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“ This argument, however,” (proceeds Mr. Godwin) “ from Judge Blackstone of a geometrical progression would much more naturally apply to Montesquieu's hypothesis of the depopulation of the world, and prove that the human species is hastening fast to extinction, than to the purpose for which Mr. Malthus has employed it. An ingenious sophism might be raised upon it, to shew that the race of mankind will ultimately terminate in unity. Mr. Malthus, indeed, should have reflected, that it is much more certain that every man has had ancestors than that he will have posterity, and that it is still more doubtful, whether he will have posterity to twenty or to an indefinite number of generations.”—ENQUIRY CONCERNING POPULATION, p. 100.
Mr. Malthus's style is correct and elegant; his tone of controversy mild and gentlemanly; and the care with which he has brought his facts and documents together, deserves the highest praise. He has lately quitted his favourite subject of population, and broke a lance with Mr. Ricardo on the question of rent and value. The partisans of Mr. Ricardo, who are also the admirers of Mr. Malthus, say that the usual sagacity of the latter has here failed him, and that he has shewn himself to be a very illogical writer. To have said this of him formerly on another ground, was accounted a heresy and a piece of presumption not easily to be forgiven. Indeed Mr. Malthus has always been a sort of “ darling in the public eye,” whom it was unsafe to meddle with. He has contrived to make himself as many friends by his attacks on the schemes of Human Perfectibility and on the Poor-Laws, as Mandeville formerly procured enemies by his attacks on Human Perfections and on Charity-Schools; and among other instances that we might mention, Plug Pulteney, the celebrated miser, of whom Mr. Burke said on his having a large estate left him, “ that now it was to be hoped he would set up a pocket-handkerchief,” was so enamoured with the saving schemes and humane economy of the Essay, that he desired a friend to find out the author and offer him a church living ! This liberal intention was (by design or accident) unhappily frustrated.
Mr. Gifford was originally bred to some handicraft: he afterwards contrived to learn Latin, and was for some time an usher in a school, till he became a tutor in a nobleman's family. The low-bred, self-taught man, the pedant, and the dependant on the great contribute to form the Editor of the Quarterly Review. He is admirably qualified for this situation, which he has held for some years, by a happy combination of defects, natural and acquired; and in the event of his death, it will be difficult to provide him a suitable successor.
Mr. Gifford has no pretensions to be thought a man of genius, of taste, or even of general knowledge. He merely understands the mechanical and instrumental part of learning.