« AnteriorContinuar »
amused himself to take and lose towns; beat ar, mies, and be beaten ; drive princes out of their
dominions ; fright children from their bread and butter ; burn, lay waste, plunder, dragoon, malfacre subject and stranger, friend and foe, male and female. It is recorded, that the philofophers of each country were in grave dispute upon causes natural, moral, and political, to find out where they should allign an original solution of this phenomenon. At last the vapour or spirit which animated the hero's brain, being in perpetual circulation, seized upon that region of the human body, fo renowned for furnishing the zibeta occidentalis *, and gathering there into a tumour, left the rest of the world for that time
Of such mighty consequence it is, where those exhalations fix; and of so little, from whence they proceed. The same fpirits, which, in their superior progress, would conquer a kingdom, defcending upon the anus, conclude in a filula.
Let us next examine the great introducers of new scheines in philosophy, and search till we can find from what faculty of the foul the difposition arises in mortal man, of taking it into his head to advance new systems, with such an cager
* Paracelsus, who was fo famous for chymistry, tried an expesiment upon human excrement, to make a perfume of it; which when he had brought to perfection, he called zibeta occidentalis, or western civet, the back parts of man (according to his division mentioned by the author, p. 331.) being the weit.
zeal, in things agreed on all hands impossible to be known; from what feeds this disposition springs, and to what quality of human nature these grand innovators have been indebted for their number of disciples : Because it is plain, that several of the chief among them, both ancient and modern, were usually mistaken by their adversaries, and indeed by all, except their own followers, to have been persons crazed, or out of their wits ; having generally proceeded, in the common course of their words and actions, by a method very different from the vulgar dictates of unrefined reason; agreeing, for the most part, in their several models, with their present undoubted successors in the academy of modern Bedlam ; (whose merits and principles I shall farther examine in due place.) Of this kind were Epicurus, Diogenes, Apollonius, Lucretius, Paracelsus, Des Cartes, and others; who, if they were now in the world, tied fast, and separate from their followers, would, in this our undistinguishing age, incur manifest danger of phlebotomy, and whips, and chains, and dark chambers, and straw. For what man, in the natural state or course of thinking, did ever conceive it in his power to reduce the notions of all mankind exactly to the same length, and breadth, and height of his own? Yet this is the first humble and civil design of all innovators. in the empire of reason. Epicurus modestly hoped, that, one time or other, a certain fortuitous concourse of all men's opinions, after
perpetual juftlings, the sharp with the smooth, :he light and the heavy, the round and the square, would, by certain clinamina, unite in the notions of atoms and void, as these did in the originals of all things. Cartesius reckoned to fee,
before he died, the sentiments of all philosophers, like so many lefser stars in his romantic fyftem, wrapped and drawn within his own vortex. Now, I would gladly be informed, how it is poffible to account for such imaginations as these in particucular men, without recourse to my phanoinenon of vapours, afcending from the lower faculties to overshadow the brain, and there distilling into conceptions, for which the narrowness of our mother-tongue has not yet assigned any other name besides that of madness, or phrenzy. therefore now conjecture, how it comes to pass, that none of these great prescribers do ever fail providing themselves and their notions with a number of implicit difciples. And, I think, the reason is easy to be affigned ; for there is a peculiar string in the harmony of human understand. ing, which in several individuals is exactly of the same tuning. This if you can dextrously screw up to its right key, and then strike gently upon it ; whenever you have the good fortune to light among those of the fame pitch, they will, by a secret neceflary sympathy, strike exactly at the same time. And in this one circumstance lies all the skill or luck of the matter : For if you chance to jar the string among those who are
either above or below your own height; instead of subscribing to your doctrine, they will tie you fast, call you mad, and feed you with bread and
It is therefore a point of the nicest conduct, to distinguish and adapt this noble talent with respect to the differences of persons and of times. Cicero understood this very well, when writing to a friend in England, with a caution, among other matters, to beware of being cheated by our hackney-coachmen, (who, it feems, in those days were as arrant rascals as they are now), has these remarkable words : Ejt quod gaudeas te in ista loca venisse, ubi aliquid sapere viderere *. For, to speak a bold truth, it is a fatal miscarriage, so ill to order affairs, as to pass for a fool in one company, when in another you might be treated as a philosopher. Which I desire fome certain gentlemen of my acquaintance to lay up in their hearts, as a very feasonable innuendo.
This, indeed, was the fatal mistake of that worthy gentleman, my most ingenious friend, Mr Wotton; a person, in appearance, ordained for great designs, as well as performances. Whether you will consider his notions or his looks, surely no man ever advanced into the public with fitter qualifications of body and mind, for the propagation of a new religion. Oh, had thofe happy talents, misapplied to vain philofophy, been turned into their proper channels of dreams and visons, where distortion of mind and countenance are
Epist. ad Fam. Trebat.
of such sovereign use; the base detracting world would not then have dared to report, that something is amiss, that his brain hath undergone an unlucky shake ; which even his brethren modernifts themselves, like ungrates, do whifper fo loud, that it reaches up to the very garret I am now writing in.
Lastly, Whosoever pleases to look into the fountains of enthufiafm, from whence, in all ages, have eternally proceeded such fattening streams, will find the spring-head to have been as troubled and muddy as the current. Of such great emolument is a tincture of this vapour, which the world calls madness, that, without its help, the world would not only be deprived of those two great blessings, conquests and systems, but even all mankind would unhappily be reduced to the same belief in things invisible. Now, the former poftulatum being held, that it is of no import from what originals this vapour proceeds, but either in what angles it strikes, and spreads over the understanding, or upon what species of brain it afcends; it will be a very delicate point,' to cut the feather, and divide the several reasons to a nice and curious reader, how this numerical difference in the brain can produce effects of fo vast a difference from the same vapour, as to be the sole point of individuation between Alexander the Great, Jack of Leyden, and Monsieur Des Cartes. The present argument is the most abstracted that ever I engaged in ; it strains my faculties to their highest