ePub 版

-Subject of Pictures at Herculaneum.' - We must be satisfied with this bare enumeration : merely adding that some of the contractions which are used in the language of Inscriptions, and other peculiarities of the lapidary style, are here explained concisely and correctly; and that the whole of this essay, like the others of Mr. Walpole, proves the author to be a proper associate with Sir William Drummond, in the illustration of any department of classical literature.

Art. II. Enquiries, historical and moral, respecting the Character of

Nations, and the Progress of Society. By Hugh Murray. Svo. pp. 424. 108. 6d. Boards. Longman and Co. The subject here undertaken by Mr. Murray ranks among the

1 most important of literary labours. It belongs to that department which, since the days of Voltaire, we have been accustomed to call “ the philosophy of history ;” its object being to record those general truths which the annals of various nations concur to establish, and to deduce those conclusions which are applicable to all mankind. Mr. Murray aims at occupying only a part of this extensive field ; since, leaving it to others to delineate the progress of laws and arts, he confines himself to the moral history of man, to the manners and character of nations, and the circumstances on which these are dependent. He limits himself farther, in the present production, to one only of the great divisions of the history of mankind, the savage state ; reserving his disquisitions on the more advanced ages for a future work, the publication of which seems to depend (Introduction, p. 7.) on the reception which the present may experience.

Mr. M. has divided this volume into two parts, the first of which lays down the principles that regulate the moral progress of society, while the second exemplifies the operation of these principles by references to history. The former is a continued disquisition, and partakes, in some measure, of the dryness of an abstract subject; the latter is more diversified, and admits of many interesting illustrations from the various shades of manners and national character, which are presented by the historian and the traveller. The circumstances which accelerate the moral advancement of society are termed by Mr. Alurray, 'progressive principles,' and are classed under the heads of, 1. Collection of Numbers into one Place. 2. Freedom of Intercourse. 3. Acquisition of Wealth. 4. Occurrence of great public Events. 5. Freedom from the Necessity of Labour ; and 6. Freedom from Coercion. This enumeration,


[ocr errors]

3. Ans. Fren Coerchen

although not a literal transcript from Mr. Murray's book, will be found to be an accurate representation, in substance, of his mode of arrangement. Each of these progressive principles is ultimately productive of great improvement: but the irregularity of this improvement, and the mixture of deterioration attenda ant on it, have suggested to the author the curious inference that whatever eventually tends to improve the condition of man, is positively injurious in its first operation. The collection of numbers into a large city, for example, is essential to the production of those arts which refine and exalt human nature, and to the acquisition of fixed opinions and extensive views : but it is fatal to that simplicity of character which rests on moderate passions, and the absence of temptation. In like manner, freedom of communication leads to knowlege of the world; which, while it increases our ability and conduces to our success in life, is productive always of danger and frequently of injury to our moral principles.

While we express our full assent to the essential part of Mr. Murray's position, of mixed good and evil arising from the operation of the progressive principles, we cannot help remarking a difference in opinion between two philosophers, in regard to the manner of this mixture taking place. Mr. Murray has no hesitation in putting the bad first and the good afterward; while a French philosopher, whose work" (Compensations des destinées humaines) we noticed in our Appendix to Vol.lxi., maintains that every evil has its equivalent good; not consequent, as Mr.Murray says, but co-existent and inherent with itself. · The finest example afforded by history, of the beneficial effects of the progressive principle of free intercourse, is found, as Mr. Murray observes, in the rapid improvement of the Grecian states. Their country was sufficiently divided to create diversity of manners, and sufficiently connected to enable one state to copy from another. Their mountains, rivers, and narrow seas, formed barriers against that conquest which in a level country is generally antecedent to civilization, and preserved the different tribes separate and independent, until each had established its particular government and manners: but in a more advanced age, these territorial boundaries proved no impediment to friendly intercourse ; and their common language powerfully facilitated a communication of ideas. The contemplation of different habits and opinions supplied their observing minds with ample materials for reflection; while it freed them from the chains of inveterate custom, and overthrew the blind submission which men are disposed to yield to the prejudices of country and education. The revival of learning in modern Italy took place under a similar combination of circumstances;



and the present superiority of Europe over Asia is owing, in a great degree, to those physical obstacles which arrest the progress of carly conquest, and afford time and opportunity for the establishment of separate states and the formation of national characters.

As to the influence of wealth on the progress of society, it is too obvious to stand in need of illustration : but the effects of great political vicissitudes are by no means so generally understood. These epochs are fruitful indeed in crimes, but they abound also with instances of exalted heroism, and call forth those powers which are latent in a state of general tranquillity. The activity inspired by great struggles remains after the public agitation is over, and, being diffused into every department of society, beconies a source of general improvement. During the continuance of national exertions, the great attraction is political distinction : but when war has been succeeded by peace, and commotion by tranquillity, the lottery of politics is less tempting, and the talents which were roused originally by public darger are directed to the cultivation of the arts in private life. That the improvements arising from this principle are posterior to the occurrence of great events is apparent from a variety of instances. The classic age of Athens was subsequent to the triumphs of Themistocles; the Augustan age of Rome implies, by its name, the reduction of contending parties under an absolute chief; and, in our own country, the energy excited by civil war gave rise to the literary æra of Charles Il. A familiarity with public events tends to direct literature, as Mr. Murray judiciously remarks, to purposes of practical utility. A writer is then occupied with the scenes of actual business, and finds in them a wholesome corrective of imaginary speculations. On the other hand, distance from the scene of action is apt to lead the man of letters into visionary theories. To what other cause are we'to attribute the perversion of literature at Alexandria under the later Platonists; or that accumulation of absurdities, under the name of logic, which oceupied the monks for so many ages without enriching science with a single discovery? The ignorance, in which they were immersed, continued till literature became an object of attention to men of the world ; and Bacon, the great reviver of philosophy, is well known to bave been an actor on the busy stage of life. It is remarkable that occupation with public affairs existed likewise in the case of Loiginus, almost the only Alexandrian who is intitled to perman nt reputation.

Freedom írom necessity of labour' forms the next of the progressive principles. By this expression, Mr. Murray means ile advantage resulting from the application to literature of


has no sprin.haracteabour, sual in

that time which most men are forced to give to the acquisition of subsistence. He enumerates, in his usual manner, the advantages and the disadyantages of labour, acknowleging its tens dency to produce a sedate character, but lamenting its effect in

weighing down the springs of the mind. The few observations which he has made are not liable to much objection, but they form only a very small portion of what ought to have been şaid on the subject. If it was foreign to his plan to have ana, lized the origin of industry, and to have traced the progress of its application from tasks of necessity to those of improvement, it was at least within his province to have explained its effect on moral character, and to have illustrated his reasoning by an appeal to those examples which history and travels present in such varied abundance. In the course of this research, he would have discovered that many peculiarities, which are ascribed by superficial observers to other causes, have their origin in the absence or the prevalence of industrious habits. It is, fundamentally, to long continued industry that we are intitled to attribute the regularity and steadiness of our own countrymen, when compared with the frivolity of their Southern neighbours ; among whom a despotic government, and the Catholic religion, rendered labour at one time unfashionable and at another time unlawful. In regard to a country which more nearly concerns us, Ireland, a philosophic observer,--without ascribing, like Sir William Temple, the unsettled habits of its natives to the exuberance of natural produce and consequent independence from iabour,—would have found the source of the evil in a want of regular industry, arising from defective government, and from a preposterous system of commercial regulation.

The most important of all the progressive principles, the influence of government, is discussed under the title of Freedom from coercion. A part of this disquisition we shall give in the words of the author:

It is liberty alone which can form that stable self-determining virtue, which is alone suitable to the dignity of human nature. Little value can be attached to the good conduct of him, who does not commit evil, merely because he dares not ; or who abstains from vio. lence, because his spirits are bowed down beneath the weight of ser. vitude. When these restraints are withdrawn, he will probably be the first to rush into every excess, and to compensate for former pri. vations by unlimited indulgence. It is only by the habit of determining for himself, of weighing the consequences of his own actions, that he can learn to direct his conduct by sure and manly prin.

As liberty is essential to genuine virtue, so she has always been found the great nurse of the arts, Genius has taken its highest


Aights only when buoyed up by her influence. The classic ages, which the fame of their writers has rendered immortal, have, almost all, been ages of unbounded freedom. Even amid the calamities of licentiousness and misrule, science has reared its head.' '

• In the courts of the Mahomedan conquerors, various circum. stances were found united; wealth, power, and widely extended communication. But liberty was wanting ; and this was a want which nothing could repair. Philosophers, affected by the general tameness, contented themselves with bowing to Grecian authority; and amid the learned men who crowded the courts of Haroun and of Mahmud, Sadi the poet alone laid the foundation of a lasting reputation.

• Of the states of modern Italy, many were frec. Florence, the most famed of all for learning, was entirely a popular government.'

• A free government is peculiarly favourable to the cultivation of moral and political philosophy, certainly of all branches the most important. These can seldom be carried on with safety under the jealous eye of a despot. In free states, too, the activity of the human mind, and the various aspects under which it presents itself, furnish ample room for such speculations; and present a striking con. trast to the stillness and uniformity of absolute government. Poetry, as ministering to pleasure, may be expected to meet with the greatest encouragement in courts. Yet, under the shade of freedom chiefly Aourishes the poet of nature, the man who can paint human feelings and passions in true and glowing colours. A circumstance, still more wonderful, is that which takes place in the history of those arts which minister to the gratification of the external senses ; the arts of painting, sculpture, and architecture. Here the greatest demand must undoubtedly be produced by the residence of a court; yet it is in the pure democracies of Athens and Florence, that they have reached the summit of excellence ; while despotism can produce only huge and shapeless masses, devoid of any informing principle of genius or taste. So much more dependant are these arts upon mind, than upon external excitements.

The only sciences which flourish under despotism, are the phy, sical and mathematical; these, when other circumstances are favour, able, seem even to have some predilection for this form of governo ment.'

Under the head of climate,' Mr. Murray combats, with much good sense, the favourite theory of Montesquieu that hot climates are naturally the abodes of indolence and slavery. He cites, in contradiction to that plausible philosopher, the warlike spirit of the inhabitants of Malacca, Java, Sumatra, and other islands in the Indian ocean, lying almost imme, diately under the sun, whose governments partake more of feudal irregularity than of confirmed despotism. The tribes of savages living near the Equator, in Africa and America, are almost all warlile and independent. Mr. Murray denies also the influence of climate in regard to sensual irregularities,


« 上一頁繼續 »