Page images





them, he left a wonderful monu- Peers ? How would they apprement of active learning.

ciate the significance of telling what Like St Anthony, and other self- it was that Virgil's shepherd found tormentors, he conjured up visions to be a native of the rocks ? But of demons and malignantimps. Chief perhaps it would be sufficient to among these was Lord Chesterfield, account for the nature of the prowho had failed to receive his pro- duction to say that it was the outmises with acclamation, but stepped burst of an impetuous man of forward to welcome his perform- genius chained down to dictionary

There was an old story which work. He gave forth other growls Boswell is right in discrediting, in his agony, and one of an exhilarthat Johnson's wrath towards ating kind when half-way through, Chesterfield arose from his having at letter L- to wit, Lexicohad to wait in the anteroom, where grapher, a writer of dictionaries; he saw Colley Cibber step out from a harmless drudge, who busies himthe presence. Chesterfield was the self in tracing the original and dedemon of his troubled spirit under-tailing the signification of words." going its self-imposed martyrdom. He seems to have taken out a litThe knights-errant, in their vows tle of his spite against the world in of asceticism, when assailed by the employing certain innocent persons evil one, fell on him with sword to do the more mechanical part of and spear. St Anthony, and people his harmless drudgery. The tyrant of his kind, attacked him with of Syracuse turning schoolmaster prayers and sacred symbols. John- was a joke to this exercise of petty son set upon his own demon with tyranny.

Boswell says :

The his own peculiar weapon, rolling learned yet judicious research of against him a succession of sonorous etymology, the various yet accurate sentences, which came heavily on display of definition, and the rich him, and did him a good deal of collection of authorities, were redamage.

served for the superior mind of

our great philologist. For the me'Seven years, my lord, have now

chanical part he employed, as he passed since I waited in your outward rooms or was repulsed from your door; told me, six amanuenses ; and let during which time I have been push it be remembered by the natives of ing on my work through difficulties, of North Britain, to whom he is supwhich it is useless to complain, and posed to have been so hostile, that brought it at last to the verge of publi- five of them were of that country: .cation without one act of assistance, one word of encouragement, or one smile of have been utterly ashamed of this

Boswell, as a Scotsman, should favour. Such treatment I did not expect-for I never had a patron before. passage. Contempt and scorn could

• The shepherd in Virgil grew at last not have been more odiously poured acquainted with Love, and found him a out upon his countrymen than in native of the rocks.

setting them to such work. It was “Is not a patron, my lord, one who a refinement of contumely; and to looks with unconcern on a man strug- speak of it as founded on a partigling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him ality for the people so treated tell with help? The notice which you have

us as well that slavery is founded been pleased to take of my labours, had on a partiality for the negro race. it been early, had been kind; but it has Let us again widen our range, been delayed till I am indifferent, and and pass from the dictionary to a cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and

class of works generally deemed cannot impart it; till I am known, and

still more ambitious in their aims. do not want it."

The editorial guidance of a full, What would the public think of well-balanced encyclopædia, from a letter of this sort addressed at its birth to its successful concluthe present day to some distin- sion, demands an amount of orguished member of the House of ganising power and generalship





which it taxes ordinary powers of divide all nature among themmind merely to realise, and be con- selves; and he desires to exemplify scious of the possible existence of. his doctrine by elbowing out of To suppose the Commander-in-Chief the way all the other devotees becoming also First Lord of the Ad- around him. Down on all these miralty, Master-General of the Ord- comes “the practical man, who nance, and First Commissioner of despises the whole tribe of philosoHer Majesty's Works, will be but phers, and is all for bricks or a partial approach to the compre- leather. A sort of half-breed behensive realisation. We must also tween both comes forward in the suppose him directing the func- shape of the inventor; he has distions of the Lord Chancellor, the covered, say, a plan for blowing up First Lord of the Treasury, the fortresses with India-rubber bombs, Home, Foreign, and Colonial Se- and he wants to write the article cretaries, the Presidents of the Ordnance, Artillery, Bomb-ketch, Royal Society and of the Royal Army, Fortification, War, or any Academy, with a few other offices other which will enable him to of like kind.

give prominence to the grandest Such a troublesome, unruly, crot- discovery of our day—the invenchety, angular, unconformable set, tion that is to be the great crisis as such an administrator has to in the history of the world. work with, is not easily conceived But perhaps the most troubleby those who are accustomed to the some of all are the biographers, discipline and precision of official and for this reason: In the sciences life. All are self-centred in their own there are men with hobbies, who crotchets, and determined to make no doubt will ride them to desroom for themselves and elbow out peration; but afford them the orall others. Here the conchologist, dinary locomotive means of the conscious of no life and interest save rest of the world, and they will be in the clammy sea- beach or the quite reasonable, going no farther tangled recesses of the rocks, whose than the prescribed distance, and highest notions of an event or a going no faster than the ordinary crisis in life is the pulling-up and pace. But your biographer is apt emptying of his dredge, shoves his to get off at all points. It is a neighbours, the ichthyologist and specialty in the nature of man the palæozoic entomologist, out of which might open a fine field of the way as a couple of quacks, inquiry to psychological investigawhose pretended science is all hum- tors, that whenever man writes the bug in comparison with his own tes- biography of his fellow-man he betaceous molluscs. The cryptogamist, gins to worship him. Is it because or cultivator of the class of beings the Life written is the property of addicted to clandestine marriages, the writer, and therefore to be must have a large space for his magnified ? Is it because the vast algæ, which are of weightier im- acquirements and noble virtues of port than all the rest of science put the object of the laudations throw together, since in them we are to some slight reflection on the man study the first germs and laws of who writes them? Is it a mere vitality, and to find the infant stupid, lazy practice which the origin, as it were, of the whole tribe of biographers have got into, busy world of life and action, of —owing to this, that some lives of growth and decay, of life and great men have been written by death, by which they are surround their devoted admirers, and other ed. Here comes a devotee to the writers who cared nothing whatdoctrine that species are formed by ever about the lives they were dothe stronger crushing the weak- ing—who never heard of them till er, and aggrandising themselves set to the task of writing them, -as through the roll of ages until they the established method of writing biography? Is it, after all, from the American Revolution. The Life some better method than any of was written by an eminent person these—a geniality which lures the of the same surname—Adam Ferhuman being into assimilation with guson, the author of the · History any other being of the race with of the Roman Republic, and whom he has bad to make acquaint- some other books. Readers of ance, without coming too close to this may not have read either suffer from his badness ? Let us his great work or the smaller not anticipate the metaphysicians -it is even possible that some of in assigning the cause of the speci- them may not be acquainted with alty. But when it is duly investi- his name. Those, however, who gated, let not one curious phenome are in this position had better say non be omitted. The French so nothing about it, for he has a place thoroughly accepted the fact that in literature, both from the capaa biography could be no other than city he brought to bear on Roman laudatory, that the term they ap- history, and the eminence of the plied to it was an élogeand it literary set he lived in, which inwould be a piece of honesty if our cluded David Hume, Adam Smith, own age and language would use a Robertson, and Carlyle. like term.

The literary history of the minor It being the propensity of the work before us is thus candidly biographer at large to magnify his announced in its title—' Biograhero, portentous difficulties are phical Sketch or Memoir of Lieudoubtless in store for the encyclo. tenant-Colonel Patrick Fergusson, pædical editor, when a devoted originally intended for the Encyclodisciple or an attached relation of pædia Britannica,' 8vo, 1817. This a departed celebrity undertakes the is followed by the explanation, task of giving him the precise thatamount of letterpress and lauda- " The following biographical tion to which his importance en- sketch was written by Dr Fertitles him, in comparison with all guson for the purpose of being the other celebrated persons that published in the 'Encyclopædia Brihave passed into and out of the tannica;' but being considered by world, and all the things in heaven the editor too long for that work, and earth that are comprehended and the Doctor declining to abridge within the arena of human know- it, it was not inserted.” Accordledge. Editors could no doubt ingly, it begins by giving the tell curious stories about the dif- Colonel his proper alphabetical ference between the space taken by place in the long list in close the contributor in his estimate of vicinity to Ferdusi, Fernando, due proportion, and the estimate Feres, and Ferrei - Fergusson, made by the general umpire of Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick. We what he should have taken. There are told that “he was second son of would be some such incompati- James Fergusson, Esq. of Pitfour, bility as in the saying about La one of the Senators of the College Harpe, that it would be a good of Justice and Lords Commiscommercial speculation to buy him sioners of Justiciary in Scotland, at his actual market price, and sell by Anne Murray, daughter of Alexhim (if one could) at his own esti- ander Lord Elibank; and with mation of his value.

this descent fortunately united in In evidence how far up this pro- his own character the calm judgpensity may extend, we tender a ment and exalted abilities of his thin octavo volume, valuable to the father, with the vivacity and genius collectors of rarities, being the Life of his mother's family.” Doomed of Colonel Fergusson, a gallant as he was to exclusion, yet it seems officer who fell bravely fighting in he and his friends believed in his the cause of his duty in the war of successful achievement of an inven

[ocr errors]

tion which, had the world accepted country, and so on-and yet to anof it, would have secured him a swer in detail, through the alpharank among the Congreves, Schrap- bet, whatever question any one, put nells, and Armstrongs. This was to a puzzle in his ordinary read“a new species of rifle, which he ing, desired to ask. And this had could load at the breech without to be done without repetition. It the use of the rammer, and with is easy to see that this requires such quick repetition as to fire care and management.

Without seven times in a minute. The venturing to show a sample of it rifleman in the mean time might as well done, it is easy to show how be stretched at full length on the it can be ill done. Suppose that, ground, so as to have the cover of in the hot fervour of developing a parapet, behind even a consoli- some new and grand theory in dated mole-hill, or the least ine- physical geography, it is essential quality of the earth's surface.” to you to know on the instant how This invention was tried in the pre- high the village of Aussig on the sence of royalty, but the firing was Elbe stands above the level of the very wide. This was attributed to

sea—you must have the informadiffidence of the august spectator, tion at once, or the ideas, crowding and the inventor aptly enough said one after another, will make their that the nerves of the performer escape. You dash into the proper would not have been so much dis- place in the mass of fifty or sixty turbed by the presence of bis ma- volumes which are your standard jesty's enemies.

works of reference, and there, unAn encyclopædia is something der the head “ Aussig,” you are reprofessing to give instruction in a ferred for information to “Austrian circle. This will hardly convey a Empire.” This is not far off; but distinctive notion to the mind with- there is not much to be made of it out some explanations taken from when obtained. It fills a volume, practice. The idea of a philosophi- and that volume has no index or cal work of this kind involves the contents, or division of any kind. joint action of the two logical opera- The person who had the special tions, analysis and synthesis. First, charge of such trifles as Aussig you take all human knowledge and was very safe in sending you where analyse it into its component parts he did, for it would take you a -each of these must be treated week's reading to enable you to according to its due proportion. contradict him, and say that, after Next, you take every substantive all, there is not a word about in the dictionary, and every scien- Aussig in the whole treatise. tific, historical, biographical, and That treatise, indeed, has been geographical word, and each of written by a great ethnologist, who these must have a place. General has devoted himself to the expositreatises on all human knowledge tion of large views on the balance had been long in existence, and re- of the Teutonic and Slavonic races, ceived a considerable stimulus from and on the influence and counterthe labours of Bacon. Dictionaries influence which their static condi. also had been long in existence, in tion has had on the preservation which each word was a separate and development of the imperial entity, treated without any refer- institutions, left as they were, by ence to the position of the thing it the overthrow of the Roman emrepresented in the field of human pire, to develop themselves in new knowledge.

phases of

a homogeneous auThe thing to be done was to tochomy: To these momentous unite the two - provide for the affairs all his energy, within the reader a full library of all know- limited space allowed to him, is ledge—the sum of every science- devoted, and he would have no the history and geography of every more idea of going into particulars



and saying anything about Aussig, for the French Encyclopædists did or any place like it, than of devot- not include history and biography. ing himself to the biography of the If all human knowledge is to be very respectable landlord of the within a given cincture, these must Goldene Krone in that romantic of course go with the rest; but they little town.

are in many respects so incomThe tendency of the encyclopæ- patible with science in a system dia towards centralising itself into where a sort of common centre is great treatises on the chief sciences to be looked for, that it is, after all, was much encouraged by D'Alem- questionable whether what deals bert, Diderot, and the rest of that with the history of men and naset who earned for themselves the tions should not be detached from name of Encyclopædists. D'Alem- the rest of knowledge. Then a bert was always pottering at what new difficulty occurs in a branch of he called Encyclopædial tables, knowledge stretching between the bringing out a Système figuré des two, something half of science, half connaissances humaines. He pro- of mere human experience, with fessed to found his system on some ties to the mathematics and Bacon's; but it is said that this other exact sciences, and a close was merely to divert suspicion connection with statistics—namely, away from the free-thinking tone Political economy. which he infused into his classifi- Indeed, when we suppose all cations. If he and his coadjutors branches of human knowledge to were a little naughty in this way, be dealt with in such a work, all they certainly were subjected to to get fair-play, and all to be in the direst literary punishment that some way connected together as ever was heard of. To be osten- meeting in a common centre, the sibly clipped down by the scissors difficulties seem to multiply with of the censor was bad enough, but the unlimited capacities of man for nothing to the discovery, just as the acquisition of new knowledge. they were ready to break upon the Every head of division in such an astonished world with all their encyclopædia will have hooks fixed powerful originality and contempt into it to draw it to every great for authority, that there was an department of human knowledge. enemy within their own camp clip- Take the word Sheep, for instance. ping away all those bold original The zoologist, let us suppose, has passages on which their reputation undoubtedly the primary claim, was to rest. The publisher, in and, all others giving way for the short, was not to risk ruin and the time, takes possession of him as Bastille for things like that; so he belonging to the genus Ovis, the quietly, and without any compunc- tribe Capridæ, the order of Rumition, cut them out of the proofs nants, and the class of Mammalia. before these went finally to press, Farming has perhaps the next claim, leaving the enraged authors to such with its distant opposites of Southrecourse as they might find. down and Highland Blackface, and

These were the men who introduc- the multitude of intermediate dised great dissertations on branches of tinctions and classifications known science into encyclopædia practice. to the learned. He whose departNo doubt each of these was writ- ment is the manufacture of textile ten by some man of great scientific fabrics has also something to say, attainments and of wide reputation. perhaps, about the difference beThus the work became so illustri- tween the fibres of animal tissues,

But its general plan is be- which, when examined by the milieved to have owed many debts croscope, are seen to have lateral to the humbler work of Ephraim tags which lay hold of each other, Chambers; and still the circle of while those of vegetable tissues knowledge had not been completed, hold together entirely by the twist.

[ocr errors]


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »