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plausible solution of the difficulty, in ascribing the arrest to the jealousy of the Russian American Company, anxious to preserve a monopoly of the lucrative fur trade, and prevent the country from being explored, and the prosecution of their trade scrutinized, by an intelligent foreigner. The headquarters of this company were at Irkutsk, and they probably contrived to detain Ledyard at Yakutsk, until they could send to Petersburg and obtain an order for his expulsion from the empire. Our knowledge of the intrigues of the Hudson's Bay Company, to prevent even their own government from exploring the northeastern regions of America, may serve to show that such a conjecture is not without foundation in analogy.
Ledyard's adventures excited the warmest sympathy among his friends in London. Sir Joseph Banks expressed peculiar interest in his fortune, and after questioning him concerning his Siberian travels, and ascertaining that he had no settled plan in view, proposed to him to engage in the service of the Association for discovering the inland countries of Africa. Ledyard went directly to Mr Beaufoy, secretary of the Association, with a letter of introduction from Sir Joseph Banks. The interview is best described in the language of Mr Beaufoy himself.
"Before I had learned from the note the name and business of my visitor, I was struck with the manliness of his person, the breadth of his chest, the openness of his countenance, and the inquietude of his eye. I spread the map of Africa before him, and tracing a line from Cairo to Sennar, and from thence westward in the latitude and supposed direction of the Niger, I told him, that was the route, by which I was anxious that Africa might, if possible, be explored. He said, he should think himself singularly fortunate to be trusted with the adventure. I asked him when he would set out. To-morrow morning,' was his answer.
It is easy to conceive how cheerfully the Association embraced an occasion for employing a person of such extraordinary decision of character, and such enthusiastic devotion in the cause of foreign discovery. His instructions were few and simple. He was to repair directly to Egypt, and travel thence across the continent in such particular course as his inquiries on the spot might show to be expedient, everything being left to his discretion. Accordingly, he left London on the 30th of June, 1788, and proceeded through France to Marseilles, where he took ship for Egypt, and thus arrived in Cairo in
August. He passed three months in Cairo, engaged in collecting information, and preparing to join a caravan bound to the interior in the character of a merchant. In November he wrote to the secretary of the Association, stating that all things were at length ready for his departure, and that his next communication might be expected from Sennaar. The day was actually fixed for the caravan to leave Cairo. He wrote in apparent health and in good spirits; and the disappointment of the Association was extreme, when the next letters from Egypt brought the melancholy intelligence of his sudden death. His pursuits at Cairo rendered it necessary for him to be much exposed to the deleterious influence of the climate at the most unfavorable season of the year; and the consequence was an attack of a bilious complaint, which closed his life of vicissitude and toil, at the moment when his prospects were the most flattering. The precise day of his death is not known; but it is supposed to have happened in November, 1788, in the thirty-eighth year of his age.
Mr Beaufoy's brief but discriminating description of Ledyard communicates a faithful idea of his person and character; and we cannot better close our account than by transcribing it.
"To those who have never seen Mr Ledyard, it may not, perhaps, be uninteresting to know, that his person, though scarcely exceeding the middle size, was remarkably expressive of activity and strength; and that his manners, though unpolished, were neither uncivil nor unpleasing. Little attentive to difference of rank, he seemed to consider all men as his equals, and as such he respected them. His genius, though uncultivated and irregular, was original and comprehensive. Ardent in his wishes, yet calm in his deliberations; daring in his purposes, but guarded in his measures; impatient of control, yet capable of strong endurance; adventurous beyond the conception of ordinary men, yet wary and considerate, and attentive to all precautions, he appeared to be formed by Nature for achievements of hardihood and peril."'
ART. VI.-Histoire de la Vie et des Ouvrages de Molière, par J. TASCHEREAU. Paris. 1825.
THE French surpass every other nation, indeed all the other nations of Europe put together, in the amount and excellence of their memoirs. Whence comes this manifest superiority? The important Collection relating to the History of France, commencing as early as the thirteenth century, forms a basis of civil history, more authentic, circumstantial, and satisfactory to an intelligent inquirer, than is to be found among any other people. And the multitude of biographies, personal anecdotes, and similar scattered notices, which have appeared in France during the two last centuries, throw a flood of light on the social habits and general civilization of the period in which they were written. The Italian histories (and every considerable city in Italy, says Tiraboschi, had its historian as early as the thirteenth century), are fruitful only in wars, massacres, treasonable conspiracies, or diplomatic intrigues, matters that affect the tranquillity of the state. The rich body of Spanish chronicles, which maintain an unbroken succession from the reign of Alphonso the Wise, to that of Philip the Second, are scarcely more personal or interesting in their details, unless it be in reference to the sovereign and his immedate court. Even the English, in their memoirs and auto-biographies of the last century, are too exclusively confined to topics of public notoriety, as the only subject worthy of record, or which can excite a general interest in their readers. Not so with the French. The most frivolous details assume in their eyes an importance, when they can be made illustrative of an eminent character. And even when they concern one of less note, they become sufficiently interesting, as just pictures of life and manners. Hence, instead of exhibiting their hero only as he appears on the great theatre, they carry us along with him into retirement, or into those social circles, where, stripped of his masquerade dress, he can indulge in all the natural gayety of his heart,-in those frivolities and follies, which display the real character much better than all his premeditated wisdom; those little nothings, which make up so much of the sum of French memoirs, but which, however amusing, are apt to be discarded by their more serious English neighbors, as something derogatory to their hero. Where shall we find a more
lively portraiture of that interesting period, when feudal barbarism began to fade away before the civilized institutions of modern times, than in Philip de Comines' sketches of the courts of France and Burgundy, in the latter half of the fifteenth century? Where a more nice developement of the fashionable intrigues, the corrupt Machiavelian politics which animated the little coteries, male and female, of Paris, under the regency of Anne of Austria, than in the Memoirs of De Retz? To say nothing of the vast amount of similar contributions in France, during the last century, which in the shape of letters and anecdotes, as well as memoirs, have made us as intimately acquainted with the internal movements of society in Paris, under all its aspects, literary, fashionable, and political, as if they had passed in review before our own eyes.
The French have been remarked for their excellence in narrative, ever since the times of the fabliaux and the old Norman romances. Somewhat of their success in this way may be imputed to the structure of their language; whose general currency, and whose peculiar fitness for prose composition, have been noticed from a very early period. Brunetto Latini, the master of Dante, wrote his Tesoro in French, in preference to his own tongue, as far back as the middle of the thirteenth century, on the ground, that its speech was the most universal and the most delectable of all the dialects of Europe.' And Dante asserts in his treatise on Vulgar Eloquence,' that the superiority of the French consists in its adaptation, by means of its facility and agreeableness, to narratives in prose. Much of the wild, artless grace, the naïveté, which characterized it in its infancy, has been gradually polished away by fastidious critics, and can scarcely be said to have survived Marot and Montaigne. But the language has gained considerably in perspicuity, precision, and simplicity of construction; to which the jealous labors of the French Academy must be admitted to have contributed essentially. This simplicity of construction, refusing those complicated inversions so usual in the other languages of the continent, and its total want of prosody, though fatal to poetical purposes, have greatly facilitated its acquisition to foreigners, and have made it a most suitable vehicle for conversation. Since the time of Louis the Fourteenth, accordingly, it has become the language of the courts, and the popular medium of communication, in most of the countries of Europe. Since that period, too, it has
VOL. XXVII.-NO. 61.
acquired a number of elegant phrases, and familiar turns of expression, which have admirably fitted it for light, popular narrative, like that which enters into memoirs, letter-writing, and other similar kinds of composition.
The character and situation of the writers themselves may account still better for the success of the French in this department. Many of them, as Joinville, Sully, Comines, De Thou, Rochefoucault, Torcy, have been men of rank and education, the counsellors or the friends of princes, acquiring from experience a shrewd perception of the character and of the forms of society. Most of them have been familiarized in those polite circles, which, in Paris more than any other capital, seem to combine the love of dissipation and fashion, with a high relish for intellectual pursuits. The state of society in France, or, what is the same thing, in Paris, is admirably suited to the purposes of the memoir-writer. The cheerful, gregarious temper of the inhabitants, which mingles all ranks in the common pursuit of pleasure; the external polish which scarcely deserts them in the commission of the grossest violence; the influence of the females, during the last two centuries, far superior to that of the sex among any other people, and exercised alike on matters of. taste, politics, and letters; the gallantry and licentious intrigues so usual in the higher classes of this gay metropolis, and which fill even the life of a man of letters, so stagnant in every other country, with stirring and romantic adventure; all these, we say, make up a rich and varied panorama, that can hardly fail of interest under the hand of the most common artist.
Lastly, the vanity of the French may be considered as another cause of their success in this kind of writing; a vanity which leads them to disclose a thousand amusing particulars, which the reserve of an Englishman, and perhaps his pride, would discard as altogether unsuitable to the public ear. This vanity, it must be confessed, however, has occasionally seduced their writers, under the garb of confessions and secret memoirs, to make such a disgusting exposure of human infirmity, as few men would be willing to admit, even to themselves.
The best memoirs, of late produced in France, seem to have assumed somewhat of a novel shape. While they are written with the usual freedom and vivacity, they are fortified by a body of references and illustrations, that attest an unwonted degree of elaboration and research. Such are those of Rous