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and is not there three? and do not one, two, and three, make six?" "Well then," says the father, "I'll take two, your mother shall have one, and you shall have the other three."
Many appearances may tempt one to suspect, that the understanding, disciplined with logic, is not so competent for the investigation of truth, as if left to its natural operations. "A man of wit," says Bayle, "who applies himself long and closely to logic, seldom fails of becoming a caviller*; and by his sophistical subtleties perplexes and embroils the very theses he hath defended. He chuses to destroy his own work, rather than forbear disputing; and he starts such objections against his own opinions, that his whole art cannot solve them. Such is the fate of those, who apply themselves too much to the subtleties of dialectics t." This is the opinion of Bayle, who probably knew from feeling and experience the truth of what he said; for he was a very great logician, as well as a very great sceptic.
Our memorable Chillingworth is another instance to -prove, that logic, instead of assisting, may possibly obstruct and hurt the understanding. "Chillingworth,” says Lord Clarendon, who knew him well," was a man of great subtlety of understanding, and had spent all his younger time in disputation; of which he arrived to so great a mastery, as not to be inferior to any man in those skirmishes: but he had, with his notable perfection in this exercise, contracted such an irresolution and habit of doubting, that by degrees he grew confident in nothing, and a sceptic at least in the greatest mysteries of faith. All his doubts grew out of himself, when he assisted his scruples with the
*These syllogistici are terrible company to men in general, and fit only for one another. With them you cannot be said to have conversation, but altercation rather for there is something so captious and litigious in their spirit, that they draw every the most trifling thing that can be started, into a dispute, Before such, you must not expect to talk at ease; that ease and indolence, which make a man careless about both ideas and language: uo, you must be wary and correct; you must be always upon the defensive; but must keep a perpetual guard, as you would over your purse, were a pick-pocket in the room.
+ Dict. Chrysippus.
strength of his own reason, and was then too hard for himself *.'
To conclude. What was the meaning of that stricture upon Seneca, Verborum minutiis rerum frangit pondera, which, according to Lord Bacon, may thus be applied to the schoolmen, Quæstionum minutii scientiarum frangunt soliditatem? Why, that by their litigiosa subtilitas, as he calls it, by their logical refinements and distinctions, they had chopped truth so down into mincemeat, as to leave it not only without proportion or form, but almost without substance. S.
It is a proverbial observation, that, in this country, persons, for want of other topics of conversation, are very apt to introduce the weather, and to inform the company, as if it were a discovery they had just made, and with which every one else was unacquainted, that it is a fine or a bad day.
This is commonly impated to our shyness among strangers, and our natural taciturnity, which influences us to take the most obvious object that offers, rather than be at the trouble of seeking for more remote subjects. But is there any thing more interesting to the generality of mankind than the weather? I do not mean to the mariner and the husbandman only, who are so essentially interested in it, or even to the fox-hunter, whose pleasures are so completely interrupted by a frost; but to the idle and the literary. How would all the amusements of the former be deranged, if his ride or his walk was interrupted by the weather, especially in the country! and his only resource left would be to take up a book, and fancy he was trying to read. And how is the man of letters likely to suffer in his health, if he is not allured from his studies by the temptation of a bright sun shining into the room!
As for those gentlemen whose sole happiness depends on out-of-doors diversions, I have heard a remarkable instance of the means a set of sportsmen took to relieve themselves from an embarrassment occasioned by the weather.
* Life by himself, i. 56. svo.
Several young men were assembled at the house of an opulent friend, for the purpose of going out with the hounds. The morning proved unfavourable for the chace. After much anxious inquiry about the probability of a change in the atmosphere, finding there was no hope, and happening to be in the library, each had recourse to a book, and they began with great assiduity to turn over the leaves. This employment, however, began to grow tedious, which was soon expressed by stretching, yawning, and the other usual symptoms of ennui; till one more happy genius than the rest luckily hit on an expedient, and, throwing down his book, started up, and proposed going down into the park and whipping the jackasses. The proposal met with universal approbation, and was immediately put into execution.
From reading old diaries of the weather, and the time of ripening of fruits, one should suppose our climate has experienced some wonderful alterations. In the Kalendarium Hortense, at the end of Evelyn's Sylva, cherries are mentioned as being ripe in May*, and raspberries and currants in June, a circumstance I never remember to have seen, allowing for the eleven days difference occasioned by the alteration of the style. P.
M. DE VOLTAIRE does not think two witnesses sufficient to prove the crime of a delinquent; and he alleges several cases, beside the famous and well-known case of the daughter of Sirven, which seems to justify his opinion. "A cabal," says he, "of the populace of Lyons, declared in 1772, that they saw a company of young people carrying, amidst singing and dancing, the dead body of a young woman, whom they had ravished and assassinated. The depositions of the witnesses to this abominable fact, or pretended fact, were unanimous; and, nevertheless, the judges acknowledged solemnly, in their sentence, that there had been neither singing nor dancing, nor girl violated, nor dead body carried. This may have been, in part, the fault of the judges, who, (as our author insinu
*We have a cherry, it is true, called the MAY DUKE; but is either called so from the time of its ripening in some other climate, or ⚫urs must be much changed.
ates, and even affirms in this work *) are in France often more perfidious and corrupt than the witnesses. The case, indeed, of M. de Pivardiere is most singular, as it is almost incredible, and is nevertheless (according to our author) a public fact. Madame Chauvelin, his second wife, was accused of having had him assassinated in his castle. Two servant maids were witnesses of the murder: his own daughter heard the cries and last words of her father:
My God! have mercy upon me!' One of the maid servants, falling dangerously ill, took the sacrament: and while she was performing this solemn act of religion, declared before God, that her mistress intended to kill her master. Several other witnesses testified, that they had seen linen stained with his blood; others declared that they had heard the report of the gun, by which the assassination commenced. His death was averred: nevertheless, at length it appeared, that there was no gun fired, no blood shed, nobody killed. What remains is still more extraordinary: M. de la Pivardiere returned home; he appears in person before the judges of the province, who were preparing every thing to execute vengeance on his murderer. The judges are resolved not to lose their process; they affirm to his face that he is dead; they brand him with the accusation of imposture for saying that he is alive; they tell him that he deserves exemplary punishment for coining a lie before the tribunal of justice; and maintain, that their procedures are more credible than his testimony. In a word, this criminal process continued eighteen months before the poor gentleman could obtain a declaration of the court that he was alive."
M. de Voltaire relates several other instances of the criminal precipitation, or still more criminal iniquity, of the French tribunals, in condemning to death, in its most cruel forms, innocent, inoffensive, nay, virtuous citizens. The story of Monthaille, who, without any accuser, witness, or any probable or suspicious circumstances, was seized by the superior tribunal of Arras in 1770, and condemned to have his hand cut off, to be broken on the wheel, and afterwards burned alive, for killing his mother, is one of those horrors that astonish and confound. This sentence was executed, and his wife was on the point of being thrown into the flames as his accomplice, when she pleaded her pregnancy, and gave the Chancellor of France,
* Prize of Justice and humanity.
who was informed of this infernal iniquity, time to have the sentence reversed, when her husband had fallen a victim to the bloody tribunal of Arras. "The pen trembles in my hand," cries our author, "while I relate these enormities! We have seen, by the letters of several French lawyers, that not one year passes, in which one tribunal or another does not stain the gibbet or the rack with the blood of unfortunate citizens, whose innocence is afterwards ascertained when it is too late."
LA MARECHAL D'ANCRE.
THIS upstart Minister, by name Concini, and fosterbrother to Mary de Medicis, was so insolent, that he used to call the Gentlemen who were in his train, "My Hundred-a-year Scoundrels." Coucini governed France so wretchedly and so despotically, that Malherbe said after his death, "Now it has pleased Heaven to take Concini away from us, we have no prayer left to make."
Howell, in his Letters, relates this account of the death of the Marshal d'Ancre from an eye-witness: "The young King Louis XIII. being told that the Marshal d'Ancre was the ground of the discontent amongst the people of Paris, commanded M. de Vitry, Captain of the Guards, to arrest him, and in case of resistance to kill him. This business was carried very closely till the next morning, that the said Marquis was coming to the Louvre, with a ruffling train of gallants after him, and passing over the draw-bridge at the Court-gate, Vitry stood there with the King's guard about him, and, as the Marquis entered, he told him that he had a commission from the King to apprehend him, and therefore he demanded his sword. The Marquis hereupon put his hand upon his sword; some thought to yield it up, others to make opposition. In the mean time, Vitry discharged a pistol at him, and so dispatched him. The King being, above in his gallery, asked what noise that was below. One smilingly answered, Nothing, Sir, but that the Marshal d'Ancre is slain. Who slew him? The Captain of your Guards. Why? Because he would have drawn his sword at your Majesty's royal commission. The King then replied, Vitry has done well; and I will maintain the act. Presently the Queen-mother had all her guards taken from her, except six men and sixteen women, and so she was banished Paris, and com