Wednesday January 9th 2013
I was going to make an attempt to define what it was
Walking Stewart might have meant by "The Apocalypse of Nature."
I was going to think about it in terms of awareness of self, and
how an awareness of self might be also defined as the dawn of reason.
I was going to follow Walking Stewart's chain of idea into matter and
motion, or what he called "moral motion" and then I was going to come
away feeling wonderfully refreshed and full of myself. The problem
is that while trying hard to get behind Stewart's 2nd tenet,
"Mankind are the instruments of nature in its moral motion, formed to
procure well-being or happiness to all animated matter," my hand jerked
in an involuntary and rather worrying manner, and by some miracle of
"the great integer" I found myself at the page I thought that I had lost
to the chaos of my most irrational filing system. As Stewart puts
it, "when the tether of memory breaks, the mind receives a total
renovation of its identity." He wasn't actually talking about filing
systems, rather he was discussing the distinction he draws between
bodily functions, bowel movements, food consumption and so forth, and
memory, which "marks it's own form of subsidence." The body, on
the other hand, and according to Stewart's own estimate, "replaces
itself every eighteen days."
The page which accident returned me to, is
from the Monthly Review (a US publication) 1791. It's a review of
Stewart's two books. Our anonymous correspondent appears to take great joy
in offering an outline of Stewart's summation of national character.
And I guess it interests me mostly because where I am still gainfully
employed at the weekends, we are subject to a sensitivity training that
frowns upon these sorts of dismissive remarks, even if sometimes they are
unavoidable. Stewart's observations include the suggestion that the
Poles were advancing in intellect, and that Lapland is the only asylum of
liberty. Otherwise, the Irish are monsters, the Swiss are little
better than the sheep they shear, the Danes and the Swedes are uncultivated.
The English, though possessed of a high preeminence of thought were violent,
hypocritical and corrupt. It goes on to include the terrible things
Stewart had to say of the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Italians, the
Russians, the Germans, the French, the United Provinces (or the Dutch, which
I have to add here, because some modern readers of Stewart seem to think
that in the 1790's United Provinces was Canada.) In 1791 Stewart had
yet to reduce his visit to the United states into an opinion, so our
American correspondent in the Monthly Review had no opportunity to add, or
perhaps chose not to add, Stewart's opinion of The Americans to the list of
infamy. Also interesting is that I didn't know Walking Stewart had
been to Poland, let alone Lapland. And I am often suspicious of his claims.
However a spy sent by His Majesty George the third's government did
report back to his handler, that sometime in 1792, Stewart had "shipped to
Norway." Spies are of course notoriously unreliable sources, suffering as
they do from "the harpy hand of avarice."