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Art. V. An Introduction to Astronomy. In a Series of Letters from
a Preceptor to his Pupil : In which the most useful and interesting Parts of the Science are clearly and familiarly explained. Illud trated with Copper-plates. By John Bonnycastie, of the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. 8vo. 75. Boards. Johnson, 1786, THIS Author observes, that many who are not sufficiently ac.
quainted with the mathematics, to read, with fatisfaction to themselves, the works of Newton, and other eminent writers on the subject of astronomy, are yet very desirous of obtaining such an idea of it as will enable them to comprehend the leading principles upon which it is founded, and to partake of those pleasures, which enquiries into nature, and the investigation of some of her grandeft ope
rations, muft necessarily afford to every ingenious and inquisitive · mind."
To this class of readers Mr. Bonnycastle addresses his book, which was firft intended for the private use of an individual, without any immediate view to publication ; but finding nothing in our language fufficiently clear and esplicit, in his opi. nion, to answer the purpose of general information, he was in. duced to make these letters public, in hopes that they might afford allistance to such persons as had been prevented from apa plying themselves to the study of aftronomy, from a notion of its being of too abftrufe and difficult a nature to be attained without a previous knowledge of many other branches of science.
Such being the plan, Mr. B. informs us, that his principal aim, throughout the whole performance, was to avoid, as much as poffible, all complicated mathematical principles and calculations, and to elucidate the most ftriking particulars in as popular and easy a manner as the nature of the subject would admit. For the same reason he made choice of such parts only of the science as seemed most likely to excite the curiosity and attention of the uninformed reader, and give him a taste for these studies and pursuits.
A performance of this kind, he adds, must, from the very nature of it, be unavoidably deficient in many particulars : it must not be expected that a fcrupulous exactness has been al. ways observed, or that every illustration of a subject is strictly scientific. Such minute attention was incompatible with the design, and therefore extremely difficult, if not absolutely im. posible to be observed in the execution. The great object in view was to unite truth with perspicuity, and to give a general idea of the operations and phenomena of nature, independent of abstruse reasoning or laborious calculations : and though, by this means, the knowledge obtained by the reader mult, necessarily, in many instances, be fuperficial, yet it may ferve to give just ideas of the subject, and correct thofe nocions which ReyNov. 1786. Аа
the prejudices of education, or the apparent view of things, mighe suggest. The Author acknowledges tha: he has not fcrupled to make a free use of the labours of preceding writers, whenever be found any particular subject illustrated in a manner suitable to his defign: and if he has not always acknow. ledged his obligations, it is because such alterations were commonly made as rendered it impoffible to do so without affeting a show of exactness which would have appeared pedantic; and such pains have been taken to arrange and methodize the whole, as will, he hopes, be sufficient to obviate every objection which can be made on this account, and sender all further apologies unnecessary.
To the above abstract of the Author's preface, we shall add bis table of contents, which is as follows :
• Of the use and advantage of astronomical learning. Of the figure and motion of the earth. Of the solar system, and the firmament of the fixed stars. Of the systems of Ptolemy, Tycho Brahe, and Copernicus. Of the system of Des Cartes. Of the Newtonian system and discoveries. Of the cause and nature of the tides. Of the latitude and longitude, and the methods of discovering them. Of the different lengths of days and nights, and the viciffitudes of the seasons. Of the natural and artificial divisions of time. Of the equation of time. Of the reformation of the calendar. Of the mensuration of the earth. Of the distances and magnitudes of the sun, moon, and planets. Of the motion, refraction, and aberration of light. Of the constellations, and the phenomena of the fixed stars. Of the phenomena and affections of the sun, moon, and planets. Of eclipses. Of the new planet, and other discoveries. An explanation of the principal terms made use of in astronomy.
Before we venture to deliver our opinion of the work before us, we must observe, that it does not appear to us to be fair to censure a writer for what he does not attempt ; and we have been more particular in explaining what is, and what is not altempted in this performance', than we were in mentioning the former productions of this Author, because we do not forget how severely we were reprehended for speaking favourably of them. But notwithstanding this, and notwithstanding also the express declaration of an old and much valued acquaintance, that “ No man can get credit by making a horn-book for the babes in mathematics,” we shall persist in an opinion, which we have more than once maintained, that the man who clears away the rubbith and brambles, and makes the entrance into the path ways to science plain and conspicuous, merits great commendation, though he may not claim one of the hizheft niches in the temple of fame : for a learner is greally encouraged to proceed in his studies when he finds them less difficult than he had been led to expect, and that he has been able to make more progress in them than ever his hopes Aattered him with : and it
is at the first entrance on the ftudy of any science that a learner is moft easily discouraged from pursuing it; because, after he has made some advances in it, he begins to be taken notice of by men who are more eminent than himself, and the importance which he feels on that account is a sufficient stimulus to him to persevere.
However trilling a business it may be thought, we affirm that very few of those who profess the art of teaching have the art of instructing, and rendering difficult things easy to be understood; and therefore it is that we will to countenance those who are posleffed of such abilities.
The Author of the work under consideration appears to us to pofless the art of explaining the subjects he treats in a more plain and familiar manner than we have met with before ; and of dressing them up in a language neat, clear, and comprehensive ; for which reason we recommend him to those who wish to know the first principles of astronomy, without enquiring how far he conducts them in it, or where he picks up, the materials on which he works.
At the same time that we do justice to the merits of his book we shall take the liberty of hinting to him that he has slipped into some confiderable mistakes in it; particularly in his 8th, gch, and 22d letters, which he will readily discover without our being more particular respecting them. Perhaps, also, his book would not be worse thought of a few years hence if he had taken less notice of some fanciful hypotheses of a popular aftronomer, as they are not only improbable in themselves, but are, in some instances, Aatly contradicted by strict mathematical reasoning. Let us add that we read his 13th letter, on che reformation of the calendar, with pleasure and profit. W S . ART. VI. Letters and Poems, by the late Mr. John Henderson ; with
Anecdotes of his Life. By John Ireland. 8vo. 45. sewed. Jahnfon. 1786. THE poet, the moralit, and indeed the literary character in
l general, can afford but slender materials for the biographer, The uniform tenor of their lives leaves him litule on which to expatiate, or by which he can display the elegance and power of bis pen. To tell of any one that he was born, that he wrote verses, and that he died, is no very pleasing talk. Something, however, is usually promised by an editor, and something muft be done : yet not unfrequently where we expected to find a particular account of the author, we meet with only a critique on his works.
But if the life of the man of letters is thus unvaried and bara ren of incident, that of the poor player, who • Frets and struts his hour upon the stage,'
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is, if possible, ftill less subject to change. His first appearance on the theatre, indeed, is an awful and an interesting moment to him : it even swells him into something like importance. But his debut once made, he presently dwindles into insignificance ; and after having for a little time, perhaps, Sout-Heroded Herod,' he-dies, and is thought of no more. · It must be acknowledged, however, that the Comedian, who is the subject of the present article, was an exception to our remark. He formed himself on the model of Garrick; and to follow Garrick was to follow nature Nature to advantage dreft.' Henderson was fully sensible of this: he copied the English Roscius closely, and attained to excellence in his profeffion.
Mr. Ireland, the relater of the anecdotes now before us, does justice to the memory of his friend. The principal features in his character are faithfully and accurately delineated. We knew Mr. Henderson well, and can therefore speak with certainty to the truth of the portrait-There is little of Aattery in the piece.
With respect to the verses which make a part of the present volume, Mr. Ireland observes, · The poems which are subjoin. ed, considered as hasty effusions rather than finished compofi. tions, as the productions of a man who had received few aids from education, and whose only guides were a classical taste, formed by having read, with a power of discrimination, some of the beft English writers, prove that he possessed imagination and aptitude of poetical expression, which might, had he made poesy, the object of his pursuit, have been cultivated into excellence.' This is in a great degree true: the pieces are not devoid of merit. It is not as a writer, however, but as an ador, that Mrs. H. should be considered and praised. .' From Mr. Henderson's letters (fays his biographer) I have endeavoured to fele&t such as, from their naïveté, pleasantry, and good sense, place his powers in a light which I think gives them à distinguished rank in that class of writing." We discover little of the naïveté and pleasantry here spoken of. It is not a little laughable, indeed, to find Mr. Henderson the Comedian playing the critic, with a very folemn air, on the writings and abilities of Mr. Pope. Seriously speaking, the letters in question oughe never to have seen the light-but we fuppofe ic was deemed expedient to make a book.
The anecdotes, though not very numerous, are related in a pleasing and agreeable manner; we ihall select a passage or two from the life of Mr. Henderson, which will, we think, prove entertaining to our readers, and serve as a specimen of the work.
• Mr. Henderson had no claim to hereditary honours, nor title to any paternal inheritance. He was the builder of his own fame, and
the founder of his own fortone, for had not his talents brought him into celebrity, and given him the power of acquiring independence, it is not probable that any one would have enquired who was his grandfather. Of his grandfather, however, those who wish it, may read in the Memoirs of an unfortunate young Nobleman, by which memoirs, and some collateral evidence, it appears that he was a Quaker, and a warm adherent to the cause of Mr. Annesley ; that in conjunction with several others, he adventured a considerable fum in support of the Anglesey law-suit, which being loft, the money advanced was never recovered by himself or Henderson's father, who was an Irish factor in Goldsmith-street, Cheapside, where Mr. John Henderson was born in February 1746-7.
. By his father's death in 1748, his mother was left with a very sender pittance, and two sons totally dependent upon her. She retired to Newport Pagnell, where a close attention to economy enabled her to support herself and family upon the interest of less than a thousand pounds.
• In this place, with no other tutor than his mother, Henderson passed the early part of his life. She taught him to read, pointed out the proper authors, and induced him to imprint upon his me. mory, and recite, select passages from Shakespeare, Pope, Addison, or any other English classic in her possesiion.
• The wonder-working magic of the old bard inchanted his ima. gination, opened a new creation to his fancy, and prompted him to enquire how those characters were represented which afforded him so much delight in the perusal. The description promoted a molt eager with to see a play, a wish which could not then be gratified, for in Newport-Pagnell there were no players.
• Learning and reciting the speeches improved a memory naturally tenacious, and gave him an early relish for polite literature. By this was his taste formed, and as the writer of these anecdotes has frequently heard him declare, by this he acquired what knowledge he had of the English language ; for of the rules of grammar he was 10tally ignorant.
• It would be defrauding his memory of a debt due from justice, Should I omit to remark that he not only always spoke of his mother's attentions with filial gratitude, but when his situation enabled him to follow the impulse of his mind, made her happiness his first care. She lived to see her instructions matured by time, and the Public dis. tinguish and protect what she had planted and fostered.
• At about eleven years of age he went to a school at Hemel-Hemstead, taught by the late Dr. Stirling, where he did not remain above twelve months; but, short as the period was, contrived to enlarge his acquaintance with the English classics, to acquire some knowledge of French, and learn the common rules of arithmetic.
i From this place he returned to London, and having fewn an early propensity to drawing, was placed as a kind of house pupil to the late Mr. Fournier, who was then a drawing-master, a man porn sessed of great versatility of talent, but destitute of that prudence which might have rendered his abilities useful to himself or family.
• From a person of this description it is not to be supposed young Henderson could obtain many advantages. He was indeed very ill Aa 3