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Here let me stand, and o'er the level weald,
" What time the sun has from the west withdrawn
The last passage may be considered as a fair specimen of the general strain of the poem. Indeed the whole work consists of a succession of such passages-an uniform series of agreeable descriptions; and this peculiarity, while it unfits the poem from being read continuously, renders it an appropriate lounge for any eight or ten minutes which we may have to spare occasionally. We know no composition which contains a greater number of elegant detached morceaux, passages pleasing in themselves, and which may be separated from the main work without injury. We shall conclude our extracts with the lines immediately following those last quoted.
«'Tis pleasant in this peaceful serious hour
Art. VI. Essai sur les Préjugés, ou de l'Influence des Opinions
sur les mæurs et sur le bonheur des Hommes. Ouvrage contenant l’Apologie de la Philosophie, par M. D. M. Londres, 1770. 12mo, pp. 394. .
M. Chesneau du Marsais, the author of this essay, was born at Marseilles, in 1676. He first entered into the congregation of the Oratory, which, however, he very soon quitted, and applied himself to the study of the law. This profession he also abandoned, and became tutor successively, in several families, and amongst others in the family of the pseudo-financier Law. He wrote many works, which gained him great reputation, but did not better his condition. He was of a mild and tranquil disposition, and his mind was seldom agitated even by the saddest accidents in his chequered existence. The subject of this article first appeared in a publication entitled Nouvelles Libertés de Penser. It is on a topic which comes home to the business and bosoms of men. For is there a human being who is not in some measure under the dominion of prejudice—who is not carried along by the violence of party, the hostility of sectism, or the force of habit; who has not, in short, arrived at conclusions without the process of reasoning, or adopted opinions without examining their reasonableness and truth? If there be, he has removed one of the greatest barriers to human happiness and human improvement; but it is to be feared, the existence of such a being is rare. The influence of prejudice is no doubt exerted with very different degrees of force, according to the natural impotency or power of the mind on which it operates. Some minds it rules with a despotic and unmitigated sway, whilst others display it only in its chastened and subdued, and sometimes amiable effects. But since all do feel its influence, it becomes an inquiry of the greatest interest and importance, how far it contributes to the happiness or misery of the human species--whether there be some prejudices, (as it has been contended) some dear delusions, which the heart may still cling to and cherish, which it would not only be dangerous to remove, but which it is for the positive interest and happiness of man to retain or whether our intellectual eye is sufficiently strong to behold the resplendent face of truth unveiled. The inquiry, indeed, is of such magnitude—of such extensive and paramount importance to man in all his relations, private, political, and religious, that we approach it with a feeling of embarrassment, lest on the one hand, we should desert the sacred cause of truth and philosophy; or on the other, be endeavouring to unsettle what ought not to be unsettled. Nature, which has implanted in animals certain mechanical dispositions, or instincts, to supply their wants, has endowed man with the pre-eminent gift of reason to guide his motions—to govern his dispositions, and advance himself and others in the scale of intellect and of happiness. It must be confessed, however, that instead of exerting their own reasoning faculties, and adopting opinions and modes of action from their own conviction of their fitness and truth, men generally adopt opinions from custom, habit, or education ; but when they are once environed with those shackles, they too often feel the constraint occasioned by them, for life. But we are told that reason is weak and fallible,
· Dim as the borrow'd beams of moon and stars
To lonely, weary, wand'ring travellers. Be it so—then let us strengthen, cultivate, and elevate, instead of depressing it below its just level. Instead of hoodwinking reason, and allowing our opinions and actions to be governed by custom, error, and prejudice, let it have full, free, and, unfettered scope to range the fields of thought, in the investigation and discovery of truth. Does not our happiness depend on the knowledge of the various relations which man bears to his fellow man, and to his God, and the practice of the duties which they impose—and how are we to discover these relations, except by the assistance of reason operating on experience? Can false views of human nature and its attributes increase the happiness of the human race individually, or can a political society, framed on such erroneous principles, attain the end for which alone society was formed ? “ Deception and mendacity are always regarded in the common and every day intercourse of life as base and odious—is it then only upon subjects of the highest import to man, that he may be deceived without danger or detestation ?” Dreadful indeed, and unlimited, is the power of prejudice-we imbibe it with life itself, and its strength and influence increase until its close-its prevalence may be detected in all human institutions--government, which from its nature is framed for the maintenance of society, for the concentration of its force, and the preservation of its peace and security, becomes, by a fatal perversion, the principle of its destruction—the cause of vice, misery, and oppression, which gradually conduct nations to decline and ruinif we direct our attention to the municipal laws of communities, we find the natural liberty of man, bound and fettered by the chains of despotism--the immutable rules of justice and equity cut down and varied to suit the caprices of opinion, custom, or tyranny; and the welfare and happiness of millions, sacrificed to the transient interests of power. We see rank, and wealth, and power, showered down on the few, and the great living máss of society, with all their feelings and affections about them, robbed of the very rights of humanity. If we look into domestic life—if we examine into the effects of education, we find its tendency is to establish certain systems of opinions, without allowing them to be examined—to check the noble aspirations of the soul, and to bind down reason to the stake of custom. Thus prejudice feeds on the human mind, to the annihilation of reason, like the insect larva, which is deposited in the body of the living caterpillar, on which it feeds and strengthens, leaving the vital parts only untouched till its maturity, when, having destroyed these also, it bursts into the world, an unnatural and monstrous birth.
The author before us, feeling a strong conviction of the deleterious effects of the idolatry paid to this delusive divinity, has, in the essay before us, attempted to dissipate the fogs which have hung over and obscured human reason. The philosophical discussion of such a subject, not only requires cool and quiet hours, but a clear head and an honest heart. “ True philosophy disowns the maxims of those apologists of vice, who borrow her language to diffuse their poison—the friends of disorder are her enemies.”
The welfare of mankind is her object, and truth the instrument by which she effects it-for goodness is but the reflexion of truth, whose colour it takes as the blade newly come out of the forge, the colour of the fire.
On the mild and humane, but firm and undaunted spirit, which ought to characterise the true philosopher, M. Marsais makes the following observations :
“Il faut une ame tranquille pour envisager les objets sous leur vrai point de vue; il faut être impartial pour juger sainement des choses; il faut se mettre au dessus des préjugés, dont la philosophie elle-même n'est que trop souvent infectée, pour la perfectionner, pour la rendre plus persuasive, plus touchante, plus utile au genre humain. En effet l'arrogance des philosophes a dů souvent dégoûter les hommes de la philosophie; ses disciples, fiers de leurs découvertes réelles ou prétendues, ont quelquefois montré leur supériorité d'une façon humiliante pour leurs concitoyens; des penseurs atrabilaires ont révolté les hommes par leurs mépris insultans, et n'ont fait que leur fournir des motifs pour s'attacher plus opiniâtrément à leurs erreurs, et pour décrier les médicins et les remedes. D'autres se sont complu à étaler aux yeux de leurs semblables les maux dont ils souffroient, sans leur indiquer les vrais moyens de les guérir. Que dis-je! ils les ont souvent exagérés, et se sont efforcés d'ôter jusqu'à l'espoir de les voir jamais
“ Le philosophe n'est en droit de s'estimer lui-même que lorsqu'il se rend utile en contribuant au bonheur de ses semblables; les applau