תמונות בעמוד

geological point of view this treatise is, from its want of basis in ascertained facts, totally worthless ; but it abounds in fine composition, and magnificent description, and well deserves perusal as an eloquent and ingenious philo sophical romance. The author's attention seems to have been attracted to the subject by the unequal and rugged appearance of the earth's surface, which seemed to indicate the globe to be the ruin of some more regular structure. He remarks that in a journey across the Alps and Apennines, the sight of these wild, vast, and indigested heaps of stones and earth did so deeply strike my fancy that I was not easy till I could give myself soine tolerable account how that confusion came in nature. The theory which he formed was as follows:

The globe, in its chaotic state, was a dark fluid mass, in which the elements of air, water, and earth were blended into one universal compound. Gradually, the heavier parts fell toward the centre, and formed a nucleus of solid matter. Around this floated the liquid ingredients, and over them was the still lighter atmospheric air. By and by, the liquid mass became separated into two layers, by the separation of the watery particles from those of an oily composition, which being the lighter, tended upwards, and when hardened by time became a smooth and solid crust. This was the surface of the antediluvian globe. 'In this smooth earth,' he proceeds,

were the first scenes of the world, and the first generations of mankind; it had the beauty of youth and blooming nature, fresh and fruitful, and not a wrinkle, scar, or fracture in all its body; no rocks nor mountains, no hollow caves nor gaping channels, but even and uniform all over. And the smoothness of the earth made the face of the heavens so too; the air was calm and serene; none of those tumultuary motions and conflicts of vapours, which the mountains and the winds cause in ours. "'Twas suited to a golden age, and to the first innocency of nature.' By degrees, however, the heat of the sun, penetrating the superficial crust, converted a portion of the water beneath into steam, the expansive force of which at length burst the superincumbent shell, already weakened by the dryness and cracks occasioned by the solar rays. When, therefore, the appointed time was come that allwise Providence had designed for the punishment of a sinful world, the whole fabric brake, and the frame of the earth was torn in pieces, as by an earthquake; and those great portions or fragments into which it was divided fell into the abyss, some in one posture and some in another. The waters of course now appeared, and the author gives a fine description of their tumultuous raging caused by the precipitation of the solid fragments into their bosom. The pressure of such masses falling into the abyss, 'could not but impel the water with so much strength as would carry it up to a great height in tae air, and to the top of any thing that lay in its way; any eminency, or high fragment whatsoever: and then rolling back again, it would sweep down with it whatsoever it rushed upon-woods, buildings, living creatures—and carry them all headlong into the great gulf. Some times a mass of water would be quite struck off and separate from the rest,

and tossed through the air like a flying river ; but the common motion of the waves was to climb up the hills, or inclined fragments, and then return into the valleys and deeps again, with a perpetual fluctuation going and coming, ascending and descending, till the violence of them being spent by degrees, they settled at last in the places allotted for them; where bounds are set that they can not pass over, that they return not again to pass over the earth.'

We deem it unnecessary to follow our author any farther, or to attempt to analyze the ingenious, though fallacious reasoning by which he endeavors to defend his theory from the inseparable objections which the plainest facts of geology and natural philosophy furnish against it. The concluding part of his work relates to the final conflagration of the world, by which, he supposes, the surface of the new chaotic mass will be restored to smoothness, and "leave a capacity for another world to rise from it.' Here the style of the author rises into a magnificence worthy of the sublimity of the theme, and he concludes with impressive and appropriate reflections on the transient nature of earthly things. The following is the passage, and it is appropriately termed, by Addison, the author's funeral oration over the globe


But 'tis not possible, from any station, to have a full prospect of this last scene of the earth, for 'tis a mixture of fire and darkness. This new temple is filled with smoke while it is consecrating, and none can enter into it. But I am apt to think, if we could look down upon this burning world from above the clouds, and have a full view of it in all its parts, we should think it a lively representation of hell itself; for fire and darkness are the two chief things by which that state or that place uses to be described ; and they are both here mingled together, with all other ingredients that make that tophet that is prepared of old (Isaiah xxx.). Here are lakes of fire and brimstone, rivers of melted glowing matter, ten thousand volcanos vomiting flames all at once, thick darkness, and pillars of smoke twisted about with wreaths of flame, like fiery snakes; mountains of earth thrown up into the air, and the heavens dropping down in lumps of fire. These things will all be literally true concerning that day and that state of the earth. And if we suppose Beelzebub and his apostate crew in the midst of this fiery furnace (and I know not where they can be else), it will be hard to find any part of the universe, or any state of things, that answers to so many of the properties and characters of hell, as this which is now before us.

But if we suppose the storm over, and that the fire hath gotten an entire victory over all other bodies, and subdued every thing to itself, the conflagration will end in a deluge of fire, or in a sea of fire, covering the whole globe of the earth; for, when the exterior region of the earth is melted into a fluor, like molten glass or running metal, it will, according to the nature of other fluids, fill all vacuities and depressions, and fall into a regular surface, at an equal distance everywhere from its centre. This sea of fire, like the first abyss, will cover the face of the whole earth, make a kind of second chaos, and leave a capacity for another world to rise from it, But that is not our present business. Let us only, if you please, to take leave of this subject, reflect, upon this occasion, on the vanity and transient glory of all this habitable world; how, by the force of one element breaking loose upon the rest, all the varieties of nature, all the works of art, all the labours of men, are reduced to

nothing; all that we admired and adored before, as great and magnificent, is obliterated or vanished ; and another form and face of things, plain, simple, and everywhere the same, overspreads the whole earth. Where are now the great empires of the world, and their great imperial cities? Their pillars, trophies, and monuments of glory? Show me where they stood, read the inscription, tell me the victor's name? What remains, what impressions, what difference or distinction do you see in this mass of fire ? Rome itself, eternal Rome, the great city, the empress of the world, whose domination and superstition, ancient and modern, make a great part of the history of this earth, what is become of her now? She laid her foundations deep, and her palaces were strong and sumptuous : she glorified herself, and lived deliciously, and said in her heart, I sit a queen, and shall see no sorrow. But her hour is come; she is wiped away from the face of the earth, and buried in perpetual oblivion. But it is not cities only, and works of men's hands, but the everlasting hills, the mountains and rocks of the earth, are melted as wax before the sun, and their place is nowhere found. Here stood the Alps, a prodigious range of stone, the load of the earth, that covered many countries, and reached their arms from the ocean to the Black Sea ; this huge mass of stone is softened and dissolved, as a tender cloud into rain. Here stood the African mountains, and Atlas with his top above the clouds. There was frozen Caucasus, and Taurus, and Imaus, and the mountains of Asia. And yonder, towards the north, stood the Riphæan hills, clothed in ice and snow. All these are vanished, dropped away as the snow upon their heads, and swallowed up in a red sea of fire, (Rev. xv. 3.) Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of Saints. Hallelujah.

Thomas Sprat was the son of a clergyman, and was born at Tallaton, Devonshire, in 1636. He studied at a private school until 1651, and then entered Wadham College, Oxford, where he remained to take his master's degree, soon after which he was chosen fellow. In 1659, he first appeared as an author, by the publication of a panegyric on the virtues of Oliver Cromwell, whose death had recently occurred. This poem was dedicated to Dr. Wilkins, under whom Sprat had studied mathematics at Oxford, and at whose house, as we have already observed, the philosophical inquirers who originated the Royal Society, were accustomed, at that time, to meet. Sprat’s intimacy with Dr. Wilkins led to his elevation as a member of the society soon after its incorporation; and in 1667, he published the history of that learned body, in order to dissipate the prejudice and suspicion with which it was regarded by the public.

Previous to the publication of his History of the Royal Society, Sprat had been appointed chaplain to the Duke of Buckingham; and he is supposed to have aided that nobleman in writing the "Rehearsal. He also became chaplain to the king; and under these circůmstances ecclesiastical promotion could hardly fail to follow: accordingly, after several other advancing steps, the see of Rochester was attained, in 1684. During the next year he served the government, by writing and publishing an account of the Ryehouse plot; but for this work he found it convenient, after the Revolution, to send forth an apology: and having submitted to the new government, he was allowed, notwithstanding his well-known attachment to the abdicated monarch, to remain unmolested in his bishopric. In 1692, how

ever, he was involved in trouble by a false accusation of joining in a conspiracy for the restoration of King James ; but after a confinement of eleven days, he clearly proved his innocence of the charge preferred against him. But so deep was the impression made by this event upon his mind, that he ever afterwards, during his life, observed the anniversary of his deliverance as a day of thanksgiving; and thenceforth until his death, which occurred on the twentieth of May, 1713, he lived in comparative retirement.

Besides the works already mentioned, Dr. Sprat wrote the Life of Cowley usually prefixed to the works of that poet; a volume of Sermons, and one or two other minor productions. Of his style Dr. Johnson speaks as that of an author whose pregnancy of imagination and eloquence of language have deservedly set him high in the ranks of literature.' Though, perhaps, this praise is somewhat extravagant, yet it must be confessed that Sprat's excellence is unquestionably such, as to entitle him to be mentioned among the leading prose writers of this period. The qualities which particularly characterize his style, are strength, neatness, smoothness, and precision; with little, however, of the splendor which the eulogy of the great critic would induce a reader to expect. Having already given, in the life of Dr. Wilkins, an extract from Sprat's ‘History of the Royal Society,' we shall close these remarks with the following passage from the Life of Cowley' :

COWLEY'S LOVE OF RETIREMENT. Upon the king's happy restoration, Mr. Cowley was past the fortieth year of his ige; of which the greatest part had been spent in a various and tempestuous condition. He now thought he had sacrificed enough of his life to his curiosity and experience. He had enjoyed many excellent occasions of observation. He had been present in many great revolutions, which in that tumultuous time disturbed the peace of all our neighbour states as well as our own. He had nearly beheld all the splendour of the highest part of mankind. He had lived in the presence of princes, and familiarly conversed with greatness in all its degrees, which was necessary for one that would contemn it a right; for to scorn the pomp of the world before a man knows it, does commonly proceed from ill manners than a true magnanimity.

He was now weary of the vexations and formalities of an active condition. He had been perplexed with a long compliance to foreign manners. He was satiated with the arts of court; which sort of life, though his virtue had made innocent to him, yet nothing could make it quiet. These were the reasons that moved him to forego all public employments, and to follow the violent inclination of his own mind, which in the greatest throng of his former business had still called upon him, and represented to him the true delights of solitary studies, of temperate pleasures, and of a moderate revenue, below the malice and flatteries of fortune.

In his last seven or eight years he was concealed in his beloved obscurity, and possessed that solitude, which, from his very childhood, he had always most pas sionately desired. Though he had frequent invitations to return into business, yet he never gave ear to any persuasions of profit or preferment. His visits to the city and court were very few; his stays in town were only as a passenger, not an inhabi. tant. The places that he chose for the seats of his declining life were two or three villages on the bank of the Thames. During this recess, his mind was rather exercised on what was to come than what was past; he suffered no more business nor cares of life to come near bim than what were enough to keep his soul awake, but

VOL. 11.-0

not to disturb it. Some few friends and books, a cheerful heart, and innocent conscience, were his constant companions. * *

I acknowledge he chose that state of life, not out of any poetical rapture, but upon a steady and sober experience of human things. But, however, I can not applaud it in him. It is certainly a great disparagement to virtue and learning itself, that those very things which only make men useful in the world should incline them to leave it. This ought never to be allowed to good men, unless the bad had the same moderation, and were willing to follow them into the wilderness. But if the one shall contend to get out of employment, while the other strive to get into it, the affairs of mankind are like to be in so ill a posture, that even the good men themselves will hardly be able to enjoy their very retreats in security.

GILBERT BURNET, the son of a Scottish advocate of high reputation, was born in Edinburgh, on the eighteenth of September, 1643. His father having refused to acknowledge Cromwell's authority, was thrown out of employment during the Protector's ascendency, and, therefore, assumed, himself, the care of his son's education. The result was all that could have been anticipated; for so prodigiously rapid was the youth's progress in his studies, that before he had reached the tenth year of his age, he entered the university of Aberdeen. Having successfully completed his collegiate course, he entered life as a clergyman of the Church of Scotland, and afterwards held, for a number of years, the divinity professorship in the university of Glasgow. From Glasgow he removed to a benefice in London, and through his talents and consummate address, soon rendered himself the confidant of many persons of great political influence.

In 1679 Burnet greatly increased his reputation by publishing the first volume of a History of the Reformation in England. The appearance of this work at the time when the Popish plot was absorbing public attention, procured, for the author, the thanks of both houses of parliament, with a request that he would complete the history. This he eventually did, by publishing two additional volumes, the one in 1681, and the other in 1714; and the work is much the best account extant of the important occurrences of which it treats. The conduct of Charles the Second, towards the conclusion of his reign, was highly offensive to Burnet, who consequently formed .an intimate connection with the opposition party, and even wrote a letter to the king, freely censuring both his public acts and private vices. As his qpinions, thus unreservedly expressed, brought him under the displeasure of the court, Burnet retired to the continent, where he was most graciously received by both the Prince and Princess of Orange, into whose service hc immediately entered ; and accompanying them, at the Revolution, to Eng. land, he was soon after rewarded for his services with the bishopric of Salisbury. The remainder of his life he passed in the quiet discharge of his prelatical duties, and in literary pursuíts, and his death occurred on the sev. enteenth of March, 1715.

Bishop Burnet left in manuscript his celebrated History of My Ow1 Times, giving an outline of the events of the civil war and commonwealth and a full narration of what took place from the Restoration to the yea

« הקודםהמשך »