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“ Sæpe pater dixit, Studium, quid inutile tentas?
Mæonides nullas ipse reliquit opes."
and spiritual. what he defines to heed, for they are in
t, thatplication 91d is accusa
There are certainly among us those, who are within the penalty of this prohibition, if my Lord Coke's account of the matter is to be believed, for they are in possession of what he defines to be - a certain subtil and spiritual substance extracted out of things," whereby they transmute many things into gold. I am indeed afraid that the magician of Abbotsford is accustomed to “ use the craft of multiplication;" and most of us know to our cost, that he has changed many strange substances into very gold and very silver. Yet even if he be an old offender in this way, as is shrewdly suspected, there is little danger of his conviction in this liberal age, since, though he gains by every thing he parts with, we are never willing to part with any thing we receive from him.
The rewards of authorship are almost as sure and * regular now, as those of any other profession. There
are, indeed, instances of wonderful success, and sad failure; of genius pining in neglect; of labor bringing nothing but sickness of the heart; of fruitless enterprise, baffled in every adventure; of learning waiting its appointed time to die in patient suffering. But this is the lot of some in all times. Disappointment crowds fast upon human footsteps in whatever paths they tread. Eminent good fortune is a prize rarely given even to the foremost in the race. And after all, he, who has read human life most closely, knows that happiness is not the constant attendant of the highest public favor; and that it rather belongs to those, who, if they seldom soar, seldom fall.
Scarcely is a work of real merit dry from the English press, before it wings its way to both the Indies and Americas. It is found in the most distant climates, and the most sequestered retreats. It charms the traveller as he sails over rivers and oceans. It visits our lakes and our forests. It kindles the curiosity of the thick-breathing city, and cheers the log hut of the mountaineer. The Lake of the Woods resounds with the minstrelsy of our mother tongue, and the plains of Hindostan are tributary to its praise. Nay, more, what is the peculiar pride of our age, the Bible may now circulate its consolations and instruca tions among the poor and forlorn of every land, in their native dialect. Such is the triumph of letters; such is the triumph of christian benevolence.
With such a demand for books, with such facilities of intercourse, it is no wonder, that reading should cease to be a mere luxury, and should be classed among the necessaries of life. Authors may now, with a steady confidence, boast, that they possess a hold on the human mind, which grapples closer and mightier than all others. They may feel sure, that every just sentiment, every enlightened opinion, every earnest breathing after excellence will awaken kindred sympathies from the rising to the setting sun.
Nor should it be overlooked, what a beneficial impulse has been thus communicated to education among the female sex. If christianity may be said to have given a permanent elevation to woman, as an intel. lectual and moral being, it is as true, that the present age, above all others, has given play to her genius, and taught us to reverence its influence. It was the fashion of other times to treat the literary acquirements of the sex, as starched pedantry, or vain pretensions; to stigmatize them as inconsistent with those domestic affections and virtues, which constitute the charm of society. We had abundant homilies read upon their amiable weaknesses and sentimental delicacy, upon their timid gentleness and submissive dependence; as if to taste the fruit of knowledge were a deadly sin, and ignorance were the sole guardian of innocence, Their whole lives were “ sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,” and concealment of intellectual power was often resorted to, to escape the dangerous imputation of masculine strength. In the higher walks of life, the satirist was not without color for the suggestion, that it was
" A youth of folly, an old age of cards ;"
and that elsewhere, “ most women had no character at all," beyond that of purity and devotion to their families. Admirable as are these qualities, it seemed an abuse of the gifts of Providence to deny to mothers the power of instructing their children, to wives the privilege of sharing the intellectual pursuits of their husbands, to sisters and daughters the delight of ministering knowledge in the fireside circle, to youth and beauty the charm of refined sense, to age and infirmity the consolation of studies, which elevate the soul and gladden the listless hours of despondency.
These things have in a great measure passed away. The prejudices, which dishonored the sex, have yielded to the influence of truth. By slow but sure ad. vances, education has extended itself through all ranks of female society. There is no longer any dread, lest the culture of science should foster that masculine boldness or restless independence, which alarms by its sallies, or wounds by its inconsistencies. We have seen that here, as every where else, knowledge is favorable to human virtue and human happiness; that the refinement of literature adds lustre to the devotion of piety; that true learning, like true taste, is modest and unostentatious; that grace of manners receives a higher polish from the discipline of the schools; that cultivated genius sheds a cheering light over domestic duties, and its very sparkles, like those of the diamond, attest at once its power and its purity. There is not a rank of female society, however high, which does not pay homage to literature, or that would not blush even at the suspicion of that ignorance, which a half century ago was neither uncommon nor discreditable. There is not a parent, whose pride may not glow at the thought, that his daughter's happiness is in a great measure within her own command, whether she keeps the cool sequestered vale of life, or visits the busy walks of fashion.
A new path is thus open for female exertion, to al
leviate the pressure of misfortune, without any suppos. ed sacrifice of dignity or modesty. Man no longer aspires to an exclusive dominion in authorship. He has rivals or allies in almost every department of knowledge; and they are to be found among those, whose elegance of manners and blamelessness of life command his respect, as much as their talents excite his admiration. Who is there, that does not contemplate with enthusiasm the precious fragments of Elizabeth Smith, the venerable learning of Elizabeth Carter, the elevated piety of Hannah More, the persuasive sense of Mrs. Barbauld, the elegant memoirs of her accomplished niece, the bewitching fictions of Madame D'Arblay, the vivid, picturesque, and terrific imagery of Mrs. Radcliffe, the glowing poetry of Mrs. Hemans, the matchless wit, the inexhaustible conversations, the fine character painting, the practical instructions of Miss Edgeworth, the great known, standing in her own department by the side of the great UNKNOWN ?
Another circumstance, illustrative of the character of our age, is the bold and fearless spirit of its speculations. Nothing is more common in the history of mankind; than a servile adoption of received opinions, and a timid acquiescence in whatever is established. It matters not, whether a doctrine or institution owes its existence to accident or design, to wisdom, or ige norance, or folly, there is a natural tendency to give it an undue value in proportion to its antiquity. What is obscuse in its origin warms and gratifies the imagination. What in its progress has insinuated itself into the general habits and manners of a nation, becomes embedded in the solid mass of society. It is only at distant intervals, from an aggregation of causes, that some stirring revolution breaks up the old foundations, or some mighty genius storms and overthrows the entrenchments of error. Who would believe, if history did not record the fact, that the metaphysics of Aristotle, or rather the misuse of his metaphysics, held the human mind in bondage for two thou
sand years ? that Galileo was imprisoned for proclaiming the true theory of the solar system ? that the magnificent .discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton encountered strong opposition from philosophers ? that Locke's *Essay on the Human Understanding, found its way with infinite difficulty into the studies of the English Universities ? that Lord Bacon's method of induction never reached its splendid triumphs until our day? that the doctrine of the divine right of kings, and the absolute allegiance of subjects, constituted nearly the whole theory of government from the fall of the Roman Republic to the seventeenth century; that Christianity itself was overlaid and almost buried for many centuries, by the dreamy comments of monks, the superstitions of fanatics, and the traditions of the church? that it was an execrable sin throughout Christendom to read and circulate the Holy Scriptures in the vulgar tongue ? Nay, that it is still a crime in some nations, of which the Inquisition would take no very indulgent notice, even if the Head of the Catholic Church should not feel, that bible societies deserve his denunciation ? Even the great reformers of the Protestant Church left their work but half done, or rather came to it with notions far too limited for its successful accomplishment. They combated errors and abuses, and laid the broad foundations of a more rational faith. But they were themselves insensible to the just rights and obligations of religious inquiry. They thought all error intolerable; but they forgot in their zeal, that the question, what was truth, was open to all for discussion. They assumed to themselves the very infallibility, which they rebuked in the Romish Church; and as unrelentingly persecuted heresies of opinion, as those, who had sat for ages in the judgment seat of St. Peter. They allowed, indeed, that all men had a right to inquire; but they thought, that all must, if honest, come to the same conclusion with themselves; that the full extent of christian liberty was the liberty of adopting those opinions, which they promulgated as true. The unrestrained right of private judgment,