Page images
PDF
EPUB

Upon--which bottom our publishers have full power to treat with the city in behalf of us authors, to enable traders to become patrons and fellows of the Royal Society*, as well as to receive certain degrees of skill in the Latin and Greek tongues, according to the quantity of the commodities which they take off our hands.

Grecian Coffee-house, July 18. The learned have so long laboured under the imputation of dryness and dulness in their accounts of their phenomena, that an ingenious gentleman of our society has resolved to write a system of philosophy in a more lively method, both as to the matter and language, than has been hitherto attempted. He read to us the plan upon which he intends to proceed. I thought his account, by way of fable of the worlds about us, had so much vivacity in it, that I could not forbear transcribing his hypothesis, to give the reader a taste of my friend's treatise, which is now in the press.

• The inferior deities, having designed on a day to play a game at football, kneaded together a numberless collection of dancing atoms into the form of seven rolling globes : and, that nature might be kept from a dull inactivity, each separate particle is endued with a principle of motion, or a power of attraction, whereby all the several parcels of matter draw each other proportionably to their magnitudes and distances into such a remarkable variety of different forms, as to produce all the wonderful ap

* Mr. Wbiston, alluded to in the following part of this paper, was at this time proposed as a member of the Royal Society, and rejected. Tbe pretended aécount of his hypothesis that follows is mere pleasantry, and not a quotation from bis book, or any true account of his Theory.'

pearances we now observe in empire, philosophy, and religion. But to proceed :

At the beginning of the game, each of the globes, being struck forward with a vast violence, ran out of sight, and wandered in a straight line through the infinite spaces. The nimble deities pursue, breath· less almost, and spent in the eager chace; each of

them caught hold of one, and stamped it with his name; as, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, and so of the rest. To prevent this inconvenience for the future, the seven are condemned to a precipitation, which in our inferior style we call gravity. Thus the tangential and centripetal forces, by their counterstruggle, make the celestial bodies describe an exact ellipsis.'

There will be added to this an appendix, in defence of the first day of the term according to the Oxford almanack, by a learned knight of this realm, with an apology for the said knight's manner of dress ; proving, that his habit, according to this hypothesis, is the true modern and fashionable ; and that buckles are not to be worn by this system, until the tenth of March in the year 1714, which, according to the computation of some of our greatest divines, is to be the first year of the millennium ; in which blessed age all habits will be reduced to a primitive simplicity; and whoever shall be found to have persevered in a constancy of dress, in spite of all the allurements of prophane and heathen habits, shall be rewarded with a never-fading doublet of a thousand years. All points in the system, which are doubted, shall be attested by the knight's extemporary oath, for the satisfaction of his readers.

Will's Coffee-house, July 18. We were upon the heroic strain this evening ; and · the question was, “What is the true sublime ?' Many very good discourses happened thereupon; after which a gentleman at the table, who is, it seems, writing on that subject, assumed the argument; and though he ran through many instances of sublimity from the ancient writers, said, he had hardly known an occasion wherein the true greatness of soul which animates a general in action is so well represented, with regard to the person of whom it was spoken, and the time in which it was writ, as in a few lines in a modern poem. There is,' continued he, nothing so forced and constrained, as what we frequently meet with in tragedies; to make a man under the weight of great sorrow, or full of meditation upon what he is soon to execute, cast about for a simile to what he himself is, or the thing which he is going to act : but there is nothing more proper and natural for a poet, whose business is to describe, and who is spectator of one in that circumstance, when his mind is working upon a great image, and that the ideas hurry upon his imagination-I say, there is nothing so natural, as for a poet to relieve and clear himself from the burden of thought at that time, by uttering his conception in simile and metaphor. The highest act of the mind of man is to possess itself with tranquillity in imminent danger, and to have its thoughts so free, as to act at that time without perplexity. The ancient authors have compared this sedate courage to a rock that remains immoveable amidst the rage of winds and waves; but that is too stupid and inanimate a similitude, and could do no credit to the hero. At other times they are all of them wonderfully obliged to a Libyan lion, which may give indeed very agreeable terrors to a description, but is no compliment to the person to whom it is applied : eagles, tigers, and wolves, are made use of on the same occasion, and very

often with inuch beauty: but this is still an honour done to the brute rather than the hero. Mars, Pallas, Bacchus, and Hercules, have each of them furnished very good similes in their time, and made, doubtless, a greater impression on the mind of a heathen, than they have on that of a modern reader. But the sublime image that I am talking of, and which I really think as great as ever entered into the thought of man, is in the poem called “The Campaign* ; where the simile of a ministering angel sets forth the most sedate and the most active courage, engaged in an uproar of nature, a confusion of elements, and a scene of divine vengeance. Add to all, that these lines compliment the general and his queen at the same time, and have all the natural horrors heightened by the image that was still fresh in the mind of every readert:

'Twas then great Marlbro's mighty soul was prov'd,

That, in the shock of charging hosts unmovid,
Amidst confusion, borror, and despair,
Examin'd all the dreadful scenes of war;
In peaceful thought the field of death survey'd,
To fainting squadrons sent the timely aid,
Inspir'd repuls'd battalions to engage,
And taught the doubtful battle where to rage.
So when an Angel, by divine command,
With rising tempests shakes a guilty land,
Such as of late o'er pale Britannia past,
Calm and serene he drives the furious blast;
And, pleas'd th' Almighty's orders to perform,

Rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm 1.' "The whole poem is so exquisitely noble and poetic, that I think it an honour to our nation and language.

* By Addison, published in 1704.

f The author alludes bere to tbe terrible tempests which happened in November 1708, and made sad havoc in Eng. land, and in several other parts of Europe.

Psalm cxlviii. 8.

The gentleman concluded his critique on this work, by saying that he esteemed it wholly new, and a wonderful attempt to keep up the ordinary ideas of a march of an army, just as they happened, in so warm and great a style, and yet be at once familiar and heroic. Such a performance is a chronicle as well as a poem, and will preserve the memory of our hero, when all the edifices and statues erected to his honour are blended with common dust.'

St. James's Coffee-house, July 18. Letters from the Hague, of the twenty-third instant, N.S. say, that the allies were so forward in the siege of Tournay, that they were preparing for a general assault, which it was supposed would be made within a few days. Deserters from the town gave an acoount, that the garrison were carrying their ammunition and provisions into the citadel, which occasioned a tumult among the inhabitants of the town. The French army had laid bridges over the Scarp, and made a motion as if they intended to pass that river: but, though they are joined by the reinforcement expected from Germany, it was not believed they would make any attempt towards relieving Tournay. Letters from Brabant say, there has been a discovery made of a design to deliver up Antwerp to the enemy. The states of Holland have agreed to a general naturalization of all protestants who shall fly into their dominions : to which purpose a proclamation was to be issued within a few days.

They write from France, that the great misery and want under which that nation has so long la. boured, has ended in a pestilence, which began to appear in Burgundy and Dauphiné. They add, that in the town of Macon, three hundred persons

« PreviousContinue »