Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

alternately. “I shall never," says he, speaking to his benefactress Marguerite, “ while the blood flows through these veins, forget thy kindness to me-you did receive me thine enemy into

your hut, and thou hast been the means of preserving my life. Notwithstanding what Telumah says in this passage, about the blood flowing through his veins, we have our doubts whether the western savages are acquainted with the doctrine of the circulation of the blood.

The other tales in the volume, all which are quite short, are pretty and well chosen ; that, however, translated from Florian, is not one of his best. The last of them, entitled Kauthleen Kavanagh, is, to our apprehension, a genuine Irish story. There is so much warmth of feeling in it—such highly coloured description, and such a whirl, huddle, and confusion of narrative, that it may well be called a National Tale.

Those compositions which pass under the name of tales, as distinguished from novels, require talents of a peculiar kind to insure success. They are not, it is true, so great an etiort on the whole, nor do they perhaps require powers of so great an order as the novel ;-they do not admit of the same complete developement of character—the same fulness and variety of description, nor in general of that large mixture of dialogue, which gives to modern novels such a dramatic air. They require, however, greater vivacity of narration, and more point and polish of style ; a little occasional tediousness is not so readily forgiven, and some negligence and heaviness of manner, is not so easily overlooked. To construct the plot of a tale, is perhaps a matter of as much invention and difficulty, as to construct that of a novel,—the chief difference lies in the execution. One is the miniature, the other the full-length picture; it is the former, therefore, which requires the highest and most delicate tinish. Accordingly, we shall find that the successful instances of this sort of writing in all languages, have been at the same time examples of the most perfect and graceful composition. The stories of Boccacio are the model of Italian prose; the gay and sprightly tales of the French, of which the Nouvelles of Florian, are a good sample, are among the most engaging and skilful productions of their literature ; and the best specimens of this sort of writing to be found in the English language, among which are those of Mackenzie and Irving, are as much distinguished by the beauty of their composition, as for their other delightful qualities. In short, these things must be exceedingly well done, or they perish with the other trifles of the day; and we recommend to such of our countrymen as are disposed to adventure in this apparently

easy, but really difficult walk of our literature, in the first place not to be sparing of the necessary intellectual effort, and in the second place, instead of copying the novel writers, to take for their model the successful examples of that kind of composition, in which they propose to try their powers.

LECTURE INTRODUCTORY TO A COURSE OF LECTURES ON APPLI

ED MECHANICS, DELIVERED AT THE NEW-YORK ATHENEUM, IN THE WINTER OF THE YEARS 1824-25, BY JAMES RENWICK, PROFESSOR OF CHEMISTRY AND EXPERIMENTAL PHILOSOPHY IN COLUMBIA COLLEGE, NEW-YORK.

It is with a feeling of extreme diffidence that I address this respectable audience; various circumstances combine to render this feeling more intense. I am aware that I must, as one of the committee, by whom the original plan of this institution was presented to the public, appear in the light of a volunteer, and as such, may be thought liable to more severe criticism than most of my colleagues, who, with whatever ardour they have embarked in the common cause, have the plea of the choice of their associates to urge as an excuse for their appearance before the public.

When the Atheneum was first projected, I felt, I must confess, no hesitation, in undertaking to perform my part in the scheme of lectures, that were to be made the means of bringing it forward to the notice of the community. 1, at that time, anticipated, that a plain didactic course, illustrated by a few models and drawings, and delivered in extemporaneous sentences upon a premeditated plan, would have satisfied the taste of my auditors; and would have been found sufficiently interesting to certain descriptions of hearers, to insure a respectable class, as large, perhaps, as that which usually attends my lectures in Columbia College, as regular students. The brilliant success that has attended the Institution was not then anticipated, nor the crowd of beauty and fashion that has hitherto flocked to our halls ; and which, on the present occasion, if it be most flattering, is likewise most appalling. I had no expectation of being called to read before a numerous audience, and

my

views were limited to the hope of being enabled to give to a few persons a taste for a study, of little popular interest indeed, but of great intrinsic value, whose dry details they might have listened to, for the sake of the importance of its applications to purposes of general utility.

A still more active cause of apprehension exists in the man

ner in which my predecessors have performed the tasks assigned them. Whatever expectations may have been formed from the established reputation of those gentlemen, all who hear me will consider it but cold praise, to say that those expectations have been fully realized; it may rather be affirmed with confidence, that they have far surpassed the most sanguine hopes that their associates had formed, of the success of their exertions to advance the common cause. In this way they have erected a standard of literary taste, which one whose department is not literary, must despair of attaining ; to be placed in contrast with such talents, so successfully exerted, would be in no event desirable ; and while I glory in their well-earned fame, I cannot but feel myself unlucky in being brought into direct comparison with them.

In the department that has fallen to my lot, no opportunity is permitted for the display of taste or rhetorical skill; none for the exhibition of the graces of style, of polished diction, or well rounded periods. The ambition of the lecturer is limited to the consideration of what is useful; no original views or novel matter can well be introduced, and the discoveries, the reasonings, and even the language of others, must constitute the principal portion of the subsequent lectures. The employment to which a considerable, and perhaps the most valuable portion of my life, was devoted, rendered my appearance as a public speaker, a very remote contingency; and if I have so appeared on a single previous occasion, it was to a company I had reason to know to be indulgent, and that naturally excited a less fearful interest, than the one I now address, where the peculiar delicacy of female taste is to be consulted, as well as the less nice perceptions of manly criticism.

My subject must, to a mixed audience, possess less of interest, from its technical character, than most of those which have engaged, or will hereafter engage your attention.

While some explore the fair fields of literature, plucking for your gratification and instruction, the flowers that so abundantly bedeck them, I must

grope

amid the dust and smoke of the steam engine, labour in the shop of the artisan, or dive into the recesses of the mine. While others,

“ Unsphere the spirit of Plato, to unfold
What worlds, or what vast regions hold

The immortal mind,” and investigate the motives, and principles of action of a being, unconfined, uncontrolled, and destined to immortality; the nature of my subject fixes me to the earth, and limits my views to the gross matter that clogs our immaterial part, and hides

from it that future state to which its aspirations are directed. Yet as we must be content to perform our allotted tasks in the present world, that species of knowledge which adds to our comforts and conveniences, which extends our power over matter, the elements, and the brute creation, which comes home to the every-day experience, and applies to the wants of every individual, may not be entirely uninteresting, even to this polished and literary assembly.

I cannot help believing that the mechanic arts must, upon reflection, awaken the curiosity of all who are dependent upon them for the necessaries or luxuries of life, and this will comprise the whole of the civilized world; the advancement of these arts must in like manner, be felt as an object of importance; and without the application of science to this purpose, their progress will be extremely slow. If this inference bé correct, although I may fail of interesting your feelings, I trust I may persuade your reason of the value of the subject that has fallen to

my

lot. It is then, as I hope to show you, a subject of great practical value; it is also one of almost boundless extent; it cannot, therefore, be expected that in a popular course, comprised within the limit of so few lectures, any great amount of instruction is to be conveyed; all that can be pretended, is to excite curiosity, and to illustrate a few particular topics by the exhibition of models and drawings, and by a general explanation. But even from so contracted a course, some estimate may be formed of the importance of our subject; yet as this is the result to be attained from a patient and laborious attention, I may perhaps employ a portion of the present hour to advantage, in illustrating this point, by a few obvious examples.

The loom, and the plough, the wind-mill, the water-wheel, and the steam engine, are all instances of the application of the principles of mechanical philosophy to practical purposes. The proper construction of a road, and of the carriages that move upon it, are entirely dependent upon the most strict scientific principles. Canals require the application of a still higher order of scientific knowledge; so does the ship, and still more the steam-boat. The improvements made in the four last departments, have increased the facilities of travelling; and these facilities are hourly becoming greater, insomuch that it is anticipated, that the most distant journeys, whether by land or water, may ere long be performed without fatigue, and almost without risk. It is not many years since, even in Great Britain, where the accommodation of every kind,

afforded to travellers, unquestionably exceeded those found in any other country; men of the most robust constitutions, prepared themselves for a journey of an hundred miles by making their wills, and settling their worldly affairs; and in all countries, even under the most favourable circumstances, females of delicate habits were almost entirely deprived of the privilege of locomotion, debarred from the view of the evervarying scenery of the earth, or from enjoying the society of any but their own immediate neighbours. Now, by the improvements of science, and its applications to the arts, no part of the civilized globe can be considered inaccessible to the most delicate constitution, or the most fastidious habits. But it is not in the increased facilities of personal communication, that we are to seek the chief value of these improvements in the mechanic arts. Commerce is also thus extended, and this bond of union among the members of the great family of mankind strengthened and expanded. In former days, the arts of distant countries were never interchanged, and their pro. ductions only with extreme difficulty; now, there is no discovery in any civilized country, that may not, within a few months, be introduced into general use in all others; nor any necessary of life or luxury, peculiar to the productions of any one climate, that may not be obtained and enjoyed, in almost every other.

But it is when considered in its connexion with other departments of learning, that mechanical science manifests its greatest importance. You have heard an able and eloquent argument on the superiority of Intellectual Philosophy, over all other departments of knowledge; and in the abstract, no positive objection can be urged against such an opinion; but when we find that science, drawing all its most important illustrations from our department of study, and so entirely dependent upon it, as to be capable of making no progress unassisted, we may perhaps see that what may be true in the abstract, is not to be received as such, when all the circumstances are taken into account. However beautiful, rich or splendid, may be the superstructure of the edifice, the architect will devote an equal share of his attention and skill to the security of the foundation; and as the foundation, not only of all physical, but all intellectual knowledge, mechanics are entitled to your consideration. The advancement of the science of the mind always follows, at a humble distance, the march of mechanical improvement; and until the latter is successfully cultivated, the former remains without either eyes or hands, and is incapable of any useful application. Of what value, may it be asked, would be political economy, were the arts that conduce to national wealth, VOL. II.

6

« ZurückWeiter »