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.


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]


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]



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.




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.



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