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don of all men whom I have by any means induced to support, to countenance, or patronize my frauds, of which I think myself obliged to declare, that'not one of my friends was conscious. I hope to deserve, by better conduct, and more useful undertakings, that patronage which I have obtained from the most illustrious and venerable names by misrepresentation and delusion, and to appear hereafter in such a character as shall give you no reason to regret that your name is free quently mentioned with that of,
Your most humble servant,
Dec. 20, 1750.
HIS is a treatise consisting of Six Letters, upon a very difficult and important question, which, I am afraid, this author's endeavours will not free from the perplexity which has entangled the speculatists of all ages, and which must always continue while we see but in part. He calls it a Free Inquiry, and, indeed, his freedom is, I think, greater than his modesty. Though
* This “Inquiry,” published in 1757, was the production of Soame Jenyns, Esq. who never forgave the author of the Review. It is painful to relate, that after he had suppressed his resentment during Dr. Johnson's life, he gave it vent in a petulant and illiberal mock-epitaph, which would not have de. served notice had it not been admitted into the edition of his works published by Mr. Cole. When this Epitaph first appeared in the newspapers, Mr. Boswell answered it by another upon Mr. Jenyns, equal, at least, in illiberality.
This review is justly reckoned one of the finest specimens of criticism in our language, and was read with such eagerness, when published in the Literary Magazine, that the au. thor was induced to reprint it in a small volume by itself; a circumstance which appears to have escaped Mr. Boswell's research,
he is far from the contemptible arrogance, or the im-
He rejects the Manichean system, but imputes to it an absurdity, from which, amidst all its absurdities, it seems to be free; and adopts the system of Mr. Pope. “That pain is no evil, if asserted with regard to the individuals who suffer it, is downright nonsense ; but, if considered as it affects the universal system, is an undoubted truth, and means only that there is no more pain in it than what is necessary to the production of happiness. How many soever of these evils, then, force themselves into the creation, so long as the good preponderates, it is a work well worthy of infinite wisdom and benevolence; and, notwithstanding the
imperfections of its parts, the whole is most undoubtedly perfect.” And, in the former part of the Letter he gives the principle of his system in these words: « Omnipotence cannot work contradictions, it can only effect all possible things. But so little are we acquainted with the whole system of nature, that we know not what are possible, and what are not: but if we may judge from that constant mixture of pain with pleasure, and inconveniency with advantage, which we must observe in every thing round us, we have reason to conclude, that to endue created beings with perfec. tion, that is, to produce Good exclusive of Evil, is one of those impossibilities which even infinite power cannot accomplish.”
This is elegant and acute, but will by no means calm discontent, or silence curiosity: for whether Evil can be wholly separated from Good or not, it is plain that they may be mixed in various degrees, and as far as human eyes can judge, the degree of Evil might have been less without any impediment to Good.
The second letter on the evils of imperfection, is little more than a paraphrase of Pope's Epistles, or yet less than a paraphrase, a mere translation of poetry into prose. This is surely to attack difficulty with very disproportionate abilities, to cut the Gordian knot with very blunt instruments. When we are told of the insufficiency of former solutions, why is one of the la. test, which no man can have forgotten, given us again? I am told, that this pamphlet is not the effort of hunger: what can it be then but the product of vanity ? and yet how can vanity be gratified by plagiarism or transcription? When this speculatist finds himself prompted to another performance, let him consider whether he is about to disburthen his mind, or employ his fingers; and if I might venture to offer him a subject, I
should wish that he would solve this question, Why he that has nothing to write, should desire to be a writer?
Yet is not this Letter without some sentiments, which, though not new, are of great importance, and may be read with pleasure in the thousandth repetition.
“Whatever we enjoy is purely a free gift from our Creator; but that we enjoy no more, can never sure be deemed an injury, or a just reason to question his infinite benevolence. All our happiness is owing to his goodness; but that it is no greater, is owing only to ourselves; that is, to our not having any inherent right to any happiness, or even to any existence at all. This is no more to be imputed to God, than the wants of a beggar to the person who has relieved him: that he had something, was owing to his benefactor; but that he had no more, only to his own original poverty."
Thus far he speaks what every man must approve, and what every wise man has said before him. He then gives us the system of subordination, not invented, for it was known I think to the Arabian metaphysicians, but adopted by Pope ; and from him borrowed by the diligent researches of this great investigator.
“No system can possibly be formed, even in imagination, without a subordination of parts. Every animal body must have different members subservient to each other; every picture must be composed of various colours, and of light and shade; all harmony must be formed of trebles, tenors and basses; every beautiful and useful edifice must consist of higher and lower, more and less magnificent apartments. This is in the very essence of all created things, and therefore cannot be prevented by any means whatever, unless by not creating them at all.”