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so long unknown to humanity: on the contrary; if the functions of human genius be to discover the laws of nature, and the useful application of those laws to the wants of society, is it not probable that each successive generation may find wherewithal to exercise its inventive faculties, until society has attained to that ultimate degree of perfection which is its natural destiny? And, if humanity has already progressed through the savage, the patriarchal, the barbarian, and the incoherently civilized forms of society, is it not more than probable, that we may continue to progress until we arrive at a state of society as much superior to the present, as this is to the ignorant slavery of barbarous nations, and the wandering condition of savage tribes ?
These questions must necessarily be answered in the affirmative, by those who are learned in historical erudition, and who, from a positive knowledge of the slow progression of discovery in science, are enabled to conceive enlarged ideas of the ultimate degrees of perfection in society, while they justly estimate the present indigent state of humanity, and its ignorance concerning the means of procuring that which is absolutely necessary to general happiness.
Two centuries ago, our forefathers had not invented that simple instrument of every-day use, the wheelbarrow; and it would be difficult for us to conceive an adequate idea of the waste of time and labour to which they were exposed for want of this comparatively insignificant machine.
Nor is there any thing wonderful in the very recent date of this simple contrivance: elastic springs for carriages, printing type, the stirrup, the mariner's compass, the true science of planetary motion, and the real form of the earth, are all modern discoveries and inventions. The applications of steam, gas, and the principal powers of machinery, have all originated within the memory of persons still living; and every body must admit, that innumerable advantages may arise from merely spreading a knowledge of these powers, so as to generalize their application, even were the true principles of association still bidden amongst the most profound mysteries of nature.
To suppose that nothing new can be discovered in a science which has already occupied the minds of philosophers in all ages, is to suppose that they were all stark mad in imagining the possibility of discovering a real science of society. Besides, it is notorious in the history of humanity, that more discoveries have been made by chance than by scientific research. The virtue of coffee was first discovered to man by the exhilarating effects it produced on the animals which fed upon it in the plains of Moka ; and many other things have been discovered in a similar manner. We have heard it said, that an ass, the most stupid of animals, first taught man the utility of pruning the vine in order to obtain a superior quality of grapes. The animal ate away the superior and other superfluous branches of several vines; and it was observed that those very plants which were thought to have been greatly damaged, produced the finest quality of fruit, and that the advantages of quality might be thus obtained at the expense of quantity. But the utility of this discovery was more palpable and more easily admitted than that which was made by the goats of Moka. When the exquisite quality of coffee was first made known in Europe, the discovery was rendered almost useless for a considerable length of time, by the blind influence of obstinate prejudice.
It must be admitted, however, that modern discoveries have found more easy access to general practice, than those of antiquity. If a real and useful discovery is more than fifty years in gaining admission to public confidence and general application, it is an extraordinary case; and very often, ten or twelve years are sufficient to ensure success: but hundreds of years elapsed, in former ages, before certain inventions could be generally known, admitted, and usefully applied to the wants of society. A few short extracts from history will fully corroborate this assertion.
Montucla, in his History of Mathematics, gives the following account of the progress and general adoption of the present method of notation by figures and ciphers :
“While among the Greeks and the Romans, the only method used for the notation of numbers was by the letters of the alphabet, which necessarily rendered arithmetical calculation extremely tedious and operose; the Indians had from time immemorial employed for the same purpose the ten ciphers of figures, now universally known, and by means of them performed every operation in arithmetic with the greatest facility and expedition. :. The Arabians, not long after their settlement in Spain (during the eighth century), introduced this mode of notation into Europe, and were candid enough to acknowledge that they had learned it from the Indians. Though the advantages of this mode of notation are obvious and great, yet so slowly do mankind adopt new inventions, that the use of it was for some time confined to science; by degrees, however, men of business relinquished the former cumbersome method of computation by alphabetical letters, and the Indian arithmetic came into general use throughout Europe.”—Montucla, Hist. des Mathemat., i. p. 360, &c.
If figures were not generally adopted as the ordinary signs of computation, until a considerable length of time after they were known in Europe, the science of geography was infinitely more slow in its progress. “ Fortunately for that science,” says Dr. Robertson, “ Ptolemy, in forming his general system of geography (eighty years after the death of Pliny) adopted the ideas and imitated the practice of Hipparchus, who lived near four hundred years before that time. That great philosopher was the first who attempted to make a catalogue of the stars. In order to ascertain their position in the heavens with accuracy, he measured their distance from certain circles of the spheres, computing it by degrees, either from east to west, or from north to south. The former was denominated the longitude of the star; the latter, its latitude. This mode was found to be of such utility in his astronomical researches, that he applied it with no less happy effect to geography; and it is a circumstance worthy of notice, that it was by observing and describing the heavens, men were first taught to measure and delineate the earth with exactness. This method of fixing the position of places, invented by Hipparchus, though known to the geographers between his time and that of Ptolemy (five hundred years), and mentioned both by Strabo and Pliny, was not employed by any of them."-Dr. Robertson's Disquisition on India, § 2, page 11.
These considerations naturally lead us to examine the influence of prejudice in retarding discoveries of a more modern date. Of the Influence of Prejudice in retarding the Practical
Application of New Inventions. In reading the biography of men of genius, whose inventions have conferred the greatest blessings on humanity, we are painfully struck with the injustice and ingratitude with which their contemporaries never failed to repay them ; and it is a remarkable fact, that the influence of prejudice is hardly less general in the most advanced periods of civilization than in the darkest ages of ignorance and superstition, though it may not be quite so obstinate now as it was formerly.
Such revolting injustice can only be attributed to ignorant vanity and mistaken selfishness; and yet one would naturally conceive that these sources of prejudice could hardly be general, and that all others must be totally destroyed after so many victories finally gained over them by genius; but, notwithstanding the repeated triumphs of invention, malignity, ignorance, and prejudice are still all powerful over public opinion, to the bitter disappointment of real merit, and the temporary, if not permanent, disadvantage of humanity. If we are at a loss to conceive the influence of ignorant prejudice over the judgement of our forefathers, our descendants will be no less embarrassed to account for our blind obstinacy in refusing to examine or admit the most interesting discoveries.
What excuse can be found for the Church of Rome persecuting Galileo because he affirms that scientific principles prove the earth to be a planet, of combined movement, revolving round the sun and its own axis ?
What excuse is there for a pope excommunicating Columbus, merely because he affirms that the earth is spherical, and that by sailing round it, unknown regions may probably be discovered ?
Why was Newton abused for discovering the compound nature of light?
What excuse is there for a parliament passing an act to forbid the use of coffee and potatoes, under the pretext of their being poisonous or unwholesome substances ? were they actuated by real science, or by prejudice, in their conduct? What degree of confidence can a reasonable person place in the sapient decrees of a parliament chosen from amongst men who are not required to furnish any qualification of science, practical or theoretical; who, so lately as the year 1808, gravely discuss in a British House of Commons, such silly questions as the following: :-“Which has proved a more striking instance of public credulity-the gas lights of Mr. Winsor, or the cow-poz inoculation ?" We may fairly assert that a greater instance of public credulity than the confidence in either of these scientific inventions, is the public faith in the political science of men who are chosen to legislate without giving any real proof of scientific qualification : men who seriously discuss such questions as the preceding, and sapiently conclude that “vaccination and lighting by gas are both scientific illusions, deservingly consigned to contempt and oblivion."-(See details, in the “Life of Doctor Jenner.")
The man who made the most useful of modern improvements in music died of grief, in consequence of the injustice of his contemporaries.
“ Galin learnt music without the aid of a master; and having discovered the advantages of a new method, he wished to promulgate his theory that the public might benefit by it. After having tried his system with considerable success in his native city, Bordeaux, he came to Paris, in the hope of finding fortune and fame; but grief and a premature death were his only reward. He died in 1822, at the age of thirty-five, six years after he had made his discovery. He died of consumption, accelerated by grief, from knowing that professors of music sought to deprive him of the merit of his discovery, by disfiguring it with a view to call it their own."
In almost every age, contempt and persecution have been the rewards of genius during a life of the most devoted perseverance; and in most cases the dawn of justice has been preceded by the darkness of the tomb.
If these facts were duly appreciated, the empire of prejudice and injustice would certainly be more limited; the discoveries of genius would be more carefully distinguished from arbitrary systems. A few extracts from the history and philosophy of chemistry, one of the most useful of modern sciences, may suffice to fix our attention on the effects of ignorant opinion, and show the utility of dethroning it as soon as possible, where the interests of humanity are deeply concerned.
“When a new discovery is announced to the world, there are people who immediately say, 'It is impossible, or that it is not true;' and when the truth and possibility of the discovery are both proved to them, they console themselves by saying “it is not new;' nor is it difficult to prove the assertion, for, by consulting ancient documents, it is always possible to find some idea similar to that in question. Objections of this sort were made against the discoveries of Lavoisier." Dumas, Philosophie de la Chimie, 173.
" But that is not all, gentlemen; Lavoisier's theory was published in 1772, and from that period up to 1783, when it was completed in all its principles, Lavoisier was still alone in his opinion. When I say alone, I am wrong, for the great mathematician, Laplace, approved his theory, but not one of the chemists had admitted its principles. You will probably be surprised, and you will easily conceive the mortifications to which a man of genius is doomed, when you reflect that ten years after the publication of his theory, Lavoisier had not a single partisan amongst the chemists, either of France or of foreign nations. In Germany he was opposed by Bergmann, and in England nobody accepted his system.”—Id. 176.
" It was not until 1787, fifteen years after its promulgation, that it was first admitted; and then it was styled, “The System of the French Chemists,' and not of Lavoisier individually."
Such confusion was very painful to his feelings. “ This theory is not that of the French chemists; it is mine," said he, in a written declaration. “I claim it as my invention, from the justice of my contemporaries and of posterity."-Id. 178.
" By this invention, Lavoisier annihilated all the imaginary systems N. 5,- VOL. VI.
which the vanity of philosophers had cherished during the last two thousand years; and, at the same time, he proved the fallacy of those doctrines of Stahl, which had been suggested by incomplete experiment.”-Id. 189. (To be continued.)
TAGLIONI. Last month we noticed the arrival in London of this distinguished danseuse ; we have now the gratification of remarking upon the particulars of her triumphant visit, and the regret of announcing its termination. We saw her in the three performances with which she entertained the public, viz. La Gitana, L'Elève de l'Amour, and Le Magie Amoureuse, and remain firmly impressed with the belief that her art was never displayed in greater perfection, and that her throne was never more secure against the invasion of her pseudo rivals. As impartial and independent reviewers, we do not intend to deny that one or two of her competitors possess great merit and deserve great applause ; but when we mention Taglioni, we speak of one whose eminence has raised the ballet to a state of ideal and practical excellence, and whose talents have awakened in others a rivalry which is the parent of success and distinction.
In tours de force and physical display, perhaps Taglioni has equals; but in spi. rituality of conception, refinement of demeanour, and versatility of movement, she is incomparable.
In L'Elève de l'Amour she gave us a most lovely and picturesque exhibition of her peculiar excellence, full of the most chaste sentiment and bewitching tenderness of movement. With this piece she took leave of us for the present season, and her farewell was attended with all the encouraging circumstances which she could have desired.
We really liked Le Magie Amoureuse after it was curtailed, and we think it not improbable that it may become a standard ballet as long as Taglioni animates it.
There is one of her movements which deserves especial notice; we mean that very pretty mincing fawn-like run which she introduces into many of her dances,—the effect of which is peculiar to her alone.
We English people treat our favourites in a very dull and business-like manner. During her recent engagement at Milan, Taglioni was fêted and caressed by the nobility, and before her departure several professionals delighted her with a serenade; -an entertainment at which Mr. Erneste Coralini, the distinguished clarionetist, played two pieces, which had a magnificent effect.
We hope this gentleman will be induced to visit London.
MR. SERJEANT TALFOURD, SHELLEY, AND MR. MOXON.* OFTEN has the proverb been reiterated, “Defend me from my friends;" and in all times, and in all countries, religion has had cause to regret its truth. Either protected by laws which enfeebled and destroyed what they were intended to sustain, or writhing under the suicidal zeal of enthusiasts and fanatics, who, mistaking form for spirit, and violence of denunciation for righteousness of purpose, rendered it ridiculous in the eyes of men, it has frequently languished and nearly expired beneath the misdirected efforts of its indiscreet promoters. The absurdity of attempting to cramp opinion by penal enactments is so clearly proved by experience, that it might have been thought that all such laws would have become, ere now, dead letters on the Statute Book. Could pains and penalties have arrested the progress of specu
* Speech for the Defendant in the Prosecution of the Queen v. Moxon, for the Publication of Shelley's Works, delivered in the Court of Queen's Bench, and reDised by T. N. Talfourd, Serjeant-at-law. London: Moxon, 1841.