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in the world. And it deferves our notice, that the moft confiderable of its adherents and promoters were more eminent for fubtlety of reason, than for fenfibility of taste. We know that this was the cafe with MALEBRANCHE, of whom Mr D'Alembert fays, that he could not read the moft fublime verfes without wearinefs and difguft* This was alfo the cafe with another author, to whom our later fceptics are more obliged than they feem willing to acknowledge, I mean Mr HOBBES; whofe tranflation of Homer bears just fuch a refemblance to the Iliad and Odyffey, as a putrefying carcafe bears to a beautiful and vigorous human body. Of the taste of our later sceptics, I leave the reader to judge from his own obfervation.
The philofophy of the mind, if fuch as it ought to be, would certainly interest us more than any other fcience. Are the fceptical treatises on this fubject interesting? Do they bring conviction to the judgement, or delight to the fancy? Do they either reach the heart, or feem to proceed from it? Do they make us better acquainted with ourfelves, or better pre
Effai fur le Gout.
pared for the bufinefs of life? Do they not rather infeeble and harafs the foul, divert its attention from every thing that can enlarge and improve it, give it a difrelish for itself, and for every thing elfe, and difqualify it alike for action, and for useful knowledge?
Other caufes might be affigned for the prefent degeneracy of the moral fciences. I fhall mention one, which I the rather chufe to take notice of, and infift upon, because it hath been generally overlooked. DES CARTES and MALEBRANCHE introduced the fafhion, which continues to this day, of neglecting the ancients in all their philofophical inquiries. We feem to think, because we are confeffedly fuperior in fome fciences, that we must be fo in all. But that this is a rash judgement, may cafily be made appear, even on the fuppofition, that human genius is nearly the fame in all ages.
When accidental difcovery, long experience, or profound investigation, are the means of advancing a fcience, it is reafonable to expect, that the improvements of that fcience will increafe with length of time. Accordingly we find, that in natural
ral philosophy, natural history, and fome parts of mathematical learning, the moderns are far fuperior to the ancients.' But the fcience of human nature, being attainable rather by intuition than by deep reafoning or nice experiment, muft depend for its cultivation upon other caufes. Different and nations have different cuftoms. Sometimes it is the fashion to be referved and affected, at other times to be fimple and fincere: fometimes, therefore, it will be cafy, and at other times difficult, to gain a competent knowledge of human nature by obfervation. In the romances of the fixteenth century, we feek for human nature in vain; the manners are all affected; prudery is the highest, and almost the only, ornament of the women; and a fantastical honour, of the men: but the writers adapted themselves to the prewailing tafte, and painted the manners as they faw them. In our own country, we have feen various modes of affectation fucceffively prevail within a few years. To ay nothing of prefent times, every body knows how much pedantry, puritanifi, libertinifin, and falfe wit, contributed to difguife human nature in the last century. And
And I apprehend, that in all monarchies (except where fociety is rude and unculti vated), one mode or other of artificial manners must always prevail; to the forma tion of which the character of the prince, the tafte of the times, and a variety of other caufes will co-operate. In courts, it is thought neceffary, at leaft it seems to be confidered as a matter of high importance, to establish certain punctilios in regard to drefs, gefticulation, and phrafeology; in the knowledge and obfervance of which confifts the merit of a man of fa
shion. There alfo fecrecy is expedient, and hath fometimes been known to degenerate into hypocrify. I know not whether honesty, plain-dealing, and fimple manners, were ever made the pattern of courtly behaviour; but I have been told, that there is not a court on earth, in which a man of the ftricteft virtue and beft understanding would not appear ridiculous, if he were unacquainted with the established forms. The cuftoms of the court are imitated by the higher ranks; the middle ranks follow the higher; and the people come after as faft as they can. It is, however, in the laft-mentioned clafs where nature
nature appears with the leaft disguise. But, unhappily, the vulgar are seldom objects of curiofity, either to our philofophers or hiftorians. The influence of thefe caufes in difguifing human fentiments will, I prefume, be greater or lefs, according as the monarchy partakes more or lefs of the nature of a free government. There is indeed one fet of fentiments which mo narchy and modern manners are pecu liarly fitted for difclofing, I mean, those that relate to gallantry; but whether thefe tend to make human nature more or lefs known, might perhaps bear a question.
Modern history ought, on many ac counts, to intereft us more than the ancient. It defcribes manners which are familiar to us, events of which we fee and feel the confequences, political establishments on which our property and fecurity depend, and places and perfons in which experience or tradition hath already given us a concern. And yet I believe it will be generally acknowledged, that the ancient hiftories, particularly of Greece and Rome, are more interefting than thofe of later times. In fact, the most affecting part, both of history and of poetry, is that which best