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depends on the arbitrary decision of an absolute monarch ; in hort, when we consider what little care is taken to secure public freedom, we cannot but look on this Code as a mere! essay of genius, and as a vain system, to which some weak or vicious prince hereafter may pay as little regard, as Oliver Cromwell did to the English Magna Charta.
We must not conclude this article, without taking notice of the translation, which abounds so much in Scotticisms, that the language, in many parts, is almost as foreign to an English ear as the original itself.
Letters to a young Nobleman. 8vo. 45. 6d. Millar. THE public is here presented with eight Letters on the
following useful and entertaining lubjects : Study in general ; the Study of History; Biography; Taste; the InAuence of Liberty upon Taste; the Age of Auguftus and that of Lewis XIV. These subjects are treated with perfpicuity and judgment; and though few of the Author's observations are new, yet he discovers, through the whole of his performance, an enlarged and liberal turn of thought, and writes like a scholar and a gentleman.
In the four first Letters, we meet with many pertinent and judicious remarks on the study of History and Biography; but nothing that renders a particular account necessary. In the fifth Letter our Author treats of taste, and of some distinguishing circumstances of London and Paris. It must appear evident to any one, he tells us, who, without prejudice, examines the figure which this country has made in its most admired periods for learning and politeness; that a depth of judgment, solidity of understanding, and a power of expressing strong passions with remarkable energy, have been far more its distinguishing characteristics, than delicacy or refinement of taste.
A Bacon, a Newton, a Locke, have an indisputable title to the palm in profound and rational philosophy; Mila ton and Shakespear have conceived the noblest ideas, seen through every winding of the human heart, drawn the characters of men, and described every object in nature, with a force and expression equal to the greatest masters of antiquity, and beyond any of their modern rivals; but with regard to exactness, or refinement of taste, it will hardly be Said, our
Author imagines, that we do not oftener meet in Milton and Shakespeare with what appears extravagant and improbable, than in Corneille, Racine, or Voltaire.
Our Author enquires into the reasons of this difference, and endeavours to fhew whence it is, that the English are more remarkable for depth of understanding and fublimity of genius, the French for a certain gentility of manner, and aceuracy
of taste? As the taste of the metropolis must always have the greatest influence upon that of a whole country, the character of a nation, with respect to this article, he observes, will commonly be found to be what might be expected from the peculiarly favourable or unfavourable circumftanees of its capital. By comparing, therefore, the circumstances of London and Paris, and the opportunities of improvement which they afford, we may form, he thinks, a probable conjecture, as to the causes of that difference of taste which prevails in them.
“ London and Paris, says he, the capitals of two rival kingdoms, the two largest cities, and the principal feats of arts and sciences in Europe, no less famous in modern, than Rome and Athens were in ancient times, are governed by cystoms, and distinguished by circumstances more different than those which took place in the capitals of the Athenian and Roman Republicks.
" London is the greateft trading city in the world : Paris has no trade but that of its elegant toys, and ingenious manufactures. Paris is the seat of a famous and great university, and of societies for the improvement of the Belles Lettres, and the Arts; there are no such societies established in London, nor is it the seat of an university. Paris is well provided with public libraries, and with collections of pictures, ftatues, &c. open to the study and inspection of every one : there are few public libraries, &c. in Jondon: London is the metropolis of a free, Paris of an absolute government. These are some of the principal circumstances which diftinguith London and Paris. By reflecting a little upon each of them, we may perhaps be enabled to account for the difference of taste in these two cities.
« Commerce, which is attended with so many advantages, and which diffuses plenty, independence and happiness among the bulk of a people, is, however, less favourable to certain accomplishments, and less conducive to an elegancy of taste and manners, than to perhaps more folid and general bles
fings. ' By turning the attention of men chiefly to gain, and by continually employing them in pursuit of this object, it leaves them less time to study the arts, and to admire the productions of genius and taste.
“ Nor, considering it merely with respect to the influence it may have upon tafte, can it be supposed a circumstance favourable to that of the British inetropolis, that London is the greatest sea-port in the world. The intercourse which this must create between vast numbers of its inhabitants and sea-faring people, may even be thought to communicate a little of that roughness which is more the characteristic of the common run of sailors than politeness and refinement. Hence, perhaps, by attributing it to a complaisance to the prevailing humour of their audience, we may account for the low scenes and vulgar wit we meet with in some of our dramatic writers, and for that odd drollery which distinguishes the performances of a neighbouring maritime nation.
“ Every advantage is attended with some inconvenience: let the Parisians, who live in a city which is no sea-port, which has no trade but that of fome elegant manufactures, and is alone supported by a pastion for living perpetually in the capital, so universal among the French noblese ; boast of the politeness and refined taste of their metropolis : the citizens of London may glory in what is more fubftantial, and contributes more to the happiness of its inhabitants, a share of wealth and independence, diffused by liberty and commerce among all ranks of men, which prevents the mcaneft individual from being enslaved by the greatest, and enables vast multitudes to enjoy those bounties of heaven, which in other places are confined to a small number of mankind. But certainly if we consider commerce only so far as it may have an influence upon taste, it can never be thought to be an advantage; nor can it be supposed a very favourable circumItance to that of this country, that a considerable part of the trade of England is transacted in the metropolis. That of France is carried on in her provincial towns, and the inhabitants of Paris chiefly consist of the noblelle, and of those, who, living on their fortunes, and not being hurried by business, have leisure to improve their taste, and to cultivate the fine
« Universities, I believe it will be denied by none, are the principal seats of Learning and Knowledge in every counhy; Even in those ages, when university-learning was of
the most ridiculous fort, foppith and bewildering as it must be confefled to have been, it was, however, the best the, world then had, and the members of universities were more enlightened and less ignorant than their countrymen. Tho' there is a certain stiffness and pedantry that sometimes attends men of great erudition, and which gives their manners, an aukward look to the people of active life; yet still we may, without being thought partial, affirm, that they must in ali probability have a more correct taste; and, by being accuftomed to study the noblest models, be more readily struck with the irregularities of works that deviate from the rules oblerved by the best writers, than other persons can be supposed to be, whose way of life has not led them to improve their taste, or to correct it by those rules, which were observed by the best geniuses of all ages, but especially by the antients. We may even suppose that conversation with men of learning must be of advantage to others; that in places where there are great numbers of men of letters, a certain proportion of learning must by them be communicated to the people; and that there must be a greater chance of meeting with persons who have taken some pains to correct and improve their tastes.”
Whether it may be of advantage, upon the whole, or not, that young gentlemen should be educated in great cities, or in places retired, and consecrated to the Muses alone, our Author does not take upon him to determine ; he is perfuaded, however, that the University of Paris has had a mighty influence in correcting and improving the taste of the French metropolis, and in diffusing a sort of critical accuracy among its inhabitants; while, at the same time, the members of the University, by living in a great city, and conversing with people of active life, have many opportunities of improving in politeness, and a knowlege of the fine arts, which can be met with no where but in the capital of a kingdom.
The University of Paris is a great body, and endued with very ample privileges : it consists of about ten colleges, which enjoy the full rights of the University; and about thirty others, whose rights and privileges are not so great. Now it can hardly be supposed, that such foundations, con secrated to the arts and sciences, will have no influence in communicating a taste for the Muses to a City, whose inhabitants must have so much intercourse with learned men. But, besides the University, there are several Societies efta
blished in Paris, exprelly for the improvement of taste. The French academy for the improvement of Eloquence and Poetry ;--the royal Academy of Inscriptions, &c. for cultivating the Belles Lettres, explaining ancient monuments, and transmitting to posterity the remarkable events of the monarchy by medals, &c.—The royal academy of painting and sculpture, under the government of a director, who is appointed by the King; a chancellor, four rectors, one of whom attends every quarter, and twelve professors, who attend each of them a month by turns, direct the studies of the pupils, propose models to them, and correct their designs; --and a royal academy for the improvement of Architecture, in which inftructions are given gratis, and prizes annually distributed to incite the emulation of the students.
Our Letter-Writer goes on to observe, that among the different circumstances which distinguish London and Paris, none is more remarkable than this, that the latter is well supplied with great public libraries, with large collections of pictures, ftatues, prints, and every curiosity of nature or art, open to the inspection of every one. This, he justly thinks, must be of great advantage, not only to give true geniuses an opportunity of discovering their talents, but to improve the taste of those who have no extraordinary capacity. By being accustomed frequently to look at what is excellent, one becomes in some degree a judge, and is apt to be disgusted at the fight of what is unnatural and bad; as by often hearing good music, even those who have no remarkable taste that way, acquire a delicacy of ear, which is shocked with wha: is discordant and unharmonious.
In his fixth Letter, our Author treats of the influence of Liberty upon Tafte, and of the Age of Augustus. He endeavours to thew what influence the different degrees of freedom, enjoyed by England and France, may naturally be imagined to have upon taste and the Belles Lettres. It has become a pretty common opinion, he tells us, that the strongest efforts of genius will probably be made by those who enjoy liberty, and.are inspired by its animating influence; but that juftness and refinement of taste will generally be found to be more improved among the subjects of an absolute, than among those of a free government. That the first of these propositions is true, he readily owns; that the second is false, he thinks, may be proved from history, and from the nature of the thing. It may be laid down as a certain maxim, he says, that, in every country, not only genius,
REV, Jan. 1762.