DIRECTOR   Sergei Lazer


THE influence which other persons have upon our opinions is usually called authority. The power of it is so great and widely extensive, that there is scarce any person in the world entirely frec from the impression of it, even after their utmost watchfulness and care to avoid it. Our parents and tutors, yea our very nurses, determine a multitude of our sentiments; our friends, our neighbours, the custom of the coubtry where we dwell, .and the established opinions of mankind, form our belief: the great, the wise, the pious, the learned, and the ancient, the king, the-priest, and the philosopher, are characters of mighty efficacy to persuade us to receive what they dictate. These may be ranked under different heads of prejudice, but they are all of a kindred nature, and may be reduced to this one spring or head of authority. Cicero was well acquainted with the unhappy influences of authority, and complains of it in his first book De Natura Deorum': ' In disputes and controversies (says he) it is not so much the authors or patrons of any opinion, as the Weight and force of argument, which should influence the mind. The authority of those who teach is a frequent hindrance to those who learn, because they utterly neglect to exercise their own judgment, taking for granted whatsoever others whom they reverence have judged for them. I can by no means approve what we learn from the Pythagoreans, that if any thing asserted in disputation was questioned, they were wont to answer, Ipse dixit, that is. He himself said so, meaning Pythagoras. So far did prejudice prevail, that authority without reason was sufficient to determine disputes and to establish truth.' ,A11 human authority, though it be never so ancient, though it hath had universal sovereignty, and swayed all the learned and the vulgar world for some thousands of years, yet has no certain and undoubted claim to truth : nor is it any violation of good manner* to enter a caveat with due decency against its pretended dominion. Whatisthereamong all the sciences that has becn longer established and more universally received, ever since the days of Aristotle, and perhaps for ages before he lived, than this, that all heavy bodies whatsoever tend toward the centre of the earth ? But Sir Isaac Newton has found, that those bulky and weighty bodies, thi; earth and the planets, tend toward the centre of the sun, whereby the authority of near threc thousand years or more is not only called in question, but actually refuted and renounced. . Again: Was ever any thing more universally agrecd among the nation of the poets and critics, than that Homer and Virgil are inimitable writers of heroic poems ? and whoever presumed to attack their writings, or their reputation, was either condemned for his malice or derided for his folly. These ancient authors have becn supposed to derive peculiar advantages to aggrandize their verses from the heathen theology, and that variety of appearances in which they could represent their gods, and mingle them with the aBfairs of men. Yet within these few years Sir Richard Blackmore (whose prefaces are universally estecmed superior in their kind to any of his poems) has ventured to pronounce some noble truths in that excellent preface to his poem called Alfred, and has bravely demonstrated there, beyond all possible exception, that both Virgil arid Homer are often guilty of very gross blunders, indecencies, and shameful improprieties; and that they were so far from deriving any advantage from the rabble of heathen gods, that their theology almost unavoidably exposed them to many of those blunders; and that it is not possible upon the foot of gentile superstition to write a perfect epic poem: whereas the sacred religion of the Bible would furnish a poem with much more just and glorious scenes, and a nobler machinery.