Obrazy na stronie

man, whom he saw coming out of the public stews, because he imagined it might preserve him from the crime of adultery; and the Spartans used to make their slaves drunk in the presence of their youth that they might be deterred from the like debaucheries. For the same reasons, we may suppose, that our taverns and bagnios are so much frequented by our young people and in this light we may fairly consider them as so many schools of Moral Philosophy.

If we are willing to turn our thoughts towards Experimental Philosophy, can the several universities of the whole world produce such a variety of instruments, so judiciously collected, for Astronomical, Geographical, and all other scientific observations, as are to be seen in the two amazing repositories of Mr. Professor Deard in the Strand, and of Mr. Professor Russel at Charing Cross? It were endless to enumerate particulars; but I cannot help taking notice of those elegant little portable telescopes, that are made use of in all public places; by which it is evident, that even our fine ladies and gentlemen are become proficients in Optics.

The universities seem to pride themselves greatly on their choice collections of curious and invaluable trifles, which are there preserved, only because they were not thought worth preserving any where else. But is the Ashmolean collection of rarities comparable to the Nicknackatory of Mr. Pinchbeck? Or are any of their museums stored with such precious curiosi. ties, as are frequently seen in Mr. Langford's auctionroom? Strangers, who think it worth while to go so far as Oxford or Cambridge to see sights, may surely meet with as much satisfaction at London. Are the two little pigmies, striking a clock at Carfax in Oxford, within any degree of comparison with the two noble giants at St. Dunstan's church in fleet-street; to say nothing of their enormous brethren at GuildHall? Are any of the College Halls in either of the

universities, so magnificent as those belonging to our worshipful companies? Or can the Theatre at Oxford, or the Senate-house at Cambridge, vie with that stupendous piece of architecture the Mansion-House, set apart for our Chancellor the Lord Mayor? It may be alledged perhaps, that these are trifling examples of superiority which the younger sister bears over two elder: but at the same time, it cannot be denied, that she excels them both even in the minutia of learning and antiquity.

We must confess, that Hydraulics, or the motion of fluids, seem to be taught exactly in the same manner, and with the same degree of knowledge, in London as in Oxford or Cambridge. The glass tubes, and the syphons, are formed very much in the same shape and fashion. The great Hydrostatical law, "That all fluids gravitate in proprio loco," is proved by the same kind of experiments. The several students, of whatever age or station, vie with each other in an unwearied application, and a constant attendance to this branch of mixed mathematics. The professors, in each of the three universities, are confessedy very great men: but I hope I may be forgiven, if I wish to see my friend Mr. Ryan, President of the King's Arms in Pall-Mall, unanimously declared Vice-Chancellor of the University of London. I am, Sir,

Your humble servant.

G. K.



.Nihil est furacius illo:

Non fuit Autolyci tam piceata manus.

Could he have filch'd but half so sly as thee,
Crook-finger'd Jack had 'scap'd the triple tree.


AN information was the other day laid before a magistrate by a fellow of the Society of Antiquarians, against one of his brethren for a robbery. The prosecutor deposed upon oath, that the other had called upon him to see his collection of medals, and took an opportunity of stealing a leathern purse, former ly belonging to the celebrated Tom Hearne, in which were contained, (besides an antique piece of coppermoney, place, date, name, figure, and value unknown) a pair of breeches of Oliver Cromwell, a denarius of Trajan worth fifty shillings, and a queen Anne's farthing value five pounds. He was with much ado dissuaded from carrying on his suit; as the magis trate convinced him, that however highly he might rate his own treasures, a jury, who were no`Virtuosos, would consider a farthing merely as a farting, and look upon a copper coin of a Roman Emperor as no better than a king George's halfpenny.

I cannot, indeed, without great concern, as a Connoisseur, reflect on the known dishonesty of my learned brethren. The scandalous practices, wher ever their darling passion is interested, are too notorious to be denied. The moment they conceive a love for rarities, and antiques, their strict notions of honour disappear; and taste, the more it establishes their veneration for Virtu, the more certainly destroys their integrity as rust enhances the value of an old coin, by eating up the figure and inscription.

Most people are masters of a kind of logic, by which they argue their consciences to sleep, and ac

quit themselves of doing what is wrong. The country squire of confirmed honesty in all other respects, thinks it very fair to over-reach you in the sale of an horse; and the man of pleasure, who would scorn to pick your pocket, or stop you on the road, regards it rather as gallantry than baseness, to intrigue with your wife or daughter. In the same manner the Virtuosi does not look on his thefts as real acts of felony; but while he owns that he would take any pains to steal an old rusty piece of brass, boasts that you may safely trust him with untold gold; though he would break open your cabinet for a shell or a butterfly, he would not attempt to force your escritoire or your strong box: nor would he offer the least violence to your wife or daughter, though perhaps he would run away with the little finger of the Venus de Medicis. Upon these principles he proceeds, and lays hold of all opportunities to increase his collection of rarities: and as Mahomet established his religion by the sword, the Connoisseur enlarges his museum, and adds to his store of knowledge, by fraud and petty larceny.

If the libraries and cabinets of the curious, were, like the daw in the fable, to be stripped of their borrowed ornaments, we should in many see nothing but bare shelves and empty drawers. I know a medalist, who at first set up with little more than a paltry series of English coins since the Reformation, which he had the good luck to pick up at their intrinsic value. By a pliant use of his fingers he became soon possessed of most of the traders; and by the same slight of hand, he, in a short time after made himself master of great part of the Cæsars. He was once taken up for coining; a forge, a crucible, and several dies being found in his cellar but he was acquitted, as there was no law which could make it high treason to counterfeit the image of a Tibe

rius or a Nero; and the coin, which he imitated, was current only among Virtuosos.

I remember another, who picqued himself on his collection of scarce editions and original manuscripts, most of which he had purloined from the libraries of others. He was continually borrowing books of his acquaintance, with a resolution never to return them. He would send in a great hurry for a particular edition, which he wanted to consult only for a moment; but when it was asked for again, he was not at home, or he had lent it to another, or he had lost it, or he could not find it; and sometimes he would not scruple to swear, that he had himself delivered it into the owner's hands. He would frequently spoil a set by stealing a volume, and then purchase the rest for a trifle. After his death his library was sold by auction; and many of his friends were obliged to buy up their own books again at an exorbitant price.

A thorough bred Virtuoso will surmount all scru ples of conscience, or encounter any danger to serve his purpose. Most of them are chiefly 'tached to some particular branch of knowledge; but I remem ber one, who was passionately fond of every part of Virtu. At one time, when he could find no other way of carrying off a medal, he ran the risk of being choaked by swallowing it; and at another, broke a leg in scaling a garden-wall for a tulip-root. But no thing gave him so much trouble and difficulty as the taking away pictures and ancient marbles; which being heavy and unwieldy, he often endangered his life to gratify his curiosity. He was once locked up all night in the Duke of Tuscany's gallery, where he took out an original painting of Raphael, and dextrously placed a copy of it in the frame. At Venice he turned Roman Catholic, and become a Jesuit, in order to get admittance into a convent, from whence he stole a fine head of Ignatius Loyola; and at Con stantinople he had almost formed the resolution of

« PoprzedniaDalej »