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FOR THE MONTHLY MIRROR.
THE following character of a would-be philosopher is so well drawn, and so perfectly applicable to many men of the present day, that I might perhaps deceive many of your readers, and even you, by affirming it to be original. But as I consider candour of some value, even in an anonymous correspondent, I shall inform you that I found it among other articles, in an historical, political, and literary miscellany, published thirty three years ago, which had its portion of attraction for a day, but is now, I believe, totally forgotten. I hope this avowal will not prevent its reception in your elegant miscellany, and I feel confident, that unless you have something new and better to fill up your pages, you will not reject an essay which promises entertainment to a considerable division of your wide circle of readers, one of whom I am constantly, and with increasing satisfaction.
NUCLEUS takes prodigious journies to dig fossils, and furnishes his room with enormous cases of Mahogany, filled with the dirt and lumber of ten thousand quarries; these every friend must travel over, whenever they wait upon Nucleus, and after three hours tedious attention, all the satisfaction or knowledge you will obtain, is from the finishing speech of Nucleus: "Do not all these things prove the deluge ?” But ask Nucleus, this sage Divine, who would persuade you these collections were made to serve the cause of the Bible, what he thinks of the fossils mentioned in Leviticus, and he will tell you, "I profess, I knew not of any such passage; pray shew me where it is; for, to tell you the truth, I never looked further into the Bible, than the history of the creation and the flood,"
It is the same with this great genius in electricity; he dances punch inimitably, spreads out a feather, and flashes his mimic lightning, or knocks down a poor dog, to the great diversion of all present; or opens his magic lanthorn, and gives you pull baker, pull devil, in their gaudiest colours. He makes ribands on paper for the ladies with a prism, lets the guinea and the feather fall in an air pump, or strikes his clock-work bells. His rooms are hung round with glasses that invert, enlarge, or diminish, concaves, hollows,
Even the pendulum of his clock moves two pretty masters at see-saw, and the clock chimes often enough to disturb the whole neighbourhood, though it mightily diverts its master. Sometimes he will entertain the ladies with an enormous worm (out of his own nose) in a microscope, or with some of the loose combings of his hair, or perhaps with the elegant display of the limbs of a louse.
Nucleus is very fond of every thing curious, and values his treasures according to their scarcity; so that the petrified bone of an antediluvian would please him better than the possession of the most beautiful wife in the world.
It is amazing the yearly expence of Nucleus's experiments: the glass-houses will feel his death, and all the carpenters in the parish may lament his fall. An hundred chemical processes are tried, and none succeed: an hundred electrical globes are annually whirled to atoms, to move the dancing leaf-gold; and glasses blown on purpose to deceive you, like a juggler, by letting a bullet and a nail descend, that the lightest body may break what the heaviest could not reach.
Aqua fortis in Nucleus's apartments is continually eating up his Majesty's halfpence; and aqua regia now and then feeds upon a half guinea; while copper filings and spirits of hartshorn, brass and sea salt, treble distilled vinegar, spirit of tartar, and an hundred more, are dying his ivory tobacco-stoppers with all the colours of the rainbow.
You need not doubt but he has a skeleton in a box, and a skull on a shelf, two globes with red leather night-caps, and thermometers and barometers in abundance. In short, his house is one continued nest of manly toys and playthings, and he himself is always diverting himself among them.
This Nucleus is yet styled a man of knowledge, and is in truth a modern philosopher, one who is fond of the means, without troubling himself about their end and design; and is not unlike the countryman, who coming to a gaudy sign post to drink with a friend, stood without, gaping and wondering at the Duke of Cumberland's head, and suffered his companion within to drink up all the liquor.
But, after all, so little do they know, who really seek knowledge, and so much less do they, who only play with these natural experiments, that I think Nucleus is very little better than King Pepin in Bedlam, who is always wearing a straw crown; or the boy a
the head of the canal, who shews you the resistance of the water, by making his stones dive and rise again, like ducks and drakes in a pond.
Would Nucleus be an useful philosopher, let his expences and experiments be rather turned to the improvement of arts and sciences; let him apply his powers, and not idle them away; let him bless mankind with useful discoveries, or at least discover where they are not to be expected; for of the two philosophical madnesses which have been the fashions of the present and last century, I think the old system the most rational, though it aimed at a vain chimera, the philosopher's stone; since by a continued variety of experiments something curious and useful (as was the case) might be accidentally struck upon, while the same set of trifling experiments daily repeated, can have no other end, than in rendering Nucleus, and all his imitators, under the masks of scholars and philosopers, mere pedantical bauble-hunters, and puppet-shew men.
AIR BALLOONS.-Strawberry Hill, Odober 15, 1784.-As I was writing this, my servant called me away to see a balloon-I suppose Blanchard's, that was to be let off from Chelsea this morning. I saw it from the common field before the window of my round tower. It appeared about the third of the size of the moon, or less, when setting, something above the tops of the trees on the level horizon. It was then descending, and after rising and declining a little, it sunk slowly behind the trees, I should think about, or beyond Sunbury, at five minutes after one; but you know I am a very inexact guesser at measures and distances, and may be mistaken in many miles; and you know how little I have attended to these airgonauts: only t'other night I diverted myself with a sort of meditation on future airgonation, supposing that it will not only be perfected, but will depose navigation. I did not finish it, because I am not skilled, like the gentlemen who used to write political ship news, in that style, in which I wanted to perfect my essay; but in the prelude, I observed how ignorant the ancients were in supsposing Icarus melted the wax of his wings by too near access to the sun, whereas he would have been frozen to death before he made the first post on that road. Next, I discovered an alliance between Bishop Wilkins' art of flying, and his plan of an universal language, the latter of which he no doubt calculated, to prevent the want of an interpreter when he should arrive at the moon.
But I chiefly amused myself with ideas of the change that would be made in the world by the substitution of balloons for ships. I supposed our sea ports to become deserted villages, and Salisbury Plain, Newmarket Heath, (another canvas for the alteration of ideas) and all downs (but the Downs) arising into dock yards for aerial vessels. Such a field would be ample in furnishing new speculations:-but to come to my ship news.
The good balloon Dædalus, Capt. Wing-ate will fly in a few days for China; he will stop at the top of the Monument to take in passengers.
Arrived, on Brand Sands, the Vulture, Capt. Nabob; the Tortoise, Snow, from Lapland; the Pet-en l'Air, from Versailles: the Dreadnought, from Mount Etna, Sir W. Hamilton, commander ; the Tympany, Mongolfier; the mine A― in a bandbox from the Cape of Good Hope.-Foundered, in a hurricane, the bird of Paradise from Mount Ararat. The Bubble, Sheldon, took fire and was burnt to her gallery; and the Phoenix is to be cut down to a secondrate. In those days Old Sarum will again be a town, and have houses in it. There will be fights in the air with wind-g -guns and bows and arrows, and there will be a prodigious increase of land for tillage, especially in France, by breaking up all public roads as useless. But enough of my fooleries, for which I am sorry you must pay double postage.
Strawberry Hill, May 21, 1784. BUBB-DODDINGTON'S DIARY.-I desired Lady A- to carry you Lord Melcombe's diary. It is curious indeed, not so much from the secrets it blabs, which are rather characteristic than novel, but from the wonderful folly of the author, who was so fond of talking of himself, that he tells all he knew of himself, though scarce an event that does not betray his profligacy; and (which is still more surprising that he should disclose) almost every one exposes the contempt in which he was held, and his consequential disappointments and disgraces! Was ever any man the better for another's experience? What a lesson is here against versatility!
The discussion in the appendix on the late prince's question, is the only part in which there is sense or honesty.
It is a noble
MR. COXE'S TRAVELS.-Mr. Coxe's travels are plain, clear, sensible, instructive, and entertaining. work, and precious to me, who delight in quartos. lumes contain twelve hundred pages. I have already devoured a quarter, though I have had them but three days.
Berkeley Square, March 23, 1793. DOCTOR P*******y.-Philosophers, geometricians, astronomers, a Condorcet, a Baillie, a bishop of Autun, and a doctor the last the worst. The French had seen grievances, crying "grievances! yet not under the good late king. But what calamities or dangers threatened, or had fallen on --, but want of papal power like his predecessor Calvin? If you say his house was burnt—but did he intend the fire should blaze on that side of the street? Your charity may believe him innocent-but your understanding does not. Well, I am glad to hear he is going to I hope he will not bring back scalping, even to that national assembly of which he was proud of being elected a member. I doubt if Cartouche would have thought it an honour.
Your postscript said you had been telling me a lie so have I, for reading your letter again, I found you had named your accoucheur Cadell. I do not wonder he has been slow. I was told lately, that he said that the public is so totally engrossed by politics (and many pieces of that sort I conclude come from his press), that the receipts of his shop, which used to be fifteen thousand a year, have this year decreased two thirds. So the French par bricole have destroyed our literature too.
Adieu! I long to see both you and your pamphlet.
Most cordially yours,
Berkeley-Square, June 5, 1788.
R. B. SHERIDAN, Esq.-Mr. Sheridan, I hear, did not quite satisfy the public expectation that had been raised; but it was impossible he could, when people had worked themselves up into an enthusiasm of offering fifty-aye, fifty guineas for a ticket to hear him. N. B. This alludes to his speech in Westminster-hall, upon bringing forward one of the charges against Mr. Hastings.
Berkeley-Square, May 14, 1792. DR. DARWIN.-Is not it extraordinary, dear Sir, [Thomas Barret, Esq.] that two of our very best poets, Garth and Darwin, should have been physicians?—I believe they have left all the lawyers wrangling at the turnpike of Parnassus. Adieu, dear Sir,