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are not among the least amusing passages of this learned man's writings. According to him, The French are impudent but generous, presumptuous but frank, imprudent but ready. They do all with enthusiasm; they think themselves the first of men; they pretend to know much, and they know generally very little; they are either religious or atheists, according to fashion. The women are mistresses of the men, who consult them in everything. The English are religious, and often even fanatical; proud, bold, very industrious, rough, haughty but noble; they love money, but are not avaricious; they are absent, but not negligent; slow to conceive, but quick and intrepid to execute; they despise foreigners, but are just towards them ; they are ignorant of charity, but are philanthropic. The Italians are irreligious or profane, but just and very sensitive, sensibilissimi, prudent, inventive, arrogant, good friends, terrible enemies, envious, daring, hospitable, parsimonious, and at all times prodigal, witty, idle, and indefatigable. They love the fine arts, and cultivate them with passion; there are none stupid in Italy.” The Germans are slow, thoughtful, sensitive, making the best of things, never suffering anything to discourage them nor terrify them; prone to fatalism; treating all subjects metaphysically, they are for the most part materialists; care little what wine they drink so that it be wine, what Latin they speak provided it be Latin, what prince governs them so that it be a prince; they are cold
* This is like a saying of the witty Marquis of Caraccioli, in speaking of the Neapolitans: “ Sotto questo cielo non mascono ciocchi.” (Fools are not born under these skies.)
friends and indifferent enemies. The German women are very bad, and with good reason are beaten by the men.
The Dutch, ungrateful, diffident, making bargains between father and son, even in affairs of the slightest importance; they are avaricious, tolerant, but inhuman ; they would sacrifice all the world to gain a little money; with them the principle of justice and injustice consists in profit, though they will not actually steal. They love industry, to which they are always ready to sacrifice even their honour; they are not jealous, because they do not care for their women; they spend in a day what they have gained in a week. There is not a country in the world which has greater need of the tremendous chastisement of God than Holland.
The Turks and Jews, although bad, are preferable to the Greeks. What a race And yet there are good ones even amongst them.
X. HEADS OR TAILS.
This sport is undoubtedly alluded to by Macrobius in his Saturnalia, lib. i. c. 7. “Cum pueri denarios in sublime jactantes CAPITA aut NAVIA, lusu teste vetustatis exclamant.”
XI. SIR WALTER SCOTT'S ASTRONOMY.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE BOOK OF TABLE-TALK. SIR,
I REMEMBER reading that an old lawyer once found his son over a book. I take this to be, not an insinuation that lawyers' sons read less than other people, but simply a concession to that craving after exactness which requires that even mythological stories shall be circumstantial. Once upon a time, then, a lawyer found his son reading a book, and inquired what he was reading. “Clarissa Harlowe, sir,” was the answer. “Absurd trumpery 1” rejoined the governor; I read it once myself —was as great a fool as you in my younger days—hope you'll mend.” “Don’t you think, sir,” said the junior, “that there is a great knowledge of human nature displayed by the author?” “ Human nature " said the old man, “what has that to do with it 2 look at the will in the last chapter, you foolish boy; don't you see that there isn't a single point of it which can be supported ?” A novel-writer should have universal knowledge, thought I; but surely there never was one who had all kinds of necessary erudition, except Sir Walter. I had lent his works, verse and prose, to an old mathematician and astronomer of my acquaintance; a man who loved logarithms, was partial to partial differences, feasted on functions, and constant to the calculus of variations. I hope you will do me the justice to believe that I have not the slightest notion what all these things can be; I am sure, if they mean anything wicked, I am sorry for having written them ; but really my friend talks so much of them, that it is impossible to be in his company a quarter of an hour without hearing something about them. He returned me my books however, with some remarks, of which I send you the substance. He says that he found Sir Walter generally accurate enough, at least for ordinary readers; but that in one instance he had come to a false conclusion, which, says he, is not excusable even in poetry. On looking at the point in VOL. II. D
question, I certainly found by an almanac that my friend was right. The case is as follows: In the Lay of the Last Minstrel, the Lady of Branksome says to William of Deloraine; “For this will be St. Michael's night, And though stars be dim, the moon is bright; And the Cross, of bloody red Will point to the grave of the mighty dead.” My friend has always expressed his wonder that people should put short lines, ending with the same letters, in pairs under each other; and when I have told him that was poetry, has always answered that a mere definition does not give properties unless they existed before, and has inquired what is the fundamental axiom from which the method is deduced. Really, sir, I have not been able to answer him, because I do not know what an axiom is. However, to proceed, he says that the preceding proposition, as he calls it, together with the following, make out his case. “The moon on the east oriel shone through slender shafts,” &c. &c. is immaterial to the purpose: “the silver light, so pale and faint, showed many a prophet and many a saint, whose image on the glass was dyed; full in the midst his cross of red, triumphant Michael brandished,” &c. &c. And again; “Still spoke the monk when the bell tolled one;” and afterwards, “Lo, warrior now the cross of red, points to the grave of the mighty dead.” All this put together, he says, proves that Sir Walter imagined that the moon always shines on St. Michael's night; and not only shines, but always throws a shadow in one direction at one o'clock. He says that the reasoning of the Lady of Branksome consists in inferring that from the simple fact of its being St. Michael's night, that is, the twenty-ninth of September, the moon will shine as above, which he says is not true, except at the end of a certain cycle; and he explains something about Saros and Chaldeans, which made me no wiser. But he said, moreover, that by his tables he could find out for me nearly in what year of Grace this happened; and that the great Sir Isaac Newton, the prince of philosophers and master of the mint, found out that the dog-star rose How was it he said it rose ? I really have quite forgotten;* but it rose somehow, and so made him able to settle all chronology, past, present, and future. Well, these astronomers do do wonderful things to be sure ' I suppose it is because they have such very long telescopes. But he says that though Sir Walter had not a perfectly accurate notion of astronomy, he evidently had a great respect for abstract truth, as he calls it. He greatly admires the character of Owen in Rob Roy, and of Davie Ramsay in the Fortunes of Nigel. He says, the former is impressive when he earnestly declares that “it is as true as the multiplication table.” This table is an abstract truth, he said; I am sure it would have been long enough before I guessed that. But he was in raptures with Davie Ramsay's oath,-" By the bones of the immortal Napier " I really thought my old friend had a touch of romance. I had heard him speak of the great Lord Napier of Merchiston in Scotland, who interpreted the book of Revelations by logarithms; and I could easily