« PreviousContinue »
Why, zounds! she'd hang on him, as much as to say,
Yet before one could whistle, as I'm a true man,
Derry down, &c.
To marry my uncle! My father's own brother!
Derry down, &c. We could offer another plate-full to the reader, but shall only
Should you relish this slice, for the good of the cook,
Art. 23. An Abridgment of the Light of Nature pursued. Abraham Tucker, Esq. Originally published in seven Volumes, under the Name of Edward Search, Esq. 8vo. pp. 529. Boards. Johnson.
In noticing this abridgment of a work of great and deserved celebrity, it may naturally be expected that we should not be wholly silent on the merits of the original: but the necessity of attending to this expectation is completely obviated, by the able summary which. we find prepared to our hands in the preface to the present volume, and which it would be doing our readers injustice to withhold from them.
There are works of great length,' observes this writer, which cannot be reduced into a less compass" without suffering loss and diminution." Though vast, there is nothing useless, nothing superfluous in them; and nothing can be taken away or displaced, without destroying the symmetry and connection of the whole. This is certainly not the case with the writings of Abraham Tucker: they are encumbered and weighed down with a load of unnecessary matter. Not that there any great inequalities in them, nor any parts which, taken separately, are not entertaining and valuable; but the work is swelled out with endless repetitions of itself. This radical defect appears evidently to have arisen from the manner of composing it. The author was a private gentleman, who had nothing to do but to take his time, and follow the whim of the moment. He wrote without any regular plan; and without foreseeing or being concerned about the deviations, the shiftings and windings, and the intricate cross-movements in which he should be entangled. He had leisure on his hands; and provided he got out of the labyrinth at last, he was satisfied no matter how often he had lost his way in it. When a subject presented itself to him, he exhausted all he had to say upon it, and then dismissed it for another. The chapter was thrown aside, and forgotten. If the same subject recurred again in a different connection, he turned it over in his thoughts afresh; as his ideas arose
in his mind he committed them to paper; he repeated the same things over again, or inserted any new observation or example that suggested itself to him in confirmation of his argument; and thus by the help of a new title, and by giving a different application to the whole, a new chapter was completed. By this means, as he himself remarks, his writings are rather a tissue of loose essays than a regular work; and indeed the leaves of the Sybils could not be more loose and unconneeted. It is so far then from being an injury, that it must be rather an advantage to the original work to expunge its repetitions, and confine its digressions, if this could be done properly.'
He elsewhere says, I do not know of any work in the shape of a philosophical treatise that contains so much good sense so agreeably expressed. The character of the work is, in this respect, altogether singular. Amidst all the abstruseness of the most subtle disquisitions, it is as familiar as Montaigne, and as wild and entertaining as John Buncle. To the ingenuity and closeness of the metaphysician, he unites the practical knowledge of the man of the world, and the utmost sprightliness, and even levity of imagination. He is the only philosopher who appears to have had his senses always about him, or to have possessed the enviable faculty of attending at the same time to what was passing in his own mind, and what was going on without him. He applied every thing to the purposes of philosophy; he could not see any thing, the most familiar objects or the commonest events, without connecting them with the illustration of some difficult problem. The tricks of a young kitten, or a little child at play, were sure to suggest to him some useful observation, or nice distinction. To this habit, he was, no doubt, indebted for what Paley justly calls "his unrivalled power of illustration." To be convinced that he possessed this power in the highest degree, it is only necessary to look into almost any page of his writings; at least, I think it impossible for any one not to perceive the beauty, the naivelé, the force, the clearness, and propriety of his illustrations, who has not previously had his understanding strangely overlaid with logic and criticism. — If he was surpassed by one or two writers in logical precision and systematic profundity, there is no metaphysical writer who is equal to him in clearness of apprehension, and a various insight into human nature. Though he excelled greatly in both, yet he excelied more in what is called the method of induction, than that of analysis he convinces the reader oftener by shewing him the thing in dispute, than by defining its abstract qualities; as the philosopher is said to have proved the existence of motion by getting up and walking.'
It is added: The great merit of our author's writings is undoubtedly that sound, practical, comprehensive good sense, which is to be found in every part of them. What is I believe the truest test f fine sense, is that affecting simplicity in his observations, which proceeds from their extreme truth and liveliness. Whatever recalls strongly to our remembrance the common feelings of human nature, and marks distinctly the changes that take place in the human breast, must always be accompanied with some sense of emotion; for our own nature can never be indifferent to us.'
The editor states it to have been his principal aim in this abridgment to expunge the repetitions and to confine the digressions of the original work :
Whenever,' he adde, I came to a passage that was merely a repetition of a former one, I struck it out: and at the same time, I endeavoured to abridge those detailed parts of the work which were the longest, and the least interesting, and to correct the general redundance of the style. I have not, however (that I know of,) omitted any thing essential to the merit of the work. All the singular observations, all the fine illustrations, I have given nearly in an entire state to the reader: I was afraid to touch them, lest I should spoil them. The rule that I went by was, to give every thing that I thought would strike the attention in reading the work itself, and to leave out every thing (except what was absolutely necessary to the understanding of the subject), that would be likely to make no lasting impression on the mind. A good abridgement ought to contain just as much as we should wish to recollect of a book; it should give back (only in a more perfect manner) to a reader well acquainted with the original," the image of his mind," so that he would miss no favourite passage, none of the prominent parts, or distinguishing features of the work.' I can only say, that I have done my best to prevent my copy of the Light of Nature from degenerating into a mere caput mortuum. As to the pains and labour it has cost me, or the time I have devoted to it, I shall say nothing. However, if any one should be scrupulous on that head, I might answer, as Sir Joshua Reynolds is said to have done to some person who cavilled at the price of a picture, and desired to know how long he had been doing it, "All my life."'
That the editor is a great admirer of his author, and has spared no pains properly to execute his undertaking, no candid judge who peruses these pages will dispute. The notions and views of Mr. Tucker are fairly and fully given, his peculiarities are retained, and the spirit of the original is preserved. If any fault will be ascribed to the abridgment, it will be on the score of excess of amputation; since, desultory and tedious as Tucker is, his pages have a charm which wins the confidence and attachment of the reader in no ordinary degree. His simplicity, his ingenuousness, and his benevolence endear to us even his faults. Altogether, we regard this volume as a valuable present to the public, and we wish that it may have a wide eirculation. Art. 24. A Journal of the Voyages and Travels of a Corps of Discovery, under the Command of Captain Lewis and Captain Clarke, of the Army of the United States; from the Mouth of the River Missouri, through the interior Parts of North America, to the Pacific Ocean; during the Years 1804, 1805, and 1806. Containing an authentic Relation of the most interesting Transactions during the Expedition; a Description of the Country and an Account of its Inhabitants, Soil, Climate, Curiosities, and Vegetable and Animal Productions. By Patrick Gasa, one of the Persons employed on the Expedition. Printed at Pittsburgh; and reprinted for Budd, London. 8vo. pp. 381. 9s. Boards.
We have here literally the journal of an expedition of discovery, the most important perhaps in its consequences of any that has been attempted in modern times, for the purpose of exploring the interior parts of a wild and uncultivated country, to the extent which this undertaking embraced. The narrative is plain and simple, carrying with it the air of truth and authenticity. It is chiefly confined to the occurrences and proceedings, specifying the distances travelled by land and water from time to time, the breadth and navigation of rivers, the nature of the soil along their banks and contiguous to them, how the lands were timbered and whether fit for the establishment of settlements, the manners and customs of the natives, the privations and hardships which the travellers underwent during the continuance of the expedition, (which lasted for two years, four months, and ten days,) and their modes of subsistence for such a length of time in an extensive wilderness.
Not being employed by any association of land jobbers, but by the government of the United States, who had paid a large sum of money for Louisiana, Captains Lewis and Clarke had no inducement to sanction any misrepresentation or exaggeration respecting the soil and productions of the immense tract of country, which they were sent to explore: but, on the contrary, they were expected to deliver a true and faithful account of their discoveries. Their progress from the Missouri to the Columbia river, and back, was greatly facilitated by the horses which they found among the Indians, particularly of the snake-tribe, who obtain both horses and silver from the Spaniards in New Mexico.
Though this journal does not furnish sufficient materials for a correct geographical delineation of the country, it affords the means of correcting some great mistakes respecting it. For instance, in most of the maps of Louisiana, the Mandan villages are placed somewhat less than 120 east of the mouth of the Columbia, and about 20° west of the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers; whereas they are in reality about 20' east of the mouth of the Columbia, and between two and three degrees west of the northern bend of the Missouri. It also appears that a line, supposed to be drawn from New Orleans to Fort Church-hill at the mouth of Church-hill river, on the west side of Hudson's Bay, would pass very near the mouth of the Missouri and the west end of Lake Superior.
The following memorandum contains a succinct statement of the route, the object of which was to discover a passage by the Missouri and Columbia rivers to the Pacific ocean, which was completely accomplished:
Of the computed distance in miles to the furthest point of discovery on the Pacific Ocean, from the place where the canoes were deposited near the head of the Missouri, which from its mouth is
From the place of deposit to head spring
To first fork of the Sho-sho-ne river
To first large fork down the river
To forks of the road at mouth of Tour creek
To fishing creek, after leaving the river
To Flat-head, or Clarke's river at Fish camp
'To the mouth of Traveller's rest creek
To the foot of the great range of mountains, east side
To the Ki-moo-ee-nem
To the Great Columbia, by Lewis's river
To the mouth of the Sho-sho-ne, or Snake river
To the Great Falls of Columbia
To the Short Narrows
To the Long ditto
To the mouth of Cataract river, north-side
To the Grand Shoot, or Rapids
To the Last Rapids, or Strawberry island
To the mouth of Quicksand river, south-side
To Blustry Point, on north side
To Point Open-slope, below encampment
To Chin-Ook river, at bottom of Haley's Bay
We are sorry that we cannot dwell longer on this interesting journal, the nature of which forbids farther abridgment and general abstract, Art. 25. The Secret History of the Cabinet of Buonaparte; including his private Life, Character, domestic Administration, and his Conduct to foreign Powers; together with secret Anecdotes of the different Courts of Europe and of the French Revolution. With two Appendices, consisting of State Papers, and of biographical Sketches of the Persons composing the Court of St. Cloud. By Lewis Goldsmith, Notary Public. 8vo. pp. 607. Boards. Richardson. 1810.
In our Catalogue for September, we took notice of a minor work by this author, and made some reference to the remarkable change which of late years had occurred in his political tenets. Conscius that an English public are disposed to view with suspicion the patriotic professions of a perfon who has lived so lately in Paris, and was once editor of the notorious Argus, Mr. Goldsmith enters, in the preface to this volume, into a bold vindication of his conduct, and claims the merit of having exercised the most sturdy independence in the midst of temptation; a pretension, of the truth of which we shall leave those who perufe his writings to form their own opinions. Of the book itself, those of our readers, who know what kind of work the Revolutionary Plutarch was, may be enabled to form some idea. We cannot but consider it as replete with glaring exaggerations; and it is obvious that every body muft afk, how could Mr. G. be informed of all the facts which he afferts? What reliance can be placed