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another, a boldness equally remarkable, though we think far less fortunate, in the highly adventurous career of his philosophy.
His Theory of Vision came out in 1709, and the Principles of Human Knowledge, which gave the ultimate stamp to his philosophical character, in the following year. In 1712, he was induced to enter upon the discussion of those questions of political theory, which then mainly interested the public. The reader is already aware of the connexion of the questions upon the rights of kings, and the doctrine of passive obedience, with the history of the revolution which placed the family of Hanover on the British throne. Locke's celebrated treatise turned the attention of Berkeley to the controversy, on which he delivered three commonplaces, in the college chapel: these he afterwards printed ; and as he undertook to maintain the exploded doctrine, which was supposed to be connected with adherence to the banished family of the Stuart princes, he was afterwards represented as a Jacobite, by Lord Galway, when recommended to him for preferment, by the prince and princess of Wales. Mr Molyneux, who had been Berkeley's pupil in college, and had introduced him to these royal personages, took care to remove the impression, by showing, from the work, that the principles of the writer were thoroughly loyal.
His system of materialism, as a matter of course, attracted a very high degree of attention among that class of persons who delight in the barren perplexities of metaphysics. The controversial opposition which it excited was more shown in the general opposition of eminent men, such as Whiston, Clarke, and others, than by any express attempts at refutation. Of this, the following extract from Whiston's memoir of Clarke may give a notion sufficient for our present purpose:-“ And perhaps it will not be here improper, by way of caution, to take potice of the pernicious consequence such metaphysical subtilties have sometimes had, even against common sense, and common experience, as in the cases of those three famous men, Mons. Leibnitz, Mr Locke, and Mr Berkeley.-(The first, in his pre-established Harmony ; the second, in the dispute with Limborch about human liberty.) And as to the third named, Mr Berkeley, he published, A.D. 1710, at Dublin, the metaphysic notion, that matter was not a real thing; nay, that the common opinion of its reality was groundless, if not ridiculous. He was pleased to send Dr Clarke and myself, each of us, a book. After we had both perused it, I went to Dr Clarke, and discoursed with him about it to this effect,- that I, being not a metaphysician, was not able to answer Mr Berkeley's subtile premises, though I did not at all believe his absurd conclusion. I, therefore, desired that he who was deep in such subtilties, but did not appear to believe Mr Berkeley's conclusion, would answer him,- which task he declined. I speak not these things with intention to reproach either Mr Locke or dean Berkeley. I own the latter's great abilities in other parts of learning; and to his noble design of settling a college in, or near the West Indies, for the instruction of natives in civil arts, and in the principles of christianity, I heartily wish all possible success. It is the pretended metaphysic science itself, derived from the sceptical disputes of the Greek philosophers, not those particular great men who have been, unhappily, imposed on by it, that I complain of. Accordingly, when the famous Milton had a mind to represent the vain reasonings of wicked spirits in Hades, he described it by their endless train of metaphysics, thus :
“ Others apart sat on a hill retired,” &c.-Par. Lost. ii. 557–561.
“Many years after this, at Mr Addison's instance, there was a meeting of Drs Clarke and Berkeley to discuss this speculative point; and great hopes were entertained from the conference. The parties, however, separated without being able to come to any agreement. Dr B. declared himself not well satisfied with the conduct of his antage onist on the occasion, who, though he could not answer, had not candour enough to own himself convinced. But the complaints of disputants against each other, especially on subjects of this abstruse nature, should be heard with suspicion.”
In 1713, he went over to London, and there published a defence of. his philosophical theory, in “ Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous." The ingenuity and the singular acuteness of intellect displayed in these writings attracted the admiration of scholars and literary men; and his acquaintance was sought and cultivated by the most distinguished persons of the time; Steele and Swift, especially the latter, were active in introducing him to those who might be serviceable to his advancement. Steele employed him to write several papers in the Guardian, for each of which he is said to have given him a guinea and a dinner. At Steele's house he frequently met Pope, and formed an intimacy with him, which grew into a lasting friendship. He was introduced to the celebrated earl of Peterborough, by Swift, whose influence with this nobleman was very great. At his instance, the earl took Berkeley with him, as chaplain and secretary, when, towards the end of the same year, he was appointed ambassador to the king of Sicily, and the other Italian states.
He was left for three months at Leghorn, by the earl, while he went on by himself, to Sicily, to discharge the functions of his embassy. During his absence, a really trifling incident gave Berkeley a fright, to which he was afterwards used to revert with pleasantry, among his friends. At that period, it is stated, by Dr Clarke, that the only place in Italy where the service of the protestant church was tolerated, was at Leghorn-a favour then recently obtained by queen Anne from the grand duke. It happened that Dr Kennett, chaplain to the English factory, asked Berkeley to preach for him one Sunday. Berkeley complied with the request. On the next day, as he was sitting alone in his chamber, he was surprised and startled by the apparition of a train of surpliced priests, who entered his apartment in ghostly array, and walked round, muttering some form of prayer or exorcism, without seeming to notice his presence in any way, and then walked out again. Berkeley's first apprehensions suggested some connexion between this solemn visitation and his sermon of the
previous day: it could be, he thought, nothing less than some demonstration from the inquisition, which must have been informed that he had preached without license to a heretical congregation. When he
recovered from his astonishment, he made cautious inquiries, and, to his great relief, learned that it was the solemn festival set apart for blessing the houses of all “good catholics” from rats and vermin.
In 1714, he returned with lord Peterborough to England. The fall of the tory party appeared to terminate all immediate prospects of preferment; be was, therefore, not dissatisfied at the occurrence of a favourable opportunity to extend his travels. The bishop of Clogher, Dr St George Ashe, proposed to him to accompany his son who was heir to a good property, on a tour through Europe.
His stay at Paris is rendered memorable by an incident of some interest, his interview with the celebrated philosopher Malebranche, of which, we have to regret, that no detailed account remains. Malebranche was prominent among the great speculative inquirers of his age, and held opinions very nearly approaching those of Berkeley's theory. His opinion that all our volitions and perceptions are produced by the immediate operation of the divine will working on the frame, appears by a brief and very obvious train to lead to the inferences of the non-existence of external things. From this not very sane result, the French philosopher was deterred by an argument which should have had a similar influence on Berkeley, whose theory was invented with a direct view to oppose a scepticism fashionable in his day. Malebranche justly considered the existence of the external world to be affirmed in the beginning of Genesis, and, therefore, concluded that the inferences of speculation could not be carried so far as to deny it: although it is clear he removed all evidence for it but that supplied by scripture. When Berkeley paid him a visit, he was labouring under an inflamination of the lungs; and, at the moment, engaged in the preparation of some medicine, which he was watching as it heated in a small pipkin on his fire. It was an unfortunate situation for the encounter of two philosophers, who had such a point of difference to contend for. Malebranche had become acquainted with Berkeley's theory of the nonexistence of the external world; and immediately entered, with all the interest of a philosopher, and all the impetuosity of a Frenchman, into a discussion
upon it. Berkeley was soon heated with controversial ardour; and they who best know the zeal of metaphysical disputation, will not hesitate to admit the probability, that the trifling considerations of form and circumstance must soon have been forgotten by both parties in the keen debate. The actual incidents are no further known than by the event. The French philosopher spoke so much and so loud, that it brought on a violent increase of his disorder, which carried him off in a few days.
Upwards of four years were, at this period, spent in travelling among other places, less upon the common track of tourists: he travelled over Apulia, Calabria, and Sicily. He had collected materials for a natural history of Sicily; but they were unfortunately lost in the passage to Naples. Some very curious and interesting sketches of his visit to Ischia, in the bay of Naples, and a description of an eruption of Vesuvius, which he witnessed, and was enabled to observe very accurately, have caused his biographer to regret this loss as an injury to the “ literary world.” And notwithstanding the bright reflection which Berkeley's fame, as a metaphysical writer, throws on his country, and still more on his university, we are rather inclined to regret that his genius had not earlier received a direction favourable to the exercise of talents with which he was pre-eminently endowed by nature. The world might have spared those writings which have in no way contributed to human wisdom, and are rather to be regarded as essays and examples of high intellectual power, than as leading to results, with perhaps one slight exception, which it will be time enough to notice when we come to the separate consideration of his writings. There is a remarkable freshness, vigour, and graphic power about his descriptions of places, and an inquisitiveness of research, which would, with the addition of his profound intelligence, have given to the world the most instructive and delightful history of the nature and social peculiarities of the countries and people whom he visited. From the habitual intercourse with realities, his understanding would have acquired a practical turn, the want of which was his main defect, and with his universally accomplished, exploring, and enthusiastic mind, he would have been the Humboldt of his age. There is a singular combination of poetic effect and of accurate observation, in his description of the island of Inarime, and still more of its ancient mountain, Mons Epomeus, rising from its centre, and overlooking the scenery of the Æneid—“from the promontory of Antium to the cape of Palinurus.” Though we are amused with the enthusiastic simplicity which, after describing the Arcadian innocence and simplicity of the inhabitants, who, as they “are without riches and honours, so they are without the vices and follies that attend them ;" in the very next sentence he informs us, that “they have got, as an alloy to their happiness, an ill habit of murdering one another, on slight offences.” One is apt to suspect that the philosopher had in his mind the Arcades ambo of Horace, rather than the “poetical notions of the golden age;" but Berkeley's mind is too earnest and high-wrought for the frivolity of a joke: he immediately after tells his correspondent that “ by the sole secret of minding our own business, we found a means of living safely among this dangerous people,"— a lesson which he might have easily learned at home. Still more full of interest must have been his descriptions of mount Vesuvius: in his letter to Arbuthnot, in which he describes three ascents, he says, of the first, “ With much difficulty I reached the top of mount Vesuvius, in which I saw a vast aperture full of smoke, which hindered the seeing its depth and figure. I heard within that horrid gulf certain odd sounds, which seemed to proceed from the belly of the mountain ; a sort of murmuring, sighing, throbbing, churning, dashing, as it were, of waves, and, between whiles, a noise like that of thunder, or cannon, which was constantly attended with a clattering like that of tiles falling from the tops of houses on the streets,” &c. On this ascent he obtained but imperfect and occasional glimpses of the awful doings below, in that vast and hollow gulf: a momentary dispersion of the smoke displayed two furnaces, almost contiguous, throwing up a “very ruddy flame,” and vast discharges of red hot stones. On the eighth of May he ascended a second time, and saw a different aspect of things: the air was calm, and a column of smoke ascended straight up, so as to leave clearly visible the boiling and bellowing chasm beneath, in which the two furnaces burned more fiercely than on the former day, “throwing up every three or four minutes, with a dreadful bellowing, a vast number of red hot stones—sometimes
, in appearance, about a thousand—and at least three thousand feet higher than my head, as I stood upon the brink.” The other furnace was equally remarkable, in a different way, being “ filled with red hot liquid matter, like that in the furnace of a glasshouse, which raged and wrought as the waves of the sea, causing a short abrupt noise, like what may be imagined to proceed from a sea of quicksilver dashing among. uneven rocks.” Between this ascent and the twentieth of June, he continued to make excursions in the vicinity, during which he continued to observe with interest the varying appearances of the mountain-sometimes pouring from its summit bright and glittering streams of liquid lava-of which the burning course was traceable by the “ ruddy smoke" which overhung it " along a huge track of sky." On other nights, a tall column of flame shot up the heavens, from the smoky height, and disappeared in sudden darkness, after a moment, as if “ the jaws of darkness had devoured it.” But on the tenth the scene appears to have put on all its terrors to attract the imaginative philosopher: he describes its distant sound to his friend:-“ You cannot form a juster idea of this noise, in the most violent fits of it, than by imagining a mixed sound made up of the raging of a tempest, the murmur of a troubled sea, and the roaring of thunder and artillery all together. It was very terrible, as we heard it in the further end of Naples, at the distance of above twelve miles: this moved my curiosity to approach the mountain. Three or four of us got into a boat, and were set ashore at Torre del Greco, a town situate at the foot of Vesuvius, to the south-west, whence we rode four or five miles before we came to the burning river, which was about midnight. The roaring of the volcano grew exceeding loud and horrible as we approached. I observed a mixture of colours in the cloud over the crater,-green, yellow, red, and blue; there was, likewise, a ruddy dismal light in the air over that tract of land where the burning river flowed; ashes continually showered on us all the way from the seacoast; all which circumstances, set off, and, augmented by the horror and silence of the night, made a scene the most uncommon and astonishing I ever saw, which grew still more extraordinary as we came nearer the stream. Imagine a vast torrent of liquid fire rolling from the top down the side of the mountain, and, with irresistible fury, bearing down and consuming vines, olives, fig-trees, and houses; in a word, everything that stood in its way. This mighty flood divided into different channels, according to the inequalities of the mountain; the largest stream seemed half-a-mile broad at least, and five miles long. The nature and consistence of these burning torrents have been described with so much exactness and truth, by Borellus, in his Latin treatise of mount Ætna, that I need say
nothing of it. I walked so far before my companions up the mountain, along the side of the river of fire, that I was obliged to return in great haste, the sulphureous stream having surprised me, and almost taken away my
breath. During our return, which was about three o'clock in the morning, we constantly heard the murmur and groaning of the mountain, which between whiles would burst out into louder peals,