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great man. He is one of the best mathematicians the last age produced. A new kind has sprung up amongst us of late ; since his time science has been greatly increased by introductions from foreign schools ; but it remains to be proved, whether the finesse and nicety of the present system is of greater use in strengthening the mind than that which exercised the talents of Newton. Who ever is destined to occupy any situation of distinction or public utility, cannot do better than add to his stock of information the matter of these very improving lectures : he can never go unimproved away: he will carry with him into life so much ingenious knowledge, if he has given his attention to the course, that he will every where meet with consideration and respect, while he can render service or furnish instruction.
I always thought the study of Political Economy essential to a gentleman's education. I was a frequent, almost constant, attendant upon Professor Pryme. Many object to this study, as a dry uninteresting complication of theories, which only harass or perplex the mind;-that it has a dangerous tendency, and is calculated to give the statesman's politics a discontented turn. Such is the language of smatterers and sciolists ; flies, that have not power enough to burst the spider's web. “ Drink deep, or taste not,” is a precept as applicable to this as to any other branch of knowledge. The slender stock of these casuists is just enough to cause their own alarms; if they had proceeded to inquire with greater minuteless, the advantages would have instantly suggested themselves, and they would have obtained that entire and comprehensive view of the subject, which endues the mind with juster notions. There is scarcely a topic, even the commonest in the affairs of life, which is not connected with political economy. It is true that there is a great diversity of opinion among the leading authors, Malthus, Ricardo, and others; but practical knowledge and experience will correct many errors, and reconcilemost of their differences. Pryme is a native of Yorkshire, and, as well as others of his countrymen, is not a very pleasing orator ; but he is a man of talent, and has conquered his natural disadvantages. By the precision which he has gained from an excellent education, he has made his course of lectures a systematic and luminous exposition of his favourite science. I own it requires a strong’liking for the study to go through to the end. “ Aliquando bonus dormitat.” The good man sometimes nods. But those who want information will wait patiently for it. Those who have itching ears’ will think their time thrown away. He has lately instituted conversaziones on Saturday evenings at his own house, which a few students attend, who wish to obtain explanations of knotty points in a more familiat manner than the public lecture allows of. This is a great adtantage ; and besides, is a sacrifice on the part of the Professor
which deserves the gratitude of those who have enjoyed his society and received so many kind attentions.
There is one person who must not be passed over without notice, because he is a remarkable instance of the manner in which men may
make their own fortunes, and raise themselves by their own great exertions to a state of comparative independence, from the lowest situations in life. Professor Lee's powers of mind must be of the highest order, if the account which is generally received of his extensive learning be true. Under every difficulty and disadvantage he made himself a profound scholar. To accomplish this end, it is said of him that he purchased the elements of his classical and oriental library with the bounty which he received on entering the militia, as a private soldier; and in that obscure cha acter he secretly laid the foundation of his present fame. The honours of the university, which has adopted this self-taught'son of science, are but just tributes to his acknowledged merit and celebrated learning. His Hebrew lectures are attended by many young men, who, by their researches in those hitherto too much neglected paths of sacred literature, aim at distinction in their profession. The fountains of learning are here opened with no riggard hand; and those fertilizing streams are poured forth on cultivated soils, which may well be expected to produce the fairest fruits.
There are many names which deserve attention ; but their pursuits are not so popular as others, or they are confined to paricular professions. The Professor of Botany is superannuated. The professors of Medicine are very patiently heard by embryo physicians and young apothecaries. They are all excellent in their different departments : I have no inclination to decide between them, or their more important rivalry with the Machaons of Edinburgh. I must remark, by the way, respecting Anatomy, that although the Professor is a man of great
talents, and has 1. very pleasant manner of communicating his knowledge, still I should wish to see none among his auditors, but those who intend to embrace the medical profession exclusively. It requires deep attention, and must abstract a young man's thoughts from his prescribed studies ; so that when he engages with his contemporaries in the contest of honours, he finds how entirely he has misapplied his time and talents. I have known instances of such failures.
The celebrity of the great classical writers is confined within no limits, except those which separate civilized from savage man, Their works are the common property of every polished nation. They have furnished subjects for the painter, and models for the poet. In the minds of the educated classes throughout Europe, their names are indissolubly associated with the endearing recollections of childhood,—the old school-room,—the dog-eared grammar,—the first prize,—the tears so often shed and so quickly dried. So great is the veneration with which they are regarded, that even the editors and commentators, who perform the lowest menial offices to their memory, are considered, like the equerries and chamberlains of sovereign princes, as entitled to a high rank in the table of literary precedence. It is, therefore, somewhat singular that their productions should so rarely have been examined on just and philosophical principles of criticism.
The ancient writers themselves afford us but little assistance, When they particularize, they are commonly trivial : when they would generalize, they become indistinct. An exception must, indeed, be made in favour of Aristotle. Both in analysis and in combination, that great man was without a rival. No philosopher has ever possessed, in an equal degree, the talent either of separating established systems into their primary elements, or of connecting detached phenomena in harmonious systems. He was the great fashioner of the intellectual chaos : he changed its darkness into light, and its discord into order. He brought to literary researches the same vigour and amplitude of mind, to which both physical and metaphysical science are so greatly indebted. His fundamental principles of criticism are excellent. To cite only a single instance;—the doctrine which he established, that poetry is an imitative art, when justly understood is to the critic what the compass is to the navigator. With it he may venture upon the most extensive excursions. Without it he must creep cautiously along the coast, or lose himself in a trackless expanse, and trust, at best, to the guidance of an occasional star. It is a discovery which changes a caprice into a science.
The general propositions of Aristotle are valuable. But the merit of the superstructure bears no proportion to that of the foundation. This is partly to be ascribed to the character of the philosopher, who, though qualified to do all that could be done by the resolving and combining powers of the understanding, seems not to have possessed much of sensibility or imagination. Partly also, it may be attributed to the deficiency of materials
. The great works of genius which then existed, were not either sufficiently numerous or sufficiently varied, to enable any man to form a perfect code of literature. To require that a critic should conceive classes of composition which had never existed, and then investigate their principles, would be as unreasonable as the demand of Nebuchadnezzar, who expected his magicians first to tell him his dream and then to interpret it."
With all his deficiencies Aristotle was the most enlightened and profound critic of antiquity. Dionysius was far from possessing the same exquisite subtilty, or the same vast comprehension. But he had access to a much greater number of specimens, and he had devoted himself, as it appears, more exclusively to the study of elegant literature. His particular judgments are of more value than his general principles. He is only the historian of literature. Aristotle is its philosopher.
Quintilian applied to general literature the same principles by which he had been accustomed to judge of the declamations of his pupils. He looks for nothing but rhetoric, and rhetoric not of the highest order. He speaks coldly of the incomparable works of Æschylus. He admires, beyond expression, those inexhaustible mines of common-places, the plays of Euripides. He bestows a few vague words on the poetical character of Homer. He then proceeds to consider him merely as an orator. An orator Homer doubtless was, and a great orator. But surely nothing is more remarkable, in his admirable works, than the art with which his oratorical powers are made subservient to the purposes of poetry. Nor can I think Quintilian a great critic in his own province. Just as are many of his remarks, beautiful as are many of his illustrations, we can perpetually detect in his thoughts that flavour which the soil of despotism generally communicates to all the fruits of genius. Eloquence was, in his time, little more than a condiment which served to stimulate in a despot the jaded appetite for panegyric, an amusement for the travelled nobles, and the blue-stocking matrons of Rome. It is, therefore, with him, rather a sport than a war: it is a contest of foils, not of swords. He appears to think more of the grace of the attitude than of the direction and vigour of the thrust. It must be acknowledged, in justice to Quintilian, that this is an error to which Cicero has too often given the sanction, both of his precept and of his example.
Longinus seems to have had great sensibility, but little discrimination. He gives us eloquent sentences, but no principles. It was happily said that Montesquieu ought to have changed the name of his book from L'esprit des lois to L'esprit sur les lois. In the same manner the philosopher of Palmyra ought to have entitled his famous work not “ Longinus, on the Sublime," but « The Sublimities of Longinus.” The origin of the sublime is one of the most curious and interesting subjects of inquiry, that can occupy the attention of a critic. In our own country it has been discussed, with great ability, and, I think, with very little success, by Burke, and Dugald Stewart. Longinus dispenses himself from all investigations of this nature, by telling his friend Terentianus that he already knows every thing that can be said upon the question. It is to be regretted that Terentianus did not impart some of his knowledge to his instructor: for from Longinus we learn only that sublimity means height-or elevaţion*. This name, so commodiously vague, is applied indifferently to the noble prayer of Ajax in the Iliad, and to a passage of Plato about the human body, as full of conceits as an ode of Cowley. Having no fixed standard, Longinus is right only by accident. He is rather a fancier than a critic.
Modern writers have been prevented by many causes from supplying the deficiencies of their classical predecessors. At the time of the revival of literature, no man could, without great and painful labour, acquire an accurate and elegant knowledge of the ancient languages. And, unfortunately, those grammatical and philological studies, without which it was impossible to understand the great works of Athenian and Roman genius, have a tendency to contract the views and deaden the sensibility of those who follow them with extreme assiduity. A powerful mind, which has been long employed in such studies, may be compared to the gigantic spirit in the Arabian tale, who was persuaded to contract himself to small dimensions in order to enter within the enchanted vessel, and, when his prison had been closed upon him, found himself unable to escape from the narrow boundaries to the measure of which he had reduced his stature. When the means have long been the objects of application, they are naturally substituted for the end. "It was said, by Eugene of Savoy, that the greatest generals have commonly been those who have been at once raised to command, and introduced to the great operations of war, without being employed in the petty calculations and manæuvres which employ the time of an inferior officer. In literature, the principle is equally sound. The great tactics of criticism will, in general, be best understood by those
* 'Aκρότης και εξοχή τις λόγων εστί τα ύψη.