Page images
PDF
EPUB

e order to bring to greater perfection, by the intervention of c.fire, the substances which enter into the composition of mixt « bodies. It is more especially alleged, that these ashes, mixed es with the earth of which the China ware is made, render the " latter more folid, transparent and beautiful, than it would es otherwise be." If this remark be true, it may be possible to produce the same effect by the ashes of the bones of young animals.

A very general account of the Chinese government (or rather of the Emperor's manner of governing), as also of the fucceffion to the empire, is the next object of controverly between our Miffionary and M. Pau, that we here meet with. This is followed by an account of the climate of Petchely, and a description of the ceremonies observed at the funeral of the Empress-Mother, who died the 2d of March 1777, the 420 year of the reign of Kien-long.

T

ART.

V. Histoire de l'Homme, consideré dans ses Mæurs, dans ses Usages, et dans la Vie privée, &c.—The History of Aian, considered with respect to his Morals, Manners, and Customs in private Life. Vol. I. izmo. Paris.

1779. THE encomiums that have been lavished upon history, as

adapted to give us an extensive knowledge of human nature, will appear more or less undeserved to those who confider attentively the objects exhibited in almost all the historical productions known to us, and more especially in modern hiftories. Is it in the recital of wars, revolutions, and conquests, in the exhibition of that uniform circle of vicissitudes and events, that relates to the fall or rise of empires, and is turned round by the main springs of rapacity and ambition, that we shall find the portraiture of human nature ? Is it here that we find man,-the primitive lines of his moral constitution, the fen• timents and manners that are the true ornaments of humanity, and the effufions and exertions of the human heart in the different scenes and relations of private life; in a word, shall we find here the true portrait of man? No certainly: our Author at least thinks as we do.—“ In the midA (says be) of " that immense historical confluence of accumulated facts, " which form (if I may lo express myself) a colossal groupe, « I look about for Mán, and can scarcely perceive him: I « fee nothing of his aspect in private life : his morals and « manners escape my sight: I see him on the throne,-at the 6C head of an army,-furrounded with pomp, triumphal en. “ figns, and marks of elevation and grandeur ; and instead of « being entertained with a history of the human heart, I learn “the history of the four parts of the world.".

Our

'

Our Author proposes to do better : his design is to give the true and complete history of man in all his aspects: the human understanding, and the human heart, are the objects he proposes to unfold and illustrate in his moral and philosophical history. This history is divided into four periods. The firs, which takes up entirely this first volume, comprehends 1656 years, beginning with ihe creation, and ending with the deluge; the Jecond, which is to employ the two fuccceding volumes, comprehends 1164 years, which elapsed bețween the deluge and be siege of Troy; the third period will bring down this history to the birth of Christ, and the fourth to the present time.

The first volume only has yet appeared, which comprehends the first period. Here the birth of the world and of man are related. The origin of language, - the primitive language,agriculture,-population,-inventions, discoveries, - means of subsistence, and useful arts, are treated with a circumstantial detail :-the origin of idolatry and superstition is unfolded, civilization is described, in its degrees, progress, means and inftruments. We see here, farther, cities built, nations formed, legislacion introduced, subordination and laws established, civil government succeeding anarchy, lands divided, property regulated, commerce increafing, morals, virtues and vices exhibited in all their aspects, whether in private, domestic, or public life, until corruption of manners arose to that height, which drew down upon mankind the chastisement of Heaven in the universal deluge. Such are the principal contents of this first volume, in which the Author follows the progress of the human mind with attention, describes its efforts and operations, its virtues and vices, with an exact and animated pencil, and thews himself to be no mean master in the school of moral painters,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

AR T.

VI.
Lettres Physiques et Morales, sur l Histoire de la Terre et de l'Homme, &'.

-LETTERS, Philofophical and voral, concerning the Hiilory of
the Earth and of Man, addrefled !o the Que N of Great Britain,
&c. by J. A. DE Luc, Citizen of Geneva, Reader to her Ma-
jelly, F. R. S. Correspondent Member of the Royal Academies
of Scierces at Paris and Montpellier. In Five Volumes 8vo.
Hague. 1760. Sold, in London, by Dortter, &c. 11. 101.

11. ion. Elmoly fewed.

E have not, in many years, met with a work more

endly

WE

replete with rational entertainment and solid instruction, and which we can more conscientiously recommend to the friends, and also to the enemies, of true philosophy, than the work now before us. It is not the hafty production of a few months, or the result of observations and experiments made

with

M m 4

[ocr errors]

with precipitation and rapidity; it is the fruit of a long, laborious, and attentive study of nature, carried on, with little interruption, during the space of thirty years; and it bears all the marks of a sagacious and experienced observer, a profound and original thinker, a found logician, and a good man. It is filled with precious materials relative to the natural world, and to the branch of philosophy of which that world is more peculiarly the object; and it exhibits rational, extensive, and noble views of the connection of Nature with its AUTHOR, and with the moral and religious system of the universe. As Man is not less the subject of this work than the globe he inhabits, a subjeđ, so extensive and complicated in its relations, could not but open to this ardent, this eagle-eyed inquirer a vast and varied field of observation : so that M. De Luc, who has hitherto been only known as one of the first natural philosophers of our time, assumes here new aspects, ftill more interesting to huma. nity, namely, those of the moralift, the citizen, the friend of man,-who speaks the language of wisdom to the peasant, the artist, the legislator, and the sovereign, and appreciates with sensibility, truth, and precision, the genuine sources of human felicity.

So much for the Author and his work in general : and now-a previous word to our Readers. The superficial Reader will here find things beyond his reach, but he may yet pick up many facts, truths, and observations, that will afford him much instruction and entertainment; and there is no Reader, who, with a competent degree of attention, may not comprehend the great and essential lines of our Author's system, with respect to the theory of the earth, and the destination of its principal inhabitant. It is also to be noticed, that there are parts in this work, which (notwithstanding the peculiar merit of their assemblage) do not cease to be highly interesting, even when detached from the whole. There is, for example, a rich field of curious objects for the lover of natural history :There are subtile researches concerning matter and spirit, and their mysterious union, for the metaphysician :- there are important discusions, experiments, and results, for the natural philosopher :- there are useful views of rural and political economy for the true patriot :--and the ministers of religion will meet with judicious and interesting disquisitions, relative to their profesion, polity, and the master-science, that connects the theory of this world with a prospect of a better.-In short(permit the metaphor) there is here a rich and varied feaft; and though all palates may not relish, nor every stomach be able to digest the contents of each dish, yet no guest need rise from table without having made a good meal, and many will make an exquisite one.

At

At the same time, the epistolary form under which M. De Luc's work appears, muft neceffarily cause a relaxation of the rigorous rules of method ; and we think the work rather gains than loses by this circumstance. It is a series of letters addressed to our Queen, as the patroness of every thing that is great, good, elegant, and humane; and it is not in the letters of a philosophical traveller (who cannot help associating with his main object incidental views that open to him in his progress,) that we are to expect the severe symmetry of a regular system. The Work is divided into eleven parts.

FIRST PART. The First Part contains fourteen Discourses, which serve eminently to ascertain the connection of many discussions (that may appear to some digressive and episodical) with our Author's main design; and thus to shew, that the materials really constitute a complete edifice. It will not be improper to give some account of these Discourses.

The first announces the great point of natural history and physical chronology, which is the main foundation of the whole work, viz. That aur continents are not of a very ancient date. M. De Luc contends, throughout the course and progress of this work, that all the phenomena of our globe, as also the history of man, concur to persuade us, that, by a sudden, though not a violent revolution, the sea changed its bed,- that the conTINENTS, which are now inhabited, are the bed, which it formerly occupied, and that the number of ages which have elapsed, fince this great revolution, and since the retreat of the waters of the ocean from the present continents, is not very great. His method of proving these propofitions in the courie of his work, is here indicated before hand, to shew the Reader where he is to employ his principal attention. It is from the records of NaTURE, and not from those of history, that he has deduced the chronology of our continents and that of human nature; and as arguments have been drawn from the low progress of the fciences, to prove the high antiquity of the human race, he obviates these by a curious discussion of this interesting subject, -in which he fhews, that the sciences, which depend upon genius, may have acquired their present degree of improvement in a short time, while those which depend on experience are yet but in a very imperfect state.

In the second Discourse M. De Luc Thews the connection subsisting between the great point of natural history, now mentioned, and the truth and authenticity of divine revelation, and particularly of the Mosaic history, whose principal lines are confirmed, and of whose relations none are contradicted, by an attentive study of our globe. This leads our Author

[ocr errors]

into a series of remarks on the connection of the fciences with the felicity of man, and their insufficiency to promote it without religion, which alone can prescribe a certain rule of con

-The reflections on the foundation of morality, which terminate this discourse, are curious and interesting Our Au. thor condescends to refute the nonsense that runs through the book of Helvetius, concerning man and his education : but indeed, as this book more particularly seems to have been composed in a delirious state of mind, we do not think it deserved the notice which M. De Luc has thought proper to bestow upon it

. What can be said to a man, who, reasoning concerning the influence of religion on society, confounds religion perpetually, either with superstition and fanaticism, or with the conduct of those who use the mask of religion to accomplish perfidious and ambitious views? What can be said to a man, who, to give the people a certain obligatory and efficacious rule of life and manners, would have religion and its ministers suppressed, and morality preached—by whom? by philosophers and statesmenforsooth! by the Diderots and Maupeous—by the Richlieus and Voltaires, -and so on! Even were these names ever so respectable, -what change do names make in the business? In Thort, such a reasoner as Helvetius requires no answer ; but however contemptible this antagonist may be, he furnishes our Author with an occasion of saying many excellent things on the subject of religion, in its connection with the true interests of man.

The third, fourth, and fifth Discourses are relative to the history of man, and exhibit a variety of objects that deserve the attention of the man and the citizen. The improvement of lands as yet uncultivated, (the surprising quantity of which seems to furnish an argument of the recent emerfion of our continents from the ocean)-the advantages to humanity resulting from commons--the happiness resulting to the villager from fimplicity, which wisdom would chuse as the true source of happiness to all men,--the effects of agriculture, manufactures, commerce, sciences, and civil polity, considered in their relation to the method of bettering the state of the human species by the cultivation of deserts ;-all these objects furnish important details in the body and progress of M. De Luc's work, and matter for many judicious reflections in the Discourses now mentioned.

The fixth and seventh Discourses contain reflections on final caufes, and remarks on the natural dispositions of man, who is the final cause, in which the greatest part of the productions and arrangements of this terrestrial globe seem to terminate. The natural propensity of man to benignity and goodness, though sometimes rendered imperceptible by foreign impreffions,

« PreviousContinue »