« НазадПродовжити »
From Tait's Magazine.
LITERARY AND SCIENTIFIC SOCIETY OF EDINBURGH IN 1849.
IF Asmodeus possessed the power to un since first the Professor, a few years back, roof every house in Edinburgh, we doubt if took shelter within the panoply of a Mackinhe would bring to light any great amount of tosh; for though our contemporary has since hidden talent. All our little celebrities put renewed his youth, and, in his mood of ventogether are hardly fit to sustain the literary erable eld, now no longer fictitious, is still as credit of the Modern Athens. As for our good for a jest or witticism as ever, still the great ones--Jeffrey himself is, not to speak original induing of such defensive habilievil of dignities, un peu passé. The honora- ments was all unworthy of the wild spirit of ble lord still dresses well, adjusts himself Ellerlay ; and Christopher has never been admirably to the niche in which he stands himself again. What! the man who was enshrined, and recognizes on all occasions the wont to face the fiercest elements that ever homage naturally offered at the altar of his encountered sage or sophist, struggling up literary fame.
He frankly and courteously the Earthen Mound in the direction of Alma discharges all the duties of his position, and, Mater, buttoned only in his invulnerable with equal facility, extends his hospitality to dress-coat of black; the low flat surface of the illustrious literary stranger, and expostu- his shovel hat standing up against the gusty lation to the unfledged aspirant after literary wind, like the dark point of a rock amidst a
Dickens, when last in the Scottish furious sea—he, encased in the veritable metropolis, was Lord Jeffrey's guest. And manufacture of Cross-basket-tell it not in we have repeatedly seen instances in which Gath! Wilson is by nature a lion, and will Lord Jeffrey generously and humanely took be to the end of the chapter. His stalwart the trouble to consider and criticise volumes figure, unbent by age, passes along our of youthful poetry not the most promising. streets the image of Triton amongst the MinBut, save on the judicial bench, his lordship nows. The long flowing hair, slightly grizseldom makes public appearances.
zled by the enemy, escapes from beneath the year, perhaps, he presides over the distribu- brood eaves of his beaver, and descends like tion of prizes at the Association for Promo- the snake-wreathed locks of an antique Jution of the Fine Arts. But we hear of little, piter over the snowy petals of shirt collar if anything, from his pen beyond his full and that flank the breadths of his ambrosial visfrequent notes on an advising in præsentia age-giving altogether a peculiar and picdominorum. The Judex damnalur of the blue turesque aspect to the head and its arrangeand brimstone cover of the Edinburgh Re- ments. This massive capital, elevated on view has become with Lord Jeffrey some Atlantean shoulders, and the almost gigantic thing more than a figurative, and has proved bulk, borne along with speed and firmness of itself a prophetical, expression. On the step, bespeaking dauntlessness and decision bench of the First Division of the Court of of character, sufficiently mark the man. ExSession, Lord Jeffrey occupies the extreme cepting conversationally, we do not know left of the Lord President Boyle ; Lord Mac- that the Professor has lately made mueh kenzie, the son of “the Man of Feeling,” and exertion of his powers. In his class, he goes probably the most esteemed of the Scottish through the old routine of the moral philosojudges, intervening; whilst Lord Fullerton phy lectures ; and, as a member of the Facis seated on the President's right hand. Lord ulty, may sometimes be seen-occasionally Jeffrey incessantly takes notes and asks ques- sine loga-pacing the boards amongst his tions. The habits of the critic have accom brethren of the long robe. Some conversapanied him to the bench, and admirably tional criticisms, which have been repeated, serve to tease the ingenuity of the learned harmless, though personal, would do for vercounsel at the bar.
bal repetition, but not to print-so that we We have never given much for Wilson, I are fain to refresh ourselves with the collect
ed scrap-work of the “Recreations" of North | tunate or more privileged, by whom has so -or the scattered poems, amongst which long been preached the spurious doctrine of are mainly to be had in remembrance the poor stupid “Noll Goldsmith,” that “they two leading pieces, so unlike, yet so charac- who think must govern those who toil;" as teristic of the poet, “The City of the Plague,” if there were anything to prevent those that and “The Isle of Palms”-or the exquisite toil thinking as well as, or better than, those prose of the “ Lights and Shadows,” and that idle! In his future initial discourses in “Margaret Lyndsay," the grave fictions on Queen Street Hall, Wilson has promised which the author founded his title of philoso- some further developments of the intellectual pher. Professor Wilson's philosophy, his phenomena of the social mind, which may learning, his genius, have lately taken a new be looked for with interest, because the indirection, and merged into a practical phi- quiry derives not its curiosity from the inlanthropy, annually illustrated by his exor- quest, but the inquirer. dium to the popular session of the Edinburgh Farorers of popular movement, from the Philosophical Institution. His admirers and opposite extremes of “the electric chain that flatterers—for, like all lions, he has his jack-binds” the strange mixture of intellectual als—indeed we should say that his " lion's elements in the society of Modern Athens, providers" rather superabound-may hold the brothers Chambers, Mr. James Simpson, that the Professor's career as a philanthro- the Advocate, and Mr. George Combe, pist could be antedated. We, however, emerge on our notice in a group. By a sethink rfot. We know of no phase in which ries of successful adventures in the literature the advocate of that aristocracy which, under of popular progress, which have been selfthe guise of good-old-English-gentlemanism, rewarding, the former have elevated themerected its jovial barriers of class and caste selves, unaided, save by the tide of public upon the necks of a dependent peasantry approbation, to eminence so considerable, little elevated above agrarian serfdom, could that a vacancy for the chief magistracy of be regarded as a man of the people, prior to the Scottish metropolis can scarcely occur, his appearance on the platform of this popu or be talked of, without one or other of the lar institute. We have heard it whispered, brothers being brought forward as eligible however, that in adopting this conspicuous to the office. The merit of the publications step, the Professor nobly set at nought the of these gentlemen is mediocrity. But mediconventional restraints imposed on them- ocrity, when once it wins its way, retains its selves and their brethren by the haughtier hold Addressed to comparative ignorance, members of the Senatus Academicus, by or the unexcitable temperaments of impaswhom the delivery of a popular lecture is sive intellects, it never recedes. The literadeemed equivalent to “such an act as blurs ture of mediocrity, never bad enough to the modesty and grace of nature” in Brah- merit condemnation, carefully weeded even minical eyes, when a member of any of the of the shadow of reproach, tolerably faultrigid sects of oriental superstition, forgetting less in its construction, calculated just to their rules and observances, lose caste. The impart the semblance without the severity of Professor of Botany, it is said, however, essential information, loses nothing that may anxious to give a popular course of that beau- be forfeited by time, chance, or change. Untiful and interesting study, has not the cour- like the rash scintillations of superior genius, age to brave the papal ban of his exclusive it incurs no risk of elevating and exciting the brethren. But Wilson has not only come minds of its votaries, to give force and conforward in aid of the popular “ march of in- trast to the dash of disappointment where tellect;" he has come forward as its ostensi- its brilliancy flags or fails. The steady, ble head and front. His introductory dis- equable quality of this kind of writing-imicourses, each session, tend more and more tating the dull proprieties of accurate prose, to a discovery of the latent philosophy lurk- sparingly indulging in any vein of poetry, ing in the popular mind—to illustrate the recording only facts with zest, and drawing pursuit of knowledge under difficulties and fictions from the memory—forms the exceldisadvantages—to prove the onward ten- lence of Chambers' Journals, Miscellanies, dency and ultimate triumph of self-culture Informations, Histories, Educational and Juamong the middle and lower classes in the venile Series. Irreconcilable as these in their country—and to show (ultimately, but not variety may seem, a family likeness pervades yet,) by what title the power of a million of the whole, and soothes them down into their intellects is to assert its supremacy over the regular monotony. The wise man prayed long-endured domination of a few more for that he might neither be visited with poverty
nor riches. If he seek for his children the strange ideas that book delineates beyond same happy medium of intelligence as of cir the scope of imagination, and literally chiselcumstances, he will have them educated upon ed out in granite heaps as hard, immutable “ Chambers' Educational Course.” Their truths ! From the low coast lands and carses, minds will not fare sumptuously; neither the lower ancient sea margins emanate step will they starve. With doctrinal questions, by step to the sublimest altitudes. Oscillaand alleged objections to the matter of these tions in the shift of relative level betwixt sea cheap, and, for the most part, useful pro- and land—the last of them, perhaps, within ductions, we have nothing at present to do the human period—unfold such a tale of Enough for us that their
manner-generally time and change, tangibly portrayed before easy, and always agreeable-more than any- the wondering eye, as geology in all its quaint thing, stamps their value. The price of discoveries or strange imaginings has never knowledge reduced, by works like these, the before disclosed. In these there may be ilcommodity becomes palatable as well as ac- lusion where conjecture supplies the form of cessible; and thus the great secret of their monstrosities extinct and incompatible with success is twofold—knowledge is cheapened present conditions of existence. In those and stimulated at once. The head of the there can be none. We have local researches firm, though seldom committed to any popu- and descriptions undertaken with persevering lar movement, has long professed liberal prin and painstaking exertion-scenes in the vale ciples. The “ ragged schools” have been of Tay, in Fife, Strathspey, Glenmore, Logreatly indebted to his philanthropy; and chaber, the Basin of the Forth, the Vale of the "faggot votes” have recently recoiled Tweed, and Basin of the Tay—all conjured beneath his assault. The one cause he has up and strikingly arrested in diagrams of advocated in “ the Journal," and personally strange fidelity, though cast with the help of promoted in various parts of Scotland ; the some excusable freedoms into the theoretical other enormity he has attacked from the form of the supposed sea margins. The auplatform—but with the disadvantage, less thor has traversed all these scenes, and many applicable to him than to others, of doing so His mind has dwelt upon their teras the partisan of a faction as deeply im- raced aspect, and become imbued with the plicated in the evil as any other. Let that convictions of their character and origin ; till pass. William Chambers, without any great the resistless reader, forced to yield to the distinguishing marks as a man of letters, as a endless multiplicity of facts, surrenders his popular leader, or a party debater, is a man convictions also to an author who avowedly of energy and action, of perpetual movement has no theory to propound. In this way we and indomitable courage, and has had, un are led to inspect visibly the Delta of the questionably, the spirit to carve out his own Ribble, the Mersey, Chester, Bristol, Bath, fortunes. As a litteraleur, and latterly as a London, Sussex and Hampshire, Devonshire, savant, Robert Chambers has been the more France and Ireland, and even the terraces distinguished. Less a man of business and and markings in Switzerland, Scandinavia more a man of letters, the author of the and North America. The contemplative “Rebellions” and the “ Picture of Scotland" power and sagacity of observation, conspicuhas dedicated the few last years of his life to ous throughout these researches, tend not scientific researches connected with absorb- only to amass a collection of facts and maing questions of physical science, and particu- terials for speculation, but facts and matelarly the phenomena exhibited on the earth's rials already sifted and prepared for an inevivaried surface. He seldom draws conclu- table deduction. Mr. Chambers has care. sions. He states facts. He is a mere reader fully elicited in every instance the attendant of the book of nature ; and a clever as well circumstances of the natural appearances as careful translator of its obvious passages. presented to his gaze, and so discriminated Take his recent work on “ Ancient Sea Mar- betwixt them as nearly to arrive at a chrogins.” Here is a work in which the eye, as nology of the ancient beach-markings. He from a pinnacle, scans with new ideas the has traced out even the recession, accession, great map of nature, and sees not features, and second recession of waters, and furnished but facts traced out over hill and valley, quite a new light in which to read the mighty margins of seas stretched up towards the page outspread upon the surface of a counAlpine summits, and traces of a flooded | try. Some people, who would dispute the world recorded imperishably upon the monu- originality of anything, have doubted the mental mountain pyramids, amidst the crum- originality of these researches. There is inbling and decay of the things of time. What trinsic evidence, however, of the author hav
ing visited in person, and observed for him- | who shall charge them much ; and on the self, the majority of the appearances he author of so much real good in his day and details. The magnitude of his labors is well generation ? characterized by the boundless inference Next comes George Combe, the most rewith which he sums up their induction, viz: markable of a sect which, though now less that “he must believe that very great lapses ostensibly than at one time, still exercises of time have passed since the sea stood at considerable influence over the press and the our highest terrace.”
people of Edinburgh. To the opinions of
the author of “ The Constitution of Man con“In several places of Scotland,” he continues, sidered,” we all know what tendency has “ I have found the points or promontories of ter
been imputed. And we must say, that the races bearing the faint markings of forts which had been erected by our savage forefathers for sect of which we recognize him for the leadtheir protection. History scarcely hints at the er cannot, in any acceptation of the term, be age of these remains, so lost is it in the long night called a religious sect. Whatever may be of antiquity. But great as is the time that has Mr. Combe's opinions on these and other elapsed since these rude defenses were erected, it subjects, “ uttered or unexpressed,” it is with is nothing
to what seems requisite for producing pleasure that we acknowledge, on occasion the phenomena now under our attention. When; of his last appearance at the Glasgow Athemoreover, it appears that the species of shell-fish have not changed in this immense series of mil- næum soirée, a disposition to resist the imlenniums, a new and highly interesting considera- putations that are frequently cast at the distion arises. Species bad in earlier times under-ciples of phrenology. Though mingled with gone repeated changes. If each change were local reminiscences of personal triumph in attained in a lapse of time equal to a greater than the cause so many had prejudged, there was that here shown to have passed without any
an intelligible assertion of the great leading change, what a vast multiple of this part must be the entire cosmical chronology!"
truths of faith put forth on that occasion by
the master, which ought to form a striking Such is the summary of the last-published lesson to all his followers. But it is ever the researches of Robert Chambers. The con case that leaders are transcended in their cluding observation, by the way, reminds us most extreme notions by the zealots in their that he has obtained “vestiges” of a reputa- train. tion beyond what he aspires to in this treat Dr. Moir, of Musselburgh, and De Quinise on “ Ancient Sea Margins ;” but if the cey, of Lasswade, may be grouped together secrets of the cloister are impenetrable, those as occasional accessions to Edingburgh liteof the bureau, to us, at least, shall be sacred. rary society. Everybody knows the literary
James Simpson, as an educational theorist, calibre of “ Delta,” and most people that of had once a name which, though we seldom “ The English Opium Eater." " The one is a hear it now, is still adequately and eloquent living illustration of the poetry of the domesly represented in the private life of our north-tic affections. His exquisite “Casa Wappy," ern metropolis by an eloquent, warnt-hearted the lament of a father for a lisping darlingold gentleman, of more than average candor is no less pleasing than true. The other also and cordiality of manner. Superseded by illustrates his career by his compositions. A systems, we rejoice to think, more in accord calm, sedate, and sensible mind is “ Delta's." ance with the spirit of the age, a tolerant The best appearances at the Glasgow Athebut pious spirit of religion void of fanaticism, næum were decidedly his and Combe's; his Mr. Simpson has yet lived to see some tri- unpremeditated--Combe's elaborated. “Delumph granted to his educational views, in the ta” spoke with so much genial sympathy for general adoption of what the Presbyterial the good sense of his audience, that he laid Reports—when there were Presbyterial re- for himself, at that single stroke, a lasting reports on education-termed “the intellectual gard in the popular mind. A volume of his systems of instruction—a system addressed collected poems, just announced, will be to the understanding and even to the heart." treasured for many a sparkling gem that, if The practical schemes of David Stow, of taste and justice are exercised, must inevitaGlasgow, and the general improvements on bly stud his pages. The muse of the author education, in combination with religious cul- of " Mansie Waugh” is as staid and sober as ture, introduced by the active zeal of the his humor is broad and pungent. Some illFree Church of Scotland, have outstripped | natured critic lately accused him of nonsense as well as outbidden Mr. Simpson's plan. -a serious charge against a poet of any repYet he was the apostle of a cause which, utation—and quoted the following lines in when at its ebb, owed him for negative evils, | proof of the assertion; which, however, we
may premise, are, in our estimation, pretty, the disease was propagated. I knew that the and pictorial, besides being perfectly intelli- great majority of the Indian practitioners reckongible to any one who will take the trouble of ed it simply epidemic-but a week’s narrow and glancing at the glorious panorama of the scrupulous investigation of its mode of attack consouthern shore of our Forth, as seen from its character. To this belief I adhere as confidently
vinced me thoroughly of its purely contagious pure and placid bosom-not now-but in
as to my own existence; and until it is univerhigh summer--or, better still, can pause to sally acted upon (which I never expect to see) by study it while having a quiet pop at the rab- the medical profession, Europe must from time to bits of Inchkeith warren, or the Divers on the time be laid waste by the ravages of this terrible water, watching the lazy things emerge :
and soul-subduing pestilence.
"From the numerous inquiries made at this “ Traced like a map the landscape lies,
period from all parts of the United Kingdom, re
garding the nature and treatment of this new and In cultured beauty stretching wideThere Pentland's green acclivities;
fearful scourge of our race, I was induced, in my
capacity of Medical Secretary to the Board of There ocean with its azure tide; There Arthur's Seat; and, gleaming through
Health, at Musselburgh, to publish, on the of
spur Thy southern wing, Dunedin blue !
the moment, a pamphlet entitled • Practical ObserWhite in the orient, Lammer's daughters,
vations on Malignant Cholera'--of which, from A distant giant range, are seen ;
the then absorbing nature of the subject, a second North Berwick Law, with cone of green,
edition was demanded by the public in the course
of a few days. These circumstances are mentionAnd Bass, amid the waters.”
ed here in reference to several things shortly to
be alluded to. After a thorough investigation of Perhaps ten years ago, Dr. Moir edited a
the subject, I was glad to find that Mr. Macnish work, or collection, in two volumes, the first strongly entrenched himself on the side of the of which he occupied with a memoir of the contagionists; and from a careful scrutiny of the late Dr. Macnish, of Glasgow. There is disease as it wandered apparently at its own dire quite as much of “ Delta" in this book as of will' from place to place, he furnished me with a Macnish, and yet it is without egotism. In conclusive
. In writing to him at this time I find
variety of facts and reasonings undisputed and the exuberance of the writer's heart, he has the following passage : The medical men here inscribed on the title-page what no impartial and at Edinburgh are all at loggerheads about conbiographer would care to do, viz: that the tagion and non-contagion ; but the success of my life is by a “friend”--and he has felt bound, pamphlet has been a sore thorn in the side of the in the course of executing his task to authen
latter doctrinists. I do not know what may be its ticate his acquaintance with the facts, as the merits, but it ought not to have many, having been
written within the week, and in the midst of lawyers do with witnesses--" Cansa scientiæ
scenes of misery, as I bustled from one death-bed patet; and all which is truth,” &c. We are
to another, the like of which I never saw before, reminded of this revelation by--what does and trust will never see again. The eve after a the reader think-the cholera, which, in its battle-field may be a sad thing; but here all exformer visitation, seems to have approximated citement was absent, and death was literally cold the stars of Moir and Macnish. It may not and repulsive. I am sure I am within the mark be amiss, at the present juncture, to quote of half-an-hour at a time, by day or by night.?”
when I say that the pamphlet never had a sitting what then passed betwixt these medico-philosophic poets:
Although it is disgressing, we cannot re" With the concluding months of this year,” sist giving the account of the outbreak of the says Delta, " and the commencement of 1832, the disease in Glasgow, by Macnish (15th Febhealth of Mr. Macnish continued to improve ; his ruary 1832): body strengthened, his mind lightened up, he went through his professional duties with cheerful “ Cholera has now fairly appeared among us. alacrity, and his inherent love for intellectual ex I saw a case yesterday, and one the day before, ertion again exhibited itself in several pleasant as both of which proved fatal in a few hours. Every well as powerful compositions.
case hitherto has died. They were probably not “ It was about the middle of January that the seen till the stage of collapse had come on; and Asiatic Cholera, which had been imported into it is possible that the removal to the hospital has Sunderland, made its progressive way from Ber- been injurious. The people have a dreadful anwick to Musselburgh, and there seemed to take up tipathy to any person being sent to the hospitals : its head-quarters-raging with pestilential vio- they stupidly imagine that they are murdered lence, and prostrating alike the young and the old. (burked !) by the doctors; and last night, when So sudden and fearful was the mortality, that the they were conveying a patient there, they were burials within three weeks exceeded the average attacked by the mob. It is truly a dreadful disannual number of deaths, and this out of a popu ease. I have been compelled to give over visiting lation approaching to 9,000. I had formed no any of the cases, in consequence of the clamor of preconceived theory regarding the mode in which my own patients, who will not hear of it, so great