« ForrigeFortsæt »
THE REVOLUTION OF GREECE.
It is falsely charged upon itself by this age, in its character of censor morum, that effeminacy in a practical sense lies either amongst its full-blown faults, or amongst its lurking tendencies. A rich, a polished, a refined age, may, by mere necessity of inference, be presumed to be a luxurious one; and the usual principle, by which moves the whole trivial philosophy which speculates upon the character of a particular age or a particular nation, is first of all to adopt some one central idea of its characteristics, and then without further effort to pursue its integra
that is, having assumed (or, suppose even having demonstrated the existence of some great influential quality in excess sufficient to overthrow the apparent equilibrium demanded by the common standards of a just national character, the speculator then proceeds, as in a matter of acknowledged right, to push this predominant quality into all its consequences, and all its closest affinities. To give one illustration of such a case, now perhaps beginning to be forgotten : Somewhere about the year 1755, the once celebrated Dr. Brown, after other little
attempts in literature and paradox, took up the conceit that England was ruined at her heart's core by excess of luxury and sensual self-indulgence. He had persuaded himself that the ancient activities and energies of the country were sapped by long habits of indolence, and by a morbid plethora of enjoyment in every class. Courage, and the old fiery spirit of the people, had gone to wreck with the physical qualities which had sustained them. Even the faults of the public mind had given way under its new complexion of character; ambition and civil dissension were extinct. It was questionable whether a good hearty assault and battery, or a respectable knock-down blow, had been dealt by any man in London for one or two generations. The doctor carried his reveries so far, that he even satisfied himself and one or two friends (probably by looking into the parks at hours propitious to his hypothesis) that horses were seldom or ever used for riding ; that, in fact, this accomplishment was too boisterous or too perilous for the gentle propensities of modern Britons; and that, by the best accounts, few men of rank or fashion were now seen on horseback. This pleasant collection of dreams did Doctor Brown solemnly propound to the English public, in two octavo volumes, under the title of " An Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the Times ;” and the report of many who lived in those days assures us that for a brief period the book had a prodigious run. In some respects the doctor's conceits might seem too startling and extravagant; but, to balance that, every nation has some pleasure in being heartily abused by one of its own number ; and the English nation has always had a special deligh in being alarmed, and in being clearly convinced that it is and ought to be on the brink of ruin. With such advantages in the worthy doctor's favor, he might have kept the field until some newer extravaganza hal made his own obsolete, had not one ugly turn in political affairs given so smashing a refutation to his practical conclusions, and called forth so sudden a rebound of public feeling in the very opposite direction, that a bomb-shell descending right through the whole impression of his book could not more summarily have laid a chancery “injunction” upon its further sale. This arose under the brilliant ad. ministration of the first Mr. Pitt: England was suddenly victorious in three quarters of the globe ; land and sea echoed to the voice of her triumphs; and the poor Doctor Brown, in the midst of all this hubbub, cut his own throat with his own razor. Whether this dismal catastrophe were exactly due to his mortification as a baffled visionary, whose favorite conceit had suddenly exploded like a rocket into smoke and stench, is more than we know. But, at all events, the sole memorial of his hypothesis which now reminds the English reader that it ever existed is one solitary notice of good-humored satire pointed at it by Cowper.* And the possibility of such exceeding folly in a man otherwise of good sense and judgment, not depraved by any brainfever or enthusiastic infatuation, is to be found in the vicious process of reasoning applied to such estimates; the doctor, having taken up one novel idea
of the national character, proceeded afterwards by no tentative inquiries, or comparison with actual facts and phenomena of daily experience, but reso. lutely developed out of his one idea all that it appeared analytically to involve; and postulated audaciously as a solemn fact whatsoever could be exhibited in any possible connection with his one central principle, whether in the way of consequence or of affinity.
Pretty much upon this unhappy Brunonian mode of deducing our national character, it is a very plausible speculation, which has been and will again be chanted, that we, being a luxurious nation, must by force of good logical dependency be liable to many derivative taints and infirmities which ought of necessity to besiege the blood of nations in that predicament. All enterprise and spirit of adventure, all heroism and courting of danger for its own attractions, ought naturally to languish in a generation enervated by early habits of personal indulgence. Doubtless they ought; à priori, it seems strictly demonstrable that such consequences should follow. Upon the purest forms of inference in Barbara or Celarent, it can be shown satisfactorily that from all our tainted classes, à fortiori then from our most tainted classes our men of fashion and of opulent fortunes - no description of animal can possibly arise but poltroons and fainéans. In fact, pretty generally, under the known circumstances of our modern English education and of our social habits, we ought, in obedience to all the precognita of our position, to show ourselves rank cowards; yet, in spite of so much excellent logic, the facts are otherwise No