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INDEX TO VOL, CXXXVI.,
ART. 1.— The Works of George Berkeley, D.D., formerly
Bishop of Cloyne ; including many of his Writings hitherto unpublished. With Prefaces, Annotations, his Life and Letters, and an Account of his Philosophy. By ALEXANDER CAMPBELL FRASER, M.A., Professor of Logic and Metaphysics in the University of Edinburgh. In 4 vols.
Oxford : 1871. Bishop BERKELEY's literary and philosophical labours are
often considered too much apart from the personal, local, and temporary influences that helped so powerfully to direct and mould all the activities of his life. Hardly any writer reflects more perfectly the very form and pressure of his own time, and few have been so habitually criticised from a purely abstract point of view. He has been usually regarded as a metaphysician or a moralist intent on the elaboration of philosophical theories, rather than as an Irish Churchman and keen controversialist, whose sympathies and aims were completely identified with the theological polemics of his own day. It is impossible, however, to form a just or adequate judgment of Berkeley's philosophy, without considering the ruling impulses of his mind, and the historical conditions under which they were developed. We shall endeavour to take some account of both in the short notice of his life and labours, which is all that can be attempted in the space at our command. Professor Fraser's excellent edition supplies more ample and trustworthy materials than were previously available for such a review. The editor has not only cleared up many doubtful points in Berkeley's life, but has had the good fortune to
VOL. CXXXVI. NO. CCLXXVII.
recover a number of hitherto unpublished manuscripts which are of considerable biographical service. This is especially true of the Diary of Foreign Travel and the Commonplace Book which the editor has discovered amongst the Berkeley manuscripts. While all the papers have some interest, this latter volume has a peculiar value, as it contains Berkeley's rough notes of the facts and arguments to be used in the New Theory
of Vision, and in the elaboration of his ideal system. Ail the main arguments of these works are to be found in the hasty jottings of his early college days, and they often appear with special vividness and force from being as it were direct transcripts of the thoughts as they first struck his own mind. The Commonplace Book is thus of the highest service in enabling us to trace the growth and progress of his system as it was gradually evolved out of one or two central principles.
Little is definitely known about Berkeley's earlier years beyond the fact that he was born in March 1685, in one of the most beautiful districts of the south of Ireland, near Dysart Castle, about twelve miles from the city of Kilkenny. The old castle, with the connected modern building in which Berkeley's childhood was passed, is finely situated in a wooded valley watered by the sparkling Vore. The picturesque sweep and sylvan quietude of this green valley, broken only by the dash and ripple of the winding river, was the very spot to quicken and develope the keen sensibility to natural beauty which Berkeley possessed, as well as to gratify the love of its soothing meditative influences which remained with him to the end of life. Here the ardent boy indulged his juvenile daydreams, fed to the full his romantic passion for solitary coinmunion with nature and his own thoughts, and formed from the materials of childish reading, observation, and refleotion, his earliest ideal world. He was fortunate in being early sent to one of the best schools in Ireland- the Grammar School or College of Kilkenny, long celebrated for its excellent masters and the many eminent pupils it sent into the world. The old school-house of this · Eton of Ireland,' a curious half-monastie building, three stories high, with massive iron-studded oak doors and quaint chimneys, gables, and gurgoyles, had a large rambling garden and meadow at the back, leading down to the Nore, and commanded by the ancient castle of the Ormonds on the opposite bank. From these College grounds 'there is a fine view of the adjacent city rising in castellated power and cathedral dignity above the river and the bridge, and awakeiing in the travelled spectator's mind blended recollections of Warwick, Oxford, and Windsor. The scene and circumstances
of his early training were thus of a kind to impress deeply on Berkeley's mind the charm of collegiate activity and repose, the academic partialities, the strong institutional sympathies and associations, which his whole after life proved it was peculiarly fitted to receive and retain. Dr. Hinton, the head-master of Kilkenny School, was an excellent tutor, and young Berkeley, during the four years of his residence there, must have made good progress, and reached the foremost place in the schoolranks before he left. He was evidently a precocious pupil, who came up thoroughly well prepared ; as the college register shows that, although only eleven years of age, he entered at once the second class, instead of taking his place on the lower forms of the school, as most boys, even much older, were accustomed to do. His companion and friend Prior, though more than three years his senior, was placed in one of the lower classes on entering the school.
What young Berkeley's habits and pursuits at the old Kilkenny School were, we have no means of knowing in any detail. But two or three autobiographical fragments in the Commonplace Book throw some light on his characteristic turn of thought and tendency of mind, even at this early period. Slight as they are, these hints furnished by himself are peculiarly significant and instructive. The first of the personal entries occurs immediately after a reference to the reasonings of Locke and Malebranche about the primary and secondary properties of body. Having briefly noticed these, and dwelt at greater length on some disputed questions in recent mathematical works, he adds: “Mem. That I was
distrustful at eight years old, and consequently by nature * disposed for these new doctrines.' This must be understood to mean that even in his earlier years he was of an inquiring turn of mind, not given to take things on trust, but disposed to investigate for himself, and have notions and ideas of his
Even at school he had his juvenile schemes, his youthful Utopias and ideals, often, no doubt, of a romantic and extreme kind; and the second personal reference, found amongst his hasty jottings, tends to show that even then, instead of being content to keep these ideals to himself, he was compelled by an irresistible prompting of nature to communicate them to others, and seek to gain them over to his views. In this autobiographical note he says : ‘He that would bring another over to his opinion must seem to harmonise with him at first, and humour him in his own way of talking. From my childhood, I had an unaccountable turn of thought that way This is an exquisite touch of rare self-knowledge. It describes with perfect accuracy Berkeley's eager desire for influence over others, and his intuitive perception of the arts by which it is secured. The reference indicates, moreover, a shrewdness of social insight and aptitude for persuasive speech which is thoroughly Irish. In this delightfully Celtic account of the true way of winning another to your opinion, we see depicted the future author of The Principles of Human Knowledge, and of the Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous.' In all literature, it would be difficult to find a more extreme illustration of the art of humouring an opponent in his own way of talking than is supplied by these works. We need only refer to Berkeley's reiterated and almost desperate attempts to show that his central principle as to the non-existence of external objeets is in perfect harmony with vulgar opinion and belief. Well might his critics say that in these attempts he somewhat severely strained both his own positions and the vulgar belief in order to give them the faintest colouring of agreement.
But Berkeley's dexterity in the use of this rhetorical artifice was evidently the result of long and early practice. From his childhood he had evinced an unaccountable turn that way. He had no doubt tried his powers of persuasive speech in defending many a juvenile paradox, first among the family circle at Dysart Castle, and then with his companions at the old Kilkenny College. And we may be sure that, however startling or extreme the notion that absorbed his mind might be, the boy's argumentative keenness and rhetorical skill would give it plausibility enough to impress his youthful companions. Nay, the novelty of the opinion, and the enthusiastic confidence displayed in its defence, are the very qualities best fitted to strike the imagination and win the support of eager and generous youthful minds. The combination of intellectual freshness and moral intrepidity, the union of uncommon thoughts with resolute yet conciliatory zeal in their exposition and defence, is indeed very much the secret of Berkeley's strong personal influence in after life. But it is clear this influence made itself felt even at school. In those early days, his ardent nature, logical dexterity, and persuasive tongue had secured him a following, and one of his boyish followers remained a devoted adherent to the end of life. This was Thomas Prior, the dear Tom' of Berkeley's extensive correspondence from London and the Continent. The lifelong friendship with Prior evidently began at school, and we may safely conclude from their subsequent relations that, although Prior was three years older, he soon fell completely under Berkeley's influence, and came to regard him as a kind