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port of general terms ;-above all, whatever tends to embody, in popular forms of expression, the ideas and feelings of the wise and good, augments the natural powers of the human understanding, and enables the succeeding race to start from a higher ground than was occupied by their fathers. The remark applies with peculiar force to the study of the Mind itself; a study, where the chief source of error is the imperfection of words; and where every improvement on this great instrument of thought may be justly regarded in the light of a discovery. *
In the foregoing list of illustrious names, Mr. Fox bas, with much propriety, connected those of Bacon and Raleigh; two men, who, notwithstanding the diversity of their professional pursuits, and the strong contrast of their characters, exhibit, nevertheless, in their capacity of authors, some striking features of resemblance. Both of them owed to the force of their own minds, their emancipation from the fetters of the schools ; both were eminently distinguished above their contemporaries, by the originality and enlargement of their philosophical views; and both divide, with the venerable Hooker, the glory of exemplifying to their yet unpolished countrymen, the richness, variety, and grace, which might be lent to the English idiom by the hand of a master.f
It is not improbable that Mr. Fox might have includ
It is not so foreign as may at first be supposed to the object of this Discourse, to take notice here of the extraordinary demand for books on Agriculture under the government of James the First. The fact is thus very strongly stated by Dr. Johhnson, in his introduction to the Harleian Miscellany. “ It deserves to be remarked, because it is not generally known, that the treatises on husbandry and agriculture, which were published during the reign of King James, are so numerous, that it can scarcely be imagined by whom they were written, or to whom they were sold.” Nothing can illustrate more strongly the effects of a pacific system of policy, in encouraging a general taste for reading, as well as an active spirit of national improvement. At all times, and in every country, the extensive sale of books on agriculture, may be, regarded as one of the most pleasing symptoms of mental cultivation in the great body of the people.
* To prevent being misunderstood, it is necessary for me to add, that I do not speak of the general style of these old authors; but only of detached passages, which may be selected from all of them, as earnests or first fruits of a new and brighter era in English Jierature. It may be safely affirmed, that in their works, and in the prose compositions of Milton, are to be found some of the finest sentences of which our language has yet to boast. To propose them now as models for imitation, would be quite absurd. Dr. Lowth certainly went much too far when he said, “ That in correctness, propriety, and purity of English style, Hooker hath hardly been surpassed, or even equalled, by any of his successors.” Preface to Lowth's English Grammar. VOL. VI.
ed the name of Hobbes in the same enumeration, had he not been prevented by an aversion to his slavish principles of government, and by his general disrelish for metaphysical theories. As a writer, Hobbes unquestionably ranks high among the older English classics ; and is so peculiarly distinguished by the simplicity and ease of his manner, that one would naturally have expected from Mr. Fox's characteristical taste, that he would have relished his style still more than that of Bacon* or of Raleigh.-It is with the philosophical merits, however, of Hobbes, that we are alone concerned at present; and, in this point of view, what a space is filled in the subsequent history of our domestic literature, by his own works, and by those of his innumerable opponents! Little else, indeed, but the systems which he published, and the controversies which they provoked, occurs, during the interval between Bacon and Locke, to mark the progress of English Philosophy, either in the study of the Mind, or in the kindred researches of Ethical and Political Science.
Of the few and comparatively trifling exceptions to this remark, furnished by the metaphysical tracts of Glanville, of Henry More, and of John Smith, I must delay taking
I notice, till some account shall be given of the Cartesian philosophy ; to which their most interesting discussions have a constant reference, either in the way of comment or refutation.
According to Dr. Burnet (no contemptible judge of style,) Bacon was “the first that writ our language correctly.”. The same learned prelate pronounces Bacon to be“ still our best author; ” and this, at a time, when the works of Sprat, and many of the prose compositions of Cowley and of Dryden, were already in the hands of the public. It is difficult to conceive on what grounds Burnet proceeded, in hazarding so extraordinary an opinion. See the preface to Burnet's translation of More's Utopia.
It is still more difficult, on the other hand, to account for the following very bold decision of Mr. Hume. I transcribe it from an essay first published in 1742; but the same passage is to be found in the last edition of his works, corrected by himself. “The first polite prose we have, was writ by a man (Dr. Swift) who is still alive. As to Sprat, Locke, and even Temple, they knew too little of the rules of art to be esteemed elegant writers. The prose of Bacon, Harrington, and Milton, is altogether stiff and pedantic; though their sense be excellent.”
How insignificant are the petty grammatical improvements proposed by Swift, when compared with the inexhaustible riches imparted to the english tongue by the writers of the seventeenth century; and how inferior, in all the higher qualities and graces of style, are his prose compositions, to those of his immediate predecessors, Dryden, Pope, and Addison !
“The philosopher of Malmesbury,” says Dr. Warburton, “ was the terror of the last age, as l'indall and Col
, lins are of this. The press sweat with controversy ; and every young churchman militant would try his arms in thundering on Hobbes's steel cap.” + Nor was the opposition to Hobbes confined to the clerical order, or to the controversialists of his own times. The most eminent moralists and politicians of the eighteenth century may be ranked in the number of his antagonists, and even at the present moment, scarcely does there appear a new publication on Ethics or Jurisprudence, where a refutation of Hobbism is not to be found.
The period when Hobbes began his literary career, as well as the principal incidents of his life, were, in a singular degree, favorable to a mind like his; impatient of the yoke of authority, and ambitious to attract attention, if not by solid and useful discoveries, at least by an ingenious defence of paradoxical tenets. After a residence of five years at Oxford, and a very extensive tour through France and Italy, he had the good fortune, upon his return to England, to be admitted into the intimacy and confidence of Lord Bacon; a circumstance wbich, we may presume, contributed not a little to encourage that bold spirit of inquiry, and that aversion to scholastic learning, which characterize his writings. Happy, if he had, at the same time, imbibed some portion of that love of truth and zeal for the advancement of knowledge, which seem to have been Bacon's ruling passions ! But such was the obstinacy of his temper, and his overweening self-conceit, that, instead of co-operating with Bacon in the execution of his magnificent design, he resolved to rear, on a foundation exclusively his own, a complete structure both of Moral and Physical science; disdaining to avail himself even of the materials collected by his predecessors, and treating the experimentarian philosophers as objects only of contempt and ridicule ! !
* Born 1588, died 1679. † Divine Legation, Pref. to vol. ü. p. 9.
See Note (G.)
In the political writings of Hobbes, we may perceive the influence also of other motives. From his earliest years, he seems to have been decidedly hostile to all the forms of popular government; and it is said to have been with the design of impressing his countrymen with a just sense of the disorders incident to democratical establishments, that he published, in 1618, an English translation of Thucydides. In these opinions he was more and more confirmed by the events he afterwards witnessed in England; the fatal consequences of which he early foresaw with so much alarm, that, in 1640, he withdrew from the approaching storm, to enjoy the society of his philosophical friends at Paris. It was here he wrote his book De Cive, a few copies of which were printed, and privately circulated in 1642. The same work was afterwards given to the public, with material corrections and improvements, in 1647, when the author's attachment to the royal cause being strengthened by his personal connexion with the exiled King, he thought it incumbent on him to stand forth avowedly as an advocate for those principles which he had long professed. The great object of this performance was to strengthen the hands of sovereigns against the rising spirit of democracy, by arming them with the weapons of a new philosophy.
The fundamental doctrines inculcated in the political works of Hobbes are contained in the following propositions. I recapitulate them here, not on their own account, but to prepare the way for some remarks which I mean afterwards to offer on the coincidence between the principles of Hobbes and those of Locke. In their practical conclusions, indeed, with respect to the rights and duties of citizens, the two writers differ widely; but it is curious to observe how very nearly they set out from the same hypothetical assumptions.
All men are by nature equal; and, prior to government, they had all an equal right to enjoy the good things of this world. Man, too, is (according to Hobbes) by nature a solitary and purely selfish animal ; the social union being entirely an interested league, suggested by prudential views of personal advantage. The necessary consequence is, that a state of nature must be a state of perpetual war
fare, in which no individual has any other means of safety than his own strength or ingenuity; and in which there is no room for regular industry, because no secure enjoyment of its fruits. In confirmation of this view of the origin of society, Hobbes appeals to facts falling daily within the circle of our own experience. “Does not a
6 man,” he asks,“ when taking a journey, arm himself, and seek to go well accompanied ? When going to sleep, does he not lock his doors ? Nay, even in his own house, does he not lock his chests? Does he not there as much accuse mankind by his actions, as I do by my words ?" * An additional argument to the same purpose, may, according to some later Hobbists, be derived from the instinctive aversion of infants for strangers; and from the apprehension which it is alleged) every person feels, when he hears the tread of an unknown foot in the dark.
For the sake of peace and security, it is necessary that each individual should surrender a part of his natural right, and be contented with such a share of liberty as he is willing to allow to others; or, to use Hobbes's own language, “ every man must divest himself of the right he has to all things by nature; the right of all men to all things being in effect no better than if no man had a right to any thing.”In consequence of this transference of natural rights to an individual, or to a body of individuals, the multitude become one person, under the name of a State or Republic, by which person the common will and power are exercised for the common defence. The ruling power cannot be withdrawn from those to whom it has been committed ; nor can they be punished for misgovernment. The interpretation of the laws is to be sought, not from the comments of philosophers, but from the authority of the ruler; otherwise society would every moment be in danger of resolving itself into the discordant elements of which it was at first composed. The will of the magistrate, therefore, is to be regarded as the ultimate standard of right and wrong, and his voice to be listened to by every
citizen as the voice of conscience. Not many years afterwards,f Hobbes pushed the argu
* Of Man, Part I. chap. xiii. | In 1651.
| De Corpore Politico, Part I. chap. i. § 10.