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is a spectacle truly grand, and instructive to the surviving. To think, that the soul perishes in that fatal moment, when it is purified by this fiery trial, and fitted for the noblest exertions in another state, is an opinion which I cannot help looking down upon with contempt and disdain.
“ In old people, there is no more merit in leaving this world with perfect acquiescence, than in rising from a feast after one is full. When I have before me the prospect of the infirmities, the distresses, and the peevishness of old age, and when I have already received more than my share of the good things of this life, it would be ridiculous indeed to be anxious about prolonging it; but when I was four and twenty, to have had no anxiety for its continuance, would, I think, have required a noble effort. Such efforts in those that are called to make them, surely shall not lose their reward.”
I have now finished all that the limits of my plan permit me to offer here, as a tribute to the memory of
, this excellent person. In the details which I have stated, both with respect to his private life and his scientific pursuits, I have dwelt chiefly on such circumstances as appeared to me most likely to interest the readers of his Works, by illustrating his character as a man, and his views as an author. Of his merits as an instructor of youth, I have said but little; partly from a wish to avoid unnecessary diffuseness; but chiefly from my anxiety to enlarge on those still more important labors, of which he has bequeathed the fruits to future ages. And yet, had he left no such monument to perpetuate his name, the fidelity and zeal with which he discharged, during so long a period, the obscure but momentous duties of his official station, would, in the judgment of the wise and good, have ranked him in the first order of useful citizens. “ Nec enim is solus reipublicæ prodest, qui candidatos extrahit, et tuetur reos, et de pace belloque censet; sed qui juventutem exhortatur ; qui in tantâ bonorum præceptorum inopiâ, virtute instruit animos; qui ad pecuniam luxuriamque cursu ruentes prensat ac retrahit, et, si nihil aliud, certe moratur: in privato, publicum negotium agit.” *
In concluding this memoir, I trust I shall be pardoned, if, for once, I give way to a personal feeling, while I express the satisfaction with which I now close finally, my attempts as a biographer. Those which I have already made, were imposed on me by the irresistible calls of duty and attachment; and, feeble as they are, when compared with the magnitude of subjects so splendid and so various, they have encroached deeply on that small portion of literary leisure which indispensable engagements allow me to command. I cannot, at the same time, be insensible to the gratification of having endeavoured to associate, in some degree, my name with three of the greatest which have adorned this age; happy, if without deviating intentionally from truth, I may have succeeded, however imperfectly, in my wish, to gratify, at once, the curiosity of the public, and to sooth the recollections of surviving friends. But I, too, have designs and enterprises of my own; and the execution of these, which alas ! swell in magnitude, as the time for their accomplishment hastens to a period, claims at length, an undivided attention. Yet I should not look back on the past with regret, if I could indulge the hope, that the facts which it has been my province to record, by displaying those fair rewards of extensive usefulness, and of permanent fame, which talents and industry, when worthily directed, cannot fail to secure, may contribute, in one single instance, to foster the proud and virtuous independence of genius; or, amidst the gloom of poverty and, solitude, to gild the distant prospect of the unfriended scholar, whose laurels, are now slowly ripening in the unnoticed privacy of humble life.
* Seneca, De Tranquill. An. Cap. 3.
Note (A.) page 209. In the account, given in the text, of Dr Reid's ancestors, I have followed scrupuJously the information contained in his own memorandums. I have some suspicion, however, that he has committed a mistake with respect to the name of the translator of Buchanan's History; which would appear, from the MS. in Glasgow college, to have been not Adam, but John. At the same time, as this last statement rests on an authority altogether unknown, being written in a hand different from the rest of the MS. there is a possibility that Dr. Reid's account may be correct; and, therefore, I have thought it advisable, in a matter of so very trifling consequence, to adhere to it in preference to the other.
The following particulars with respect to Thomas Reid may, perhaps, be acceptable; to some of my readers. They are copied from Dempster, a contemporary writer; whose details concerning his countrymen, it must, however, be confessed, are not always to be implicitly relied on.
“ Thomas Keidus Aberdonensis, pueritiæ meæ et infantilis otii sub Thomâ Cargillo collega, Lovanii literas in scholâ Lipsii serio didicit, quas magno nomine in Germaniâ docuit, carus Principibus. Londini diu in comitatu humanissimi ac clarissimi viri, Fulconis Grevilli, Regii Consiliarii Interioris et Angliæ Proquæstoris, egit: tum ad amicitiam Regis, eodem Fulcone deducente, evectus, inter palatinos admişsus, à literis Latinis Regi fuit. Scripsit multa, ut est magnâ indole et variâ eruditione,” &c. " Ex aulâ se, nemine conscio, nuper proripuit, dum illi omnia festinati honoris augmenta singuli ominarentur, nec quid deinde egerit aut quo locorum se contulerit quisquam indicare potuit. Multi suspicabantur, tædio aulæ affectum, monasticæ quieti seipsum tradidisse, sub annum 1618. Rumor postea fuit in aulam rediisse, et meritissimis honoribus redditum, sed nunquam id consequetur quod virtus promeretur.” Hist. Ecclesiastica Gentis Scotorum, lib. xvi. p. 576.
What was the judgment of Thomas Reid's own times with respect to his genius, and what their hopes of his posthumous fame, may be collected from an elegy on his death by his learned countryman Robert Aytoun. Already, before the lapse of two hundred years, some apology, alas ! may be thought necessary for an attempt to rescue his name from total oblivion.
Aytoun's elegy on Reid is referred to in terms very flattering both to its author and to its subject, by the editor of the collection, entitled, “ Poëtarum Scotorum Muse Sacræ.” « In obitum Thomæ Rheidi epicedium extat elegantissimum Roberti Aytoni, viri literis ac dignitate clarissimi, in Deliciis Poëtarum Scotorum, ubi et ipsius quoque poëmata, paucula quidem illa, sed venusta, sed elegantia, comparent.”
The only works of Alexander Reid of which I have heard, are Chirurgical Lectures on Tumors and Ulcers, London, 1635; and a Treatise of the First Part of Chirurgerie, London, 1638. He appears to have been the physician and friend of the celebrated mathematician Thomas Harriot, of whose interesting history so little was known, till the recent discovery of his manuscripts, by Mr. Zach of Saxe-Gotha.
A remarkable instance of the careless or capricious orthography formerly so common in writing proper names, occurs in the different individuals to whom this note refers. Sometimes the family name is written, Reid ; on other occasions, Riede, Read, Rhead, or Rhaid.
Note (B.) page 210. Dr. Turnbull's work on Moral Philosophy was published in London, in 1740. As I have only turned over a few pages, I cannot say any thing with respect to its merits. The mottos on the title page are curious, when considered in connexion with those inquiries which his pupil afterward prosecuted with so much success; and may, perhaps, without his perceiving it, have had some effect in suggesting to him that plan of philosophizing which he so systematically and so happily pursued.
“If natural philosophy, in all its parts, by pursuing this method, shall at length be perfected, the bounds of moral philosophy will also be enlarged,"
Newton's Optics. “ Account for moral as for natural things.” Pope. For the opinion of a very competent judge with respect to the merits of the Treatise on Ancient Painting, vide Hogarth's print, entitled, Beer-Lane.
Note (C.) page 225. “ Dr. Moor combined,” &c.] James Moor, LL. D. author of a very ingenious fragment on Greek grammar, and of other philological essays. He was also distinguished by a profound acquaintance with ancient geometry. Dr. Simson, an excellent judge of his merits both in literature and science, has somewhere honored him with the following encomium : “ Tum in Mathesi, tum in Græcis literis multum et feliciter versatus.”
“ The Wilsons, both father and son,” &c.] Alexander Wilson, M. D. and Patrick Wilson, Esq, well known over Europe by their Observations on the Solar Spots; and many other valuable memoirs.
Note (D.) page 246. A writer of great talents, after having reproached Dr. Reid with “a gross ignorance, disgraceful to the university of which he was a member,” boasts of the trifling expense of time and thought which it had cost himself to overturn his philosophy. * Dr. Oswald is pleased to pay me a compliment in saying, that 'I might employ myself to more advantage to the public, by pursuing other branches of science, than by deciding rashly on a subject which he sees I have not studied.' In return to this compliment, I shall not affront him, by telling him how very little of my time this business has hitherto taken up. If he alludes to my experiments, I can assure him, that I have lost no time at all; for having been intent upon such as require the use of a burning lens, I believe I have not lost one hour of sunshine on this account. And the public may perhaps be informed, some time or other, of what I have been doing in the sun as well as in the shade.” Examination of Reid's Inquiry, &c. p. 357. See also pp. 101, 102, of the same work.
Note (E.) page 265. The following strictures on Dr. Priestley's Examination, &c. are copied from a very judicious note in Dr. Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric, vol. i. p. 111.
« I shall only subjoin two remarks on this book. The first is, that the author, through the whole, confounds two things totally distinct, certain associations of ideas, and certain judgments implying belief which, though in some, are not in all cases, and therefore not necessarily connected with association. And if so, merely to account for the association, is in no case to account for the belief with which it is attended. Nay, admitting his plea, p. 86, that by the principle of association, not only the ideas, but the concomitant belief may be accounted for, even this does not invalidate the doctrine he impugns. For, let it be observed, that it is one thing to assign a cause, which, from the mechanism of our nature, has given rise to a particular tenet of belief, and another thing to produce a reason by which the understanding has been convinced. Now, unless this be done as to the principle in question, they must be considered as primary truths in respect of the understanding, which never deduced them from other truths, and which is under a necessity, in all her moral reasonings, of founding upon them. In fact, to give any other account of our conviction of them, is to confirm, instead of confuting the doctrine, that in all argumentation they must be regarded as primary truths, or truths which reason never inferred through any medium, from other truths previously perceived. My second remark is, that though this examiner has, from Dr. Reid, given us a catalogue of first principles, which he deems unworthy of the honorable place assigned them, he has no where thought proper to give a list of those self-evident truths,
which, by his own account, and in his own express words, 'must be assumed as the foundation of all our reasoning. How much light inight have been thrown upon the subject by the contrast! Perhaps we should have been enabled, on the comparison, to discover some distinctive characters in his genuine axioms, which would have preserved us from the danger of confounding them with their spurious ones. Nothing is more evident than that, in whatever regards matter of fact, the mathematical axioms will not answer.