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ginal author gives you an idea of the times totally different from what one gains by a modern compilation. I am much entertained in observing the traces of truth in many of his wildest fables ; as where he says it was impossible to proceed far in Scythia on account of vast quantities of feathers which fell from heaven and covered all the country.
We are reading too Sir T. More's Utopia. He says many good things; but it wants a certain salt, which Swift and others have put into their works of the same nature. One is surprised to see how old certain complaints are. Of the frequent executions, for instance: twenty men, he says, being hung upon one gibbet at a time: of arable land turned to pasture, and deserted villages in consequence.
I hope the exertions which are now making for the abolition of the slave-trade will not prove all in vain. They will not, if the pleadings of eloquence or the cry of duty can be heard. Many of the most respectable and truly distinguished characters are really busy about it, and the press and the pulpit are both employed; so I hope something must be done. I expect to be highly gratified in hearing Mr. Hastings's trial, for which we are to have tickets some day. This impeachment has been the occasion of much pomp, much eloquence, and much expense; and there I sup-?
pose it will end. As somebody said, It must be put off for the judges to go their circuit, resumed late, and so it will fall into the summer amuse
Hampstead, May 1791. What do you say to Pitt and Fox agreeing so well about the affair of libels? Is there any thing behind the curtain ? I hope not; for I own I have felt myself much interested for Fox since his noble and manly behaviour, mixed with so much sensibility and tempered with so much forbearance, towards Burke. It puts one in mind of the quarrel between Brutus and Cassius.
I am reading with a great deal of interest Ramsay's History of the American Revolution; and I do not wonder that the old story of Greece and Rome grows, as you say, flat, when we have events of such importance passing before our eyes, and from thence acquiring a warmth of colour and authenticity which it is in vain to seek for in histories that have passed from hand to hand through a series of ages. How uniformly great was Congress, and what a spotless character Washington! All their public acts, &c., are remarkably well drawn up. We are reading in idle moments, or rather dipping into, a very different work, Boswell's long-expected Life of Johnson. It is like going to Ranelagh; you meet all your acquaint
ance: but it is a base and a mean thing to bring
idle word into judgement--the judgement of the public. Johnson, I think, was far from a great character; he was continually sinning against his conscience, and then afraid of going to hell for it. A Christian and a man of the town, a philosopher and a bigot, acknowledging life to be miserable, and making it more miserable through fear of death; professing great distaste to the country, and neglecting the urbanity of towns; a Jacobite, and pensioned; acknowledged to be a giant in literature, and yet we do not trace him, as we do Locke, or Rousseau, or Voltaire, in his influence on the opinions of the times. We cannot say Johnson first opened this vein of thought, led the way to this discovery or this turn of thinking. In his style he is original, and there we can track his imitators. In short, he seems to me to be one of those who have shone in the belles lettres, rather than, what he is held out by many to be, an original and deep genius in investigation.
Hampstead, 1791. ... I do not know whether I said so before, but I cannot help thinking that the revolution in France will introduce there an entire revolution in education; and particularly be the ruin of classical learning, the importance of which must be
lessening every day; while other sciences, particularly that of politics and government, must rise in value, afford an immediate introduction to active life, and be necessary in some degree to everybody. All the kindred studies of the cloister must sink, and we shall live no longer on the lean relics of antiquity.
Apropos of France; Mrs. Montague, who entertains all the aristocrats, had invited a marchioness of Boufflers and her daughter to dinner. After making her wait till six, the marchioness came, and made an apology for her daughter, that just as she was going to dress she was seized with a degout momentanée du monde, and could not wait
There is a little Frenchman here at Hampstead who is learning the language, and he told us he had been making an attempt at some. English verses. “I have made," says he, "four couplets in masculine and feminine rimes.” “O sir,” says I, “ you have given yourself needless trouble, we do not use them.” Why, how so," says he ; “ have you no rules then for your verse ?” “ Yes sir, but we do not use masculine and feminine rimes.” Well, I could not make him comprehend there could be any regular poetry without these rimes.
Mr. Brand Hollis has sent me an American poem, The Conquest of Canaan,-a regular epic in twelve books; but I hope I need not read it. Not
that the poetry is bad, if the subject were more interesting. What had he to do to make Joshua his hero, when he had Washington of his own growth?
We are at present reading Anacharsis, and are much pleased with it. There is nothing of adventure, nothing like a novel ; but the various circumstances relating to the Greeks are classed and thrown together in such a manner as to dwell on the mind. It has just the effect which it would have if in the Museum, instead of being shown separately the arms and dresses of different nations, you had figures dressed up and accoutred in them: the. Otaheitan mourner walking to a morai ; the warrior full-armed in the attitude of attack; and the priest with all the various instru: ments of sacrifice before the altar. Thus they become grouped in the mind.
I want you to propose a metaphysical question to your Society, which Mr. B. and I have had great debates upon; and I want to know your opinion and my sister's. It
sister's. It is this: If
this: If you were now told that in a future state of existence
you should be entirely deprived of your consciousness, so as not to be sensible you were the same being who existed here,—should you or should you not be now interested in your future happiness or misery? or, in other words, Is continued consciousness the essence of identity?