« PrejšnjaNaprej »
SIR JOSEPH BANKS,
ADDITIONAL NOTE ON SIR JOSEPH BANKS,
NOTE ON THE LIVES OF Cavendish, Watt, and
IN delivering to the world a second volume of the "Lives of Philosophers," I am bound to acknowledge, with much thankfulness, the favour with which the former was received; but I must, at the same time, take leave to state, that the French critics especially appear to have greatly misapprehended the object of my labours. Some of them have asked what occasion there was to write lives of Voltaire and Rousseau, when there was no new information conveyed respecting those celebrated persons, and no new judgments pronounced upon their works. They seem to have been misled by the accidental circumstance of the French publication only containing these two pieces, but they formed part of a series comprehending all the men of science and letters who flourished in the time of George III. Surely, my French friends and neighbours would have been the first to complain had Voltaire and Rousseau been left out of the list. In the most severe of the criticisms which have appeared of these two Lives, I have to acknowledge the very courteous and even friendly style of the learned and ingenious author, M. Berville; but he will permit me to express no small satisfaction at finding that, after all, he confirms almost every judgment which I had ventured to pronounce upon Voltaire, the subject to which his remarks are almost exclusively confined. As for the want of novelty, nothing can be more perilous than running after discoveries on the merits of works that have been before the world for almost a century, and on which the most unlimited
present practical discussion of the Corn Laws to come on before the work should be published. The observations delivered on that question, and the whole doctrine of Free Trade, were, therefore, prepared without any view to the controversy now going on; and I fear their tenor will not give much satisfaction to any party. My opinion is well known upon the subject; and that I neither expect any thing like the good which some hope, nor apprehend any thing like the evil which others dread, from the proposed alterations in the law, while of those alterations I highly approve. But I have resolved to publish the Life and the Analytical Review, without the least alteration or addition, exactly as it was written during the calm of the last year; and as a treatise upon a subject of science, composed with only the desire to discover or to expound the truth, and without any view to the interests of any Party.
I am truly happy to announce my hope that a fuller Life of Sir J. Banks, being in such excellent hands as those of Mr. Dawson Turner, of Great Yarmouth, will be finished by that much and justly respected gentleman.
London, March 21st, 1846.
MEN OF LETTERS
TIME OF GEORGE III.
THE materials for writing the Life of Dr. Johnson are certainly more abundant than for the biography of any other distinguished person: not even excepting him whose Confessions reveal all that he himself could recollect, and chose to record of his own history; or him whose incessant activity and multiplicity of connexions, left fourscore volumes of his published works, and twenty of his private correspondence. We owe the great riches of the English Author's remains to the curiosity excited by his lively and pointed conversation, and the happy accident of his living for the latter part of his life in the society of a person eminently qualified, both by his tastes and his habits, to afford that curiosity an almost unlimited gratification. In the grateful remembrance of all who relish the pleasures of refined social intercourse, with the name Johnson is associated that of Boswell, as indissolubly as are those of Plato and Xenophon with the more remarkable name of Socrates in the minds of all who love philosophy; and there is perhaps added a zest to the collections of the English writer which the Athenian records possess not; we see the amiable and lively historian figuring always in the group with his more stern idol, affording relief, by contrast, to the picture of the sage, and amusing with his own harmless foibles, which he takes a pleasure in revealing, as if he shared the gratification he was preparing for his unknown reader. His cleverness, his tact, his skill in drawing forth those he was studying, his admirable good humour, his strict love of truth, his high and generous principle, his kindness towards his friends, his unvarying but generally rational piety, have scarcely been sufficiently praised by those who nevertheless have been always ready, as needs they must be, to acknowledge the debt of gratitude due for perhaps the book, of all that were ever written,