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nate events of my life. A near relation of mine, a lady whose edu. cation had been superior to that commonly bestowed on Spanish females, possessed a small collection of Spanish and French books. Among these were the works of Don Fray Benito Feyjoo, a Benedictine monk, who, rising above the intellectual level of his country, about the beginning of the present (18th) century, had the boldness to attack every established error, which was not under the immediate patronage of religion. His mind was endowed with extraordinary clearness and acuteness; and having, by an extensive reading of Latin and French works, acquired a great mass of information on physical and historical subjects, he displayed it, with peculiar felicity of expression, in a long series of discourses and letters, forming a work of fourteen large closely printed volumes."*
“ It was not without difficulty that I obtained leave to try whether my mind, which had hitherto lain a perfect waste, was strong enough to understand and relish Feyjoo. But it came like the spring showers upon a thirsty soil. A man's opinion of the first work he read when a boy, cannot safely be trusted; but, to judge from the avidity with which at the age of fifteen I devoured fourteen volumes on miscellaneous subjects, and the surprising impulse they gave to my yet unfolded faculties, Feyjoo must be a writer who deserves more notice than he has ever obtained from his countrymen. If I can trust my recollection, he had deeply imbibed the spirit of Lord Bacon's works, together with his utter contempt of the absurd philosophy which has been universally taught in Spain, till the last third of the eighteenth century. From Bayle, Feyjoo had learned caution in weighing historical evidence, and an habitual suspicion of the numberless opinions which, in countries unpurified by the wholesome gales of free contending thought, are allowed to range unmolested, for ages, with the same claim to the rights of prescription as frogs and insects have to their stagnant pools. In a pleasing and popular style, Feyjoo acquainted his countrymen with whatever discoveries in experimental philosophy had been made by Boyle at that time. He declared open war against quackery of all kinds. Miracles and visions which had not received the sanction of the Church of Rome did not escape the scrutinizing eye of the bold Benedictine. Such, in fact, was the alarm produced by his works on the all-believing race for whom he wrote, that nothing but the patronage of Ferdinand VI. prevented his being silenced with the ultima ratio of Spanish divines-the Inquisition.
“ Had the power of Aladdin's lamp placed me within the richest subterraneous palace described in the Arabian Nights, it could not have produced the raptures I experienced from the intellectual treasure of which I now imagined myself the master. Physical strength developes itself so gradually, that few, I am inclined to think, derive pleasure from a sudden start of bodily vigour. But my mind, like a young bird in the nest, had lived unconscious of its wings, till this unexpected leader had, by his boldness, allured it into flight. From a state of mere animal life, I found myself at once possessed of the
• Feyjoo died in 1765. Several of his Essays were published in English by John Brett, Esq. 1780.
faculty of thinking; and I can scarcely conceive, that the soul, emerging after death into a higher rank of existence, shall feel and try its new powers with a keener delight. My knowledge, it is true, was contined to a few physical and historical facts; but I had, all at once, learned to reason, to argue, to doubt. To the surprise and alarm of my good relatives, I had been changed, within a few weeks, into a sceptic who, without questioning religious subjects, would not allow any one of the settled notions to pass for its current value. My mother, with her usual penetration, perceived the new tendency of my mind, and thanked Heaven, in my presence, that Spain was my native country; · else,' she said, he would soon quit the pale of the church.'
The main advantage, however, I owed to my new powers, was a speedy emancipation from the Aristotelic school of the Dominicans. I had, sometimes, dipped into the second volume of their Elements of Philosophy, and had found, to my utter dismay, that they denied the existence of a vacuum-one of my then favourite doctrines, and attributed the ascent of liquids by suction, to the horror of nature at being wounded and torn. Now, it so happened that Feyjoo had given me the clearest notions on the theory of the sucking-pump, and the relative gravity of air and water. Nothing, therefore, could equal my contempt of those monks, who could still contend for the old system of sympathies and antipathies. A reprimand from the reverend Professor of Logic, for my utter inattention to his lectures, sprung, at length, the mine which, charged with the first scraps of learning, and brimful of boyish conceit, had long been ready to explode.
“ Had the Friar remonstrated with me in private, my habitual timidity would have sealed up my lips. But he rated me before the whole class, and that fired up my indignation. Rising from my seat with a courage so new to me that it seemed to be inspired, I boldly declared my determination not to burden and pervert my mind with the absurdities that were taught in their schools. Being asked, with a sarcastic smile, which were the doctrines that had thus incurred my disapprobation, I visibly surprised the Professor-o bright genius himself-with the theory of the sucking-pump, and actually non-plused him on the mighty question of vacuum. To be thus bearded by a stripling, was more than his professional humility could bear. He bade me thank my family for not being that moment turned out of the class; assuring me, however, that my father should be acquainted with my impertinence in the course of that day. Yet, I must do justice to his good-nature and moderation in checking the students, who wished to serve me, like Sancho, with a blanketing.
“ Before the threatened message could reach my father, I had, with great rhetorical skill, engaged maternal pride and fear in my favour. In what colours the friar may have painted my imprudence, I neither learned nor cared ; for my mother, whose dislike of the Dominicans, as the enemies of the Jesuits, had been roused by the public reprimand of the Professor, took the whole matter into her hands, and, before the end of the week, I heard, with rapture, that my name was to be entered at the University.
“ Having thus luckily obtained the object of my wishes, I soon retrieved my character for industry, and received the public thanks of my new Professor. What might have been my progress under a better system than that of a Spanish university, vanity will probably not allow me to judge with fairness. I will, therefore, content myself with laying a sketch of that system before the reader.”
(To be continued.)
In the first search of the mind after knowledge, when its appetite is eager, history presents it with a crowd of facts, personages, and adventures, which it greedily devours and indiscriminately enjoys. These possess at that period all the charms of romance, superadded to those of reality, without the semblance of which, at least, we are not satisfied at first. And youth, in the freshness and abundance of feeling, can interest itself in any characters and events, however drily delineated or barrenly detailed. But there is nothing sooner learned than the insipidity of truth. The stock of active feeling becomes exhausted proportionably as the craving for it increases; and we turn from the survey of things as they are, to the more Aattering pictures of imagination and reverie.
'Tis strange,—but our opinions used to be exactly the reverse. Fiction seemed to be the fit amusement of infancy and youth,-history the solid nourishment of mature age.
We have found it otherwise; and were we egotistical enough to argue from private experience, we would describe youth as the reign of matter-of-fact-as a season spent in systematizing, and in forming common-place books and chronological tables; and manhood as a state, in which all we formerly called real and solid had lost its attraction—worn out its gilding as it were; and of which the only solace was in those imaginations and idealities, which youth did not know or need.
Though the mode of education now prevalent introduces us first to fiction,--to Robinson Crusoe, to Ovid, to Virgil, and leaves us to find out the reality afterwards ourselves, the contrary one should think, were more natural as well as more beneficial. We, who spring from the earth and journey toward the heaven, should proceed from the solid to the fanciful. We, who have to guide ourselves through the rude collisions of the world before we can aspire to a loftier, should learn the circumstances, the habits, the rules of life, ere we launched into dreary speculation. We should be taught to build fabrics on earth, ere we learned to erect them in the air; and should assign to each season of life those occupations, which suit the different realms on which they border;
“ A youth of action, an old age of dreams."
In youth the indulgence of ideality undermines the heart and obliterates the feelings, absorbs the mind in selfish speculation and isolates it in itself. Amusement becomes business, hours of excitement are frenzy and irritation, the rest languor and irksomeness
“ Their breath is agitation, and their life
A storm whereon they ride.” But the musings of age are calm and its hopes not fallacious, while the melancholy feeling that accompanies its retrospection to the past, is sweeter and more soothing than the gorgeous promises of youth.
But we grow marvellously heroic—quite Zimmermannish, and why ? all to prove that gray hairs are as dignified over Ariosto or the Thousand and One Nights, as they are over Locke or Adam Smith. 'Tis a selfish warmth, good Reader; for our ears yet tingle, and our liver swells (tumet jecur) with a severe objurgation we lately received, when “caught slipshod over the last new novel.”—mais revenons.
An ideal world is necessary to the mind : all nations, whether rude or civilized, have possessed one, and stocked it with scenes, personages, and occupations suitable to their respective notions of happiness. Man is not satisfied with the objects around him, and from his store of hope and prophetic feeling, builds himself a mental paradise to repose or revel in, while terror and superstition often lend their pernicious aid, intruding
gorgons, hydras, and chimæras dire." This becomes the presence-chamber of the soul, where the perceptions are received and ranked. All thoughts and objects become tinged with the prevailing air of the place, and decked either in the gay attire of fancy, or dull livery of woe. We view the world reflected in it as in a speculum, and in no other light can we view it; for to reason against feeling is impossible. This, whether produced by the ascendant genius of a few, by climate, or by divine inspiration, is the pervading spirit of each nation and age. It is this, which originates and characterizes all opinion and all habit; and to this, as to an all-actuating cause, the philosophic historian can trace every fact he narrates.
'Tis strange, that in these days we, with our attested creed and well-founded hopes of futurity, should place our ideal region so little removed from that in which we dwell—should never contemplate beings other than ourselves-should be so nailed to earth, and entangled in the thread of tale, adventure, and character, as to forget that proud privilege given us by
“Os sublimem dedit, cælumque tueri." While the rude and early nations, who were surrounded with
ignorance and doubt, were ever in the world of spirits, gods, and demigods ; treading the starry floor of Heaven, or ranging earth in the midst of invisible deities—the beautiful children of their fancy. Those were sublime delights, but there were terrors to balance them : if we have lost the one we have escaped the other; and though we may know more of spiritual things than our classic predecessors, we certainly feel less.
With the people of Greece and Rome progressive civilization had not that full effect in undermining the prevalence of imagination which it has had with us. The polite sceptic, who ceased to acknowledge the influence of Jupiter and Apollo, was still warmed by the visionary speculations of the Platonic philosophy, while the grandeur of statue and temple, the continual observance of old and venerable rites, and the yet unshaken superstitions of the vulgar, did not allow him altogether to forget the gods of Olympus. To this mild and compromising spirit succeeded the furious idealism of legend, vision, and martyrdom, restrained at first by the political struggles of the empire, and afterwards softened by mingling with the lofty, and, according to our ideas, more elegant institutions of the northern invaders. The different light and esteem in which the female sex was held by these barbarians, as they were termed, and the subsequent heightening of that esteem into romantic devotion, forms the great difference between the ideal world of the ancients and that of the moderns.
And here we have discovered the reason why we, in our visionary and fictitious tales, are contented with earth and earthly scenes, and why they despised such as insipid, unless when seasoned with deities and excursions to the Heavens. We
possess the delights of love, of feeling and refined passion, of which they had not an idea :-woman, such as we know her, was never in their imaginations or their pages.
With our elegant idéal of the sex, we can well dispense with all the affable celestials, that haunted bower and stream, that blest Anchises or Endymion ; and we would not exchange the Rebecca of Ivanhoe for all the pulpy goddesses that thronged the imperial synod of Jove.
'Tis said, that the old knights and dames of chivalry were no better than they should be perhaps so; but their theory was fine, their beau idéal of character poetically noble, and their matériel of imagination most ample, uniting the gorgeousness of the Orientals with the gloomy grandeur of the North. The peculiar and exquisite style of sentiment which they originated, we have inherited from them with much less variation than is supposed. The externals—the habits and institutions, have passed away; the subtle spirit of thought still exists the same. In rude and unthinking times this could not have been sup