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Emilius and Sophia: Or, a new Syftem of Education. Tranflated from the French of J. J. Rouffeau. By the Tranflator of Eloifa. Vols. III. and IV. 5s. fewed. Becket and De Hondt.
AVING, in our former accounts of this work, accompanied Mr. Rouffeau to the end of his third book, we enter, with him, in his fourth, on that alarming period of youth, when inftinct hath fully awakened the paffions, and the man begins to grow fenfible of his moral existence.
Man, fays Mr. Rouffeau, (apologizing for the quaintnefs of the expreffion) is born twice; first to exift, and then to live; once as to fpecies, and again with regard to fex.-At the age of puberty commences this fecond birth, when he is truly born to live, and enters into full poffeffion of the powers of human nature. Our care hitherto, therefore, fays he, has been little more than childrens play: it now becomes of real importance.
But, tho' nature points out the time when a youth emerges from infancy, he obferves, that this period may be either accelerated or retarded by education: and, as he conceives, a great deal depends, as well with regard to the phyfical as the moral conftitution, on the late appearance of this crifis, he advifes thofe who have the care of children, to avoid every thing in their difcourfe and behaviour that may excite curiofity, or kindle the paffions. The inftructions of nature, fays he, are late and tedious, thofe of man are almost always premature. In the firft cafe, the fenfes rouze the imagination; in the fecond, the imagination awakens the fenfes, and gives them a too early activity, which cannot fail to enervate individuals, and in time the fpecies. It has been long a general and certain observation, VOL. XXVIII. B
that the age of puberty in both fexes, is always more forward in a polished and enlightned people, than amongst the ignorant and favage. Mr. de Buffon had phyfically accounted for this, from the different nature of their aliment; obferving, that in great towns, and among people in affluence, children, being accuftomed to eat plentifully, and upon fucculent food, arrive foon at maturity; while in the country, and among poor people, their food being lefs nourishing, they arrive at that term at leaft three years later. Our Author admits the truth of the obfervation, but conceives the Naturalift to be mistaken, in attributing to a phyfical fource what ought to be ascribed to a moral one; a mistake, he obferves, very common to the Philofophers of the prefent age.
There is another mistake, however full as common to modern Philofophers, and to Mr. Rouffeau among the rest, viz. that of attributing altogether to a different caufe what they conceive not to be the fole confequence of that which is pointed out; whereas fuch confequence may be, and in the prefent cafe certainly is, the joint effect of both nor can it be doubted, that the imagination and conftitution act reciprocally on each other, as well as feparately and unitedly on the paffions. Our Author is, nevertheless, certainly in the right, when he concludes, that in a matter of this delicate nature, ignorance and innocence accompany each other.
In treating of the growing paffions of youth, Mr. Rouffeau deduces them from the fource of felf-love; into whofe various modifications he refolves all that is great, noble, and generous in human nature. We conceive, however, that he is mistaken in three capital propofitions, which he lays down as maxims, in expatiating on this fubject. We are the more furprised at this miftake, as we fhould have rather expected our apparently-benevolent Author to have eired on the other fide of the queftiou. It will give his Readers alio, we fear, no very favourable idea of his own difpofition, if they conceive thefe maxims to be the refult of his own fenfations, and not of miftaken reafoning. His firft maxim is this,
It is not in the power of the human heart to fympatbife with those who are happier than ourselves, but with thofe only who more miferable. Now the reafon why he conceives the human heart cannot fympathife (or as the original has it, Je mettre à la place) with perfons in a happier fituation, is, that it is prevented by envy. "We never fympathife with the rich and great, fays he, however fincerely attached to them; tho' we do fo with the happiness of perfons of meaner condition; as, for inftance, thofe who compofe and enjoy fcenes of rural fimplicity." We do not fee, however, what difference of rank
and condition has to do at all in this affair. It is the quantum, and not the mode of happiness, that is here infifted on. The maxim afferts, that we never put ourselves into the place of, or have a fellow-feeling with, thofe who are more happy than ourfelves; [des gens qui font plus heureux que nous.] Is the happinefs [du bonheur] of the meaner fort, by which we are faid to be affected, fuppofed to be greater or lefs than our own? If greater, it makes the maxim falfe; if lefs, we do not fee the propriety of calling it in this place happiness at all. So that in any cafe, our Author's illuftration renders his propofition obfcure. What he meant to fay, we apprehend, to be to this effect; The human heart is incapable, on account of envy, of taking pleasure in the pleasure of others who are conceived to be in a more happy fituation than itself; but is fupfceptible only, through the timidity of felf-love, of fuffering by the fuffering of those who are more miferable. This maxim, however, argues a ftrange malignity in the human heart, if fuch be its natural and uncorrupted tendency; but we conceive the Author hath here attributed one of the prudential maxims, founded on a knowlege of the world, to the fimple dictates of fentiment. This will appear fufficiently evident on confidering his other maxims.
2d Maxim. We pity in others thofe evils only, from which we think ourselves not exempt.
It is plain, from this affertion, that our Author cannot speak here of the fimple dictates of the human heart, or of that inftantaneous impulfe which is the effect of fentiment in which felf-intereft, and even felf-prefervation are fometimes fo little concerned, that both are voluntarily facrificed to the relief of the diftreffed object. How often do we melt into tears, and are affected with the moft fympathetic forrow, on the reprefentation, or even relation, of a fpecies of diftrefs into which there is a mora! impoffibility of our ever falling? That fuch forrow is increased, when it comes nearer home, when reflection confirms it, and awakens our apprehenfions for ourfelves, we readily grant; but, that impulfe by which the heart is firft induced to compaffionate, and feel for, the unhappy, is the effect of a different motive. Our Author thinks nothing more beautiful, af fecting, and true than the following line;
Non ignara mali, miferis fuccurrere difco,
It is our opinion, nevertheless, and that founded on obfervation, that perfons who have been themfelves unfortunate, are not the most remarkable for fympathizing with, and relieving the diftreffes of, others. On the contrary, the young, the ignorant, the delicate and unexperienced, are thote whofe hearts and bands are the moit open, to feel and relieve the fuf
ferings of their fellow-creatures; at the fame time it must be confeiled alfo, that these are ever the most ready to take a pleafure in the happiness of others, and fhare equally in their joys and their forrows.
That felf-love is the grand motive of human actions, and, perhaps, the only one by which the understanding influences the will, we readily admit; but we do not think it the fole motive of fuch actions, and much lefs the fpring which influences the heart, and actuates the paffions.
3d Maxim. Our pity for the misfortunes of others, is not meafured by the quantity of evil, but by the fuppofed fenfibility of the Jafferer
"We pity the wretched only in proportion, fays Mr. Rouskau, as we believe them fenfible of their own wretchednels." If we refle, indeed, profoundly on the matter, and can reduce our paitions under the command of our reason, this may, in fome cafes, tell us, it is abfurd to pity the fufferings of a man who doth not fuifer at all; but if we appeal to the fact, the very reverie of our Author's affertion is true. Is it not notorious, that we often pity perfons, whom we know to be infenfible of their misfortunes? To inftance only the idiot and the madman, perhaps the greatest objects of human pity! Are not thofe people often the objects of our compaflion, who account themfelves much happier than we? Nay, do we not fometimes even pity them for thinking fo; and for being of fuch a difpofition, as to reap a fatisfaction from circumftances under which we think we fhould be miserable?
We might expatiate more largely on this fubject, were not what has been already faid, fufficient to fhew, that the above maxims are thofe of the head, and not of the heart. In applyjug thefe maxims alfo, our Author betrays his errour still more egregioufly, and fhews, that if fome Philofophers have attributed too much to phyfical, and too little to moral, causes, he hath been guilty of a contrary fault. "If the first object, says he, which prefents itfelf to my Pupil, happen to exhibit a melancholy fpectacle, the fenfation is immediately fucceeded by a pleafing idea: perceiving himfelf exempt from the evils with which others are afflicted, he finds that he is happier than he imagined. He fympathifes in the fufferings of his fellow-creatures; but that fympathy is voluntary and agreeable." That the reflection of being exempted from the miferies by which others are afflicted, is agreeable or pleafing, cannot be doubted: but if he truly fympathize with the diftreffed, he will feel as much pain from a fenfe of their fufferings, as he will receive pleature from the reflection on his own fecurity. Our Author
feems to be quite a ftranger to the nature of fympathy, or that fellow-feeling we have in the fufferings and enjoyinents of others. We would recommend it to him, therefore, to confider with attention, what Dr. Smith hath profelledly, and Mr. Hume occafionally, written on this fubject. He would do well alfo, to speak with a little more refpect of modern Philofophers, till he is in a capacity to prove their tenets to ridiculous and abfurd as he hath endeavoured to reprefent them. He may venture fafely to differ from the herd of mankind, and laugh at vulgar prejudices; it would be prudent in him, however, even to refpect the prejudices of Philofophers*, unless he was better qualified to explode them. We are forry there fhould be any occafion for reminding a Writer of fuch extraordinary abilities, that phyfical fcience is the foundation of all moral and political knowlege, and that no man ever treated Metaphyfics with contempt, except thofe who were incapable of that moft elevated and fublime exercife of the human understanding.
There is not, in our opinion, a more confolatory and wellfounded tenet in all modern philofophy, than that happiness is not exclusively attached to any one itate and condition of life; but that Providence hath wifely bestowed on all ranks the means of being equally happy. Yet this doth our Auther mifreprefent and endeavour to explode. "There is, fay our Philofophers, an equal allotment of happiness and mifery to every rank of men; a maxim as dangerous as it is abfurd. If all mankind are equally happy, it would be ridiculous to give ourselves any trouble to promote their felicity. Let each remain in his fituation let the flave endure the lafh, the lame his infirmity, and let the beggar perif, fince they would gain nothing by a change of fituation. The fame Philofophers enumerate the pangs of the rich, and expatiate on the vanity of their pleasures: was there ever fo palpable a fophifm! The pangs of a rich man are not effential to riches, but to the abufe of them. If he were ever more wretched than the poor, he would deferve no compaffion, because he is the creator of his own mifery, and happiness was in his power. But the fuferings of the indigent are the natu
Mr. Rousseau takes frequent occafion to be fevere on the Philofophers, and that spirit of philofophizing which, he fays, infects the Writers of this age. Tam, in doubt, continues he, whether truth gains any thing by their labours. A madness for fyftems hath got possessin of them all; they never fee things as they are, but as they beft agree with their hypothefes. We are in doubt, however, whether fome of Mr. Rouffeau's Readers will not be apt to think a paffion for paradoxes as bad as a paffion for hypothefes; and that a fyftematical madman may ftand as good a chance to be in the right, as one that has no fyftem