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rather sophistry, that the experiment has long since been tried on a large scale. Whatever may be the inferiority of the ancients in physical science, it will scarce be denied, that in moral science they possess all the lights which the unassisted Reason, now referred to as the sufficient light of our paths, could possibly attain. Yet, when we survey what their system of Ethics did for the perfection of the human species, we shall see that but a very few even of the teachers themselves have left behind them such characters as tend to do honour to their doctrines. Some philosophers there were, who, as instructors in morality, showed a laudable example to their followers; and we will not invidiously enquire how far these were supported in their self-denial, either by vanity, or the desire of preserving consistency, or the importance annexed to the founder of a sect; although the least of these motives afford great support to temperance, even in cases where it is not rendered easy by advanced age, which of itself calms the more stormy passions. But the satires of Juvenal, of Petronius, and, above all, Lucian, show what slight effect the doctrines of Zeno, Epictetus, Plato, Socrates, and Epicurus, produced on their avowed followers; and how little influence the beard of the Stoic, the sophistry of the Academician, and the self-denied mortification of the Cynics, had upon the sects which derived their names from these distinguished philosophers. We shall find that these pretended despisers of sensual pleasures shared the worst vices of the grossest age of society, and added to them the detestable hypocrisy of pretending, that they were
all the while guided by the laws of true wisdom and of right reason.
If, in modern times, they who own the restraint of philosophical discipline alone have not given way to such grossness of conduct, it is because those principles of religion, which they affect to despise, have impressed on the public mind a system of moral feeling, unknown till the general prevalence of the Christian faith; but which, since its predominance, has so generally pervaded European society, that no pretender to innovation can directly disavow its influence, though he endeavours to show that the same results which are recommended from the Christian pulpit, and practised by the Christian community, might be reached by the unassisted efforts of that human reason, to which he counsels us to resign the sole regulation of our morals.
In short, to oppose one authority in the same department to another, the reader is requested to compare the character of the philosophic Square in Tom Jones, with that of Bage's philosophical heroes; and to consider seriously whether a system of Ethics, founding an exclusive and paramount court in a man's own bosom for the regulation of his own conduct, is likely to form a noble, enlightened, and generous character, influencing others by superior energy and faultless example; or whether it is not more likely, as in the observer of the rule of right, to regulate morals according to temptation and to convenience, and to form a selfish, sophistical hypocrite, who, with morality always in his mouth, finds a perpetual apology for evading the practice
of abstinence, when either passion or interest solicit him to indulgence.
We do not mean to say, that, because Bage entertained erroneous notions, he therefore acted viciously. The history of his life, so far as known to us, indicates a contrary course of conduct. It would seem, from his language, as we have already said, that he had been bred among the strict and benevolent sect of Friends; and if their doctrines carried him some length in speculative error, he certainly could derive nothing from them to favour laxity of morals. In his fictitious works, the Quakers are always brought forward in an amiable point of view; and the characters of Arnold, and particularly of Miss Carlile, are admirable pictures of the union of talent, and even wit, with the peculiar manners and sentiments of these interesting and primitive persons. But if not vicious himself, Bage's leading principles are such as, if acted upon, would introduce vice into society; in men of a fiercer mould, they would lead to a very different line of conduct from his own; and, such being the case, it was the Editor's duty to point out the sophistry on which they are founded.
The works of Bage, abstracted from the views against which we have endeavoured to caution the reader, are of high and decided merit. It is scarce possible to read him without being amused, and, to a certain degree, instructed. His whole efforts are turned to the developement of human character; and, it must be owned, he possessed a ready key to it. The mere story of the novels seldom possesses much interest-it is the conduct of his personages,
as thinking and speaking beings, in which we are interested; and, contrary to the general case, the reader is seldom or never tempted to pass over the dialogue in order to continue the narrative. The author deals occasionally in quick and improbable conversions, as in that of Sir George Osmond, from selfishness and avarice, to generosity and liberality, by the mere loveliness of virtue in his brother and his friends. And he does not appear to have pos sessed much knowledge of that species of character which is formed by profession or by nationality. His seamen are indifferent; his Irishmen not beyond those usually brought on the stage; his Scotchmen still more awkward caricatures, and the language which he puts in their mouths, not similar to any that has been spoken since the days of Babel. It is in detecting the internal workings of a powerful understanding, like that of Paracelsus Holman, that Bage's power chiefly consists; and great that power must be, considering how much more difficult it is to trace those varieties of character which are formed by such working, than merely to point out such as the mind receives from the manners and customs of the country in which it has ripened.
A light, gay, pleasing air, carries us agreeably through Bage's novels; and when we are disposed to be angry at seeing the worse made to appear the better reason, we are reconciled to the author by the ease and good-humour of his style. We did not think it proper to reject the works of so eminent an author from this collection, merely on account of speculative errors. We have done our
best to place a mark on these; and, as we are far from being of opinion, that the youngest and most thoughtless derive their serious opinions from productions of this nature, we leave them for our reader's amusement, trusting that he will remember that a good jest is no argument; that a novelist, like the master of a puppet-show, has his drama under his absolute authority, and shapes the events to favour his own opinions; and that whether the Devil flies away with Punch, or Punch strangles the Devil, forms no real argument as to the comparative power of either one or other, but only indicates the special pleasure of the master of the motion.