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Few are there, indeed, who rightly estimate the interpenetration of ancient and modern thought, or reflect how deeply imbedded lies classical learning in the ordinary concerns of our every-day life. Tell the “Sciolist theologian,” for instance, who dreams that scripture interprets itself, that some little knowledge of ancient Rome and her laws might enable him better to comprehend it, and he will perhaps hold you even "as a heathen man and a publican.” But open its pages, we say, and ask him, for instance, what Paul meant by the claim of being “free-born ;''* or how a “Roman,"+ when he was a native of Asia, and had never set foot even in Italy when he made the assertion, still less in the city itself? What he meant, again, in saying that “ Philippi”I was a “Roman colony;" and what kind of a synagogue was that of “the Libertines?"|| Let him answer to these queries, and we will then be better able to judge whether scripture may or may not be more intelligently read, after dipping into the pages of a Classical Thesaurus; whether it do or do not receive light from a knowledge of heathen antiquity.
But we have done. To all such of our readers, we say, as either desire to make good an imperfect education, or to recall a forgotten one, or to gain, without such previous advantages, that ordinary knowledge of heathen antiquity, which, embodied as it is into modern language and actual life, has become essential to the intercourse of good society; to all such, in addition to the student and the scholar, do we earnestly commend a copy of Anthon's Classical Dictionary, and to a place for it, too, upon their shelves, where it not only visible, but easily accessible.
* Acts xxii. 28.
+ Acts xxii. 25.
I Acts xvi. 12.
# Acts vi.9.
ART. VIII.-CRITICAL NOTICES.
1. The History of Harrard Unirersity. By Josiau QUINCY,
LL. D., President of the University. Cambridge: 1810. J. Owen. Two volumes, 8vo. pp. 612—728.
We are most reluctantly compelled, by want of room, to substitute in our present number a short notice of this most important work, for an extended article upon it, which we prepared for the leading department of our journal. The appearance of such an elaborate history of our most ancient seat of learning is a literary event of no ordinary interest, and one that we shall not fail to make use of as an occasion for again discussing the great question of higher education in our country, to which it naturally points. At present we must confine our remarks to the book itself. We felt proud of our alma mater, we confess, when we first took in hand these two large and beautiful volumes, to find that her history had furnished materials for a work of such magnitude ; and since we have read them and seen how skilfully these materials are put together, and how faithfully the original documents must have been examined by her historian, we are satisfied that her honor and fame have been committed to one altogether worthy of the trust. President Quincy has traced the progress of this institution from its infant beginnings as a mere school, through all its trials and struggles and advances, to its present greatness, as a richly endowed and a well ordered university, with scrupulous accuracy and impartiality; throughout the work, he proves himself uniformly its friend, but nowhere its flatterer. We desire to present this characteristic of our author in strong relief, because we regard it as a very high, as well as uncommon merit in a historian. It is not, however, the only quality worthy of note in the history upon which we are commenting; with it are united most others which are requisite for good historical writing. The narrative is animated and interesting, the arrangement methodical and clear, and the style flowing and agreeable; in a word, it seems to us in every respect a carefully and admirably written book. So far as concerns its mechanical execution, it has rarely, if ever, been surpassed in this country; and we would recommend it to our publishers generally as a pattern to be followed by them, in all works that deserve to be brought out in good style. It is illustrated by twenty-one wood and steel engravings, which are for the most part well executed; but we cannot suppress our regrets, that the most ancient and richest university in our country should be compelled to make an array of so many specimens of villanous taste in architecture, as are here exhibited. Whatever advances the institution may have made in all other good arts, in this, it is very clear, it has made none. In point of taste and beauty of proportion, there is not a building within the classic enclosure to be compared with the little Holden chapel, erected in 1744, or with Harvard Hall, erected in 1766. Of the more modern ones, Holworthy Hall is far less comely than a well-built cotton factory; University Hall, as vulgar outwardly as a county jail; and Gore Hall, or the new library, as little in keeping with everything around it, as a ruin of a middleage castle would be among the suburban villas in the environs of the New England metropolis. There is one finely proportioned and beautiful building within sight from the college grounds, which is
a sort of deposition in perpetuum, of the superiority of “church" over“ meeting-house” architecture. Whoever has been in Cambridge will not need to be informed, that we refer to the graceful and tasteful episcopal chapel on the south side of the common; we would that it could have formed one of the embellishments of these volumes; it might rightly claim a place in them as the finest specimen of architecture in the vicinity of this beautiful academic retreat.
2. Essays. By R. W. EMERSON. Boston: James Monroe and
Company. 1841. 12mo. pp. 303.
This volume contains twelve essays, which are severally entitled History; Self-reliance; Compensation ; Spiritual Laws; Love; Friendship; Prudence; Heroism; The Over-Soul; Circles; Intellect; Art. The substance of some, if not of all, of them has been given to select audiences in the form of lectures in Boston and its neighborhood, and it may, we think without injustice, be considered as a cause, or certainly as the type of a somewhat novel and singular species of fanaticism now prevailing more or less in that region, under the name of transcendentalism. We call it fanaticism, as being a semi-philosophical theory strangely blended with certain elementary notions of religion, making as large demands on the conduct as on the faith of those who receive it, and leading to principles and forms of social organization which have no basis in the nature of man, and which experience has already condemned as impracticable. By what right this medley of opinion and fancies has received the sobriquet of transcendentalism, we are at a loss to understand. Kant, and Cousin, and Coleridge, would be puzzled to recognize in it any features of the system they have taught, and which has passed under that name, or if it be
NO. XVI.-VOL. VIII.
in any way a product of their system, it is by some equivocal generation, a lusus natura, feeble, and we trust short-lived. Once the attainment of the theory of man and of the universe, that was properly styled transcendental, was the result of patient meditation for many months, and years were not thought too long to prepare the mind for a competent judgment of it. Now, it seems to be a work of moments, and for youth. Now, we judge by illapses and revelations. Now, we have but to "live," and we become the arbiters of all truth, masters of all science; nay, we “judge the angels.”
There are certain views, more or less fully developed in these essays, on which we think it proper briefly to remark. We do not question the purity of the author's life, the sincerity of his conviction, or the honesty of the purpose or of the means which have led him to the position which he seems to occupy in them. But we think they are essentially false, and certainly mischievous; half-truths, whichwill distort the character that is formed on them, and excluding negations which shut out the true life of man.
We ought to say, at the outset, that the volume contains no system, nor any attempt at one. This, in a volume of essays, we could hardly claim. But we may fairly claim that all the author's thoughts shall be parts of a system, and at least intimations of what it is. We doubt, however, whether Mr. Emerson has carefully compared his views with each other; and indeed he himself expresses the hope that he has seen "the end of consistency and conformity." We doubt, moreover, whether his thoughts and sentiments are referable to any single principle, or are properly parts of any system, so various and incongruous often are they. They are rather fragments, and glimpses, often indeed of a bright and pure meaning, than a logical or even continuous discussion.
We are disposed to censure the book, both for its theology and its philosophy. In the former respect, it is a godless book. There is evidently no recognition of the God of the Bible, a moral governor and righteous judge. The highest approach that is made to it is the doctrine, everywhere through the volume insisted on or implied, of a universal soul; which means, in our best comprehension of it, only a pervading intellect out of which, by natural genesis, all particular souls are produced and grow, and of which they are merely the organs and the manifestation, sustaining to it the same relation, and no other, that the tree does to the earth which bears it. This universal man- -for such is sometimes the conception-is but the expansion and impersonality of the individual; is mere unconscious intellect, yet to man the supreme beauty, to be admired perhaps, hardly to be feared or loved. There is nowhere a recognition of sin, as actual, or even possible. In this particular, the author is rigidly systematic; for where there is no moral law but the instincts of our own being, there can be no sin. What vulgarly goes under that name, is here only infirmity and cowardice,
and a fall that may hinder our progress, or may help us by a new experience. On these, and kindred topics, is shown a sturdy indifference to all established opinions, and disregard of all timehonored institutions. His spirit finds in the Bible no response to its questionings. An implicit faith is a dead faith, summarily. The Church is but a gathering of those who dare not think, to keep each other in countenance, by the bald show of knowing and seeing. Man must receive that only which his present experience affirms to him, and his own consciousness is of higher value and surer evidence than that of any and all other men.
In a work purely literary, we would not find fault with the absence of theological discussion; but in a didactic treatise, which professes to discuss problems of the highest interest to humanity, and the highest forms of human duty and attainment, we may well pause before we commend, when we find the saddest and deepest wants of our nature untouched, and the living God at once circumscribed into an universal man, and etherealised into an idea.
The philosophical aspects of the work, or the views which it presents of human life, are in like manner open to censure. It would render that life eminently unsocial. It represents every man as superior to all other men: every man as entitled to the deference of all other men; every man as utterly independent of all other men.
It places each individual in a proud and selfish solitariness; ever on his guard, lest the entireness of his own being shall be in some way influenced by his fellow man; and checks kind sympathies and tender affections. But the true state of man in society is one of mutual trust, helpfulness, forbearance, patience. Isolation is not the condition of growth, whether it be a wilful separateness, or a perpetual seclusion in cell or desert; sympathy, fellowship, mutual reliance and counsel, are among the natural and appointed means of human culture. As well might an oak take root and grow in mid air, as a man attain anything truly noble by the pure doctrine of “self-reliance.”
Follow nature-naturam sequere—as taught by Cicero, and explained by Butler, was a valuable rule in determining human duties and their
limits. But here, this wise precept has degenerated into a vague direction—" follow your instincts," — and what, with many cautions and much discernment, might be useful as a guide, has become the supreme law, and solves the whole problem. The revealed law has no place here. A mere conscience is quite out of date, and useless. The common sentiments of men touching right and wrong are of no authority. We may * not modestly apprehend that Socrates or Paul knew more of such matters than we do. “No law can be sacred to me but that of my own nature.” To a friend who suggested that his impulses might “ come from below," our author records his answer the only one, indeed, which can be made with his premises —" They do not seem to me to be such; but if I am the devil's child, I will live