Page images
PDF
EPUB

moderate, and the miserable—the Esterhazys, the Batthyanyis, and id genus omne are the capital of the column--the shaft is built of the less wealthy and influential; and the base (and a very substantial one it is) is a curious congeries of small landholders, herdsmen, vinegrowers, wagoners, and pig-drivers. Nay, you may be unlucky enough to get a nemes as a servant, and this is the most unhappy dilemma of all, for you cannot solace yourself by beating him when he offends you, as he is protected by his privileges ! and he appeals to the Court of the Comitat for redress. The country is indebted to Maria Theresa for this pleasant confusion ; who, when she repaid the valor of the Hungarian soldiers with a portion of their own land, and a name to lend it grace, forgot that many of these individuals were probably better swordsmen than proprietors; and instead of limiting their patent of nobility to a given term of years, laid the foundation of a state of things as inconvenient as it is absurd.'

• I was immediately reminded by his closing remark of a most ridiculous scene, which although in itself a mere tritle, went far to prove the truth of his position.

• My readers are probably aware that none pay tolls in Hungary save the peasants ; and it chanced that on one occasion, when we were passing from Pesth to Buda over the bridge of boats, the carriage was detained by some accidental stoppage just beside the tollkeeper's lodge, when our attention was arrested by a vehement altercation between the worthy functionary its occupant, and a little ragged urchin of eleven or twelve years of age, who had, as it appeared, attempted to pass without the preliminary ceremony of payment.

* The tollkeeper handled the supposed delinquent with some roughness, as he demanded his fee; but the boy stood his ground stoutly, and asserted his free right of passage as a nobleman! The belligerent party pointed to the heelless shoes and ragged jerkin of the culprit, and smiled in scorn. The lad for all reply bade him remove his hand from his collar, and let him pass at his peril; and the tone was so assured in which he did so, that the tollkeeper became grave, and looked somewhat doubtful; when just at the moment up walked a sturdy peasant, who, while he paid his kreutzer, saluted the young Graf, and settled the point.

It was really broad farce. The respectably clad and comfortablelooking functionary loosed his hold in a moment, and the offending hand as it released the collar of the captive, lifted his hat, while he poured out his excuses for an over-zeal, arising from his ignorance of the personal identity of this young scion of an illustrious house, who was magnanimously pleased to accept the apology, and to raise his own dilapidated cap in testimony of his greatness of soul, as he walked away in triumph. Cruikshank would have had food for a chef-d'oeuvre !

-Ib. pp. 150–153. A particular account is given of several monastic institutions which our author visited, but the character of such establishments is too uniform to allow of any novelties in her descrip

а

6

tions. A ludicrous instance of ignorant credulity is given, which we extract for the amusement of our readers.

· The house-steward chanced to be ill, and the librarian absent; and the priest of the village offered himself to the stranger as cicerone, a courtesy of which he was naturally happy to take advantage.

• The good Padre acquitted himself marvellously well among the velvet hangings; became rather less at ease in the portrait gallery ; and was evidently ‘at fault' in the museum ; but, like Sancho Panza, he seemed resolved to put a good face upon it;' and accordingly when he saw the traveller pause before two skulls, he lifted one of them in his hand, and exclaimed: "Ah! this is indeed treasure.

His highness possesses no greater in his collection. This, sir, is the skull of the famous Rakoczy. The traveller looked at the relic with becoming reverence; and then turning to the smaller one which stood beside it, he asked with some anxiety : “And this? Is this also the poor remain of a hero ?' That, sir ;' said the priest with a little hesitation, succeeded by a sudden and immense increase of importance; • That, sir, is perhaps even a greater curiosity than the other—that is the skull of Rakoczy when he was a boy!”

-Vol. iii. pp. 158, 159. Amongst the benevolent institutions of Buda we have been particularly pleased with the Children's Hospital, of which Miss Pardoe gives an interesting account. • In this institution the ' mothers are permitted to watch over the sick-beds of their children, and food is provided for them during their stay in the establishment, in the most liberal manner.

Much of the painful feeling caused by the spectacle of suffering, was re'moved in this hospital by the presence of the mothers, many of them accompanied by another child, watching over their sick, amusing the tedium of their confinement, or administering the food or medicines prescribed by the physicians. It gave an'at home-ness, and a comfort to the whole aspect of the place which one never looks for in a public hospital.'

We have adverted at the commencement of this article to the faults of Miss Pardoe's former publications; the same qualities are discernible, though not in an equal degree, in the present volumes. We shall be glad to find, on again meeting with our author, that the good work of improvement has been carried on. In the mean time we commend The City of the Magyar to the favor of our readers as a book of substantial value, throwing considerable light on the condition, habits, and institutions of a people but little known to the English public.

6

6

6

6

85

Art. VI. The Arcana of Nature Revealed : or Proofs of the Being and

Attributes of God elicited in a brief Survey of the Works of Creation.

By Thomas KERNS, M.D., &c. 2 vols. 12mo. Dublin. ATHEISM, if such a thing really exists, pretends to establish

upon pure reason; and yet it is an incontrovertible fact, that no system of atheism has ever yet been propounded that did not stultify itself. It is perfectly true that all such systems have laboriously essayed to set aside the word Deity; and their authors have possibly imagined that by the substitution of other terms, they had sufficiently disproved the existence of any such being; but it demands no extraordinary measure of critical or logical acumen to perceive that the idea is still present, and is absolutely inseparable from their hypotheses, however artfully constructed.

The proper definition of atheism is a denial of a Creator, and, upon this negation, various individuals in ancient and in modern times, of various repute for learning, genius, and philosophy, and of no repute for anything but that of denying what every one else firmly believed, have founded crude and inconsistent hypotheses, in all instances utterly destitute of proof, and consisting wholly of assumptions and assertions, which have aspired indeed to the honorable denomination of systems, but which have possessed as little pretension to ovornua, or orderly connexion, as the phantasms of a dream or the ravings of a maniac.

Lucretius undertook to expound, perhaps to embellish and recommend, the epicurean atheism; but either his poetic inspiration overbalanced his philosophy, or his philosophy disdained to be wooed by his muse, and in consequence abandoned him in the hour of his greatest need : for, as Gibbon observes, ‘he

proves a Deity in spite of himself. The same is true of all the ancient atheists, though not so manifestly in every case, and for this reason, that some of them have merely suggested their system, thrown it out as a speculation, without any attempt at argument or proof. But all those who have systematized and argued upon the subject, explained and drawn out their conceptions into anything like theoretic reasoning, have fallen into the inconsistency we have indicated, of admitting and asserting the very thing they were attempting to explode. It had in one respect been well if all writers of this school had attempted proof, they would then most effectually have answered themselves. But unhappily most of them refrain from argument, and are remarkable rather for bold assertions and phrases which convey no idea, or a false one. A critical examination of the Greek philosophers might fairly explode the notion of pure atheism from every one of their systems, multiform as they were. In fact, we know not where to put our hand upon any system of what is called hypothetical atheism, which a fair and strict analysis might not promptly reduce to a modification of theism. This is an important fact, as it regards ancient systems, because it shows so far the impracticability of conceiving any system of nature, even hypothetically, to say nothing of positive proof, that shall exclude the idea of a designing first cause.

It may perhaps strike some of our readers that the celebrated system of ancient atheism just alluded to, which taught the notion of the fortuitous concurrence of atoms,' as the cause of creation, is apparently an exception to the statement we have made; we shall therefore expend a few words upon it, though with some we may run the risk of being charged with attempting what is superfluous. The original inventor of the epicurean atheism was most probably Democritus, or perhaps Leucippus, but whether we view it in its first conception, in its practical results, or in its poetic exposition, its principles remain unchanged. The hypothesis consists in the supposition merely of matter and motion. These are properly and logically the only causes it admits, unless we choose to say that chance, which merely signifies no cause is another. Its authors no doubt imposed upon themselves by a word which meant nothing, but that is no reason why we should suffer them to deceive us. There is no positive idea of anything in the word chance. It is, therefore, no cause at all. The only real ideas in this system are matter and motion. But there is no motion without matter, and if, therefore, by motion they intended anything in addition to matter, and essentially distinct from it, they must have conceived of it as power, or motion in its cause-power must have preceded the motion given to matter, according to their own hypothesis, which takes the two principles, matter and motion, as distinct. We are perfectly sure that none of these philosophers, any more than ourselves, could entertain any idea of motion abstracted from all matter. Hence for the production of motion, as an affection of matter, without which they could not gain their notion of the deflection of atoms, they unconsciously, or at least without confession, admitted the idea of power, and consequently of spirit. But the system admitted the two words motion and chance, under both of which, as may be readily shown, ideas were introduced fatal to atheism. For if the atoms were deflected or moved, so as to fall into any arrangement that evinced design, proved any previous tendency, or manifested order, dependence, and harmony, then that very chance stands for a supreme designing cause. It, therefore, evidently meant in their minds the power that made the atoms so deflect themselves as to produce the entire system of nature, than which we can conceive of no higher, no clearer demonstration of design and intelligence. The system, therefore, admitted what it denied, or defeated the very purpose of its invention, by essentially involving a creating power though perversely presuming to deny it.

This doctrine, however, has not yet been abandoned. The most celebrated, we should have said the most philosophical of modern atheists, had he not degraded himself by his puerile attempt to graft the theory of Lucretius upon the doctrine of probabilities, has attempted to revive the unmeaning jargon of the ancient school by wedding it to mathematics. The sum of the modern improvement and of the ancient system united, might be expressed in such a problem as the following, which the reader might require our printer, or any other wherever he meets with one, to solve for him-how soon might one expect that all the types in your fount or in your office, being fortuitously shaken together and deflected as on wings up and down your composing-room, like bluebottle-flies in a sugar-cask, would arrange themselves perfectly ready for the printing of the . Mechanique Celeste,’ Sir Isaac Newton's ‘Principia,' or any other profound work of science-only not more profound than nature itself! Whenever it can be proved that such a chance as this comes within the law of probabilities, and certainly as soon as proof of the fact shall be submitted, but not till then, there will be some hope that La Place may escape the contempt and scorn which have befallen his atheistical predecessors of ancient Greece.

It would seem that all our philosophers, whether of ancient or modern fame, who have attempted to explain the origin of nature without the honest and straightforward admission of an intelligent first cause, have fallen into a confusion of idea and looseness of logic utterly discreditable to their understandings. As if fated to become the victims of their own delusion, they have been allowed to propound the most shallow sophisms, and to publish their own shame while denying the being of a God. It is quite hopeless to seek among them all a theory that will hold together. The silliest and most childish fables have been dressed up in a scientific phraseology, which has but ill disguised the contradictions they contained. Yet on account of these very theories they have been regarded as subtle and profound philosophers, too abstract and rational to be imposed upon by the dogmas of superstition ; while, on this question at least, they ought to have been exposed and ridiculed as the most confused of writers, the most puerile and absurd of reasoners.

The system of Plato and Aristotle can indeed scarcely be an object of admiration to our philosophic atheists, though attempts

« PreviousContinue »