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kind, however divided and classed. Aristotle might have told him that the public, though often contemptible individually, appear, when taken collectively, to rectify and enlighten themselves; and are the best and most consummate judge, not only of the abilities and honesty of men, but of the beauty and excellence of art. We do not mean that the public are invariably or infallibly right. In every age some men tower above them, often their guides, sometimes their martyrs. We do not mean that good and great minds are to bend to popular caprice, or worship the popular idols. It is their duty to advocate and enforce such truths as they believe essential, yet unacknowledged. But it is equally their duty to do so, not from disdain, but from affection for the public;-heartily sympathizing with their interests, while endeavouring, with equal courage and temperance, to correct their errors. Such is the position and such the character of the most venerable and beneficent reformers of their land and time. But, with all the follies of the mass, we doubt whether a history of the wise few, or a history of the despised many would contain the greater number of ludicrous blunders and melancholy excesses. How long ago, and how justly was it said, that "no sick man ever dreamt such crudities as waking philosophy has embodied in its systems." The philosophy of an age is often, indeed, but the condensed essence of its follies. And Browne himself, while registering his vehement and lofty contempt of " that great monstrosity, the multitude," finds from the multitude his sole excuse for his own belief in witchcraft, chiromancy, or the antiCopernican system of the solar motion.
It was from this unwise and passionate tenet that Browne wasted so much of his genius upon scholastic frivolities. He had no sympathy with the great business of men. In that awful year, when Charles the First went in person to seize five members of the Commons' House -when the streets resounded with shouts of "Privilege of Parliament," and the king's coach was assailed by the prophetic cry, "to your tents, O Israel," in that year, in fact, when the civil war first broke out, and when most men of literary power were drawn by the excite
ment of the crisis into patriotic controversy on either side-appeared the calm and meditative reveries of the Religio Medici. The war raged on. It was a struggle between all the elements of government. England was torn by convulsion, and red with blood. But Browne was tranquilly preparing his Pseudodoxia Epidemica; as if errors about basilisks and griffins were the paramount and fatal epidemic of the time; and it was published in due order in that year (1646,) when the cause which the author advocated, as far as he could advocate any thing political, lay at its last gasp. The king dies on the scaffold. The Protectorate succeeds. Men are again fighting on paper the solemn cause already decided by the field. Drawn from visions more sublime, forsaking studies more intricate and vast than those of the poetical Sage of Norwich, diverging from a career bounded by the most splendid goal, foremost in the ranks shines the flaming sword of Milton; Sir Thomas Browne is lost in the quincunx of the ancient gardens; and the year 1658 beheld the death of Oliver Cromwell, and the publication of the Hydriotaphia.
We do not blame while we account for the seeming unconsciousness of Browne to the stormy events around him: if he despised the multitude, he was naturally lukewarm to the struggles of either party in which the multitude was divided; and, no doubt, he would have brought Archimedes and Lucretius to establish the sublimity and grandeur of a philosophy so little disturbed by the roar and strife that raged below. But this temperament is not congenial to great and serious efforts of mind. Divorced from the ends of the herd, the genius of one man, howsoever great, is apt to run riot amongst trifles. Therefore it is that, throughout all the seven books of an inquiry into "Popular Errors," by a man of singular acuteness, enlightened by singular learning, no searching comment attends a single error directly injurious to the political or social happiness of mankind. Therefore it is that the inquirer himself, while professing to expose the blunders of the people, disdainfully boasts, that for the people, "whom books do not redress," his work is not intended. Therefore it is that, throughout all our
author's gravest and loftiest idealism, there is (beyond the affectation and quaintness of the day) something of the whimsical frivolity of a man who lives alone, with no occupation so attractive as that of sporting with his own fancies, and caressing his own conceits. Therefore it is that, while Sir Thomas Browne will always command the admiration of poets, and the respect of scholars, he will find, we fear, the justice of retaliation in the indifference of the ordinary public. Amongst writers who have won to themselves listeners in all time and from all men, the social principle is invariably strong. They come home to our thoughts and passions, our waking objects and ideal dreams, by the eloquence of a sympathy with ourselves. They have struggled for us, or they have felt with us. Their immortality rests less upon our tastes than our affections; and it is precisely because the multitude has not been, for them, a monster, that their genius appeals to a universal test and an everlasting tribunal.
We cannot conclude without expressing the pleasure we have received from seeing the works of one of our early classics collected and presented to the world in a form so handsome and appropriate; and we are glad to see that we still have amongst us publishers who have intelligence and spirit for such undertakings.
THE PEOPLE'S CHARTER.
[Monthly Chronicle for 1838.]
WHEN the political franchise was first given to the Metropolis, we were told that we should raise up in the heart of the empire a wild democracy-always at the beck of every turbulent demagogue-always at the front of every popular and visionary movement. The recent exhibition in Palace Yard has given the lie to these ominous vaticinations. The metropolis has not declared in favour of the People's Charter. The pulse was felt, but it beat calmly, and its healthful indifference as to this itinerant agitation is a symptom that the disease is at present confined to the extremities. It is because London speaks in Parliament that she is silent in Palace Yard. Only one member of the Metropolitan District, and he the one (we say it with regret and respect) whose seat is the most insecure, attended the thunder of the pop-guns. The coldness with which Mr. Leader was received is a good omen for national reform,-for it serves to show the amazing distinction between the most radical of those whom the people send to Parliament, and the average opinions of those whom the mob applaud and laugh at. Mr. Leader, the member for Westminster, had the gratification of hearing himself rated at the thousandth part of the value of Mr. Feargus O'Connor, the rejected of all
The real fact is, that with nine tenths of the advocates of this new fanaticism, the People's Charter is but the AntiPoor Law agitation in disguise!-The re-ascendency of pauperism, the right of the sturdy beggar to pick the pockets of industry; these are the real objects which,
with a great majority of the audience, and with most of their captains, mask themselves under the more honourable, if not more plausible demands of Universal Suffrage, Annual Parliaments, and pensioned Delegates. We may trace the triple Geryon to the cradle of Anti-Poor Law Association. It appears strongest in the towns, where Poor Law Commissioners are the most pitilessly pelted. It breaks out a disease in itself, but the symptom of a constitution to which alteratives have been too sternly applied. This it is which makes common ground between O'Connor, the ultra leveller, and Oastler, the bemoaner of weakened aristocracy. This it is which divides what are called the Philosophical from what we may call the Physical Radicals, although the one are as near to pure political democracy as the other. This it is which surrounds the People's Charter with crusaders against property itself, and draws down cheers on Mr. Lowry's declaration, that Universal Suffrage will remove the National Debt. The real Radicals, as Mr. Ellice well observed in the House of Commons, in his memorable speech on the Canadian Rebellion, have ever been signalized by their scrupulous attachment to property, their good faith to the fund-holder, in every attempt of the Land-owners to play tricks with the currency. These pirate Radicals hoist out national colours, for the sake less of victory than plunder.
The Anti-Poor Law Agitation is, we repeat, the main cause from which the new political demands have arisen.* And in the breath of these inciters to physical force-these declaimers against all rich men as robbersthese assailants on the National Debt (in other words, on the fortunes of the middle class, and the savings of honest labour,) breaks out the spirit of ferocious pauperism itself. Without exaggerating the danger of the
* See the speeches and manifestoes generally in the towns in which the People's Charter has called forth demonstration, especially the Manchester Address-which insists, as the main cause of grievance, on the "Laws which strip men of their ancient and inalienable right to a maintenance out of the land of their birth-to cram them into worse than a felon's jail," &c.-Let those who, like Mr. Hume and Mr. Roebuck, are stanch supporters of the present Poor Law, look well before they stretch out their paws for Mr. Oastler's chestnuts.