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SCENERY OF THE ALPS.
Nothing can be finer or more exact than Mr. Pope's description of a traveller straining up the Alps. Every mountain he comes to he thinks will be the last: he finds, however, an unexpected hill rise before him; and that being scaled, he finds the highest summit almost at as great a distance as before. Upon quitting the plain, he might have left a green and fertile soil, and a climate warm and pleasing. As he ascends, the ground assumes a more russet color, the grass becomes more mossy, and the weather more moderate. When he is still higher, the weather becomes more cold, and the earth more barren. In this dreary passage he is often entertained with a little valley of surprising verdure, caused by the reflected heat of the sun collected into a narrow spot on the surrounding heights. But it much more frequently happens that he sees only frightful precipices beneath, and lakes of amazing depth, from whence rivers are formed, and fountains derive their original. On those places next the highest summits, vegetation is scarcely carried on: here and there a few plants of the most hardy kind appear. The air is intolerably cold —either continually refrigerated with frosts, or disturbed with tempests. All the ground here wears an eternal covering of ice and snow, that seem continually accumulating. Upon emerging from this war of the elements, he ascends into a purer and serener region, where vegetation is entirely ceased—where the precipices, composed entirely of rocks, rises perpendicularly above him; while he views beneath him all the combat of the elements, clouds at his feet, and thunders darting upwards, from their bosoms below. A thousand meteors, which are never seen on the plain, present themselves; circular rainbows, mock suns, the shadow of the mountain projected upon the body of the air, and the traveller's own image reflected as in a looking-glass upon the opposite cloud.
Wttory iff Ike Earth and Animated Nature.
Of ali men who form gay illusions of distant happiness, perhaps a poet is the most sanguine. Such is the ardor of his hopes, that they often are equal to actual enjoyment; and he feels more in expectance than actual fruition. I have often regarded a character of this kind with some degree of envy. A man possessed of such warm imagination commands all nature, and arrogates possessions of which the owner has a blunter relish. While life continues, the alluring prospect lies before him; he travels in the pursuit with confidence, and resigns it only with his last breath.
It is this happy confidence which gives life its true relish, and keeps up our spirits amidst every distress and disappointment. How much less would be done, if a man knew how little he can do! How wretched a creature would he be, if he saw the end as well as the beginning of his projects! He would have nothing left but to sit down in torpid despair, and exchange employment fur actual calamity.
I was led into this train of thinking upon lately visiting the beautiful Gardens of the late Mr. Shenstone; who was himself a poet, and possessed of that warm imagination which made hirn ever foremost in the pursuit of flying happiness. Could he but have foreseen the end of all his schemes, for whom he was improving, and what changes his designs were to undergo, he would have scarcely amused his innocent life with what, for several years, employed him in a most harmless manner, and abridged his scanty fortune. As the progress of this improvement is a true picture of sublunary vicissitude, I could not help calling up my imagination, which, while I walked pensively along, suggested the following revery.
As I was turning my back upon a beautiful piece of water enlivened with cascades and rock-work, and entering a dark walk by which ran a prattling brook, the Genius of the place appeared before me, but more resembling the God of Time, than him more peculiarly appointed to the care of gardens. Instead of shears, he bore a scythe; and he appeared rather with the implements of husbandry, than those of a modern gardener. Having remembered this place in its pristine beauty, I could not help condoling with him on its present ruinous situation. I spoke to him of the many alterations which had been made, and all for the worse; of the many shades which had been taken away, of the bowers that were destroyed by neglect, and the hedge-rows that were spoiled by clipping. The Genius with a sigh received my condolement, and assured me, that he was equally a martyr to ignorance and taste, to refinement and rusticity. Seeing me desirous of knowing farther, he went on:
"You see, in the place before you, the paternal inheritance of a poet; and to a man content with a little, fully sufficient for his subsistence: but a strong imagination and a long acquaintance with the rich are dangerous foes to contentment. Our poet, instead of sitting down to enjoy life, resolved to prepare for its future enjoyment; and set about converting a place of profit into a scene of pleasure. This he at first supposed could be accomplished at a small expense; and he was willing for a while to stint his income, to have an opportunity of displaying his taste. The improvement in this manner went forward; one beauty attained, led him to wish for some other ; but he still hoped that every emendation would be the last. It was now, therefore, found that the improvement exceeded the subsidy, that the place was grown too large and too fine for the inhabitant. But that pride which was once exhibited could not retire; the garden was made for the owner, and though it was become unfit for him, he could not willingly resign it to another. Thus the first idea of its beauties contributing to the happiness of his life was found unfaithful; so that, instead of looking within for satisfaction, he began to think of having recourse to the praises of those who came to visit his improvement.
"In consequence of this hope, which now took possession of his mind, the gardens were opened to the visits of every stranger; and the country flocked round to walk, to criticise, to admire, and to do mischief. He soon found, that the admirers of his taste left by no means such strong marks of their applause, as the envious did of their malignity. All the windows of his temples, and the walls of his retreats, were impressed with the characters of profaneness, ignorance, and obscenity; his hedges were broken, his statues and urns defaced, and his lawns worn bare. It was now, therefore, necessary to shut up the gardens once more, and to deprive the public of that happiness, which had before ceased to be his own.
"In this situation the poet continued for a time in the character of a jealous lover, fond of the beauty he keeps, but unable to supply the extravagance of every demand. The garden by this time was completely grown and finished ; the marks of art were covered up by the luxuriance of nature; the winding walks were grown dark; the brook assumed a natural sylvage; and the rocks were covered with moss. Nothing now remained but to enjoy the beauties of the place, when the poor poet died, and his garden was obliged to be sold for the benefit of those who had contributed to its embellishment.
"The beauties of the place had now for some time been celebrated as well in prose as in verse; and all men of taste wished for so envied a spot, where every urn was marked with the poet's pencil, and every walk awakened genius and meditation. The first purchaser was one Mr. Truepenny, a button-maker, who was possessed of three thousand pounds, and was willing also to be possessed of taste and genius.
"As the poet's ideas were for the natural wildness of the landscape, the button-maker's were for the more regular productions of art. He conceived, perhaps, that as it is a beauty in a button to be of a regular pattern, so the same regularity ought to obtain in a landscape. Be this as it will, he employed the shears to some purpose; he clipped up the hedges, cut down the gloomy walks, made vistas upon the stables and hosrsties, and showed his friends that a man nf taste should always be doing.
"The next candidate for taste and genius was a captain of a ship, who bought the garden because the former possessor could find nothing more to mend; but unfortunately he had taste too. His great passion lay in building, in making Chinese temples, and cage-work summer-houses. As the place before had an appeamnce of retirement and inspired meditation, he gave it a more peopled air; every turning presented a cottage, or ice-house, or a temple; the improvement was converted into a little city, and it only wanted inhabitants to give it the air of a village in the East Indies.
"In this manner, in less than ten years, the improvement has gone through the hands of as many proprietors, who were all willing to have taste, and to show their taste too. As the place had received its best finishing from the hand of the first possessor, so every innovator only lent a hand to do mischief. ThVse parts which were obscure, have been enlightened; those walks which led naturally, have been twisted into serpentine windings. The color of the flowers of the field is not more various than the variety of tastes that have been employed here, and all in direct contmdiction to the original aim of the first improver. Could the original possessor but revive, with what a sorrowful heart would he look upon his favorite spot again! He would scarcely recollect a dryad or a wood-nymph of his former acquaintance, and might perhaps find himself as much a stranger in his own plantation, as in the deserts of Siberia."
The following pamgmph is one of those gems in English Prose Litemture, of which few authors, if any. afford a greater number than Goldsmith. It is in the latter part of a review, as severe as his good-nature would allow, of Barrett's tmnslation of Ovid's Epistles; to be found in the CnUcal Review of 1759.
ALL CANNOT BE POETS.
But let not the reader imagine we can find pleasure in thus exposing absurdities which are too ludicrous for serious reproof. While we censure as critics, we feel as men, and could sincerely wish that those whose greatest sin is, perhaps, the venial one of writing bad verses, would regard their failure in this respect as we do, not as faults, but foibles: they may be good and useful members of society without being poets. The regions of taste can be travelled only by a few, and even those often find indifferent accommodation by the way. Let such as have not sot a nassDAVID HUME. 1711—1776.
David Hume, the celebrated Scotch historian, was born in Edinburgh in 1711. He was designed for the law, but having no inclination for it, he applied himself to mercantile pursuits, and in 1734 became clerk to a house it) Bristol. He did not, however, continue long in that lino, owing to his strong propensity to literature. He says in his autobiography, "I went over to France with a view of prosecuting my studies in a country retreat, and I then laid that plan of life which I have steadily and successfully pursued. I resolved to make a very rigid frugality supply my deficiency of fortune • to maintain, unimpaired, my independency; and to regard every object as contemptible except the improvement of my talents in literature."
In 1738 he published his "Treatise of Human Nature," a metaphysical work, which met with a very indifferent reception. In 1742 appeared his u Moral Essays," which were a little better received. During the next ten years he published his '* Inquiry concerning Human Understanding," « Political Discourses," and "Inquiry concerning the Principles of Morals." While many of the principles of these works are exceptionable, they are, as compositions, a model of a perspicuous and a highly finished style. In 1754 he published the first volume of his « History of England," which he commenced with the House of Stuart "The History of the House of Tudor" followed in 1759, and the two volumes containing the earlier English History, which completed the work, in 17G1. While this work was in progress, he gave to the world his u Natural History of Religion," which was attacked with just severity by Warburton and Hurd. After enjoying one or two offices of honor and profit, he retired to his native country in 1760, and died in 1770.
As an author, Hume is to be viewed in the three characters of Historian, Political Economist, and Philosopher. "In History he was the first to divert attention from wars, treaties, and successions, to the living progress of the people, in all that increases their civilization and their happiness;" and notwithstanding his "History of England'' is disfigured by evident partiality, and lacks in many places that accuracy which is the first requisite in historical compositions, yet, with all the faults of its matter, its purely literary merits are so great, that, as a classical and popular work, it has hitherto encountered no rival.
As. a Political Economist, "his triumphs are those which, in the present day, stand forth with the greatest prominence and lustre. In no long time, a hundred years will have elapsed from the day when Hume told the world, what the legislature of England is now declaring, that national exclusiveness in trade was as foolish as it was wicked; that no nation could profit by stopping the natural flood of commerce between itself and the rest of the world; that commercial restrictions deprive the nations of the earth 'of that free communication and exchange, which the Author of the world has intended by giving them soils, climates, and geniuses, so different from each other;' and that, like the healthy circulation of the blood in living bodies-, Fkee Thane is the vital principle by which the nations of the earth are to become united in one harmonious whole."1
As a Philosopher, though acute and ingenious, he is not profound. He was the first to make Utility the foundation of moral obligation, which, as a theory,
1 Head—the "Life and Correanondence of David Iiiiithv* by John It ill Burton, Esq., J vol*, svo, Edinburgh, 18*0— a very valuable contribution to the biographical literature of the prc*ci*t century.