« PreviousContinue »
quack has ever been remarkable, is his generous and irrepressible anxiety to relieve the afflicted wherever they are found. If he meets with a sick man, imposed upon by the pretensions of the regular physician, or sinking fast into the grave, beneath the weight of legitimate prescription, he is ever ready to warn the patient of his folly, in rather dying by the hand of the doctor, than living by the aid of the quack. Filled with honest indignation that the sufferer's health should be sacrificed to support the dogmas of the schools, he boldly interposes, protests against the practice of his rival, and gener ously assumes the entire management of the cure If his kind propositions are rejected, the good man is not so to be repulsed. To rescue the infatuated victim from the dangers of impending death, he is ready to surrender, what all have acknowledged to be far the most valuable treasure that man can possess--his reputation for integrity and truth. The end justifies and consecrates the me ns. salus populi suprema lex,' and the neverwearied quacker-everes till he finally accomplishes, at least, the wiser part of his purpose. For though the patient recovers his judgment too late to be restored to his health, the schoolman, the dogmat:st, the follower of forms, the author of the irreparable mischief is at last discharged in disgrace.
'Tis true, trifling accidents sometimes occur. The lancet, with fatal perversity, insists upon opening an artery, instead of a vein, or a dislocated joint unkindly refuses to retire to its place, though politely requested by the gentlest and most emollient of poultices. Carcinoma, sphacelus and phagedæna will relentlessly hold on their fatal course, in spite of the repeated entreaties and mild expostulations of goose grass, tansy and dock. "Inward bruises' will sometimes rebel against parmaceti,' which once was the sovereignest thing on earth. Even the most vigorous exhortations of the wonder-working Hohenlohe will fail, unless the postage of the letter from the sufferer be paid; and I have been credibly informed that a patient of the great Dr. Graham was buried to the eyes in pipe clay for a month, and yet, after all, ungratefully died of consumption. But how can this be helped ? Death will come at last, when the time is appointed. Even he will die.cui salvia crescit in horto,' and the quack must not be blamed because man is not immortal.
If the mountebank had nothing better to urge in his defence than the authority of antiquity, for the principles of his practice, this single consideration ought to screen him from contempt. He belongs to a family far more ancient and more probly descended than that of his arrogant antagonist. Zoroas
ter the inventor of magic, was cotemporaneous, if not identi. cal with Ham, and, we have good reason to believe, was not a university graduate. Thoth, the first Hermes, Isis, Osiris and Anubis, Chiron, Orpheus, and even Esculapius, cured diseases by Abracadabras and the thirty-six herbs of the Horoscope; and who will pretend that the practice of those illustrious charlatans was sanctioned by the luculentum testimonium, or the * amplissima potestas ?' The Cabbiri and the Magi, the Druids and the Gymnosophists were renowned through all antiquity; and, doubtless, we might trace the origin of the fraternity to the very gates of Eden, if we knew where to look for the records of antediluvian empiricism.
And now, let me ask, shall the doctrines and opinions, the conduct and the character of men like these, whose intellectual empire is as old almost as time itself, be put down by the flippant pretensions of an upstart school, or displaced by the overweening conceits, and the new-fangled notions of philosophers of yesterday?
But the quack has no reason to despair. The restoration of his legitimate sovereignty, we hope, is at hand; for already has the arrogant licentiate paid ample, though reluctant home age to the genius of the mountebank. Amulets and Abracadabras, cobwebs and camphor bags, robs and rusty nails, scullcap, cubebs and sarsaparilla, tar water, tractors and acupuncturation, have all been successively admitted into regular practice, and remain to this day as glorious testimonials of the triumph of empiricism. Even the assembled councils of nations have shown their legislative wisdom, by pur, chasing, at any price whatever, the secret of a sudorific, and the composition of a cataplasm. Yet such has been the desperate malice of their defeated adversaries, that the noble confidence of conscious skill has been denominated impudence and effrontery, and that admirable promptness in the application of their remedies has been called, by their persecutors, uncalculating and unprincipled temerity. Even this is not all. In the exuberant malevolence of hatred, they bave been charged, by their jealous rivals, with gross and dishonourable ignorance. Shade of ab Hohenheimn! Ignorance ! Are those men ignorant who know the language of the stars, and the secrets of the dead; who can arrest a hemorrhage by a nod, and disperse a tumour at the word of command; who can extract a calculus by means of an algebraic equation, and set a broken leg, like Cato the elder, by huat hanat ista pista sista!! Is it ignorance, ye spiteful calumniators, to cure stone by sterputatories, gout by gargles, cancers by corn plasters, and any Pol. I. No. VI.
thing by panaceas; to purify the air with the fumes of poison, and to repel pestilence with pyroligneous acid ? But, we doubt not, if the truth were candidly acknowledged, the most atrocious offence, in the eyes of his persecutors, that the quack has committed, is the heinous and unpardonable sin of curing the sick, with unenumerated simples, and of riding in a carriage without permission from a college. The graduate is indignant that disease keeps her ground, unappalled at the approach of the diploma, and yet retires in dismay before the wand of the mountebank. But the charlatan has very little to apprehend from the wrath of the regular, for “Superstition is as potent as ever,' and nothing will prevail upon the goddess to desert her votaries, or to release her victims.
The importance of an undertaking of such magnitude as that proposed in Mr. Irving's Prospectus of the Collection of English Literature, must, of course, have been maturely considered by him before he determined to assume its editorship. We cannot, however, conceal our regret, that Mr. Irving has not unfolded to the community the principles on which he has grounded his proposed selection ; inasmuch, as a knowledge of English authors and their productions, is indispensably necessary to the formation of a correct idea of the relative value of selections, made from the entire range of English Literature.
In pursuance of our promise, in the last number, we shall endeavour, by a brief, and perhaps imperfect, list of such English writers as are worthy of notice, to enable our readers to form some general idea of the merit of the collection laid before them in the catalogue published in our last.
We shall commence with the earliest writers in the English language, and shall, for the present, confine ourselves to the prose writers, who flourished from the time of Edward the Tbird to the splendid age of Queen Elizabeth. It is scarcely necessary to remark, that, in consequence of the scanty materials with which we are provided for so early a period of English literature, nothing more will be presented, nor, indeed, can be reasonably expected, than a mere catalogue raisonné of these primitive authors.
The first prose writer on record, in the English language, was Sir John Mandeville, the famous traveller, who flourished in the time of the gallant Edward the Third, whose reign was alike remarkable for his victory over the armies of France in their own country, and their language in the courts and higher circle of England. His Itinerary,' which he himself wrote in English, French, and Latin, and which was also translated into Italian, Belgic, and German, abounds in miraculous accounts of the wonders he had seen in his extensive travels. The singular mixture of truth and fiction, of all that he had seen, and of all that he had read or heard, that was strange and wonderful, renders his book at least a curious and amusing, if not an instructive, production; and it is no small proof of the merit of his writing, that his work is, at this day, in demand among those who search for what is singular and antiquated, while the numerous · Journeys' and · Pilgrimages’ of the many who travelled at the same period have not attracted the slighest notice.
Another of the earliest English writings is John de Trevisa's translation of the Polychronicon.' This is a very curious history of England, and, although remarkable for much inaccuracy and more superstition, contains, at least, an authentic, and, by no means, uninteresting, history of the manners and customs of the English, the Britons, the Saxons, and the Irish. It was afterwards continued by Caxton, the first English printer, from 1357, the period to which it is brought by Trevisa, to 1460, the first year of the reign of king Edward the Fourth. 'If to this we add the Concordance of Stories of Robert Tabiar, which brings down the history of England to the commencement of the reign of Henry the Eighth, together with the historical writings of Froissart, Leland, Harding, and Hall, we have an entire history of England, up to the days of Elizabeth, written in separate parts, at the time the separate 'occurrences described took place, which would be alike valua. ble to the antiquary, the historian, and the general scholar.
Wickliffe, the founder of the Lollards and the most accomplished scholar, acute logician, and powerful disputant of his day, likewise flourished under the third Edward. • He has, says Hume, the honor of being the first person in Europe that publicly called in question those principles, which had universally passed for certain and undisputed, during so many ages.' His writings against Catholicism has a circulation so extensive, that all the attempts of his most powerful opponents were insufficient to destroy even a single one of them; and more than a moiety of the English people were converted by the arguments of this learned and venerable reformer. In Reynold Pecock, the generous and noble minded opponent of the Lollards and of Wickliffe, their great master, may justly be considered one of the most moderate of polemical theologists that ever existed. To his high eloquence and profound zeal for the Catholic cause, he united a temperance and can. dour equally indicative of his unaffected learning and unbigoted piety. His most noted work, entitled . Conclusions, exhibits a strain of thought so similar to that which pervades the Ecclesiastical Polity of Hooker, that it is perhaps no more than just praise to assert that Pecock furnished Hooker with the foundan; tion of that most admirable production.
Of Chaucer, it would be presumptuous to say much after the admirable account of his writings, furnished by Godwin, and the exemplification of his style and peculiarities in the valuar ble edition of bis Canterbury Tales, by Mr. Tyrwhitt. His works are known to all who have the least pretention to an acquaintance with English literature, and perhaps his character, as a writer, cannot be better described, than in the language of old Caxton, who styles him the worshipful father and first founder and embellisher of ornate eloquence.'
While theology was gradually improving, other sciences, such as would naturally attract the attention of a people slow ly emerging from primitive ignorance, were not overlooked. The law was making rapid strides, and Sir John Fortescue himself, during the reign of Henry the Sixth and Edward the Fourth, threw more light upon this intricate science, in his treatise de Laudibus Anglia, than all the other writers and legislators had given it together, from the time of the English Justinian, Edward the First. Chivalry, too, at this time, was in high repute, and Caxton's numerous translations from the French authors rendered it extremely popular. Henry the Seventh was himself so enthusiastic an admirer of chivalry, that he commanded Caxton, who was no less an enthusiast than his sovereign, to translate the Book of the Feats of Arms, and of Chivalry,' which had been originally collated by Christina of Pisa, from the writings of Frontinus, Vegetius, the Arbre of Battles,&c. The universalcuriosity for the romantic and the marvellous, which characterized the age preceding the reign of Elizabeth, undoubtedly tended more than any thing else to pave the way for the revival of learning under that illustrious princess. The French romances, when clothed in an English dress, by the unwearied exertions of Caxton, were read by all who were sufficiently accomplished to read their own language, and excited a general emulation in the inhabitants of the whole realm to possess this somewhat rare qualification. The high-toned sentiments and generous feelings, the romantic bravery and contempt of danger, and the gallant submission to every peril and privation for the safety