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An ESSAY upon the Uncertainty of the SCIENCE S.
A Man of the most profound eru- tack and defend them ; so that we I dition, after having passed his cannot entirely adopt the opinion whole life in study and meditation, of the celebrated philosopher of Gewill not, if he be wise, offer me the neva, who maintains, that they are explanation of any phenomenon as rather pernicious than useful. They certain : he will content himself are in themselves indifferent, and do with representing it as possible; and harm or good according to the use it seems highly probable, that that is made of them, amongst all the possible systems that A gentleman of great parts and have been found, there is not one learning happening one day to alin every respect conformable to sert, that the enormous depravity truth. How vain a pursuit is it to of the prefent age was owing to its ftudy during the whole course of being too knowing; was fully anone's life, merely to know what may swered by another, who proved, by poffibly exist!
the most solid arguments, that it Philosophy is said to be nearer was owing to its not being suffici, perfection in the present age, than ently fo. It has been justly observed ever it was before, yet men were by Mr. Pope, that a little learning never more thoroughly convinced is a dangerous thing; and certain it that all systems are merely fi&tions of is, that shallow draughts of the Pin the imagination ; some more inge- erian spring have an equal tendency nious than others, but all false, or to corrupt the heart, as to intoxhighly uncertain.
icate the brain. The greatest igo I have, says a celebrated modern norance is often disguised by the author, attached myself to philoso. most insolent presumption; and how phy these thirty or forty years pait, few are capable of detecting it when fully convinced of the truth of some it is masked with art? How many things; but now I begin to doubt ignorant pretenders are believed up. concerning them. This is not the on their word, when they affirm worft : there are many things con- themselves to be learned? How cerning which I no longer doubt, many men of real learning live and as I despair of being ever able to die unnoticed through an excess of comprehend them. The ignorant modesty? It has been justly ob, are sensible of their ignorance by a ferved, that men of learning consort of instina. The learned know, tribute to render the sciences con, to a demonstration, that they know temptible, each being strongly at. nothing, and that is all the advan- tached to that whereof he makes tage they have over them,
profeffion, and despising all the rest, It is a very important question, A chymist infatuated with his and very hard to be decided, whe- philofopher's ftone, holds in the ther the sctences have contributed to utmost contempt whatever has no promote or obstruct the interest of connexion with his furnaces and religion and government. They his mercury. An astronomer thinks have been made use of both to at- nothing worth his notice but the
A logiciane Schools, is guilt by penis ofte
Hudy, have d came fate with direlles it more enquiries inculty
celestial bodies, and looks upon all convinced of their ignorance in this observations as trifling, except such respect than any other. as relate to the different aspects of To conclude, the futility of huthe planets. A logician, full of the man sciences appears from nothing perplexing jargon of the schools, is more strongly than from that difdelighted with a sophism artfully gust by which the eagerness for proposed. Yet the chymist, the knowledge is often succeeded, and astronomer, and the logician, tho' which has made many eminent men they differ in every thing else, per- look with indifference or dislike upfectly agree in beholding each other on what they had pursued with the with the eyes of scorn and con- utmost ardour in the early part of tempt. Were we to regulate our their lives. It was this, no doubt, judgment by their opinions of one that induced the celebrated Huet, another, learning would no longer archbishop of Avranche, to compose be looked upon as desirable and his treatise upon the uncertainty of praise-worthy.
the sciences, and that forced from the The uncertainty of history is celebrated Fenelon an acknowledgequal to that of philosophy; those ment, that in his youth he was too that have made it their particular solicitous about acquiring knowstudy, have declared that history un- ledge, and in his old age began to dergoes the same fate with meat in doubt of every thing. Man should a kitchen. Every nation dresses it never expect satisfaction of mind in according to its peculiar taste; so his enquiries into nature, since, as that the same thing is served up in foon as one difficulty is surmounted, as many different ragouts as there many others sprout up in its place, are countries in the world, and every and his curiosity encreases with his man is best pleased with that to acquirements. The vulture that which his palate has been accura preyed upon the liver of Prome. tomed. It is the opinion of many theus, which grew again as soon as persons of discernment, that a man it was devoured, seems to be a just must be very weak to think of com- emblem of that curiosity which coning to the knowledge of what has ftantly torments the minds of those passed by the study of history: we who are engaged in learned purmust content ourselves, say they, suits, and renders their condition with kpowing what such and such much less desirable than that of authors have said concerning events; those who are satisfied with their igand we should not expect to meet norance. Knowledge is a godlike with the history of facts, but the attribute, but in this world will nehistory of narratives and opinions. ver constitute the happinefs of a hu
Of all sorts of knowledge, the man mind, since, as the ingenious most contemptible is that of lans Dr. Parnell expreffes it, guages; yet there is none of which men are more rain. The vulgar, The rest it feeks, in seeking dies, indeed, admire such as are possessed And doubts instead of knowledge of it, and it seems probable that it is because they are more fully
Philosophical REFLECTIONS upon DEATH.
To the Authors of the British Magazine.
GENTLEMEN, THE following Reflections arose from the perufal of A Moral Contem
plation on Death, in your Magazine of November last. Your inserting them in your agreeable miscellany will much oblige several of your readers, particularly My Othing can be more certain ftill more dreadful by the circum
than death ; it was never yet stances which accompany it; the so much as called in question. The countenances of a whole family overexample of all who have gone before cast with sorrow, the tears of an afus is a convincing proof, and amounts flicted wife, and the lamentations even to a demonftration
of all who happen to be present in Though most men look upon the the chamber of a sick person, dislast moment of life as something pirited and weakened by the violence dreadful, they comfort themselves, of his disease ; besides many other however, by the notion of its being ceremonies sufficient of themselves at a great distance; and the uncer- to strike terror into the mind of a man tainty of death, which ought to ren. who feels his natural powers fail, and der it terrible, is by self-love con- whose dread is aggravated by uncerverted into matter of consolation in tainty concerning his future state. this fatal neceflity.
The dying should, if possible, be freed The equality to which death re- from such dreadful ideas, and the duces all men, would be sufficient apparatus of death, which is a puto curb the vanity of the great, nishment more grievous tħan death would they but take the trouble to itself, should be reserved for crimireflect upon so melancholy a sub- nals alone. ject. This equality is so exact, that we are informed by travellers, it may justly be compared to that that a certain barbarous people ćewhich fubiifts between men at the lebrated the deaths of their grandees time of their birth. These two ex- by rejoicings, and ipdulged the dytreams have an effential connexion ing with all the pleasures they were with each other; we are born to capable of enjoying. This custom die, and death, according to Sc. has nothing barbarous in it, though neca, resembles a second birth. it must be allowed to be inconsistent There cannot be a more gloomy with the precepts of our religion. and dismal idea than that of death. How great anguish must that man A man must raise himself greatly feel, who, in the prime of life, above nature in order to furmount and poffeffed of considerable wealth, the dread of it, and the terrors it finds himself on a sudden attacked produces are not to be wondered at. by a disease, which must unavoid
The celebrated Montagne has ably end by his death. His affliction joftly observed, that the idea of our must doubtless be extreme, for the approaching dissolution is rendered happy seldom remember that they
Mall fhall one day cease to be so. Let courage, than of avarice and an the Stoic philosophers say what they inordinate desire of glory. They will, a wise man who has seriously are not so properly brave, as felf. considered death, cannot help fear- interested and ambitious : and it is ing it; and we seldom see a man of evident that they are in reality void spirit and resolution put an end to of the resolution and intrepidity his life. No character is in higher which they so much value themselves esteem than that of a man ofcourage. upon, since death, which they A man who voluntarily exposes him- braved through ambition in the self to the greatest dangers, and field, appears so terrible to them braves them with intrepidity, ap- when it comes divested of the glory pears to despise death; and this or emoluments which attend it. contempt of death is doubtless fome. To die must indeed be dreadful, thing admirable : this, however, since even men of acknowledged is common in the present age, and valour fear it in certain circum. has been so in ages past. Innume- stances : it is not therefore easy to rable persons celebrated in hiftory, determine in what light death should and many of whom it makes no be considered by men. We mould, mention, have distinguished them- however, sometimes reflect upon it selves by illostrious actions of this as a thing certain, and perhaps not kind.
far off. We ought to live and act Can then magnanimity, which like beings who are sure of dying: is one of the most shining virtues, and without entering into the dis. be so common. There must cer- cuffion of those mysterious questions tainly be fome reason for this pa. which revelation alone can resolve, radox, and it seems highly probable we fhould in misfortunes console that felf-love hides this reason from ourselves with the hopes of death, mankind. Certain it is, that inte. which will terminate them sooner or relt and ambition induce' many to later; and in prosperity we should force dangers; and their pretended moderate our transports by thinking contempt of death is in them less on death, which will bring us to a frequently an effect of virtue and level with the wretched.
The Diftrefjes of an Hired Writer. Addrefed to the Autbers of tbe BRITIS
MAGAZINE. . GENTLEMEN,
an author is liable to, inerely as an Need not inform persons of your author; I say, merely as an author:
fagacity and penetration, that for such accidents, as wanting a there are grievances and vexations dinner, being conveyed to that which, though considerable in them. haunt of the Muses the Fleet, selves, never meet with compassion dancing attendance, being kicked from the bulk of mankind, because or pulled by the nose in a public common experience does not fuggest coffee-house, &c. are not peculiar an idea of them. Such are the to gentlemen that write, and there, crosses and disappointments which fore I need not here enlarge upon
them, them. I fall confine myself to confequence: and yet, in the disa those which none but authors are charge of my critical function, I obnoxious to ; most of which are, have been exposed to many mortiin my opinion, owing to that fatal fications. I have seen my Remarks revolution whereby writing is con- attacked in public, and in private, verted to a mechanic trade; and without daring to justify my own booksellers, instead of the great, judgment. I have often been obliged become the patrons and paymasters to say what I knew to be false, in of men of genius. To pass by the order to promote the sale of a book tendency of this connexion between in which my publisher was con authors and tradesmen to bring li- cerned; and sometimes to recant terature into contempt, can any what I was convinced was.true, for thing more cramp and depress true fear some rival critick should retagenius, than to write under the liate. Thus did I, at the age of direction of one whose learning does. twenty-five, meet with the same not extend beyond the multiplica- disgrace which the great Galileo untion-table and the London Evening, derwent at fourscore, when he was poft? Here I must, however, make compelled by the Inquisition to rean exception in favour of such tract his opinion concerning the booksellers and printers as have dis- earth's motion, it is the tinguished themselves by their lite Another grievance, of which, like rary talents: these I honour, and Mons. Bayle, I must say, animus meshall always look upon as gentle- ninifse horret, is that practice of book. men, though they have the misfor- sellers, who, among other invasions tune of keeping Mop. Some, such of the prerogative of, us authors, I have known, of so truly poetical a assume a right to dub'a book with genius, that they sufficiently refute a title of their own invention. the maxim of Cicero;
Would you think it, gentlemen, I Nibil ingenuum poteft babere oficina.
have wrote, God knows how many, '
choice, performances, to which a The mention of poetry awakens puppy of a publisher has prefixed all my grief afresh. You must un- such titles and mottoes, that I have derstand, gentlemen, that I was bora been quite ashamed, upon feeing a poet: this, I think, I may say them in print. This is not all : without vanity; yet, when I com- these fellows sometimes carry their menced author, I received the same infolence fo' far, as to presume to answer from every bookseller to alter words and expressions in what whom I offered my service in the a gentleman has taken the utmost poetical way. “ Poetry does not, care to polith and bring to perfecfell, Sir," was the tune with them. tion. This is an abuse altogether all. I was therefore obliged to infupportable; and this, with the check my poetical fire, and bring rest, has often tempted me to bid myself down to politicks and criti. adieu to the painful preheminence cism. The former of these subjects of instru&ing mankind: but ftill I was always my aversion; the latter, write on, having a secret impulse indeed, in some measure suited my which tells me, that I was born to taste; for every poet is a critick of bring about a reformation in the