Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

Guignes, in his essay prefixt to the extracts from the French king's manuscripts, but who is mistaken in supposing that these fine characters were executed in the Levant, for they are the work of Stephen Paulini of Rome, as M. Langles shews.

The celebrated Firmin Didot, known by his excellence in the engraving of types, made the first Mantchou puncheons which had ever been executed. Without injuring the forms prescribed by Mr. L. this ingenious artist gave them a grace and delicacy, unknown to the best editions printed in the palace of the Chinese emperor. They were first employed by Mr. L. in his Alphabet Tartaric-Mantchou 1787, 4to

These different toils did not prevent M. Langlés from pro· ceeding with his present great work, of which the two first vo· lumes appeared in the year 1789. Half of another volume, as

completing the dictionary, was published in 1790. The grammars being reserved for the fourth volume, the remainder of the third consists of the following pieces.

1. A general table of all the Mantchou words in the dictionary, with a reference to the pages where they are found, and · a short Latin explanation, forming a Mantchou and Latin vocabulary for the use of such literati as may not understand French. This table also comprises an Appendix of new words, and fignifications, omitted by M. Amyot.

2. A fmali geographical dictionary of Tartary, the countries of the Monguls, and Calmuks, Tibet, Corea, &c. in which the names of places are given in Mantchou characters.

3. A table of all the Chinese words which have been adopted into the Tartaric.

The fourth volume contains four Mantchou grammars, along with dialogues by different authors.

The grammar of M. Amyot deservedly obtains the first place: and is preceded by the enormous syllabary whence M. Langles derived his Mantchou alphabet. The Elementa Lingue Tartarice of Gerbillon follow; and in this, as in the preceding work of Amyot, the original characters omitted in the printed copies, now very rare, are given. This last work will be useful to those literati for whom is destined the Mantchou-Latin dictionary.

Next occurs the Efray of Domenge, with excellent dialogues and grammatical notes, by the same learned man. These dialogues are printed in double columns, of which the one contains the Mantchou text, composed as it is pronounced ; the other the same pronunciation and a French translation. As to the grammatical notes, which are pretty considerable, they are placed at the bottom of each page, and are easily diftinguishable from thote which M. Langles has added to the dif. ferent grammars, in order to establish a kind of concordance between them and the dictionary..

ferent

The fourth grammar has been lately fent to Mr. L. from China, by M. Raux, a millionary, and is intituled a Method to learn the Characters and Language of the Mantchou Tartars, extracted from the Chinese grammar of that language.

It is not improper to observe that M. Amyot, though he highly approves the labours of M. Langles, yet seems to wish that he had retained the Mantchou manner of writing perpendicularly, from the top to the bottom, instead of horizontally, as his new characters run. But for learners the plan of Mr. L. appears the best in many respects; and it will be afterwards easy for the student to perufe the original manuscripts in their native manner.

M. Langles has published many other pieces of oriental literature ; among which his Tales and Fables from the Persian and Arabic, with a discourse on eastern learning, and the analysis of the Poems of Ferdousi, 1788, 12mo; and his Indian Fables and Tales, with a preliminary discourse, and notes on the religion, literature, and manners of the Hindoos, 1790, 8vo. deserve particular mention.

FOREIGN LITERARY INTELLIGENCE. ON resuming our account of the labours of philosophers on

the continent, it was with regret we observed that the improvements were few, and the subjects by no means numerous. In this situation, scarcely attracted by the superior importance of any one additional attempt, the last preliminary discourse of M. de la Metherie engaged our attention. This author, the editor of the Journal de Physique, introduces cach year's labours by an abstract of the improvements made in the former year; and, in his last discourse, unable to fill up, perhaps, the destined space, by new discoveries, he has indulged fome speculations more purely his own, which we think it right to notice and to condemn. Philosophy has been consia dered as the fchool of atheism; but it is that philosophy only, which, proceeding but a little way, traces the conneētion of a fe:v links of the general chain. The whole, considered in its fullest extent, displays a degree of wisdom and contrivance, which cannot be the effect of chance, and which human intellect could scarcely conceive, much less have dictated. It leads to one great cause of all, which must be infinitely wise and powerful, and which we must look up to, in much astonishment and filent admiration. In short, whatever may be material in this world, and even in ourselves, there must be a cause,

H 2

which

which is purely intellectual, all-wise, unchangeable, omnipos tent, and supreme.

It has been the business of philosophers in every age to form fystems of the creation, either in subservience to the Mosaic account, or, disdaining aslıstance, in oppofition to the narrative of the Jewish legislator. It is enough for us to observe, that no principle of religion induces us to believe implicitly his narrative in its minutest circumstances : we must believe. that this world is the work of an almighty hand, and not olders as an habitable globe, than the Mosaic æra : that it existed in a ruder, or in a chaotic state, for many ages previous to that time, is not denied by Moses, or contradicted by phænomena.

There was a time probably, when the water, earth, and air, were intimately blended, because we perceive effects of the former union, and marks of their separation : but it is our business to follow M. Metherie more closely, and our own opinions will be sufficiehtly clear from our observations on his accounts:

It is our author's first position, that all the different parts of the earth are crystallised; and this implies, he adds, that the different bodies have been dissolved in water. He consequently calculates the great height of the water necefsary to cover the summits of the Alps and Andes, while he adds to his dif- . ficulties, by not knowing how to dispose of this vast quantity of Auid. It is, however, not true that all the strata are crystallised: there is no evidence that the crystals which occur were ever in a state of solution; that the mountains, in their present state, were ever covered. The vast horizontal calcareous strata, for instances are mere depositions: the granites are raised on their edges, and, though not in strata, end generally in one side abruptly; and the crystals of granite are rather confused depositions, than formed from a regular crystallization. It was remarked, with great propriety, by M. Morveau, that we know not the effects of combined menstrua. Though much water is required to diflolve quartz and felt spar, yet water, loaded with other ingredients, might, and probably would dissolve them easily. We know too, that the fluor acid air, combining with water, deposits or forms flint. When the carth, air, and water were combined, the solution probably was easy, and the air separating to form new compounds, or to be a constituent part of the atmosphere, would leave the different ingredients of granite in the confused state in which we see them. This is the idea that the examination of granites suggests: they are familiar to our eyes; we see them every hour, and there is not a single fact, which an authentic enquiry can afford, that is inconfiltent with this view. In this

gradual

gradual deposition, a crust was probably first formed on the Jurface, and the separation of the air going on more slowly in the bowels of the earth, would burst this crust in different places, and give the abrupt appearance to the granite rocks that we see. The water would, in part, form air, and in part combine with other minerals; our author knows that this element is a copious ingredient in every crystal, except those of granite, and of the marmor metallicum. M. de la Metherie's system of the formation of mountains is in itself ri. diculous and inconsistent with facts: he supposes, that as cryftals are above the fluid in which they form, so the mountains rise above the water which contained their ingredients. But why do crystals rise above the fluid ? Because the water rises in the interstices between the crystals, and from that fluid fresh crystals are formed. The crystals too, according to his own account rise above the fluid, and yet a valt quantity of water is supposed to exist, sufficient to rise above the hills in their present state !—In short, these suppositions are introduced to justify the conclusions, which, in the beginning of this account, we have so severely condemned,

It follows, says our author, from the different facts adduced, that the surface of this globe was formerly covered with water, as the Egyptians perceived. The matters which com, pose the great chain of mountains were diffolved in the water, and cryftalised in it, some in masses, as in the granites, and some in strata, as the calcareous earths. The waters then decreafed: the tops of the mountains were discovered; marshes and lakes were formed, whose waters corrupted, and then, for the first time, appeared organised beings, by a spontaneous generation.' In tue philofophy we see nothing, says the editor, but matter and motion. Whence come then there beings, but by matter put in motion, and we see every day bissus and conferves produced by the putrefaction of water. Such is the abftract of our author's reasoning, of which we can only fay, that it shows views so limited, and knowledge so imperfect, as to have disgraced a much meaner name. Life may be said, in one view, to be matter in motion; but, if this were the only circumstance, motion must soon end. The motion is continued in. dependent of foreign aid: it is communicated to other matter, and continued in a series of beings of similar organs, pofsessing the same powers and functions. Besides, what does the argument imply? that water is itself a living being, or contains the essence of life, and requires only to be put in motion. If either of these qualities did not exist, corruption could not convey them. Why does not the life appear when attenuated to air? Why cannot it be revived, after the fluid has been im

H 3

prisoned prisoned for ages in crystals; it is still susceptible of motion, and it is still matter: let us add that life is a state of, or an adjunct to, matter peculiarly organised; the same probably in the mite as in the elephant; in the bifsus as in the oak; nor can we, on this syitem, deny that man is formed daily from the earth, or the whale from the waters of the ocean.

Let us select another instance of this pernicious philofophy; we shall still be progressive in our account of the labours of fo. reign philosophers. We have formerly observed, that M. Necker (the botanist and not the ex-minister), in his Treatise on Micitology, supposed that mushrooms were not plants; that they were produced without seeds, and were not distinguished by sexes. This opinion was defended, as in our successive accounts we have more fully explained, by M. M. Medicus and Reynier, who supposed that mushrooms were produced by a true crystallization of organic pauticles, without any previous preparation by a parent plant, like other vegetables, chiefly because they seem to proceed from other organised bodies in a decompounded itate. These arguments were satisfactorily answered by M. Beauvois, whose memoir we have also noticed, and the subjcët is now brought forward again by the editor, though beyond the period of the year, which is the snbject of his remarks to introduce his favourite doctrine,

M. de la Metherie allows, that analogy is in favour of their vegetable nature; that, though the sexual organs and the seeds have not been discovered, analogy makes us presume that they have both. In this there is a degrce of disingenuity that is worse than inconclusive reasoning. He knows that peculiar organs have been discovered by Hedwig, which are most probibly sexual, and grains that are moit probably seeds. He knows too, that the specific difference of mushrooms are as distinct and constant as of other plants, that deviations are still less frequent, that in the mushroom-beds, when one species is fown, the result, with a very few exceptions, which arise evidently from the dung employed, is a crop of the same species only. Yet this author speaks only of analogy! -On the other hand, he adds, analogies are often deceitful, and must yield to facts and observations. The philosopher must always be ready to receive truth when she offers, and the question must be discuiled by the learned. Science will gain by the contest of opinions, when it is sustained by obfervations, by facts and experiments. This is perfectly juft; but we must give a different character to what follows. It is certain, that spontaneous generation, rejected for some time with so much disdain by a certain class of philosophers, must be admitted by every enlightened enquirer, if it were only to explain the first origin of organized beings. It is, in my opinion, certain, that

ga

« AnteriorContinua »