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ticle. To those who are curious in the history of the human mind, and love to speculate upon its nature and faculties, few characters will be found more valuable for such ends than that of Jerome Cardan. The very eccentricities of the orbit of a star assist the philosopher in determining its true path. Common and every-day minds roll past us without presenting any tangible points which we may seize and hold fast by, till they have undergone sufficient examination. But those which are gigantic and irregularly formed, like that of Cardan, now bounding with inconceivable rapidity, and now heaving and labouring in their progress, present a multitude of favourable opportunities, during which we may make our observations. The literary labours of Cardan, though now obsolete, and very rarely consulted by any but the industrious historian of learning, were, in their time, the foundation of a very high and well deserved reputation. They advanced the interests of literature perhaps more than any other productions of their time; not so much by a wellarranged and valuable collection of useful knowledge, as by their extraordinary singularities. The reader of Cardan is half inclined to agree with himself in believing that a superior being condescended, at times, to animate his form. The brightest ideas, and the most piercing and profound views are constantly flashing forth-but it is lamentable to add, from amidst the most dreary dullness, unacknowledged plagiarisms, and passages of absolute fatuity. The sensations which are felt on the perusal of some of the pieces of Cardan, we can compare to nothing else than an attempt to read a book in "the murky pitch of night," unassisted by any light, except the occasional vivid glare of the lightning, which for an instant illumines the page and then again leaves all in a "darkness which may be felt." But the very absurdity, the daring contradictions, and the almost inspired assertions, as they seemed to be, unconfirmed as they are by any reasoning, but the most incompact and illogical, excited the thinking faculties of the learned men of his age. They answered him, and abused and calumniated him he replied; and more and more roused the dormant, or, at most, just waking faculties of the time. Few men ever possessed a higher reputation than Cardan did, and yet few have been so eminently miserable.
Many causes probably conspired to produce a being of so inconstant and eccentric a description. In investigating its nature, a great distinction must be made between the character which bears a singular appearance, because its external habits are singular, and that which is the offspring of the mind, shewing itself in its fruits, singularity of personal
actions. In the former case, nothing can be concluded of the mind-odd habits may be the result of cunning weakness, or unmeaning caprice-in the latter, the peculiarities which distinguish the life of a great man, are so many symptoms or pulses, by which you may judge of the entire cast of his mind.-In Cardan all the absurdities and contradictions of his daily life, were but the exhibition of the emotions of his mind; and if these different indications of the disorder under which he laboured, were collected and classed, there would be no doubt, but that the enquirer would come to a right conclusion concerning its nature. The eccentricities of the mind of Cardan, we think may be in a great measure, very satisfactorily accounted for, from the impatient kind of sensibility which seems to have "o'er informed his tenement of clay." He endured a constant demand for excitement-there was an irritability about him, which preyed upon himself. A state of indifference was impossible to him; when due excitation ceased to affect him, à morbid hunger and thirst of the nerves began their ceaseless gnawing, which drove him into every description of extravagancy. Hence his excessive love of gaming-hence the biting and pinching of his flesh,-his desire to bring on the gout,-his singular gait, now slow, now rapid. To the gratification of a morbid desire of excitement may be attributed, the habit in which he says he always indulged, of saying precisely the thing, which he knew would be most disagreeable to the company, in which he happened to be; he would delight to escape from indifference in beholding the anger and passion excited even against himself. He says, in a passage we have quoted, that he frequently felt what he calls a heroic passion, viz. an ardent desire to put an end to himself. Cardan was a superstitious being,-he was almost convinced (for we think he had his doubts) that he was attended with a familiar spirit, and he was one whose mind delighted to ramble through all the regions of possibility; add to this, that he always felt the nervous irritability we have mentioned, at continuing to be in any one given state; and we cannot wonder that he should feel this anxious longing after immortality,"-this impatience of waiting till his curiosity should be legitimately satisfied. He calls it a heroic passion, for he deemed that such a death would only be a sacrifice at the shrine of philosophy. Cardan was far from being austere in his morality; he had no very definite idea of the distinction between good and evil, he mentions two or three of his dishonest and disgraceful actions with perfect indifference; and when he speaks of the execution of his son, he seems to think the crime for which he suffered very justifiable-the poisoning of his wife.
This perhaps arose from the recklessness into which he slided, through the unfortunate prediction of the termination of his life, at his fortieth year, and which caused a good deal of the inconstancy and variability of his character. Literary honesty formed no part of his creed-the ideas of others he seems to have conceived were only made for himself to make use of. He borrows whole systems and passages without the slightest acknowledgement; this, in a great measure arose from his poverty, he lived upon the fruits of his mind, and he frequently found it a more expeditious mode of supplying his wants, to rob another, than to produce his own. When writing a treatise on any given subject, in order to procure money by the sale of a work of a certain size, he weaved into them any composition which might be lying by him, though of an entirely different nature. This fact, which he has himself recorded, will account for the many singular digressions which occur in his various productions, totally unconnected with the subject, and which, without this key, it is impossible to comprehend or get over. We have already observed, that it has been asserted in order to account for the eccentricities of this extraordinary man, that his intellects were deranged; but they were only deranged to the extent we have pointed out. Undoubtedly his mind was frequently in that morbid state when a single idea, exaggerated into an unnatural importance, weighed him down, and actually haunted him, until he was reduced to escape from the dreary impression, by the commission of all sorts of extravagancy. But that he ever suffered that complete derangement of intellect amounting to madness, we cannot allow. It is singular that he should tell us, that his most constant prayer was the possession of a sound mind in a sound body, and that he is grateful for its having always been granted to him. If Cardan was mad Rousseau was. There is indeed a remarkable similarity between the characters of these two individuals. They have both written their Confessions; they both hated the world, and were not much loved themselves; they both imagined the whole of mankind were their particular enemies, and had universally conspired to injure them; neither of them had very nice notions of honour or morality, and both were selfish. There was some difference in the constitution of their intellectual powers, though the distinct character of their works and pursuits may be as much attributed to the different ages in which they lived as well as any thing else. They were both passionately fond of music,-both were by inveterate habit superstitious, and yet both had fits of scepticism, and occasional gleams of infidelity.-Both in short, were the prey of morbid sensibility and a passion for excitation, It has been said, that the valet de chambre of Sylla, would
have laughed to hear all the grave speculations which have been made on the cause, which induced his master to abdicate his dictatorship. Had we the benefit of consulting with some intimate friend of Cardan as to the cause of his eccentricity, we might perhaps, have been taught not to look so deep for it. There is a circumstance mentioned in the Ivth chapter, which may, perhaps, account for the waywardness of his mind from a physical cause, which however, is not inconsistent with the moral one we have assigned; but on the contrary, of which the latter may be considered as the consequence. In his youth it appears, that he fell from a ladder, raised against a house, that was repairing, having in his hand a hammer, which coming in contact with his head, caused a severe contusion, and injured the bones of the skull, from which he was not recovered, when sitting one day in the porch of his father's house, a stone from some neighbouring building descended upon the vertex of his skull, and caused an additional wound. Perhaps it may not be absurd to suppose, that his brain then received an injury, from which it never recovered; for we ourselves have known cases, where an external injury of the bones of the head, without producing any fatal result, has notwithstanding considerably changed the disposition of the patient, and produced a nervous irritability and impatience of temper, not unlike the passion for excitement, and the rapid excitability, of the subject of this article.
Naudæus, who is one of those who believes Cardan to have been actually mad, thus sums up his peculiarities in his Judicium de Cardano, prefixed to the "Life:" "Insanienti autem proximum vixisse quis de isto homine dubitare possit, qui somniis, ostentis, auguriisque vanissimis et maxime ridiculis fidem adhiberet, qui totus ex delirantium vetularum observationibus penderet; qui quoties vellet, a sensibus per extasim peregrinaretur; qui spectra et larvas videret; qui paredrum aliquem et sibi faventem genium adesse vel stulte crederet, vel maligne mentiretur; qui uxorem sine dote; qui filiorum educationem neglexit; qui juniorem ex illis auricula avulsâ, puerum vero nomine Gulielmum, verberibus, licet immerentem sæpius multavit; qui se jactatum a patre pro spurio fuisse et abortivo medicamento priusquam nasceretur tentatum, refert; qui pannosus aliquando, mox ornatus in publicum prodiret; qui inter amicorum colloquia lubentius nihil diceret, quam quod illis ingratum fore cognoverat; qui Lunam non secus in cœlo de die quam noctu videret; qui Romæ diverso ab aliis cultu spectandus incederet: qui Bononiæ suffultum tribus tantum rotis currum aliquoties usurparet, qui juvenis rixas miscebat,
adultus meretrices sectabatur, vir factus a ludis et alea non temperabat, senex quoque carcerem vitare non potuit; qui denique probra vitæ suæ turpitudinesque vel minimas e privatæ domus secreto, ubi non secus ac aliorum hominum sordes et flagitia delitescere rectius potuissent, non evulgavit modo, sed nauseanti ferme per tot ineptias et narrationes inconditas lectori obtrusit: Nam si facere istæc, sapientis est, nescio sane cur Orestes, Coræbus, Amphistides, non ipsi quoque sapientes inter numerari possit.'
Archbishop Parker, in his treatise De Deo, has dedicated a section of his disputation on atheistical philosophers to the consideration of this character. As the book is of uncommon occurrence, and one of those sterling works which are suffered to moulder on the shelves of public libraries, we will translate part of the interesting discussion.
The archbishop after collecting and describing very happily some of his most remarkable peculiarities and contradictions, says, "that another cause which acted together with the natural disposition of Cardan to produce that odd mixture of folly and wisdom in him, was his habit of perpetual thinking, by which the bile was absorbed and burnt up. He himself tells us that he was unequal and variable in every thing, except in this constant addiction to thought-though not on the same subject, yet so intent was it, that he suffered neither eating, pleasure, or pain, to interrupt the course of it, and whether riding, eating, in bed, watching, or talking, he was always meditating upon something. And while making a voyage down the river Loire, having nothing else to employ himself upon, he wrote his long commentaries on Ptolemy. We do not, however, require Cardan's own testimony to prove his excessive application, when there are so many monuments of his industry and erudition remaining to us; to such an extent, indeed, that perhaps no man that ever lived is to be compared with him for variety of learning. In the first place he was well acquainted with the writings of all the ancients -nor did he just skim over the heads and contents of books, as some do, who ought not to be called learned men, but skilful bookmongers, or as he himself says, who do not write but copy. Every author that Cardan read, (and he read nearly all) he became intimately acquainted with, so that if any one, disputing with him, quoted the authority of the ancients, and made any the least slip or mistake, he could instantly set them right. In the same manner that he devoured the writings of others, so he produced immense works of his own; he left nothing untried in any one science, and in most discovered something new, so that Andreas Alciatus gave him the name of the man of inventions,' whom he repaid by the