Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

Many appearances may tempt one to suspect that the understanding, disciplined by logic, is not so competent for the investigation of truth as if left to its natural operations. “A man of wit,” says Boyle, “who applies himself long and closely to logic, seldom fails of becoming a caviller;" and by his sophistical subtilties perplexes and embroils the very theses he hath defended. He chooses to destroy his own work rather than forbear disputing; and he starts such objections against his own opinions, that his whole art cannot solve them. Such is the fate of those who apply themselves too much to the subtilties of dialectics.”—This is the opinion of Boyle, who probably knew, from feeling and experience, the truth of what he said: for he was a very great logician, as well as a very great sceptic.

Our memorable Chillingworth is another instance to prove that logic, instead of assisting, may possibly obstruct and hurt the understanding. “Chillingworth,” says lord Clarendon, who knew him well, “was a man of great subtilty of understanding, and had spent all his younger time in disputation; of which he arrived to so great a mastery as not to be inferior to any man in those skirmishes: but he had, with his notable perfection in this exercise, contracted such an irresolution and habit of doubting, that by degrees he grew confident in nothing, and a sceptic in the greatest mysteries of faith. All his doubts grew out of himself, when he assisted his scruples with the strength of his own reason, and was then too hard for himself.” o

To conclude. What was the meaning of that stricture upon Seneca, Verborum minutiis rerum frangit flondera, which, according to lord Bacon, may thus be applied to the schoolmen—Questionum minutii scilitigiosa subtilitas, as he calls it, by their logical refinements and distinctions, they had chopped truth so down into

* These syllod 1st Ic1 are terrible company to men in general, and fit only for one another. With them you cannot be said to have conversation, but altercation rather; for there is something so captious and litigious in their spirit, that they draw every, the most trifling thing that can be started into a dispute. Before such you must not expect to talk at ease; that ease and indolence, which make a man careless about both ideas and language; no, you must be wary and correct; you must be always upon the defensive; and must keep as perpetual guard as you would over your purse were a pickpocket in the room.

mincemeat, as to leave it not only without proportion or form, but almost without substance.

AN AFRICAN'S OPINION OF DUELLING. In the most brilliant periods of the reign of Lewis XIV., two African youths, the sons of a prince, being brought to the court of France, the king was so struck with the native dignity of their manners, that he appointed a jesuit to instruct them in letters and in the principles of christianity; when properly qualified, his majesty gave to each a commission in the guards. The eldest, who was remarkable for his docility and candour, made a considerable progress in learning, as well as in the doctrine of the christian religion, which he admired for the purity of its moral precepts, and the good will that it recommended to all mankind. A brutal officer, upon some trifling dispute, struck him. The youth saw that it was the result of passion, and did not resent it. A brother officer, who witnessed the insult, took an opportunity of talking to him on his behaviour, which he did not hesitate to tell him, as a friend, was too tame, especially for a soldior. “ Is there," said the young negro, one religion for soldiers, and another for gownmen and merchants? The good father, to whom I am indebted for my instructions, has, above all things, earnestly recommended the forgiveness and forgetfulness of injuries, assuring me that it was the very characteristic of a christian to love even his enemy, and by no means to retaliate an offence of any kind.”

“ The lessons which the good father gave you," said the friend, may

fit
you

for a monastery, but they will not qualify you either for the court or the army: in a word, if you do not call the colonel to an account, you will be branded with the infamous name of a coward, and avoided by every man of honour; and what is more, your commission will be forfeited.”

“ I would fain," answered the young man, “act consistently in every thing; but since you press me with that regard to my honour, which

you have always shown, I will endeavour to wipe off so foul a stain, though I must confess I gloried in it before.” In consequence of which he immediately sent a challenge by his friend to the aggressor. to meet him early next morning. They met, and fought; the brave African disarmed his antagonist; the next day he

threw up his commission, and requested the royal permission to return to his father. At parting, he embraced his brother and his friend, with tears in his eyes, saying, he did not imagine that the christians were such unaccountable persons, and that he could not apprehend their faith was of any use to them, if it did not influence their conduct. “In my country,” said he, “we think it no dishonour to act up to the principles of our religion.”

TRIFLES LEAD TO SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES.

It is curious to observe from what trifling accidents the most important occurrences sometimes arise; but for the following rather ludicrous circumstance, it is not improbable that Newton might have remained a dunce all his life, and the world lost its most enlightened philosopher. “Sir Isaac used to relate that he was very negligent at school, and very low in it, till the boy above him gave him a kick in the belly, which put him to a great deal of pain. Not content with having thrashed his adversary, sir. Isaac could not rest till he had got before bim in the school, and from that time he continued rising till he was the head boy.” As every thing connected with the name of this wonderful man must be interesting, we offer no apology to our readers for extracting the following information. “Sir Isaac lived in London ever since the year 1696, when he was made Warden of the Mint. Nobody ever lived with him but my wife, who was with him near twenty years before and after her marriage. He always lived in a very handsome generous manner, though without ostentation or vanity; always hospitable, and, upon proper occasions, gave splendid entertainments. He was generous and charitable without bounds. He used to say, that they who gave away nothing till they died, never gave; which, perhaps, was one reason why he did not make a will. I believe no man of his circumstances ever gave away so much during his lifetime in alms, in encouraging ingenuity and learning, and to his relations, nor upon all occasions showed a greater contempt of his own money, nor a more scrupulous frugality of that which belonged to the public, or to any society he was entrusted for. He refused pensions and additional employments that were offered him, and was highly honour

ed and respected in all reigns, and under all administrations, even
by those he opposed; for in every station he showed an inflexible
attachment to the cause of liberty and our present happy establish-
Inent.
“ Notwithstanding the extraordinary honours that were paid
him, he had so humble an opinion of himself, that he had no relish
of the applause which was so deservedly paid him; and he was so
little vain of his works, that he, as it is well known, would have let
others run away with the glory of those inventions which have
done so much honour to human nature, if his friends and country-
men had not been more jealous of his and their glory. He was ex-
ceedingly courteous and affable, even to the lowest; and never des-
pised any man for want of capacity, but always expressed freely his
resentment against any immorality or impiety. He not only show-
ed a great and constant regard for religion in general, as well by
an exemplary course of life as in all his writings, but was also
a firm believer of revealed religion, which appears by the many
papers he has left on that subject; but his notion of the christian
religion was not founded on a narrow bottom, nor his charity and
morality so scanty, as to show a coldness to those who thought
otherwise than he did, in matters indifferent; much less to admit of
persecution, of which he always expressed the strongest abhor-
rence and detestation. He had such a meekness and sweetness
of temper, that a melancholy story would often draw tears from
him, and he was exceedingly shocked at any act of cruelty to
man or beast; an innate modesty and simplicity showed itself in
all his actions and expressions. His whole life was one continued
series of labour, patience, charity, generosity, temperance, piety,
goodness, and all other virtues, without a mixture of any vice
whatsoever.”
Of sir Isaac's amusements while a lad, the following relation
from a letter by Dr. Stukely, now first published in a complete
state, presents a minute and very interesting picture.
“A new wind-mill was set up near Grantham, in the way to
Gunnerby, which is now demolished, this country chiefly using
water-mills. Our lad's imitating spirit was soon excited; and by
frequently prying into the fabric of it, as they were making it, he
became master enough to make a perfect model thereof, and it
was said to be as clean and curious a piece of workmanship as the
original. This he would sometimes set upon the house top, where

[merged small][ocr errors]

MISCELLANY. 257

he lodged, and, clothing it with sail-cloth, the wind would readily turn it; but what was most extraordinary in its composition was, that he put a mouse into it which he called the miller, and that the mouse made the mill turn round when he pleased; and he would joke too upon the miller eating the corn that was put in. Some say that he tied a string to the mouse's tail, which was put into a wheel, like that of a turnspit dog’s, so that pulling the string made the mouse go forward by way of resistance, and this turned the mill. Others suppose there was some corn placed above the wheel; this the mouse endeavouring to get to made it turn-Moreover, sir Isaac’s water-clock is much talked of. This he made out of a box he begged of Mr. Clarke, his landlord's wife's brother. As described to me, it resembled pretty much our common clocks and clock eases, but less; for it was not above four feet in heighth, and of a proportionable breadth. There was a dial plate at the top, with figures of the hours. The index was turned by a piece of wood, which either fell or rose by water dropping. This stood in the room where he lay, and he took care every morning to supply it with its proper quantity of water; and the family upon occasion would go to see what was the hour by it. It was left in the house long after he went away to the university. “These fancies sometimes engrossed so much of his thoughts, that he was apt to neglect his book, and dull boys were now and then put over him in form. But this made him redouble his exer. tions to overtake them; and such was his capacity, that he could soon do it, and outstrip them when he pleased; and it was taken notice of by his master. Still nothing could induce him to lay by his mechanical experiments: but all holidays, and what time the boys had allowed to play, he spent entirely in knocking and hammering in his lodging room, pursuing that strong bent of his inclinations, not only in things serious, but ludicrous too, and what would please his schoolfellows as well as himself; yet it was in order to bring them off from trifling sports, and teach them, as we may call it, to play philosophically, and in which he might be willing to bear a part; and he was particularly ingenious at inventing diversions for them above the vulgar kind, as for instance, in making paper kites, which he first introduced here. He took pains, they say, in finding out their proportions and figures, and whereabouts the strings should be fastened to the greatest advantage. He WeL, IW. 2 K.

« ПредишнаНапред »