Page images
PDF
EPUB

the present publication forms an excellent, though perhaps father too bulky an appendix.

B....

I

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Art. IX. Ejays Moral and Literary. By the Rev. 'Mr. Knox,

Master of Tonbridge School, and late Fellow of St. John's Cole lege; Oxford. Vol. II. Small 8v0. 3 s. 6 d. sewed. Dilly, 1779. Tis, perhaps, a proof of his modesty, that this ingenious and

agreeable writer has not aspired to an higher rank in the scale of Authorship, than Esay writing, in its present exhausted ftate, can possibly raise him to. The first volume + of Efays moral and literary, displayed a juftness of thinking and an elegance of expression, which we wished to see directid to the elucidation of some particular and interesting sulject, instead of being scattered over many. To reclaim one acre from the waste, and to bring it under cultivation, is of greater utility than to bestow the same portion of toil on ninety and nine that are already manured by art and industry.--On fubjeéts that lie level to common observation (and to these the Essayist is chiefly confined), what is left us in this late age but to repeat what has been often repeated, and to express that which has been expressed a thousand times before? The skill, indeed, of placing received truths in new lighis, and of clothing them in sprightly and graceful language, implies a secondary kind of merit which ought not to be undervalued. And this skill and this merit some cele. brated writings of the periodical form have aimed at and have attained: but even here the hope of success is daily lessening; and with all the praise that is due to Mr. Knox's Efrays, we may be allowed to suspect, that had they been published periodically, i. e. SEPARATELY, they would have attracted no great share of the public notice. If, however, in the second volume of this Gentleman's detached performances, now before us, his readers be not much enlightened by any discoveries of what is new, nor much enlivened by any uncommon turns given to what is known, they may at least reap an innocent pleasure from the perufal of just sentiments, clothed in polithed language.

The subjects discussed in this volume are the following:

On Ellay Writing. Classical Education vindicated. Strico tures on Modern Ethics. On the Retirement of a Country Town. On Epiftolary Writers. On the Happiness of Domestic Life. On the Merits of Cowley as a Poet. Letters the Source of Consolation. On Oriental Poetry, particularly that of Isaiah. On the Principles of Conversation. On the Grave and Gay Philosophy. On the Pleasures of a Garden. "The Story

+ For an account of Mr. Knox's first volume, see our Review, vol. lviii. p.:36. The Author's name was not then printed with his work.

[ocr errors]

men.

of a Student. On Satire and Satirists. On Preaching, and Sermon Writers. On Logic and Metaphysics. On Latin Verse as an Exercise at Schools. On Novel Reading.. On Monumental Inscriptions. On the Character of Atticus. On Biography. On Hospitality, and the little Civilities of Life. On the Merits of Illustrious Birth. On Lord Chancellor Bacon. On the Profeffions, On Simplicity of Style in Prosaic Composition. On Affectation of the Character of Sportf

On some of the Minor English Poets. On the Neceflity of Attention to Things as well as Books. On the Amusement of Music, On the choice of Books. On the Influence of Fashion. On Female Literature. On Parental Indulgence. On the ill Effects of proving by Argument Truths already ada mitted. On Affectation of Female Learning. On Speculative Criticism, and on Genius. On the Superior Value of Solid Accomplishments. On the Propriety of adorning Life by some laudable Exertion.

These Essays take in so large a compass of discussion, and the subjects of them lie fo wide of each other, that it is no easy matter to ascertain their separate merits, and utterly imposible to enter into them with minuteness. We shall just observe, that those of a moral caft evidently flow from a heart warmly attached to the interests of society and the cause of virtue. The sixth Essay, in particular, ' On the Happiness of domestic Life,' cannot fail of impressing the Readers with an amiable prejudice in favour of its Author, and with a consequent belief that he is. in private life what Pope describes Mr. Gay to have been,

Of manners gentle, of affections mild.” The sentiments contained in it are certainly not new; but can we expect novelty on this subject? or would it be for the honour of human nature that novelty should be found on a theme, like this?

In Essay VIII. we are presented with a series of reflections which may serve as a comment on an elegant passage in the Preface to this volume. Mr. Knox there tells us, that sin whatever manner his book thall be received, he will not think the time loft that was spent in composing it, since it was passed at least innocently, and furnifhed a sweet relief in those moments of sorrow which are occafionally the lot of all who feel and think, and from which he has not been exempted. The arguments by which he proves Letters the source of Confolation' will readíly recommend themselves to men of taste and sensibility. The superiority which the pursuits of literature enjoy over those of interest or ambition, is a favourite topic with the fons of learning. In lavishing all their eloquence upon it, they sometimes forget that they make themselves judges in their own cause; and that in the sentence they pronounce, pride and vanity will be lufpccted

to

to have some fare. Mr. Knox confines his observations to points in which there is less danger of this fufpicion, when he represents the influence that · Letters' pofless to sooth the mind in the hour of dejection, and to lighten the burthen of distress.

Under the title of * Literary Erays we fuppofe Mr. Knox classes his critical productions. The term literary has yet acquired no appropriate ligoification in our language. It is included in that of Efay. It is therefore equally descriptive of every species of composition, and characteristic of none.

In the province of criticism, this Gentleman discovers rather a correct and classical taste, than any fuperior degree of originality, or depth of penetration. His averfion to logic and metaphyfics (which the abuse of these studies may almost justify in its excess) is discernible even here. Fearful of being abstruse, he is too loose and indeterminate in his remarks: in avoiding the charge of subtily, he gives into a languid style of criticism and spiritless observation, from which little improvement will be derived by those who are moderately tin&tured with this sort of literature. The Essays on · Preaching and Sermon Writers, and on the Choice of Books,' are too superficial and too futile to me. rit a place in this work. Those on Simplicity of Style'-on

Epistolary Writers' --- On fome of the Minor English Poets,' are elegant, but contain no very striking remarks. The Efray. On Oriental Poetry' is of an higher order; and exhibits a rich and lowing style, at the same time that it abounds with ingenious and folid observations,

The undiftinguishing censure which Mr. Knox passes on the kindred studies of Logic and Metaphysics,' and the heat and passion with which he is carried away when he speaks of Modern Ethics,' may incline some of his Readers to fufpect that he is himself to very accurate reasoner, and that he does not understand very clearly what he condemns so decisively. We hope too he is mií. taken in the fact he alleges. He observes with a sort of triumph, that “even Malebranche and Locke, the moft rational of the metaphysicians, are daily lofing ground. As a talk they are attended to in public seminaries, where some obsolere plan of study requires metaphysical exercises; but the multitude of more agreeable works feldom leave time or inclination to the student who is at liberty to chuse his books for the controversy concerning innate ideas.'

We have too much respect for Mr. Locke's writings not to regret that they are falling into neglect. If the fact be fo, we

Mr. Knox is guilty of the fame inaccuracy when he ta'ks of bus finess civil or profeffional.' With no propriety can profesional be diftinguished from civil, unless he means the profession of the sword. la.chis cafe civil or military would have been better.

Rould

fhould draw a very different conclusion, and consider it as a fymptom of the levity and futility of the present age; unable to bear the fatigue of manly thought, and prone to fink into habits of literary fauntering.

In the Striciures on Modern Ethics' our Author drops an intimation of his opinion upon the controverted doctrines of Liberty and Necessity. The writers who maintain the mechanism of the human mind are pretty roughly handled by him in the following paragraph.

• But even he who is taught to revere the wisdom of the naked Indian, and to despise the improvements of his own times and nation, is more likely to think and act with dignity, than the man who believes himself a machine. Such an one, to be confiftent, muft rex nounce the idea of the soul's supremacy over the actions of the body, and must resign bimself to the impulse of that blood, of which alone he believes himself to confift. As an engine he will yield to every motion without registance; for the perfection of the machine depends on its moving with the least pollible fri&tion or impediment. The mistake of him who looks on himself in this light, is equally absurd with that of the hypochondriac visionary, who, in the temporary madness of his

reverie, imagines himself a goose or an addled egg.' If this passage does not indicate a great ignorance of the question at which it glances, it certainly betrays a want of decency to those who differ from him concerning it. Whether Dr. Priestley will be much alarmed at the idea of ro formidable a champion as Mr. Knox, we cannot fay. We believe the Doctor is in no danger of imagining himself either a goose or an addled egg, and therefore it is not probable that he will be greatly disturbed by this fingular suggestion. We must however do our Author the justice to obferve, that he is here declaiming against the profeffed fcep:ics of the age, and that he does not seem to have thought of taking up the gauntlet thrown down by Dr. Priestley on this subject. He seems only to have pointed his arçillery at a set of fashionable or modish philosophers, against whoin he might think declamation the most effectual weapon. Taken in this view, the following expressions will not perhaps appear too warm.

• Absurd and pernicious as are most of the opinions advanced and maintained by modern philosophy; yet an elegance of style, a vivacity of expresion, a fingularity of sentiment, have had charms fufticient to recommend it to many whose badness of heart is only equal. led by the weakness of their understandings : weakness, I say, for cunning is not wisdom. Many of the great, the degenerate descendants of a debauched nobility, whose little minds have received the smail degree of improvement of which they were capable, from a French maller; are the profeffed disciples of Voltaire: and the of fensive swarms of palery pretenders to wit and genius, who ground their pretensions on blaspheming their God and calumniating their neighbour; and who prove the depravity of human nature by their

OWA

Divo bafenels, are the admirers of Hume and Bolingbroke. This corroption has already spread far and wide, diffolving the bands of fociety, and diffusing perfonal mifery: Whenever it shall become general, there is no doubt but that the over suling Providence which left not one fone upon another in Babylon, fhall sweep away the na. tion in which jt prevails, with the belom of destruction.. . It is easy to collect from these Essays, that Mr. Knox adopts the system of those philosophers who affert common sense to be the test of truth in morals and religion. This system is an extremely commodious one. It flatters the vanity and indolence so na.. tural to the human mind, by referring all difficultieš to a supposed infallible monitor, which pronounces at once on the question in dispute, and chases away every doubt. If we understand the import of Efray XXXV. On the ill Effects of proving by Argument Truths already admitted, it affords not the least dana gerous application of the theory just alluded to. This Essay wears the form of a letter from a very good fort of man, whose repose has been disturbed, and whole religious conviction has been shaken by hooks of controversial divinity, and who unfortunately believed less as he read more. The picture of a mind thus thrown off the hinges is drawn with much fancy, and well fultained throughout. But what is the inference that results from it?' Is it that the affent which precedes examination is more valuable than that which flows from it? that convidtion is in an inverse ratio to inquiry ? -Surely Mr. Knox does not think fo_The honeft letter-writer concludes his epifle with tell. ing us, that he has resolved to lay aside'proofs, demonstrations, and illustrations of all matters sufficiently proved, demonstrated and illustrated to the humble mind, by their own internal evidence. If our Readers' bé disposed to inquire what species of truths are the objects of this internal evidence,' we are left to collect this from a preceding part of the letter : the catalogue is pretty copious

I had received (says he) all the notions usually inftilled by pa. rental authority, with implicit belief. I was told that there was one! God, and I believed it, for I saw his works around me. I embraced revealed religion in all its parts, with the same evidence of conviction with which I believed the fun to exist in the heavens, when I bebeld it radiance, and felt its warmih. I raw and believed the difference between right and wrong, vice and virtue, juftice and injustice, as, trongly as the difference between black and white, and Tweet and bi.ter. I never dreamt of calling in question the authenticity of the Scriptural writers, the docirine of the Irinity, the divinity of our Sa. viour, the immateriality and immortality of the human soul, and the resurrection of the body. When I repeated the creed, I spoke with the same confidence of undoubung conviâion, as when I allerted the trait of a fact of which I had ocular demonstration. The teady light of common sense ad guided me, and I had been kümble enough to follow its directions.' Rev. Jan. 1780.

F

However

« EelmineJätka »