« FöregåendeFortsätt »
dangers he is well aware; he knows that combinations against truth are more systematic and compact in this age than in any former period;' that prejudices are universally the tests of truth;' and he "fully expects to be vilified, reviled and anathematized for many years to come. He consoles himself, however, with reflecting that words and grimaces break no bones; and having the confidence of a martyr in the verity of his general system, he will bear his reproaches with patience, and, like a martyr, expect his reward in a crown of glory in some future age, when he shall be insensible to the distinction. Upon this distant expectation he has acted, and as it is his ambition to publish great truths in small books,' he has in a thin duodecimo raised 'the first curtain which hitherto has veiled the Temple of Nature.' Let us hope that mankind may be sensible to his merits, and that his reward may not be so long deferred as his modest fears anticipate.
Our author's first enterprize is an attack upon the errors and absurdities of Newton's philosophy, errors, some of which are so striking that he almost blushes to name' them. He sneers at the ' awkward attempts' of Sir Isaac to do that which was reserved for Sir Richard, and easily explodes the philosophical trinity of gravitating force, projectile force, and void space.' He explains to us how it happened, that Newton was gradually led from one mistake to another to establish so ridiculous a system. It seems that the root of the evil, the first error,' was the admission of the doctrine of gravitation.Newton mistook the local cause of the fall of projectiles: he adopted the errors of his own age and education in this radical principle of his philosophy.' This unfortunate slip
rendered it convenient to admit the other power of an innate projectile force,'' the greatest absurdity ever broached in science.' It was not from any more creditable motives, or on better grounds, that the notion of a vacuum was admitted into the system.
Is it necessary to examine in the first place, whether any medium exists or does not exist in space? Newton annihilated such medium for the purpose of conferring perpetuity on his original projectile force! If, said he, there be matter in space, its resistance would destroy the projectile force; for as he ascribed the centripetal force to an innate or metaphysical principle, and, as on his system, intervening matter was not required to concur in producing the motions, it would, if it existed, necessarily resist them. Newton, therefore, deemed it expedient to assert, that matter is not infinitely diffused throughout space.'-p. 51.
We confess that notwithstanding the present exposure of the many fallacies by which Sir Isaac Newton has deceived us, we have still remaining a small degree of kindness towards him, which makes us grieve to see him thus hardly used. We wish our knight had spared his rival a little, and, considering that he was 6 as feeble
as other men in his estimate of arguments, derived from moral and metaphysical considerations,' censured him less harshly for falling into some of the errors of his own age and education.'
Having decided that the entire fabric of the Newtonian physics is without any natural foundation,' the next step is to erect a new one; and as gravitation by itself is incapable of producing the phenomena,' some other moving power, some other mode of accounting for the operations of nature, must be sought for. Sir Richard has found (wonderful discovery) that it is motion which is the great moving power, the cause of all motion, the universal principle,' the source of momentum or potentiality,' and 'the animating soul of the universe.' It is to motion that all phenomena of matter are referred.
'As it affects atoms it produces various densities; as it affects aggregates it creates varied organizations; and as it affects different aggregates it developes the relative properties of matter. It appears, in truth, to be the proximate agent of Omnipotence, and to be a direct emanation from the primary and eternal source of all power.'-p. 15.
It seems that all change of place is occasioned by motion, and however startling the proposition may be at first, the following reasoning places it beyond a doubt, that the common phenomenon of a stone falling to the ground is the consequence of a downward motion.
'Here is a phenomenon of motion; the cause therefore must be analagous, i. e. must be motion; it must be co-equal to the effect, i. e. equal motion; and it must be fit or applicable to the end, i. e. it must be in the direction of the motion produced.'—p. 16.
Our author next goes on to explain that the particular motion which is the cause of all terrestrial phenomena is the rotary motion of the earth, which he supposes to have been originally impressed on it, and to have reduced it from a chaotic mass to its present state of order.
"We know from the diurnal phenomena, that the earth and atmosphere have such a common rotatory motion; without which the common orbicular force must confer on the masses unequal momenta. It is, however, a necessary mechanical effect of such common rotatory motion, to equalize the momenta of masses of various density, and to force them to range themselves, or to seek to range themselves, on concentric circles or radii of rotation inversely as their respective densities. By their mutual collision the lighter bodies must, by the mechanism of equal momenta and equilibria, ascend from the centre towards the circumference; and the heavy ones be forced towards the centre. Such must be the law governing all masses that are free to move among one another, as fluids and unrestrained solids. It is an effect resulting from the action and re-action of the earth and atmosphere, and is a necessary result of the mechanism by which a two-fold motion produces an harmoBB 4 nious
nious balance of forces, among the heterogeneous parts of which the terrestrial mass is composed.'-p. 20.
According to the vulgar notions of the nature of matter there are some objections to this reasoning. A uniform rotary motion alone could never cause a body to ascend or descend, and would have no tendency to make it move except in its own accustomed circles. There could be no mutual collisions among bodies uniformly revolving round a common centre. These notions, however, Sir Richard was born to overthrow, and when he has expounded what is meant by the mechanism of equal momenta and equilibria,' we shall comprehend more clearly why the earth has, as he has discovered, arranged itself in concentric shells of decreasing density. Things being, by whatever means, thus situated, and every portion of matter having a station appropriated to it precisely suited to its bulk, density, and rotatory velocity, if any extrinsic force disturb this harmonious regularity, and project a heavier body upwards, among the more æthereal particles that are performing their gyrations in the upper regions, they, impatient of the weight and tardiness of their new associate, repel the intruder downwards to his natural station.
That is to say, a body suddenly elevated from an inferior circle of rotation into one where a more rapid motion exists, or where a motion exists which does not accord with the density of the elevated body, is necessarily expelled from superior strata to inferior strata till it finds its true level, or balance of motion and density, or till it finds support above its due station in the concrete or fixed masses of the earth's surface.'p. 24.
Labouring, as we are, under the prejudices of our education, we should not have thought the effect of the elevation of a body to be such as is here described. We should have thought that the revolving particles having no motion, and no tendency to motion, in a central direction, could not communicate any in that direction, and that instead of driving the slower body up or down, they would accelerate it till its velocity would be equalized with their own. But Sir Richard sets all these matters in quite a new light; we are willing to give up our error, and to allow that the particles of matter take a malicious delight in keeping down their inferiors; and we do it the more readily as we are pleased with the analogy between this new property of matter and some of the propensities of human nature. Thus it is among mankind, that when an aspiring individual attempts, whether by muscular or explosive force,' to raise himself into the superior strata,' the exclusive spirit of those amongst whom he wishes to fix himself often repels him to his former and 'due level.' Thus it may happen that Sir Richard, who has elevated himself in a novel or unnatural direction' into the regions of
science, may find his flight curtailed by the envy and prejudices of the circumambient' philosophers, and be deflected' downwards, till his gyrations are contracted to a proportion more suitable to his bulk and density.
The same principles are applied, and in a similar manner, to account for the motions of the planets, and some of the other phenomena of the universe. We shall, however, content ourselves with having given a general outline, and for a fuller exposition of this sublime theory refer the reader to the work itself, where, if he should not be enlightened, he cannot fail of being amused.
Before we conclude we cannot refrain from giving one specimen of a new method of analytical investigation, of which Sir Richard has made considerable use, and which, in researches of this nature, will doubtless be found a wonderful assistance. m is put for momentum, d for density, and r for radius. And m being = rxd, r is = and m = = x d = ; that is dm=dm; or m is to m, as d to d; i. e. the relative momenta are directly as the densities.'-p. 26.
We are informed in a note, that' Wisdom in an individual is always in the direct ratio of the number of prejudices which he overcomes.' If this proposition be true in its full extent, if every new prejudice that is dismissed adds something to our wisdom, and if knowledge thus arises from a rapid succession of error, we congratulate Sir Richard on the strength of mind which he has displayed in divesting himself of old prejudices (for prejudices no doubt they were) on the subject of physics, and exchanging them for new ones. If he has been equally successful in religion, politics, and trade, he will soon be held the Wise' xaт' ε§o×NV.
ART. VII.-The Northern Courts; containing Original Memoirs of the Sovereigns of Sweden and Denmark, since 1766. By Mr. John Brown. 2 vols. 8vo. London. 1818.
INSTEAD of fabricating nations, as in former times, the northern parts of Europe, it would seem, are now chiefly employed in manufacturing spurious memoirs. With us such productions are not indigenous; but the courts of Petersburgh, Stockholm, and Copenhagen have, within the last century, furnished ample materials for them, and, it must be confessed, they have not been neglected.
Mr. Brown is the last in the field, and, with a considerable share of gallantry, has dared to tread in the steps of Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, without taking warning by his example, or profiting by his errors.
In scandal and indecency he has gone far beyond his predecessor, but without his good humour, without his knack of writing, and without even that very minor accomplishment, a knowledge of the art of compilation. Note is heaped upon note, like Pelion upon Ossa, and a more clumsy and unworkmanlike performance than is produced by such a process we have seldom witnessed.
We could however forgive this want of method, if there were no more serious cause for reprehension. The book, in its present state, is too gross for perusal, and the author ought to have known, though the prurient descriptions and indelicacies with which it abounds might be less offensive in a foreign tongue, they would by no means bear translation into ours. We say in a foreign tongue; for, in spite of the strenuous disavowal in the Preface, the whole is little better than a compilation, and the Danish Manuscript found on board the Dapper,' and the Swedish Manuscript, written by a person belonging to the Household of the King,' are equally to relied upon as authentic documents.
During a residence of some months in Sweden, Mr. Brown contrived to scrape together a variety of tales, (whether true or false it mattered not, provided they were tales,) relating to the histories of Sweden and Denmark during the late reigns; and these imperfect memorials he has eked out by copious extracts from every work which has been published for the last century, from the Annual Register to Sir John Carr, and above all, by a frequent recurrence to Ristel's Characters and Anecdotes of the Court of Sweden.'
What circumstance originally led Mr. Brown to Sweden does not appear, though he speaks of it as a secure and agreeable asylum in the hour of persecution.' Without inquiring into particulars, therefore, we shall proceed at once to the most prominent feature of his history, and the origin, we presume, of his book. In the beginning of 1808, a revolution of some kind, that should take the reins of government from the feeble hands of Gustavus IV., was amditted to be indispensable by all parties in Sweden. Independently of those who favoured the French or Russian faction, a new class had sprung up since the accession of Gustavus I. who owed their importance to commercial pursuits, and were altogether unrepresented in the estates of the kingdom: and the principal persons of this third party were the chief actors on the present occasion. The causes which led to the unhappy state of things we are now about to describe, have been already explained in our Sixteenth Number; it will be sufficient therefore to mention, that something rotten evidently appearing in the state of Sweden, it was resolved to send to England for assistance, and to endeavour to transplant on Swedish soil some of the benefits of the English constitution.
• The author of these pages was the person selected to introduce the subject