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A DEFENCÉ OF LEARNING AND THE ARTS,
AGAINST SOME CHARGES OF ROUSSEAU.
That learning is not the parent of politeness, nor
chargeable with the duplicity, fraud, and vice, which he supposes to be her attendants.
It is a failing, and not of common minds alone, who surrender themselves to the im. pression of the moment, but also of men from whom a more just appreciation of the past and the present might be expected, to indulge to a spirit of discontent whenever they speak of their own times; and with a kind of holy veneration to fix their eye on those days of old, wherein, as they supposé, ingenuous virtue and sincere. enjoyment were alone to be found. This failing, for a failing assuredly it is, has its origin in human nature, and even in the best disposi.
tions of human nature. Candour forgets the bad, but piously remembers the good, of what is gone. The failings of the dead are buried with them, while their virtues, whatever was attractive and engaging, are rescued from the grave, and acquire new splendour by being separated from every thing that offends. But, while offence lives, it arrests our principal attention; it irritates our tempers; it crosses our pursuits; it provokes our moral indignation; and therefore the vice of the day is the subject of everlasting complaint. But in all this proceeding neither truth nor justice is observed, and without ill intentions we often defeat every good purpose. The good and the bad of every day ought to be fairly stated, and neither candour nor prejudice ought to be heard at the bar of impartial justice. By exaggerated praise or exaggerated blame we give a sanction to folly, to error, and vice, while we throw discouragement on the ingenuous pursuit of wisdom, truth, and vir
In Rousseau we find a striking example of intemperate censure and intemperate praise. The preference of the past to the present, of barbarity to refinement, of ignorance to knowledge, is his favourite theme: it directly or obliquely insinuates itself into all his writings. Barbarity with him is simplicity ; it is nature in her pure ingenuous walk; while refinement, taste, and elegance are only the gilding of duplicity, fraud, and vice. To know more than simple nature obtrudes upon us, is only to know the instruments of mischief; it is to awake a teinptation, and capacitate man to be the enemy
of himself and his fellow man. With á splenetic turn of mind he finds more to offend than please in the whole view around him; with a passion for fame he courts reputation by the singularity of his doctrine, by the boldest contradiction to the common sense of mankind; and with abilities wonderfully fitted to give a grace and a charın even to the grossest absurdities, he ventures on an open hostility to every thing which
man conceives to be his highest ornament and praise.
I have observed that this humour of depreciating the present state of man, and overrating that of the past, tinctures most of the writings of Rousseau ; but it is the professed object of the celebrated essay to which the academy of Dijon adjudged the prize. He maintains that the progress of society and its boasted improvements have been only to make man progressively acquainted with misery. He charges this crime particularly on the sciences and the
ss Ancient days, he says, were more virtuous than our own, and the degeneracy of our own days owes its origin to our knowledge.” In fine, knowledge or science appears to him to be Pandora's box, replete with every evil. A poor prisoner in a house of lunatics, being asked the cause of his confinement; replied, that he thought the whole world to be mad, while the world thought him to be mad, but unhappily the world outvoted him. Rousseau must have thought,