Most of the newspapers have given some account of the
meeting of the Association of Savans at Edinburgh last week ; but, with one ex- ception, they have been excessively dry and prosy. The Courier, how- ever, has furnished the following article on the subject ; which, ;hough it does not enter into the minutiae of the several discussions and re- ports, gives a masterly and interesting restnne of the proceedings of the wise men and the occurrences of the week. The strictures of the writer appear to be as just as they are well-expressed; and it is to be hoped that they will meet with the attention they deserve. The de- scriptive touches also are lively and graphic.
"The weather was dreadfully unpropitious on Monday, Tuesday, and Thurs- day. Wednesday was fair, but gloomy ; and it was not till Friday and Saturday that Edinburgh and its environs were seen under the influence of a bright sun- shine. The report wan general that M. Arago, the Secretary of the French institute, is writing a hook on climate ; and apprehensions were entertained of seeing Scotland recorded as the land, not of fog and biting winds, but of deluges and storms, as this illustrious philosopher had seen her in no other aspect. How- ever, the last two days have redeemed her character. "The order of proceeding was as follows. In the morning at ten, the Com- mittees of the Sections met in the College, and arranged the business of the day. The members met in the College Library between ten and eleven ; and at the latter hour proceeded to the separate apartments allotted to the different Sections, in which papers were read and discussions maintained till three or four o'clock. Dinner was served at two ; ordinaries at five p.m. About half-past seven, the members repaired to the Assembly Rooms: these were gaily lighted up, and were filled with an ample audiences, of whom ladies formed a large proportion. The Savans appeared on a tailed platform at the end of the room, and the Chair- man of each Section reported its proceeding during the day. After this routine was accomplished, a popular lecture was delivered by a member of the Associ- ation ; and the proceedings terminated about eleven o'clock at night. "About 1000 of the inhabitants of Edinburgh are said to have become mem- bers of the Association ; and about 300 members from abroad and from different parts of the country attended the meeting; so that it mustered fully 1300. Great excitement was caused by the .presence of so ninny strangers, some of them men of hies reputation. The variety of topics discussed, the going to and fro, the breakfasts, dinners, and evening assemblies, gave a great impulse to the public mind ; and, notwithstanding the North-east wind, the outpourings of the clouds, and some squeezing and crowding, there WAS gayety, good-hum. ur, enjoyment, and essential satisfaction in all ranks during the week, and the termination was happy.
Looking at the proceedings more gravely, there is room fur some remarks. " The Secretary, in the opening speech, announced that the object ut the Asso- ciation was not, like that of the goldbeater, merely to diffuse knowledge over a wider Surfar:C; but,'like that of the miner, to dig out new ore front the mines. Ne vet tireless, almost the whole proceedings consisted of communications of known truths, and the new ore actually added to the circulating mass weighed but little in the scales. This observation is not made with the view of depreciating the value of the communications ; but to express a humble opinion that the bounda- ries of science are enlarged chiefly by the master.spirits among mankind, winolabour from the internal inspirations of a powerful genius, and need neither the stimulus of an association to excite them to industry, nor its shouts of applause to reward them for their success. An association is useful chiefly in stimulating the industry of less gifted own, and in spreading the knowledge of scientific dig. coveries. In short, the object which it successfully accomplishes is that of the goldbeater ; and the Secretary, as it appears to us, erred in stating its pretensions higher than its achievements were likely to warrant. "In Edinburgh, the physical accommodation was admirable. The conveni- ence afforded by the apartments of tire Royal Institution on the Mound fur giv.. ing out ticket'', by the Hall of the College Library for assembling, and by the class-rooms around it for the business of the Sections, by the dinner-halls in the Hopetoun Rooms, and the Assembly Rooms in George Street for the even . ing meetings, was not surpassed, indeed scarcely equalled, at Oxford or Cam.. brulge. But the administration was defective. The reports of the Sections ought to have been collected every evening, and printed, along with a note of the business of the Section, for next day, and a copy despatcher! by the is office to every member of the Association ; which would have reached him at eight o'clock in the morning, and put hint itt possesion, in a useful form, of accurate- information concerning the whole proceedings of the Association. In place of this, the Chairman of each Section read, to an audience of 800 or 1000 people of both sexes, in the Assembly Rooms, in the evenings, a di y, dull, and meagre report of its labours during the day ; which reports were uninteresting in them- selves, and were read in such a low tone as to be quite inaudible to three fourths. of the company. The reading of them lasted an hour and a half or two hours, and were complete specimens of solemn trifling. Talking and general noise often drowned the voice of the readers altogether. Half a dozen of experienced clerks would have been of far more use in keeping the members informed of the proceedings than twenty philosophers. Monday and Saturday were both lost; Monday, in preparations of which no outward result was ever known ; Satur- day, in returning thanks and making complimentary speeches, which ought to have been all done in committee, and merely reported en masse to the general meeting for their approbation.
" There was a good deal of private hospitality shown to the strangers ; but the Physicians, who gave a breakfast, alone ventured on any public entertainment.
" There was too much of over- praising ; an error which it is nearly impossible to avoid. Vanity is so strong a feeling even in philosophers, that they admi- nister to each other and accept doses of incense, sometimes bordering on the ridiculous.
" The last meeting was honoured by the presence of Lord Brougham, who was rapturously. received. His Lordship seconded the vote of thanks to M. Arago and the foreigners who had honoured the Association with their presence,. in a short but beautifully-conceived and finely-spoken speech,siniple and dignified. Ile was enthusiastically.' cheered ; and in a few words explained the real value and utility of the Association. It was a combination to diffuse knowledge, to com- municate instruction, and to excite good-will among individuals, and, through them, anion; nations. It was calculated to carry home the conviction that the real interests of society could best be promoted by cooperation, and to lead men to unite in promoting each other's enjoyments, instead of destroying each other's prosperity Icy war. On his Lordship's issuing into the crowded street, and being recoflized, there was a universal shout and the greatest demonstration of popular favour. " Professor Sedgwiek is a most intellectual speaker ; enlivening his scientific statements with the most eloquent language and ready wit. The celebrated Professor Buckland delivered au interesting lecture on fossil remains. He is an agreeable and unaffected speaker, with a plain and unostentatious appearance. lie was most amusing, and the audience was delighted and instructed. It is gratifying to find that all these distinguished strangers were delighted with Edin- burgh, with its philosophers, and the kind and hospitable reception they met.
The Chairman announced that the next meeting would be held in Dublin in August 1835.
"On the whole, this meeting will be recollected with a pleasing interest in Edinburgh, but without the conviction of its having done much to extend the
boundaries of science, or even to raise the standard of general thinking or study. It has rendered science fashionable for a week : it must have dispelled some prejudices, and prepared the way for future good. The admission of the ladies to the evening meetings, was a wise and successful measure ; but sonic of the lecturers who addressed them underrated their intellectual capacities. They dilute their philosophy with an infusion of feeble jokes, to render it palatable
to their fair auditors. This was a mistake. The brightest wit and the liveliest , fancy are not more interesting than sound philosophy rendered perspicuous by a master-spirit; and when a philosopher attempts wit, with which nature has not gifted him, in order to be facetious for a purpose, he only becomes puerile- and ridiculous.
" No event in the recent history of Edinburgh has produced so much excite- ment among the middle classes as this meeting. The King's visit in 1822 caused more stir, and drew greater numbers to the town for one or two days; but its in-
fluence was not felt to nearly the same extent among the middle classes. Many families brad one or two strangers living with them : others met them in the
breakfast and dinner par ties given. lu all parties and companies, nothing else was talked of but the ripers read or discussions which occutred in the Sections and evening meetings.'