Curiosities of Literature, Vol. II (of 3) - Edited, With Memoir And Notes, By His Son, The Earl Of Beaconsfield
by Isaac D'Israeli
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Mr. Mathias, in his Essay on Gray, tells us, that "in addition to the valuable manuscripts of Mr. Gray, there is reason to think that there were some other papers, folia Sibyllae, in the possession of Mr. Mason; but though a very diligent and anxious inquiry has been made after them, they cannot be discovered since his death. There was, however, one fragment, by Mr. Mason's own description of it, of very great value, namely, "The Plan of an intended Speech in Latin on his appointment as Professor of Modern History in the University of Cambridge." Mr. Mason says, "Immediately on his appointment, Mr. Gray sketched out an admirable plan for his inauguration speech; in which, after enumerating the preparatory and auxiliary studies requisite, such as ancient history, geography, chronology, &c., he descended to the authentic sources of the science, such as public treaties, state records, private correspondence of ambassadors, &c. He also wrote the exordium of this thesis, not, indeed, so correct as to be given by way of fragment, but so spirited in point of sentiment, as leaves it much to be regretted that he did not proceed to its conclusion." This fragment cannot now be found; and after so very interesting a description of its value and of its importance, it is difficult to conceive how Mr. Mason could prevail upon himself to withhold it. If there be a subject on which more, perhaps, than on any other, it would have been peculiarly desirable to know and to follow the train of the ideas of Gray, it is that of modern history, in which no man was more intimately, more accurately, or more extensively conversant than our poet. A sketch or plan from his hand, on the subjects of history, and on those which belonged to it, might have taught succeeding ages how to conduct these important researches with national advantage; and, like some wand of divination, it might have

Pointed to beds where sovereign gold doth grow.[290] DRYDEN.

I suspect that I could point out the place in which these precious "folia Sibyllae" of Gray's lie interred; they would no doubt be found among other Sibylline leaves of Mason, in two large boxes, which he left to the care of his executors. These gentlemen, as I am informed, are so extremely careful of them, as to have intrepidly resisted the importunity of some lovers of literature, whose curiosity has been aroused by the secreted treasures. It is a misfortune which has frequently attended this sort of bequests of literary men, that they have left their manuscripts, like their household furniture; and in several cases we find that many legatees conceive that all manuscripts are either to be burnt, like obsolete receipts, or to be nailed down in a box, that they may not stir a lawsuit!

In a manuscript note of the times, I find that Sir Richard Baker, the author of a chronicle, formerly the most popular one, died in the Fleet; and that his son-in-law, who had all his papers, burnt them for waste-paper; and he said that "he thought Sir Richard's life was among them!" An autobiography of those days which we should now highly prize.

Among these mutilators of manuscripts we cannot too strongly remonstrate with those who have the care of the works of others, and convert them into a vehicle for their own particular purposes, even when they run directly counter to the knowledge and opinions of the original writer. Hard was the fate of honest Anthony Wood, when Dr. Fell undertook to have his history of Oxford translated into Latin; the translator, a sullen, dogged fellow, when he observed that Wood was enraged at seeing the perpetual alterations of his copy made to please Dr. Fell, delighted to alter it the more; while the greater executioner supervising the printed sheets, by "correcting, altering, or dashing out what he pleased," compelled the writer publicly to disavow his own work! Such I have heard was the case of Bryan Edwards, who composed the first accounts of Mungo Park. Bryan Edwards, whose personal interests were opposed to the abolishment of the slave-trade, would not suffer any passage to stand in which the African traveller had expressed his conviction of its inhumanity. Park, among confidential friends, frequently complained that his work did not only not contain his opinions, but was even interpolated with many which he utterly disclaimed!

Suppressed books become as rare as manuscripts. In some researches relating to the history of the Mar-prelate faction, that ardent conspiracy against the established hierarchy, and of which the very name is but imperfectly to be traced in our history, I discovered that the books and manuscripts of the Mar-prelates have been too cautiously suppressed, or too completely destroyed; while those on the other side have been as carefully preserved. In our national collection, the British Museum, we find a great deal against Mar-prelate, but not Mar-prelate himself.

I have written the history of this conspiracy in the third, volume of "Quarrels of Authors."


A Lady of bas bleu celebrity (the term is getting odious, particularly to our scavantes) had two friends, whom she equally admired—an elegant poet and his parodist. She had contrived to prevent their meeting as long as her stratagems lasted, till at length she apologised to the serious bard for inviting him when his mock umbra was to be present. Astonished, she perceived that both men of genius felt a mutual esteem for each other's opposite talent; the ridiculed had perceived no malignity in the playfulness of the parody, and even seemed to consider it as a compliment, aware that parodists do not waste their talent on obscure productions; while the ridiculer himself was very sensible that he was the inferior poet. The lady-critic had imagined that PARODY must necessarily be malicious; and in some cases it is said those on whom the parody has been performed have been of the same opinion.

Parody strongly resembles mimicry, a principle in human nature not so artificial as it appears: Man may be well defined a mimetic animal. The African boy, who amused the whole kafle he journeyed with, by mimicking the gestures and the voice of the auctioneer who had sold him at the slave-market a few days before, could have had no sense of scorn, of superiority, or of malignity; the boy experienced merely the pleasure of repeating attitudes and intonations which had so forcibly excited his interest. The numerous parodies of Hamlet's soliloquy were never made in derision of that solemn monologue, any more than the travesties of Virgil by Scarron and Cotton; their authors were never so gaily mad as that. We have parodies on the Psalms by Luther; Dodsley parodied the book of Chronicles, and the scripture style was parodied by Franklin in his beautiful story of Abraham; a story he found in Jeremy Taylor, and which Taylor borrowed from the East, for it is preserved in the Persian Sadi. Not one of these writers, however, proposed to ridicule their originals; some ingenuity in the application was all they intended. The lady-critic alluded to had suffered by a panic, in imagining that a parody was necessarily a corrosive satire. Had she indeed proceeded one step farther, and asserted that parodies might be classed among the most malicious inventions in literature, when they are such as Colman and Lloyd made on Gray, in their odes to "Oblivion and Obscurity," her reading possibly might have supplied the materials of the present research.

Parodies were frequently practised by the ancients, and with them, like ourselves, consisted of a work grafted on another work, but which turned on a different subject by a slight change of the expressions. It might be a sport of fancy, the innocent child of mirth; or a satirical arrow drawn from the quiver of caustic criticism; or it was that malignant art which only studies to make the original of the parody, however beautiful, contemptible and ridiculous. Human nature thus enters into the composition of parodies, and their variable character originates in the purpose of their application.

There is in "the million" a natural taste for farce after tragedy, and they gladly relieve themselves by mitigating the solemn seriousness of the tragic drama; for they find, that it is but "a step from the sublime to the ridiculous." The taste for parody will, I fear, always prevail: for whatever tends to ridicule a work of genius, is usually very agreeable to a great number of contemporaries. In the history of parodies, some of the learned have noticed a supposititious circumstance, which, however, may have happened, for it is a very natural one. When the rhapsodists, who strolled from town to town to chant different fragments of the poems of Homer, had recited, they were immediately followed by another set of strollers—buffoons, who made the same audience merry by the burlesque turn which they gave to the solemn strains which had just so deeply engaged their attention. It is supposed that we have one of these travestiers of the Iliad in one Sotades, who succeeded by only changing the measure of the verses without altering the words, which entirely disguised the Homeric character; fragments of which, scattered in Dionysius Halicarnassensis, I leave to the curiosity of the learned Grecian.[291] Homer's Battle of the Frogs and Mice, a learned critic, the elder Heinsius, asserts, was not written by the poet, but is a parody on the poem. It is evidently as good-humoured an one as any in the "Rejected Addresses." And it was because Homer was the most popular poet that he was most susceptible of the playful honours of the parodist; unless the prototype is familiar to us a parody is nothing! Of these parodists of Homer we may regret the loss of one, Timon of Philius, whose parodies were termed Silli, from Silenus being their chief personage; he levelled them at the sophistical philosophers of his age; his invocation is grafted on the opening of the Iliad, to recount the evil-doings of those babblers, whom he compares to the bags in which AEolus deposited all his winds; balloons inflated with empty ideas! We should like to have appropriated some of these silli, or parodies of Timon the Sillograph, which, however, seem to have been at times calumnious.[292] Shenstone's "School Mistress," and some few other ludicrous poems, derive much of their merit from parody.

This taste for parodies was very prevalent with the Grecians, and is a species of humour which perhaps has been too rarely practised by the moderns: Cervantes has some passages of this nature in his parodies of the old chivalric romances; Fielding, in some parts of his "Tom Jones" and "Joseph Andrews," in his burlesque poetical descriptions; and Swift, in his "Battle of Books," and "Tale of a Tub;" but few writers have equalled the delicacy and felicity of Pope's parodies in the "Rape of the Lock." Such parodies give refinement to burlesque.

The ancients made a liberal use of it in their satirical comedy, and sometimes carried it on through an entire work, as in the Menippean satire, Seneca's mock Eloge of Claudius, and Lucian in his Dialogues. There are parodies even in Plato; and an anecdotical one, recorded of this philosopher, shows them in their most simple state. Dissatisfied with his own poetical essays, he threw them into the flames; that is, the sage resolved to sacrifice his verses to the god of fire; and in repeating that line in Homer where Thetis addresses Vulcan to implore his aid, the application became a parody, although it required no other change than the insertion of the philosopher's name instead of the goddess's;—[293]

Vulcan, arise! 'tis Plato claims thy aid!

Boileau affords a happy instance of this simple parody. Corneille, in his Cid, makes one of his personages remark,

Pour grands que soient les rois ils sont ce que nous sommes, Ils peuvent se tromper comme les autres hommes.

A slight alteration became a fine parody in Boileau's Chapelain Decoiffe,

Pour grands que soient les rois ils sont ce que nous sommes, Us fee trompent en vers comme les autres hommes.

We find in Athenaeus the name of the inventor of a species of parody which more immediately engages our notice—DRAMATIC PARODIES. It appears this inventor was a satirist, so that the lady-critic, whose opinion we had the honour of noticing, would be warranted by appealing to its origin to determine the nature of the thing. A dramatic parody, which produced the greatest effect, was "the Gigantomachia," as appears by the only circumstance known of it. Never laughed the Athenians so heartily as at its representation, for the fatal news of the deplorable state to which the affairs of the republic were reduced in Sicily arrived at its first representation—and the Athenians continued laughing to the end! as the modern Athenians, the volatile Parisians, might in their national concern of an OPERA COMIQUE. It was the business of the dramatic parody to turn the solemn tragedy, which the audience had just seen exhibited, into a farcical comedy; the same actors who had appeared in magnificent dresses, now returned on the stage in grotesque habiliments, with odd postures and gestures, while the story, though the same, was incongruous and ludicrous. The Cyclops of Euripides is probably the only remaining specimen; for this may be considered as a parody on the ninth book of the Odyssey—the adventures of Ulysses in the cave of Polyphemus, where Silenus and a chorus of satyrs are farcically introduced, to contrast with the grave narrative of Homer, of the shifts and escape of the cunning man "from the one-eyed ogre." The jokes are too coarse for the French taste of Brumoy, who, in his translation, goes on with a critical growl and foolish apology for Euripides having written a farce; Brumoy, like Pistol, is forced to eat his onion, but with a worse grace, swallowing and execrating to the end.

In dramatic composition, Aristophanes is perpetually hooking in parodies of Euripides, whom of all poets he hated, as well as of AEschylus, Sophocles, and other tragic bards. Since, at length, that Grecian wit has found a translator saturated with his genius, and an interpreter as philosophical, the subject of Grecian parody will probably be reflected in a clearer light from his researches.

Dramatic parodies in modern literature were introduced by our vivacious neighbours, and may be said to constitute a class of literary satires peculiar to the French nation. What had occurred in Greece a similar gaiety of national genius unconsciously reproduced. The dramatic parodies in our own literature, as in The Rehearsal, Tom Thumb,[294] and The Critic, however exquisite, are confined to particular passages, and are not grafted on a whole original; we have neither naturalised the dramatic parody into a species, nor dedicated to it the honours of a separate theatre.

This peculiar dramatic satire, a burlesque of an entire tragedy, the volatile genius of the Parisians accomplished. Whenever a new tragedy, which still continues the favourite species of drama with the French, attracted the notice of the town, shortly after uprose its parody at the Italian theatre, so that both pieces may have been performed in immediate succession in the same evening. A French tragedy is most susceptible of this sort of ridicule, by applying its declamatory style, its exaggerated sentiments, and its romantic out-of-the-way nature to the commonplace incidents and persons of domestic life; out of the stuff of which they made their emperors, their heroes, and their princesses, they cut out a pompous country justice, a hectoring tailor, or an impudent mantua-maker; but it was not merely this travesty of great personages, nor the lofty effusions of one in a lowly station, which terminated the object of parody. It was designed for a higher object, that of more obviously exposing the original for any absurdity in its scenes, or in its catastrophe, and dissecting its faulty characters; in a word, weighing in the critical scales the nonsense of the poet. Parody sometimes became a refined instructor for the public, whose discernment is often blinded by party or prejudice. But it was, too, a severe touchstone for genius: Racine, some say, smiled, others say he did not, when he witnessed Harlequin, in the language of Titus to Berenice, declaiming on some ludicrous affair to Columbine; La Motte was very sore, and Voltaire, and others, shrunk away with a cry—from a parody! Voltaire was angry when he witnessed his Mariamne parodied by Le mauvais Menage; or "Bad Housekeeping." The aged, jealous Herod was turned into an old cross country justice; Varus, bewitched by Mariamne, strutted a dragoon; and the whole establishment showed it was under very bad management. Fuzelier collected some of these parodies,[295] and not unskilfully defends their nature and their object against the protest of La Motte, whose tragedies had severely suffered from these burlesques. His celebrated domestic tragedy of Inez de Castro, the fable of which turns on a concealed and clandestine marriage, produced one of the happiest parodies in Agnes de Chaillot. In the parody, the cause of the mysterious obstinacy of Pierrot the son, in persisting to refuse the hand of the daughter of his mother-in-law, Madame la Baillive, is thus discovered by her to Monsieur le Baillif:—

Mon mari, pour le coup j'ai decouvert l'affaire, Ne vous etonnez plus qu'a nos desirs contraire, Pour ma fille Pierrot ne montre que mepris: Voila l'unique objet dont son coeur est epris. [Pointing to Agnes de Chaillot.

The Baillif exclaims,

Ma servante!

This single word was the most lively and fatal criticism of the tragic action of Inez de Castro, which, according to the conventional decorum and fastidious code of French criticism, grossly violated the majesty of Melpomene, by giving a motive and an object so totally undignified to the tragic tale. In the parody there was something ludicrous when the secret came out which explained poor Pierrot's long-concealed perplexities, in the maid-servant bringing forward a whole legitimate family of her own! La Motte was also galled by a projected parody of his "Machabees"—where the hasty marriage of the young Machabeus, and the sudden conversion of the amorous Antigone, who, for her first penitential act, persuades a youth to marry her, without first deigning to consult her respectable mother, would have produced an excellent scene for the parody. But La Motte prefixed an angry preface to his Inez de Castro; he inveighs against all parodies, which he asserts to be merely a French fashion (we have seen, however, that it was once Grecian), the offspring of a dangerous spirit of ridicule, and the malicious amusement of superficial minds.—"Were this true," retorts Fuzelier, "we ought to detest parodies; but we maintain, that far from converting virtue into a paradox, and degrading truth by ridicule, PARODY will only strike at what is chimerical and false; it is not a piece of buffoonery so much as a critical exposition. What do we parody but the absurdities of dramatic writers, who frequently make their heroes act against nature, common sense, and truth? After all," he ingeniously adds, "it is the public, not we, who are the authors of these? PARODIES; for they are usually but the echoes of the pit, and we parodists have only to give a dramatic form to the opinions and observations we hear. Many tragedies," Fuzelier, with admirable truth, observes, "disguise vices into virtues, and PARODIES unmask them." We have had tragedies recently which very much required parodies to expose them, and to shame our inconsiderate audiences, who patronised these monsters of false passions. The rants and bombast of some of these might have produced, with little or no alteration of the inflated originals, A Modern Rehearsal, or a new Tragedy for Warm Weather.[296]

Of PARODIES, we may safely approve the legitimate use, and even indulge their agreeable maliciousness; while we must still dread that extraordinary facility to which the public, or rather human nature, is so prone, as sometimes to laugh at what at another time they would shed tears.

Tragedy is rendered comic or burlesque by altering the station and manners of the persons; and the reverse may occur, of raising what is comic or burlesque into tragedy. On so little depends the sublime or the ridiculous! Beattie says, "In most human characters there are blemishes, moral, intellectual, or corporeal; by exaggerating which, to a certain degree, you may form a comic character; as by raising the virtues, abilities, or external advantages of individuals, you form epic or tragic characters;[297] a subject humorously touched on by Lloyd, in the prologue to The Jealous Wife.

Quarrels, upbraidings, jealousies, and spleen, Grow too familiar in the comic scene; Tinge but the language with heroic chime, 'Tis passion, pathos, character sublime. What big round words had swell'd the pompous scene, A king the husband, and the wife a queen.


Will a mind of great capacity be reduced to mediocrity by the ill choice of a profession?

Parents are interested in the metaphysical discussion, whether there really exists an inherent quality in the human intellect which imparts to the individual an aptitude for one pursuit more than for another. What Lord Shaftesbury calls not innate, but connatural qualities of the human character, were, during the latter part of the last century, entirely rejected; but of late there appears a tendency to return to the notion which is consecrated by antiquity. Experience will often correct modern hypothesis. The term "predisposition" may be objectionable, as are all terms which pretend to describe the occult operations of Nature—and at present we have no other.

Our children pass through the same public education, while they are receiving little or none for their individual dispositions, should they have sufficient strength of character to indicate any. The great secret of education is to develope the faculties of the individual; for it may happen that his real talent may lie hidden and buried under his education. A profession is usually adventitious, made by chance views, or by family arrangements. Should a choice be submitted to the youth himself, he will often mistake slight and transient tastes for permanent dispositions. A decided character, however, we may often observe, is repugnant to a particular pursuit, delighting in another; talents, languid and vacillating in one profession, we might find vigorous and settled in another; an indifferent lawyer might become an admirable architect! At present all our human bullion is sent to be melted down in an university, to come out, as if thrown into a burning mould, a bright physician, a bright lawyer, a bright divine—in other words, to adapt themselves for a profession preconcerted by their parents. By this means we may secure a titular profession for our son, but the true genius of the avocation in the bent of the mind, as a man of great original powers called it, is too often absent! Instead of finding fit offices for fit men, we are perpetually discovering, on the stage of society, actors out of character! Our most popular writer has happily described this error.

"A laughing philosopher, the Democritus of our day, once compared human life to a table pierced with a number of holes, each of which has a pin made exactly to fit it, but which pins being stuck in hastily, and without selection, chance leads inevitably to the most awkward mistakes. For how often do we see," the orator pathetically concluded,—"how often, I say, do we see the round man stuck into the three-cornered hole!"

In looking over a manuscript life of Tobie Matthews, Archbishop of York in James the First's reign, I found a curious anecdote of his grace's disappointment in the dispositions of his sons. The cause, indeed, is not uncommon, as was confirmed by another great man, to whom the archbishop confessed it. The old Lord Thomas Fairfax one day finding the archbishop very melancholy, inquired the reason of his grace's pensiveness: "My lord," said the archbishop, "I have great reason of sorrow with respect of my sons; one of whom has wit and no grace, another grace but no wit, and the third neither grace nor wit." "Your case," replied Lord Fairfax, "is not singular. I am also sadly disappointed in my sons: one I sent into the Netherlands to train him up a soldier, and he makes a tolerable country justice, but a mere coward at fighting; my next I sent to Cambridge, and he proves a good lawyer, but a mere dunce at divinity; and my youngest I sent to the inns of court, and he is good at divinity, but nobody at the law." The relater of this anecdote adds, "This I have often heard from the descendant of that honourable family, who yet seems to mince the matter, because so immediately related." The eldest son was the Lord Ferdinando Fairfax—and the gunsmith to Thomas Lord Fairfax, the son of this Lord Ferdinando, heard the old Lord Thomas call aloud to his grandson, "Tom! Tom! mind thou the battle! Thy father's a good man, but a mere coward! All the good I expect is from thee!" It is evident that the old Lord Thomas Fairfax was a military character, and in his earnest desire of continuing a line of heroes, had preconcerted to make his eldest son a military man, who we discover turned out to be admirably fitted for a worshipful justice of the quorum. This is a lesson for the parent who consults his own inclinations and not those of natural disposition. In the present case the same lord, though disappointed, appears still to have persisted in the same wish of having a great military character in his family: having missed one in his elder son, and settled his other sons in different avocations, the grandfather persevered, and fixed his hopes, and bestowed his encouragements, on his grandson, Sir Thomas Fairfax, who makes so distinguished a figure in the civil wars.

The difficulty of discerning the aptitude of a youth for any particular destination in life will, perhaps, even for the most skilful parent, be always hazardous. Many will be inclined, in despair of anything better, to throw dice with fortune; or adopt the determination of the father who settled his sons by a whimsical analogy which he appears to have formed of their dispositions or aptness for different pursuits. The boys were standing under a hedge in the rain, and a neighbour reported to the father the conversation he had overheard. John wished it would rain books, for he wished to be a preacher; Bezaleel, wool, to be a clothier like his father; Samuel, money, to be a merchant; and Edmund plums, to be a grocer. The father took these wishes as a hint, and we are told in the life of John Angier, the elder son, a puritan minister, that he chose for them these different callings, in which it appears that they settled successfully. "Whatever a young man at first applies himself to is commonly his delight afterwards." This is an important principle discovered by Hartley, but it will not supply the parent with any determinate regulation how to distinguish a transient from a permanent disposition; or how to get at what we may call the connatural qualities of the mind. A particular opportunity afforded me some close observation on the characters and habits of two youths, brothers in blood and affection, and partners in all things, who even to their very dress shared alike; who were never separated from each other; who were taught by the same masters, lived under the same roof, and were accustomed to the same uninterrupted habits; yet had nature created them totally distinct in the qualities of their minds; and similar as their lives had been, their abilities were adapted for very opposite pursuits; either of them could not have been the other. And I observed how the "predisposition" of the parties was distinctly marked from childhood: the one slow, penetrating, and correct; the other quick, irritable, and fanciful: the one persevering in examination; the other rapid in results: the one exhausted by labour; the other impatient of whatever did not relate to his own pursuit: the one logical, historical, and critical; the other, having acquired nothing, decided on all things by his own sensations. We would confidently consult in the one a great legal character, and in the other an artist of genius. If nature had not secretly placed a bias in their distinct minds, how could two similar beings have been so dissimilar?

A story recorded of Cecco d'Ascoli and of Dante, on the subject of natural and acquired genius, may illustrate the present topic. Cecco maintained that nature was more potent than art, while Dante asserted the contrary. To prove his principle, the great Italian bard referred to his cat, which, by repeated practice, he had taught to hold a candle in its paw while he supped or read. Cecco desired to witness the experiment, and came not unprepared for his purpose; when Dante's cat was performing its part, Cecco, lifting up the lid of a pot which he had filled with mice, the creature of art instantly showed the weakness of a talent merely acquired, and dropping the candle, flew on the mice with all its instinctive propensity. Dante was himself disconcerted; and it was adjudged that the advocate for the occult principle of native faculties had gained his cause.

To tell stories, however, is not to lay down principles, yet principles may sometimes be concealed in stories.[298]


A stroke of personal ridicule is levelled at Dryden, when Bayes informs us of his preparations for a course of study by a course of medicine! "When I have a grand design," says he, "I ever take physic and let blood; for when you would have pure swiftness of thought, and fiery flights of fancy, you must have a care of the pensive part; in fine, you must purge the belly!" Such was really the practice of the poet, as Le Motte, who was a physician, informs us, and in his medical character did not perceive that ridicule in the subject which the wits and most readers unquestionably have enjoyed. The wits here were as cruel against truth as against Dryden; for we must still consider this practice, to use their own words, as "an excellent recipe for writing." Among other philosophers, one of the most famous disputants of antiquity, Carneades, was accustomed to take copious doses of white hellebore, a great aperient, as a preparation to refute the dogmas of the stoics. "The thing that gives me the highest spirits (it seems absurd, but true) is a dose of salts; but one can't take them like champagne," said Lord Byron. Dryden's practice was neither whimsical nor peculiar to the poet; he was of a full habit, and, no doubt, had often found by experience the beneficial effects without being aware of the cause, which is nothing less than the reciprocal influence of mind and body.

This simple fact is, indeed, connected with one of the most important inquiries in the history of man—the laws which regulate the invisible union of the soul with the body: in a word, the inscrutable mystery of our being!—a secret, but an undoubted intercourse, which probably must ever elude our perceptions. The combination of metaphysics with physics has only been productive of the wildest fairy tales among philosophers: with one party the soul seems to pass away in its last puff of air, while man seems to perish in "dust to dust;" the other as successfully gets rid of our bodies altogether, by denying the existence of matter. We are not certain that mind and matter are distinct existences, since the one may be only a modification of the other; however this great mystery be imagined, we shall find with Dr. Gregory, in his lectures "on the duties and qualifications of a physician," that it forms an equally necessary inquiry in the sciences of morals and of medicine.

Whether we consider the vulgar distinction of mind and body as an union, or as a modified existence, no philosopher denies that a reciprocal action takes place between our moral and physical condition. Of these sympathies, like many other mysteries of nature, the cause remains occult, while the effects are obvious. This close, yet inscrutable association, this concealed correspondence of parts seemingly unconnected, in a word, this reciprocal influence of the mind and the body, has long fixed the attention of medical and metaphysical inquirers; the one having the care of our exterior organization, the other that of the interior. Can we conceive the mysterious inhabitant as forming a part of its own habitation? The tenant and the house are so inseparable, that in striking at any part of the dwelling, you inevitably reach the dweller. If the mind be disordered, we may often look for its seat in some corporeal derangement. Often are our thoughts disturbed by a strange irritability, which we do not even pretend to account for. This state of the body, called the fidgets, is a disorder to which the ladies are particularly liable. A physician of my acquaintance was earnestly entreated by a female patient to give a name to her unknown complaints; this he found no difficulty to do, as he is a sturdy asserter of the materiality of our nature; he declared that her disorder was atmospherical. It was the disorder of her frame under damp weather, which was reacting on her mind; and physical means, by operating on her body, might be applied to restore her to her half-lost senses. Our imagination is higher when our stomach is not overloaded; in spring than in winter; in solitude than amidst company; and in an obscured light than in the blaze and heat of the noon. In all these cases the body is evidently acted on, and re-acts on the mind. Sometimes our dreams present us with images of our restlessness, till we recollect that the seat of our brain may perhaps lie in our stomach, rather than on the pineal gland of Descartes; and that the most artificial logic to make us somewhat reasonable, may be swallowed with "the blue pill." Our domestic happiness often depends on the state of our biliary and digestive organs, and the little disturbances of conjugal life may be more efficaciously cured by the physician than by the moralist; for a sermon misapplied will never act so directly as a sharp medicine. The learned Gaubius, an eminent professor of medicine at Leyden, who called himself "professor of the passions," gives the case of a lady of too inflammable a constitution, whom her husband, unknown to herself, had gradually reduced to a model of decorum, by phlebotomy. Her complexion, indeed, lost the roses, which some, perhaps, had too wantonly admired for the repose of her conjugal physician.

The art of curing moral disorders by corporeal means has not yet been brought into general practice, although it is probable that some quiet sages of medicine have made use of it on some occasions. The Leyden professor we have just alluded to, delivered at the university a discourse "on the management and cure of the disorders of the mind by application to the body." Descartes conjectured, that as the mind seems so dependent on the disposition of the bodily organs, if any means can be found to render men wiser and more ingenious than they have been hitherto, such a method might be sought from the assistance of medicine. The sciences of Morals and of Medicine will therefore be found to have a more intimate connexion than has been suspected. Plato thought that a man must have natural dispositions towards virtue to become virtuous; that it cannot be educated—you cannot make a bad man a good man; which he ascribes to the evil dispositions of the body, as well as to a bad education.

There are, unquestionably, constitutional moral disorders; some good-tempered but passionate persons have acknowledged, that they cannot avoid those temporary fits to which they are liable, and which, they say, they always suffered "from a child." If they arise from too great a fulness of blood, is it not cruel to upbraid rather than to cure them, which might easily be done by taking away their redundant humours, and thus quieting the most passionate man alive? A moral patient, who allows his brain to be disordered by the fumes of liquor, instead of being suffered to be a ridiculous being, might have opiates prescribed; for in laying him asleep as soon as possible, you remove the cause of his sudden madness. There are crimes for which men are hanged, but of which they might easily have been cured by physical means. Persons out of their senses with love, by throwing themselves into a river, and being dragged out nearly lifeless, have recovered their senses, and lost their bewildering passion. Submersion is discovered to be a cure for some mental disorders, by altering the state of the body, as Van Helmont notices, "was happily practised in England." With the circumstance to which this sage of chemistry alludes, I am unacquainted; but this extraordinary practice was certainly known to the Italians; for in one of the tales of the Poggio we find a mad doctor of Milan, who was celebrated for curing lunatics and demoniacs in a certain time. His practice consisted in placing them in a great high-walled court-yard, in the midst of which there was a deep well full of water, cold as ice. When a demoniac was brought to this physician, he had the patient bound to a pillar in the well, till the water ascended to the knees, or higher, and even to the neck, as he deemed their malady required. In their bodily pain they appear to have forgot their melancholy; thus by the terrors of the repetition of cold water, a man appears to have been frightened into his senses! A physician has informed me of a remarkable case; a lady with a disordered mind, resolved on death, and swallowed much more than half a pint of laudanum; she closed her curtains in the evening, took a farewell of her attendants, and flattered herself she should never awaken from her sleep. In the morning, however, notwithstanding this incredible dose, she awoke in the agonies of death. By the usual means she was enabled to get rid of the poison she had so largely taken, and not only recovered her life, but, what is more extraordinary, her perfect senses! The physician conjectures that it was the influence of her disordered mind over her body which prevented this vast quantity of laudanum from its usual action by terminating in death.[299]

Moral vices or infirmities, which originate in the state of the body, may be cured by topical applications. Precepts and ethics in such cases, if they seem to produce a momentary cure, have only moved the weeds, whose roots lie in the soil. It is only by changing the soil itself that we can eradicate these evils. The senses are five porches for the physician to enter into the mind, to keep it in repair. By altering the state of the body, we are changing that of the mind, whenever the defects of the mind depend on those of the organization. The mind, or soul, however distinct its being from the body, is disturbed or excited, independent of its volition, by the mechanical impulses of the body. A man becomes stupified when the circulation of the blood is impeded in the viscera; he acts more from instinct than reflection; the nervous fibres are too relaxed or too tense, and he finds a difficulty in moving them; if you heighten his sensations, you awaken new ideas in this stupid being; and as we cure the stupid by increasing his sensibility, we may believe that a more vivacious fancy may be promised to those who possess one, when the mind and the body play together in one harmonious accord. Prescribe the bath, frictions, and fomentations, and though it seems a round-about way, you get at the brains by his feet. A literary man, from long sedentary habits, could not overcome his fits of melancholy, till his physician doubled his daily quantity of wine; and the learned Henry Stephens, after a severe ague, had such a disgust of books, the most beloved objects of his whole life, that the very thought of them excited terror for a considerable time. It is evident that the state of the body often indicates that of the mind. Insanity itself often results from some disorder in the human machine. "What is this MIND, of which men appear so vain?" exclaims Flechier. "If considered according to its nature it is a fire which sickness and an accident most sensibly puts out; it is a delicate temperament, which soon grows disordered; a happy conformation of organs, which wear out; a combination and a certain motion of the spirits, which exhaust themselves; it is the most lively and the most subtile part of the soul, which seems to grow old with the BODY."

It is not wonderful that some have attributed such virtues to their system of diet, if it has been found productive of certain effects on the human body. Cornaro perhaps imagined more than he experienced; but Apollonius Tyaneus, when he had the credit of holding an intercourse with the devil, by his presumed gift of prophecy, defended himself from the accusation by attributing his clear and prescient views of things to the light aliments he lived on, never indulging in a variety of food. "This mode of life has produced such a perspicuity in my ideas, that I see as in a glass things past and future." We may, therefore, agree with Bayes, that "for a sonnet to Amanda, and the like, stewed prunes only" might be sufficient; but for "a grand design," nothing less than a more formal and formidable dose.

Camus, a French physician, who combined literature with science, the author of "Abdeker, or the Art of Cosmetics," which he discovered in exercise and temperance, produced another fanciful work, written in 1753, "La Medecine de l'Esprit." His conjectural cases are at least as numerous as his more positive facts; for he is not wanting in imagination. He assures us, that having reflected on the physical causes, which, by differently modifying the body, varied also the dispositions of the mind, he was convinced that by employing these different causes, or by imitating their powers by art, we might, by means purely mechanical, affect the human mind, and correct the infirmities of the understanding and the will. He considered this principle only as the aurora of a brighter day. The great difficulty to overcome was to find out a method to root out the defects, or the diseases of the soul, in the same manner as physicians cure a fluxion from the lungs, a dysentery, a dropsy, and all other infirmities, which seem only to attack the body. This indeed, he says, is enlarging the domain of medicine, by showing how the functions of intellect and the springs of volition are mechanical. The movements and passions of the soul, formerly restricted to abstract reasonings, are by this system reduced to simple ideas. Insisting that material causes force the soul and body to act together, the defects of the intellectual operations depend on those of the organisation, which may be altered or destroyed by physical causes; and he properly adds, that we are to consider that the soul is material, while existing in matter, because it is operated on by matter. Such is the theory of "La Medecine de l'Esprit," which, though physicians will never quote, may perhaps contain some facts worth their attention.

Camus's two little volumes seem to have been preceded by a medical discourse delivered in the academy of Dijon in 1748, where the moralist compares the infirmities and vices of the mind to parallel diseases of the body. We may safely consider some infirmities and passions of the mind as diseases, and could they be treated as we do the bodily ones, to which they bear an affinity, this would be the great triumph of "morals and medicine." The passion of avarice resembles the thirst of dropsical patients; that of envy is a slow wasting fever; love is often frenzy, and capricious and sudden restlessness, epileptic fits. There are moral disorders which at times spread like epidemical maladies through towns, and countries, and even nations. There are hereditary vices and infirmities transmitted from the parent's mind, as there are unquestionably such diseases of the body: the son of a father of a hot and irritable temperament inherits the same quickness and warmth; a daughter is often the counterpart of her mother. Morality, could it be treated medicinally, would require its prescriptions, as all diseases have their specific remedies; the great secret is perhaps discovered by Camus—that of operating on the mind by means of the body.

A recent writer seems to have been struck by these curious analogies. Mr. Haslam, in his work on "Sound Mind," says p. 90, "There seems to be a considerable similarity between the morbid state of the instruments of voluntary motion (that is, the body), and certain affections of the mental powers (that is, the mind). Thus, paralysis has its counterpart in the defects of recollection, where the utmost endeavour to remember is ineffectually exerted. Tremor may be compared with incapability of fixing the attention, and this involuntary state of muscles ordinarily subjected to the will, also finds a parallel where the mind loses its influence in the train of thought, and becomes subject to spontaneous intrusions; as may be exemplified in reveries, dreaming, and some species of madness."

Thus one philosopher discovers the analogies of the mind with the body, and another of the body with the mind. Can we now hesitate to believe that such analogies exist—and, advancing one step farther, trace in this reciprocal influence that a part of the soul is the body, as the body becomes a part of the soul? The most important truth remains undivulged, and ever will in this mental pharmacy; but none is more clear than that which led to the view of this subject, that in this mutual intercourse of body and mind the superior is often governed by the inferior; others think the mind is more wilfully outrageous than the body. Plutarch, in his essays, has a familiar illustration, which he borrows from some philosopher more ancient than himself:—"Should the body sue the mind before a court of judicature for damages, it would be found that the mind would prove to have been a ruinous tenant to its landlord." The sage of Cheronaea did not foresee the hint of Descartes and the discovery of Camus, that by medicine we may alleviate or remove the diseases of the mind; a practice which indeed has not yet been pursued by physicians, though the moralists have been often struck by the close analogies of the MIND with the BODY! A work by the learned Dom Pernetty, La connoissance de l'homme moral par celle de l'homme physique, we are told is more fortunate in its title than its execution; probably it is one of the many attempts to develope this imperfect and obscured truth, which hereafter may become more obvious, and be universally comprehended.


The history of Psalm-singing is a portion of the history of the Reformation,—of that great religious revolution which separated for ever, into two unequal divisions, the establishment of Christianity. It has not, perhaps, been remarked that psalm-singing, or metrical psalms, degenerated into those scandalous compositions which, under the abused title of hymns, are now used by some sects.[300] These are evidently the last disorders of that system of psalm-singing which made some religious persons early oppose its practice. Even Sternhold and Hopkins, our first psalm-inditers, says honest Fuller, "found their work afterwards met with some frowns in the faces of great clergymen." To this day these opinions are not adjusted. Archbishop Secker observes, that though the first Christians (from this passage in James v. 13, "Is any merry? let him sing psalms!") made singing a constant part of their worship, and the whole congregation joined in it; yet afterwards the singers by profession, who had been prudently appointed to lead and direct them, by degrees USURPED the whole performance. But at the Reformation the people were restored to their RIGHTS! This revolutionary style is singular: one might infer by the expression of the people being restored to their rights, that a mixed assembly roaring out confused tunes, nasal, guttural, and sibilant, was a more orderly government of psalmody than when the executive power was consigned to the voices of those whom the archbishop had justly described as having been first prudently appointed to lead and direct them; and who, by their subsequent proceedings, evidently discovered, what they might have safely conjectured, that such an universal suffrage, where every man was to have a voice, must necessarily end in clatter and chaos.[301]

Thomas Warton, however, regards the metrical psalms of Sternhold as a puritanic invention, and asserts, that notwithstanding it is said in their title-page that they are "set forth and allowed to be sung in all churches," they were never admitted by lawful authority. They were first introduced by the Puritans, from the Calvinists of Geneva, and afterwards continued by connivance. As a true poetical antiquary, Thomas Warton condemns any modernisation of the venerable text of the old Sternhold and Hopkins, which, by changing obsolete for familiar words, destroys the texture of the original style; and many stanzas, already too naked and weak, like a plain old Gothic edifice stripped of its few signatures of antiquity, have lost that little and almost only strength and support which they derived from ancient phrases. "Such alterations, even if executed with prudence and judgment, only corrupt what they endeavour to explain; and exhibit a motley performance, belonging to no character of writing, and which contains more improprieties than those which it professes to remove." This forcible criticism is worthy of our poetical antiquary; the same feeling was experienced by Pasquier, when Marot, in his Rifacciamento of the Roman de la Rose, left some of the obsolete phrases, while he got rid of others; cette bigarrure de langage vieux et moderne, was with him writing no language at all. The same circumstance occurred abroad, when they resolved to retouch and modernise the old French metrical version of the Psalms, which we are about to notice. It produced the same controversy and the same dissatisfaction. The church of Geneva adopted an improved version, but the charm of the old one was wanting.

To trace the history of modern metrical psalmody, we must have recourse to Bayle, who, as a mere literary historian, has accidentally preserved it. The inventor was a celebrated French poet; and the invention, though perhaps in its very origin inclining towards the abuse to which it was afterwards carried, was unexpectedly adopted by the austere Calvin, and introduced into the Geneva discipline. It is indeed strange, that while he was stripping religion not merely of its pageantry, but even of its decent ceremonies, this levelling reformer should have introduced this taste for singing psalms in opposition to reading psalms. "On a parallel principle," says Thomas Warton, "and if any artificial aids to devotion were to be allowed, he might at least have retained the use of pictures in the church." But it was decreed that statues should be mutilated of "their fair proportions," and painted glass be dashed into pieces, while the congregation were to sing! Calvin sought for proselytes among "the rabble of a republic, who can have no relish for the more elegant externals." But to have made men sing in concert, in the streets, or at their work, and, merry or sad, on all occasions to tickle the ear with rhymes and touch the heart with emotion, was betraying no deficient knowledge of human nature.

It seems, however, that this project was adopted accidentally, and was certainly promoted by the fine natural genius of Clement Marot, the favoured bard of Francis the First, that "prince of poets and that poet of princes," as he was quaintly but expressively dignified by his contemporaries. Marot is still an inimitable and true poet, for he has written in a manner of his own with such marked felicity, that he has left his name to a style of poetry called Marotique. The original La Fontaine is his imitator. Marot delighted in the very forms of poetry, as well as its subjects and its manner. His life, indeed, took more shapes, and indulged in more poetical licences, than even his poetry. Licentious in morals,—often in prison, or at court, or in the army, or a fugitive, he has left in his numerous little poems many a curious record of his variegated existence. He was indeed very far from being devout, when his friend, the learned Vatable, the Hebrew professor, probably to reclaim a perpetual sinner from profane rhymes, as Marot was suspected of heresy (confession and meagre days being his abhorrence), suggested the new project of translating the Psalms into French verse, and no doubt assisted the bard; for they are said to be "traduitz en rithme Francais selon la verite Hebraique." The famous Theodore Beza was also his friend and prompter, and afterwards his continuator. Marot published fifty-two Psalms, written in a variety of measures, with the same style he had done his ballads and rondeaux. He dedicated his work to the King of France, comparing him with the royal Hebrew, and with a French compliment!

Dieu le donna aux peuples Hebraiques; Dieu te devoit, ce pense-je, aux Galliques.

He insinuates that in his version he had received assistance

—— par les divins esprits Qui ont sous toy Hebrieu langage apris, Nous sont jettes les Pseaumes en lumiere Clairs, et au sens de la forme premiere.

This royal dedication is more solemn than usual; yet Marot, who was never grave but in prison, soon recovered from this dedication to the king, for on turning the leaf we find another, "Aux Dames de France!" Warton says of Marot, that "He seems anxious to deprecate the raillery which the new tone of his versification was likely to incur, and is embarrassed to find an apology for turning saint." His embarrassments, however, terminate in a highly poetical fancy. When will the golden age be restored? exclaims this lady's psalmist,

Quand n'aurons plus de cours ni lieu Les chansons de ce petit Dieu A qui les peintres font des aisles? O vous dames et demoiselles Que Dieu fait pour estre son temple Et faites, sous mauvais exemple Retentir et chambres et sales, De chansons mondaines ou salles, &c.

Knowing, continues the poet, that songs that are silent about love can never please you, here are some composed by love itself; all here is love, but more than mortal! Sing these at all times.

Et les convertir et muer Faisant vos levres remuer, Et vos doigts sur les espinettes Pour dire saintes chansonettes.

Marot then breaks forth with that enthusiasm, which perhaps at first conveyed to the sullen fancy of the austere Calvin the project he so successfully adopted, and whose influence we are still witnessing.

O bien heureux qui voir pourra Fleurir le temps, que l'on orra Le laboureur a sa charrue Le charretier parmy la rue, Et l'artisan en sa boutique Avecques un PSEAUME ou cantique, En son labeur se soulager; Heureux qui orra le berger Et la bergere en bois estans Faire que rochers et estangs Apres eux chantent la hauteur Du saint nom de leurs Createur. Commencez, dames, commencez Le siecle dore! avancez! En chantant d'un cueur debonnaire, Dedans ce saint cancionnaire.

Thrice happy they, who shall behold, And listen in that age of gold! As by the plough the labourer strays, And carman mid the public ways, And tradesman in his shop shall swell Their voice in Psalm or Canticle, Sing to solace toil; again, From woods shall come a sweeter strain Shepherd and shepherdess shall vie In many a tender Psalmody; And the Creator's name prolong As rock and stream return their song! Begin then, ladies fair! begin The age renew'd that knows no sin! And with light heart, that wants no wing, Sing! from this holy song-book, sing![302]

This "holy song-book" for the harpsichord or the voice, was a gay novelty, and no book was ever more eagerly received by all classes than Marot's "Psalms." In the fervour of that day, they sold faster than the printers could take them off their presses; but as they were understood to be songs, and yet were not accompanied by music, every one set them to favourite tunes, commonly those of popular ballads. Each of the royal family, and every nobleman, chose a psalm or a song which expressed his own personal feelings, adapted to his own tune. The Dauphin, afterwards Henry the Second, a great hunter, when he went to the chase, was singing Ainsi qu'on vit le cerf bruyre. "Like as the hart desireth the water-brooks." There is a curious portrait of the mistress of Henry, the famous Diane de Poictiers, recently published, on which is inscribed this verse of the Psalm. On a portrait which exhibits Diane in an attitude rather unsuitable to so solemn an application, no reason could be found to account for this discordance; perhaps the painter, or the lady herself, chose to adopt the favourite psalm of her royal lover, proudly to designate the object of her love, besides its double allusion to her name. Diane, however, in the first stage of their mutual attachment, took Du fond de ma pensee, or, "From the depth of my heart." The queen's favourite was

Ne veuilles pas, o sire, Me reprendre en ton ire;

that is, "Rebuke me not in thy indignation," which she sung to a fashionable jig. Antony, king of Navarre, sung Revenge moy prens la querelle, or "Stand up, O Lord, to revenge my quarrel," to the air of a dance of Poitou. We may conceive the ardour with which this novelty was received, for Francis sent to Charles the Fifth Marot's collection, who both by promises and presents encouraged the French bard to proceed with his version, and entreating Marot to send him as soon as possible Confitemini Domino quoniam bonus, because it was his favourite psalm. And the Spanish as well as French composers hastened to set the Psalms of Marot to music. The fashion lasted, for Henry the Second set one to an air of his own composing. Catharine de' Medici had her psalm, and it seems that every one at court adopted some particular psalm for themselves, which they often played on lutes and guitars, &c. Singing psalms in verse was then one of the chief ingredients in the happiness of social life.

The universal reception of Marot's Psalms induced Theodore Beza to conclude the collection, and ten thousand copies were immediately dispersed. But these had the advantage of being set to music, for we are told they were "admirably fitted to the violin and other musical instruments." And who was the man who had thus adroitly taken hold of the public feeling to give it this strong direction? It was the solitary Thaumaturgus, the ascetic Calvin, who from the depths of his closet at Geneva had engaged the finest musical composers, who were, no doubt, warmed by the zeal of propagating his faith to form these simple and beautiful airs to assist the psalm-singers. At first this was not discovered, and Catholics as well as Huguenots were solacing themselves on all occasions with this new music. But when Calvin appointed these psalms, as set to music, to be sung at his meetings, and Marot's formed an appendix to the Catechism of Geneva, this put an end to all psalm-singing for the poor Catholics! Marot himself was forced to fly to Geneva from the fulminations of the Sorbonne, and psalm-singing became an open declaration of what the French called "Lutheranisme," when it became with the reformed a regular part of their religious discipline. The Cardinal of Lorraine succeeded in persuading the lovely patroness of the "holy song-book," Diane de Poictiers, who at first was a psalm-singer and an heretical reader of the Bible, to discountenance this new fashion. He began by finding fault with the Psalms of David, and revived the amatory elegances of Horace: at that moment even the reading of the Bible was symptomatic of Lutheranism; Diane, who had given way to these novelties, would have a French Bible, because the queen, Catharine de' Medici, had one, and the Cardinal finding a Bible on her table, immediately crossed himself, beat his breast, and otherwise so well acted his part, that "having thrown the Bible down and condemned it, he remonstrated with the fair penitent, that it was a kind of reading not adapted for her sex, containing dangerous matters: if she was uneasy in her mind she should hear two masses instead of one, and rest contented with her Paternosters and her Primer, which were not only devotional but ornamented with a variety of elegant forms, from the most exquisite pencils of France." Such is the story drawn from a curious letter, written by a Huguenot, and a former friend of Catharine de' Medici, and by which we may infer that the reformed religion was making considerable progress in the French Court,—had the Cardinal of Lorraine not interfered by persuading the mistress, and she the king, and the king his queen, at once to give up psalm-singing and reading the Bible!

"This infectious frenzy of psalm-singing," as Warton describes it, "under the Calvinistic preachers, had rapidly propagated itself through Germany as well as France. It was admirably calculated to kindle the flame of fanaticism, and frequently served as the trumpet to rebellion. These energetic hymns of Geneva excited and supported a variety of popular insurrections in the most flourishing cities of the Low Countries, and what our poetical antiquary could never forgive, "fomented the fury which defaced many of the most beautiful and venerable churches of Flanders."

At length it reached our island at that critical moment when it had first embraced the Reformation; and here its domestic history was parallel with its foreign, except, perhaps, in the splendour of its success. Sternhold, an enthusiast for the Reformation, was much offended, says Warton, at the lascivious ballads which prevailed among the courtiers, and, with a laudable design to check these indecencies, he undertook to be our Marot—without his genius: "thinking thereby," says our cynical literary historian, Antony Wood, "that the courtiers would sing them instead of their sonnets, but did not, only some few excepted." They were practised by the Puritans in the reign of Elizabeth; for Shakspeare notices the Puritan of his day "singing psalms to hornpipes,"[303] and more particularly during the protectorate of Cromwell, on the same plan of accommodating them to popular tunes and jigs, which one of them said "were too good for the devil." Psalms were now sang at Lord Mayors' dinners and city feasts; soldiers sung them on their march and at parade; and few houses, which had windows fronting the streets, but had their evening psalms; for a story has come down to us, to record that the hypocritical brotherhood did not always care to sing unless they were heard![304]


The Italians are a fanciful people, who have often mixed a grain or two of pleasantry and even of folly with their wisdom. This fanciful character betrays itself in their architecture, in their poetry, in their extemporary comedy, and their Improvisatori; but an instance not yet accounted for of this national levity, appears in those denominations of exquisite absurdity given by themselves to their Academies! I have in vain inquired for any assignable reason why the most ingenious men, and grave and illustrious personages, cardinals, and princes, as well as poets, scholars, and artists, in every literary city, should voluntarily choose to burlesque themselves and their serious occupations, by affecting mysterious or ludicrous titles, as if it were carnival-time, and they had to support masquerade characters, and accepting such titles as we find in the cant style of our own vulgar clubs, the Society of "Odd Fellows," and of "Eccentrics!" A principle so whimsical but systematic must surely have originated in some circumstance not hitherto detected.

A literary friend, recently in an Italian city exhausted by the sirocco, entered a house whose open door and circular seats appeared to offer to passengers a refreshing sorbetto; he discovered, however, that he had got into "the Academy of the Cameleons," where they met to delight their brothers, and any "spirito gentil" they could nail to a recitation. An invitation to join the academicians alarmed him, for with some impatient prejudice against these little creatures, vocal with prose e rime, and usually with odes and sonnets begged for, or purloined for the occasion, he waived all further curiosity and courtesy, and has returned home without any information how these "Cameleons" looked, when changing their colours in an "accademia."

Such literary institutions, prevalent in Italy, are the spurious remains of those numerous academies which simultaneously started up in that country about the sixteenth century. They assumed the most ridiculous denominations, and a great number is registered by Quadrio and Tiraboschi. Whatever was their design, one cannot fairly reproach them, as Mencken, in his "Charlatanaria Eruditorum," seems to have thought, for pompous quackery; neither can we attribute to their modesty their choice of senseless titles, for to have degraded their own exalted pursuits was but folly! Literary history affords no parallel to this national absurdity of the refined Italians. Who could have suspected that the most eminent scholars, and men of genius, were associates of the Oziosi, the Fantastici, the Insensati? Why should Genoa boast of her "Sleepy," Yiterbo of her "Obstinates," Sienna of her "Insipids," her "Blockheads," and her "Thunderstruck;" and Naples of her "Furiosi:" while Macerata exults in her "Madmen chained?" Both Quadrio and Tiraboschi cannot deny that these fantastical titles have occasioned these Italian academies to appear very ridiculous to the oltramontani; but these valuable historians are no philosophical thinkers. They apologise for this bad taste, by describing the ardour which was kindled throughout Italy at the restoration of letters and the fine arts, so that every one, and even every man of genius, were eager to enrol their names in these academies, and prided themselves in bearing their emblems, that is, the distinctive arms each academy had chosen. But why did they mystify themselves?

Folly, once become national, is a vigorous plant, which sheds abundant seed. The consequence of having adopted ridiculous titles for these academies suggested to them many other characteristic fopperies. At Florence every brother of the "Umidi" assumed the name of something aquatic, or any quality pertaining to humidity. One was called "the Frozen," another "the Damp;" one was "the Pike," another "the Swan:" and Grazzini, the celebrated novelist, is known better by the cognomen of La Lasca, "the Roach," by which he whimsically designates himself among the "Humids." I find among the Insensati, one man of learning taking the name of STORDIDO Insensato, another TENEBROSO Insensato. The famous Florentine academy of La Crusca, amidst their grave labours to sift and purify their language, threw themselves headlong into this vortex of folly. Their title, the academy of "Bran," was a conceit to indicate their art of sifting; but it required an Italian prodigality of conceit to have induced these grave scholars to exhibit themselves in the burlesque scenery of a pantomimical academy, for their furniture consists of a mill and a bakehouse; a pulpit for the orator is a hopper, while the learned director sits on a mill-stone; the other seats have the forms of a miller's dossers, or great panniers, and the backs consist of the long shovels used in ovens. The table is a baker's kneading-trough, and the academician who reads has half his body thrust out of a great bolting sack, with I know not what else for their inkstands and portfolios. But the most celebrated of these academies is that "degli Arcadi," at Rome, who are still carrying on their pretensions much higher. Whoever aspires to be aggregated to these Arcadian shepherds receives a personal name and a title, but not the deeds, of a farm, picked out of a map of the ancient Arcadia or its environs; for Arcadia itself soon became too small a possession for these partitioners of moon-shine. Their laws, modelled by the twelve tables of the ancient Romans; their language in the venerable majesty of their renowned ancestors; and this erudite democracy dating by the Grecian Olympiads, which Crescembini, their first custode, or guardian, most painfully adjusted to the vulgar era, were designed that the sacred erudition of antiquity might for ever be present among these shepherds.[305] Goldoni, in his Memoirs, has given an amusing account of these honours. He says "He was presented with two diplomas; the one was my charter of aggregation to the Arcadi of Rome, under the name of Polisseno, the other gave me the investiture of the Phlegraean fields. I was on this saluted by the whole assembly in chorus, under the name of Polisseno Phlegraeio, and embraced by them as a fellow-shepherd and brother. The Arcadians are very rich, as you may perceive, my dear reader: we possess estates in Greece; we water them with our labours for the sake of reaping laurels, and the Turks sow them with grain, and plant them with vines, and laugh at both our titles and our songs." When Fontenelle became an Arcadian, they baptized the new Pastor by their graceful diminutive—Fontanella—allusive to the charm, of his style; and further they magnificently presented him with the entire Isle of Delos! The late Joseph Walker, an enthusiast for Italian literature, dedicated his "Memoir on Italian Tragedy" to the Countess Spencer; not inscribing it with his Christian but his heathen name, and the title of his Arcadian estate, Eubante Tirinzio! Plain Joseph Walker, in his masquerade dress, with his Arcadian signet of Pan's reeds dangling in his title-page, was performing a character to which, however well adapted, not being understood, he got stared at for his affectation! We have lately heard of some licentious revellings of these Arcadians, in receiving a man of genius from our own country, who, himself composing Italian Rime, had "conceit" enough to become a shepherd![306] Yet let us inquire before we criticise.

Even this ridiculous society of the Arcadians became a memorable literary institution; and Tiraboschi has shown how it successfully arrested the bad taste which was then prevailing throughout Italy, recalling its muses to purer sources; while the lives of many of its shepherds have furnished an interesting volume of literary history under the title of "The illustrious Arcadians." Crescembini, and its founders, had formed the most elevated conceptions of the society at its origin; but poetical vaticinators are prophets only while we read their verses—we must not look for that dry matter of fact—the event predicted!

Il vostro seme eterno Occupera la terra, ed i confini D'Arcadia oltrapassando, Di non piu visti gloriosi germi L'aureo fecondera lito del Gange E de' Cimmeri l'infeconde arene.

Mr. Mathias has recently with warmth defended the original Arcadia; and the assumed character of its members, which has been condemned as betraying their affectation, he attributes to their modesty. "Before the critics of the Arcadia (the pastori, as they modestly styled themselves) with Crescembini for their conductor, and with the Adorato Albano for their patron (Clement XI.), all that was depraved in language and in sentiment fled and disappeared."

The strange taste for giving fantastical denominations to literary institutions grew into a custom, though, probably, no one knew how. The founders were always persons of rank or learning, yet still accident or caprice created the mystifying title, and invented those appropriate emblems, which still added to the folly. The Arcadian society derived its title from a spontaneous conceit. This assembly first held its meetings, on summer evenings, in a meadow on the banks of the Tiber; for the fine climate of Italy promotes such assemblies in the open air. In the recital of an eclogue, an enthusiast, amidst all he was hearing and all he was seeing, exclaimed, "I seem at this moment to be in the Arcadia of ancient Greece, listening to the pure and simple strains of its shepherds." Enthusiasm is contagious amidst susceptible Italians, and this name, by inspiration and by acclamation, was conferred on the society! Even more recently, at Florence, the accademia called the Colombaria, or the "Pigeon-house," proves with what levity the Italians name a literary society. The founder was the Cavallero Pazzi, a gentleman, who, like Morose, abhorring noise, chose for his study a garret in his palazzo; it was, indeed, one of the old turrets which had not yet fallen in: there he fixed his library, and there he assembled the most ingenious Florentines to discuss obscure points, and to reveal their own contributions in this secret retreat of silence and philosophy. To get to this cabinet it was necessary to climb a very steep and very narrow staircase, which occasioned some facetious wit to observe, that these literati were so many pigeons who flew every evening to their dovecot. The Cavallero Pazzi, to indulge this humour, invited them to a dinner entirely composed of their little brothers, in all the varieties of cookery; the members, after a hearty laugh, assumed the title of the Colombaria, invented a device consisting of the top of a turret, with several pigeons flying about it, bearing an epigraph from Dante, Quanto veder si puo, by which they expressed their design not to apply themselves to any single object. Such facts sufficiently prove that some of the absurd or facetious denominations of these literary societies originated in accidental circumstances or in mere pleasantry; but this will not account for the origin of those mystifying titles we have noticed; for when grave men call themselves dolts or lunatics, unless they are really so, they must have some reason for laughing at themselves.

To attempt to develope this curious but obscure singularity in literary history, we must go further back among the first beginnings of these institutions. How were they looked on by the governments in which they first appeared? These academies might, perhaps, form a chapter in the history of secret societies, one not yet written, but of which many curious materials lie scattered in history. It is certain that such literary societies, in their first origins, have always excited the jealousy of governments, but more particularly in ecclesiastical Rome, and the rival principalities of Italy. If two great nations, like those of England and France, had their suspicions and fears roused by a select assembly of philosophical men, and either put them down by force, or closely watched them, this will not seem extraordinary in little despotic states. We have accounts of some philosophical associations at home, which were joined by Sir Philip Sidney and Sir Walter Raleigh, but which soon got the odium of atheism attached to them; and the establishment of the French Academy occasioned some umbrage, for a year elapsed before the parliament of Paris would register their patent, which was at length accorded by the political Richelieu observing to the president, that "he should like the members according as the members liked him." Thus we have ascertained one principle, that governments in those times looked on a new society with a political glance; nor is it improbable that some of them combined an ostensible with a latent motive.

There is no want of evidence to prove that the modern Romans, from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, were too feelingly alive to their obscured glory, and that they too frequently made invidious comparisons of their ancient republic with the pontifical government; to revive Rome, with everything Roman, inspired such enthusiasts as Rienzi, and charmed the visions of Petrarch. At a period when ancient literature, as if by a miracle, was raising itself from its grave, the learned were agitated by a correspondent energy; not only was an estate sold to purchase a manuscript, but the relic of genius was touched with a religious emotion. The classical purity of Cicero was contrasted with the barbarous idiom of the Missal; the glories of ancient Rome with the miserable subjugation of its modern pontiffs; and the metaphysical reveries of Plato, and what they termed the "Enthusiasmus Alexandrinus"—the dreams of the Platonists—seemed to the fanciful Italians more elevated than the humble and pure ethics of the Gospels. The vain and amorous Eloisa could even censure the gross manners, as it seemed to her, of the apostles, for picking the ears of corn in their walks, and at their meals eating with unwashed hands. Touched by this mania of antiquity, the learned affected to change their vulgar Christian name, by assuming the more classical ones of a Junius Brutus, a Pomponius, or a Julius, or any other rusty name unwashed by baptism. This frenzy for the ancient republic not only menaced the pontificate, but their Platonic or their pagan ardours seemed to be striking at the foundation of Christianity itself. Such were Marcellus Ficinus, and that learned society who assembled under the Medici. Pomponius Laetus, who lived at the close of the fifteenth century, not only celebrated by an annual festival the foundation of Rome, and raised altars to Romulus, but openly expressed his contempt for the Christian religion, which this visionary declared was only fit for barbarians; but this extravagance and irreligion, observes Niceron, were common with many of the learned of those times, and this very Pomponius was at length formally accused of the crime of changing the baptismal names of the young persons whom he taught for pagan ones! "This was the taste of the times," says the author we have just quoted; but it was imagined that there was a mystery concealed in these changes of names.

At this period these literary societies first appear: one at Rome had the title of "Academy," and for its chief this very Pomponius; for he is distinguished as "Romanae Princeps Academiae," by his friend Politian, in the "Miscellanea" of that elegant scholar. This was under the pontificate of Paul the Second. The regular meetings of "the Academy" soon excited the jealousy and suspicions of Paul, and gave rise to one of the most horrid persecutions and scenes of torture, even to death, in which these academicians were involved. This closed with a decree of Paul's, that for the future no one should pronounce, either seriously or in jest, the very name of academy, under the penalty of heresy! The story is told by Platina, one of the sufferers, in his Life of Paul the Second; and although this history may be said to bear the bruises of the wounded and dislocated body of the unhappy historian, the facts are unquestionable, and connected with our subject. Platina, Pomponius, and many of their friends, were suddenly dragged to prison; on the first and second day torture was applied, and many expired under the hands of their executioners. "You would have imagined," says Platina, "that the castle of St. Angelo was turned into the bull of Phalaris, so loud the hollow vault resounded with the cries of those miserable young men, who were an honour to their age for genius and learning. The torturers, not satisfied, though weary, having racked twenty men in these two days, of whom some died, at length sent for me to take my turn. The instruments of torture were ready; I was stripped, and the executioners put themselves to their work. Vianesius sat like another Minos on a seat of tapestry-work, gay as at a wedding; and while I hung on the rack in torment, he played with a jewel which Sanga had, asking him who was the mistress which had given him this love-token? Turning to me, he asked, 'why Pomponio, in a letter, should call me Holy Father? Did the conspirators agree to make you pope?' 'Pomponio,' I replied, 'can best tell why he gave me this title, for I know not.' At length, having pleased, but not satisfied himself with my tortures, he ordered me to be let down, that I might undergo tortures much greater in the evening. I was carried, half dead, into my chamber; but not long after, the inquisitor having dined, and being fresh in drink, I was fetched again, and the archbishop of Spalatro was there. They inquired of my conversations with Malatesta. I said it only concerned ancient and modern learning, the military arts, and the characters of illustrious men, the ordinary subjects of conversation. I was bitterly threatened by Vianesius, unless I confessed the truth on the following day, and was carried back to my chamber, where I was seized with such extreme pain, that I had rather have died than endured the agony of my battered and dislocated limbs. But now those who were accused of heresy were charged with plotting treason. Pomponius being examined why he changed the names of his friends, he answered boldly, that this was no concern of his judges or the pope; it was, perhaps, out of respect for antiquity, to stimulate to a virtuous emulation. After we had now lain ten months in prison, Paul comes himself to the castle, where he charged us, among other things, that we had disputed concerning the immortality of the soul, and that we held the opinion of Plato; by disputing you call the being of a God in question. This, I said, might be objected to all divines and philosophers, who, to make the truth appear, frequently question the existence of souls and of God, and of all separate intelligences. St. Austin says, the opinion of Plato is like the faith of Christians. I followed none of the numerous heretical factions. Paul then accused us of being too great admirers of pagan antiquities; yet none were more fond of them than himself, for he collected all the statues and sarcophagi of the ancients to place in his palace, and even affected to imitate, on more than one occasion, the pomp and charm of their public ceremonies. While they were arguing, mention happened to be made of 'the Academy,' when the Cardinal of San Marco cried out, that we were not 'Academics,' but a scandal to the name; and Paul now declared that he would not have that term evermore mentioned under pain of heresy. He left us in a passion, and kept us two months longer in prison to complete the year, as it seems he had sworn."

Such is the interesting narrative of Platina, from which we may surely infer, that if these learned men assembled for the communication of their studies—inquiries suggested by the monuments of antiquity, the two learned languages, ancient authors, and speculative points of philosophy—these objects were associated with others which terrified the jealousy of modern Rome.

Some time after, at Naples, appeared the two brothers, John Baptiste and John Vincent Porta, those twin spirits, the Castor and Pollux of the natural philosophy of that age, and whose scenical museum delighted and awed, by its optical illusions, its treasure of curiosities, and its natural magic, all learned natives and foreigners. Their names are still famous, and their treatises, De Humana Physiognomia and Magia Naturalis, are still opened by the curious, who discover these children of philosophy wandering in the arcana of nature, to them a world of perpetual beginnings! These learned brothers united with the Marquis of Manso, the friend of Tasso, in establishing an academy under the whimsical name degli Oziosi (the Lazy), which so ill-described their intentions. This academy did not sufficiently embrace the views of the learned brothers; and then they formed another under their own roof, which they appropriately named degli Secreti. The ostensible motive was, that no one should be admitted into this interior society who had not signalised himself by some experiment or discovery. It is clear that, whatever they intended by the project, the election of the members was to pass through the most rigid scrutiny; and what was the consequence? The court of Rome again started up with all its fears, and, secretly obtaining information of some discussions which had passed in this academy degli Secreti, prohibited the Porta's from holding such assemblies, or applying themselves to those illicit sciences, whose amusements are criminal, and turn us aside from the study of the Holy Scriptures.[307] It seems that one of the Porta's had delivered himself in the style of an ancient oracle; but what was more alarming in this prophetical spirit, several of his predictions had been actually verified! The infallible court was in no want of a new school of prophecy. Baptista Porta went to Rome to justify himself; and, content to wear his head, placed his tongue in the custody of his Holiness, and no doubt preferred being a member of the Accademia degli Oziosi to that degli Secreti. To confirm this notion that these academies excited the jealousy of those despotic states of Italy, I find that several of them, at Florence as well as at Sienna, were considered as dangerous meetings, and in 1568 the Medici suddenly suppressed those of the "Insipids," the "Shy," the "Disheartened," and others, but more particularly the "Stunned," gli Intronati, which excited loud laments. We have also an account of an academy which called itself the Lanternists, from the circumstance that their first meetings were held at night, the academicians not carrying torches, but only Lanterns. This academy, indeed, was at Toulouse, but evidently formed on the model of its neighbours. In fine, it cannot be denied that these literary societies or academies were frequently objects of alarm to the little governments of Italy, and were often interrupted by political persecution.

From all these facts I am inclined to draw an inference. It is remarkable that the first Italian academies were only distinguished by the simple name of their founders. One was called the Academy of Pomponius Laetus, another of Panormita, &c. It was after the melancholy fate of the Roman academy of Laetus, which could not, however, extinguish that growing desire of creating literary societies in the Italian cities, from which the members derived both honour and pleasure, that suddenly we discover these academies bearing the most fantastical titles. I have not found any writer who has attempted to solve this extraordinary appearance in literary history; and the difficulty seems great, because, however frivolous or fantastical the titles they assumed, their members were illustrious for rank and genius. Tiraboschi, aware of this difficulty, can only express his astonishment at the absurdity, and his vexation at the ridicule to which the Italians have been exposed by the coarse jokes of Menkenius, in his Charlatanaria Eruditorum.[308] I conjecture that the invention of these ridiculous titles for literary societies was an attempt to throw a sportive veil over meetings which had alarmed the papal and the other petty courts of Italy; and to quiet their fears and turn aside their political wrath, they implied the innocence of their pursuits by the jocularity with which the members treated themselves, and were willing that others should treat them. This otherwise inexplicable national levity, of so refined a people, has not occurred in any other country, because the necessity did not exist anywhere but in Italy. In France, in Spain, and in England, the title of the ancient Academus was never profaned by an adjunct which systematically degraded and ridiculed its venerable character and its illustrious members.

Long after this article was finished, I had an opportunity of consulting an eminent Italian, whose name is already celebrated in our country, Il Sigr. Ugo Foscolo;[309] his decision ought necessarily to outweigh mine; but although it is incumbent on me to put the reader in possession of the opinion of a native of his high acquirements, it is not as easy for me, on this obscure and curious subject, to relinquish my own conjecture.

Il Sigr. Foscolo is of opinion that the origin of the fantastical titles assumed by the Italian academies entirely arose from a desire of getting rid of the air of pedantry, and to insinuate that their meetings and their works were to be considered merely as sportive relaxations, and an idle business.

This opinion may satisfy an Italian, and this he may deem a sufficient apology for such absurdity; but when scarlet robes and cowled heads, laureated bards and Monsignores, and Cavalleros, baptize themselves in a public assembly "Blockheads" or "Madmen," we ultramontanes, out of mere compliment to such great and learned men, would suppose that they had their good reasons; and that in this there must have been "something more than meets the ear." After all, I would almost flatter myself that our two opinions are not so wide of each other as they at first seem to be.


That great Original, the author of HUDIBRAS, has been recently censured for exposing to ridicule the Sir Samuel Luke, under whose roof he dwelt, in the grotesque character of his hero. The knowledge of the critic in our literary history is not curious; he appears to have advanced no further than to have taken up the first opinion he found; but this served for an attempt to blacken the moral character of BUTLER! "Having lived," says our critic, "in the family of Sir Samuel Luke, one of Cromwell's captains, at the very time he planned the Hudibras, of which he was pleased to make his kind and hospitable patron the hero. We defy the history of Whiggism to match this anecdote,"[310] as if it could not be matched! Whigs and Tories are as like as two eggs when they are wits and satirists; their friends too often become their victims! If Sir Samuel resembled that renowned personification, the ridicule was legitimate and unavoidable when the poet had espoused his cause, and espoused it too from the purest motive—a detestation of political and fanatical hypocrisy.[311] Comic satirists, whatever they may allege to the contrary, will always draw largely and most truly from their own circle. After all, it does not appear that Sir Samuel sat for Sir Hudibras; although from the hiatus still in the poem, at the end of Part I., Canto I., his name would accommodate both the metre and the rhyme. But who, said Warburton, ever compared a person to himself? Butler might aim a sly stroke at Sir Samuel by hinting to him how well he resembled Hudibras, but with a remarkable forbearance he has left posterity to settle the affair, which is certainly not worth their while. But Warburton tells, that a friend of Butler's had declared the person was a Devonshire man—one Sir Harry Rosewell, of Ford Abbey, in that county. There is a curious life of our learned wit, in the great General Dictionary; the writer, probably Dr. Birch, made the most authentic researches, from the contemporaries of Butler or their descendants; and from Charles Longueville, the son of Butler's great friend, he obtained much of the little we possess. The writer of this Life believes that Sir Samuel was the hero of Butler, and rests his evidence on the hiatus we have noticed; but with the candour which becomes the literary historian, he has added the following marginal note: "Whilst this sheet was at press, I was assured by Mr. Longueville, that Sir Samuel Luke is not the person ridiculed under the name of HUDIBRAS."

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