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[84] denial of the absolute existence of matter, a whimsical paradox to the superficial thinker, he found to mean nothing more than a denial of an inconceivable substratum of sensible phenomena. The affirmation of the merely relative existence of sensible things was to him the affirmation of orderly combinations of sensible phenomena, in which our corporeal pains and pleasures were determined by divine ideas that are the archetypes of physical existence.

The correspondence between Johnson and Berkeley was the most notable in the history of early American thought. It is a great literary loss that not all of Berkeley's letters have been recovered, for in them, as Johnson wrote, one can gather “that Candour and Tenderness which are so conspicuous in both your writings and conversation.” From these disjecta membra of Johnson, however, one can reconstruct the very form of that idealism which rescues us from the absurdity of abstract ideas and the gross notion of matter, takes away all subordinate natural causes, and accounts for all appearances by the immediate will of the Supreme Spirit. From Johnson's correspondence, then, one can gather Berkeley's own notions as to archetypes, ectypes, space, spirits and substance. The fragments throw a flood of light upon subjects of high interest to the metaphysician, but the effect upon the mind of the disciple was more important, for through such veritable Berkeleian handbooks as were Johnson's, the seeds of idealism attained a lodgment in the American mind. Fruition did not occur until the time of Emerson, but for sheer literary skill in the presentment of a system deemed impossible by most men of that day, Johnson's Elements was remarkable. The good bishop, to whom the volume was dedicated, did not live to see it, but, as was remarked by Berkeley's son, this little book contained the wisdom of the ages and showed the author to be very capable of spreading Berkeley's philosophy.

The spreading of that system, however, was checked by untoward circumstances. When a French critic observed that Anglo-Americans of the late eighteenth century were unfit to receive or to develop true idealism, he probably had in mind the commercialism of the day and the threatening political state of affairs between the colonies and the mother country. Indeed, in both places immaterialism found the times out of joint.

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