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general reader without treatises, than it could have been with them in the same compass. The principal complaint we have to prefer against this Cyclopædia, is, that many of its articles are too long; some of them, indeed, so long, that very few individuals will ever read them through. Gentlemen of fortune, who can rather tolerate redundancies than deficiencies, will, of course, purchase this Dictionary, in preference to any other. Compared with the Encyclopædia Britannica, we think it inferior in point of Authorship, but superior in Editorship; it displays less talent, but more judgement; less genius, but more learning; less energy of mind, but more accuracy of taste. This remark, of course, is not intended to apply universally; but it is needless to specify exceptions. The English work is very superior in tracing etymologies. Our observations on its character must evidently be of a general and cursory nature; it would be endless to appreciate the merits of the many valuable articles which it contains. As a whole, it will doubtless be an ornament to the literature of the metropolis in which it is published; and the admirable engravings by Lowry, Milton, and Scott, with which it is copiously enriched, will render it by far the most elegant work of the kind that ever issued from any press in Europe.
After having thus delivered our opinion, framed with conscientious impartiality, from as ample an examination as our leisure has allowed, respecting the different Encyclopædias now publishing; what shall we say of the undertaking by Mr. Enfield, assuming a like title, and of which the first volume has just reached us? Why, that it is both last' and 'least in our good graces.' It is not meant to assume the shape of a Dictionary, but that of a mere collection of Treatises. The volume now before us is devoted to Astronomy. It is a miserably meagre, ill-digested, unscientific, book; with incorrect definitions, erroneous reasonings, obscure or ambiguous illustrations; and destitute even of the usual advantage of an alphabetical index. It commences with an account of the astronomical observations of Adam, and ends with mentioning Dr. Maskelyne's calculation (in 1809) of the obliquity of the ecliptic; these are, we doubt not, the newest portions of the Treatise; at least, they are both subjects, respecting which no one, we believe, but Mr. Enfield, has been privileged to hear. Whoever Mr. Enfield may be, he writes, as he tells us, for the active student, and persevering tyro,'-'for the hoary head and grey hairs,'—and, for the half-learned noviciate'!!! He takes special care, to convince us, that he is unacquainted with the meaning of such words as orb, focus, penumbra, &c.;-that he is perfectly ignorant of Schroeter's observations proving that the moon has
an atmosphere,-of Laplace's theory of the tides, and of the atmospherical oscillations,-of the limits of the obliquity of the ecliptic, and, in short, of numerous particulars that mark the present state of astronomy. Yet we cannot help fancying he has made some brilliant discoveries in Metaphysics, which he will publish in due course; for he tells us, that sometimes his memory is unable to recollect,' that at others he cannot help feeling an idea,' while at others he bears hard upon an idea,' and so forth. That quality, indeed, which chiefly distinguishes this writer, is, his perspicuity. Thus, he says Columbus discovered the West Indies; but there it rested.' (p. 301.) Again, the tenth chapter, on Georgium Sidus, commences thus: The discovery of this. planet was reserved to the industrious care and unremitted attention of his Majesty's own private Astronomer, Dr. Herschel, under whose patronage he completed this most surprising instrument at Slough, near Windsor'!!! (p. 101.) And again, (p. 65) after speaking of the sun being vertical at certain places within the tropics, he proceeds thus:
This must always appear strange to those who have never been initiated in the principles of Astronomy, on their arrival in places between the tropics; and brings to my recollection the candid declarations of a noble Earl, recently deceased, when he was an officer on duty in one of the West India islands, St. Vincent's, I think, of his great surprise in seeing the sun in the meridian pass to the north of him. Though he possessed a very respectable library, where I was then sitting with him before dinner or supper, BUT WHICH OF THEM I CANNOT AT PRESENT RECOLLECT, [How distressing!] the particulars [of the dinner or supper, we suppose] consisting mostly of history and antiquities, I was obliged at the moment to explain to him without assistance from any thing that the library could supply, the circumstances to which he had more especially directed my attention. I then IMMEDIATELY answered the Earl [What astonishing facility, sagacity, and penetration! especially when it is recollected that the learned gentleman was just feeling the idea of an approaching meal], that on the day when the sun's northern declination became equal to the north latitude, the meridian Sun would be vertical ' ! ! !
Such are the specimens furnished by almost every page of this precious Encyclopædia'!-But we will suppress the indignation which an examination of the book is so naturally calculated to excite; and shew Mr. Enfield, that, (to adopt his own elegant phraseology when describing comets) we are not framed of a texture which purposely disposes' us to fume in that sort. To spend more words on the work would be unnecessary and absurd: a performance is obviously below animadversion, when it is beneath contempt.
Art. XV. Specimens of English Prose Writers from the earliest Times to the Close of the Seventeenth Century, with Sketches, Biographical and Literary, including an Account of Books as well as their Authors, with occasional Criticisms, &c. By Geo. Burnet, late of Baliol College, Oxford. 3 vols. 8vo. pp. 1500. Price 1. 78. Longman and Co. 1807.
IT sometimes happens that a man may devise a plan for con
veying instruction and ainusement to his readers, without the exertion of powerful talents, or the display of profound erudition. The work before us is of this description. It has many things to recommend it to attention; and yet the exeention of it contains no proof that the author possesses those rare qualities of intellect, which command the admiration of others. We rather rejoice that the state of the literary world now and then presents these opportunities, to subordinate minds, of making some advantage of their industrious lucubrations; and thus equalizes the blessings of the republic of letters. Were it not so, the aristocracy of learning would monopolize all privileges and profits to themselves; and plebeian intellects would find no account in their labours, which are in truth much more persevering, and not seldom more useful, than those of the higher orders of the learned community. Our satisfaction at this circumstance is heightened, by considering that our great geniuses have no compassion for those whom they think less able and more ignorant than themselves, and can never consent to "shake the superflux" of their celebrity to them. Among the wealthy, want of money excites pity, and elicits the hoon of charity. Among the learned, want of genius and information raises contempt, malice, and hardheartedness.
The author of the present work judiciously describes it, as having
no pretensions to originality even of compilement. Indeed, I consider myself as having done little more, than collected into a convenient form and arrangement, some information (I hope entertaining and useful) before incommodiously dispersed either in scarce or cumbrous volumes.' PP. vi. vii.
We beg to put the reader in possession of our chief reasons for recommending this performance. The antiquarian disposition has been of late exceedingly predominant in our country. It is not the love of what is new, but of what is old, that now, excites curiosity and invigorates research. Old chronicles are pursued with eagerness, and ransacked with patience. Terifying tomes, which have long lain buried in damp and dust, in obscure corners of neglected libraries, have triumphantly risen into public notice as if from a trance; and like Pythagoras are enjoying a second life, in a far more dignified form than before. The Roman letter begins now to be slight
ed, while its predecessor is creeping by degrees again into favour. Verse was formerly improved, like wine, by keeping; the same privilege is now granted to prose. A poem was fit to read after it had seen a hundred years roll over its head: common consent seems now to require but very little more to prepare a prosaic work for the public taste. without doubt, some of our readers, who are anxious to kuow what it is so many of their learned countrymen admire; but they are deterred from gratifying their wishes by the formidable size of the volumes in question, by their scarcity, by the amazing value which a succession of years, as if by a compound interest, has acquired for them; or finally, perhaps, by an opinion, that if the books were within their reach, and even in their possession, their contents would not deserve a serious perusal. To such, the present work will be highly acceptable. With very little trouble, and in a very short time, and at a trifling expense, they may form a slight aequaintance with those authors, who at present are the subject, of so much admiration and praise, but with whom perhaps they may not desire a very strict intimacy. Though Mr. Burnet often adduces a short specimen from a bulky folio, it is as much as many would wish to read; and in general abundantly sufficient to evince the justice of the admiration expressed for the entire work. The following passage will enable the reader to form a tolerably correct idea of Trevisa's style in the translation of the Polychronicon, and to judge whether he should wish to go through many hundred folio pages of a similar description; the date is near the end of the fourteenth century.
'Wealth and worship to my worthy and worshipful Lord Thomas, Lord of Barkley. I John Trevisa, your priest and bedeman, obedient and buxom to work your will, hold in heart, think in thought, and mean in mind your needful meaning and speech that ye spake and said, that ye would have English translation of Ranulph of Chester's Books of Chronicles. Therefore I will fond' to take that travail, and make English translation of the same books, as God granteth me grace. For blame of backbiters will I not blinne for envy of enemies, for evil spiting and speech of evil speakers will I not leave to do this deed: for travail will I not spare. Comfort I have in needful making and pleasing to God, and in knowing that I wote that it is your will.
For to make this translation clear, and plain, to be known and understanden, in some place, I shall set word for word, and active for active, and passive for passive a-row, right as it standeth, without changing of the order of words. But in some place I must change the order of words, set active for passive, and againward; and in some place I must set a reason for a word, and tell what it meaneth. But for all such changing, the meaning shall stand and not be changed. But some words and
names of countries, of lands, of cities, of waters, of rivers, of moun tains and hills, of persons, and of places, nust be set and stand for them. selves in their own kind; as Asia, Europa, Africa, and Syria; Mount Atlas, Sinai, and Oreb; Marah, Jordan, and Armon; Bethlem, Nazareth, Jerusalem, and Damascus; Hannibal, Rasin, Ahsuerus and Cyrus ; and many such words and names.' Vol. I. pp. 30, 31.
This work also affords a good opportunity of marking the progress of the English language from barbarity to refineIt is amusing to see our mother tongue, at first fluctuating and obscure in its meaning, unsettled in its order, barbarous in its idioms, irregular in its analogy, too scanty for some subjects, and redundant for others, assume, by slow but perceptible degrees, a more settled and respectable character. Elegant minds formerly rejected with scorn the mean and harlequin dress, which the English lexicon offered for their thoughts. The necessity of having recourse to another language is in the course of time removed; and our own supplies the writer with a rich fund of appropriate expressions on every subject, with nice distinctions and elegant turns, and with a steady precision. This improvement, like others, is gradual; and the shades of difference are very numerous between the citation from Trevisa and the following paragraph from Dryden,
To begin, then, with Shakspeare. He was the man, who of all modern, and perhaps ancient poets, had the largest and most comprehensive soul. All the images of nature were still present to him, and he drew them not laboriously, but luckily when he describes any thing, you more than see it you feel it too. Those who accuse him to have wanted learning, give him the greater commendation: he was naturally learned; he needed not the spectacles of books to read nature; he looked inwards, and found her there. I cannot say he is every where alike; were he so, I should do him injury to compare him with the greatest of mankind. He is many times flat, insipid; his comic wit degenerating into clenches, his serious swelling into bombast. But he is always great, when some great occasion is presented to him; no man can say he ever had a fit subject for his wit, and did not then raise himself as high above the rest of poets,
Quantum lenta solent inter viburna cupressi.? Vol. III. P. 470. The advantage of which we are now speaking is the completest which Mr. B. possesses. When the chief merit of an author arises from an interesting narrative, or from a variety of reasonings and illustrations, all tending to one important point, a short extract does not convey a fair idea of the work. But if the principal recommendation be his style, he may be fully appreciated by a few paragraphs. To adduce an extract in this case, is indeed, if we may use an old comparison, shewing a brick,-not however to give a notion of a house,