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“ THREE things only,” says the Italian proverb, done in haste--flying from the plague, escaping quarrels, and catching fleas.”

In England, perhaps, it may be questioned whether the spirit of this apophthegm is at present much attended to, but at all events slowness in escaping quarrels and in catching fleas, is more than made up by velocity in other matters of more import

In the surpassing illumination of the nineteenth century, we have learnt to perceive and acknowledge the dulness of our forefathers. A truly royal road is now laid open to the summit

every art and of every science; it is as smooth at its commencement as in its middle and end ; it is disencumbered of brambles and quickset impediments ; it is variegated with the flowers of the field, refreshed with waters of pleasure, and breathed upon by the winds of an eternal spring. Quadrilles and the Linnæan system may be learnt in six lessons; waltzing and the Gothic in three; mathematics and thorough bass take eight; Hebrew, with or without points, twelve; and Greek, “upon the plan of the late Mr. Porson," ten, at three shillings and sixpence each!

It is assumed and argued upon as an axiom, that the present generation is more knowing and more enlightened than all those which have preceded it. This belief is entertained by all parties and all descriptions of mortals : on this article the delicate Doctor of Divinity, the dainty modern Whig, and the robust Radical, are unanimously agreed. We have discarded the prejudices, exposed the errors, and improved the truths of our elders ; and, in addition, have invented others, of which they knew nothing. The age that is past, wiser perhaps than its predecessor,

Nos doctiores, mox daturos

Progeniem sapientiorem! It should seem next to impossible that people can be mistaken in this matter; it comes home to their own business and bosoms; it meets them at church, in the senate, at the theatre; it is an affair of conscience-in fact a mere subject of comparison. It would be weak to doubt the truth of this persuasion; it would be arrogant to deny it; it must be therefore taken for granted, and presumed to be founded on fact. But two questions, of some moment, and connected with each other, arise here :

I. Where is the superiority?
II. How is it produced ?

It is singular that when almost all agree such a thing does exist, scarcely two can be found to agree upon the important circumstance where it exists. There is no obtaining a general

opinion upon this particular ; there is no square inch of the picture, which has not its proper blot of reprobation. But the picture is, nevertheless, à chef d'oeuvre, though the touch, the light, and the shade, are, by several judges, respectively pro-:nounced erroneous and defective. Every class in society is disposed to assert the progress of its own pursuits, and to indulge in scepticism with regard to that of others. Hence, if the suffrages of each section be taken, the superiority in question seems to be vindicated by all; if one alone be consulted, to that one alone will the pre-eminence be confined. A man must be very bold who will thrust himself into the midst of poets, doctors, and metaphysicians, to ascertain their various pretensions; and, indeed, there are three things which do not call for such an exertion of personal courage and discrimation for the understanding of their excellence; for whatever may be the disputes concerning Byron, Calvin, and Kant, who doubts that in gas, steam, and political economy, we may with justice and propriety kick our grandsires down the back stairs ?

If there be any unsympathizing sceptic who, entrenched within opinions and principles now justly antiquated, doubts the actual reality of the superior attainments of the present generation, let him cast his eyes around him, and take notice of the splendid exertions of modern genius and civilization. Let him compare times and seasons, men and manners; let him pause over Botanical Primers and Conversations on Chemistry ; let him examine the inclined plane and the rectangular neckcloth ; let him construe the Morning Chronicle, and let him scan Westminster verses. If he still hesitates, let him go view the Honourable House, and if what he sees and hears there convince him not, it must needs appear that he is incapable of conviction, lost to the power of truth, and a being not to be reasoned withal.

With such persons it is useless to talk. You may, to as much purpose, argue with a Supralapsarian Calvinist, who, do what you will, is still impalpable to touch, is still beyond the reach of your utmost thrust, and smiles upon you with cold benignity from his throne of adamantine obstinacy. Mention to these modern antiques the learning of a Greek professor, and they stare upon you with the eye of the most provokingly doubtful inquiry; expatiate upon Mr. Payne Knight's poem on the Iliad, and they open their mouths as if they would eat you ; quote Hunt's oratory or Hunt's poetry, and they know not what you mean; commend, as it deserves, the blameless consistency of the Whigs of 1823, and the insensible bears will laugh outright in your face.

Upon such men the words of soberness are lost. They will as little acknowledge the excellence of modern education as the reality and value of the fruits which it produces. They ransack our schools and our universities; they pick holes in lectures and lecture-books“; they doubt the sufficiency of Paley, and grumble

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at the omnipotency of Locke. They are not better satisfied with the management of young ladies; they take upon them to say that Miss Such-a-one is not educated, when it is notorious she ean repeat an Italian and a French vocabulary, can dance quadrilles and minuets, and can enact " Tu che accendi,” to the utter dismay of a hemicycle of black bonnets. They carry their paradoxical coxcombry upon this head so far, as to think that nature could manage for herself without the assistance of inclined planes that public unnational waltzing is not modest, and, as a ne plus ultra of audacity, that Signor Maestro Rossini is not a better composer than Corelli, Haydn, Mozart, or even the author of the Messiah.

Upon ore subject these curious old prigs affect an extraordinary degree of surprise and indignation; namely the general neglect of the study of history amongst young men, and especially the ignorance so copiously manifested with regard to that of our own country. Our sensible readers will perceive the folly as well as malignity of this accusation; for, granting it to be true, they, together with all thinking people, must own, that, if there be one thing rather than another in modern education less obnoxious to objection, or which deserves more than another unqualified commendation from all parties, it is precisely this abstinence from the petty disputes about Parliaments, this caution of encumbering infancy with truth, this blameless nescience of the turbulent and sanguinary records of England. Formerly, indeed, when it was the custom to refer to the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement, it was partly necessary to instruct the rising generation in the meaning of those phrases ; but now that the times are altered, when the principles of 1688 are sneered at with justice, and the Constitution is thoroughly rescued from the sophistications of Lord Somers and Sir Joseph Jekyll, to complain now that precious labour and opportunity are not wasted in loading the tender mind of youth with such antiquated technicalities, is clearly the effect of ignorance and malice. The French Revolution, and not the English, is the object to which all eyes ought to be turned, and from which, as from an everlasting fountain, the true principles of policy and politics ought to be drawn. It has the advantage of suiting all parties equally well; the Tories are supplied with a bottomless abyss of mud, stones, and dust to hurl in the face of reform of every description; the Whigs are relieved from the oppressive contrast of their ancestors, and the galling yoke of rational liberty; and the gentle Radicals find in it a precedent and an authority for the most romantic undertakings and the most ingenious speculations. This, therefore, for the general convenience, ought to be considered as the fixed and established boundary, beyond which maxims are to be holden without substance, opinions without foundation, and political history altogether technical and inconclusive.

Yet, in spite of these obvious truths, the infatuation of prejudice still prevails in an extraordinary degree. Persons are to be met with, who insist upon the necessity of imbuing the mind of youth with the spirit of authentic history; who complain that a mastery in this science, formerly so cultivated and honoured, is now only to be found amongst the recluses of literary antiquities; and who attribute no small share of what they are pleased to call the errors of the present day, to the imperfect views and scrambling knowledge which the generality of public men seem to possess of the annals of their own country, of the events upon the surface, of the feelings and passions which accompanied them, and the profound and half-buried causes from which, sooner or later, mediately or immediately, those events are most surely to be deduced. Far otherwise than thus, say they, and doubly armed with history and philosophy, authenticating the latter by an application of the facts of the former, and then again illuminating the obscure chronicles of by-gone days by the reflected light of sound and sober reasoning, our great and illustrious ancestors were enabled to detect the treachery and baffle the violence of the last tyrant who sat on the English throne; to restore shattered constitution, repairing its breaches, removing its incumbrances, cleansing its impurities; and fixing its foundations in the unchangeable feelings of human nature itself, to unveil to the gaze and the study of the world their immortal work, which was thenceforward for ever to remain the sanctuary of virtue, the standard of political wisdom, the fortress and the beacon of rational liberty !

The following fragments of a summary review of English history, originally addressed to a young man, was written by a person of that old-fashioned school we have been describing, and is curious for the singularity and almost legendary obsoleteness of its sentiments and pervading feeling. Its insignificancy in a literary point of view will be easily seen.




“ From what I have said, I trust you will understand the two-fold obligation incumbent upon you of searching deeply, and of searching cautiously, into the history of your country. You will perceive the reasons of this obligation, when you consider, on the one hand, the dear and infinite importance of those rights and institutions, with the origin and growth of which to be unacquainted is to be undeserving of them; and, on the other hand, the innumerable and inconsistent materials, which, in the absence, for the most part, of the continuous narration of any authentic historian, it is necessary to gather together, in order to construct any thing like an entire and practical creed for yourself. In proportion as the times and events are more interesting, proportionately more various and diversified are the sources from which alone the history of those events can be drawn.

Those sources must be visited in

juvet integros accedere fontes,

Atque haurire the historians, so called by eminence, of modern times, have proved themselves, with few exceptions, such mere partizans for particular classes of opinions, that to trust implicitly to their accounts is nothing short of a wilful and deliberate abandonment of the pursuit after truth, and of all claims to rectitude and impartiality of judgment.

Yet, whilst I urge you to be content with nothing short of the testimony of contemporary witnesses, it is by no means my intention that you should have recourse to them in the first instance. If you were to commence your investigation into the history of any country, and more especially into that of your own, by plunging into the vast and troubled ocean of party pamphlets and state papers, or by poring painfully over the invaluable but rude chronicles of the earliest times, in such case you would find at length, to your cost, that you had begun at the wrong end, and instead of approaching to the desired termination of your journey, had gotten entangled in a thicket of brambles and jungle, which scratched your face and prevented you from looking a yard before you. If you wish to travel securely and pleasantly, you must see your path, and know whither it will lead you ; you must ascend some natural or artificial eminence from which you may command something of a Pisgah-view of the whole country beneath. But you must not stop there, as many do, nor content yourself with barren speculation; you must yourself with your own feet go through the country, in order to correct the erroneous impressions of length, and breadth, and depth, which bird's-eye observation never fails to create. It matters little of what soil the mountain of prospect may be, or with what verdure and fruits it


be adorned; you will remember that you are to use it only as a vantage-ground, which you are not to study, but from which you may take measures for prosecuting your studies of other things with the more assured success.

6. With this view and under these conditions I would recommend Hume; not as giving a profound and accurate insight into the times of which he treats, but as presenting that general and catholic surview of the whole, which, in my judgment, should always first be obtained, before we attempt to penetrate into particular periods and individual measures and characters. Let him be considered as an open frame, which must be filled up hereafter with other minuter works, lives, memorials, and controversies. Be at no trouble to ascertain the soundness of his opinions or the propriety of his feelings every time you meet with them; you will be able to judge of their value better at some future period. Fix in your memory

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