Imatges de pÓgina

which modesty should confine the disclosure, even to the most intimate friends, of the interior movements of a devout spirit. But all hail to our Doddridges and Howes, to our Venns and Newtons ! whose familiar letters, if sometimes chargeable with a failure in that graceful reserve, yet always glow with a holy unction, and can at least never be charged with the frigid indifference which these learned Benedictines exhibit on the subjects to which they had all most solemnly devoted their talents and their lives.

Visiting, for the first time, the places which they regard as the centre of Christian unity, as the seat of apostolic dominion, as the temple towards which all the churches of the earth should worship, as the ever salient fountain of truth, and as the abode of him who impersonates to his brother men the Divine Redeemer of mankind, not a solitary word of awe or of tenderness falls from their pens-not a fold of those dark tunics is heaved by any throb of grateful remembrance or of exulting hope. They could not have traversed Moscow or Amsterdam with a more imperturbable phlegm; nor have sauntered along the banks of the Seine or the courts of the Louvre in a temper more perfectly debonnaire.

Protestant zeal may be sometimes rude, bitter, and contumelious in denouncing Roman Catholic superstitions. It is a fault to be sternly rebuked. But how adequately censure these reverend members of that communion, who, without one passing sigh, or one indignant phrase, depict the shameful abuses of the holiest offices of their Church, with cold sarcasms and heartless unconcern.

Rome combated her Protestant antagonists by the aid of the Jesuits in the world, and of the Benedictines in the closet. Yet to those alliances she owes much of the silent revolt against her authority which has characterised the last hundred years; and of which the progress is daily becoming more apparent. The Jesuits involved her in their own too well merited disesteem. The Benedictines have armed the philosophy both of France and Germany with some of the keenest weapons by which she has been assailed. It was an ill day for the papacy, when the congregation of St. Maur, at the instance of Benard, called the attention of their fellow-countrymen to the medieval history of the Church, and invited the most enlightened generation of men whom Europe had ever seen, to study and believe a mass of fables of which the most audacious Grecian mythologist would have been ashamed, and at which the credulity of a whole college of augurs would have staggered.

It was but a too prolific soil on which this seed was scattered. At the moment when, in the integrity of his heart, Mabillon was propagating these legends, the walls of his monastery were often passed by a youth, whose falcon eye illuminated with ceaseless change one of the most expressive countenances in which the human soul had ever found a mirror. If the venerable old man had foreseen how that eye would one day traverse his Benedictine annals, in a too successful search for the materials of the most overwhelming ridicule of all which he held holy, he would cheerfully have consigned his unfinished volumes, and with them his own honoured name, to oblivion. Not so would Michel Germain, Claude Estiennot, and the brethren for whose amusement they wrote, have contemplated, if they could have foreknown, the approaching career of the young Alouet. Though they clung to the Church of Rome with all the ardour of partisans, and though their attachment to her was probably since their convictions must have been faint, unripe, and wavering. The mists of doubt, though insufficient to deprive them of their faith in Christianity, had struck a damp and abiding chill into their hearts. If they had lived long enough to know the patriarch of Ferney, they would have been conscious of the close affinity between his spirit and their own.

How could it have been otherwise ? From disinterring legends and traditions revolting to their hearts and understandings, they passed to Rome, there to disinter foul masses of holy bones, to contemplate sacred processions of mules and asses, to find a corpulent self-indulgent valetudinarian sustaining the character of the vicar of Christ, and to discover that the basest motives of worldly interest dictated to the papal court the decisions for which they dared to claim a divine impulse and a divine infallibility. From such follies and such pretensions these learned persons turned away with immeasurable contempt. The freedom of thought which unveiled to them these frauds, left them disgusted with error, but did not carry them forward to the pursuit of truth. Without the imbecility to respect such extravagances, they were also without the courage to denounce and repudiate them. Their superior light taught them to expose and ridicule religious error ;-it did not teach them to embrace unwelcome truth. In that book which is the religion of Protestants,' they might have read that “the light is the life of men,' -- that is, of men who obey and follow its guidance.

There also they might have learned that the light which is “in us may be darkness,' — that is, may at once illuminate the inquisitive intellect, and darken the insensible heart. The letters which they have bequeathed to us, interesting as they are in other respects, afford melancholy proof how deeply the

[ocr errors]

younger Benedictines of the congregation of St. Maur were already imbued with the spirit of that disastrous philosophy, which was destined, before the lapse of another century, to subvert the ancient institutions of their native land, and, with them, the venerable fabric of their own illustrious Order.

ART. II.--1. The Patent Journal. Nos. 1. -100. London:

1846-7-8. 2. The Mechanic's Magazine. Vols. XLVII. and XLVIII.

London : 1846-7-8. Prosaic and business-like as the contents of these volumes ROSA appear, there are perhaps few works that would be found

, upon examination to contain more of the elements of tragedy. Not the rejected addresses of suitors for royal favours-not the scrolls which despairing lovers hung in the temple of Leucadia before they took the all-curing leap-could exhibit a more melancholy record of profitless labours and disappointed hopes! And to arrive at this conclusion, there is little need to inquire into the subsequent history of the inventions, or the inventors. The simple perusal of their own specifications, aided by a very moderate degree of scientific knowledge, will suffice to prove that, nine times out of ten, all the labour and expense that have been lavished upon the production of these cunningly devised engines could result in nothing but total failure. Nor do the inventors appear to profit by example. In spite of the abundant warnings held out to them in the fate of their predecessors, they persist in adopting the same inefficient means, the same defective constructions; or in hopeless attempts to extort from some natural agent the performance of tasks for which it is manifestly unfitted. Nay, the identical mechanism, that has broken down a dozen times in other hands, is once more made the subject of new patents, by men who are not only ignorant of the simple scientific principles which would have taught them their folly, but who do not know the fact that the selfsame ideas have long since been worked out, and abandoned as impracticable. Without skill to shape their own course, they cannot perceive the scattered debris that might warn them of impending shipwreck. Is it credible that ingenious men,

. who have seen or heard of the suspension tunnel, and the electric telegraph, should still waste years in a search for the perpetual motion? Yet such is the fact; and one such machine, at least, may even now be seen in London, by those who have more faith than knowledge, pursuing its eternal revolutions.

In the majority of instances, we apprehend that these inventors are but little acquainted with the practical details of the branches of art or manufacture whereon they exercise their ingenuity. They attempt to do better than other men, things which they do not know how to do at all. And if, perchance, some remark be hazarded as to their want of experience, they consider it sufficient to reply, that Arkwright was a barber, and Cartwright a clergyman; that Sir William Herschel taught music before he became the celebrated astronomer; and Sir Michael Faraday passed the earlier years of life in practising the handicraft art of bookbinding.

Considering that the state of the law renders the privilege of a patent both expensive* and difficult of attainment, and that the whole cost, in addition to that required for completing the invention, must be incurred before any benefit can possibly be derived ;-- it becomes an inquiry of some interest to trace the motives that lead men, many of whom are sufficiently needy and busy already, to embark upon enterprises so hopeless. One chief cause may, perhaps, be detected in that propensity to gambling which is unfortunately so prevalent in every stage of civilisation. In literature, as in manufactures -- among members of the learned, the military, and even the clerical professions, as among mechanical inventors and merchant adventurers, - the rewards of industry are divided into great prizes, and blanks. Success admits the aspirant within the

dazzling circles of wealth and fame; failure condemns him to oblivion, and too often to penury. Whatever may be the effect upon individuals -. and to him who has aimed high, even failure is not without its consolations—there can be little doubt, that in a national point of view the results are advantageous.

The general standard of excellence is raised. When more men • dare greatly,' more will achieve greatly. A larger amount of talent is allured to engage in active careers, and to endure in patience their inevitable fatigues and disappointments; while from time to time, discoveries and works of magnificent novelty and utility are contributed as additions to the stores of national wealth.

Projectors, since the days of Laputa and long before, have provoked the ridicule of the wits. It was not till Adam Smith had added the gravity of his censure, that Bentham, writing from

* In England, the first expense of a patent for the three kingdoms is 3451. in fees alone, which must be paid beforehand. In France, every article that is breveté pays an annual sum for the privilege as long as it lasts.

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Crichoff in White Russia, and full.of fellow-feeling for them, interposed in their behalf in a letter of remonstrance, the justice of which Adam Smith admitted. In proof of their national importance (for Manchester was then but in its cradle), Bentham relied on Adam Smith's own examples : Birminyham and Sheffield (he replies) are pitched upon by you ils examples, the one of a projecting town, the other of an unprojecting one. Can you forgive my saying, I rather * wonder that this comparison of your own choosing did noi suggest some suspicions of the justice of the conceptions you had taken up to the disadvantage of projectors. Sheffield is an old oak, Birmingham but a mushroom. What if we • should find the mushroom still vaster and more vigorous than

the oak ?* Not but the one as well as the other, at what time soever planted, must equally have been planted by projectors : for though Tubal Cain himself were to be brought post from • Armenia to plant Sheffield, Tubal Cain himself was as arrant

a projector in his day as even Sir Thomas Lombe was, or • Bishop Blaise.

The earnestness with which he returned to the subject in his Manual of Political Economy,'t shows the value which he attached to it. • As the world advances, the snares, the • traps, the pitfalls, which inexperience has found in the path of • inventive industry, will be filled up by the fortunes and the

minds of those who have fallen into them and been ruined. • In this, as in every other career, the ages gone by have been the forlorn hope, which has received for those who followed them the blows of fortune. There is not one reason for hoping • less well of future projects than of those which are passed, but here is one for hoping better. Nothing would more contribute to the preliminary separation of useless from useful projects, 6 and to secure the labourers in the hazardous routes of inven• tion from failure, than a good treatise upon projects in general. • It would form a suitable appendix to the judicious and philo

sophical work of the Abbé Condillac upon systems. What 'this is in matters of theory, the other would be in matters of

practice. The execution of such a work might be promoted ' by the proposal of a liberal reward for the most instructive ( work of this kind.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* The present state of Sheffield is a painful answer to Bentham's question. We read (Dec. 1848) in the Sheffield Times, · What is to become of Sheffield ? The introduction of a new trade alone will save

[ocr errors]


† First edited from Bentham's MS. in the third volume of his works, printed at Edinburgh, 1843.



« AnteriorContinua »