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hitherto been withheld by studies to which he has no other motive than vanity or curiosity.1
The great praise of Socrates is, that he drew the wits of Greece, by his instruction and example, from the vain pursuit of natural philosophy to moral inquiries, and turned their thoughts from stars and tides, and matter and motion, upon the various modes of virtue, and relations of life.2 All his lectures were but commentaries upon this saying; if we suppose the knowledge of ourselves recommended by Chilo, in opposition to other inquiries less suitable to the state of man.
The great fault of men of learning is still, that they offend against this rule, and appear willing to study any thing rather than themselves; for which reason they are often despised by those with whom they imagine themselves above comparison; despised, as useless to common purposes, as unable to conduct the most trivial affairs, and unqualified to perform those offices by which the
1 "Sir (said Johnson), a desire of knowledge is the natural feeling of mankind, and every human being whose mind is not debauched, will be willing to give all that he has to get knowledge."-Boswell's Johnson, i. 458. Johnson observed, "All knowledge is of itself of some value. There is nothing so minute or inconsiderable that I would not rather know it than not."-Ib. ii. 357. Comte, in his Philosophie Positive (Twenty-seventh Leçon on Sidereal Astronomy)," absolutely repudiates all Sidereal Astronomy as beyond the range of human knowledge, and limits the science to the Solar System."-Martineau's Types of Ethical Theory, ed. 1885,
2 Johnson in Rasselas introduces the astronomer as saying:-"I have passed my time in study without experience; in the attainment of sciences which can, for the most part, be but remotely useful to mankind."-Johnson's Works, i. 300.
concatenation of society is preserved, and mutual tenderness excited and maintained.
Gelidus1 is a man of great penetration and deep researches. Having a mind naturally formed for the abstruser sciences, he can comprehend intricate combinations without confusion, and being of a temper naturally cool and equal, he is seldom interrupted by his passions in the pursuit of the longest chain of unexpected consequences. He has, therefore, a long time indulged hopes, that the solution of some problems, by which the professors of science have been hitherto baffled, is
In his Life of Milton, after criticising that great writer's scheme of education, he says:-"If I have Milton against me, I have Socrates on my side. It was his labour to turn philosophy from the study of nature to speculations upon life; but the innovators whom I oppose are turning off attention from life to nature. They seem to think that we are placed here to watch the growth of plants or the motions of the stars. Socrates was rather of opinion that what we had to learn was how to do good and avoid evil.”
'Οττι τοι ἐν μεγάροισι κακόν τ ̓ ἀγαθόν τε τέτυκται.
Ib. vii. 77. Compare also Michael's last speech in Paradise Lost, Bk. xii., 1. 575.
"This having learn'd, thou hast attain'd the sum
Or works of God in heav'n, air, earth, or sea."
1 Mrs. Piozzi in her Anecdotes, p. 49, says that "by Gelidus the philosopher Johnson meant to represent Mr. Colson, a mathematician who formerly lived at Rochester." It was to him that Garrick was sent as a pupil, and Johnson was recommended, on their first going to London. He was a little later appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge.-Boswell's Johnson, i. 101.
reserved for his genius and industry. He spends his time in the highest room of his house, into which none of his family are suffered to enter; and when he comes down to his dinner, or his rest, he walks about like a stranger that is there only for a day, without any tokens of regard or tenderness. He has totally divested himself of all human sensations; he has neither eye for beauty, nor ear for complaint; he neither rejoices at the good fortune of his nearest friend, nor mourns for any public or private calamity. Having once received a letter, and given it his servant to read, he was informed, that it was written by his brother, who, being shipwrecked, had swum naked to land, and was destitute of necessaries in a foreign country. Naked and destitute! says Gelidus, reach down the last volume of meteorological observations, extract an exact account of the wind, and note it carefully in the diary of the weather.
The family of Gelidus once broke into his study, to shew him that a town at a small distance was on fire; and in a few moments a servant came to tell him, that the flame had caught so many houses on both sides, that the inhabitants were confounded, and began to think of rather escaping with their lives, than saving their dwellings. What you tell me, says Gelidus, is very probable, for fire naturally acts in a circle.
Thus lives this great philosopher, insensible to every spectacle of distress, and unmoved by the loudest call of social nature, for want of consider
ing that men are designed for the succour and ?comfort of each other; that though there are
hours which may be laudably spent upon knowledge not immediately useful, yet the first attention is due to practical virtue; and that he may be justly driven out from the commerce of mankind, who has so far abstracted himself from the species, as to partake neither of the joys nor griefs of others, but neglects the endearments of his wife, and the caresses of his children, to count the drops of rain, note the changes of the wind, and calculate the eclipses of the moons of Jupiter.
I shall reserve to some future paper the religious and important meaning of this epitome of wisdom, and only remark, that it may be applied to the gay and light, as well as to the grave and solemn parts of life; and that not only the philosopher may forfeit his pretences to real learning, but the wit and beauty may miscarry in their schemes, by the want of this universal requisite, the knowledge of themselves.
It is surely for no other reason, that we see such numbers resolutely struggling against nature, and contending for that which they never can attain, endeavouring to unite contradictions, and determined to excel in characters inconsistent with each other; that stock-jobbers affect dress, gaiety, and elegance, and mathematicians labour to be wits; that the soldier teazes his acquaintance with questions in theology, and the academic hopes to divert the ladies by a recital of his gallantries. That absurdity of pride could pro
1 I have been told by the late editor of a famous Review that it often cost him a good deal of trouble to cut the jokes out of the articles written by men of science.
ceed only from ignorance of themselves, by which Garth attempted criticism,1 and Congreve waved his title to dramatic reputation, and desired to be considered only as a gentleman.2
Euphues, with great parts, and extensive
1"Garth then undertook an edition of Ovid's Metamorphoses, translated by several hands; which he recommended by a preface written with more ostentation than ability; his notions are half-formed, and his materials immethodically confused."-Johnson's Works, vii. 405.
2 "When Congreve received a visit from Voltaire he disgusted him by the despicable foppery of desiring to be considered not as an author, but a gentleman, to which the Frenchman replied that if he had been only a gentleman he should not have come to visit him."-Johnson's Works, viii. 30. Voltaire thus describes this visit :-"Il était infirme et presque mourant quand je l'ai connu ; il avait un défaut, c'était de ne pas assez estimer son premier métier d'auteur, qui avait fait sa réputation et sa fortune. Il me parlait de ses ouvrages comme de bagatelles au-dessous de lui, et me dit, à la première conversation, de ne le voir que sur le pied d'un gentilhomme qui vivait très uniment. Je lui répondis que s'il avait eu le malheur de n'être qu'un gentilhomme comme un autre, je ne le serais jamais venu voir, et je fus très choqué de cette vanité si mal placée."-Œuvres de Voltaire, ed. 1819, xxiv. 116. Horace Walpole charged Voltaire with the same "absurdity of pride." He wrote on March 3rd, 1761:"Voltaire has been charmingly absurd. He who laughed at Congreve for despising the rank of author and affecting the gentleman, set out post for a hovel he has in France, to write from thence and style himself Gentleman of the Bedchamber to Lord Lyttelton, who in his Dialogues of the Dead had called him an exile."-Walpole's Letters, ed. 1866, iii. 380. Gray, according to Temple, "had in some degree that weakness which disgusted Voltaire so much in Congreve.
He could not bear to be considered merely as a man of letters, and though without birth or fortune or station, his desire was to be looked upon as a private independent gentleman, who read for his amusement."-Mason's Gray, ed. 1807, ii. 323.