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is instructive, and affords a very striking example of reasoning in the brute, the more striking, as cats are not remarkable for sagacity." `P. 84.
These facts are certainly extremely curious and interesting; but in our author's reasoning upon them, we can by no means wholly coincide. The two goats might have stopped for some time before they contrived to pass, without doing so for the purpose of reflection. The cat, we observe, acted instantaneously; but there is one observation which we think important, and which applies also to the instances before mentioned of birds. It is this, that in every case the expedient adopted was one exactly in accordance with the ordinary habits of the animal: it made use of precisely those resources which it was in the habit of ordinarily employing. Thus, the goat is naturally a climber; he, therefore, walked over his companion: had they been cats or hares, one would probably have taken a spring over the other: rabbits or dogs might have tried to widen the path by scratching, &c.: in the same way the martin is by trade a plasterer; he therefore plastered up his enemy. The crow was in the habit of dropping bodies from a height: to the cat, it was natural to seize a bird in its mouth, but not to kill it immediately. In the instance alluded to, there was the counteracting feeling of affection for the bird, which prevented the cat from even injuring it; and its seizing the bird the moment a strange cat appeared, need not necessarily be ascribed to a reflection on the danger of the bird, but might merely have been the excitement of the natural disposition of the cat to seize the bird, in order to secure the prey from the rival. Or, if this were not the case, an undefined sensation of the danger, united with its affection for the bird, suddenly affecting the cat, might have urged it, by instantaneous impulse, to the instinctive action of seizing the bird in its mouth. Had it been a dog, it would have attacked the strange cat, and driven it away.
Upon the whole, we are inclined to be very doubtful of the propriety of ascribing to such instances the character of reasoning. It appears to us much more likely, from every thing we know both of inferior animals and of man, in sudden emergencies, to suppose a sort of undefined intuitive feeling, upon the impulse of which the requisite steps are taken, and this we believe to arise entirely from the peculiar mental habits of the individual. We believe it to be precisely the same sort of impulse which made Charles the 12th put his hand to his sword, when he received the shot which killed him.
But it may be said, that all this is a mere dispute about words, and that we gain nothing by the enquiry, as to the distinction between instinct and reason. It may be said,
that if we will not ascribe these latter instances to reason, we must, in consistency, ascribe half the conclusions of man to instinct and, in fact, we perfectly agree with Dr. Hancock, in considering man to be under the dominion of instinct as well as the inferior animals, though not perhaps exactly in the sense in which he means it. We are of opinion, that the greater part perhaps of the practical conclusions, on which we every day act, are not the result of reasoning. We think, moreover, that a very large portion of mankind hardly ever reason at all: it is true, we have no very adequate term to describe the sort of influence which this sort of principle has upon us. We believe it to arise chiefly from education; organization, and resulting intellectual habit. And the distinction we make is precisely this; reasoning is the putting together, by two and two successively connected, distinct ideas, so as to perceive their agreement or disagreement, till we arrive at the connection between two ideas, which form the respective terminations of a long chain. When the conclusion is not obtained by this intermediate process, but depends upon the putting together of the first and last idea, and supposing them to agree or disagree, we know not why, but because experience has in no instance shewn the contrary; this, we say, is not reasoning, but is of the same kind exactly as instinct. The association may have been implanted in the mind, or a tendency to act upon it in the faculties or organs, from a great variety of supposable causes. Where then is the distinction between man and the lower creaturcs? We believe it to consist in this, that man has the faculty of reasoning, though it be not always employed; and that the beast has it not: and this power is associated with the use of articulate symbols; without which, perhaps, there could be no distinction between definite and indefinite ideas.
We think Dr. Hancock's distinction, between reason and instinct, is far from clear, and, perhaps, to this cause a great part of his book may owe its existence. We shall not pretend to wade into the mystico-metaphysico-theological part of the work; but shall content ourselves with observing, that the whole seems to be founded upon the supposition of the existence of certain innate practical principles, and the author is in consequence extremely anxious to refute Locke: success in this attempt appears to us very questionable. We, like Dr. Hancock, believe in original genius, in natural difference of disposition, &c.; but we can believe all this
without the least impugning Locke's doctrine. What may be the precise nature of Dr. H.'s "moral seeds," we do not pretend to understand; but we are inclined to think that the earliest impressions which the mind receives are of an entirely indefinite description, consisting, in fact, of associations of ideas, constituting vague feelings, rather than clear apprehensions, and that it is not till a considerable time after that clear and definite ideas are formed, or that consequently reasoning takes place. By those early associations, if such they may be termed, feelings of pleasure or pain are connected with other ideas and sets of ideas, the whole dependent on the bodily constitution. As we think Locke has unanswerably disproved the existence of innate ideas, or principles, (which are, perhaps, indefinite associations of ideas,) and that peculiarities of mind and disposition may be explained without them, we shall be excused, if we doubt the truth of a system which, according to the author's method of stating it, requires us to believe in innate ideas.
ART. III. Original Letters, illustrative of English History; including numerous Royal Letters; from Autographs in the British Museum, and one or two other Collections. With Notes and Illustrations by Henry Ellis, F. R. S. Sec. S. A. Keeper of the Manuscripts in the British Museum. In three vols. 8vo. 17. 16s. Harding, Triphook and Lepard. 1824.
A GREAT change is taking place in our general knowledge of English history. The last generation was contented with Rapin and Hume, and did not trouble itself about the discovery of new facts, or the verification of old ones. Chronicles and manuscripts were studied by the antiquary only; and the result of such studies was seldom communicated to the public. At present the monkish historians are in request; the Museum is open; gentlemen and ladies read by the index, and transcribe by the hour, and we are inundated with memoirs and narratives, and biographies from the gossiping tittle-tattle of an Aikin, to the ponderous volumes of a Turner and a Lingard.
There is no reason to fear the ultimate consequence of such proceedings. Eventually truth will be more fully ascer tained, and more generally known and remembered. But while the process is going on, it is attended with serious in
convenience. There are no such things as standard books. The History of England is set adrift, and no one can determine what course it will take. Every party has its own historian, who writes to please the palate of his readers, and succeeds as a writer in proportion as he is useful as a partizan. One class of authors inform us, that Hume wrote the early history of his country with carelesness, and the latter part with partiality. Another, object to the great length and tediousness of Rapin, Echard and Carte. A third have studied the original authorities for themselves, and are prepared to furnish authentic works. The result is, that there are no undisputed facts, and few unquestionable characters. The politician appeals to some important circumstance, and is told that he has been misinformed respecting its material points. The orator refers to some popular or odious-personage, and is answered by an assurance that hitherto posterity has decided ignorantly and unjustly. Turner becomes the advocate of King Richard the Third, Lingard represents Cranmer as a hypocrite, and Queen Elizabeth as a coward, and Godwin has discovered that Laud was a fool. And these additions to the stock of knowledge are not suffered to remain in their native seed-beds, but are transplanted with care into magazines and newspapers. Cobbett's infamous History of the Reformation is an abridgment of Lingard, and Mr. O'Connell's club has undertaken to circulate this compound of jesuitical falsehood, and radical impudence. A similar use will be made of other improvements, when opportunity offers, and the cause of mischief may be served. The Jeremy Benthamites will shew that our constitution is absurd, by the same argument which convinces Cobbett that the Reformation was a curse. The Whigs are on the look-out for Sir James Mackintosh's history, and expect to date the recovery of their popularity from the day of its publication. And if the borough-mongers know their business, they will engage an adept in antient charters, to vindicate the privileges of Winchelsea and Knaresborough, and establish the merits of virtual representation by an appeal to King Alfred and King John.
But while the study of records and manuscripts is pursued in some instances for such purposes as these, there are many men who, like Mr. Ellis, have better objects in view, who seek knowledge for its own sake, and endeavour to correct errors, confirm truth, and illustrate history, in the hope that their labours may prove serviceable to the world. And the work before us is a very favourable specimen of the manner in which a learned and accurate antiquarian may convey in
struction and amusement to the general reader, while at the same time he provides materials for the future historian, and for the philosophical observer of men and manners. We can hardly possess too many documents upon such a subject as the history of our country. And when they are selected with judgment, and explained by one who is fully qualified for the task, they form an important addition to the stock of national literature. We shall therefore request Mr. Ellis to explain the nature of his undertaking in his own words.
"To remove doubts, to verify facts, and to form a clear conception of particular events, the reader must seek subsidiary aid, in the dispersed materials of history; of which, ORIGINAL LETTERS of EMINENT PERSONS IN THE STATE form both the largest and the most important portion: and they exist in this country, in an uninterrupted succession, for more than five centuries.
"These bear the impress of their respective times: and, whilst many of them regard affairs in which the writers were actively engaged, all afford a closer and more familiar view of characters, manners, and events, than the pen of the most accomplished compiler. of regular history, even if he might be trusted, could supply.
"They unravel causes of action which without their aid would be impenetrable; and even throw new light upon parts of history which superficial readers suppose to be exhausted.
"How far the present selection of letters may deserve so good a character, the reader must determine for himself.
"The Editor has been desirous of producing a work, which, while it exhibited within reasonable limits a series of historical pictures, might be considered as a SUPPLEMENT TO OUR HISTORIES. To render it more acceptable, he has, here and there, prefixed introductions to particular letters, in which numerous traits and minute anecdotes bearing upon detached topics of history have been compacted and condensed. In the execution of this design the illustratration of historical truth has been his sole object: and he believes it will be found that these introductions, as well as the letters themselves, throw new light on various passages of our history." Vol. I. Preface, p. vii.
The series begin with a letter from King Henry Vth; but this and about ten others, written before the accession of Henry VIIth, are curious rather than instructive. In the latter reign we learn little respecting the state of the country, but have a glimpse at the intrigues of the French and Scotch courts, and a specimen of the political cunning of the first of the Tudors. It is under 'bluff King Hal' that the work commences in good earnest, and is carried on with more than usual success. The early disputes with Scotland; the state of the Scotch court under James IV; the border wars, ennobled by the battle of Flodden, and protracted throughout half a