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which they give to certain trains of thought! I am aware, indeed, that, in cases of this sort, we may often err, and that we probably err, to a certain extent, in the greater number of them,-in ascribing to the accident, those mental peculiarities, which existed before it unobserved, and which would afterwards, as original tendencies, have developed themselves, in any circumstances in which the individual might have been placed; but the influence of circumstances, though apt to be magnified, is not on that account the less real; and though we may sometimes err, therefore, as to the particular examples, we cannot err as to the general influence itself. We are told, in the life of Chatterton, that, in his early boyhood, he was reckoned of very dull intellect, till he "fell in love," as his mother expressed it, with the illuminated capitals of an old musical manuscript in French, from which she taught him his letters; and a black-letter Bible was the book from which she afterwards taught him to read. It is impossible to think of the subsequent history of this wonderful young man, without tracing a probable connexion of those accidental circumstances, which could not fail to give a peculiar importance to certain conceptions, with the character of that genius, which was afterwards to make grey-headed erudition bend before it, and to astonish at least all those on whom it did not impose.

The illustrious French naturalist Adanson, was in very early life distinguished by his proficiency in classical studies. In his first years at college, he obtained the highest prizes in Greek and Latin poetry, on which occasion he was presented with the works of Pliny and Aristotle. The interest which such a circumstance could not fail to give to the works of these ancient inquirers into nature, led him to pay so much attention to the subjects of which they treated, that, when he was scarcely thirteen years of age, he wrote some valuable notes on the volumes that had been given to reward his studies of a different kind.

Vaucanson, the celebrated mechanician,-who, in every thing which did not relate to his art, showed so much stupidity, that it has been said of him, that he was as much a machine as any of the machines which he made,— happened, when a boy, to be long and frequently shut up in a room, in which there was nothing but a clock, which, therefore, as the only object of amusement, he occupied himself with examining, so as at last to discover the connexion and uses of its parts; and the construction of machines was afterwards his constant delight and occupation. I might refer to the biography of many other eminent men, for multitudes of similar incidents, that appear to correspond, with an exactness more than accidental, with the striking peculiarities of character afterwards displayed by them; and it is not easy to say, if we could trace the progress of genius from its first impressions, how very few circumstances, of little apparent moment, might have been sufficient, by the new suggestions to which they would have given rise, and the new complex feelings produced,-to change the general tendencies that were afterwards to mark it with its specific character.

Indeed, since all the advantages of scientific and elegant education must, philosophically, be considered only as accidental circumstances, we have, in the splendid powers which these advantages of mere culture seem to evolve, as contrasted with the powers that lie dormant in the mass of mankind, a striking proof how necessary the influence of circumstances is for the developement of those magnificent suggestions which give to genius its glory and its very name.

If the associations, and consequent complex feelings, which we derive from the accidental impression of external things, or which we form to ourselves by our exclusive studies and occupations, have a powerful influence on our intellectual character, those which are transmitted to us, from other minds, are not less powerful. We continue to think and feel, as our ancestors have thought and felt; so true, in innumerable cases, is the observation, that "men make up their principles by inheritance, and defend them, as they would their estates, because they are born heirs to them." It has been justly said, that it is difficult to regard that as an evil which has been long done, and that there are many great and excellent things, which we never think of doing, merely because no one has done them before us. This subjection of the soul to former usage, till roused by circumstances of more than common energy, is like the inertia that retains bodies in the state in which they happen to be, till some foreign force operate, to suspend their motion or their rest. And it is well, upon the whole, that, in the great concerns of life, those which relate, not to speculative science, but to the direct happiness of nations,--this intellectual inertia subsists. The difficulty of moving the multitude, though it may often be the unfortunate cause of preventing benefits which they might readily receive, still has the important advantage of allowing time for reflection, before their force, which is equally irresistible for their self-destruction as for their preservation, could be turned to operate greatly to their own prejudice. The restless passions of the individual innovator, man, thus find an adequate check in the general principles of mankind. The same power who has balanced the causes of action and repose in the material world, has mingled them, with equal skill, in the intellectual; and, in the one as much as in the other, the very irregularities that seem, at first sight, to lead to the destruction of that beautiful system of which they are a part, are found to have in themselves the cause, that leads them again, from apparent confusion, into harmony and order.

But though, in affairs which concern immediately the peace and happiness of society, it is of importance, that there should be, in those who lead, and, still more, in those who follow, some considerable obstinacy of attachment to ancient usage,-this does not apply to the speculative sciences, in which error does not extend in its consequences beyond the self-illusion of those who embrace it. Yet, the history of science, for a long series of ages,-if the science of those ages can be said to afford a subject of history, exhibits a devotion to ancient opinion more obstinately zealous, than that which marks the contemporary narrative of domestic usages or political events. To improve, in some respects, the happiness of a nation,-though it was indeed a difficult, and perilous, and rare attempt, was not absolutely impious. But what a spectacle of more hopeless slavery is presented to us in those long ages of the despotism of authority, when Aristotle was every thing, and Reason nothing,-and when the crime of daring to be wiser, was the worst species of treason, and almost of impiety, though it must be owned, that this rebellion against the right divine of authority, was not a guilt of very frequent occurrence.

"With ensigns wide unfurl'd

She rode, triumphant, o'er the vanquish'd world,
Fierce nations owned her unresisted might;
And all was ignorance, and all was night."

It is at least as melancholy, as it is ludicrous, to read the decree, which was passed, so late as the year 1624, by the Parliament of Paris, in favour of the doctrines of Aristotle, in consequence of the rashness of three unfortunate philosophers, who were accused of having ventured on certain theses, that implied a want of due respect for his sovereign infallibility. In this, all persons were prohibited, under pain of death, (à peine de la vie) from holding or teaching any maxim against the ancient and approved authors, (contre les anciens auteurs et approuvés.) In this truly memorable edict, the Parliament seem to have taken for their model the letters patent, as they were termed, which about a century before, had been issued against Peter Ramus by Francis the First, a sovereign who, for the patronage which he gave to literature, obtained the name of protector of letters; but who, as has been truly said, was far from being the protector of reason. Yet this proclamation, which condemns the writings of Ramus for the enormous guilt of an attempted improvement in dialectics, and which prohibits him, "under pain of corporal punishment, from uttering any more slanderous invectives against Aristotle, and other ancient authors received and approved," professes, in its preamble, to have been issued by the monarch from his great desire for the progress of science and sound literature in France. "This philosophy of Aristotle, so dear to our kings, and to our ancient parliaments," says D'Alembert, "did not always enjoy the same gracious favour with them, even in times of superstition and ignorance. It is true, that the reasons for which it was sometimes proscribed were very worthy of the period. In the early part of the thirteenth century, the works of this philosopher were burnt at Paris, and prohibited, under pain of excommunication, from being read or preserved, because they gave occasion to new heresies.' It thus appears, he continues," that there is really no sort of folly into which the philosophy of Aristotle has not led our good ancestors."

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Such is the sway of long-established veneration over our judgment, even in the province of severer science. The influence which the authority of antiquity exercises over our taste, is not less remarkable. "What beauty," it has been said, "would not think herself happy, if she could inspire her lover with a passion as lively and tender as that with which an ancient Greek or Roman inspires his respectful commentator?" We laugh at the absurdity of Dacier, one of those most adoring commentators, who, in comparing the excellence of Homer and Virgil, could seriously say, that the poetry of the one was a thousand years more beautiful than the poetry of the other; and yet, in the judgments which we are in the habit of forming, or, at least, of passively adopting, there is often no small portion of this chronological estimation. The prejudice for antiquity is itself very ancient, says La Motte; and it is amusing, at the distance of so many hundred years, to find the same complaint of undue partiality to the writers of other ages, brought forward against their contemporaries by those authors, whom we are now disposed to consider as too highly estimated by our own contemporaries on that very


How many are there, who willingly join in expressing veneration for works, which they would think it a heavy burthen to read from beginning to end! Indeed, this very circumstance, when the fame of an author has been well established, rather adds to his reputation than diminishes it; because the languor of a work, of course, cannot be felt by those who never take the trouble of perusing it, and its imperfections are not criticised, as they other

wise would be, because they must be remarked before they can be pointed out, while the more striking beauties, which have become traditionary in quotation, are continually presented to the mind. There is much truth, therefore, in the principle, whatever injustice there may be in the application of the sarcasm of Voltaire, on the Italian poet Dante, that his reputation will now continually be growing greater and greater,-because there is now nobody who reads him."

It is not merely the prejudice of authority, however, which leads our taste to form disproportionate judgments. It is governed by the same accidental associations of every kind, of which I have already spoken, as giving a specific direction to genius. It is not easy to say, how much the simple tale and ballad of our infancy, or innumerable other circumstances still less important of our early life, may have tended to modify our general sense of the beautiful, as it is displayed even in the most splendid of those works of genius which fix our maturer admiration. But as this part of my subject is again to come before us, I shall not dwell on it any longer at present.

It is not in particular details, however, like those which have been now submitted to you, that the influence of association on the intellectual character is best displayed. . It is in taking the aggregate of all the circumstances, physical and moral, in the climate, and manners, and institutions of a people.

"There Industry and Gain their vigils keep,

Command the waves and tame the unwilling deep:
Here Force, and hardy deeds of blood prevail;
There languid Pleasure sighs in every gale."

The character and turn of thought, which we attach, in imagination, to the satrap of a Persian court, to a citizen of Athens, and to a rude inhabitant of ancient Sarmatia, are as distinct as the names which we affix to their countries. I need not enter into the detail of circumstances which may be supposed to have concurred in the production of each of these distinct characters. It will be sufficient to take the Athenian for an example, and to think of the circumstances in which he was placed. I borrow a description of these from an eloquent French writer.

"Among the Greeks, wherever the eyes were cast, there monuments of glory were to be found. The streets, the temples, the galleries, the porticos, all gave lessons to the citizens. Every where the people recognised the images of its great men ; and beneath the purest sky, in the most beautiful fields, amid groves and sacred forests, and the most brilliant festivals of a splendid religion-surrounded with a crowd of artists, and orators, and poets, who all painted, or modelled, or celebrated, or sang their compatriot heroes, marching as it were to the enchanting sounds of poetry and music, that were animated with the same spirit,-the Greeks, victorious and free, saw, and felt, and breathed nothing but the intoxication of glory and immortality."+

"Hence flourish'd Greece, and hence a race of men,

As Gods by conscious future times adored;

In whom each virtue wore a smiling air,
Each science shed o'er life a friendly light,
Each art was nature."

* Gray on the Alliance of Education of Government, v. 42—45.
+ Thomas.

Thompson's Liberty, Part II. v. 175–179.

How admirably does the eloquent writer, from whom I have just quoted, express the peculiar effect of a popular constitution, in giving animation to the efforts of the orator;—and if oratory were all, which rendered a people happy, and not rather those equal laws, and that calm security, which render oratory almost useless, how enviable would be that state of manners which he pictures!

"In the ancient republics," he observes, "eloquence made a part of the constitution. It was it which enacted and abolished laws, which ordered war, which caused armies to march, which led on the citizens to fields of battle, and consecrated their ashes, when they perished in the combat. It was it which from the tribune kept watch against tyrants, and brought from afar to the ears of the citizens the sound of the chains which were menacing them. In republics, eloquence was a sort of spectacle. Whole days were spent by the people, in listening to their orators,—as if the necessity of feeling some emotion were an appetite of their very nature. The republican orator, therefore, was not a mere measurer of words, for the amusement of a circle, or a small society. He was a man, to whom Nature had given an inevitable empire. He was the defender of a nation,-its sovereign, its master. It was he, who made the enemies of his country tremble. Philip, who could not subdue Greece as long as Demosthenes breathed,— Philip, who at Cheronea had conquered an army of Athenians, but who had not conquered Athens, while Demosthenes was one of its citizens-that this Demosthenes, so terrible to him, might be given up, offered a city in exchange. He gave twenty thousand of his subjects, to purchase such an


"Oratori clamore plausque opus est, et velut quodam theatro; qualia quotidie antiquis oratoribus contingebant; cum tot pariter ac tam nobiliter forum coartârint; cum clientelæ quoque, et tribùs, et municipiorum legationes, ac partes Italiæ, periclitantibus assisterent; cum, in plerisque judiciis crederet populus Romanus, sua interesse, quod judicaretur."

In situations like these, who can doubt of the powerful influence, which the concurrence of so many vivid perceptions and emotions, must have had, in directing the associations, and, in a great measure, the whole intellectual and moral character of the young minds that witnessed and partook of this general enthusiasm ?-an enthusiasm that never can be felt in those happier constitutions, in which the fortunes of individuals, and the tranquillity and the very existence of a state, are not left to the caprice of momentary passion. "Nec tanti Reipublicæ Gracchorum eloquentia fuit, ut pateretur et leges."

Of the influence of association on the moral character of man, the whole history of our race, when we compare the vices and virtues of ages and nations with each other, is but one continued though varied display. We speak of the prevailing manners and dispositions, not merely of savage and civilized life in their extremes, but of progressive stages of barbarism and civilization, with terms of distinction, almost as clear and definite, as when we speak of the changes which youth and age produce in the same individual; not that we believe men in these different stages of society to be born with different natural propensities, which expand themselves into the diversities afterwards observed, but because there appears to us to be a sufficient source of all these diversities in the circumstances in which man is placed-in the

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