« 上一頁繼續 »
by some extracts from the volume, the contents of which we have just enumerated. Since the writer, in some passages which we shall have occasion more particularly to notice as we proceed, speaks of the miraculous interpositions of the Deity in the Jewish economy in rather an ambiguous manner, we are pleased to be able to select from her short preface (in which the design of her work is but imperfectly explained) a passage of the following description :
It is incontestable that we must admit a state of primitive illumination. I do not here speak of the arts and sciences; all improvements in them belong to the inheritance of map : but I speak of those pure and intelligent notions, those reasonable and virtuous feelings, without which this monarch of the earth could not have fula filled his destination. The farther we re-ascend into history, the more we shall discover the light of sound reason among mankind. The east, in its institutions as well as in its traditions, shews us from the beginning an immediate and constant connection between man and the Deity. Wisdom, in the earliest ages, there became the object of human reflections and laws; and all the social virtues there exercised themselves untaught, under the shade of palm trees and the shelter of tents. The inborn sentiment of his natural dignity, and of his divine relations, placed man at the creation in the rank which was assigned to him among all creatures. We shall find, if we consider the subject, that, in the forests of the new world as well as in the most distant quarters of the old, even in those spots on which man appears to have lost himself, all the notions of virtue are an at. tribute of existence, all the appearances of society are capable of being traced to the memory of men ; and that the shades of brutish. ness, or of corruption, which we remark, have accidental causes, which events or situations will never fail to explain.'
This last paragraph staggered uś not a little, both as to fact and as to opinion : but we will not here stop to controvert asser. tions which we think sufficiently refute themselves, and which, we are happy to add, have few parallels in this volume. Several minor objections, indeed, might be urged against this writer's reasoning ; such, for instance, as her unbounded admiration of Egyptian wisdom, which we have ever considered in a suspicious point of view; and her extravagant praise of the Hindus, a people who appear, as we become better acquainted with their religion and literature, in a far inferior light to that in which uninstructed wonder had represented them. « Omne ignotum pro magnifico" is, in truth, an adage equally well applied to our notions of Egypt and of India. Yet this fair authory.if she errs, certainly errs in nụmerous and respectable company ; and, we therefore pass on to those parts of her first volume which redeem any mistakes that she may have committed in its commencement. :?' i.
The account of the book of Job is prefaced by a remark on the uncertainty of its author, which induces this writer to place it before the books of Moses in her examination. We refrain from discussing the question in this place, and merely refer those who are desirous of knowing where the fullest information may be gained on the subject, to the authors quoted in the notes to Gray's short dissertation, in his Key to the Old Testament. We cannot but observe that, from such well-known writings as the Holy Scriptures, Madame Du C. quotes with too great liberality ; she seems, however, to perform this office with so much zeal, that we reject the vile idea of any book-making propensities in so enthusiastic an admirer of the simplicity of the sacred records : yet we must admonish her that her reason for not citing the poems of Homer would hold equally strong against any transcript from the book of Job, or from the Pentateuch. At the same time, we give her credit for the correctness of her taste in selecting the passages most characteristic of antient manners, or most affecting in thought and expression. She seems indeed to have a very acute and just sense of the pathetic, the sublime, and the beautiful, in composition.
On Job's answer to his impatient wife, « shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil ?” we find the following proper observations:
• The most touching resignation is expressed in this book, with those ideas only, which an Idumzan shepherd could associate together at that period. This same resignation is prescribed to the wise man, with a long process of reasoning, in the most celebrated philosophical works. We shall find their authors defining good and evil, justice and injustice, and arriving by demonstration at the same result .which sound reason, self-knowlege, and perhaps a pure heart, also
discover.' : Why the last member of this sentence should contain any thing hypothetical in its expression, we are at a loss to conceive. A pure heart is assuredly the necessary concomitant of wisdom ; for without a pure heart, who can either love or fear God, as he ought? The concluding sentences of the chapter on Job are excellent :
I entreat those, who have not yet performed this duty, to read and to meditate on the words of wisdom, which Job so longed to see written in a book, or engraved on a plate of lead with a pen of iron, or imprinted on a rock with the chisel ! --The antients expressed, ' without managenient, the desire of their hearts : - the freedom of
their instructions and their very length, the fruit of a protracted and uniform leisure, their whole effect, as it penetrates our souls, 80 it disposes them to aggrandize themselves; and we feel, as, we study
these lessons, an imposing sensation, similar to that which is excited by the still silence of noon in the midst of a desert country.
Many persons would object to the indistinctness, or the unintelligibility perhaps, of this image; it conveys, however, a grand and soothing idea to our imagination : yet, perhaps, detached from the context, it may lose with our readers the effect which it produced on us after the perusal of a chapter devoted to a consideration of that remote antiquity, in which the narrative and the dialogue of the Book of Job so completely. immerse the mind.
In several parts of this volume, the writer naturally rejoices in the fame of her sex; and at page 46. she thus expresses herself: · The most antient traditions have placed a great number of women among the benefactors of the human race. All languages have made the virtues feminine, as well as glory; even mythology possesses its Minerva and its Muses.' - We might add, its Graces, and its Furies.
We were pleased in the account of Homer, (page 243.) to meet with a duly modified tribute to the merits of one of the fair writer's literary country-women:
• Madame Dacier has translated into French the immortal poems of Homer. Her genius could not reach her model : but the natural bias of an innocent and sensible mind made her appreciate and feel his beauties. Every human spul does not include sublimity in ito compass : but to possess the property of goodness is the first and indispensable characteristic of true grandeur. Honour to this learned woman ! whose profound knowlege has ever been as undoubt. ed as her eminent virtue.'
At page 48. we find one of Madame De C.'s insinuations, though doubtingly and timidly urged, concerning the allegorical nature of the scriptures : but, as if alarmed even at her own cautious daring, in page 52. she offers an excuse, often introduced again, that the sacred nature of the Bible falls not under her consideration : :
« To Bossuet it belongs to unravel and to point out the path of Providence in the events which appertain to religion ; and which were ordained to prepare and to accomplish the work of our redemp: tion. My feeble pencil shall not follow the majestic course of his consecrated pen. I shall not touch on religious doctrines which I admit and which I revere : it is only the writing and the writer which I consider in Moses, and in his Pentateuch.'
Again, at page 78. after having mentioned the miracle of the sun and the moon being arrested in their course, in the Book of Joshua, the author adds: ¢ We must not always in antient books, take the expression of thoughts for the
record of facts : but let us never dispute a miracle against the omnipotence of heaven; for the vegetation of the smallest grain exceeds all the powers of the world. That which is sublime in the passage which I have cited (the speech of Joshua to his army in the pursuit of the Amorites) is the exalted confidence which it implies : a supernatural strength gives this confidence to the soul which it fills. The warrior, at such a moment, identifies himself with the power of God, of which he disposes : he feels, in all its plenitude, a force before which resistance is nothing.'.
At page 134. we have terms more explicit, and more objectionable :
«The history of the Jews has presented to us more than once the idea of a theocracy: but we shall deceive ourselves strangely, if we regard such a government as the combined result of political institu. tions. The farther we look back into history, the more we shall perceive of natural independence and effective liberty. The most antient societies possessed laws only in detail ; and the principles of our constitutions were almost unknown to them. It was by consulting the Deity that the chiefs of nations succeeded in governing them; and that they received the responses, or the inspirations, of which they stood in need. To consult God is to descend into the beart: is to apply, before the Deity, to our natural light and conscience. It was thus, before the aid of the sciences was obtained, that it was sufficient for the fearless pilot to contemplate the vault of heaven, and to follow the guidance of the stars."
We shall not enlarge on the obvious grounds of objection to these notions : they are old, and have often been canvassed. The writer appears half-inclined and half-afraid to support her opinions, concerning the interference of a particular Providence with the direction of the Jewish polity.
In one place, page 164., after some very sensible and animated remarks on the Psalms, she says; ( with the prophetic character of these compositions I do not interfere;' and in another, (page 181,) she observes that music sometimes helped to support the enthusiasm of these prophets, who may also be called seers ;' a name, she remarks, in another passage, « not perfectly explained by the antients. This is a favourite subject of modern French criticism : Voltaire made it fashionable ; and it is curious to contemplate, in a writer so seriously disposed as the present, the struggle between religious education and later habits of thinking, which produces a sort of whimsical mixture of faith and scepticism. The earlier and stronger bias, however, breaks out triumphantly in the following instance, (page 183.) and on many other occasions. At first we Be the difficulties suggested by doubt :
• In an age governed by inspirations, by prophecies, and by oracles, every circumstance must be miraculous. The historian must explain all facts as the result of certain supernatural combinations ; and the least event, thus considered, presupposes in all times a chain of prodigies."
After such a hint, and so philosophical a suspension of assent to the literal truth of the Jewish history, who would expect to see all hesitation precipitately overwhelmed by the subsequent burst of piety?
- But far from me, far from me I repeat, be any intention to pretend to weaken the religious importance of so inestimable a book! I feel myself exalted on the contrary with these lonely beings who are strengthened by an inward and irresistible power! I plunge myself into the antiquity which they have made to resound. I am buried in their profound retirement : my heart finds an unspeakable consolation in attaching myself, like them, to the immediate influence of the Deity over all that affects the mind : like them, I believe that Deity to be penetrable by the accents of free and fervent prayer," and I trust, with gratitude, to the dispensations of incomprehensible goodness."
We shall now offer our readers some specimens of this writer's criticisms on profane authors. At page 234. we have these remarks on Homer; which, if not original, are at least well-expressed in the French:
• The raptures of Homer are sublime : he launches out into space, and ascends to the empyreal : but it is not in the quietude of our manners, in the variety of our avocations, in the shackles of our luxury, and in the confusion of our immense populations, that an Iliad could be created. We must feel, we must suffer, we must enjoy with the simple energy of the soul, in order to attain conceptions of so great a vigour. It is over the boundless arch of the heavens that the sun issues forth like a giant, and rejoices to run his course'.
The succeeding observations appear to us deserving of translation:
• Learned men have taken pleasure in comparing many passages of Homer with traits of manners which are to be found in the Scriptures, and have admired their correspondence. Times at no great distance from each other,' (Homer" is placed about a century after Solomon,) and manners of which the simplicity and the degree of civilization have so much conformity, must give the thoughts nearly the same colouring. Above all, profound meditation, and the constant view of the objects of nature, have created poets and poetry. Allegory offers herself spontaneously to ardent imagina. tions, and is ready to start into life at their command. .
• Truth, moreover, is the inspiration of the antients : she gives a reality of existence to their conceptions ; while the mechanical compositions of the moderns, almost invariably formed on ideas