Imágenes de páginas

in what degree they may be required to mi. nister to luxury, ask little, very little, aid from learning.

Perhaps Rousseau had no view to honest truth in this celebrated essay, but by a bold singularity to raise himself into general notice. Had truth been his object, he could not have avoided to observe, what must strike the common mind, that the appetites and tastes of men are the parents of luxury, and that wealth, or a supply of what wealth purchases, is the nurse of luxury. Whereever or whenever these two are found to be coexistent, luxury in a greater or less degree will be found to exist also. These


be co-existent, and to any extent, and have so existed, without any thing of what answers to the scientific arts of modern Europe.


[ocr errors][merged small]



[ocr errors]


In my former observations on the celebrated Essay of Rousseau, I was aware that I had not adverted to all the accusations which he had brought against literature, science, and the arts ; but diffident of '

myself, whether I should ever resume the subject, I took no notice at the time of the omission. The fit has however returned upon me, and with the good pleasure of the Society, I present to them my reply to his remaining charges against those productions of the human mind, which, unless by Rousseau, have been held in the highest estimation.

To those crimes of which is accused by him, and to which I have already replied, this farther charge is added;


poor literature

that knowledge is favourable to slavery.« Science, learning, and the arts," he says, “ spread garlands of flowers over the chains " with which they are loaded, stifle the senti

ments of original liberty with which we are " born, and make us in love with slavery.” Here the very terms, if we rightly understand their meaning, furnish the confutation of the charge. For, if liberty be stifled, and: by liberty be understood the liberty of mind, where are we to look for the science and the learning which are to spread their garlands of flowers over the chains which tyranny imposes on men ? Science and learning cannot possibly exist, where tyranny has for an y length of time been triumphant; as, I think, it must be conceded, that science, with every thing kindred to it, requires an unfettered mind. The truth is, that tyranny destroys both learning and mind; she knows no enemy so formidable as freedom of mind, and when she decrees its death, she decrees the death of genius. In


the commencement of tyranny, the genius, which had flourished under liberty, may have a short respite, but it is sure to experience a rapid decline. Tacitus, who was, at least, as good a judge as Rousseau, felt this truth, and pathetically laments it. In some degree it may be said, that in himself he exhibited a' proof of that injury, which puré and elegant literature inust suffer from the oppression of tyranny. For though in vigour of mind, and energy of expression, he was excelled perhaps by no one, yet 'something of that barbarism of language, which is sure to accompany the decline of genius, appears even in this interesting writer. We find not in him that chastity and purity of style, which distinguished the preceding age. Whoever will compare Sallust with Tacitus must be sensible of this, and the comparison - is the more just, as in every other character they remarkably approach each other. His example is also in another view singularly opposed to the theory of Rousseau, as we owe even a Taçitus to a temporary gleam of



liberty. With Trajan liberty and learning may be said to have expired. Tacitus was nearly the last, as he certainly was the brightest ray of that expiring genius, which the better days of Rome had fostered.

But the history of literature under the tyranny of the Roman emperors is not a solitary proof, that genius cannot live without the encouraging smiles of liberty. The history of every age and nation proclaims the same truth, nor can it possibly be otherwise. It is founded in the very nature of man, When God made man, and conferred upon him the gift of mind, he conferred it freely, graciously, and without restraint; he subjected the world to it as a field, wherein it should expatiate at pleasure; and as if this were not enough to exercise its powers,

and fill up

the immensity of its desires, he gave to him imagination, whereby to create ideal worlds, and shadow to himself something more beautiful, more graceful, and more perfect, than what even this wonderful universe presents to his view, Man is not re


« AnteriorContinuar »