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never so heavily, it can not be irksome to his dozing | minated by no resulting phenomena. To make
Yet it ought to be observed, that, of late, learning has been patronized here by a prince, who, in the humblest station, would have been the first of mankind. The society established by the king of Prussia, at Berlin, is one of the finest literary institutions that any age or nation has produced. Yet, very probably, even this fine institution will This academy comprehends all the sciences under soon decay. As it rose, so it will decline with its four different classes; and although the object of great encourager. The society, if I may so speak, each is different, and admits of being separately is artificially supported. The introduction of fotreated, yet these classes mutually influence the reigners of learning was right; but in adopting a progress of each other, and concur in the same foreign language also, I mean the French, in which general design. Experimental philosophy, mathe-all the transactions are to be published, and quesmatics, metaphysics, and polite literature, are here tions debated, in this there was an error. As I carried on together. The members are not col- have already hinted, the language of the natives of lected from among the students of some obscure every country should be also the language of its seminary, or the wits of a metropolis, but chosen polite learning. To figure in polite learning, every from all the literati of Europe, supported by the country should make their own language from their bounty, and ornamented by the productions of their own manners; nor will they ever succeed by introroyal founder. We can easily discern how much ducing that of another, which has been formed such an institution excels any other now subsisting. from manners which are different. Besides, an One fundamental error among societies of this kind, academy composed of foreigners must still be reis their addicting themselves to one branch of sci-cruited from abroad, unless all the natives of the ence, or some particular part of polite learning. country to which it belongs, are in a capacity of Thus, in Germany, there are no where so many becoming candidates for its honours or rewards. establishments of this nature; but as they generally While France therefore continues to supply Berlin, profess the promotion of natural or medical know- polite learning will flourish; but when royal favour ledge, he who reads their Acta will only find an is withdrawn, learning will return to its natural obscure farago of experiment, most frequently ter- country.
Or Polite Learning in Holland, and some other Countries of
transient, acquire stability in proportion as they are connected with the laws of the country; and philosophy and law have no where been so closely united as here.
Sweden has of late made some attempts in polite learning in its own language. Count Tessin's instructions to the prince, his pupil, are no bad be
HOLLAND, at first view, appears to have some pretensions to polite learning. It may be regarded as the great emporium, not less of literature than of ginning. If the Muses can fix their residence so every other commodity. Here, though destitute far northward, perhaps no country bids so fair for of what may be properly called a language of their their reception. They have, Iain told, a language own, all the languages are understood, cultivated, rude but energetic; if so, it will bear a polish. They and spoken. All useful inventions in arts, and have also a jealous sense of liberty, and that strength new discoveries in science, are published here almost of thinking peculiar to northern climates, without as soon as at the places which first produced them. its attendant ferocity. They will certainly in time Its individuals have the same faults, however, with produce somewhat great, if their intestine divisions do not unhappily prevent them.
the Germans, of making more use of their memory - than their judgment. The chief employment of their literati is to criticise, or answer, the new performances which appear elsewhere.
The history of polite learning in Denmark may be comprised in the life of one single man: it rose and fell with the late famous Baron Holberg. This
A dearth of wit in France or England naturally was, perhaps, one of the most extraordinary perproduces a scarcity in Holland. What Ovid says sonages that has done honour to the present cenof Echo, may be applied here, Nec loqui prius ipsa tury. His being the son of a private sentinel did didicit nec reticere loquenti. They wait till some- not abate the ardour of his ambition, for he learned thing new comes out from others; examine its me- to read though without a master. Upon the death rits, and reject it, or make it reverberate through of his father, being left entirely destitute, he was in the rest of Europe. volved in all that distress which is common among the poor, and of which the great have scarcely any idea. However, though only a boy of nine years
After all, I know not whether they should be allowed any national character for polite learning. All their taste is derived to them from neighbouring old, he still persisted in pursuing his studies, tra
nations, and that in a language not their own. They somewhat resemble their brokers, who trade for immense sums without having any capital. The other countries of Europe may be consider- lower occupations, which seem best adapted to such ed as immersed in ignorance, or making but feeble circumstances, he was resolved to travel for imefforts to rise. Spain has long fallen from amazing provement from Norway, the place of his birth, to Europe with her wit, to amusing them with the Copenhagen the capital city of Denmark. He greatness of her catholic credulity. Rome consi- lived there by teaching French, at the same time ders her as the most favourite of all her children, avoiding no opportunity of improvement that his and school divinity still reigns there in triumph. scanty funds could permit. But his ambition was In spite of all attempts of the Marquis D'Ensana- not to be restrained, or his thirst of knowledge sada, who saw with regret the barbarity of his coun- tisfied, until he had seen the world. Without motrymen, and bravely offered to oppose it by intro- ney, recommendations, or friends, he undertook to ducing new systems of learning, and suppressing set out upon his travels, and make the tour of Euthe seminaries of monastic ignorance; in spite of rope on foot. A good voice, and a trifling skill in the ingenuity of Padré Feio, whose book of vulgar music, were the only finances he had to support an errors so finely exposes the monkish stupidity of undertaking so extensive; so he travelled by day, the times, the religious have prevailed. Ensana- and at night sung at the door of peasants' houses da has been banished, and now lives in exile. Feio to get himself a lodging. In this manner, while has incurred the hatred and contempt of every bigot yet very young, Holberg passed through France, whose errors he has attempted to oppose, and feels Germany, and Holland; and coming over to Engno doubt the unremitting displeasure of the priest- land, took up his residence for two years in the hood. Persecution is a tribute the great must ever university of Oxford. Here he subsisted by teachpay for pre-eminence. ing French and music, and wrote his universal It is a little extraordinary, however, how Spain, history, his earliest, but worst performance. Furwhose genius is naturally fine, should be so much nished with all the learning of Europe, he at last behind the rest of Europe in this particular; or thought proper to return to Copenhagen, where his why school divinity should hold its ground there ingenious productions quickly gained him that fafor nearly six hundred years. The reason must vour he deserved. He composed not less than eighbe that philosophical opinions, which are otherwise teen comedies. Those in his own language are
velled about from school to school, and begged his learning and his bread. When at the age of seventeen, instead of applying himself to any of the
said to excel, and those which are translated into splendour. In other places learning has not yet French have peculiar merit. He was honoured been planted, or has suffered a total decay. To with nobility, and enriched by the bounty of the attempt amendment there, would be only like the king; so that a life begun in contempt and penury, application of remedies to an insensible or a morti. ended in opulence and esteem. fied part, but here there is still life, and there is Thus we see in what a low state polite learning hope. And indeed the French themselves are so is in the countries I have mentioned; either past far from giving into any despondence of this kind, its prime, or not yet arrived at maturity. And that on the contrary, they admire the progress they though the sketch I have drawn be general, yet it are daily making in every science. That levity, for was for the most part taken on the spot. I am sen- which we are apt to despise this nation, is probably sible, however, of the impropriety of national reflec- the principal source of their happiness. An agree. tion; and did not truth bias me more than inclina-able oblivion of past pleasures, a freedom from solition in this particular, I should, instead of the account citude about future ones, and a poignant zest of already given, have presented the reader with a every present enjoyment, if they be not philosophy, panegyric on many of the individuals of every coun-are at least excellent substitutes. By this they are try, whose merits deserve the warmest strains of taught to regard the period in which they live with praise. Apostolo Zeno, Algarotti, Goldoni, Mu- admiration. The present manners, and the preratori, and Stay, in Italy; Haller, Klopstock, and sent conversation, surpass all that preceded. A Rabner, in Germany; Muschenbroek, and Gau- similar enthusiasm as strongly tinctures their learnbius, in Holland; all deserve the highest applause. ing and their taste. While we, with a despondence Men like these, united by one bond, pursuing one characteristic of our nature, are for removing back design, spend their labour and their lives in making British excellence to the reign of Queen Elizabeth, their fellow-creatures happy, and in repairing the our more happy rivals of the continent cry up the breaches caused by ambition. In this light, the writers of the present times with rapture, and remeanest philosopher, though all his possessions are gard the age of Louis XV. as the true Augustan his lamp or his cell, is more truly valuable than he age of France. whose name echoes to the shout of the million, and The truth is, their present writers have not fall who stands in all the glare of admiration. In this en so far short of the merits of their ancestors as light, though poverty and contemptuous neglect ours have done. That self-sufficiency now menare all the wages of his good-will from mankind, tioned, may have been of service to them in this paryet the rectitude of his intention is an ample re-ticular. By fancying themselves superior to their compense; and self-applause for the present, and ancestors, they have been encouraged to enter the the alluring prospect of fame for futurity, reward lists with confidence; and by not being dazzled at his labours. The perspective of life brightens up- the splendour of another's reputation, have someon us, when terminated by an object so charming. times had sagacity to mark out an unbeaten path to Every intermediate image of want, banishment, or fame for themselves. sorrow, receives a lustre from its distant influence. Other causes also may be assigned, that their With this in view, the patriot, philosopher, and second growth of genius is still more vigorous than poet, have often looked with calmness on disgrace ours. Their encouragements to merit are more and famine, and rested on their straw with cheer- skilfully directed, the link of patronage and learnful serenity. Even the last terrors of departing ing still continues unbroken. The French nobility nature abate of their severity, and look kindly on have certainly a most pleasing way of satisfying the him who considers his sufferings as a passport to vanity of an author, without indulging his avarice. immortality, and lays his sorrows on the bed of A man of literary merit is sure of being caressed by fame. the great, though seldom enriched. His pension from the crown just supplies half a competence, and the sale of his labours makes some small addition to his circumstances. Thus the author leads a life of splendid poverty, and seldom becomes wealthy or indolent enough to discontinue an exertion of those abilities by which he rose. With We have hitherto seen, that wherever the poet the English it is different. Our writers of rising was permitted to begin by improving his native merit are generally neglected, while the few of an language, polite learning flourished; but where the established reputation are overpaid by luxurious afcritic undertook the same task, it has never risen fluence. The young encounter every hardship to any degree of perfection. Let us now examine which generally attends upon aspiring indigence; the merits of modern learning in France and Eng- the old enjoy the vulgar, and perhaps the more pruland; where, though it may be on the decline, yet dent, satisfaction, of putting riches in competition it is still capable of retrieving much of its former with fame. Those are often seen to spend their
Of Polite Learning in France.
youth in want and obscurity; these are sometimes are generally the result of much good-nature and tound to lead an old age of indolence and avarice. little experience.
But such treatment must naturally be expected from Piron, an author possessed of as much wit as Englishmen, whose national character it is to be any man alive, yet with as little prudence to turn it slow and cautious in making friends, but violent in to his own advantage. A comedy of his, called friendships once contracted. The English nobili-La Métromanie, is the best theatrical production ty, in short, are often known to give greater re- that has appeared of late in Europe. But I know wards to genius than the French, who, however, not whether I should most commend his genius or are much more judicious in the application of their censure his obscenity. His Ode à Priape has justempty favours. ly excluded him from a place in the academy of BelThe fair sex in France have also not a little con-les-Lettres. However, the good-natured Montestributed to prevent the decline of taste and literature, quieu, by his interest, procured the starving bard a by expecting such qualifications in their admirers. trifling pension. His own epitaph was all the reA man of fashion at Paris, however contemptible venge he took upon the academy for being repulsed. we may think him here, must be acquainted with Ci-git Piron, qui ne fut jamais rien, the reigning modes of philosophy as well as of dress, Pas meme académicien. to be able to entertain his mistress agreeably. The Crebillon, junior, a writer of real merit, but guilsprightly pedants are not to be caught by dumb ty of the same indelicate faults with the former. show, by the squeeze of the hand, or the ogling of Wit employed in dressing up obscenity is like the a broad eye; but must be pursued at once through art used in painting a corpse; it may be thus renall the labyrinths of the Newtonian system, or the dered tolerable to one sense, but fails not quickly metaphysics of Locke. I have seen as bright a cir- to offend some other. cle of beauty at the chemical lectures of Rouelle as Gresset is agreeable and easy. His comedy callgracing the court of Versailles. And indeed wis-ed the Méchant, and a humorous poem entitled dom never appears so charming as when graced and protected by beauty.
Ververt, have original merit. He was bred a Jesuit; but his wit procured his dismission from the society. This last work particularly could expect no pardon from the Convent, being a satire against nunneries!
D'Alembert has united an extensive skill in scientifical learning with the most refined taste for the polite arts. His excellence in both has procured him a seat in each academy.
To these advantages may be added, the reception of their language in the different courts of Europe. An author who excels is sure of having all the polite for admirers, and is encouraged to write by the pleasing expectation of universal fame. Add to this, that those countries who can make nothing good from their own language, have lately began to write in this, some of whose productions contribute to support the present literary reputation of France. There are, therefore, many among the French of the Sorbonne. It was levelled against Chriswho do honour to the present age, and whose writ-tianity, and the Sorbonne too hastily gave it their ings will be transmitted to posterity with an ample sanction. They perceived its purport, however, share of fame; some of the most celebrated are as when it was too late. The college was brought infollow:to some contempt, and the abbé obliged to take refuge at the court of Berlin.
Diderot is an elegant writer and subtle reasoner, He is the supposed author of the famous Thesis which the abbé Prade sustained before the doctors
Voltaire, whose voluminous, yet spirited productions are too well known to require an eulogy. The Marquis D'Argens attempts to add the Does he not resemble the champion mentioned by character of a philosopher to the vices of a debauXenophon, of great reputation in all the gymnastic chee. exercises united, but inferior to each champion The catalogue might be increased with several singly, who excels only in one? other authors of merit, such as Marivaux, Lefranc, Montesquieu, a name equally deserving fame Saint-Foix, Destouches, and Modonville; but let it with the former. The Spirit of Laws is an instance suffice to say, that by these the character of the how much genius is able to lead learning. His sys-present age is tolerably supported. Though their tem has been adopted by the literati; and yet, is it poets seldom rise to fine enthusiasm, they never not possible for opinions equa plausible to be sink into absurdity; though they fail to astonish, formed upon opposite principles, if a genius like they are generally possessed of talents to please. his could be found to attempt such an undertaking? He seems more a poet than a philosopher.
The age of Louis XIV, notwithstanding these respectable names, is still vastly superior. For beside the general tendency of critical corruption,
Rousseau of Geneva, a professed man-hater, or more properly speaking, a philosopher enraged with which shall be spoken of by and by, there are other one half of mankind, because they unavoidably symptoms which indicate a decline. There is, for make the other half unhappy. Such sentiments instance. a fondness of scepticism,
through the works of some of their most applauded on many principles, and some even opposite to
Of Learning in Great Britain.
The writers of this country have also of late fallen into a method of considering every part of art and science as arising from simple principles. The success of Montesquieu, and one or two more, has To acquire a character for learning among the induced all the subordinate ranks of genius into vi- English at present, it is necessary to know much cious imitation. To this end they turn to our view more than is either important or useful. It seems that side of the subject which contributes to sup- the spirit of the times for men here to exhaust their port their hypothesis, while the objections are gen- natural sagacity in exploring the intricacies of ano erally passed over in silence. Thus a universal ther man's thought, and thus never to have leisure system rises from a partial representation of the to think for themselves. Others have carried on question, a whole is concluded from a part, a book learning from that stage, where the good sense of appears entirely new, and the fancy-built fabric is our ancestors have thought it too minute or too styled for a short time very ingenious. In this speculative to instruct or amuse. By the industry manner, we have seen of late almost every subject of such, the sciences, which in themselves are easy in morals, natural history, politics, economy, and of access, affright the learner with the severity of commerce, treated. Subjects naturally proceeding their appearance. He sees them surrounded with