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are then smeared with it. The ■smallest quantity of this poison, conveyed by a wound into the red, blood-vessels of an animal, causes it to expire in less than a minute, •without much apparent pain or uneasiness; though flight convulsions are sometimes seen near the instant of expiration.
"The /poison, when thus inspissated, is liquifiable by heat, and dissoluble in water, in alcohol, in -spirit of sea-salt, and in a volatile alkaline spirit; as also in blood, saliva, &c. except only a very small part, which subsides both in a spirituous and aqueous menstruum, and probably consists of ■earthy particles foreign to the composition. It unites with acids without emotion, or change of colour. On mixing it with alkalies, no ebullition is perceptible, but the colour changes from a reddish brown to a yellowish brown. A few grains, mixed with as many punces of human blood, warm from the veins, entirely prevents a separation of serum and crassamentum, and the whole mass continues united in a state of fluidity, similar to that in which it is drawn, until, after some days, it putrifies.
** I ought to have before informed you, that the several ingredients mentioned in the recipe for compounding the Accawau poison, are all nibbees of different kinds; but whether all, or indeed any more of them than the woorara are necessary, or whether the efficacy of the poison might not be farther improved, I am uncertain: it is, however, already too fatal to be trusted in the' hands of any people, but those who are in a state of nature, in which cri
minal passions are feeble and Ian-" guid. How the instantaneous fatal effects of this poison can result from so small a portion, as may be supposed to be left by the point of an arrow immediately extracted, is inexplicable; that it has the power of dissolving the fluids, is certain; but I am far from thinking that its fatals effects are produced by any such dissolution. The Indians constantly moisten the points of their poison-arrows, when over-dry, with the juice of lemons, which tends to produce an opposite erfect; and blood drawn from the jugular veins, and carotid arteries of animals, at the instant of their expiration l>y the effects of this poison, affords no uncommon, appearance: and, after standing, regularly separates into serum and crassamentum, with a greater degree of cohesion than is usually observed in scorbutic cases: but yet the animals expired,as it were., by an insensible extinction of the vital flame. Can such instantaneous fatality result from any change in the texture of the fluids in so short a space? I doubt whether they are susceptible of it: nor do I believe that these sudden deleterious effects can arise, except' from an immediate injSry offered to the sensible nervous system, or the source of the vital functions. Mr. Herissant thinks it contracts the vessels; but fays, it does not usually alter the appearance of the fluids, though he once or twice observed the blood to assume a brownisti colour.
"Against this poison there is no certain antidote discovered; and its effects are are so sudden, that J doubt whether any thing taken by the aliamentary passage, can act
with sufficient celerity to preserve life. M. de la Condamine, indeed, says, that salt, but sugar, more certainly, is an antidote for the Amazonian poison: and sugar, or rather the juice of canes, iscommonly thought, by the white inhabitants of this colony, to prevent the Accawau poison: but the Indians themselves do not acknowledge this quajity in the cane; and I have never been able, either by my own experiments or enquiries, to discover a single instance of its efficacy for that purpose. That gentleman instances an experiment made on a fowl at Cayenne, which was wounded with one of the poi^ son-arrows in presence of the commandant, &c. and which, after being dosed with sugar, betrayed no figns of indisposition: but the sugar had not this effect at a subse,quent experiment made at Leyden, in presence of several of the medical professors in that university; though the activity of the poison was then confessedly impaired by the winter: nor did the sugar prove an antidote at the experiments repeated by Mr. Herissant, or at an experiment made by Dr. Brockleiby. Mr. Herissant, however, declares, that an actual cautery immediately applied to the poisoned wound, prevents its effects.
"I have long imagined, from the distant affinity between the effects of this poison, and those of some peicilential and malignant fevers, that an antidote for the former would be useful in the latter, and therefore have spent some time in fruitless endeavours for the discovery of one. Acids or alcalies, as such, do not seem either to promote or retard its effects; and it
is but seldom that either animal or vegetable poisons derive their deleterious properties from either of these principles; nor is the doctrine of acids or alcalies pertinent, except to saline or foffil poisons.
"That this poison may duly operate, it is necessary that it lhould be externally admitted into the sanguine vessels; because when received by the alimentary passage, it is subdued by the action of the digestive organs, or excluded from the channel of circulation by the lacteals. When swallowed by animals in large quantities, it i» usually ejected by the mouth. Dr. Brockleiby, indeed, declares, that in giving a watery solution of the Amazonian poison internally to a bird, it became convulsed, and died, when two drops had scarcely touched its tongue, though it had just before been dosed with sugar. This is an experiment which contradicts every other observation of Messrs. de la Condamine arid Herissant, as well as the constant practice of the Amazonian Indians, in eating the flelh of animals killed by this poison; a practice, in which they are imitated by the Indians of Guiana, who frequently taste the poison of Woorara, as I have myself several times done, without detriment."
We have left out some of the author's physical discussions, as well as some quotations from M. de la Condamine, Mr- Herissant, and some other writers upon this subject; and the limits assigned to our work, oblige us to omit many curious particulars, as well relating to the Indians, as to some of the uncommon natural productions of this country.
An EJsay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespear, compared ivith the Greek and French dramatic poets. With Jbme remarks upon the misrepresentations of M. de Voltaire. 1 vol. Svo.
IT may, perhaps, be imagined, that the character of our admirable dramatic poet is now so well established, and his great merit so generally acknowledged, that a defence of his works against attacks founded apparently upon prejudice, or proceeding from an ignorance of the language in which he wrote, is, in a great measure, if not totally, unnecessary. However this may be considered, every reader of taste will acknowledge the great pleasure that he receives from the perusal of the incomparable essay before us, and will think it a most valuable acquisition to polite literature. Whether we regard it as a judicious defence, as a candid "and ingenious disquisition, or as an happy and elegant illustration of the writings of our favourite author; in whatever point of view we consider it, it claims our warmest approbation, and the critic seems, upon every occasion, worthy of the great writer whom he illustrates.
M. Voltaire's high character, both as a writer and a critic, the avidity with which his works are read throughout Europe, and the effect which his decisive and precipitate determinations upon this subject may have upon the general opinion in regard to our national taste, are, however, such considerations, as sufficiently claimed a candid and accurate defence of Shakespear. The opinion which generally prevailed among foreigners, that the French writer had a
competent knowledge 0/ our language on which to found his criticisms, made his partial strictures the more liable to take effect, and pointed out ,the necessity of (hewing, that he is totally ignorant of its true force and spirit.
The merits of this essay are not, however, confined to a mere defence of Shakespear, or to observations on Voltaire's criticism. It abounds with curious disquisitions, and will undoubtedly hold a high rank among the most classical pieces of the fame nature in the English language. The parallel drawn between the conduct of the two poets, in respect to the ghost of Darius in the Persians of Eschylus, and that of Hamlet, as well as the comparisons made between Shakespear and the French dramatic writers, are attended with a great number of the most judicious and beautiful observations. The charges against Voltaire of misrepresentation, of not understanding the English language, and os his being guilty of the greatest absurdities in his translation of the first acts of Shakespear's Julius Cæsar, are abundantly proved.
Our elegant essayist observes, in the introductory part, " That Shakespear, whose very faults pass here unquestioned, or are perhaps consecrated through the enthusiasm of his admirers, and the veneration paid to long-established fame, is by a great wit, a great critic, and a great poet of a neighbouring nation, treated as the writer of monstrous farces, called by him tragedies; and barbarism .and ignorance are attributed to the nation, by which he is admired. Yet if wits, poets, critics, could ever be charged with presumption, .one might say there was some degree
of of it in pronouncing, that, in a country where Sophocles and Euripides are as well understood as in any in Europe, the perfections of dramatic poetry should be as little comprehended as .among the Chinese.
Learning here is not confined to ecclesiastics, or a few lettered sages and academics; every English gentleman has an education, which gives him an early acquaintance with the writings of the ancients. His knowledge of polite literature does not begin with that period, ■ which rVL Voltaire calis, Le Siecle <Ie Louis quartorzc. Before he is admitted as a spectator at the theatre at London, it is probable he has heard the tragic Muse as (he spoke at Athens, and as she now speaks at Paris, or in Italy; and he can discern between the natural language, in which she addressed the human heart, and the artificial dialect which she has acquired from the prejudices of a particular nation, or the jargon caught from the tone of a court. To please upon the French stage, every person of every age and nation was made to adopt their manners.
The heroes of antiquity were not more disguised in the romances of Calprenede and Scuderi, than in the tragedies of C'orneille. In spite of the admonitions given by that admirable critic Boileau to their dramatic writers in the following lines: v
• Gardez done de donner, ainsi que
dans Clelie, L'air ni Pesprit Francois a
l'antique Italie; Et sous des noms Romains
faissant notre portrait, Peindre Caton galant, & Brutus
The Horatii are represented no less obsequious in their address to their king, than the courtiers of the grand monarque. Theseus is made a mere sighing swain. Many of the greatest men of antiquity, and even the roughest heroes amongst the Goths and Vandals, were exhibited in this effeminate forrn. The poet dignified the piece, per■ haps, with the name of an Hercules, but, alas! it was always Hercules spinning, that was shewn » the spectator. The editor of Corneille's -works, in trrms so gross as are hardly pardonable in such a roaster of fine raillery, frequently attacks pur Shakespear for the want os delicacy and politeness in his pieces: it must be owned, that in some places they bear the marks of the unpolished times, in which he wrote; but one cannot forbear smiling to hear a critic, who professes himself an admirer of the tragedies of Corneille, object to the barbarism of Shakespear's. There never was a more barbarous mode of writing than that of the French romances in the last age, nor which from its tediousness, languor, and want of truth of character, is less fit to be copied on the stage: and what are most parts of Corneille's boasted tragedies, but the romantic dialogue, its tedious soliloquy, and its extravagant sentiments in the true Gothic livery of rhyme? . _
The French poets assume a superiority over Shakespear, on account of their more constant adherence to Aristole's unities of time and place.
The pedant who bought at a great price the lamp of a famous philosopher, expecting that by its assistance his lucubrations would become equally celebrated, was little more absurd than those poets who suppose their drawas will be excellent if they are regulated by Aristole's clock. To bring within a. limited time, and an assigned space, certain series of conversations (and French plays are little more) is no difficult matter; for that is the easiest part of every art perhaps, but in poetry without dispute, in which the connoisseur can direct the artist.
I do not believe the critic imagined that a mere obedience to his laws of drama would make a good . tragedy, tho' it might prevent a poet, more bold than judicious, from writing a very absurd one. A painter can define the just proportion of the human body, and the anatomist knows what muscles constitute the strength of the limbs; but grace of motion, and exertion of strength, depend on the mind; which animates the form. The critic but fashions the body of a work; the poet must add the foul, which gives force and direction to its actions and gestures; when one of these critics has attempted to finish a work by his own rules, he has rarely been able to convey into it one spark of divine fire; and the hero of his piece, whom he designed for a man, remain* a cold inanimate statue; which, moving on the wood and wire of the great masters in the mechanical part of the drama, presents to the spectators a kind of heroic puppet-stiew. As these pieces take their rife in the school of criticism, they return thither again, and are as good subjects for the students in that art, as a dead body to the professors in physic. Most minutely too have they been anatomised in learned academies; but works, animated by genius.
will not abide this kind of dissection."
"Shakespear (continues our essayist) wrote at a time when learning was tinctured with pe-' dantry; wit was unpolished, and mirth ill-bred. The court of Elizabeth spoke a scientific jargon, and a certain obscurity of style was universally affected. James brought an addition of pedantry, accompanied by indecent and in, delicate manners and language. By contagion, or from complaisance to the taste of th? public, Shakespear falls sometimes into the fashionable mode of writing; but this is only by fits; ^for many parts of all'his plays are written with the most noble, elegant, and uncorrupted simplicity. Such is his merit, that the more just and refined the taste of the nation has become, the more he has increased in reputation. He was approved by his own age, admired by the next, and is revered and almost adored by the present. His merit is disputed by little wits, and his errors are the jests of little critics: but there has not been a great poet, or great critic, since his time, who has not spoken of him with the highest veneration, Mr. Voltaire excepted. His translations often, his criticisms still oftener, pyove heklid not perfectly understand the words of" the author; and therefore it is certain he could not enter into his meaning. He comprehended enough to perceive, he was unobservant of some established rules'of composition; the felicity, with which he performs what no rules can teach, escapes him. Will not an intelligent spectator admire the prodigious structures of StoneHgnge, because he does not know by what law of mechanics they