« ZurückWeiter »
ta, on whose formation we can reason, have been originally formed, not at all by a mere horizontal deposition, but wherever a nucleus was found they incrultcd it on all fides, as by a sort of crystalization.
The hypothesis of mineral veins is totally gratuitous; and the idea of a central fire from which they proceed, without the shadow of evidence, is fit only for a theologian of the 12th centuly, at a loss where to place his hell.
Volcanoes are next mentioned as a proof of the internal heat; but it it now the common belief of those who have examined volcanoes, that they extend to no great depth, and probably not to any considerable distance; all agree that they are merely local. That they have their uses in the economy of the globe, is certain; but that they act as spiracles to give a vent to the central fire till it be necessary to raise new continents, is a mere supposition; there is this objection to it besides, that the intervention of some powers is necessary to plug up these vents, and confine the heat when the supposed fire is to act in forming a new- world. A great flaw this in a theory whose beauty is to account for every thing by natural laws.
The Derby/hire toadjione, the Scotch mhin, &c. are perhaps at present the Tnost puzzling to the naturalist who wishes to determine their origin. Their perfect similarity to lavas in substance, and the manner of their situation, on the one hand j the veins of spar, &c. which they contain, and the absence of pumice, cinders, &c. on the other, suspend his judgment, and ha,ve left a number of philosophers undetermined. Most probably that found among secondary strata, as in Derbyshire, and in the coal and lime oountries of Scotland, is the effect of fusion ; but much the greater part, which constitutes the base of entire countries, and is placed jn nearly yettical strata, has never undergone the operation of fire, and it is indeed found generally with fewer
heterogeneous parts in its fubuanee than the other. Granting the fusion of the toadstone, dees it not rather argue against the Doctor's theory ? does it not seem to indicate that, in whatever circumstances subterraneous fire operates, it is only with certain ma. serials that it can form a lava, or these only it can bring into a state of fusion ? the other fhata, therefore, hsve never been fused.
But allowing our whin to have been fused, it is certainly wrong to conclude from thence, that it has undergone the fame action of fire in other places, where perhaps it is never seen in such'circumstaricts as it is with us; and still more to reason from our country on the formation of all Europe, and of all the world. Saussure met with it in no such circumstances among the Alps. M. Voigt mentions no such thing in his Letters. I know no foreign writer who has observed it abroad.
So much for the principal parts of this theory; let us now take a view of the great outline altogether. What hath it taught us? Had any one said, that fire raised all our mountains, we would answer, It may be so; earthquakes are the only things we know capable of doing it j yet, after all, we have no certainty: men never saw a mountain formed, except those made by volcanoes, which are of a nature totally different from others. Had the fame, or another person, told us, that all our strata had been in fusion, he would likely not have been credited. But, admitting both assertions, what have we learned? The very things which a theory of the earth ought to teach, are passed over in silence. Why are the highest, oldest mountains mostly of granite ? Why are they generally succeed' ed in a sort of regular order by those 0/ other kinds ? Why of the fame aerated calcareous earth have we marble in some places, chalk in others? Why, in one place a gem, elsewhere of the &»e materials, hare we left only a clay* Why particular alternations, or success Cons ot strata in particular countries? Why the dip, so uniform in many, so varied in some places ? Why petrifactions and impressions, animal and vegetable, peculiar to some (hata? Why certain substances only found in certain strata, tho' of a nature totally different from that which contains them, e.g. the flints in chalk? In short, every information which one would naturally expect from a theory of the eaith, is lost mure complearly here, than in any of the former; every thing is swallowed up in fusion, or blown to pieces by expansion. A theory mould not only account for what has been known, but should at once point out conclusions that were unperceived before. The one under consideration does this indeed by the lump: aft that we fee is the effect of fire ; every thing that can hereafter be found, may, in the fame manner, be accounted for: but, being able to fay this, are we one whit wiser than we were? Had the whole been givsn out as a pretty thought, an apperrue, it might have passed so; but to receive it as a theory, or to suppose it founded on a physical demonstration, would be to stop the mouth of inquiry.
ObjecTioni to the conclusions drawn from the Theory.
Such ling srides, as have been taken from one conclusion to another of this demonstration, are a likely enough way to eternity; we are prepared, therefore, for the grand corollary with which the Doctor concludes, viz. that in our earth, as a habitable world, there is—no vestige of a beginning— no prospect of an end. Upon this, as a detached point, we have but two ways of reasoning, from analogy, and from observation.
Analogy teacheth us, that as there is a constant succession in every thing, individuals of every kind must peri/h; the animal, the plant (if there is any distinction betwixt a plant and an animal) must die, that room may be made for another. Can we extend this to the earth? not without extreme caution. Were we Ptolemx
ans, then our world would appear so grand an object in nature, that it might be supposed, like the base of all, to continue for ever. But, considered as astronomy now shews it, an infinitely small part, so to speak, of the uni verse, we drop our notions of its importance, we find it relatively no more than the most trifling insect. Shall /'/ remain for ever?
Observation too, short as the life and annals of man are, has furnished some things that seem to limit its period. If it can be proved, that now it is in a state materially different from what it was formerly in, this must go a great way, and we have facts little short of such a proof. That most of our present land has been under wa» ter is evident, that such another continent existed before, as our own, is doubtful. The immense mountains of calcareous stone, placed near the primitive Alps of the globe, supposing this 'stone to be from the exuviæ of shellfish, seem to show that that race had once occupied a much larger proportion in the economy of nature than it now does. Our petrifactions show that formerly there existed many species, perhaps genera, of animals, now to all appearance extinct. The bones of the elephant, crocodile, &c. found fossil in the North of Europe, and in America, where these animals have long ceased to exist, seem clearly to indicate a total change of climate, temperature, and inhabitants, in a great part of the globe. All these ate lymptoms of something analogous to the stages of increase, perfection, and decay, common to every being with which we are acquainted. But future, astronomical observations must determine the matter.
Every theory of the earth hitherto given, appears to me, Sir, mote or less liable to tiuo great objetlioju. One is, from an excess of generalization, accounting for too many things by one cans. Busson ascribed too much to water, or at least to simple deposition.
Dr Hutton has done the fame by fire. Having a strong propensity to account for every thing, and being acquainted with but a few of nature's agents and ways, we are obliged to give to each more than is its due, and will rather do this than wait till observation or experiment have set us right. It was thus the mechanical philosophers, justly proud of the astonishing discoveries they had made in the inanimate world, began to carry their rules into living systems, as if they had been only hydraulic machines. Electricity was thus stretched, soon after the discovery of its amazing effects, and thought adequate to the solution of all difficulties. Another capital objection to these theories is, that every one has founded his own on what he himself has observed, most commonly on that part of a country in which he himself has resided, and has aftei wards most illogically argued from a part to the whole. This was a great defect in Whitehurst's theory. It was thus M. Voigt formed his opinion. This will, in a word, be found at the bottom of all. Bus* son's, and the present one, may indeed, be applied to every place; but where and how founded, let every one judge. While this principle prevails, the Alps and the Cordilleras are the places where most truth is likely to be met with; ceteris paribus, therefore, more may be expected from the Ge
nevan philosophers than from outer* just now j yet neither De Luc nor Saussure, from what they saw, have ever entertained a surmise that any of the Alpine strata had been in sufioo. Al present, Sir, and for a long time hence, it would be better to point out our ignorance, than to frame hypotheses ; to collect facts would be still better. The field is wide j the end is a great one. In some future period man may be dignified with the discovery | at present, it is far remote. Let the path be steadily pursued : one sure step is a great deal. Truth can never be affected by prejudice or superstition. When ascertained, it must be truth, how much soever it may differ from common religious tenets, or from philosophical fancies. The Anttfodes must be believed in spite of decrees and anathemas; and a vacuum, in spite of nature's abhorrence. What the prosecution of this subject of the earth's formation may at last lead to, we cannot fay. Though one could not help smiling at the man who would offer to him the Mosaic account as a compleat system of cosmology, yet as to the attempts hitherto made at a better, we. may fay,
I am, Sir,
An Account os a Book lately published in France, called Memoires de M. Goldoni, &c. •written by himself, 3 volt' Bvo.
THE name of Goldoni is celebrated over all Europe. He undertook with success, to reform the theatre of his native country, and no dramatic author of our age has shewn such amazing fecundity of invention. In a single year (1750) he composed sixteen pieces, that were all represented on the theatre of St Ange at Venice. This immense exertion for a long time affected his health; but he
had come under engagements to the Public, which he resolved to fulfill. The sum-total of his works amounts to one hundred and fifty comedies, in verse as well as in prose. He has seen eighteen editions of his theatre. He has di& tinguifhed himself by an excellent sentimental comedy,ictheFrench language, called Le Bourru Bienfaisant. Few authors have travelled more, or written so much as Goldoni; and be alow is
equal to the task of communicating a certain and compleat idea of his character, adventures, and writings. Of this he seems to have been persuaded, which has engaged him to publish these Memoirs of his life. He was born at Venice in 1707, and is consequently at prtsent in his eighty-first year. While he remained in Italy, his life was subject to great vicissitudes. We find him, year after year, changing the place of his abode, harraffed and illrequited, but never to be driven from his taste for dramatic composition. In the number of his adventures are some that would have made a figure in the Roman comique of Scarron : he is, however a little too prolix in the detail of his college exploits. What we ate much indebted to him for, are the accounts we have of certain events of public importance, such as the battle of Parma in 1733, at which he was present.
The first part of his Memoirs comprehends an abridgment of his life from his birth to the reformation of the theatre in Italy, of which he was the principal author. The second part contains the history of all his plays, the secret circumstances that furnished him with the subject of them, their various success, the squabbles that attended their representation, Sec. But the greater part is taken up with an ■niJysis of each particular piece. The author has even translated three or four entire scenes; and it is to be wished that he had translated more of the principal ones in his best pieces, for the benefit of those who arc not in porTefEon of his Theatre, or who are not versed in the Italian language.
The third and last part is taken up with what has happened to the author since his establishment in France, where he is now fixed. There he has found repose, tranquillity, and independence; and he repays them with every testimony of gratitude and attachment.
The Meliere of Italy, has this in common with the Mtliere if Fran.c,
that both, after having compleated their studies, disappointed the views of their parents, and, drawn aside by irresistible inclination, associated themselves with comedians, and, for a while led an ambulatory life. ButGoldoni followed the troop only in qualities author.
He was born of a respectable family, and was educated with great care: he first studied medicine, then jurisprudence, and was admitted to the profession of the law at Venice, which he exercised there for some time, but quitted that city to avoid a marriage that would have ruined him. From this time he renounced Cujas and Bartholus for Pl.ir.tus and Terence; and his genius for comedy began to shew itself. He was soon, applied to by various companies, and the success of his pieces on almost all the theatres of Italy, quickly ptocured him a very brilliant reputation. His comedy of the Fill d Arlequin perdu et retrouve made the Italian company at Paris anxiously wish to persuade Goldoni to come to France, that by his pieces they might re-establish the sinking fame of their theatre. They accordingly made the proposal to him, which he willingly accepted, and he is now fettled at Paris for the remainder of his life.
These Memoirs are written in a very sprightly style \ they are full of pleasing sillies, and curious anecdotes, related with much spirit and vivacity. We are at once struck with the air of simplicity, the unaffected gaiety, and the appearance of ttuth and good nature that run through the whole work. The adventures related in the two first volumes are certainly not very important: these contain accounts of his youthful follies, and quarrels with his family, of his imprudent behaviour, and of the distress it involved him in. They inform us of hi? amours with the nymphs of the theatre, of their infidelities to him, and of his squabbles with the comedian3; they likewise contain an account of his journies and rambles over-the different cities of
Italy, with a sew words, and but a few, on the manners and customs of the people; extracts from his pieces, and the circumstances that suggested the idea of them, with their good or ill success. These trifles are exceedingly set off, however, by a very sprightly, ingenious, and agreeable manner of relating them. We every where discover the dramatic poet, supremely master of the art of dialogue, and who has the talent of making an exquisite scene out of nothing. But what perhaps docs most honour to Goldoni is, that the whole history of his life displays ui excellent heart, an upright and honest mind, with a gentle disposition devoid of rancour or envy. It exhibits an amiable philosopher, but little susceptible of the violent passions; who can bear with the weaknesses of some, and who can support the wickedness, the envy, the ingratitude and treachery os\others, as infirmities and diseases incident to their nature. Tho' often counteracted in his views, often persecuted by men, and deceived by the women, he never grows peevish and complains. When talking of his misfortunes, he affects no peculiar eloquence or energy: very different in this respect from some of our modern writers, who would have lost half their reputation if they had wanted injustice to deplore, enemies to combat, or calumnies to refute.
Thus far in general of the plan and execution of this work; we (hall now be more particular, and present our readers with foue specimens of it.
Goldoni sometimes takes occasion to make us acquainted with the peculiar customs of his country. One of these is called the Sibylkne, a very singular literary amusement.
Thy Sibyllcrie, or great Sibyl, is a child of ten or twelve years of age, who is placed in an elevated chair. Any person of the company proposes a question to him, and the child immediately answers at random in a single word. This word, which is the
oracle of the Sibyl, coming from th« mouth of a child, and pronounced without consideration or reflection, is generally devoid of common sLr.fc; but on one side of the tribunal aiifcs an academician, who is to maintain that the child has answered with propriety, and for this purpose he sets himself to explain and interpret the oracle.
"To (hew the reader, fays M. Goldoni, the boldness and versatility of an Italian imagination, I shall here relate a question, the answer, and its interpretation, of which I was a witness.
"The querist, who was a stranger like myself, intreated the Sibyll to have the goodness to tell him hotv it has' pern that women have the talunt assiststng more generally and more ea/ily than nun? The Sibyll, as the whole response, pronounced the word strea, and the interpreter immediately getting up, and addressing himself to the author of the question, maintained that the oracle could neither have been more decisive nor more satisfactory.
"This learned academician, who was an Abb6 of about forty years of aSei big and fat, with a sonorous and agreeable tone of voice, spoke for three quarters of an hour. He fiist gave an analysis of the plants that are remarkable for levity, and proved that straw surpasses every other in fragility: from straw he passed to women; he ran cver with as much volubility as accuracy, a kind of anatomical description of the human body. He investigated the source of tears in both sexes. He shewed the delicacy of the fibres in the one, and their rigidity and resistance' in the other. He then concluded, by paying a very flattering compliment to the ladies who were present, and attributed the prerogatives of sensibility to superior delicacy; but he spoke not a word, says Goldoni, of tears at command.
"I confess, that tins man astonished me. It is impossible to employ more ingenuity, more erudition, more pra*