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writings of Roger North:-" I must needs say, that the prerogative of the Crown is a doctrine so constantly recommended in the law books, that a man cannot be an honest, learned lawyer, but he must be, in the popular sense, a prerogative man, and, in every sense, a hater of what they call a republic."-Acting under the influence of these principles, it is not surprising that the judges should have "turned the law upside down, that arbitrary power might come in upon their shoulders." The state of England, at this period, is so well described in the following paragraph, that with it we shall conclude the present article.
"No man who wished well either to the church, or the laws of England, was safe from the informations of mercenary wretches: fictitious conspiracies were every day hatched, and judges and juries were so corrupted, that the one gave their opinions, and the other their verdicts according to the directions they received from Court. No man was safe in his innocence, nor secure in his property; and trials and proceedings, which should have been exactly consonant to law and reason, to justice and mercy, were become only a mere solemn and ceremonious method of completing our ruin. It hath been thought an offence against the very law of nations, to poison a fountain of which even an enemy was to drink: how great a crime then must it be, and how near a kin to sacrilege, to corrupt the laws which are the very fountains and springs of political life, and to make them the instruments of oppression and wrong, which should be our greatest security and relief."-(A Charge given at the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the County of Surrey, by the Hon. Hugh Hare. 1692.)
ART. VI.-The Capacity and Extent of the Human Understanding; exemplified in the extraordinary Case of Automathes, a young Nobleman, who was accidentally left in his Infancy upon a desolate Island, and continued Nineteen Years in that solitary State, separate from all Human Society. A Narrative abounding with many surprising Occurrences, both useful and entertaining to the Reader. London: 1745.
"During my abode in my native county of Cumberland, in quality of an indigent curate, I used, now and then in summer, when the pleasantness of the season invited, to take a solitary walk to the seashore, which lies about two miles from the town where I lived. I would amuse myself, one while in viewing, at large, the agreeable prospect, which surrounded me; and another while (confining my sight to nearer objects) in admiring the vast variety of beautiful shells, thrown upon the beach, some of the choicest of which I always picked up, to divert my little ones upon my return. One time, among the
rest, taking such a journey in my head, I sat down upon the declivity of the beach, with my face towards the sea, which was now come up within a few yards of my feet; when immediately the sad thoughts of the wretched condition of my family, and the unsuccessfulness of all endeavours to amend it, came crowding into my mind; which drove me into a deep melancholy, and ever and anon forced tears from my eyes. I had not long continued in this pensive mood, ere I was diverted from it by the sight, as I imagined, of a small cylindrical trunk, about a foot long, rolling along with the tide, just below where I sat, with a key tied to the handle. I stepped into the water, to seize the supposed prize, which, upon opening, I found to contain nothing but a kind of written journal, rolled up, belonging (as I then conjectured) to some shipwrecked mariner; but, notwithstanding all the care that had been taken to keep it dry, a great part (of the beginning especially) seemed to be quite obliterated with the salt water; the leaves would not bear opening, without being torn to pieces: so that, though my curiosity was sufficiently raised to know what was contained in a manuscript, which had fallen after so strange a manner into my hands, yet, I was forced, for that time, to return it into its former receptacle, and wait till a fitter opportunity offered."
Such is the simple introduction to the history of Automathes. The manuscript thus discovered he contrives with some difficulty to decipher, and he learns from it, that it was written by a Benedictine monk, who, with others, was driven from the island of Japan, in 1614. This monk having been wrecked off the coast of America, is fortunate enough to gain the shore of a country which is designated as Soteria, where he meets with the singular subject of these memoirs, from whose relation he has written them down. This volume was written by John Kirkby, who acted as tutor to Gibbon for about eighteen months. This historian informs us, that "distress forced him to leave the country," and he adds," his learning and virtue introduced him to my father, and at Putney he might have found at least temporary shelter, had not an act of indiscretion again driven him into the world. One day, reading prayers in the parish church, he most unluckily forgot the name of King George his patron, a loyal subject, dismissed him with some reluctance, and a decent reward; and how the poor man ended his days I have never been able to learn. Mr. John Kirkby is author of two small volumes; The Life of Automathes, (London, 1745,) and an English and Latin Grammar, (London, 1746), which, as a testimony of gratitude, he dedicated (Nov. 5, 1745), to my father. The books are before me: from them the pupil may judge the preceptor; and upon the whole, his judgment will not be unfavourable. The Grammar is executed with accuracy and skill, and I know not whether any better existed at the time in our language; but the Life of Automathes aspires to the honours of a philosophical fiction." The object of the
book is, as intimated in the title-page, to shew the extent to which the human understanding can proceed in the acquisition of knowledge and the enlargement of ideas unassisted by human intelligence, and uncheered by human converse. Not, as the author says, that he attributes those acquirements to the effect of our own capacity alone, any more than if he had had the most complete education which the world can afford.
"I have given you a brief history of my life, and the manner of my attainment of knowledge from my infancy, till the time of my entrance into human society; which happened towards the end of my twenty-first year, after I had continued in the island about nineteen years and ten months; and it is now near eleven years since. Through all which, I would have it well observed, that I attribute those acquirements no more to the effect of my own capacity alone, than if I had the most complete education which the world could afford. For I have all the reason in the world to believe, that if I had been left entirely to myself, after my father's departure from me, I should have been little better than my dumb companions. From whence I cannot but conclude, That man, by nature, depends as much after his birth upon the care and instruction of others, to bring him to act agreeably to his rational character, as he before depended upon the action of others to give him his birth.' And, if so, I think it may easily be made appear, that all nations of men, how distantly soever placed from each other, do actually derive their education from a supernatural original, and that ever since their first appearance in the world.'”
This proposition he attempts to prove principally by shewing that it is quite beyond the ability of human nature in itself to make such advances in education by experience, and that it is to be deduced from the agreement in the education of all mankind. Amongst the examples of agreement there are two which will, probably, excite a smile in our reader: "How comes it else," asks the worthy author," that no people have been discovered at any time, but what are trained to walk always in an erect posture only;" he might as well have asked, "How comes it then, that no people have been discovered at any time but what are without tails?" a fact in which, we verily believe, although the real and bona fide existence of this quadrupedal ornament has not wanted learned advocates. "Again," proceeds the speculative philosopher,
"What reason can be assigned for the universal concurrence of all mankind, in attempting to express their thoughts by no other means than that of speech, by articulate sounds of the voice, made by the motion of the lips and tongue? By what means could it happen, that the tongue, at least, should have any share at all in this; when the same thing may be demonstrated to be capable of being as fully performed, and more easily taught, by the bare tuning or modulating the voice; which is said to be experimented in China?"
The father of Automathes, a nobleman of Soteria, being banished from the kingdom by the contrivance of his enemies, embarks aboard a ship, with his wife and son, then just born-the ship is wrecked-all the crew, except the father and mother of Automathes, and himself, endeavour to save themselves in a boat, and perish; the hero's family stay with the wreck, and escape. They are carried to a desert island, where, in the course of seven months, the mother dies. After her death Automathes, having observed the manner in which the kid of a hind obtained nourishment from its mother, and the kid having luckily died when he wanted a nurse, takes the same course, and is fed by its milk. The father beginning to feel the extreme desolateness of his situation, strains his eyes over the sea in hope of discovering land, that he might again feel the pleasure of mixing in human society; he succeeds, and refits an old boat belonging to the wrecked ship; and whilst he is spreading his sails, intending to take his infant son with him, the wind rises, and he is wafted over the waves without the possibility of resistance [he must have been but an indifferent sailor]; leaving his son on the island. Automathes himself had no recollection of this early part of his life. Besides the milk of the hind, he became acquainted with the use of fruits, from observing the fowls of the air eat them, and with roots, from remarking that his dog, the only living thing which escaped with them from the wreck, subsisted upon them. The first occasion of reflection to the young islander, arises from a natural incident, related in a striking and forcible manner.
"The first time I remember myself to be brought to serious reflection, though, doubtless, I had reflected upon many things before, happened on this manner: one remarkably hot day, I had wandered something farther than common from my cottage; and, going to a lake to quench my thirst, I was surprised with the appearance of a creature, as I thought, in the lake, of a shape very different from any thing I ever yet had seen; which, when I stooped to the water, seemed to leap upwards at me, as if in a design to pull me down to it. Terrified at the supposed danger, I started backwards, and fled with all possible haste to a neighbouring wood for shelter, where I skulked for some time, before I durst look out again, to see whether or no I was pursued. At length, my thirst returning, and perceiving no farther appearance of harm, I took courage to visit another part of the lake, where I hoped to drink with less disturbance. But, no sooner did I stoop down to the water again, than I was scared back with a like spectacle, as before. And this second disappointment made the place become so dreadful to me, that I thought my greatest safety was, in being at the farthest remove from it.
"It may, perhaps, be thought strange, that I should all this
while be so afraid of nothing but my own shadow. But this, I suppose, was the first time I ever had beheld it in the water, or, at least, had taken notice of it; all the other fountains and rivulets I had hitherto seen, though sufficiently clear and transparent, having been either too shallow, or too rapid, to cast a reflection deep enough to fall under my observation. But, not long after, I grew better acquainted with such appearances.
"I cannot, though, forget the deep impression, which this affright left upon me; an impression so strong, that, for several weeks after, I durst hardly look out of my cottage, always imagining, that this terrible phantom was in search of me; and my sleep was, for some time afterwards, disturbed with fearful starts and dreams. But time wore this off, and the continual sight of no danger emboldened me to walk about, as usual: only the lake was a long while after frightful to me, whenever I came near it.
"This accident seemed, as it were, to rouse me out of my hitherto stupid condition into a sense of myself; which first broke forth in such inward expostulations as these: What am I? How came I here? Upon which I would every now-and-then run over in my mind all the transactions which occurred, of my past life, to the present time. And so intent was I on these contemplations, that I became heedless of every thing else; and, as I walked along, would often stumble and fall over whatever came in my way. But my mind was taken off from this thoughtfulness concerning herself, as her curiosity prevailed towards other things; which now began to drive me abroad more than usual, to take notice of every object falling in my way. And this, I conjecture, might happen about the ninth or tenth year of my age.
He afterwards sees the image of the dog, and again of himself, in the water; and comes to the conclusion that it is his shadow. This circumstance first surprised him into a notion of the existence of other creatures of his own species; for he had observed, that all the creatures in the island produced similar creatures: he concluded that the dog and himself, two solitary animals, had been produced in the same way. And, when he compared the structure of his cottage (which his father had built) with the regular apartments of the beavers, he guessed it must have been built by his predecessors. He begins to reason upon the sea; which he conceives to be a great lake, surrounded with hills: he examines the instruments in his cottage, different in shape and consistence from any thing in the island: he notices the fragment of a boat, and finally concludes, that he and his dog had by its means been conveyed to the island. Thence sprung a longing for the society of his own species, and he became melancholy.
"But I was effectually directed from these ungrateful thoughts, when I came to apply more closely to the study of nature, which every where presented me with fresh scenes of wonder; and the more I ob