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Art. XIX. The Sizar: a Rhapsody. To be completed in 50 folio Volumes, izmo. Pp. 158. Rivington, London. 1799.
WE have received a small volume bearing this title, accompanied with a letter, dated St. John's College, Cambridge. The letter, and the book, appear to us equally unintelligible; and all that we can discover of the author's meaning is, that he is very angry with the course of education at present prevailing in that University.
Whether the point he withes to accomplish, namely, to pay less attention to algebra and geometry, is likely to be effected by such labours as those before us, we will not take upon us to determine, but will leave it to be fettled by that authority to whom it more properly belongs, the cafut of bis Alma Mater. We will rest satisfied with addressing him in his own words:—" Your humble servant, Mr. Rhapsodist—so you take it for granted that you are a poet, or a Tristram Shandy, or some such sentimental gentleman or other—My dear Sir, Ne warns credite >verbis." (p. 85.) If this writer will believe us, he is neither the one nor the other; and we would recommend to him the consideration of one of his own motios: "No man ever made an ill figure in life who understood his own talents, nor a good one nuho ml/iooi them." To his determination denounced, of *' shooting folly as it flies, and ivhereier it flies," (p. 1JZ.) we have nothing to oppose, but the friendly caution, beviare of suicide.
THE REVIEWERS REVIEWED.
Art. I. Memoirs of Emma Courtney, By Mary Hays. nmo. 2 vols. Price 6s, Robinsons, London. 1796.
Art. II. The ViRim of Prejudice. A Novel. By Mary Hays. i2mo. 2 vols. Price 6s. Johnson, London. 1799.
""C'MMA Courtney," the first of these productions, apA-J peared about three years ago. The Monthly Review
of April, 1797, thus speaks of it:—
"These memoirs rife beyond the class of vulgar novels, which
aspire only to divert the unoccupied mind by occasional illusion from
an irksome attention to the daily occurrences and trivial incidents of
Meaning, as we sirppose, to praise this attempt of the "fair writer" to find other employment for the female mind, lhari that which nature, situation, and sex, have designed it.
"This author," they proceed "attempts the solution of a moral problem which is eminently important, \ iz. Whether it be prudent
is in minds of a superior mould, whether it will bring to them a greater balance of happiness, in the whole account, to exempt themselves iro n the common delicacies and hypocrisies of life, and, on all occasions, to give vent to their wildest feelings with c:>iscientiout fixcerjty, or patiently to submit to the incumbent mountains of circumstances, without one volcanic effort to shatter the oppressive loud into ruin."
Setting aside this slang of modern philosophy, the plain •question is—Whether it is most for the advantage of society •that women should so brought up as to make them dutiful daughters, affectionate wives, tender mothers, a_nd good Christians, or, by a corrupt and vicious system of education., fit them for revolutionary agents, for heroines, for Staels, for, Talliens, for Stones, setting aside all the decencies, the soft ness, the gentleness, of the female character, and enjoying indiscriminately everv envied privilege of man 1
The aim of this novel is to claim for the female sex the rights of the latter character. The heroine for such she is literally meant to be, is, even in early years, described—
"—as active, blythsocne, bounding, sporting, romping, light, .gay, alert, and full of glee.; at offending all the pious ladies at ihureh hy her gamesome tricks."
She is next pourtrayed in still stronger terms:—
"My desires were impetuous, and brooked no delay; my affections were warm, and my temper irascible; opposition would always make me vehement, and coercion irritated me to violence....never tut once do I recollect having received a blow, but the boiling rage, Th? cruel termx'ifj the deadly v-engcance it excited in my mind, 1 now remember with shuddering.'"
An excellent beginning this, and fully calculated to produce the fruit intended. The next advance of her mind is effected by the perusal of Plutarch :—
'* I went down in'o the dining-room, my mind pervaded with republican ard;ur, my sentiments elevated by a h-gh.toned philostfhyt and my bosom glowing with the •virtues os patriotism."
Does not this out-Helen even, the wife or mistress of Stone r Isot less alive does me appear to have been to the softer affections—let her speak for herself:—
"In the course of my researches the Heloisc os Rousseau sell into my hands—ah! with what transport, with what fnthusias.n, did I peruse rtus dangerous, enchanting woiU! How (hail I paint the sens.uions that were excited in my miud: The pleasure I'experienced approached the limits of pain—it was tumult—all the ardour <ef my character was excited.-'
E 4 That
That the mind here displayed should run into errors of no inferior enormity, was naturally to be expected, and, of course, we all along find her disdaining all those holy restraints •which the wisdom and virtue of ages have esteemed necessary for the controul of human passions. But, lest we should be supposed prejudiced against her, we will quote her own sentiments on some important points :—
"The wildest speculations are less mischievous than the torpid state of error. He who tamely resigns his understanding to the guidance of another, sinks, at once, from the dignity of a rational being, to a mechanical puppet, moved, at pleasure, on the wires of the artful operator. Imposition is the principle and support of every varied description of tyranny, whether civil or ecclesiastical, moral or mental; its baneful consequence is to degrade both him who is imposed on, and him who imposes—obedience is a word which ought never to hame had exsleuce," &c. &c.
What stuff is here!—but a little more, and we have done with the filthy labour :—
"To the profession my objections are still more serious; the study of the law is the study of chicanery:—the ch'jrch is the school of hypocrisy and usurpation !—you could only enter the Universities by a moral degradation, that must check the freedom and contaminate the purity of the mind, and, entangling it in an inexplicable maze of error and contradiction, poisoning -virtue at its source," &c. &c.
On the subject of female chastity she is consistent with herself, in her defence for offering her honour to a man who avoided her. (t Individuality of affection," (he says, "constitutes chajlity or, in other words, the mistress is, in all respects, as honourable as the wife, provided she hath but one lover. If such a sentiment does not strike at the root of every thing that is virtuous, that is praise-worthy, that is valuable, in the female character, we are at a loss to discover: by what wickedness they are to fall.
The tale of this novel is not at variance with the opinions, we have extracted. That it is in all points reprehensible, ia the highest degree, would be doubted by none, but the Monthly Reviewers, and their liberal fellow-labourers. Their concluding remark upon it is worthy of them :—
"Many remarkable and several excellent reflections [precious guardians of a nation's literature] are interspersed, and the whole displays great intellectual powers. There are also sentiments which are open to attack, [indeed!] and opinions which require serious discussion ;" but we leave e\ cry reader to form his or her own judgement."
Had the tendency of this novel been favourable to virtue, honour, religion, morality, the liberality of these critics vvoukf have been less conspicuous. But we have already bestowed, perh.ps, too much notice on this performance. We mull now speak to this lady's second production, namely, "The Victim ot Prejudice"—of what prejudice ?—the old story: A young lidy, of at least equal ardour in the cause of liberty and ot love as even Emma herself, is restrained by some few limits which the world has thought proper to fix to certain unruly passions. The heroine of the tale, " Mary," [we are lick of Mary,J is educated according to the plan of Rousseau: noche>.k, no controu); freedom ot enquiry, and extravagance of hope, however dangerous, and however fallacious, arc the prevailing features of this performance; the fame indiferiminating and mischievous censure of everything society has hitherto deemed sacred, and necellary to its existence, is here most lavishly displayed.— In the dishonour, as we olJ fashioned moralists lhouldcall it, of "Marj," there is something like an imitation of Clarissa; but how unlike to the original !—In conformity to the general spirit of this authoress, and her party, (for that she is of the party her quotations from Godwin, Holcroft, Mary Wollstor.ecraft, Helvetius, Rousseau, &c. most clearly evince,) religion is utterly, and with zealous care, excluded from her writings. The pious addresses of Clari-ssa' to her Creator, affect the heart of the reader with the most delightful and grateful sensations; while the furious declamation of " Mary" to the God or nature, and the God of reason, excite no sentiment but disgust.
The event of this story is such as might be expected from its title: Mary, after a sturdy opposition to the best opinions and practices of the world, finks in the unequal contest; and, while suffering under the effects of her extravagant desires, thus laments her spite :—
"Almighty nature, [is this like Clarissa ?] mysterious are thy decrees—the vigorous promise os my youth has failed: the victim of a barbarous prejudice, [namely, that file was not allowed to marry the son of a man of high rank,] society has call me out from Its bosom."
Again, in conclusion :—
"Ignorance and despotism, combating frailty with cruelty, may go on to propose partial reform in one invariable melancholy round; reason derides the weak effort; while the fabric of superstition and crime, extending its broad balls, mocks the toil of the visionary projector."
To the very last she is true to her principles.—Oar opinion of these two novels is now clearly known, and we have said more of them than their intrinsic merit could poslibly entitle them to expect. We have noticed them merely to guard the female world against the mischievousness of their tendency, "lest the venom of the shaft should be mistaken for the vigour.of the bow."—As ujrfulntjs seems to be the watchword of this author and her friends, we will tell her how she nay be much more ufelul than she can possibly make herself by devoting her time to literary labours—to your di/itiff, Mary, to your d':jhiff.—On the Jlyli of her writings it is-needless to remark; who stays to admire the workmanship of a dagger wrenched from the hand of an assassin?
To the Editor tf the Anti-Jacob'm Review and Magazine.
TTN your review of Mess. Wilberforce, &rc. &rc. (No. V. Pp. 550— -A 560.) I observe you have slightly noticed the claim, set up by she Illuminizers of the present day, to superior learning and wisdom. To the public, win) arc no less concerned in this claim than the Illuminizers themselves, I take.the liberty of offering a few observations on this subject, through the medium of your impartial Review. These Illuminizers first set up a claim to superior learning ;md wisdom in behalf of the present age; they, then, with a becoming modesty, peculiar to illumiuism, give us to understand, either directly or indirectly, that this superiority is almost exclusively their own, or oidenlly in their favour. This is more particularly the cafe in subjects of religious controversy, and sacred criticism; and with Grietbach's edition of the New Testament, which. I suppose, is to be the Itluiricl*s fpiar of illuminilin, they jire to illustrate every thing, and leave not a tingle corner dark or obscure. . On the subject of ihe superior learning and wisdom of the present age, I fliall be brief; as you have already anticipates .me. (Sec No. I. Pp. 112, 113.) I can readily agree with any illuininizing philosopher whatever, that the present age is conspicuously eminent for sound wisdom, deep learning, and extensive science, and that it surpasses, perhaps, every other that preceded it; nor, itvdeed, is this a nintter of surprize, since we have had the exr perience of all former ages as a foundation whereon to erect our superstructure, to enlarge, and to extend, our improvements. This circumstance, however, instead of canting us to triumph in our superiority, to boast of it, and to arrogate the whole merit of it to -ourselves, ought rather to humble us in our own eyes, and make us thankful for the achantages we liwc derived from past experience; this circumstance, instead of leading us to make a comparison of oursehes with " them of old time," (a comparison particularly odious and invidious, since we owe them a chbt of obligation wjjjch we can never repay,) instead of leading us to draw that comparison