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You fall foul of me for a parcel of Irish bulls, some of them designed, and rank this expression among the rest, “ A larger field is opened betwixt WILLIE Auld and me than betwixt you and me." You add, “I maintain the field is the same, and that the subjects of intercourse are infinite.” I shall not maintain any thing about the matter, as the subject seems a little abstracted ; and shall, therefore, only propose a few things relative to it, to the consideration of the Connoiseur. Perhaps the affair may divert us.
If we attempted to disuse every phrase that is not strictly philosophical, would not we confine language more than the present state of human nature admits of? All subjects are infinite, every subject is infinite. There seems here to be a contradiction. But does not the difficulty vanish, when we consider what we mean by infinite applied in this manner? If every subject be infinite, is it not an absurdity to suppose one larger than another? And, if all subjects taken together be infinite, is it not absurd to call one sub
friend was contented with the more humble denomination of Com, mentator,
ject infinite, which is but a part of all suba jects? You may illustrate this point a little, by the infinite divisibity of matter, for the consideration of matter is less abstruse. But what do we mean by infinite thus applied to the word subject ? You know it is a maxim among philosophers, that nothing can be called great or small but by comparison. Thus, it would seem in the present case, that when we call a subject infinite, we compare it with our own understanding, which is limited, and only say, that the one is not commensurate to the other; or, in other words, that our understanding, far from being capable of comprehending all subjects, cannot penetrate to the bottom of any one subject. Thus any subject may be called infinite with regard to our understandings; because, if we cannot see to its bottom, it is the same thing to us as if it were infinite in the strictest sense of the word.
Are there not some subjects in which we lose ourselves sooner than in others ? Are there not some subjects capable of being extended tò a greater length than others, só as more to promote the purposes of instruction and entertainment than others? What then
A larger field is
is the absurdity of saying, opened,” &c. ?
“ Yes, Commentator,” say you ;
66 there is a very great absurdity ; for, taking the thing in your own light, there is still, if you consider the fact, the same field betwixt you and me as between Willie Auld and you, &c. Open but the field. think because he has got a pair of longer and more limber supporters, that he can surmount obstacles quicker than I? Are you exactly acquainted with what measure of active powers we are severally possessed ? Because you are two tall thin fellows, is that a reason why I should yield you every thing? Mens minds are not measured by inches, remember that."
I am not obliged to defend the phrase, “ A larger field opened,”. because it is none of my invention, but used by good authors, and readily enough understood. But, for the jokes sake, let us examine it. Do not the words field and province admịt of several different senses? Does not field often imply extent or compass? Is not the word
also often used differently ? ex. gr. landscapes opening
to view, opening a door, &c. &c. &c. If you consider every subject as having a large compass, then the farther we penetrate into that subject, the greater number of subdivisions are continually opening to our view ; or, in other words, the larger is the field that is continually opening up to us. We may conceive that a persons acquaintances, and the events that befal them in life, is a subject of large compass. Sit you down, lay your haffit* on your hand, and I'll lay you a bet you shan't enumerate one third of your acquaintances. When I came to London, I saw a great many known faces, whom I should never have dreamed of meeting. Is not every mans case, allowing for difference of years, &c. the same in this respect? I shall suppose that, on my leaving Edinburgh, the acquaintances mutual between you and me were much the same with those mutual between Willie Auld and me. When we were in London together, we enlarged the compass of our acquaintances. A change of fortune to any of these new acquaintances, his marriage, setting up in business, &c. interest and entertain Willie Auld; but would scarce
A contraction of half-liead, iinplying the cheek.nl
ly entertain you at all, as not knowing the persons. Is not the compass of acquaintances betwixt Willie Auld and me enlarged beyond what it was in Edinburgh ; and therefore the measure of our entertainment thereby enlarged.
As to what you say of subjects being infinite, it is very true. “Why then, Commentator,” you will say, “ do you consider only the compass of acquaintances ?” Should we not consider the mind of man which acts on subjects, as well as the subjects acted upon ? Matters of fact, that are daily passing before our eyes, are easily taken in and retained; while a man may find himself so circumstanced as either not to have time to look out for objects of entertainment foreign to business, or may find both mind and body so jaded by the pursuit of business as to be incapable of indulging himself in the most favourite study. May not this man be almost allowed to say he has only one field ? You are much happier in this respect than I, being much more capable of doing a great deal of work, and indulging a good deal of speculation on the same day. Sunday is the only day on which I have time to make observa