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versed in all that has been written concerning the nature of God, and of the soul of man, about matter and form, body and spirit, and space and eternal essences, and incorporeal 'substances, and the rest of those profound speculations. You are a master of the controversies that have arisen about nature and grace, ahout predestination and free will, and all the other abstruse questions that have made so much noise in the schools, and done so much hurt in the world. You are going on as fast as the infirmities you have contracted will permit, in the same course of study; but you begin to foresee that you shall want time, and you make grievous complaints of the shortness of human life.
Give me leave now to ask you how many thousand years God must prolong your life in order to reconcile you to his wisdom and goodness? It is plain, at least highly probable, that a life as long as that of the most aged of the patriarchs would be too short to answer your purposes; since the researches and disputes in which you are engaged have been already for a much longer time the objects of learned inquiries, and remain still as imperfect and undetermined as they were at first.
But let me ask you again, and deceive neither yourself nor me, have you, in the course of these forty years, once examined the first principles and the fundamental facts on which all those questions depend, with an absolute indifference of judgment, and with a scrupulous exactness ?—with the same that you have employed in examining the various consequences drawn from them, and the heterodox opinions about them? Have you not taken them for granted in the
whole course of your studies ? Or if you have looked now and then on the state of the proofs brought to maintain them have you not done it as a mathematician looks over a demonstration formerly made—to refresh his memory, not to satisfy any doubt? If you have thus examined, it may appear marvellous to some that you have spent so much time in many parts of those studies which have reduced you to this hectic condition of so much heat and weakness. But if you have not thus examined, it must be evident to all, nay, to yourself on the least cool reflection, that you are still, notwithstanding all your learning, in a state of ignorance. For knowledge can alone produce knowledge; and without such an examination of axioms and facts, you can have none about inferences.”
In this manner one might expostulate very reasonably with many a great scholar, many a profound philosopher, many a dogmatical casuist. And it serves to set the complaints about want of time, and the shortness of human life in a very ridiculous but a true light.
(1690 - 1762.)
(LADY MARY WORTLEY MONTAGU was the friend and compeer of Addison, Pope, Gay and the other distinguished literati of that period. Few ladies have united so much solid sense and learning, to such brilliant wit and such power of description. In Epistolary writing, she has few superiors. Many of her let. ters were written from Constantinople, where she resided for several years in consequence of her husband's being English Ambassador to the Porte. It is not a little remarkable that one of the greatest improvements in medical practise, inoculation for the small pox, was brought into notice in England by means of this accornplished and elegant woman.)
To Mrs. S. C.- Inoculation for the Small Pox.
ADRIANOPLE, April 1, 0. S., 1717. .. Apropos of distempers, I am going to tell you a thing that will make you wish yourself here. The small-pox, so fatal and so general amongst us, is here entirely harmless, by the invention of ingrafting, which is the term they give it. There is a set of old women who make it their business to perform the operation every autumn, in the month of September, when the great heat is abated. People send to one another to know if any one of their family has a mind to have the small-pox; they make parties for this purpose, and when they are met (commonly fifteen or sixteen together), the old woman comes with a nutshell full of the matter of the best sort of small-pox, and asks what vein you please to have opened. She immediately
rips open that you offer to her with a large needle (which gives you no more pain than a common scratch), and puts into the vein as much matter as can lie upon the head of her needle, and after that binds up the little wound with a hollow bit of shell; and in this manner opens four or five veins. The Grecians have commonly the superstition of opening one in the mid. dle of the forehead, one in each arm, and one on the breast, to mark the sign of the cross; but this has a very ill effect, all these wounds leaving little scars, and is not done by those that are not superstitious, who choose to have them in the legs, or that part of the arm that is concealed.
The children or young patients play together all the rest of the day, and are in perfect health to the eighth. Then the fever begins to seize them, and they keep their beds two days, very seldom three. They have very rarely above twenty or thirty in their faces, which never mark; and in eight days' time, they are as well as before their illness. Where they are wounded, there remains running sores during the distemper, which I don't doubt is a great relief to it. Every year thousands undergo this operation; and the French ambassador says pleasantly, that they take the smallpox here by way of diversion, as they take the waters in other countries. There is no example of any one that has died in it; and you may believe I am well satisfied of the safety of this experiment, since I intend to try it on my dear little son.
I am patriot enough to take pains to bring this useful invention into fashion in England; and I should not fail to write to some of our doctors very particularly about it, if I knew any one of them that I thought
had virtue enough to destroy such a considerable branch of their revenue for the good of mankind. But that distemper is too beneficial to them, not to expose to all their resentment the hardy wight that should undertake to put an end to it. Perhaps, if I live to return, I may, however, have courage to war with them. Upon this occasion, admire the heroism in the heart of your friend, &c.
To her Daughter, the Countess of Bute-On Female
LOUVERE, Jan. 28, N. S., 1753. Dear Child—You have given me a great deal of satisfaction by your account of your eldest daughter. I am particularly pleased to hear she is a good arithmetician; it is the best proof of understanding: the knowledge of numbers is one of the chief distinctions between us and brutes. If there is anything in blood, you may reasonably expect your children should be endowed with an uncommon share of good sense. Mr. Wortley's family and mine have both produced some of the greatest men that have been born in England ; I mean Admiral Sandwich, and my grandfather, who was distinguished by the name of Wise William. I have heard Lord Bute's father mentioned as an extraordinary genius, though he had not many opportunities of showing it; and his uncle, the present Duke of Argyll, has one of the best heads I ever knew.
I will therefore speak to you as supposing Lady Mary not only capable but desirous of learning ; in that case by all means let her be indulged in it. You