« ZurückWeiter »
ing had no printing-press, writing no paper, and paper no ink: the lover was forced to send his mistress' a deal board for a love-letter, and a billet-doux might be about the size of an ordinary trencher. They were clothed without manufacture, and their richest robes were the skins of the most formidable monsters: they carried on trade without books, and correspondence without posts : their merchants kept no accounts, their shopkeepers no cash-books; they had surgery without anatomy, and physicians without the materia medica : they gave emetics without ipecacuanha, drew blisters without cantharides, and cured agues without the bark.
As for geographical discoveries, they had neither seen the North Cape, nor the Cape of Good Hope south. All the discovered inhabited world, which they knew and conversed with, was circumscribed within very narrow limits, viz. France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Greece; the lesser Asia, the west part of Persia, Arabia, the north parts of Africa, and the islands of the Mediterranean sea, and this was the whole world to them ; not that even these countries were fully known either, and several parts of them not inquired into at all., Germany was known little further than the banks of the Elbe; Poland as little beyond the Vistula, or Hungary as little beyond the Danube; Muscovy or Russia perfectly unknown, as much as China beyond it; and India only by a little
commerce upon the coast, about Surat 'and Málabar'; Africa had been more unknown, but by the rain of the Carthaginians; all the western coast of It was sunk out of knowledge again, and forgotten; the northern coast of Africa, in the Mediterranean, remained known, and that was 'all ; for the Saracens 'over-running the nations which were planted there, ruinéd 'commerce, as well as religion; the Baltic sea was not discovered, 'nor even the navigation of it known; for the Teutonic knights câme not thither till the 13th century.
America was not heard of, 'nor so much as a suggestion in the minds of men that any part of the world lay that way. The coasts of Greenland, or Spitsbergen, and the whale fishing, not known; the best navigators in the world, at that time, would have fled from a whale, with much more fright and horror, than from the devil, in the most terrible shapes they had been told he appeared in · The coasts of Angola, Congo, the Gold and the Grain coasts, on the west side of Africa, whencë, śińce that time, such immense wealth has been drawn, not discovered, nor the least inquiry made after them. All the East-India and China tradë, not only undiscovered, but out of the reach of expectation! Coffee and tea (those modern blessings of mankind) had never been heard of: all the unbounded ocean, we now call the South Sea, was hid, and unknown: all the Atlantic ocean beyond
the mouth of the Straits, was frightful and terrible in the distant prospect, nor durst any one peep into it, otherwise than as they might creep along the coast of Africa, towards Sallee, or Santa Cruz. The North Sea was hid in a veil of impenetrable darkness; the White Sea, or Archangel, was a very modern discovery; not found out till Sir Hugh Willoughby doubled the North Cape, and paid dear for the adventure, being frozen to death with all his crew, on the coast of Lapland; while his companions' ship, with the famous Mr. Chancellor, went on to the gulph of Russia, called the White Sea, where no Christian strangers had ever been before him.
In these narrow circumstances stood the world's knowledge at the beginning of the 15th century, when men of genius began to look abroad, and about them. Now, as it was wonderful to see a world so full of people, and people so capable of improving, yet so stupid and so blind, so ignorant and so perfectly unimproved, it was wonderful to see, with what a general alacrity they took the alarm, almost all together, preparing themselves as it were on a sudden, by a general inspiration, to spread knowledge through the earth, and to search into every thing that it was possible to uncover.
How surprising is it to look back, so little a way behind us, and see, that even in less than two
hundred years, all this (now so self-wise) part of the world did not so much as know whether there was any such place as a Russia, a China, a Guinea, a Greenland, or a North Cape! That' as to America, it was never supposed there was any such place;' neither had the world, though they stood upon the shoulders of four thousand years' experience, the least thought, so much as that there was any land that way!
As they were ignorant of places, so of things also; so vast are the improvements of science, that all our knowledge of mathematics, of nature, of the brightest part of human wisdom, had their admission among us within these two last centuries.
What was the world, then, before? And to what were the heads and hands of mankind applied?. The rich had no commerce, the poor no employment; war and the sword was the great field of honor, the stage of preferment; and you have scarce a man eminent in the world, for any thing before that time, but for a furious outrageous falling upon his fellow-creatures, like Nimrod, and his successors of modern memory.
The world is now daily increasing in experimental knowledge, and let no man flatter the age,
" It is now supposed that America was actually discovered in the eleventh century by the Icelanders.-See Mallet's Northern Antiquities, vol. i., and Franklin's PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE, Part I.
with pretending we have arrived at a perfection of discoveries.
What's now discovered, only serves to show,
THE WASTE OF LIFE. From the Pennsylvania Gazette, No. 404, Nov. 18, 1736.
Anerous was a gentleman of a good estate; he was bred to no business, and could not contrive how to waste his hours agreeably; he had no relish for any of the proper works of life, nor any taste at all for the improvements of the mind; he spent generally ten hours of the four-and-twenty in his bed; he dozed away two or three more on his couch, and as many were dissolved in good liquor every evening, if he met with company of his own humor. Five or six of the rest he sauntered away with much indolence: the chief business of them was to contrive his meals, and to feed his fancy before-hand with the promise of a dinner and supper; not that he was so absolute a glutton, or so entirely devoted to appetite ; but chiefly because he knew not how to employ his thoughts better, he let them rove about the sustenance of his body.. Thus he had made a shift to wear off ten years since the paternal estate fell into his hands : and yet, according to the abuse of words in our day, he was called a man of virtue, because he was