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on his gibbet; and Jonah appeared most manfully bouncing out of the whale, like harlequin through a barrel of fire.
The parties broke up without noise and without confusion. They were carried home by their own carriages, that is to say, by the vehicles nature had provided them, excepting such of the wealthy as could afford to keep a wagon. The gentlemen gallantly attended their fair ones to their respective abodes, and took leave of them with a hearty smack at the door: which, as it was an established piece of etiquette, done in perfect simplicity and honesty of heart, occasioned no scandal at that time, nor should it at the present—if our great grandfathers approved of the custom, it would argue a great want of reverence in their descendants to say a word against it.
Or Creation of the World; with a multitude of excellent
Theories, by which the Creation of a World is shown to be no such difficult Matter as common Folks would
imagine. Having thus briefly introduced my reader into the world, and given him some idea of its form and situation, he will naturally be curious to know from whence it came, and how it was created. And indeed the clearing up of these points is absolutely essential to my history, inasmuch as if this world had not been formed, it is more than probable, that this renowned island, on which is situated the city of New York, would never have had an existence. The regular course of my history, therefore, requires that I should proceed to notice the cosmogony or formation of this our globe.
And now I give my readers fair warning, that I am about to plunge for a chapter or two, into as complete a labyrinth as ever historian was perplexed withal; therefore, I advise them to take fast hold of my skirts, and keep close at my heels, venturing neither to the right hand nor to the left, lest they get bemired in a slough of unintelligible learning, or have their brains knocked out by some of those hard Greek names which will be flying about in all directions. But should any of them be too indolent or
chicken-hearted to accompany me in this perilous undertaking, they had better take a short cut round, and wait for me at the beginning of some smoother chapter.
Of the creation of the world we have a thousand contradictory accounts; and though a very satisfactory one is furnished by divine revelation, yet every philosopher feels himself in honour bound to furnish us with a better. As an impartial historian, I consider it my duty to notice their several theories by which mankind have been so exceedingly edified and instructed.
Thus it was the opinion of certain ancient sages, that the earth and the whole system of the universe was the deity himself;* a doctrine most strenuously maintained by Zenophanes and the whole tribe of Eleatics, as also by strato and the sect of peripatetic philosophers. Pythagoras likewise inculcated the famous numerical system of the monad, dyad, and tryad; and by means of his sacred quaternary elucidated the formation of the world, the arcana of nature, and the principles both of music and morals.t Other sages adhered to the mathematical system of squares and triangles; the cube, the pyramid, and Lie sphere; the tetrahedron, the octahedron, the icosahedron, and the dodecahedron. While others advocated the great elementary theory, which refers the construction of our globe and all that it contains to the combinations of four material elements, air, earth, fire, and water; with the assistance of a fifth, an immaterial and vivifying principle,
Nor must I omit to mention the great atomic system taught by old Moschus before the siege of Troy; revived by Democritus of laughing memory; improved by Epicurus, that king of good fellows; and modernized by the fanciful Descartes. But I decline inquiring whether the atoms, of which the earth is said to be composed, are eternal or recent; whether they are animate or inanimate ; whether, agreeably to the opinions of Atheists, they were fortuitously aggregated; or, as the Theists maintain, were arranged by a supreme intelligence.ll Whether, in
• Aristot, ap. Cic. lib. 1. cap. 3.
† Aristot. Metaph. lib. i. cap. 5. Idem de cælo, 1. iii. c. 1. RousBeau. Mém. sur. Musique Ancien. p. 39. Plutarch de Plac. Philos, lib i. cap. 3. Tim. Locr. ap. Plato t. iji. p.
90. || Aristot. Nai. Ascult. 1. ii. cap. 6. Aristoph. Metaph, lib. i. cap.
fact, the earth be an insensate clod, or whether it be ani. mated by a soul ;* which opinion was strenuously maintained by a host of philosophers, at the head of whom stands the great Plato, that temperate sage, who threw the cold water of philosophy on the form of sexual intercourse, and inculcated the doctrine of Platonic love-an exquisitely refined intercourse, but much better adapted to the ideal inhabitants of his imaginary island of Atlantis than to the sturdy race, composed of rebellious flesh and blood, which populates the little matter of fact island we inhabit.
Besides these systems, we have, moreover, the poetical theogony of old Hesiod, who generated the whole universe in the regular mode of procreation, and the plausible opinion of others, that the earth was hatched from the great egg of night, which floated in chaos, and was cracked by the horns of the celestial bull. To illustrate this last doctrine, Burnet, in his theory of the earth,t has favoured us with an accurate drawing and description both of the form and texture of this mundane egg; which is found to bear a near resemblance to that of a goose. Such of my readers as take a proper interest in the origin of this our planet will be pleased to learn, that the most profound sages of antiquity, among the Egyptians, Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks, and Latins, have alternately assisted at the hatching of this strange bird; and that their cacklings have been caught and continued, in different tones and inflections, from philosopher to philosopher, unto the present day.
But while briefly noticing long celebrated systems of ancient sages, let me not pass over, with neglect
, those of other philosophers; which, though less universal than renowned, have equal claims to attention, and equal chance for correctness. Thus it is recorded by the Brahmins, in the pages
of their inspired Shastah, that the angel Bistnoo transformed himself into a great boar, plunged into the watery abyss, and brought up the earth on his tusks. Then issued from him a mighty tortoise, and a mighty snake;
and Bistnoo placed the snake erect upon the back of the tortoise, and be placed the earth upon the head of the snake.*
3. Cic. de Nat. Deor. lib. i. cap. 10. Justin Mart. Orat. ad Gent.
* Mosheim in Cudw. lib. i. cap. 4. Tim. de Anim. Mund. ap. Pit lib. iii. Mem. de l'Acad. des Beiles Lettres, t. xxxii. p. 19 et al.
| Book i. ch. 5.
The negro philosophers of Congo affirm, that the world was made by the hands of angels, excepting their own country, which the supreme being constructed himself, that it might be supremely excellent. And he took great pains with the inhabitants, and made them very black and beautiful; and when he had finished the first man, he was well pleased with him, and smoothed him over the face, and hence his nose, and the nose of all his descendants, became flat.
The Mohawk philosophers tell us, that a pregnant woman fell down from heaven, and that a tortoise took her upon its back, because every place was covered with water; and, that the woman, sitting upon the tortoise, paddled with her hands in the water, and raked up the earth, whence it finally happened that the earth became higher than the water.
But I forbear to quote a number more of these ancient and outlandish philosophers, whose deplorable ignorance, in despite of all their erudition, compelled them to write in languages, which but few of my readers can understand ; and I shall proceed briefly to notice a few more intelligible and fashionable theories of their modern successors.
And first I shall mention the great Buffon, who conjectures that this globe was originally a globe of liquid fire, scintillated from the body of the sun, by the percussion of a comet, as a spark of generated by the collísion of flint and steel.' That at first it was surrounded by gross vapours, which cooling and condensing in process of time, constituted, according to their densities, earth, water, and air; which gradually arranged themselves, according to their respective gravities, round the burning or vitrified mass that formed their centre.
Hutton, on the contrary, supposes that the waters at first were universally paramount; and he terrifies himself with the idea that the earth must be eventually washed away by the force of rains, rivers, and mountain torrents, until it is confounded with the ocean, or, in other words, absolutely dissolves into itself.—Sublime idea! far sur
• Holwell, Gent. Philosophy.
† Johannes Megapolensis, jun. Account of Maquaas or Mobawk Indians. 1644.
passing that of the tender hearted damsel of antiquity, who wept herself into a fountain ; or the good dame of Narbonne in France, who, for a volubility of tongue unusual in her sex, was doomed to peel five hundred thousand and thirty-nine ropes of onions, and actually ran out at her eyes before half the hideous task was accomplished.
Whiston, the same ingenious philosopher who rivalled Ditton in his researches after the longitude, (for which the mischief-loving Swift discharged on their heads, a most savoury stanza,) has distinguish
himself by a very admirable theory respecting the earth. He conjectures that it was originally a chaotic comet, which, being selected for the abode of man, was removed from its eccentric orbit, and whirled round the sun in its present regular motion ; by which change of direction, order succeeded to confus sion in the arrangement of its component parts. The philosopher adds, that the deluge was produced by an uncourteous salute from the watery tail of another comet; doubtless through sheer envy of its improved condition ; thus furnishing a melancholy proof that jealousy may prevail, even among the heavenly bodies, and discord in terrupt that celestial harmony of the spheres, so melodiously sung by the poets.
But I pass over a variety of excellent theories, among which are those of Burnet, and Woodward, and Whitehurst; regretting extremely that my time will not suffer me to give them the notice they deserve-And shall conclude with that of the renowned Dr. Darwin. This learned Theban, who is as much distinguished for rhyme as reason, and for good natured credulity as serious research; and who has recommended himself wonderfully to the good graces of the ladies, by letting them into all the gallantries, amours, debaucheries, and other topics of scandal of the court of Flora, has fallen upon a theory worthy of his combustible imagination. According to his opinion, the huge mass of choas took a sudden occasion to explode, like a barrel of gunpowder, and, in that act, exploded the sun—which, in its flight, by a similar con vulsion exploded the earth—which in like guise exploded the moon-and thus, by a concatenation of explosions, the whole solar system was produced, and set most systematically in motion.*
* Darw. Bot. garden. Part I cant. i. l. 105.