Imagens da página

They have contracted an habit of regarding constraint as the great rule of their duty. When they were treated with mildness, they no longer continued to perceive a superiority. They fancied themselves our equals, and a continuance of our humanity might probably have rendered them infolent ; but the imperious tone, menaces, and blows, at once changed their sensations and their ideas : their ears and Ihoulders taught their souls to shrink back into servitude, from which they had for some moments fancied themselves disengaged.

The enthufiasm of liberty an Englishman feels is never so strong, as when presented by such prospects as these. I must own, in all my indigence, it is one of my comforts, (perhaps, indeed, it is my only boast) that I am of that happy country; though I scorn to starve there ; though I do not choose to lead a life of wretched dependance, or be an object for my former acquaintance to point at. While you enjoy all the ease and elegance of prudence and virtue, your old friend wanders over the world, without a single anchor to hold by, or a friend except you to confide in *.

Yours, &c.




MR. MAUPERTUIS, lately deceased, was the first to whom the English philosophers owed their

* The sequel of this correspondence to be continued occafionally. I thall alter nothing either in the style or substance of these letters, and the reader may depend on their being genuine.



being particularly admired by the rest of Europe. The romantic system of Des Cartes was adapted to the taste of the superficial and the indolent ; the foreign universities had embraced it with ardour, and such are seldom convinced of their errors 'till all others give up such false opinions as untenable. The philosophy of Newton, and the methaphysics of Locke, appeared ; but, like all new truths, they were at once received with opposition and contempt. The English, it is true, studied, understood, and confequently admired them; it was very different on the Continent. Fontenelle, who seemed to preside over the Republic of Letters, unwilling to acknowledge that all his life had been spent in erroneous philofophy, joined in the universal disapprobation, and the English pltilofophers seemed entirely unknown.

Maupertuis, however, made them his study; he thought he might oppose the physics of his country, and yet still be a good citizen: he defended our countrymen, wrote in their favour, and at last, as he had truth on his fide, carried his cause. Almost all the learning of the English, 'till very lately, was conveyed in the language of France. The writings of Maupertuis spread the reputation of his master Newton, and by an happy fortune have united his fame with that of our human prodigy.

The first of his perforınances, openly, in vindication of the Newtonian systein, is his treatise entituled, Sur la figure des Aftres, if I remember right; a work at once expressive of a deep geometrical knowledge, and the most happy manner of delivering abstruse fcience with ease. This met with violent oppofition from a people, though fond of novelty in every thing else, yet, however, in matters of science, attached to antient opinions with bigotry. As the old and obstinate fell away, the youth of France embraced the new opinions, and now feem more eager to defend Newton than even his countrymen.


The oddity of character which great men are sometimes remarkable for, Maupertuis was not entirely free from. If we can believe Voltaire, he once at tempted to castrate himself; but whether this be true or no, it is certain he was extremely whimsical. Though born to a large fortune, when employed in mathematical enquiries, he disregarded his person to such a degree, and loved retirement so much, that he has been more than once put on the list of modeft beggars by the curates of Paris, when he retired to some private quarter of the town, in order to enjoy his meditations without interruption. The character given of him by one of Voltaire's antagonists, if it can be depended, upon, is much to his honour. You, says this writer to Mr. Voltaire, you were entertained by the king of Prussia as a buffoon, but Maupertuis as a philosopher.

philosopher. It is certain that the preference which this royal scholar gave to Maupertuis was the cause of Voltaire's disagreement with him. Voltaire could not bear to see a man, whose talents he had no great opinion of, preferred before him as president of the royal academy. His Micromegas was designed to ridicule Maupertuis ; and probably it has brought more disgrace on the author than the subject. Whatever absurdities men of letters have indulged, and how fantastical foever the modes of science have been, their anger is still more subject to ridicule.





FOREIGNERS observe that there are no ladies in the world more beautiful, or more ill-dressed, than those of England. Our country-women have been compared to those pictures, where the face is the work of a Raphael; but the draperies thrown out by fome empty pretender, destitute of taste, and entirely unacquainted with defign.

If I were a poet, I might observe, on this occafion, that so much beauty set off with all the advantages of dress would be too powerful an antagonist for the oppofite sex, and therefore it was wisely ordered, that our ladies should want taste, left their admirers should entirely want reason.

But to confessa truth, I do not find they have agreater aversion to fine cloaths than the women of any other country whatsoever. I cannot fancy that a shopkeeper's wife in. Cheapfide has a greater tenderness for the fortune of her husband than a citizen's wife in Paris ; or that miss in a boarding-school is more an æconomift in dress than mademoiselle in a nunnery.

Although Paris may be accounted the soil in which al nost every fashion takes its rise, its influence is neVer so general there as with us. They ftudy there the happy method of uniting grace and fashion, and never excuse a woman for being aukwardly dressed, by saying her cloaths are made in the mode. А French woman is a perfect architect in drefs ; fhe



never, with Gothic ignorance, mixes the orders ; The never tricks out a squabby Doric shape with Corinthian finery; or, to speak without metaphor, The conforms to general fashion, only when it happens not to be repugnant to private beauty.

Our ladies, on the contrary, seem to have no other standard for grace but the run of the town. If fashion gives the word, every distinction of beauty, complexion, or stature ceases. Sweeping trains, PrulTan bonnets, and trollopees, as like each other, as if cut from tlie fame piece, level all to one standard. The mall, the gardens, and the playhouses are filled with ladies in uniform, and their whole appearance Thews as little variety or taste as if their cloaths were bespoke by the colonel of a marching regiment, or fancied by the same artist who dresses the three battalions of guards.

But not only ladies of every shape and complexion, but of every age too, are possessed of this unaccountable passion of dressing in the same manner. A lady of no quality can be diftinguished from a lady of some quality only by the redness of her hands; and à woman of fixty, natked, might easily pass for her grand-daughter. I remember, a few days ago, to have walked behind a damfel, toffed out in all the gaiety of fifteen; her dress was loose, unftudied, and feemned the result of conscious beauty: I called up all my poetry on this occasion, and fancied twenty Cupids prepared for execution in every folding of her white negligee. I had prepared my imagination for an angel's face; but what was my mortification to find that the imaginary goddess was no other than my cousin Hannah, four years older than myself, and I thall be fixty-two the twelfth of next November.

After the transports of our first salute were over, I could not avoid running my eye over her whole appearance. Her gown was of cambrick, cut short beVOL. IV.



« AnteriorContinuar »