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history of man, in what are called romances, than is sometimes to be found under the more respectable titles of history, biography, &c.; I have indeed dipped into everything, as Dr Armstrong advises.
Toy with your books, and as the various fits
Art of PRESERVING HEALTH. In order to obtain some ideas in astronomy, geography, electricity, pneumatics, &c., I attended a few lectures given by the late eminent Mr Ferguson, the present very ingenious Mr Walker, and others, and for some time several gentlemen spent two or three evenings in a week at my house, for the purpose of improvement in science. At these meetings we made the best use of our time with globes, telescopes, microscopes, electrical machines, air pumps, air guns, a good bottle of wine, and other philosophical instruments
The mention of which revives in my memory the loss I sustained by the premature death of a worthy philosophical friend, whom you have met when you occasionally did us the honour of making one of the evening party, and benefiting us by your instructions. I could say much in his praise, but shall forbear, as another friend, who was also one of this (I may truly say) rational assembly, has composed what I think a just character of him, free from that fulsome panegyric which too often degrades those it is meant to celebrate, and conveys to all who knew the parties the idea of having been designed as a burlesque instead of an encomium; however, as you may not have seen it (though in print), and it will engross but a very little of your time to peruse, I shall here beg leave to insert it.
« With what surprise posterity shall see
A panegyric penn'd without a fee !" “ On Sunday, May 24, 1789, died at his house in Worship street, Moorfields, aged 50, Mr Ralph Tinley; one who had not dignity of birth or elevated rank in life to boast of, but who possessed what is far superior to either, a solid understanding, amiable manners, a due sense of religion, and an industrious disposition. Instead of riches Providence blessed him with a good share of health, and a mind contented with an humble situation. Those hours which he could spare from a proper attention to the duties of a husband and a father, and manual labour as a shoemaker, were incessantly employed in the improvement of his mind in various branches of science; in many of which he attained a proficiency, totally divested of that affectation of superiority which little minds assume. These qualities rendered him respected by all who knew him as an intelligent man and a most agreeable companion. Among other acquisitions, entomology was his peculiar delight. Thus far the prospect is pleasing. It is a painful task to add, that this amiable person fell a victim to an unhappy error in taking a medicine. The evening previous to his decease he spent in a philosophical society, of which he had many years been a member, and where his attendance had been constant; but finding himself indisposed, he in the morning early had recourse to a phial of antimonial wine, which
had long been in his possession, and of which only a small part remained. This, most unfortunately, he swallowed; and it having by long maceration acquired an extraordinary degree of strength, and being rendered turbid by mixing with the metallic particles, it produced the effect of a violent poison, occasioning almost instantaneous death. May his fate prove a warning to others to be careful how they venture to confide in their own judgment in so intricate a science as medicine !--His valuable cabinet of insects, both foreign and domestic, supposed to be one of the completest (of a private collection) in the kingdom, all scientifically arranged with peculiar neatness and in the finest preservation, will (if it falls into proper hands) remain a monument of his know. ledge and application.”—But to proceed.
My thirst was, and still is, so great for literature, that I could almost subscribe to the opinions of Herillus the philosopher, who placed in learning the sovereign good, and maintained that it was alone sufficient to make us wise and happy; others have said that “ ' learning is the mother of all virtue, and that vice is produced from ignorance.” Although that is not strictly true, yet I cannot help regretting the disadvantages I labour under by having been deprived of the benefits of an early education, as it is a loss that can scarcely be repaired in any situation. How much more difficult then was it for me to attain any degree of proficiency, when involved in the concerns of a large business?
“ Without a genius learning soars in vain,
ELPHINSTON's Horace. The instructions that I received from men and books were often like the seeds sown among thorns, the cares of the world choaked them :
“My head was full of household cares,
So that although I understand a little of many branches of literature, yet my knowledge is, after all, I freely confess, but superficial; which indeed I need not have told you. As Montaigne said two hun. dred years ago, I may say now,
I have a smatch of everything, and nothing thoroughly a-la-mode Française. As to my natural parts, I often find them to bow under the burden ; my fancy and judgment do but grope in the dark, staggering, tripping, and stumbling; and when I have gone as far as I can I am by no means satisfied; I see more land still before me, but so wrapped up in clouds, that my dim sight cannot distinguish what it is.” However, superficial as it is, it affords me an endless source of pleasure.
« And books are still my highest joy,
It has also been of very great use to me in business, as it enabled me to put a value on thousands of articles before I knew what such books were commonly sold at : 'tis true I was sometimes mistaken, and have sold a very great number of different articles much lower than I ought, even on my own plan of selling very cheap, yet that never gave me the least concern; but if I discovered that I had (as sometimes was the case) sold any articles too dear, it gave me much uneasiness; for whether I had any other motives I will leave to such as are acquainted with me to determine, but I reasoned thus : if I sell a book too dear, I perhaps lose that customer and his friends for ever, but if I sell articles considerably un. der their real value the purchaser will come again and recommend my shop to his acquaintances, so that from the principles of self-interest I would sell cheap; I always was inclined to reason in this manner, and nine years since a very trifling circumstance operated much upon my mind, and fully convinced me my judgment was right on that head. Mrs Lackington had bought a piece of linen to make me some shirts ; when the linendraper's man brought it into my shop three ladies were present, and on seeing the cloth opened, asked Mrs L. what it cost per yard; on being told the price, they all said it was very cheap, and each lady went and purchased the same quantity, to make shirts for their husbands; those pieces were again displayed to their acquaintances, so that the linendraper got a deal of custom from that very circumstance : and I resolved to do likewise. However trifling this anecdote may appear, you will pardon me for introducing it, when you reflect that it was productive of very beneficial consequences, and that many greater effects have arisen from as trivial causes. We are even told that sir Isaac Newton would probably never have studied the system of gravitation had he not been under an apple-tree when some of the fruit loosened from the branches and fell to the earth ; it was the question of a simple gardener concerning a pump that led Galileo to study and discover the weight of the air. To the tones of a Welch harp are we indebted for the bard of Gray; and Gibbon formed the design of that truly great work, his History of the Decline of the Roman Empire,' while viewing the ruins of the Capitol.