« 前へ次へ »
impressive import, the astronomers became mauvais ton; and the Parisian women of fashion took to pet geometers, as the pendants for their pet monkeys. D'Alembert became the Coryphæus of the French boudoirs; and the Tencins, and the Du Deffands fought for the possession of the least gallant man and the first geometrician of his age; who, in his turn, made way for chemistry and Lavoisier.
The English, who have been called a nation of shopkeepers, and who mingle trade even with their love of science, took to chemistry with an enthusiasm proportioned to its utility in the arts; much in the same way as the kings and nobles of a former age had brought alchemy into vogue, as an instrument of their avarice. Although natural history entered the lists with its experimental rival, and canvassed for vogue in the library of Sir Joseph Bankes, oxygen and hydrogen carried the field; and Sir Humphry Davy, with his class of aristocratic beauties in the west, was
as much revered as the “ premier baron de la Judée" is in the east.
Chemistry, however, has had its day; and the Ricardos and Malthuses have succeeded, to turn the heads of those, whom nature intended only to turn the heads of others to be succeeded in the next generation by-God knows what. In France, the once popular electricity of Franklin, and the cognate study of the magnet, have given birth to the reigning folly of Mesmerism; and in England, the popular labours of the Hunters have terminated in the current vogue of craniology. Who can answer for it, that the necessities of no-popery may not revive the witchcraft of King James, and call to its aid the penal dicta of some new Matthew Hale, for the better putting down of dangerous papists ?
Even the divine arts, which are of all ages, have experienced the full versatility of human affairs. Protestantism made war upon the successors of the Raphaels; and great pictures went out, with great cathedrals and great palaces. Pitt dealt a severe back-handed blow to engraving ; while wealth, snugness, and personal vanity, combined to give currency to portraits of gentlemen and ladies. Now, we have lithography opening a new career to genius and industry; and every day teems with fresh discoveries, all, more or less, infuencing the destiny of the imitative arts.
Neither are the learned professions built upon a more solid foundation. Theology, notwithstanding the fashionable sanctity, is obsolete; law is at a considerable discount, and physicians are set on one side, to give place for the triumphal car of surgery. The fact is, that society, like nature, bent on its own great purposes, steadily pursues the course of its interests; and it sustains, for the moment, those pursuits, and those only, for which it has an immediate and pressing occasion. It is in vain that we look for the architectural skill which raised the ponderous temples of Egypt, or the more graceful, but less substantial, edifices of Greece. Mortar and Roman cement have substituted the Nashes and the Wyatvilles, for the protégés of the Ptolemys and Pericles; and the reign of George the Fourth cannot, in physical possibility, become the age of Augustus. The house of brick, will never become the house of marble.
TALKING the other day of small rooms and glaring lights, where all is in evidence, I made them my excuse for indulging in a tendency to make up my coterie of pleasant men and pretty women, and to keep out the twaddles of both sexes, for which I am much abused. It is not long since a philosophical friend of mine, one always deeply occupied in promoting the highest and best interests of society, by perfecting science in its most sublime and useful directions, called on me, and found me most frivolously, but earnestly, employed in filling up cards for a very small party. “I am come,' he said, “ to ask a favour." I started : for, delighted as at all times I am to improve my society by enlisting him amongst its members, I was yet terribly afraid he was going to ask leave to bring with him some of those young disciples, who flock to his class from all parts of Europe, but who (un
less one could ticket them) do not answer quite so well for a fashionable party, as for a laboratory or a dissecting room. I was really, therefore, never more relieved, than when I found it was not a card for my soirée he wanted, but only my head, literally and truly my head ;--that is, be it understood, when the commodity should no longer be of use to its owner. I readily gave him a post-obit on the only productive estate I ever possessed, delighted to save my “at home” even at so capital an expense.
It would, however, be a mistake, to accuse me of aristocratical leanings with respect to society. Something I must have-worth, wit, rank, fashion, beauty, notoriety, or an old friend. I will take even a diamond necklace, or an hussar suit of regimentals, value one hundred pounds, with, or without the wearer : but I do not want what musical cognoscenti call “ perruque ;” because I have no spare space to fill up, no corners to cram, like people who have large houses.
A propos to an untenanted uniform and an unappropriated necklace by way of lion, I once hung up on the divisions of my bookcase a little tunic;