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-who reads

Incessantly, and to his reading brings not A spirit and judgment equal or superior, (And what he brings, what need he elsewhere

seek?)

Uncertain and unsettled still remains,

Deep vers'd in books and shallow in himself. MILTON

195

OF CERTAIN VARIETIES OF

MAN.

In the various fortunes of opinions, it may be observed, that when a tenet happens to be refuted, after having gained for a time implicit belief, every one begins to wonder that it should have acquired any credit. This is the progress of what has been called philosophical truth, than which nothing is more absolute during its reign, and nothing but life more transitory in its duration. There is this great difference between the extinction of opinions and that of men, that the former lose their characters with their existence, while the latter generally encrease their estimation by

dying; for excepting an epitaph on the Pineal Gland, which was written after physiologists had degraded it from the seat of the soul, I recollect no example of gratitude to a decayed theory.

Every age cherishes its favourite errors, which serve to divert the succeeding generation. We ridicule our predecessors for their belief in the fiery sphere of Aristotle, or the vortices of Descartes, without reflecting, that some of our present opinions may afford equal subject of derision to posterity. Why does the history of opinions contain such a list of errors and falsehoods, but because men have so long mistaken their conjectures concerning facts, for facts themselves?

Much of this evil has certainly proceeded from undue deference to authorities. Authors have believed assertions without enquiry; and might well be expected to assign ridiculous causes, when they engaged to account for events that never existed.

I have been led into this train of reflec

tion, by trying to discover the true foundations, on which the existence of some monstrous varieties of our species has been supposed. Every philosophical reader is acquainted with the theory of Lord Monboddo on this subject, on which Mr. Tooke has bestowed such masterly satire, that we may justly apply to the author of the Enɛα Πτερόεντα, what Milton has said of Tasso, in his Mansus, though in a different sense;

-æternis inscripsit nomina chartis,

I expected to have found the clue to this romance of philosophy, in Linnæus's Systema Naturæ, because he has mentioned, under the genus, Homo, the varieties of the Homo Troglodytes, or pygmy, and the Homo Caudatus, the man with a tail (Lord Monboddo's patriarch); but the greater number of authorities has occurred to me in casual reading,

Homer is the first author who mentions the pygmies, and is cited as the chief of the opinion, by all writers on this subject. The

Trojans, says he, moved on to battle with shouts and acclamations, like the noise of the cranes, when they fly screaming over the ocean, bearing slaughter and death to the pygmies:

Ηυτε περ κλαγγή γερανων πελει ερανόθι προς
Αιτ' έπει εν χειμωνα Ευγον και αθέσφατον ομβρον,
Κλαγγη ταιγε πέτονται, επ' Ωκεανοιο ρόπων,
Ανδρασι Πυγμαίοισι φόνον και κήρα φέρεται,

Aristotle delivers their history as an indubitable truth. "It is not fabulous, but certain, that a diminutive race of men, and it is said of horses, exists; living in caverns, whence they take the name of Troglodytes. They fight with cranes."+

But it was not enough with the older naturalists, to shorten a whole nation to three spans, or to oblige men

-per Arenas

Caudarum longos sinuatim ducere tractus;

but the species was tortured into more fan

* Iliad, г.

+ Histor, Animal, lib, viii, cap. xii.

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