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cern, in opposition to the partial interests of corporations and of monopolists.
Of the English publications to which I have just alluded, the greater part consist of anonymous pamphlets, now only to be met with in the collections of the curious. A few bear the names of eminent English merchants.
1 shall have occasion to refer to them more particularly afterwards, when I come to speak of the writings of Smith, Quesnay, and Turgot. At present, I shall only observe, that, in these fugitive and now neglected tracts, are to be found the first rudiments of that science of Political Economy, which is justly considered as the boast of the present age ; and which, although the aid of learning and philosophy was necessary to rear it to maturity, may be justly said to have had its cradle in the Royal Exchange of London.
Mr. Locke was one of the first retired theorists (and this singular feature in his history has not been sufficiently attended to by his biographers,) who condescended to treat of trade as an object of liberal study. Notwithstanding the manifold errors into which he fell in the course of his reasonings concerning it, it may be fairly questioned, if he has anywhere else given greater proofs, either of the vigor or of the originality of his genius. But the name of Locke reminds me, that it is now time to interrupt these national details; and to turn our attention to the progress of science on the Continent, since the times of Bodinus and of Campanella.
Progress of Philosophy in France during the Seventeenth Century.
At the head of the French writers who contributed, in the beginning of the seventeenth century, to turn the thoughts of their countrymen to subjects connected with the Philosophy of Mind, Montaigne may, I apprehend, be justly placed. Properly speaking, he belongs to a period somewhat earlier ; but his tone of thinking and of writing classes him much more naturally with his successors, than with any French author who had appeared before him.*
In assigning to Montaigne so distinguished a rank in the history of modern philosophy, I need scarcely say, that I leave entirely out of the account what constitutes (and justly constitutes) to the generality of readers the principal charm of his Essays; the good nature, humanity, and unaffected sensibility, which so irresistibly attach us to his character, -lending, it must be owned, but too often, a fascination to his talk, when he cannot be recommended as the safest of companions. Nor do I lay much stress on the inviting frankness and vivacity with which he unbosoms himself about all his domestic habits and concerns; and which render his book so expressive a portrait, not only of the author, but of the Gascon country gentleman, two hundred years ago.
I have in view chiefly the minuteness and good faith of his details concerning his own personal qualities, both intellectual and moral. The only study which seems ever to have engaged his attention was that of man; and for this he was singularly fitted, by a rare combination of that talent for observation which belongs to men of the world, with those habits of abstracted reflection, which men of the world have commonly so little disposition to cultivate. “ I study myself,” says he, “ more than any other subject. This is my metaphysic; this my natural philosophy.” + He has accordingly produced a work, unique in its kind ; valuable, in an eminent degree, as an authentic record of many interesting facts relative to human nature; but more valuable by far, as holding up a mirror in which every individual, if he does not see his own image, will at least occasionally perceive so many traits of resemblance to it, as can scarcely fail to invite his curiosity to a more careful review of himself. In this respect, Montaigne's writings may be regarded in the light of what painters call studies; in other words, of those slight sketches which were originally designed for the improve
* Montaigne was born in 1533, and died in 1592. | Essays, Book ii, chap. 13.
ment or amusement of the artist; but which, on that account, are the more likely to be useful in developing the germs of similar endowments in others.
Without a union of these two powers (reflection and observation), the study of Man can never be successfully prosecuted. It is only by retiring within ourselves that we can obtain a key to the characters of others; and it is only by observing and comparing the characters of others, that we can thoroughly understand and appreciate
After all, however, it may be fairly questioned, notwithstanding the scrupulous fidelity with which Montaigne has endeavoured to delineate his own portrait, if he has been always sufficiently aware of the secret folds and reduplications of the human heart. That he was by no means exempted from the common delusions of selflove and self-deceit, has been fully evinced in a very acute, though somewhat uncharitable, section of the Port Royal logic; but this consideration, so far from diminishing the value of his Essays, is one of the most instructive lessons they afford to those who, after the example of the author, may undertake the salutary but humiliating task of self-examination.
As Montaigne's scientific knowledge was, according to his own account, “ very vague and imperfect;"* and his book learning rather sententious and gossiping, than comprehensive and systematical, it would be unreasonable to expect, in his philosophical arguments, much either of depth or of solidity.t The sentiments he hazards are to be regarded but as the impressions of the moment; consisting chiefly of the more obvious doubts and difficulties, which, on all metaphysical and moral questions, are apt to present themselves to a speculative mind, when it first attempts to dig below the surface of
• Book i. ch. 25.
† Montaigne's education, however, had not been neglected by his father. On the contrary, he tells us himself, that “George Buchanan, the great poet of Scotland, and Marcus Antonius Muretus, the best orator of his time, were among the number of his domestic preceptors."'_“ Buchanan,” he adds, " when I saw him afterwards in the retinue of the late Mareschal de Brissac, told me, that he was about to write a treatise on the education of children, and that he would take the model of it from mine.” Book i. chap. 25.
cominon opinions. In reading Montaigne, accordingly, what chiefly strikes us, is not the novelty or the refinement of his ideas, but the liveliness and felicity with which we see embodied in words the previous wanderings of our own imaginations. It is probably owing to this circumstance, rather than to any direct plagiarism, that his Essays appear to contain the germs of so many of the paradoxical theories which, in later times, Helvetius and others have labored to systematize and to support with the parade of metaphysical discussion. In the mind of Montaigne, the same paradoxes may be easily traced to those deceitful appearances, which, in order to stimulate our faculties to their best exertions, nature seems purposely to have thrown in our way, as stumbling-blocks in the pursuit of truth ; and it is only to be regretted on such occasions, for the sake of his own happiness, that his genius and temper qualified and disposed him more to start the problem, than to investigate the solution.
When Montaigne touches on religion, he is, in general, less pleasing than on other subjects. His constitutional temper, it is probable, predisposed him to scepticism ; but this original bias could not fail to be mightily strengthened by the disputes, both religious and political, which, during his lifetime, convulsed Europe, and more particularly his own country. On a mind like his, it may be safely presumed that the writings of the reformers, and the instructions of Buchanan, were not altogether without offect; and hence, in all probability, the perpetual struggle, which he is at no pains to conceal, between the creed of his infancy, and the lights of his mature understanding. He speaks, indeed, of “reposing tranquilly on the pillow of doubt;” but this language is neither reconcileable with the general complexion of his works, nor with the most authentic accounts we have received of his dying moments. It is a maxim of his own, that, “ in forming a judgment of a man's life, particular regard should be paid to his behaviour at the end of it;" to which he pathetically adds, “ that the chief study of his own life was, that his latter end might be decent, calm, and silent." The fact is (if we may credit the testimony of his biographers,) that, in his declining years, he exchanged his boasted pillow of doubt for the more powerful opiates prescribed by the infallible church ; and that he expired in performing, what his old preceptor Buchanan would not have scrupled to describe as an act of idolatry.
The scepticism of Montaigne seems to have been of a very peculiar cast, and to have had little in common with that either of Bayle or of Hume. The great aim of the two latter writers evidently was, by exposing the uncertainty of our reasonings whenever we pass the limit of sensible objects, to inspire their readers with a complete distrust of the human faculties on all moral and metaphysical topics. Montaigne, on the other hand, never thinks of forming a sect; but, yielding passively to the current of his reflections and feelings, argues, at different times, according to the varying state of his impressions and temper, on opposite sides of the same question. On all occasions, he preserves an air of the most perfect sincerity; and it was to this, I presume, much more than to the superiority of his reasoning powers, that Montesquieu alluded, when he said, “ In the greater part of authors I see the writer; in Montaigne I see nothing but the thinker.” The radical fault of his understanding consisted in an incapacity of forming, on disputable points, those decided and fixed opinions, which can alone impart either force or consistency to intellectual character. For remedying this weakness, the religious controversies, and the civil wars recently engendered by the Reformation, were but ill calculated. The minds of the most serious men, all over Christendom, must have been then unsettled in an extraordinary degree; and where any predisposition to scepticism existed, every external circumstance must have conspired to cherish and confirm it. Of the extent to which it was carried, about the same period, in England, some judgment may be formed from the following description of a Sceptic, by a writer not many years posterior to Montaigne.
*"Sentant sa fin approcher, il fit dire la messe dans sa chambre. A l'élévation de l'hostie, il se leva sur son lit pour l'adorer; mais une foiblesse l'enleva dans ce moment même, le 15 Septembre, 1592, à 60 ans.” Nouveau Dict. Histor. à Lyon, 1804. Art. Montaigne.