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press, they have not made above a score of converts to their views of Christianity, by oral and pulpit instruction, out of all the crowded population of Malta ; and those converts are almost to a man from the Catholic classes.' — pp. 204, 205.
Mr Bigelow, in the Preface, undertakes to vindicate the frequent and general censures, which he finds occasion to pass on the Catholic Church, and the English nation or government. Doubtless there is much weight in some of his suggestions, but still, in regard to the Catholics, it is perfectly fair, as it seems to us, that they should insist on our making a distinction between the policy which has been connected with their church in different ages and countries, and the church itself. So, too, in regard to the measures of the English government respecting their distant dependencies, it is clear that a stay of a few days in a strange land will not enable the most astute and sagacious observer to ascertain the practicability or expediency of reformations, which may strike him, at first sight, as easy and all-important. On this subject it is only necessary to recollect the feelings with which every body in this country reads the hasty criticisms and strictures of the British tourists on our own customs and institutions. It would be doing Mr. Bigelow injustice, however, to compare his work with theirs in this respect. But little is here known of the present condition of the interesting places visited by him ; and for this reason, as well as for the general ability and fidelity of his book, notwithstanding occasional blemishes, we presume and hope that it will find its way into extensive circulation.
ART. IX. — Thoughts on Man, his Nature, Productions,
and Discoveries. Interspersed with some Particulars respecting the Author. By WILLIAM GODWIN. London. 1831. 8vo. pp. 479.
MR. Godwin's answer to Malthus, which appeared in 1820, and still more recently his History of the Commonwealth, have not sustained the reputation which he acquired early in life, as the author of an 'Enquiry concerning Political Justice, and of some philosophical novels. We took
We took up his Thoughts
on Man,' therefore, with small expectations; but these, we are bound to say, have been more than answered. Many of the Essays are ingenious and interesting; a good spirit pervades the work'; and there are fewer passages than in any of his former writings, which need give offence to the friends of religion and a pure and strict morality. On some subjects, indeed, his testimony is more valuable for the very reason, that it
be regarded almost in the light of a confession wrung from the adverse party. In his Preface he says;
'In the ensuing volume I have attempted to give a defined and permanent form to a variety of thoughts, which have occurred to my mind in the course of thirty-four years, it being so long since I published a volume, entitled, “The Enquirer," — thoughts, which, if they have presented themselves to other men, have, at least, so far as I am aware, never been given to the public through the medium of the press. During a part of this period I had remained to a considerable degree unoccupied in my character of an author, and had delivered little to the press that bore my name. And I beg the reader to believe, that, since I entered, in 1791, upon that which may be considered as my vocation in life, I have scarcely in any instance contributed a page to any periodical miscellany.' –
The work consists of twenty-three Essays on the following topics: Of Body and Mind, — The Prologue. Of the Distribution of Talents. Of Intellectual Abortion. Of the Durability of Human Achievements and Productions. Of the Rebelliousness of Man. Of Human Innocence. Of the Duration of Human Life. Of Human Vegetation. Of Leisure. Of Imitation and Invention. Of Self-Love and Benevolence. of the Liberty of Human Actions. Of Belief. Of Youth and Age. Of Love and Friendship. Of Frankness and Re
Of Ballot. Of Diffidence. Of Self-Complacency. Of Phrenology. Of Astronomy. Of the Material Universe. Of Human Virtue, – The Epilogue. On such subjects the intelligent reader, notwithstanding the somewhat boastful declaration in the Preface, will not of course expect much that is, strictly speaking, original. All that we can do is to give a few passages, which seem to us to have the best claims to that character, or to be peculiarly interesting or valuable for other reasons.
The following remarks on education are just, and happily expressed.
'In the first place, as has been already observed, it is the most difficult thing in the world for the schoolmaster to inspire into his pupil the desire to do his best. An overwhelming majority of lads at school are in their secret hearts rebels to the discipline under which they are placed. The instructor draws one way, and the pupil another. The object of the latter is to find out how he may escape censure and punishment with the smallest expense of scholastic application. He looks at the task that is set him, without the most distant desire of improvement, but with alienated and averted eye. And, where this is the case, the wonder is not that he does not make a brilliant figure. It is rather an evidence of the slavish and subservient spirit incident to the majority of human beings, that he learns any thing. Certainly the schoolmaster, who judges of the powers of his pupil's mind by the progress he makes in what he would most gladly be excused from learning, must be expected perpetually to fall into the most egregious mistakes.
The true test of the capacity of the individual, is where the desire to succeed, and accomplish something effective, is already awakened in the youthful mind. Whoever has found out what it is in which he is qualified to excel, from that moment becomes a new creature. The general torpor and sleep of the soul, which is incident to the vast multitude of the human species, is departed from him. We begin, from the hour in which our limbs are enabled to exert themselves freely, with a puerile love of sport. Amusement is the order of the day. But no one was ever so fond of play, that he had not also his serious moments. Every human creature perhaps is sensible to the stimulus of ambition. He is delighted with the thought that he also shall be somebody, and not a mere undistinguished pawn, destined to fill up a square in the chess-board of human society. He wishes to be thought something of, and to be gazed upon. Nor is it merely tho wish to be admired that excites him : he acts, that he may be satisfied with himself. Self-respect is a sentiment dear to every heart. The emotion can with difficulty be done justice to, that a man feels, who is conscious that he is breathing his true element, that every stroke that he strikes will have the effect he designs, that he has an object before him, and every moment approaches nearer to that object. Before, he was wrapped in an opake cloud, saw nothing distinctly, and struck this way and that at hazard like a blind man.
sun of understanding
has risen upon him; and every step that he takes, he advances with an assured and undoubting confidence.
• It is an admirable remark, that the book which we read at the very time that we felt a desire to read it, affords us ten times the improvement, that we should have derived from it when it was taken up by us as a task. It is just so with the man who chooses his occupation, and feels assured that that about which he is occupied is his true and native field. Compare this person with the boy that studies the classics, or arithmetic, or any thing else, with a secret disinclination, and, as Shakespear expresses it, creeps like snail, unwillingly, to school.” They do not seem as if they belonged to the same species.'— pp. 34 - 36.
In the Essay on Intellectual Abortion there are many striking observations, from which, however, we can give but a single extract.
*Others there are that are turned aside from the career they might have accomplished, by a visionary and impracticable fastidiousness. They can find nothing that possesses all the requisites that should fix their choice, nothing so good that should authorize them to present it to public observation, and enable them to offer it to their contemporaries as something that we should “not willingly let die." They begin often; but nothing they produce appears to them such as that they should say of it, “ Let this stand.” Or they never begin, none of their thoughts being judged by them to be altogether such as to merit the being preserved. They have a microscopic eye, and discern faults unworthy to be tolerated, in that in which the critic himself might perceive nothing but beauty.
* These phenomena have introduced a maxim which is current with many, that the men who write nothing, and bequeath no record of themselves to posterity, are not unfrequently of larger calibre, and more gigantic standard of soul, than such as have inscribed their names upon the columns of the temple of Fame. And certain it is, that there are extraordinary instances which appear in some degree to countenance this assertion. Many men are remembered as authors, who seem to have owed the permanence of their reputation rather to fortune than merit. They were daring, and stepped into a niche that was left in the gallery of art or of science, where others of higher qualifications, but of unconquerable modesty, held back. At the same time persons, whose destiny caused them to live among the élite of an age, have seen reason to confess that they have heard such talk, such glorious and unpremeditated discourse, from men whose thoughts melted away with
the breath that uttered them, as the wisest of their vaunted contemporary authors would in vain have sought to rival.' 62 - 64.
We were surprised to find Mr. Godwin differing from the popular party in his own country on the subject of Ballot, and opposing it on grounds which must strike every one, we should think, as weak and fallacious. In the Essay on the Material Universe, he combats with better success the theory of those who contend, that Berkeley's argument to disprove the existence of material objects, may be applied with equal force to disprove the existence of independent minds.
Observe then,' he says, 'the difference between my acquaintance with the phenomena of the material universe, and with the individuals of my own species. The former say nothing to me; they are a series of events and no more; I cannot penetrate into their causes; that which gives rise to my sensations, may or may not be similar to the sensations themselves. The follower of Berkeley or Newton has satisfied himself in the negative.
But the case is very different in my intercourse with my fellow-men. Agreeably to the statement already made, I know the reality of human nature; for I feel the particulars that constitute it within myself. The impressions I receive from that intercourse say something to me; for they talk to me of beings like myself. My own existence becomes multiplied in infinitum. Of the possibility of matter I know nothing ; but with the possibility of mind I am acquainted ; for I am myself an example. I am amazed at the consistency and systematic succession of the phenomena of the material universe; though I cannot penetrate the veil which presents itself to my grosser sense, nor see effects in their causes. But I can see, in other words, I have the most cogent reasons to believe in, the causes of the phenomena that occur in my apparent intercourse with my fellow-men. What solution so natural, as that they are produced by beings like myself, the duplicates, with certain variations, of what I feel within me ?
"The belief in the reality of matter explains nothing. Supposing it to exist, if Newton is right, no particle of extraneous matter ever touched the matter of my body; and therefore it is not just to regard it as the cause of my sensations. It would amount to no more than two systems going on at the same time by a preëstablished harmony, but totally independent of and disjointed from each other.
* But the belief in the existence of our fellow-men explains much, It makes level before us the wonder of the method of N. S. VOL. VI. NO. II.