Monthly Archives: December 2007

Item of the Day: The Lives of Haydn and Mozart (1818)

Full Title: The Lives of Haydn and Mozart, with Observations on Metastasio, and on the Present State of Music in France and Italy. Translated from the French of L. A. C. Bombet. With Notes, by the Author of The Sacred Melodies. Second Edition. London: John Murray, Albemarle-Street, 1818.

LETTER VIII.

Salzburg, April 5, 1808.

At length, my dear friend, you have received my letters. The war, which surrounds me here on all sides, gave me some anxiety respecting them. My walks in the woods are disturbed by the sound of arms: at this moment, I distinctly hear the cannon firing, at the distance of a league and a half from hence, in the direction of Munich. Nevertheless, after some melancholy reflections on the circumstances which have deprived me of my company of grenadiers, and which , for twenty years past, have banished me from my country, I have seated myself upon the trunk of a large fallen oak. I find myself under the shade of a beautiful lime-tree; I see around me nothing but a delightful verdure, beautifully set off by the deep blue of the heavens; I take my little port-folio, and my pencil, and after a long silence, proceed with my account of our friend Haydn.

Do you know that I am almost ready to charge you with being schismatic? You seem to prefer him to the divine masters of the Ausonian lyre. Ah! my friend, the Pergoleses and Cimarosas have excelled in that department of our favourite art, which is at once the noblest, and the most affecting. You say that one reason why you prefer Haydn, is, that one may hear him at London, or at Paris, as well as at Vienna, while, for want of voices, France will never enjoy the Olimpiade of the divine Pergolese. In this respect, I am of your opinion. The rough organization of the English, and of our dear countrymen, may allow of their being good performers on instruments, but prevents them from ever excelling in singing. Here, on the contrary, in traversing the faubourg Leopoldstadt, I have just heard a very sweet voice singing, in a very pleasing style, the air

Nach dem tode jeh bin ich dein,

Even after death, I still am thine.

As for what concerns myself, I clearly see your malicious criticism through all your compliments. You still reproach me with that inconsistency, which was formerly the constant theme of your lectures. You say that I pretend to write to you about Haydn, and I forget only one thing, –that is, fairly to enter upon the style of this great master, and, as an inhabitant of Germany, to explain to you, as one of the unlearned, how it pleases, and why it pleases. In the first place, you are not one of the unlearned: you are passionately fond of music: and in the fine arts, this attachment is sufficient. You say that you can scarcely read an air. Are you not ashamed of this miserable objection? Do you take for an artist the antiquated mechanic, who, for twenty years, has given lessons on the piano, as his equal in genius has made clothes at the neighbouring tailor’s? Do you consider as an art, a mere trade, in which, as in others, success is obtained by a little address, and a great deal of patience?

Do yourself more justice. If your love for music continue, a year’s travelling in Italy will render you more learned than your savans of Paris. . . .

 

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Filed under 1660's, 1810's, Art, Culture, Eighteenth century, Music, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: A Speech Intended to Have Been Spoken (1774)

Full Title: A Speech Intended to Have Been Spoken on the Bill for Altering the Charters of the Colony of Massachusett’s Bay. The Third Edition. London: Printed for T. Cadell, in the Strand, MDCCLXXIV. [1774]

ADVERTISEMENT.

The Author of the following Speech might justify his manner of publishing it by very great authorities. Some of the noblest pieces of eloquence, the world is in possession of, were not spoken on the great occasions they were intended to serve, as seem to have been preserved merely from the high sense that was entertained of their merit.

The present performance appears in public from humbler but juster motives: from the great national importance of the subject; from a very warm desire and some faint hope of serving our country, by suggesting a few of the useful truths which great men are apt to overlook.

The Author has abstained most religiously from personal reflections. He has censured no man, and therefore hopes he has offended no man. He feels most sensibly the misfortunes differing from many of those whom he wishes to live and act with; and from some of as much virtue and ability as this kingdom affords. But the are also great authorities on the other side; and the greatest authority can never persuade him that it is better to extort by force, what he thinks may be gained more surely by gentle means.

He looks upon power as a coarse and mechanical instrument of government, and holds the use of it to be particularly dangerous to the relation that subsists between a mother-country and her colonies. In such a case he doubts whether any point ought to be pursued, which cannot be carried by persuasion, by the sense of a common interest, and the exercise of a moderate authority. He thinks it necessary to lay down the limits of sovereignty and obedience, and more unnecessary to fight for them. If we can but restore that mutual regard and confidence, which formerly governed our whole intercourse with our colonies, particular cases will easily provide for themselves. He acts the part of the truest patriot in this dangerous crisis, whether he lives at London or at Boston, who pursues sincerely the most lenient and conciliating measures; and wishes to restore the public peace by some better method than the slaughter of our fellow-citizens.

 

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Filed under 1770's, Colonial America, Government, History, Massachusetts, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Chess Analysed (1750)

Full Title: Chess Analysed: or Instructions by which a Perfect Knowledge of this Noble Game May in a short time be acquir’d. By A. D. Philidor. London: Printed for J. Nourse, and P. Vaillant, in the Strand, M.DCC.L. [1750]

THE

PREFACE.

So many ancient Authors have spoken in praise of the Game of Chess, that it would be needless for me to say much of it.

Don Pietro Carrera, who in the Year 1617, published a large Volume concerning the Origin and Progress of this Game, has at the same time given us a List of those authors, which is too long to be inserted in this Preface. I will however mention the most celebrated; Herodotus, Euripides, Sophocles, Philostratus, Homer, Virgil, Aristotle, Seneca, Plato, Ovid, Horace, Quintilian, Martial, Vida. The Invention of this Game is by Carrera attributed to Palamedes, and he proves it from the above-mentioned Authors; it is true that several others are of a different opinion; some say it was known before his time, others that it was invented by the Philosopher Serses, Councellor to Ammolin, King of Babylon, in order by this new, engaging, and speculative Game, to divert that Prince from the Cruelties he was naturally inclined to.

The Egyptians are said to have ranked this Game in the Number of the Sciences, and that, at a time when themselves were the only learned People; their Reason I suppose to be founded on this Principle:

Scientia est eorum, quae consistunt in Intellectu.

It is no Wonder to see so many different Opinions, about a Game of so long standing, and whose Author cannot be known to any Degree of Certainty. There are however some who will not allow it to be above 300 Years old, tho’ a few make it to be somewhat older; and perhaps they would not grant that, if the very Chessmen with which Charlemagne used to play, were not still extant in the Royal Repository of the Abbey of St. Denis.

Euripides, in his Tragedy of Iphigenia, tells us, that Ajax and Protesilaus played together at Chess in the Presence of Merion, Ulysses, and other famous Greeks. Homer, in the first Book of his Odyssey, relates, that the Princes, Lovers of Penelope, used to play at Chess at the Door of that fair Lady.

But not to trouble the Reader with any thing more about the Origin of this Game; it will be allowed by all, to have contributed to the Amusement of the greatest Heroes for many Ages past; and those of our Days take no small Pleasure in it.

Virtue and Heroism were the two distinguishing Characters of Charles the XIIth, King of Sweden; the Allurements and Temptations of Vice had no Power over him; he could even abstain from those things, which by most Persons of Rank are esteemed as no other than the Conveniencies [sic] of Life; he had an Aversion to gaming, and had strictly forbid it his Army, and among his Subjects; but Chess was expected in a particular manner; he took so much Delight in it, that he encouraged the Learning of it among all his Courtiers. Voltaire tells us, that while that Prince was at Bender, he played at it every Day with his General Poniatoski, or with his Treasurer Grothusen. . . .

 

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Filed under 1750's, Culture, Eighteenth century, Leisure, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: An Essay Towards Real Character, And a Philosophical Language (1668)

Full Title: An Essay Towards a Real Character, And a Philosophical Language. By John Wilkins . . . London: Printed for A. Gellibrand, and for John Martin Printer to the Royal Society, 1668.

 

TO THE

READER.

It may perhaps be expected by some, that I should give an account of my ingaging [sic] in a Work of this nature so unsuitable to my Calling and Business.

For the satisfaction of such, they may please to take notice, that this Work was first undertaken, during that vacancy and leasure [sic] which I formerly enjoyed in an Academicall [sic] station, to which the endeavours of promoting all kind of usefull [sic] knowledge, whereby Learning may be improved, is a very suitable imployment [sic]. In the time of that daily and intimate converse which I then injoyed [sic], with that most Learned and excellent Person Dr. Seth Ward, the present Bishop of Salisbury. I had frequent occasion of conferring with him, concerning the various Desiderata, proposed by Learned men, or such things as were conceived yet wanting to the advancement of several parts of Learning; amongst which, this of the Universal Character, was one of the principal, most of which he had more deeply considered, than any other Person that I knew. And in reference to this particular, he would say, That as it was one of the most usefull, so he judged it to be one of the most feasible, amongst all the rest, if prosecuted in a regular way. But for all such attempts to this purpse, which he had either seen or heard of, the Authors of them did generally mistake in their first foundations; whilst they did propose to themselves the framing of such a Character, from a Dictionary of Words, according to some particular Language, without reference to the nature of things, and that common Notion of them, wherein Mankid does agree, which must chiefly be respected, before any attempt of this nature could signifie [sic] any thing, as to the main end of it.

It was from this suggestion of his, that I first had any distinct apprehension of the proper course to be observed, in such an undertaking; having in a Teatise I had published some years before, proposed the Hebrew Tongue as consisting of fewest Radicals, to be the fittest ground work for such a design.

Besides the many Private conferences to this purpose, I must not forget to mention, that Publique account which he hath given to the World, of Vindiciae Academiarum; wherein he endeavours to vindicate those Ancient and famous schools of Learning, from such reproaches, whereby some Ignorant and ill-natured men (taking the advantage of those bad Times) would have exposed them to contempt and ruine [sic]. In which Treatise there is mention made of some considerable preparations, towards the Design here proposed, which if his other necessary employments [sic] would have permitted him to have prrosecuted, would without doubt, long ere this, have been advanced to as great a Perfection, as the first Essay in so difficult a matter could have attained. . . .

If any shall suggest, that some of the Enquiries here insisted upon (as particularly those about the Letters of the Alphabet) do seem too minute and trivial, for any prudent Man to bestow his serious thoughts and time about. such Persons may knwo, t hat the discovery of the true nature and Cause of any the most minute thing, doth promote real Knowledge, and therefore cannot be unfit for any Mans [sic] endeavours, who is willing to contribute to the advancement of Learning. Upon which Account some of the most eminent Persons, in several Ages, who were Men of business, have not disdained to bestow their pains about the First elements of speech . . .

 

 

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Filed under 1660's, Dictionaries, Grammar, Language, Philosophy, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Miller’s Retrospect (1803)

Full Title: A Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century. Part First; In Two Volumes: Containing A Sketch of the Revolutions and Improvements in Science, Arts, and Literature, during that Period. By Samuel Miller, A. M. One of the Ministers of the United Presbyterian Churches in the City of New-York, Member of the American Philosophical Society, and Corresponding Member of the Historical Society of Massachuesetts. Vol. I. Published According to Act of Congress. New-York: Printed by T. and J. Swords, no. 160 Pearl-Street, 1803.

On the Revolutions and Improvements in Science, Arts, and Letters, During the Eighteenth Century.

It is justly remarked by an acute modern writer [David Hume, Essays, vol. i. p. 110], that the history of learning and science is much less uniform than that of civil affairs; that the wars, negociations, and politics of one age more resemble those of another, than the literary and scientific taste.  He explains this obvious fact by observing that, in public and political transactions, ambition, honour, malice, revenge, and the various turbulent passions of man, are the prime movers; and that these passions are not only the same in every age, but are also stubborn, intractable, and by no means susceptible of the same variety of modification which frequently takes place in the literary taste and habits of different times.  The former we can scarcely expect any thing human to controul; but the latter may be and are everyday affected by education, by example, and by a thousand circumstances which it would be difficult to enumerate. 

It has often been made a question whether mankind have effected any real progress in knowledge, during the eighteenth century.  There are not a few who maintain the negative; who contend, that although this period has been abundantly productive of new theories, specious plans, and oppositions of science falsely so called ; yet that little, if any thing, has been done toward the cultivation of solid learning and real science, since our fathers of the seventeenth century fell asleep.  In the opinion, and in the language of such, the present race of men are “a generation of triflers, and profligates, sciolists in learning, hypocrites in virtue, and formalists in good breeding; wise only when they follow their predecessors, and visionary fools whenever they attempt to deviate from, or go beyond them.”  [James Beattie, An Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth]  With these cynical critics novelty is degeneracy; and every thing which bears the name of invention, discovery, or improvement, is useless, if not dangerous innovation.  But this indiscriminate opposition to the claims of modern times is evidently rather dictated by prejudice than by enlightened views and impartial observation.  Though a change of circumstances may produce different degrees or kinds of excellence in the efforts of intellect ; yet the native powers of man are doubtless the same in all ages.  It must be admitted, indeed, that in some of the branches of human knowledge the last age has added nothing to the attainments of the preceeding ; and that many things which superficial readers consider as new, were long since familarly known, and as well practised as at the present day.  In works of genius, imagination, and taste, there seems no good ground to represent the present generation as possessing any peculiar or transcendent excellence.  Perhaps a candid inquirer would even say, that in these respects we rather fall below than rise above the standards of former times, and for this fact plausible if not satisfactory reasons may be assigned.  But still, amidst multiplied false theories, and much pompous jargon, which have been too prevalent in the world during the last century ; though the field of enterprise, in this remarkable human exertion, has been more remarkable for the number of labourers employed in it, than for the success of their labours; though luxuriant foliage, more than substantial fruit, has abounded; yet much, within this period, has been done.   New and important truth has been elicited: discoveries of a highly interesting nature have been made: systems of philosophy have assumed a more regular, consistent and dignified form: and various departments of learning have been purged of the dregs, and rescued from the rubbish with which the ignorance of the inexperienced times had encumbered them. 

At the close of the seventeenth century, the stupendous mind of NEWTON, and the penetrating genius of LOCKE, had laid their systems of matter and of mind before the world.  Like pioneers in an arduous siege, they had many formidable obstacles to remove–many labyrinths to explore–and the power of numberless enemies to overcome[…]     

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Filed under 1800's, Eighteenth century, History, Philosophy, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: A Sermon Preached Before His Excellency Francis Bernard (1766)

Full Title: A Serman Preached Before His Excellency Francis Bernard, Esq; Governor and Commander in Chief, The Honourable His Majesty’s Council, And the Honourable House of Representatives, of the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England, May 28th. 1766. Being the Anniversay for the Election of His Majesty’s Council for said Province. By Edward Barnard . . . Boston: Printed by Richard Draper, Printer to the Governor and Council; and by Samuel Draper, at their Printing-Office in Newbury Street, MDCCLXVI.

An ELECTION SERMON.

NEHEMIAH V. 19.

THINK upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.

AN aquaintance with the history of past ages will lead us to observe, that a common method of the exaltation of a people, hath been by a succession of men of eminent ablitites and influence. A great genius appears at their head, and forms a general scheme of institutions and laws. This being adopted, active spirits follow, who carry it into execution, and the community swiftly ascends to the height of prosperity.

EVEN Israel taken under the peculiar tutelage of Jehovah thus arose to a flourishing state. Moses, by divine direction, gave them the rudiments of civil and ecclesiastical polity. Joshua, by the same influence, led them over Jordan, and fixed them in the destin’d inheritance.

IN a way somewhat similar may we well suppose a people emerging from the depths of distress to regain their national character, Patriots, perhaps of different qualities, exert themselves in turn, agreable [sic] to their circumstances, ’till they make a respectable figure as in the former period of their existence.

AN illustration of this we have in the case of Judah restored to Palestine and the rights and privileges of their fathers, after residence in a strange land, and subjection to a foreign yoke, for seventy years.

DURING so long a term, when public offices of religion could not be regularly performed, when they were conversant with the superstitions of Gentilism, and the manners of masters upon whom they were entireley dependant, it is scarce possible but that the knowledge of divine truth must be greatly lost, the ardor of devoiton cool’d with many, their spirits broken, and generous public temper well night extinguished.

LET us view these exiles going to a desolate country, and a capital in ruins, with intention to possess and improve their ancient patrimony, rebuild their city, set up the worship of God upon the Hebrew ritual, and settle the civil administration to advantage; at the same time despis’d and hated by their neighbours, and retarded as much as possible in every salutary projection.

THESE things considered, nothing can be clearer than the vast importance that they should have wise men for pilots to direct them, men of goodness and intrepidity, to animate them to every arduous undertaking.

ACCORDINGLY a gracious God not only favored them with his prophets to instruct and support them, but rulers to lead and protect them, and forward the enterprises to which they were called —first Zerubbabel and Joshua, under whom the temple was built, and altar for daily sacrifice; then Ezra a scribe well instructed to the kingdom of heaven, who restored the scripture to its primitive purity, and dissov’d those interdicted alliances which weakened their attachment to their religion and country.

BUT Jerusalem yet laid defenceless, enormities in part remained.

THE full accomplishment of the merciful intention of heaven toward that afflicted people was reserved for Nehemiah.

THIS man held a lucrative post in a cour the center of the wealth and glory of Asia, and had an intricate access to the mightiest monarch then living. But surrounded with affluence and honor, he mourned for Zion. His countenance betrayed a troubled sould to his master, who understanding the cause, gave him liberty of absence for a term, invested him with a public character in Jedea, and sent mandatory letters to his officers bordering thereupon to assist him.

HIS arrival to Jerusalem was like the light of the mroning which dissipates the incumbent gloom, and invigorates nature. Every heart was revived, every hand employed. Present with them the walls went up and the city filled with inhabitants. By his incessant care and labours grievances were redressed, and all things regulated in such a manner as to render them easy and happy.

THIS is the lover of his nation, whose words I have read. Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.

 LANGUAGE this consonant to the principes of reason and revelation. Natural religion dictates tha Tod is good, and a lvoer of righteousness. The sacrifical services of the temple as insituted for particular cases, or pointing to the promised Saviour, while they imply’d guilt, gave assurance that it was consistent with the rectoral holiness of God to have respect to imperfect virtue. Nothing therfore is here expressed but what is agreable to a justness of tho’t, to a due humility of mind. . . .

 

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Filed under 1760's, Colonial America, Massachusetts, New England, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Religion, Sermons

Item of the Day: Hutchinson’s History of Massachusetts (1795)

Full Title:

The History of Massachusetts, From the First Settlement Thereof in 1628, Until the Year 1750.  By Thomas Hutchinson, Esq. In Two Volumes.  Vol. I.  The Third Edition.  With additional Notes and Corrections.  Printed at Salem, By Thomas C. Cushing, For Thomas and Andrews, No. 45, Newbury-Street, Boston.  1795.

Chap. I. From the first Settlement of the Colony, until the Year 1660.

The discovery of America by Columbus, and of the northern continent by the Cabots, in the fifteenth century, and the several voyages of English and French in the sixteenth, I pass over, and begin with the voyage made by Bartholomew Gosnold, an Englishman, in the year 1602, to that part of North America called New-England.  It is not certain that any European had been there before.  Hakluit mentions the landing of some of Sir H. Gilbert’s men upon some part of the continent ; but it is probably that was farther eastward upon what is now called Nova-Scotia.  Gosnold landed first on the eastern coast, which he calls Mavoshen.  After some commerce with the natives, he sailed southward, and landed upon one of the islands called Elizabeth-Islands.  He gave them that name in honour of Queen Elizabeth, who was living when he left England ; and they retained it ever since.  He built a fort, and intended a settlement upon the island, or the continent near it ; but he could not persuade his people to remain there, and they all returned to England before winter.

In 1603, De Monts obtained a patent from Henry the Fourth of France, for all the country from the 40th to the 46th degree, by the name of Cadie, or Acadie.  In 1604, De Monts ranged along the coast from St. Lawrence to Cape Cod, and to the south of it.  He went far up the Kennebeck river, and into divers other rivers, bays and harbours. 

In 1606, King James the First granted all the continent from 34 to 45 degrees, which he divided into two colonies, viz. the Southern, or Virginia, to certain merchants of London ; the Northern, or New-England, to merchants of Plymouth. 

In 1607, some of the patentees of the Northern colony began a settlement at Sagadehoc.  They laid the plan of a great state.  The president died the first winter, which was extreme cold.  Sir John Popham, his brother, the great promoter of the design, and Sir John Gilbert, the admiral’s brother, died the same year in Europe ; and the next year, 1608, the whole number which survived the winter returned to England.  Their design of a plantation was at an end.  Both English and French continued their voyages to the coast, some for fishing, and some for trade with the natives ; and some feeble attempts were made by the French towards plantations, but they were routed by the English in 1613.  There was no spirit in the people of either nation for colonizing.  Favourable accounts were published of the continent by Capt. Smith and others : But who would remove and settle in so remote and uncultivated a part of the globe, if he could live tolerably at home?   The country would afford no immediate subsistence, and therefore was not fit for indigient persons.  Particular persons or companies would have been discouraged from supporting a colony by the long continued expense and outlet, without any return.  No encouragement could be expected from the public.  The advantages of commerce from the colonies were not then foreseen, but have been since learned by experience.  Virginia in its infancy was struggling for life ; and what its fate would have been, if the fathers of it in England had not seen the rise and growth of other colonies near it, is uncertain.  God in his providence bringeth good out of evil.  Bigotry and blind zeal prevailed among christians of every sect or profession.  Each denied to the other, what all had a right to enjoy, liberty of conscience.  To this we must ascribe, if not the settlement, yet at least the present flourishing state, of North-America.  Persecution drove out Mr. Robinson and his church from England to Holland, about the year 1608.  They stayed about a year at Amsterdam, and then removed to Leyden. In 1617, they began to think of removing to America.  They laid great stress upon their particular tenets, but this, did not lessen their regard to morality.  The manners of the Dutch were too licentious for them.  Their children left them ; some became soldiers, and other sailors, in the Dutch service.  In a few years their posterity would have been Dutch, and their church extinct.  They were at a loss whether to remove to Guiana, or to Virginia ; but the majority were in favour of the latter.  The Dutch laboured to persuade them to go to Hudson’s river, and settle under their West-India company ; but they had not lost their affection for the English, and chose to be under their government and protection […]   

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Filed under 1600's, 1790's, Colonial America, History, Posted by Matthew Williams

Item of the Day: Philosophy of Natural History (1790)

Full Title: The Philosophy of Natural History. By Willieam Smellie, Member of the Antiquarian and Royal Societies of Edinburgh. Edinburgh: Printed for the Heirs of Charles Elliot; and C. Elliot and T. Kay, T. Cadell, and G. G. J. & J. Robinson, London, MDCCXC.

CHAPTER XVII.

Of the Docility of Animals.

OF all animals capable of culture, man is the most ductile. By instruction, imitation, and habit, his mind may be moulded into any form. It may be exalted by science and art to a degree of knowledge, if which the vulgar and uninformed have not the most distant conception. The reverse is melancholy. When the human mind is left to its own operations, and deprived of almost every opportunity of social information, it sinks so low, that it is nearly rivaled by the most sagacious brutes. The natural superiority of man over the other animals, as formerly remarked is a necessary result of the great number of instincts with which is mind is endowed. These instincts are gradually unfolded, and produce, after a mature age, reason, abstraction, invention, science. To confirm this truth, it would be fruitless to have recourse to metaphysical arguments, which generally mislead and bewilder human reason. A diligent attention to the actual operations of Nature is sufficient to convince any mind that is not warped and deceived by popular prejudice, the fetters of authorities, as they are called, whether ancient or modern, or by the vanity of supporting preconceived opinions and favourite theories. Let any man reflect on the progress of children from birth to manhood. At first, their instincts are limited to obscure sensations, and to the performance of a few corporeal actions, to which they are prompted, or rather compelled, by certain stimulating impulses unnecessary to be mentioned. In a few months, their sensations are perceived to be more distinct, their bodily actions are better directed, new instincts are unfolded, and they assume a greater appearance of rationality and of mental capacity. When still farther advanced, and after they have acquired some use of language, ans some knowlege of natural objects, they beginto reason; but their reasonings are feeble, and often prposterous. In this manner they uniformly proceed in improvement till they are actuated by the last instinct, at or near the age of puberty. After this period, they reason with some degree of perpicuity and justness. But, though their whole instincts are now unfolded and in action, every power of their minds requires, previous to its utmost exertions, to be agitated and polished by an examination of a thousand natural and artificial objects, by the experience and observations of those with whom they associate, by public or private instruction, by studying the writings of their predecessors and contemporaries, and by their own reflections, till they arrive at the age of thirty-five. Previous to that period, much learning may have been acquired, much genius may have been exerted; but,  before that time of life, judgment, abstraction, and the reasoning faculty, are not fully matured. This progress is the genuine operation of Nature, and the gradual source of human sagacity and mental powers. The same progress is to be observed in the powers of the body. It arrives, indeed, sooner at perfection than the mind. But, if the progress of the mind greatly preceded that of the body, what a miserable and aukward [sic] figure would human beings, at an early period of their existence, exhibit? Active and vigourous minds, stimulated to command what the organs of their bodies were unable to obey, would produce peevishness, anger, regret, and every distressing passion.

The bodies of men, though not so ductile as their minds, are capable, when properly managed by early culture, of wonderful exertions. Men, accustomed to live in polished societies, have little or no idea of the activity, the courage, the patience and the persevering industry of savages, when simply occupied in hunting wild animals for food for themselves and their families. The hunger, the fatique, the hardships, which they not only endure, but despise with fortitude, would amaze and terrify the imagination of any civilized Euopean. . . .

 

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Filed under 1790's, Natural Science, Philosophy, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Reason

Item of the Day: Imlay’s Topographical Description of the Western Territory of North America (1797)

Full Title: A Topographical Description of the Western Territory of North America: Containing A succinct Account of its Soil, Climate, Natural History, Population, Agriculture, Manners, and Customs. With an ample Description of the several Divisions into which the Country is partitioned . . . By Gilbert Imlay, A Captain in the American Army during the War, and Commissioner for laying out Lands in the Back Settlements. Illustrated with correct Maps of the Western Territory of North America; of the State of Kentucky, as divided into Counties, from actual Surveys by Elihu Barker; a Map of the Tenasee [sic] Government; and a Plan of the Rapids of Ohio. The Third Edition, with Great Additions. London: Printed for J. Debrett, 1797.

TOPOGRAPHICAL DESCRIPTION, &c. &c. &c.

LETTER I.

Kentucky.

MY DEAR FRIEND,

THE task you have given me, however difficult, I udnertake with the greatest pleasure, as it will afford me an opportunity of contrasting the simple manners and rational life of the Americans, in these back settlements, with the distorted and unnatural habits of the Europeans: which have flowed, no doubt, from the universally bad laws existing on your continent, and from that pernicious system of blending religion with politics, which has been productive of universal depravity.

While ignorance continued to darken the horizon of Europe, priestcraft seems to have forged fetters to the human mind, and, in the security of its own omnipotence, to have given a stamp to the writings and opinions of men, that rivetted the tyranny of those ingenious sophists — The consequence has been lamentable in the extreme.

There are aeras favourable to the rise of new governments; and though nature is governed by invariable laws, the fortunes of men and states appear frequently under the dominion of chances: but happily for mankind, when the american [sic] empire was forming, philosophy pervaded the genius of Europe, and the radiance of her features moulded the minds of men into a more rational order.

It was the zenith of your power, and the inflated grandeur of visinary plans for dominon, which the remains of gothic tyranny produced, that gave occasion to the rise of our independence. We claim no merit or superior wisdom in avoiding the complication of laws which disgraces the courts of Great Britain, as well as the rest of Europe. We have only approprated the advantages of new lights, as they have shone upon us; which you have an equal chance of doing; and your not doing it, must remain a monument of your folly, calculated to excite the astonishment and indiganation of a more manly progeny. However, I shall leave this subject for the present, and proceed in order in the history, &c. which you request; hoping that you will be content to receive my remarks by letter, from time to time, as I may find an opportunity of sending them.

The vestiges of civilizatin described by Carver and others on this side of the Allegany mountains, are entirely imaginary. Every mark that is human has the feature of barbarism, and in every comparison of the natives and animals, with those of the old world, tends to confirm the opinion of those sensible men (some of whom wrote more than a century agao) who thought that America was peopled from Scythia, by the streights of Kamtschatka: which opinion has been followed by your judicious natural historian Pennant, in his preface to his Arctic Zoology. They say, first, “America has always been better peopled on the side towards Asia, than on that towards Europe: Secondly, The genius of the Americans has a greater conformity to that of the Tartars, who never applied themselves to arts: Thirdly, The colour of both is pretty much alike; it is certain that the difference is not considerable, and is perhaps the effect of the climate, and of those mixtures with which the Americans rub themselves: Fourthly, The wild beasts which are seen in America, and which cannot reasonably be supposed to have been transported thither by sea, could only have come by the way of the Tartary.” An addition to these arguments is, that the bison of Scythia, and what is called the buffalo in America, are precisely the same species of animal; besides, the animals of both countries bear the strongest resemblance to each other.

Every thing tends to convince us, that the world is in an infant state. If it is subject to change only from the gradual wear which the operations of the elements necessarily produce, and which is so insensible as to require us to contemplate the immensity of time and space to comprhend a cause for the alterations we discover, still the various phaenomena, which are everywhere to be found, both on the surface and in the bowels of the earth, afford sufficient proof that there has been a recent alteration upon the face of the globe. Whether or not mankind came originally from the East, signifies little. It is however certain, that Europe was in its infancy three thousand years ago; and that America was still less advanced to maturity, I believe also will be acknowledged; though the barbarism of the one, and the comparative civiliztion of the other, is no argument: for, let our hemisphere have been peopled as it would, it had the disadvantage of having no polished country in the neighbourhood of its vast extent of dominion; and if it received emigrants from Tartary, they wer equally savage with themselves; or if from the wreck of a chinese or japanese vessel, they seem to have been too rare (if ever) to have been productive of much good to the Americans. The idea of the incas in Peru being of chinese origian merits no consideration.

That man possesses from nature the talents necessary to his own civilization, and that perfection of philosophy and reason which dignifies his nature, admits, I should conceive, of no dispute.

In all the countries that wear the marks of age, men seem always to have been advancing their improvements for the comfort and order of society. Adventitious circumstances have rapidly increased them in modern times in the old world, while they have retarded them in the new, among the natives. The improvements in navigation led to the overthrow of two empires in America which had attained considerable improvements; and if the natives which still remain are barbarous, we must, in justice to human nature, allow that the contempt with which the whites have always treated them, and the nefarious policy of encourageing their fury for intoxication, have proved the only cause of it. They produced such an effect, that the population of the indian nations had decreased more than a twentieth nearly a century ago, according to the account of Charlevoix. . . .

 

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Filed under 1790's, Culture, Early Republic, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Travel, Travel Literature, United States

Item of the Day: The Works of Shakespear (1771)

Full Title: The Works of Shakespear. In Six Volumes. Adorned with Sculptures.  (Volume the First. Consisting of Comedies). The Second Edition. Oxford: Printed at the Clarendon-Press, MDCCLXXI.

THE

PREFACE.

WHAT the publick is here to expect is a true and correct edition of Shakespear’s works cleared from the corruptions with which they have hitherto abounded. One of the great admirers of this incomparable author hath made it the amusement of his leisure hours for many years past to look over his writings with a careful eye, to note the obscurities and absurdities introduced into the text, and according to the best of his judgment to restore the genuine sense and purity of it. In this he proposed nothing to himself but his private satisfaction in making his own copy as perfect as he could: but as the emendations multiplied upon his hands, other gentlemen equally fond of the author desired to see them and some were so kind as to give their assistance by communicating their observations and conjectures upon difficult passages which had occurred to them. Thus by degrees the work growing more considerable than was at first expected, they who had the opportunity of looking into it, too partial perhaps in their judgment, thought it worth being made publick; and he, who hath with difficulty yielded to their persuasions, is far from desiring to reflect upon the late editors for the omissions and defects which they left to be supplied by others who should follow them in the same province. On the contrary he thinks the world much obliged to them for the progress they made in weeding out so great a number of blunders and mistakes as they have done, and probably he who hath carried on the work might never have thought of such an undertaking if he had not found a considerable part so done to his hands.

From what causes it proceeded that the works of this author in the first publication of them were more injured and abused than perhaps any that ever pass’d the press, hath been sufficiently explained in the preface to Mr. Pope’s edition which is here subjoined, and there needs no more to be said upon that subject. This only the reader is desired to bear in mind, that as the corruptions are more numerous and of a grosser kind than can well be conceived but by those who have looked nearly into them; so in the correcting them this rule hath been most strictly observed, not to give a loose to fancy, or indulge a licentious spirit of criticism, as if it were fit for any one to preseme to judge what Shakespear ought to have written, instead of endeavouring to discover truly and retrieve what he did write: and so great caution hath been used in this respect, that no alterations have been made but what the sense necessarily required, what the measure of the verse often helped to point out, and what the similitude of words in the false reading and in the true, generally speaking, appeared very well to justify.

Most of those passages are here thrown to the bottom of the page and rejected as spurious, which were stigmatized as such in Mr. Pope’s edition; and it were to be wished that more had then undergone the same sentence. The promoter of the present edition hath ventured to discard but few more upon his own judgment, the most considerable of which is that wretched piece of ribaldry in King Henry V. put into the mouths of the French princess and an old gentlewoman, improper enough as it is all in French and not intelligible to an English audience, and yet that perhaps is the best thing that can be said of it. There can be no doubt but a great deal more of that low stuff which disgraces the works of this great author, was foisted in by the players after his death, to please the vulgar audiences by which they subsisted: and though some of the poor witticisms and conceits must be supposed to have fallen from his pen, yet he hath put them generally into the mouths of low and ignorant people, so it is to be remember’d that he wrote for the stage, rude and unpolished as it then was; and the vicious taste of the age must stand condemned for them, since he thath left upon record a signal proof how much he despised them. In his play of The Merchant of Venice a clown is introduced quibbling in a miserable manner, upon which one who bears the character of a man of sense makes the following reflection: How every fool can play upon a Word! I think the best grace of wit will shortly turn into silence, and discourse grow commendable in none but parrots. He could hardly have found stronger words to express his indignation at those false pretences to with then in vogue; and therefore though such trash is frequently interspersed in his writings, it would be unjust to cast it as an imputation upon his taste and judgment and character as a Writer.

There being many words in Shakespear which are grown out of use and obsolete, and many borrowed from other languages which are not enough naturalized or known among us, a glossary is added at the end of the work, for the explanation of all those terms which have hitherto been so many stumbling-blocks to the generality of readers; and where there is any obscurity in the text not arising from the words but from a reference to some antiquated customs now forgotten, or other causes of that kind, a note is put at the bottom of the page to clear up the difficulty.

With these several helps of that rich vein of sense which runs through the works of this author can be retrieved in every part and brought to appear in its true light, and if it may be hoped without presumption that this is here effected; they who love and admire him will receive a new pleasure, and all probably will be more ready to join in doing him justice, who does great honour to his country as a rare and perhaps a singular genius: one who hath attained an high degree of perfection in those two great branches of poetry, Tragedy and Comedy, different as they are in their natures from each other; and who may be said without partiality to have equalled, if not excelled, in both kinds, the best writers of any age or country who have thought it glory enough to distinguish themselves ineither.

Since therefore other nations have taken care to dignify the works of their most celebrated poets with the fairest impressions beautified with the ornaments of sculpture, well may our Shakespear be thought to deserve no less consideration: and as a fresh acknowledgement hath lately been paid to his merit, and a high regard to his name and memory, by erecting his statue at a publick expense; so it is desired that this new edition of his works, which hath cost some attention and care, may be looked upon as another small monument designed and dedicated to his honour.

 

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Filed under 1770's, Literature, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Shakespeare