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vice and folly, was not only blameless but virtuous: yet his
The author, in his portrait of himself, speaking of his dis-
Since there are few persons whom he loves truly, and since he makes but small show of real affection, those who know him superficially deem him little sensible of friendship: no one, however, takes a more lively interest in the welfare and misfortunes of his friends on their account he loses his sleep and his repose, and for them he is ready to make any sacrifice.
His heart, by nature sensible, loves to expand itself towards all the softer feelings: hence he is at the same time very gay and much inclined to melancholy: he abandons himself to the latter sentiment with a kind of delight; and this disposition of his heart to afflict itself qualifies him to write on subjects which are sad and pathetic.
With such a disposition, it is no matter of wonder that, in his youth, he should have been susceptible of the most lively, the most tender, and the most sweet of all the passions: for a long time, indeed, avocations and solitude made him ignorant of it: the sentiment slept in the recesses of his heart: but it was terrible when it awoke. Love was the cause only of misery to him, and of chagrins which have given him a distaste of society, of life, and even of study. Having consumed his early years in meditation and labour, he has perceived, like the sage, the nothingness of human knowlege; he has felt how inadequate the pursuit of it is to occupy the heart; and he has exclaimed with Tasso's Amyntas, "I have LOST all the time that I have passed without LOVING!" As, however, he was not speedily susceptible of the alarms of love, he was slow in believing that another felt that passion for him: too long, resistance subdued his perseverance; not because his self-love was wounded, but because, in the simplicity and openness of his heart, he suspected not that a sustained resistance was only an apparent one. His heart requires to be filled, not tormented: he stands in need of soft emotions;-violent shocks impair and destroy him.'
This paper is followed by an entertaining dialogue between Poetry and Philosophy; intended to have been read at a public sitting of the French Academy, after the recital of a poetical performance by Marmontel. In this dialogue, the author introduces a fine compliment to the great King of Prussia :
Why should Poetry and Philosophy accord so ill? The first
sophers, or were by nature formed to be such. The best essay on poetry was written by the greatest philosopher of antiquity; the verses of the Virgil of our days are replete with a philosophy as sound as it is agreeable;-finally, I have seen a king, who, although he has gained a dozen battles, is not the less a philosopher and a man of letters, sitting with Athalie and the Commentaries of Cesar on the same table, and doubting of which of these two performances HE would prefer to have been the author.'
The next piece in this collection is the soliloquy of Beverly, from Moore's well-known tragedy of the Gamester. The French author's intent was to render this scene less terrible, and more touching, than it is according to its representation on the English stage.
In the criticism on Rousseau's Emile, we meet with the following just observation :
• It is said, and perhaps with reason, that no man ever made the greatest possible use of his genius: but it may be said perhaps with more truth, that no writer displays to his readers his real genius. Some make a parade of the thoughts of others; some keep their minds in constraint and captivity. Those have formed no decided opinion; and these fear to declare them.
Rousseau is perhaps the only one who forms a distinct class: the fear of shocking received opinions, of alienating by paradoxes, of passing for a cynic, of creating enemics and trouble, stop not him. With the public he has been regardless of all ranks and distinctions; and this freedom, which in him is happily conjoined with great talents, gives to him a prodigious advantage. Diogenes was perfectly at his ease, like Rousseau; and to this circumstance it is owing that he said more things worthy of being remembered than any phi losopher of antiquity, although he cannot be esteemed the greatest of philosophers. Yet it is true that, if all the world were, like Rousseau, to act the part of Diogenes, we should be obliged to peep into many tubs before we met a Diogenes like him.'
In a letter from D'ALEMBERT to Condorcet, on the death of Madame Geoffrin, an interesting anecdote concerning Fontenelle is related:
AS SHE lived only to do good, she wished all the world to resemble her: she was careful, however, lest her benevolence should im
portune that of others. "When I relate (said she) the situation of an unfortunate person, for whom I wish to obtain relief, I do not break open the door of pity; I only place myself near to it, and wait till it is willingly opened to me." Her illustrious friend, Fontenelle, was the only one towards whom she behaved differently. This philosopher, so celebrated for his talents, and in such great request for his amiable and entertaining qualities; without vices, and almost without faults, since he was without warmth and without passion; had the virtues only of a cold heart, virtues which were soft and of little activity, and which, to be called into exertion, needed some degree of provocation: but a small degree of provocation was
all that they needed. Madame Geoffrin once went to the house of
A letter from the King of Prussia to D'ALEMBERT, also on the death of this worthy Madame Geoffrin, contains the observations of true philosophy; such as experience, as well as books, must conduce to form. We shall extract it:
"Potsdam, July 9, 1776.
"I condole with you or the loss of a person to whom you were so much attached. The wounds of the heart are most sensibly felt; and, in spite of the fine maxims of philosophy, time alone can cure them. Man is more the creature of feeling than of reason. I have experienced, but too much for my own happiness, what it is that we suffer on account of such losses. The best remedy is to tear yourself violently from a mournful idea, which takes too deep a root in the soul. Seek some mathematical pursuit which will demand much attention, and will abstract you from those dismal ideas which incessantly recur. If I knew any better remedies, I would give them to you. Cicero, in attempting to obtain relief from reflection on the Íoss of his dear Tullia, forced himself to compose, and wrote several tracts, of which some have come down to us. Our reason is too weak to overcome the grief of a mortal wound; we must give something to nature, and say to ourselves that, "at our time of life we should take consolation, since we must shortly join the objects of our regret." I receive with pleasure the hope which you give me of your company during some months of the approaching year. I will then endeavour, to the utmost of my power, to efface from your mind those melancholy ideas to which a cruel event has given birth. We will philosophize together, on the nothingness of life, on the folly of men, and on the vanity of stoicism.
"These are inexhaustible subjects, and will furnish matter for many volumes. In the mean time, I beseech you, endeavour to prevent an excess of affliction from injuring your health; for I am too much interested in your well-being, to suffer the less of it with indifference! "FREDERIC."
This letter is followed by three others from the King of Prussia, which contain the most just observations; and they are succeeded by a letter from the Empress of Russia, on the occasion of D'ALEMBERT's refusal to undertake the education of her son.
In a letter from Diderot to D'ALEMBERT, the writer represents the sale of his library in a manner very different from that of Professor Robison :
The enemies of philosophy are doomed to feel chagrin on cha grin the year is unlucky for them. Here is an event which will not give them more joy than your work. By means of Grimm, I had made proposals to the Empress of Russia to buy my library. Do you know what she has done? She takes it; she orders me to be paid what I asked for it; she then leaves it to me, and gives me an additional pension of an hundred pistoles! With what attention, with what delicacy, with what grace, are all her acts of gene rosity performed!'
A subsequent letter contains D'ALEMPERT's refusal of the presidentship of the Berlin Academy, and a pension. There is no cause for wonder with respect to this refusal, if we examine his mode of life and his particular opinions. If he had accepted the King of Prussia's offer, he would indeed have gained distinction: but he wanted not distinction among courtiers and statesmen. He would also have gained wealth: but he had no gratification in hoarding; and for the pleasures which riches could purchase, he had no relish. Had he left Paris, he must have disengaged himself from every tie and charm of his life; the intercourse of literary men; his most choice society; his friendships; and his leisure; the Abbé Barruel might add, the delicious occupation of working at the downfall of Christianity. There is no doubt that the refusal, according to his own confession, cost him very little.
In Volume II. are two papers by Mademoiselle Espinasse, in the manner of Sterne. The subject is affecting, but the essays do not please,-chiefly from want of intrinsic merit, and partly perhaps from the circumstance of their being professed imitations hence we cannot divest ourselves of the idea that the pathos is constrained, and the tenderness assumed. On such occasions, we do not perceive that the heart of the writer is engaged.
The two pieces to the memory of Mademoiselle Espinasse abound in beauties of a high order: our limits do not permit us to give large extracts from them; yet large extracts they ought to be, since pathetic pieces suffer by mutilation. Critical
* D'ALEMBERT's work on the destruction of the Jesuits. Rev.
remarks, and sententious observations, preserve their force
In the latter part of this composition, the author appears to us to stoop from the height of his grief, in order to compliment the King of Prussia.
In the article College, he notes very justly the useless attempts of moderns to write elegant Latin; and in the same article, he praises an observation as very just and philosophic, which was made by one of his friends, respecting the study of history: the observation is on the propriety of teaching and studying history backwards; that is to say, we should begin with our own times, and thence mount up to past ages. This observation we have seen elsewhere; we believe, in Mr. Belsham's publications; and Hume's practice may serve, in some measure, to confirm it.
In the article Elocution, the writer observes that the perfection of the French language originated from the poets. Dr. Johnson has made the same remark with respect to the English tongue, and has moreover added the reason why poets are naturally the first improvers of a language..
This second volume is terminated by the three Dissertations on Taste, before mentioned; and by Marmontel's eloquent Eloge. The list of errata is but scanty, and there is need of a very copious one.
ART. IX. Mémoires de l'Académie des Sciences, &c. i. e. Memoirs of
[Article concluded from our last App. p. 529-545.]
Memoir on the Variety of the Sulphat of Mercury, on the Precipi
APP. REV. VOL. XXIX.