« AnteriorContinuar »
near to a revival of the old opinions our features by our mental characof the sympathists.
ter, may be so involved with, or bid. 10. To these may be added the den by, accidental circumstances, general character of enthusiasm in that it is in vain to attempt the study favour of physiognomy, which is of a science, whose limits are so constamped on every page of the work, fined. These objections of M. For. and io which, indeed, a great part mey are worth noticing, although of the merit of it may be due. But they do not strike me as conclusive it certainly has the salutary tendency on the points towards which he of setting his readers on their guard urges them. against a too precipitate admission Beside this essay by M. Formey, I of his physiognomical decisions. know of no other subsequent publi
Such appears to me the character cation ofany moment on the subject. of a work, which altogether does From this historical deduction, howcredit to the times, as well as to the ever, of the literary progress of phyauthor.
siognomy, it appears, that into whatM. Lavater's book produced an ever disrepute the science may now attack upon it from M. Formey, in be fallen, there is scarcely a period the Berlin Transactions for the year to be mentioned, wherein any thing 1775. M. Formey having discussed of science was kncwn, in which phythe propriety of the extensive sig- siognomy had vot its abettors and nification given to the term physiog- its professors, among men of the nomy, by M. Pernetty and Lavater, greatest learning, and most undoubadopts a definition nearly the same ted abilities; and that, in all probawith that which I have taken. He bility, the chief reasons why so little allows that every fibre of the body attention is paid to the subject at influences, and is intimately con- present, are, nected with the mental character; First, that it has been treated in but he urges, as his principal argu- conjunction with subjects now proment, that ourframe is liable to many perly exploded as unworthy of ataccidents, by which it may be altered tention; and secondly, That it has or modified, that have no con- been injured by the injudicious asnection with the disposition or tal- sertions and arguments of those who ents of the
have undertaken its defence. posed to them, that it far surpasses
The learned and the wise, however, human skill to distinguish between may sometimes be mistaken; not such modifications of feature as are, should
decisive conclusion be and such as are not, connected with drawn against the use of any thing, the mind; and therefore although from its having been abused. The there may be truth in the science of time, therefore, may not be far disphysiognomy, the Deity alone can be tant, when physiognomy will be rea physiognomist. Heobserves, more- instated in her rank among the valover, that our cast of features is liable uablebranches ofhuman knowledge, to be determined by the tempera- and be studied with that degree ments of our ancestors,lineal and col- of attention and perseverance which lateral, by education, by diet, by a subject deserves, so essentially climate, by sudden emotions, &c. connected with the science of so that the determination given to
On the comparative excellence of beautiful and consistent whole ; so
the sciences and arts. By Mr. Wil it is the business of every man, in liam Roscoe ; from the same, the conduct of life, to exbibit to the
world a great and consistent characT. THERE is, perhaps, no circum- ter. In order to accomplish this
stance more injurious, both to end, it is necessary to keep one our improvement and happiness, grand object in view, and never than a propensity to engage and suffer ourselves to be drawn from it, persevere in the study of particular by too minute an attention to less branches of science, without first important parts; for though these taking that enlarged and general may bein themselves commendable, view of our nature and destination, yet, if the principal object has been by which we ought to ascertain, neglected, in order to bestow more and arrange in due succession, the assiduity on these inferior parts, it proper objects of our pursuit. For betrays a deficiency in judgment want of attention to this important and true taste, which it will be imsubject, learning and industry have possible any other merit can fully frequently been exerted on compensate. worthy objects; and genius and It is, however, much to be aptaste trifled away, without either prehended, that many persons have affording advantage to mankind, or passed through the world, not only obtaining reputation to their posses- without discovering, but without sor.
once reflecting on the proper objects If, from the time of our entrance of their pursuit; and the number is on the world, we were enabled fully not less, perhaps, of those who, hato exercise those powers of mind ving formed clear and determinate which are but gradually unfolded, ideas of their duty, have, in the this would be the first consideration course of their conduct, lost sight of which would suggest itself to a ra- them; and suffered those things tional being; and though those which required their immediate expowers are developed only by de- ertions, totally to supersede the grees, yet, there is a period in the higher ends, to which they ought life of every man, when, collecting only to have been auxiliary. together those ideas which have In general life, what is more been suffered to wander almost un common, than to suffer the laudable restrained, over the fields of amuse- desire of acquiring independence, to ment, it behoves him to consider, degenerate into an eagerness for acwith serious attention, that tablet cumulating riches, without a referwhich is to contain, in eternal co- ence to any farther end ? But, can lours, the picture of his future life; we avoid pitying the man, who emand, like a skilful artist, to observe ploys his time in gilding the frame, what requires his first attention, and when he should be finishing the what are only secondary objects of picture? his regard.
In the pursuits of science, this As it is the first aim of the painter error continually occurs; we suffer to produce on his canvas some great some particular study, which, perand striking effect ; and, by a pro- haps, accident rather than choice per arrangement of parts, to form a first suggested, to claim the con
tinual sacrifice of our time, and the by means of the sciences and arts, full exertion of our talents; whilst and as these are much diversified in subjects remain neglected, of far themselves, disclose to us different more importance, and, perhaps, in views, and lead to different ends ; fact, more suited to our tempers it becomes a business of much imand abilities.
portance to enquire what particular The difficulty of divesting our branch of science, or of art, is most selves of particulars, and looking on deserving of our attention, before things in a general view, will, how we suffer ourselves to be attracted ever, decrease, in proportion as we by such other less important, though habituate ourselves to such employ- not useless, investigations, as may ment; and it is rather for the pur- accidentally come across our way. pose of illustrating the propriety of Now, it may certainly be taken the practice, than with the expecta- for granted, that, as beings, account. tion of facilitating it, that I beg the able for our moral conduct, and inattention of this respectable society, fluencing, by that conduct, not only whilst I enter more fully into the our own happiness, but in a great subject.
degree, the happiness of others, Man, in his original constitution, those studies which have an immeis endowed with a variety of facul. diate reference to the moral duties ties, different in their ends and na- of life are of the first importance. ture; but, I conceive, they may be The study of the works of nature reduced to the three following, viz. may next be allowed to engage our the moral sense, or that which dis- attention-a study, on the know. tinguishes virtue and vice; the ra. ledge of which depend many of the tional faculty, distinguishing truth conveniencies and pleasures of life; and falsehood; and the sentimental and which has, perhaps,a still highfaculty, or, as it is usually called, er claim to our notice, as inducing taste, which distinguishes beauty us to form to ourselves proper ideas from deformity. To the acquisic of the attributes and perfections of tions made in improving the rational the great Creator; who has opened and moral powers, we give the before us his extensive volume, and name of science; whilst the senti. endowed us with abilities to judge mental faculty is the foundation of of, and taste to enjoy, the beauties it the pleasures we receive from the affords. study of the polite arts.
Science, then, is either moral or As these faculties may be improved natural : the first, immediately conby exercise, so they may be injured nected with the conduct of human and decay by neglect, and become life; the second, more remotely so, totally inapplicable to any good and through the medium of the works of useful purpose; and it is therefore nature. With respect to the former, the duty, of every rational being, to as it is the indispensable duty of make this improvement the first ob- every man to be as fully acquaintject of his attainment. But, in do- ed with it as his abilities and situaing this, we should first inquire, by tion will permit, so it is disgraceful what means we may best answer and dangerous to neglect it; whilst this good end; for, as these original the latter though honourable and endowments can only be cultivated useful in the acquisition, may be
postponed, or omitted, till a profi- other individuals, all entitled to the ciency be made in more important same rights as ourselves; as memstudies.
bers of the particular states from Notwithstanding this, it has been which we derive protection; and observed of late, and experience from the other social and domestic seems to justify the observation, that relations of life, many duties are the present age is more attached to incumbent on us, which require no the study of natural philosophy, than small degree of accuracy, care, and to that of morals: which may possi- attention, to perform in such a manbly arise from an idea, that the lat ner as lo merit the approbation of ter affords but a small scope for the those with whom we are connected, exercise of the mind, and consists and of our own minds. chiefly of propositions, either self Nor let it be thought beneath the evident, or capable of a simple and dignity of the philosopher to exadecided demonstration. Admitting, mine the laws that subsist between for a moment, this to be the case; man and the inferior animals of the yet it by no means precludes the creation ; a subject yet but slightly necessity of transferring to our own touched on, though highly deserving use the result of other men's labours; of farther inquiry. That acts of which can only be done by a dili- injustice may be, and too frequentgent application to the same studies ly are exercised
them cannot and pursuits. It is not whether the be doubted; and, if so, the necesscience be known, but whether I sity of some regulations, in this reknow it, about which I ought to be spect, is the immediate consequence solicitous.
of such concession. A right of proIt will, however, appear, upon perty, according to the present sysa nearer view, that the science of tem of things, includes also a right morals affords a much wider field to torment, to mutilate, and to kill; than may, at first sight, beimagined. to weary out nature by repeated sufThe great variety of circumstances ferings; or to destroy at once that and combinations, which arise in a vital spark, the immediate gift of polished and commercial state, open, the Divinity, which when once exto an accurate observer, a perpetual tinguished, no human power can resourceofspeculation. It is, however, store ; but, it is to be hoped, this my province to sketch the outline may not arise so much from a feroonly; to fill it up properly would city and wanton propensity to cruel. require higher abilities and more ty in the human mind, as from a too accurate research.
prevalent idea, that there are no muThe duties of life are immediately tual rights between man and the derived from the different relations brute creation ; absolute 'property in which mankind are placed. As being vested in the one, and unlima simple existing being, detached ited resignation the lot of the other. from any other of his species, there To counteract this false and injuis a connection between man and rious opinion, neither moral inhis Creator which subjects him to junctions, nor political regulations, certain duties, prior, in point of should be wanting; nor can the obligation, to every other claim.
powers of the mind be more ho: As individuals, connected with nourably exerted than in prevent
ing the unnecessary extension of ac- fore, equally to be included under tual pain in the universe ; or in plea- the study of natural philosophy, ding the cause of that class of beings, In pursuing the subject, it will, to whom nature, though she gave hon ever, be necessary to advert to capacity of pain, denied the power the different channels, into which of remonstrating against their suf. this great branch of science is diviferings.
led. These are, first, the knowledge These then are, of all others, the of intellect, called metaphysics ; sestudies
condly, the knowledge of the extent Que magis ad nos
and quantity of substances, called Pertinent, ei nescire malum estmathematics; and thirdly, the knowOn the cultivation of these depends, ledge of particular properties of sub. not only our present, but our future stances, usually called physics. welfare ; and shall we, with the ill- “ The mind of man," says a late timed application of the pretended excellent writer, “is the noblest philosopher, persist in the solution work of God which nature discoof a mathematical problem, whilst vers to us, and therefore, on account the house burns around us ; or suffer of its dignity, deserves our study." shells and feathers to attract our no. That this is the primary, and most tice whilst our happiness and our important branch of natural philomisery hang yet in the balance, sophy, must be evident to any one and it remains in the power of our who considers, that, before we aputmost exertion to throw an atom ply ourselves to acquire extraneous into the scale?
knowledge, we ought to ascertain Impressed with the idea that these what particular kind our faculties studies are of the first importance to are adapted to attain; and, having us, and conscious that we are not seen what is, and what is not, in our uninformed with respect to them; power, we may then be enabled to it may then be allowed us, to en- pursue such subjects as are within gage in the acquisition of other our reach ; and not imprudently labranches of science, which unite, vish our time on those which come with the gratification of an innocent not within the scope of the faculties and natural passion, the expectation with which we are endowed. of being enabled to render our em- Thescience of mathematics is conployment of essential service to the versant with the extent and quantity happiness of mankind.
of substances; and teaches the unTo these studies we may give the changeable and universal properties name of natural philosophy, though, of visible objects. It therefore preperhaps, in a more general accepta- cedes the study of physics, whose tion than that in which it has been province it is, to inquireinto the parof late understood: but I am not ticular pature and laws of such obaware of any impropriety in the usejects. If the pleasures received from of this term, applied to the study of scientific pursuits depend on the inthe whole system of nature, as well vestigation and acquisition of truth, intellectual as material. The fa- the study of the mathematics is, of culties of the human mind, are as all others, the most capable of afmuch a part of that system, as the fording enjoyment, its conclusions form of our bodies, and seem, there. not depending on the subtlety of ar.