صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني


2-2-37 33,-'/


HE most pleasing employment in the conduct of a mifcellaneous


publication, is to procure fuch literary pieces as are calcu lated to afford both pleasure and improvement; to depict those traits of exemplary character that tend to excite ingenuous minds to virtuous emulation; and to record fuch tranfactions as may exhibit man in the most ennobling views. While we continue to attend to these important objects, it is with extreme concern that we perceive the painful neceffity of still devoting no fall portion of our miscellany to the narration of events, from which Humanity must turn with horror. Principles, just and good abstractedly confidered, but carried to abfurd and mischievous extremes, have been productive of calamities, diftinguished by more than common varieties of woe. A country, which fo lately difplayed all the elegancies of polished life, and the conciliating manners that heighten the pleasures of focial intercourse, now exhibits fuch scenes of cruelty and defolation, as recall to memory the moft favage and ferocious times.

In our laft periodical addrefs, we confidered the events of the year 1792 as of the most awful kind. But the year which has juft expired. appears to have furpaffed even that eventful period in acts of atrocity and horror. We had just seen a mild and beneficent fovereign brought to a public trial: we now behold him conducted to the fcaffold, and executed with circumftances of indignity, that befpeak not the juftice of an auguft national tribunal, but the contemptible triumph of little minds, devoid of every dignified fentiment and of all virtuous sympathy. We behold his unhappy confort conducted, a few months after, to the fame fatal fpot; and, what feems more wonderful ftill, many of the moft confpicuous characters in the revolution, thofe, moreover, who had gloried in having voted for the death of their fovereign, exhibiting, on that very scaffold, the triumph of a faction, which, in the plenitude of its power, seems to bid defiance to the moft venerable principles; which, blending caprice with violence, makes no diftinction between. the degrading abfurdities of fuperftition and the ennobling worship of a pure and rational religion; and which, with the fame facility that it deftroys a calendar, contributing merely to the greater convenience of commercial intercourfe, would eradicate thofe divine principles, which, pointing to happier fcenes, have in all ages been productive of the molt foothing confolations in calamity, and the happielt fources of true enjoyment in profperity.

[blocks in formation]

To our own country, the dreadful state of anarchy to which France is now reduced; the defpotifm under which the groans, unknown to the most arbitrary periods of her hiftory; and the blood literally ftreaming in her cities; may afford the moft falutary leflons. It may teach us, that admitting the reality of fome exifting grievances, there are lawful modes of redrefs, in proper times and circumstances, that will preclude the dangerous refort to expedients, by which the unprincipled and ambitious may rife into notice and power, while the good and virtuous are involved, by the arts and crimes of a faction, in unexpected and inevitable ruin. It may inculcate the abfurdity of expecting an abfolute freedom from defect in inftitutions, which, however excellent, muft till partake of that imperfection infeparable from whatever is of human conftruction; fatisfied, that that government, after all, is fufficiency perfect, in which, comparatively, few real grievances are felt; every member of the community has the molt ample fecurity for the enjoyment of civil and 'religious liberty; and the focial rights of man, and that true liberty and equality which refult from them, exist not in impracticable or mifchievous theory, but in kind equal rule, the government of


Thefe fentiments, we hope, are not incompatible with the most ardent withes for the restoration of peace, for the diffufion of universal happiness, and that our hoftile neighbours may foon find how effential are the fanctions of Religion and Law, to the prefervation of that Liberty for which they profefs to contend. In the mean time, it will be our duty, in the conduct of this Mifcellany, not to liften to the emotions of indignation, or to the violence of declamation, but to relate, with candour and difcrimination, the various events that occur, and to prefent the beft difcuffion of the political measures that may be adopted in this country, by that accurate and impartial account of the proceedings in parliament by which we have hitherto been distinguished; attending, moreover, with unremitting affiduity, to the various fources of mifcellaneous literature that may contribute to the entertainment of our readers, and preferve to the Univerfal Magazine its wonted diftinction as the Repofitory of Knowledge and Pleasure.







JANUARY, 1794.


THOUGHTS on the ASTRONOMICAL DISCOVERIES of the ANCIENTS: Illuftrative of a beautiful Frontispiece, representing URANIA, the Mufe of Aftronomy.

[ocr errors]

Yon heavenly orbs, the glad abodes of life
Effufive kindled by His breath divine

Through endless forms of being, all inhale

From Him their portion of the vital flame,

In measure fuch, that, from the wide complex
Of co-exiftent orders, one might rife,

One order, all involving and intire.


T is worthy of obfervation, that where, at firft, with contempt and ri

which, ages ago, were taught by the ancients, and at lat adopted by the moderns, after having undergone a not uncommon fate, that of being rejected and condemned with disdain. This has been particularly the cafe with astronomy. That the earth moves round the fun, and that there are antipodes, are truths that were known long ago, although received every


Thefe truths even proved dangerous to those who held them, as Galileo, the illuftrious Florentine philofopher, experienced in the seventeenth century, in the prifon of an Inquifition. Yet both thefe doctrines are now fo well established, that they meet with univerfal approbation. And thus, for two centuries paft have we proceeded to re-introduce the most


[ocr errors]

celebrated of the ancient opinions; ftill affecting, however, not to know that we are indebted, in any respect, to those who firft held them.

The most rationel iyitem in itself, and which agrees beit with the moft accurate oblervations, is that propofed, about the year 1530, by Nicolaus Copernicus, a celebrated arcnomer of Poland, who placed the fun in the centre, and fuppofed all the planet, with the earth itself, to revolve round the fun. Hence this has been called the Copernica fyftem; but it is a matter of furprife how a fyftem fo fully and diftinly inculcated by the ancients, fhould derive its name from a modern philofopher, Pythagoras, Philolaus, Nicetas of Syracufe, Plato, Ariftarchus, and many others among the ancients, have in a thousand places expreffed this opinion; and Diogenes Laertius, Plutarch, and Stobus, have with great precifion tranfmitted to us their ideas. And that this fyftem was not received univerfally, at a more early period, mult be afcribed entirely to the force of prejudice.

Pythagoras thought that the eart was a moveable body, and fo far from being the centre of the univerfe, that it performed its revolutions round the region of fire; that is, the fun, and thereby formed day and night. This knowledge he obtained, it is faid, among the Egyptians. Some impute this opinion to Philolaus, the difciple of Pythagoras; but it is evident, that he had the merit only of being the publisher of it, and of feveral other opinions belonging to that school; for Eufebius exprefsly affirms, that he was the first who put the fyftem of Pythagoras into writing. Philolaus added, that the earth moved in an cblique circle, by which, no doubt, he meant the zodiac.

Ariftarchus of Samos, who lived about three hundred centuries before Jefus Chrift, was one of the principal defenders of the docrine of the earth's motion. Archimedes, in his book de Arenario, informs us, that Ariftar

chus, writing on the fubject against fome of the philofophers of his own age, placed the fun immoveable in the centre of an orbit, defcribed by the earth in its circuit.' And Sextus Empiricius alio cites him as one of the principal fupporters of this opinion. There is alio a paffage in Plutarch, by which it appears, that Cleanthes "accufed Aridarch or impiety, in troubling the repote of Veita and all the Latian gods; when, in giving an account of the phenomena of the planets in their courfes, he taught that heaven, or the firmament of the fixed ftars, was immoveable, and that the earth moved in an oblique circle, revolving, at the fame time, round its own axis.

Theophraftus, as quoted by Plutarch, fays (m his History of Altronomy, which has not reached our times) that Plato, when advanced in years, gave up the error he had adopted, of mating the fun turn round the earth; lamenting, that he had not placed it in the centre, but had put the earth there, contrary to the order of nature. Nor is it at all wonderful that Plato fhould refume an opinion which he had early imbibed in the fchools of the two celebrated Pythagoreans, Arthytas of Tarentum, and Timeus the Locrian; as we fee in St. Jerome's Apology for Chriftianity againit Rufinus; and in Cicero we fee, that Heraclides of Pontus, who was a Pythagorean, taught the fame doctrine.

That the earth is round, and inhabited on all fides, and, confequently, that there are Antipodes, or people whofe feet are directly oppofite to ours, is one of the most ancient doctrines inculcated by philofophy. Diogenes Laertius fays, that Plato was the fird who called the inhabitants of the earth oppofite to us, Antipodes. He does not mean, that Plato was the first who taught this opinion, but only the first who made ufe of the term Antipodes; for, in another place, he mentions Pythagoras as the firit who taught it. There is also a paf

« السابقةمتابعة »