« PreviousContinue »
expulsion: but being once extricated, the rest of his time passes on smoothly. He embraces the clerical profession, and upon leaving the university accompanies Eugenio via England to the continent. The scene is now successively transferred to the Low Countries, Switzerland, Italy, and France. In this last country, his moral principles receive a taint.' His familiarities with Adele, a Parisian lady, are resented by the injured husband. He receives a challenge: but his guardian angel again interposes, and he avoids a duel by decamping with Gallic precipitation. On his return to Scotland, he is fixed in the pastoral office, and married to Clara, a young lady whom, together with her mother, he had rescued in the first stage of youth' from a state of absolute starvation, who had been brought up in his father's house, and who had very early taken possession of his heart. He now discharges the duties of his office with exemplary faithfulness. His domestic tranquility, however, is interrupted by the rebellion of 45; on which occasion he comes out in a new character; cedit toga armis; and he exhibits heroic valour at the battle of Culloden.' After this, the tale languishes till his death, which is perhaps somewhat injudiciously postponed to the year 1770. Such is the plan of this poetical Essay;' sufficiently extensive it must be confessed, and sufficiently fruitful in incident, but not quite so susceptible of poetical embellishment. Like Aristotle's animal of ten thousand furlongs, the eye cannot receive it at a view, for the principal subject is lost among the multiplicity of subordinate events. The introduction of so many historical examples, and the dry catalogue of feelings in the beginning of the poem, is extremely inartificial. The sketches of continental scenery and manners, though not unpleasingly executed, are manifestly out of place; and the course of study, in the fourth book, has nothing at all to do with poetry. All this digression partakes of the same littleness, that we have previously objected to the choice of the hero. The business of poetry is to sound the master tones of passion, to seize upon obvious and striking circumstances; her representations are recognized by every eye, and her voice finds an echo in every bosom.
Of the episodes, a minute examination is unnecessary; their connexion with the fable is not always sufficiently close but what they want in this kind of propriety they perhaps compensate by their interest; and they are uniform. ly calculated to give efficacy to some moral truth.
The author seems to be most solicitous for the fate of his machinery. It is indeed exceptionable, not because it
is marvellous, but because it is improbable; because there is no grand catastrophe which it is to hasten or retard; and because nothing is effected by it which might not as well have taken place in the common course of things. The two last objections will not easily be obviated; but the first might have been avoided by adopting the management of Pope, who has judiciously introduced Belinda to her guardian sylph in a morning dream. As for the imp Doulos, he deserves no quarter. The vision of Charity is immoderately long; not to mention that her fiction of Luxury and Pride is copied without acknowledgement from that of Luxury and Avarice in the Spectator. All this celestial in tervention is resolved, in the preface, into allegory. general it may be observed, that the mixture of allegory with real life is heterogeneous; it startles without pleasing.
In the characters, there is little novelty or discrimination. The greatest fault of the poem is superfluous amplification; which presents indistinct images to the mind, and which frequently distorts the thoughts from their natural bias to accommodate the rhyme. The similes are more numerous than select we are not often called upon to admire the manner in which they are introduced, and they are almost always tame and spiritless in their application. It is impossible, too, not to notice the prosaic humility of diction. Poets, in general are glad to avail themselves of all the liberties of inversion consistent with perspicuity; to elevate what is low, dignify what is familiar, and avoid as much as possible those degrading associations which are inseparable from common forms and idiomatic expressions. Dr. B. evidently aims at simplicity but he has obtained it at the expence of strength and animation.
It would be easy to confirm these remarks by examples; the task, however, is unpleasant, and we willingly select a less exceptionable passage as a specimen.
The following portraiture of Christian graces is sketched with tolerable fancy. We have presumed to curtail a little. of its diffusion.
• First in the train meek Penitence appears,
Displays a form which passion never shook,
Each fault amended and each sin forgiven.' Vol. 1. p. 21.
Upon the whole, though our author cannot lay claim to the highest rewards of poetical excellence, he has certainly produced a pleasing tale. It contains many passages, no doubt, which will afford ample scope to the sneering raillery and painful sarcasms of those, who are glad of every opportunity to fling their reproaches at piety and virtue. But the censure, which is dictated by an irreligious and infidel spirit, will not produce much impression, we trust, either on the author or the public. We think it impossible for any one whom it is a credit to please, to read Philemon, without admiring the pure principles and the amiable benevolence that breathe in every line.
Art. X. Observations on Madness and Melancholy: including practitical Remarks on those Diseases; together with Cases and an Account of their morbid Appearances on Dissection. By John Haslam, late of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge: Member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and Apothecary to Bethlem Hospital. Second Edition. 8vo. pp. 345. Price 9s. Callow, Hayden. 1809.
THOUGH the press has teemed with publications on the
very interesting subject of diseased intellect, varying in their merit as well as in their views of the subject, exhibiting considerable ingenuity in their respective theories, as well as novelty in the modes of treatment recommended, yet little, very little important information has been supplied. The history of insanity is necessarily connected with that of the human mind; and while our knowledge of this wonderful part of our composition in a state of health and integrity remains so circumscribed, we can hardly be expected to arrive at such an intimate acquaintance with it when disordered and deranged, as to enable us to proceed with any degree of confidence or certainty in our curative attempts. Metaphysics, theology, physiology, and pathology have been long and arduously engaged in this interesting investigation; but, after all, the limits which separate reason and madness have never.
been accurately defined. There cannot be a more striking exemplification of this fact, than we find in a number of individuals, who seem to be heteroclites in society; who, with an exuberance of sense, have a dearth of what is called common sense; whose ordinary deportment differs greatly from that of the generality of mankind; who have scarcely a movement or sentiment unmarked with singularity; who, being at large, are only termed characters or geniuses, but, if within the walls of St. Luke's or Bethlem hospital, would be ranked among the most hopeless of incurables, and the placard on each would be tribus Anticyris Caput insanabile. Such subjects are certainly predisposed to the worst species of mental malady, and, after being exposed to exciting causes, are often observed to become permanently insane. It is also to be lamented, that, notwithstanding the morbid appearances which have been found in the organ of intellect in those who have died insane, it is impossible to decide which are the causes and which the effects of the disease. It is therefore matter of doubt whether the most simple division of mental maladies, and a practice bordering close upon empirical, would not, in a comparative experiment upon a given number of cases, be ultimately the most successful.
More than ten years have elapsed since the first edition of Mr. Haslam's work was ushered into the world: its bulk is materially increased, but whether its value is augmented in a similar ratio may be a matter of doubt. We believe he has ever since occupied a situation, which no other individual in the kingdom can boast; a situation which furnishes the greatest number and variety of cases, and the best possible opportunities of experience. We therefore seized the volume with no little avidity. We anticipated some valuable additions to his former work; but have only found a new proof of the difficulty of writing any thing satisfactory on diseases of the mind, and still find reason to lament that a complete practical treatise on insanity remains a desideratum.
We now proceed briefly to examine the contents of the volume before us, which, agreeably to established custom, opens with a definition of the disease. Here, after observing that there is no word in the English language more deserving of a precise definition than madness, and the difference of opinion of most modern authors on the subject, Mr. H. takes some pains to discover the original meaning of the word, by tracing it back to its source. Here, we think, he exhibits satisfactory proof of patient research and much useless ingenuity, in attempting what is impossible. For, as the cases differ ad infinitum, as no two are exactly alike, and the discrepance results from such a vast variety of circumstances,
the most accurate description of one might be very far from appropriate to any other. In treating this part of his subject, the reasoning of the 'author seems to have been influenced by the grammatical and metaphysical opinions of Mr. Horne Tooke; and though his speculations are amusing, and in some sense original, they are of no practical importance. As a proof, we offer the following quotation.
• As far as I have observed respecting the human mind (and I speak with great hesitation and diffidence) it does not possess all those powers and faculties with which the pride of man has thought proper to invest it. By our senses we are enabled to become acquainted with objects, and we are capable of recollecting them in a greater or less degree; the rest appears to be merely a contrivance of language. If mind were actually capable of the operations attributed to it, and possessed of these powers, it would necessarily have been able to create a language expressive of those powers and operations. But the fact is otherwise. The language which characterizes mind and its operations, has been borrowed from external objects for mind has no language peculiar to itself. A few instances will sufficiently illustrate this position. After having committed an offence it is natural to say that the mind feels contrition and sorrow. Contrition is from cum and tero, to rub together, which cannot possibly have any thing to do with the operations of the mind; which is incapable of rubbing its ideas or notions together. Contrition is a figurative expression, and may possibly mean the act of rubbing out the stain of vice, or wearing down by friction the prominences of sin. If we were to analyze the word sorrow, which is held to be a mental feeling, we should find it to be transferred from bodily sufferance: for the mind is incapable of creating a term correctly expressive of its state, and therefore it became necessary to borrow it from soreness of body-see Tooke's Diversions of Purley, vol. II. p. 207, where sore, sorry, and sorrow are clearly made out to be the same word.'
It seems clear enough that Mr. H. has no great reverence for the spiritual part of our being, and, it may be, doubts its existence. But the philological speculations of which he is enamoured, afford no proof that the powers of the mind are overrated either in number or importance, nor any argument in favour of the materialists. It is not to be supposed that the mind can comprehend its own nature, any more than the eye see itself; still less could it be expected to know its own history, which would involve an absolute contradiction, implying that it was both young and old at once. No wonder, then, that the mind should borrow from sensible objects and bodily feelings, the terms by which it conveys to another mind the imperfect notion it forms of its own acts and sensations. Mental and bodily feelings, however, are not the less distinct in their nature, because it is found convenient to express them, if we would be understood, by analogous or identical terms. Sorrow is still