Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

B. Never, in all my life. It's as dry as a chip.
A. As a chip? A chip’s a slice of orange to it.
B. Ay, or a wet spunge.
A. Or a cup in a currant tart.

B. Ah, ha ; so it is. You feel as if you were fingering a brick-bat.

A. It makes you feel dust in the eyes.

B. It is impossible to shed a tear over it. The lachrymal organs are dried up.

A. If you shut it hastily, it is like clapping together a pair of fresh-cleaned gloves.

B. Before you have got far in it, you get up to look at your tongue in a glass.

A. It absolutely makes you thirsty.

B. Yes. If you take it up at breakfast, you drink four cups instead of two.

A. At page 30 you call for beer.
B. They say it made a Reviewer take to drinking.

A. They have it lying on the table at inns to make you drink double. The landlord says “A new book, sir,” and goes out to order two neguses.

B. It dries up everything so, it has ruined the draining busi

ness.

A. There is an Act of Parliament to forbid people's passing a vintner's with it in their pockets.

B. The Dutch subscribed for it to serve them instead of dykes.

[ocr errors]

ON THE SLOW RISE OF THE MOST RATIONAL

OPINIONS.

IT

T would be surprising to think by what slow degrees the

most rational and apparently the most obvious improve

ments take place in human opinion, did not habit, and selflove, and the fear of change, sufficiently account for them. Some find it as difficult to leave off a mere habit of opinion, however pernicious, as drunkards their drams. Others cannot bear a diminution in the respect which they have long entertained for themselves, as sensible and conclusive thinkers.

Others are afraid of all innovation, in consequence of the shock it gives to society; and yet the next minute they would wage a dozen wars to preserve the old notions. Again, it is thought a triumphant argument with some, if the new opinion proposed be to the advantage of the proposer ;-which is a very idle objection ; because, if it supposes the general good, it includes his among the rest.

Innovation, as mere innovation, is a want of reverence for antiquity; an insensibility to the accumulated habits of time, and to the comforts and consolations they have gathered by the way. But, on the other hand, objection to it, as mere objection, is cowardice and selfishness : cowardice, for fear of responsibility ; selfishness, for fear of losing a certain property in our self-respect, and having the notion of our own wisdom and sufficiency disturbed. You may know the goodness of either in

reason,

proportion to its enthusiasm, sincerity, gentleness, and wish to

You may know the badness by a certain mixture of coldness and violence, by its shuffling, its petulance, and its tendency to dismiss a subject at once with abuse. As to the innovator, it is his business to make up his mind to a certain portion of misrepresentation ; for who was the innovator, great or small, that ever was without it? But it is his business also to examine narrowly into his own consciousness, and to be sure, from experiment, that he can deny himself, for the good of others, what he would willingly enjoy with them in

common.

There is not a liberal opinion now existing which has not gone through heaps of ugly faces and yelling threats, like the saints in the old pictures. To differ in religious faith was once thought the height of undeniable villany; and is so still by some ignorant sects. The Spaniards were taught to believe that all heretics had monster-like faces, till Lord Peterborough's officers persuaded the nuns otherwise. Milton says that he could not propose some new things, even after an ancient fashion (and indeed almost every proposition for human improvement is to be found in the ancient writers), but

“Straight a barbarous noise environs me
Of owls and cuckoos, asses, apes, and dogs ;
As when those hinds that were transform'd to frogs
Rail'd at Latona's twin-born progeny,
Which after held the sun and moon in fee."

It is lamentable to see such a man as Bacon trying to feel his way into popular persuasion by smoothing the king's and people's prejudices as he goes, giving even into the superstitions about witchcraft. A friend was observing to us a short time since, that he was not aware of the existence of any denouncement of cruelty to animals till Pope wrote a paper on it in the Guardian. Shakspeare, who says everything, has said something about “the poor beetle that we tread upon, feeling as great a pang as when a giant dies ;" but it is only in a cursory manner, and by

way of illustration. His reflections upon the hunted stag, as if by way of excuse for the novelty of their sympathy, are put into the mouth of an eccentric and saturnine philosopher. His age, indeed, so great and humane in many respects, was so insensible in this particular point, that one of the greatest and humanest of its ornaments, Sir Philip Sydney, describes his ladies and courtiers as laudably diverting themselves with sealing up a dove's eyes, to see it strain higher and higher into the light, with other“ cunning” diversions too gross and cruel to repeat. Poor ignorant old beldams, whom their neighbours or themselves took for witches, were put to death at a later period, with great approbation, not only of the “British Solomon,” King James, but of a high legal authority, and even the good old Sir Matthew Hale. The celebrated Robert Boyle, as our readers know, was accounted a sort of perfection of a man, especially in all respects intellectual, moral, and religious. This excellent person was in the habit of moralising upon everything that he did or suffered ; such as “ Upon his manner of giving meat to his dog,”—“Upon his horse stumbling in a very fair way,"— “Upon his sitting at ease in a coach that went very fast,” &c. Among other reflections is one “ Upon a fish's struggling after having swallowed the hook.” It amounts to this; that at the moment when the fish thinks himself about to be most happy, the hook“ does so wound and tear his tender gills, and thereby puts him into such restless pain, that no doubt he wishes the hook, bait and all, were out of his torn jaws again. Thus," says he, “men who do what they should not to obtain any sensual desires, &c., &c. Not a thought comes over him as to his own part in the business, and what he ought to say of himself for tearing the jaws and gills to indulge his own appetite for excitement. Take also the following : “Fifth SectionReflection 1. Killing a crow (out of window) in a hog's trough, and immediately tracing the ensuing reflection with a pen made of one of his quills.—Long and patiently did I wait for this unlucky crow, wallowing in the sluttish trough (whose sides kept

him a great while out of the reach of my gun), and gorging himself with no less greediness than the very swinish proprietaries of the feast, till at length my no less unexpected than fatal shot in a moment struck him down, and, turning the scene of his delight into that of his pangs, made him abruptly alter his note, and change his triumphant chaunt into a dismal and tragic noise. This method is not unusual to Divine Justice towards brawny and incorrigible sinners," &c., &c. Thus, the crow, for eating his dinner, is a rascal worthy to be shot by the Honourable Mr Robert Boyle, before the latter sits down to his own; while the said Mr Boyle, instead of contenting himself with being a gentleman in search of amusement at the expense of birds and fish, is a representative of Divine Justice.

We laugh at this wretched moral pedantry now, and deplore the involuntary hard-heartedness which such mistakes in religion tended to produce ; but in how many respects should it not make us look about us, and see where we fall short of an enlargement of thinking ?

[NOTE.—There is another passage in Shakspeare showing a humane feeling towards animals, which Leigh Hunt seems here to have forgotten. It is the account of the hunted hare in “Venus and Adonis.” -E. O.]

R

« AnteriorContinuar »