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few years past will, I am satisfied, be found, upon examination, greatly beyond those of the Continental nations during the same period. In this country we cannot as yet be properly said to have a literature of our own, and the state of criticism among us scarcely deserves consideration. I could cite, however, several original works of a recent date which fulfil their promise and are substantially nutritive; such are the three discourses of the Hon. De Wit Clinton; the Statistics of the Hon. Timothy Pitkin; the views of Louisiana by Mr. Brackenridge, and the geographical tract of Mr. Darby already mentioned, the Picture of Cincinnati by Dr. Drake, which is, in fact, an able picture of the state of Ohio, and furnishes much curious information respecting our western country in general; the works of John Taylor of Caroline, Virginia, praiseworthy under some points of view and very exceptionable under others; the Sketch of the Botany of South Carolina and Georgia, by Stephen Elliot, pre-eminent among all the publications concerning American Plants, for scientific exactness, and practical utility, &c. &c. We have had books of much more lofty pretensions than these, but of little real achievement; for instance, the vain-glorious rhapsodies of Mr. Ogilvie under the abused title of Philosophical Essays, and the portentous “System of Universal Science” of Mr. Woodward—an undertaking greatly above the acquirements and opportunities of the author, as must be evident, upon the face of his volume, to every scholar. The Germans, the proper heroes for such an enterprise, have done all for the classification of human science, that could well be compassed or desired, in its imperfect state; and the American who may be disposed to emulate their labours, might wait at least until we are fairly involved in the labyrinth, before essaying to provide us with the clue. The truly erudite must smile when they find the author of this “System of Universal Science,” declaring, and with him the reverend gentlemen of Philadelphia who have so lustily puffed his attempt, and whose kindness he has duly reciprocated in the body of his book—that it will pay, or lighten the heavy debt of gratitude which the Western owes to the Eastern hemisphere, on the score of science! It is this kind of empiricism on the one hand, and presumption on the other, which arrests our solid advancement, perverts our relish, and degrades us from our true level in the eyes of Europe. We have had now and then a volume of poetry always below mediocrity, and a few romances or novels too contemptible to be remembered. Our Parnassus is fruitful only in weeds, or underwood at the best.
“Prose swell'd to verse, verse loit’ring into prose.”
I would much prefer that our taste and intelligence should be tested by the English works reprinted among us, although these, too commonly, have been trumpery and insignificant. Our booksellers seem to have been governed by the panegyrics of English reviews, and the success of a book as evidenced by the number of editions; without making allowance for the influence of venality or party spirit in those panegyrics, and the circumstance that, in so vast a reading public as the British, no kind of trash can fail to have a great number of eager consumers. Hence we have been inundated with what could have no other than the worst of effects on American taste, and must either produce or pamper an intellectual chlorosis. Recently, however, in Boston—where from early impressions and a natural action and re-action between the community and , the neighbouring university, a more general and keener relish for solid literature has always prevailed—English works of the higher order have been selected for re-publication, and the example has been followed in our other cities. The booksellers deserve much credit, who have given us such food as the Tacitus of Murphy and the Herodotus of Beloe; Eustace's Classical Tour, Dr. Clarke's three last volumes of Travels, Salt's Travels, those of Ali Bey, the Sermons of Horsley, Allison, Jeremy Taylor, the Essay of Malthus on Population, and of Hamilton on the National Debt of England, the Elements of Criticism of Lord Kaimes and of Philosophy of Dugald Stewart, the novels of Margaret Cullen, and of that Shakspeare of Novelists, the author of Waverly, &c. &c.—A complete edition of the writings of Cicero in the original is now passing through the press at Boston in a neat form, and on the score of the text, exceptionable only for being too servile a copy of the edition of Ernesti. I find announced as about to be immediately reprinted, a number of solid, instructive works, among others Ferguson’s Astronomy by David Brewster, to which I should be glad to see added Charles Hutton's Course of Mathematics for the use of academies. Our establishments for education are but ill supplied with the best elementary books in the physical and mathematical sciences, and are still more destitute with respect to judicious compends in the walks of history, and moral and political philosophy. The plan of the French government of devolving upon a committee of many conspicuous savans and literati, the task of digesting a library of rudiments to be common to all the schools, was excellent in itself, though conceived in a spirit eminently noxious. An association in England, or this country, of persons well qualified in knowledge, taste and reputation, for the purpose of providing abridgments in aid of the usual course of English education, would be fully worth any manufacturing company that could be imagined;—and rescue our youth, to a certain extent, from the quackery to which they are a prey.
Mr. Dobson of Philadelphia has issued proposals for an American edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, as it is re-appearing at home under the management of Macvey Napier, Esq. with all the new lights which the most eminent of the British philosophers can communicate. The dissertation on the progress. of the moral sciences prefixed by Dugald Stewart to the first volume—which alone I have had an opportunity of inspecting, is an inestimable accession, and worthy in the execution of the acknowledged head of elegant literature and inductive pneumatology.* I do not myself consider the republication of encyclopaedias among us, in the present stage of our literary advancement, in our actual chrysalis state, if I may be allowed the metaphor, as at all desirable, and I have seen with much regret, though with equal satisfaction at the liberality of the effort, that money expended on the enormous compilation of Rees, which might have been so much more usefully bestowed on good elementary treatises, and the separate labours of the great masters. If there be any one of the encyclopædias needful for our private libraries, it is certainly the unrivalled one of which Mr. Dobson now proffers the supplement.
An adventurous and very intelligent bookseller of New York, Mr. Eastburn, has engaged in a scheme for, reprinting a series of the classical, canonized prose writers of England, from the reign of Elizabeth down to the present century. We shall have healthy palates, and robust constitutions of mind, if our literary purveyors will, to hazard a homely phrase, pursue this scent. Mr. Eastburn includes in his bill of fare, Lord Verulam’s
* His dissertation is entitled “A general view of the progress of Mathematical, Ethical and Political Philosophy, since the revival of Letters in Europe.” What does this great authority say on the subject of “Systems of Universal Science?” After speaking of Bacon's classification, he proceeds thus: “Nor must it “be forgotten to the glory of his genius, that what he failed to accomplish re“mains to this day a desideratum in science;—that the united talents of “D’Alembert and Diderot, aided by all the lights of the eighteenth century, “have been able to add but little to what Bacon performed. After what I have “said, it will not be expected that an attempt is to be made, in this essay, to “solve a problem which has so recently baffled the powers of these eminent wri“ters, and which will probably long continue to exercise the ingenuity of our * successors.
“How much remains to be previously done for the improvement of that part “of logic, whose province it is to fix the limits by which contiguous departments “of study are defined and separated? And how many unsuspected affinities may “be reasonably presumed to exist among sciences, which, to our circumscribed “views, appear at present the most alien from each other! The abstract geometry “of Appollonius and Archimides was found, after an interval of two thousand “years, to furnish a torch to the physical enquiries of Newton; while in the far“ther progress of knowledge, the etymology of languages has been happily “employed to fill up the chasms of ancient history; and the conclusions of com“parative anatomy, to illustrate the theory of the earth. The strictures which I “am about to make on the classification of the sciences proposed by Mr. Locke, “will afford an additional proof of the difficulty, or rather the impossibility, in the “actual state of logical science, of solving this great problem, in a nanner calcu“lated to unite the general suffrages of philosophers.”
works, Dryden and Milton’s prose, Burton, Clarendon, Newton's Principia, Bryant's Mythology, and, besides much other provision of equal succulency, the Political Economy of Sir James
• Stuart, a work of which I have long lamented the scarcity in the
United States. It is richer in luminous views, in pregnant
under our improved system, far from being considerable. I may be, perhaps, taxed with a little extravagance or professional vanity, but I must avow, that I deem sterling foreign literature quite as valuable as sterling foreign gold, and hold it to be as much the duty of Congress to give free access to the one as to the other. I view the undertaking of Mr. Eastburn with particular interest, because it may absorb much of the loose money which now goes to the purchase of trifles in literature, and not because the good English authors are altogether rare in this country. They are accessible in our public and in many private libraries, in the English editions. Our principal bookstores are, in general, not abundantly alone, but substantially furnished, and this remark is not to be confined to those of our Atlantic cities. I was astonished in a recent tour through our western country, at the number, magnitude and solid composition of the establishments of this kind, which I found there. They presented in their comparative excellence and prosperity a contrast at first unintelligible with the establishments for liberal education all meager and languishing. From the contents and general appearance of the bookstores in Kentucky and Ohio, you would be led to feel easy with respect to the progress of knowledge in those states; but in inspecting the schools, you are alarmed lest the population should immeasurably outgrow the means of instruction; and their intellectual fall far short of their numerical weight in our national councils. The apprehension vanishes, however, in a great degree, before the activity, the emulation, and the sagacity which characterise our tramontane brethren. The sorce with which the mind vegetates among them can be best illustrated by the growth of their plants in a virgin loam. All the faculties knit, spread, and luxuriate, as it were, vigorously and wildly as the branches of their sycamore. This intense vitality of the intellect when fed by science, and the knowledge of mankind, must give the most splendid results. We may judge from the specimens of the ore which we have seen in congress, what the metal will be after sublimation. I must confess that I was lost in admiration at the prospects which open in that quarter upon the pride of human intelligence and power: it is a perspective of which the magnificence can be credible only to those who have made their examination at leisure upon the spot, and with a recollection of what history relates as to the adolescence of the mightiest communities mentioned in its annals. At a distance there is hardly a suspicion entertained of the promise, I should say rather, the impending maturity of the West. It is a great empire lying as it were in ambush for mankind, and destined to explore all parts of the intellectual World. Liberal education, by which I mean the systematic tuition of the sciences and classics—is there exceedingly backward, but the