BY AUGUSTUS DE MORGAN: A BUDGET OF PARADOXES, Volume I
This is a digest of the original available at https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/23100 .
If you see anything in this that is interesting to you, you should not
quote this digest, you should go to the original and track down what
interests you. I have made many changes, in language and in the
order of subjects, that would be severely embarrassing if passed off as
the real thing. -- MPJ, 4/24/20.
If I had
before me a fly and an elephant, having never seen more than one such
magnitude of either kind; and if the fly were to endeavor to persuade
me that he was larger than the elephant, he might use such arguments
about the effect of distance, and might appeal to such laws of sight
and hearing as I, if unlearned in those things, might be unable wholly
to reject. But if there were a thousand flies, all buzzing about
the great creature, and each declaring that he was bigger than the
quadruped; each giving different and frequently contradictory reasons;
and each despising and opposing the reasons of the others — I should
feel quite at ease. The case of each would be destroyed by the
"paradox" in the old sense: something apart from general opinion,
either in subject matter, method, or conclusion.
things would now be called crotchets, except that to call a thing a
crotchet is to speak lightly of it, which was not the old necessary
sense of paradox. Thus in the sixteenth century many spoke of the
earth's motion as the paradox of Copernicus. In the seventeenth
century, the depravation of meaning took place, in England at least;
Phillips says paradox is "a thing which seemeth strange and absurd, and
contrary to common opinion."
recent centuries, physical knowledge has come to rest upon a basis it
did not have before: mathematics. Now the question is not whether
some hypothesis is better or worse according to pure thought, but
whether it accords with observed phenomena. Even in sciences not
yet under the dominion of mathematics, and perhaps never to be, a
working copy of the mathematical process has been made. This is
not known to the followers of those sciences who are not themselves
mathematicians and therefore very often exalt their horns against
mathematics. They might as well be squaring the circle, for any
sense they show in this particular.
many individuals, ever since the rise of the mathematical method, have
attacked its direct and indirect consequences. I shall not here
stop to point out how the very accuracy of exact science gives better
aim than the preceding state of things could give. I shall call
each of these persons a paradoxer, and his system a paradox.
little knowledge is a dangerous thing is one of the most fallacious of
proverbs. A person of small knowledge is in danger of trying to
make his little do the work of more; but a person without any is in
more danger of making his no knowledge do the work of some.
in which a paradoxer will show himself will not depend on what he
maintains, but on whether he has sufficient knowledge of what has been
done by others, especially as to the mode of doing it, a preliminary to
inventing knowledge for himself. Most persons have an immense
variety of opinions on an immense variety of subjects, and all persons
must be their own guides in many things. But many do not reflect
that they have ceased to stand on ground on which their process is
defensible. Aspiring to lead others, they have never given
themselves the fair chance of being first led by others into something
better than they can start for themselves.
should first do this is what others have a fair right to expect.
New knowledge, when to any purpose, must come by contemplation of old
knowledge in every matter which concerns thought; mechanical
contrivance sometimes, not very often, escapes this rule. All the
men who are now called discoverers, in every matter ruled by thought,
have been men versed in the minds of their predecessors, and learned in
what had been before them. I do not say that every man has made
direct acquaintance with the whole of his mental ancestry; many have, I
may say, only known their grandfathers by the report of their
fathers. But even on this point it is remarkable how many of the
greatest names in all departments of knowledge have been real
antiquaries in their several subjects.
meeting those who plague others with their great discoveries, the first
demand should be: Mr. Moses, before I allow you to lead me over the Red
Sea, you must show me that you are learned in all the wisdom of the
Egyptians upon your own subject. The demand for previous
knowledge disposes of twenty-nine cases out of thirty; the thirtieth is
worth listening to.
talked to more than a hundred and fifty paradoxers; it is not my own
fault if they have not been a thousand. Nobody knows how they
swarm, except those to whom they naturally resort. They are in
all ranks and occupations, all ages and characters. They are very
earnest, and their purpose is the dissemination of their
paradoxes. The mass are illiterate, and a great many waste their
means, and are in or approaching penury. They despise one another.
to the mystic number seven, instances of my personal knowledge of
paradoxers, in illustration of as many misconceptions.
1. Attempt by help of the old
philosophy, the discoverer not possessing modern knowledge. A
poor schoolmaster, in rags, introduced himself to a scientific friend
with whom I was talking, and announced that he had found out the
composition of the sun. "How was that done?" — "By consideration
of the four elements." — "What are they?" — "Of course, fire, air,
earth, and water." — "Did you not know that air, earth, and water, have
long been known to be no elements at all, but compounds?" — "What do
you mean, sir? Who ever heard of such a thing?"
2. The notion that difficulties
are enigmas, to be overcome in a moment by a lucky thought. A
nobleman of very high rank, now long dead, read an article by me on the
quadrature, in an early number of the Penny Magazine. He had, I
suppose, school recollections of geometry. He put pencil to
paper, drew a circle, and constructed what seemed likely to answer,
and, indeed, was — as he said — certain, if only this bit were equal to
that; which of course it was not.
3. Discovery at all hazards, to
get on in the world. Thirty years ago, an officer of rank, trying
for a decoration from the Crown, found that his claims were of doubtful
amount. Now this officer had bethought himself one day that there
could be no difficulty in finding the circumference of a circle: if a
circle were rolled upon a straight line until the undermost point came
undermost again, there would be the straight line equal to the
circle. He came to me, saying that he did not feel equal to the
statement of his claim in this respect, but that if some clever fellow
would put the thing in a proper light, he thought his affair might be
4. The notion that mathematicians
cannot find the circle for common purposes. A working man
measured the altitude of a cylinder accurately, found its bulk,
calculated the ratio of the circumference to the diameter, and found it
answered very well on other modes of trial; his result was about
3.14. Somebody sent him to me. Like many paradoxers, he
seemed to have turned the whole force of his mind upon one of his
points, on which alone he would be open to refutation. He had
read some of Kater's experiments, and had got the Act of 1825 on
weights and measures. Say what I would, he had but one answer —
"Sir! I go upon Captain Kater and the Act of Parliament."
Finally, I produced the table the Astronomical Memoirs, in which were a
large number of observed places of the planets compared with
prediction, and asked him whether it could be possible that persons who
did not know the circle better than he could make the calculations so
accurately? He was perfectly astonished, and took the titles of
some books which he said he would read.
5. Application for the reward from abroad.
6. Application for the reward at
home. An agricultural laborer squared the circle, and brought the
proceeds to London. He left his papers with me, one of which was
the copy of a letter to the Lord Chancellor, desiring his Lordship to
hand over forthwith 100,000 pounds, the amount of the alleged offer of
reward. I returned the papers, with a note stating that he had
not the knowledge requisite to see in what the problem consisted.
I got for answer a letter in which I was told that a person who could
not see that he had done the thing should "change his business, and
appropriate his time and attention to a Sunday school, to learn what he
could, and keep the litle children from durting their close." I
also received a letter from a friend of the quadrator, informing me
that I knew his friend had succeeded, and had been heard to say
so. There are many who have such deep respect for any attempt at
thought that they are shocked at ridicule even of those who have made
themselves conspicuous by pretending to lead the world in matters which
they have not studied.
7. An elderly man came to me to
show me how the universe was created: there was one molecule, which by
vibration became — Heaven knows how! — the Sun. Further vibration
produced Mercury, and so on. Some modifications of vibration gave
heat, electricity, etc. I listened until my informant ceased to
vibrate — which is always the shortest way — and then said, "Our
knowledge of elastic fluids is imperfect." "Sir!" said he, "I see
you perceive the truth of what I have said, and I will reward your
attention by telling you what I seldom disclose, never, except to those
who can receive my theory — the little molecule whose vibrations have
given rise to our solar system is the Logos of St. John's
Gospel!" He went away to Dr. Lardner, who would not go into the
solar system at all — the first molecule ended the question. So
hard on poor discoverers are men of science who are not antiquaries in
their subject! On leaving, he said, "Sir, Mr. De Morgan received
me in a very different way! He heard me attentively, and I left
him perfectly satisfied of the truth of my system." Many
paradoxers, of all classes, believe they have convinced everyone who is
not peremptory to the verge of incivility.
be paradox upon paradox. There is a good instance in the eighth
century in the case of Virgil, an Irishman, Bishop of Salzburg and
afterwards Saint, and his quarrels with Boniface, an Englishman,
Archbishop of Mentz, also afterwards Saint. All we know about the
matter is that there exists a letter of 748 from Pope Zachary, citing
Virgil, then a simple priest, to Rome to answer the charge of
maintaining that there is another world under our earth, with another
sun and moon. The letter contains threats in the event of the
charge being true. There history drops the matter. On so
small a basis has been constructed a companion case to the persecution
of Galileo. On one side the positive assertion, with indignant
comment, that Virgil was deposed for antipodal heresy; on the other,
serious attempts at justification, palliation, or mystification.
Some have maintained that the antipodist was a different person from
the canonized bishop; there is a second Virgil, made to order.
shoes pinch and will not stretch, always throw them away and get
another pair; the same with your facts.
DR. MILNER'S PARADOXES.
"rational paradoxers" I include all who, in private life, and in
matters which concern themselves, take their own course, and suit their
own notions, no matter what other people may think of them. These
men will put things to uses they were never intended for, to the great
distress and disgust of their gregarious friends. I am one of the
class, and I could write a little book of cases in which I have
incurred absolute reproach for not "doing as other people do."
Three of my atrocities:
I took one of those butter dishes which have for a
top a dome with holes in it, which is turned inward, out of reach of
accident, when not in use. Turning the dome inwards, I filled the
dish with water, and put a sponge in the dome; the holes let it fill
with water, and I had a penwiper, always moist, worth its price five
times over. "Why! What do you mean? It was made to
hold butter. You are always at some queer thing or other!"
I bought a lead-pencil comb intended to dye the
hair, it being supposed that the application of pencil lead will have
this effect. I did not try that, but I divided the comb into two,
separated the part of closed prongs from the other; and thus I had two
ruling machines. By drawing the end of one of the machines along
a ruler, I could rule twenty pencil lines at a time. I thought I
should have killed a friend to whom I explained it; he could not for
the life of him understand how pencil lines on paper would dye the hair.
Two persons in conversation agreed that it was often
a nuisance not to be able to lay hands on a bit of paper to mark the
place in a book, every bit of paper on the table was sure to contain
something not to be spared. I very quietly said that I always had
a stock of bookmarkers ready cut, with a proper place for them; my
readers owe many of my anecdotes to this absurd practice. My two
colloquials burst into a fit of laughter — about what? There
could be nothing foolish in my taking measures to avoid what they knew
was an inconvenience. I was in this matter obviously their
superior, and so they laughed at me.
candid was the Royal Duke of the last century, who was noted for slow
ideas. "The rain comes into my mouth," said he, while
riding. "Had not your Royal Highness better shut your mouth?"
said the equerry. The Prince did so, and ought, by rule, to have
laughed heartily at his adviser; instead of this, he said quietly, "It
doesn't come in now."
THE STORY OF BURIDAN'S ASS.
Questiones Morales, by T. Buridan.
(died about 1358) is the creator of the famous ass which was, perhaps
is, a vulgar proverb in Burgundy. The argument is that Buridan
was for free will — that is, will which determines conduct, let motives
be ever so evenly balanced. An ass is equally pressed by hunger
and by thirst; a bundle of hay is on one side, a pail of water on the
other. Surely, you will say, he will not be ass enough to die for
want of food or drink; he will then make a choice — that is, will
choose between alternatives of equal force. The problem became
famous in the schools; some allowed the poor donkey to die of
indecision; some denied the possibility of the balance, which was no
answer at all.
A STORY ABOUT THE ROYAL SOCIETY.
sixteen years ago the Royal Society determined to restrict the number
of yearly admissions to fifteen men of science, and noblemen ad
libitum; the men of science being selected and recommended by the
Council, with a power, since practically surrendered, to the Society to
appears to me to be directly against the spirit of their charter, whose
true intent was that all who are fit should be allowed to promote
natural knowledge in association, from and after the time at which they
are both fit and willing.
It is also
working more absurdly from year to year; the tariff of fifteen per
annum will soon amount to the practical exclusion of many who would be
very useful. This begins to be felt already, I suspect.
body of the Society has the remedy in its own hands. When the
alteration was discussed by the Council, my friend the late Mr.
Galloway, then one of the body, opposed it strongly, and inquired
particularly into the reason why fifteen, of all numbers, was the one
to be selected. Was it because fifteen is seven and eight,
typifying the Old Testament Sabbath, and the New Testament day of the
resurrection following? Because Paul strove fifteen days against
Peter, proving that he was a doctor both of the Old and New
Testament? Because the prophet Hosea bought a lady for fifteen
pieces of silver? Because according to Micah seven shepherds and
eight chiefs should waste the Assyrians? Because Ecclesiastes
commands equal reverence to be given to both Testaments in the words
"Give a portion to seven, and also to eight"? Because the waters
of the Deluge rose fifteen cubits above the mountains? Because
they lasted fifteen decades of days? Because Ezekiel's temple had
fifteen steps? Because Jacob's ladder has been supposed to have
had fifteen steps? Because fifteen years were added to the life
of Hezekiah? Because the feast of unleavened bread was on the
fifteenth day of the month? Because the scene of the Ascension
was fifteen stadia from Jerusalem? Because the stonemasons and
porters employed in Solomon's temple amounted to fifteen myriads?
etc. The Council were amused and astounded by the volley of
fifteens fired at them.
GIORDANO BRUNO AND HIS PARADOXES.
Jordani Bruni Nolani de
Monade, Numero et Figura ... item de Innumerabilibus, Immenso, et
Infigurabili ... Frankfort, 1591.
imagine how I came to omit a writer whom I have known so many years,
unless the following story will explain it. The officer reproved
the boatswain for perpetual swearing; the boatswain answered that he
heard the officers swear. "Only in an emergency," said the
officer. "That's just it," replied the other; "a boatswain's life
is a life of 'mergency." Bruno was all paradox; and my mind was
not alive to his paradoxes, just as my ears might have become dead to
the boatswain's oaths.
He was a
vorticist before Descartes, an optimist before Leibnitz, a Copernican
before Galileo. It would be easy to collect a hundred paradoxes
of his. He was born about 1550, and was roasted alive at Rome in
1600, for the maintenance and defence of the holy Church and its rights
and liberties. These last words are from the writ of our own good
James I, under which Leggatt was roasted at Smithfield in 1612.
THE CHURCH QUESTION.
doctrine that a church may employ force in aid of its dogma is supposed
to be obsolete in England, except as an individual paradox; but this is
difficult to settle. Opinions are much divided as to what the
Roman Church would do in England, if she could; any one who doubts that
she claims the right does not deserve an answer.
hopes of the Tractarian section of the High Church were in bloom,
before the most conspicuous intellects among them had transgressed
their ministry that they might go to their own place, I had the
curiosity to see how far it could be ascertained whether they held the
only doctrine which makes me the personal enemy of a sect: the
assumption of a right to persecute.
this in one tract, modified by an assertion that force was not
efficient. I cannot now say that this tract was one of the
celebrated ninety. In these volumes I find, augmenting as we go
on, declarations about the character and power of "the Church" which
have a suspicious appearance. The suspicion is increased by that
curious piece of sophistry, No. 87, on religious reserve. The
queer paradoxes of that tract leave us in doubt as to everything but
this: that the church(man) is not bound to give his whole counsel in
all things, and not bound to say what the things are in which he does
not give it. There is now no fear; but the time was when, if not
fear, there might be a looking for of fear to come; nobody could then
be so sure as we now are that the lion was only asleep.
exquisite quirks of interpretation in No. 87 is the following.
God himself employs reserve; he is said to be decked with light as with
a garment (the old or prayer-book version of Psalm civ. 2). To an
ordinary apprehension this would be a strong image of display,
manifestation, revelation; but there is something more. "Does not
a garment veil in some measure that which it clothes? Is not that
very light concealment?" No. 87, admitted into a series, fixes
upon the managers of the series, who permitted its introduction, a
strong presumption of that underhand intent with which they were
charged. At the same time it is honorable to our liberty that
this series could be published; though its promoters were greatly
shocked when the Essayists and Bishop Colenso took a swing on the other
Tractarian mania has now (October 1866) settled down into a chronic
vestment disease, complicated with fits of transubstantiation, which
has taken the name of Ritualism. The common sense of our national
character will not put up with a continuance of this grotesque folly;
millinery in all its branches will at last be advertised only over the
proper shops. I am told that the Ritualists give short and
practical sermons; if so, they may do good in the end. The
English Establishment has always contained those who want an
excitement; the New Testament, in its plain meaning, can do little for
them. Since the Revolution, Jacobitism, Wesleyanism,
Evangelicism, Puseyism, and Ritualism, have come on in turn, and have
furnished hot water for those who could not wash without it.
NAPIER ON REVELATIONS.
A plain discoverie of the
whole Revelation of St. John ... whereunto are annexed certain
oracles of Sibylla.... Set Foorth by John Napier L. of
Marchiston. London, 1611. The first edition was Edinburgh,
always believed that his great mission was to upset the Pope, and that
logarithms and such were merely episodes and relaxations. It is a
pity that Napier is forgotten and unread. He is one of the first
who gave us the six thousand years. "There is a sentence of the
house of Elias reserved in all ages, bearing these words: The world
shall stand six thousand years, and then it shall be consumed by fire;
two thousand yeares voide or without lawe, two thousand yeares under
the law, and two thousand yeares shall be the daies of the Messias...."
ON BACON'S NOVUM ORGANUM.
In this year, Francis Bacon published his Novum Organum, which,
starting in the last century, was long held in England to be the work
which taught Newton and all his successors how to philosophize.
That Newton never mentions Bacon, nor alludes in any way to his works,
passed for nothing. In our day it begins to be seen that, great
as Bacon was, and great as his book really is, he is not the
philosophical father of modern discovery.
The Works of Francis Bacon. Edited by James Spedding, R. Leslie Ellis, and Douglas D. Heath.
knowledge of nature without experiment and observation; so said
Aristotle, so said Bacon, so acted Copernicus, Tycho Brahé, Gilbert,
Kepler, Galileo, Harvey, etc., before Bacon wrote.
No derived knowledge until experiment and observation are concluded; so said Bacon, and no one else.
We do not
mean to say that he laid down his principle in these words, or that he
carried it to the utmost extreme; we mean that Bacon's ruling idea was
the collection of enormous masses of facts, and then digested processes
of arrangement and elimination, so artistically contrived, that a man
of common intelligence, without any unusual sagacity, should be able to
announce the truth sought for.
not live to mature the whole of this plan. Are we really to
believe that if he had completed the Instauratio we who write this
should have been on a level with Newton in physical discovery?
Bacon asks this belief of us, and does not get it. But it may be
said, Your business is with what he did leave, and with its
consequences. Be it so. Mr. Ellis says "That his method is
impracticable cannot, I think, be denied, if we reflect not only that
it never has produced any result, but also that the process by which
scientific truths have been established cannot be so presented as even
to appear to be in accordance with it."
is true is well known to all who have studied the history of
discovery. Those who deny it are bound to establish either that
some great discovery has been made by Bacon's method — we mean by the
part peculiar to Bacon — or better still, by making some new discovery
can be made by his method.
immortal Harvey, who was discovering the circulation of the blood,
while Bacon was in the full flow of thought upon his system, may be
trusted to say whether he found any likeness in Bacon's system to his
own processes, or what would have been any help to him, if he had
waited for the Novum Organum. He said of Bacon, "He writes
philosophy like a Lord Chancellor."
Bacon is eminently the philosopher of error prevented, not of progress
facilitated. The part of Aristotle's logic of which Bacon saw the
value was the book on refutation of fallacies. Is this not the
notion of things to which the bias of a practised lawyer might lead
him? In the case before the Court, generally speaking, truth
lurks somewhere about the facts, and the elimination of all error will
show it in the residuum. The two senses of the word law come in
so as to look almost like a play upon words. The judge can apply
the law so soon as the facts are settled; the physical philosopher has
to deduce the law from the facts. Wait, says the judge, until the
facts are determined: did the prisoner take the goods with felonious
intent -- did the defendant give what amounts to a warranty -- or the
like. Wait, says Bacon, until all the obtainable facts are
brought in; apply my rules of separation to the facts, and the result
shall come out as easily as by ruler and compasses. Bacon's
argument is, there can be nothing of law but what must be either
perceptible, or mechanically deducible, when all the results of law, as
exhibited in phenomena, are before us. But the truth is, the
physical philosopher must frequently conceive law which never was in
his previous thought — must educe the unknown, not choose among the
included any deduction under observation. To mathematics he had a
dislike. He averred that logic and mathematics should be the
handmaids, not the mistresses, of philosophy; that they should play a
subordinate and subsequent part in the dressing of the vast mass of
facts by which discovery was to be rendered equally accessible to
Newton and to us. Bacon was very ignorant of all that had been
done by mathematics; and he especially objected to astronomy being
handed over to the mathematicians. Leverrier and Adams,
calculating an unknown planet into visible existence by enormous heaps
of algebra, furnish the last comment of note on this specimen of the
goodness of Bacon's views. Here is Mr. Spedding's collection of
casual remarks in Mr. Ellis's several prefaces: Bacon "appears to have
been utterly ignorant of the discoveries which had just been made by
Kepler's calculations. Though he complained in 1623 of the want
of compendious methods for facilitating arithmetical computations,
especially with regard to the doctrine of Series, and fully recognized
the importance of them as an aid to physical inquiries — he does not
say a word about Napier's Logarithms, which had been published only
nine years before and reprinted more than once in the interval.
He complained that no considerable advance had made in geometry beyond
Euclid, without taking any notice of what had been done by Archimedes
and Apollonius. He saw the importance of determining accurately
the specific gravity of different substances, and himself attempted to
form a table of them by a rude process of his own, without knowing of
the more scientific though still imperfect methods previously employed
by Archimedes, Ghetaldus, and Porta. He speaks of the εὕρηκα of
Archimedes in a manner which implies that he did not clearly apprehend
either the nature of the problem or the principles of the
solution.... He makes no mention of Archimedes himself, or of
Stevinus, Galileo, Guldinus, or Ghetaldus. He makes no allusion
to the theory of equilibrium. He observes that a ball of one
pound weight will fall nearly as fast through the air as a ball of two,
without alluding to the theory of the acceleration of falling bodies,
which had been made known by Galileo more than thirty years
before. He proposes an inquiry with regard to the lever — namely,
whether in a balance with arms of different length but equal weight the
distance from the fulcrum has any effect upon the inclination, — though
the theory of the lever was as well understood in his own time as it is
now.... He speaks of the poles of the earth as fixed, in a manner
which seems to imply that he was not acquainted with the precession of
the equinoxes; and in another place, of the north pole being above and
the south pole below, as a reason why in our hemisphere the north winds
predominate over the south."
this was known, but such a summary of Bacon's want of knowledge of the
science of his own time was never before collected in one place.
We add that Bacon seems to have been as ignorant of Wright's memorable
addition to the resources of navigation as of Napier's addition to the
means of calculation. Mathematics was beginning to be the great
instrument of exact inquiry: Bacon threw the science aside, from
ignorance, just at the time when his enormous sagacity, applied to
knowledge, would have made him see the part it was to play.
If Newton had taken Bacon for his master, not he, but somebody else, would have been Newton.
BASIS OF MODERN DISCOVERY.
discoveries have not been made by large collections of facts, with
subsequent discussion, separation, and resulting deduction of a truth
thus rendered perceptible. A few facts have suggested an
hypothesis, which means a supposition, proper to explain them.
The necessary results of this supposition are worked out, and not until
then are other facts examined to see if these ulterior results are
found in nature.
of the hypothesis is the special object: prior to which, hypothesis
must have been started, not by rule, but by that sagacity of which no
description can be given, precisely because the very owners of it do
not act under laws perceptible to themselves. The inventor of
hypothesis, if pressed to explain his method, must answer as did Zerah
Colburn, when asked for his mode of instantaneous calculation.
When the poor boy had been bothered for some time in this manner, he
cried out in a huff, "God put it into my head, and I can't put it into
hypotheses, rightly worked from, have produced more useful results than
unguided observation. Charles the Second founded a Baconian
observatory at Greenwich, to observe, observe, observe away at the
moon, until her motions were known sufficiently well to render her
useful in guiding the seaman. And no doubt Flamsteed's
observations, twenty or thirty of them at least, were of signal
use. But how? A somewhat fanciful thinker, one Kepler, had
hit upon the approximate orbits of the planets by trying one hypothesis
after another; he found the ellipse. The sun in the focus, the
motions of the planet more and more rapid as they approach the sun, led
Kepler to imagine that a force residing in the sun might move the
planets, a force inversely as the distance. Bouillaud, upon a
fanciful analogy, rejected the inverse distance, and, rejecting the
force altogether, declared that if such a thing there were, it would be
as the inverse square of the distance. Newton, ready prepared
with the mathematics of the subject, tried the fall of the moon towards
the earth, away from her tangent, and found that, as compared with the
fall of a stone, the law of the inverse square did hold for the
moon. He deduced the ellipse, he proceeded to deduce the effect
of the disturbance of the sun upon the moon, upon the assumed theory of
universal gravitation. He found result after result of his theory
in conformity with observed fact; and by aid of Flamsteed's
observations, which amended what mathematicians call his constants, he
constructed his lunar theory. Had it not been for Newton, the
whole dynasty of Greenwich astronomers might have worked away at
nightly observation and daily reduction, without any remarkable result;
looking forward, as to a millennium, to the time when any man of
moderate intelligence was to see the whole explanation.
large collections of facts for? To make theories from, says
Bacon; to try ready-made theories by, says the history of
discovery. It's all the same, says the idolater; nonsense,
THE REAL VALUE OF BACON'S WORKS.
over the success of Bacon's own endeavors to improve the details of
physical science, which was next to nothing, and of his method as a
whole, which has never been practiced, we might say much of the good
influence of his writings.
wisdom, set in sparkling wit, must instruct and amuse to the end of
time; and, as against error, we repeat that Bacon is soundly wise, so
far as he goes. There is hardly a form of human error within his
scope which he did not detect, expose, and attach to a satirical
metaphor which never ceases to sting. He is largely indebted to a
very extensive reading; but the thoughts of others fall into his text
with such a close-fitting compactness that he can make even the words
of the Sacred Writers pass for his own. When the truth of the
matter as to Bacon's system is fully recognized, we have little fear
that there will be a reaction against the man; first because Bacon will
always live to speak for himself, for he will not cease to be read;
second because those who seek the truth will find it in the best
edition of his works, and will be most ably led to know what Bacon was,
in the very books which first showed at large what he was not.
THE CONVOCATION AT OXFORD EQUALLY AT FAULT.
In the case of Galileo, the absurdity was the act of the Italian
Inquisition — for the private and personal pleasure of the Pope — and
not of the body which calls itself the Church. Let the dirty
proceeding have its right name.
Riccioli, the stoutest and most learned Anti-Copernican in Europe, and
the Puritan Wilkins, a strong Copernican and Pope-hater, are equally
positive that the Roman Church never pronounced any decision; and this
in the time immediately following the ridiculous proceeding of the
Inquisition. In like manner a decision of the Convocation of
Oxford is not a law of the English Church; which is fortunate, for that
Convocation, in 1622, came to a decision quite as absurd, and a great
deal more wicked than the declaration against the motion of the
earth. The second was a foolish mistake; the first was a
disgusting surrender of right feeling.
one William Knight put forward in a sermon preached before the
University certain theses which, looking at the state of the times, may
have been improper and possibly of seditious intent. Knight
declared that a man may defend his purse or a woman her honor, against
the personal attack of a king, or a private person, if no other means
of safety can be found. The Convocation sent Knight to prison,
declared the proposition "falsa, periculosa, et impia," and enacted
that all applicants for degrees should subscribe this censure, and make
oath that they would neither hold, teach, nor defend Knight's opinions.
in the form given, was unnecessary and improper. Though strong
opinions of the king's rights were advanced at the time, yet no one
ventured to say that, ministers and advisers apart, the king might
personally break the law; and we know that the first and only attempt
which his successor made brought on the crisis which cost him his
throne and his head.
declaration that the proposition was false far exceeds in all that is
disreputable the decision of the Inquisition against the earth's
motion. We do not mention this little matter in England.
The theses, as given at trial, were not Knight's words, but the digest
which it was customary to make in criminal proceedings against
opinion. This heightens the joke, for it appears that the
qualifiers of the Convocation took pains to present their condemnation
of Knight in the terms which would most unequivocally make their
censure condemn themselves.
ON INHABITABLE PLANETS.
A discourse concerning a new world and another planet, in two books. London, 1640.
Cosmotheoros: or conjectures
concerning the planetary worlds and their inhabitants. Written in
Latin, by Christianus Huyghens. This translation was first
published in 1698. Glasgow, 1757.
propose "That the Moon may be a Planet." Whether other planets be
crowded with organisations some of them having consciousness, is not
for me to decide; but I should be much surprised if, on going to one of
them, I should find it otherwise.
dispute tacitly assumes that, if the stars and planets be inhabited, it
must be by things of which we can form some idea. But for aught
we know, so many such bodies as there are, so many organisms may there
be, of which we have no way of thinking nor of speaking.
INHABITED PLANETS IN FICTION.
There is a
class of hypothetical creations which do not belong to my subject,
because they are acknowledged to be fictions, as those of Lucian,
Rabelais, Swift, Francis Godwin, Voltaire, etc. All who have more
positive notions as to the composition or organization of other worlds,
other than the reasonable conclusion that our Architect must be quite
able to construct millions of other buildings on millions of other
plans, ought to rank with the writers just mentioned, in all but
self-knowledge. Of every one of their systems I say, as the Irish
Bishop said of Gulliver's book, "I don't believe half of it."
question of the inhabitants of a particular planet is one which has
truth on one side or the other: either there are some inhabitants, or
there are none. Fortunately, it is of no consequence which is
are many cases where the balance is equally one of truth and falsehood,
in which the choice is a matter of importance. The world is full
of questions of fact or opinion, in which a struggling minority will
become a majority, or else will be gradually annihilated; and each of
the cases subdivides into results of good, and results of evil.
THE SYMPATHETIC POWDER.
A late discourse ... by Sir Kenelme Digby.... Rendered into English by R. White. London, 1658, 12mo.
celebrated sympathetic powder cured by anointing with salve the weapon
instead of the wound. I have long been convinced that it was
efficacious. The directions were to keep the wound clean and
cool, and to take care of diet, rubbing the salve on the knife or
sword. If we remember the dreadful notions upon drugs which
prevailed, we readily see that any way of not dressing the wound would
have been useful. If the physicians had taken the hint, been
careful of diet etc., and poured the little barrels of medicine down
the throat of a practicable doll, they would have had their magical
cures as well as the surgeons.
much improved now; the quantity of medicine given, even by orthodox
physicians, would have been called infinitesimal by their professional
ancestors. Accordingly, the College of Physicians has a right to
abandon its motto, which is Ars longa, vita brevis, meaning Practice is
long, so life is short.
MANKIND A GULLIBLE LOT.
De Cometis: or a discourse of
the natures and effects of Comets, as they are philosophically,
historically, and astrologically considered. With a brief (yet
full) account of the III late Comets, or blazing stars, visible to all
Europe. And what (in a natural way of judicature) they
portend. Together with some observations on the nativity of the
Grand Seignior. By John Gadbury. London, 1665.
sets down Gadbury, Lilly, Wharton, Booker, etc., as rank rogues; I
think him quite wrong. The easy belief in roguery and intentional
imposture which prevails in educated society is, to my mind, a greater
presumption against the honesty of mankind than all the roguery and
imposture itself. Putting aside mere swindling for the sake of
gain, and looking at speculation and paradox, I find very little reason
to suspect wilful deceit.
of mankind is founded upon the mournful fact that, so far as I can see,
they find within themselves the means of believing in a thousand times
as much as there is to believe in, judging by experience.
A FORERUNNER OF A WRITTEN ESPERANTO.
An essay towards a real
character and a philosophical language. By John Wilkins (Dean of
Ripon, afterwards Bishop of Chester). London, 1668.
is celebrated, but little known. Its object gives it a right to a
place among paradoxes. It proposes a "language" in which things
and their relations shall be denoted by signs, not words, so that any
person, whatever his mother tongue, may read it in his own words.
This is an obvious possibility, and, I am afraid, an obvious
impracticability. One man may construct such a system — Bishop
Wilkins has done it — but where is the man who will learn it? The
second tongue makes a language, as the second blow makes a fray.
RENE DE SLUSE.
Renati Francisci Slusii Mesolabum. Liège, 1668.
Mesolabum is the solution of the problem of finding two mean
proportionals, which Euclid's geometry does not attain. This is
the preliminary to the famous old problem of the duplication of the
speaks of the "six follies of science" — quadrature, duplication,
perpetual motion, philosopher's stone, magic, and astrology. He
might as well have added the trisection, to make the mystic number
seven, but had he done so, he would still have been very lenient; only
seven follies in all science, from mathematics to chemistry!
Science might have said to such a judge — as convicts used to say who
got seven years, expecting it for life — "Thank you, my Lord, and may
you sit there till they are over" — may the Curiosities of Literature
outlive the Follies of Science!
La Géométrie Françoise, ou la
Pratique aisée.... La quadracture du cercle. Par le Sieur
de Beaulieu, Ingénieur, Géographe du Roi ... Paris, 1676. (not
Pontault de Beaulieu, the topographer, who died in 1674).
was attached to the Royal Household, and throughout the century it may
be suspected that the household forced a royal road to geometry.
Fifty years before, the king's secretary made a fool of himself, and
(so?) contrived to pass for a geometer. Beaulieu's quadrature
amounts to a geometrical construction which gives π = √10. He had
interest enough to get Desargues, the most powerful geometer of his
time, the teacher and friend of Pascal, prohibited from lecturing.
quadrators, etc., very often, and our historians sometimes, assert that
men of the character of Copernicus, etc., were treated with contempt
and abuse until their day of ascendancy came, nothing can be more
incorrect. From Tycho Brahé to Beaulieu, there is but one
expression of admiration for the genius of Copernicus.
Theologiæ Christianæ Principia Mathematica. Auctore Johanne Craig. London, 1699.
This is a
celebrated speculation, and has been reprinted abroad, and seriously
answered. Craig is known in the early history of fluxions, and
was a good mathematician. He professed to calculate, on the
hypothesis that suspicions against historical evidence increase with
the square of the time, how long it will take the evidence of
Christianity to die out. He finds that had the evidence been oral
only, Christianity would have gone out AD 800; but, by aid of the
written evidence, it will last till AD 3150. At this period he
places the second coming, which is deferred until the extinction of
evidence, on the authority of the question "When the Son of Man cometh,
shall he find faith on the earth?"
rightly to judge Craig, who added speculations on the variations of
pleasure and pain treated as functions of time, it is necessary to
remember that in Newton's day the idea of force, as a quantity to be
measured, and as following a law of variation, was very new; so
likewise was that of probability as an object of measurement. The
success of the Principia of Newton put it into many heads to speculate
about applying notions of quantity to other things not then brought
under measurement. Craig imitated Newton's title, and evidently
thought he was making a step in advance; but it is not every one who
can plough with Samson's heifer.
likely enough that Craig took a hint, directly or indirectly, from
Moslem writers who reply to the argument that the Koran has not the
evidence derived from miracles. They say that, as evidence of
Christian miracles is daily becoming weaker, a time must at last arrive
when it will fail of affording assurance that they were miracles at
all; whence would arise the necessity of another prophet and other
THE LONGITUDE PROBLEM.
A new method for discovering
the longitude both at sea and land, humbly proposed to the
consideration of the public. By Wm. Whiston and Humphry
Ditton. London, 1714.
This is the
celebrated tract written by the two Arian heretics. Swift, whose
orthodoxy was as undoubted as his meekness, wrote upon it the epigram
mentioning "Wicked Will Whiston."
readers may think that Swift cared little for Whiston and Ditton,
except as a chance hearing of their plan pointed them out as good
marks. But it was not so; the clique had their eye on the guilty
pair before the publication of the tract. The preface is dated
July 7; and ten days afterwards Arbuthnot writes to Swift "Whiston has
at last published his project of the longitude; the most ridiculous
thing that ever was thought on. But a pox on him! He has
spoiled one of my papers of Scriblerus, which was a proposition for the
longitude not very unlike his, to this purpose; that since there was no
pole for east and west, that all the princes of Europe should join and
build two prodigious poles, upon high mountains, with a vast lighthouse
to serve for a polestar. I was thinking of a calculation of the
time, charges, and dimensions. Now you must understand his
project is by lighthouses, and explosion of bombs at a certain hour."
was certainly impracticable; but Whiston and Ditton might have retorted
that they were nearer to the longitude than Swift to the kingdom of
heaven, or even to a bishopric. Arbuthnot here and elsewhere
reveals himself as the calculator who kept Swift right in his
proportions in the matter of the Lilliputians, Brobdingnagians,
etc. Swift was very ignorant about things connected with
number. He writes to Stella that he has discovered that leap year
comes every four years, and that all his life he had thought it came
every three years. When I find the person who did not understand
leap-year inventing satellites of Mars in correct accordance with
Kepler's third law, I feel sure he must have had help.
The principles of the
Philosophy of the Expansive and Contractive Forces ... By Robert
Greene, M.A., Fellow of Clare Hall. Cambridge, 1727.
It is the
weakness of the orthodox follower of any received system to impute
insanity to the solitary dissentient; which is voted (in due time) a
very wrong opinion about Copernicus, Columbus, or Galileo -- but quite
right about Robert Greene. If misconceptions, acted on by too
much self-opinion, be sufficient evidence of madness, it would be a
curious inquiry what is the least percentage of the reigning school
which has been insane at any one time.
Mathematical principles of
theology, or the existence of God geometrically demonstrated. By
Richard Jack, teacher of Mathematics. London, 1747.
Propositions arranged after the manner of Euclid, with beings
represented by circles and squares. But these circles and squares
are logical symbols, not geometrical ones. Some of the houses
which Jack built were destroyed by the fortune of war in 1745, at
Edinburgh; who will say the rebels did no good whatever?
TWO MODEL INDORSEMENTS.
Dissertation, découverte, et
démonstrations de la quadrature mathématique du cercle. Par M. de
Fauré, géomètre. (s. l., probably Geneva) 1747.
Analyse de la Quadrature du Cercle. Par M. de Fauré, Gentilhomme Suisse. Hague, 1749.
According to this gentleman, a diameter of 81 gives a circumference of 256.
There is an
amusing circumstance about the quarto which has been overlooked, if
indeed the book has ever been examined. John Bernoulli (the one
of the day) and Koenig have both given an attestation. There is
reason to think the two sly Swiss played their countryman the same
trick as the medical man played Miss Pickle, in the novel of that
name. The lady only wanted to get his authority against sousing
her little nephew, and said, "Pray, doctor, is it not both dangerous
and cruel to be the means of letting a poor tender infant perish by
sousing it in water as cold as ice?" — "Downright murder, I affirm,"
said the doctor; and certified accordingly.
had built a tremendous scaffolding of equations, quite out of place,
and feeling cocksure that his solutions, if correct, would square the
circle, applied to Bernoulli and Koenig — who after his tract of two
years before, must have known what he was at — for their approbation of
the solutions. And he got it, as follows, well guarded: "Suivant
les suppositions posées dans ce Mémoire, il est si évident que t doit
être = 34, y = 1, et z = 1, que cela n'a besoin ni de preuve ni
d'autorité pour être reconnu par tout le monde. -- à Basle le 7e
Mai 1749. Jean Bernoulli."
souscris au jugement de Mr. Bernoulli, en conséquence de ces
suppositions. -- à la Haye le 21 Juin 1749. S. Koenig."
On which de
Fauré remarks with triumph — as I have no doubt it was intended he
should do — "il conste clairement par ma présente Analyse et
Démonstration, qu'ils y ont déja reconnu et approuvé parfaitement que
la quadrature du cercle est mathématiquement démontrée."
It should seem that it is easier to square the circle than to get round a mathematician.
BISHOP HORNE ON NEWTON.
The theology and philosophy in
Cicero's Somnium Scipionis explained. Or, a brief attempt to
demonstrate, that the Newtonian system is perfectly agreeable to the
notions of the wisest ancients: and that mathematical principles are
the only sure ones. London, 1751.
satire on Newton, written when Horne was nineteen, is amusing.
Speaking of old Benjamin Martin, he goes on as follows: "But the most
elegant account of (attraction) is by that hominiform animal, Mr.
Benjamin Martin, who having attended Dr. Desaguliers' fine, raree,
gallanty shew for some years in the capacity of a turnspit, has, it
seems, taken it into his head to set up for a philosopher."
preserved the fact, unknown to his biographers, that Benj. Martin was
an assistant to Desaguliers in his lectures. Hutton says of him,
that "he was well skilled in the whole circle of the mathematical and
philosophical sciences, and wrote useful books on every one of
them." This is quite true, and even at this day he is read by
twenty where Horne is read by one. All that I say of him is due
to this contemptuous mention of a more durable man than himself, "Old
could not be a Fellow of the Royal Society, because he kept a shop —
even though the shop sold nothing but philosophical instruments.
Thomas Wright, similarly situated as to shop and goods, never was a
Fellow. The Society of our day has greatly degenerated; those of
the old time would be pleased, no doubt, that the glories of their day
should be commemorated. In the early days of the Society, there
was a similar difficulty about Graunt, the author of the celebrated
work on mortality. But their royal patron, "who never said a
foolish thing," sent them a sharp message, and charged them if they
found any more such tradesmen, they should "elect them without more
successors of Newton were very apt to declare that he had demonstrated
attraction as a physical cause. However, Newton himself had taken
reasonable pains to show that he did not pretend to this. If any
one had said to Newton, I hold that every particle of matter is a
responsible being of vast intellect, ordered by the Creator to move as
it would do if every other particle attracted it, and gifted with power
to make its way in true accordance with that law; what have you to say
against it? — Newton must have replied, "Sir! If you really
undertake to maintain this as demonstrable, your soul had better borrow
a little power from the particles of which your body is made. if
you merely ask me to refute it, I tell you that I neither can nor need
do it; for whether attraction comes in this way or in any other, it
comes, and that is all I have to do with it."
attraction, as used by Newton and the best of his followers, only meant
a drawing towards, without any implication as to the cause. Thus
whether they said that matter attracts matter, or that young lady
attracts young gentleman, they were using one word in one sense.
In this point young Horne made a hit. He justly censures those
who fixed upon Newton a more positive knowledge of what attraction is
than he pretended to have.
quotes Rowning as follows: "Mr. Rowning has a very pretty conceit upon
this same subject of attraction, about every particle of a fluid being
intrenched in three spheres of attraction and repulsion, one within
another, 'the innermost of which is a sphere of repulsion, which keeps
them from approaching into contact; the next, a sphere of attraction,
diffused around this of repulsion, by which the particles are disposed
to run together into drops; and the outermost of all, a sphere of
repulsion, whereby they repel each other, when removed out of the
attraction.' So that between the urgings and solicitations of one
and t'other, a poor unhappy particle must ever be at his wit's end, not
knowing which way to turn, or whom to obey first."
FALLACIES IN A THEORY OF ANNUITIES.
An Essay to ascertain the value of leases, and annuities for years and lives. By W[eyman] L[ee]. London, 1737.
A valuation of Annuities and
Leases certain, for a single life. By Weyman Lee, Esq. of the
Inner Temple. London, 1751. Third edition, 1773.
branch of exact science has its paradoxer. Mr. Weyman Lee was the
assailant of what all who had studied called demonstration in the
question of annuities. His error rose out of his not being able
to see that the whole is the sum of all its parts.
annuity of £100" is meant that the buyer is to have for his money £100
in a year if he be then alive, another £100 at the end of two years if
then alive, and so on.
contended that the way to value an annuity is to find out the term of
years which the individual has an even chance of surviving, and to
charge for the life annuity the value of an annuity certain for that
term. If of a thousand persons, 500 be sure to die within a year,
and the other 500 be immortal, one year is the term which each one has
an even chance of surviving, so Lee's rule would set the price of an
annuity at one year's payment. But the true value is obviously
half that of a perpetual annuity; so at 5 percent Lee's rule would give
less than the tenth of the true value.
have said, if alive, that I have put an extreme case: but any universal
truth is true in its extreme cases.
It is not
fair to bring forward an extreme case against a person who is speaking
as of usual occurrences, but it is quite fair when, as frequently
happens, the proposer insists upon a perfectly general acceptance of
his assertion. And yet many who go the whole hog protest against
being tickled with the tail.
court are good instances: they are paradoxers by trade. June 13,
1849, at Hertford, there was an action about a ship insured against a
total loss; some planks were saved, and the underwriters refused to
pay. Mr. Z. (for deft.) "There can be no degrees of totality; and
some timbers were saved." — L. C. B. "Then if the vessel were burned to
the water's edge, and some rope saved in the boat, there would be no
total loss." — Mr. Z. "This is putting a very extreme case." — L. C. B.
"The argument would go that length." What would Z. say to the
extreme case beginning somewhere between six planks and a bit of rope?
MONTUCLA'S WORK ON THE QUADRATURE.
Histoire des recherches sur la
quadrature du cercle ... avec une addition concernant les
problèmes de la duplication du cube et de la trisection de
l'angle. Paris, 1754. By Montucla.
an admirable historian when he is writing from his own direct
knowledge; it is a sad pity that he did not tell us when he was
depending on others. We are not to trust a quarter of his book,
and we must read many other books to know which quarter. The
fault is common enough, but Montucla's good three-quarters is so good
that the fault is greater in him than in most others; I mean the fault
of not acknowledging; for an historian cannot read everything.
But it must be said that mankind give little encouragement to candor on
his History of Literature, states with his own usual instinct of
honesty every case in which he depends upon others; Montucla does
not. And what is the consequence? — Montucla is trusted, and
believed in, and cried up; while the smallest talker can lament that
Hallam should be so unequal and apt to depend on others, without
remembering to mention that Hallam himself gives the information.
As to a universal history of any great subject being written entirely
upon primary knowledge, it is a thing of which the possibility is not
yet proved by an example.
says, speaking of France, that he finds three notions prevalent among
the cyclometers: (1) that there is a large reward offered for success;
(2) that the longitude problem depends on that success; (3) that the
solution is the great end and object of geometry. The same three
notions are equally prevalent among the same class in England. No
reward has ever been offered by the government of either country.
The longitude problem in no way depends upon perfect solution; existing
approximations are sufficient to a point of accuracy far beyond what
can be wanted. And geometry, content with what exists, has long
passed on to other matters.
Philosophical Essays, in three parts. By R. Lovett, Lay Clerk of the Cathedral Church of Worcester. Worcester, 1766.
The Electrical Philosopher:
containing a new system of physics founded upon the principle of an
universal Plenum of elementary fire.... By R. Lovett, Worcester,
was one of those ether philosophers who bring in elastic fluid as an
explanation by imposition of words, without deducing any one phenomenon
from what we know of it. And yet he says that attraction has
received no support from geometry; though geometry, applied to a
particular law of attraction, had shown how to predict the motions of
the bodies of the solar system. He, and many of his stamp, have
not the least idea of the confirmation of a theory by accordance of
deduced results with observation posterior to the theory.
SAINT-MARTIN ON ERRORS AND TRUTH.
Des Erreurs et de la Vérité,
ou les hommes rappelés au principe universel de la science; ouvrage
dans lequel, en faisant remarquer aux observateurs l'incertitude de
leurs recherches, et leurs méprises continuelles, on leur indique la
route qu'ils auroient dû suivre, pour acquérir l'évidence physique sur
l'origine du bien et du mal, sur l'homme, sur la nature matérielle, et
la nature sacrée; sur la base des gouvernements politiques, sur
l'autorité des souverains, sur la justice civile et criminelle, sur les
sciences, les langues, et les arts. Par un Ph.... Inc.... A
Edimbourg. 1782. Two vols.
This is the
famous work of Louis Claude de Saint-Martin (1743-1803). The
title promises much, and the writer has smart thoughts now and then;
but the whole is the wearisome omniscience of the author's day and
country, which no reader of our time can tolerate. Not that we
dislike omniscience, but we have it of our own country, both homemade
and imported; and fashions vary. But surely there can be but one
omniscience? Must a man have but one wife?
not a man have a new wife while the old one is living? There was
a famous instrumental professor forty years ago, who presented a friend
to Madame — — . The friend was startled, and looked surprised,
for not many weeks before, he had been presented to another lady, with
the same title, at Paris. The musician observed his surprise, and
quietly said, "Celle-ci est Madame — — de Londres."
was printed at Lyons, but it was a trick of French authors to pretend
to be afraid of prosecution; it made a book look wicked-like to have a
feigned place of printing, and stimulated readers. A Government
which had undergone Voltaire would never have drawn its sword upon
quiet Saint-Martin. To make himself look still worse, he was only
philosophe Inc. ..., which is generally read Inconnu but sometimes
Incrédule; most likely the ambiguity was intended. There is an
awful paradox about the book, which explains, in part, its leaden
sameness. It is all about l'homme, l'homme, l'homme, except as
much as treats of les hommes, les hommes, les hommes; but not one
single man is mentioned by name in its 500 pages. It reminds one
of "Water, water everywhere, And not a drop to drink." Not one
opinion of any other man is referred to, either for agreement or
opposition. Not even a town is mentioned. There is nothing
which brings a capital letter into the middle of a sentence, except, by
the rarest accident, such a personification as Justice.
Saint-Martin is great in mathematics. The number four essentially
belongs to straight lines, and nine to curves. The object of a
straight line is to perpetuate ad infinitum the production of a point
from which it emanates. A circle bounds the production of all its
radii, tends to destroy them, and is in some sort their enemy.
How is it possible that things so distinct should not be distinguished
in their number as well as in their action? If this important
observation had been made earlier, immense trouble would have been
saved to the mathematicians, who would have been prevented from
searching for a common measure to lines which have nothing in
common. But, though all straight lines have the number four, it
must not be supposed that they are all equal, for a line is the result
of its law and its number; but though both are the same for all lines
of a sort, they act differently, as to force, energy, and duration, in
different individuals; which explains all differences of length,
etc. I congratulate the reader who understands this; and I do not
pity the one who does not.
A FORERUNNER OF THE METRIC SYSTEM.
Method to discover the
difference of the earth's diameters; proving its true ratio to be not
less variable than as 45 is to 46, and shortest in its pole's axis 174
miles.... likewise a method for fixing an universal standard for
weights and measures. By Thomas Williams. London, 1788.
Williams was a paradoxer in his day, and proposed what was no doubt
laughed at by some. He proposed the sort of plan which the French
— independently of course — carried into effect a few years
after. He would have the 52d degree of latitude divided into
100,000 parts and each part a geographical yard. The geographical
ton was to be the cube of a geographical yard filled with sea-water
taken some leagues from land. All multiples and sub-divisions
were to be decimal.
THOMAS PAINE'S RIGHTS OF MAN.
The rights of Man, being an
answer to Mr. Burke's attack on the French Revolution. By Thomas
Paine. In two parts. 1791-1792.
A vindication of the rights of Woman, with strictures on political and moral subjects. By Mary Wollstonecraft. 1792.
A sketch of the rights of Boys
and Girls. By Launcelot Light, of Westminster School; and Lætitia
Lookabout, of Queen's Square, Bloomsbury. By the Rev. Samuel
Parr, LL.D. 1792.
When did we
three meet before? The first work has sunk into oblivion; had it
merited its title, it might have lived. It is what the French
call a pièce de circonstance; it belongs in time to the French
Revolution, and in matter to Burke's opinion of that movement.
Those who only know its name think it was really an attempt to write a
philosophical treatise on what we now call socialism. Silly
government prosecutions gave it what it never could have got for itself.
Wollstonecraft's title of was an act of discipleship to Paine's Rights
of Man, but is very badly chosen. The book was marred by the
title, especially when the authoress and her husband assumed the right
of dispensing with legal sanction until the approach of offspring
brought them to a sense of their child's interest. The right
claimed for woman is to have the education of a rational human being,
and not to be considered as nothing but woman throughout youthful
training. The maxims of Mary Wollstonecraft are now, though not
derived from her, largely followed in the education of girls,
especially in home education: just as many of the political principles
of Tom Paine, again not derived from him, are the guides of our actual
legislation. I remember, forty years ago, an old lady used to
declare that she disliked girls from the age of sixteen to
five-and-twenty. "They are full," said she, "of
femalities." She spoke of their behavior to women as well as to
men. She would have been shocked to know that she was a follower
of Mary Wollstonecraft, and had packed half her book into one sentence.
work is a satirical attack on Mary Wollstonecraft and Tom Paine.
The details of the attack would convince any one that neither has
anything which would now excite reprobation.
ATTACKS ON RELIGIOUS CUSTOMS.
political paradox were coming, at which we now stare. Cobbett
said, about 1830, in earnest, that in the country every man who did not
take off his hat to the clergyman was suspected, and ran a fair chance
of having something brought against him. I heard this assertion
canvassed, when it was made, in a party of elderly persons. The
Radicals backed it, the old Tories rather denied it, but in a way which
satisfied me they ought to have denied it less if they could not deny
But it must
be said that the Governments stopped far short of what their partisans
would have had them do. All who know Robert Robinson's very quiet
assault on church-made festivals in his History and Mystery of Good
Friday (1777) will hear or remember with surprise that the British
Critic pronounced it a direct, unprovoked, and malicious libel on the
most sacred institutions of the national Church. It was reprinted
again and again. When the Jacobin day came, the State was really
in a fright; people thought twice before they published what would now
be quite disregarded.
HONE'S FAMOUS TRIALS.
of Hone's trials (William Hone, 1779-1842) are among the important
constitutional victories of our century.
published parodies on the Creeds, the Lord's Prayer, the Catechism,
etc., with intent to bring the Ministry into contempt: everybody knew
that was his purpose. The Government indicted him for impious,
profane, blasphemous intent, but not for seditious intent.
to wear him out by proceeding day by day. December 18, 1817, they
hid themselves under the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the
Commandments; December 19, under the Litany; December 20, under the
Athanasian Creed, an odd place for shelter when they could not find it
in the previous places. Hone defended himself for six, seven, and
eight hours on the several days; and the jury acquitted him in 15, 105,
and 20 minutes.
second trial the offense was laid both as profanity and as sedition,
which seems to have made the jury hesitate. And they probably
came to think that the second count was false pretense; but the length
of their deliberation is a satisfactory addition to the value of the
first trial the Attorney General (Shepherd) had the impudence to say
that the libel had nothing of a political tendency about it, but was
avowedly set off against the religion and worship of the Church of
England. The whole is political in every sentence; neither more
nor less political than the following, which is part of the parody on
the Catechism: "What is thy duty towards the Minister? My duty
towards the Minister is, to trust him as much as I can; to honor him
with all my words, with all my bows, with all my scrapes, and with all
my cringes; to flatter him; to give him thanks; to give up my whole
soul to him; to idolize his name, and obey his word, and serve him
blindly all the days of his political life." And the parody on
the Creed begins, "I believe in George, the Regent almighty, maker of
new streets and Knights of the Bath." This is what the
Attorney-General said had nothing of a political tendency about
it. But this was on the first trial: Hone was not known.
day's trial was under Justice Abbott (afterwards C. J. Tenterden). It
was perfectly understood, when Chief Justice Ellenborough appeared in
Court on the second day, that he was very angry at the first result,
and put his junior aside to try his own rougher dealing. But Hone
tamed the lion. An eye witness told me that when he implored of
Hone not to detail his own father Bishop Law's views on the Athanasian
Creed, which humble petition Hone kindly granted, he held by the desk
for support. And the same when — which is not reported — the
Attorney-General appealed to the Court for protection against a
stinging attack which Hone made on the Bar: he held on, and said, "Mr.
Attorney, what can I do!"
I was a boy
of twelve years old, but so strong was the feeling of exultation at the
verdicts that boys at school were not prohibited from seeing the
parodies, which would have been held at any other time quite unfit to
meet their eyes. I was not able to comprehend all about the Lord
Chief Justice until I read and heard again in after years. In the
meantime, Joe Miller had given me the story of the leopard which was
sent home on board a ship of war, and was in two days made as docile as
a cat by the sailors. "You have got that fellow well under," said
an officer. "Lord bless your Honor!" said Jack, "if the Emperor
of Marocky would send us a cock rhinoceros, we'd bring him to his
bearings in no time!" When I came to the subject again, it
pleased me to entertain the question whether, if the Emperor had sent a
cock rhinoceros to preside on the third day in the King's Bench, Hone
would have mastered him.
subscription was raised for Hone, headed by the Duke of Bedford for
£105. Many of the leading anti-ministerialists joined, but there
were many of the other side who avowed their disapprobation of the
false pretense. Many could not venture their names. The
subscription was very large and would have bought a handsome annuity,
but Hone employed it in the bookselling trade, and did not
thrive. His Everyday Book and his Apocryphal New Testament are
useful books. On an annuity he would have thriven as an
antiquarian writer and collector.
It is well
that the attack on the right to ridicule Ministers roused a dormant
power which was equal to the occasion. Hone declared, on his
honor, that he had never addressed a meeting in his life, nor spoken a
word before more than twelve persons. Had he — which however
could not then be done — employed counsel and had a guilty defense made
for him, he would very likely have been convicted, and the work would
have been left to be done by another. No question that the
parodies disgusted all who reverenced Christianity, and who could not
separate the serious and the ludicrous, and prevent their existence in
which was roused against the false dealing of the Government in
pretending to prosecute for impiety when all the world knew the real
offense was, if anything, sedition, was not got up at the moment; there
had been previous exhibitions of it. For example, in the spring
of 1818 Mr. Russell, a little printer in Birmingham, was indicted for
publishing the Political Litany on which Hone was afterwards
tried. He took his witnesses to the summer Warwick assizes, and
was told that the indictment had been removed by certiorari into the
King's Bench. He had notice of trial for the spring assizes at
Warwick; he took his witnesses there, and the trial was postponed by
the Crown. He then had notice for the summer assizes at Warwick;
and so on. The policy seems to have been to wear out the
obnoxious parties, either by delays or by heaping on trials. The
Government was odious, and knew it could not get verdicts against
ridicule, and could get verdicts against impiety. No difficulty
was found in convicting the sellers of Paine's works, and the
like. When Hone was held to bail it was seen that a crisis was at
hand. All parties in politics furnished him with parodies in
proof of religious persons having made instruments of them.
published, in 1817, tracts of purely political ridicule: Official
Account of the Noble Lord's Bite, Trial of the Dog for Biting the Noble
Lord, etc. These were not touched. After the trials, it is
manifest that Hone was to be unassailed, do what he might. The
Political House that Jack built, in 1819; The Man in the Moon, 1820;
The Queen's Matrimonial Ladder, Non mi ricordo, The R---l Fowls, 1820;
The Political Showman at Home, with plates by G. Cruickshank, 1821; The
Spirit of Despotism, 1821 — all would have been legitimate marks for
prosecution in previous years. The biting caricature of several
of these works is remembered to this day. The Spirit of Despotism
was a tract of 1795, of which a few copies had been privately
circulated with great secrecy. Hone reprinted it, and prefixed
the following address to "Robert Stewart, alias Lord
Castlereagh:" "It appears to me that if, unhappily, your counsels
are allowed much longer to prevail in the Brunswick Cabinet, they will
bring on a crisis, in which the king may be dethroned or the people
enslaved. Experience has shown that the people will not be
enslaved — the alternative is the affair of your employers." Hone
might say this without notice.
In 1819 Mr.
Murray published Lord Byron's Don Juan, and Hone followed it with Don
John, or Don Juan Unmasked, a little account of what the publisher to
the Admiralty was allowed to issue without prosecution. The
parody on the Commandments was a case very much in point; and Hone
makes a stinging allusion to the use of the "unutterable Name, with a
profane levity unsurpassed by any other two lines in the English
language." The lines are
"'Tis strange — the Hebrew noun which means 'I am,'
The English always use to govern d — — n."
Hone ends with: "Lord Byron's
dedication of 'Don Juan' to Lord Castlereagh was suppressed by Mr.
Murray from delicacy to Ministers. Q. Why did not Mr. Murray
suppress Lord Byron's parody on the Ten Commandments? A. Because
it contains nothing in ridicule of Ministers, and therefore nothing
that they could suppose would lead to the displeasure of Almighty God."
matters on which I have dwelt will never appear in history from their
political importance, except in a few words of result. As a mode
of thought, silly evasions of all kinds belong to such a work as the
present. Ignorance which seats itself in the chair of knowledge
is a mother of revolutions in politics, and of unread pamphlets in
to 1830 the question of revolution or no revolution lurked in all our
English discussions. The high classes must govern — the high
classes shall not govern — and thereupon issue was to be joined.
In 1828-33 the question came to issue, and it was, Revolution with or
without civil war; choose. The choice was wisely made; and the
Reform Bill started a new system so well dovetailed into the old that
the joinings are hardly visible. And now, in 1867, the thing is
repeated with a marked subsidence of symptoms; and the party which has
taken the place of the extinct Tories is carrying through Parliament a
wider extension of the franchise than their opponents would have
used to say that a decided nose was a sign of power; on which it has
been remarked that he had good reason to say so before the play was
done. And so had our country; it was saved from a religious war,
and a civil war, by the power of that nose over its colleagues.
THOMAS TAYLOR, THE PLATONIST.
The Commentaries of Proclus. Translated by Thomas Taylor. London, 1792, 2 vols.
reputation of "the Platonist" begins to grow, and will continue to
grow. At page lvi of the Introduction is Taylor's notion of the
way to find the circumference. It is not geometrical, for it
proceeds on the motion of a point; the words "on account of the
simplicity of the impulsive motion, such a line must be either straight
or circular" will suffice to show how Platonic it is. Taylor
certainly professed a kind of heathenism. D'Israeli said, "Mr. T.
Taylor, the Platonic philosopher and the modern Plethon, consonant to
that philosophy, professes polytheism." Taylor printed this in
large type, in a page by itself after the dedication, without any
disavowal. I have seen the following, Greek and translation both,
in his handwriting: "Every good man, so far as he is a good man, is a
heathen; and every Christian, so far as he is a Christian, is a bad
man." Whether Taylor had in his head the Christian of the New
Testament, or whether he drew from those members of the "religious
world" who make manifest the religious flesh and the religious devil,
cannot be decided by us, and perhaps was not known to himself. If
a heathen, he was a virtuous one.
A NEW ERA IN FICTION.
This is the date of a very remarkable paradox. The religious
world — to use a name claimed by a doctrinal sect — had long set its
face against amusing literature and works of imagination. Bunyan,
Milton, and a few others were irresistible; but a long face was pulled
at every attempt to produce something readable for poor people and poor
children. In 1795, a benevolent association began to circulate
the works of a lady who had been herself a dramatist, and had nourished
a pleasant vein of satire in the society of Garrick and his friends;
all of which is carefully suppressed in some biographies. Hannah
More's Cheap Repository Tracts, which were bought by millions of
copies, destroyed the vicious publications with which the hawkers
deluged the country, by the simple process of furnishing the hawkers
with something more saleable.
fiction, in which the characters are drawn by themselves, was, at the
middle of the last century, the monopoly of writers who required
indecorum, such as Fielding and Smollett. All, or nearly all,
which could be permitted to the young was dry narrative, written by
people who could not make their personages talk character; they all
spoke alike. The author of the Rambler is ridiculed, because his
young ladies talk Johnsonese; but the satirists forget that all the
presentable novel-writers were equally incompetent.
I make no
exception in favor of Miss Burney, though she was the forerunner of a
new era. Suppose a country in which dress is always of one color;
then an importer brings in cargoes of blue stuff, red stuff, green
stuff, etc., and exhibits dresses of these several colors. That
person is the similitude of Miss Burney. It would be a delightful
change from a universal dull brown, to see one person all red, another
all blue, etc.; but the real inventor of pleasant dress would be the
one who could mix his colors and keep down the bright and gaudy.
Miss Burney's introduction was so charming, by contrast, that she
nailed such men as Johnson, Burke, Garrick, etc., to her books.
But when a person who has read them with keen pleasure in boyhood, as I
did, comes back to them after a long period, during which he has made
acquaintance with the great novelists of our century, three quarters of
the pleasure is replaced by wonder that he had not seen he was at a
puppet show, not at a drama.
Edgeworth, Sydney Owenson (Lady Morgan), Jane Austen, Walter Scott,
etc., are all of our century; as are, I believe, all the Minerva Press
novels, as they were called, which show some of the power in
question. Perhaps dramatic talent found its best encouragement in
the drama itself. But I cannot ascertain that any such power was
directed at the multitude, whether educated or uneducated, with natural
mixture of character, under the restraints of decorum, until the use of
it by two religious writers of the school called "evangelical," Hannah
More and Rowland Hill. The Village Dialogues, though not equal to
the Repository Tracts, are in many parts an approach, and perhaps a
copy; there is frequently humorous satire in that most effective form,
self-display. They were published in 1800, and, partly at least,
by the Religious Tract Society, the lineal successor of the Repository
association, though knowing nothing about its predecessor.
THE RELIGIOUS TRACT SOCIETY.
Religious Tract Society had existed more than fifty years, a friend
presented it with a copy of the original prospectus of the Repository,
whose existence was not known. In this prospectus it is announced
that from the plan "will be carefully excluded whatever is
enthusiastic, absurd, or superstitious." The "evangelical" party
had, from the foundation of the Religious Tract Society, regretted that
the Repository Tracts "did not contain a fuller statement of the great
evangelical principles;" while in the prospectus it is also stated that
"no cause of any particular party is intended to be served by it, but
general Christianity will be promoted upon practical principles."
This explains what has often been noticed, that the tracts contain a
mild form of "evangelical" doctrine, free from that more fervid
dogmatism which appears in the Village Dialogues.
Religious Tract Society, in 1863, republished some of H. More's tracts,
with alterations, additions, and omissions ad libitum. This is an
improper way of dealing with the works of the dead; especially when the
reprints are of popular works. A small type addition to the
preface contains: "Some alterations and abridgements have been made to
adapt them to the present times and the aim of the Religious Tract
Society." I think every publicity ought to be given to the
existence of such a practice.
in works which the Society republishes are a necessary part of their
plan, but the fact of alteration should be very distinctly announced on
the title of the work itself, not left to a little bit of small type at
the end of the preface. And the places in which alteration has
been made should be pointed out, either by marks of omission or by
putting altered sentences in brackets.
alter the works of the dead at his own discretion? Readers in
general will take each sentence to be that of the author whose name is
on the title; so that a correcting republisher makes use of his
author's name to teach his own variation. The tortuous logic of
"the trade," which is content when "the world" is satisfied, is not
easily answered, any more than an eel is easily caught; but the
Religious Tract Society may be convinced in a sentence. On which
course would they feel most safe in giving their account to the God of
truth? "In your own conscience, now?"
cuts a poor figure before a literary tribunal. Nothing was wanted
except an admission that the remarks made by me were unanswerable, and
this was immediately furnished by the Secretary. In a reply of
which six parts out of seven are a very amplified statement that the
Society did not intend to reprint all Hannah More's tracts, the
remaining seventh is: "I am not careful (perhaps this should be careful
not) to notice Professor De Morgan's objections to the changes in 'Mary
Wood' or 'Parley the Porter,' but would merely reiterate that the
tracts were neither designed nor announced to be 'reprints' of the
originals; and much less (this must be careful not; further removed
from answer than not careful) can I occupy your space by a treatise on
the Professor's question: 'May any one alter the works of the dead at
his own discretion?'"
To which I say: Thanks for help!
that Hannah More's Cheap Repository Tracts will somewhat resemble the
Pilgrim's Progress in their fate: they will become classical works of
their kind. Most assuredly this will happen if my assertion
cannot be upset, namely, that they contain the first specimens of
fiction addressed to the world at large, and widely circulated, in
which dramatic — as distinguished from puppet — power is shown, and
A TRIBUTE TO WILLIAM FREND.
The principles of Algebra. By William Frend. London, 1796. Second Part, 1799.
Algebra shows "great distrust of the results of algebraical science
which were in existence at the time when it was written." It
makes war of extermination upon all that distinguishes algebra from
respect which I entertained for my father-in-law did not prevent my
canvassing with perfect freedom his anti-algebraical and anti-Newtonian
opinions. If the manner in which algebra was presented to the
learner had been true algebra, he would have been right; and if he had
confined himself to protesting against the imposition of attraction as
a fundamental part of the existence of matter, he would have been in
unity with a great many, including Newton himself. I wish he had
preferred amendment to rejection when he was a college tutor; he wrote
and spoke English with a clearness which is seldom equaled.
constantly said that, at his celebrated trial in 1792 for sedition and
opposition to the Liturgy, etc., he was expelled from the
University. Actually, he was banished. People cannot see
the difference, but it made all the difference to Mr. Frend. He
held his fellowship and its profits till his marriage in 1808, and was
a member of the University and of its Senate till his death in 1841.
would have expelled him if they could, is perfectly true; and there is
a funny story — also perfectly true — about their first proceedings
being under a statute which would have given the power, had it not been
discovered during the proceedings that the statute did not exist. It
had come so near to existence as to be entered into the
Vice-Chancellor's book for his signature, which it wanted, as was not
seen till Mr. Frend exposed it; in fact, the statute had never actually
I once had
a conversation with a very remarkable man, who was generally called
"Place, the tailor," but who was politician, political economist,
etc. He sat in the room above his shop — he was then a thriving
master tailor at Charing Cross — surrounded by books enough for nine,
to shame a proverb. The blue books alone, cut up into strips,
would have measured Great Britain for oh-no-we-never-mention-'ems, the
Highlands included. I cannot find a biography of this worthy and
able man. I happened to mention William Frend, and he said,
"Ah! My old master, as I always call him. Many and many a
time, and year after year, did he come in every now and then to give me
instruction, while I was sitting on the board, working for my living,
really was a sound economist, is joined with Cobbett, because they were
together at one time, and because he was, in 1800, etc., a great
Radical. But for Cobbett, Place had a great contempt. He
told me the following story. He and others were advising with
Cobbett about the defense he was to make on a trial for seditious libel
which was coming on. Said Place, "You must put in the letters you
have received from Ministers, members of the Commons from the Speaker
downwards, etc., about your Register, and their wish to have subjects
noted. You must then ask the jury whether a person so addressed
must be considered as a common sower of sedition, etc. You will
be acquitted; nay, if your intention should get about, very likely they
will manage to stop proceedings." Cobbett was too much disturbed
to listen; he walked about the room exclaiming "D — — the prison!" and
the like. He had not the sense to follow the advice, and was
A STORY ON SIMSON.
Simson used to sit at his open window on the ground floor, deep in
geometry. Here he would be accosted by beggars, to whom he
generally gave a trifle, he roused himself to hear a few words of the
story, made his donation, and instantly dropped down into his
depths. Some wags one day stopped a mendicant who was on his way
to the window with "Now, my man, do as we tell you, and you will get
something from that gentleman, and a shilling from us besides.
You will go and say you are in distress, he will ask you who you are,
and you will say you are Robert Simson, son of John Simson of
Kirktonhill." The man did as he was told; Simson quietly gave him
a coin, and dropped off. The wags watched a little, and saw him
rouse himself again, and exclaim "Robert Simson, son of John Simson of
Kirktonhill! Why, that is myself. That man must be an
impostor." Lord Brougham tells the same story, with some
difference of details.
Maseres was, as a writer, dry; those who knew his writings will feel
that he seldom could have taken in a joke or issued a pun.
Maseres was the fourth wrangler of 1752, and highest in classics; yet
his tutor could not get through the second page of a first book on
algebra; a negative quantity stood like a lion in the way.
difficulty of the opponents of algebra lay in want of power or will to
see extension of terms. Maseres implies that extension,
accompanied by its refusal, makes jargon. One of my paradoxers
was present at a meeting of the Royal Society in 1864 and asked
permission to make some remarks upon a paper. He rambled into
other things, and, naming me, said that I had written a book in which
two sides of a triangle are pronounced equal to the third. So
they are, in the sense in which the word is used in complete algebra;
in which A + B = C makes A, B, C, three sides of a triangle, and
declares that going over A and B, one after the other, is equivalent,
in change of place, to going over C at once. My critic, who might
have objected to extension, insisted upon reading me in unextended
The Doctrine of Life Annuities (726 pages, 1783).
paradox. Its size, the heavy dissertations on the national debt,
and the depth of algebra supposed known, put it out of the question as
an elementary work, and it is unfitted for the higher student. It
is a climax of unsaleability, unreadability, and inutility. For
intrinsic nullity of interest, and dilution of little matter with much
ink, I can compare this book to nothing but that of Claude de St.
Martin, elsewhere mentioned, or the lectures On the Nature and
Properties of Logarithms, by James Little, Dublin, 1830, 8vo.
(254 heavy pages of many words and few symbols), a wonderful weight of
Origin of the English Language, related by a Swede.
ago in a party in Holland, consisting of natives of various countries,
the merit of their respective languages became a topic of
conversation. A Swede, who had been a great traveler and could
converse in most of the modern languages of Europe, laughed very
heartily at an Englishman who had ventured to speak in praise of the
tongue of his dear country. I never had any trouble, says he, in
learning English. To my very great surprise, the moment I sat
foot on shore at Gravesend, I found out, that I could understand, with
very little trouble, every word that was said. It was a mere
jargon, made up of German, French, and Italian, with now and then a
word from the Spanish, Latin or Greek. I had only to bring my
mouth to their mode of speaking, which was done with ease in less than
a week, and I was everywhere taken for a true-born Englishman; a
privilege of no small importance in a country, where each man, God
knows why, thinks his foggy island superior to any other part of the
world; and though his door is never free from some dun or other coming
for a tax, and if he steps out of it he is sure to be knocked down or
to have his pocket picked, yet he has the insolence to think every
foreigner a miserable slave, and his country the seat of everything
wretched. They may talk of liberty as they please, but Spain or
Turkey for my money; barring the bowstring and the inquisition, they
are the most comfortable countries under heaven, and you need not be
afraid of either if you do not talk of religion and politics. I
do not see much difference too in this respect in England, for when I
was there, one of their most eminent men for learning was put in prison
for a couple of years, and got his death for translating one of Æsop's
fables into English, which every child in Spain and Turkey is taught,
as soon as he comes out of his leading strings.
the company unanimously cried out against the Swede, that it was
impossible; for in England, the land of liberty, the only thing its
worst enemies could say against it was that they paid for their liberty
a much greater price than it was worth. Every man there had a
fair trial according to laws, which everybody could understand; and the
judges were cool, patient, discerning men, who never took the part of
the crown against the prisoner, but gave him every assistance possible
for his defense.
was borne down, but not convinced; and he seemed determined to spit out
all his venom. Well, says he, at any rate you will not deny that
the English have not got a language of their own, and that they came by
it in a very odd way. Of this at least I am certain, for the
whole history was related to me by a witch in Lapland, whilst I was
bargaining for a wind. Here the company were all in unison again
for the story.
times, said the old hag, the English occupied a spot in Tartary where
they lived sulkily by themselves, unknowing and unknown. By a
great convulsion that took place in China, the inhabitants of that and
the adjoining parts of Tartary were driven from their seats, and after
various wanderings took up their abode in Germany. During this
time nobody could understand the English, for they did not talk, but
hissed like so many snakes. The poor people felt uneasy under
this circumstance, and in one of their hissing meetings, it was
determined to seek a remedy, and an embassy was sent to some of our
sisterhood then living on Mount Hecla. They summoned the Devil to
their relief. To him the English presented their petitions, and
explained their sad case; and he, upon certain conditions, promised to
befriend them, and to give them a language.
Devil was little aware of what he had promised; but he is, as all the
world knows, a man of too much honor to break his word. Up and
down the world he went in quest of this new language; visited all the
universities, and all the schools, and all the courts of law, and all
the playhouses, and all the prisons; never was poor devil so
fagged. It would have made your heart bleed to see him.
Thrice did he go round the earth in every parallel of latitude; and at
last, wearied and jaded out, back came he to Hecla in despair, and
would have thrown himself into the volcano, if he had been made of
combustible materials. Luckily at that time our sisters were
engaged in settling the balance of Europe; and whilst they were looking
over projects, and counter-projects, and ultimatums, and post
ultimatums, the poor Devil, unable to assist them was groaning in a
corner and ruminating over his sad condition.
sudden, a hellish joy overspread his countenance; up he jumped, and,
like Archimedes of old, ran like a madman amongst the throng, turning
over tables, and papers, and witches, roaring out for a full hour
together nothing else but 'Tis found, 'Tis found!' Away were sent
the sisterhood in every direction, some to traverse all the corners of
the earth, and others to prepare a larger caldron than had ever yet
been set upon Hecla. The affairs of Europe were at a stand; its
balance was thrown aside; prime ministers and ambassadors were
everywhere in the utmost confusion; and,by the way, they have never
been able to find the balance since that time, and all the fine
speeches upon the subject, with which your newspapers are every now and
then filled, are all mere hocus pocus and rhodomontade.
the caldron was soon set on, and the air was darkened by witches riding
on broomsticks, bringing a couple of folios under each arm, and across
each shoulder. I remember the time exactly: it was just as the
council of Nice had broken up, so that they got books and papers there
dog cheap; but it was a bad thing for the poor English, as these were
the worst materials that entered into the caldron. Besides, as
the Devil wanted some amusement, and had not seen an account of the
transactions of this famous council, he had all the books brought from
it laid before him, and split his sides almost with laughing, whilst he
was reading the speeches and decrees of so many of his old friends and
acquaintances. All this while the witches were depositing their
loads in the great caldron. There were books from the Dalai Lama,
and from China; there were books from the Hindus, and tallies from the
Caffres; there were paintings from Mexico, and rocks of hieroglyphics
from Egypt; the last country supplied besides the swathings of two
thousand mummies, and four-fifths of the famed library of
Alexandria. Bubble! bubble! toil and trouble! Never was a
day of more labor and anxiety; and if our good master had but flung in
the Greek books at the proper time, they would have made a complete job
of it. He was a little too impatient: as the caldron frothed up,
he skimmed it off with a great ladle, and filled some thousands of our
wind-bags with the froth, which the English with great joy carried back
to their own country. These bags were sent to every district: the
chiefs first took their fill, and then the common people; hence they
now speak a language which no foreigner can understand, unless he has
learned half a dozen other languages; and the poor people, not one in
ten, understand a third part of what is said to them. The
hissing, however, they have not entirely got rid of, and every seven
years, when the Devil, according to agreement, pays them a visit, they
entertain him at their common halls and county meetings with their
good-natured old hag told me several other circumstances relative to
this curious transaction, which, as there is an Englishman in company,
it will be prudent to pass over in silence; but I cannot help
mentioning one thing which she told me as a very great secret.
You know, says she to me, that the English have more religions among
them than any other nation in Europe, and that there is more teaching
and sermonizing with them than in any other country. The fact is,
it matters not who gets up to teach them, the hard words of the Greek
were not sufficiently boiled, and whenever they get into a sentence,
the poor people's brains are turned, and they know no more what the
preacher is talking about, than if he harangued them in Arabic.
Take my word for it if you please; but if not, when you get to England,
desire the bettermost sort of people that you are acquainted with to
read to you an act of parliament, which of course is written in the
clearest and plainest style in which anything can be written, and you
will find that not one in ten will be able to make tolerable sense of
it. The language would have been an excellent language, if it had
not been for the council of Nice, and the words had been well boiled."
company burst out into a fit of laughter. The Englishman got up
and shook hands with the Swede: si non è vero, said he, è ben
trovato. But however I may laugh at it here, I would not advise
you to tell this story on the other side of the water. So here's
a bumper to Old England for ever, and God save the king.
NEWTON AGAIN OVERTHROWN.
A treatise on the sublime
science of heliography, satisfactorily demonstrating our great orb of
light, the sun, to be absolutely no other than a body of ice!
Overturning all the received systems of the universe hitherto extant;
proving the celebrated and indefatigable Sir Isaac Newton, in his
theory of the solar system, to be as far distant from the truth, as
many of the heathen authors of Greece and Rome. By Charles
Palmer, Gent. London, 1798.
burned some tobacco with a burning glass, saw that a lens of ice would
do as well, and then says: "If we admit that the sun could be removed,
and a terrestrial body of ice placed in its stead, it would produce the
same effect. The sun is a crystaline body receiving the radiance
of God, and operates on this earth in a similar manner as the light of
the sun does when applied to a convex mirror or glass."
Nov. 10, 1801. The Rev.
Thomas Cormouls, minister of Tettenhall, addressed a letter to Sir Wm.
Herschel, including that Newton "certainly wrought the principles he
made use of into strict analogy with the real Phenomina of the heavens,
and that the rules and results arizing from them agree with them and
resolve accurately all questions concerning them. Though they are
not fact and true, or nature, but analogous to it, in the manner of the
artificial numbers of logarithms, sines, &c. A very important
question arises, Did Newton mean to impose upon the world? By no
means; he received and used the doctrines reddy formed; he did a little
extend and contract his principles when wanted, and commit a few
oversights of consequences. But when he was very much advanced in
life, he suspected the fundamental nullity of them; but I have from a
certain anecdote strong ground to believe that he knew it before his
decease and intended to have retracted his error."
wanted to retract before his death, is a notion not uncommon among
paradoxers. Nevertheless, there is no retraction in the third
edition of the Principia, published when Newton was eighty-four years
old! The moral of the above is, that a gentleman who prefers
instructing William Herschel to learning how to spell, may find a
proper niche as a warning to others. It seems that gravitation is
not truth, but only the logarithm of it.
1810. In this year Jean
Wood, Professor of Mathematics in the University of Virginia
(Richmond), addressed a printed circular to "Dr. Herschel, Astronomer,
Greenwich Observatory." No mistake was more common than the
natural one of imagining that the Private Astronomer of the king was
the Astronomer Royal. The letter was on the difference of
velocities of the two sides of the earth, arising from the composition
of the rotation and the orbital motion. The paradox is a fair
one, and deserving of investigation; but, perhaps it would not be easy
to deduce from it tides, trade winds, aeroliths, &c., as Mr. Wood
thought he had done in a work from which he gives an extract, and which
he describes as published. The composition of rotations, &c.,
is not for the world at large; the paradox of the non-rotation of the
moon about her axis is an instance. How many persons know that
when a wheel rolls on the ground, the lowest point is moving upwards,
the highest point forwards, and the intermediate points in all degrees
of betwixt and between? This is too short an explanation, with
some good difficulties.
The Elements of Geometry. In 2 vols. (By the Rev. J. Dobson, B.D.) Cambridge, 1815.
unpunctuating paradoxer I shall give an account in his own way: he
would not stop for any one; why should I stop for him? It is
worth while to try how unpunctuated sentences will read.
reverend J Dobson BD late fellow of saint Johns college Cambridge was
rector of Brandesburton in Yorkshire he was seventh wrangler in 1798
and died in 1847 he was of that sort of eccentricity which permits
account of his private life if we may not rather say that in such cases
private life becomes public there is a tradition that he was called
Death Dobson on account of his head and aspect of countenance being not
very unlike the ordinary pictures of a human skull his mode of life is
reported to have been very singular whenever he visited Cambridge he
was never known to go twice to the same inn he never would sleep at the
rectory with another person in the house some ancient charwoman used to
attend to the house but never slept in it he has been known in the time
of coach travelling to have deferred his return to Yorkshire on account
of his disinclination to travel with a lady in the coach he continued
his mathematical studies until his death and till his executors sold
the type all his tracts to the number of five were kept in type at the
university press none of these tracts had any stops except full stops
at the end of paragraphs only neither had they capitals except one at
the beginning of a paragraph so that a full stop was generally followed
by some white as there is not a single proper name in the whole of the
book I have I am not able to say whether he would have used capitals
before proper names I have inserted them as usual for which I hope his
spirit will forgive me if I be wrong he also published the elements of
geometry in two volumes quarto Cambridge 1815 this book had also no
stops except when a comma was wanted between letters as in the straight
lines AB, BC I should also say that though the title is unpunctuated in
the author's part it seems the publishers would not stand it in their
imprint this imprint is punctuated as usual and Deighton and Sons to
prove the completeness of their allegiance have managed that comma
semicolon and period shall all appear in it why could they not have
contrived interrogation and exclamation this is a good precedent to
establish the separate right of the publisher over the imprint it is
said that only twenty of the tracts were printed and very few indeed of
the book on geometry it is doubtful whether any were sold there is a
copy of the geometry in the university library at Cambridge and I have
one myself the matter of the geometry differs entirely from Euclid and
is so fearfully prolix that I am sure no mortal except the author ever
read it the man went on without stops and without stop save for a
period at the end of a paragraph this is the unpunctuated account of
the unpunctuating geometer suum cuique tribuito Mrs Thrale would have
been amused at a Dobson who managed to come to a full stop without
either of the three warnings.
A RELIGIOUS PARADOX.
Philosophia Sacra, or the
principles of natural Philosophy. Extracted from Divine
Revelation. By the Rev. Samuel Pike. Edited by the Rev. Samuel
Kittle. Edinburgh, 1815.
William Jones is best known as William Jones of Nayland, who (1757)
published the Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity; he was also strong for
the Hutchinsonian physical trinity of fire, light, and spirit.
This well-known work was generally recommended as the defense of the
orthodox system, to those who could not go into the learning of the
now a work more suited to our time: The Rock of Ages, by the Rev. E. H.
Bickersteth, now published by the Religious Tract Society, without
date, answered by the Rev. Dr. Sadler, in a work (1859) entitled Gloria
Patri, in which, says Mr. Bickersteth, "the author has not even
attempted to grapple with my main propositions." I have read
largely on the controversy, and I think I know what this means.
when I see the note "There are two other passages to which Unitarians
sometimes refer, but the deduction they draw from them is, in each
case, refuted by the context" — I think I see why the two texts are not
named. Nevertheless, the author is a little more disposed to
yield to criticism than his foregoers; he does not insist on texts and
readings which the greatest editors have rejected. And he writes
with courtesy, both direct and oblique, towards his antagonists; which,
on his side of this subject, is like letting in fresh air. So
that I suspect the two books will together make a tolerably good
introduction to the subject for those who cannot go deep.
There is a
point which I should gravely recommend to writers on the orthodox side:
the Unitarians in England have frequently contended that the method of
proving the divinity of Jesus Christ from the New Testament would
equally prove the divinity of Moses.
B. has his own meaning of logical terms, such as "proposition;" he
certainly has his own meaning of "cumulative." He says his evidence is
cumulative; not a chain, the strength of which is in its weakest part,
but distinct and independent lines, each of which corroborates the
other. This is the very opposite of cumulative: it is
distributive. When different arguments are each necessary to a
conclusion, the evidence is cumulative; when any one will do, even
though they strengthen each other, it is distributive. The word
"cumulative" is a synonym of the law word "constructive;" a whole which
will do made out of parts which separately will not. In
conclusion, Mr. B. is a Cambridge man; the Oxford men do not confuse
the elementary terms of logic. O dear old Cambridge! When
the New Zealander comes let him find among the relics of your later
sons some proof of attention to the elementary laws of thought. A
little-go of logic, please!
is very bad physics. The sun, apart from its light, evident to
the eye! Heat more self-demonstrating than light, because
felt! Heat only manifested by the life it diffuses! Light
implied not necessary to life! But the theology is worse than
Sabellianism. To adumbrate — i.e., make a picture of — the
orthodox doctrine, the sun must be heavenly body, the light heavenly
body, the heat heavenly body; and yet, not three heavenly bodies, but
one heavenly body. The truth is, that this illustration and many
others most strikingly illustrate the Trinity of fundamental doctrine
held by the Unitarians, in all its differences from the Trinity of
persons held by the Orthodox. Be right which may, the right or
wrong of the Unitarians shines out in the comparison. Dr. Sadler
confirms me — by which I mean that I wrote the above before I saw what
he says — in the following words: "The sun is one object with two
properties, and these properties have a parallel not in the second and
third persons of the Trinity, but in the attributes of Deity."
light alone, as self-evident, and making heat self-demonstrating,
because felt — i.e., perceptible now and then — has the character of
the Irishman's astronomy:
"Long life to the moon, for a dear noble cratur,
Which serves us for lamplight all night in the dark,
While the sun only shines in the day, which by natur,
Wants no light at all, as ye all may remark."
SIR RICHARD PHILLIPS.
Phillips (born 1768) was conspicuous in 1793, when he was sentenced to
a year's imprisonment for selling Paine's Rights of Man; and again in
1807, when he was knighted as Sheriff of London. He was not only
an anti-Newtonian, but carried to a fearful excess the notion that
statesmen and Newtonians were in league to deceive the world.
In 1836, he
did me the honor to attempt my conversion. In his first letter he
says: "Sir Richard Phillips has an inveterate abhorrence of all the
pretended wisdom of philosophy derived from the monks and doctors of
the middle ages, and not less of those of higher name who merely sought
to make the monkish philosophy more plausible, or so to disguise it as
to mystify the mob of small thinkers." So little did his writings
show any knowledge of antiquity that I strongly suspect, if required to
name one of the monkish doctors, he would have answered —
Aristotle. These schoolmen, and the "philosophical trinity of
gravitating force, projectile force, and void space," were the bogies
of his life.
I think he
began to publish speculations in the Monthly Magazine (of which he was
editor) in July 1817. In the Preface, perhaps judging the
feelings of others by his own, he says that he "fully expects to be
vilified, reviled, and anathematized, for many years to come."
Poor man! He was let alone. He appeals with confidence to
the "impartial decision of posterity"; but posterity does not appoint a
hearing for one per cent of the appeals which are made; and it is much
to be feared that an article in such a work of reference as this will
furnish nearly all her materials fifty years hence.
following, addressed to M. Arago in 1835, will give posterity as good a
notion as she will probably need: "Even the present year has afforded
EVER-MEMORABLE examples, paralleled only by that of the Romish Conclave
which persecuted Galileo. Policy has adopted that maxim of
Machiavel which teaches that it is more prudent to reward partisans
than to persecute opponents. Hence, a bigoted party had influence
enough with the late short-lived administration to confer munificent
royal pensions on three writers whose sole distinction was their
advocacy of the Newtonian philosophy. A Cambridge professor last
year published an elaborate volume in illustration of Gravitation, and
on him has been conferred a pension of 300 l. per annum. A lady
has written a light popular view of the Newtonian Dogmas, and she has
been complimented by a pension of 200 l. per annum. And another
writer, who has recently published a volume to prove that the only true
philosophy is that of Moses, has been endowed with a pension of 200 l.
per annum. Neither of them were needy persons, and the political
and ecclesiastical bearing of the whole was indicated by another
pension of 300 l. bestowed on a political writer, the advocate of all
abuses and prejudices.
the conduct of the Romish Conclave was more base for visiting with
legal penalties the promulgation of the doctrines that the Earth turns
on its axis and revolves around the Sun; or that of the British Court,
for its craft in conferring pensions on the opponents of the plain
corollary, that all the motions of the Earth are 'part and parcel' of
these great motions, and those again and all like them consecutive
displays of still greater motions in equality of action and reaction,
is A QUESTION which must be reserved for the casuists of other
generations.... I cannot expect that on a sudden you and your
friends will come to my conclusion, that the present philosophy of the
Schools and Universities of Europe, based on faith in witchcraft,
magic, &c., is a system of execrable nonsense, by which quacks live
on the faith of fools; but I desire a free and fair examination of my
Aphorisms, and if a few are admitted to be true, merely as courteous
concessions to arithmetic, my purpose will be effected, for men will
thus be led to think; and if they think, then the fabric of false
assumptions, and degrading superstitions will soon tumble in ruins."
posterity. For the present time I ground the fame of Sir R.
Phillips on his having squared the circle without knowing it, or
intending to do it. In the Protest presently noted he discovered
that "the force taken as 1 is equal to the sum of all its fractions
... thus 1 = 1/4 + 1/9 + 1/16 + 1/25, &c., carried to
infinity." This the mathematician instantly sees is equivalent to
the theorem that the circumference of any circle is double of the
diagonal of the cube on its diameter.
Phillips had four valuable qualities; honesty, zeal, ability, and
courage. He applied them all to teaching matters about which he
knew nothing; and gained himself an uncomfortable life and a ridiculous
WHATELY'S FAMOUS PARADOX.
Historic doubts relative to Napoleon Buonaparte. London, 1819.
has since been acknowledged by Archbishop Whately and reprinted.
It is certainly a paradox, but differs from most as being a joke, and a
satire upon the reasoning of those who cannot receive narrative, no
matter what the evidence, which is to them utterly improbable a priori.
VOLTAIRE A CHRISTIAN.
Voltaire Chrétien; preuves tirées de ses ouvrages. Paris, 1820.
have not succeeded in proving himself a strong theist and
anti-revelationist, who is to succeed in proving himself one thing or
the other in any matter whatsoever? By occasional confusion between
theism and Christianity; by taking advantage of the formal phrases of
adhesion to the Roman Church, which very often occur, and are often the
happiest bits of irony in an ironical production; by citations of his
morality, which is decidedly Christian, though often attributed to
Brahmins; and so on — the author makes a fair case for his paradox, in
the eyes of those who know no more than he tells them.
Christian! The word has degenerated into a synonym of man, in
what are called Christian countries. We have the parrot who
"swore for all the world like a Christian," and the two dogs who "hated
each other just like Christians." When the Irish duellist of the
last century, whose name may be spared in consideration of its historic
fame and the worthy people who bear it, was (June 12, 1786) about to
take the consequence of his last brutal murder, the rope broke, and the
criminal got up, and exclaimed, "By — — Mr. Sheriff, you ought to be
ashamed of yourself! this rope is not strong enough to hang a dog, far
less a Christian!"
As to a
word so defiled by usage, it is well to know that there is a way of
escape from it, without renouncing the New Testament. I suppose
any one may assume for himself what I have sometimes heard contended
for, that no New Testament word is to be used in religion in any sense
except that of the New Testament. This granted, the question is
settled. The word Christian, which occurs three times, is always
a term of contempt from those without the pale to those within.
Herod Agrippa says to Paul (Acts xxvi. 28), "Almost thou persuadest me
to be (what I and other followers of the state religion despise under
the name) a Christian." And (Acts xi. 26) "The disciples (as they
called themselves) were called (by the surrounding heathens) Christians
first in Antioch." And (1 Peter iv. 16), "Let none of you suffer
as a murderer.... But if as a Christian (as the heathen call it
by whom the suffering comes), let him not be ashamed."
That is, no
disciple ever called himself a Christian, or applied the name, as from
himself, to another disciple, from one end of the New Testament to the
other; and no disciple need apply that name to himself in our day, if
he dislike the associations with which the conduct of Christians has
WRONSKI ON THE LONGITUDE PROBLEM.
Address of M. Hoene-Wronski to
the British Board of Longitude, upon the actual state of the
mathematics, their reform, and upon the new celestial mechanics, giving
the definitive solution of the problem of longitude. London, 1820.
above is an attack on modern mathematicians in general, and on the
Board of Longitude, and Dr. Young. M. Wronski was the author of
seven quartos on mathematics, showing very great power of
generalization. He was also deep in the transcendental
philosophy, and had the Absolute at his fingers' ends. All this
knowledge was rendered useless by a persuasion that he had greatly
advanced beyond the whole world, with many hints that the Absolute
would not be forthcoming, unless prepaid.
He was a man of the widest extremes. At one time he desired people to see all possible mathematics in
Fx = A0Ω0 + A1Ω1 + A2Ω2 + A3Ω3 + &c.
which he did not explain,
though there is meaning to it in the quartos. At another time he
was proposing the general solution of the fifth degree by help of 625
independent equations of one form and 125 of another.
HERBART'S MATHEMATICAL PSYCHOLOGY.
De Attentionis mensura causisque primariis. By J. F. Herbart. Kœnigsberg, 1822.
celebrated philosopher maintained that mathematics ought to be applied
to psychology. For example, let t be the time elapsed since the
consideration began, β the whole perceptive intensity of the
individual, φ the whole of his mental force, and z the force given to a
notion by attention during the time t. Then,
z = φ (1 - ε-βt)
Now for a test. There is a
jactura, v, the meaning of which I do not comprehend. If there be
anything in it, my mathematical readers ought to interpret it from the
v = πφβ/(1 - β)ε-βt + Cε-t
and to this task I leave them,
wishing them better luck than mine. The time may come when other
manifestations of mind, besides belief, shall be submitted to
calculation; at that time, should it arrive, a final decision may be
passed upon Herbart.
The Mythological Astronomy of
the Ancients; part the second: or the key of Urania, the words of which
will unlock all the mysteries of antiquity. Norwich, 1823.
A Companion to the Mythological Astronomy, &c., containing remarks on recent publications.... Norwich, 1824, 12mo.
A new Theory of the Earth and
of planetary motion; in which it is demonstrated that the Sun is
vicegerent of his own system. Norwich, 1825.
The analyzation of the
writings of the Jews, so far as they are found to have any connection
with the sublime science of astronomy.
are all by Sampson Arnold Mackey. An extraordinary man he
certainly was; not one illiterate shoemaker in a thousand could work
upon such a singular mass of Sanskrit and Greek words, without showing
evidence of being able to read a line in any language but his own, or
to spell that correctly. He was an uneducated Godfrey
Higgins. A few extracts will put this in a strong light: one for
history of science, one for astronomy, and one for philology:
Newton was of opinion that 'the atmosphere of the earth was the sensory
of God; by which he was enabled to see quite round the earth:' which
proves that Sir Isaac had no idea that God could see through the earth."
Richard (Phillips) has given the most rational explanation of the cause
of the earth's elliptical orbit that I have ever seen in print.
It is because the earth presents its watery hemisphere to the sun at
one time and that of solid land the other; but why has he made his
Oxonian astonished at the coincidence? It is what I taught in my
attic twelve years before."
that the Eloim were powerful and intelligent beings that managed these
things, we would accuse them of being the authors of all the sufferings
of Chrisna. And as they and the constellation of Leo were below
the horizon, and consequently cut off from the end of the zodiac, there
were but eleven constellations of the zodiac to be seen; the three at
the end were wanted, but those three would be accused of bringing
Chrisna into the troubles which at last ended in his death. All
this would be expressed in the Eastern language by saying that Chrisna
was persecuted by those Judoth Ishcarioth!!!!! (the five notes of
exclamation are the author's). But the astronomy of those distant
ages, when the sun was at the south pole in winter, would leave five of
those Decans cut off from our view, in the latitude of twenty-eight
degrees; hence Chrisna died of wounds from five Decans, but the whole
five may be included in Judoth Ishcarioth! for the phrase means 'the
men that are wanted at the extreme parts.' Ishcarioth is a
compound of ish, a man, and carat wanted or taken away, and oth the
plural termination, more ancient than im...."
show how Michael is the sun, and the D'-ev-'l in French Di-ob-al, also
'L-evi-ath-an — the evi being the radical part both of devil and
leviathan — is the Nile, which the sun dried up for Moses to
pass. Also how Moses, the same name as Muses, is from mesha,
drawn out of the water, "hence we called our land which is saved from
the water by the name of marsh." Great astronomical and
philological attainments, much ability and learning; had evidently read
and studied deeply; remarkable for the originality of his views upon
the very abstruse subject of mythological astronomy, in which he
exhibited great sagacity. Certainly his views were original; but
their sagacity, if it be allowable to copy his own mode of
etymologizing, is of an ori-gin-ale cast, resembling that of a person
who puts to his mouth liquors both distilled and fermented.
A KANTESIAN JEWELER.
Principles of the Kantesian, or transcendental philosophy. By Thomas Wirgman. London, 1824.
Wirgman's mind was somewhat attuned to psychology; but he was cracky
and vagarious. He had been a fashionable jeweler in St. James's
Street; he old snuff-boxes, among other things, and fifty years ago a
fashionable snuff-boxer would be under inducement, if not positively
obliged, to have a stock with very objectionable pictures. So
Wirgman, by this trifling excess of candor, came under the notice of
the Suppression Society, and ran considerable risk. Mr. Brougham
was his counsel, and managed to get him acquitted.
years after this, when Mr. Brougham was deep in the formation of the
London University (now University College), Mr. Wirgman called on
him. "What now?" said Mr. B. with his most sarcastic look — a
very perfect thing of its kind — "you're in a scrape again, I
suppose!" "No! indeed!" said W., "my present object is to ask
your interest for the chair of Moral Philosophy in the new
University!" He had taken up Kant!
Wirgman, an itinerant paradoxer, called on me in 1831: he came to
convert me. "I assure you," said he, "I am nothing but an old
brute of a jeweler;" and his eye and manner were of the extreme of
jocosity, as good in their way as the satire of his former
counsel. I mention him as one of that class who go away quite
satisfied that they have wrought conviction. "Now," said he,
"I'll make it clear to you! Suppose a number of goldfish in a
glass bowl, — you understand? Well! I come with my cigar
and go puff, puff, puff, over the bowl, until there is a little cloud
of smoke: now, tell me, what will the goldfish say to that?" "I
should imagine," said I, "That they would not know what to make of
it." "By Jove! you're a Kantian;" said he, and with this and the
like, he left me, vowing that it was delightful to talk to so
intelligent a person. The greatest compliment Wirgman ever
received was from James Mill, who used to say he did not understand
Kant. That such a man as Mill should think this worth saying is a
feather in the cap of the jocose jeweler.
of Cork (1786-1847). This discoverer has had the honor of a
biography from Professor Boole, in the Philosophical Magazine for
November, 1851. Mr. Walsh introduced himself to me, as he did to
many others, in the ante-Rowlandian days of the Post Office; his unpaid
letters were double, treble, &c. They contained his
pamphlets, and cost their weight in silver.
who has taken the moral and social features of Walsh's delusions from
the commiserating point of view, which makes ridicule out of place, has
been obliged to treat Walsh as Scott's Alan Fairford treated his client
Peter Peebles; namely, keep the scarecrow out of court while the case
was argued. My plan requires me to bring him in; and when he
comes in at the door, pity and sympathy fly out at the window.
reader remember that he was not an ignoramus in mathematics; he might
have won his spurs if he could have first served as an esquire.
Though so illiterate that even in Ireland he never picked up anything
more Latin than Irelandus, he was a very pretty mathematician spoiled
in the making by intense self-opinion. This is part of a private
letter to me at the back of a page of print; I had never addressed a
word to him:
no limits in mathematics, and those that assert there are, are infinite
ruffians, ignorant, lying blackguards. There is no differential
calculus, no Taylor's theorem, no calculus of variations, &c.
in mathematics. There is no quackery whatever in mathematics; no
% equal to anything. What sheer ignorant blackguardism
that! In mechanics the parallelogram of forces is quackery, and
is dangerous; for nothing is at rest, or in uniform, or in rectilinear
motion, in the universe. Variable motion is an essential property
of matter. Laplace's demonstration of the parallelogram of forces
is a begging of the question; and the attempts of them all to show that
the difference of twenty minutes between the sidereal and actual
revolution of the earth round the sun arises from the tugging of the
Sun and Moon at the pot-belly of the earth, without being sure even
that the earth has a pot-belly at all, is perfect quackery. The
said difference arising from and demonstrating the revolution of the
Sun itself round some distant center."
letter to Lord Brougham we read as follows: "I ask the Royal Society of
London, I ask the Saxon crew of that crazy hulk, where is the dogma of
their philosophic god now?... When the Royal Society of London
and the Academy of Sciences of Paris shall have read this memorandum,
how will they appear? Like two cur dogs in the paws of the
noblest beast of the forest.... Just as this note was going to
press, a volume lately published by you was put into my hands, wherein
you attempt to defend the fluxions and Principia of Newton.
Man! What are you about? You come forward now with your
special pleading, and fraught with national prejudice, to defend, like
the philosopher Grassi, the persecutor of Galileo, principles and
reasoning which, unless you are actually insane, or an ignorant quack
in mathematics, you know are mathematically false. What a moral
lesson this for the students of the University of London from its
head! Man! Demonstrate corollary 3, in this note, by the
lying dogma of Newton, or turn your thoughts to something you
understand. "Walsh Irelandus."
Walsh — honor to his memory — had the consideration to save me postage
by addressing a pamphlet under cover to a Member of Parliament, with an
explanatory letter. In that letter he gives a candid opinion of
himself: "Mr. Walsh takes leave to send the enclosed corrected copy to
Mr. Hutton as one of the Council of the University of London, and to
save postage for the Professor of Mathematics there. He will find
in it geometry more deep and subtle, and at the same time more simple
and elegant, than it was ever contemplated human genius could invent."
proceeds to set forth that a certain "tomfoolery lemma," with its
"tomfoolery" superstructure, "never had existence outside the shallow
brains of its inventor," Euclid. He then proceeds thus: "The same
spirit that animated those philosophers who sent Galileo to the
Inquisition animates all the philosophers of the present day without
exception. If anything can free them from the yoke of error, it
is the (Walsh) problem of double tangence. But free them it will,
how deeply soever they may be sunk into mental slavery — and God knows
that is deeply enough; and they bear it with an admirable grace; for
none bear slavery with a better grace than tyrants. The lads must
adopt my theory.... It will be a sad reverse for all our great
professors to be compelled to become schoolboys in their gray
years. But the sore scratch is to be compelled, as they had
before been compelled one thousand years ago, to have recourse to
Ireland for instruction."
system is, that all mathematics and physics are wrong: there is hardly
one proposition in Euclid which is demonstrated. His example
ought to warn all who rely on their own evidence to their own
success. He was not, properly speaking, insane; he only spoke his
mind more freely than many others of his class. He lived a happy
life contemplating his own perfections, like Brahma on the lotus-leaf.
GROWTH OF FREEDOM OF OPINION.
opinion, beyond doubt, is gaining ground, for good or for evil
according to what the speaker happens to think: admission of authority
is no longer made in the old way. If we take divinity and
medicine, it is manifest that a change has come over us. Once it
was enough that dose or dogma should be certified by "Il a été ordonné,
Monsieur, il a été ordonné." Very much changed, but whether for
good or for evil does not now matter; the question is, whether
paradoxers' contempt of demonstration has augmented with the rejection
of dogmatic authority. It ought to be the other way: for the
worship of reason is the system on which, if we trust them, the deniers
of guidance ground their plan of life.
THE STATUS OF MEDICINE.
known a medical man — a young one — who was seriously of the opinion
that the country ought to be divided into medical parishes, with a
practitioner appointed to each, and a penalty for calling in any but
the incumbent curer. How should people know how to choose?
The hair-dressers once petitioned Parliament for an act to compel
people to wear wigs. My own opinion is of the opposite extreme,
as in the following letter (Examiner, April 5, 1856); which, to my
surprise, I saw reprinted in a medical journal, as a plan not
absolutely to be rejected. I am perfectly satisfied that it would
greatly promote true medical orthodoxy, the predominance of well
educated thinkers, and the development of their desirable differences.
man who chooses — subject to one common law of manslaughter for all the
crass cases — doctor the bodies of all who choose to trust him, and
recover payment according to agreement in the courts of law.
Provided always that every person practising should be registered at a
moderate fee in a register to be republished every six months.
register give the name, address, and asserted qualification of each
candidate — as licentiate, or doctor, or what not, of this or that
college, hall, university, &c., home or foreign. Let it be
competent to any man to describe himself as qualified by study in
public schools without a diploma, or by private study, or even by
intuition or divine inspiration, if he please. But whatever he
holds his qualification to be, that let him declare. Let all
qualification which of its own nature admits of proof be proved,
as by the diploma or certificate, &c., leaving things which cannot
be proved, as asserted private study, intuition, inspiration, &c.,
to work their own way.
"Let it be
highly penal to assert to the patient any qualification which is not in
the register, and let the register be sold very cheap. Let the
registrar give each registered practitioner a copy of the register in
his own case; let any patient have the power to demand a sight of this
copy; and let no money for attendance be recoverable in any case in
which there has been false representation.
party in any suit have a right to produce what medical testimony he
pleases. Let the medical witness produce his register, and let
his evidence be for the jury, as is that of an engineer or a
practitioner of any art which is not attested by diplomas.
man who practises without venturing to put his name on the register be
liable to fine and imprisonment.
who practices would be obliged to tell the whole world what his claim
is, and would run a great risk if he dared to tell his patient in
private anything different from what he had told the whole world.
The consequence would be that a real education in anatomy, physiology,
chemistry, surgery, and what is known of the thing called medicine,
would acquire more importance than it now has.
THE CHRISTIAN EVIDENCE SOCIETY.
Manifesto of the Christian Evidence Society, established Nov. 12, 1824. Twenty-four plain questions to honest men.
two broadsides of August and November, 1826, signed by Robert Taylor,
A.B., Orator of the Christian Evidence Society. This gentleman
was a clergyman, and was convicted of blasphemy in 1827, for which he
suffered imprisonment, and got the name of the Devil's Chaplain.
following are quotations: "For the book of Revelation, there was no
original Greek at all, but Erasmus wrote it himself in Switzerland, in
the year 1516. Bishop Marsh, vol. i. p. 320." — "Is not God the
author of your reason? Can he then be the author of anything
which is contrary to your reason? If reason be a sufficient
guide, why should God give you any other? If it be not a
sufficient guide, why has he given you that?"
a votary of the Society being asked to substitute for reason "the right
leg," and for guide "support," and to answer the two last
questions. He said there must be a quibble, but he did not see
pleasant to reflect that the argumentum à carcere is obsolete.
One great defect of it was that it did not go far enough: there should
have been laws against subscriptions for blasphemers, against dealing
at their shops, and against rich widows marrying them.
Had I taken
in theology, I must have entered books against Christianity. I
mention the above, and Paine's Age of Reason, simply because they are
the only English modern works that ever came in my way without my
asking for them. The three parts of the Age of Reason were
published in Paris 1793, Paris 1795, and New York 1807. Carlile's
edition is of London, 1818. It must be republished when the time
comes, to show what stuff governments and clergy were afraid of at the
beginning of this century. I should never have seen the book, if
it had not been prohibited; a bookseller put it under my nose with a
fearful look round him; and I could do no less, in common curiosity,
than buy a work which had been so complimented by church and
state. And when I had read it, I said in my mind to church and
state, — Confound you! You have taken me in worse than any
reviewer I ever met with. I forget what I gave for the book, but
I ought to have been able to claim compensation somewhere.
ON GODFREY HIGGINS.
The Celtic Druids. By Godfrey Higgins, Esq. of Skellow Grange, near Doncaster. London, 1827.
Anacalypsis, or an attempt to
draw aside the veil of the Saitic Isis: or an inquiry into the origin
of languages, nations, and religions. By Godfrey Higgins,
&c..., London, 1836, 2 vols.
of these works is that "The Buddhists of Upper India (of whom the
Phenician Canaanite Melchizedek was a priest), who built the Pyramids,
Stonehenge, Carnac, &c. will be shown to have founded all the
ancient mythologies of the world, which, however varied and corrupted
in recent times, were originally one, and that one founded on
principles sublime, beautiful, and true."
contain an immense quantity of learning, very honestly put
together. I presume the enormous number of facts, and the
goodness of the index, to be the reasons why the Anacalypsis found a
permanent place in the old reading room of the British Museum.
was thoroughly and completely the man of a system. He was very
sure of any fact which he got from any of his authorities; nothing
could shake him. Imagine a conversation between him and an Indian
officer who had paid long attention to Hindu antiquities and their
remains; a third person was present, ego qui scribo. G. H. "You
know that in the temples of I-forget-who the Ceres is always sculptured
precisely as in Greece." Col. — — , "I really do not remember it,
and I have seen most of these temples." G. H. "It is so, I assure
you, especially at I-forget-where." Col. — — , "Well, I am sure!
I was encamped for six weeks at the gate of that very temple, and,
except a little shooting, had nothing to do but to examine its details,
which I did, day after day, and I found nothing of the kind." It
was of no use at all.
began life by exposing and conquering, at the expense of two years of
his studies, some shocking abuses which existed in the York Lunatic
Asylum. This was a proceeding which called much attention to the
treatment of the insane, and produced much good effect. He was
very resolute and energetic. The magistracy of his time had such
scruples about using the severity of law to people of such station as
well-to-do farmers, &c. They would allow a great deal of
resistance, and endeavor to mollify the rebels into obedience. A
young farmer flatly refused to pay under an order of affiliation made
upon him by Godfrey Higgins. He was duly warned; he persisted and
shortly found himself in jail. He went there sure to conquer the
Justice, and the first thing he did was to demand to see his
lawyer. He was told, to his horror, that as soon as he had been
cropped and prison-dressed, he might see as many lawyers as he pleased,
to be looked at, laughed at, and advised that there was but one way out
of the scrape.
two works of his by which he was known, apart from his paradoxes.
First, An apology for the life and character of the celebrated prophet
of Arabia, called Mohamed, or the Illustrious. The reader will
look at this writing of our English Buddhist with suspicious eye, but
he will not be able to avoid confessing that the Arabian prophet has
some reparation to demand at the hands of Christians. Next, Horæ
Sabaticæ; or an attempt to correct certain superstitions and vulgar
errors respecting the Sabbath. This book was very heterodox at
the time, but it has furnished material for some of the clergy of our
could quite make out whether Godfrey took that system which he traced
to the Buddhists to have a Divine origin, or to be the result of good
men's meditations. Himself a strong theist, and believer in a
future state, one would suppose that he would refer a universal
religion, spread in different forms over the whole earth from one
source, directly to the universal Parent. And this I suspect he
did, whether he knew it or not. The external evidence is
balanced. In his preface he says: "I cannot help smiling when I
consider that priests have objected to admit my former book, The Celtic
Druids, into libraries, because it was antichristian; and it has been
attacked by Deists, because it was superfluously religious. The
learned Deist, the Rev. R. Taylor, has designated me as the religious
will come when some profound historian of literature will make himself
much clearer on the point than I am.
ON POPE'S DIPPING NEEDLE.
The triumphal Chariot of
Friction: or a familiar elucidation of the origin of magnetic
attraction, &c. &c. By William Pope. London, 1829.
this work is on a dipping-needle of the author's construction. It
must have been under the impression that a book of naval magnetism was
proposed, that a great many officers, the Royal Naval Club, etc. lent
their names to the subscription list. How must they have been
surprised to find set forth that if a square be inscribed in a circle,
a circle within that, then a square again, &c., it is impossible to
have more than fourteen circles, let the first circle be as large as
you please. From this the seven attributes of God are unfolded;
and further, that all matter was moral, until Lucifer churned it into
physical "as far as the third circle in Deity;" this Lucifer, called
Leviathan in Job, being thus the moving cause of chaos. I shall
say no more, except that the friction of the air is the cause of
THE JACOTOT METHOD.
Epitomé de mathématiques. Par F. Jacotot, Avocat. 3ième edition, Paris, 1830.
Méthode Jacotot. Choix de propositions mathématiques. Par P. Y. Séprés. 2nde édition. Paris, 1830.
Jacotot's method, which had some vogue in Paris, the principle was Tout
est dans tout, and the process was Apprendre quelque chose, et à y
rapporter tout le reste. The first tract has a proposition in
conic sections and its preliminaries; the second has twenty exercises,
of which the first is finding the greatest common measure of two
numbers, and the last is the motion of a point on a surface, acted on
by given forces. This is topped up with the problem of sound in a
tube, and a slice of Laplace's theory of the tides. All to be
studied until known by heart, and all the rest will come, or at least
join on easily when it comes. There is much truth in the
assertion that new knowledge hooks on easily to a little of the old,
thoroughly mastered. The day is coming when it will be found out
that crammed erudition, got up for examinations, does not cast out any
hooks for more.
A DISCOURSE ON PROBABILITY.
Sir J. L., with a large cluster of intellectual qualities, and another
of social qualities, had one point of character which I will not call
bad and cannot call good; he never used a slang expression. To
such a length did he carry his dislike, that he could not bear head and
tail, even in a work on games of chance, so he used obverse and
reverse; but to my delight I found that the force of circumstances beat
him at last. He was obliged to take an example from the
race-course, and the name of one of the horses was Bessy Bedlam!
And he did not put her down as Elizabeth Bethlehem, but forced himself
to follow the jockeys.
Almanach Romain sur la Loterie
Royale de France, ou les Etrennes nécessaires aux Actionnaires et
Receveurs de la dite Loterie. Par M. Menut de St.-Mesmin.
contains all the drawings of the French lottery (two or three, each
month) from 1758 to 1830. It is intended for those who thought
they could predict the future drawings from the past; various sets of
sympathetic numbers are given to help them. The principle is,
that anything which has not happened for a long time must be soon to
come. The gambling reasoner is incorrigible; if he would but take
to squaring the circle, what a load of misery would be saved.
A writer of
1823, who appeared to be thoroughly acquainted with the gambling of
Paris and London, says that the gamesters by profession are haunted by
a secret foreboding of their future destruction, and seem as if they
said to the banker at the table, as the gladiators said to the emperor,
Morituri te salutant.
paradoxes of what is called chance, or hazard, might themselves make a
small volume. All the world understands that there is a long run,
a general average; but much of the world is surprised that this general
average should be computed and predicted. There are many
remarkable cases of verification; and one of them relates to the
quadrature of the circle. Suppose a planked floor of the usual
kind, with thin visible seams between the planks. Let there be a
thin straight rod, or wire, not so long as the width of the
plank. This rod, being tossed up at hazard, will either land
clear of the seams, or will lay across one seam. Buffon, and
after him Laplace, proved that in the long run the fraction of the
whole number of trials in which a seam is intersected will be twice the
length of the rod, divided by the circumference of the circle with the
width of a plank for its diameter. This will hardly be believed
until it has been tested so often that "there never could have been any
doubt about it."
ON CURIOSITIES OF π
The celebrated interminable fraction 3.14159..., which the
mathematician calls π, is the ratio of the circumference to the
diameter. But it is thousands of things besides. It is
constantly turning up in mathematics; and if arithmetic and algebra had
been studied without geometry, π must have come in somehow, though at
what stage or under what name must have depended upon the casualties of
algebraical invention. This will readily be seen when it is
stated that π is nothing but four times the series
1 - 1/3 + 1/5 - 1/7 + 1/9 - 1/11 + ...
It would be wonderful if so
simple a series had but one kind of occurrence. As it is, our
trigonometry being founded on the circle, π first appears as the ratio
stated. If, say, a deep study of probable fluctuation from
average had preceded, π might have emerged as a number perfectly
indispensable in such problems as: What is the chance of the number of
aces lying between a million + x and a million - x, when six million
throws are made with a die?
thirty years ago I had a friend, now long gone, who was a
mathematician, but not of the higher branches; he was, inter alia,
thoroughly up in all that relates to mortality, life assurance,
&c. One day, explaining to him how to find the chance is of
the survivors of a large number of persons now alive lying between
given limits of number at the end of a certain time, I came, of course
upon the introduction of π, which I could only describe as the ratio of
the circumference of a circle to its diameter. "Oh, my dear
friend! that must be a delusion; what can the circle have to do with
the numbers alive at the end of a given time?" — "I cannot demonstrate
it to you; but it is demonstrated." — "Oh! stuff! I think you can prove
anything with your differential calculus: figment, depend upon
it." I said no more; but, a few days afterwards, I went to him
and very gravely told him that I had discovered the law of human
mortality in the Carlisle Table, of which he thought very highly.
I told him that the law was involved in this circumstance. Take
the table of expectation of life, choose any age, take its expectation
and make the nearest integer a new age, do the same with that, and so
on; begin at what age you like, you are sure to end at the place where
the age past is equal, or most nearly equal, to the expectation to
come. "You don't mean that this always happens?" — "Try
it." He did try, again and again; and found it as I said.
"This is, indeed, a curious thing; this is a discovery."
EUCLID WITHOUT AXIOMS.
book of Euclid's Elements. With alterations and familiar
notes. Being an attempt to get rid of axioms altogether; and to
establish the theory of parallel lines, without the introduction of any
principle not common to other parts of the elements. By a member
of the University of Cambridge. Third edition. London, 1830.
was Lieut. Col. (now General) Perronet Thompson. Some more
attempts upon the problem are of acute and legitimate speculation, but
they do not conquer the difficulty in the manner demanded by the
conditions of the problem. The paradox of parallels does not
contribute much to my pages; its cases are to be found for the most
part in geometrical systems, or in notes to them. Most of them
consist in the proposal of additional postulates; some are attempts to
do without any new postulate.
in one of the later years of his life, imagined that he had overcome
the difficulty. He went so far as to write a paper, which he took
with him to the Institute, and began to read it. But in the first
paragraph something struck him which he had not observed: he muttered
"Il faut que j'y songe encore," and put the paper in his pocket.
ON M. DEMONVILLE.
— A Frenchman's Christian name is his own secret, unless there be two
of the surname. M. Demonville is a very good instance of the
difference between a French and English discoverer.
there is a public to listen to discoveries in mathematical subjects
made without mathematics; a public which will hear, and wonder, and
think it possible that the pretensions of the discoverer have some
foundation. The unnoticed man may possibly be right; and the old
country-town reputation which I once heard of, attaching to a man who
"had written a book about the signs of the zodiac which all the
philosophers in London could not answer," is fame as far as it
goes. Accordingly, we have plenty of discoverers who, even in
astronomy, pronounce the learned in error because of mathematics.
beyond the sphere of influence of the Academy of Sciences, there is no
one to cast a thought upon the matter; all who take the least interest
repose entire faith in the Institute. Hence the French discoverer
turns all his thoughts to the Institute, and looks for his only hearing
in that quarter. He therefore throws no slur upon the means of
knowledge, but would say, with M. Demonville: "A l'égard de M. Poisson,
j'envie loyalement la millième partie de ses connaissances
mathématiques, pour prouver mon systême d'astronomie aux plus
is that the only bodies of our system are the earth, the sun, and the
moon; all the others being illusions, caused by reflection of the sun
and moon from the ice of the polar regions. In mathematics,
addition and subtraction are for men; multiplication and division,
which are in truth creation and destruction, are prerogatives of
deity. But nothing multiplied by nothing is one.
The quadrature of the circle
discovered, by Arthur Parsey, author of the 'art of miniature
painting.' Submitted to the consideration of the Royal Society,
on whose protection the author humbly throws himself. London,
was an artist who also made himself conspicuous by a new view of
perspective. Seeing that the sides of a tower, for instance,
would appear to meet in a point if the tower were high enough, he
thought that these sides ought to slope to one another in the
picture. On this theory he published a small work, of which I
have not the title, with a Grecian temple in the frontispiece, stated,
if I remember rightly, to be the first picture which had ever been
drawn in true perspective. Of course the building looked very
Egyptian, with its sloping sides.
1831, reading an article on squaring the circle, and finding that there
was a difficulty, he set to work, got a light denied to all
mathematicians in — some would say through — a crack, and advertised in
the Times that he had done the trick. He then prepared this work,
in which, those who read it will see how, he showed that
3.14159... should be 3.0625. He might have found out his
error by stepping a draftsman's circle with the compasses.
has not had many paradoxes. The only other one I remember is that
of a writer on perspective, whose name I forget, and whose four pages I
do not possess. He circulated remarks on my notes on the subject,
published in the Athenæum, in which he denies that the stereographic
projection is a case of perspective, because the whole hemisphere makes
too large a picture for the eye conveniently to grasp at once.
That is to say, it is no perspective because there is too much
ON A COUPLE OF GEOMETRIES.
Principles of Geometry familiarly illustrated. By the Rev. W. Ritchie, LL.D. London, 1833.
A new Exposition of the system
of Euclid's Elements, being an attempt to establish his work on a
different basis. By Alfred Day, LL.D. London, 1839.
belong to a small class which have the peculiarity of insisting that in
the general propositions of geometry a proposition gives its converse:
that "Every B is A" follows from "Every A is B." On this I cannot
help transferring to my reader the words of the Pasha when he orders
the bastinado, — May it do you good!
study of logic is much wanted to show many mathematicians, of all
degrees of proficiency, that there is nothing in the reasoning of
mathematics which differs from other reasoning.
NEWTON AGAIN OBLITERATED.
Letter to the Royal
Astronomical Society in refutation of Mistaken Notions held in common,
by the Society, and by all the Newtonian philosophers. By Capt.
Forman, R.N. Shepton-Mallet, 1833.
Forman wrote against the whole system of gravitation, and got no
notice. He then wrote to Lord Brougham, Sir J. Herschel,
and others I suppose, desiring them to procure notice of his books in
the reviews; this not being acceded to, he wrote (in print) to Lord
John Russell to complain of their "dishonest" conduct. He then
sent a manuscript letter to the Astronomical Society, inviting
controversy; he was answered by a recommendation to study
dynamics. The above pamphlet was the consequence, in which,
calling the Council of the Society "craven dunghill cocks," he set them
right about their doctrines.
From all I
can learn, the life of a worthy man and a creditable officer was
completely embittered by his want of power to see that no person is
bound in reason to enter into controversy with every one who chooses to
invite him to the field.
mistake is not peculiar to philosophers, whether of orthodoxy or
paradoxy; a majority of educated persons imply, by their modes of
proceeding, that no one has a right to any opinion which he is not
prepared to defend against all comers.
SIR JOHN HERSCHEL.
In this year Sir John Herschel set up his telescope at Feldhausen, Cape
of Good Hope. He showed a resident a remarkable blood-red star,
and some little time after he heard of a sermon preached in those parts
in which it was asserted that the statements of the Bible must be true,
for that Sir J. H. had seen in his telescope "the very place where
wicked people go."
But red is
not always the color. Sir J. Herschel has in his possession a
letter written to his father, Sir W. H., dated April 3, 1787, and
signed "Eliza Cumyns," begging to know if any of the stars be indigo in
color, "because, if there be, I think it may be deemed a strong
conjectural illustration of the expression, so often used by our
Saviour in the Holy Gospels, that 'the disobedient shall be cast into
outer darkness'; for as the Almighty Being can doubtless confine any of
his creatures, whether corporeal or spiritual, to what part of his
creation He pleases, if therefore any of the stars (which are beyond
all doubt so many suns to other systems) be of so dark a color as that
above mentioned, they may be calculated to give the most insufferable
heat to those dolorous systems dependent upon them (and to reprobate
spirits placed there), without one ray of cheerful light; and may
therefore be the scenes of future punishments."
placed the infernal regions inside the earth, but others have filled
this internal cavity — for cavity they will have — with refulgent
light, and made it the abode of the blessed.
difficult to build without knowing the number to be provided for.
A friend of mine heard the following (part) dialogue between two strong
Scotch Calvinists: "Noo! hoo manny d'ye thank there are of the alact on
the arth at this moment? — Eh! mabbee a doozen — Hoot! mon! nae so mony
WOODLEY'S DIVINE SYSTEM.
A Treatise on the Divine
System of the Universe, by Captain Woodley, R.N., and as demonstrated
by his Universal Time-piece, and universal method of determining a
ship's longitude by the apparent true place of the moon; with an
introduction refuting the solar system of Copernicus, the Newtonian
philosophy, and mathematics. 1834.
Description of the Universal Time-piece.
this divine system was published several years before, and was
republished with an introduction in 1834. Capt. Woodley was very
sure that the earth does not move; he pointed out to me, in a
conversation I had with him, something — I forget what — in the motion
of the Great Bear, visible to any eye, which could not possibly be if
the earth moved. He was exceedingly ignorant, as the following
quotation from his account of the usual opinion will show: "The north
pole of the Earth's axis deserts, they say, the north star or pole of
the Heavens, at the rate of 1° in 71¾ years.... The fact is,
nothing can be more certain than that the Stars have not changed their
latitudes or declinations one degree in the last 71¾ years."
This is a
strong specimen of a class of men by whom all accessible persons who
have made any name in science are hunted. It is a pity that they
cannot be admitted into scientific societies, and allowed fairly to
state their cases, and stand quiet cross-examination, being kept in
their answers very close to the questions, and the answers written down.
perfectly satisfied that if one meeting in the year were devoted to the
hearing of those who chose to come forward on such conditions, much
good would be done. But I strongly suspect few would come forward
at first, and none in a little while; and I have had some experience of
the method I recommend, privately tried.
De la formation des Corps. Par Paul Laurent. Nancy, 1834.
ether, and ovules or eggs, which are planets, and their eggs, which are
satellites. These speculators can create worlds, in which they
cannot be refuted; but none of them dare attack the problem of a grain
of wheat, and its passage from a seed to a plant, bearing scores of
seeds like what it was itself.
ON JOHN FLAMSTEED.
An account of the Rev. John
Flamsteed, the First Astronomer-Royal.... By Francis Baily,
Esq. London, 1835. Supplement, London, 1837.
Francis Baily was a paradoxer: he brought forward things counter to
universal opinion. That Newton was impeccable in every point was
the national creed; and failings of temper and conduct would have been
utterly disbelieved, if the paradox had not come supported by very
unusual evidence. Anybody who impeached Newton on existing
evidence might as well have been squaring the circle, for any attention
he would have got.
was published by the Admiralty for distribution, and the distribution
was entrusted to Mr. Baily. On the eve of its appearance, rumors
of its extraordinary revelations got about, and persons of influence
applied to the Admiralty for copies. The Lords were in a
difficulty: but on looking at the list they saw names, as they thought,
which were so obscure that they had a right to assume Mr. Baily had
included persons who had no claim to such a compliment as presentation
from the Admiralty. The Secretary requested Mr. Baily to call
upon him. "Mr. Baily, my Lords are inclined to think that some of
the persons in this list are perhaps not of that note which would
justify their Lordships in presenting this work." — "To whom does your
observation apply, Mr. Secretary?" — "Well, now, let us examine the
list; let me see; now, — now, — now, — come! — here's Gauss — who's
Gauss?" — "Gauss, Mr. Secretary, is the oldest mathematician now
living, and is generally thought to be the greatest." — "O-o-oh! Well,
Mr. Baily, we will see about it, and I will write you a letter."
The letter expressed their Lordships' perfect satisfaction with the
There was a
controversy about the revelations made in this work; but as the
eccentric anomalies took no part in it, there is nothing for my
purpose. The following valentine from Mrs. Flamsteed, which
I found among Baily's papers, illustrates some of the points:
"3 Astronomers' Row, Paradise: February 14, 1836.
"Dear Sir, — I suppose you hardly expected to
receive a letter from me, dated from this place; but the truth is, a
gentleman from our street was appointed guardian angel to the American
Treaty, in which there is some astronomical question about
boundaries. He has got leave to go back to fetch some instruments
which he left behind, and I take this opportunity of making your
acquaintance. That America has become a wonderful place since I
was down among you; you have no idea how grand the fire at New York
looked up here. Poor dear Mr. Flamsteed does not know I am
writing a letter to a gentleman on Valentine's day; he is walked out
with Sir Isaac Newton (they are pretty good friends now, though they do
squabble a little sometimes) and Sir William Herschel, to see a new
nebula. Sir Isaac says he can't make out at all how it is
managed; and I am sure I cannot help him. I never bothered my
head about those things down below, and I don't intend to begin here.
"I have just received the news of your having
written a book about my poor dear man. It's a chance that I heard
it at all; for the truth is, the scientific gentlemen are somehow or
other become so wicked, and go so little to church, that very few of
them are considered fit company for this place. If it had not
been for Dr. Brinkley, who came here of course, I should not have heard
about it. He seems a nice man, but is not yet used to our
ways. As to Mr. Halley, he is of course not here; which is lucky
for him, for Mr. Flamsteed swore the moment he caught him in a place
where there are no magistrates, he would make a sacrifice of him to
heavenly truth. It was very generous in Mr. F. not
appearing against Sir Isaac when he came up, for I am told that if he
had, Sir Isaac would not have been allowed to come in at all. I
should have been sorry for that, for he is a companionable man enough,
only holds his head rather higher than he should do. I met him
the other day walking with Mr. Whiston, and disputing about the
deluge. 'Well, Mrs. Flamsteed,' says he, 'does old Poke-the-Stars
understand gravitation yet?' Now you must know that is rather a
sore point with poor dear Mr. Flamsteed. He says that Sir Isaac
is as crochetty about the moon as ever; and as to what some people say
about what has been done since his time, he says he should like to see
somebody who knows something about it of himself. For it is very
singular that none of the people who have carried on Sir Isaac's
notions have been allowed to come here.
"I hope you have not forgotten to tell how badly Sir
Isaac used Mr. Flamsteed about that book. I have never quite
forgiven him; as for Mr. Flamsteed, he says that as long as he does not
come for observations, he does not care about it, and that he will
never trust him with any papers again as long as he lives. I
shall never forget what a rage he came home in when Sir Isaac had
called him a puppy. He struck the stairs all the way up with his
crutch, and said puppy at every step, and all the evening, as soon as
ever a star appeared in the telescope, he called it puppy. I
could not think what was the matter, and when I asked, he only called
"I shall be very glad to see you if you come our
way. Pray keep up some appearances, and go to church a
little. St. Peter is always uncommonly civil to astronomers, and
indeed to all scientific persons, and never bothers them with many
questions. If they can make anything out of the case, he is sure
to let them in. Indeed, he says, it is perfectly out of the
question expecting a mathematician to be as religious as an apostle,
but that it is as much as his place is worth to let in the greater
number of those who come. So try if you cannot manage it, for I
am very curious to know whether you found all the letters. I
remain, dear sir, your faithful servant,
Francis Baily, Esq.
"P.S. Mr. Flamsteed has come in, and says he
left Sir Isaac riding cockhorse upon the nebula, and poring over it as
if it were a book. He has brought in his old acquaintance Ozanam,
who says that it was always his maxim on earth, that 'il appartient aux
docteurs de Sorbonne de disputer, au Pape de prononcer, et au
mathématicien d'aller en Paradis en ligne perpendiculaire.'"
FINLEYSON AS A PARADOXER.
God's Creation of the Universe as it is, in support of the Scriptures. By Mr. Finleyson. Sixth Edition, 1835.
writer, by his own account, succeeded in delivering the famous Lieut.
Richard Brothers from the lunatic asylum, and tending him, not as a
keeper but as a disciple, till he died. Brothers was, by his own
account, the nephew of the Almighty, and Finleyson ought to have been
the nephew of Brothers. For Napoleon came to him in a vision,
with a broken sword and an arrow in his side, beseeching help;
Finleyson pulled out the arrow, but refused to give a new sword;
whereby poor Napoleon, though he got off with life, lost the battle of
Waterloo. This story was written to the Duke of Wellington,
ending with "I pulled out the arrow, but left the broken sword.
Your Grace can supply the rest, and what followed is amply recorded in
history." The book contains a long account of applications to
Government to do three things: to pay 2,000 l. for care taken of
Brothers, to pay 10,000 l. for discovery of the longitude, and to
prohibit the teaching of the Newtonian system, which makes God a
liar. The successive administrations were threatened that they
would have to turn out if they refused, which, it is remarked, came to
pass in every case.
heard of a joke of Lord Macaulay, that the House of Commons must be the
Beast of the Revelations, since 658 members, with the officers
necessary for the action of the House, make 666. Macaulay read
most things, and the greater part of the rest; so he might be suspected
of having appropriated as a joke one of Finleyson's serious points — "I
wrote Earl Grey upon the 13th of July, 1831, informing him that his
Reform Bill could not be carried, as it reduced the members below the
present amount of 658, which, with the eight principal clerks or
officers of the House, make the number 666." But a witness has
informed me that Macaulay's joke was made in his hearing a great many
years before the Reform Bill was proposed; in fact, when both were
students at Cambridge. Earl Grey was, according to Finleyson, a
descendant of Uriah the Hittite.
ON THEOLOGICAL PARADOXERS.
paradoxers are some of the theologians who in their own organs of the
press venture to criticise science. These may hold their ground
when they confine themselves to the geology of long past periods and to
general cosmogony, for that is the tug of Greek against Greek; and both
sides deal much in what is grand when called hypothesis, petty when
called supposition. And very often they are not conspicuous when
they venture upon things within knowledge; wrong, but not quite wrong
enough for a Budget of Paradoxes.
however, is destined to live. The double stars have been seen
from the seventeenth century, and diligently observed by many from the
time of Wm. Herschel, who first devoted continuous attention to
them. The year 1836 was that of a remarkable triumph of
astronomical prediction. The theory of gravitation had been
applied to the motion of binary stars about each other, in elliptic
orbits, and in that year the two stars of γ Virginis, as had been
predicted should happen within a few years of that time — for years are
small quantities in such long revolutions — the two stars came to their
nearest; in fact, they appeared to be one as much with the telescope as
without it. This remarkable turning-point of the history of a
long and widely-known branch of astronomy was followed by an article in
the Church of England Quarterly Review for April 1837, written against
the Useful Knowledge Society. The notion that there are any such
things as double stars is implied to be imposture or delusion, as in
the following extract. I suspect that I myself am the Sidrophel,
and that my companion to the maps of the stars, written for the Society
and published in 1836, is the work to which the writer refers: "We have
forgotten the name of that Sidrophel who lately discovered that the
fixed stars were not single stars, but appear in the heavens like soles
at Billingsgate, in pairs; while a second astronomer, under the
influence of that competition in trade which the political economists
tell us is so advantageous to the public, professes to show us, through
his superior telescope, that the apparently single stars are really
three. Before such wondrous mandarins of science, how continually
must homunculi like ourselves keep in the background, lest we come
between the wind and their nobility."
homunculus who wrote this be still above ground, how devoutly must he
hope he may be able to keep in the background! But the chief blame
falls on the editor. The title of the article is: "The new school
of superficial pantology; a speech intended to be delivered before a
defunct Mechanics' Institute. By Swallow Swift, late M.P. for the
Borough of Cockney-Cloud, Witsbury: reprinted Balloon Island, Bubble
year, month Ventose. Long live Charlatan!"
As a rule,
orthodox theologians should avoid humor, a weapon very difficult to
employ in favor of establishment, and which, nine times out of ten,
leaves its wielder fighting on the side of heterodoxy.
Theological argument, when not enlivened by bigotry, is seldom worse
than narcotic; but theological fun, when not covert heresy, is almost
in question is a freak, which no editor should have admitted, except
after severe inspection by qualified persons. The author of this
wit committed a mistake which occurs now and then in old satire, the
confusion between himself and the party aimed at. He ought to be
reviewing this fictitious book, but every now and then the article
becomes the book itself; not by quotation, but by the writer forgetting
that he is not Mr. Swallow Swift, but his reviewer. In fact he
and Mr. S. Swift had each had a dose of the Devil's Elixir.
called the Devil's Elixir, published about forty years ago, proceeds
upon a legend of this kind. If two parties both drink of the
elixir, their identities get curiously intermingled; each turns up in
the character of the other throughout the three volumes, without having
his ideas clear as to whether he be himself or the other.
have employed such humor as I can command "in favor of
establishment." What it is worth I am not to judge; as usual in
such cases, those who are of my cabal pronounce it good, but paradoxers
either call it very poor, or commend it as sheer buffoonery. Be
it one or the other, I observe that all the effective ridicule is, in
this subject, on the side of establishment. This is partly due to
the difficulty of quizzing plain and sober demonstration; but so much,
if not more, to the ignorance of the paradoxers. For that which
cannot be ridiculed, can be turned into ridicule by those who know
how. But by the time a person is deep enough in negative
quantities and impossible quantities to be able to satirize them, he is
inclined to become a user, and shrinks from being an abuser.
person with a gift of ridicule, and knowledge enough, trying his hand
on the junction of the assertions which he will find in various books
of algebra. First, that a negative quantity has no logarithm;
secondly, that a negative quantity has no square root; thirdly, that
the first non-existent is to the second as the circumference of a
circle to its diameter. One great reason of the allowance of such
unsound modes of expression is the confidence felt by the writers that
√-1 and log(-1) will make their way, however inaccurately
described. I heartily wish that the cyclometers had knowledge
enough to attack the weak points of algebraical diction; they would
soon work a beneficial change.
AN EARLY METEOROLOGIST.
Recueil de ma vie, mes ouvrages et mes pensées. Par Thomas Ignace Marie Forster. Brussels, 1836.
Forster, an Englishman settled at Bruges, was an observer in many
subjects, but especially in meteorology. He communicated to the
Astronomical Society, in 1848, the information that, in the registers
kept by his grandfather, his father, and himself, beginning in 1767,
new moon on Saturday was followed, nineteen times out of twenty, by
twenty days of rain and wind. This statement being published in
the Athenæum, a cluster of correspondents averred that the belief is
common among seamen, in all parts of the world, and among landsmen
too. Some one quoted a distich:
"Saturday's moon and Sunday's full
Never were fine and never wull."
Another brought forward:
"If a Saturday's moon
Comes once in seven years it comes too soon."
Mr. Forster did not say he was
aware of the proverbial character of the phenomenon. He was a
very eccentric man. He treated his dogs as friends, and buried
them with ceremony. He quarrelled with the curé of his parish,
who remarked that he could not take his dogs to heaven with him.
I will go nowhere, said he, where I cannot take my dog.
test: after a tolerable course of dry weather, there was some
snow, accompanied by wind on Saturday last, here in London; there were
also heavy louring clouds. Sunday was cloudy and cold, with a
little rain; Monday was louring, Tuesday unsettled; Wednesday quite
overclouded, with rain in the morning. This test shows only a
general change of weather with a tendency towards rain. If Dr.
Forster's theory be true, it is decidedly one of the minor instances,
as far as London weather is concerned.
coincidences are required to establish a law of connection? It depends
how the mind views the matter in question. Many of the paradoxers
are quite set up by a very few instances. I will now tell a story
about myself, then ask them a question.
So far as
instances can prove a law, the following is proved: no failure has
occurred. Let a clergyman be known to me, whether by personal
acquaintance or correspondence, or by being frequently brought before
me by those with whom I am connected in private life: if that clergyman
become a bishop, he is sure, first or last, to become an
arch-bishop. This has happened in every case. As follows:
1. My last schoolmaster was a very intimate
college friend of Richard Whately. Struck by his friend's
talents, he used to talk of him perpetually, and predict his future
eminence. Before I was sixteen, and before Whately had even given
his Bampton Lectures, I was very familiar with his name, and some of
his sayings. I need not say that he became Archbishop of Dublin.
2. When I was a child, a first cousin of John
Bird Sumner married a sister of my mother. In time he became
Bishop of Chester, then Archbishop of Canterbury.
3. Thomas Musgrave, Fellow of Trinity College,
Cambridge, was Dean of the college when I was an undergraduate: this
brought me into connection with him, he giving impositions for not
going to chapel, I writing them out according. We had also
friendly intercourse in after life; I forgiving, he probably
forgetting. Honest Tom Musgrave, as he used to be called, became
Bishop of Hereford, and Archbishop of York.
4. About the time when I went to Cambridge, I
heard a great deal about Mr. C. T. Longley of Christchurch, from a
cousin of mine who spoke of him much, and most affectionately.
Dr. Longley passed from Durham to York, thence to Canterbury. I
cannot quite make out the two Archbishoprics; I do not remember any
other private channel through which the name came to me: perhaps Dr.
Longley, having two strings to his bow, would have been one archbishop
if I had never heard of him.
5. When Dr. Wm. Thomson was appointed to the
see of Gloucester in 1861, he and I had been correspondents on the
subject of logic — on which we had both written — for about fourteen
years. On his elevation I wrote to him, giving the preceding
instances, and informing him that he would certainly be an
Archbishop. The the law acted rapidly; for Dr. Thomson's
elevation to the see of York took place in 1862.
five cases; and there is no opposing instance. I have searched
the almanacs since 1828, and can find no instance of a Bishop not
finally Archbishop of whom I had known through private sources, direct
or indirect. Now what do my paradoxers say? Is this a
pre-established harmony, or a chain of coincidences? And how many
instances will it require to establish a law?
THE HERSCHEL HOAX.
Some account of the great
astronomical discoveries lately made by Sir John Herschel at the Cape
of Good Hope. Second Edition. London. 1836.
This is a
curious hoax, evidently written by a person versed in astronomy, and
clever at introducing probable circumstances and undesigned
coincidences. It first appeared in a newspaper. It makes
Sir J. Herschel discover men, animals, etc. in the moon, of which much
detail is given. There seems to have been a French edition, the
original, and English editions in America, whence the work came into
Britain. It was produced in the United States by M. Nicollet, an
astronomer, once of Paris, and a fugitive of some kind. About him
I have heard two stories. First that he fled to America with
funds not his own, and that this book was a mere device to raise the
wind. Secondly, that he was a protégé of Laplace and the Polignac
party, and outspoken. That after the revolution he was so
obnoxious to the republican party that he judged it prudent to quit
France; which he did in debt, leaving money for his creditors, but not
enough, with M. Bouvard. In America he connected himself with an
assurance office. The moon-story was written, and sent to France,
chiefly to trap M. Arago, Nicollet's special foe, into belief.
And those who narrate this version of the story say that M. Arago was
entrapped, and circulated the wonders through Paris, until a letter
from Nicollet to M. Bouvard explained the hoax. I have no
personal knowledge of either story, but as the poor man had to endure
the first, it is but right that the second should be told with it.
THE MATHEMATICS OF A CREED.
The creed of St. Athanasius
proved by a mathematical parallel. Before you censure, condemn,
or approve; read, examine, and understand. E. B. Revilo.
really believed himself, and was in earnest. This tract is worth
preserving, as the extreme case of a particular kind. The
following is a specimen. Infinity being represented by ∞, as
usual, and f, s, g, being finite integers, the three Persons are
denoted by ∞f, (m ∞)s, ∞g, the finite fraction m representing human
nature, as opposed to ∞. The clauses of the Creed are then given
with their mathematical parallels. I extract:
"But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of
the Holy Ghost, is all one: the glory equal, the Majesty
co-eternal. "It has been shown
that ∞f, ∞g, and (m ∞)s, together, are but ∞, and that each is ∞, and
any magnitude in existence represented by ∞ always was and always will
be, for it cannot be made, or destroyed, and yet exists.
"Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead: and
inferior to the Father, touching his Manhood."
"(m ∞)s is equal to ∞f as touching ∞, but inferior
to ∞f as touching m: because m is not infinite."
have passed this over, as beneath even my present subject, but for the
way in which I became acquainted with it. A bookseller, not the
publisher, handed it to me over his counter: one who had published
mathematical works. He said, with an air of important
communication, Have you seen this, Sir! Educated men, used to
books and to the converse of learned men, look with mysterious wonder
on such productions as this, for which reason I have made a quotation
which many will judge had better have been omitted. But it would
have been an imposition on the public if I were, omitting this and some
other uses of the Bible and Common Prayer, to pretend that I had given
a true picture of my school.
LOGIC HAS NO PARADOXERS.
Old and new logic contrasted:
being an attempt to elucidate, for ordinary comprehension, how Lord
Bacon delivered the human mind from its 2,000 years' enslavement under
Aristotle. By Justin Brenan. London, 1839.
though the other exact science, has not had the sort of assailants who
have clustered about mathematics. There is a sect which disputes
the utility of logic, but there are no special points which excite
dispute among those who admit other things.
story about Aristotle having one logic to trammel us, and Bacon another
to set us free — always laughed at by those who really knew either
Aristotle or Bacon — now begins to be understood by a large section of
the educated world. The author of this tract connects the old
logic with the indecencies of the classical writers, and the new with
moral purity; he appeals to women, who "when they see plainly the
demoralizing tendency of syllogistic logic, they will no doubt exert
their powerful influence against it, and support the Baconian
method." This is the only work against logic which I can
I quote the
author's idea of a syllogism: "This is a form of couching the substance
of your argument or investigation into one short line or sentence —
then corroborating or supporting it in another, and drawing your
conclusion or proof in a third."
definition he gives an example: "Every sin deserves death," the
substance of the "argument or investigation." Then comes, "Every
unlawful wish is a sin," which "corroborates or supports" the
preceding. And lastly, "therefore every unlawful wish deserves
death," which is the "conclusion or proof." We learn, also, that
"sometimes the first is called the premises (sic), and sometimes the
first premiss"; as also that "the first is sometimes called the
proposition, or subject, or affirmative, and the next the predicate,
and sometimes the middle term." To which is added, with a mark of
exclamation at the end, "but in analyzing the syllogism, there is a
middle term, and a predicate too, in each of the lines!" It is
clear that Aristotle never enslaved this mind.
I have said
that logic has no paradoxers, but I was speaking of old time. In
our time, logical paradoxers have appeared. I do not refer to
Prof. Boole, who is not a paradoxer, but a discoverer; his system could
neither oppose nor support common opinion, for its grounds were not in
the conception of anyone.
specially of two others, who fought like cat and dog; one was
dogmatical, the other categorical. The first was Sir William Hamilton
of Edinburgh the metaphysician (not Sir William Rowan Hamilton of
Dublin the mathematician), a combination of peculiar genius with
unprecedented learning, erudite in all he could want except
mathematics, for which he had no turn, and in which he had not even a
schoolboy's knowledge, thanks to the Oxford of his younger day.
The other was the author of this work, so fully described in Hamilton's
writings that there is no occasion to describe him here. I shall
try to say a few words in common language about the paradoxers.
great paradox was the quantification of the predicate — a fearful
phrase, easily explained. We all know that when we say "Men are
animals," a form wholly unquantified in phrase, we speak of all men,
but not of all animals: it is some or all, some may be all for aught
the proposition says. This some-may-be-all-for-aught-we-say, or
not-none, is the logician's some.
suppose that "all men are some animals," would have been the logical
phrase in all time; but the predicate never was quantified. The
few who alluded to the possibility of such a thing found reasons for
not adopting it over and above the great reason, that Aristotle did not
adopt it. Aristotle never ruled in physics or metaphysics in the
old time with near so much of absolute sway as he has ruled in logic
down to our own time. The logicians knew that in the proposition
"all men are animals" the "animal" is not universal but particular, yet
no one dared to say that all men are some animals, and to invent the
phrase, "some animals are all men" until Hamilton leaped the ditch, and
not only completed a system of enunciation, but applied it to syllogism.
My own case
is as peculiar as his: I have proposed to introduce mathematical
thought into logic. The question is not about absolute truth or
falsehood; no one denies that anything I call an inference is an
inference. They say that my alterations are extra-logical; that
they are material, not formal; and that logic is a formal science.
distinction between material and formal is easily made, where the usual
perversions are not required. A form is an empty machine, such as
"Every X is Y"; it may be supplied with matter, as in "Every man is
animal." The logicians will not see that their formal
proposition, "Every X is Y," is material in three points, the degree of
assertion, the quantity of the proposition, and the copula. The
purely formal proposition is "There is the probability α that X stands
in the relation L to Y."
Hamilton of Edinburgh was one of the best friends and allies I ever
had. When I first began to publish speculation on this subject,
he introduced me to the logical world as having plagiarized from
him. This drew their attention. He retracted his accusation
of wilful theft in a manly way when he found it untenable; but on this
point he wavered a little, and was convinced to the last that I had
taken his principle unconsciously. It was his pet notion that I
did not understand the commonest principles of logic, that I did not
always know the difference between the middle term of a syllogism and
its conclusion. It went against his grain to imagine that a
mathematician could be a logician.
controversy was in 1846. In 1847, in my Formal Logic, I gave him
back a little satire for satire, just to show, as I stated, that I
could employ ridicule if I pleased. He was so offended that he
would not accept the copy of the book I sent him, but returned
it. Copies of controversial works, sent from opponent to
opponent, are not presents in the usual sense; it was a marked success
to make him angry enough to forget this. It had some effect,
however: during the rest of his life I wished to avoid provocation, for
I could not feel sure that excitement might not produce
consequences. I allowed his slashing account of me in the
Discussions to pass unanswered, and I merely deferred the
dispute. I cannot expect the account in the Discussions to amuse
an unconcerned reader as much as it amused myself; but for a
cut-and-thrust, might-and-main, tooth-and-nail, hammer-and-tongs
assault, I can particularly recommend it. I never knew until I
read it how much I should enjoy a thundering onslought on myself, done
with racy insolence by a master hand, to whom my good genius had
whispered Ita feri ut se sentiat emori.
time I have, as the Irishman said, become "dry molded for want of a
bating." Some of my paradoxers have done their best: but theirs
is mere twopenny — "small swipes," as Peter Peebles said. Brandy
for heroes! I hope a reviewer or two will have mercy on me, and
give me as good discipline as Strafford would have given Hampden and
his set: "much beholden," said he, "should they be to any one that
should thoroughly take pains with them in that kind" — meaning
objective flagellation. I shall be the same to anyone who serves
me so — in a literary and periodical sense; my corporeal cuticle is as
thin as my neighbors'.
Sir W. H.
was suffering under local paralysis before our controversy commenced;
and though his mind was quite unaffected, a retort of as downright a
character as the attack might have produced serious effect upon a
person who had shown himself sensible of ridicule. Had a second
attack of his disorder followed an answer from me, I should have been
held to have caused it; though, looking at Hamilton's genial love of
combat, I strongly suspected that a retort in kind
"Would cheer his heart, and warm his blood,
And make him fight, and do him good."
But I could not venture to
risk it. So all I did, in reply to the article in the
Discussions, was to write to him the following note, illustrating an
etiquette of controversy: "I beg to acknowledge and thank you
.... It is necessary that I should say a word on my retention of
this work, with reference to your return of the copy of my Formal
Logic, which I presented to you on its publication: a return made on
the ground of your disapproval of the account of our controversy which
that work contained. According to my view of the subject, anyone
whose dealing with the author of a book is specially attacked in it,
has a right to expect from the author that part of the book in which
the attack is made, together with so much of the remaining part as is
fairly context. And I hold that the acceptance by the party
assailed of such work or part of a work does not imply any amount of
approval of the contents, or of want of disapproval. On this
principle (though I am not prepared to add the word alone) I forwarded
to you the whole of my work on Formal Logic and my second Cambridge
Memoir. And on this principle I should have held you wanting in
due regard to my literary rights if you had not forwarded to me your
asterisked pages, with all else that was necessary to a full
understanding of their scope and meaning, so far as the contents of the
book would furnish it. For the remaining portion, which it would
be a hundred pities to separate from the pages in which I am directly
concerned, I am your debtor on another principle; and shall be glad to
remain so if you will allow me to make a feint of balancing the account
by the offer of two small works on subjects as little connected with
our discussion as the Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum, or the Lutheran
dispute. I trust that by accepting my Opuscula you will enable me
to avoid the use of the knife, and leave me to cut you up with the pen
as occasion shall serve, I remain, etc. (April 21, 1852)."
I received polite thanks, but not a word about the body of the letter: my argument, I suppose, was admitted.
SOME PRIMITIVE DARWINISM.
Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. London, 1840.
The work is
described by its author as "the first attempt to connect the natural
sciences into a history of creation." The attempt was commenced
and has been carried on with marked talent, and will be continued.
I met long
ago with a splendid player on the guitar, who assured me, and was
confirmed by his friends, that he never practiced except in thought,
and did not possess an instrument: he kept his fingers acting in his
mind, until they got their habits; thus he learned the most difficult
novelties of execution.
Now what if
this should be a minor segment of a higher law? What if, by
constantly thinking of ourselves as descended from primeval monkeys, we
should — if it be true — actually get our tails again? What if
the first man who was detected with such an appendage should be obliged
to confess himself the author of the Vestiges — a person yet unknown —
who would naturally get the start of his species by having had the
earliest habit of thinking on the matter? I confess I never hear
a man of note talk fluently about it without a curious glance at his
proportions, to see whether there may be ground to conjecture that he
may have more of "mortal coil" than others, in anaxyridical
concealment. I do not feel sure that even a paternal love for his
theory would induce him, in the case I am supposing, to exhibit himself
at the British Association, "With a hole behind which his tail peeped
sentence of this book (1840) is a cast of the log, which shows our rate
of progress. "It is familiar knowledge that the earth which we
inhabit is a globe of somewhat less than 8,000 miles in diameter, being
one of a series of eleven which revolve at different distances around
the sun." The eleven! Not to mention the Iscariot which Le
Verrier and Adams calculated into existence, there is more than a
septuagint of new planetoids.
An Exposition of the Nature, Force, Action, and other properties of Gravitation on the Planets. London, 1842.
An Investigation of the
principles of the Rules for determining the Measures of the Areas and
Circumferences of Circular Plane Surfaces .... London, 1844.
anonymous, but the author (whom I believe to be Mr. Denison) is
described as author of a new system of mathematics, and also of
mechanics. He had need have both, for he shows that the line
which has a square equal to a given circle, has a cube equal to the
sphere on the same diameter; that is, in old mathematics, the diameter
is to the circumference as 9 to 16! Again, admitting that the
velocities of planets in circular orbits are inversely as the square
roots of their distances, that is, admitting Kepler's law, he manages
to prove that gravitation is inversely as the square root of the
distance: and suspects magnetism of doing the difference between this
and Newton's law.
is an outrageous quadrature. In the preceding year, 1841, was
published what I suppose at first to be a Maori quadrature, by
Maccook. But I get it from a cutting out of some French
periodical, and I incline to think that it must be by a Mr.
McCook. He makes π to be 2 + 2√(8√2 - 11).
THE DUPLICATION PROBLEM.
Refutation of a Pamphlet
written by the Rev. John Mackey, R.C.P., entitled "A method of making a
cube double of a cube, founded on the principles of elementary
geometry," wherein his principles are proved erroneous, and the
required solution not yet obtained. By Robert Murphy.
refutation was the production of an Irish boy of eighteen years old,
self-educated in mathematics, the son of a shoemaker at Mallow.
He died in 1843, leaving a name well known among mathematicians.
His works on the theory of equations and on electricity, and his papers
in the Cambridge Transactions, are all of high genius. The only
account of him which I know of is that which I wrote for the Supplement
of the Penny Cyclopædia. He was thrown by his talents into a good
income at Cambridge, with no social training except penury, and very
little intellectual training except mathematics. He fell into
dissipation, and his scientific career was almost arrested: but he had
great good in him. A sentence in a letter from the late Dean
Peacock to me — giving some advice about the means of serving Murphy —
sets out the old case: "Murphy is a man whose special education is in
advance of his general; and such men are almost always difficult
subjects to manage."
A NEW VALUE OF π.
The Invisible Universe
disclosed; or, the real Plan and Government of the Universe. By
Henry Coleman Johnson, Esq. London, 1843.
opens abruptly with: "First demonstration. Concerning the center:
showing that, because the center is an innermost point at an equal
distance between two extreme points of a right line, and from every two
relative and opposite intermediate points, it is composed of the two
extreme internal points of each half of the line; each extreme internal
point attracting towards itself all parts of that half to which it
Of course the circle is squared; and the circumference is 3-1/21 diameters.
SOME MODERN ASTROLOGY.
Combination of the Zodiacal and Cometical Systems. Printed for the London Society, Exeter Hall. 1843.
London Society was, or the "combination," did not appear. There
was a remarkable comet in 1843, the tail of which was at first
confounded with what is called the zodiacal light. This nicely
printed little tract, evidently got up with less care for expense than
is usual in such works, brings together all the announcements of the
astronomers, and adds a short head and tail piece, which I shall quote
entire. As the announcements are very ordinary astronomy, the
reader will be able to detect, if such be possible, what is the meaning
and force of the "Combination of the Zodiacal and Cometical Systems":
"Premonition. It has pleased the Author of Creation to cause (to
His human and reasoning Creatures of this generation, by a 'combined'
appearance in His Zodiacal and Cometical system) a 'warning Crisis' of
universal concernment to this our Globe. It is this 'Crisis' that
has so generally 'ROUSED' at this moment the 'nations throughout the
Earth' that no equal interest has ever before been excited by Man;
unless it be in that caused by the 'Pagan-Temple in Rome,' which is
recorded by the elder Pliny, 'Nat. Hist.' i. 23. iii. 3. Hardouin."
the awful threats published at a time of some excitement about the
phenomenon, under the name of the London Society. The assumption
of a corporate appearance is a very unfair trick, and there are
junctures at which harm might be done by it.
Elective Polarity the
Universal Agent. By Frances Barbara Burton, authoress of
'Astronomy familiarized,' 'Physical Astronomy,' &c. London,
gives a notion of the theory. The first sentence states, that
12,500 years ago α Lyræ was the pole star, and attributes the immense
magnitude of the now fossil animals to a star of such "polaric
intensity as Vega pouring its magnetic streams through our
planet." Miss Burton was a lady of property, and of very
respectable acquirements, especially in Hebrew; she was eccentric in
SPECULATIVE THOUGHT IN ENGLAND.
In the year
1845 the old Mathematical Society was merged in the Astronomical
Society. The circle-squarers, etc., thrive more in England than
in any other country; there are most weeds where there is the largest
crop. Speculation, though not encouraged by our Government so
much as by those of the Continent, has had not such forcing, but much
wider diffusion: few tanks, but many rivulets.
point I quote from the preface to the reprint of the work of
Ramchundra, which I superintended for the late Court of Directors of
the East India Company: "That sound judgment which gives men well to
know what is best for them, as well as that faculty of invention which
leads to development of resources and to the increase of wealth and
comfort, perhaps cannot rapidly be advanced without, a great taste for
pure speculation among the general mass of the people, down to the
lowest of those who can read and write.
a marked example. Many persons imagine that our country is the
great instance of the refusal of all unpractical knowledge in favor of
what is useful. On the contrary, there is no country in Europe in
which there has been so wide a diffusion of speculation, theory, or
what other unpractical word the reader pleases. In our country,
the scientific society is always formed and maintained by the people;
in every other, the scientific academy — most aptly named — has been
the creation of the government, of which it has never ceased to be the
nursling. In all the parts of England in which manufacturing
pursuits have given the artisan some command of time, the cultivation
of mathematics and other speculative studies has been a very frequent
occupation. In no other country has the weaver at his loom bent
over the Principia of Newton,or has the man of weekly wages maintained
his own scientific periodical. With us, since the beginning of
the last century, scores upon scores — perhaps hundreds — of annuals
have run, some their ten years, some their half-century, some their
century and a half, containing questions to be answered, from which
many of our examiners in the universities have culled materials for the
questions have always been answered, and in cases without number by the
lower order of purchasers, the mechanics, the weavers, and the
printers' workmen. I cannot here digress to point out the manner
in which the concentration of manufactures, and the general diffusion
of education, have affected the state of things; I speak of the time
during which the present system took its rise, and of the circumstances
under which many of its most effective promoters were trained. In
all this there is nothing which stands out, like the state-nourished
academy, with its few great names and brilliant single
achievements. This country has differed from all others in the
wide diffusion of the disposition to speculate, which disposition has
found its place among the ordinary habits of life, moderate in its
action, healthy in its amount."
THE OLD MATHEMATICAL SOCIETY.
most remarkable proofs of the diffusion of speculation was the
Mathematical Society, which flourished from 1717 to 1845. Its
habitat was Spitalfields, and I think most of its existence was passed
in Crispin Street. It was originally a plain society, belonging
to the studious artisan. The members met for discussion once a
week; and I believe I am correct in saying that each man had his pipe,
his pot, and his problem. One of their rules was that "If any
member shall so far forget himself and the respect due to the Society
as in the warmth of debate to threaten or offer personal violence to
any other member, he shall be liable to immediate expulsion, or to pay
such fine as the majority of the members present shall decide."
But their great rule, printed large on the back of the title page of
their last book of regulations, was "By the constitution of the
Society, it is the duty of every member, if he be asked any
mathematical or philosophical question by another member, to instruct
him in the plainest and easiest manner he is able." We shall
presently see that, in old time, the rule had a more homely form.
gradually declined, and in 1845 was reduced to nineteen members.
An arrangement was made by which sixteen members, who if not already in
the Astronomical Society, became Fellows without contribution, all the
books and other property of the old Society being transferred to the
new one. I was on the committee which made the preliminary
inquiries, and the reason of the decline was soon manifest. The only
question which could arise was whether the members of the society of
working men — for this repute still continued — were of that class of
educated men who could associate with the Fellows of the Astronomical
Society on terms agreeable to all parties. We found that the
artisan element had been extinct for many years; there was not a man
but might, as to education, manners, and position, have become a Fellow
in the usual way. Life in Spitalfields had become harder, and the
weaver could only live from hand to mouth, and not up to the
brain. The material of the old Society no longer existed.
experimental lectures were given, a small charge for admission being
taken at the door. By this hangs a tale. Many years ago, I
found among papers of a deceased friend, who certainly never had
anything to do with the Society, and who passed all his life far from
London, a song, headed "Song sung by the Mathematical Society in
London, at a dinner given Mr. Fletcher, a solicitor, who had defended
the Society gratis." Some years elapsed before it struck me that
my old friend Benjamin Gompertz, who had long been a member, might have
some recollection of the matter. The following is an extract of a
letter from him (July 9, 1861): "As to the Mathematical Society, I was
a member when only 18 years of age, (Mr. G. was born in 1779), having
been, contrary to the rules, elected under the age of 21. How I
came to be a member of that Society — and continued so until it joined
the Astronomical Society, and was then the President — was: I happened
to pass a bookseller's small shop, of second hand books, kept by a poor
tailor but a good mathematician, John Griffiths. I was very
pleased to meet a mathematician, and I asked him if he would give me
some lessons; and his reply was that I was more capable to teach him,
but he belonged to a society of mathematicians, and he would introduce
me. I accepted the offer, and I was elected, and had many
scholars then to teach, as one of the rules was, if a member asked for
information, and applied to any one who could give it, he was obliged
to give it, or fine one penny. Though I might say much with
respect to the Society which would be interesting, I will for the
present reply only to your question. I well knew Mr. Fletcher,
who was a very clever and very scientific person. He did, as
solicitor, defend an action brought by an informer against the Society
— I think for 5,000 l. — for giving lectures to the public in
philosophical subjects (i.e., for unlicensed public exhibition with
money taken at the doors). I think the price for admission was
one shilling, and we used to have, if I rightly recollect, from two to
three hundred visitors. Mr. Fletcher was successful in his
defence, and we got out of our trouble. There was a collection
made to reward his services, but he did not accept any reward; and I
think we gave him a dinner, as you state, and enjoyed ourselves; no
doubt with astronomical songs and other songs; but my recollection does
not enable me to say if the astronomical song was a drinking
song. I think the anxiety caused by that action was the cause of
some of the members' death.
A NEW THEORY OF TIDES.
A new theory of the tides: in
which the errors of the usual theory are demonstrated; and proof shewn
that the full moon is not the cause of a concomitant spring tide, but
actually the cause of the neaps.... By Commr. Debenham,
R.N. London, 1846.
replied to a criticism in the Athenæum, and in a very few words showed
that he had read nothing on the subject. The reviewer spoke of
the forces of the planets (i.e., the Sun and Moon) on the ocean, on
which the author remarks, "But N.B. the Sun is no planet, Mr.
Critic." Had he read any actual investigations on the usual
theory, he would have known that to this day the sun and moon continue
to be called planets — though the phrase is disappearing — in speaking
of the tides; the sense, of course, being the old one, wandering bodies.
class of the paradoxers, when they meet with something which taken in
their sense is absurd, do not take the trouble to find out the intended
meaning, but walk off with the words laden with their own first
construction. Such men are hardly fit to walk the streets without
startled for a moment, at the time when a recent happy — and more
recently happier — marriage occupied the public thoughts, by seeing in
a haberdasher's window, in staring large letters, an unpunctuated
sentence which read itself to me as "Princess Alexandra! collar and
cuff!" It immediately occurred to me that had I been any one of
some scores of my paradoxers, I should, no doubt, have proceeded to
raise the mob against the unscrupulous person who dared to hint to a
young bride such conduct towards her new lord. But certain
material contexts in the shop window suggested a less savage
explanation. A paradoxer should not stop at reading the
advertisements of Newton or Laplace; he should learn to look at the
stock of goods.
AN ASTRONOMICAL PARADOXER.
of astronomy. First, the Newtonian system, showing the rise and
progress thereof, with a short historical account; the general theory
with a variety of remarks thereon. Second, the system in
accordance with the Holy Scriptures, showing the rise and progress from
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, the prophets, Moses, and others, in the
first Testament; our Lord Jesus Christ, and his apostles, in the new or
second Testament; Reeve and Muggleton, in the third and last Testament;
with a variety of remarks thereon. By Isaac Frost. London, 1846.
handsomely printed volume, with beautiful plates. Many readers
who have heard of Muggletonians have never had any distinct idea of
Lodowick Muggleton, the inspired tailor (1608-1698), who about 1650
received his commission from heaven, wrote a Testament, founded a sect,
and descended to posterity. Of Reeve less is usually said;
according to Mr. Frost, he and Muggleton are the two "witnesses."
myself with one specimen of Mr. Frost's science: "I was once invited to
hear read over 'Guthrie on Astronomy,' and when the reading was
concluded I was asked my opinion thereon; when I said, 'Doctor, it
appears to me that Sir I. Newton has only given two proofs in support
of his theory of the earth revolving round the sun; all the rest is
assertion without any proofs.' 'What are they?' inquired the
Doctor. 'Well,' I said, 'they are, first, the power of attraction
to keep the earth to the sun; the second is the power of repulsion, by
virtue of the centrifugal motion of the earth; all the rest appears to
me assertion without proof.' The Doctor considered a short time
and then said, 'It certainly did appear so.' I said, 'Sir Isaac
has certainly obtained the credit of completing the system, but really
he has only half done his work.' 'How is that,' inquired my
friend the Doctor. My reply was 'You will observe his system
shows the earth traverses round the sun on an inclined plane; the
consequence is, there are four powers required to make his system
1st. The power of attraction.
2ndly. The power of repulsion.
3rdly. The power of ascending the inclined plane.
4thly. The power of descending the inclined plane.
You will thus easily see the
four powers required, and Newton has only accounted for two; the work
is therefore only half done.' Upon due reflection the Doctor said, 'It
certainly was necessary to have these four points cleared up before the
system could be said to be complete.'"
I have no
doubt that Mr. Frost, and many others on my list, have really
encountered doctors who could be puzzled by such stuff as this, or
nearly as bad, among the votaries of existing systems, and have been
encouraged thereby to print their objections. But justice
requires me to say that from the words "power of repulsion by virtue of
the centrifugal motion of the earth," Mr. Frost may be suspected of
having something more like a notion of the much-mistaken term
"centrifugal force" than many paradoxers of greater fame.
laid down by Mr. Frost, though intended to be substantially that of
Lodowick Muggleton, is not so vagarious. It is worthy of note how
very different have been the fates of two contemporary paradoxers,
Muggleton and George Fox. They were friends and associates, and
commenced their careers about the same time, 1647-1650. The
followers of Fox have made their sect an institution, and deserve to be
called the pioneers of philanthropy. But though there must still
be Muggletonians, since expensive books are published by men who take
the name, no sect of that name is known to the world.
Nevertheless, Fox and Muggleton are men of one type, developed by the
same circumstances; it is for those who investigate such men to point
out why their teachings have had fates so different. Macaulay
says it was because Fox found followers of more sense than
himself. True enough; but why did Fox find such followers and not
Muggleton? The two were equally crazy, to all appearance; and the
difference required must be sought in the doctrines themselves.
Fox was not
a rational man, but the success of his sect and doctrines entitles him
to a letter of alteration of the phrase which I am surprised has not
become current. When Conduitt, the husband of Newton's
half-niece, wrote a circular to Newton's friends, just after his death,
inviting them to bear their parts in a proper biography, he said, "As
Sir I. Newton was a national man, I think every one ought to contribute
to a work intended to do him justice." Here is the very phrase
which is often wanted to signify that celebrity which puts its mark,
good or bad, on the national history, in a manner which cannot be
asserted of many notorious or famous historical characters.
George Fox and Newton are both national men.
Thesaurus gives more than fifty synonyms — colleagues would be the
better word — of "celebrated," any one of which might be applied,
either in prose or poetry, to Newton or to his works, no one of which
comes near to the meaning which Conduitt's adjective immediately
suggests. The truth is, we are too monarchical to be
national. We have the Queen's army, the Queen's navy, the Queen's
highway, the Queen's English, etc.; nothing is national except the
debt. That this remark is not new is an addition to its force; it
has hardly been repeated since it was first made. It is some
excuse that nation is not vernacular English; the country is our word,
and countryman is appropriated.
The conspiracy of the
Bullionists as it affects the present system of the money laws.
By Caleb Quotem. Birmingham, 1847.
pamphlet is one of a class of which I know very little, in which the
effects of the laws relating to this or that political bone of
contention are imputed to deliberate conspiracy of one class to rob
another of what the one knew ought to belong to the other. The
success of such writers in believing what they have a bias to believe,
would, if they knew themselves, make them think it equally likely that
the inculpated classes might really believe what it is their interest
to believe. The idea of a guilty understanding existing among
fundholders, or landholders, or any holders, all the country over, and
never detected except by bouncing pamphleteers, is a theory which
should have been left for Cobbett to propose, and for Apella to believe.
THEISM INDEPENDENT OF REVELATION.
The Reasoner. No.
45. Edited by G. J. Holyoake. Price 2d. Is there
sufficient proof of the existence of God? 1847.
of the holy oak was forwarded to me with a manuscript note signed by
the editor, on the part of the "London Society of Theological
Utilitarians," who say, "they trust you may be induced to give this
momentous subject your consideration."
supposition that a middle-aged person, known as a student of thought on
more subjects than one, had that particular subject yet to begin, is a
specimen of what I will call the assumption-trick of controversy, a
habit which pervades all sides of all subjects.
is a proof of the good policy of letting opinions find their level,
without any assistance from the Court of Queen's Bench. Twenty
years earlier the thesis would have been positive, "There is sufficient
proof of the non-existence of God," and bitter in its tone. As it
stands, we have a moderate and respectful treatment — wrong only in
making the opponent argue absurdly, as usually happens when one side
invents the other — of a question in which a great many Christians have
agreed with the atheist: can the existence of God be proved
independently of revelation?
religious persons answer this question in the negative, as well as Mr.
Holyoake. And, this point being settled, all who agree in the
negative separate into those who can endure skepticism, and those who
cannot; the second class find their way to Christianity.
number of The Reasoner announces the secession of one of its
correspondents, and his adoption of the Christian faith. This
would not have happened twenty years before: nor, had it happened,
would it have been respectfully announced.
people who are very unfortunate in the expression of their
meaning. Mr. Holyoake, in the name of the "London Society" etc.,
forwarded a pamphlet on the existence of God, and said that the Society
trusted I "may be induced to give" the subject my
"consideration." How could I know the Society was one person, who
supposed I had arrived at a conclusion and wanted a "guiding word?"
But so it
seems it was; Mr. Holyoake, in the English Leader of October 15, 1864,
and in a private letter to me, writes as follows: "The gentleman who
was the author of the argument, and who asked me to send it to Mr. De
Morgan, never assumed that that gentleman had 'that particular subject
to begin' — on the contrary, he supposed that one whom we all knew to
be eminent as a thinker had come to a conclusion upon it, and would
perhaps vouchsafe a guiding word to one who was, as yet, seeking the
solution of the Great Problem of Theology. I told my friend that
'Mr. De Morgan was doubtless preoccupied, and that he must be content
to wait. On some day of courtesy and leisure he might have the
kindness to write.' Nor was I wrong — the answer appears in your
pages at the lapse of seventeen years."
Mr. Holyoake's way of putting his request was the stylus curiæ of the
Society. A worthy Quaker who was sued for debt in the King's
Bench was horrified to find himself charged in the declaration with
detaining his creditor's money by force and arms, contrary to the peace
of our Lord the King, etc. It's only the stylus curiæ, said a
friend: I don't know curiæ, said the Quaker, but he shouldn't style us
that the non-existence of God can be proved, has died out under the
light of discussion; had the only lights shone from the pulpit and the
prison, so great a step would never have been made.
that Christianity is "part and parcel of the law of the land" is also
abrogated; at the same time, and the coincidence is not an accident, it
is becoming somewhat nearer the truth that the law of the land is part
and parcel of Christianity.
also be noticed that Christianity was part and parcel of the articles
of war; and so was duelling. Any officer speaking against
religion was to be cashiered; and any officer receiving an affront
without, in the last resort, attempting to kill his opponent, was also
to be cashiered.