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ropean communication. The Greeks and Romans are supposed to have been ignorant of it, in the early times of their history; and it is usually said to have come from Alexandria, where physical science was much 'cultivated by the Greek school under the patronage of the Ptolemies.

These few and scattered historical notices of important inventions have been introduced only for the purpose of suggesting that there is much which is both curious and instructive in the history of mechanics ; and that many things, which to us in our state of knowledge seem so obvious that we should think they would at once force themselves on men's adoption, have, nevertheless, been accomplished slowly and by painful efforts.

But if the history of the progress of the mechanical arts be interesting, still more so, doubtless, would be the exhibition of their present state, and a full display of the extent to which they are now carried. The slightest glance must convince us that mechanical

power

and mechanical skill, as they are now exhibited in Europe and America, mark an epoch in human history worthy of all admiration. Machinery is made to perform what has formerly been the toil of human hands, to an extent that astonishes the most sanguine, with a degree

of

power to which no number of human arms is equal, and with such precision and exactness as almost to suggest the notion of reason and intelligence in the machines themselves. Every natural agent is put unrelentingly to the task. The winds work, the waters work, the elasticity of metals work; gravity is solicited into a thousand new forms of action ; levers are multiplied upon levers; wheels revolve on the peripheries of other wheels. The saw and the plane are tortured into an accommodation to new uses; and, last of all, with inimitable power, and“ with whirlwind sound,” comes the potent agency

of steam. In comparison with the past, what centuries of improvement has this single agent comprised in the short compass of fifty years ! Everywhere practicable, everywhere efficient, it has an arm a thousand times stronger than that of Hercules, and to which human ingenuity is capable of fitting a thousand times as many heads as belonged to Briareus. Steam is found in triumphant operation on the seas ; and under the influence of its strong propulsion, the gallant ship,

“ Against the wind, against the tide,

Still steadies with an upright keel.”

It is on the rivers, and the boatman may repose on his oars; it is in highways, and exerts itself along the courses of land conveyance ; it is at the bottom of mines, a thousand feet below the earth's surface ; it is in the mill, and in the workshops of the trades. It rows, it pumps, it excavates, it carries, it draws, it lifts, it hammers, it spins, it weaves, it prints. It seems to say to men, at least to the class of artisans, " Leave off your manual labour, give over your bodily toil; bestow but your skill and reason to the directing of my power, and I will bear the toil, --with no muscle to grow weary, no nerve to relax, no breast to feel faintness.” What further improvements may still be made in the use of this astonishing power it is impossible to know, and it were vain to conjecture. What we do know is, that it has most essentially altered the face of affairs, and that no visible limit yet appears beyond which its progress is seen to be impossible. If its power were now to be annihilated, if we were to miss it on the water and in the mills, it would seem as if we were going back to rude ages.

47.-AUTHORS OF EIGHTY YEARS AGO.

SMOLLETT. [Tobias Smollett, whose novels will continue to be read in spite of their defects as works of art and their habitual coarseness, was the descendant of an old Scottish family, and was born at Cardross, in 1721. He was apprenticed to & surgeon at Glasgow, and served as a surgeon's mate in a ship of the line. Many of his early adventures are supposed to he told in his · Roderick Random.' He came to London in 1746, and entered upon a career of authorship, which he pursued till his death in 1771. Inferior to Fielding in knowledge of character, he is equal to him in describing scenes of real life; but the poetical power, without which no work of fiction can be perfect, is wholly wanting in his writings. He had amongst his literary brethren a turmoil of controversy; and his position, as the Editor of the Critical Review,' gave him the opportunity, which some anonymous critics know how to exercise, of gratifying his vanity and love of power, with slight regard to truth and justice. He is, however, represented as a generous man, and exhibited much kindness to the needy writers by whom he was surrounded. The state of letters at that period is admirably described in a paper on Johnson, by the Right Hon. T. B. Macaulay, from which we shall take the liberty of quoting in this volume. Smollett has painted a literary scene at his own house, in his · Humphrey Clinker,' which is, perhaps, not a greatly exaggerated picture of the class of men who

lived by the pen, when “the age of patronage had passed away, and the age of general curiosity and intelligence had not arrived."]

course.

In my last I mentioned my having spent an evening with a society of authors, who seemed to be jealous and afraid of one another. My uncle was not at all surprised to hear me say I was disappointed in their conversation. “ A man may be very entertaining and instructive upon paper,” said he, “and exceedingly dull in common dis

I have observed that those who shine most in private company are but secondary stars in the constellation of genius. A small stock of ideas is more easily managed and sooner displayed, than a great quantity crowded together. There is very seldom anything extraordinary in the appearance and address of a good writer; whereas a dull author generally distinguishes himself by some oddity or extravagance. For this reason I fancy that an assembly of grubs must be very diverting."

My curiosity being excited by this hint, I consulted my friend Dick Ivy, who undertook to gratify it the very next day, which was Sunday last.--He carried me to dine with S- -, whom you and I have long known by his writings. He lives in the skirts of the town, and every Sunday his house is open to all unfortunate brothers of the quill

, whom he treats with beef, pudding, and potatoes, port, punch, and Calvert's entire butt-beer. He has fixed upon the first day of the week for the exercise of his hospitality, because some of his guests could not enjoy it on any other, for reasons that I need not explain. I was civilly received, in a plain yet decent habitation, which opened backwards into a very pleasant garden, kept in excellent order; and, indeed, I saw none of the outward signs of authorship, either in the house or the landlord, who is one of those few writers of the age that stand upon their own foundation, without patronage, and above dependence. If there was nothing characteristic in the entertainer, the company made ample amends for his want of singularity.

At two in the afternoon I found myself one of ten messmates seated at table; and I question if the whole kingdom could produce such another assemblage of originals. Among their peculiarities I do not mention those of dress, which may be purely accidental. What struck me were oddities originally produced by affectation, and afterwards

asses on a common.

confirmed by habit. One of them wore spectacles at dinner, and another his hat flapped, though, as Ivy told me, the first was noted for having a seaman's eye, when a bailiff was in the wind, and the other was never known to labour under any weakness or defect of vision, except about five years ago, when he was complimented with a couple of black eyes by a player with whom he had quarrelled in his drink. A third wore a laced stocking, and made use of crutches, because, once in his life, he had been laid up with a broken leg, though no man could leap over a stick with more agility. A fourth had contracted such an antipathy to the country, that he insisted upon sitting with his back towards the window that looked into the garden ; and when a dish of cauliflower was set upon the table he snuffed up volatile salts to keep him from fainting: yet this delicate person was the son of a cottager, born under a hedge, and had many years run wild among

A fifth affected distraction; when spoken to, he always answered from the purpose; sometimes he suddenly started up, and rapped out a dreadful oath-sometimes he burst out a laughingthen he folded his arms and sighed - and then he hissed like fifty serpents.

At first I really thought he was mad, and, as he sat near me, began to be under some apprehensions for my own safety, when our landlord, perceiving me alarmed, assured me aloud that I had nothing to fear. —“The gentleman,” said he, " is trying to act a part for which he is by no means qualified_if he had all the inclination in the world, it is not in his power to be mad. His spirits are too flat to be kindled into frenzy.”—“ 'Tis no bad P-P-puff, how-ow-ever," observed a person in a tarnished laced coat; "aff-affected m-madness w-will

P-pass

for w-wit, w-with nine-nine-teen out of t-twenty.—“And affected stuttering for humour," replied our landlord; "though, God knows, there is no affinity between them." It seems this wag, after having made some abortive attempts in plain speaking, had recourse to this defect, by means of which he frequently extorted the laugh of the company, without the least expense of genius; and that imperfection which he had at first counterfeited, was now become so habitual that he could not lay it aside.

A certain winking genius, who wore yellow gloves at dinner, had, on his first introduction, taken such offence at S- because he looked and talked, and eat and drank, like any other man, that he spoke contemptuously of his understanding ever after, and never would repeat his visit until he had exhibited the following proof of his caprice :—Wat Wyvil, the poet, having made some unsuccessful advances towards an intimacy with S-, at last gave him to understand by a third person, that he had written a poem in his praise, and a satire against his person; that, if he would admit him to his house, the first should be immediately sent to the press; but that if he persisted in declining his friendship, he would publish the satire without delay. S— replied, that he looked upon Wyvil's panegyric as, in effect, a species of infamy, and would resent it accordingly with a good cudgel ; but if he published the satire, he might deserve his compassion, and had nothing to fear from his revenge. Wyvil, having considered the alternative, resolved to mortify S-by printing the panegyric, for which he received a sound drubbing. Then he swore the peace against the aggressor, who, in order to avoid a prosecution at law, admitted him to his good graces. It was the singularity in S—'s conduct on this occasion that reconciled him to the yellow-gloved philosopher, who owned he had some genius, and from that period cultivated his acquaintance. Curious to know upon what subjects the several talents of my

fellowguests were employed, I applied to my communicative friend, Dick Ivy, who gave me to understand that most of them were, or had been, understrappers or journeymen to more creditable authors, for whom they translated, collated, and compiled, in the business of bookmaking; and that all of them had, at different times, laboured in the service of our landlord, though they had now set up for themselves in various departments of literature. Not only their talents, but also their nations and dialogues were so various, that our conversation resembled the confusion of tongues at Babel.

We had the Irish brogue, the Scotch accent, and foreign idiom, twanged off by the most discordant vociferation; for, as they all spoke together, no man had any chance to be heard, unless he could bawl louder than his fellows. It must be owned, however, that there was nothing pedantic in their discourse; they carefully avoided all learned disquisitions, and endeavoured to be facetious; nor did their endeavours always miscarry. Some droll repartees passed, and much laughter was excited; and if any individual lost his temper so far as to transgress the bounds of decorum, he was effectually checked by the master of the feast, who exerted a sort of paternal authority over this irritable tribe.

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