תמונות בעמוד

Men, individuals and nations, men of genius and ordinary men, unquestionably give in to many errors, and attach themselves to them ; but not to that which makes them errors, but to the part of truth wbich is in them. Examine to the bottom all the celebrated errors, political, religious, philosophical; there is not one which has not a considerable portion of truth in it, and it is to this it owes its credence in the minds of great men, who introduced it upon the scene of the world, and in the minds of the multitude, who have followed the great men. It is the truth joined to the error, which gives to the error all its force, which gives it birth, sustains it, spreads it, explains and excuses it. Errors gain success and footing in the world, no otherwise than by carrying along with them, and offering, as it were, for their ransom, so much of truth, as, piercing through the mists which envelop it, enlighten and carry forward the human race.'


240. The last point discussed, in the volume before us, is the evidence of the being of a God.

* There are various and different proofs of the existence of God. The gratifying result of my studies in this respect, is, that these various proofs have different degrees of strictness in their form, but that they all have a foundation of truth, which needs simply to be disengaged and put in clear light in order to give them an incontrovertible authority. Every thing leads us to God; there is no bad way of arriving thither; we may go in different ways. In general, all the proofs of every sort of the existence of God, are comprehended under two great classes, namely : proofs a posteriori, and proofs a priori.' p. 264.

After various introductory observations, our author expresses, very briefly, the substance of the a priori argument.

6 The simple fact of the conception of God, by the reason, the simple idea of God, the simple possibility of the existence of God, implies the certainty and necessity of the existence of God.” pp. 266, 267. On the demonstration of Locke, Cousin observes :

• Locke believes in the existence of God, and he has given an excellent demonstration of it. But he comes from the Sensual school, he therefore repels arguments a priori, and admits scarcely any thing but arguments a posteriori. He does not wish to employ the argument of Descartes, which proves the existence of God from the idea of him, from the idea of infinity and perfection. p. 270.

In succeeding observations, Cousin intimates, that Locke's demonstration “grounds itself, specially, upon sensible and external experience.” Now the fact is, that the single point which Locke assumes, as the basis of his argument, is our own existence. To show, that we are capable of knowing, that is, being certain, that there is a God, and how we came by this certainty, I think we need go no farther than ourselves, and that undoubted knowledge we have of our own existence.” B. IV. ch. x. $ 1.

At the close of his work, Cousin says, that in combating Locke, he has borrowed many of bis arguments from Reid and Kant. He proposes, at a future day, to make an attack upon “the sublime errors and mystic tendencies” of the spiritual school of Kant. How great a portion of the labors of philosophers, is employed in endeavoring to overthrow the positions of preceding writers! Aristotle is attacked by Descartes, Descartes by Locke, Locke by Reid, Reid by Kant, and Kant by Cousin. How far this demolishing process may be carried, it is not easy to determine. It may not stop with Cousin. His philosophy, built on the ruins of other systems, may last till the next popular lecturer appears in Paris. The sexton, who digs his thousand graves, may well consider, that some one may soon be at band, who will dig his grave.

While endeavoring to do justice to the principles of Locke, we have not undertaken an examination of Cousin's own system of pbilosophy. We doubt whether its features could be accurately drawn, from the occasional glimpses which we have of it, in perusing the work under review. We should not choose to incur the risk of misrepresenting hiin, as much as he has misapprehended Locke. The translator, in his introduction and appendix, has given us brief sketches of our author's theories. Some of our friends coinplain, that these explanations need to be explained. And we were about proposing some queries ourselves, respecting the “ higher metaphysics," the transcendental logic," the subjective primitive," " objective intellections,” and “self-reduplication,” together with the “antithetic synthesis,” the “hyperphysical determination,” the "spontaneity of reason," and "egoistical idealism," of the article in the Edinburgh Review, pronounced, by Mr. Henry, to be “one of the best specimens of philosophical criticism, which has recently appeared in the English language." But we have thought it prudent to pay some regard to our own reputation, taking to ourselves a caution from the sage remark of Dugald Stewart : “ I am fully aware, that whoever, in treating of the human mind, aims to be understood, must lay lis account with forfeiting, in the opinion of a very large proportion of readers, all pretensions to depth, to subtlety, or to invention." Phil. vol. ii. We are inclined to think, that the obscurity of which some complain, in the introduction and appendix, are to be ascribed, not the editor, but to bis subject. He appears to have caught the spirit and manner of his originals. This is no vulgar philosophy. It is transcendental. The profound, as well as the sublime, are nearly allied to the obscure. The examination of the Essay on the Understanding, is more perspicuous than any of the other writings of Cousin which we have read. His criticisms are rendered distinct, by the light reflected from the luminous

pages of Locke. We have been repeatedly told, by those who profess to know something of the German philosophy, from which Cousin has borrowed so largely, that it is impossible to translate it into English. If this is so, we ought not to complain of the failure of any attempt to teach us its mysteries. We may congratulate ourselves, however, that we are not subjected to the restriction, which, according to Cousin, prevented the entire development of Locke's philosophy in England, that it was put forth on an island! There must be room, we think, in America, for the expansion of the most ample philosophical system. “ There is no subject,” says Fontenelle, “ on which men ever come to form a reasonable opinion, till they have exhausted all the absurd views which it is possible to take of it.” From the history of philosophical opinions, there is ground to hope, that the catalogue of all possible absurdities is nearly complete; and that, hereafter, we may look for some other results, than the conclusion at which the poet arrives,

"That metaphysics, rightly shown,
But teach how little can be known.'


In the closing article of our last number, we gave a rapid sketch of the principal incidents comprised in the Memoirs of the Life and Correspondence of Mrs. Hannah More. Our liinits not then allowing us to enter upon such an estimate, we now resume the subject, with the intention, and in the hope, of paying an appropriate tribute to the superiority of her intellect, the beauty of her character, and the useful tendency of her writings. Much of the interest of literary biography, is derived from delineations of this sort, provided they are true to the reality ; since we ofien meet with ihe remark, that the lives of authors are destitute of incident and adventure, the chief attraction of other kinds of biography. Not that such a remark is applicable, in its full extent, to the life of Mrs. More. During the greatest part of a century, she experienced the usual vicissitudes which affect human beings; for many years, she was actively engaged in the most spirit-stirring scenes, helping to form an age which had begun to be benevolent; and her correspondence, which included many persons of rank and talent, the most illustrious in the British empire, is full of enlivening details of opinions, respecting the leading characters and absorbing events of the times, to say nothing of its no less interesting pictures of domestic life and manners. The whole work forms a body of anecdote and sentiment, compared with which, according to our taste, the rarest adventures, whether of fictitious or real life, can claim no superiority of interest. Still, over this mass of informal, though awakening narrative, we love to see the movement of the presiding mind, -the spirit which infused into it its vitality,—the genius which threw over it its colors of light and beauty. It is the just delineation, if it can be done, of this interior principle, which can excite fresh interest in the admired subject of the present biography, and in the productions, that have rendered her name precious to the wise and the good. We venture, then, to present a condensed view of those intellectual and moral characteristics, which, as exhibited in the life and writings of this celebrated woman, have, for so many years, charmed and improved so many minds, both in Europe and in this country.

Here, however, at the very outset, we feel the difficulty of portraying excellence, when all that can be said of it, is more than admitted, by the greater portion of those who may take the pains to read this article. It may add to their gratification, to find their views confirmed, but scarcely to their knowledge. The most material facts respecting Mrs. More, have, for a long time, been before the public : her writings, as they have appeared in succession, belong to the standards of the didactic religion and literature of her country. Both the facts and the writings have already made their impression ; and it is an impression not easily to be deepened by any eulogium ; though we have no intention of making the mere eulogium of this lady. Every reader of taste and piety, who reads the Shepherd of Salisbury Plain, or Celebs, or Practical Piety, has in his mind an image of moral beauty, which it would be difficult to improve by any abstract representations, or by any thing short of extended comments on those productions. Her praise is the delight, the improvement, the religious, subdued feeling, which she effectually conveys to the mind of her reader. Although we despair, then, of adding much, if any thing, to the sentiment of admiration, in the minds of those who are acquainted with her history and works; yet we may experience a pleasure, in giving utterance to our own admiration of such excellence. Or it may happen, that a few of our readers, if there be a few who are little acquainted with her character and writings, would be led to bestow a greater attention upon them, by means of a sober estimate of their constituent excellences.

A fanciful writer has remarked, that the vulgar are wiser than philosophers. We will not pretend to fortify or explain this paradox, by insisting upon another, and that is, when we say of Mrs. More, comparing her with her literary cotemporaries of the opposite sex, that she is the wiser man of them all. We have sometimes been tempted to pay such a homage to this female genius, as an offset against her own modest admission of the superiority of the men,an admission which so aroused the gentle indignation of one of her

fair friends, that the latter longed to take up the pen against her, on that subject, and assert the full equality of the sex. Had ink been spilled in this encounter, it would, in the opinion of one of Mrs. More's correspondents, have given a fatal advantage against her ; for the more she wrote, the more evident it would be, that her opponent was in the right!

Of Mrs. More's abilities, both natural and acquired, there can be but one opinion among those who are acquainted with her works. Her genius was of a high order. Few writers, in our day, have equaled her in a clear and comprehensive understanding, and in a correct and refined taste. She came from the hands of her Creator, a prodigy. So she seems to have been regarded from her early childhood, by her immediate relatives. As she grew up, all of them paid deference to her, and were proud of her superiority. The admirers of her genius, and the associates of her leisure hours, were a class of persons, that must have conserred honor on the most distinguished abilities. With Jobnson, Garrick, the two Sheridans, the two Burkes, Walpole, Kennicott, Porteus, Wilberforce, and other great and brilliant men of those times, as well as the literary champions of her own sex, she took ber equal place, and played her equal part, in the sallies of wit and humor, in the effusions of fancy and sentiment, or in the communications of wisdom and truth. All appeared to regard her as a favorite. Nor were rank, and wealth, and fashion, unwilling to merge the consideration of plebeian birth, mediocrity of possessions, and plain attire, in their admiration of genius. Even royalty condescended to be gracious to so much wisdom and worth. The circles of wit and fashion in which she mingled, during many of the earlier years of her womanhood, were enlivened by the choice combination of intellectual qualities which she brought to them; not here to say, were, in a sense, hallowed by her decent and able defenses of serious religion. It was an uncommon proof of the estimation in which her talents were held, that she was suffered, with so much freedom, to reprove the follies and vices of the great ; while, at the same

she continued to be an object of their attention and favor. The native energy, as well as the exquisite culture, of her understanding, was attested, both on such occasions, and in the more private interchanges of friendship, by means of her tact in conversation. She appeared to no disadvantage, even by the side of Johnson, in his own peculiar province, " full of wisdom and piety” as he was, and also, when he chose to be," the greatest sophist, that ever wielded an argument in the schools of declamation." In Mrs. More, conversation possessed that fine, easy, ready, lively character, which she has herself described as the peculiar feature of London conversation, among its higher and literary classes. In her youth, one of her earliest friends, Dr. Stonehouse, it is recordVol. VII.


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