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into vain and exclusive nationality, which despises the habits, manners, science, and literature, of other nations, then does it lose its amiableness, and become disgusting—then does it prove injurious to society, by impeding the progress of intellect and the spread of knowledge. Ancient Greece did, and modern France does, with the same vanity, folly, and spirit of exclusion, reject every thing that is not national. Rome and England, on the contrary, with all their nationality,
« Imitari quam invidere bonis, malebant." Another prevailing prejudice is the excessive love of wealth-the respect which it exacts, and which is granted to it. Men mistake the means for the end; it becomes a morbid passion, which “grows by what it feeds on ;” the more the dazzling heaps accumulate, the fiercer it burns, till its influence withers the young affections of the heart, and leaves its hopeless victim a monument of the fallacy of human expectations. A competency cannot be obtained without industry, but temperate well-directed industry will always secure it; and if man would regard his own feelings and social enjoyments, rather than heartless show and the opinion of the world, it would secure health and happiness also. Truth turns aside with disgust at the reception given to ill-acquired affluence the homage paid to splendid iniquity:
A great portion of the evils which have afflicted the human race, M. Marsais traces to religion. He does not attempt to express, nor seem to feel, that there is any distinction between religion and the abuse of it. Himself, in the early part of his life, a member of an ecclesiastical body, he seems to have thought that the Catholic church was the Christian religion; and seeing the delusion, fanaticism, hatred, persecution, and bloodshed, which had grown out of it, he has, in the very spirit of prejudice, which he has been deprecating, concluded that what had been the occasion of so much misery, must in itself be false and erroneous. He confounds superstition with religion-the ambition, corruption, and mysticism of priests, who prohibited the use of the reasoning faculty, with a religion which teaches, in the spirit of charity and philosophy, to“ prove all things, and hold fast that which is good.”
M. Marsais, in conclusion, endeavours to shew that truth must sooner or later prevail over prejudice, and the obstacles by which it is opposed. He does not, however, indulge himself in depicting a state of absolute, but comparative, perfection; he takes not the views of the enthusiast, but of the philosopher; he argues not from imagination, but experience. A great obstacle to the extinction of prejudice is the
opposition of men of power and influence, who either have an interest in perpetuating abuses, or no interest in removing evils, the inconvenience of which they do not feel. : The manner also in which truth and error are woven together, forms a web, the different threads of which are so twisted and mixed with each other, that it requires the utmost patience and skill to unravel them. But pure unmingled prejudice can no more withstand the touch of truth, than Satan could that of Ithuriel's spear; when they come in contact, the former must appear in its naked deformity, and the latter in characters of light, although false shame may prevent the world from adopting it, even when they recognize its beauty. The chains, and dungeons, and swords of power, may for a time suppress, but they can never extinguish, the energies of the soul of man. It is impelled forward by powers too mighty, to be controuled by the already withering arm of despotism: its progression is silent and slow, but it is unceasing, and tyranny and oppression must retreat before it; the seeds of truth are scattered over the globe, and will in time shoot forth into shrubs, bearing fruit again to seed, and again to be renewed.
Having thus gone through the work which forms the subject of the present article, the reader may possibly enquire the reason of our enlarging upon a topic which is by no means new. It was not, assuredly, because prejudices are more potent now than heretofore-a great many old ones have been worn away, and but a few new ones have sprung up-nor was it any prejudice in favour of the subject-our apology (if apology be necessary) must rest upon the work itself. The boldness and manliness of the sentiments, and the general tone of the work, struck us as something so novel in a French writer of that time, (without, however, forgetting the class of writers with whom the author was contemporary) that our admiration was irresistibly engaged-we sympathised in the indignant throbs of his heart at the degradation and miseries of his species, and his anxiety for the general happiness; and we admired him for his honest and unrepressed hatred of oppression, in all its shapes. The work before us is distinguished by a mild, candid, benevolent, and philosophical spirit. The author's reasoning is precise and forcible, and sometimes rapid and brilliant, and his conclusions are in general just. When he touches upon despotic government, or the mummeries of superstition, he becomes warm and energetic, and sometimes bursts out into eloquent declamation, but there is little of the violence of party, or the rancour of sect, to be found in this essay : his arguments are strong, without bitterness, and full of hu
manity and social kindness. The spirit of his style carries us pleasantly along with the subject, and though somewhat redundant, it is perspicuous. He had seen little of the world ; and Fontenelle said of him, “ C'est le nigaud le plus spirituel et l'homme d'esprit le plus nigaud que je connoisse.”
ART. VII. Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial; or, a Discourse of the
Sepulchral Urns lately found in Norfolk. By Thomas Browne, Dr. of Physic. London, printed for Charles Brome, 1686.
There are few writers who have taken for their especial themes death and the grave. Still fewer are they who have done justice to these subjects, so sublime and fearful. The poets and philosophers, indeed, all make no small use of the last solemn period to earthly enjoyments and hopes. It not only deepens the speculations of sages, and sheds a melancholy hue over the images of tragic poets, but heightens the feeling breathed forth in gay and festive songs. The fragility of delight is one of its most bewitehing attributes.' We desire to grasp earnestly, that which is soon to pass away for ever. We feel as if we could make up in intensity for that which is wanting in duration, and live whole ages in a few short hours. All the affections of the human heart are rendered more august and sacred, by the mortality of the frame which is their present abode. This ever counteracts their tendency to cling to material objects, to grow to the delights of sense, and to lose their noblest and most disinterested qualities in the feeling of full satisfaction in those things which form but their temporary resting places, and refreshments in this palpable yet shifting scene. Destined to an eternity on earth, they might harden into a selfishness which would debase their essence. But when he who feels them, recognizes his own mortality and their eternal nature when he knows that all sensual gratifications must perish, but that they shall endure-he nurtures them for their high and supernal destiny. In the spirit of immortality, he cherishes sentiments of devotion and self-sacrifice, learns to live beyond himself, and, denied the immediate range of those regions in which hereafter he will be a free traveller, seeks fit walk for his spirit among the ranks of humanity, and claims deep kindred with those who are journeying through earth with the same hopes and foretastes. Death imparts its most intense interest to life. It preserves to the spiritual part of man its own high prerogatives. Our sense of the
rnal. We We dost with the per
majesty of the soul, arises from its contrast with the perishableness of our mortal nature. We do reverence to that within us which is eternal. We find no perfection, no completeness in pleasure, except when the feeling of eternity blends with, and consecrates the joy. Thus the delights of innocent and deep-hearted love are the sweetest we can know in this world; because its fleeting enjoyments are heightened by sentiments which cannot die; because there are some pulses of rapture in its delights, which death cannot bid to pause; because it unites the spirit of both worlds, the delicacies of earth, with the pure and far-reaching emotions of Heaven, Frequent use, therefore, hath been made of the mortality of man by poets and sages. They have delighted to shew the superiority of the soul over its mortal destiny. They have consecrated this world by representing it as the vestibule of one which shall endure for ever. They have taught us to listen to echoes from beyond the grave, and have shed over our earthly path “ glimpses which may make us less forlorn.” But they have, for the most part, regarded death only as the barrier between the shadows of this world and the invisible realities of another. They have not taken the awful subject as the sole or chief ground of their contemplations. They have rather sought to soften it away-to represent it as a general slumber-or to make us feel it but as the dividing streak between our visible horizon and that more clear and unstained hemisphere, on which the sun of human existence rises, when it dips behind the remotest hills of earthly vision with all its livery of de
But Sir Thomas Browne, in the work before us, hath dared to take the grave itself for his theme. He deals not with death as a shadow, but as a substantial reality. He dwells not on it as the mere cessation of life-he treats it not as a terrible negation--but enters on its discussion as a state with its own solemnities and pomps. Others who have professed to write on death, have treated merely of dying. They have fearfully described the rending asunder of soul and body-the last farewell to existence and the state of the spirit in its range through new and untried scenes of rapture or of woe. Some have individualized the theme, and written of death in relation only to particular persons or classes who become its victims. Those who regard it more universally and intensely-as Blair and Young—yet look but
yew trees, and grave stones, or hint at superstitions which endow the dead with life, and endue the tomb with something of vitality. Sir Thomas Browne alone treats of death
as one subdued to its very essence. He encounters the tyrant, and “ plucks out the heart of his mystery.” He speaks not of the agonies of dissolution; but regards the destroyer only when he is laden with his spoils, and the subjects of his victory are at rest. The region of his imagination is that space beneath the surface of the world, where the bones of all generations repose. His fancy works beneath the ground its way from tomb to tomb, rests on each variety of burial, ennobles the naked clay of the peasant, expands in the sepulchres of kings, and, skimming beneath the deepest caverns of the sea, detects the unvalued jewels" in those holes which eyes did once inhabit.” The language of his essay is weighty, yet tender, such as his theme should inspire. We can imagine nothing graver. His words are sepulchral-his ornaments are flowers of mortality. If his essay were, read by Mr. Kemble, it would have appropriate voice, breathed forth in the tenderest of sepulchral tones, with cadences solemn and sweet as the last tremblings of good men's lives.
The immediate occasion which called forth the deep and noble effusion we are now to contemplate, is thus related by its author:
“ In a field of old Walsingham, not many months past, were digged up between forty and fifty Urns, deposited in a dry and sandy soil, not a yard deep, nor far from one another : Not all strictly of one figure, but most answering these described ; some containing two pounds of bones, distinguishable in skulls, ribs, jaws, thigh-bones, and teeth, with fresh impressions of their combustion. Besides the extraneous substances, like pieces of small boxes, or combs hand. somely wrought, handles of small brass instruments, brazen nippers, and in one some kind of opal.
“ Near the same plot of ground, for about six yards compass, were digged up coals and incinerated substances, which begat conjecture that this was the Ustrina or place of burning their bodies, or some sacrificing place unto the manes, which was properly below the surface of the ground, as the aræ and altars unto the gods and beroes above it.”
Thus inspired, he pours forth, without particular order or design, his richest treasures of imagery and thought. These may be divided into two classes, those learned commentaries which relate to modes of interment, and those intense reflections which he makes on death, life, and duration.
He opens the subjects with a general survey or map of the earthy region through which he is about to conduct us:
“ In the deep discovery of the subterranean world, a shallow part would satisfy some enquirers; who, if two or three yards were open about the surface, would not care to rake the bowels of Potosi, and