« VorigeDoorgaan »
we should leave its readers to make the most of it, without any comment of ours, if it were not for the duty of holding up to reprehension one or two of the passages that it contains. Fichte was, on the one hand, a sturdy, bold, restless man, of an eminent virtue and rare personal qualities, though they were rather of a rough cast. He was an ardent lover and a stout champion of freedom. Living in an age of great events and high political excitement, he partook largely of its spirit. He was an earnest patriot, and sought to exert as much influence upon public affairs as was consistent with his secluded habits and studious life. We honor him for the noble moral stand that he took, and for the eloquence with which he maintained it. On the other hand, he was one of those gigantic shadows in the shape of philosophy, that have fitted over the stage of German thought in such strange succession for the last century. While he has been extravagantly overpraised as a thinker in some quarters, his philosophical theory has been most uproariously laughed at in others, that were held in no less respect among his own countrymen. We consider his philosophy to have been resolved some time ago into the clouds, from which it was gathered and painted up into a likeness of reality, and into which many swelling pretensions that have followed his are hastening to be forgotten." He was a hard dog. matist in his day, though his system was one of pure idealism. But the day was not a long one, and his “I=1,"and the “I and the not 1,” soon became formulas that were used in sport rather than with any sober wonder. There were many admirable things about Johann Gottlieb Fichte ; but we do not consider that either his metaphysical doctrine or his manner of exhibiting it belonged to the number.
Wild Henri Heine makes merry with Fichte's principal intellectual operation, under the figure of an ape, sitting before the fire and boiling his own tail, supposing that the real culinary art did not consist merely in cooking objectively, but also in having a subjective consciousness of the cookery. He tells us at the same time of having seen a caricature that represented a Fichtean goose. The liver of the poor creature had become so large, that she no longer knew whether she was liver or goose. Upon her belly was written, “I=I.” We doubt, however, whether any caricature could be more comic than the description in this very book, copied from the Autobiography of Henry Steffens, and describing Fichte in his lecture-room. ci • Gentlemen,' said he, collect yourselves, — go into yourselves, - for we have here nothing to do with things without, but simply with the inner self.' Thus summoned, the auditors appeared really to go into themselves. Some, to facilitate the operation, changed their position, and stood up; some drew them.
selves together, and cast their eyes upon the floor; all were evidently
waiting, under high excitement, for what was to follow this preparatory summons. • Gentlemen,' continued Fichte, think the wall. This was a task to which the hearers were evidently all equal; they thought the wall. Have you thought the wall ? ' asked Fichte. Well, then, Gentlemen, think him who thought the wall. It was curious to see the evident confusion and embarrassment that now arose.”
Thus much for the philosopher. As for his English biographer, Mr. William Smith, we know nothing of him, but from the present work. He is evidently an accomplished person. We do not deny that he writes in a good, scholarly style ; his performance is in several respects highly creditable. But we perceive in him a taint, that infects a pretty large class of writers at the present day, both in England and America, and which we will not cease to mark with the warning reprobation that we think it deserves. On the 119th page, he brings together Socrates, Descartes, Spinoza, Priestley, Fichte, and the “deeply religious Shelley,” in the same category with Christ and the Apostle Paul, as persons who suffered persecution on account of their more enlightened spiritual views. Now, apart from the bad taste of such a combination, it seems to us to indicate an unsoundness that is of a most serious nature. Even if we should grant what he asserts of Shelley to be true, and we consider it a monstrous perversion of the truth, yet to mention thus in company the author of Queen Mab and the divine Founder of the gospel shows plainly enough to what class of thinkers he that ventures upon such a mode of speaking must belong.
But we have a worse charge to bring than this. He quotes with evident content a passage from an essay by Forberg, fortified with a preface by Fichte, that runs thus : — * Two great poets have expressed this faith of good and thinking men, with inimitable beauty. Such an one may adopt their language.” Then
follows the often-quoted passage from Goethe's Faust, begin, ning with, — “Who dares to say, I believe in God? Who dares to
name him, and to profess I believe in him ? " and ending with, — “ Then call it what thou wilt, — Happiness! Heart ! Love! God! I have no name for it. Feeling is all; name is but sound and smoke, veiling the glow of heaven.” Here is recommended to us, as the “ faith of good and thinking men,” the creed of Dr. Faustus when under the instigation of Mephistopheles the devil, which he uttered as a part of his plan for the betrayal and ruin of an innocent maiden. And this precious confession of faith, all in poetry, though the verse is rather ragged, is found in a deliber. ate essay, “On the Definition of the Idea of Religion”; or else in VOL. LXIV. - No. 134.
an article prefixed to it, “On the Grounds of our Faith in a Divine Government of the World.” We are not perfectly sure in which it occurs; for the biographer is not exactly luminous on this point, and we have not the Philosophical Journal for 1798 before us. Let the two German adepts in metaphysical juggles share the merit of so admirable an application between them. But they should at least have added what the poor deluded Margaret said so touchingly in reply, - " That is all fine and good ; the parson says nearly that, only in words a little different. And what shall we say to you, English Mr. Smith, who can gravely repeat such perfidious trumpery? "
With respect to the preface of the American editor, we cannot say that we entirely like its tone, or agree with all its positions. But we are reluctant to find fault. It implies a wish, towards the close, that the writings of Fichte might be “domesticated here,” since “ they would materially assist us in the solution of many of the impending questions which now appear above our horizon.” From this opinion we dissent. From the offer of such aid we turn away.In answer to such a wish for domestication, we should be ready to say any thing that sounds least like Amen.
5. - Report of the Committee on the Expediency of providing Bet.
ter Tenements for the Poor. Boston: Eastburn's Press. 1846. 8vo. pp. 36.
We have opportunity only to call attention to the remarkable statements made in this pamphlet, and earnestly to recommend the well digested and practicable scheme of philanthropy that is set forth in it, for alleviating what is perhaps the most fruitful of all evils in the condition of the laboring poor who reside in large cities. The situation of Boston on a peninsula of very limited extent, the rapid increase of its population, especially during the last ten years, and the consequent rise in the value of real estate have contributed to abridge the accommodations for the poor, till they are now worse lodged than their brethren in the foulest and most crowded districts of the large cities of Europe. Broad Street and its vicinity are more crowded, and probably more unhealthy, than the most noted dens of misery and crime in Liverpool and London, than Shoreditch, Whitechapel, or St. Giles. On an average, there are thirty-seven inhabitants to a house, and each person has but seven square yards on the ground. A large building often contains more families than it has rooms, even if we include under this name the subdivisions of the cellar. We have examined with some care the statements and authorities on which the following conclusions, taken from this Report, are founded, and we are satisfied that they do not exaggerate the evil.
“ First. That the present population of the first section of Boston is nearly as dense as that of the central parts of London.
“ Second. That the number of individuals to the house, throughout the whole city, is greater than in the principal commercial and manufacturing towns of England.
* Third. That the distribution of the population with us is shockingly unequal, producing crowds in certain sections which are rarely surpassed.
“ Fourth. That the proportion of deaths among infants has been steadily on the increase, and the average duration of life diminishing.
“ Fifth. That the infant mortality is vastly greater among the Catholics than in the whole population, and the average duration of life among them less.
“Sixth. That the average of life in Boston is less than in London, or in Ireland, and but liule greater than in Liverpool, where the greatest mortality, in England, prevails.
“ Seventh. That the average duration of life among the Catholics of Boston is less than that of operatives and laborers in the great commercial and manufacturing cities of England." - p. 10.
The physical discomforts, the squalor and privations to which the tenants of these miserable abodes must submit, the alarm. ing increase of mortality among them, and the peril to the general health of the city are not the only, or the greatest, evils produced by this density of population.
“ As to the influence of this crowding, on the moral health, there can be, we apprehend, even less doubt. This is indeed so evident, that it is not our intention to go into details, which would be equally shocking and unnecessary. It is enough to say, that every one who has been in the habit of observing the character of excessively crowded populations has remarked, that, just as their physical nature becomes blunted, and hardened to the impurities about them, so their moral nature gradually accustoms itself to the sight of evil, and ceases, at last, to be offended at what was originally shocking to it.” – p. 11.
It is found that the poor pay very high rents for their loathsome and unhealthy habitations. Hiring single rooms, and paying for them by the week, the aggregate rent obtained from them for a house cheaply built or much dilapidated is very great ; and in many parts of the city, land can be more profitably occupied by buildings of this sort than by expensive structures for stores or for the habitations of the wealthier classes. Land thus occupied in
Broad Street produces yearly sixty cents a square foot; while in Tremont Street, facing the common, it yields but forty-five cents, and in Morton Place but thirty-one cents. Now, this fact sug. gests at once a remedy for the greater part of the evil here complained of, without calling for any charitable contributions whatever. Capitalists may erect large buildings in the very districts where they are most needed, suitably arranged to be let out in small tenements, so as to afford comfortable, healthy, and con. venient dwellings for the poor, and still receive a very good in. come from the investment. The experiment has already been tried on a small scale, and the results are perfectly satisfactory. Plans and estimates are submitted with this Report, apparently well considered and trustworthy, which show that such buildings will produce from seven to eleven per cent. on their cost. The apartment for each family will consist of at least two rooms, well ventilated, and with suitable minor conveniences attached. It is proposed that houses of this character should be built at first by an association, or chartered company, and be put under the charge of a judicious and careful superintendent; but the obvious utility
a of cultivating amicable and kind relations between landlord and tenant makes it desirable that individual capitalists, also, should engage in this enterprise.
We have given a very imperfect synopsis of this excellent report, for in truth, though clear and full, it is so succinctly drawn up as not to admit of abridgment. To the "merchant princes” of Boston, whose fame for judicious and munificent philanthropy stands so deservedly high, we heartily commend it, in full confidence that to draw their attention to such a project is enough to insure its immediate success.
Lectures to Young Men on their Moral Dangers and Duties. By ABIEL ABBOT LIVERMORE. Boston : James Munroe & Co. 1846. 12mo. pp. 160.
A GREAT disadvantage attends books whose titles announce them to be written expressly for young men or young ladies ; the particular class for whose benefit they are intended are not in the least disposed to read them. So many admonitions have vexed their unwilling ears in the course of their adolescence, that they have come to regard advice very much in the light of physic, and though it is recommended as “the sovereign'st thing on earth' against all the ills that flesh is heir to, they swallow it with dis