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- events of wars, and the fortunes of particular persons, in the
face of the heavens. “ Mathematicians (says Peter of Blois) are those who, from the position of the stars, the aspect of the firmament, and the motions of the planets, discover things that are to come.” These pretended prognosticators were lo much admired and credited, that there was hardly a prince, or even an earl or great baron, in Europe, who did not keep one or more of them in his family, to cast the horoscopes of his children, discover the success of his designs, and the public events that were to happen. The most famous of these' aftrolagers published a kind of almanacs every year, containing Schemes of the planets for shat year, with a variety of predictions concerning the weather, and other events. We have the fol. lowing quotation from one of these almanacs, in a letter of John of Salisbury. " The astrologers call this year (1170) the wonderful year, from the fingular fituation of the planets and constellations, and say, -that in the course of it the councils of kings will be changed, wars will be frequent, and the world will be troubled with seditions ; that learned men will be dil, couraged; but towards the end of the year they will be exalted.” From this specimen we may perceive, that their predictions were couched in very general and artful terms. But by departing from this prudent conduct not long after this, and becoming a little too plain and positive, they brought a temposary disgrace on themselves and their art. For, in the beginning of the year 1186, all the great astrologers in the Chrif. tian world agreed in declaring, that from an extraordinary conjunction of the planets in the sign Libra, which had never happened before, and would never happen again, there would arise, on Tuesday, September 16th, at three o'clock in the morning, a most dreadful storm, that would sweep away not only fingle houses, but even great towns and cities ; – that this form would be followed by a destructive peftilence, bloody wars, and all the plagues that had ever afflicted miserable mora tals.' This direful prediction spread terror and consternation over Europe, though it was flatly contradicted by the Mahometan astrologers of Spain, who said, there would only be a few shipwrecks, and a little failure in the vintage and harvest, When the awful day drew near, Baldwin, archbishop of Canterbury, commanded a solemn fast of three days to be observed over all his province. But, to the utter confusion of the poor astrologers, the 16th of September was uncommonly serene and calm, the whole season remarkably mild and healthy; and there were no storms all that year, (says Gervasi of Canterbury), but what the archbishop raised in the church by his own turbulence. In the midst of this general wreck of astrological reputation, William, aftrologer to the constable of Chester, faved his character, by fubjoining to his prediction this alternative, “ If the nobles of the land will serve God, and fly from the devil,
the Lord will avert all chefe impending plagues." But though astrology was in itself deceitful, and sometimes involved its professors in difgrace, it contributed greatly to promote the ftudy of astronomy; and there is the clearest evidence, that the altrologers of this period could calculate eclipses, could find the fituation of the planets, and knew the times in which they per. formed their revolutions, &c.'*
In the chapter which treats of manners, the author presents an anecdote of Robert duke of Normandy.
The same historian * hath preserved the following curious anecdote, which may serve both as a proof and illustration of
the wit, politeness, and generosity of the Normans. When · Robert duke of Normandy, father of William the Conqueror,
was at Conftantinople, in his way to the Holy Land, he lived in uncommon splendor, and was greatly celebrated for his wit, his affability, his liberality, and other virtues. Of these many remarkable examples were related to the emperor ; who resolved to put the reality of them to a trial. With this view he invited the duke and all his nobles to a feast in the great hall of the · Imperial palace, but took care to have all the tables and seats filled with guests, before the arrival of the Normans, of whom he commanded them to take no notice. When the duke, fol. lowed by his nobles in their richest dresses, entered the hall ; observing that all the seats were filled with guests, and that none of them returned his civilities, or offered him any accommodation, he walked, without the least appearance of surprise or discomposure, to an empty space, at one end of the room, took off his cloak, folded it very carefully, laid it upon the floor, and fat down upon it ; in all which he was imitated by his followers. In this posture they dined, on such dishes as were fet before them, with every appearance of the most perfect fatisfaction with their entertainment. When the feast was ended, the duke and his nobles arose, took leave of the company in the most graceful manner, and walked out of the hall in their doublets, leaving their cloaks, which were of great value, béhind them on the floor. The emperor, who had admired their whole behaviour, was quite surprised at this last part of it; and sent one of his courtiers to intreat the duke and his followers to put on their cloaks,
“ Go, (said the duke), and tell your mafter, that it is not the custom of the Normans to carry about with them the fears which they use at an entertainment." Could any thing be more delicate than this rebuke, or more noble, polite, and manly, than this deportment'
Concerning the credulity and the curiosity of the Normans, our historian has the following remarks..
· The Normans were no less credulous than the Anglo. Sax
This is evident from the prodigious number of miracles, revelations, visions, and inchantments, which are related with the greatest gravity by the best of their historians, and other writers. “. In this year (1171), about Easter, (says Matthew Paris), it pleased the Lord Jesus Christ to irradiate his glorious martyr Thomas Becket with many miracles, that it might ap. pear to all the world he had obtained a victory suitable to his merits. None who approached his fepulchre in faith, returned without a cure. For strength was restored to the lame, hearing to the deaf, fight to the blind, speech to the dumb, health to lepers, and life to the dead. Nay, not only men and women, but even birds and beasts, were raised from death to life.” Giraldus Cambrenfis, who was one of the most learned and ingenious men of the twelfth century, amongst many ridiculous itories of miracles, vifions, and apparitions, tells of one devil who acted a considerable time as a gentleman's butler with great prudence and probity; and of another who was a very diligent and learned clergyman, and a mighty favourite of his archbishop. This last clerical devil was, it seems, an excellent historian, and used to divert the archbishop with telling him old fories. “ One day when he was entertaining the archbishop with a relation of ancient histories, and surprising events, the conversation happened to turn on the incarnation of our Saviour. Before the incarnation, said our historian, the devils had great power over mankind; but after that event their power was much diminished, and they were obliged to fly. Some of them threw themselves into the sea; some concealed themselves in hollow trees, or in the clifts of rocks ; and I myself plunged into a certain fountain. As soon as he had said this, finding that he had discovered his secret, his face was covered with blushes, he went out of the room, and was no more seen.”
• The Normans were as curious as they were credulous. This prompted them to employ many vain fallacious arts to difcover their future fortunes, and the success of their undertakings. John of Salisbury enumerates no fewer than thirteen different kinds of diviners or fortune-tellers, who pretended to foretell future events ; some by one means, and some by another. Nor did this passion for penetrating into futurity prevail only among the common people, but also among persons of the highest rank and greateft learning. All our kings, and many of our earls and great barons, had their aftrologers, who relided in their families, and were consulted by them in all undertakings of importance. We find Peter of Blois, who was one of the most learned men of the age in which he flourished, writing an account of his dreams to his friend the bishop of Bath, and telling him how anxious he had been about the interpretation of them; and that he had employed for that purpose divination by the
Psalter. The English, it seems probable, had ftill more superftitious curiosity, and paid greater attention to dreams and omens, than the Normans. For when William Rufus was dif. suaded from going abroad on the morning of that day on which he was killed, because the abbot of Gloucester had dreamed something which portended danger, he is said to have made this reply," Do you imagine that I am an Englishman, to be frighted by a dream, or the sneezing of an old woman.” But the truth' is, that excessive credulity and cariofity were the weaknesses of the times, rather than of any particular nation.'
We will not anticipate the conclusions which the reader may draw from an attention to these extracts. But, in another ar. ticle, we shall lay before him what we have farther to observe from the confideration of the present volume of the History of Great Britain.
[ To be continued. ]
A Course of Lectures on Oratory and Criticism. By Joseph Priestley,
LL. D. F. R. S. 470. 105, 6d. boards. Johnson. THESE *HESE Lectures were composed by the author, when he
was tutor in the languages and belles lettres in the Acádemy at Warrington, and were first delivered in the year 1762.
He has been frequently urged, he says, to make them public ; and has been induced to do it at this time, partly for the fake of lord Fitzmaurice, to whom they are dedicated ; and partly with a view to the illustration of the doctrine of the af. sociation of ideas, to which there is a constant reference through, the whole work (in order to explain facts relating to the influence of oratory, and the striking effect of excellencies in compofition, upon the genuine principles of human nature) in consequence of having of late endeavoured to draw some degree of attention to those principles, as advanced by Dr. Hartley.
Considering the nature of the work, the reader cannot ex. pect, that every thing in it should be original. Dr. Priestley is of opinion, that it is, on the contrary, the business of a lecturer to bring into an easy and comprehensive view, whatever has been observed by others. He has therefore borrowed many of his examples from Dr. Ward's Oratory, from Lord Kaims's Elements of Criticism, and other works of the same nature ; but, at the same time, has interspersed a great number of his own illustrations and remarks.
He has divided his work into three parts. In the "firft 'he treats of recollection, or the invention of thofe thoughts and fentiments, which make up the body of a discourse'; in the second, of method, or the proper arrangement of those materials; and in the third, of the various beauties and inproprieties of style,
On the subject of amplification the author has these useful remarks.
• Persons of a very exact judgment are generally the least copious in compofition, and notwithstanding they have the greatest knowledge, compose with peculiar difficulty; their nicer dis. cernment, which makes them attend to all the relations and connexions of things, rejecting every thing that doth not in every respect (uit their purpose, whereas those persons who are unaitentive to the minuter proprieties of things, find no difficulty in admitting a great variety of thoughts that offer them. selves in composition ; a slighe association of any ideas with the subject in hand being sufficient to introduce them, In general, the latter are more proper for public fpeakers, and the former for writers. The want of close connexion, small improprieties, or even inconfiftencies, pass unnoticed with most persons when they hear a discourse. Besides, no person can fo well depend upon
his memory in comparing one part of a discourse that he has only heard, with another. But all these little inaccuracies are exposed to observation, when a good judge of composition hath the whole discourse before him in writing.
It may, likewise, be of service to add, that it is very por. fible a writer may cramp his faculties, and injure his productions, by too great a scrupulefity in the first composition. That close atiention to a subject which composition requires, unavoidably warms the imagination : then ideas crowd upon us, the mind haltens, as it were, into the midst of things, and is impatient till those strong conceptions be expressed In such a situation, to reject the first
, perhaps loose and incorrect thoughts, is to reject a train of just and valuable thoughts, that would follow by their connexion with them, and to embarrass and impoverish the whole work. Whenever, tberefore, we begin to feel the ardour of compofition, it is most adviseable to in, dulge it freely, and leave little proprieties to be adjusted at our leisure.
• Besides, if we would wish to communicate to our readers those strong sensations that we feel in the ardour of composition, we must endeavour to express the whole of our sentiments and sensations, in the very order and connexion in which they accually presented themselves to us at that time. For, such is the similarity of all human minds, that when the same appearances are presented to another person, his mind will, in general, be, equally frock and affected with them, and the composition will appear to him to be natural and animated. Whereas, if, in