man bearing a torch, the horse-guards lining the outside, their officers with drawn sabres and crape sashes on horseback, the drums muffled, the fifes, bells tolling, and minute guns, — all this was very solemn.  But the charm was the entrance of the abbey, where we were received by the dean and chapter in rich robes, the choir and almsmen bearing torches; the whole abbey so illuminated, that one saw it to greater advantage than by day; the tombs, long aisles, and fretted roof, all appearing distinctly, and with the happiest chiara scuro.  There wanted nothing but incense, and little chapels here and there, with priests saying mass for the repose of the defunct; yet one could not complain of its not being catholic enough.  I had been in dread of being coupled with some boy of ten years old; but the heralds were not very accurate, and I walked with George Grenville, taller and older, to keep me in countenance.  When we came to the chapel of Henry the seventh, all solemnity and decorum ceased; no order was observed, people sat or stood where they could or would; the yeomen of the guard were crying out for help, oppressed by the immense weight of the coffin; the bishop read sadly, and blundered in the prayers; the fine chapter, Man that is born of a woman, was chaunted, not read; and the anthem, besides being immeasurably tedious, would have served as well for a nuptial.  The real serious part was the figure of the duke of Cumberland, heightened by a thousand melancholy circumstances.  He had a dark brown adonis, and a cloak of black cloth, with a train of five yards.  Attending the funeral of a father could not be pleasant:  his leg extremely bad, yet forced to stand upon it near two hours; his face bloated and distorted with his late paralytic stroke, which has affected too one of his eyes, and placed over the mouth of the vault, into which, in all probability, he must himself so soon descend; think how unpleasant a situation!  He bore it all with a firm and unaffected countenance.  This grave scene was fully contrasted by the burlesque duke of Newcastle.  He fell into a fit of crying the moment he came into the chapel, and flung himself back in a stall, the archbishop hovering over him with a smelling-bottle; but in two minutes his curiosity got the better of his hypocrisy, and he ran about the chapel with his glass to spy who was or was not there, spying with one hand, and mopping his eyes with the other.  Then returned the fear of catching cold; and the duke of Cumberland, who was sinking with heat, felt himself weighed down, and turning round, found it was the duke of Newcastle standing upon his train, to avoid the chill of the marble.  It was very theatric to look down into the vault, where the coffin lay, attended by mourners with lights.  Clavering, the groom of the bed-chamber, refused to sit up with the body, and was dismissed by the king’s order.

I have nothing more to tell you, but a trifle, a very trifle.  The king of Prussia has totally defeated marshal Daun.  This, which would have been prodigious news a month ago, is nothing today; it only takes it turn among the questions, “Who is to be groom of the bed-chamber? what is sir T. Robinson to have?”  I have been to Leicester-fields today; the crowd was immoderate; I don’t believe it will continue so.  Good night.

Yours ever.

http://people.virginia.edu/~jlc5f/charlotte/walpole_eng.html

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Filed under 1760's, England, George II, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: Plinie’s Naturall Historie (1601)

Full Title:

The Historie of the World. Commonly called, the Naturall Historie of C. PLINIUS SECUNDUS. Translated into English by Philemon Holland Doctor of Physicke. Printed in London by Adam Islip, 1601.

Excerpt from the Eighth Booke, Chap. XVI. “Of Lions.”

The Lions are then in their kind most strong and courageous, when the haire of their main or coller is so long, that it covereth both necke and shoulders. and this commeth to them at a certaine age, namely, to those that are engendered by Lions indeed. For such as have Pards to their sires, never have this ornament, no more than the Lionesse. These Lionesses are very letcherous, and this is the very cause that the Lions are so fell and cruell. This, Affricke knoweth best, and seeth most: and especially in time of a great drought, when for want of water, a number of wild beasts resort by troups to those few rivers that be there, and meet together. And hereupon it is, that so many strange shaped beasts, of a mixt and mungrell kind are there bred, whiles the males either perforce, or for pleasure, leape and cover the females of all sorts. From hence it is also, that the Greekes have this common proverbe, That Affricke evermore bringeth forth some new and strange thing or other. The Lion knoweth by sent and smell of the Pard, when the Lionesse his mate hath plaied false, and suffered her selfe to be covered by him: and presently with all his might and maine runneth upon her for to chastise and punish her. And therefore when the Lionesse hath done a fault that way, shee either goeth to a river, and washeth away the strong and ranke savour of the Pard, or els keepeth aloofe, and followeth the Lion farre off, that hee may not catch the said smell. I see it is a common received opinion, that the Lionesse bringeth forth young but once in her lie, for that her whelpes in her kinling; teare her belly with their nailes, and make themselves roume that way. Aristotle writeth otherwise, a man whom I cannot name, but with great honour and reverence, and whome in the historie and report of these matters I meane for the most part to follow. And in very truth king Alexander the great, of an ardent desire that he had to know the natures of all living creatures, gave this charge to Aristotle, a man singular and accomplished in all kind of science and learning, to search into this matter, and to set the same downe in writing: and to this effect commanded certaine thousands of men, one or other, throughout all the tract, as well of Asia as Greece, to give their attendance, & obey him: to wit, all Hunters, Faulconers, Fowlers, and Fishers, that lived by those professions. Item, all Forresters, Park-keepers, and Wariners: all such as had the keeping of heards and flockes of cattell: of bee-hives, fish-pooles, stewes, and ponds: as also those that kept up foule, tame or wild, in mew, those that fed poultrie in barton or coupe: to the end that he should be ignorant of nothing in this behalfe, but be advertised by them, according to his commission, of all things in the world. By his conference with them, he collected so much, as thereof he compiled those excellent bookes de Annimalibus, i. of Living creatures, to the number of almost fiftie. Which being couched by me in a narrow roume, and breefe Summarie, which the addition also of some things els which he never knew, I beseech the readers to take in good worth: and for the discoverie and knowledge of all Natures workes, which that most noble & famous king that ever was desired so earnestly to know, to make a short start abroad with mee, and in a breefe discourse by mine owne paines and diligence digested, to see all. To return now unto our former matter. That great Philosopher Aristotle therfore reporteth, that the Lionesse at her first litter bringeth forth five whelpes, and every yeare after, fewer by one: and when she commeth to bring but one alone, she giveth over, and becommeth barren. Her whelpes at the first are without shape, like small gobbets of flesh, no bigger than weasels. When they are sixe months old, they can hardly go; and for the two first, they stirre not a whit. Lions there be also in Europe (onely betweene the rivers Achelous and Nestus) and these verily be farre stronger than those of Affricke or Syria. Moreover, of Lions there be two kinds: the one short, well trussed and compact, with more crisp and curled maines, but these are timerous and but cowards to them that have long and plaine haire; for thsoe passe not for any wounds whatsoever. The Lions lift up a legge when they pisse, as dogges doe: and over and besides that, they have a strong and stinking breath, their very bodie also smelleth ranke. Seldome they drinke, and eat but each other day: and if at any time they feed till they be full, they will abstaine from meat three daies after. In their feeding, whatsoever they can swallow without chawing, down it goes whole: and if they find their gorge and stomack too full, and not able indeed to receive according to their greedie appetite, they thrust their pawes downe their throats and with their crooked clees fetch out some of it againe, to the end they should not be heavie and slow upon their fulnesse, if haply they be put to find their feet and flie. Mine author Aristotle saith moreover, that they live verie long: and he prooveth it by this argument, That many of them are found toothles for very age. Polybius who accompanied [Scipio] Æmylianus in his voyage of Affrick, reporteth of them, That when they be grown aged, they will prey upon a man: the reason is, because their strength will not hold out to pursue in chase other wild beasts. Then, they come about the cities and good towns of Affrick, lying in await for their prey, if any folk come abroad: & for that cause, he saith, that whiles he was with Scipio he saw some of them crucified & hanged up, to the end that upon the sight of them, other Lions should take example by them, and be skared from doing the like mischiefe. The Lion alone of all wild beasts is gentle to those that humble themselves unto him, and will not touch any such upon their submission, but spareth what creature soever lieth prostrate before him. As fell and furious as hee is otherwhiles, yet he dischargeth his rage upon men, before that he setteth upon women, and never preyeth upon babes unlesse it be for extreame hunger. They are verily persuaded in Libya, that they have a certaine understanding, when any man doth pray or entreat them for any thing. I have hard it reported for a truth, by a captive woman of Getulia (which being fled was brought home againe to her master) That shee had pacified the violent furie of many Lions within the woods and forrests, by faire language and gentle speech; and namely, that for to escape their rage, she hath been so hardie as to say, shee was a sillie woman, a banished fugitive, a sickely, feeble, and weake creature, an humble suiter and lowly supplicant unto him the noblest of all other living creatures, the soveraigne and commaunder of all the rest, and that shee was too base and not worthie that his glorious majestie should prey upon her. Many and divers opinions are currant, according to the sundrie occurrences that have hapned, or the inventions that mens wits have devised. As touching this matter, namely, that savage beasts are dulced and appeased by good words and faire speech: as also that fell serpents may bee trained and fetched out of their holes by charmes, yea and by certaine conjurations and menaces restrained and dept under for a punishment: but whether it be true or no, I see it is not yet by any man set downe and determined. To come againe to our Lions: the signe of their intent and disposition, is their taile; like as in horses, their ears: for these two marks and tokens, certainly hath Nature given to the most couragious beasts of all others, to know their affections by: for when the Lion stirreth not his taile, hee is in a good mood, gentle, mild, pleasantly disposed, and as if hee were willing to be plaied withall; but in that fit he is seldome seene: for lightly hee is alwaies angrie. At the first, when hee entreth into his choller, hee beateth the ground with his taile: when hee groweth into greater heats, he flappeth and jerketh his sides and flanks withall, as it were to quicken himselfe, and stirre up his angry humor. His maine strength lieth in his breast: hee maketh not a wound (whether it be by lash of taile, scratch of claw, or print of tooth) but the bloud that followeth, is black.

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Filed under 1600's, Explorations, Geography, Greek/Roman Translations, Hard Science, History, Natural Science, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt