The First Dialogue.

A general Idea of Physics, and an Explanation of the most remarkable Hypotheses concerning Light and Colours.

THE very same Reason that led me every Day to a Concert of Music, a gay and elegant Entertainment, a Ball, or the Theatre, induced me to write an Account of the Manner in which I passed my Time last Summer in the Country with the Marchioness of E---, and has thus from an idle and useless Member of Society, rendered me an Author. And the natural Desire that every Author has to appear in print (whatever these Gentlemen may tell us in their long Pre- <2> faces) engages me at present to publish this Account. It is entirely philosophical, and composed of certain Discourses which I had with that polite Lady on the Subject of Light and Colours. Some will, I make no doubt, condemn me for having passed my Time so ill with a Lady; and indeed I have condemned myself for it. But if they knew what an engaging Manner the Marchioness has of obliging every one to what she desires, I am persuaded they would forgive me, even if I had read her Guicciardini[1] History of the Wars of Pisa, if she could have desired it. But however inexcusable my Error might be, I constantly endeavour'd to amend it, whenever I could disengage myself a little from Light and Colours: And indeed both the Beauty of the Marchioness and the Nature of the Place (which seemed formed to support what she had <3> every where given Birth to) inspired a Discourse quite different from that of Philosophy. The little Peninsula of Sirmione, (the Country of the polite Catullus) and those Mountains which have so often repeated the fine Verses of[2] Fracastorius, two remarkable Points (if I may use the Expression) in the poetical Geography, formed a distant Prospect to a fine Seat placed on an easy Ascent that was watered below with the clear Streams of the Benaco[3], which by its great Extent and the roaring of its Waves, seems to rival the Ocean. <4> The Orange Trees that diffused their Odours along the Banks, and perfumed the Air all around with a delightful Fragrance, the Coolness of the Woods, the Murmur of Fountains, the Vessels that spread their Sails along the crystal Lake, each of these agreeable Objects would have alternately ravished my Senses, if the Goddess of this delightful Place had not wholly engaged my Attention.

To the Charms of Wit, and the most polite Imagination she joined an uncommon Strength of Judgement, and to the most refined Sentiments a learned Curiosity. Superior to the rest of her Sex, without being solicitous to appear so, she could talk of Ornament and Dress whenever there was Occasion for it, and ask proper Questions upon more important Subjects. A natural Negligence, an easy Unaffectedness imbellished all she said. She had Beauty enough to gain her Consort many Friends, and was judicious enough not to shew any one a particular Regard, and these Accomplishments being sel <5> dom found united except in Books and the Imagination of Authors, is the Reason, I believe, that Learning in Ladies does not meet with so universal an Applause from the World as their Beauty.

When impertinent Visitors gave us some Respite from Play, that Relief and Plague of Society, we passed some part of the Day in reading ancient and modern Authors contrary to the Opinion of that Monarch[4] who preferred old Books like old Friends. Our principal reading was Poetry, as this seemed of all others most agreeable to the Country from whence the Genealogistsof polite Literature tell us it derived its Original. But, however, that we might preserve a certain Spirit of Liberty, upon which all our Conversation was grounded, we did not entirely exclude that Sort of Poetry which is formed expressly for the Town, as Satire, <6> Comedy, and Epic. This Spirit had a more particular Influence upon our Criticism, which regarded an Italian, a French, an ancient and a modern Author, with an equal Impartiality. The sober Dignity and Purity of the Eneid, the Variety and Perspicuity of Orlando Furioso, the noble finishing of the Gierusalemme Liberata, the Justness, the philosophical Spirit, and the peculiar Beauties of the Henriade, the Invention of the Mandragora[5], the Characters of the Misanthrope, the Sweetness of Verse in[6] Sannazarius, and the <7> happy Negligence of Chappelle; all these we compared in such a Manner, that we neither esteemed a Verse the more harmonious for its Antiquity, nor a Thought less sublime or elegant from any Difference of Country. We interspersed our Discourse with Episodes and Digressions, which the Marchioness did not think herself less obliged to me for, than if I had given her an Encomium upon her Beauty.

In one of these Digressions I spoke of the Force and Advantages of English Poetry, which gave her a strong Inclination to be acquainted with it, imagining that a Nation, on whom Minerva had lavished her Favours in so profuse a Manner, could not be destitute of those of Apollo.

As I desired nothing more than to give Pleasure to a Person who continually afforded so much to me, I was <8> extremely sorry that I could trace her only a very low and imperfect Idea of Dryden's harmonious Copiousness, Waller's Softness, Prior's various and easy Style, the lively Wit and Fire of Rochester and Dorset, the correct Majesty of Addison, the strong and manly Strokes of Shakespeare, and the astonishing Sublimity of Milton. To speak of the Merit of a Poet, is the same Thing as endeavouring to describe the Beauty of a Face, which can be judged of only by the Sight; and to quote, even in its original Language, only one particular Passage separate from the rest, would be the same as shewing an Eye, a Lip or a Dimple of a Face of which we desire to see, not single Features, but the whole, whole Beauty and Symmetry are the Result of innumerable Charms. However it gave me a little Consolation when I remembred, that, among some Papers which I happened to bring with me into the country, I had Mr. Pope's Ode on St. Cecilia's Day. None can be unacquainted with the Name of this great <9> Author, without being at the same Time ignorant that there is any such Thing as Poetry in the English Language. The next Morning I carried this fine Ode with me into a Grove dedicated to our poetical Conversation, and now become the Parnassus of all Nations. After having begged Pardon of the English Muses, I translated it as well as I could, and began to read. The Marchioness listened to me with an Attention that fine Ladies seldom give themselves the Trouble of. When I came to this Passage ----

While in more lengthen'd Notes and slow[7]

The deep Majestic solemn Organs blow.

she interrupted me, and could not enough admire the Propriety of these Epithets, which (added she) describe that Instrument in such a Manner that I really hear it play. I cannot tell whether you hear it too, but I think I <10> may reasonably conclude it from a certain Pleasure you shewed, perhaps insensibly, in reading this Passage to me. You are so well acquainted, Madam, with the most secret Motions of my Heart, that it is impossible for you to be deceiv'd; and you commend a Thing that certainly renders the Imagery, which is the Support of Poetry, extremely lively and expressive. These Sort of Epithets are the Strokes that give Life to the Picture. A white Hand, a serene Brow, and bright Eyes, are at best but the rough Draught of it.

Now we are speaking of Epithets, is not the sevenfold Light, which I read of some Time ago, (replied the Marchioness) in an Ode made in Honour of the philosophical Lady[8] of Bologna, some Chinese Hieroglyphic? at least it is so to me and many others whom I have desired to explain it. You mean, answered I,


---- The sevenfold Light

Whence ev'ry pleasing Charm of colour springs,

And forms the gay variety of things[9].

If you knew the Force of this Epithet, you would see a Newtonian Picture instead of a Chinese Hieroglyphic, though perhaps a little too philosophical for Poetry. What (answered she, interrupting me with an Air of Surprize) you understand this Passage as well, as if it was the Production of an English Author. I am of Opinion, Madam, answered I, that the Verses of an Italian who has the Honour to be a great Admirer of you, are infinitely preferable to those of an unfortunate Briton, who has the Unhappiness of being at so great a Distance from you. I understand you, continued she, and I need not desire a better Encomiast than you, <12> if it be true, that no one understands the Sense of an Author so well as himself. Come then, since you are the Author of this Piece, deliver me from the Perplexity I am under about this sevenfold Light, and the rest of your Newtonian Picture, which gives me great Reason to believe, that in praising one Lady, you have used your utmost Endeavours that no other should understand your Meaning. It is certainly that profound Respect that I have for you, Madam (answered I) which has made you find me out. Afterwards reflecting that it was impossible to give her in few Words an Explication of Sir Isaac Newton's Opticks to which these Verses allude, a Thing which she had not the least Idea of, had not we better follow the Example of the Theatre, Madam said I, where the Play is generally at an End when the Persons come to a Knowledge of one another? And besides, we should finish Mr. Pope's Ode, which will certainly give you a far greater Pleasure, than any Comment upon mine. No, no, <13> said she, we will finish that another Time, and for the present we will act contrary to the Theatre, but without forgetting the Catastrophe, or finding myself in as much Ignorance as ever.

Being willing to give her some Idea of the System to which these Verses refer, and thinking that the Marchioness would for once be like other Ladies, who are often desirous of seeming to understand what they are not supposed to have the least Notion of, I told her, as briefly as I could, That according to Sir Isaac Newton's Opinion, or rather as the Thing really is, every Ray of Light is composed of an infinite Number of other Rays, some of which are red, some orange-colour, others green, some blue, some indigo, and others violet; and that from the Composition of these seven Colours in a direct Ray from the Sun, arises the white or rather golden Colour of Light: That if this direct Ray from the Sun is refracted by a certain Glass called a Prism, these Rays, of which it is composed differing in Colour, differ also in Degrees of Re <14> frangibility. ---- I see (said the Marchioness, interrupting me in a Manner very different from what I expected) that your Comment has more need of an Explanation than perhaps the Text itself. But this is my Fault in not being able to understand your Refraction, different Degrees of Refrangibility, and the like, which quite confound the Idea I had begun to form. But pray explain yourself in such a Manner that I may not have any farther Reason to accuse you with Obscurity, nor my own Dulness with being the Cause of it.

You will not be satisfied, answered I, unless I make you a Comment at least as long as that of the Malmantile, which, I observed to you the other Day, seemed to be dictated by the agreeable Mathanasius[10] who was formerly the Moliere of <15> the Commentators; at least, said she, Newton will enter more properly here than Micheli does there, whose Discoveries are of no sort of Service to illustrate this Poem; and since all you said was spoke with an Air of Seriousness and such Confidence that you did not scruple saying, according to Sir Isaac Newton's Opinion, or rather as the Thing really is, you have made me extremely desirous of becoming a Newtonian. This, answered I, is a very ready Method of propagating Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophy and bring it into Fashion. Pemberton, Gravesand, and Dunch, the zealous Propagators of this Sysstem, would be very glad to give the Care of it to you. But what will Mr. Pope say (shewing her the Book which I had still in my Hand) if you leave him in the beginning of this fine Ode, for a sudden Fancy that you have taken to Light and Colours? Mr. Pope, answered she, cannot be offended at my leaving him for a Philosopher, and such a Philosopher as Sir Isaac Newton, one of his own Countrymen too. <16> Do not you know, said I smiling, that the Poets look upon themselves as sacred, and when they have once got this Enthusiasm into their Heads, they regard neither Country nor Relations, but think themselves greater than any Philosopher, even if he had discovered wherein consists the Union of the Soul and Body? 'Tis well for us, said she, that the Poets have more Modesty than to declare this in their Writings.

It signified nothing for me to plead Incapacity and many other Excuses, which are made use of on the like Occasions, and which occurred to me upon this. The Marchioness insisted upon seeing my Newtonian Picture as she called it. I begged she would at least have patience till Evening, telling her that the Night had always been the Time consecrated to philosophical Affairs; and that the most polite Philosopher in France had made use of it in a Circumstance resembling mine, and made no Scruple of entertaining a fine Lady with philosophical Discourses in a Wood <17> at Mid-night. But we, Sir, replied the Marchioness, ought to make use of the Day, which is certainly more proper than the Night for a Discourse on Light and Colours. She spoke this with an Air of Authority that inforced her Commands in the most amiable Manner, and made it a Pleasure to obey.

Thus I was absolutely obliged to begin, but the Difficulty was how to do it; for she had not the least Notion of Physics, which it was necessary to give her a general Idea of, before I proceeded to a Discourse upon Light and the Newtonian System. At last, after having again in vain reminded her of Mr. Pope and other Subjects that required less Application and afforded greater Pleasure, when the Heat of the Sun, which was now almost at his Meridian, obliged us to retire into the House, I began after the following Manner.

It is natural to suppose that after Society was so well established among Mankind, that some of them had nothing to do (which I look upon as the <18> Epocha of its Perfection) these Persons either from that Curiosity, which we naturally have about those Things that concern us least, or perhaps for fear of being charged with Idleness by the rest, applied themselves to consider that Variety of Things of which this Universe is composed, their Differences and Effects. It is probably too, that one of the first Speculations that these idle People, who afterwards assumed the Name of Philosophers, employed themselves about, was concerning the Nature of Light, which is certainly the most beautiful and conspicuous Object of our Sight, and indeed the Means by which we see every Thing else. This consequently led them to the Colours which this Light depictures upon Objects, and which diffuse such a Variety and Beauty on our World. Thus, I believe, that Opticks, which is that Part of Natural Philosophy that regards Light and Colours, and in general all Natural Philosophy, had their Origin among Men at the same Time with their Idleness; indeed it was of a later Date than some <19> Parts of Morality and Geometry, which were absolutely necessary in the earliest Ages of the World, but contemporary to Poetry, if you will, and antecedent to Metaphysics, which required a still greater Vacation from Business.

I am pleased, replied the Marchioness, that Poetry and Natural Philosophy have one common Date; since for that Reason you will not perhaps think this Transition so strange, that we have made from one to t'other upon my Account. The Transition, (answered I) that our Philosophers made from a slight Knowledge of Things to an Ambition of unfolding Nature and penetrating its Effects, was much stranger. This, in the Language of Philosophy, is called making Systems. This is just as if any one, after having had a cursory Discourse with a subtile Minister of State about good or bad Weather, should attempt to write his Character, and pretend that he had penetrated his most profound Secrets. They should have begun with a very attentive Examination of Things, drawn from frequent Observations and <20> diligent Experiments before they ventured upon the least System. They were to act, if possible, like those two antient Philosophers; one[11] of whome, in order to write on the Nature of Bees, retired into a Wood, that he might have the better Opportunity of considering them; and the other[12] spent sixty Years in making Observations upon these Insects. But the Misfortune is, that Experiments and Observation require Patience and Time, and very often we are indebted to mere Chance for the most useful and entertaining among them. On the other Hand, Men are always in haste to arrive at Knowledge, or at least to have the Appearance of it.

After this, the Revolutions of States, the rude and uncultivated Manners of the People, the Temper of Nations, and the Profession of those, among whom Philosophy had formerly flourished, did not a little retard its Progress. From the Indian Traditions <21> which their Priests kept to themselves with as much Jealousy as they did their Genealogies, and from the Egyptian Temples, where it had long lain hid under Mysteries and Hieroglyphics, Philosophy at Length took its Seat in the Portico's and Gardens of Greece, where it was very soon imbellished and corrupted with Allegory, Fables, and all the Ornaments of Eloquence. Imagination, which is the Characteristic of the Grecian Genius, prevented Philosophy from taking any deep Root, and indeed it was attempted to have been totally extirpated by the Eloquance of a Man whose Discourses were distinguished by a certain grave and elegant Pleasantry, which made him Master of the most powerful Arts of Persuasion, and who had been judged by the Oracle the wisest among Mortals. He affirmed, that we have nothing to do with what is above us, and strove to reclaim our Curiosity and Studies from natural to moral Objects; from the Combinations of the Universe, to the little Chaos of human Extravagancies, <22> and from that Rapture with which we are transported by the Contemplation of vast and distant Objects, to the melancholy Consideration of our own Emptiness. And this Person, who, more destructive than Pandora, engaged Mankind in a Consideration of that Train of Evils which had issued from her fatal Box, without giving them[13] any Hopes of a Cure, was had in the highest Veneration as the Father of a new Philosophy called Moral, which is of all others the most treated of and the least understood.

Philosophy after this, together with Luxury, Riches, and Corruption, was transported from Asia to Rome. It could make but little Progress among a People who cultivated hardly any other Art but those of pardoning the vanquished, and depressing the proud. In the first Ages of Christianity, Philosophy lent its Assistance to combat Pa <23> ganism, and after this was subdued, it raised so many civil Wars and Dissentions among those who by its Assistance had triumphed over Jupiter and Olympus, that the ecclesiastical Ship seemed in Danger of perishing when it was hardly loosed from the Port. To this fatal War of Words succeeded that which the Barbarians raised against Learning and the Roman Empire, wherein both were equal Sufferers; for it destroyed the one, and sunk the other. 'till from the profound Darkness, which afterwards followed, some Sparks of antient Knowledge were re-kindled among the Arabians. The Doctrine of Aristotle revived, and being spread through the East, was gladly embraced by the Monks, as it was the most suitable to their Manner of Life. How much Pains and Study are necessary to frame a right Philosophy! It requires no less Art and Labour, than to make those fine Silks which you Ladies are adorned with. But the Philosophy, in which the Name of Aristotle supplied <24> the Place of Reason, did not greatly disturb the Monastic Tranquility. This Philosopher who was banished[14] from Athens by the antient Priests, was (but with some Variety of Fortune) received by ours; who, though <25> they once condemned him as a[15] pernicious Author, yet afterwards carried their Zeal for him to such a Height, as to believe him not ignorant even of those Things which are above the Reach of human Reason. Religion at this Time was more than ever united with <26> Philosophy, which could not fail to produce the utmost Confusion in the one, and Ignorance in the other, since both their Nature and End are extremely different.

A Chaos of vain and useless Disputes, a Chain of unintelligible Definitions, a blind Zeal for wrangling, and a still blinder Devotion for Aristotle whom they called by Way of Distinction, the Philosopher, or a second Nature, and above all a certain Jargon of indeterminate, obscure, and hard Expressions, either without any meaning, or confused, spread like a destroying Deluge the Face of the whole Earth, and for many Ages usurp'd the pompous Name of Science. As among the Chinese he is esteemed the most learned who can read and write more Words or Figures than the rest, so he was counted to have most Learning among us, who in a particular Habit, could pronounce in certain Places, and with certain Gestures, and seemed to understand the greater Number of Expressions in this vain <27> and pedantic Jargon. Their Distinctions and Answers might be as easily foreseen by any one who had a little examined their Memoirs, as the Turns of Music in Country Scrapers, or the Jingling of Rhyme in bad Poets. Such were the Vails under which they hid, from the Eyes of the World, that Ignorance which very often they could not hide from themselves. The Pride of Schools was supported by the Noise of empty Words, and the Tyranny of Names. It was imagined that they really contended for Truth, but these gray-headed Children in Reality amused themselves only in fighting with Bubbles.

This obstinate Veneration for the Antients, which for a long while passed among the Philosophers as hereditary from one Generation to another, was the Cause that the Knowledge of Physics made little or no Progress till the last Age. At length among some few others, who were to fall as it were Martyrs to Reason, there appeared in <28> Tuscany a Person named[16] Galileo, who had the Courage not only to say, but what is worse, to demonstrate with the clearest Evidence, that Men, who had perhaps for sixty Years been honoured with the Title of Doctors, or sat in the Chair of Philosophy, had taken very great Pains all their Life long to know nothing. And this Boldness cost him <29> dear; for to venture to make use of his Reason was the same Thing as reproaching them with the general Abuse they had made of theirs; and to endeavour at the Promotion of Knowledge was as dangerous as an Attempt to change the Boundaries of antient Rome, which the Augurs took such a religious Care in the Preservation of. After such a Course of Ages, he shewed them what ought to have been done at first, and began to make a Search into Nature by Observations and Experiments, reducing himself to that Ignorance which is useful for arriving to some Knowledge at last.

I think it not improper to call this Man the Czar, Peter the Great, in Natural Philosophy; each of them had to do with a Nation of pretty near the same Character. No one People ever used such Endeavours for Knowledge, as the Muscovites did to know nothing. They forbid all Strangers to come into their Country, and all the Natives to go out of it, for fear they should introduce something new. Thus was it <30> with these Philosophers, who, jealous of their Tenets, renounced every Experiment, and more certain Demonstration of the Moderns, rather than introduce any Novelty or Reformation into their own Systems; but as Force has generally more influence upon Men than Reason, the Czar compassed his Designs sooner than Galileo, who was at the same Time obstructed by another Species of Philosophers, who were by so much the more formidable as they too despised the Antients, (which now began to be the Fashion) and asserted Things in Opposition to them of which every one had a clear and distinct Idea. They introduced Exactness and Order into Writing, which were then as uncommon as they are natural and necessary, and by Means alone of certain Motions and Figures, which they knew how to give to Bodies at proper Times and on proper Occasions, promised to unfold what seemed the most unexplicable in Nature. You may easily imagine that the magnificent Promises of these philosophers, which so <31> agreeably flattered the Ambition of the human Mind (which Galileo's Observations served rather to humble) joined to a certain Simplicity that gave such an Air of Wonder to their Systems, as it does to a well concerted Romance, must naturally seduce many People and form a Sect. And it indeed had this Effect; so that these Moderns too began to have Expositors, and Followers as obstinate and zealous as those of the Antients had been before; and these made themselves the more ridiculous by laughing at the same Fault in others. But it was a melancholy Thing to see an Experiment sometimes offer itself, which had never before been known or thought on; and the finest and most artificial Systems, which had perhaps cost their Inventors whole Months of Labour and Study, shamefully fall to the Ground.

In order then to avoid these sorrowful Reflexions, said the Marchioness, it is necessary for those, who would form a Sysstem in any Thing, to be careful first to take Notice of all that is observable in it, <32> that it may not be exposed to the Mercy and Insults of Experiments. This is exactly what the Newtonians say, answered I, and certainly, Madam, you must have some secret Intelligence with them to be so well informed of their Sentiments. It would be ridiculous for a Mechanic to take it in his Head, to guess how the famous Clock of Strasbourg is made within Side, if he had not first acquainted himself with its outside, the manner in which it strikes, and those many other Things it does besides telling the Hour. Thus, say they, if we can ever hope to make Systems that carry some Appearance of being durable, it will be then only when by the Means of Experiments and Observations we shall know all, that in Terms of Art is called Phœnomenon, which signifies the Appearance of Things, and the Laws which result from these Phœnomena, and by which Nature constantly performs all her Operations. How then could Des Cartes for Example, who was the chief Author of this enterprising Sect of Philosophers, make a ra <33> tional System concerning Light and Colours, when he was entirely ignorant of so many of their Qualities, which Sir Isaac Newton afterwards discovered by Observations? How could he form the Statue, when he had not the Marble? This is the manner in which the rest of the Philosophers of our Time, and those learned Societies founded and maintained by the Liberality of Princes, or the Genius of Nations, proceed; they make Observations and prepare Materials for Posterity to build Systems upon, more fortunate in their Duration, than those that preceded the present Age. This Profession indeed is not so pompous as that of those who will build you a World in the twinkling of an Eye; but on the other Hand it has this Advantage, that it is able to make good its Promises, which is as great an Obligation upon a Philosopher, as a Mistress.

I, who am a Woman, replied the Marchioness, confess that I love those who have the Courage to venture upon grand and difficult Enterprises. Is <34> not this the Reason why we interest ourselves so much in the Adventures of Heroes? The Courage of those philosophical Heroes has something sublime and superior in it: If they do not attain to all they promise, must there not be given some Indulgence to the Imperfections of Human Nature? On the other hand, if, as you say, there cannot be any good Systems, till all the Phænomena are fully known, when shall we have them? They will happen as seldom with us, as the secular Games anciently among the Romans: And I cannot flatter myself that I shall live long enough to see so much as one in my time. I must be contented then with those Systems that we have, be they what they will. I believe, Madam, answered I, that no one could have more specious Reasons to alledge in favour of Trifles, I should serve you right, if I put you on proving these Reasons; but as I will act more mercifully with you, than you perhaps would with regard to me, (since you have a mind that we should reason away that <35> Time, which might be better employ'd on Pleasure) I will not make use of that Right which these Reasons of yours give me, to propose to you seriously the important Questions, Whether Light be a Substance, or an Accident, or an act of the Pellucid, as far as it is pellucid? Whether Colours are the first Configurations of Matter, or a certain little Flame that arises from Bodies, whose Parts are proportioned to our Sight? I might gravely ask you too (that you may see how many things I spare you the Trouble of considering at once) Whether Light, or its Spirit, be the Soul that Plato places between Nature and Ideas, to connect the sensible and intellectual World? and Whether it was for this Reason that Plato represented the Element of Fire, which is the Seat of Light, under the Figure of a Pyramid, which in some measure agrees with that sublime and mystic Triangle which is the Symbol of this Soul? idle Enigmas of the learned Ignorance of past Ages! And who can tell but if you had fallen into o <36> ther hands than mine, you might have been set a yawning with some Gothic Passages out of Dante? Or perhaps by this Light, you would have been gradually conducted to Divinity; at least you could not have got free from an Explication of the mystic Sense hid under the Fable of Prometheus, who stole Light from the Sun to animate his Statue.

I see, said the Marchioness, that Philosophers are to be dealt with in a very circumspect manner, who know how to improve every thing to their own Advantage. You act just like Tyrants, who think they confer a great Favour on any one, whom they have not injured. However, I am much obliged to you, for sparing me the Trouble of hearing all these fine Things, which, I confess, are quite above my Understanding.

Let us see, answered I, whether you can understand the Doctrines of some among the Ancients who were more prudent and humane than the rest. These labour'd to explain every thing by a Vacuum, <37> and the Motion and Figure of certain very little Particles, which they called Atoms, and from thence gave their Schools the Name of Atomists, which was perhaps the most antient of all other Sects, and lately try'd by the Splendor of Eloquence to rise upon the Ruines of the Aristotelian, in opposition to that of Descartes. These Philosophers asserted that the Light of the Sun, for Example, was nothing but a perpetual and copious Stream of the very little Particles, or Atoms, which flowing from the Sun himself, spread themselves every way with an incredible Velocity, and fill the immense aerial Space; so that Light is always followed by new Light, and one Ray is as it were impelled by a second. You may easily understand this by the Similtude of a Fountain. ---- I understand it mighty well, interrupted the Marchioness, without the Fountain; but I am greatly afraid that these Atomists of yours, by making so many Particles continually proceed from the Sun, will at last turn some fine Day <38> into Midnight. Truly, answered I, that would be playing us a villainous Trick, which no one would get any thing by, unless perhaps some few Beauties, who would then always be seen by Candle-light: But do not fear it. Revolutions of this Importance require more time to be brought about, than the Revolution of a Monarchy. And besides these Atomists give us so great a Security that it would be a Shame to dread it. For, in the first place, they tell us, that the Rarity and incredible Smallness of these little Particles that proceed from the Sun (which Sun they make to be of a dense and close Matter as you will see hereafter) in a very long course of Years will produce only a very little Diminution in his Light. And to make you still more secure, this may be confirmed by the Example of a little Grain of Colour, which is sufficient to tinge a very great Quantity of Water. An Example drawn from odorous Bodies, may serve to shew you how very much the Parts of Matter may be subtilised; as, for <39> instance, a Grain of Musk, which, though it continually emits a prodigious Quantity of Particles yielding a Perfume so strong and quick that at a certain Distance it is able to stupify Serpents of a monstrous Size, and quite deprive them of Motion, yet in a considerable time its Weight is but very little diminished. And Amber-grease, in the same manner, for a long while loses hardly any thing of its agreeable Scent. From Light's passing thro' the densest Bodies, such as Diamonds and Gold when it is beaten into thin Plates, we must necessarily infer, that the Particles of Light are extremely subtile. All this is mighty well, replied the Marchioness; but that such a Quantity of Light should continually proceed from the Sun, as is sufficient to fill and illuminate this whole World, puts me into terrible Apprehensions, notwithstanding all your fine Examples of Musk, Amber-grease, and Diamonds.

Have not you some Inclination, answered I, to the learned Melancholy of the Inhabitants of Dean Swift's <40> flying Island? Who in the most Poetical Allegories has given us the most philosophical Satyr upon Mankind. This Island, which, in the Language of the Country, is called Laputa, as it is different from all that have hitherto been discovered by our Voyagers, so it is inhabited by a very singular Species of Men: Always abstracted and immersed in the profoundest Speculations, they give themselves up to Spleen and the Mathematics, so that they have always need of a Flapper, who, by striking them from time to time with a Bladder, may bring them back to the World below, their Knowledge fills them with those continual Fears and Disquietudes which the Vulgar by a happy Privilege of their Ignorance are quite free from. They are afraid that a Comet, by approaching a little too near the Earth, may in an instant reduce us to Ashes; or, that the Sun one Day or other will swallow us up; or, that this immense Source of Light and Heat will at length be exhausted and leave us involved in a profound and eternal <41> Night. May not your Fears, Madam, be said a little to resemble those of the Laputian School?

As to the Flapper, answered she, I have nothing to do with that, especially when I am with you. But do you not think that there is some Reason for me to be frightened at the terrible Threatning of a perpetual Night? Ought you not rather to think yourself obliged to me for interesting myself so much in the Cause of Light, which you have made your Heroine? It would be quite shameful that I should shew more Regard and Concern for it, than yourself. You shall see, Madam answered I, that these Atomists have taken Care to secure your Repose, and preserve what you shew such a Regard for. They will find you a Method to recruit the Sun with that Facility which a Philosopher is Master of, who knows how to make all Nature subservient to his Schemes. They will make the Seeds of Light and Heat which are diffused through the Universe, continually return back again into the Sun, in order to repair <42> his Losses. They will place something round him with which he is sustained and restored just as a Lamp is fed by Oil or some other Matter. We will call certain Systems to our Assistance which will lend us Comets that from Time to Time shall fall into the Sun and afford him fresh Supplies: And if this be not sufficient, we will have Recourse to some Philosopher, who may find Means to make a Star fall into him. And if you have not Confidence enough in human Systems, we will call a Celestial one to your Aid, revealed to Adam by an Angel in Milton, who assures us, that the Sun draws his Aliment from humid Exhalations, and in a regular Manner takes his Supper every Night with the Ocean. Will you have any more? No, no, said she, the one half of these Things is sufficient to dissipate the Fears of a Laputian himself. And I hope there will be no need at present to trouble any Philosopher, much less a superior Being.


I wish, answered I, that your Fears may never extend to any thing farther than Philosophy, and that your Beauty, as it has many other Qualities in common with the Sun, may have a common Duration with him. But I am extremely glad that since I have delivered you an Opinion which at first Sight gave Occasion to your Fear, it is capable too of dissipating that Fear: As you are so very subject to be frighted at every Trifle, I do not know what would have happened, if I had told you the Opinion of a famous antient who affirmed the Sun to be a Mirror formed of a Substance resembling the most polished Crystal that sends and reflects Light to us, which is transmitted to all Parts of the Universe, and there unites. What Hopes should we have of finding proper Materials above, to repolish this Mirror, if it should ever happen to be sullied and grow dim? Let him, replied the Marchioness, who made the Sun a Mirror, contrive how to repolish it <44> when it shall want it. I had rather imagine it to be the Soul of the World, and to be itself the Source of Light. You should have added, that it is the Source of Colours too (answered I) since without Light these entirely vanish and are no more. Say rather, replied the Marchioness, that they are no longer visible. Will you tell me that an Hour after Sun set, there are no Colours in this Picture? I should be glad to hear you prove to me that the Picture too is vanished for the same Reason, because it is no longer visible. The Picture, answered I, and the Canvas still remain, and upon it certain Dispositions in the Figure and Texture of those Atoms, of which the Chalks that made use of in the Painting are composed. And these Dispositions, at the Approach of Light, will again make the Colours Mezzotintos and Chiaro Oscuros, appear upon the Canvas, and restore to your Sight a commanding Beauty, a Flight of Pillars, a verdant Meadow, or the opening Blushes of the Morning. In the Dark all these Objects va <45> nish, as they are the Result of a Combination of those Dispositions and Light together. I might allege the Authority of Virgil upon this Occasion, who informs us, that Objects lose their Colours at the Approach of Night. Lucretius[17], who, in the most elegant Verses has given us a Body of this Atomic Philosophy, makes us apprehend most terrible Consequences from a Supposition that Bodies and their Principles are indued with Colour. For, says he,

Seeds are Colourless without a Dye.

For either this cannot to Seeds agree;

Or Seeds are not immortal all and free

From Change, and therefore things may fall to Nought.        Creech.

You give me Consequences and Verses, said the Marchioness, when I want Evidence and Explications. Descartes, answered I, will afford you enough of this, who has discussed this Matter much more fully than Lucretius. His Principles are different, but in this Point he <46> agrees with the Atomists. But you want Systems, and I must satisfy you: You shall see the most daring Products of Imagination, which have for some time deceived those, who assumed the pompous Title of Searchers after Truth. The Illusion is at length vanished, and Philosophers are grown more cautious and difficult, and examine one another with more Violence than the Egyptians did their Dead before they would allow them the Honour of Sepulture. Come, said the Marchioness, explain me this System of Descartes. I shall not be so difficult as not to receive Pleasure from it, even if it be such a one as you make me expect. It is Pity, Madam, answered I, but that every Thing should from this Time be proposed to you under the Form of a philosophical System.

Suppose to yourself, that all the Matter, of which this whole World is composed, was from the Beginning divided into exceeding small and equal Particles, of a Figure nearly resembling a Dye. Suppose too, that some of these Parti <47> cles turn round one Point, and some another, and that at the same Time they all turn round themselves like a Wheel, which, while it is moving to any particular Spot, makes many Revolutions about its self. The Points about which these Particles turn are the Stars, the most luminous and shining Points in the Universe, and which will help you to conceive it full of Vortices, for this is the Name that is given to any Mass of Matter that is whirled round a Point or common Centre, just like the Circles of Water in a River, or the Dust that flies when it is agitated by the Wind. I believe you will not scruple to grant the Sun a Vortex of his own upon my Assertion, since he is not at all inferior to any of the Stars. If you desire it, answered the Marchioness, I will go farther, and allow him the largest and most magnificent Vortex in the World. For I think he highly deserves it, to whom we have so many Obligations. Philosophy, answered I, is less interested, and has no more Partiality for the Sun, than for the least <48> Star in the milky Way. It is sufficient if you grant the Sun a Vortex be it what it will. From this Vortex you shall see the Sun himself arise (for hitherto I have supposed him and the Stars to exist, the better to assist your Imagination) and with the Sun, all the Charms of Light and Colour, and I know not what besides. In short it is like an inchanted Palace, where you have only need to ask for what you want, and it will appear in an Instant.

What I have granted you is so little, replied the Marchioness, that I cannot flatter myself with the Hopes of so great a Happiness as you promise me. The Mathematicians, answered I, are said to resemble Lovers. If what you grant them at first be ever so little, they know how to make so good an Advantage of it, as to lead you insensibly farther than you ever imagined. Now you are to consider that this Philosopher, to whom you have granted what you think so slight a Concession, was a very great Mathematician. I have as little Skill in the Artifices of Love, <49> said the Marchioness, as in those of Philosophy and Mathematics. But it is inconceivable to me that any Thing reasonable can be produced by these Vortices, which after all are nothing but Collections of extremely small Particles, that keep whirling round a Point at the same Time that each of them turns round itself. They may whirl on for ever, and I believe that will be the chief of their Business; who would ever have imagined, answered I, that the accidental Meeting of a Hero and Heroine in a Romance, and a certain Je ne sçai quoi, that he discovers in her, could have supplied Matter for twenty Volumes? And yet there are many Instances of this, (Perhaps too many) in a Nation very near our own. And without giving the Heroes any Trouble in this affair; what an infinite Number of Things might there be produced from that Je ne sçai quoi, that every one sees in you? ---- Let us see at present, said the Marchioness, what Des Cartes's Vortices will produce; for <50> after these twenty Volumes, I shall begin to think every Thing possible.

These Particles then (continued I) in the Figure of a Dye, (which you now begin to have a better Opinion of) whirling in this Manner round themselves, must make terrible Collisions, and consequently, break the Angles or Points of each; which deprive them of a Power of turning freely round themselves. You know, Madam, that, if any Thing be taken away from the Corners of a Dye, it will grow round, and in Proportion as the Angles of what remains of the Dye keep successively diminishing, it will gradually approach still nearer to the Shape of a Ball. And this you are to believe was the Case with these Particles, which by continually striking against one another, were at length changed from their first Figure of a Dye, to that of so many little Balls or Globules. The Matter which arose from the Shavings of these Angles, and which by its continual Collision must necessarily be reduced into very small and volatile Particles, did not <51> remain idle, but had its proper Office. It immediately declared open War against the Vacuum of the Atomists, and threatned to destroy and banish it from the Universe, wherever it was to be found. The first Undertaking of this Matter, was to fill up those little Voids which otherwise would have remained between the Globules; for though they touched one another, yet there must have been some empty Spaces between them arising from the Nature of a globular Figure. But without the Assistance of this Matter, there would have remain'd a much more considerable Void in the Centre of the Vortex. The Globules were reduced to a much smaller Size than they were at first; and were proportionably removed from the Centre, by a Law common to all Bodies moving in a Circle; which recede as far as they possibly can from that Point about which they Turn. This Matter then run into the midst of the Vortex in order to fill the Centre of it, and began itself to turn round together with the Globules, and animate the <52> rest of the Vortex. This subtile and volatile Substance, which is called the Matter of the first Element, or the subtile Matter, forms nothing less than the Sun and Stars in the Center of the Vortices; as the Globules that turn round them, and which are called the Matter of the second Element, furnish Matter for the Heavens; and though the Cartesians have deprived it of that Transparency and Adamantine Solidity that formerly rendered it so venerable among the Antients, they have taken Care however to atone for this Injury, by making it the Original of Light, and by this Means it has gained more than it lost.

What, cried the Marchioness, are we got already to the Origin of Light? Your Heroes and their twenty Volumes have made a very bad Use of their Time, compared with us. If you give a farther Attention, answered I, you will find they have made a much worse use of it, even than you believe. The System of Des Cartes presents you a Scene, such as, I believe, you never beheld in the finest <53> and most splendid Opera. The whole extent of the Universe is sown and filled with innumerable Vortices joined to one another of different Size and Figure, but all of them nearly round. These keep each other in a mutual Equilibrium by their reciprocal Pressure. In the midst of every one of these Vortices is a Star or a Sun, that is to say, a large Ball of subtile Matter that strives to dilate itself, and presses the Vortex all round. This Pressure of the subtile communicated to the globular Matter, or that of the second Element, gives Birth to Light according to the Opinion of Des Cartes. The different Bigness of the Star, and much more its Distance from us, cause the Light of it to appear more or less lively to our Sight: And hence it is that the Splendor of the Sun in whose Vortex we are

---- with superior Blaze,

Dims the pale Lustre of the starry Rays.

It is believed that Syrius, though his Distance from us be more than two <54> Millions of Millions of English Miles, (according to the Calculation of a celebrated Mathematician) is yet the nearest Star that we have; because it appears larger than any of the rest, and its lively sparkling Light makes the longest Resistance against the dazzling Splendor of the Sun.

I suppose, said the Marchioness, that out of Partiality to your Syrius, you omit that Star which the Peasants call Diana, and the Poets of the Harbinger of the rising Day, and to whom (comparing earthly with heavenly Things) they give the same Honours as to Aurora You must take Care, answer'd I, not to confound two Things together, which are very different from each other, as a Body that is luminous in itself, and one that derives all its Splendor from another; or in other Words, a Sun and a Planet. It is true, that all the Planets, as Venus (which in the Language of Astronomy is the same as your Diana) Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and our Earth itself, were antiently so many Suns, and <55> may perhaps (for who can penetrate into the Secrets of Futurity) hereafter be again restored to that Honour. I have not yet mentioned to you another Species of Matter, which is called the Matter of the third Element, and which has occasioned the greatest and most remarkable Revolutions that are left upon Record in the Annals of the Cartesian Philosophy. Among the Particles of that subtile Matter of which the Sun is composed, there are some that by their rugged and irregular Figure unite and cling together, and by these means form Masses that are sometimes bigger than our Earth. These Masses are driven away from the Sun, and repelled to his Superficies. The Pressure that communicates itself from the subtile to the globular Matter, or in other Words, the Light is interrupted in that Part of the Sun's Superficies where these Masses are placed, and from hence they appear to us as Spots, which, turning round with the Sun, eclipse part of his Splendor and Glory. Flattery perhaps made certain courtly Astronomers take <56> these Spots for little Planets, that get betwixt the Sun and us, and made use of them to transport the Families of those Princes to Heaven, from whom they expected some little Pension on Earth in Exchange for the Investiture of a thousand Plants which they with great Confidence promised them. Philosophical Politeness transform'd these Masses into Patches upon the Sun's Face; if you are better pleased with the Idea under which they were represented to the Queen of Prussia by the famous Mr. Leibnitz: who thought that philosophical Terms should be softened for the Ear of Queens; the Thing is too serious to bear a Jest, said the Marchioness, Patches as big as the Earth might quite demolish a Face.

Hitherto (continued I) our Sun has been lucky enough to escape this Misfortune. The Motion and Agitation of the subtile Matter breaks and dissipates these Masses as fast as they are formed. There once appeared one of these Spots, which darkned the fifth Part of the Sun's Disk. This was a <57> most enormous and terrible Bigness, enough to make Astronomers tremble, and the whole World melancholy. The Sun at last disengaged himself, and got the better of it, so there is now no reason to fear any such unlucky Accident; but all the other Suns were not born under such favourable Circumstances. There are certain Stars which are considerably diminished, so that what has formerly been placed by Astronomers among those of the second Magnitude, is now hardly worthy of being reckoned among those of the sixth. This must be ascribed to these Spots which by length of Time are so increased, as to form a Sort of Crust almost over the whole Star, and consequently weaken its Light.

On the other Hand, said the Marchioness, might not certain Stars arrive to a greater Magnitude, if the Agitation of the subtile Matter was strong enough to dissipate part of their Crust? You are throughly possessed, Madam, answered I, with the Spirit of Cartesianism: This Sect places its Glory in Conjectures, <58> and you have made a very good one. But what a terrible Desolation would it make in the poor Star, if this Crust should entirely cover it, (as it too often happens) and should be strong enough to resist the Force of the subtile Matter that strives to break and dissipate it? When this is the Case, we must bid farewell to the Sun or Star which has lost that Place of Honour which it before held in the Universe. Its Light is suffocated by the Crust, and from a luminous and splended Body, it becomes dark and cold. The force of its Vortex is considerably weakned as it arose from the subtile Matter, which has now no Communication with the globular. The Equilibrium is broke, and consequently its Vortexdestroyed. Some one of the neighbouring Stars carries it away with it, and now become a Planet, it is forced to whirl round at the Mercy of the most powerful. These are the most remarkable Metamorphoses that can possibly happen, and to which our metaphorical Suns here below are no less subject. <59> When these begin to lose their Lustre and have nothing left to feed that Passion which so agreeably flatters the Pride of the fair Sex, and which ought to be the Subject of your Philosophy, they are carried away and become Slaves to another, which for their Consolation they call Virtue. Our fallen Suns, answered she, have at least the Advantage in this, that they acquire a fine Name, and under the Shelter of that they with great Authority condemn what is no longer in their Power to practise, and in some Measure recover their lost Empire. But what Consolation is there for a miserable Sun above, when it is invelop'd with a Crust, and changed to a Planet? The Consolation, answered I, of not having an odious and imaginary Empire after having been possessed of an amiable and real one; the Consolation, in short, of not growing like an old Sybil after having resembled you.

This miserable Metamorphosis of a Sun to a Planet, accompanied however with some Degree of Consolation, is pro <60> bably what happened to a fine Star which we have entirely lost in the Constellation of Cassiopeia, and this too according to the Cartesian System was the Fate of our Earth which was once Empress of an extensive Vortex crowned with Light, and one of the brightest Eyes of Heaven; but at length invelop'd with a deform'd Crust, unhappily lost its Power and Splendor, and was carried away by the immense Vortex of the Sun, as a Straw in a River by the Impetuosity of a Whirlpool. In the same manner the other Planets that revolve about him, Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury, Mars and Venus, fell Victims to his superior Power; nor could even the Comets escape, though these are Planets of a peculiar Nature which keep rambling from one Vortex to another, and like certain People among us here below, rove from one Country and Government to another. And these Vortices are the grand Machine invented chiefly by Des Cartes, to guide the planetary Dance round the Sun.


Is the Earth then (replied the Marchioness, after a short Pause) like the other Planets forced to dance round the Sun? And do all the mighty Preparations, you made with your Matter of the third Element, amount only to this? The Earth, answer'd I, does not need that Concern which you shew for her Degradation from a Sun to the inferior Rank of a Planet; since by this Means she was destin'd to give Birth to you who are but another Name for the most charming Thing, that all the Vortices of the Universe put together could ever have produced. Is not this a sufficient compensation for her Loss? If it was in the Power of Gallantry, answer'd the Marchioness, to make her amends, yours would certainly do it. But what can ever free her from the Disgrace of being obliged among the Crowd of other Planets to whirl round the Sun like a Straw, agitated by the Caprice of a Whirl-pool? I am sensible that you Philosophers look upon the Earth with great Indifference, and suffer it to turn round without Regret; but <62> for my Part ---- let it whirl round for this Time, answered I, upon the Word of Des Cartes. Hereafter, if you have a Mind to be convinced with Pleasure, we will read M. Fontenelle's Dialogues upon the Plurality of Worlds. There you will see a Marchioness, who exactly resembles you in every Accomplishment of Mind, and whom you have nothing to envy but her Philosopher. At present you are to look upon the Earth only as a Composition of the Matter of the third Element, which renders it opaque, and as a Body which no longer shines by its own Light; and by this Means I believe you will be pretty indifferent towards it. A Gloworm, one of those Reptiles that glitter by Night in the Country, is much more worthy of your Attention; whatever is not luminous is nothing to us.

You have seen, continued I, what sort of a Thing Light is: You see too how the Sun may continually supply so great a Quantity of Light as he does, without any Expence to himself, which is what gave you such terrible Apprehensions in the Atomic System. He has nothing <63> to do but to press the globular Matter, and this Pressure costs him nothing of his own, and since it is communicated on all Sides, we are to conclude that he is luminous quite round. The Light, according to Des Cartes, is but a Moment in its Progress from the Sun to us notwithstanding the Distance of a Million of Miles. The Globules of the second Element are continued from the Sun to the Earth, like so many Strings of Beads, and touch one another. In the Instant that the first in the String moves, or endeavours to move, it must also endeavour to move the last. Just as a Pole, though ever so long, in the Moment that one End moves, the other moves also.

The Meaning of all this is, answer'd the Marchioness, that by Means of these Vortices Philosophers may make and give a Reason for every Thing. In a Moment's Time we have produced the Sun, Stars, Planets, Comets, the Earth and Light. I suppose we shall form Colours with the same Facility. Nothing more easy to Des Cartes, I replied. As Motion or a Tendency to Motion in <64> the celestial Matter, raises in us the Sensation of Light, so the different Motions of this Matter, excite in us the Perception of different Colours, which are nothing but certain Modes in which Bodies receive Light, and afterwards transmit it to our Eye. These Modes consist in the Increase or Diminution of that Motion, by which the Globules of Light naturally turn round themselves, and which is called the Motion of Rotation. Thus those Bodies whose Superficies is disposed in such a Manner as considerably to augment this Motion of Rotation in these Globules of Light which fall upon them, and are thence transmitted to us, appear to our Sight red: Those which increase the Motion somewhat less, appear yellow: Those which considerably diminish it, appear blue, and those which diminish it in such a Manner that these Globules turn round slower than usual, appear green; and to conclude, those Bodies, that transmit a great number of Globules of Light without altering their Motion, appear to us white, and those seem <65> black, which extinguish them, and as it were absorb the Light. Here then you have the Origin of Colours, do you desire any Thing more? 'Tis only speaking; the Vortices are as useful to Des Cartes as the Cocao-tree to the Indians, which supplies them with all they want.

No, no, said the Marchioness, let us at present confine ourselves to Colours: I need only increase or diminish the Motion of Rotation, in the Globules of Light, in order to form the Shades of a fine Silk, and variegate the Parterre of a Garden with the different Beauties of Hyacinths, anemonies and Violets, in short, to diversify the Face of Nature just as I please. Rather, said I, if this Increase or Diminution should give you any Trouble, you need only suppose the Globules of Light to be intirely deprived of all Rotation, which we will grant them only in the very Action of variegating your silk or Parterre, or in other Words, in being repelled from the Bodies upon which they fall. You may freely choose which of these Methods suits you best. <66> Each of them will equally serve your Purpose. Des Cartes seems to have had this too in common with the Physicians, that he thought it unworthy his fruitful Imagination to confine himself to one single Method of making his Designs succeed. Notwithstanding your malicious Insinuation, replied the Marchioness, I think myself much obliged to Des Cartes for this Copiousness, I dare say it will not fail him in explaining how it comes to pass that one Body should give the Globules of Light a certain Rotation, and another Body a different one. You are not confined here neither, answer'd I, but have free Liberty of choosing what Method you like best for the Explanation of the Thing in Question, either different Figures of those Particles of which the Superficies of Bodies are composed; or their different Dispositions, their different Inclination towards each other, or their being more or less smooth, and a thousand other Things that you may imagine to yourself. By these Means will your dextrous Philosopher com <67> pose not only the Finery of Silks, and the variegated Beauties of a garden, but all the Elegance of Paul Veronese or the Delicacy of Titian; and hence too arises that lively Bloom on your Complexion, which perhaps not all the Art of Paul and Titian could ever have imitated. I should not have thought, answered she, that the colouring of my Cheeks would ever have enter'd into the Cartesian System. It enters, answered I, into other Systems more generally understood, and of somewhat more Importance than those of Philosophy. But even these must receive great Honour from the Explication of so beautiful a Phænomenon.

I protest, said the Marchioness, that this great Plenty of Causes, and above all the Simplicity that reigns throughout this System, quite charms me, not to say any Thing of those Difficulties which it removes in all the rest. I should be glad to see how any other Woman in my Place would guard against it. I am too well acquainted with the Language of Ladies, answer <68> ed I, not to believe you already conquered. You have not sufficiently closed your Ears to the Song of this Philosophical Syren, nor guarded your Heart against the alluring Pleasures in the luxurious Garden of this Cartesian Enchantress. But you have forgot that yourself at first condemn'd this Precipitation in building Systems, which cannot afterwards bear up against the Obstinacy of Observators. Hypotheses or imaginary Systems, cannot long resist the force of Experiments, which are justly called by a Man, who carried them farther than perhaps any one that may follow him, Natural Revelations. A Liar, even if he was as ingenious as he in Corneille's Comedy, will at last be found out. I had no Notion, said she, that so many Things could have been produced from so little a Matter as these whirling Particles, and I think upon this Account a little Precipitation might be excused, and all this moralizing laid aside. I am extremely fond of the Chinese, because I am told they effect whatever they take in Hand, with <69> much fewer Instruments and less Apparatus than we do. And I think French Music much preferable to ours, because by a few simple and plain Notes it touches the Heart, and moves the Passions. Whereas ours, with all its Divisions, Fugues and Shakes, leaves us for the most part in a tedious and stupid Tranquillity. Those, who for every little Thing, make use of such great Machines put me in Mind of the Dictators antiently elected at Rome, with the utmost Solemnity, and who never omitted choosing a Master of Horse for no other End, than to fix a Nail in the Capitol. You may add, said I, since you seek for Examples illustriously ridiculous, those Kings of Persia, who never eat, walk, or go into the Seraglio, till an Astrologer, after many Observations and Calculations, has assured them, that it is a lucky Time to undertake one or other of these important Enterprizes. If we had been in Persia, how many Astrologers, how many Calculations, must there have been employed before you could have been <70> made a Philosopher! which I take to be a Thing of much greater Importance, than the walk of a King. I am afraid, answer'd she, that before the Astrologer had finish'd his Calculations, my Inclination for Philosophy would have left me. But Thanks to my good Fortune, that I was born in a country where if we have a Mind to walk or hold philosophical Discourses, we may do either without giving the Stars of the Sky any Trouble about it. You ought rather to thank your good Fortune, Madam, answer'd I, for being born in a Country where your Charms are not like those of the Eastern Beauties, confin'd to the narrow Limits of a Seraglio.

With these Reflections of yours, said the Marchioness, you will make me lose Sight of our Colours, whose Variety Charms me the more, because the Production of them cost me so little Trouble. But how shall we produce those various Colours which appear in looking through a certain Glass which I once saw placed over-against a Win <71> dow, perhaps you have some other sort of Motion to produce these Colours which only appear to be in Objects, when they are looked upon through one of these Glasses. You may form these, answered I, in the very same Manner as the first. You need only make the Globules of Light that pass through the Glass you mention'd, (which is called a Prism) turn round according to those Rules you have already learnt, and according as the variety of Colours which it produces require. As to that Distinction, which you seem to put between those Colours which are really in Bodies, and those which are so only in Appearance, Des Cartes will not grant it you, for he, as well as the Atomists, (as you may remember) asserts that there are absolutely no Colours in Bodies, and that they only appear to be so. Thus for Instance, betwixt the red on your Cheeks, and that in the Rainbow, or Prism, there is no sort of Difference, only perhaps it would be more pleasant to make Observations on one than the other. But <72> after all, they are of the same Nature and only apparent. Do you think continued I, laughing, that so many Poets would have compar'd fine Ladies to the Rainbow, if there had not been some Resemblance in their Colour? As, for Example, one of the greatest Poets in our Time has done in those sublime Verses, where he is describing some Beauty who perhaps resembled you.

[18] Tale in somma ne gia qual di Rubini

E d'or ricca, e di Gemme e d'ostro adorno

Sorger veggiam la Matutina Aurora.

O qual sul variato e lucid Arco

Apparir suol dopo nembosa pioggia

Di Taumante la Figlioa; allorchè, i venti venti

Si stan Sospesi a vagbeggiarla e intanto

L'Infano Mar depon l'Ira, e s'achera.

You see, said I, that one of the most splendid and pompous Similies, that the <73> Poets have in their whole Collection, would have been guilty of too essential an Error.

Seriously (answer'd the Marchioness) I always thought that the Colour on my Cheeks, whatever it be, was really there, and that the Colours in a Prism or the Rainbow were only in Appearance; pray explain this Paradox to me, which, to say Truth, I am very much perplex'd with; and deliver me from the Uneasiness I cannot help feeling on your Comparing me to the Rainbow, notwithstanding you made me a great Compliment by this fine Simile. This, said I, is reducing Things to that simplicity you seem'd so fond of, by taking away the Distinction which you put between real and apparent Colours. But the Interest you have in this Distinction, and your self Love, that makes you tremble at the Thoughts of losing your Roses and Lilies, (to speak in the Pastoral Style) has at present got the better of your Love of Simplicity. I'll engage there are many Ladies who would have the same Scruples: But after <74> all, you cannot with Honour adopt a System without being willing to admit the Consequences. We have before said, that there is in Bodies only a certain Disposition and Texture of Parts, and in the Globules of Light a certain Rotation which these Parts give them. These Globules in a certain Manner tickling and shaking the Nerves of the Retina, which is a very thin Membrane at the Bottom of the Eye, give us the Idea of some Colour, which we by the Help of our Imagination refer to the Body from whence those Globules of Light are deriv'd to us. But I think we are called to Dinner, and 'tis Time for us to see what Taste our Imagination will help us to give the Soup. Our Imagination, replied the Marchioness! I do not know whether he, who has laboured this three Hours to give it a real Taste, will be very well pleased with you philosophical Gentlemen, who would reduce every Thing to mere Appearance; I dare say, answer'd I, that he will give himself very little Trouble about such a Trifle as a philosophical <75> Opinion. But however, if he did, he must bear it; for as Bodies are in Reality without Colour, so they are likewise without Taste, Smell, Sound, Heat, Cold, and even when they appear most luminous, without Light.

The Marchioness was very desirous that I should explain this Paradox more fully: But I assured her, that if we stay'd till the Soup wanted heating again, not the finest and most simple Explications in the World would help our Imagination to give it a good Taste. She was fully convinced of this Truth, and we ended our Discourse in the Manner of Homer's Gods, who after their Consultations are sure never to forget their Ambrosia.

[1] An Italian Historian very prolix and tedious. It was a Saying of Dr. Donne's, that if Moses had wrote like Guicciardini, the whole World would not have been big enough to contain the History of its own Creation.

[2] Jerom Fracastorius was born of a noble Family at Verona in Italy, about the Year 1483. He studied Physic, 'till a few Years before his Death, when he devoted himself entirely to the Study of polite Learning. Mathematics, Astronomy and Cosmography. He died of an Apoplexy in 1553, and was interred in the Church of St. Euphemia at Verona, where in 1559 he had a Statue erected to him by Order of that City. His poetical Works are much admired, the principal of which are his Syphilis; Joseph an Epic Poem in 2 Books, but left unfinished at this Death; and his Alcon sen de Curâ Canum Venaticorum. See his Life prefixed to his Works, Joann. Imperialis Musæum Historicum. Pag. 16. Les Eloges des Hommes Savans, tirez de l'Histoire de M. de Thou. Tom. 1. Pag. 189.

[3] A Lake in the Territories of Venice, now called Lagodi Garda.

[4] Alphonsus the 10th King of Arragon, sirnamed the Wife, who used to say, he desired little more than four old Things, viz. old Wood to burn, old Wine to drink, old Books to read, and old Friends to live with. He began his Reign in 1252, and died in 1284.

[5] Mandragora or Mandragola, an Italian Comedy written by the famous Nicolas Machiavel.

[6] Actius Sincerus Sannazarius was born at Naples of a noble Family in 1488. He was Secretary to Ferdinand King of Naples, who honoured him with a great Share of his confidence and Esteem. He was eminent for his Italian and Latin Verses. He spent twenty Years in correcting and polishing his Poem Partu Virginis; but his piscatory Eclogues in Latin which he wrote when he was young, were preferred to all his other poetical Writings. He was rewarded by the Venetians with a Present of 600 Crowns for his celebrated Epigram, Viderat Hadriacis Venetam, &c. <7> He died in 1530 of Grief, because the Prince of Orange, who was General of the Imperial Army, had demolished a Tower belonging to his Country-house. He lies interred near Virgil's Tomb. See Paulus Jovius in Elogiis, &c.


Mentre con tarde ed allungate Note

Il profundo, Solenne, e Maestoso

Organo Soffla ----

[8] Laura Maria Katherina Barfi, a learned Lady in Italy, who in 1732, at 19 Years old, held a philosophical Disputation at Bologna, upon which she was admitted to the Degree of Doctor in that University


O dell, aurata

Luce Settemplice

I varioardenti, e misti almi Colori.

[10] Monsieur de St. Hyacinthe, under the fictitious Name of Dr. Mathanasius, published a Piece incituled, Chef d'Oeuvre d'un Inconnu avec des Remarques, in order to ridicule the Impertinence of some Critics and Commentators. The Malmantile is an Italian Piece wrote after the manner of this Author.

[11] Philiscus, vid. Plin. N. H. L. xi. C. 9.

[12] Aristomachus. Id, ibid.

[13] It is probably that the greater Part of those, who are acquainted with the Character of Socrates, will think Signore Algarotti has passed too severe a Censure

[14] Aristotle retired from Athens, in order to avoid a Process of Irreligion which the Athenian Priests carried on against him. The Circumstances of this Affair are unknown: Some assert, that he was charged with Impiety on Account of a Hymn which he had made in Honour of his Friend Hermius. This Hymn is still extant, but there is not the least Impiety discoverable in it; but his Accusers urged that he had prophaned divine Songs by prostituting them to the Honour of a mortal Man. Aristotle not thinking it safe to trust to the Interpretation this little Poem might meet with, retired very privately to Chalcis, where he pleaded his Cause at a distance by Writing, which was the safest Way he could take; for his Accusers were a Set of Men who would never have let him been at rest. Others affirm that he was driven from Athens for the Goodness of his Morals. Some Authors report, that this Philosopher drowned himself in the Euripus, a narrow Sea near Eubœa, because he could not find out the Reason of its ebbing and flowing seven Times in one Day. But the more received Opinion is, that his very great Application in the Study of this Phænomenon, brought an Illness upon him, which occasioned his Death. See Bayle's Life of Aristotle in the General Dictionary, Vol. II.

[15] The French, who took Constantinople about the Beginning of the 13th Century, having brought the Books of Aristotle into their own country, his Doctrine began to be publickly taught in the University of Paris, and continued so for some Time. But Amaury, a Student in that University, having advanced several obnoxious Opinions, and endeavoured to defend them from the Principles of Aristotle, the Physics and Metaphysics of that Philosopher were burnt by order of a Council held at Paris in 1209. And the reading of them prohibited under Pain of Excommunication. This Prohibition was confirmed about the Year 1215, by the Pope's Legate, who was employed to reform the University of Paris; but he allowed the Logic of Aristotle to be taught. Gregory VII. renewed this Prohibition in 1231, but with this Addition, that he only forbid the reading of Aristotle's Works till they should be corrected. In 1261, Simon the Legate of the See of Rome in his Reformation of the University confirmed the Regulation of the Year 1215, relating to Aristotle's writings without mentioning the Correction of them. But in the Reformation of the University in 1366, this Philosopher's Physics, as well as his other Works, were allowed to be read. Vid. Father Raspin's Comparisons of Plato and Aristotle, Du Pin's Nouvelle Bib. &c.

[16] Galileo was born at Florence in 1564. He was put into the Inquisition for maintaining the Diurnal Motion of the Earth, and asserting the Sun and not the Earth to be the Center of the World. These Propositions were condemned by the Inquisitors as false and heretical. He was not discharged till he had promised to renounce his Opinions, and not to defend them either by Word or Writing, or insinuate them into the Mind of any Person. Upon his publishing his Dialogues upon the two chief Systems of the World, the Copernican and Ptolemnaic in 1632, he was again cited before the Holy Office. The same Year the Congregation convened, and in his Presence pronounced Sentence against him and his Book, committing him to the Prison of the Holy Office during Pleasure, and commanding him as a saving Penance for three Years to come to repeat once a Week the seven Penitential Psalms, but reserving to themselves the Power of moderating, changing, and taking away, altogether or in Part, the above mentioned Punishment and Penance. He was discharged from his Confinement in 1634, but the Impression of his Dialogues of the System of the World was burnt at Rome. Vid. The General Dictionary.

[17] Proinde Colore cave, &c.             Lucret.

[18] As Seignor Algarrotti does not mention where he had these Verses, I would not venture to translate them from the Italian, since I am not certain, whether they were not originally written in English.

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