08 Mar

Hutcheson’s Labours Lost?

Th’ internal Senses painted here we see:
They’re born in others, but they live in thee.
O were our Author with thy Converse blest,
Could he behold the Virtues, of thy Breast;
His needless Labours with Contempt he’d view;
And bid the World not read — but copy you!

Constantina Grierson “To the Honourable Mrs. Percival, 
with Hutcheson’s Treatise on Beauty and Order.” Eighteenth Century Poetry Archive

For International Women’s Day, one Irish woman praising another.

Constantina Grierson was a member of Swift’s Triumfeminate, and this short poem highlights her interest in philosophy. This poem is addressed to Mrs Percival, a friend of Grierson’s and sister-in-law to Lord Percival, a friend of George Berkeley (see Andrew Carpenter (1998) Verse in English from Eighteenth-century Ireland Cork University Press, p. 115, note 1.) Grierson wrote another poem also available on Eighteenth Century Archive on the occasion of Mrs Percival withdrawing from the Bermuda expedition, proposed and headed by Berkeley.

Grierson refers to the internal senses, aesthetic and moral, visible in her friend. These are innate in humans according to Hutcheson, but are not merely “born” in Mrs P, but “live”, having been cultivated. If only Hutcheson could meet Mrs P and realise her virtues, Grierson suggests, he could give up his philosophising and advise his readers to learn virtue by copying this exemplar.

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