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AMERICAN LITERATURE REVIEWED.
NATURE DISPLAYED in her mode of teaching language to man,
or a new and infallible method of acquiring a language in the shortest time possible, deduced from the analysis of the human mind, and consequently, suited to every capacity ; dapted to the French. By N. G. Dufief, of Philadelphia. Second edition, with considerable additions and corrections.
Philadelphia, printed at the press of John Watts, 1806. TH
HIS book was noticed in our first Volume, but as the reviewing department is now transferred to other hands, and
are now favoured with a second edition of M. Dufief, the whole work will be reviewed de novo with the consent of the former reviewer.
A book with so very long, and so very pompous a title page ought to contain something out of the common way: and if the reader will attend us through our review, he will soon find, that N. G. Dufief is a very extraordinary writer.
This book is ushered in by an inflated and a turgid dedication, which will speak its own merits in much more intelligible language, than can be given by any remarks of ours; so take it, as Pope says, in the very words of Creech, when he quotes this notable couplet from that notorious translator and poet ;
“ Nought to admire's the only thing I know,
To make men happy : and to keep them so," The exquisite beauty and pathos of the last words of Creech's second line, of course, will not be lost upon
the reader of discernment, and of taste.
So much for Mr. Creech, who was a very great man in his way: Now for M. Dufief whose dedication is expressed, aş philosopher Godwin would say in the very highest style of man.
“ August and sacred manes of Locke, and Condillac, and you, virtuous Sicard, who, by the effulgence of your genius, have illumined the most dark and abstract subjects, and, by a most scrutinizing attention to the faculties of the mind of man, reinstated a
portion of his race in the possession of such characteristics of humanity as nature withheld ! accept a small but sincere tribute of veneration and gratitude in the dedication of the following work by
The Author.” We are at a loss how to comment upon this sublime dedication, but we will attempt to parallel it with a piece of composition, equally fine and equally interesting, by an eminent lawyer in Britain, who is generally deemed to be very profound in his way, that is, in the way of a real-property lawyer; of his powers of eloquence, and his flourishes of rhetoric, take the following specimen ; it is be found in the aforesaid lawyer's preface about and concerning (that we might speak legally) the Right Honourable Charles Yorke, who was seduced into becoming the Lord high chancellor of England, and who, soon after this seduction, put an end to his own life. These are the words of the English lawyer.
“ He, (Charles Yorke) was a modern constellation of English jurisprudence, whose digressions from the exuberance of the best juridical knowledge were illuminations; whose energies were oracles ; whose constancy of mind was won into the pinnacle of our English forum at an inauspicious moment ; whose exquisiteness of sensibility, at almost the next moment, from the impressions of imputed error, stormed the fort of even his highly-cultivated reason, and so made elevation and extinction contemporaneous; and whose prematureness of fate has caused an almost insuppliable interstice in the science of English equity.”
See a book called “the Jurisdiction of the Lord's House of Parliament, by Sir Mathew Hale,”--and an introductory preface by T. Hargrave, Esq. the Editor, 1796. pref. page 181."
This sublime effusion of Mr. Hargrave we do not presume to understand, in all the fulness of its elevation ; perhaps, indeed, Mr. H. might wish to leave upon record this salutary admonition to his brethren of the long robe ; namely,-That a lawyer who writes so clearly as to be understood, is an uvowed enemy to his profession."
Certainly, Mr. Hargrave has never yet shown himself an avowed enemy to his profession by writing intelligibly.
Neither are Mr. H. and his legal brethren, the only people who shrink, with dismay and terror, from the perpetration of the crime of writing intelligibly; for our worthy friend, N. G, Dufief, entertains, to the full, as great a horror of being un
derstood, as can any lawyer in the universe; witness these words, in a note subjoined to his amazing dedication, with which we have already regaled the reader.
“ To those, who are born deaf, and, consequently, dumb, Sicard by physical means renders the most metaphysiaal abstractions visible.”
Now, if this is not absolute, stark, staring, nonsense, it is so nearly allied to it, as to present to our mental optics a very strong family likeness.—Metaphysical abstractions are the results of an inquiry into the properties of matter, such as its impenetrability, its divisibility, &c. &c. into the faculties and operations of the human mind, as perception, memory, thought, reasoning, &c. into the immortality of the soul ; and into the being and attributes of God; none of which are cognizable to any of the human senses, and, consequently, cannot be visible, notwithstanding N. G. Dufief's round assertion, " that Sicard, by physical means renders the most metaphysical abstractions visible.”
No, Sir, the Abbé Sicard can no more render the most metaphysical abstractions visible, by physical, or by any other, means,“ to those, who are born deaf, and, consequently dumb.” than he can to you yourself, N. G. Dufief.
In addition to the high and the lofty dedication to Locke, Condillac, and Sicard, M. Dufief favours us with another dedication, to his mother, which is dutiful enough, and informs us, that this excellent lady “strove to exalt his (Dufief's) sentiments by fixing generous principles in his breast-that she displayed her personal valour in the field, as well as her delicacy at home; and that Louis the eighteenth, the present exiled king of France, wrote unto her a letter, full of regret that she was a woman, as that circumstance prevented him from making her a knight of the order of St. Louis ; but that he sent her his portrait in lieu of the knight-hood; which portrait she was to wear " attached to a riband similar to that of the order, with which he wished it were in his power to decorate her person.”
Next follows the preface to this second edition, which begins thus :
« The great success, with which this work has been honoured, notwithstanding the new doctrines, which it inculcates, and the opposition of short-sighted prejudice, impressed me, &c. &c.
Yet notwithstanding the opposition of these short-sighted prejudices, we find from his own confession, that it was necessary for him to correct several blunders, which had wandered abroad in the first edition, for he says, in the very second sentence of his preface ;
66 The result has been the suppression of several passages, and the adoption of numerous corrections.”
M. Dufief, then, informs us that he has been “-induced to add also the Lecteur Français, a selection of French pieces particularly calculated to give the last polish to the acquirement of the French language, on the principles, developed in his preliminary discourse.”
We are, then told, that all other selections made for the use of persons learning French, are, in very deed, not to be compared to his selection, which he assures us _“ is choice and pithy, and, while it conveys instruction, it cannot fail to amuse."
Moreover, we are given to understand, that this second edition is printed on a smaller type cast for the purpose, and contains“ in substance, four hundred pages more than the first edition.”
M. Dufief then invites,—but let M. Dufief speak for himself;
« Besides those, who wish to learn French, and their respective instructors, I invite the learned, the curious, and all those, who are desirous of observing by what simple means Nature produces great effects, to read with attention the preliminary discourse. I am the more strongly induced to make this request, as the principles, therein developed, have prepared a very extensive reform in the science of instruction; and I flatter myself, that those, who have duly reflected on language, its effects on the human mind, and the powerful influence of methods, which are the pinions of the mind, will not accuse me of forming an exaggerated idea of the utility of this production."
This, we trust, the reader will allow, is a very modest confession of M. Dufief, in his own favour ;-but modesty is the peculiar, and the distinguishing characteristic of great minds. It was said by a gentleman, who saw the notorious Daniel
all the ap
de Foe standing in the pillory, for the seventh time, and ex-
M. Dufief, then, pours forth his tribute of applause and of acknowledgement, to Mr. Watts, who, we are informed,
came about two years since to Philadelphia from England, with few resources, but some letters of recommendation, and his own learning and talents ;” Which last have broken forth in a most marvellous manner, “in correcting the press of Messieurs Poyntell and Co. during the printing of Xenophon's Cyropædia, and some other works of the same class,” and in translating some French books.
Nay, Mr. Watts is now in the very act of translating Marmontel's literary life, a book, which N. G. Dufief asserts, (and who shall presume to contradict so profound a critic as N. G. Dufief ?) to be “ by far the most interesting work, that has appeared for many years.
It must not pass unnoticed, that M. Dufief styles Marmontel, “the virtuous French moralist.” What definite meaning M. Dufief attaches to the words, “virtuous moralist,” we cannot presume even to conjecture; probably, Mr. Dufief cannot himself tell; but whosoever will be at the trouble of perusing Marmontel's memoirs, will find that, “ this virtuous French moralist," broke down every barrier of moral obligation, and of moral honour, and sank far below even the degraded level of the pagan code of morality, throughout the whole career of his life ; His life which was a youth of profligacy and of debauchery and an old age of impotent desire and disappointed pride.
But it seems, according to M. Dufief, that the lustre of Mr. Watts' genius shone forth in the most august splendour, when “he manufactured a printing ink, which has the rare property, (a property so much desired among us!) of never turning yellow, &c &c &c.”
When' Gilbas de Santillane had an interview with the keeper of a certain public house on the high road to Valladolid, in order to concert a plan of providing some dinner for the said