Page images
PDF
EPUB

nected with the extra-zodiacal ones. The asterisms themselves, from which the twelve departments are named, do not lie exactly in the line of the ecliptic. Some of them are situated to the north, and others to the south of that line. The whole probably formed, in connexion with the extra-zodiacal constellations, one system of hieroglyphic representation. The duodenary division was subsequent to the delineation of the asterisms, and was engrafted upon it. Hence it appears probable that the departments of the zodiac were at first unequal; but this point is placed beyond dispute by the declaration of Hipparchus, to whom we owe the most accurate observations on this subject. He says, “ Apparet ergo non solum quod duodecim imagines inæqualibus temporibus ascendunt, sed etiam quod aliis aliæ majus spatium occupant, et sine ordine collocatæ sunt.” The circle of the ecliptic being thus measured out unequally in the oldest zodiacs, according to the spaces occupied by the twelve constellations, it is no longer difficult to understand how the solstice happened while the sun was in the Lion and the equinox of the same year, before that luminary had passed beyond the limits of the Balance.

Leo is a very extensive constellation, and the solstice would scarcely recede through it in the space of 3,000 years. Libra, however, occupies a much smaller space; and as we suppose the equinox to be in Libra at the first origin of the zodiac, the position of the solstitial colure is determined within moderate limits. In fact, it cannot be drawn further back than the star termed Cor Leonis. It is very probable that this was the star through which the colure was first directed, and it was perhaps from this circumstance that it obtained from the Chaldean astronomers the epithet of chief, or leader, of the celestial host.

If these premises be allowed, we may consider it as proved, from internal evidence, that the invention of the solar zodiac happened about 2,300 years before the Christian era.

We could adduce many other considerations which would give additional support to our hypothesis, if we were not fearful of trespassing too far upon the patience of our readers. After all that has been said, we are willing to acknowledge that every thing that can be adduced on this subject must necessarily be uncertain and obscure; but we contend that the general testimony of facts, as far as it extends, is in favour of a comparatively recent date; and that the confident assertions of those who have assailed the chronology of the Scriptures on the credit of supposed relics of an unfathomable antiquity, are unworthy of any serious attention.

Our author, who has in many instances combated with success the opinions of others, is still more unfortunate than any

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

of them in his own conjectures concerning the meaning of the asterisms. He fancies the whole system of the constellations to refer to the geography of Caucasus, and the borders of the Caspian. The town of Bakou, on the margin of that lake, was, according to him, aptly symbolized by the celestial Crab, being concealed between rocks and on the brink of the sea-shore. Derbent, a famous trading town, is figured by the Balance, the emblem of commerce; and the Hydra, in its vicinity, denoted certain streams of petrole, or mineral pitch, in the same region. But we must refer such of our readers, as are particularly interested in this subject, to the work which has drawn forth these comments, and hasten to conclude our paper with this general reflection, that the history of astronomy is a subject on which we have more need of facts than of theories.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

ART. VII.-Letters written on board his Majesty's ship the North

umberland, and St. Helena, in which the Conduct and Conversations of Napoleon Bonaparte and his Suite, during the Voyage and the first Months of his Residence in that Island, are faithfully described and related. By William Warden, Surgeon on board the Northumberland. Fourth Edition. 8vo. pp. 215. Ac

kerman. London, 1816. The grand progressive movement of the moral world is marked and displayed as much in the explosion of prevailing errors as in the developement of new facts, and the accession of fresh discoveries. But it is curious to observe how long mankind will sometimes repose in certain erroneous persuasions which have neither facts nor the semblance of truth for their foundation : and though the confutation bursts upon the senses from a thousand sources of light and intelligence, they still pertinaciously hold to certain blind hypotheses which have nothing but their antiquity to support them. Those who have been backward in believing the Gospel have made no difficulty of admitting whatever has been written or related of the griffin, the phoenix, and the salamander, and have never doubted of the aërial food of the cameleon, or the digestive powers of the ostrich. Errors equally absurd have been borne along the stream of history and · tradition concerning the qualities and performances of our own species. Men have believed that Milo' carried an ox a furlong, and then devoured him for his dinner, and that Friar Bacon made a brazen head with the active organs of speech; the story of the wandering Jew, and of Pope Joan, have also had their day. But by

kreope

The e

haructe

rich, a

wined

I Loire, a

ghims

tiplants

and cott

would be parte

share him on Bertran di the

far the most injurious of all these common errors are those which doinjustice to the characters of great and distinguished persons; and the ingenious writers who have exposed the falsity of the imputation thrown upon Saladin by the representations of the Saracen's head, and the mistaken notion of the deformity and criminality of King Richard III., have entitled themselves to the gratitude of those by whom the truth of history is duly appreciated. But of all these rectifiers of public opinion we know of no one who has raised himself to greater importance than Mr. Warden, Surgeon of the Northumberland, and recorder of the private acts, sayings, and opinions of Napoleon Buonaparte.

By this judicious and faithful narrative our vulgar errors concerning this much-injured man are happily dissipated; and, instead of a týránt stained with blood and crime, in which light he has appeared to the world in general, and even to the closest observers of his conduct, for these sixteen or seventeen years, he turns out to have been all this while a very amiable and respectable man, and well-worthy of being proposed to our children as a model for their imitation, instead of being called in aid by their nurses to terrify them into good behaviour. After Mr. Warden's book has gone through so many editions, there can exist no reasonable doubt of the mistake we have all along been under; and no one will be surprised, should the head of the ExEmperor fall into the hands of Dr. Spurzheim, or his disciples, if the organ of forbearance shall be found in it in a high state of developement.

The circumstancé which first interests our feelings in this pleasing narrative is the testimony of Count Bertrand to the characteristic aversion of his master to the effusion of blood, which, according to this faithful follower of his fortunes, alone restrained him from putting himself at the head of the army of the Loire, after his great defeat, and determined him upon throwing himself into the arms of the English; and we cannot but admire the naïveté of Napoleon, in expressing his difficulty in conceiving what objection could have occurred to the government of England to his request, to be enrolled among the humblest of her citizens, and to be permitted to occupy some retired spot in her domains. What an image this presents to us of rural felicity,

cottage contentedness: and who, but for Mr. Warden's book, would have been at all aware of these quiet propensities of Buonaparte. This mistaken and much-enduring man comes forth to the public gaze with unruffled serenity, and, were it not for an unshaven beard which he brings with him at his first introduction on board the ship, and the poetical incident of Madame Bertrand's attempting to cast herself into the sea from the poop of the Bellerophon, nothing could have been smoother than the

and

commencement of this new career of the deposed Emperor, or more declarative of his natural love of tranquil enjoyment, and the noiseless tenour of humble life.

According to this intelligent anecdotist, Buonaparte seemed neither to court nor expect more courtesy than was due to a private gentleman; and the only vestiges of his former dignity preserved in his manner, were his taking snuff without offering a pinch to the person he was conversing with, and a certain royal way of disposing of a mutton cutlet without the aid of knife or fork.

The sea-sickness of Buonaparte, and the opportunity of sitting on one of his camp beds, dispose the author to moralize on the changes and chances of this mortal life; and he is just on the point of giving way to these interesting reflections when luckily he recollects that moralizing was not his business or his talent, and in lieu thereof he favours us with the following questions put by his hero to the lieutenant of the watch, which he says are enough to prove that nothing escaped him: such as, How many leagues the ship went in an hour? Whether the sea was likely to go down? What the strange vessel was on the bow of the Northumberland ? “ Among other objects of his attention, he observed that Mr. Smith, who was taking his usual to-and-fro walk with his brother midshipmen, appeared to be much older than the rest; and on this account he asked him how long he had been in the service; and being answered, nine years, he observed, That surely is a long time.”

Other observations and questions equally original and profound are recorded by Mr. Warden, to show the searching inquisitiveness of Buonaparte in the pursuit of knowledge. “ It was about this time,” says Mr. Warden, “ that he made a most unexpected inquiry of our orthodox chaplain, whether he was a Puritan.The ingenuity and research implied in this question could only be equalled by the sagacious reflection of the biographer, which followed upon it. " I need not tell you what would be the reply, and you may conjecture, probably, what might be the feelings of a gentleman clothed in canonical orders, and firm in canonical principles, when he was saluted with such an interrogatory." The compass of Buonaparte's mind, which no knowledge the most remote could escape, had enabled him to discover a religious community in Scotland called Johnsonians, who, he understood, were a very active sect in that part of Britain. Mr. Warden however, has some sagacious doubts of the existence of any such sect, and very naturally accounts for the surmise of Buonaparte, by supposing him, when he meditated a descent upon our coast, to have speculated upon invading us on the side of Scotland, and to have read Johnson's Tour to the Hebrides with that view. What a vast capacity does all this demonstrate in this extraordinary personage, and what a happiness it is to be introduced by the master touches of Mr. Warden's pencil to a familiar knowledge of the features of such a mind. Had lie landed in Scotland, we should probably have had among the productions of this same son of wisdom in addition to his proclamation to the Moslems of Cairo, a similar one to the Johnsonians of the Hebrides. In addressing the sect of the Johnsonians, he need only have reversed those memorable words which did his head and heart so much honour when formerly used by him in the capital of Egypt.“ Let the people know," said this great man, " that ever since the beginning of the world, it was written, that after having destroyed the enemies of Islamism, and broken in pieces the cross, I should arrive from the uttermost part of the West to fulfil my appointed task ? Open the Koran, and prove to the multitude by more than twenty passages of that sacred book, that what has now happened, and what is yet to come to pass by me, is there foretold.” He must be a strange man, who after this can doubt the spirit of wisdom in which Buonaparte asked the orthodox chaplain of the ship whether he was a Puritan, and made inquiry after the Johnsonians of the Hebrides, or can be surprised at the admiration in which his theological curiosity seems to have been held by the Surgeon of the Northumberland.

His exquisite good humour, shown in the playful incident of his seizing Captain Beatty by the ear, on hearing from him that he had been at the siege of Acre, accompanied by the jocular phrase, “ Ah, you Rogue, you Rogue, were you there?followed by his indignant exclamation at the disgracefulness of permitting that “nest of miscreants” the Barbary, corsairs to live, form together a beautiful combination of personal qualities,-forgiveness of injuries to himself, and a humane abhorrence of oppression and violence towards others. How could such a man fluctuate between the Cross and the Koran? Had he seriously embraced the latter when at Egypt, what a loss would the Christian world have had to deplore !

Is any man so credulous after this as to believe the absurd stories of his contumelious treatment of ambassadors, or that if he pulled them by the ears he did it otherwise than by way of diplomatic pleasantry, and with a feeling of the most festive good-humour? or will any man in his senses give a moment's credit to the preposterous stories of the murder by his orders of Wright, or Pichegru, or Palm, and those other tales of strangling, starving, and poisoning, which are so many blasphemies against this champion of the Koran, and successor of Mohammed. Who can believe that this man ever took a shilling by compulsion out of the pocket of any individual, either Christian or Mohammedan, after being told by Mr. Warden that

« PreviousContinue »