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It may be useful to state the design of the present volume, which differs in its character from the preceding Series.
The form of essay-writing, were it now moulded even by the hand of the Raphael of Essayists, would fail in the attraction of novelly; Morality would now in vain repeat its counsels in a fugitive page, and Manners now offer but little variety to supply one. The progress of the human mind has been marked by the enlargement of our knowledge ; and essay-writing seems to have closed with the century which it charmed and enlightened.
I have often thought that an occasional recurrence to speculations on human affairs, as they appear in private and in public history, and to other curious inquiries in literature and philosophy, would form some substitute for this mode of writing. These Researches, therefore, offer authentic knowledge for evanescent topics ; they attempt to demonstrate some general principle, by induction from a variety of particulars -to develop those imperfect truths which float obscurely in the mindand to suggest subjects, which, by their singulariiy, are new to inquiry, and which may lead to new trains of ideas. Such Researches will often form supplements to our previous knowledge.
In accustoming ourselves to discoveries of this nature, every research seems to yield the agreeable feeling of invention-it is a pleasure peculiar to itself—something which we ourselves have found out — and which, whenever it imparts novelty or interest to another, communicates to him the delight of the first discoverer.
CURIOSITIES OF LITERATURE.
tain the substantial nourishment of European knowledge, MODERN LITERATURE, BAYLE'S CRITICAL DICTIONARY.
a library of ten thousand volumes will not satisfy our inA new edition of Bayle in France is now in a progres. quiries, nor supply our reasearches even on a single topic! sive state of publication; an event in literary history which Let not, however, the votaries of ancient literature dread could not have been easily predicted. Every work which its neglect, nor be over jealous of their younger and Gothic creates an epoch in literature is one of the great monu, sister. The existence of their favourite study is secured, ments of the human mind; and Bayle may be considered as well hy its own imperishable claims, as by ihe stationaa as the father of literary curiosity, and of Modern Literature.
ry inštitutions of Europe. But one of those silent revos Much has been alleged against our author : yet let us be lutions in the intellectual history of mankind, which are careful to preserve what is precious.
Bayle is the invent not so obvious as those in their political state, seems now or of a work which dignified a collection of facts constituto fully accomplished. The very term 'classical,' so long ing his texi, by the argumentative powers and the copious limited to the ancient authors, is now equally applicable to illustrations which charm us in his diversified commentary. the most elegant writers of every literary people; and alConducting the humble pursults of an Aulus Gellius and an though Latin and Greek were long characterized as the Atheneus, with a higher spirit he showed us the philoso- learned languages,' yet we cannot in truth any longer conphy of Books, and communicated to such limited researches cede that those are the most learned who are inter Græa value which they had otherwise not possessed.
cos Græcissimi, inter Latinos Latinissimi,' any more than This was introducing a study perlectiy distinct from we can reject from the class of the learned,' those great what is pre-eminently distinguished as classical learn. writers, whose scholarship in the ancient classics may be ing,' and ine subjects which had usually entered into phi- very indifferent. The modern languages now have alsc lological pursuiis. Ancient literature, from century to become learned ones, when he who writes in them is incentury, had constituted the sole labours of the learned, bued with their respective learning. He is a learned' wriand Variæ lectiones' were long their pride and their ter who has embraced most knowledge on the particular reward. Latin was the literary language of Europe. subject of his investigation, as he is a 'classical' one who The vernacular idiom in Italy was held in such contempt, comiposes with the greatest elegance. Sir David Dalthat their youths were not suffered to read Italian books: rymple dedicales lois. Memorials relating to the History their native productions ; Varchi tells a curious anecdote of Britain' to the Earl of Hardwicke, whom he styles of his father sending him to prison, where be was kept on with equal happiness and propriety, . Learned in British bread and water, as a penance for his inveterate passion History.' Scholarship has hitherto been a term reservfor reading Italian books! Dante was reproached by the ed for the adept in ancient literature, whatever may be the erudite Italians for composing in bis mother tongue, still mediocrity of his intellect; but the honourable distinction expressed by the degrading designation of il volgare, which must be extended to all great writers in modern literature, the 'resolule' John Florio rendere ' to make common;' and if we would not confound the natural sense and propriety to translate was contemptuously called volgarizzare ; while of things. Petrarch rested his fame on his Latin poetry, and called Modern literature may, perhaps, still be discriminated his Italian nugellas vulgares! With us, Roger Ascham from the ancient, by a term it began to be called by at the was the first who boldly avowed. To speak as the common Reformation, ihai of the New Learning.' Without suppeople, to think as wise men;' yet, so laie as the time of planting the ancient, the modern must grow up with it; the Bacon, this great man did not consider his " Moral Essays further we advance in society, it will more deeply occupy as likely to last in the moveable sands of a modern lan our interests; and it has already proved whai Bacon, guage, for ho as anxiously had them sculptured in the mar. casuing his philosophical views retrospectively and prosble of ancient Rome. Yet what had the great ancients pectively, has observed, that Time was the greatest of themselves done, but trusted to their own volgare? The innovators.' Greeks, the finest and most original writers of ihe ancients, When Bayle projected his 'Critical Dictionary,' he observes Adam Ferguson,' were unacquainted with every probably had no idea that he was about effecting a revolanguage but their own; and if they became learned, it luion in our libraries, and founding a new province in the was only by studying what they themselves had produced.' dominion of human owledge; creative genius often is
During fourteen centuries, whatever lay out of the pale itself the creature of its own age : it is but that reaction of classical learning was condemned as barbarism ; in the of public opinion, which is generally the fore-runner of mean while, however, amidst this barbarism, another lite some critical change,or which calls forin some wants which ruture was insensibly creating itself in Europe. Every sooner or later will be supplied. The predisposition for people, in the gradual accessions of their vernacular genius, the various, but neglected literature, and the curious, but discovered a new sort of knowledge, one which more deep the scattered knowledge, of the moderns, which had long ly interested their feelings and the times, reflecting the been increasing, with the speculative turn of inquiry, preimage, not of the Greeks and the Latins, but of themselves! vailed in Europe, when Bayle took his pen to give the A spirit of inquiry, originating in events which had never thing itself a name and an existence. But the great aureached the ancient world, and the same refined taste in thors of modern Europe were not yet consecrated beings, the arts of composition caught from the models of antiquity, like the ancients, and their volumes were not read from al length raised up rivals, who competed with the great the chairs of universities; yet the new interests which had ancients themselves; and Modern Literature now occu arisen in society, the new modes of human life, the new pies a space which looks to be immensity, compared with spread of knowledge, the curiosity after even the little the narrow and the imperfect limits of the ancient. A things which concern us, the revelations of secret history, complete collection of classical works, all the bees of ar and the state papers which have sometimes escaped from Equity, may be hived in a glass case; but those we national archives, the philosophical spirit which was hasshould find only the milk and honey of our youth; to ob tening its stops and raising up new systems of thinking i