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on those general principles of truth and nature, which ought to regulate human conduct at all times, and in all conjunctures : and as to an author's private inducements for presenting himself before the public, the prudent reader will be more disposed to collect them from the tenor of his performance, than from the fairness of his professions, or the solemnity of his protestations,
Tue following pages owe their birth to a treatise on Solitude, written by the late Dr. Zimmermann, and which, ago, was translated into our language, and received with a considerable degree of popular favour. My first design was to have taken a summary view of this work; but, on a nearer inspection, it appeared so little capable of a logical analysis, or reducible to any certain principles, that except in a single instance, waving the critique intended, I rather chose to pursue the train of
my own reflections.
Zimmermann was undoubtedly a writer of singular endowments;
he possessed great mental sensibility, and a cast of imagination which might be thought sublime;
but does not seem to have been equally distinguished by force of reason or solidity of judgment. In his philosophy he appears to me superficial, and in his notions of virtue wild and romantic.
To justify this censure it may be sufficient to observe, that an author who associates the names of Voltaire and Rousseau with that of the illustrious Bacon, and who regards their writings in common as devoted to the instruction and happiness of mankind*, must have very slender pretensions to the character either of a philosopher or a moralist; and, when most favourably estimated, can only rank as a grave sentimentalist.
And here let me be permitted a remark or two on the sentimental turn of this age, to which I am persuaded the author now in question is indebted for no small portion of his celebrity. In the former part of the last century, it was usual with writers on moral subjects to insist much on the reason and fitness of things, their several natures and mutual relations, and thence to deduce the laws of moral obligation; and to have deserted these grounds for the sake of a theory which leaves every one to resolve his duty into his feelings, would have been thought at best extremely unphilosophical. How different are the times in which we live! Now the sentimental system extends its influence to every subject, and is become at once powerful and universal. It has invaded our histories, and even our philosophy, and given an air of fiction to them both ; it has made its way into our politics, insomuch that warm and frequent appeals are made to the feelings, by our gravest senators in their gravest delibera
* Zimmermann on Solitude, p. 170,7.- This reminds me of a minor prophet of the Gallican school, who laments that the two former of these great men could not bring themselves to unite for the salvation of the world !or words to the same effect,
the most important interests of their country; and, what is still more, it has cast a sickly hue over our religion and morals, which has greatly tarnished their beauty, and impaired their authority.
What, then, it may be said, would you deprive men of their natural susceptibility, and convert them into Stoics! No: for this would be to deprive them of half their virtue. Let them continue to feel, but to feel as they ought ; not as false opinion or corrupt principle may direct, but according to the immutable measures of truth and duty. I am no more disposed to be an advocate for the dry moralist, who can talk of nothing but reason and fitness, and eternal and necessary relations, than for the man of sentiment, who mistakes the suggestions of fancy, and the impulses of inordinate passion, for the pure dictates of uncorrupted nature; and whose boasted philanthropy generally terminates in empty speculations and barren sensibilities.
The following discourse proceeds upon other principles; its foundation is, I trust, so firmly laid in reason and revelation, in the knowledge of God, of ourselves, and of the world, as to be entirely adequate