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Cards we sometimes play here, in long winter evenings, but it is as they play at chess, not for money, but for honour, or the pleasure of beating 1 one another. This will not be quite a novelty to you, as you may rear member we played together in that manner during the winter at Passy, I have indeed now and then a little compunction, in reflecting that I spend time so idly; but another reflection comes to relieve me, whispering, “ You know that the soul is immortal; why then should you be such a nig: gard of a little time, when you have a whole eternity before you?" So, being easily convinced, and, like other reasonable creatures, satisfied with a small 'reason, when it is in favor of doing what I have a mind to, I shuffle the cards again, and begin another game."
We have noticed this publication we must confess, not from any intrinsic interest which it possesses, but from its immediate reference to an individual whose exertions, whilst he lived, claimed so extensively the gratitude of mankind.
ART. VI.-The Autobiography of John Galt. In 2 vols. large 8vo, London: Cochrane and M'Crone.
1833. If we carefully examine the history of literature in every age and in every country, we shall find that there is no act of egotism ca-' pable of being committed by a man, which is received with more" indulgence by his fellow-creatures than the deed of autobiography. Let a man set himself up as any thing else, nay let him promulgate that it is his intention to be the greatest benefactor to his species, and he will forth with have a host of enemies who will do all in their power to destroy him.
To what is this difference of treatment to be attributed? that we instinctively feel that we have a source of interesting instruction in the exposure of the springs of action by which a man's
1 mind has been guided ? : Is it, on the other hand, a secret hope acting upon us, that the individual who volunteers a confession of his life and actions, will make such admissions as must render him despicable in our eyes? These are questions which we have not the leisure at this moment for discussing, and will leave them to the consideration of our ingenious readers.
The evidence which appears to deserve the greatest confidence as to such an important matter, fixes the birth-place of Mr. Galt at Irvine, in Ayrshire, and the event of the birth itself took place on the 2nd May, 1779. The infant recollections of Mr. Galt confirm this statement; for, though he admits that his general faculty of memory is not very good, his power of recalling localities is quite remarkable. In virtue of this facility, Mr. Galt describes two scenes in which he was an actor, at the age of about eighteen months; and these he declares stand so limned and bright in his remembrance, that he could bear testimony to their occurrence on oath before any judicature, although they have been followed by
no effects, further than as proofs of that singular local memory for which he is, among his friends, distinguished: 5 9991. | | 1!
* In the Spring of 1783, Mr. Galt had his attention directed i to some narcissus in a garden, which he saw 'peering above ground: After a few days' absence he returned, and saw the narcissus ini flower, and could not be persuaded that they were not lilies which had been just planted. A passion for botanical pursuits now seiz. ed his young mind; but the taste for flowers shortly afterwards changed into a preference for trees and shrubs; and ultimately an unexpected accident drove the whole out of his head. Connected with the period of this accident, Mr. Galt remembers a very odd circumstance in his life, which turns out to be nothing less than a junction which he formed with a new religious sect just'started at the time, called the Buchanites. The origin of this community is sufficiently curious, and deserves to be commemorated. It appears, that Mr. White, the relief minister of Irvine, being called to assist at the sacrament in Glasgow, where a Mrs. Buchan had an opt portunity of hearing him, so delighted her by his oratory, that she wrote to him that he was the first minister who had spoken effectually to her sinful heart; expressing, at the same time, a wish to visit him at Irvine, that she might be further confirmed in the faith. He showed her letter with clerical vanity to some of his people, who gave her'a very welcome reception, and considered her as a woman of great gifts. Religion was the constant theme of her loquacity, and her time was spent in visiting from house to house, in making family worship, and in expounding the Scriptures; but some of the con gregation began to doubt the truth of the gospel according to Mrsi Buchan. Mr. White, the relief minister, however, implicitly crew dited her orthodoxy; but the relief congregation expressed their dissatisfaction with his ministry, and required her dismissal asoa dangerous person. He refused, they threatened; but he remained as firm in his delusion as Mr. Edward Irving himself. By the proceedings which the infidels adopted, Mr. White was ultimately deposed from his office as minister; nevertheless, he peacefully delivered
up “the keys of the kirk," and preached in a tent. The curiosity of the public was excited; strange accounts were given of the doctrine and manner of worship among the Buchanites. They usually met in the night-time, and were instructed by the prophetess. She gave herself out to be the woman spoken of in the twelfth chapter of the Revelations, and that Mr. White was the man-child she had brought forth. These, and other ravings, drew upon her and her party the indignation of the populace. The house of Mr. White was gutted by a mob; and repeated ap. plications from the members of the relief congregation to proceed against her as a blasphemer and "an odious schismatic," caused the magistrates to dismiss her from the town. To proteet her from insult, they, however, accompanied her about a mile, and forty or fifty followers proceeded with her, singing psalms as they went, shouting, and saying they were going to the New Jerusalem.
Young Galt was amongst the followers on this memorable Oct casion; and there is no knowing what might have become of him, if his careful mother had not pursued him, and drew him back, he says, by the dug and the horn.".. The author tells us, that in his boyhood he was weak and ailing, and that he did not make the same progress as others of his own age; he speaks of his mother as having had a strong masculine mind, to the influence of which be declares he owes much of his equanimity at present; he was very fond of books, and shewed a good deal of mechanical skill in the fabrication of little contrivances for amusement, and seems even now to be very proud of an Æolian harp which he then constructed. At Greenock, whither his family had proceeded, to reside finally, Mr. Galt had the opportunity of indulging his taste for books, being now a good English scholar, in consequence of the attention which he paid at the grammar school in Irvine. He notices, with great interest, his first attempts at rhyming, and, af, tero recalling several specimens of his boyish lucubrations, concludes: by exclaiming". Good God! to think that one was ever so young as to write such stuff!". Galt's attention was now more particularly directed to poetry by a companion of the name of Park, of whom he speaks with great affection. It is curious, that, whilst at Greenock, a number of the “ Peter Porcupine” of Cobbet arrived there, with the intelligence of the peace of Amiens. Young Galt, on its arrival, had been deeply immersed in Gray's poems, and, suddenly inspired by the political intelligence, he poured forth his spirit in an ode, which he sent off to Cobbett; it i was accordingly printed in “ Peter Porcupine,” with a few words of eulogy from the editor. A Greenock paper having been soon afterwards set up, it served as a vehicle for Galt and his young friends to indulge their literary tastes.
1!!todiaith 1 But, it would be tedious to follow Mr. Galt through the minutiæ of his history at Greenock, and we shall hasten forward to accompany him in his journey to London, the scene of his most important labours. He brought with him a great number of letters of introduction; and, though they procured him much attention and hospitality, yet, he found them altogether inefficient in furnishing him with any hopes as to his future prospects. Mr. Galt informs us, that he entered into partnership with a Mr. M.Lachlan; but, of the nature of the business he gives us no account. We find, however, that his literary inclinations were allowed by Mr. Galt to take their natural course; and, before he was many months in London, he proposed to publish a Gothic poem, intitled “The Battle of Largs.? This project was resorted to, he declares, from a sheer want of having something to do. His friend Park had the honesty to criticise the poem with deserved severity, and some of his judicious remarks are copied by Mr. Galt; but, notwithstanding this opinion, the author himself is now deliberately of opinion, that they display considerable power and originality. This may be true; but, of what use
is it to Mr. Galt that it should be so, since the public have long satisfied him that they entertain very different notions of the subject? - Among the adventures which Mr. Galt met with during his first re. sidence in London, is one which possesses some interest, as it is connected with a celebrated name. He says, that, having called upon ia Mr. Archibald Thomson, (an engineer then employed in some ex. periments, by order of Government), for the payment of a bill of exchange, the engineer informed him of his circumstances, and his inability at that time to pay. Mr. Galt, struck with the man and his condition, offered every indulgence, and was shortly afterwards visited by Mr. Thomson. The object of the interview was a request, on the part of the latter, that Mr. Galt would draw up a statement of a case of complaint which he had to make, and which the Lord Chancellor, who was then Lord Erskine, promised to examine for him. Now, the point of the story to which we look with most interest is, that Lord Erskine received this worthy, but embarrassed engineer privately, and, directing him to state his case, promised to read it, and give his advice as to the course which he should pursne. The noble lawyer performed the humane duty, but, of the results. Mr. Galt affords us no account. We may mention, however, that Mr. Thomson seems to have been grateful for the assistance; and, at a subsequent period; Mr. Thomson called upon Mr. Galt, and said to him, “I have come to tell you, that a proposal has been made to me to make a steam-boat for the Thames, [there was none on the river at that time), and to offer you one of my shares, if the project goes on.
While engaged in business, as we have seen, Mr. Galt took care to turn his leisure hours to the best account. He made himself master very early of the Lex Mercatoria, not merely by reading it through, but by studying it as necessary to his progress in the world. He composed a treatise on the practice of under-writing, as sanctioned by the existing laws and the decisions of tribunals: chagrin at the cloud which overcame his prospects induced him to destroy the manuscript. He composed also a history, to the time of Edward III. inclusive, of the ancient commerce of England, a work of research; and wrote likewise a history of bills of exchange; for although always a desultory student he now and then read * in veins and strata," pursuing particular objects with ardour, directness, and assiduity.
In the great' world of London Mr. Galt confesses he saw húman nature developing itself in its real peculiarities, and it taught him the necessity of surrendering at once those visions and phantasies with which the youthful imagination almost universally adorns the prospect before it. He entered, he informs us, on a curious course of observation, in which he made some proficiency, at least he thinks it will be allowed that the discrimination of character is among the most remarkable of his pretensions. He cannot, indeed, describe the course of study which he adopted, nor in what manner exactly
he turned the effects to accounts all that he answers for is, that there can be no doubt of the certainty of his acquisition. It is probable, from what Mr. Galt adds, that, but for the cares of business which intruded on him, he would have been abandoned by this time to the lofty calling of a metaphysician. He tells us that, at this epoch, he met with an occurrence which had a very powerful effect in colouring his mind from its original hue," and this was his perusal of an article in the Edinburgh Review respecting the works of Filanghieri, the Neapolitan. The account of the impression thus excited, and its résults, is forcibly given by Mr. Galt.
Without any previous consideration, excepting the work of Beccaria on Crimes and Punishments, always to me unstisfactory, I stumbled by a sort of accident on the enquiries of Filanghieri : and few intellectual pro"ductions have excited me so much. He appeared to have discovered a right road to truth, but was not bold enough to pursue it." With much that he affirmed and deduccd, I was willing to go hand and glove, but he seemed afraid of committing himself by stating what he thought of crimes and sins. 1.4 .416 After an agitating view of his philosophy I began to frame a new doctrine for myself, by which sins seemed the bases of crimes, although there were crimes ofta very deep die, of which the original sins were comparatively not deemed heinous. From this distinction I inferred that crimes were proscribed by the laws of society, but that sins were things against the system of nature, and that legislatures never thought of interfering with them, but left their punishment to a re-action of nature. The conclusion was opposed to the doctrines of Beccaria, inasmuch as crimes and sins came to be regarded as the offspring of diseases or constitutional secretions, which made punishment necessarily nugatory. I agreed with Moses, however, no bad authority, that putting to death was the only way of getting rid of malefactors. In a word, that punishment for example showed but a shallow knowledge of human nature, and that it would be just as wise to expect à man could be cured of the scrofula by punishing another more afflicted with that malady, as to hope that a criminal could be won from his propensities by showing him others incurring the penalty of malpractices.
Whether this view was ound or insane, I have not since attempted to enquire, but the influence of the doctrine has had a surprising effect, in at once softening pity for the guilty, and increasing sternness for the infliction of punishment. As we confine madmen, we incarcerate delinquents; but they differ in their diseases. However, it is perhaps fortunate for the world that notions of this kind are not common, nor have I been able to discern how such a morbid inference may be drawn from the reflections of Filanghieri. I say morbid, but I think the contrary, for it appears even now, that humanity is more consulted in the mitigation of punishment than a wise policy derived from the nature of man. Our diseases or offences are manifold, and society is not willing to touch more of them
than is requisite for keeping the social community in order; we are in society held together by ties more slender than we are willing to believe. The dissolution of the social order by the French revolution has given a Tesson that has 'not yet been sufficiently studied.'--Vol. i. pp. 91-3.