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course then discovered; but the master, instead of showing any displcasure, wisely and kindly observed to the others, that he should be most happy to find any of them acquitting themselves as well in a similar predicament.
The sensible and well written memoir, above quoted, accounts in some degree for the extent to which this invaluable faculty of his mind was at length carried ; but it certainly must be allowed that very strong original powers, and intense application in after life must have been required in order to secure the attainment of such a blessing. It should be remembered to the honour of the professor, that he never appeared in any degree vain of this astonishing talent; and he once observed to the writer of this paper, “ I never remembered any thing but what I transcribed three times, or read over six times at the least; and, if you will do the same, you will have as good a memory.” Indeed, he was at all times the warm advocate of a doctrine, which is as true as it is important in the conduct of education. He maintained, that superiority of intellect and of attainments was not so much owing to a difference in the formation of the organs, as in the mode by which education was conducted. And although such a man as Porson could not have failed to have been distinguished for the strength and acuteness of his understanding, under any circumstances, yet it cannot be doubted that the habits of his earlier years contributed much to that force and precision in his memory, for which he was so eminently distinguished.
There were other qualities in this great man's mind, although not so obvious to a common observer, nor so dazzling, yet even more rare and more useful. These were his extraordinary acuteness of discernment, and solidity of judgment; and these, added to his intense application and stupendous memory, made him, what the world, perhaps, never saw before, and, alas! can not soon see again, A COMPLETE CRITICK, in the most honourable and extended sense of that appellation. His reading was, of
course, immense. He was an excellent French scholar; but, in his native language, in the Latin, and in the Greek, he was most familiarly and profoundly versed. He had, indeed, applied the knowledge he had gained of the origin and structure of language in general, to all these dialects, if we may so express ourselves, of the universal language; and, had not his eminence in classical literature, by its uncommon lustre, obscured other attainments, he would doubtless have been considered as one of the first English scholars. In Greek, however, we have no hesitation in pronouncing him the very first, not merely of his own age, but of every other. He is surely entitled to this honourable distinction, when we consider that he possessed at once, each in its highest degree of excellence, all the qualities for which any single scholar has hitherto been eminent. In him were conspicuous, boundless extent of reading; a most exact and well ordered memory; unwearied patience in unravelling the sense of an author ; and exploring the perplexities of a manuscript; perspicacity in discovering the corruptions of a text; and acuteness, almost intuitive, in restoring the true reading. All this, be it observed, was tempered with a judgment, which preserved him invariably from the rocks against which even the greatest of l.is critical predecessors have at some time or other split; we mean precipitation in determining that to be unsound, which after all had no defect; and rashness in applying remedies, which only served to increase the disease.
In thus pronouncing him superiour to Salmasius, Casaubon, Hemsterhusius, Toup, Dawes, and even to Bentley and Valckenaer, some of our readers may, perhaps, be of opinion, that he has published too little to justify this high encomium. To these we must reply in the words of the old proverb, ex pede Herculem; and we would boldly refer to the four plays of
Euripides, with the preface and supplement, as the work of a critick, soaring in genius and in attainment above his predecessors. When, moreover, we appeal to those exquisite specimens of profound knowledge and critical acumen, which he so liberally communicated to his friends, we have no hesitation in giving it as our opinion, that what is yet unpublished is equal, both in value and extent, to that which has already been submitted to the world. And we have only to express our most ardent and decided wish, that some steps may be immediately taken, in order to collect all the remains of this admirable scholar, for the purpose of publication ; whether they be recorded in the memories and books of his friends, or whether they be treasured among his own literary xe ornara.
In the enumeration of those qualities which contributed to raise this wonderful man to such a proud preeminence, it would be unpardonable to forget the point and brilliancy of his wit. It is difficult to define this faculty as it exists in any mind; but it is peculiarly so as it appeared in that of Porson, on account of the variety, as well as beauty of the forms it assumed. At one time it was the happy talent of enlivening and illustrating a subject by a peculiarly apt and dexterous quotation ;* at another. it scattered at will the Attick salt, which gave so much vivacity to the controversies of Bentley, and which diffuses such peculiar splendour over the polemical gloom of the Letters to Archdeacon Travis ; at other times this · superiour genius wielded the more concealed, but caustick weapon, which probed to the quick the follies and the vices of mankind in the satires of Swift. Such, and so various, were the powers of Richard Porson, that by turns we are in doubt whether we have been more fascinated by his wit, or astonished at his learning.
To these intellectual excellencies, faintly and imperfectly as they are portrayed, were added strong and admirable mo al qualities; the most inflexible spirit of integrity ; a most inviolable regard to truth ; and their necessary concomitants, the most determined independence. By precept, as well as example, he discountenanced all violent emotions of the mind, and particularly that of anger. His sentiments upon the subject of religion it was difficult, at least for such persons au did not enjoy opportunities of frequent and familiar intercourse with him, to collect with precision. We are, however, enabled to state, as the decided conviction of those who were more particularly honoured with his confidence, that his faith was steady in the pure and consoling truths of Christianity. In his interpretation of some parts of the sacred volume, he certainly differed from the church of England; but his dissent was unmixed with any tincture of undue or schismatical warmth in favour of a system, to which, after mature and painful deliberation, he felt himself bound to adhere. For the name of God he ever observed the most pious reverence ; nor ever would he suffer it to be profaned in his presence. Obscene language was in an equal degree the object of his antipathy and disgust.
He undoubtedly had a warm sense of kindness to himself; and felt more than he expressed of benevolence towards others! Of every thing mean, base, insolent, treacherous, or selfish, whether practised towards others or towards himself, he had a quick discernment and a most rooted abhorrence; and the terins of bitter contempt, or of severe indignation, in which he
He once said that he wished to be called upon for a second edition of his Letters to Travis, and in that case he meant to prefix this as a motto:
Quo, moriture, ruis, majoraque viribus audes ?
expressed himself upon such occasions, may have given rise to opinions concerning the real bent of his feelings, which those, who had frequent opportunities of observing him, can safely pronounce to be unfounded.
From this attempt to show the cast of his moral character, it appears, that as the features of his mind were robust, so were the virtues of his heart stern. Indeed, in many of their better points, he has frequently reminded us of the old Stoicks; but if he did take Cato for his model, it is seriously to be lamented that he imitated him in one of his defects.* We have no doubt that the tempestiva convivia, in which the professor loved to indulge, owed their origin to a sleeplessness first brought on by habits of study, and subsequently increased by indisposition ; but whatever was the cause, deeply do we deplore this additional instance of infirmity attached to the greatest and most shining excellencies. We must, however, carefully guard our readers from supposing that this eminently learned man was habitually addicted to the use of strong and heating liquors. When alone he was singularly abstemious. And again we must urge the observation that his late hours were not occasioned by the vice of intemperance, but by the misfortune of his inability to sleep. His usual and favourite beverage upon these occasions was table beer; and continually would he pass the night, charming and instructing those who sat around, without the slightest advance to inebriety. But sometimes the officious zeal of his less discreet companions would supply temptations, against which he was not sufficiently upon his guard ; and towards the latter part of his life, his frame, undermined as it unhappily was by the corrosions of disease, could ill sustain, and consequently betrayed, the least indulgence. Yet be it observed that, in no moment of gayety, carried even to a faulty excess, did he ever lose that reverence for the name of his Creator, and that loathing of obscenity, which we have already mentioned as honourable characteristicks of his mo. ral tendencies. Never did he swerve from his undeviating attachment to truth, nor ever was he known to betray a secret.
October 17, 1808.
BRITISN IMPROVEMENT IN THE MANUFACTURE OF SWORDS.
PREVIOUS to the year 1995, the scientifick principles on which swords should be constructed, were deplorably neglected. Every regiment was at liberty to order its own swords, without reference to any standard, or proof of their goodness. A weapon so important both for offence and defence was left to chance or caprice, and the consequence was, the sacrifice of many a brave fellow, and an unascertainable loss to the service and the country. At that period the board of ordnance requested the trade to produce patterns of swords, together with the best modes of proof, in order that the highest degree of security that art and industry could provide, might be obtained. Accordingly each sword-maker produced his pattern, his price, and his method of proving. On accurate examination, Mr. Osborn's system of proving, mounting, &c. was adopted, and established by the board, and general Ross, surveyor general of the ordnance, desired him to lay down explicit directions for the guidance of the sword-cutlers employed by the board.
Mart. Epig. Lib. ii. 89.
In conformity with this application Mr. O. invented a proving machine, which was exhibited by request before his royal highness the duke of York, general Ross, colonel Le Merchant, and a number of field officers, at the war office, and was unanimously pronounced to be effectual, simple, and calculated to answer the important purpose of an unerring system. He was then ordered to make pine such machines for the direction of other sword manufacturers, and one of them was fixed in the Tower, and a proper person appointed to look to the proof agreeably to rules laid down.
This regulation, though salutary, being strict, produced a few ineffectual murmurs on the part of other sword manufacturers. The establishment of these regulations has been the happy means of saving the life of many a brave man; for there is now little danger of the sword falling fractured and useless from the arm of valour.
Previous to this establishment, the army were chiefly supplied from Ger. many; but the German swords were, and are so ill constructed, that they would not, and will noi, sustain this criterion. Some few that were ordered by the board, and were procured from the German resident in London, were shivered to pieces, when submitted to the test, and from their repeated failures, no German swords have, for several years, been received into government stores, and no swords whatever, but such as would, in every respect, endure this proof.
In consequence of these successful exertions, Mr. (). was honoured with a recommendatory letter from a gentleman of the highest respectability, and high in office, to the then chairman of the committee of the honoura. ble East India Company, who, among other handsome things, says: “I have great pleasure in saying, that in the course of the last four or five years, has supplied the ordnance with near twenty thousand cavalry swords. Mr. Osborn would readily agree that all the swords that he should furnish to the company, should be examined and proved at the Tower, and it would, no doubt, be much for the advantage of your service that they should undergo the strictness of our examination."
The honourable East India Company caused an order to be given to the German resident in London, and Mr. O. for each to produce ten regulation light cavalry swords, to be publickly tried at the Tower, under the inspection of major Cunninghame. The trial of workn.anship therefore took place on the 7th of November, 1804; but as the German found, by having his swords secretly proved, that they would not stand the slightest proof, he did not think proper to attend.
A regulation light cavalry sword is 32 1-2 inches long in the blade, and should spring one inch in every six, viz. 5 1-2 inches, which will take it down to 27 inches. Several of the swords were sprung to 22, 21, and 20 inches, which was 5, 6. and 7 inches beyond proof, and all beyond 27 inches was considered as being superfluous; but the parties wished them put to the utmost lest. Hence the reason why they were continued to be sprung till one or the other lost its elastick powers. The moment a sword becomes soft (set) or breaks, it is disabled. The process of proving is as follows. After being ground to a guage, and weighed to see that they are conformable to the scale, they are struck back and edge over a block of wood. This is called chopping. Then they are struck flat-ways on an even surface of wood. This is called slapping. And, finally, they are sprung to 27 inches. Every warranted sword undergoes this proof, and which is considered equi. valent to every hardship a sword undergoes in the field of battle. •
SWISS MILITARY SYSTEM.
To the Editor of the Literary Panorama. SIR,
SOME years ago, during a long residence in Switzerland, I was much pleased with the admirable dexterity with which the whole male population of that country used the rifle ; but mach more with the admirable policy of the government, which by this means had contrived to establish a most formidable military system, interwoven with the national amusements of the people. It was attended neither with expense to the community, nor inconvenience to the individual ; the whole service was voluntary, and honour and emulation were the only compulsory principles called into action. It may be well understood, how necessary it was to the ancient Swiss Tepublick, surrounded by powerful neighbours, to have a large military force at all times in a constant state of preparation. The country being small, nothing short of a levy including the whole male population, would answer the purpose ; and as to the keeping up of such an establishment, as a standing army, that was completely incompatible with the safety and welfare of the state. What then were the institutions adopted ? Each town, city, and village, at certain stated times of the year, gave honourary distinctions and prizes, to such as entered the lists, as rifle shooters. They varied in value, in proportion to the rank attached to the places which gave them ; thus, the prize given by a city was thought a more honourable mark of distinction, than that given by a village, and so on. The consequence was, that practising at a mark became quite the national game, if it may be so called, and a child, from the moment it could go alone, was accus. tomed to see its parents and relations striving in this manner for the palm of victory.
Thus, instead of adjourning to the tavern, or the publick house, to spend their evenings, as is too much the case among ourselves, all ranks rendezvoused at the shooting ground of the place.
The shooting ground and abutments were considered as publick property, and the publick was at the expense of repairs and other contingencies, subject to the jurisdiction and direction of the principal inhabitants of the place.
The utmost exertions of an individual, for introducing a similar arrangement into this country, must prove fruitless, unless assisted by the publick journals, and periodical works, which by their sanction would tend to force it on the attention of our rulers ; but were government to patronise the measure, I feel confident it would prove of the highest utility. Taking the metropolis alone, fifty guineas given away in prizes would excite an amazing emulation among those who have already chosen that weapon ; but whose ardour is much less than it would be if stimulated by some publick incitement. This measure, if adopted, would place the defensive means of the country on a most efficient footing, leaving at the same time a much larger disposable force for foreign service.