Page images

creatures, and imagined I heard the cries of several helpless animals perishing in the flames; O heavens! with what horror was I seized! I ran round the flames in the most distracted manner, without the least regard to my own safety; still pouring forth the most bitter lamentations, till, at last, through very anguish of spirit I fell all along upon the ground, and could bear up no longer; my resentments being all the same, as if I had occasioned the destruction of so many of my own species.

"The fire continued burning that whole day, and the greatest part of the night following; during all which time I could not keep my eyes from it, continually shewing the utmost tokens of rage and despair, for having been the author of so much mischief. At length, when it had destroyed all before it to the shore, for near a mile distance, it began to abate for want of proper matter to supply it; and a great quantity of rain falling next morning quite extinguished it.

"But though the fire was extinguished, so was not my trouble. This accident raised a tumult in my bosom, as much beyond my own power to appease, as it was beyond my power to quench the fames which occasioned it: for it gave me the first sad experience of the severe lashes of a self-condemning conscience; a trouble to which all my other griefs were comparatively as nothing. I had hitherto experienced no afflictions but such only as proceeded from things without; things upon which the soul had no real, at least, no lasting dependence: so that whenever she obtained a better knowledge of her own state, it would not fail either to shew her the vanity of them at present, or, however, give her the comfortable hopes (if not the assurance) of their removal hereafter. But this was a wound given to the soul herself, and, consequently, a more perfect knowledge of herself was the way to add to her misery, by making her more sensible of the great evil of the loss of innocence; a loss which could never be retrieved by any ability in herself, and which must needs proportionally deprive her of the favour of God. And whenever I reflected upon the wretched havock which, by this fact, I had made in the workmanship of God's hand, and considered the intolerable injuries I had done to so many of my fellowcreatures, I could not but tremble to think how justly I had provoked our common Creator."

There are several pretty little incidents in the book, in addition to those we have quoted:-the discovery of the light of the glow-worm; the intercourse between Automathes and the beavers, which is of a very agreeable sort, and full of the author's own kind disposition, besides many other pleasant touches of description and feeling. On the fan, which he had found in his cottage, Automathes first saw the semblance of the human figure; it was this elegant toy that awakened in his heart a longing for the society of his own species, a burning desire to see something like himself: by his minute examination of the fan, and his own observation of the animal kingdom, he had already pictured on his mind a distinction of sexes. He was one

day partially gratified by a vision of a female: it was his mother, whom he supposed had been the instrument employed by heaven in his education, and who was now come on the completion of the task, to afford a sensible manifestation of herself, as if intending to take her final adieu of him in this life, when she had, as it were, executed her commission, and was about to return into the mansion of rest. Shortly afterwards a ship arrives off the island, and, to his great surprise and delight, a company lands from the vessel, the motions of whom are watched with intense interest by Automathes, who at last marches amongst them a naked savage, and finds his father, who is revealed to him by that sort of mysterious sympathy which accompanies the relation of parent and child, at least in novels and ro


The father, it appears, had been driven on another desert island, where he had remained until this very time, when he was discovered by the crew of this ship who were countrymen and acquaintances, and upon whom he had prevailed to accompany him to the island on which he had left his son. Gibbon says that our author has blended the History of Robinson Crusoe with the Arabian Romance of Hai Eb'n Yockdan. This does not appear to us to be the case; it bears no resemblance to the former; the outline is entirely borrowed from the Arabian work, which was translated into Latin by Pocock, and afterwards into English by George Ashwell. The history of Automathes possesses considerable advantage, as a romance, over that of Hai Eb'n Yockdan, which is filled with philosophical speculations on the subject of the human mind, but unmixed with the pleasant episodes and lively fancy of the History of Automathes. There is also this difference between the two fictions, namely, that the progress of Hai Eb'n Yockdan, in the attainment of knowledge, is accompanied with a ferocious indifference to the sufferings of the animals around him, whom he considers as his enemies in his pursuit of information. In his acquirements too, he had nothing but his own unaided reason for his guide. Automathes, on the contrary, at first imagines that all animals are endowed with the same feelings, and are influenced by the same resentments as himself: he never attempts to destroy life in the meanest of the animal tribes, and his sole food consisted of fruits and vegetables. The former is the most philosophical, but also the most wearisome; the latter is the most entertaining, and the most amiable. Automathes, indeed, bears the marks of having been written by a mild and gentle spirit, who had some peculiar notions about the superintending care of divine intelligences; and who, if not a profound philosopher, was, at least, an agreeable writer. Indeed, we have been induced to

notice his work, not from its scientific but its romantic character, which may be summed up in a few words.—If it does not display either much genius or invention, it is full of amiable and humanizing feeling; is, in the descriptive parts, frequently beautiful; and, in the reflections, sensible and judicious.

ART. VII.-The Parliament of Ladies; or, Divers remarkable Passages of Ladies in Spring Garden, in Parliament assembled. Vespre Veneris, Martis 26, 1647.

Woman not inferior to Man; or, a short and modest Vindication of the natural Right of the Fair Sex to a perfect Equality of Power, Dignity, and Esteem with the Men. By Sophia, a Person of Quality. London, 1739.

Man superior to Woman; or, a Vindication of Man's natural Right of sovereign Authority over the Woman. Containing a plain Confutation of Sophia, &c. London, 1739.

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects. By Mary Wollstonecraft. London, 1792.

Of the existence of the " virtual influence" of women, no man of the world, since the ante-diluvian period, in which Eve tempted Adam, can entertain a rational doubt: and from the classic times, when Aspasia governed Pericles and educated Alcibiades, to the present year of the A. D. 1824, the influence of the fair sex has undoubtedly increased with the progress of civilization. Montesquieu, and all the great writers on legislation and history, have remarked, that the rank and power of the women in a state, are a sure criterion of the national taste and superiority.

Our limits will not permit us to enter at any length into the female rights of the Oriental, Greek, and Roman governments. Plato allows women to govern, (De Rep. lib. 5); and Aristotle (Polit. lib. 1.) does not deny them the privilege. Plutarch narrates, that it was an ancient custom to admit them to debate on questions of peace and war. Varro, (lib. xviii. c. 9.) does not want for a story to explain the cause of their elective suspension in Greece: he says, that, in the reign of Cecrops,

women were allowed voices in the popular assemblies of Athens, but were dispossessed of their franchise in consequence of their supporting Minerva against Neptune, in the contest of these two great deities for the representation of that independent city; when Minerva, bringing over the females to her party (whose votes were far more numerous than those of the men) is reported to have gained the victory. We shall, however, pass over these days of fable, and of gods and goddesses, to the real history of the early Britons.

The ancient German nations and Gauls, who probably were the early settlers of the British isles, from the scanty details of history, appear to have treated their women with great deference and politeness: they had a peculiar faith in their counsels and foresight: their armies were always accompanied by sorceresses, who seem to have exercised a power of controul over the military chiefs and commanders.-Tacitus says of our British ancestors-" Fœminarum ductu bellare, et sexum in imperiis non discernere ;" (Vit. Agric. et ann. 4.) that they were wont to war under the conduct of women, and to make no difference of sex in places of command and government. Cæsar records an old custom-" Mos inolevit ut pacis et belli cum fæminis consilia inirent. Si quæ questiones cum sociis inciderent, earum arbitrio has committerent:" (De Bell Gall.) the Britons advised with their women in matters of peace and war; and if any questions arose of difference of opinion, they were referred to their arbitration. That their courage was equal to the confidence thus placed in them, is amply proved by many celebrated examples of female heroism. Courage and fortitude are most eminently displayed by women in circumstances of particular excitement. Sophia, the authoress of Woman not inferior to Man, thus warmly vindicates the quality of the sex:

"Need I bring Amazons from Scythia to prove the courage of woman? Need I run to Italy for a Camilla, to shew an instance of warlike courage? Would the wife of Pætus, who stabbed herself first, to encourage her desponding husband to do the like, have been afraid to mount a breach? Would not she, who could snatch the knife from her bleeding breast, and, with an unconcerned countenance, give it to Thraseas, adding, 'strike, Pætus, it does not smart:' would not she, I say, have been equally capable of animating with persuasion and example an army in defence of her country? Let France boast its Maid of Orleans; and other nations glory in their numberless store of warlike women. We need not go out of England, to seek heroines, while we have annals to preserve their illustrious names. To whom did England owe its deliverance from the tyrannic yoke of the Danes? But, to pass over the many instances of warlike bravery in our sex, let it suffice to name a Boadicea, who made the most glo

rious stand against the Romans, in the defence of her country, that ever that great empire was witness to; and if her endeavours did not meet with the success of an Alexander, a Cæsar, or a Charles of Sweden, in his fortunate days, her courage and conduct were such, as renders her worthy to be considered equal, if not superior, to them all, in bravery and wisdom; not to mention the nicer justice of her intentions."-p. 54-5.

The reign of Boadicea is a proof that the Salic law did not prevail in that part of England over which she governed with so much personal courage and judgment. Our fair readers are probably aware, that the Salic, or Salique law, lex Salica, was an ancient and fundamental law of the kingdom of France; originating, as is supposed by some, in the times of Pharamond and Clovis, in virtue of which males only inherit. This law has been the subject of much copious writing and dispute. We are not aware that any traces of it, properly so called, can be discovered in our early constitution, although the exclusion of females from inheritance of fixed possessions was certainly not uncommon among the Teutonic nations. We learn from Tacitus, also, that the German women were not endowed at their marriage.-Dotem non uxor marito, sed maritus uxori confert. c. 18. We suspect, however, that the English and Irish very soon began to esteem their brides more agreeable in the ratio of their portions. And, although the French ladies, by the Salic law, could not inherit certain allodial possessions subject to the burthen of public defence, the monks speedily invented a mode of admitting female succession by will and testament; an invention which was one of the richest perquisites of the papal revenues; and which, also, by the religious influence of popery over women, subsequently endowed so many splendid monasteries and nunneries. The rule of succession among the ancient Germans and Britons is involved in considerable obscurity: it is clear, however, that they had no idea of the rights of primogeniture; a man's property, at his death, appears to have been divided equally among his sons; if he left no sons, among his daughters; or, if he left no children, among his nearest relatives. Although marriage among the Britons was, perhaps, too easily and too frequently dissolved, yet the laws undoubtedly provided with great care for the maintenance of the children, and the equitable division of the family effects. The ancient laws of Wales descend to very long and particular details on this subject, and make provision for every possible case with the most minute exactness. (Leges Wallica 1. 2. De Mulieribus). Our British ancestors are, therefore, free from the imputation of the Salic exclusion of women; a barbarous custom, indignantly

« PreviousContinue »