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tain its undisputed ground, till it was supplanted by that growing passion for Statistical details, which, of late, has, given a direction so different, and in some respects so opposite, to the studies of his countrymen.*
When from Germany we turn our eyes to the south of Europe, the prospect seems not merely sterile, but afflicting and almost hopeless. Of Spanish literature I know nothing but through the medium of Translations; a very imperfect one, undoubtedly, when a judgment is to be passed on compositions addressed to the powers of imagination and taste; yet fully sufficient to enable us to form an estimate of works which treat of science and philosophy. On such subjects, it may be safely concluded, that whatever is unfit to stand the test of a literal version, is not worth the trouble of being studied in the original. The progress of the mind in Spain during the seventeenth century, we may therefore confidently pronounce, if not entirely suspended, to have been too inconsiderable to merit attention.
“ The only good book,” says Montesquieu, “ which the Spaniards have to boast of, is that which exposes the absurdity of all the rest.” In this remark, I have little doubt that there is a considerable sacrifice of truth to the pointed effect of an antithesis. The unqualified censure, at the same time, of this great man, is not unworthy of notice, as a strong expression of his feelings with respect to the general insignificance of the Spanish writers.
The inimitable work here referred to by Montesquieu, is itself entitled to a place in this discourse, not only as one of the happiest and most wonderful creations of Human fancy, but as the record of a force of character, and an enlargement of mind, which, when contrasted with the prejudices of the author's age and nation, seem almost miraculous. It is not merely against Books of Chivalry that the satire of Cervantes is directed. Many other
* “La connoissance des états qu'on se plait aujourd'hui d'appeller Statistique, est une de ces sciences qui sont devenues à la mode, et qui ont pris une vogue générale depuis quelques années ; elle a presque dépossédé celle du Droit Public, qui régnoit au commencement et jusques vers le milieu du siècle présent.” Reflections sur la Force des Etats. Par M. le Comte de Hertzberg. Berlin, 1782.
follies and absurdities of a less local and temporary nature have their share in his ridicule ; while not a single expression escapes his pen that can give offence to the most fastidious moralist. Hence those amusing and interesting contrasts by which Cervantes so powerfully attaches us to the hero of his story; chastising the wildest freaks of a disordered imagination, by a stateliness yet courtesy of virtue, and (on all subjects but one) by a superiority of good sense and of philosophical refinement, which, even under the most ludicrous circumstances, never cease to command our respect and to keep alive our sympathy.
In Italy, notwithstanding the persecution undergone by Galileo, physics and astronomy continued to be cultivated with success by Torricelli, Borelli, Cassini, and others; and in pure geometry, Viviani rose to the very first eminence, as the Restorer, or rather as the Diviner of ancient discoveries; but, in all those studies which require the animating spirit of civil and religious liberty, this once renowned country exhibited the most melancholy symptoms of mental decrepitude. “Rome,” says a French historian, “was too much interested in maintaining her principles, not to raise every imaginable barrier against what might destroy them. Hence that index of prohibited books, into which were put the history of the President de Thou; the works on the liberties of the Gallican church; and (who could have believed it ?) the translations of the Holy Scriptures. Meanwhile, this tribunal, though always ready to condemn judicious authors
upon frivolous suspicions of heresy, approved those seditious and fanatical theologists, whose writings tended to the encouragement of regicide, and the destruction of government. The approbation and censure of books,” it is justly added, “ deserve a place in the history of the human mind."
The great glory of the Continent, towards the end of the seventeenth century (I except only the philosophers of France) was Leibnitz. He was born as early as 16 16; and distinguished himself, while still a very young man, by a display of those talents which were afterwards to contend with the united powers of Clarke and of
Newton. I have already introduced his name among the writers on Natural Law; but, in every other respect, he ranks more fitly with the contemporaries of his old age than with those of his youth. My reasons for thinking so will appear in the sequel. In the mean time, it may suffice to remark, that Leibnitz, the Jurist, belongs to one century, and Leibnitz, the Philosopher, to another.
In this, and other analogous distributions of my materials, as well as in the order I have followed in the arrangement of particular facts, it may be proper, once for all, to observe, that much must necessarily be left to the discretionary, though not to the arbitrary decision of the author's judgment ;—that the dates which separate from each other the different stages in the progress of Human Reason, do not, like those which occur in the history of the exact sciences, admit of being fixed with chronological and indisputable precision ; while, in adjusting the perplexed rights of the innumerable claimants in this intellectual and shadowy region, a task is imposed on the writer, resembling not unfrequently the labor of him, who should have attempted to circumscribe, by mathematical lines, the melting and intermingling colors of Arachne's web;
“In quo diversi niteant cum mille colores,
Transitus ipse tamen spectantia lumina fallit;
Usque adeo quod tangit idem est, tamen ultima distant." But I will not add to the number (already too great) of the foregoing pages, by anticipating, and attempting to obviate, the criticisms to which they may be liable. Nor will I dissemble the confidence with which, amid a variety of doubts and misgivings, I look forward to the candid indulgence of those who are best fitted to appreciate the difficulties of my undertaking. I am certainly not prepared to say with Johnson, that “I dismiss my work with frigid indifference, and to me success and miscarriage are empty sounds.” My feelings are more in unison with those expressed by the same writer in the conclusion of the admirable preface to his edition of Shakspeare. One of his reflections, more particularly, falls in so completely with the train of my own thougts,
that I cannot forbear, before laying down the pen, to offer it to the consideration of my readers.
“ Perhaps I may not be more censured for doing wrong, than for doing little ; for raising in the public, expectations, which at last I have not answered. The expectation of ignorance is indefinite, and that of knowledge is often tyrannical. It is hard to satisfy those who know not what to demand, or those who demand by design what they think impossible to be done."