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Progress of the Nation page 8


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Still more have "The Seasons" and "The Castle of Indolence" of James Thomson retained, and are likely to retain, the public favour. "The Seasons" are a treasury of the life and imagery of the country, animated by a true love of Nature and of God, and abounding in passages of fire, healthy feeling, and strong sense, often of sublime conceptions, in a somewhat stiff and vicious style. "The Castle of Indolence" is a model of metrical harmony and luxurious fancy, in the Spenserian stanza. Another poet of the same time and country - Scotland - is Allan Ramsay, who, in his native dialect, has painted the manners and sung the rural loves of Scotland in his "Gentle Shepherd" and his rustic lyrics. Till Burns, no poet of Scotland had so completely embodied the spirit, feelings, and popular life of that country. Amongst a host of verse-makers, then deemed poets, but who were merely imitators of imitators, we must except Gray, with his nervous lyrics, and, above all, his ever-popular "Elegy in a Country Churchyard." Gray also has a genuine vein of wit and merriment in his verse. Collins, in his odes, still preserves his undoubted poetic eminence; Parnell's "Hermit," Blair's "Grave," Shenstone's "School Mistress," Akenside's "Imagination," can yet charm particular readers, and there are others in great numbers whose works yet figure in collections of the poets, or whose individual poems are selected in anthologies, as Smith, King, Sprat, bishop of Rochester, Duke, Montagu, earl of Halifax, Nicholas Rowe, Dyer - author of the "Fleece," "Grongar Hill," and "Ruins of Rome" - Sheffield, duke of Buckingham, Fenton, Somerville - author of the "Chase," "Field Sports," &c. - Hammond - author of "Love Elegies" - lord Lyttleton, Mallet, Mickle - author of the ballads of "Cuinnor Hall," "There's Na Luck about the House," and translator of the "Lusiad of Camoens" - Shaw, Harte, West, Cawthorne, Lloyd, Gilbert Cooper, Grainger - author of "The Sugar Cane," and the once popular ballad of "Bryan and Pereene" - Dodsley, poet and bookseller, Boyse - author of "The Deity," a poem, &c. - Smollett - more remarkable as a novelist and historian - Michael Bruce, Walsh, Falconer - author of the "Shipwreck" - Valden, Pattison, Aaron Hill, Broome, Pitt - the translator of Virgil - John Philips - author of "Cyder," a poem, the "Splendid Shilling," &c. - West, and others. In fact, this age produced poets enough to have constituted the rhythmical literature of a nation, as they had as much genius as they had learning.

Besides the miscellaneous poets, the dramatic ones numbered Congreve, Vanbrugh, Farquhar, Colley Cibber, Nicholas Rowe - already mentioned - Savage, Lansdowne, Ambrose Philips, and others. In many of the plays of these authors there is great talent, wit, and humour, but mingled with equal grossness. Congreve's dramas are principally "The Old Bachelor," "The Incognita," "The Double Dealer," "The Way of the World," comedies, and "The Mourning Bride," a tragedy. Vanbrugh, the celebrated architect, produced "The Relapse," "The Provoked Wife," "The Confederacy," "The Journey to London," and several other comedies. Farquliar's principal plays are "The Beaux' Stratagem," " Love in a Bottle," and " The Constant Couple." Savage was the author of the tragedy of "Sir Thomas Overbury;" Nicholas Rowe, of five or six tragedies and one comedy, the most popular of which are "The Fair Penitent" and " Jane Shore." Rowe also translated Lucan's "Pharsalia." As for Colley Cibber, he was a mere playwright, and turned out above two dozen comedies, tragedies, and other dramatic pieces. Lord Lansdowne was the author of " Gallantry," a comedy, and " Heroic Love," a tragedy of some merit; and John Hughes wrote "The Siege of Damascus," a tragedy, which still remains on the stage.

In the department of philosophy flourished the celebrated bishop Berkeley, author of "The Principles of Human Knowledge," who startled the world with the theory that matter has no existence in the universe, but is merely a fixed idea of the mind; Dr. Mandeville, a Dutchman by birth, who settled in London, and published various medical and metaphysical works of a free-thinking character; Hutchinson, an opponent of Dr. Woodward in natural history, and Newton in natural philosophy; and David Hartley, author of "Observations on Man." Bishop Butler, War- burton, Hoadley, Middleton, author of "A Free Enquiry into the Miraculous Powers of the Church," and Seeker, archbishop of Canterbury, were the leading theologists in the church; but dissent could also boast of its theologians in Dr. Isaac Watts, author of a system of logic and of the popular Hymns, Calamy, the opponent of Hoadley, Doddridge, &c.

In the department of novel writing, no age had yet produced such a constellation as Fielding. Richardson, Sterne, and Smollett. Their works are still read with admiration by all who have a strong relish for the vivid and masterly delineations of life; their only drawback being, that they are all more or less stained and mildewed with the grossness and licentiousness of the age. From these serious faults Richardson is most free, and in his "Sir Charles! Grandison" he has shown himself ahead of his age in the wisdom and liberality of his ideas. He discountenanced duelling, and taught the soundest principles of honour and morality. The photographic minuteness of Richardson's style unfortunately prevents the general reading of his works at the present day of abundant new literature. The principal novels of Fielding," Joseph Andrews," "Tom Jones," and "Amelia," abound in wit, vigour, and knowledge of human nature. He wrote also some plays, and edited several periodicals. His sister, Sarah, also wrote "David Simple," a novel, and translated Xenophon's "Memoirs of Socrates." Smollett in his novels paints life in strong, bold, but somewhat coarse lines, full of vigour, but with even more grossness and obscenity than fielding. "Peregrine Pickle," "Count Fathom," "Roderick Random," "Humphrey Clinker," and "Sir Launcelot Greaves," if not now generally read, have been carefully studied and made use of by some of our living novelists. Smollett, besides, wrote plays, satires, poems, and edited " The Briton," a weekly newspaper, Sterne struck out a style of writing peculiar to himself, and which yet stands alone, defying all successful imitation. Spite of recent attempts to represent his pathos as grimace, and his humour as tinsel, there is that felicity of touch in " Tristram Shandy," and those flashes of wit and genuine feeling in his "Sentimental Journal," which, in spite of detractors, and of the occasional indecency of the author, so reprehensible in a clergyman, will always send readers to Sterne.

Physical Science

James Bradley, who succeeded Halley as the third astronomer-royal, held that post till 1762, when he died. He had in 1728 greatly distinguished himself by his discovery of an unanswerable proof of the motion of the earth by his observations on the apparent alteration in the place of a fixed star. His second great discovery was that of the mutation of the earth's axis, showing that the pole of the equator moves round the pole of the eliptic, not in a straight but in a waving line. Bradley gave important assistance to the ministry in their alteration of the calendar in 1751, and the vast mass of his observations was published after his death, by the university of Oxford, in two volumes, in 1798.

Hadley's quadrant was constructed and. made known by him to the Philosophical Society, in 1731, though Thomas Godfrey, a glazier, of Philadelphia, is said to have made a similar instrument a year before. So early, however, as 1727, Newton had described such an instrument to Halley, that is, a very little time before his death. This invaluable instrument has since been improved, first into a sextant, and ultimately into a complete circle. In 1758 appeared John Dolland's corrections of Newton's views of the dispersion of refracted light, and in the following year his achromatic telescope, based on his accurate discoveries.

In 1720 Cohn Maclaurin, the successor of James Gregory in the mathematical chair at Edinburgh, published his "Geometrica Organica," a treatise on curves; in 1742 his admirable treatise on fluxions; and in 1748 his treatise on algebra. Dr. Robert Simpson, professor of mathematics at Glasgow, published a restoration of the " Loci" of Apol- lonius, and an English translation of Euclid, which continued down to our own time in use, both in Scotland and England. In 1717 James Stirling published a Latin treatise on lines of the third order, and another on fluxions, called "Methodus Differentialis," in 1730. William Emerson, a mathematician and mechanist, wrote much during this period on fluxions, trigonometry, mechanics, navigation, algebra, optics, astronomy, geography, dialing, &c., which was only in part, however, published during this period. Thomas Simpson, a weaver, of Market Bosworth, at the age of seven-and-twenty suddenly discovered himself as an extraordinary mathematician, and went on till his death, in 1761, publishing works on fluxions, the nature and laws of chance, on mixed mathematics, on the doctrine of annuities and reversions, on algebra, elementary geometry, trigonometry, &c. James Ferguson, also, the son of a day- labourer, in Banffshire, studied mathematics whilst tending sheep, and published a number of works on the phenomena of the harvest moon, astronomy, mechanics, hydrostatics, pneumatics, and optics. Ferguson had a remarkably lucid and demonstrative style, both in writing and lecturing, and his example excited a great spirit of inquiry amongst the working classes, so that he is said to have diffused the knowledge of physical science amongst the class from which he sprung more than any other man.

In electricity great strides were made. Between the years 1705 and 1711 Francis Hawksbee published in the Transactions of the Royal Society several experiments, in which he had, for the first time, discovered the production of the electric spark by friction, and electrical attraction and repulsion. In 1720 Stephen Gray, a pensioner of the Charter House, published the result of his experiments on this subject, with a list of the substances which showed electricity under friction; and 1732 he discovered the conducting property of non-electrical bodies. Before 1739, Dufray, keeper of the king's garden at Paris, discovered the repellant power of two similarly-electrified bodies, and the attraction of these positively and negatively electrified - or, as he termed it, possessing the vitreous and the resinous electricity. Cuneus and Lallemand discovered the mode of accumulating the electric fluid in what was called the Leyden jar in 1745. This discovery gave a new impetus to inquiry, and Nollet, in France, and Watson, in England, conceived the hypothesis of the jar being overcharged on one side and undercharged on the other. This growing perception of the positive and negative conditions of the electric fluid received confirmation from the experiments of Benjamin Franklin, in America. Franklin soon improved the Leyden jar into an electrical battery; and, in 1752, he proved the identity of electricity and lightning by his grand experiment of the kite. On this he recommended lightning conductors, which, however, were not used in England till ten years afterwards.

On the laws of heat and cold, and atmospheric changes under their influence, many interesting facts were ascertained by the aid of the thermometers of Fahrenheit and Reaumur. Dr. Martin, of St. Andrews, distinguished himself in these inquiries, and published his discoveries and deductions in 1739 and 1740. In 1750 Dr. Cullen drew attention to some curious facts connected with the production of cold by evaporation. Dr. Joseph Black discovered what he called latent heat, and continued his researches on this subject beyond the present period.

Chemistry also received valuable extensions of its field. Dr. John Mayow published new facts respecting nitre, and on the phenomena of respiration and combustion, as revealed by experiments on this and other substances. At the commencement of the eighteenth century Stahl, a German chemist, propounded his theory of phlogiston as the principle of combustion, which was only exploded by the further discoveries of Dr. Black, Cavendish, and Priestley Soon after, Dr. Hales threw new light on aeriform bodies, or, as they are now termed, gases; and, finally, Dr. Black demonstrated the presence of a gas in magnesia, lime, and the alkalies, which had long before been noticed by Van Helmont, but had been forgotten. This was then termed fixed air, but has now acquired the name of carbonic acid gas. At the end of this period chemistry was extensively studied, and was rapidly revealing its secrets.

The kindred science of medicine was also in marked advance. Dr. Thomas Sydenham, who died in 1689, at the very commencement of this period, had prepared the way for a more profound knowledge of the science by his careful and persevering observation of facts and symptoms; and the improvements he introduced guided medical men in the treatment of disease till the end of this period. Anatomical science was greatly advanced at this era by Malpighi, Steno, Ruysch, Duvernay, Morgagni, Albinus, Haller, and other continental physicians. In this country Humphrey Ridley published a work on the brain in 1695, and William Cowper, in 1698, his anatomical tables, said to be borrowed from the Dutch anatomist, Bidloo. In 1726 Alexander Munro published his "Osteology;" he was also founder of the Medical School of Edinburgh. In 1733 William Chesselden, the most expert operator of his day, published his"Osteography." In 1727 Stephen Hales published his "Vegetable Statics," and in 1733 his " Hsemastatics," which carried both vegetable and animal physiology beyond all preceding knowledge either here or abroad. Zoology and comparative anatomy also received some progress from the labours of Nehemiah Grew, Tyson, Collins, and other members of the Royal Society.

Music

Music advanced at an equal rate with its sister arts, and during this period added to its conquests the compositions of Purcell and Handel. Dutch William was too much engaged in war to become a great patron of music, or of any of the fine arts, and his queen, Mary, does not appear to have possessed any elevated taste for it. She is related by Sir John Hawkins to have sent for Purceli and Mrs. Arabella Hunt, a famous singer, to entertain her. Mrs. Hunt sang some of Purcell's splendid compositions, and Purcell accompanied them on the harpsichord; but Mary soon grew weary of these, and called on Mrs. Hunt to sing the Scotch ballad, "Cold and Raw!"

Purcell, however, produced the bulk of his works under this reign. He composed the music to "The Tempest," "Dioclesian," "King Arthur," "Don Quixote," "Boadicea," and "Orpheus Britannicus." Many parts of these, and his sonatas, anthems, catches, rounds, glees, &c., are as much enjoyed now as in his own day. The music to Davenant's "Circe," by Bannister, of Shadwell's "Psyc'he," by Locke, and of Dryden's " Albion and Albanius," by Grabut, had increased in this country the liking for the lyrical drama. but Purcell's compositions wonderfully strengthened it, and from his "King Arthur" may properly be dated the introduction of the English opera. Gay's "Beggars' Opera," six-and-thirty years after, however, was the first complete and avowed opera, and this did not establish that kind of entertainment in England. The wonderful success of this production, which was performed for sixty-three nights in succession, was chiefly derived from the wit and satire of the composition itself, the abundance of popular airs introduced, and the party feeling which it gratified. The airs were selected and adapted by Dr. Pepusch, a German, who settled in London, and became celebrated there. He also furnished the overture, and wrote accompaniments to the airs. Eleven years after, Milton's "Comus" was adapted to the stage by the Rev. Dr. Dalston, with music by Dr. Arne, who afterwards composed the music for "Artaxerxes," and thence derived a high reputation.

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Pictures for Progress of the Nation page 8

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