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For JANUARY, 1755.
ART. 1. Select pieces on commerce, natural philofophy, morality, antiquities, biftory, &c. translated from authors of repute in the French, Italian, Spanish, Latin, and German languages. 8vo. 5s. Payne, &c.
Compiler is, of all kinds of writers, the most refponfible to the public for his productions; for as the whole field of literature is before him, blooming with the labours of other men, it is reasonably to be expected that he will present us with what is moft elegant in its kind.
The pieces before us are called felect; there are fome that deferve that title, we wish we could fay, all. Our opinion,. however, is not a standard for others; nor is it, in the least, our design or inclination to derogate from the merit of any work that paffes through our hands; we fhall, therefore, endeavour to give our readers an infight into each of the ellays in this collection, and leave the merit of the whole to their decifion.
We must observe, that the compiler has a further plea for public favour, as a tranflator. A knowledge in languages is no common accomplishment in an author; we are glad to find, as the taste of writing now runs, one that is a tolerable judge of his own.
The fubjects in this collection, thirty-three in number, are introduced in the following order:
1. Origin of languages; from the Retorique de Lamy. 'Tis the author's opinion, (in which we agree with him) that the Hebrew was the primitive language, and continued uncorrupted
Whether an almighty
corrupted till the difperfion at Babel. power, fupernaturally, at that time, divided the primitive Hebrew into various dialects, or not, he believes, with great reason, that the dispersion would naturally have occafioned fuch a divifion; that the feveral dialects would have been divided and fubdivided, in proportion as mankind spread wider upon the earth, till at last, almost every trace of the primitive language would have been loft among the people who had transmigrated furtheft; and thus, fays he, the languages came to 6 be as different as the nations."
There are feveral fentiments in this piece that well deserve our notice, as they are ingenious and very pertinent to the fubject.
That every particular people (fays the author) in a great ⚫ measure derive their mode of pronunciation from the quality of the climate, is evident to demonftration. The northern < are inclined to use words compounded of guttural confonants. In the Saxon dialect the confonants are fo altered, that instead of bibimus they pronounce pipimus, for bonum ponum, for vinum finum, and for majeftas magheflas. There " are whole nations who cannot utter certain letters, as was the cafe of the Ephraimites with the Hebrew fchin, inftead • of schibboleth faying fibboleth. The Gafcoons and Spaniards 'can't be reconciled to the letter F, the latter faying harina inftead of farina, and habulari for fabulari, as the former do bille for fille; thence it is, that every nation disfigures words of a foreign root, to fuch a degree, that they have quite another found.'.
Again: Nations are feen to have a particular liking to particular letters and terminations; whether out of caprice, because the enunciation of those letters or terminations is moit eafy to their organs, or most agreeable to their temC per. This is particularly remarkable in the Greek, and in⚫troduced thofe particularities called dialects: the Attics, for inftance, inftead of a putting *, gw, Tau; they alfo add this • fyllable ov at the end of a great many words: they curtail • words, whereas the Ionians lengthen words. a feems to have been a letter highly in requeft with the Dorians. The Eolians place aß, before Ps of μ they make ππ, and turn
. It is the fame with the Chaldean, in respect of the Hebrew. The Italian, French and Spanish dictionaries fhew thofe languages alfo to have their favourite letters and terminations. Thefe particularities, it is evident, muft greatly alter-languages, and induce fuch diverfity, that though iffued *We have printed here literally from our copy; tho', in propriety, only the characters & ę fhould have been printed as is.
from the fame mother, they would not be taken for fifters, as the French, Spanish and Italian have little the air of being
of the fame extraction.'
The judicious author proceeds to fhew how conquest, commerce and colonies have contributed to alter and diverfify languages; and then concludes thus:
The true origin of languages does not lie very deep to one who has any acquaintance with antiquity; but from what has been faid, it is manifeft, that languages are dependent * on cuftom, this has brought them to be what they are, and, no doubt, in time, will alter them beyond knowledge.' 2. Industry and trade; from Martinelli's Iftoria critica della vita civile.
The author fhews, in this piece, that idlenefs, luxury and fondness for foreign commodities, have brought 'Italy from its incomparable splendor and power, and are daily finking it deeper into the most abject poverty and debasement.' † We are already too well acquainted with this subject. 3. Unnatural war in Poland; from Hiftoire des revolutions de Bologne.
This extract from the Polish history is very fhort, and refers to the war which happened in 1076. The occafion of this war was fingular, but the account of it before us deferves no place, either in the Select Pieces; or the Review.
4. Letter on printing; from the Mercure de France.
This letter is wrote with fome humour. The author would have printing abolished, and all learning and entertainment made public in manufcript. This, he thinks, would serve feveral political, and fome moral purposes; at the same time occafioning more thorough scholars and fewer thorough authors. We hope, he is ironical in all this; but, if he is not, who would expect us, Reviewers, to fecond him?
5. Arabian manufcript; from the German of Wallhufen. The differences among the several partizans in religion, are attempted to be ridiculed in an Arabian fable: We are furprised this should ever be put amongst select pieces.
6. Moon-light, why not accompanied with heat; from the Mercure François.
There falls (fays the author) on the moon, a cylinder of rays, the bafis whereof, equal to that of this planet, is but
For a further account of Martinelli's performance, fee Review vol. the feventh,
one fourth of its furface. These rays being reflected from • the convex furface of the moon, diverge at their first setting out; their rarety augments in their progreffion, and according to the augmentation of the space which they fill when at a distance from the moon, equal to that of the earth from that planet; their expanfion is about a hundred and fourfcore thousand times greater than before they fell upon the moon; so that each of these rays being reflected with its full force from the moon, their activity, at a distance equal to that of the earth, would be a hundred and four-fcore thou• fand times lefs.
Further, parallel rays united in the focus of the strongest burning-glass, are known to be but three hundred times more denfe, than before their conjunction. According to • the above fupputation, which is not exaggerated, the parellel rays which caufe the moon-light are a hundred and eighty "times more rare than those of the fun; so that when concen⚫trated in the focus of a burning-glafs, they are ftill fix hun• dred times rarer than the rays that come to our earth directly from the fun.'
7. Caufes of large trees being frozen in hard winters, and prefervatives against it.
8. Preparations for rendering wood lefs combustible.
Both these articles have appeared, within these few months, in another collection of felect effays. The reader will find an account of them in the Review for laft May.
9. Of hostages; from the Latin of Bkaudlack's Confultationes illuftres.
This is a collection of precedents in hiftory and the civil law; how hostages fhould be treated, and to what punishment affigned, under their own breach of articles, or that of their conftituents. We fuppofe the bulk of our readers expect nothing from us upon this head.
10. Of theatres and diverfions, from the Italian of Martinelli. See Review, as before referr'd to.
11. On a Lottery; from the Mercure de France. Some gentlemen, it feems, had form'd among themselves," a kind of lottery, in which each ticket affign'd a subject to be treated in writing, by the perfon who drew it; that which fell to the author, demanded a folution of the following question: Which was most eligible, to have conftantly
every day a dream of fixteen hours, made up of imaginary. happiness, and the eight waking hours to live in real wretchedness; or to be wretched in the dreaming hours, and happy in the hours of real life.'
The author obliges us with his effay upon the fubject affign'd him, which is not particular enough to be taken further notice of, than that it determines in preference to happiness awake.
12. On petrified shells and fishes; from the Italian of C. Maffei.
12. On the fame; from the Mercure de France.
This fubject has long been debated among philofophers; moft of whom have had recourse to the general deluge, as the cause of fuch bodies being found in places, where, naturally, they could never have come. The authors of the above effays are of opinion, that the deluge, alone, could not be the cause of fuch phænomena, unless it were accompanied with fubterraneous eruptions, which threw the feveral firata of the earth into the confufion we now find them in.
13. On deference to publick opinions; from the French of M. Formey, Secretary to the royal academy of fciences at Berlin.
The view of this author is to lead us into fuch strict circumfpection in our conduct, as to give no just reason to be cenfured for our behaviour. His directions are, in many places, very proper; but we apprehend he goes too far, when he advises us to give up our amusements and recreations, tho' innocent, if they appear otherwife to our acquaintance.
14. On libels; from the Mercure.
By libels, the author means the pointing out particular perfons, either in writing, pictures, or prints, with a view to depreciate and render them odious. He gives us examples of the various punishments inflicted upon libellers by different ftates and governments; and concludes with affigning them one of an higher kind, in the world to come.
15. On the inward use of brandy; from the fame.
The author is of opinion, with every body elie, that brandy, drank without precaution, is very pernicious.
16. Of attendance on great men among the Romans; from the Italian in Notizzie Literarie.
This piece is indeed a felect one. We believe, we shall oblige our readers by tranfcribing almoft the whole of it.