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less liable to be turned from their course, by the particles of glass, through which they glide, than the purple ones, which do not possess an equal power of resistance. The corner stone of my theory being thus laid, by admitting the fact, that some rays possess a greater momentum than others, I proceed to show the connection between this, and the phenomena of vision.

The retina of the eye, is composed of a vast number of small nerves, united like a net-work, upon which an image is formed, in colour and proportion, bearing an exact resemblance to its external prototype. The coloured rays exciting stronger vibrations, in proportion to the smallness of their refrangibility, may thus occasion the perception of the colour of objects, and according to the number of nerves that are agitated, is the distance from the eye. When we look at a vessel, that is four or five miles from us, the image that is formed upon the retina, is small, and the nerves that vibrate, few. As the vessel approaches, the image expands, and the number of nerves in agitation increases, and thus, we are sensible of a diminution in its distance from us. We are justified in this theory, by the configu ration of the eye: the optic nerves, all terminating in a soft pulp, exactly resembling the substance at the extremity of the nerves of the ear. It will serve also to account for a fact, which is otherwise inexplicable. Every one knows that after having gazed steadily at the sun for some time, we are unable to distinguish objects around us. But the capacity of the retina for the reception of images, is not at all diminished. They are painted upon it, in as vivid colours, after our gazing at the sun, as they were before. How comes it then that we suffer a temporary privation of sight? Admitting my theory, it is all as clear as the first proposition of Euclid; for the quantity of light that is admitted into the eye, upon gazing at the sun, excites such strong vibrations, in the optic nerves, that the tremulous ones, caused by the object to which we afterwards direct our eye, are merged and lost in those stronger ones, that have not yet ceased their motion.

I will mention only one more circumstance in corroboration of my opinion. Upon putting a piece of zinc upon the tongue, and a piece of silver under it, and approaching them together; at the moment of contact, a flash of light appears to pass before

the eyes. Upon what principle this can be accounted for, if we say that the mind contemplates the image, I know not. It must be an electrical spark, that is produced at the instant of confact, which darting through the head, causes the optic nerves to vibrate. It is well known, that when any of the nerves, which serve as the nerves between the mind and body, are, from any cause made to vibrate, the same impression is produced upon the mind, as if the corresponding object were actually present. The electric spark, therefore, by exciting such vibrations in the nerves of the retina, as would be caused by a flash of light, deceives the mind. With these observations, I submit the case to judgment.

B.

FOR THE PORT FOLIO.

CRITIQUE ON THE WRITINGS OF CHARLES B. BROWN.

THE writings of the late Charles B. Brown of this city, have not for a long time past been made the subject of critical analysis. It is hoped, therefore, that some remarks on this head will not be regarded as impertinent, nor be deemed unworthy a place in your amusing and instructive repository. Perhaps it would be difficult to find another instance of a writer who had all his talents at all times so perfectly under self command. No opinion amongst men of letters is more commonly believed than this, that Genius is at all times partial and capricious in her visitations to her votary, and almost every writer adopts this opinion and practises accordingly. The peculiar state of the weather, slight personal indisposition, a mind irritated by some paltry incident, or that listlessness or ennui which is always the bed-fellow of indolence, are regarded as proof or apology that the writer is for the time incapable of performing his task. I presume, sir, that no law of christian charity would be violated, if I should modestly hint, that such are often the apology of indolence; that our good genius or by whatever other name we think proper to denominate him, will not come because he is not invited, and that he is not a guest so familiar but what he always expects to receive a card of invitation. In works depending merc

ly on the fancy for accomplishment, such as a poem, a play, novel or romance, this apology may in part be true; but certainly it is not true to the extent contended for by these writers. Try the integrity of this excuse, by another standard-tell those very gentlemen who are so fond of abusing their own talents, that you coincide in their opinion and are perfectly satisfied that they are incompetent to write, and this will be ample evidence of the falsehood of their own declarations.

No such affectation, Mr. Editor, belonged to the author whose style we propose to examine. It was his object in early life, to acquire a habit of self command, and to bring his intellectual forces to the field disciplined for action whenever occasion required. He laid open his own mind to such rigid investigation, and scrutinized its various excellencies and defects with such fidelity and labour, that his intellect seemed like a map submitted to the view of his bodily eye. Defects were repaired by reading and meditation, until he satisfied not only others but himself, scrupulous and ardent of inquiry as he was. After this view of his character, it is unnecessary to mention that he was above that paltry artifice, usually adopted by ignorance, of affecting more knowledge of a subject than he actually possessed. His ambition was to acquire, not the appearance, but the reality of knowledge, and he would only feel himself degraded by concealing his ignorance of a subject. Indeed, the false pride of hing to pass our opinion for more than its sterling and intrinsic value, is so inherent in nature, it requires all the hardihood of integrity to overcome. advantages to be derived from self study, the pleasure we experience in becoming deeply acquainted with the philosophy of our own minds, have not been properly appreciated. A few random ideas sometimes occupy our minds on all subjects, and, delighted by their novelty or charmed with their brilliance, we conceive ourselves masters by intuition, of every art and science enlightened by such thoughts. Here is the great fallacy superficial men labour under. Those thoughts are valuable only to those who have previously been familiar with the subject. They may tend to illustrate points of inquiry and research obscure to us, although the main ground is familiar to our

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footsteps. They illuminate a ground which we have often trod; we know of course how to dispose of such lights to advantage, and, by their assistance, to dissipate from the bypaths and recesses, that which before we dared not venture to approach. To him who has never surveyed the subject before, this light glares with a momentary lustre, and speedily retires like lightning into the cloud whence it emerges. It was ever Brown's favourite creed, that man was competent to perform any thing which Providence had placed in the grasp of human attainment, and that genius and ambition were terms synonimous. We might successfully contest the orthodoxy of this, but the argument would lead us wide from our present inquiry. Brown acted however, on the full persuasion of its truth, and He has left behind him a noble monument of what industry and ambition, as he would term it, are capable of accomplishing. Dr. Johnson recommends in the warmest terms, that every author should fix in his own mind, a visionary standard of perfection; it served to enlarge his ideas, to stimulate effort, and to preserve the intellectual faculties in a constant state of excitation. Lord Nelson, as his recent biographer informs us, reduced this principle to another purpose, and formed to himself an image of heroic glory, which he constantly aspired after. It was always glittering before his grasp, still gently receding and leading the hero on through danger, jeopardy, and death. At the Nile it sparkled with redoubled brilliance; at Trafalgar he grasped it and expired, and like a rainbow it now encircles his urn. A height of excellence alike visionary and inaccessible, taught Brown habitually to disregard his own efforts. All his writings he considered as beneath his ambition to admire, when he compared them with this standard of action. He only exulted in his performances when he believed they approximated nearer to that idol of his fancy, than his preceding efforts had carried him. Authors of this cast, are by far the severest critics on their own works; they will discover blemishes which to an ordinary eye, will appear to be beauties, and their blemishes and defects are alike incentives to still further exertions. This is the true end of our being, to husband what little of life remains to the best advantage, and to make the industry of the latter part of it. in

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some measure to atone for the indolence of the former. The early style of Brown's writings was characterized by its diffusiveness, the ordinary fault of men of letters. By avoiding obscurity, they present the same idea in such a variety of light, it loses the charm of novelty, and is dissipated by the very attempts to render it more obvious. The frequent exercise of the pen, and the pruning of its luxuriance overcame this defect, and his style was afterwards noted for its uncommon strength and energy. The wonders and prodigies with which his early efforts abound, are all wonders and prodigies sui generis. Disgusted with the dull insipid tales of the German school, the ghosts, the castles, and the hobgobblins of modern romance, he searched the mysterious volume of nature, and found prodigies more to his liking. Somnambulism and ventriloquism, furnished fields equally large and commodious for fancy to expatiate in, and capable of the same embellishment of incident. The facts may all be true, and whether true or not, they partake of more novelty and nature than all the monsters that Germany can produce. No man delighted to wander more than Brown did in the regions of the marvellous; no man more heartily despised those novelists who, to produce novelty, put human nature on the rack. His choice of incident had all the novelty of action without being liable to the strong objection to which German wonders are liable, that such novelties do not exist in nature. We still enjoy the society of flesh and blood, in the midst of all these marvellous events, and see nothing done but what a human agent is capable of doing.

Authors who deal so much in spectres, ghosts and hobgoblins, probably are not aware that while they profess reverence for novelty, they follow the most beaten and ordinary track of writing. They revive that species of the incredible, so justly. exploded by the christian religion, which the poets, under the system of heathen mythology, indulged in, with so much freedom and success. A modern ghost is to all intents and purposes, an adequate representative of Jupiter, Mars, and the other heathen deities, whose presence was indispensibly requisite to save their respective heroes from danger and death. When the

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