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mould in which the language was cast will never be destroyed. * The Lectures appeared in 1803. The last of Mr Robison's works was one which he had long projected, though he now set about the completion and arrangement of it, for the first time. It was entitled, Elements of Mechanical Philosophy, being the substance of a Course of Lectures on that Science. "Mechanical Philosophy" was, with him, a favourite expression; it was understood as synonymous with Natural Philosophy, and included the same branches. The first volume, the only one he lived to finish, included Dynamics and Astronomy, and was published in 1804. It is a work of great merit, and is accessible to those who have no more than an elementary knowledge of the mathematics. The short view of the phenomena prefixed to the Physical Astronomy is executed in a masterly manner. The same may be said, and perhaps even with more truth, of the Physical
* The high opinion which Mr Robison elsewhere expresses of Lavoisier is very remarkable. In his Astronomy, published a year after the Lectures, in stating Hooke's anticipation of the Principles of Gravitation, he concludes thus: "It is worthy of remark, that in this clear and candid and modest exposition of a rational theory, Hooke anticipated the discoveries of Newton, as he anticipated with equal distinctness and precision the discoveries of Lavoisier, a philosopher inferior perhaps only to Newton." (Elements of Mechanical Philosophy, p. 285.)
Astronomy itself; for there are very few of the elementary treatises on that branch of science which can be compared with it, either for the facility of the demonstration, or the comprehensiveness of the plan. The first part is meant to be popular and historical, and is so at the same time that it is philosophical and precise. The work is indeed highly estimable, and is entitled to much more success in the world than it has actually had.
We have already taken notice of Mr Robison's illness, with which he had been now afflicted for the long period of nineteen years. His sufferings, though not equal, had been often extremely severe. They had occasionally rendered him unable to discharge his duty in the College, and of late his friend, the Reverend Dr Thomas Macknight, had, with great kindness and ability, frequently supplied his place. Against such a continuance of ill health, with so little hopes of recovery as could be entertained for a long time past, hardly any mind could be expected to remain in full possession of activity and vigour. This is the more difficult, as the valuable medicine which alone in such cases can assuage pain, contributes itself at length to weaken the mind, and to destroy its energy. The combat which Mr Robison had maintained against these complicated evils, had indeed been wonderfully vigorous and successful, and the last of his works
is quite worthy of his days of most perfect health and enjoyment.
The body could not resist so well as the mind. In the end of January 1805, he was suddenly seized with a severe illness, which put an end to his life in the course of forty-eight hours. There was a general disturbance of the system, which, without having the character of any defined disease, exhibited those symptoms of universal disorder which denote a breaking up of the constitution, and never fail to terminate fatally.
On reviewing the whole of his character, and the circumstances of his life, it is impossible not to see in him a man of extraordinary powers, who had enjoyed great opportunities for improvement, and had never failed to turn them to the best account. He possessed many accomplishments rarely to be met with in a scholar, or a man of science. He had great skill and taste in music, and was a performer on several instruments. He was an excellent draughtsman, and could make his pencil a valuable instrument either of record or invention. When a young man, he was gay, convivial, and facetious, and his vers de société flowed, I have been told, easily, and with great effect. His appearance and manner were in a high degree favourable and imposing; his figure handsome, and his face expressive of talent, thought, gentleness, and good
temper. When I had first the pleasure to become acquainted with him, the youthful turn of his countenance and manners was beginning to give place to the grave and serious cast, which he early assumed; and certainly I have never met with any one whose appearance and conversation were more impressive than his were at that period.
Indeed, his powers of conversation were very extraordinary, and when exerted, never failed of producing a great effect. An extensive and accurate information of particular facts, and a facility of combining them into general and original views, were united in a degree of which I am persuaded there have been few examples. Accordingly, he would go over the most difficult subjects, and bring out the most profound remarks, with an ease and readiness which was quite singular. The depth of his observations seemed to cost him no thing; and when he said any thing particularly striking, you never could discover any appearance of the self-satisfaction so common on such occasions. He was disposed to pass quite readily from one subject to another; the transition was a matter of course, and he had perfectly, and apparently without seeking after it, that light and easy turn of conversation, even on scientific and profound subjects, in which we of this island are charged by our neighbours with being so extremely deficient.
The same facility, and the same general tone,
was to be seen in his lectures and his writings. He composed with singular facility and correctness, but was sometimes, when he had leisure to be so, very fastidious about his own compositions.
In the intercourse of life, he was benevolent, disinterested, and friendly, and of sincere and unaffected piety. In his interpretation of the conduct of others, he was fair and liberal, while his mind retained its natural tone, and had not yielded to the alarms of the French Revolution, and to the bias which it produced.
His range in science was most extensive; he was familiar with the whole circle of the accurate sciences, and there was no part of them on which, if you heard him speak or lecture, you would not have pronounced it to be his forte, or a subject which he had studied with more than ordinary attention. Indeed, the rapidity with which his understanding went to work, and the extent of ground he seemed to have got over, while others were only preparing to enter on it, were the great features of his intellectual character. In these he has rarely been exceeded. With such an assemblage of talents, with a mind so happily formed for science, one might have expected to find in his writings more of original investigation, more works of discovery and invention. I must remark, however, that from the turn his speculations and compositions took, or rather received from circumstances, we are apt to overlook