Page images
PDF
EPUB

force in his periods or his phraseology, and we have to complain of grammatical inaccuracy and an admixture of foreign idiom. We have for instance, “In welcome let the Mahometans boast, &c." for en hora buena Jos teologas Maometanos, &c.; "wellequilibrated,for equilibrado; " compliance of a promise;" “ frenzied with the force of fury, for agitandose furioso;" “ agitated by an agony of dilemma and despair,” for doubt and despair, which it must have been in the original, although the passage in which this logicalagony is found is not in the copy published in Cadiz, and must be among the additions to the present version. We shall not stop to mention any more instances of the translator's negligence or inaccuracy, as we are convinced his version of so learned, so liberal, and so interesting a work must succeed in spite of them, and are much obliged to him for republishing the documents found in his preliminary remarks. We observe among the changes introduced into the present enlarged edition now published in English, as compared with the original Cadiz edition, of which we fortunately have a copy, that the author or the translator has thrown many of the notes into the text. In general this is judiciously done, as in the introduction, where the origin and establishment of the tribunal, which was at first in a detached note, now composes a necessary part of the text, and lays the foundation for all the subsequent reasonings and reflections; but there are other cases in which this change has been effected with less judgment and discrimination, as in page 83, vol. i. where the note about the arms of the inquisition is now awkwardly placed, aud in page 232, where a Hebrew criticism is not less so.

Among the alterations which might have been made with great advantage, and without much trouble, in the version addressed to the people of this country, is one regarding its form. The original work was published, as we have already mentioned, before the inquisition was abolished, and was directed to the great end of enforcing the necessity of its abolition. It therefore assumed a didactic, argumentative, and controversial form; and the titles of the several chapters, instead of being the promise of so much information to be given, became the enunciation of so many theorems to be proved. The author was in fact an accusing counsel rather than a regular historian, and the heads of his discourse appeared rather as the counts in an indictment against the holy tribunal, than the contents of an essay on its origin, proceedings, and character. This was all quite natural at Cadiz in 1811, when this abomination was to be put down, and when, as a step to its extinction, its iniquity was to be established in the face of inquisitors, bishops, monks, and all the hired advocates of intolerance; but it is neither necessary nor appropriate in England, where the verdict of guilty

before God and mankind has long ago been pronounced on every shadow of persecution. As we do not therefore require any demonstration or proof for such propositions as these, “that the inquisition tramples on the rights of the citizen, that it exercises and excuses despotism,” and so on, it would have been convenient for the English reader to have had an arrangement founded on a different principle, leaving out some of the reasoning, and supplying its place by more historical detail. We throw out this hint to the author for improving the popularity of his work, should it come to a second edition; and we would moreover suggest, in that case, that there should be a chapter or two on the Inquisition in Portugal, and a more particular account of the specific acts it has performed, and the extent of rigour it has exercised, since the last autos in both countries.

In Spain we have no doubt it will return to its old course, or probably even proceed with a little more oppression and severity than it did for twenty years before the revolution. There will, however, be no more burnings, no more executions, no more sending to the galleys, no more parade of punishing heretics, no great gaoldeliveries of them, no penitential processions, no torturings, no confiscations, no escutcheons of infamy. The fagot and the rack will no longer be employed in the service of religion. Though Ferdinand has revived torture for high treason, yet scarcely will even a Spaniard be found to exercise in the character of inquisitor such a barbarous privilege. Such excesses of cruelty will be prevented by the influence of the age, both on the judges of the faith, and on those to be judged; inspiring a little involuntary humanity into the former, and extinguishing in the latter the zeal of martyrdom. We shall therefore probably hear of no more disgusting acts of tyranny; theindignation of Europe will not again be roused by the cry of a religious persecution; but the holy office, so long as it exists, cannot be idle or inefficient. It cannot exist as a sinecure; the spirit of intolerance by which it is animated will not leave it so long as its organization remains; it must harass by the fundamental laws of its being. Its officers, its powers, its forms, its prisons, still remain; and though it is only the shadow of what it was, standing alone amid the illumination of a century to which it does not belong, that shadow must darken the land on which it falls. It will vex, threaten, and intimidate; it will restrain the expression of opinion, and prohibit the publication of books. The inquisitors will be so many sentinels perpetually on the watch against freedom of discussion, either on politics or religion; so many custom-house officers to prevent the introduction of contraband works of genius. They will intrude into fami

[ocr errors]

lies, examine libraries, seize books, and threaten their readers with excommunication or imprisonment. Already have they proceeded to a great extent in this kind of severity: almost all the productions of Spanish liberality, published during the existence of the Cortes, have found their way into the Index Expurgatorius; and no works of the same character will appear so long as there is such a depository. The press is crushed, or only groans with the legends and scholastic theology of the dark ages: an incessant search is making for every work, either of history, philosophy, religion, literature, or science, that has a tendency to explode such absurdities.

A few notices therefore on the principles, temper, and proceedings of the inquisition immediately before the French invasion, which Dr. Puigblanch was so able to give, would have been a valuable addition to his work among Englishmen, though it had done nothing else than convince our ardent countrymen (who only hear of the tribunal as it existed when we ourselves were burning oúr witches) that, however much it may trample on the most sacred rights, it will no longer destroy the lives of men.

We had something more to say to him about several instances of inflation and bombast in his style, about his pedantry in quoting Latin and Greek, and criticising Hebrew without necessity or occasion, and about several other things; but we have been so well pleased with his book, upon the whole, that we have not heart to mention any more of its faults, and in gratitude for the satisfaction he has given us, beg leave to express our earnest wish that, if he publishes any thing more against the holy office, he may

neither fall into the hands of his present translator, nor of the inquisitor-general.

Art. VI. ORIGIN AND ANTIQUITY OF THE

ZODIAC. 1. Le Zodiaque Expliqué, ou Recherches sur l’Origine et la Signia fication des Constellations de la Sphère Grecque. Traduit du

Suédois de C. G. S. 8vo. pp. 151. Chez Desenne. A Paris. 2. Mémoire Explicatif sur la Sphère Caucasienne, et specialement

sur le Zodiaque. Par C. G. S. 4to. pp. 53. A Paris, 1813. 3. Encore quelques Argumens contre le Zodiaque. Par C. G. S.

8vo. A Paris, 1813. The origin of the celestial sphere, and the meaning of those strange enigmatical figures into which the stars were grouped

at some remote and unknown era of the world, has afforded subject for many learned investigations and fantastical reveries. The riddle still hangs over our heads, and no (Edipus has yet been found cunning enough to unfold it, and to gratify our curiosity by letting us into the mystery which has puzzled so many generations of men. Among those who have fancied themselves sufficiently strong to venture upon this doubtful attempt, we have seen none more confident and gaily presuming, more buoyed up with delusive hope, than the author of the three pamphlets of which we have just copied the title pages. Gladly would we award him the laurel at which he aspires; but Justice interposes her stern command, and obliges us to yield him up to the same fate which has befallen so many of his predecessors. We may, however, remark that, amidst the conjectures with which his work abounds, we have met with many ingenious and sound reflections, some of which we shall presently take occasion to lay before our readers.

The history of astronomy has long been a favourite theme with the natural philosophers of France; and since the learned Bailly published his celebrated work on that subject, they seem to have vied with each other in vaunting the antiquity of this undoubtedly ancient science. The memoirs of the learned academies of Paris record many attempts to extend its origin, as well as that of the chronology of the ancients, beyond the utmost bounds of probability. Freret obtained the applause of his associates by supporting in a specious manner these extravagant pretensions; and Dupuis takes the credit of moderation, when he demands no more than 13,000 years for the antiquity of the present constellations which mark the progress of the sun. This fantastical system, founded for the most part on suspicious data, and supported by inconclusive though ingenious reasoning, has found little favour in the eyes of our slow and phlegmatic countrymen. We are told indeed that some philosophers of the North, where the Gallic leaven has rendered the brains lighter and more fermentable, have been greatly delighted with it; but their number has never been very considerable, and their names, with one exception, are not highly distinguished.

Three nations have been supposed to exceed all others in the antiquity of their records and scientific attainments. We need scarcely add, that these are the Chinese, the Hindoos, and the Egyptians. The pretensions of the two former have been fully discussed, and at length finally decided upon. An acquaintance with the Chinese nation has taught us that their claims to profound science are absolute quackery and imposture; and it is now acknowledged that the celebrated tables of the Hindoos, which Bailly supposed to contain a system of observations made

arts.

nearly 4,000 years before the Christian era, were computed backwards, and were never intended to represent the actual state of the heavens at any real historical epoch. The antiquity of Egypt alone remains unfathomed; and as the descendants of the thrice-great Hermes have long since disappeared from the earth, and their language and sciences have perished with them, we cannot hope to find any living witnesses, as in the other two cases, who may betray the secret; and perhaps we may never be so fortunate as to find a clue that may wholly unravel the mystery. Yet we are willing to hope that a diligent examination, even of the vouchers we possess, may not be without its use; and we predict that our readers will adopt the same opinion, if they will take the pains to attend upon us while we sift this matter, and to note down two or three facts, which seem beyond question to assign a comparatively late period to the origin of Egyptian

We shall begin by laying before their view the whole ground on which our adversaries erect their superstructure. It is well known that the position of the sun, at the solstices and equinoxes, changes one degree in seventy-two years, and that the relation of the seasons to the appearances of the heavens undergoes, accordingly, considerable alterations in the course of a long succession of time. In somewhat more than 6,400 years, the constellations in which the sun is now placed at the summer solstice will be found to occupy the vernal equinox, the equinoctial colure having gradually receded through one fourth part of the ecliptic. If, therefore, the relation of the solstitial and equinoctial points to the asterisms of the ecliptic should be found in

any zodiac distinctly marked, it would be easy to determine the period at which this zodiac was constructed, or, at least, that to which the positions it contains were intended to refer. In the temples of Upper Egypt, which have been more thoroughly explored since the French invasion of that country than ever they were before, the asterisms of the zodiac have been found delineated in many places; and the ascending signs seem sufficiently distinguished from the descending series, to determine within a certain limit the intended positions of the solstices. From the investigation of these remains some astronomers have ventured to pronounce that the arts and sciences had attained in Upper Egypt their greatest perfection at a period long antecedent to the date of the creation of the world, according to the chronology of the Hebrew Scriptures; and before the era of the Deluge, according to the longer computation of the Septuagint.

Another attempt of a similar kind has been founded on a conjectural interpretation of the zodiacal emblems. Tlie zodiac has

« PreviousContinue »