« 前へ次へ »
versation of those who have been well educated, and of those who have not enjoyed this advantage. Education gives fecundity of thought, copiousness of illustration, quickness, vigour, fancy, words, images and illustrations; it decorates cvery common thing, and gives the power of trifling, without being undignified and absurd. The subjects themselves may not be wanted, upon which the talents of an educated man have been exercised; but there is always a demand for those talents which his education has rendered strong and quick. Now, really nothing can be farther from our intention than to say any thing rude and unpleasant; but we must be excused for observing, that it is not now a very common thing to be interested by the variety and extent of female knowledge; but it is a very common thing to lament, that the finest faculties in the world have been confined to trifles utterly unworthy of their richness and their strength. The pursuit of knowledge is the most innocent and interesting occujpation which can be given to the female sex; nor can there be a better method of checking a spirit of dissipation, than by diffusing a taste for literature. The true way to attack vice, is by setting up something else against it. Give to women, in early youth, something to acquire, of sufficient interest and importance to command the application of their mature faculties, and to excite their perseverance in future life; teach them, that happiness is to be derived from the acquisition of knowledge, as well as the gratification of vanity; and you will raise up a much more formidable barrier against dissipation, than a host of invectives and exhortations can supply. It sometimes happens that an unfortunate man gets drunk with very bad wine, not to gratify his Palate, but to forget his cares: he
does not set any value on what he receives, but on account of what it excludes; it keeps out something worse than itself. Now, though it were denied that the acquisition of serious knowledge is of itself important to a woman, still it prevents a taste for silly and pernicious works of imagination; it keeps away the horrid trash of novels, and, in lieu of that eagerness for emotion and adventure, which books of that sort inspire, promotes a calm and steady temperament of mind. A man who deserves such a piece of good fortune, may generally find an excellent companion for all the vicissitudes of his life; but it is not so easy to find a companion for his understanding, who has similar pursuits with himself, or who can comprehend the pleasure he derives from them. We really can see no reason why it should not be otherwise; nor comprehend how the pleasures of domestick life can be promoted by diminishing the number of subjects in which persons who are to spend their lives together take a COmmon interCSt. One of the most agreeable consequences of knowledge, is the respect and importance which it communicates to old age. Men rise in character often as they increase in years; they are venerable from what they have acquired, and pleasing from what they can impart. If they outlive their faculties, the mere frame itself is respected for what it. once contained; but women (such is their unfortunate style of education) hazard every thing upon one cast of the die; when youth is gone, all is gone. No human creature gives his admiration for nothing; cither the eye must be charmed, or the understanding gratified. A woman must talk wisely, or look well. Every human being must put up with the coldest civility, who has neither the charms of youth nor the wisdom of age. Neither is there the slightest commiseration for decayed accom
plishments; no man mourns over the fragments of a dancer, or drops a tear on the relicks of musical skill. They are flowers destined to perish; but the decay of great talents is always the subject of solemn pity; and, even when their last memorial is over, their ruins and vestiges are regarded with pious affection. There is no connexion between the ignorance in which women are kept, and the preservation of moral and religious principle; and yet certainly there is, in the minds of some timid and respectable persons, a vague, indefinite dread of knowledge, as if it were capable of producing these effects. It might almost be supposed, from the dread which the propagation of knowledge has excited, that there was some great secret which was to be kept in impenetrable obscurity; that all rmoral rules were a species of delusion and imposture, the detection of which, by the improvement of the understanding, would be attended with the most fatal consequences to all, and particularly to women. If we could possibly understand what these great secrets were, we might, perhaps, be disposed to concur in their preservation; but, believing that all the salutary rules which are imposed on women are the result of true wisdom, and productive of the greatest happiness, we cannot understand how they are to become less sensible of this truth in proportion as their power of discovering truth in general is increased, and the habit of viewing questions with accuracy and comprehension established by education. There are men, indeed, who are always exclaiming against every species of power, because it is connected with danger. Their dread of abuses is so much stronger than their admiration f uses, that they would cheerfully give up the use of fire, gunpowder, and printing, to be freed from robbers, incendiaries and libels. It is true, that every increase of know
ledge may possibly render depravity more depraved, as well as it may increase the strength of virtue. It is in itself only power; and its value depends on its application. But, trust to the natural love of good where there is no temptation to be bad; it operates no where more forcibly than in education. No man, whether he be tutor, guardian, or friend, ever contents himself, with infusing the mere ability to acquire; but, giving the power, he gives with it a taste for the wise and rational exercise of that power; so that an educated person is not only one with stronger and better faculties thanothers, but with a more useful propensity; a disposition better cultivated, and associations of a higher and more important class. In short, and to recapitulate the main points upon which we have insisted: why the disproportion in knowledge between the two sexes should be so great, when the inequality in natural talents is so small; or why the understanding of women should be lavished upon trifles, when nature has made it capable of higher and better things, we profess ourselves not able to understand. The affectation charged upon female knowledge is best cured by making that knowledge more general; and the economy devolved upon women is best secured by the ruin, disgrace, and inconvenience which proceeds from neglecting it. For the care of children, nature has made a direct and powerful provision; and the gentleness and elegance of women is the natural consequence of that desire to please, which is productive of the greatest part of civilisation and refinement, and which rests upon a foundation too deep to be shaken by any such modifications in education as we have proposed. If you educate women to attend to dignified and important subjects, you are multiplying,beyond measure, the chances of human improvement, by preparing
and medicating those early impressions, which always come from the mother; and which, in a great majority of instances, are quite decisive of character and genius. Nor is it only in the business of education that women would influence the destiny of men; if women knew more, men must learn more, for ignorance would then be shameful, and it would become the fashion to be instructed. The instruction of women improves the stock of national talents, and employs more minds for the instruction and amusement of the world; it increases the pleasures of society, by multiplying the topicks upon which the two sexes take a
common interest; and makes marriage an intercourse of understanding as well as of affection, by giving dignity and importance to the female character. The education of women favours publick morals; it provides for every season of life, as well as for the brightest and the best; and leaves a woman, when she is stricken by the hand of time, not as she now is, destitute of every thing, and neglected by all; but with the full power and the splendid attractions of knowledge, diffusing the elegant pleasures of polite literature, and receiving the just homage of learned and accomplished men.
FROM THE EDINBURGH REVIEW.
Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Victor Alfieri. Written by Himself. 2 vol. 8vo. pp. 614. London, 1810.
THIS book contains the delineation of an extraordinary and not very engaging character; and an imperfect sketch of the rise and progress of a great poetical genius. It is deserving of notice in both capacities; but chiefly in the first, as there probably never was an instance in which the works of an author were more likely to be influenced by his personal peculiarities. Pride and enthusiasm, irrepressible vehemence and ambition, and an arrogant, fastidious, and somewhat narrow system of taste and opinions, were the great leading features in the mind of Alfieri. Strengthened, and in some degree produced, by a loose and injudicious education, those traits were still further developed by the premature and protracted indulgences of a very dissipated youth; and when at last they admitted of an application to study, imparted their own character of impetuosity to those more meritorious exertions; converted a taste into a passion; and left him for a great
part of his life, under the influence of a true and irresistible inspiration. Every thing in him, indeed, appears to have been passion and ungoverned impulse; and while he was raised above the common level of his degenerate countrymen by a stern and selfwilled haughtiness, that would have better become an ancient Roman, he was chiefly distinguished from other erect spirits by the vehemence which formed the basis of his character, and by the uncontrolled dominion which he allowed to his various and successive propensities. So constantly and entirely, indeed, was he under the influence of these domineering attachments, that his whole life and character might be summed up by describing him as the victim of a passion for horses, a passion for travelling, a passion for literature, and a passion for what he called independence. The memoirs of such a life, and the confessions of such a man, seem to hold out a promise of no common interest and amusement. Yet, though they are here presented to us with considerable fulness and apparent fidelity, we cannot say that we have been much amused or interested by the perusal. There is a proud coldness in the narrative, which neitherinvites sympathy, nor flatters the imagination. The author seems to disdain giving himself en shectacle to his readers; and chronicles his various acts of extravagance and fits of passion, with a sober and languid gravity to which we can recollect no parellel. In this review of the events and feelings of a life of adventure and agitation, he is never once betrayed into the language of emotion: but dwells on the scenes of his childhood without tenderness, and on the struggles and tumults of his riper years without any sort of animation. We look in vain through the whole narrative for one gleam of that magical eloquence by which Rousseau transports us into the scenes he describes, and into the heart which responded to these scenes; or even for a trait of that sociable garrulity which has enabled Marmontel and Cumberland to give a grace to obsolete anecdote, and to people the whole space around them with living pictures of the beings among whom they existed. There is not one character attempted from beginning to end of this biography; which is neither iively, in short, nor eloquent; neither playful, impassioned, nor sarcastick. Neither is it a mere unassuming outline of the author’s history and publications, like the short notices of Hume or Smith. It is, on the contrary, a pretty copious and minute narrative of all his feelings and adventures; and contains, as we should suppose, a tolerably accurate enumeration of his migrations, prejudices, and antipathies. It is not that he does not condescend to talk about trifling things, but that he will not talk about them in a lively or interesting manner; and systematically declines investing any part of his statement
with those picturesque details, and that warm colouring, by which alone the story of an individual can often excite much interest among strangers. Though we have not been able to see the original of these memoirs, we will venture to add, that they are by no means well written; and that they will form no exception to the general observation, that almost all Italian prose is feeble and deficient in precision. There is something, indeed, quite remarkable in the wordiness of most of the modern writers in this language; the very copiousness and smoothness of which seems to form an apology for the want of force or exactness; and to hide, with its sweet and uniform flow, both from the writer and the reader, that penury of thought, and looseness of reasoning, which are so easily detected when it is rendered into a harsher dialect. Unsatisfactory, however, as they are in many particulars, it is still impossible to peruse the memoirs of such a man as Alfieri without some interest and gratification. The traits of ardour and originality that are disclosed through all the reserve and gravity of the style, beget a continual expectation and curiosity; and even those parts of his story which seem to belong rather to his youth, rank, and education, than to his genius or peculiar character, acquire a degree of importance, from considering how far these very circumstances may have assisted the formation, and obstructed the development of that character and genius; and in what respects its peculiarities may be referred to the obstacles it had to encounter, in misguidance, passion, and prejudice,
Alfieri was born at Asti, in Piedmont, of noble and rich, but illiterate parents, in January 1749. The history of his childhood, which fills five chapters, contains nothing very remarkable. The earliest thing he remembers, is being fed with sweetmeats by an old uncle with squaretoed shoes. He was educated at home by a goodnatured, stupid priest; and having no brother of his own age, was without any friend or companion for the greater part of his childhood. When about seven years old, he falls in love with the smooth faces of some male novices in a neighbouring church; and is obliged to walk about with a green net on his hair, as a punishment for fibbing. To the agony which he endured from this infliction, he ascribes his scrupulous adherence to truth through the rest of his life;— all this notwithstanding; he is tempted to steal a fan from an old lady in the family, and grows silent, melancholy and reserved. At last, when about ten years of age, he is sent to the academy at Turin. This migration adds but little to the interest of the narrative, or the improvement of the writer. The academy was a great, ill regulated establishment; in one quarter of which the pages of the court, and foreigners of distinction, were indulged in every sort of dissipation; while the younger pupils were stowed into filthy cells, ill fed, and worse educated. There he learned a little Latin, and tried, in vain, to acquire the elements of mathematicks; for, after the painful application of several months, he was never able to comprehend the fourth proposition of Euclid; and found, he says, all his life after, that he had “a completely anti-geometrical head.” From the bad diet, and preposterously early hours of the academy, he soon fell into wretched health, and, growing more melancholy and solitary than ever, became covered over with sores and ulcers. Even in this situation, however, a little glimmering of literary ambition became visible. He procured a copy of Ariosto from a voracious school fellow, by giving up to him his share of the chickens which formed their Sunday regale; and read Mctastasio and Gil Blas with
great ardour and delight. The
inflammability of his imagination,
however, was more strikingly mani
fested in the effects of the first opera to which he was admitted,
when he was only about twelve
years of age.
“This varied and enchanting musick,” he observes, “sunk deep into my soul, and made the most astonishing impression on my imagination; it agitated the inmost recesses of my heart to such a degree that for several weeks I experienced the most profound melancholy, which was not, however, wholly unattended with pleasure. I became tired and disgusted with my studies, while at the same time the most wild and whimsical ideas took such possession of my mind, as would have led me to portray them in the most impassioned verses, had I not been wholly unacquainted with the true nature of my own feelings. It was the first time musick had produced such a powerful effect on my mind...I had never experienced any thing similar, and it long remained engraven on my memory. When I recollect the feelings excited by the representation of the grand operas, at which I was present during several carnivals, and compare them with those which I now experience, on returning from the preformance of a piece I have not witnessed for some time, I am fully convinced that nothing acts so powerfully on my mind as all species of musick, and particularly the sound of female voices, and of contro.
alto. Nothing excites more various or
terrifick sensations in my mind. Thus the plots of the greatest number of my tragedies were either formed, while listening to musick, or a few hours afterwards.” p. 71--73. ~
With this tragick and Italian passion for musick, he had a sovereign contempt and abhorrence for dancing. His own account of the origin of this antipathy, and of the first rise of those national prejudices, which he never afterwards made any effort to overcome, is among the most striking and characteristick passages in the earlier part of the story.
“To the natural hatred I had to dancing, was joined an invincible antipathy towards my master, a Frenchman new.