The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Gallery of Portraits: with Memoirs.
Volume 3 (of 7), by Various

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Title: The Gallery of Portraits: with Memoirs. Volume 3 (of 7)

Author: Various

Release Date: August 6, 2017 [EBook #55277]

Language: English

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Duke-Street, Lambeth.


1. Erskine 1
2. Dollond 12
3. John Hunter 19
4. Petrarch 25
5. Burke 33
6. Henry IV. 41
7. Bentley 49
8. Kepler 59
9. Hale 66
10. Franklin 77
11. Schwartz 86
12. Barrow 94
13. D’Alembert 101
14. Hogarth 106
15. Galileo 113
16. Rembrandt 121
17. Dryden 127
18. La Perouse 135
19. Cranmer 141
20. Tasso 149
21. Ben Jonson 156
22. Canova 165
23. Chaucer 176
24. Sobieski 184
⁂ It should have been stated in the Life of D’Alembert, that that Life was mostly taken from the Penny Cyclopædia, with some alterations by the Editor of this work.

Engraved by R. Woodman.


From the original Picture by Hoppner
in his Majesty’s Collection at Windsor.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.



The Honourable Thomas Erskine was the third son of David Earl of Buchan, a Scottish peer of ancient family and title, but reduced fortune. He was born in January 1748, and received the rudiments of his education, partly at the High School of Edinburgh, partly at the University of St. Andrews. But the straitened circumstances of his family rendered it necessary for him to embrace some profession at an early age; and he accordingly entered the navy as a midshipman in 1764. Not thinking his prospects of advancement sufficiently favourable to render his continuance in that service expedient, he exchanged it in the year 1768 for that of the army. In 1770 he married his first wife, Frances, the daughter of Daniel Moore, M.P. for Marlow; and soon after went with his regiment to Minorca, where he remained three years. Soon after returning to England he changed his profession again. It has been said that he took this step against his own judgment, and on the pressing entreaties of his mother, a woman of lofty and highly cultivated mind, the sister of Sir James Stewart, whose scientific writings, especially upon political philosophy, have rendered his name so famous, and the daughter of a well known Scotch lawyer and Solicitor-General of the same name. But it is certain that at this time he had acquired considerable celebrity in the circles of London society; and it is hard to suppose that he was not sensible of his own brilliant qualifications for forensic success. Whatever the cause, he commenced his legal life in 1775, in which year he entered himself as a student of Lincoln’s Inn, and also as a fellow commoner of Trinity College, Cambridge; 2not with a view to university honours or emoluments, but to obtain the honorary degree of M.A., to which he was entitled by his birth, and thereby to shorten the period of probation, previous to his being called to the bar. He gave an earnest, however, of his future eloquence, by gaining the first declamation prize, annually bestowed in his college. The subject which he chose was the Revolution of 1688. His professional education was chiefly carried on in the chambers of Mr. Buller and Mr. Wood, both subsequently raised to the bench. In Trinity term, 1778, he was called to the bar.

Mr. Erskine’s course was as rapid as it was brilliant. In the following term, Captain Baillie, Lieutenant-Governor of Greenwich Hospital, was prosecuted for an alleged libel on other officers of that establishment, contained in a pamphlet written to expose the abuses which existed there, and bearing heavily on the character of the Earl of Sandwich, then First Lord of the Admiralty. It is believed that on this occasion Mr. Erskine made his first appearance in court. His speech was characterized by great warmth and eloquence, and a most fearless assertion of matters not likely to be palatable either to the Court or the Government. And this is the more worthy of notice, because it shows that the boldness which he afterwards displayed in causes more nearly connected with the liberties of England, was not the safe boldness of a man strong in professional reputation, and confident in his experience and past success, but the result of a fixed determination to perform, at all hazards, his whole duty to his client. The best testimony to the effect of this speech is to be found in the anecdote, that thirty briefs were presented to him by attorneys before he left the court.

We must hasten very briefly through the events of Mr. Erskine’s life to make room for speaking at somewhat more length of a very few of his most remarkable performances. He rose at once into first rate junior business in the Court of King’s Bench, and received a patent of precedence in May 1783, having practised only for the short space of five years. He belonged to the Home Circuit in the early part of his professional life; but soon ceased to attend it, or any other, except on special retainers, of which it is said that he received more than any man in his time or since.

In his political life he was a firm adherent of Mr. Fox: but his success in Parliament, which he entered in 1783 as member for Portsmouth, was not commensurate with the expectations which had been raised upon the brilliant powers of oratory which he had displayed at the bar. On attaining his majority in 1783, the Prince 3of Wales appointed Mr. Erskine, with whom he lived in habits of intimacy, to be his Attorney-General. This office he was called on to resign in 1792, in consequence of his refusing to abandon the defence of Paine, when he was prosecuted for a libel, as author of the ‘Rights of Man:’ and his removal, though not a solitary, is fortunately a rare instance in modern times, of an advocate being punished for the honest discharge of his professional duties. Five years afterwards he conducted the prosecution of the ‘Age of Reason;’ and in 1802 he was appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Cornwall. On the formation of the Grenville administration, in 1806, he was appointed Chancellor of Great Britain, and raised to the peerage, by the title of Baron Erskine, of Restormel Castle in Cornwall. The short period during which he presided in the Court of Chancery, makes it difficult to estimate how far his extraordinary powers of mind, and in particular the eminently legal understanding which he possessed, would have enabled him to overcome the difficulties of so new a situation. But his judgments have, generally speaking, stood the test of subsequent investigation; and his admirable conduct in the impeachment of 1806, over which he presided as Lord High Steward, uniting the greatest acuteness and readiness with singular firmness of purpose, and all that urbanity which neither in public nor in private life ever quitted him for an instant, may be said to have restored to life a mode of trial essential to our constitution, though discredited by the vexatious procrastination which had characterized the last instance of its use.

On the dissolution of the Grenville ministry, which occurred about a year after its formation, Lord Erskine retired in a great degree from public life. In 1808 he took an active share in opposing the measure of commercial hostility, so well known under the name of the Orders in Council, and still so deeply felt: and his speech against the Jesuits’ Bark Bill, which was not reported, is said to have been worthy of his most celebrated efforts, both for argument and eloquence. In 1809 he introduced into the House of Lords a bill for the prevention of cruelty to animals, which passed that branch of the legislature, but was thrown out by the Commons. The part, too, which he took upon the memorable proceedings of 1820, relative to the Queen’s trial, will long be remembered, marked as it was by all the highest qualities of the judicial character: and his arguments upon the Banbury case a few years before, only leave a regret that he did not devote more of his leisure to the legal business of the House of Lords.

After his retirement, Lord Erskine occupied himself occasionally 4in literary pursuits. In this period he composed the Preface to Mr. Fox’s Speeches, and the political romance of Armata. His only other written work of importance is a pamphlet, entitled ‘View of the Causes and Consequences of the War with France,’ which appeared in 1797, and ran through the extraordinary number of forty-eight editions. But he is not to be considered as a literary man: on the contrary, it is one of the many singularities in his history, that with a scanty stock of what is usually called literature, he should have been one of our most purely classical speakers and writers. His study was confined to a few of the greatest models; and these he almost knew by heart.

The later years of his life were harassed by pecuniary embarrassment, arising partly from the loss of his large professional income, inadequately replaced by a retiring pension of £4000; and partly from an unfortunate investment of the fruits of his industry in land, which yielded little return when the period of agricultural depression arrived. His first wife died in 1805: and an ill-assorted second marriage, contracted much later in life, is supposed to have increased his domestic disquietudes, as it certainly injured his reputation, and gave pain to his friends. He was seized with an inflammation of the chest while travelling towards Scotland, and died at Almondale, his brother’s seat, near Edinburgh, November 17, 1823. Immediately after his decease, the members of that profession of which he had been at once the ornament and the favourite, caused a statue of him to be executed. When the marble was denied admittance within those walls which had so often been shaken by the thunder of his eloquence, they placed it in the hall of Lincoln’s Inn, where he had presided as chancellor; a lasting monument to those who study the law, that subserviency is not necessary to advancement, and that they will be held in grateful remembrance by their professional brethren, who boldly uphold the liberties of their country.

In speaking, which we can do very briefly, of Lord Erskine’s professional merits, our attention is directed to those of his speeches which bear on two great subjects, the Liberty of the Press, and the doctrine of Constructive Treason, not merely because they embrace his most laboured and most celebrated efforts, nor for the paramount importance of these subjects in a constitutional point of view; but also because we possess a collection of those speeches corrected by himself, while of the numberless arguments and addresses delivered on other subjects during a most active period of twenty-eight years, but very few have been authentically reported. From those which are preserved, the 5rising generation can form but an inadequate idea of this extraordinary man’s power as an advocate; such is said, by those who yet remember him, to have been the witchery of his voice, eye, and action; such his intuitive perception of that which at the instant was likely to have weight with a jury. His peculiar skill in this respect is thus described by a distinguished writer in the Edinburgh Review, in commenting upon a brilliant passage, which we shall presently have occasion to quote. “As far as relates to the character of Lord Erskine’s eloquence, we would point out as the most remarkable feature in this passage, that in no one sentence is the subject, the business in hand, the case, the client, the verdict, lost sight of; and that the fire of that oratory, or rather of that rhetoric (for it was quite under discipline), which was melting the hearts and dazzling the understandings of his hearers, had not the power to touch for one instant the hard head of the Nisi Prius lawyer, from which it radiated; or to make him swerve, by one hair’s breadth even, from the minuter details most befitting his purpose, and the alternate admissions and disavowals best adapted to put his case in the safest position. This, indeed, was the grand secret of Mr. Erskine’s unparalleled success at the English bar. Without it he might have filled Westminster Hall with his sentences, and obtained a reputation for eloquence, somewhat like the fame of a popular preacher or a distinguished actor: but his fortunes,—aye, and the liberties of his country,—are built on the matchless skill with which he could subdue the genius of a first rate orator to the uses of the most consummate advocate of the age.”—(Edinburgh Review, vol. xvi. p. 116–7, 1810.)

Mr. Erskine’s speeches against the doctrine of Constructive Treason were delivered in behalf of Lord George Gordon, when accused of high treason as the ringleader of the riots in 1780, and in behalf of Messrs. Hardy and Horne Tooke, when attacked by the whole weight of Government in 1794. In the first of these he begins by laying down broadly and distinctly the law of treason, as defined by the celebrated statute of Edward III. He proceeds, carefully avoiding to offend the probable temper of the jury by asserting either the prudence or legality of Lord George Gordon’s conduct, to show the total failure of evidence to bring his intentions within the scope of the act; the utter want of pretence for assuming that he had levied war on the King, the crime charged in the indictment; and the utter want of proof to connect him, or the Protestant Association, of which he was chairman, with the outrages committed by a rabble, insignificant alike in numbers and character. He enters into a 6minute examination of the crown evidence; lays bare the infamy of one witness; exposes the forced constructions by which alone any legal or moral guilt can be attached to his client; and, warming in his subject, breaks out into an appeal to the jury, the effect of which is said to have been electric. And it has been justly observed, that by such an effect alone could the boldness of the attempt have been justified: failure would have been destruction. The eloquence of this speech is even less remarkable than the exquisite judgment and professional skill by which that eloquence is controlled.

In the State Trials of 1794, the prisoners, it is well known, were proceeded against separately. Hardy’s turn came first. They were charged with compassing the death of the King, the evidence of this intention being a conspiracy to subvert by force the constitution of the country, under pretence of procuring, by legal means, a reform in the House of Commons. It must be evident to every one that this was stretching the doctrine of constructive treason to the utmost: yet Parliament had passed a bill, declaring in the preamble that such a conspiracy did actually exist; and this being asserted on such high authority, and no doubt existing of the prisoners being deeply engaged in the design to procure a reform in Parliament, they came to their trial under the most serious disadvantages. On this occasion, as in defence of Lord George Gordon, Mr. Erskine began by explaining the law of treason, under the statute of Edward III. He showed the strictness with which it had been defined and limited by the most eminent constitutional lawyers; and argued, that granting the intention to hold a general convention, with the view of obtaining by that means a reform in Parliament; granting even that this amounted to a conspiracy to levy war for that purpose, still the offence would not be the high treason charged by the indictment, unless the conspiracy to levy war were directly pointed against the King’s person. And that there was no want of affection for the King himself, appeared fully even from the evidence for the prosecution. He maintained that the clearest evidence should be required of the evil intention, especially when so different from the open and avowed object of the prisoners. He proceeded to show that their ostensible object, so far from necessarily involving any evil designs, was one which had been advocated by the Earl of Chatham, Mr. Burke, Mr. Pitt himself; and that the very measures of reform which it was sought to introduce, had been openly avowed and inculcated by the Duke of Richmond, then holding office in the ministry of which Mr. Pitt was chief. Mr. Hardy, Mr. Tooke, and Mr. Thelwall were severally 7and successively acquitted, and all men now confess that to the powers and the courage of this matchless advocate in that day of its peril, the preservation of English liberty must be mainly ascribed. The other prosecutions were then abandoned.

Mr. Erskine’s powerful and fearless support of the liberty of the subject on all occasions rendered him especially sought after by all persons accused of political libels; and a large proportion of his most important speeches are on these subjects. The earliest reported, and for their consequences the most remarkable, are the series of speeches which he delivered in behalf of the Dean of St. Asaph, in 1784. Of the merits of the case we have not room to speak: but it is important for the influence which it had in determining the great question, whether in prosecutions for libel, the jury is to judge of fact alone, or of law and fact conjointly. For many years it had been the doctrine of the courts, that juries had no cognizance of the nature of an imputed libel, beyond ascertaining how far the meaning ascribed in the indictment to passages charged as libellous was borne out by evidence; the truth of these, and the fact of the publication being ascertained, it was for the judge to determine whether the matter were libellous or no. This doctrine was controverted by Mr. Erskine in his speech for the Dean of St. Asaph, and maintained by the judge who tried the case; and on the ground of misdirection, Mr. Erskine moved for a new trial. On this occasion he went into an elaborate argument to prove that it was the office of the jury, not of the judges, to pronounce upon the intention and tendency of an alleged libel; and to him is ascribed the honour of having prepared the way for the Libel Bill, introduced by Mr. Fox in 1792, and seconded by himself, in which the rights and province of the jury are clearly defined, and the position established, for which he, in a small minority of his professional brethren, had contended. This was a triumph of which the oldest, and most practised lawyer might have been proud; it is doubly honourable to one young in years, and younger in professional experience.

Equal perhaps to those in importance, for it bore directly on the liberty of the press, and superior in brilliance of execution, is the speech in behalf of Stockdale, the bookseller, who was prosecuted for a libel on the House of Commons, in consequence of having published a pamphlet commenting on the articles of impeachment brought against Mr. Hastings, and containing some passages by no means complimentary to some portion of that honourable body. The fact of the publication being admitted, Mr. Erskine, agreeably to the provisions of the 8Libel Act, proceeded to address the jury on the merits of the work. It was his argument, that the tenor of the whole, and the intentions of the writer, were to be regarded; and that if these should be found praiseworthy, or innocent, the presence of a few detached passages, which, taken separately, might seem calculated to bring the House of Commons into contempt, were altogether insufficient to justify conviction. This speech may be selected as one of the finest examples of Mr. Erskine’s oratory, whether for the skill displayed in managing the argument, the justness of the principles, the exquisite taste with which they are illustrated and enforced, or the powerful eloquence in which they are embodied; and from this, in conclusion, we would extract one passage as a specimen of his powers. It is sufficient to state in introduction, that the pamphlet in question was a defence of Mr. Hastings, and that, among other topics, it urged the nature of his instructions from his constituents. Commenting on this, the orator proceeds in a strain which few persons, not hardened by long converse in affairs of state, will read without emotion, or without a deep sense of the justice of the sentiments, the gravity of the topics introduced.

“If this be a wilfully false account of the instructions given to Mr. Hastings for his government, and of his conduct under them, the author and publisher of this defence deserve the severest punishment, for a mercenary imposition on the public. But if it be true, that he was directed to ‘make the safety and prosperity of Bengal the first object of his attention,’ and that under his administration it has been safe and prosperous; if it be true that the security and preservation of our possessions and revenues in Asia were marked out to him as the great leading principle of his government, and that those possessions and revenues amidst unexampled dangers have been secured and preserved; then a question may be unaccountably mixed with your consideration, much beyond the consequence of the present prosecution, involving perhaps the merit of the impeachment itself which gave it birth; a question which the Commons, as prosecutors of Mr. Hastings, should in common prudence have avoided; unless, regretting the unwieldy length of their prosecution against him, they wished to afford him the opportunity of this strange anomalous defence. For although I am neither his counsel, nor desire to have any thing to do with his guilt or innocence, yet in the collateral defence of my client I am driven to state matter which may be considered by many as hostile to the impeachment. For if our dependencies have been secured, and their interests promoted, I am driven in the defence of my client to remark, that it is mad and preposterous to bring to the standard of justice and 9humanity, the exercise of a dominion founded upon violence and terror. It may, and must be true, that Mr. Hastings has repeatedly offended against the rights and privileges of Asiatic government, if he was the faithful deputy of a power which could not maintain itself for an hour without trampling upon both; he may and must have offended against the laws of God and nature, if he was the faithful Viceroy of an empire wrested in blood from the people to whom God and nature had given it; he may and must have preserved that unjust dominion over timorous and abject nations by a terrifying, overbearing, insulting superiority, if he was the faithful administrator of your government, which, having no root in consent or affection, no foundation in similarity of interests, nor support from any one principle which cements men together in society, could only be upheld by alternate stratagem and force. The unhappy people of India, feeble and effeminate as they are from the softness of their climate, and subdued and broken as they have been by the knavery and strength of civilization, still occasionally start up in all the vigour and intelligence of insulted nature. When governed at all, they must be governed with a rod of iron; and our empire in the east would long since have been lost to Great Britain, if civil skill and military prowess had not united their efforts, to support an authority which Heaven never gave, by means which it never can sanction.

“Gentlemen, I think I can observe that you are touched with this way of considering the subject, and I can account for it. I have not been considering it through the cold medium of books, but have been speaking of man and his nature, and of human dominion, from what I have seen of them myself among reluctant nations submitting to our authority. I know what they feel, and how such feelings can alone be repressed. I have heard them in my youth, from a naked savage, in the indignant character of a prince surrounded by his subjects, addressing the Governor of a British colony, holding a bundle of sticks in his hand, as the notes of his unlettered eloquence. ‘Who is it,’ said the jealous ruler over the desert, encroached upon by the restless foot of English adventure; ‘who is it that causes this river to rise in the high mountains, and to empty itself into the ocean? Who is it that causes to blow the loud winds of winter, and that calms them again in the summer? Who is it that rears up the shade of these lofty forests, and blasts them with the quick lightning at his pleasure? The same Being, who gave to you a country on the other side of the waters, and gave ours to us; and by this title we will defend it,’ said the warrior, throwing down his tomahawk on the ground, and raising the war-cry 10of his nation. These are the feelings of subjugated man all round the globe; and depend upon it, nothing but fear will control, where it is vain to look for affection.

“These reflections are the only antidotes to those anathemas of superhuman eloquence which have lately shaken these walls that surround us; but which it unaccountably falls to my province, whether I will or no, a little to stem the torrent of, by reminding you that you have a mighty sway in Asia which cannot be maintained by the finer sympathies of life, or the practice of its charities and affections. What will they do for you when surrounded by two hundred thousand men with artillery, cavalry, and elephants, calling upon you for their dominions which you have robbed them of? Justice may, no doubt, in such a case forbid the levying of a fine to pay a revolting soldiery; a treaty may stand in the way of increasing a tribute to keep up the very existence of the government; and delicacy for women may forbid all entrance into a zenana for money, whatever may be the necessity for taking it. All these things must ever be occurring. But under the pressure of such constant difficulties, so dangerous to national honour, it might be better perhaps to think of effectually securing it altogether, by recalling our troops and merchants, and abandoning our Oriental empire. Until this be done, neither religion nor philosophy can be pressed very far into the aid of reformation and punishment. If England, from a lust of ambition and dominion, will insist on maintaining despotic rule over distant and hostile nations, beyond all comparison more numerous and extended than herself, and gives commission to her Viceroys to govern them, with no other instructions than to preserve them, and to secure permanently their revenues; with what colour of consistency or reason can she place herself in the moral chair, and affect to be shocked at the execution of her own orders; adverting to the exact measure of wickedness and injustice necessary to their execution, and complaining only of the excess as the immorality; considering her authority as a dispensation for breaking the commands of God, and the breach of them only punishable when contrary to the ordinances of man.

“Such a proceeding, Gentlemen, begets serious reflections. It would be better perhaps for the masters and the servants of all such governments to join in supplication, that the great Author of violated humanity may not confound them together in one common judgment.”

These speeches, on constructive treason, and on subjects relating to the liberty of the press, fill four octavo volumes. A fifth was subsequently 11published, containing speeches on miscellaneous subjects; among which those in behalf of Hadfield and for Mr. Bingham are especially worthy of attention. The latter is one of the most affecting appeals to the feelings ever uttered. Hadfield is notorious for having discharged a pistol at George III. in Drury Lane Theatre. He was a soldier, who had been dreadfully wounded in the head, and other parts of the body; and no doubt could be entertained but that he was of unsound mind. Whether his insanity was of such a nature, that it could be pleaded in excuse for an attempt to murder, was a harder question to decide; and the speech in his behalf, besides many passages of much power and pathos, contains a masterly exposition of the principles by which a court of law should be guided in examining the moral responsibility of a person labouring under alienation of mind. Hadfield, we need hardly say, was acquitted.

No life of Lord Erskine has yet been written on a scale calculated to do justice to the subject. The fullest which we have seen is contained in the ‘Lives of British Lawyers,’ in Lardner’s Cyclopædia: there is also a scanty memoir in the Annual Biography and Obituary, from which the facts contained in this sketch are principally derived.

Statue of Lord Erskine in Lincoln’s Inn Hall.



The parents of this eminent discoverer in optics, to whom we are chiefly indebted for the high perfection of our telescopes, were French Protestants resident in Normandy, whence they were driven by the revocation of the edict of Nantes in 1685. With many others of their class, they took up their residence in Spitalfields, where John Dollond, the subject of this memoir[1], was born, June 10, 1706. It has been supposed, and among others by Lalande, that the name is not French; if we were to hazard a conjecture, we should say that it might have been an English corruption of D’Hollande. While yet very young, John Dollond lost his father; and he was obliged to gain his livelihood by the loom, though his natural disposition led him to devote all his leisure hours to mathematics and natural philosophy. Notwithstanding the cares incumbent upon the father of a family (for he married early) he contrived to find time, not only for the above-mentioned pursuits, but for anatomy, classical literature, and divinity. He continued his quiet course of life until his son, Peter Dollond, was of age to join him in his trade of silk-weaving, and they carried on that business together for several years. The son, however, who was also of a scientific turn, and who had profited by his father’s instructions, quitted the silk trade to commence business as an optician. He was tolerably successful, and after some years his father joined him, in 1752.

1.  For the details of this life, we are mostly indebted to the Memoir of Dr. Kelly, his son-in-law, from which all the existing accounts of Dollond are taken. This book has become very scarce, and we are indebted for the opportunity of perusing it to the kindness of G. Dollond, Esq.

Engraved by J. Posselwhite.


From an original Picture
in the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.

The first improvement made by the elder Dollond in the telescope, 13was the addition of another glass to the eye-piece, making the whole number of glasses in the instrument (the object-glass included) six instead of five. This he communicated to the Royal Society in 1753, through his friend James Short, well known as an optician and astronomer, who also communicated all his succeeding papers. By his new construction, an increase in the field of view was procured, without any corresponding augmentation of the unavoidable defects of the instrument. In May, 1753, Dollond communicated to the Royal Society his improvement of the micrometer. In 1747 Bouguer proposed to measure the distance of two very near objects (the opposite edges of a planet, for example) by viewing them through a conical telescope, the larger end of which had two object-glasses placed side by side, the eye-glass being common to both. The distance of the objects was determined by observing how far it was necessary to separate the centres of the object-glasses, in order that the centre of each might show an image of one of the objects. Mr. Dollond’s improvement consisted in making use of the same object-glass, divided into two semicircular halves sliding on one another, as represented in the diagrams in page 18; the first of which is an oblique perspective view of the divided glass, and the second a side view of the same, in such a position, that the images of the stars A and B coincide at C.

If the whole of an object-glass were darkened, except one small portion, that portion would form images similarly situated to those formed by the whole glass, but less illuminated. Each half of the object-glass, when separated from the other, forms an image of every object in the field; and the two images of the same object coincide in one of double brightness, when the halves are brought together so as to restore the original form. By placing the divided diameter in the line of two near objects, A and B, whose distance is to be measured, and sliding the glasses until the image of one formed by one half comes exactly into contact with the image of the other formed by the other half, the angular distance of the two objects may be calculated, from observation of the distance between the centres of the two halves. This last distance is measured on a scale attached to the instrument; and when found, is the base of the triangle, the vertex of which is at C, and the equal sides of which are the focal lengths of the glasses. This micrometer Dollond preferred to apply to the reflecting telescope; his son afterwards adapted it to the refracting telescope; and it is now, under the name of the divided object-glass micrometer, one of the most useful instruments for measuring small angles.

14But the fame of Dollond principally rests upon his invention of achromatic, or colourless telescopes, in which the surrounding fringe of colours was destroyed, which had rendered indistinct the images formed in all refracting telescopes previously constructed. He was led to this practical result by the discovery of a principle in optics, that the dispersion of light in passing through a refracting medium, that is, the greater or less length through which the coloured spectrum is scattered, is not in proportion to the refraction, or angle through which the rays are bent out of their course. Newton asserted that he had found by experiments, made with water and glass, that if a ray of light be subjected to several refractions, some of which correct the rest, so that it emerges parallel to its first direction, the dispersion into colours will also be corrected, so that the light will be restored to whiteness. This is not generally true: it is true if one substance only be employed, or several which have the same, or nearly the same, dispersive power[2]. Mr. Peter Dollond afterwards satisfactorily explained the reason of Newton’s mistake, by performing the same experiment with Venetian glass, which, in the time of the latter, was commonly used in England; from which he found that the fact stated by Newton was true, as far as regarded that sort of glass. Had Newton used flint glass, he would have discovered that dispersion and refraction are not necessarily corrected together: he would then have been led to the difference between refractive and dispersive power, and would have concluded from his first experiment that Venetian glass and water have their dispersive powers very nearly equal. As it was, he inferred that the refracting telescope could never be entirely divested of colour, without entirely destroying the refraction, that is, rendering the instrument no telescope at all; and, the experiment being granted, the conclusion was inevitable. It is well known that he accordingly turned his attention entirely to the reflecting telescope.

2.  See Penny Cyclopædia, article Achromatic, for this and other terms employed in this life.

In 1747, Euler, struck by the fact that the human eye is an achromatic combination of lenses, or nearly so, imagined that it might be possible to destroy colour by employing compound object-glasses, such as two lenses with an intermediate space filled with water. In a memoir addressed to the Academy of Berlin, he explained his method of constructing such achromatic glasses, and proposed a new law of refrangibility, different from that of Newton. He could not, however, succeed in procuring a successful result in practice. 15Dollond, impressed with the idea that Newton’s experiment was conclusive, objected to Euler’s process in a letter to Mr. Short; which the latter persuaded the author to communicate, first to Euler, and then, with his answer, to the Royal Society. Assuming Newton’s law, Dollond shows that Euler’s method would destroy all refraction as well as dispersion. The latter replies, that it is sufficient for his purpose that Newton’s law should be nearly true; that the theory propounded by himself does not differ much from it; and that the structure of the eye convinces him of the possibility of an achromatic combination. Neither party contested the general truth of Newton’s conclusion.

A new party to the discussion appeared in the field in the person of M. Klingenstierna, a Swedish astronomer, who advanced some mathematical reasoning against the law of Newton, and some suspicions as to the correctness of his experiment. The latter being thus formally attacked, Mr. Dollond determined to repeat it, with a view of settling the question, and his result was communicated to the Royal Society in 1758. By placing a prism of flint glass inside one of water, confined by glass planes, so that the refractions from the two prisms should be in contrary directions, he found that when their angles were so adjusted, that the refraction of one should entirely destroy that of the other, the colour was far from being destroyed; “for the object, though not at all refracted, was yet as much infested with prismatic colours, as if it had been seen through a glass wedge only, whose refracting angle was near thirty degrees.” It was thus proved that the correction of refraction, and the correction of dispersion, are not necessarily consequent the one on the other. Previously to communicating this result, Dollond had, in 1757, applied it to the construction of achromatic glasses, consisting of spherical lenses with water between them: but finding that the images, though free from colour, were not very distinct, he tried combinations of different kinds of glass; and succeeded at last in forming the achromatic object-glass now used, consisting of a convex lens of crown, and a concave of flint glass. His son afterwards, in 1765, constructed the triple object-glass, having a double concave lens of flint glass in the middle of two double convex lenses of crown glass. The right of Dollond to the invention has been attacked by various foreign writers, but the point seems to have been decided in his favour by the general consent of later times. His conduct certainly appears more philosophical than that of either of his opponents. So long as he believed that Newton’s experiment was correct, he held fast by it, not allowing any mathematical 16reasoning to shake his belief, and in this respect he was more consistent than Euler, who seems to have thought that an achromatic combination might be made out of the joint belief of an experiment, and of an hypothesis utterly at variance with it. And the manner in which the distinguished philosopher just mentioned received the news of Dollond’s invention, appears singular, considering the side which each had taken in the previous discussion. Euler, who had asserted the possibility of an achromatic lens, against Dollond, who appeared to doubt it, says, “I am not ashamed frankly to avow that the first accounts which were published of it, appeared so suspicious, and even so contrary to the best established principles, that I could not prevail upon myself to give credit to them.” Dollond was the first who actually resorted to experiment, and he thus became the discoverer of a remarkable law of optics; while his tact in the application of his principles, and the selection of his materials, is worthy of admiration. The reputation of Dollond rests upon the discovery of the law, and its application to the case in point; for it has since been proved that he was not absolutely the first who had constructed an achromatic lens. On the occasion of an action brought for the invasion of the patent, the defendant proved that about the year 1750, Dr. Hall, an Essex gentleman, was in the possession of a secret for constructing achromatic telescopes of twenty inches focal length: and a writer in the Gentleman’s Magazine for 1790, has advanced his claim with considerable circumstantial detail. It is difficult to get any account of that trial, as it is not reported in any of the books. At least we presume so, from not finding any reference to it either in the works of Godson or Davis on Patents, though the case is frequently mentioned; or in H. Blackstone’s report of Boulton and Watt v. Bull, in which Dollond’s case forms a prominent feature of the argument. But, from the words of Judge Buller in the case just cited, it is difficult to suppose that the account given by Lalande (Montucla, Histoire des Mathématiques, vol. iii. p. 448, note) can be correct. Lalande asserts that it was proved that Dollond received the invention from a workman who bad been employed by Dr. Hall, and that the latter had shown it to many persons. Judge Buller says, “The objection to Dollond’s patent was, that he was not the inventor of the new method of making object-glasses, but that Dr. Hall had made the same discovery before him. But it was holden that as Dr. Hall had confined it to his closet, and the public were not acquainted with it, Dollond was to be considered as the inventor.” The circumstances connected with the discovery, particularly the previous investigation 17of the phenomenon on which the result depends, independently of the words of Judge Buller, quoted in italics, appear to us to render the anonymous account very improbable: nor, as far as we know, is there any other authority for it. That Dr. Hall did construct achromatic telescopes is pretty certain; but we are entirely in the dark as to whether he did it on principle, or whether he could even construct more than one sort of lens: and the assertion that he, or any one instructed by him, had communicated with Dollond, is unsupported by any thing worthy the name of evidence. We may add, that the accounts of this discovery, written by Dollond himself, possess a clearness and power of illustration, which can result only from long and minute attention to the subject under consideration.

After this great discovery, for which he received the Copley medal of the Royal Society, Mr. Dollond devoted himself to the improvement of the achromatic telescope, in conjunction with his other pursuits. We are informed by G. Dollond, Esq., that his grandfather, at the latter end of his life, was engaged in calculating almanacs for various parts of the world; one of which, for the meridian of Barbadoes, and the year 1761, is now in his possession.

Mr. Dollond was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1761. In the same year, November 30, he was struck with apoplexy, while attentively engaged in reading Clairaut’s Theory of the Moon, which had then just appeared. He died in a few hours afterwards, in the fifty-sixth year of his age. His son Peter Dollond, already mentioned, continued the business in partnership with a younger brother; and it is now most ably carried on by his daughter’s son, who has, by permission, assumed the name of Dollond.

The following extract is from the memoir written by Dr. Kelly, in which we find nothing to regret, except that so few traits of character are related in it. Those who write memoirs of remarkable men from personal knowledge, should remember that details of their habits and conversation will be much more valuable to posterity, than disquisitions upon their scientific labours and discussions, which, coming from the pens of friends or relations, will always be looked upon as ex parte statements. Had the learned author borne this in mind, we should have been able to give a better personal account of Dollond than the following; which is absolutely the only information relative to his private character which we can now obtain. “He was not content with private devotion, as he was always an advocate for social worship; and with his family regularly attended the public service of the French Protestant church, and occasionally heard Benson and Lardner, whom 18he respected as men, and admired as preachers. In his appearance he was grave, and the strong lines of his face were marked with deep thought and reflection; but in his intercourse with his family and friends he was cheerful and affectionate; and his language and sentiments are distinctly recollected as always making a strong impression on the minds of those with whom he conversed. His memory was extraordinarily retentive, and amidst the variety of his reading he could recollect and quote the most important passages of every book which he had at any time perused.”

Engraved by W. Holl.


From a Picture by Sir Joshua Reynolds
in the Royal College of Surgeons, London.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Pall Mall East.



A life and character like that of John Hunter has many claims upon the honourable remembrance of society; the more, because, for meritorious members of his profession, there is no other public reward than the general approbation of good men. We look upon him with that interest which genius successfully directed to good ends invariably excites; as one whose active labours in the service of mankind have been attended with useful consequences of great extent; and whose character it is important to describe correctly, as a valuable example to his profession.

John Hunter was the son of a small proprietor in the parish of Kilbride in Lanarkshire, and was born February 13, 1728. His father died while he was a child; his brothers were absent from home; and, being left to the care of his mother and aunt, he was spoiled by indulgence, and remained uneducated, until his natural good sense urged him to redeem himself in some degree from this reproach. When a boy he continued to cry like a child for whatever he wanted. There is a letter extant from an old friend of the family, which has this curious postscript, “Is Johnny aye greeting yet?” presenting an unexpected picture to those who are familiar only with the manly sense, and somewhat caustic manners, of the great physiological and surgical authority. But the influence of feelings and opinions, proceeding from respected persons, and accompanied by offices of affection, is powerful upon the young mind; and the circumstances of Mr. Hunter’s family were calculated to give such feelings their full power over such a character as his. They lived retired, in that state of independence which a small landed property confers on the elder members, while the young men are compelled to seek their fortunes at a distance from home. John Hunter neglected books, but he was not insensible to the pride and gratification expressed by every member of the family on hearing of his elder brother William’s success, and 20the pleasure which that brother’s letters gave to all around him. These feelings made him ashamed of his idleness, and inclined him to go to London, and become an assistant to Dr. William Hunter in his anatomical inquiries. William consented to this arrangement; and the subject of our memoir quitted his paternal home in 1748; certainly without that preparation of mind which should lead us to expect a very quick proficiency in medical pursuits. At an earlier age he had displayed a turn for mechanics, and a manual dexterity, which led to his being placed with a cabinet-maker in Glasgow to learn the profession: but the failure of his master had obliged him to return home.

Dr. William Hunter had at this time obtained celebrity as a teacher of anatomy. He won his way by very intelligible modes. His upright conduct and high mental cultivation gained him friends; and his professional merits were established by his lectures, which in extent and depth, as well as eloquence, surpassed any that had yet been delivered. There was a peculiar ingenuity in his demonstrations, and he had a happy manner exactly suited to his subject. The vulgar portion of the public saw no marks of genius in the successful exertions of Dr. Hunter; his eminence was easily accounted for, and excited no wonder. They saw John Hunter’s success, without fully comprehending the cause; and it fell in with their notions of great genius that he was somewhat abrupt and uncourtly.

Dr. Hunter immediately set his brother to work upon the dissection of the arm. The young man succeeded in producing an admirable preparation, in which the mechanism of the limb was finely displayed. This at once showed his capacity, and settled the relation between the two brothers. John Hunter became the best practical anatomist of the age, and proved of the greatest use in forming Dr. Hunter’s splendid museum, bequeathed by the owner to the University of Glasgow. He continued to attend his brother’s lectures; was a pupil both at St. Bartholomew’s, and St. George’s Hospitals; and had the farther advantage of attending the celebrated Cheselden, then retired to Chelsea Hospital. And here we must point out the advantage which John Hunter possessed in the situation and character of his elder brother, lest his success should encourage a laxity in the studies of those who think they are following his footsteps. It would indeed have been surprising that his efforts for the advancement of physiology commenced at the precise point where Haller’s stopped, if he had really been ignorant of the state of science at home and abroad. But he could not have been so, unless he had shut his eyes and stopped his ears. In addition to his anatomical collection Dr. Hunter had formed an extensive library, and possessed the finest cabinet of coins in Europe. 21Students crowded around him from all countries, and every one distinguished in science desired his acquaintance. John Hunter lived in this society, and at the same time had the advantage of being familiar with the complete and systematic course of lectures delivered by his brother. He was thus furnished with full information as to the actual state of physiology and pathology, and knew in what directions to push inquiry, whilst the natural capacity of his fine mind was untrammelled.

In 1755 John Hunter assisted his brother in delivering a course of lectures; but through life the task of public instruction was a painful one to him, and he never attained to fluency and clearness of expression. In 1760 his health seems to have been impaired by his exertions: and in the recollection that one brother had already died under similar circumstances, his friends procured him a situation in the army, as being less intensely laborious than his mode of life. He served as a staff surgeon in Portugal and at the siege of Bellisle. On returning to London he recommenced the teaching of practical anatomy.

In 1767 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society, having already gained the good opinion of its members by several papers on most interesting subjects. There is this great advantage in the pursuit of science in London, that a man remarkable for success in any branch can usually select associates the best able to assist him by their experience and advice. It was through John Hunter’s influence that a select club was formed out of the fellows of the Royal Society. They met in retirement and read and criticised each others papers before submitting them to the general body. This club originally consisted of Mr. Hunter, Dr. Fordyce, Sir Joseph Banks, Dr. Solander, Dr. Maskelyne, Sir George Shuckburgh, Sir Henry Englefield, Sir Charles Blagden, Mr. Ramsden, and Mr. Watt. To be the associate of such men could not but have a good effect on a mind like Hunter’s, active and vigorous, but deficient in general acquirement, and concentrated upon one pursuit.

At this time, and for many years afterwards, he was employed in the most curious physiological inquiries; and at the same time forming that museum, which remains the most surprising proof both of his genius and perseverance. It is strange that Sir Everard Home should have considered this collection as a proof of the patronage Hunter received. He had many admirers, and many persons were grateful for his professional assistance; but he had no patrons. The extent of his museum is to be attributed solely to his perseverance; a quality which is generally the companion of genius, and which he displayed in every condition of life. Whether under the tuition of his brother, or struggling for independence by privately teaching anatomy, or 22amidst the enticements to idleness in a mess-room, or as an army surgeon in active service, he never seems to have forgotten that science which was the chief end of his life. Hence the amazing collection which he formed of anatomical preparations; hence too the no less extraordinary accumulation of important pathological facts, on which his principles were raised.

It was only towards the close of life that Hunter’s character was duly appreciated. His professional emoluments were small, until a very few years before his death, when they amounted to £6000 a year. When this neglect is the portion of a man of distinguished merit, it has sometimes an unhappy influence on his profession. Men look for prosperity and splendour as the accompaniments of such merit; and missing it, they turn aside from the worthiest models, to follow those who are gaining riches in the common routine of practice. Dr. Darwin said, that he rejoiced in Hunter’s late success as the concluding act of a life well spent: as poetical justice. But throughout life he spent all his gains in the pursuit of science, and died poor.

His museum was purchased by government for £15,000. It was offered to the keeping of the College of Physicians, which declined the trust. It is now, committed to the College of Surgeons, in Lincoln’s Inn Fields; where it is open to the inspection of the public during the afternoons of Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The corporation has enlarged the museum, instituted professorships for the illustration of it, and is now forming a library. The most valuable part of the collection is that in the area of the great room, consisting of upwards of 2000 preparations, which were the results of Mr. Hunter’s experiments on the inferior animals, and of his researches in morbid human anatomy. All these were originally arranged as illustrative of his lectures. The first division alone, in support of his theory of inflammation, contains 602 preparations. Those illustrative of specific diseases amount to 1084. There are besides 652 dried specimens, consisting of diseased bones, joints, and arteries. On the floor there is a very fine collection of the skeletons of man and other animals; and if the Council of the College continue to augment this collection with the same liberal spirit which they have hitherto shown, it will be creditable to the nation. The osteological specimens amount to 1936. But the most interesting portion, we might say one of the most interesting exhibitions in Europe to a philosophical and inquiring mind, is that which extends along the whole gallery. Mr. Hunter found it impossible to explain the functions of life by the investigation of human anatomy, unaided by comparison with the simpler organization 23of brutes; and therefore he undertook the amazing labour of examining and preparing the simplest animals, gradually advancing from the lower to the higher, until, by this process of synthesis, the structure of the human body was demonstrated and explained. Let us take one small compartment in order to understand the effect of this method. Suppose it is wished to learn the importance of the stomach in the animal economy. The first object presented to us is a hydatid, an animal, as it were, all stomach; being a simple sac with an exterior absorbing surface. Then we have the polypus, with a stomach opening by one orifice, and with no superadded organ. Next in order is the leech, in which we see the beginning of a complexity of structure. It possesses the power of locomotion, and has brain, and nerves, and muscles, but as yet the stomach is simple. Then we advance to creatures in which the stomach is complex: we find the simple membraneous digesting stomach; then the stomach with a crop attached to macerate and prepare the food for digestion; then a ruminating stomach with a succession of cavities, and with the gizzard in some animals for grinding the food, and performing the office of teeth; and finally, all the appended organs necessary in the various classes of animals; until we find that all the chylopoietic viscera group round this, as performing the primary and essential office of assimilating new matter to the animal body.

Mr. Hunter’s papers and greater works exhibit an extraordinary mind: he startles the reader by conclusions, the process by which they were reached being scarcely discernible. We attribute this in part to that defective education, which made him fail in explaining his own thoughts, and the course of reasoning by which he had arrived at his conclusions. The depth of his reflective powers may be estimated by the perusal of his papers on the apparently drowned, and on the stomach digested after death by its own fluids. The importance of discovering the possibility of such an occurrence as the last is manifest, when we consider its connexion with medical jurisprudence, and the probability of its giving rise to unfounded suspicions of poisoning. His most important papers were those on the muscularity of arteries; a fine piece of experimental reasoning, the neglect of which by our continental neighbours threw them back an age in the treatment of wounded arteries and aneurisms. But the grand discovery of Mr. Hunter was that of the life of the blood. If this idea surprise our readers, it did no less surprise the whole of the medical profession when it was first promulgated. Yet there is no doubt of the fact. It was demonstrated by the closest inspection of natural phenomena, and a happy suite of experiments, that the coagulation of the blood is an act of life. From 24this one fact, the pathologist was enabled to comprehend a great variety of phenomena, which, without it, must ever have remained obscure.

Mr. Hunter died of that alarming disease, angina pectoris: alarming, because it comes in paroxysms, accompanied with all the feelings of approaching death. These sensations are brought on by exertion or excitement. In St. George’s Hospital, the conduct of his colleagues had provoked him; he made no observations, but retiring into another room, suddenly expired, October 16, 1793.

After these details no man will deny that John Hunter possessed high genius, and that he employed his talents nobly. He was indeed of a family of genius: his younger brother was cut off early, but not until he had given promise of eminence. Dr. Hunter was, in our opinion, equal in talents to John, the subject of this memoir, though his mind received early a different bias. And in the next generation the celebrated Dr. Baillie, nephew to these brothers, contributed largely to the improvement of pathology, and afforded an instance of the most active benevolence joined to a plainness of manner most becoming in a physician. Joanna Baillie, his sister, still lives, honoured and esteemed, and will survive in her works as one of our most remarkable female writers.

The portrait from which the annexed engraving is made was painted at the suggestion of the celebrated engraver Sharpe, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, and was among his last works. There could not indeed be a more picturesque head, nor one better suited to the burin. The original picture is in the College of Surgeons. It exhibits more mildness than we see in the engraving of Sharpe.

Surgeons’ Hall in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

Engraved by Robt. Hart.


From a Print by Raffaelle Morghen,
after a Picture by Tofanelli.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.



Francesco Petrarca, whose real name is said to have been Petracco, was born at Arezzo, in Tuscany, July 20, 1304. His father was a notary at Florence, who had been employed in the service of the state; but in the civil strife excited by Corso Donati, chief of the faction of the Neri, he, with the rest of the Bianchi, including Dante, whose friend he is recorded to have been, was banished from the Republic in 1302. When the death of the Emperor Henry VII. deprived the exiles of all hope of return, Petracco took his family to Avignon, at that period the seat of the Pontifical Court. The boy Francesco then saw for the first time scenes and objects, with which his destiny was irrevocably connected; and he has left on record the impression which at ten years of age the fountain and wild solitude of Vaucluse had made upon his imagination. He was sent to study the canon law at the University of Montpellier, where he remained four years, devoting his time to Cicero, Virgil, and the Provençal writers, much more than to the doctors of jurisprudence. From Montpellier he went to Bologna; and formed an acquaintance with the celebrated Cino da Pistoia, from whom, although distinguished no less as a jurist than as a poet, Petrarch learned more poetry than law. On his father’s death, which occurred when he was about twenty years old, he returned to Avignon. His mother died soon after; and the moderate patrimony which he inherited was so much diminished by the dishonesty of his guardians, that at the age of twenty-two, he found himself without fortune or profession, and with no resource, but that of entering the church.

Avignon was then the chosen abode of fashion, luxury, and vice. Petrarch mingled in its gay society, without yielding to its corruptions, or withdrawing himself from the philosophical studies which interested him above all other pursuits. A great conformity of tastes, and a common superiority to the low objects of ambition with which they 26were surrounded, made him the friend of Jacopo Colonna, afterwards Bishop of Lombez. This prelate introduced Petrarch to his brother, the Cardinal Colonna, who resided at Avignon; and in whose palace, in 1331, the poet acquired the friendship of old Stefano Colonna, the illustrious head of that family, and drew from his discourse a stronger love of Italy, of freedom, and of glory. But his affectionate, enthusiastic temper was not to be exhausted even by these objects: soon, without ever being entirely diverted from the interest of friendship or patriotism, he became the vassal of that long and illustrious passion to which he owes the immortality of his name. April 6, 1327, on Easter Monday, in the church of the Nuns of Santa Clara, Petrarch, being then twenty-three years of age, saw for the first time, and loved at sight, Laura de Noves, the bride of Hugo de Sade, a young patrician of Avignon. From this time his life was passed in wandering from place to place, sometimes at the several courts of Italian princes; sometimes in solitary seclusion at Vaucluse; often at Avignon itself, where from the lofty rock on which stands the old Pontifical Palace, he could see Laura walking in the gardens below, which with all the adjacent part of the town belonged to the family of de Sade.

Few subjects have been discussed more largely, with greater minuteness of examination, or with greater licence of conjecture, than the history of the love of Petrarch. Some have chosen to treat with ridicule the idea of a passion, subsisting through a long and eventful life, without gratification, and nearly without hope; others have thought the difficulty obviated by supposing, in defiance of all apparent evidence, that Laura was not so insensible as the laws of morality required. A few have wished to rescue the character of the poet from the imputation of having loved a married woman, and have dragged certain obscure spinsters out of doubtful epitaphs and registers, to dispute the claim of Laura de Sade. A few more, and but a few, although the race is not extinct, have denied the existence of Laura altogether; either considering her as a mere poetical fancy, or still more boldly resolving her into some allegory, political or religious. But none of these theories, maintained at various times, and with various degrees of ingenuity, almost from the age of Petrarch until the present day, have shaken the received opinion on the four main points of the question; namely, that Laura was no creation of the poet’s brain, but a woman; that she was married; that Hugo de Sade was her husband; and that her virtue was proof against the passion of Petrarch. When all the circumstances of the case, including the peculiarities of sentiment which 27characterize the time, are fairly taken into consideration, there will appear no such miraculous improbability as has been presumed in the duration of Petrarch’s attachment. That it partook of the vehement character of true passion, is evident from many passages in his epistles and philosophical works, where he may be supposed to speak with less disguise than in his Canzoniere; but a natural vanity, the habit of refining his feelings into intellectual notions, and the then prevalent fashion of poetical constancy to a real object, may have contributed more than he could himself be aware to the durability of the sentiment. It is not to be forgotten, however, that at different periods of his life he had two natural children, a son and a daughter: still he maintained that notwithstanding these irregularities, he never loved any one but Laura. The Sonnets and Canzones, which, separately published, now together form the Canzoniere, soon elevated their author to the highest rank among living poets, and gave him in the eyes of his admirers a place beside the “creator della lingua,” the author of the Divina Commedia. Petrarch, however, whose mind was full of veneration for antiquity, and who was ardently desirous to recover all the monuments of classic literature that still preserved a hazardous existence in convents and other receptacles of the little learning of an ignorant age, for a long time, if not to the end of life, prided himself more on his Latin compositions, than on being the founder of a school of poetry in his native language. At one time he had commenced a Latin history of Rome, from the foundation of the city to the reign of Titus. But he was diverted from this work, by conceiving the idea of an epic poem, entitled ‘Africa,’ founded on the events which marked the close of the second Punic war, of which Scipio was the hero. For a year he laboured on it with enthusiasm; and it was received with admiration: but like most works of imagination composed in languages not rendered familiar to the writer in all their delicacy by vernacular and hourly use, and on subjects not consecrated by any feelings of national and domestic interest, they have long since been forgotten by all but the learned.

On one and the same day, August 23, 1340, he received at Vaucluse a letter from the Roman Senate, inviting him to accept the honour of a public coronation in the Capitol, and one from the Chancellor of the University of Paris, offering the same distinction. It has been said, and there is at least negative evidence in favour of the assertion, that this last invitation was unauthorized by any corporate decision of the university: if so, it probably resulted from the personal enthusiasm of the chancellor, Roberto Bardi, who was a Florentine, and a private friend of the poet. Either from a knowledge of this, or 28from a natural preference of the Imperial City, Petrarch decided at once in favour of Rome; and embarked for Naples, to demand a preliminary examination from Robert of Anjou, the reigning prince, himself devotedly attached to literature. The King and the Poet conferred on poetical and historical subjects: during three days questions were formally proposed, and triumphantly answered; after which Robert pronounced solemnly that Petrarch was worthy of the honour offered to him, and taking off his own royal robe, entreated the poet to wear it at the ceremony of his coronation. On Easter-day, April 8, 1341, Petrarch ascended the stairs of the Capitol, surrounded by the most illustrious citizens of Rome, and preceded by twelve young men chosen from the highest families, who repeated at intervals various passages of his poetry. After a short oration, he received the crown from the hands of the senator, Orso, Count of Anguillara, and recited a sonnet on those heroes of the ancient city, whose triumphal honours, after a cessation of centuries, he first was come to share, and to renew. Then, amidst the acclamations of the multitude, he was conducted to the church of St. Peter’s, where, taking from his head the laurel, he deposited it with religious care on the altar. After this ceremony he returned by land to Avignon, carrying with him letters patent of the King of Naples and of the senate and people of Rome, conferring on him by their joint authorities the full and free power of reading, discussing, and explaining all ancient books, composing new works (especially poems), and wearing on all occasions, as he might prefer, a crown of laurel, of ivy, or of myrtle. Shortly afterwards he was again at Naples, under very different circumstances. Appointed by Clement VI. to urge the claims of the Holy See to the Regency of that state, during the minority of Joanna, the grand-daughter of Robert of Anjou, he was treated with no less distinction and kindness than on the former visit; but, unsuccessful in his mission, and scandalized by the debauchery and cruelty which prevailed in the dissolute court, he soon quitted Naples and Italy for his beloved Vaucluse. There, however, at no great distance of time, a new excitement awaited him. In 1347, Rienzi, the famous demagogue, who began his career so nobly, and closed it with such circumstances of disgrace, obtained his brief and singular dominion. All the hopes of Italian independence, all the reverence for antiquity which had ever animated the spirit of Petrarch, now strongly impelled him to admire the restorer of those ancient names, which he trusted would realize his visions of ancient freedom and majesty. Even the massacre of the Colonna family, which Petrarch heard at Genoa as he was hastening to join the tribune at Rome, did not destroy these feelings, although it 29materially weakened them. But the fabric of Rienzi’s power was sapped by his own extravagances in less than a year; and nearly at the same time a more severe affliction fell upon Petrarch even than the disappointment of his hopes for the restoration of Italian liberty.

In April, 1348, Laura expired of the dreadful malady which then ravaged Europe, and which is described by Boccaccio in the introduction to the Decameron. The second half of the Canzoniere is the monument of his glorious sorrow; which is however more calmly, and, to the apprehensions of many, more convincingly expressed, in the pathetic note to his own MS. of Virgil, now in the Ambrosian Library at Milan. It would be unjust to him not to relate this event in his own words. “Laura, illustrious for her own virtues, and long celebrated by my verses, was seen by me for the first time in my early manhood, in the year 1327, April 6, at six in the morning, in the church of S. Clara, at Avignon. In the same city, in the same month of April, on the same sixth day, and at the same hour, in 1348, this light was taken from the world, while I was at Verona, alas! ignorant of my unhappy lot. The melancholy news reached me in a letter from my friend Louis: it found me at Parma the same year, May 19, in the morning. That body, so chaste, so fair, was laid in the church of the Minor Friars on the evening of the day of her death. Her soul, I doubt not, is returned, as Seneca says of Scipio Africanus, to heaven, whence it came. To preserve the grievous memory of this loss, I write this with a sort of pleasure mixed with bitterness; and I write by choice upon this book, which often comes before my eyes, that hereafter there may be nothing for me to delight in in this life, and that, my strongest chain being broken, I may be reminded by the frequent sight of these words, and by the just appreciation of a fugitive life, that it is time to go forth from Babylon; which, by the help of God’s grace, will become easy to me by vigorous and bold contemplation of the needless cares, the vain hopes, the unexpected events which have agitated me during the time I have spent on earth.” The authenticity of this note has been contested: to us it bears internal evidence of being genuine, not merely in the unpretending pathos of the conclusion, but in the minuteness of the earlier details. It is the luxury of grief to connect the memory of the dead with our thoughts, and employments, and even abodes at the moment of their death; and the pen of the literary forger is not likely to trace so simple and unpretending a statement.

The jubilee of 1350 led Petrarch again to Rome. When he passed through Arezzo, the principal citizens of the town led him with pride to the house in which he was born; declaring that nothing 30had been changed there, and that the municipal authorities had enforced this scrupulous respect for the great poet’s birth-place by injunctions to the successive proprietors of the mansion. Not long afterwards, Boccaccio, his friend and his compeer in the great literary triumvirate of Italy, came to him at Padua, to announce in the name of the senate at Florence that he was restored to his rights of citizenship, and to offer him the superintendence of the recently established university. Petrarch did not accept the proposal. Twice in the course of his remaining life his name is found connected with great events. Admitted to the counsels of Gian Visconti, he accepted the mission of reconciling the republic of Genoa, which had yielded to that prince, with the state of Venice, elated by recent victories. But Petrarch was destined to be unsuccessful as a statesman. This embassy had no effect; nor were his subsequent efforts to infuse into the mind of Charles IV. the lessons of magnanimity, when that weak and avaricious emperor entered Italy, more beneficial either to Charles or to his country. Once, however, when employed by Galeazzo Visconti in a subsequent mission to the same prince, he was able to dissuade him from recrossing the Alps: unless we suppose that the distracted state of Germany had more to do with keeping the emperor at home, than the eloquence of the poet, or the skill of the politician. The second plague in 1362 deprived the now aged poet of the few early friends who remained to him, Azo of Correggio, and the two who in his letters are usually denominated Lælius and Socrates, and had, like himself, been intimate with Jacopo Colonna. He was then resident in Venice; where, in 1363, Boccaccio came to visit him in company with Leontius Pilatus of Thessalonica, who had instructed the Florentine novelist in Greek. At a former period Petrarch had commenced the study of that language under a Grecian monk named Barlaam; and though now sixty years of age, he returned to the task with enthusiasm and with perseverance. He was hospitably and honourably received by the republic, to which he presented his valuable collection of manuscripts.

After some more adventures and wanderings the old man fixed his residence at Arquà, a village situated on the Euganean hills, at four leagues distance from Padua. Here he led a life of abstinence and study, reposing from the toilsome vicissitudes to which he had been subjected, but not from his thirst for knowledge and desire of glory. His last years were solaced by his intimacy with Boccaccio, who seemed to supply the place of those numerous and valued early friends whom he had survived, and by the filial attentions of his daughter Francesca. The last important act of his life was his appearance before the Senate of Venice, in behalf of Francesco of Carrara, who had 31been forced to conclude a humiliating peace with the republic in 1373. It is said that he was so much awed by the majesty of the assembly, that on the first day on which he appeared before it, he was unable to deliver his address. The next day he recovered his spirits, or more probably his strength, and his speech in behalf of Carrara was loudly applauded. He returned to his retirement in a failing state of health, and his complaints were aggravated by imprudence, and disregard of medical advice. July 18, 1374, he was found dead in his library, his head resting on an open book. A stroke of apoplexy had thus suddenly terminated his life. All Padua assisted at his obsequies, and Francesco of Carrara led the funeral pomp. A marble tomb, which still exists, was raised to him before the door of the church of Arquà.

Such was the death and such the life of Francesco Petrarca, than whom few men have exerted more influence over their own times; have contributed more to form and polish the language of their native land; or have given a more decided tone to the literature of succeeding generations. This is not the place to enter into a minute analysis of his merits as a poet. If he did not create the kind of poetry in which he excelled, at least he carried it to perfection: if he could not save his style from being disfigured by feeble imitators, at least he left it in itself a noble work: if he did not avoid the false conceits and strained illustrations, which at the rise of a new literature are almost always found to possess irresistible attractions, he redeemed and even ennobled them by strains of simple passion, imagination, and melody, which will live as long as the language in which they are composed. His Latin writings, on which he wished his reputation to rest, are now much neglected. They are not indeed calculated for general reading; but they are highly valuable as records of the time and of the man. His letters form the most interesting, because the most personal, portion of them. Few men have laid bare their hearts so completely as Petrarch. His vanity, his dependence on the sympathy of others, led him to commit to writing every incident of his life, every turn in the troubled course of his feelings. But he gains rather than loses by this voluntary exposure. His Christian faith and Christian principles of philosophy, however swayed by occasional currents of passion, stand out beautifully amidst the corruptions of that age. It is as impossible to rise from a perusal of Petrarch’s poetry, and even more perhaps of his prose, without a feeling of love for the man, as of admiration for the author.

In early life he was distinguished for beauty, of which he was himself not insensible; for he left, in his ‘Letter to Posterity,’ a description of his own person, which we quote from Ugo Foscolo’s translation. “Without being uncommonly handsome, my person had something 32agreeable in it in my youth. My complexion was a clear and lively brown; my eyes were animated; my hair had grown grey before twenty-five, and I consoled myself for a defect which I shared in common with many of the great men of antiquity (for Cæsar and Virgil were grey-headed in youth), and I had a venerable air, which I was by no means very proud of.” He was then miserable, Foscolo continues, if a lock of his hair was out of order; he was studious of ornamenting his person with the nicest clothes; and to give a graceful form to his feet, he pinched them in shoes that put his nerves and sinews to the rack. These traits are taken from his own familiar letters.

The life and writings of Petrarch have been repeatedly illustrated at great length. The ‘Petrarcha Redivivus’ of Tomasini; the voluminous ‘Mémoires sur Petrarque’ of the Abbé de Sade, who has taken up the subject as a matter of family history; and the works of Tiraboschi and Baldelli, are among the best authorities for our author’s history. To the English, and indeed to every reader, we must recommend the ‘Essays on Petrarch,’ by Ugo Foscolo; at the end of which there are some exquisite translations by Lady Dacre. The most complete edition of Petrarch’s works is the folio published at Bâsle in 1581. Among the numerous editions of his Italian poems, we may particularize that of Biagioli, 1822, as containing the notes of Alfieri; and that of Marsard, printed at Padua, as distinguished alike for its correctness and beauty of execution.

Tomb of Petrarch at Arquà.

Engraved by C. E. Wagstaff.


From a Picture after Sir Joshua Reynolds
in the possession of T. H. Burke Esqr.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.



The six and thirty years which have elapsed since the death of Edmund Burke are not sufficient to secure a right and impartial sentence on his character. We are still within the heated temperature of the same political agitations in which he lived and struggled. We are not, perhaps our children will not be, qualified to judge him and his contemporaries, with that calmness with which men weigh the merits of things and persons who have exerted no perceptible influence over their own times. It is fortunate, therefore, that the limits of this brief memoir prescribe rather a succinct statement of unquestioned facts, than a disputable adjudication between opposite opinions.

Edmund Burke, son of Richard Burke, an attorney in extensive practice in Dublin, was born in that city, January 1, 1730. Of his early life little is known with certainty. He appears to have distinguished himself at Trinity College, Dublin, by his acquirements and talents, especially by a decided taste and ability for the discussion of subjects relating to English history and politics. His first literary effort of any importance was made before he quitted that university, in some letters directed against a factious writer called Lucas, at that time the popular idol. These are not preserved. In 1750 he came to London, and was entered a student of the Middle Temple. It is singular that the idle rumour, expressly contradicted by himself, of his having completed his education at St. Omer’s, should be still in some degree accredited by the author of the article ‘Burke,’ in the Biographie Universelle. Whether, in 1752 or 1753, he became a candidate for the chair of Logic at Glasgow, is a more doubtful question: the opinions of Dugald Stewart and Adam Smith, who took some pains to ascertain the truth, were in the negative. It is certain, however, that the extraordinary talents of Burke soon began 34to attract attention: he wrote in many political and literary miscellanies, and formed an acquaintance with some distinguished characters of the time. Among these should be mentioned Lord Charlemont, Gerard Hamilton, Soame Jenyns, and somewhat later, Goldsmith, Reynolds, Dr. Johnson, and Hume. His first avowed work, the ‘Vindication of Natural Society,’ was published in 1756, and excited very general admiration. The imitation of Bolingbroke’s style in this essay was so perfect, that some admirers of the deceased philosopher are said to have overlooked the evident signs of irony, and to have believed it to be a genuine posthumous work. This may appear strange; but it is surely more strange, that forty years afterwards this ‘Vindication’ should have been republished by the French party, with a view of serving democratic interests. Before the close of 1756, appeared the ‘Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful,’ which added largely to Burke’s reputation, and procured him the valuable friendship of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Shortly afterwards, the public attention being at that time much directed to the American colonies, was published ‘An Account of the European Settlements in America,’ of which Burke was probably not the sole, but the principal author. It was much read, as well on the Continent as in England; and indeed no inconsiderable portion of it has been incorporated into the celebrated work of the Abbé Raynal. About this time Burke married the daughter of Dr. Nugent, an intelligent physician, who had invited him to his house while suffering under an illness, the result of laborious application. This union was a source of uninterrupted comfort to him through life. “Every care vanishes,” he was in the habit of saying, “when I enter my own home.” A confined income, however, rendered literary exertion still more indispensable to him than before: and in 1759 ‘The Annual Register,’ that most useful work, for many years entirely composed by Burke, or under his immediate superintendence, was undertaken by him in conjunction with Dodsley. At length, in 1765, with the first Rockingham administration, he entered on a more extensive sphere of action: being appointed private secretary to the Marquis of Rockingham, through the recommendation of his friend Mr. Fitzherbert.

Coming now into Parliament as member for Wendover in Buckinghamshire, Burke became an eminent supporter of the Whig party. The situation of affairs was critical. Mr. Grenville’s stamp act, a fatal departure from the policy on which the colonies had been previously governed, had excited much discontent in America. A strong party, supported by the evident favour of the court and the general 35feeling of the country, urged the necessity of perseverance in this coercive policy. Lord Chatham and his adherents no less strenuously denied the right of the Imperial Legislature to impose taxes on America without her own consent. The Rockingham Whigs adopted a middle course between these extremes. They repealed the stamp act, declaring at the same time that the right of taxation resided inalienably in Parliament. Their administration was short-lived. Lord Chatham succeeded them in power, at the head of that “dovetailed” cabinet which Burke has so admirably satirised in his ‘Speech on American Taxation.’ His influence was little more than nominal, and in spite of it, schemes for raising a revenue in America were soon revived. From these measures, the public attention was for a short time diverted by the domestic agitation caused by the proceedings against Wilkes, the disputed election in Middlesex, and the mysterious letters of Junius. The shadow of that name was at the time believed by many to rest on Burke: a supposition long since rejected, and supported by scarce any evidence; though his power as a writer, and his known facility in disguising his style, gave some degree of plausibility to the supposition. In his own name, and without any disguise, he came forward to attack the ministry of the Duke of Grafton, in a political treatise, entitled, ‘Thoughts on the Present Discontents.’ This has been termed the Whig Manual, and certainly contains the ablest exposition ever given of the principles held by that party for a long series of years. Shaken by this and other attacks, the Duke retired, and left the state under the guidance of a minister, whose merits have been overshadowed by the disastrous circumstances in which he was involved. From this time commenced that long and brilliant opposition, which, from a very low condition of numbers and influence, gradually worked its way through the most momentous parliamentary struggles; and by a continued display of powers the most accomplished, and union the most effective, gained an ultimate victory, first over popular prepossessions, and then over royal obstinacy. The court party were so inferior in eloquence and genius, that their arguments are little remembered, while the speeches of the Whigs are in every body’s hands. They felt the importance of the contest deeply, or they would not have been animated to their extraordinary exertions. But the wisest of them could not foresee the prodigious extent of those consequences, which, within the duration of their own lives, resulted from their endeavours. It was much for them to look forward to the independence of America. What would it have been to contemplate the spread of popular principles in Europe, and that 36mighty revolution which has changed the balance of society? No member of the opposition contributed so largely as Burke to their final triumph. During the latter years of the war, indeed, his fame as a debater was eclipsed by the rising genius of Charles Fox, to whom he willingly yielded the office of leader of the Whig party. But the talents of Fox had been trained and nourished by the wisdom of Burke; and in the speeches published at different periods by the latter, on American taxation [1774], and on conciliation with America [1775], and his Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol [1777], (written on the occasion of a temporary secession of the Rockingham party from Parliament,) the friends of freedom found a magazine of invaluable weapons. In 1774 Burke was elected member of Parliament for Bristol; but six years afterwards he was unable to procure his reelection for that borough, the people being displeased with his recent votes in favour of Irish trade and of the Roman Catholics. His popularity was in a great measure restored by the famous Bill of Economical Reform, brought forward by him in 1782, when paymaster of the forces under the second Rockingham ministry, after the overthrow of Lord North. The death of the Marquis of Rockingham produced a schism among the Whigs; Lord Shelburne was appointed his successor, and the Rockingham division resigned their places. They soon returned to them, by means of that strange junction of force with Lord North, emphatically termed The Coalition, which raised a general cry of indignation throughout the country. Burke always vindicated this step, both at the time, and when the state of things which led to it had long passed away; but it is generally supposed that he did not counsel it, and was only induced to give in his adhesion by the urgent entreaties of his political friends.

The celebrated East-India Bill, of which Burke is said to have been partly the author, and upon which he pronounced one of his most magnificent orations, was fatal to the coalition. William Pitt, called at the age of twenty-four to occupy the first place in the counsels of his sovereign, fought an arduous but finally victorious fight against the Whig majority in the Commons. A dissolution followed; the new House supported the new Ministers; and a second long period of Whig opposition began, during which Fox was the acknowledged leader of the party, and was warmly supported in that capacity by Burke. The most important event of this second great division of Burke’s parliamentary life is undoubtedly the impeachment of Warren Hastings. Throughout the long debates on the accusations brought against the Governor of India, and afterwards throughout the trial 37itself, which began in 1788 and was not concluded until 1795, Burke was indefatigable. Never, perhaps, has greater oratorical genius been displayed than by that combination of great men who were appointed managers of the impeachment. Yet all their efforts failed to establish their case on a secure foundation. History still hesitates to decide with confidence on the guilt or innocence of Hastings. It is agreed, however, that the violence of Burke’s proceedings on this trial was often unworthy of the situation he held and the cause he advocated. When with harsh tones and a look more expressive of personal than political hatred he bade Mr. Hastings kneel before the court, it is said that Fox whispered to his friends, “In that moment I would rather have been Hastings than Burke.”

At the latter end of 1788 arose the regency question, on which Burke, with all his party, maintained the opinion that any apparently irreparable incapacity in the sovereign caused a demise of the crown, because, the prerogatives of royalty being given for public benefit, it would be highly dangerous to suspend them for an indefinite period. Burke, however, did some injury to his party by the intemperate and imprudent language he adopted on this occasion, speaking of the King’s situation in the tone of triumph rather than pity, and even using the expression “God has hurled him from his throne.” These constitutional questions, however important, were soon forgotten in a new absorbing interest, which began to occupy the minds of all men. The French Revolution had taken place. That astonishing event was at first hailed with general sympathy and admiration in this country. The supporters of Pitt either joined in the vehement delight of the Fox party, or took no pains to restrain it. Here and there some may have murmured dislike: but in general it was thought unworthy of Englishmen not to rejoice in the acquisition of liberty by a neighbouring people; and not a few looked to this great change as the harbinger of political regeneration to Europe and the world. In this general acclamation one voice was wanting. Burke, from the very first meeting of the States General, did not conceal his aversion to their proceedings and his apprehension of the results. Gradually, as the excesses of popular violence in Paris became more frequent, an Anti-Gallican party began to gather round him. On the 9th of February, 1790, during a debate on the army estimates, Burke took advantage of some expressions which Fox let fall in praise of the French Revolution to open an attack against it, denying that there was any similarity between our revolution of 1688 and the “strange thing” called by the same name in France. Fox in his 38reply spoke in memorable terms of his obligations to his friend, declaring that all he had ever learnt from other sources was little in comparison with what he had gained from him. Sheridan attacked the speech just made by Burke in no measured terms, describing it as perfectly irreconcilable with the principles hitherto professed by that gentleman. On this, Burke again rose, and in a few words declared that Sheridan and himself were thenceforth “separated in politics.” Before the end of this year came out the celebrated ‘Reflections,’ which at once showed how irreparable was the schism between the author and his former associates. It roused an immediate war of opinion, which gave birth to a war of force throughout Europe. Innumerable pamphlets soon followed upon its publication, some denouncing the work as a specious apology for despotism, others advocating the opinions contained in it with a vehemence which the authors had not dared to show, till they were encouraged by the support of so eloquent and so distinguished a partizan. The most remarkable attempts of the former description were the ‘Rights of Man,’ by Thomas Paine, which soon became the manual of the democratic party; and the ‘Vindiciæ Gallicæ,’ by Mr., afterwards Sir James Mackintosh, the most illustrious, if not the only successor of Burke himself in his peculiar line of philosophical politics. Fox was loud in condemning the book, and although no formal breach of friendship had hitherto taken place, such an event was obviously to be expected. On the 6th May, 1791, during a discussion on a plan for settling the constitution of Canada, this separation actually occurred, with a solemnity worthy of the men and the event. From that hour, during the six remaining years of his life, one idea swayed with exclusive dominion the mind of Burke. Utterly separated from Fox’s party, aloof from the ministry, retired, after a few sessions, from Parliament, he continued to wage unceasing war by speech and writing against the principles and practice of Jacobinism. Soon he was pointed out as a prophet, and the verification of his predictions in characters of blood was much more powerful, because much more palpable, than the vague anticipations of future advantage put forward by his opponents. In 1794, after his retirement from Parliament, he received the grant of a considerable pension for himself and his wife. The democratic party did not scruple to stigmatize his motives, and in answer to an accusation of this sort was written the ‘Letter to a Noble Lord,’ perhaps the most astonishing specimen of his peculiar capacities of style. In this year the death of his son overwhelmed him with affliction. Still he continued his exertions. His views of the war differed widely from those of the ministry; 39he ceased not to urge that it was a war not against France but Jacobinism, and that it would be a degradation to Britain to treat with any of the Regicides. On this subject are written the two ‘Letters on a Regicide Peace,’ published in 1796, and the others published since his death. On the 8th of July, 1797, this event took place, in the 68th year of his age, at his own house at Beaconsfield, whither, after seeking medical aid elsewhere in vain, he had returned to die.

The mind of this great man may, perhaps, be considered as a fair representative of the general characteristics of English intellect. Its groundwork was solid, practical, and conversant with the details of business, but upon this, and secured by this, arose a superstructure of imagination and moral sentiment. He saw little, because it was painful to him to see any thing, beyond the limits of the national character; with that, and with the constitution which he considered its appropriate expression, all his sympathies were bound up. But he loved them with an intelligent and discriminating love, making it his pains to comprehend thoroughly what it was his delight to serve diligently. His political opinions, springing out of these dispositions, were early fixed in favour of the Whig system of governing by great party connexions. These opinions, however, were swayed in their application by strong impulses of personal feeling. A temper impatient of control, an imagination prone to magnify those classes of facts which impressed him with alarm or hope, a command of language almost unlimited, and a copiousness of imagery misleading nearly as much as it illustrated or enforced; these were qualities which laid him open to many serious accusations. But his admirers have started a philosophic doubt, whether less of passion and prejudice would have been compatible with the peculiar station he was destined to occupy. In an age of revolution, it might be plausibly maintained, his genius was the counteracting force: alone he stood against the impulses communicated to European society by the philosophers of France; their enthusiasm could only be met by enthusiasm; their influence on the imaginations and hearts of men was capable of overbearing either a blind prejudice or a dispassionate logic. But Burke was an orator in all his thoughts, and a sage in all his eloquence; he held the principles of Conservation with the zeal of a Leveller, and tempered lofty ideas of Improvement with the scrupulousness of official routine. As a debater in the House of Commons he was inferior to some otherwise inferior men. Pitt and Fox will be neglected while the speeches of Burke shall still be read. It has been said of Fox by a philosophical panegyrist that he was the most Demosthenean speaker since Demosthenes. Perhaps, of all great 40orators Burke might be called the least Demosthenean. Probably a hearer of the great Athenian would have felt as extemporaneous and intuitive the slowly-wrought perfections of rhetorical art, while the listeners to Burke may have often set down to elaborate preparation what was really the inspiration of the moment. His conversation, however, seems to have been uniformly delightful. It is a true maxim in one sense, although in another it would often need reversal, that great men are always greater than their works. Much as we possess of Edmund Burke, very much is lost to us of that which formed the admiration of his contemporaries. “The mind of that man,” said Dr. Johnson, “is a perennial stream: no one grudges Burke the first place.” He was acquainted with most subjects of literature, and possessed some knowledge of science. The philosophy of mind owes him one contribution of no inconsiderable value: but the indirect results of his metaphysical studies as seen in the tenor of his practical philosophy are much more extensive. For in all things, while he deeply reverenced principles, he chose to deal with the concrete more than with abstractions: he studied men rather than man. In private life the character of Burke was unsullied even by reproach. A good father, a good husband, a good friend, he was sincerely attached to the Protestant religion of the English church, “not from indifference,” as he said himself of the nation at large, “but from zeal; not because he thought there was less religion in it, but because he knew there was more.” But his attachment was without bigotry; the principles of toleration ever found in him a powerful advocate; and he was ever zealous to remove imperfections, and correct abuses, in the establishment, as the best means of securing its permanent existence.

The works of Burke are collected in sixteen volumes octavo. His speeches are separately published in four volumes octavo. A small volume appeared in 1827, containing the correspondence, hitherto unpublished, between this great statesman and his friend Dr. Laurence. His life has been written soon after his death by Mr. Bisset; and more recently by Mr. Prior. Several other biographical accounts were published about the time of his death, both in the periodical publications and as independent works: we are not aware that any of these are entitled to particular notice.

Engraved by T. Woolnoth.


From the original Picture by Porbus
in the Collection of the Musée Royal, Paris.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.



Henry IV., the most celebrated, the most beloved, and perhaps, in spite of his many faults, the best of the French monarchs, was born at Pau, the capital of Béarn, in 1553. His parents were Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Vendôme, and, in right of his wife, titular King of Navarre, and Jeanne d’Albret, the heiress of that kingdom. On the paternal side he traced his descent to Robert of Clermont, fifth son of Louis IX., and thus, on the failure of the elder branches, became heir to the crown of France. Educated by a Protestant mother in the Protestant faith, he was for many years the rallying point and leader of the Huguenots. In boyhood the Prince of Béarn displayed sense and spirit above his years. Early inured to war, he was present and exhibited strong proofs of military talent at the battle of Jarnac, and that of Moncontour, both fought in 1569. In the same year he was declared chief of the Protestant League. The treaty of St. Germain, concluded in 1570, guaranteed to the Huguenots the civil rights for which they had been striving: and, in appearance, to cement the union of the two parties, a marriage was proposed between Henry, who, by the death of his mother, had just succeeded to the throne of Navarre, and Margaret of Valois, sister of Charles IX. This match brought Condé, Coligni, and all the leaders of their party, to Paris. The ceremony took place August 17, 1572. On the twenty-second, when the rejoicings were not yet ended, Coligni was fired at in the street, and wounded. Charles visited him, feigned deep sorrow, and promised to punish the assassin. On the night between the twenty-third and twenty-fourth, by express order of the Court, that atrocious scene of murder began, which history has devoted to execration, under the name of the massacre of St. Bartholomew. For three years afterwards Henry, who to save his life had conformed to the established religion, was kept as a kind of state prisoner. He escaped in 1576, and put himself at the head 42of the Huguenot party. In the war which ensued, with the sagacity and fiery courage of the high-born general, he showed the indifference to hardships of the meanest soldier. Content with the worst fare and meanest lodging, in future times the magnificent monarch of France could recollect when his wardrobe could not furnish him with a change of linen. He shared all fortunes with his followers, and was rewarded by their unbounded devotion.

Upon the extinction of the house of Valois, by the assassination of Henry III. in 1589, Henry of Navarre became the rightful owner of the French throne. But his religion interfered with his claims. The League was strong in force against him: he had few friends, few fortresses, no money, and a small army. But his courage and activity made up for the scantiness of his resources. With five thousand men he withstood the Duc de Mayenne, who was pursuing him with twenty-five thousand, and gained the battle of Arques, in spite of the disparity. This extraordinary result may probably be ascribed in great measure to the contrast of personal character in the two generals. Mayenne was slow and indolent. Of Henry it was said, that he lost less time in bed, than Mayenne lost at table; and that he wore out very little broad-cloth, but a great deal of boot-leather. A person was once extolling the skill and courage of Mayenne in Henry’s presence. “You are right,” said Henry; “he is a great captain, but I have always five hours’ start of him.” Henry got up at four in the morning, and Mayenne about ten.

The battle of Arques was fought in the year of his accession. In the following year, 1590, he gained a splendid victory at Ivri, over the Leaguers, commanded by Mayenne, and a Spanish army superior in numbers. On this occasion he made that celebrated speech to his soldiers before the battle: “If you lose sight of your standards, rally round my white plume: you will always find it in the path of honour and glory.” Nor is his exclamation to his victorious troops less worthy of record: “Spare the French!”

Paris was soon after blockaded; and the hatred of the Leaguers displayed itself with increased violence, in proportion as the King showed himself more worthy of affection. A regiment of Priests and Monks, with cuirasses on their breasts, muskets and crucifixes in their hands, paraded the streets, and heightened the passions of the populace into frenzy. At this period of fanaticism, theologians were the most influential politicians, and the dictators of the public conscience. Accordingly the Sorbonne decided that Henry, as a relapsed and excommunicated heretic, could not be acknowledged, even although he should be absolved from the censures. The Parliament swore on the Gospels, in 43the presence of the Legate and the Spanish Ambassador, to refuse all proposals of accommodation. The siege was pushed to such extremities, and the famine became so cruel, that bread was made of human bones ground to powder. That Henry did not then master the capital, where two hundred thousand men were maddened with want, was owing to his own lenity. He declared that he had rather lose Paris, than gain possession of it by the death of so many persons. He gave a free passage through his lines to all who were not soldiers, and allowed his own troops to send in refreshments to their friends. By this paternal kindness he lost the fruit of his labours to himself; but he also prolonged the civil war, and the calamities of the kingdom at large.

The approach of the Duke of Parma with a Spanish army obliged Henry to raise the siege of Paris. It was not the policy of the Spanish court to render the Leaguers independent of its assistance, and the Duke, satisfied with having relieved the metropolis, avoided an engagement, and returned to his government in the Low Countries, followed by Henry as far as the frontiers of Picardy. In 1591 Henry received succours from England and Germany, and laid siege to Rouen; but his prey was again snatched from him by the Duke of Parma. Again battle was offered and declined; and the retiring army passed the Seine in the night on a bridge of boats: a retreat the more glorious, as Henry believed it to be impossible. The Duke once said of his adversary, that other generals made war like lions, or wild boars; but that Henry hovered over it like an eagle.

During the siege of Paris, some conferences had been held between the chiefs of the two parties, which ended in a kind of accommodation. The Catholics of the King’s party began to complain of his perseverance in Calvinism; and some influential men who were of the latter persuasion, especially his confidential friend and minister Rosny, represented to him the necessity of a change. Even some of the reformed ministers softened the difficulty, by acknowledging salvation to be possible in the Roman church. In 1593 the ceremony of abjuration was performed at St. Denys, in presence of a multitude of the Parisians. If, as we cannot but suppose, the monarch’s conversion was owing to political motives, the apostacy must be answered for at a higher than any human tribunal: politically viewed, it was perhaps one of the most beneficial steps ever taken towards the pacification and renewal of prosperity of a great kingdom. In the same year he was crowned at Chartres, and in 1594 Paris opened her gates to him. He had but just been received into the capital, where he was conspicuously manifesting his beneficence and zeal for the public good, when 44he was wounded in the throat by John Châtel, a young fanatic. When the assassin was questioned, he avowed the doctrine of tyrannicide, and quoted the sermons of the Jesuits in his justification. That society therefore was banished by the Parliament, and their librarian was executed on account of some libels against the King, found in his own hand-writing among his papers.

For two years after his ostensible conversion, the King was obliged daily to perform the most humiliating ceremonies, by way of penance; and it was not till 1595 that he was absolved by Clement VIII. The Leaguers then had no further pretext for rebellion, and the League necessarily was dissolved. Its chiefs exacted high terms for their submission; but the civil wars had so exhausted the kingdom, that tranquillity could not be too dearly purchased; and Henry was faithful to all his promises, even after his authority was so firmly established, that he might have broken his word with safety to all but his own conscience and honour. Although the obligations which he had to discharge were most burdensome, he found means to relieve his people, and make his kingdom prosper. The Duc de Mayenne, in Burgundy, and the Duke de Mercœur, in Britanny, were the last to protract an unavailing resistance; but the former was reduced in 1596, and the latter in 1598, and thenceforth France enjoyed almost uninterrupted peace till Henry’s death. But the Protestants gave him almost as much uneasiness as the Catholic Leaguers. He had granted liberty of conscience to the former; a measure which was admitted to be necessary by the prudent even among the latter. Nevertheless, either from vexation at his having abjured their religion, from the violence of party zeal, or disgust at being no longer the objects of royal preference, the Calvinists preferred their demands in so seditious a tone, as stopped little short of a rebellious one. While on the road to Britanny, he determined to avoid greater evils by timely compromise. The edict of Nantes was then promulgated, authorizing the public exercise of their religion in several towns, granting them the right of holding offices, putting them in possession of certain places for eight years, as pledges for their security, and establishing salaries for their ministers. The clergy and preachers demurred, but to no purpose; the Parliament ceased to resist the arguments of the Prince, when he represented to them as magistrates, that the peace of the state and the prosperity of the church must be inseparable. At the same time he endeavoured to convince the bigots among the priesthood on both sides, that the love of country and the performance of civil and political duties may be completely reconciled with difference of worship.

But it would be unjust to attribute these enlightened views to Henry, 45without noticing that he had a friend as well as minister in Rosny, best known as the Duc de Sully, who probably suggested many of his wisest measures, and at all events superintended their execution, and did his best to prevent or retrieve his sovereign’s errors by uncompromising honesty of advice and remonstrance. The allurements of pleasure were powerful over the enthusiastic and impassioned temperament of Henry: it was love that most frequently prevailed over the claims of duty. The beautiful Gabrielle d’Estrées became the absolute mistress of his heart; and he entertained hopes of obtaining permission from Rome to divorce Margaret de Valois, from whom he had long lived in a state of separation. Had he succeeded time enough, he contemplated the dangerous project of marrying the favourite; but her death saved him both from the hazard and disgrace. It is not by anecdotes of his amours, that we would be prone to illustrate the life of this remarkable sovereign; but the following may deserve notice as highly characteristic. Shortly after the peace with Spain, concluded by the advantageous treaty of Vervins in 1598, Henry, on his return from hunting, in a plain dress as was usual with him, and with only two or three persons about him, had to cross a ferry. He saw that the ferryman did not know him, and asked what people said about the peace. “Faith,” said the man, “I know nothing about this fine peace; every thing is still taxed, even to this wretched boat, by which I can scarcely earn a livelihood.” “Does not the King intend,” said Henry, “to set all this taxation to rights?” “The King is good kind of man enough,” answered the sturdy boatman; “but he has a mistress, who wants so many fine gowns, and so many trumpery trinkets, and we have to pay for all that. Besides, that is not the worst: if she were constant to him, we would not mind; but people do say that the jade has other gallants.” Henry, much amused with this conversation, sent for the ferryman next day, and extorted from him all that he had said the evening before, in presence of the object of his vituperation. The enraged lady insisted on his being hanged forthwith. “How can you be such a fool?” said the King; “this poor devil is put out of humour only by his poverty: for the time to come, he shall pay no tax for his boat, and then he will sing for the rest of his days, Vive Henri, vive Gabrielle.”

The King’s passions were not buried in the grave of La Belle Gabrielle: she was succeeded by another mistress, Henrietta d’Entragues, a woman of an artful, intriguing, and ambitious spirit, who inflamed his desires by refusals, until she extorted a promise of marriage. Henry showed this promise, ready signed, to Sully: the minister, in a noble fit of indignation, tore it to pieces. “I believe you are mad,” cried the King, in a rage. “It may be so,” answered Sully; “but I 46wish I was the only madman in France.” The faithful counsellor was in momentary expectation of an angry dismissal from all his appointments; but his monarch’s candour and justice, and long tried friendship, prevailed over his besetting weakness; and as an additional token of his favour, he conferred on Sully the office of Grand Master of the Ordnance. The sentence of divorce, so long solicited, was at length granted; and the King married Mary de Medicis, who bore Louis XIII. to him in 1601. The match, however, contributed little to his domestic happiness.

While France was flourishing under a vigilant and paternal administration, while her strength was beginning to keep pace with her internal happiness, new conspiracies were incessantly formed against the King. D’Entragues could not be his wife, but continued to be his mistress. She not only exasperated the Queen’s peevish humour against him, but was ungrateful enough to combine with her father, the Count d’Auvergne, and the Spanish Court, in a plot which was timely discovered. The criminals were arrested and condemned, but received a pardon. The Duke de Bouillon afterwards stirred up the Calvinists to take Sedan, but it was immediately restored. Spite of the many virtues and conciliatory manners of Henry, the fanatics could never pardon his former attachment to the Protestant cause. He was continually surrounded with traitors and assassins: almost every year produced some attempt on his life, and he fell at last by the weapon of a misguided enthusiast. Meanwhile, from misplaced complaisance to the Pope, he recalled the Jesuits, contrary to the advice of Sully and the Parliament.

Shortly before his untimely end, Henry is said by some historians, to have disclosed a project for forming a Christian republic. The proposal is stated to have been, to divide Europe into fifteen fixed powers, none of which should be allowed to make any new acquisition, but should together form an association for maintaining a mutual balance, and preserving peace. This political reverie, impossible to be realized, is not likely ever to have been actually divulged, even if meditated by Henry, nor is there any trace of it to be found in the history, or among the state papers of England, Venice, or Holland, the supposed co-operators in the scheme. His more rational design in arming went no further than to set bounds to the ambition and power of the house of Austria, both in Germany and Italy. His warlike preparations have, however, been ascribed to his prevailing weakness, in an infatuated passion for the Princess of Condé. Whatever may have been the motive, his means of success were imposing. He was to march into Germany at the head of forty thousand excellent troops. The 47army, provisions, and every other necessary were in readiness. Money no longer failed; Sully had laid up forty millions of livres in the treasury, which were destined for this war. His alliances were already assured, his generals had been formed by himself, and all seemed to forebode such a storm, as must probably have overwhelmed an emperor devoted to the search after the philosopher’s stone, and a king of Spain under the dominion of the inquisition. Henry was impatient to join his army; but his mind had become harassed with sinister forebodings, and his chagrin was increased by a temporary alienation from his faithful minister. He was in his way to pay a visit of reconciliation to Sully, when his coach was entangled as it passed along a street. His attendants left the carriage to remove the obstruction, and during the delay thus caused he was stabbed to the heart by Francis Ravaillac, a native of Angoulême. This calamitous event took place on May 14, 1610, in the fifty-seventh year of his age. The Spaniards, who had the strongest interest in the catastrophe, were supposed to have been the instigators; but the fear of implicating other powers, and plunging France into greater evils than those from which their hero had rescued them, deterred not only statesmen, but even the judges on Ravaillac’s trial, from pressing for the names of accomplices. Hardouin de Perefixe, in his History of Henry the Great, says, “If it be asked who inspired the monster with the thought? History answers that she does not know; and that in so mysterious an affair, it is not allowable to vent suspicions and conjectures as assured truths; that even the judges who conducted the examinations opened not their mouths, and spoke only with their shoulders.” There were seven courtiers in the coach when the murder took place; and the Marshal d’Estrées, in his History of the Regency of Mary de Medicis, says that the Duke d’Epernon and the Marquis de Verneuil were accused by a female servant of the latter, of having been privy to the design; but that, having failed to verify her charge before the Parliament, she was condemned to perpetual imprisonment between four walls. The circumstance that Ravaillac was of Angoulême, which was the Duke’s government, gave some plausibility to the suspicion. It was further whispered, that the first blow was not mortal; but that the Duke stooped to give facility to the assassin, and that he aimed a second which reached the King’s heart. But these rumours passed off, without fixing any well-grounded and lasting imputation on that eminent person’s character.

The assertions of Ravaillac, as far as they have any weight, discountenance the belief of an extended political conspiracy. The house of Austria, Mary de Medicis his wife, Henrietta d’Entragues his mistress, 48as well as the Duke d’Epernon, have been subjected to the hateful conjectures of Mazarin and other historians; but he who actually struck the blow invariably affirmed that he had no accomplice, and that he was carried forward by an uncontrollable instinct. If his mind were at all acted on from without, it was probably by the epidemic fanaticism of the times, rather than by personal influence.

Henry left three sons and three daughters by Mary de Medicis.

Of no prince recorded in history, probably, are so many personal anecdotes related, as of Henry IV. These are for the most part well known, and of easy access. The whole tenor of Henry’s life exhibits a lofty, generous, and forgiving temper, the fearless spirit which loves the excitement of danger, and that suavity of feeling and manners, which, above all qualities, wins the affections of those who come within its sphere: it does not exhibit high moral or religious principle. But his weaknesses were those which the world most readily pardons, especially in a great man. If Henry had emulated the pure morals and fervent piety of his noble ancestor Louis IX., he would have been a far better king, as well as a better man; yet we doubt whether in that case, his memory would then have been cherished with such enthusiastic attachment by his countrymen.

Marriage of Henry IV. and Mary de Medicis, from the Picture by Rubens.

Engraved by J. Posselwhite.


From a Picture by Hudson,
in Trinity College, Cambridge.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.



Richard Bentley was the son, not of a low mechanic, as the earlier narratives of his life assert, but of a respectable yeoman, possessed of a small estate. That fact has been established by his latest and most accurate, as well as most copious biographer, Dr. Monk, now Bishop of Gloucester. Bentley was born in Yorkshire, January 27, 1661–2, at Oulton, near Wakefield; and educated at Wakefield school, and St. John’s College, Cambridge, where he pursued his studies with unwearied industry. No fellowship to which he was eligible having fallen vacant, he was appointed Master of Spalding school, in 1682; over which he had presided only one year, when his critical learning recommended him to Dr. Stillingfleet, then Dean of St. Paul’s, as a private tutor for his son. In 1689 he attended his pupil to Wadham College in Oxford, where he was incorporated Master of Arts on the 4th of July in that year, having previously taken that degree in his own university. Soon after the promotion of Stillingfleet to the see of Worcester, Bentley was made domestic chaplain to that learned prelate, with whom he continued on the terms of confidential intimacy incident to that connexion, till his Lordship’s death. Dr. William Lloyd, at that time Bishop of Lichfield, was equally alive to the uncommon merit of this rising scholar; and his two patrons concurrently recommended him as a fit person to open the lectures founded by the celebrated Robert Boyle, in defence of natural and revealed religion. Bentley had before this time embarked largely in literary pursuits. Among these we can only stop to mention his criticisms on the historiographer Malelas, contained in a letter appended to Dr. Mill’s edition of that author, which stamped his reputation as a first-rate scholar, especially among the learned men of the Continent.

50The delivery of the first course of Boyle’s Lectures, in 1692, gave Bentley an admirable opportunity of establishing his reputation as a divine; and he taxed his abilities to the utmost to ensure success. Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia had not been published more than six years: the sublime discoveries of the author were little known, and less understood, from the general prejudice against any new theory, and the difficulty of comprehending the deep reasonings on which this one rested. Bentley determined to spare no pains in laying open this new philosophy of the solar system in a popular form, and in displaying to the best advantage the cogent arguments in behalf of the existence of a Deity, furnished by that masterly work. That nothing might be wanting to his design, he applied to the author, and received from him the solution of some difficulties. This gave rise to a curious and important correspondence; and there is a manuscript in Newton’s own hand preserved among Bentley’s papers, containing directions respecting the books to be read as a preparation for the perusal of his Principia. Newton’s four letters on this subject are preserved in Trinity College Library, and have been given to the public in the form of a pamphlet. The lecturer did not neglect, in addition to the popular illustration of the Principia, to corroborate his argument by considerations drawn from Locke’s doctrine, that the notion of a Deity is not innate. The sermons were received with loud and universal applause, and the highest opinion of the preacher’s abilities was entertained by the learned world. Bentley soon reaped the fruits of his high reputation, being appointed to a stall at Worcester in October, 1692, and made Keeper of the King’s Library in the following year. In 1694 he was again appointed to preach Boyle’s lecture. His subject was a defence of Christianity against the objections of infidels. These sermons have never been published; nor have Dr. Monk’s researches enabled him to ascertain where they are now deposited.

Bentley was scarcely settled in his office of librarian, when he became involved in a quarrel with the Hon. Charles Boyle, brother to the Earl of Ossory, who was then in the course of his education at Christ Church in Oxford, and had carried thither a more than ordinary share of classical knowledge, and a decided taste for literary pursuits. Mr. Boyle had been selected by his college to edit a new edition of the Epistles of Phalaris; and for that purpose, not by direct application, but through the medium of a blundering and ill-mannered bookseller, he had procured the use of a manuscript copy of the Epistles from the Library at St. James’s. The responsibility attendant on the custody of manuscripts, and perhaps some disgust at the channel 51through which the loan was negotiated, occasioned the librarian to demand restitution before the collation was finished. A notion was entertained at Christ Church, that an affront was intended both to the Epistles, which Bentley had already pronounced to be a clumsy forgery of later times, and to the advocates of their genuineness. Tory politics had probably some share in exasperating a quarrel with a scholar in the opposite interest. Be this as it may, the preface to Phalaris contained an offensive sentence, which the editor would not, or perhaps could not cancel, as the copies seem to have been delivered before the real state of the case was explained; and this gave rise to the once celebrated controversy between Boyle and Bentley. It produced a number of pieces written with learning, wit, and spirit, on both sides; but Bentley fought single-handed, while the tracts on the side of Boyle were clubbed by the wits of Christ Church; for the reputed author was attending his parliamentary duty in Ireland, while those enlisted under his colours were sustaining his cause in the English republic of letters. Of the numerous attacks on Bentley published at this period, Swift’s Battle of the Books is the only one which continues to be known by the merit of the writing. The controversy was prolonged to the year 1699, when Bentley’s enlarged dissertation upon Phalaris appeared, and obtained so complete a victory over his opponents, as to constitute an epoch not only in the writer’s life, but in the history of literature. It is avowedly controversial; but it contains a matchless treasure of knowledge, in history, chronology, antiquities, philosophy, and criticism. The preface contains his defence against the charges made on his personal character, his vindication of which is satisfactory and triumphant. So strong, however, are the prejudices of party and fashion, that many persons looked upon the controversy as a field for a grand tournament of wit and learning, exhibiting the prowess of the combatants without deciding the cause in dispute; but all those whose judgment on such questions could be of any value held the triumph of Dr. Bentley to be complete, both as to the sterling merits of the case, and his able management of its discussion. It was not long before the impression created in his favour became manifest; for, in the course of the next year, 1700, Bentley was appointed by the crown to the Mastership of Trinity College, Cambridge. On that high advancement he resigned his stall at Worcester. He was afterwards collated to the Archdeaconry of Ely, in 1781, which, besides conferring rank in the church, was endowed with two livings; and he was appointed Chaplain both to King William 52and Queen Anne. There is a tradition in Bentley’s family, that Bishop Stillingfleet said, “We must send Bentley to rule the turbulent Fellows of Trinity College: if any one can do it, he is the person; for he has ruled my family ever since he entered it.”

Having thus attained to affluence and honour, he married a lady to whom he had been long attached. The union was eminently happy. Mrs. Bentley’s mind was highly cultivated; she was amiable and pious; and the benevolence of her disposition availed to soften the animosity of opponents at several critical periods of her husband’s life. His new station was calculated to increase rather than to lessen the Master’s taste for critical studies. As he occasionally gave the results of his inquiries to the public, his labours, abounding in erudition and sagacity, by degrees raised him to the reputation of being the first critic of his age. Among the most remarkable of his numerous pieces, we may mention a collection of the Fragments of Callimachus, with notes and emendations, transmitted to Grævius, in whose edition of that poet’s works they appeared in 1697; and three letters on the Plutus and the Clouds of Aristophanes, written to Kuster, and by him dissected into the form of notes, and published in his edition of that author. Copies of two of the original epistles have fortunately been preserved, and given to the world in the Museum Criticum, after more than a century. Kuster had in a great measure destroyed their interest by omissions, and by curtailing their amusing and digressive playfulness. But as they fell from Bentley’s own pen, few of his writings exhibit more acuteness, or more lively perception of the elegancies of the Greek tongue. About the same time he produced one of the ablest and most perfect of his works, his Emendations on the Fragments of Menander and Philemon. That piece indicates rather intimate acquaintance with his subject, and a feeling of security in his positions, than direct and immediate labour or research. He wrote under the assumed name of Phileleutherus Lipsiensis, and sent the work to be printed and published on the Continent. Under the same signature he appeared again in 1713, in his Reply to Collins’s Discourse of Freethinking. His exposure of the sophistry and fallacies pervading that book was judicious and highly effective; and for the eminent service done to the Christian religion, and the clergy of England in this work, by refuting the objections and exposing the ignorance of the writers calling themselves Freethinkers, Dr. Bentley received the public thanks of the University of Cambridge assembled in senate, January 4, 1715. But his edition of Horace is the capital work, which through good and evil report will associate 53his name with the Latin language so long as it endures. He completed it in 1711. The tone of the preface is arrogant and invidious: the presumption, which is the great blot in his character, both as a man and a critic, is more conspicuous in those few pages than in all his other productions. With respect to the work itself, between seven and eight hundred changes in the common readings were introduced into the text, contrary to the established practice of classical editors. The language of the notes is that of absolute dictatorship, not however without an award of fair credit to some other commentators. His Latinity, although easy and flowing, has been censured as by no means pure. Many of his readings have been confirmed and adopted by the latest and best editors; others are considered as either unnecessary, harsh, or prosaic: but, with all its faults, Bentley’s Horace is a monument of inexhaustible learning; the reader, whether convinced or not, adds to his stock of knowledge; and the very errors of such a critic are instructive.

But Bentley’s haughty temper, thus displayed in his criticisms, burst forth much more injuriously in the government of his college; where he carried himself so loftily, and gave such serious and repeated offence, that several of the Fellows exhibited a complaint against him before the Bishop of Ely, as visitor. Their object was his removal from the headship, in furtherance of which they charged him with embezzlement, in having improperly applied large sums of money to his own use; and with having adopted other unworthy and violent proceedings, to the interruption of peace and harmony in the society. In answer to these imputations he states his own case in a letter to the Bishop, which was published in octavo in 1710, under the title of the Present State of Trinity College. Such was the beginning of a long, inveterate, and mischievous quarrel; which, after a continuance of more than twenty years, ended in the Master’s favour. The Biographia Britannica, and the Life of Bentley by the present Bishop of Gloucester, necessarily give a detailed narrative of this dispute, during the progress of which several books were written, with the most determined animosity on both sides. We cannot in this instance regret the confined space, which prevents our dilating on a quarrel, unfortunate in its origin, virulent in its progress, and, in our opinion, especially discreditable to the Master.

Nor was this the only trial of a spirit sufficiently able to bear up against the storms of opposition, and by obstinate perseverance to triumph over its adversaries. During the course of the former dispute, Bentley had been promoted to the Regius Professorship of Divinity. 54George I. paid a visit to the university in October, 1717. It is usual on such occasions to name several persons for a doctor’s degree in that faculty by royal mandate; and the principal part of the ceremony consists in what is called the creation, that is, the presentation of the nominees to the Chancellor, if present, or to the Vice-Chancellor in his absence, by the Professor. Bentley claimed a fee of four guineas as due from each of the Doctors whom it was his office to create, in addition to a broad-piece, which had been the ancient and customary compliment. There were two gold coins under that denomination; a Jacobus, worth twenty-five shillings, and a Carolus, passing for twenty-three. Both were called in, and no gold pieces of that value have since been coined. The Professor refused to create any doctor who would not acquiesce in the fee. His arguments in favour of the claim were at least plausible; but it ill became so high a functionary to interrupt solemn proceedings, and sow discord in a learned body for a mercenary and paltry consideration. From this low origin arose a long and warm dispute, in the course of which the Master of Trinity and Regius Professor was suspended from all his degrees, October 3, 1718, and degraded on the seventeenth of that month. Of thirty Doctors present, twenty-three voted for the degradation of their brother; and of ten heads of colleges who attended all but one joined in the sentence. The principal ground for these extraordinary measures will not appear very strong to impartial posterity; it was an alleged contempt in speaking of a regular meeting of the Heads of Houses, as “the Vice-Chancellor and four or five of his friends over a bottle.” From this sentence Bentley petitioned the King for relief: and the affair was referred to a committee of the Privy Council, whence it was carried into the Court of King’s Bench, where the four Judges declared their opinions seriatim against the proceedings of the university; and a peremptory mandamus was issued, February 7, 1724, after more than five years of undignified altercation, charging the Chancellor, Masters, and scholars “to restore Richard Bentley to all his degrees, and to every other right and privilege of which they had deprived him.”

Happily both for himself and the learned world, Bentley was gifted with a natural hardiness of temper, which enabled him to buffet against both these storms; so that he continued to pursue his career of literature, as if the elements had been undisturbed. November 5, 1715, he delivered a sermon on popery from the university pulpit, distinguished by learning and argument, and written in an original style, which compelled the attention of the hearers, unlike those 55common-place and narcotic declamations usually poured forth on that anniversary. It was printed, and has incurred the strange fate of having been purloined by Sterne, and introduced into Tristram Shandy. Part of it is read by Corporal Trim, whose feelings are so overpowered by the description of the Inquisition, that he declares “he would not read another line of it for all the world.” The sermon had the common lot of Bentley’s publications; it gave birth to a controversy. It was attacked in ‘Remarks’ by Cummins, a Calvinistic dissenter. An answer was put forth with the following title: ‘Reflections on the scandalous Aspersions on the Clergy, by the author of the Remarks.’ It is asserted in more than one life of Bentley, that he was himself the author of these Reflections; but the Bishop of Gloucester says that no one can believe this who reads half a page of the pamphlet. In 1716 Bentley had propounded the plan of a projected edition of the Greek Testament, in a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury. He brooded over this design for four years, sparing neither labour nor expense to procure the necessary materials. In 1720 he issued proposals for printing it by subscription, together with the Latin version of Jerome; to which proposals a specimen of the execution was annexed. The proposals are printed at length in the Biographia Britannica, and in Dr. Monk’s Life. They were virulently attacked by Dr. Conyers Middleton, at that time a fellow of Trinity, and a leading person in the opposition to the Master, in ‘Remarks’ on Bentley’s proposals. At this time Bentley’s enemies were endeavouring to oust him from his professorship. It was insinuated that his project was a mere pretext, to be abandoned when it had answered his temporary purpose of diverting the public mind from his personal misconduct. To these suspicions he added force by the confession, in excuse for certain marks of haste in a paper drawn up, not as a specimen of his critical powers, but simply as an advertisement, that the proposals were drawn up one evening by candle-light. Middleton followed up his blow by ‘Further Remarks:’ the publication of the Testament was suspended, nor was it ever carried into effect. That it was stopped by Middleton’s pamphlet, is an error countenanced by numerous writers of the time, but denied by Dr. Monk, who says that the discontinuance certainly was not owing to Middleton’s attack. He doubts indeed whether Bentley ever looked into the tract. A speech of his to Bishop Atterbury shortly after its appearance is quite in character: he “scorned to read the rascal’s book; but if his Lordship would send him any part which he thought the strongest; he would undertake to answer it before night.” 56In 1726, his Terence was published with notes, a dissertation concerning the metres, which he termed Schediasma, and, strangely placed in such a work, his speech at the Cambridge commencement in 1725. The sprightliness and good temper of this short but eloquent oration is in strong contrast with his controversial asperity: it breathes strong affection for the university, from which body a stranger might suppose that he had received the kindest treatment. But even this edition of the polished and amiable comedian was undertaken in a spirit of jealousy and resentment against Dean Hare, a former friend and rival editor, who had in truth deserved his anger, by availing himself of information derived from Bentley in an unauthorized and unhandsome manner. The notes throughout are in caustic and contemptuous language, with unceasing severity against Hare, not indeed in that violent strain of abuse which has so often marked the warfare of critics, but with cool and sneering allusions without the mention of the proper name, under the disparaging designation of Quidam, est qui, or Vir eruditus. Not content with this revenge, Bentley undertook to anticipate Hare in an edition of Phœdrus, which is characterized by Dr. Monk as a “hasty, crude, and unsupported revision” of the text of that author; in which the rashness and presumption of his criticisms were rendered still more offensive by the imperious conciseness in which his decrees were promulgated. Hare, on the contrary, had long been preparing his edition: his materials were provided and arranged, and he retaliated in an Epistola Critica, addressed to Dr. Bland, head-master of Eton. The spirit of the epistle is personal and bitter; and while it undoubtedly had its intended effect in exposing Bentley, it is not creditable either to the temper or to the consistency of its author.

The last of Bentley’s works which we shall notice is his unfortunate edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost, given to the public in 1732. It is a sad instance of utter perversion of judgment in a man of extraordinary talent. Fenton first suggested, that the spots in that sun-like performance might be owing to the misapprehension of the amanuensis, and the ignorant blunders of a poverty-stricken printer. On this foundation Bentley, neither himself a poet, nor possessing much taste or feeling for the higher effusions of even his own favourite authors, the Greek and Latin poets, undertook to revise the language, remedy the blemishes, and reject the supposed interpolations of our national epic. He was peculiarly disqualified for such a task, not only by prosaic temperament and the chill of advanced years, but by his entire ignorance of the Italian poets and romance writers, from whose 57fables and imagery Milton borrowed his illustrations as freely as from the more familiar stories and modes of expression of the classical authorities. As usual with him, his notes were written hastily, and sent immediately to the press. The public disapprobation was unanimous and just: but even in this performance many acute pieces of criticism are scattered up and down, for which the world, disgusted by his audacity and flippancy, allows him no credit.

We must pass quickly over the ten remaining years of Bentley’s life. They were embittered by a fresh contest for character and station before the supreme tribunal of the kingdom. The case between the Bishop of Ely and Dr. Bentley, respecting the visitatorial jurisdiction over Trinity College in general, and over the Master in particular, was argued first in the Court of King’s Bench, and then carried by appeal to the House of Lords, where it was finally affirmed that the Bishop of Ely was visitor. In his seventy-second year Bentley underwent a second trial at Ely House, and was sentenced to be deprived of his mastership; but he eluded the execution of the sentence, and continued to perform the duties of the office which he held. At length a compromise was effected between him and some of his most active prosecutors, many of whom, as well as himself, were septuagenarians. On his proposed edition of Homer, distinguished by the restoration of the Digamma, we need not enlarge. It appears to have been broken off by a paralytic attack, in the course of 1739. In the following year he sustained the severest loss, by the death of his wife in the fortieth year of their union. His own death took place July 14, 1742, when he had completed his eightieth year. He was buried in the chapel; to which he had been a benefactor by giving £200 towards its repairs, soon after he was appointed to the mastership.

Bentley’s literary character is known in all parts of Europe where learning is known. In his private character he was what Johnson liked, a good hater: there was much of arrogance, and no little obstinacy in his composition; but it must be admitted on the other hand, that he had many high and amiable qualities. Though too prone to encounter hostility by oppression, he was warm and sincere in friendship, an affectionate husband, and a good father. In the exercise of hospitality at his lodge he maintained the dignity of the college, and rivalled the munificence even of the papal priesthood. His benefactions to the college were also liberal: but he exacted from it far more than it was willing to pay, or than any former master had received; and his name would stand fairer if his generosity had been less distinguished, 58provided that, at the same time, his conduct had been less grasping. We shall only add that the severity of his temper as a critic and controversial writer was exchanged in conversation for a strain of vivacity and pleasantry peculiar to himself.

Bentley had three children: a son called by his own name, and two daughters. The son was bred under his own tuition at Trinity College, where he obtained a fellowship. His contemporaries acknowledge his genius, but lament that his pursuits were so desultory and various as to exclude him from that substantial fame which his talents might have ensured. Dr. Bentley’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth, married Mr. Humphry Ridge, a gentleman of good family in Hampshire, but was left a widow in less than a year, and returned to reside with her father. The youngest, Joanna, married Mr. Denison Cumberland, grandson to the learned Bishop of Peterborough. The first issue of this marriage was the late Richard Cumberland, well known in the republic of letters, and especially as a dramatic writer. In his memoir of his own life Mr. Cumberland gives some amusing anecdotes of his grandfather in his old age. His object seems to have been to paint the domestic character of Bentley in a pleasing light, and to counteract the prevalent opinion of his stern and overbearing manners. The old man’s personal kindness towards himself seems to have produced a deep and well merited feeling of gratitude. His communications however are of little value, for he neglected his opportunities of obtaining accurate and more important information from his mother and other relatives of the great critic.

Engraved by F. Mackenzie.


From a Picture in the Collection of
Godefroy Kraenner, Merchant at Ratisbon.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.



The matter contained in this sketch of Kepler’s history, is exclusively derived from the Life published in the Library of Useful Knowledge. To that work we refer all readers who wish to make themselves acquainted with the contents of Kepler’s writings, and with the singular methods by which he was led to his great discoveries: it will be evident, on inspection, that it would be useless to attempt farther compression of the scientific matter therein contained. Our object therefore will be to select such portions as may best illustrate his singular and enthusiastic mind, and to give a short account of his not uneventful life.

John Kepler was born December 21, 1571, Long. 29° 7´, Lat. 48° 54´, as we are carefully informed by his earliest biographer Hantsch. It is well to add that on the spot thus astronomically designated as our astronomer’s birth-place, stands the city of Weil, in the Duchy of Wirtemberg. Kepler was first sent to school at Elmendingen, where his father, a soldier of honourable family, but indigent circumstances, kept a tavern: his education was completed at the monastic school of Maulbronn, and the college of Tubingen, where he took his Master’s degree in 1591. About the same time he was offered the astronomical lectureship at Gratz, in Styria: and he accepted the post by advice, and almost by compulsion, of his tutors, “better furnished,” he says, “with talent than knowledge, and with many protestations that I was not abandoning my claim to be provided for in some other more brilliant profession.” Though well skilled in mathematics, and devoted to the study of philosophy, he had felt hitherto no especial vocation to astronomy, although he had become strongly impressed with the truth of the Copernican system, and had defended it publicly in the schools of Tubingen. He was much 60engrossed by inquiries of a very different character: and it is fortunate for his fame that circumstances withdrew him from the mystical pursuits to which through life he was more or less addicted; from such profitless toil as the “examination of the nature of heaven, of souls, of genii, of the elements, of the essence of fire, of the cause of fountains, of the ebb and flow of the tide, the shape of the continents and inland seas, and things of this sort,” to which, he says, he had devoted much time. The sort of spirit in which he was likely to enter on the more occult of these inquiries, and the sort of agency to which he was likely to ascribe the natural phenomena of which he speaks, may be estimated from an opinion which he gravely advanced in mature years and established fame, that the earth is an enormous living animal, with passions and affections analogous to those of the creatures which live on its surface. “The earth is not an animal like a dog, ready at every nod; but more like a bull or an elephant, slow to become angry, and so much the more furious when incensed.” “If any one who has climbed the peaks of the highest mountains throw a stone down their very deep clefts, a sound is heard from them; or if he throw it into one of the mountain lakes, which beyond doubt are bottomless, a storm will immediately arise, just as when you thrust a straw into the ear or nose of a ticklish animal, it shakes its head, and runs shuddering away. What so like breathing, especially of those fish who draw water into their mouths, and spout it out again through their gills, as that wonderful tide! For although it is so regulated according to the course of the moon, that in the preface to my ‘Commentaries on Mars’ I have mentioned it as probable that the waters are attracted by the moon, as iron is by the loadstone, yet if any one uphold that the earth regulates its breathing according to the motion of the sun and moon, as animals have daily and nightly alternations of sleep and waking, I shall not think his philosophy unworthy of being listened to; especially if any flexible parts should be discovered in the depths of the earth to supply the functions of lungs or gills.”

The first fruit of Kepler’s astronomical researches was entitled ‘Prodromus Dissertationis Cosmographicæ,’ the first part of a work to be called ‘Mysterium Cosmographicum,’ of which, however, the sequel was never written. The most remarkable part of the book is a fanciful attempt to show that the orbits of the planets may be represented by spheres circumscribed and inscribed in the five regular solids. Kepler lived to be convinced of the total baselessness of this supposed discovery, in which, however, at the time, he expressed high exultation. In the same work are contained his first inquiries into 61the proportion between the distances of the planets from the sun and their periods of revolution. He also attempted to account for the motion of the planets, by supposing a moving influence emitted like light from the sun, which swept round those bodies, as the sails of a windmill would carry any thing attached to them: of a genuine central force he had no knowledge, though he had speculated on the existence of an attractive force in the centre of motion, and rejected it on account of difficulties which he could not explain. The ‘Prodromus’ was published in 1596, and the genius and industry displayed in it gained praise from the best astronomers of the age.

In the following year Kepler withdrew from Gratz into Hungary, apprehending danger from the unadvised promulgation of some, apparently religious, opinions. During this retirement he became acquainted with the celebrated Tycho Brahe, at that time retained by the Emperor Rodolph II. as an astrologer and mathematician, and residing at the castle of Benach, near Prague. Kepler, harassed throughout life by poverty, was received by his more fortunate fellow-labourer with cordial kindness. No trace of jealousy is to be found in their intercourse. Tycho placed the observations which he had made with unremitted industry during many years in the hands of Kepler, and used his interest with the Emperor to obtain permission for his brother astronomer to remain at Benach as assistant observer, retaining his salary and professorship at Gratz. Before all was settled, however, Kepler finally threw up that office, and remained, it should seem, entirely dependent on Tycho’s bounty. The Dane was then employed in constructing a new set of astronomical tables, to be called the Rudolphine, intended to supersede those calculated on the Ptolemaic and Copernican systems. He was interrupted in this labour by death, in 1601; and the task of finishing it was intrusted to Kepler, who succeeded him as principal mathematician to the Emperor. A large salary was attached to this office, but to extract any portion of it from a treasury deranged and almost exhausted by a succession of wars, proved next to impossible. He remained for several years, as he himself expresses it, begging his bread from the Emperor at Prague, during which the Rudolphine Tables remained neglected, for want of funds to defray the expenses of continuing them. He published, however, several smaller works; a treatise on Optics, entitled a Supplement to Vitellion, in which he made an unsuccessful attempt to determine the cause and the laws of refraction; a small work on a new star which appeared in Cassiopeia in 1604, and shone for a time with great splendour; another on comets, in which he suggests the possibility of their being planets moving in straight lines. Meanwhile 62he was continuing his labours on the observations of Tycho, and especially on those relating to the planet Mars: and the result of them appeared in 1609, in his work entitled ‘Astronomia Nova;’ or Commentaries on the motions of Mars. He engaged in these extensive calculations from dissatisfaction with the existing theories, by none of which could the observed and calculated motions of the planets be made to coincide; but without any notion whither the task was about to lead him, or of rejecting the complicated machinery of former astronomers—

the sphere
With centric and eccentric scribbled o’er,
Cycle and epicycle, orb in orb.

His inquiries are remarkable for the patience with which he continued to devise hypotheses, one after another, and the scrupulous fidelity with which he rejected them in succession, as they proved irreconcileable with the unerring test of observation. Not less remarkable is the singular good fortune by which, while groping in the dark among erroneous principles and erroneous assumptions, he was led, by careful observation of Mars, to discover the true form of its orbit, and the true law of its motion, and the motion of all planets, round the sun. These are enunciated in two of the three celebrated theorems known by the name of Kepler’s Laws, beyond comparison the most important discoveries made in astronomy from the time of Copernicus to that of Newton, of which the first is, that the planets move in ellipses, in one of the foci of which the sun is placed the second, that the time of describing any arc is proportional, in the same orbit, to the area comprised by the arc itself, and lines drawn from the sun to the beginning and end of it.

About the year 1613 Kepler quitted Prague, after a residence of eleven years, to assume a professorship in the University of Linz. The year preceding his departure saw him involved in great domestic distress. Want of money, sickness, the occupation of the city by a turbulent army, the death of his wife and of the son whom he best loved, these, he says to a correspondent, “were reasons enough why I should have overlooked not only your letter, but even astronomy itself.” His first marriage, contracted early in life, had not been a happy one: but he resolved on a second venture, and no less than eleven ladies were successively the objects of his thoughts. After rejecting, or being rejected, by the whole number, he at last settled on her who stood fifth in the list; a woman of humble station, but, according to his own account, possessed of qualities likely to wear well in a poor man’s house. He employed the judgment and the mediation of his friends largely 63in this delicate matter: and in a letter to the Baron Strahlendorf, he has given a full and amusing account of the process of his courtships, and the qualifications of the ladies among whom his judgment wavered. He proposed to one lady whom he had not seen for six years, and was rejected: on paying her a visit soon after, he found, to his great relief, that she had not a single pleasing point about her. Another was too proud of her birth; another too old; another married a more ardent lover, while Kepler was speculating whether he would take her or not; and a fifth punished the indecision which he had shown towards others by alternations of consent and denial, until after a three months’ courtship, the longest in the list, he gave her up in despair.

Kepler did not long hold his professorship at Linz. Some religious opinions relative to the doctrine of transubstantiation gave offence to the Roman Catholic party, and he was excommunicated. In 1617 he received an invitation to fill the chair of mathematics at Bologna: this however he declined, pleading his German origin and predilections, and his German habits of freedom in speech and manners, which he thought likely to expose him to persecution or reproach in Italy. In 1618 he published his Epitome of the Copernican system, a summary of his philosophical opinions, drawn up in the form of question and answer. In 1619 appeared his celebrated work ‘Harmonice Mundi,’ dedicated to King James I. of England; a book strongly illustrative of the peculiarities of Kepler’s mind, combining the accuracy of geometric science with the wildest metaphysical doctrines, and visionary theories of celestial influences. The two first books are almost strictly geometrical; the third treats of music; for the fourth and fifth, we take refuge from explaining their subjects in transcribing the author’s exposition of their contents. “The fourth, metaphysical, psychological, and astrological, on the mental essence of harmonies, and of their kinds in the world, especially on the harmony of rays emanating on the earth from the heavenly bodies, and on their effect in nature, and on the sublunary and human soul; the fifth, astronomical and metaphysical, on the very exquisite harmonies of the celestial motions, and the origin of the eccentricities in harmonious proportions.” This work, however, is remarkable for containing amid the varied extravagances of its two last books, the third of Kepler’s Laws, namely, that the squares of the periods of the planets’ revolution vary as the cubes of their distances from the sun; a discovery in which he exulted with no measured joy. “It is now eighteen months since I got the first glimpse of light, three months since the dawn, very few days since the unveiled sun, most admirable to gaze upon, burst out upon me. Nothing holds me; I will indulge in my sacred fury; I 64will triumph over mankind by the honest confession that I have stolen the golden vases of the Egyptians, to build up a tabernacle for my God far away from the confines of Egypt. If you forgive me, I rejoice; if you are angry, I can bear it: the die is cast, the book is written; to be read either now or by posterity, I care not which: it may well wait a century for a reader, as God has waited six thousand years for an observer.”

The substance of Kepler’s astrological opinions is contained in this work. It is remarkable that one whose candour and good faith are so conspicuous, one so intent on correcting his various theories by observation and experience, should have given in to this now generally rejected system of imposture and credulity; nay should profess to have been forced to adopt it from direct and positive observations. “A most unfailing experience (as far as can be hoped in natural phenomena), of the excitement of sublunary nature by the conjunctions and aspects of the planets, has instructed and compelled my unwilling belief.” At the same time he professed through life a supreme contempt for the common herd of nativity casters, and claimed to be the creator of a “new and most true philosophy, a tender plant which, like all other novelties, ought to be carefully nursed and cherished.” His plant was rooted in the sand, and it has perished; nor is it important to explain the fine-spun differences by which his own astrological belief was separated from another not more baseless. Poor through life, he relieved his ever recurring wants by astrological calculations: and he enjoyed considerable reputation in this line, and received ample remuneration for his predictions. It was principally as astrologers that both Tycho Brahe and Kepler were valued by the Emperor Rudolph: and it was in the same capacity that the latter was afterwards entertained by Wallenstein. One circumstance may suggest a doubt whether his predictions were always scrupulously honest. From the year 1617 to 1620, he published an annual Ephemeris, concerning which he writes thus: “In order to pay the expense of the Ephemeris for these two years, I have also written a vile prophesying almanac, which is hardly more respectable than begging; unless it be because it saves the Emperor’s credit, who abandons me entirely, and, with all his frequent and recent orders in council, would suffer me to perish with hunger.” Poverty is a hard task-master; yet Kepler should not have condescended to become the Francis Moore of his day.

In 1620, Kepler was strongly urged by Sir Henry Wotton, then ambassador to Venice, to take refuge in England from the difficulties which beset him. This invitation was not open to the objections 65which had deterred him from accepting an appointment in Italy: but love of his native land prevailed to make him decline it also. He continued to weary the Imperial Government with solicitations for money to defray the expense of the Rudolphine Tables, which were not printed until 1627. These were the first calculated on the supposition of elliptic orbits, and contain, besides tables of the sun and planets, logarithmic and other tables to facilitate calculation, the places of one thousand stars as determined by Tycho, and a table of refractions. Similar tables of the planetary motions had been constructed by Ptolemy, and reproduced with alterations in the thirteenth century under the direction of Alphonso, King of Castile. Others, called the Prussian Tables, had been calculated after the discoveries of Copernicus, by two of that great astronomer’s pupils. All these, however, were superseded in consequence of the observations of Tycho Brahe, observations far more accurate than had ever before been made: and for the publication of the Rudolphine Tables alone, which for a long time continued unsurpassed in exactness, the name of Kepler would deserve honourable remembrance.

Kepler was the first of the Germans to appreciate and use Napier’s invention of logarithms: and he himself calculated and published a series, under the title ‘Chilias Logarithmorum,’ in 1624. Not long after the Rudolphine Tables were printed, he received permission from the Emperor Ferdinand to attach himself to the celebrated Wallenstein, a firm believer in the science of divination by the stars. In him Kepler found a more munificent patron than he had yet enjoyed; and by his influence he was appointed to a professorship at the University of Rostock, in the Duchy of Mecklenburgh. But the niggardliness of the Imperial Court, which kept him starving through life, was in some sense the cause of his death. He had claims on it to the amount of eight thousand crowns, which he took a journey to Ratisbon to enforce, but without success. Fatigue or disappointment brought on a fever which put an end to his life in November, 1630, in his 59th year. A plain stone, with a simple inscription, marked his grave in St. Peter’s church-yard, in that city. Within seventy paces of it, a marble monument has been erected to him in the Botanic Garden, by a late Bishop of Constance. He left a wife and numerous family ill provided for. His voluminous manuscripts are now deposited in the Imperial Library of St. Petersburg. Only one volume of letters, in folio, has been published from them; and out of these the chief materials for his biography have been extracted.



Matthew Hale was born on the 1st of November, 1609, at Alderley, a small village situated in Gloucestershire, about two miles from Wotton-under-Edge. His father, Robert Hale, was a barrister of Lincoln’s Inn, and his mother, whose maiden name was Poyntz, belonged to an ancient and respectable family which had resided for several generations at Iron Acton. Hale’s father is represented to have been a man of such scrupulous delicacy of conscience, that he abandoned his profession, because he thought that some things, of ordinary practice in the law, were inconsistent with that literal and precise observance of truth which he conceived to be the duty of a Christian. “He gave over his practice,” says Burnet, in his Life of Hale, “because he could not understand the reason of giving colour in pleadings, which, as he thought, was to tell a lie.”

Engraved by J. W. Cook.


From an original Picture in the Library
of Lincolns Inn.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.

Hale had the misfortune to lose both his parents very early in life, his mother dying before he was three years old, and his father before he had attained his fifth year. Under the direction of his father’s will he was committed to the care of a near relation, Anthony Kingscote, Esq., of Kingscote in Gloucestershire. This gentleman, being inclined to the religious doctrines and discipline of the Puritans, placed him in a school belonging to that party; and, intending to educate him for a clergyman, entered him in 1626, at Magdalen Hall in Oxford. The strictness and formality of his early education seem to have inclined him to run into the opposite extreme at the university, when he became to a certain extent his own master. He is said to have been very fond at this time of theatrical amusements, and of fencing, and other martial exercises; and giving up the design of becoming a divine, he at one time determined to pass over into the Netherlands, 67and to enlist as a volunteer in the army of the Prince of Orange. An accidental circumstance diverted him from this resolution. He became involved in a lawsuit with a gentleman in Gloucestershire, who laid claim to part of his paternal estate; and his guardian, being a man of retired habits, was unwilling to undertake the task of personally superintending the proceedings on his behalf. It became necessary therefore that Hale, though then only twenty years old, should leave the university and repair to London for the purpose of arranging his defence. His professional adviser on this occasion was Serjeant Glanville, a learned and distinguished lawyer; who, being struck by the clearness of his young client’s understanding, and by his peculiar aptitude of mind for the study of the law, prevailed upon him to abandon his military project, and to enter himself at one of the Inns of Court with the view of being called to the bar. He accordingly became a member of the society of Lincoln’s Inn in Michaelmas term 1629, and immediately applied himself with unusual assiduity to professional studies. At this period of his life, he is said to have read for several years at the rate of sixteen hours a day.

During his residence as a student in Lincoln’s Inn, an incident occurred which recalled a certain seriousness of demeanour, for which he had been remarkable as a boy, and gave birth to that profound piety which in after-life was a marked feature in his character. Being engaged with several other young students at a tavern in the neighbourhood of London, one of his companions drank to such excess that he fell suddenly from his chair in a kind of fit, and for some time seemed to be dead. After assisting the rest of the party to restore the young man to his senses, in which they at length succeeded, though he still remained in a state of great danger, Hale, who was deeply impressed with the circumstance, retired into another room, and falling upon his knees prayed earnestly to God that his friend’s life might be spared; and solemnly vowed that he would never again be a party to similar excess, nor encourage intemperance by drinking a health again as long as he lived. His companion recovered, and to the end of life Hale scrupulously kept his vow. This was afterwards a source of much inconvenience to him, when the reign of licentiousness commenced, upon the restoration of Charles II.; and drinking the King’s health to intoxication was considered as one of the tests of loyalty in politics, and of orthodoxy in religion.

His rapid proficiency in legal studies not only justified and confirmed the good opinion which had been formed of him by his early friend and patron, Serjeant Glanville, but also introduced him to the favourable 68notice of several of the most distinguished lawyers of that day. Noy, the Attorney-General, who some years afterwards devised the odious scheme of ship-money, and who, while he is called by Lord Clarendon “a morose and proud man,” is also represented by him as an “able and learned lawyer,” took particular notice of Hale, and advised and assisted him in his studies. At this time also he became intimate with Selden, who, though much older than himself, honoured him with his patronage and friendship. He was induced by the advice and example of this great man to extend his reading beyond the contracted sphere of his professional studies, to enlarge and strengthen his reasoning powers by philosophical inquiries, and to store his mind with a variety of general knowledge. The variety of his pursuits at this period of life was remarkable: anatomy, physiology, and divinity formed part only of his extensive course of reading; and by his subsequent writings it is made manifest that his knowledge of these subjects was by no means superficial.

The exact period at which Hale was called to the bar is not given by any of his biographers; and in consequence of the non-arrangement of the earlier records at Lincoln’s Inn, it cannot be readily ascertained. It is probable however that he commenced the actual practice of his profession about the year 1636. It is plain that he very soon attained considerable reputation in it, from his having been employed in most of the celebrated trials arising out of the troubles consequent on the meeting of Parliament in 1640. His prudence and political moderation, together with his great legal and constitutional knowledge, pointed him out as a valuable advocate for such of the court party as were brought to public trial. Bishop Burnet says that he was assigned as counsel for Lord Strafford, in 1640. This does not appear from the reports of that trial, nor is it on record that he was expressly assigned as Strafford’s counsel by the House of Lords: but he may have been privately retained by that nobleman to assist in preparing his defence. In 1643 however he was expressly appointed by both Houses of Parliament as counsel for Archbishop Laud: and the argument of Mr. Herne, the senior counsel, an elaborate and lucid piece of legal reasoning, is said, but on no certain authority, to have been drawn up by Hale. In 1647 he was appointed one of the counsel for the Eleven members: and he is said to have been afterwards retained for the defence of Charles I. in the High Court of Justice: but as the King refused to own the jurisdiction of the tribunal, his counsel took no public part in the proceedings. He was also retained after the King’s death by the 69Duke of Hamilton, when brought to trial for treason, in taking up arms against the Parliament. Burnet mentions other instances, but these are enough to prove his high reputation for fidelity and courage, as well as learning.

In the year 1643 Hale took the covenant as prescribed by the Parliament, and appeared more than once with other laymen in the assembly of divines. In 1651 he took the “Engagement to be faithful and true to the Commonwealth without a King and House of Lords,” which, as Mr. Justice Foster observes, “in the sense of those who imposed it, was plainly an engagement for abolishing kingly government, or at least for supporting the abolition of it.” In consequence of his compliance in this respect he was allowed to practise at the bar, and was shortly afterwards appointed a member of the commission for considering of the reformation of the law. The precise part taken by Hale in the deliberations of that body cannot now be ascertained; and indeed there are no records of the mode in which they conducted their inquiries, and, with a few exceptions, no details of the specific measures of reform introduced by them. A comparison, however, of the machinery of courts of justice during the reign of Charles I., and their practice and general conduct during the Commonwealth, and immediately after the Restoration, will afford convincing proofs that during the interregnum improvements of great importance were effected; improvements which must have been devised, matured, and carried into execution by minds of no common wisdom, devoted to the subject with extraordinary industry and reflection.

It was unquestionably with the view of restoring a respect for the administration of justice, which had been wholly lost during the reign of Charles I., and giving popularity and moral strength to his own government, that Cromwell determined to place such men as Hale on the benches of the different courts. Hale however had at first many scruples concerning the propriety of acting under a commission from an usurper; and it was not without much hesitation, that he at length yielded to the importunity of Cromwell and the urgent advice and entreaties of his friends; who, thinking it no small security to the nation to have a man of his integrity and high character on the bench, spared no pains to satisfy his conscientious scruples. He was made a serjeant, and raised to the bench of the Court of Common Pleas in January, 1653–4.

Soon after he became a judge he was returned to Cromwell’s first Parliament of five months, as one of the knights of the shire for the 70county of Gloucester, but he does not appear to have taken a very active part in the proceedings of that assembly. Burnet says that “he, with a great many others, came to parliaments, more out of a design to hinder mischief than to do much good.” On one occasion, however, he did a service to his country, for which all subsequent generations have reason to be grateful, by opposing the proposition of a party of frantic enthusiasts to destroy the records in the Tower and other depositories, as remnants of feudality and barbarism. Hale displayed the folly, injustice, and mischief of this proposition with such authority and clearness of argument, that he carried the opinions of all reasonable members with him; and in the end those who had introduced the measure were well satisfied to withdraw it. That his political opinions at this time were not republican, is evident from a motion introduced by him, that the legislative authority should be affirmed to be in the Parliament, and an individual with powers limited by the Parliament; but that the military power should for the present remain with the Protector. He had no seat in the second Parliament of the Protectorate, called in 1656; but when a new Parliament was summoned upon the death of Cromwell in January, 1658–9, he represented the University of Oxford.

His judicial conduct during the Commonwealth is represented by contemporaries of all parties as scrupulously just, and nobly independent. Several instances are related of his resolute refusal to submit the free administration of the law to the arbitrary dictation of the Protector. On one occasion of this kind, which occurred on the circuit, a jury had been packed by express directions from Cromwell. Hale discharged the jury on discovering this circumstance, and refused to try the cause. When he returned to London, the Protector severely reprimanded him, telling him that “he was not fit to be a judge;” to which Hale only replied that “it was very true.”

It appears that at this period, he, in common with several other judges, had strong objections to being employed by Cromwell as commissioners on the trial of persons taken in open resistance to his authority. After the suppression of the feeble and ineffectual rebellion in 1655, in which the unfortunate Colonel Penruddock, with many other gentlemen of rank and distinction, appeared in arms for the King in the western counties, a special commission issued for the trial of the offenders at Exeter, in which Hale’s name was inserted. He happened to be spending the Lent vacation at his house at Alderley, to which place an express was sent to require his attendance; but he plainly refused to go, excusing himself on the ground that four terms and two 71circuits in the year were a sufficient devotion of his time to his judicial duties, and that the intervals were already too small for the arrangement of his private affairs; “but,” says Burnet, “if he had been urged to it, he would not have been afraid of speaking more clearly.”

He continued to occupy his place as a judge of the Common Pleas until the death of the Protector; but when a new commission from Richard Cromwell was offered to him, he declined to receive it: and though strongly urged by other judges, as well as his personal friends, to accept the office on patriotic grounds, he firmly adhered to his first resolution, saying that “he could act no longer under such authority.”

In the year 1660 Hale was again returned by his native county of Gloucester to serve in the Parliament, or Convention, by which Charles II. was recalled. On the discussion of the means by which this event should be brought about, Hale proposed that a committee should be appointed to look into the propositions and concessions offered by Charles I. during the war, particularly at the treaty of Newport, from whence they might form reasonable conditions to be sent over to the King. The motion was successfully opposed by Monk, who urged the danger which might arise, in the present state of the army and the nation, if any delay should occur in the immediate settlement of the government. “This,” says Burnet, “was echoed with such a shout over the House, that the motion was no longer insisted on.” It can hardly be doubted that most of the destructive errors of the reign of Charles II. would have been spared, if express restrictions had been imposed upon him before he was permitted to assume the reins of government. On the other hand it has been justly said, that the time was critical; that at that precise moment the army and the nation, equally weary of the scenes of confusion and misrule which had succeeded to Richard Cromwell’s abdication, agreed upon the proposed scheme; but that if delay had been interposed, and if debates had arisen in Parliament, the dormant spirit of party would in all probability have been awakened, the opportunity would have been lost, and the restoration might after all have been prevented. These arguments, when urged by Monk to those who were suffering under a pressing evil, and had only a prospective and contingent danger before them, were plausible and convincing; but to those in after times who have marked the actual consequences of recalling the King without expressly limiting and defining his authority, as displayed in the miserable and disgraceful events of his “wicked, turbulent, and sanguinary reign,” and in the necessary occurrence of 72another revolution within thirty years from the Restoration, it will probably appear that our ancestors paid rather too dearly on that occasion for the advantages of an immediate settlement of the nation.

Immediately after the restoration of the King in May, 1668, Lord Clarendon, being appointed Lord Chancellor, sought to give strength and stability to the new government, by carefully providing for the due administration of justice. With this view, he placed men distinguished for their learning and high judicial character upon the benches of the different courts. Amongst other eminent lawyers, who had forsaken their profession during the latter period of the Commonwealth, he determined to recall Hale from his retirement, and offered him the appointment of Lord Chief Baron. But it was not without great difficulty that Hale was induced to return to the labours of public life. A curious original paper containing his “reasons why he desired to be spared from any place of public employment,” was published some years ago by Mr. Hargrave, in the preface to his collection of law tracts. Amongst these reasons, which were stated with the characteristic simplicity of this great man, he urged “the smallness of his estate, being not above £500 per annum, six children unprovided for, and a debt of £1000 lying upon him; that he was not so well able to endure travel and pains as formerly; that his constitution of body required some ease and relaxation; and that he had of late time declined the study of the law, and principally applied himself to other studies, now more easy, grateful, and seasonable for him.” He alludes also to two “infirmities, which make him unfit for that employment, first, an aversion to the pomp and grandeur necessarily incident to it; and secondly, too much pity, clemency, and tenderness in cases of life, which might prove an unserviceable temper.” “But if,” he concludes, “after all this, there must be a necessity of undertaking an employment, I desire that it may be in such a court and way as may be most suitable to my course of studies and education, and that it may be the lowest place that may be, to avoid envy. One of his Majesty’s counsel in ordinary, or at most, the place of a puisne judge in the Common Pleas, would suit me best.” His scruples were however eventually overcome, and on the 7th of November, 1660, he accepted the appointment of Lord Chief Baron: Lord Clarendon saying as he delivered his commission to him that “if the King could have found an honester and fitter man for that employment he would not have advanced him to it; and that he had therefore preferred him, because he knew no other who deserved it so well.” Shortly afterwards he reluctantly received the honour of knighthood.

73The trials of the regicides took place in the October immediately preceding his appointment, and his name appears among the commissioners on that occasion. There is however no reason to suppose that he was actually present; his name is not mentioned in any of the reports, either as interfering in the proceedings themselves, or assisting at the previous consultations of the judges; and it can hardly be doubted but that, if he had taken a part in the trials, he would have been included with Sir Orlando Bridgeman and several others in the bitter remarks made by Ludlow on their conduct in this respect. It has been the invariable practice from very early times to the present day, to include the twelve judges in all commissions of Oyer and Terminer, for London and Middlesex; and as, at the time of the trials in question, only eight judges had been appointed, it is probable that Hale and the other three judges elect were named in the commission, though their patents were not made out till the following term, in order to preserve as nearly as possible the ancient form.

Sir Matthew Hale held the office of Lord Chief Baron till the year 1671; and during that period greatly raised the character of the court in which he presided, by his unwearied patience and industry, the mildness of his manners, and the inflexible integrity of his judicial conduct. His impartiality in deciding cases in the Exchequer where the interests of the Crown were concerned, is admitted even by Roger North, who elsewhere charges him with holding “demagogical principles,” and with the “foible of leaning towards the popular.” “I have heard Lord Guilford say,” says this agreeable but partial writer, “that while Hale was Chief Baron of the Exchequer, by means of his great learning, even against his inclination, he did the Crown more justice in that court, than any others in his place had done with all their good-will and less knowledge.”

Whilst he was Chief Baron he was called upon to preside at the trial of two unhappy women who were indicted at the Assizes at Bury St. Edmunds, in the year 1665, for the crime of witchcraft. The Chief Baron is reported to have told the jury that, “he made no doubt at all that there were such creatures as witches,” and the women were found guilty and afterwards executed. The conduct of Hale on this occasion has been the subject of much sarcastic animadversion. It might be said in reply, that the report of the case in the State Trials is of no authority whatever; but supposing it to be accurate, it would be unjust and unreasonable to impute to Sir Matthew Hale as personal superstition or prejudice, a mere participation in the prevailing and almost universal belief of the times in which he lived. The majority 74of his contemporaries, even among persons of education and refinement, were firm believers in witchcraft; and though Lord Guilford rejected this belief, Roger North admits that he dared not to avow his infidelity in this respect in public, as it would have exposed him to the imputation of irreligion. Numerous instances might be given to show the general prevalence at that time of this stupid and ignorant superstition; and therefore the opinion of Hale on this subject does not appear to be a proof of peculiar weakness or credulity.

On the occurrence of the great fire of London in 1666, an act of parliament passed containing directions and arrangements for rebuilding the city. By a clause in this statute, the judges were authorized to sit singly to decide on the amount of compensation due to persons, whose premises were taken by the corporation in furtherance of the intended improvements. Sir Matthew Hale applied himself with his usual diligence and patience to the discharge of this laborious and extrajudicial duty. “He was,” says Baxter, “the great instrument for rebuilding London; for it was he that was the constant judge, who for nothing followed the work, and by his prudence and justice removed a multitude of great impediments.”

In the year 1671, upon the death of Sir John Kelyng, Chief Justice of the Court of King’s Bench, Sir Matthew Hale was removed from the Exchequer to succeed him. The particular circumstances which caused his elevation to this laborious and responsible situation at a time when his growing infirmities induced him to seek a total retirement from public life, are not recorded by any of his biographers. For four years after he became Chief Justice he regularly attended to the duties of his court, and his name appears in all the reported cases in the Court of King’s Bench, until the close of the year 1675. About that time he was attacked by an inflammation of the diaphragm, a painful and languishing disease, from which he constantly predicted that he should not recover. It produced so entire a prostration of strength, that he was unable to walk up Westminster Hall to his court without being supported by his servants. “He resolved,” says Baxter, “that the place should not be a burden to him, nor he to it,” and therefore made an earnest application to the Lord Keeper Finch for his dismission. This being delayed for some time, and finding himself totally unequal to the toil of business, he at length, in February 1676, tendered the surrender of his patent personally to the King, who received it graciously and kindly, and promised to continue his pension during his life.

On his retirement from office, he occupied at first a house at Acton 75which he had taken from Richard Baxter, who says “it was one of the meanest houses he had ever lived in; in that house,” he adds, “he liveth contentedly, without any pomp, and without costly or troublesome retinue of visitors, but not without charity to the poor; he continueth the study of mathematics and physics still as his great delight. It is not the least of my pleasure that I have lived some years in his more than ordinary love and friendship, and that we are now waiting which shall be first in heaven; whither he saith he is going with full content and acquiescence in the will of a gracious God, and doubts not but we shall shortly live together.” Not long before his death he removed from Acton to his own house at Alderley, intending to die there; and having a few days before gone to the parish church-yard and chosen his grave, he sunk under a united attack of asthma and dropsy, on Christmas-day, 1676.

The judicial character of Sir Matthew Hale was without reproach. His profound knowledge of the law rendered him an object of universal respect to the profession; whilst his patience, conciliatory manners, and rigid impartiality engaged the good opinion of all classes of men. As a proof of this, it is said that as he successively removed from the Court of Common Pleas to the Exchequer, and from thence to the King’s Bench, the mass of business always followed him; so that the court in which he presided was constantly the favourite one with counsel, attorneys, and parties. Perhaps indeed no judge has ever been so generally and unobjectionably popular. His address was copious and impressive, but at times slow and embarrassed: Baxter says “he was a man of no quick utterance, and often hesitant; but spake with great reason.” This account of his mode of speaking is confirmed by Roger North, who adds, however, that “his stop for a word by the produce always paid for the delay; and on some occasions he would utter sentences heroic.” His reputation as a legal and constitutional writer is in no degree inferior to his character as a judge. From the time it was published to the present day, his history of the Pleas of the Crown has always been considered as a book of the highest authority, and is referred to in courts of justice with as great confidence and respect as the formal records of judicial opinions. His Treatises on the Jurisdiction of the Lords’ House of Parliament, and on Maritime Law, which were first published by Mr. Hargrave more than a century after Sir Matthew Hale’s death, are works of first-rate excellence as legal arguments, and are invaluable as repositories of the learning of centuries, which the industry and research of the author had collected.

After his retirement from public life, he wrote his great work called 76‘The primitive Origination of Mankind, considered and examined according to the light of nature.’ Various opinions have been formed upon the merits of this treatise. Roger North depreciates the substance of the book, but commends its style; while Bishop Burnet and Dr. Birch greatly praise its learning and force of reasoning.

Sir Matthew Hale was twice married. By his first wife, who was a daughter of Sir Henry Moore of Faley in Berkshire, he had ten children, most of whom turned out ill. His second wife, according to Roger North, was “his own servant maid;” and Baxter says, “some made it a scandal, but his wisdom chose it for his convenience, that in his age he married a woman of no estate, to be to him as a nurse.” Hale gives her a high character in his will, as “a most dutiful, faithful, and loving wife,” making her one of his executors, and intrusting her with the education of his grand-children. He bequeathed his collection of manuscripts, which he says had cost him much industry and expense, to the Society of Lincoln’s Inn, in whose library they are carefully preserved.

The published biographies of Hale are extremely imperfect, none of them containing a particular account of his personal history and character. Bishop Burnet’s Life is the most generally known, and, though far too panegyrical and partial, is perhaps the most complete; it has been closely followed by most of his subsequent biographers. In Baxter’s Appendix to the Life of Hale, and in his account of his own Life, the reader will find some interesting details respecting his domestic and personal habits; and Roger North’s Life of Lord Guilford contains many amusing, though ill-natured and sarcastic anecdotes of this admirable judge.

View of Alderley Church.

Engraved by J. Thomson.


From an original Picture by J. A. Duplesis in the possession of M. Barnet
Consul General for the United States of America at Paris.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.



Benjamin Franklin was born at Boston in New England, January 6, 1706. His father was a non-conformist, who had emigrated in 1682, and followed the trade of a tallow-chandler. Benjamin was one of the youngest of fourteen children, and, being intended for the ministry, was sent for a year to the Boston Grammar School; after which, poverty compelled his father to remove him, at ten years old, to assist in his business. The boy disliked this occupation so much, that he was bound apprentice to an elder brother, who was just established at Boston as a printer. Though but twelve years of age, he soon learnt all his brother could teach him; but the harsh treatment he met with, which he says first inspired him with a hatred for tyranny, made him resolve to emancipate himself on the first opportunity. All his leisure time was spent in reading; and having exhausted his small stock of books, he resorted to a singular expedient to supply himself with more. Having been attracted by a treatise on the advantages of a vegetable diet, he determined to adopt it, and offered to provide for himself, on condition of receiving half the weekly sum expended on his board. His brother willingly consented; and by living entirely on vegetables he contrived to save half his pittance to gratify his voracious appetite for reading. He continued the practice for several years, and attributes to it his habitual temperance and indifference to the delicacies of the table.

Some time before this the elder Franklin had set up a newspaper, the second ever published in America, which eventually gave Benjamin a pretext for breaking through the trammels of his apprenticeship. In consequence of some remarks which gave offence to the provincial authorities, the former was imprisoned under a warrant from the Speaker of the Assembly; and his discharge was accompanied with an order, that “James Franklin should no longer print the New England 78Courant.” In this dilemma the brothers agreed that it should be printed for the future in Benjamin’s name; and to avoid the censure that might fall on the elder as printing it by his apprentice, the old indenture was cancelled, and a new one signed which was to be kept secret; but fresh disputes arising, Benjamin took advantage of the transaction to assert his freedom, presuming that his brother would not dare to produce the secret articles. Expostulation was vain; but the brother took care to spread such reports as prevented him from getting employment at Boston. He determined therefore to go elsewhere; and, having sold his books to raise a little money, he set off without the knowledge of his friends, and wandered by way of New York to Philadelphia, where he found himself at seventeen with a single dollar in his pocket, friendless and unknown. He succeeded, however, at last in procuring employment with a printer of the name of Keimer, with whom he remained seven months. By some accident he was thrown in the way of the Governor, Sir William Keith, who promised to be of service to him in his business, if he could persuade his father to establish him in Philadelphia. His father, however, refused to advance any money, thinking him too young to be established in a concern of his own. He therefore once more engaged himself with Keimer, and remained with him a year and a half.

The favour of the Governor, who promised him introductions and a letter of credit, led Franklin to undertake a voyage to England, with a view of improving himself in his trade, and procuring a set of types. But he was severely disappointed, when, at the end of the voyage, upon applying to the Captain who carried the Governor’s despatches, he learnt that there were no letters for him, and that Governor Keith was one of that large class of persons who are more ready to excite expectations than to fulfil them. He soon however got employment, and, with frugality, contrived to maintain both himself and his friend Ralph, who had accompanied him to England on a literary speculation, which, after many failures in verse and prose, procured him at last a nook in the Dunciad, and a pension from the Prince of Wales, whose cause he had espoused in print against George II.

During his voyage he attracted the notice of a merchant named Denham, who, again meeting him in London, became fond of him, and engaged his services as a clerk. After remaining a year and a half in London, he returned with Mr. Denham to Philadelphia. During this voyage he drew up a scheme for self-examination, and several prudent rules for the guidance of his future conduct, to which he steadily adhered through life. Indeed the remarkable success of most of his 79undertakings may be traced in a great measure to this faculty of profiting early by the lessons of experience, and abiding rigorously by a resolution once made.

He had scarcely returned half a year when his patron died, leaving him again on the world at the age of twenty-one. But he had now acquired so much skill in his business, that he was gladly received at advanced wages into Keimer’s printing-house.

About this time he set on foot a club, called “The Junto,” consisting of twelve persons of his own age, most of whom proved eminent men in after-life. This association had much influence on his fortunes, particularly when, having quarrelled with Keimer, he was induced to establish himself in partnership with a fellow-journeyman named Meredith, and needed both interest and money. By 1729 he had saved enough to buy out his partner, and make himself sole proprietor of the printing-house. In the following year he married a young woman named Reade, to whom he had been attached before he went to England.

In 1732 he began to publish ‘Poor Richard’s Almanack.’ It was interspersed with many prudential maxims, which were printed with additions, in a collected form, in 1757, and have been translated into many languages. The annual sale of this Almanack reached 10,000 copies, and, as it was continued for twenty-five years, was very profitable to the author.

In 1736 he was appointed Clerk to the Assembly of Pennsylvania, and obtained their printing. The next year he was made Deputy Postmaster, and introduced so many judicious reforms into his department, that it began to bring in a considerable revenue, though up to that time it had before barely paid its own expenses. He also carried into effect many improvements at Philadelphia, as his credit with his fellow-townsmen increased; invariably taking care to introduce them as “the idea of a few friends,” or “the plan of some public spirited persons,” thus avoiding the odium which attaches to the corrector of abuses, and eventually securing the credit of having made useful suggestions. In these schemes he was well seconded by the “Junto.” Some of them were—Institutions for watching, paving, and lighting the city; the Union Fire Company, still, we believe, in useful operation; a Philosophical Society; an Academy for Education, now grown up into the University of Pennsylvania; and the City Hospital. But many of these improvements were brought forward at a later period; for until 1748, when he took a partner, his time was almost exclusively occupied in his printing-office.

80Being now, comparatively, a man of leisure, he devoted more attention to philosophical pursuits and to public business, for which his fellow-citizens began to find his habits and talents exceedingly well suited. He became, in succession, magistrate, alderman, and member of the Assembly; and nothing of importance was transacted without his assistance or advice.

The first public mission in which he was engaged, was to a tribe of Indians in 1750, which was successful. In 1753 he was appointed Postmaster-General, with a salary of £300 a year.

The next year he produced a plan for the union of the American Provinces, for mutual defence against an apprehended invasion by the French from the Canada frontier. This seems to have been the first time that such an idea was broached; and, as he was fond of saying, like all good motions it was kept alive, though not carried into effect at the time.

Pennsylvania was then ruled by an Assembly elected annually, and a Governor appointed by the descendants of William Penn, who resided in England, and were the feudal lords of the soil. This anomalous kind of government naturally led to misunderstandings, which were among the causes that mainly contributed to alienate the affections of the provinces from the mother country. The Proprietaries, as they were called, laid claim to immunity from taxation, upon grounds which the Assembly refused to admit; and the Governor and his officers taking part with the Proprietaries, to whom they were indebted for their appointments, a controversy grew up, which was never entirely disposed of while the connexion with Great Britain subsisted. In this dispute Franklin took an active share, and sided with the opposition, rejecting frequent overtures from the government; with which, however, he continued to keep on good terms, never losing sight of the duty of a citizen, in supporting the authority of the laws, and defending the state against its foreign and domestic enemies by his writings and example. In following this course on various occasions, especially that of the French invasion from Canada, he not only warmly exerted himself in person, but advanced a good deal of money, which, to the disgrace of the British Government, was never wholly repaid.

In 1757 he was appointed to manage the controversy with the Proprietaries in England. Thither he accordingly repaired after some vexatious delays, and proceeded in the object of his mission with his accustomed energy; and though he met with many obstacles, his efforts were at length successful, and the Penns gave up their claim to 81be exempt from contributing to the burdens of the state. But they still held the power of appointing the Governor, which the Province wished to be transferred to the Crown, and the dispute was afterwards renewed. The conduct of Franklin in this affair gained him so much credit in America, that he received the additional appointments of Agent for Maryland, Massachusetts, and Georgia, each of which provinces had grievances of its own requiring redress.

During this absence in England, Franklin was presented by the Universities of St. Andrew’s and Oxford with the degree of D.C.L., and took his place as Fellow of the Royal Society, which honour, with many similar distinctions, had been conferred upon him some years before for his discoveries in electricity. The chief of these were, the identity of electricity with lightning, and the mode of protecting buildings by pointed metallic conductors. The simplification which he effected in the theory of electricity, by showing how all the phenomena are explicable by the hypothesis of a single electric fluid, forms a remarkable example of philosophical generalization, and a lasting monument of its author’s genius[3]. He was also consulted on American affairs by Lord Chatham, who, by his advice, as it is believed, withdrew a part of the British force then acting with the King of Prussia, and directed it with so much secrecy and success against Canada, that the French had no intelligence of the danger of the province till they heard of its irretrievable loss.

3.  See the Library of Useful Knowledge—Treatise on Electricity, § 48, &c.

In the summer of 1762 he returned to Philadelphia, where he received public thanks, and a grant of £5000 for his services. His popularity was such, that he had been re-elected annually to the Assembly, and he immediately resumed the active part which he had formerly taken in its proceedings.

Among other projects for reform, that relating to the appointment of Governor, which the Proprietaries seem to have exercised with very little regard to the public interest, gave rise to much stormy discussion during the next two years. Franklin’s share in it procured him many enemies, who succeeded in preventing his election in 1764. Yet, a strong petition to the Crown on the subject having been disregarded, he was a second time appointed agent for enforcing the views of the Assembly upon the authorities in England. When there, he by no means limited his exertions to this narrow point: minor dissensions were now merging in the final struggle for national independence, to which the passing of the Grenville Stamp Act in 1763 gave the immediate impulse. Franklin reprobated this tax as arbitrary and illegal, when it was 82first reported to the Assembly; and his writings in the papers against it with his examination in Parliament, are thought to have contributed much to its repeal under the Rockingham administration, in 1766.

In this and the three next years he paid several visits to the Continent, where he was received with much distinction. He began already to record his observations upon the part the different powers would be likely to take in case of a rupture between England and her colonies: an event which a thorough knowledge of the temper of both led him, even thus early, to contemplate as by no means improbable. The closure of the port of Boston in 1773, and the quartering of troops in the town, filled up the measure of discontent. Franklin was then agent for three provinces besides Pennsylvania; and their remonstrances, which he lost no opportunity of forcing on the attention of the English public as well as the Government, found in him a most efficient supporter. At length, finding all his efforts to bring about a reconciliation entirely fruitless, and having met with much misconstruction and personal indignity at the hands of successive administrations, he resigned his agencies and set sail for Philadelphia, where he arrived in the spring of 1775, after an absence of eleven years.

In the preceding autumn a Congress of delegates from the Assemblies of all the provinces, the idea of which seems to have originated with Franklin, had met at Philadelphia; and their first act was to sign a Declaration of Rights, which had been transmitted to Franklin and the other agents for presentation. The day after his return he was himself elected to serve in this Congress for Pennsylvania, and was intrusted with the management of several important negotiations. In the mean time collisions had taken place between the troops at Boston and the inhabitants, which led to the actions of Lexington and Bunker’s Hill. These events quickened the deliberations of the Congress; and after one more fruitless petition for redress, the Declaration of Independence was published, July 4, 1776, and warlike preparations were actively commenced. The English Ministry now sent out Lord Howe, with full powers to concede every thing but absolute independence; but as the Commissioners appointed to confer with him, of whom Franklin was one, were instructed to treat upon no other terms, the negotiation abruptly terminated.

After his return from a short but unsuccessful mission to Canada, Dr. Franklin had been appointed President of the Convention for settling the constitution of Pennsylvania; but he had not long held the office before his services were again put in requisition by the Congress, as head of the Commission to the Court of France, with powers to 83negotiate loans, purchase stores, and grant letters of marque. He consented, with all the alacrity of youth, to undertake this charge, though in his 71st year; and, crossing the Atlantic for the fourth time, arrived in France with his colleagues before the end of 1776, and took up his residence at Passy, a village near Paris. The nation at large received the Commission with open arms, and rendered them much assistance, in which the Government secretly participated. But it was not till the surrender of Burgoyne’s army, in October 1777, that the reluctance of the Court to hazard a war with England was overcome. The treaty of alliance, and recognition of the United States, was signed in February 1778, and war immediately was declared against England.

The principal object of the Commission being thus gained, Franklin still continued in France with the character of plenipotentiary during the seven remaining years of the war, till 1783, when England consented to recognize the independence of her late colonies. The definitive treaty for that purpose was signed by himself, and on the part of England by David Hartley, September 3, 1783.

He had of late years been afflicted with those painful disorders the gout and stone, and at last received permission to return, of which he availed himself the following spring, having just completed his 79th year. He was, as may be supposed, most enthusiastically received at Philadelphia, after an absence of eight years and a half; but the Congress, with an ingratitude which has often been justly laid to the charge of republics, made him no acknowledgment or compensation for his long and arduous services; and he felt the neglect rather keenly.

In a very short time we find him again busily engaged in public employments; first as a member of the Supreme Executive Council, and of the Commission for the settlement of the National Confederacy, and soon afterwards as President of the state of Pennsylvania, which he retained for the full legal period of three years. He was also a leading member in several societies for public and charitable purposes. One of the latter was a Society for the Abolition of Slavery, and his last public act was a memorial to Congress on this subject. He then wholly retired from public employments, after a life spent in labours through which nothing could have supported him but a consciousness of the high responsibilities of a mind gifted like his own, and the magnitude of the cause for which his powerful advocacy was so long engaged. He died about two years after his retirement, at the age of eighty-four, in the full enjoyment of all his faculties. Few men ever possessed such opportunities or talents for contributing to the 84welfare of mankind; fewer still have used them to better purpose: and it is pleasant to know, on his own authority, that such extensive services were rendered without any sacrifice of his own happiness. In his later correspondence he frequently alludes with complacency to a favourite sentiment which he has also introduced into his Memoirs;—“That he would willingly live over again the same course of life, even though not allowed the privilege of an author, to correct in a second edition the faults of the first.”

His remarkable success in life and in the discharge of his public functions is not to be ascribed to genius, unless the term be extended to that perfection of common sense and intimate knowledge of mankind which almost entitled his sagacity to the name of prescience, and made ‘Franklin’s forebodings’ proverbially ominous among those who knew him. His preeminence appears to have resulted from the habitual cultivation of a mind originally shrewd and observant, and gifted with singular powers of energy and self-control. There was a business-like alacrity about him, with a discretion and integrity which conciliated the respect even of his warmest political foes; a manly straight-forwardness before which no pretension could stand unrebuked; and a cool tenacity of temper and purpose which never forsook him under the most discouraging circumstances, and was no doubt exceedingly provoking to his opponents. Indeed his sturdiness, however useful to his country in time of need, was perhaps carried rather to excess; his enemies called it obstinacy, and accused him of being morose and sullen. No better refutation of such a charge can be wished for than the testimony borne to his disposition by Priestley (Monthly Magazine, 1782), a man whom Franklin was justly proud to call his friend. In private life he was most estimable; two of his most favourite maxims were, never to exalt himself by lowering others, and in society to enjoy and contribute to all innocent amusements without reserve. His friendships were consequently lasting, and chosen at will from among the most amiable as well as the most distinguished of both sexes, wherever his residence happened to be fixed.

His chief claims to philosophical distinction are his experiments and discoveries in electricity; but he has left essays upon various other matters of interest and practical utility; an end of which he never lost sight. Among these are remarks on ship-building and light-houses; on the temperature of the sea at different latitudes and depths, and the phenomena of what is called the Gulf-stream of the Atlantic; on the effect of oil poured upon rough water, and 85other subjects connected with practical navigation; and on the proper construction of lamps, chimneys, and stoves. His suggestions on these subjects are very valuable. His other writings are numerous; they relate chiefly to politics, or the inculcation of the rules of prudence and morality. Many of them are light and even playful; they are all instructive, and written in an excellent and simple style; but they are not entirely free from the imputation of trifling upon serious subjects. The most valuable of them is probably his autobiography, which is unfortunately but a fragment.

As a speaker he was neither copious nor eloquent; there was even a degree of hesitation and embarrassment in his delivery. Yet as he seldom rose without having something important to say, and always spoke to the purpose, he commanded the attention of his hearers, and generally succeeded in his object.

His religious principles, when disengaged from the scepticism of his youth, appears to have been sincere, and unusually free from sectarian animosity.

Upon the whole, his long and useful life forms an instructive example of the force which arises from the harmonious combination of strong faculties and feelings when so controlled by sense and principle that no one is suffered to predominate to the disparagement of the rest.

An excellent Life, in which his autobiography is included, with a collection of many of his miscellaneous writings, and much of his correspondence, has been published in six octavo volumes, by his grandson Temple Franklin, who accompanied him during his mission to France, and possessed the amplest means of verifying his statements by reference to the original papers.



It is refreshing to turn from the scenes of war and bloodshed, and frequently of perfidy and oppression, by which our European empire in India was established and consolidated, to watch the progress of a benevolent and peaceful enterprise, the substitution of the Christian faith for the impure, and bloody, and oppressive superstitions of the Hindoos. We augur well of its success, though it is still far from its accomplishment; for, since the first hand was put to it, it has advanced with slow, yet certain and unfaltering steps. Many able and good men have devoted themselves to the cause, and none with more distinguished success than he who has been called the Apostle of the East, Christian Schwartz. The saying of an eminent missionary, who preached to a far different people, the stern and high-minded Indians of North America, is exemplified in his life,—“Prayer and pains, through faith, will do any thing.” For years Schwartz laboured in obscurity, with few scattered and broken rays of encouragement to cheer his way. But his patience, his integrity, his unwearied benevolence, his sincerity and unblemished purity of life, won a hearing for his words of doctrine; and he was rewarded at last by a more extended empire in the hearts of the Hindoos, both heathen and convert, than perhaps any other European has obtained.

Engraved by E. Scriven.


From an original Picture in the possession of
the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge Lincolns Inn Fields.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.

Christian Frederic Schwartz was born at Sonnenburg, in the New Mark, Germany, October 26, 1726. His mother died while he was very young, and, in dying, devoted the child, in the presence of her husband and her spiritual guide, to the service of God, exacting from both of them a promise that they would use every means for the accomplishment of this, her last and earnest wish. Schwartz received his education at the schools of Sonnenburg and Custrin. He grew up a serious and well-disposed boy, much under the influence of religious impressions; and a train of fortunate circumstances deepened those impressions, at a time when the vivacity of youth, and the excitement 87which he was dedicated. When about twenty years of age he entered the University of Halle, where he obtained the friendship of one of the professors, Herman Francke, a warm and generous supporter of the missionary cause. While resident at Halle, Schwartz, together with another student, was appointed to learn the Tamul or Malabar language, in order to superintend the printing of a Bible in that tongue. His labour was not thrown away, though the proposed edition never was completed; for it led Francke to propose to him that he should go out to India as a missionary. The suggestion suited his ardent and laborious character, and was at once accepted. The appointed scene of his labours was Tranquebar, on the Coromandel coast, the seat of a Danish mission: and, after repairing to Copenhagen for ordination, he embarked from London for India, January 21, 1750, and reached Tranquebar in July.

It is seldom that the life of one employed in advocating the faith of Christ presents much of adventure, except from the fiery trials of persecution; or much of interest, except to those who will enter into the missionary’s chief joy or sorrow, the success or inefficiency of his preaching. From persecution Schwartz’s whole life was free; his difficulties did not proceed from bigoted or interested zeal, but from the apathetic subtlety of his Hindoo hearers, ready to listen, slow to be convinced, enjoying the mental sword-play of hearing, and answering, and being confuted, and renewing the same or similar objections at the next meeting, as if the preacher’s former labours had not been. The latter part of his life was possessed of active interest; for he was no stranger to the court or the camp; and his known probity and truthfulness won for him the confidence of three most dissimilar parties, a suspicious tyrant, an oppressed people, and the martial and diplomatic directors of the British empire in India. But the early years of his abode in India possess interest neither from the marked success of his preaching, nor from his commerce with the busy scenes of conquest and negotiation. For sixteen years he resided chiefly at Tranquebar, a member of the mission to which he was first attached; but at the end of that time, in 1766, he transferred his services to the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, with which he acted until death, and to which the care of the Danish mission at Tranquebar was soon after transferred. He had already, in 1765, established a church and school at Tritchinopoly, and in that town he now took up his abode, holding the office of chaplain to the garrison, for which he received a salary of £100 yearly. This entire sum he devoted to the service of the mission.

For several years Schwartz resided principally at Tritchinopoly, 88visiting other places, from time to time, especially Tanjore, where his labours ultimately had no small effect. He was heard with attention, he was everywhere received with respect, for the Hindoos could not but admire the beauty of his life, though it failed to win souls to his preaching. “The fruit,” he said, “will perhaps appear when I am at rest.” He had, however, the pleasure of seeing some portion of it ripen, for in more than one place a small congregation grew gradually up under his care. His toil was lightened and cheered in 1777, when another missionary was sent to his assistance from Tranquebar. Already he had derived help from some of his more advanced converts, who acted as catechists, for the instruction of others. He was sedulous in preparing these men for their important duty. “The catechists,” he says, “require to be daily admonished and stirred up, otherwise they fall into indolence and impurity.” Accordingly he daily assembled all those whose nearness permitted this frequency of intercourse; he taught them to explain the doctrines of their religion; he directed their labours for the day, and he received a report of those labours in the evening.

His visits to Tanjore became more frequent, and he obtained the confidence of the Rajah, or native prince, Tulia Maha, who ruled that city under the protection of the British. In 1779 Schwartz procured permission from him to erect a church in his capital, and, with the sanction of the Madras Government, set immediately to work on this task. His funds failing, he applied at Madras for further aid; but, in reply, he was summoned to the seat of government with all speed, and requested to act as an ambassador, to treat with Hyder Ally for the continuance of peace. It has been said, that Schwartz engaged more deeply than became his calling in the secular affairs of India. The best apology for his interference, if apology be needful, is contained in his own account:—“The novelty of the proposal surprised me at first: I begged some time to consider of it. At last I accepted of the offer, because by so doing I hoped to prevent evil, and to promote the welfare of the country.” The reason for sending him is at least too honourable to him to be omitted: it was the requisition of Hyder himself. “Do not send to me,” he said, “any of your agents; for I do not trust their words or treaties: but if you wish me to listen to your proposals, send to me the missionary of whose character I hear so much from every one; him I will receive and trust.”

In his character of an envoy Schwartz succeeded admirably. He conciliated the crafty, suspicious, and unfeeling despot, without compromising the dignity of those whom he represented, or forgetting the meekness of his calling. He would gladly have rendered his visit to 89Seringapatam available to higher than temporal interests: but here he met with little encouragement. Indifferent to all religion, Hyder suffered the preacher to speak to him of mercy and of judgment; but in these things his heart had no part. Some few converts Schwartz made during his abode of three months; but on the whole he met with little success. He parted with Hyder upon good terms, and returned with joy to Tanjore. The peace, however, was of no long continuance; and Schwartz complained that the British Government were guilty of the infraction. Hyder invaded the Carnatic, wasting it with fire and sword; and the frightened inhabitants flocked for relief and protection to the towns. Tanjore and Tritchinopoly were filled with famishing multitudes. During the years 1781, 2, and 3, this misery continued. At Tanjore, especially, the scene was dreadful. Numbers perished in the streets of want and disease; corpses lay unburied, because the survivors had not energy or strength to inter them; the bonds of affection were so broken that parents offered their children for sale; and the garrison, though less afflicted than the native population, were enfeebled and depressed by want, and threatened by a powerful army without the walls. There were provisions in the country; but the cultivators, frightened and alienated by the customary exactions and ill-usage, refused to bring it to the fort. They would trust neither the British authorities nor the Rajah: all confidence was destroyed. “At last the Rajah said to one of our principal gentlemen, ‘We all, you and I, have lost our credit: let us try whether the inhabitants will trust Mr. Schwartz.’ Accordingly, he sent me a blank paper, empowering me to make a proper agreement with the people. Here was no time for hesitation. The Sepoys fell down as dead people, being emaciated with hunger; our streets were lined with dead corpses every morning—our condition was deplorable. I sent therefore letters every where round about, promising to pay any one with my own hands, and to pay them for any bullock which might be taken by the enemy. In one or two days I got above a thousand bullocks; and sent one of our catechists, and other Christians, into the country. They went at the risk of their lives, made all possible haste, and brought into the fort, in a very short time, 80,000 kalams of grain. By this means the fort was saved. When all was over, I paid the people, even with some money which belonged to others, made them a small present, and sent them home.”

The letter from which this passage is extracted was written to the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, in consequence of an attack made by a member of Parliament upon the character of the Hindoo converts, and depreciation of the labours of the missionaries. 90To boast was not in Schwartz’s nature; but he was not deterred by a false modesty from vindicating his own reputation, when it was expedient for his master’s service: and there has seldom been a more striking tribute paid to virtue, unassisted by power, than in the conduct of the Hindoos, as told in this simple statement. His labours did not cease with this crisis, nor with his personal exertions. He bought a quantity of rice at his own expense, and prevailed on some European merchants to furnish him with a monthly supply; by means of which he preserved many persons from perishing. In 1784 he was again employed by the Company on a mission to Tippoo Saib; but the son of Hyder refused to receive him. About this period his health, hitherto robust, began to fail; and in a letter, dated July, 1784, he speaks of the approach of death, of his comfort in the prospect, and firm belief in the doctrines which he preached. In the same year the increase of his congregation rendered it necessary to build a Malabar church in the suburbs of Tanjore, which was done chiefly at his own expense. In February, 1785, he engaged in a scheme for raising English schools throughout the country, to facilitate the intercourse of the natives with Europeans. Schools were accordingly established at Tanjore and three other places. The pupils were chiefly children of the upper classes—of Bramins and merchants; and the good faith with which Schwartz conducted these establishments deserves to be praised as well as his religious zeal. “Their intention, doubtless, is to learn the English language, with a view to their temporal welfare; but they thereby become better acquainted with good principles. No deceitful methods are used to bring them over to the doctrines of Christ, though the most earnest wishes are felt that they may attain that knowledge which is life eternal.” In a temporal view, these establishments proved very serviceable to many of the pupils: but, contrary to Schwartz’s hopes and wishes, not one of the young men became a missionary.

In January, 1787, Schwartz’s friend, the Rajah of Tanjore, lay at the point of death. Being childless, he had adopted a boy, yet in his minority, as his successor: a practice recognised by the Hindoo law. His brother, Ameer Sing, however, was supported by a strong British party, and it was not likely that he would submit quietly to his exclusion from the throne. In this strait Tulia Maha sent for Schwartz, as the only person to whom he could intrust his adopted son. “This,” he said, “is not my, but your son; into your hands I deliver the child.” Schwartz accepted the charge with reluctance; he represented his inability to protect the orphan, and suggested that Ameer Sing should be named regent and guardian. The advice probably 91was the best that could be given: but the regent proved false, or at least doubtful in his trust; and the charge proved a source of trouble and anxiety. But by Schwartz’s care, and influence with the Company, the young prince was reared to manhood, and established in possession of his inheritance. Nor were Schwartz’s pains unsuccessful in cultivation of his young pupil’s mind, who is characterized by Heber as an “extraordinary man.” He repaid these fatherly cares with a filial affection, and long after the death of Schwartz testified, both by word and deed, his regard for his memory.

We find little to relate during the latter part of Schwartz’s life, though much might be written, but that the nature of this work forbids us to dilate upon religious subjects. His efforts were unceasing to promote the good, temporal as well as spiritual, of the Indian population. On one occasion he was requested to inspect the watercourses by which the arid lands of the Carnatic are irrigated; and his labours were rewarded by a great increase in the annual produce. Once the inhabitants of the Tanjore country had been so grievously oppressed, that they abandoned their farms, and fled the country. The cultivation which should have begun in June was not commenced even at the beginning of September, and all began to apprehend a famine. Schwartz says in the letter, which we have already quoted, “I entreated the Rajah to remove that shameful oppression, and to recall the inhabitants. He sent them word that justice should be done to them, but they disbelieved his promises. He then desired me to write to them, and to assure them that he, at my intercession, would show kindness to them. I did so. All immediately returned; and first of all the Collaries believed my word, so that 7,000 men came back in one day. The rest of the inhabitants followed their example. When I exhorted them to exert themselves to the utmost, because the time for cultivation was almost lost, they replied in the following manner:—‘As you have showed kindness to us, you shall not have reason to repent of it: we intend to work night and day to show our regard for you.’”

His preaching was rewarded by a slow, but a progressive effect; and the number of missionaries being increased by the Society in England, the growth of the good seed, which he had sown during a residence of forty years, became more rapid and perceptible. In the country villages numerous congregations were formed, and preachers were established at Cuddalore, Vepery, Negapatam, and Palamcotta, as well as at the earlier stations of Tranquebar, Tritchinopoly, and Tanjore, whose chief recreation was the occasional intercourse with 92each other which their duty afforded them, and who lived in true harmony and union of mind and purpose. The last illness of Schwartz was cheered by the presence of almost all the missionaries in the south of India, who regarded him as a father, and called him by that endearing name. His labours did not diminish as his years increased. From the beginning of January to the middle of October, 1797, we are told by his pupil and assistant, Caspar Kolhoff, he preached every Sunday in the English and Tamul languages by turns; for several successive Wednesdays he gave lectures in their own languages to the Portuguese and German soldiers incorporated in the 51st regiment; during the week he explained the New Testament in his usual order at morning and evening prayer; and he dedicated an hour every day to the instruction of the Malabar school children. In October, he who hitherto had scarce known disease, received the warning of his mortality. He rallied for a while, and his friends hoped that he might yet be spared to them. But a relapse took place, and he expired February 13, 1798, having displayed throughout a long and painful illness a beautiful example of resignation and happiness, and an interest undimmed by pain in the welfare of all for and with whom he had laboured. His funeral, on the day after his death, presented a most affecting scene. It was delayed by the arrival of the Rajah, who wished to behold once more his kind, and faithful, and watchful friend and guardian. The coffin lid was removed; the prince gazed for the last time on the pale and composed features, and burst into tears. The funeral service was interrupted by the cries of a multitude who loved the reliever of their distresses, and honoured the pure life of the preacher, who for near fifty years had dwelt among them, careless alike of pleasure, interest, and ambition, pursuing a difficult and thankless task with unchanging ardour, the friend of princes, yet unsullied even by the suspicion of a bribe, devoting his whole income, beyond a scanty maintenance, to the service of the cause which his life was spent in advocating.

The Rajah continued to cherish Schwartz’s memory. He commissioned Flaxman for a monument erected to him at Tanjore; he placed his picture among those of his own ancestors; he erected more than one costly establishment for charitable purposes in honour of his name; and, though not professing Christianity, he secured to the Christians in his service not only liberty, but full convenience for the performance of their religious duties. Nor were the Directors backward in testifying their gratitude for his services. They sent out a monument by Bacon to be erected in St. Mary’s Church at Madras, 93with orders to pay every becoming honour to his memory, and especially to permit to the natives, by whom he was so revered, free access to view this memorial of his virtues.

It is to be regretted that no full memoir of the life and labours of this admirable man has been published. It is understood that his correspondence, preserved by the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, would furnish ample materials for such a work. The facts of this account are taken from the only two memoirs of Schwartz which we know to be in print,—a short one for cheap circulation published by the Religious Tract Society; and a more finished tribute to his memory in Mr. Carne’s ‘Lives of Eminent Missionaries,’ recently published. We conclude in the words of one whose praise carries with it authority, Bishop Heber: “Of Schwartz, and his fifty years’ labour among the heathen, the extraordinary influence and popularity which he acquired, both with Mussulmans, Hindoos, and contending European governments, I need give you no account, except that my idea of him has been raised since I came into the south of India. I used to suspect that, with many admirable qualities, there was too great a mixture of intrigue in his character—that he was too much of a political prophet, and that the veneration which the heathen paid, and still pay him (and which indeed almost regards him as a superior being, putting crowns, and burning lights before his statue), was purchased by some unwarrantable compromise with their prejudices. I find I was quite mistaken. He was really one of the most active and fearless, as he was one of the most successful missionaries, who have appeared since the Apostles. To say that he was disinterested in regard of money, is nothing; he was perfectly careless of power, and renown never seemed to affect him, even so far as to induce an outward show of humility. His temper was perfectly simple, open, and cheerful; and in his political negotiations (employments which he never sought, but which fell in his way) he never pretended to impartiality, but acted as the avowed, though certainly the successful and judicious agent of the orphan prince committed to his care, and from attempting whose conversion to Christianity he seems to have abstained from a feeling of honour[4]. His other converts were between six and seven thousand, being those which his companions and predecessors in the cause had brought over.”

4.  He probably acted on the same principle as in conducting the English schools above-mentioned, using “no deceitful methods.” That he was earnest in recommending the means of conversion, appears from a dying conversation with his pupil, Serfogee Rajah.



The name of Isaac Barrow stands eminent among the divines and philosophers of the seventeenth century. Of the many good and great men whom it is the glory of Trinity College, Cambridge, to number as her foster-sons, there is none more good, none perhaps, after Bacon and Newton, more distinguished than he: and he has an especial claim to the gratitude of all members of that splendid foundation as the projector of its unequalled library, as well as a liberal benefactor in other respects.

The father of Barrow, a respectable citizen of London, was linen-draper to Charles I., and the son was naturally brought up in royalist principles. The date of his birth is variously assigned by his biographers, but the more probable account fixes it to October, 1630. It is recorded that his childhood was turbulent and quarrelsome; that he was careless of his clothes, disinclined to study, and especially addicted to fighting and promoting quarrels among his school-fellows; and of a temper altogether so unpromising, that his father often expressed a wish, that if any of his children should die, it might be his son Isaac. He was first sent to school at the Charter House, and removed thence to Felstead in Essex. Here his disposition seemed to change: he made great progress in learning, and was entered at Trinity College in 1645, in his fifteenth year, it being then usual to send boys to college about that age. He passed his term as an under graduate with much credit. The time and place were not favourable to the promotion of Royalists; for a royalist master had been ejected to make room for one placed there by the Parliament, and the fellows were chiefly of the same political persuasion. But Barrow’s good conduct and attainments won the favour of his superiors, and in 1649, the year after he took his degree, he was elected fellow. It deserves to be known, for it is honourable to both parties, that he never disguised or compromised his own principles.

Engraved by B. Holl.


From the original Picture by Isaac Whood
at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.

His earlier studies were especially turned towards natural philosophy; 95and, rejecting the antiquated doctrines then taught in the schools, he selected Bacon, Galileo, and Descartes as his favourite authors. He did not commence the study of mathematics until after he had gained his fellowship, and was led to it in a very circuitous way. He was induced to read the Greek astronomers, with a view to solving the difficulties of ancient chronology; and to understand their works a thorough knowledge of geometry was indispensable. He therefore undertook the study of that science; which suited the bent of his genius so well, that he became one of the greatest proficients in it of his age. His first intention was to become a physician, and he made considerable progress in anatomy, chemistry, botany, and other sciences subservient to the profession of medicine; but he changed his mind, and determined to make divinity his chief pursuit. In 1655 he went abroad. His travels extended through France, Italy, and the Levant, to Constantinople; and, after an absence of four years, he returned to England through Germany and Holland. During this period he lost no opportunity of prosecuting his studies; and he sent home several descriptive poems, and some letters, written in Latin, which are printed in his Opuscula, in the fourth volume of the folio edition of his works. In the voyage to Smyrna he gave a proof of the high spirit, which, purified from its childish unruliness and violence, continued to form part of his character through life. The vessel being attacked by an Algerine corsair, Barrow remained on the deck, cheerfully and vigorously fighting, until the assailant sheered off. Being asked afterwards why he did not go into the hold, and leave the defence of the ship to those whom it concerned, he replied, “It concerned no one more than myself. I would rather have died than fallen into the hands of those merciless pirates.” He has described this voyage, and its eventful circumstances, in a poem contained in his Opuscula.

He entered into orders in 1659, and in the following year was made Greek Professor at Cambridge. The numerous offices to which he was appointed about this time, show that his merits were generally and highly esteemed. He was chosen to be Professor of Geometry at Gresham College in 1662; and was one of the first fellows elected into the Royal Society, after the incorporation of that body by charter in 1663; in which year he was also appointed the first mathematical lecturer on the foundation of Mr. Lucas, at Cambridge. Not that he made sinecures of these responsible employments, or thought himself qualified to discharge the duties of all at once: for he resigned the Greek professorship, on being appointed Lucasian Professor, for reasons explained in his introductory oration, which is extant in the 96Opuscula. The Gresham professorship he also gave up in 1664, intending thenceforth to reside at Cambridge. Finally, in 1669, he resigned the Lucasian chair to his great successor, Newton, intending to devote himself entirely to the study of divinity. Barrow received the degree of D.D. by royal mandate, in 1670; and, in 1672, was raised to the mastership of Trinity College by the King, with the compliment, “that he had given it to the best scholar in England.” In that high station he distinguished himself by liberality: he remitted several allowances which his predecessors had required from the college; he set on foot the scheme for a new library, and contributed in purse, and still more by his personal exertions, to its completion. It should be remarked that his patent of appointment being drawn up, as usual, with a permission to marry, he caused that part to be struck out, conceiving it to be at variance with the statutes. He was cut off by a fever in the prime of life, May 4, 1679, aged 49, during a visit to London. His remains were honourably deposited in Westminster Abbey, among the worthies of the land; and in that noble building a monument was erected to him by the contributions of his friends.

Of Barrow’s mathematical works we must speak briefly. The earliest of them was an edition of Euclid’s Elements, containing all the books, published at Cambridge in 1655, followed by an edition of the Data in 1657. His Lectiones Opticæ, the first lectures delivered on the Lucasian foundation, were printed in 1669, and attracted the following commendation from the eminent mathematician, James Gregory. “Mr. Barrow, in his Optics, shows himself a most subtle geometer, so that I think him superior to any that ever I looked upon. I long exceedingly to see his geometrical lectures, especially because I have some notions on that subject by me.” In this work, (we speak on the authority of Montucla, part iv. viii.), Barrow has applied himself principally to discuss subjects unnoticed or insufficiently explained by preceding authors. Among these was the general problem, to determine the focus of a lens; which, except in a few cases, as where the opposite sides of the lens are similar, and the incident rays of light parallel to the axis, had hitherto been left to the practical skill and experience of the workman. Barrow gave a complete solution of the problem, comprised in an elegant formula which includes all cases, whether of parallel, convergent, or divergent rays. This book, says Montucla, is a mine of curious and interesting propositions in optics, to the solution of which geometry is applied with peculiar elegance.

The Lectiones Geometricæ, full of profound researches into the metaphysics of geometry, the method of tangents, and the properties 97of curvilinear figures, appeared in the following year, 1670. The vast improvements in our methods of investigation, arising out of the invention of the fluxional or differential calculus, have cast into the shade the labours, and in part the fame, of the early geometricians, and have made that easy, which before was all but impossible. This work, however, is remarkable as containing a way of determining the subtangent of a curve, justly characterized by Montucla as being so intimately connected with the above-named method of analysis, that it is needless to seek in subsequent works the main principle of the differential calculus. The inquiring reader will find a full account of it in Montucla, or in Thomson’s History of the Royal Society, page 275. There is an English translation of the Lectiones Geometricæ by Stone, published in 1735. Barrow also edited the works of Archimedes, the Conics of Apollonius, and the Spherics of Theodosius, in a very compressed form, in 1 vol. 8vo. Lond. 1675. The treatise of Archimedes on the Sphere and Cylinder, and the Mathematicæ Lectiones, a series of Lucasian lectures, read in 1664 and subsequent years, were not printed until 1683, after the author’s death. This work, or at least Kirby’s translation, published about 1734, contains the Oration which he made before the University on his election to the Lucasian chair. For further detail see Ward’s Lives of the Gresham Professors.

It is however as a theologian that Barrow is best known to the present age. Unlike his scientific writings, his theological works never can grow obsolete, for they contain eternal truths set forth with a power of argument, and force of eloquence, which must ever continue to command the admiration of those who are capable of appreciating and relishing the noblest qualities and products of the human mind. The light of revelation shone clearly and steadily then as now; no modern discoveries can increase or diminish its brightness; no new methods of reasoning, no more convenient forms of notation or expression, can supersede the sterling excellences which we have just ascribed to this great divine. Others may rise up (they are yet to come) equal or superior to him in these very excellences; still their fame can never detract from his; and Barrow with his great predecessor, Hooker, will not fail to be classed among the luminaries of the English church, and the standard authors of the English language. Copious and majestic in his style, his sermons were recommended by the great Lord Chatham to his great son, as admirably adapted to imbue the public speaker with the coveted “abundance of words” the knowledge and full command of his native language. He himself neglected not to increase his stores from the models of ancient eloquence; and his 98manuscripts, preserved in Trinity College Library, bear testimony to the diligence with which he transcribed the finest passages of the Greek and Latin authors, especially Demosthenes and Chrysostom. His sermons were long, too long it was thought by many of his hearers; but they were carefully composed, written and rewritten again and again, and their method, argumentative closeness, and abundant learning, show that he thought no pains too great to bestow on the important duty of public teaching. Warburton said that in reading Barrow’s sermons, he was obliged to think. They are numerous, considering their nature and the comparatively short period of the author’s clerical life. The first edition of his works, by Archbishop Tillotson, to whom, in conjunction with his friend and biographer Mr. Hill, Barrow left his manuscripts, contains seventy-seven sermons on miscellaneous subjects, of which only two were printed, and those not published, during the author’s life; together with a series of thirty-four sermons on the Apostle’s Creed. Mr. Hughes, the late editor of his works, has added to the former collection five more, printed for the first time from the original MSS. in Trinity Library. We quote from the life prefixed to that edition, the eloquent passage in which Mr. Hughes speaks of these admirable works.

“Never, probably, was religion at a lower ebb in the British dominions, than when that profligate Prince Charles II., who sat unawed on a throne formed as it were out of his father’s scaffold, found the people so wearied of puritanical hypocrisy, presbyterian mortifications, and a thousand forms of unintelligible mysticism, that they were ready to plunge into the opposite vices of scepticism or infidelity, and to regard with complacency the dissolute morals of himself and his vile associates. To denounce this wickedness in the most awful terms; to strike at guilt with fearless aim, whether exalted in high places, or lurking in obscure retreats; to delineate the native horrors and sad effects of vice, to develope the charms of virtue, and inspire a love of it in the human heart; in short, to assist in building up the fallen buttresses and broken pillars of God’s church upon earth, was the high and holy duty to which Barrow was called.”

Besides his sermons, Barrow wrote a shorter Exposition of the Creed, an Exposition of the Decalogue, an Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, and a short account of the doctrine of the Sacraments. These were composed in 1669, the year in which the Lectiones Opticæ were published, in obedience to some college regulation, and, Mr. Hughes conjectures, as exercises for a college preachership. Barrow says, in a letter, that they so took up his thoughts, that he could not easily apply them to any other matter. His great work on the Pope’s Supremacy was 99not composed till 1676. The pains which he took with it were immense; and we are told by the same authority that “the state of his MS. in Trinity Library shows that probably no piece was ever composed more studiously, digested more carefully, or supported by more numerous and powerful authorities.” Barrow states in this work the several positions, on which the Romanists ground their claim on behalf of the Bishop of Rome, for universal supremacy over the Christian church. These he divides into seven heads, which he proceeds severally and successively to refute. “This treatise,” says Dr. Tillotson, in his preface to it, “he gave to me on his death-bed, with the character that he hoped it was indifferent perfect, though not altogether as he had intended it, if God had granted him longer life. He designed indeed to have transcribed it again, and to have filled up those many spaces which were purposely left in it for the farther confirmation and illustration of several things, by more testimonies and instances which he had in his thoughts. And it would certainly have added much to the beauty and perfection of this work, had it pleased God that he had lived to finish it to his mind, and to have given it his last hand. However, as it is, it is not only a just, but an admirable discourse on this subject, which many others have handled before, but he hath exhausted it; insomuch that no argument of moment, nay, hardly any consideration properly belonging to it, hath escaped his large and comprehensive mind. He hath said enough to silence the controversy for ever, and to deter all wise men of both sides from meddling any further with it.” Appended to this treatise on the Supremacy of the Pope, is a discourse on the Unity of the Church.

We conclude with a few scattered notices of the character and person of this excellent man. His habits, it will readily be supposed, were very laborious. Dr. Pope, in his Life of Bishop Ward, says that during winter Barrow would rise before light, being never without a tinder-box, and that he has known him frequently rise after his first sleep, light and burn out his candle, and then return to bed before day. In pecuniary affairs he was generous in the extreme. Of his liberality to his college we have already spoken. We may add that, being appointed to two ecclesiastical preferments, he bestowed the profits of both in charity, and resigned them as soon as he became master of Trinity. He left no property but books and unpublished manuscripts. Pure in his morals, he was the farthest possible from moroseness; amiable, lively, and witty in his temper and conversation, he was impatient of any looseness, irreverence, or censoriousness of speech, “being of all men,” says Dr. Tillotson, in his Address to the Reader, “I ever had the happiness to know, the clearest of this 100common guilt, and most free from offending in word; coming as near as it is possible for human frailty to do, to the perfect idea of St. James, his perfect man.”

His figure was low and spare, but of uncommon strength; and his courage, devoid of all alloy of quarrelsomeness, was approved in more than one instance related by the biographers of his peaceful life. It was among his peculiarities that he never would sit for his portrait; but some of his friends found means to have it taken without his knowledge, while they engaged his attention in discourse. There is a full length of him in the hall of Trinity, in fit conjunction with those of Newton and Bacon.

The earliest authority for Barrow’s life is a short memoir by his friend and executor, Mr. Hill, prefixed to the first edition of his works. Mr. Ward added some particulars, in his Lives of the Gresham Professors. The fullest accounts are to be found in the second edition of the Biographia Britannica, and in the life prefixed to Mr. Hughes’s edition of his theological works. In this the editor has given an analysis of the contents of each piece, calculated to assist the student to a thorough understanding of the author’s train of argument.

Monument of Barrow in Westminster Abbey.

Engraved by W. Hopwood.


From the original Picture by De la Tour
in the Collection of the Institute of France.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.



Jean le Rond D’alembert, one of the most distinguished mathematicians of the last century, owed none of his eminence to the accidents of birth or fortune. Even to a name he had no legal title; he derived the one half of that which he bore from the church of St. Jean le Rond in Paris, near which he was exposed; and the other probably from his foster-mother, a glazier’s wife, to whose care he was intrusted by a commissary of police, who found him. It is conjectured that both the exposure and the adoption of the infant were preconcerted; for a short time the father appeared, and settled on him a yearly pension of twelve hundred francs, equivalent to about £50.

Owing to these circumstances the date of D’Alembert’s birth is not exactly known; it is said to have been the 16th or 17th of November, 1717. He commenced his studies at the Collège des Quatre Nations when twelve years old. Mathematics and poetry seem to have been his favourite pursuits, since his instructors, he says, endeavoured to turn him from them; making it a charge against the former, that they dried up the heart, and recommending that his study of the latter should be confined to the poem of St. Prosper upon Grace. He was permitted, however, to study the rudiments of mathematics: and we may infer that he was little indebted either to books or teachers, from the mortification which he felt somewhat later in life, at finding that he had been anticipated in many things which he had believed to be discoveries of his own. He meant, at one time, to follow the profession of the law, and proceeded so far as to be admitted an advocate. Finding this not to his taste, he tried medicine; and, resolute in good intentions, sent his mathematical books to a friend, to be retained till he had taken his doctor’s degree. But he reclaimed book after book on various pretexts, and finally determined to content himself with his annuity of fifty pounds, 102and liberty to devote his whole time to the scientific pursuits which he loved so much. His mode of life at this period has been described by himself:—“He awoke,” he says, “every morning, thinking with pleasure on the studies of the preceding evening, and on the prospect of continuing them during the day. When his thoughts were called off for a moment, they turned to the satisfaction he should have at the play in the evening, and between the acts of the piece he meditated on the pleasures of the next morning’s study.”

The history of D’Alembert’s life is soon told. Some memoirs written in 1739 and 1740, and some corrections which he made in the Analyse Démontrée of Reynau, a work then much esteemed in France, obtained for him an entrance into the Académie des Sciences in 1741, at the early age of twenty-four. Simple in his habits, careless of his own advancement, or of the favours of great men, he refused several advantageous offers, which would have withdrawn him from the society of Paris, and from the libraries and other literary advantages of that great metropolis. Frederic II. of Prussia sought to tempt him to Berlin in 1752, and again in 1759. The invitation was again repeated and urged upon him in 1759 and 1763; and on the last occasion the King assured D’Alembert that, in rejecting it, he had made the only false calculation of his whole life. In 1762 Catharine of Russia wished him to undertake the education of her son, and endeavoured to overcome his reluctance to leave Paris, by promising him an income of ten thousand francs, and a kind reception to as many of his friends as would accompany him. “I know,” she said, “that your refusal arises from your desire to cultivate your studies and your friendships in quiet. But this is of no consequence: bring all your friends with you, and I promise you that both you and they shall have every accommodation in my power.” But his income had been rendered sufficient for his wants by a pension of twelve hundred francs from the King of Prussia, and an equal sum from the French Government; and he declined to profit by any of these liberal offers.

It is to D’Alembert’s honour that, until the end of her life, he repaid the services of his foster-mother with filial attention and love. It is said that when his name became famous, his mother, Mademoiselle de Tencin, a lady of rank and wit, and known in the literary circles of the day, sent for him, and acquainted him with the relationship which existed between them. His well-merited reply was, “You are only my step-mother, the glazier’s wife is my mother.” He lived unmarried, but the latter years of his life were overcast in consequence of a singular and unfortunate attachment to a Mlle. de l’Espinasse, 103a young lady of talent, whose society was much courted by the literary men of Paris. She professed to return this attachment; insomuch that when D’Alembert was attacked by a severe illness in 1765, she insisted on becoming his nurse, and after his recovery took up her abode under his roof. The connexion is said to have been purely Platonic; and this, it has been observed, may be believed, because, had the fact been different, there was little reason for concealing it, according to the code of morals which then regulated Parisian society. But the lady proved fickle; and worse than fickle, for she treated D’Alembert, who still retained his affection for her, with contempt and unkindness. Yet this ill usage did not alienate his regard. Upon her death he fell into a state of profound melancholy, from which he never entirely recovered. He died October 29, 1783. Not having conformed, on his death-bed, to the requisitions of the Roman church, some difficulty was experienced in procuring the rites of burial; and in consequence his interment was strictly private.

In his personal character D’Alembert was simple, benevolent, warm in his attachments, a sworn foe to servility and adulation, and no follower of great men. This temper stood in the way of his progress to riches. It was his maxim, that a man should be very careful in his writings, careful enough in his actions, and moderately careful in his words; and the latter clause was probably that which he best observed. In more than one instance his plain drollery gave offence to persons of influence at court, and frustrated the exertions of his friends to improve his fortunes. Fortunately he united simple tastes with an independent, fearless, and benevolent mind; and it is said that he gave away one half of his income, when it did not amount to £350. His own account of his own character, written in the third person, runs in the following terms, and is confirmed by the testimony of his friends:—“Devoted to study and privacy till the age of twenty-five, he entered late into the world, and was never much pleased with it. He could never bend himself to learn its usages and language, and perhaps even indulged a sort of petty vanity in despising them. He is never rude, because he is neither brutal nor severe; but he is sometimes blunt, through inattention or ignorance. Compliments embarrass him, because he never can find a suitable answer immediately; when he says flattering things, it is always because he thinks them. The basis of his character is frankness and truth, often rather blunt, but never disgusting. He is impatient and angry, even to violence, when any thing goes wrong, but it all evaporates in words. He is soon satisfied and easily governed, provided he does not see what 104you aim at; for his love of independence amounts to fanaticism, so that he often denies himself things which would be agreeable to him, because he is afraid that they would put him under some restraint; which makes some of his friends call him, justly enough, the slave of his liberty.” In his religious opinions D’Alembert was, in the true meaning of the word, a sceptic, and his name has obtained an unenviable notoriety as co-editor, with Diderot, of the celebrated Encyclopédie. His superintendence, however, extended only to the end of the second volume, after which the work was stopped by the French Government; and on its resumption D’Alembert confined himself strictly to the mathematical department. In one respect his conduct may be advantageously contrasted with that of some of his colleagues; he intruded his own opinions on no man, and he took no pleasure in shocking others, by insulting what they hold sacred. “I knew D’Alembert,” says La Harpe, “well enough to say that he was sceptical in every thing but mathematics. He would no more have said positively that there was no religion, than that there was a God; he only thought that the probabilities were in favour of theism, and against revelation. On this subject he tolerated all opinions: and this disposition made him think the intolerant arrogance of the Atheists odious and unbearable. I do not think that he ever printed a sentence, which marks either hatred or contempt of religion.”

We proceed to mention the most remarkable of D’Alembert’s mathematical works. He published in 1743 a treatise on Dynamics, in which he enunciated the law now known under the name of D’Alembert’s principle, one of the most valuable of modern contributions to mechanical science. In the following year appeared a treatise on the Equilibrium and Motion of Fluids; and in 1746, Reflections on the general Causes of Winds, which obtained the prize of the Academy of Berlin. This work is remarkable as the first which contained the general equations of the motion of fluids, as well as the first announcement and use of the calculus of partial differences. We may add to the list of his discoveries, the analytical solutions of the problem of vibrating chords, and the motion of a column of air; of the precession of the equinoxes, and the nutation of the earth’s axis, the phenomenon itself having been recently observed by Bradley. In 1752 he completed his researches into fluids, by an Essay on the Resistance of Fluids. We have to add to the list his Essay on the Problem of Three Bodies, as it is called by astronomers, an investigation of the law by which three bodies mutually gravitating affect each other; and Researches on various points connected with the 105system of the Universe: the former published in 1747, and the latter in 1754–6. His Opuscules, or minor pieces, were collected in eight volumes, towards the end of his life.

Of his connexion with the Encyclopédie, we have already spoken. He is said to be singularly clear and happy in his expositions of the metaphysical difficulties of abstract science. He is also honourably known in less abstruse departments of literature by his Mélanges de Philosophie, Memoirs of Christina of Sweden, Essay on the Servility of Men of Letters to the Great, Elements of Philosophy, and a work on the Destruction of the Jesuits. On his election to the office of perpetual Secretary to the Academy, he wrote the Eloges of the members deceased from 1700 up to that date. His works and correspondence were collected and published in eighteen volumes 8vo. Paris, 1805, by M. Bastien, to whose first volume we refer the reader for complete information on this subject.



“I was born,” says Hogarth in his Memoirs of himself, “in the city of London, November 10, 1697. My father’s pen, like that of many authors, did not enable him to do more than put me in a way of shifting for myself. As I had naturally a good eye, and a fondness for drawing, shows of all sorts gave me uncommon pleasure when an infant; and mimicry, common to all children, was remarkable in me. An early access to a neighbouring painter drew my attention from play; and I was, at every possible opportunity, employed in making drawings. I picked up an acquaintance of the same turn, and soon learnt to draw the alphabet with great correctness. My exercises when at school were more remarkable for the ornaments which adorned them, than for the exercise itself. In the former I soon found that blockheads with better memories could much surpass me; but for the latter I was particularly distinguished.”

To this account of Hogarth’s childhood we have only to add, that his father, an enthusiastic and laborious scholar, who like many of his craft owed little to the favour of fortune, consulted these indications of talent as well as his means would allow, and bound his son apprentice to a silver-plate engraver. But Hogarth aspired after something higher than drawing cyphers and coats-of-arms; and before the expiration of his indentures he had made himself a good draughtsman, and obtained considerable knowledge of colouring. It was his ambition to become distinguished as an artist; and not content with being the mere copier of other men’s productions, he sought to combine the functions of the painter with those of the engraver, and to gain the power of delineating his own ideas, and the fruits of his acute observation. He has himself explained the nature of his views in a passage which is worth attention.

Engraved by J. Mollison.


From the original Picture by Himself
in the National Gallery.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.

107“Many reasons led me to wish that I could find the shorter path,—fix forms and characters in my mind,—and instead of copying the lines try to read the language, and, if possible, find the grammar of the art by bringing into one focus the various observations I had made, and then trying by my power on the canvass how far my plan enabled me to combine and apply them to practice. For this purpose I considered what various ways, and to what different purposes, the memory might be applied; and fell upon one most suitable to my situation and idle disposition; laying it down first as an axiom, that he who could by any means acquire and retain in his memory perfect ideas of the subjects he meant to draw, would have as clear a knowledge of the figure as a man who can write freely hath of the twenty-five letters of the alphabet and their infinite combinations.” Acting on these principles, he improved by constant exercise his natural powers of observation and recollection. In his rambles among the motley scenes of London he was ever on the watch for striking features or incidents; and not trusting entirely to memory, he was accustomed, when any face struck him as peculiarly grotesque or expressive, to sketch it on his thumb-nail, to be treasured up on paper at his return home.

For some time after the expiration of his apprenticeship, Hogarth continued to practise the trade to which he was bred; and his shop-bills, coats-of-arms, engravings upon tankards, &c., have been collected with an eagerness quite disproportionate to their value. Soon he procured employment in furnishing frontispieces and designs for the booksellers. The most remarkable of these are the plates to an edition of Hudibras, published in 1726: but even these are of no distinguished merit. About 1728 he began to seek employment as a portrait painter. Most of his performances were small family pictures, containing several figures, which he calls “Conversation Pieces,” from twelve to fifteen inches high. These for a time were very popular, and his practice was considerable, as his price was low. His life-size portraits are few; the most remarkable are that of Captain Coram in the Foundling Hospital, and that of Garrick as King Richard III. But his practice as a portrait painter was not lucrative, nor his popularity lasting. Although many of his likenesses were strong and characteristic, in the representation of beauty, elegance, and high-breeding, he was little skilled. The nature of the artist was as uncourtly as his pencil; he despised, or affected to despise, what is called embellishment, forgetting that every great painter of portraits has founded his success upon his power of giving to an object the most favourable 108representation of which it is susceptible. When Hogarth obtained employment and eminence of another sort, he abandoned portrait painting, with a growl at the jealousy of his professional brethren, and the vanity and blindness of the public.

March 23, 1729, Hogarth contracted a stolen marriage with the only daughter of the once fashionable painter, Sir James Thornhill. The father, for some time implacable, relented at last; and the reconciliation, it is said, was much forwarded by his admiration of the “Harlot’s Progress,” a series of six prints, commenced in 1731, and published in 1734. The novelty as well as merit of this series of prints won for them extraordinary popularity; and their success encouraged Hogarth to undertake a similar history of the “Rake’s Progress,” in eight prints, which appeared in 1735. The third, and perhaps the most popular, as it is the least objectionable of these pictorial novels, “Marriage Alamode,” was not engraved till 1745.

The merits of these prints were sufficiently intelligible to the public: their originality and boldness of design, the force and freedom of their execution, rough as it is, won for them an extensive popularity and a rapid and continued sale. The Harlot’s Progress was the most eminently successful, from its novelty rather than from its superior excellence. Twelve hundred subscribers’ names were entered for it; it was dramatized in several forms; and we may note, in illustration of the difference of past and present manners, that fan-mounts were engraved, containing miniature copies of the six plates. The merits of the pictures were less obvious to the few who could afford to spend large sums on works of art; and Hogarth, too proud to let them go for prices much below the value which he put upon them, waited for a long time, and waited in vain, for a purchaser. At last he determined to commit them to public sale; but instead of the common method of auction, he devised a new and complex plan, with the intention of excluding picture-dealers, and obliging men of rank and wealth, who wished to purchase, to judge and bid for themselves. The scheme failed, as might have been expected. Nineteen of Hogarth’s best pictures, the Harlot’s Progress, the Rake’s Progress, the Four Times of the Day, and Strolling Actresses dressing in a Barn, produced only 427l. 7s., not averaging 22l. 10s. each. The Harlot’s Progress was purchased by Mr. Beckford, at the rate of fourteen guineas a picture; five of the series perished in the fire at Fonthill. The Rake’s Progress averaged twenty-two guineas a picture; it has passed into the possession of Sir John Soane, at the advanced price of five hundred and seventy guineas. The same eminent 109architect became the proprietor of the four pictures of an Election, for the sum of 1732l. Marriage Alamode was disposed of in a similar way in 1750; and on the day of sale one bidder appeared, who became master of the six pictures, together with their frames, for 115l. 10s. Mr. Angerstein purchased them, in 1797, for 1381l., and they now form a striking feature in our National Gallery.

The number and variety of Hogarth’s moral and satiric works preclude our naming any but the more remarkable. To those already mentioned we would add the March to Finchley, Southwark Fair, the Distressed Poet, the Enraged Musician, Modern Midnight Conversation, Gin Lane and Beer Street, the four prints of an Election, and two entitled “The Times,” which would hardly require notice, except for having produced a memorable quarrel between himself on one side, and Wilkes and Churchill on the other. The satire of the first, published in 1762, was directed, not against Wilkes himself, but his political friends, Pitt and Temple; nor is it so biting as to have required Wilkes, in defence of his party, to retaliate upon one with whom he had lived in familiar and friendly intercourse. He did so, however, in a number of the North Briton, containing not only abuse of the artist, but unjust and injurious mention of his wife. Hogarth was deeply wounded by this attack, and he retorted by the well-known portrait—it ought not to be called a caricature—of Wilkes with the cap of liberty. “I wished,” he says, “to return the compliment, and turn it to some advantage. The renowned patriot’s portrait, drawn as like as I could, as to features, and marked with some indications of his mind, answered every purpose. A Brutus, a saviour of his country, with such an aspect, was so arrant a farce, that though it gave rise to much laughter in the lookers-on, it galled both him and his adherents. This was proved by the papers being crammed every day with invectives against the artist, till the town grew sick of thus seeing me always at full length. Churchill, Wilkes’s toad-eater, put the North Briton into verse in an epistle to Hogarth; but as the abuse was precisely the same, except a little poetical heightening, it made no impression, but perhaps effaced or weakened the black strokes of the North Briton. However, having an old plate by me, with some parts ready sunk, as the back-ground and a dog, I began to consider how I could turn so much work laid aside to some account; and so patched up a print of Master Churchill in the character of a bear.” The quarrel was unworthy of the talents either of the painter or poet. “Never,” says Walpole, “did two angry men of their abilities throw 110dirt with less dexterity.” It is the more to be regretted, because its effects, as he himself intimates, were injurious to Hogarth’s declining health. The summer of 1764 he spent at Chiswick, and the free air and exercise worked a partial renovation of his strength. The amendment, however, was but temporary; and he died suddenly, October 26, the day after his return to his London residence in Leicester Square.

If we have dwelt little upon Hogarth’s merits in his peculiar style of art, it is still less necessary to say much concerning his historical pictures. Of their merits he himself formed a high and most exaggerated estimate, not hesitating to give out that nothing but envy and ignorance prevented his own pictures from commanding as much admiration, and as high prices, as the most esteemed productions of foreign masters. Posterity has confirmed the judgment of his contemporaries, and Hogarth’s serious compositions are very generally forgotten. The only one which merits to be excepted from this observation is his Sigismunda, painted in 1759, in competition with the well-known and beautiful picture, ascribed by some to Correggio, by others to Furino. Our painter’s vanity and plain dealing had raised up a host of enemies against him among painters, picture-dealers, and connoisseurs; and all whose self-love he had wounded, or whose tricks he had denounced, eagerly seized this opportunity to vent their anger in retaliation. The picture is well known, both by engravings and by Walpole’s severe criticism. We abstain from quoting it: we have passed lightly over a great artist’s excellences, and it would be unfair to expatiate on his defects and errors. Besides this, Hogarth’s chief historical works are the Pool of Bethesda and the Good Samaritan, executed in 1736 as a specimen of his powers, and presented to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital; Paul before Felix, painted for the Hall of Lincoln’s Inn, in 1749; and Moses brought before Pharaoh’s daughter, painted in 1752, and presented to the Foundling Hospital.

Hogarth was not a mere painter: he used the pen as well as the pencil, and aspired to teach as well as to exercise his art. He has left a memoir of his own life, which contains some curious and interesting and instructive matter concerning his own modes and motives of thought and action. He wrote verses occasionally in a rough and familiar style, but not without some sparkles of his humorous turn. But his most remarkable performance is the “Analysis of Beauty,” composed with the ambitious view of fixing the principles of taste, and laying down unerring directions for the student of art. Its leading principle is, that the serpentine line is the foundation of all that is 111beautiful, whether in nature or art. To the universality of this assertion we should be inclined to demur; Nature works by contrast, and loves to unite the abrupt and angular with the flowing and graceful, in one harmonious whole. The work, however, unquestionably contains much that was original and valuable. But when it was found that Hogarth, a man unpolished in conversation, not regularly trained either to the use of the pen or the pencil, and, above all, a profound despiser of academics, of portrait painters, and of almost all things conventionally admired, had written a book professing to teach the principles of art, the storm of criticism which fell upon him was hot and furious. It was discovered that Hogarth was not the author of the book, that the principle was false and ridiculous, and that every body had been in possession of it long before. The last objection, certainly, is so far true, that every one instinctively must feel a line of easy curvature to be more graceful than one of abrupt and angular flexure. But the merit of first enunciating this as a rule of art belongs to Hogarth; and it is recorded to have been the opinion of West, uttered after the author’s death, that the Analysis is a work of the highest value to the student of art, and that, examined after personal enmity and prejudice were laid to sleep, it would be more and more read, studied, and understood. We doubt whether this judgment of the President is altogether sanctioned by the practice of the present day; but time, without altogether establishing the author’s theory, has at least laid asleep the malicious whispers which denied to Hogarth the merit of it, whatever that may be.

In the executive part of his art, either as painter or engraver, Hogarth did not attain to first-rate excellence. His engravings are spirited, but rough; but they have the peculiar merit (one far above mechanical delicacy and correctness of execution) of representing accurately, by a few bold touches, the varied incidents and expression which he was so acute and diligent in observing. A faithful copier, his works are invaluable as records of the costume and spirit of the time; and they preserve a number of minute illustrative circumstances, which his biographers and annotators have laboured to explain, with the precision used by critics in commenting upon Aristophanes. Wit and humour are abundant in all of them, even in accessories apparently insignificant; and they require to be studied before half the matter condensed in them can be perceived and apprehended. “It is worthy of observation,” says Mr. Lamb, “that Hogarth has seldom drawn a mean or insignificant countenance.” This is so far true, that there are few of his faces which do not contribute to 112the general effect. Mean and insignificant in the common sense of the words they often are, and the fastidious observer will find much to overcome in the general want of pleasing objects in his compositions. But the vacancy or expression, the coarseness or refinement of the countenance, are alike subservient to convey a meaning or a moral; and in this sense it may justly be said, that few of Hogarth’s faces are insignificant. Through the more important of his works, a depth and unity of purpose prevails, which sometimes rises into high tragic effect, the more striking from the total absence of conventional objects of dignity, as in the two last plates of the “Rake’s Progress.” “Gin Lane” has been included by Mr. Lamb in the same praise, and its power cannot be denied; but it contains too much that is purely disgusting, mixed with much that is in the nature of caricature, to be a general favourite.

The nationality of Hogarth’s prints has given to them a more lasting and extensive popularity than any class of engravings has ever enjoyed. Not to mention the large impressions from the original plates, which were touched and retouched again and again, they have been frequently engraved on a smaller scale, accompanied with an historical and descriptive text; and there is scarcely a library of any pretensions which has not a “Hogarth Illustrated,” in some shape or other, upon its shelves. Of these works, the first was Dr. Trusler’s “Hogarth Moralized,” republished lately in a very elegant shape; the most complete is the quarto edition of Hogarth’s works, by Nichols and Stevens. There is a long and valuable memoir of the artist in Rees’s “Cyclopædia,” by Mr. Phillips, R.A., and an extended life by Allan Cunningham in the “Family Library.” The works of Walpole, Gilpin, Hazlitt, and others, will furnish much of acute criticism; and we especially recommend the perusal of an Essay by Charles Lamb on the “Genius and Character of Hogarth,” published originally in the “Reflector,” No. 3. It is chiefly occupied by a minute criticism upon the “Rake’s Progress,” and though, in our opinion, somewhat partial and excessive in praise, is admirably calculated to show the reader in what spirit the moral works of Hogarth should be studied.

Engraved by Robt. Hart.


From a picture by Ramsay
in Trinity College, Cambridge.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.



The great Tuscan astronomer is best known as the first telescopic observer, the fortunate discoverer of the Medicean stars (so Jupiter’s satellites were first named): and what discovery more fitted to immortalize its author, than one which revealed new worlds, and thus gave additional force to the lesson, that the universe, of which we form so small a part, was not created only for our use or pleasure! Those, however, who consider Galileo only as a fortunate observer, form a very inadequate estimate of one of the most meritorious and successful of those great men who have bestowed their time for the advantage of mankind in tracing out the hidden things of nature.

Galileo Galilei was born at Pisa, February 15, 1564. In childhood he displayed considerable mechanical ingenuity, with a decided taste for the accomplishments of music and painting. His father formed a just estimate of his talents, and at some inconvenience entered him, when nineteen years old, at the university of his native town, intending that he should pursue the medical profession. Galileo was then entirely ignorant of mathematics; and he was led to the study of geometry by a desire thoroughly to understand the principles of his favourite arts. This new pursuit proved so congenial to his taste, that from thenceforward his medical books were entirely neglected. The elder Galilei, a man of liberal acquirements and enlarged mind, did not require the devotion of his son’s life to a distasteful pursuit. Fortunately the young man’s talents attracted notice, and in 1589 he was appointed mathematical lecturer in the University of Pisa. There is reason to believe that, at an early period of his studentship, he embraced, upon inquiry and conviction, the doctrines of Copernicus, of which through life he was an ardent supporter.

114Galileo and his colleagues did not long remain on good terms. The latter were content with the superstructure which à priori reasoners had raised upon Aristotle, and were by no means desirous of the trouble of learning more. Galileo chose to investigate physical truths for himself; he engaged in experiments to determine the truth of some of Aristotle’s positions, and when he found him in the wrong, he said so, and so taught his pupils. This made the “paper philosophers,” as he calls them, very angry. He repeated his experiments in their presence; but they set aside the evidence of their senses, and quoted Aristotle as much as before. The enmity arising from these disputes rendered his situation so unpleasant, that, in 1592, at the invitation of the Venetian commonwealth, he gladly accepted the professorship of mathematics at Padua. The period of his appointment being only six years, he was re-elected in 1598, and again in 1606, each time with an increase of salary; a strong proof of the esteem in which he was held, even before those astronomical discoveries which have immortalized his name. His lectures at this period were so fully attended, that he was sometimes obliged to adjourn them to the open air. In 1609 he received an invitation to return to his original situation at Pisa. This produced a letter, still extant, from which we quote a catalogue of the undertakings on which he was already employed. “The works which I have to finish are principally two books on the ‘System or Structure of the Universe,’ an immense work, full of philosophy, astronomy, and geometry; three books on ‘Local Motion,’ a science entirely new, no one, either ancient or modern, having discovered any of the very many admirable accidents which I demonstrate in natural and violent motions, so that I may, with very great reason, call it a new science, and invented by me from its very first principles; three books of mechanics, two on the demonstration of principles, and one of problems; and although others have treated this same matter, yet all that has been hitherto written, neither in quantity nor otherwise, is the quarter of what I am writing on it. I have also different treatises on natural subjects—on Sound and Speech, on Light and Colours, on the Tides, on the Composition of Continuous Quantity, on the Motions of Animals, and others besides. I have also an idea of writing some books relating to the military art, giving not only a model of a soldier, but teaching with very exact rules every thing which it is his duty to know, that depends upon mathematics, as the knowledge of castrametation, drawing up of battalions, fortification, assaults, planning, surveying, the knowledge of artillery, the use of instruments, &c.” Out of this comprehensive list, the 115treatises on the universe, on motion and mechanics, on tides, on fortification, or other works upon the same subjects, have been made known to the world. Many, however, of Galileo’s manuscripts, through fear of the Inquisition, were destroyed, or concealed and lost, after the author’s death.

In the same year, 1609, Galileo heard the report, that a spectacle-maker of Middleburg, in Holland, had made an instrument by which distant objects appeared nearer. He tasked his ingenuity to discover the construction, and soon succeeded in manufacturing a telescope. His telescope, however, seems to have been made on a different construction from that of the Dutch optician. It consisted of a convex and concave glass, distant from each other by the difference of their focal lengths, like a modern opera-glass; while there is reason to believe that the other was made up of two convex lenses, distant by the sum of their focal lengths, the common construction of the astronomical telescope. Galileo’s attention naturally was first turned to the moon. He discovered that her surface, instead of being smooth and perfectly spherical, was rough with mountains, and apparently varied, like the earth, by land and water. He next applied to Jupiter, and was struck by the appearance of three small stars, almost in a straight line, and close to him. At first he did not suspect the nature of these bodies; but careful observation soon convinced him that these three, together with a fourth, which was at first invisible, were in reality four moons revolving round their primary planet. These he named the Medicean stars. They have long ceased to be known by that name; but so highly prized was the distinction thus conferred upon the ducal house of Florence, that Galileo received an intimation, that he would “do a thing just and proper in itself, and at the same time render himself and his family rich and powerful for ever,” if he “named the next star which he should discover after the name of the great star of France, as well as the most brilliant of all the earth,” Henry IV. These discoveries were made known in 1610, in a work entitled “Nuncius Sidereus,” the Newsman of the Stars: in which Galileo farther announced that he had seen many stars invisible to the naked eye, and ascertained that the nebulæ scattered through the heavens consist of assemblages of innumerable small stars. The ignorant and unprejudiced were struck with admiration; indeed, curiosity had been raised so high before the publication of this book, as materially to interfere with the convenience of those who possessed telescopes. Galileo was employed a month in exhibiting his own to the principal persons in Venice; and one unfortunate astronomer 116was surrounded by a crowd who kept him in durance for several hours, while they passed his glass from one to another. He left Venice the next morning, to pursue his inquiries in some less inquisitive place. But the great bulk of the philosophers of the day were far from joining in the general feeling. They raised an outcry against the impudent fictions of Galileo, and one, a professor of Padua, refused repeatedly to look through the telescope, lest he should be compelled to admit that which he had predetermined to deny. In the midst of this prejudice and envy, Kepler formed a brilliant exception. He received those great discoveries with wonder and delight, though they overturned some cherished theories, and manifested an honest and zealous indignation against the traducers of Galileo’s fame.

In particular his wrath broke out against a protégé of his own, named Horky; who, under the mistaken notion of gaining credit with his patron, wrote a violent attack on Galileo, and asserted, among other things, that he had examined the heavens with Galileo’s own glass, and that no such thing as a satellite existed near Jupiter. The conclusion of the affair is curious and characteristic. Horky begged so hard to be forgiven, that, says Kepler, “I have taken him again into favour, upon this preliminary condition, to which he has agreed,—that I am to show him Jupiter’s satellites, and he is to see them, and to own that they are there.”

It was not long before Galileo had new, and equally important matter to announce. He observed a remarkable appearance in Saturn, as if it were composed of three stars touching each other; his telescope was not sufficiently powerful to resolve into them Saturn and his ring. Within a month he ascertained that Venus exhibits phases like those of the moon,—a discovery of great importance in confirming the Copernican system. The same phenomenon he afterwards detected in Mars. We close the list with the discovery of the revolution of the sun round his axis, in the space of about a lunar month, derived from careful observation of the spots on his surface.

About this time (1610–11) Galileo took up his abode in Tuscany, upon the invitation of the Grand Duke, who offered to him his original situation at Pisa, with a liberal salary, exemption from the necessity of residence, and complete leisure to pursue his studies. In 1612 he published a discourse on Floating Bodies, in which he investigates the theory of buoyancy, and refutes, by a series of beautiful and conclusive experiments, the opinion that the floating or sinking of bodies depends on their shape.

Neither Copernicus nor his immediate followers suffered inconvenience 117or restraint on account of their astronomical doctrines: nor had Galileo, until this period of his life, incurred ecclesiastical censure for any thing which he had said or written. But the Inquisition now took up the matter as heretical, and contrary to the express words of Scripture; and in 1616, Copernicus’s work ‘De Revolutionibus,’ Kepler’s Epitome, and some of Galileo’s own letters, were placed on the list of prohibited books; and he himself, being then in Rome, received formal notice not to teach that the earth revolves round the sun. He returned to Florence full of indignation; and considering his hasty temper, love of truth, and full belief of the condemned theory, it is rather wonderful that he kept silence so long, than that he incurred at last the censures of the hierarchy. He did, however, restrain himself from any open advocacy of the heretical doctrines, even in composing his great work, the ‘Dialogue on the Ptolemaic and Copernican Systems.’ This was completed in 1630, but not printed till 1632, under licence from officers of the church, both at Rome and Florence. It is a dialogue between Simplicio, an Aristotelian, Salviati, who represents the author, and Sagredo, a half convert to Salviati’s opinions. It professes “indeterminately to propose the philosophical arguments, as well on one side as on the other:” but the neutrality is but ill kept up, and was probably assumed, not with any hope that the court of Rome would be blinded as to the real tendency of the book, but merely that it would accept this nominal submission as a sufficient homage to its authority. If this were so, the author was disappointed; the Inquisition took cognizance of the matter, and summoned him to Rome to undergo a personal examination. Age and infirmity were in vain pleaded as excuses; still, through the urgent and indignant remonstrances of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, he was treated with a consideration rarely shown by that iniquitous tribunal. He was allowed to remain at the Florentine ambassador’s palace, with the exception of a short period, from his arrival in February, until the passing of sentence, June 21, 1633. He was then condemned, in the presence of the Inquisitors, to curse and abjure the “false doctrines,” which his life had been spent in proving; to be confined in the prison of the Holy Office during pleasure, and to recite the seven penitential psalms once a week during three years. The sentence and the abjuration are given at full length in the Life of Galileo, in the ‘Library of Useful Knowledge.’ “It is said,” continues the biographer, “that Galileo, as he rose from his knees, stamped on the ground, and whispered to one of his friends, ‘e pur si muove,’ (it does move though.”)

Galileo’s imprisonment was not long or rigorous; for after four days 118he was reconducted to the Florentine ambassador’s palace: but he was still kept under strict surveillance. In July he was sent to Sienna, where he remained five months in strict seclusion. He obtained permission in December to return to his villa at Arcetri, near Florence: but there, as at Sienna, he was confined to his own premises, and strictly forbidden to receive his friends. It is painful to contemplate the variety of evils which overcast the evening of this great man’s life. In addition to a distressing chronic complaint, contracted in youth, he was now suffering under a painful infirmity which by some is said to have been produced by torture, applied in the prisons of the Inquisition to extort a recantation. But the arguments brought forward to show that the Inquisitors did resort to this extremity do not amount to anything like direct proof. In April, 1634, Galileo’s afflictions were increased by the death of a favourite, intelligent, and attached daughter. He consoled his solitude, and lightened the hours of sickness, by continuing the observations which he was now forbidden to publish to the world; and the last of his long train of discoveries was the phenomenon known by the name of the moon’s libration. In the course of 1636–7 he lost successively the sight of both his eyes. He mentions this calamity in a tone of pious submission, mingled with a not unpleasing pride. “Alas, your dear friend and servant Galileo has become totally and irreparably blind; so that this heaven, this earth, this universe, which with wonderful observations I had enlarged a hundred and thousand times beyond the belief of by-gone ages, henceforward for me is shrunk into the narrow space which I myself fill in it. So it pleases God: it shall therefore please me also.” In 1638 he obtained leave to visit Florence, still under the same restrictions as to society; but at the end of a few months he was remanded to Arcetri, which he never again quitted. From that time, however, the strictness of his confinement was relaxed, and he was allowed to receive the friends who crowded round him, as well as the many distinguished foreigners who eagerly visited him. Among these we must not forget Milton, whose poems contain several allusions to the celestial wonders observed and published by the Tuscan astronomer. Though blind and nearly deaf, Galileo retained to the last his intellectual powers; and his friend and pupil, the celebrated Torricelli, was employed in arranging his thoughts on the nature of percussion, when he was attacked by his last illness. He died January 8, 1642, aged seventy-eight.

It was disputed, whether, as a prisoner of the Inquisition, Galileo 119had a right to burial in consecrated ground. The point was conceded; but Pope Urban VIII. himself interfered to prevent the erection of a monument to him in the church of Santa Croce, in Florence, for which a large sum had been subscribed. A splendid monument now covers the spot in which his remains repose with those of his friend and pupil, the eminent mathematician Viviani.

In 1618, Galileo published, through the medium of Mario Guiducci, an Essay on the Nature of Comets. His opinions (which, in fact, were erroneous) were immediately attacked under the feigned signature of Lotario Sarsi. To this antagonist he replied in a work entitled ‘Il Saggiatore,’ the Assayer, which we select for mention, not so much for the value of its contents, though, like the rest of his works, it has many remarkable passages, as for the high reputation which it enjoys among Italian critics as a model of philosophical composition. The “Dialogues on Motion,” the last work of consequence which Galileo published, contain investigations of the simpler branches of dynamics, the motion of bodies falling freely or down inclined planes, and of projectiles; determinations of the strength of beams, and a variety of interesting questions in natural philosophy. The fifth and sixth are unfinished; the latter was intended to comprise the theory of percussion, which, as we have said, was the last subject which occupied the author’s mind. For a full analysis of this and the other treatises here briefly noted, and for an account of Galileo’s application of the pendulum to the mensuration of time; his invention of the thermometer, though in an inaccurate and inconvenient form; his methods of discovering the longitude, and a variety of other points well worth attention, we must refer to the Life of Galileo already quoted. The numerous extracts from Galileo’s works convey a lively notion of the author’s character, and are distinguished by a peculiar tone of quaint humour. For older writers we may refer to the lives of Viviani, Gherardini, and Nelli; and to the English one by Salusbury, of which however the second volume is so rare that the Earl of Macclesfield’s copy is the only one known to exist in England. Venturi has given to the world some unpublished manuscripts, and collected much curious and scattered information in his “Memorie e Lettere de Gal. Galilei.” Of Galileo’s works several editions exist: the most complete are those of Padua, in four volumes quarto, 1744, and of Milan, in thirteen volumes octavo, 1811.

In conclusion, we quote the estimate of Galileo’s character, from the masterly memoir from which this sketch is derived. “The numberless inventions of his acute industry; the use of the telescope, and the 120brilliant discoveries to which it led; the patient investigation of the laws of weight and motion, must all be looked upon as forming but a part of his real merits, as merely particular demonstrations of the spirit in which he everywhere withstood the despotism of ignorance, and appealed boldly from traditional opinions to the judgment of reason and common sense. He claimed and bequeathed to us the right of exercising our faculties in examining the beautiful creation which surrounds us. Idolised by his friends, he deserved their affection by numberless acts of kindness; by his good humour, his affability, and by the benevolent generosity with which he devoted himself, and a great part of his limited income, to advance their talents and fortunes. If an intense desire of being useful is everywhere worthy of honour; if its value is immeasurably increased when united to genius of the highest order; if we feel for one, who, notwithstanding such titles to regard, is harassed by cruel persecution, then none deserve our sympathy, our admiration, and our gratitude, more than Galileo.”

[Monument to Galileo in the Church of Santa Croce at Florence.]

Engraved by R. Woodman.


From the original Picture by himself
in his Majesty’s Collection.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.

121 Rembrandt.


Born June 15, 1606. His father was a miller, named Gerretz, who lived near Leyden, on the banks of the Rhine. Hence Rembrandt assumed the higher-sounding title of Van Ryn, in exchange for his paternal appellation. The miller was sagacious enough to perceive that his son had talent, but not to discover the direction in which it lay; and sent him to study Latin, and qualify himself for one of the learned professions at the University of Leyden. He had no turn for scholarship; indeed, through life, his literary acquirements were decidedly below par: but he showed great expertness in drawing any object which caught his notice. The miller wisely yielded to what appeared the natural bent of his son’s genius, and suffered him to pursue painting as a profession. He studied first for three months at Amsterdam, in the school of Jacob Van Swannenberg, then six months with Peter Lastman, and six with Jacob Pinas. It is somewhat surprising that he should have continued so long with these masters, from whom he could learn no more than the rudiments of execution. Had they been better, he would have gained little but manual skill from them; for, from the first, his style was essentially his own. Nature was his preceptress, and his academy was his father’s mill. There he found those unique effects of light and shadow which distinguish his pictures from all others. The style of art which astonished his contemporaries by its novelty and power, and will ever continue to influence the practice of later artists, was founded on and formed out of the brilliant contrasts exhibited by a beam of light admitted through a narrow aperture, and rapidly subsiding into darkness: a spectacle which, familiar to his childhood, seems to have left an indelible impression on his imagination. He studied 122with great assiduity, but seems to have scarcely been conscious of his own strength until the commendation of his fellow-students roused him. At the suggestion of one of them he took a painting which he had just finished to an amateur at the Hague, who gave the best proof of his approbation by paying a hundred florins for it on the spot. The sudden acquisition of so much wealth almost turned the young artist’s head. He went on foot to the Hague; but he posted home to his father’s mill in a chariot. Extravagance, however, was not one of his characteristics, and this was his last, as it was his first act of ostentatious disbursement.

He remained for some time in his native village, induced, perhaps, by the facilities which the banks of the Rhine presented to him for the study of landscape. Even in that department of art he selected those phases of nature which harmonized with his usual management of chiar’ oscuro: such as effects of twilight, or the setting sun, or any combinations of clouds, rocks, trees, or other objects, which formed large masses of shade relieved by light concentrated in one spot. But being frequently summoned to Amsterdam by commissions for portraits, he settled in that city in 1630. At the same time he married a pretty peasant girl from Ramsdorp, whose portrait he has often introduced in his pictures. He received several pupils into his house, who paid largely for his instructions.

One of Rembrandt’s earliest and most steadfast patrons was the burgomaster Six, for whom he painted the celebrated picture now in the National Gallery, of ‘The Woman taken in Adultery.’ If this be an average specimen of his style at this time, no wonder can be felt that his reputation rose to a prodigious height, and that he obtained large prices for his performances. The style of this picture, though approaching to the elaborate finishing of Mieris or Gerard Dow, is yet as broad as in any of his subsequent works, after he had adopted a bolder method of execution. Refinement of character we never must expect in Rembrandt; but in this picture we are not shocked by that uncalled-for coarseness which debases many of his later works. In the figure of Christ especially, there is some attempt to rise above the level of common life, which he usually contents himself with copying. The picture exhibits his usual grandeur and solemnity of light and shade, and is remarkable for brilliancy of colouring.

As Rembrandt’s practice became more and more lucrative, he gave way to a vice which certainly is not the besetting one of artists, and grew insatiably avaricious. His engravings were sought with even more 123avidity than his pictures; and he left unemployed no artifice by which their popularity might be turned to account. Impressions were taken off and circulated when the plates were half finished, then the work was completed, and the sale recommenced. Alterations were then made in the perfect engraving, and these botched prints were again sent into the market. Impressions of the same plate in all these stages of transformation were eagerly sought by the idle foppery of collectorship; and it was held a serious impeachment of taste not to possess proofs of the little Juno with and without a crown; the young Joseph with the face light, and the same Joseph with his face dark; the woman with the white bonnet, and the same woman without a bonnet; the horse with a tail, and a horse without a tail, &c. Ungentlemanly tricks were practised to enhance the price of his works. He often expressed an intention of quitting Amsterdam altogether. Once he was announced to be dangerously ill; at another time he was reported to be dead. It is strange that he should not have felt these petty artifices to be unworthy of his genius, and unnecessary to his fame or fortune; but it seems not improbable that some of his eccentricities were played off to attract attention. Being occupied one day in painting the picture of a burgomaster and his family, word was brought that his favourite monkey was dead. He made great parade of his distress, and as some alleviation of it, proceeded to paint the monkey into the picture. The civic dignitary remonstrated in vain against this extraordinary addition to the family group: Rembrandt refused to finish the picture unless the monkey kept his place, and accordingly it was allowed to remain. That he was not unconscious of the absurdity of such caprices, may be inferred from his quick turn for humour, and the shrewdness and sagacity of his remarks.

The roughness and apparent negligence in the execution of his works astonished many of the Dutch connoisseurs, who had been so used to minute delicacy of finish as to consider it essential to excellence. To these critics he replied in a tone of irony, requesting that when they perceived anything particularly wrong in his works, they would believe that he had a motive for it. To others who examined his pictures too closely, he observed, that the smell of the paint was unwholesome, adding a very just observation, that the picture is finished when the painter has expressed his intention.

Numerous copies of Rembrandt’s pictures were made by his pupils, which he retouched and sold as originals. Sandraart asserts that he gained one thousand two hundred florins yearly by this commerce. It 124is proper, however, to state that most of the great masters have, more or less, availed themselves of the labour of their scholars.

In one respect, however, Rembrandt acted worthily of his genius. He never allowed the love of gain to interfere with or limit the time and labour which were required to give excellence to his paintings. The bravura of hand by which his later works are distinguished, has led to an idea that he painted them carelessly and with great dispatch. No doubt he wrought with firmness and decision when his plan was fixed; but various studies are extant, which show that, before commencing a picture, he constructed and reconstructed his design with indefatigable attention. This was especially the case with his historical works; yet in portrait painting he was scarcely less particular. Frequently when the picture was considerably advanced, struck by some new arrangement, an effect of light, a happy turn of drapery, a better position of the head, he would begin again; and the patience of the sitter was sometimes so much tried by a succession of these alterations, that works would have been left unfinished on the artist’s hands, but for that confidence in the ultimate excellence of the pictures, which rendered his employers anxious to possess them at any outlay of time, patience, or money.

Descamps, the French biographer of the Flemish painters, enlarges on Rembrandt’s misfortune in not having been born in Italy, or, at least, not having spent some years there. “How different a painter would he have been,” he says, “had he been familiar with the works of Raphael and Titian.” That he would have been a different painter may be doubted; that he would have been a better one is still less probable. Descamps adds, that he owed his genius to nature and instinct alone; a much more rational remark, and so true, that it appears almost demonstrable that no system of discipline or education would have materially altered his turn of mind. He was sufficiently well acquainted, through the medium of prints, casts, and marbles, with the leading works both of ancient and modern art; but he had no taste for refinement, and he knew that what is called high art was not his vocation. He had collected quantities of old armour, rich draperies, grotesque ornaments, and military weapons, which he jocularly called his antiques; and he made no scruple of deriding the exclusive claims to taste set up by particular schools. He felt that he had no occasion to ask his passport to reputation from others; but that, as Fuseli expresses it, he could enter the temple of fame by forging his own keys.

Few painters, indeed, have so full a claim to the merit of originality as Rembrandt. It would be hard to point out any of his predecessors 125to whom he is indebted for any part of his style; but he has opened a rich treasure of excellence for his successors to profit by. The full powers of the management of light and shade, which we denominate by the Italian phrase chiar’ oscuro, were not known until Rembrandt developed them. It might have been supposed that the power and harmony, and splendour of Corregio left nothing to be desired in this department of the art; but Rembrandt gave to his masses a force and depth, and concentration, unequalled, and peculiar to himself. Nor is chiar’ oscuro in his hands merely an instrument of picturesque effect; it is also a most powerful vehicle of sentiment, especially in subjects characterized by solemnity or terror. The ‘Crucifixion,’ ‘Christ and St. Peter in the Storm,’ and ‘Sampson seized by the Philistines,’ are striking but not singular examples of this:—it is the excellence which pervades his works. ‘Jacob’s Dream,’ in the Dulwich Gallery, deserves mention as a most remarkable instance of his peculiar powers, for it embodies images so vague and undefinable, that they might be thought beyond the grasp of painting. Forms float before us, apparently cognizable by our senses, yet so vague, that when examined, they lose the semblance of form which at first they wore, receding gradually to so immeasurable a distance, that it would seem as if in truth the heavens were opened. It is the most spiritual thing conceivable, and breathes the very atmosphere of a dream.

As a colourist Rembrandt has scarcely a superior: if his tints are not equal in truth and purity to those of Titian, yet his admirable management of light and shadow gives to his colouring an almost unrivalled splendour. In that quality of execution which painters call surface, he was eminently skilled; perhaps none but Corregio and Reynolds can compare with him in it. To his portraits he gave a most speaking air of identity; but his delineations of the human form and character in works of imagination are almost ludicrous, and little better than travesties of the subject. Beauty certainly must have come in his way; but he seems to have avoided and rejected it for the sake of ugliness and vulgarity. The picture of a ‘Woman Bathing,’ in the National Gallery, is a good instance both of his merits and faults, treating with the utmost fidelity and beauty of execution a subject so disagreeable, that admiration is neutralized by disgust. Indeed his genius has no greater triumph than that of reconciling us to his defects.

Rembrandt’s style of engraving, as of painting, is in great measure of his own invention. His plates are partly etched, assisted with the dry point, and sometimes, but not often, finished with the graver. 126His prints possess the effect of colouring in a surprising degree; the light and shade is managed, as might be expected, with consummate skill, and the touch has a lightness and apparent negligence, which give to his etchings an indescribable charm.

De Piles and some other writers have asserted that Rembrandt was at Venice in the year 1635 or 1636. This mistake arose from the dates, and the name of Venice which Rembrandt put at the bottom of some of his prints, with the view of enhancing the price of them. He never quitted Amsterdam after he first established himself there in 1630. He could have had no inducement indeed to absent himself from a city in which he was so rapidly acquiring both fame and fortune. In what related to his art he never looked out of himself; and he was so far from seeking any general acquaintance with the world, that he associated only with a small circle in his own city, and that of an inferior class. The burgomaster Six, who appreciated his extraordinary talents, and wished to see him fill a place in society worthy of them, often attempted to lead him among the wealthy and the great; but that inveterate want of refinement which is visible in his works, pervaded his character, and he confessed that he felt uneasy in such company; adding, that when he left his painting-room, it was for the purpose of relaxation, which he was more likely to find among his humble associates, and in the convivialities of the tavern. He lived nearly to the age of sixty-eight years, and died at Amsterdam in 1674.

Those who may be curious to know the different impressions and variations of Rembrandt’s plates, and their respective rarity and value, will find information in the catalogue of his works, first published by Gersaint, at Paris, and P. Yver, at Amsterdam; which was afterwards enlarged by our countryman Dalby, and has since been added to in a publication by Adam Bartset, printed at Vienna in 1797.

Rembrandt’s works are nowhere more valued than in this country, which may account for the vast influx of them hither. Originals are not often met with on the Continent: here they may be found in every great collection. The National and the Dulwich Galleries contain some of his finest performances. Particulars of Rembrandt’s life and works may be found in La Vie des Peintres Flamands, par Descamps, and in De Piles. In English, in Bryan’s ‘Dictionary of Painters,’ and in Pilkington.

Engraved by C. E. Wagstaff.


From a Picture by Houdson
in the Hall of Trinity College Cambridge.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.



John Dryden was born at Aldwinkle, near Oundle, in Northamptonshire, August 9, 1631, according to Dr. Johnson; but Mr. Malone raises a doubt concerning the accuracy of this date. The inscription on his monument says, only, natus, 1632. He was educated at Westminster School, under Dr. Busby, and elected Scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1650. The year before he left the university, he wrote a poem on the death of Lord Hastings. Of this production Dr. Johnson says, that “it was composed with great ambition of such conceits as, notwithstanding the reformation begun by Waller and Denham, the example of Cowley still kept in reputation.” Dryden’s vacillation, both in religion and politics, proves, that though perhaps not completely dishonest, he had no firm and well-considered principles. His heroic stanzas on Oliver Cromwell, written after the Protector’s funeral in 1658, were followed on the restoration by his Astrea Redux, and in the same year by a second tribute of flattery to his sacred Majesty, ‘A Panegyric on his Coronation.’ The Annus Mirabilis is one of his most elaborate works; a historical poem in celebration of the Duke of York’s victory over the Dutch. He succeeded Sir William Davenant as poet laureat. He did not obtain the laurel till August 18, 1670; but according to Malone, the patent had a retrospect, and the salary commenced from the Midsummer after Davenant’s death, in 1668. He was also made historiographer to the king, and in the same year published his Essay on Dramatic Poetry.

Among the works of so voluminous a writer, we can only notice those which are distinguished by excellence, or by some strong peculiarity.

Dryden was more than thirty years of age when he commenced dramatic writer. His first piece, the Wild Gallant, met with so mortifying a reception, that he resolved never more to write for the stage. The hasty resolutions of anger are seldom kept, and are seldom worth keeping; but in the present instance it would have been well had he 128adhered to the first dictates of his resentment. We should not then have had to regret, that so large a portion of a great writer’s life and labour has been wasted on twenty-eight dramas: the comedies exhibiting much ribaldry and but little wit; with neither ingenuity nor interest in the fable; with no originality in the characters: the tragedies for the most part filled with the exaggerations of romance, and the hyperboles of an extravagant imagination, in the place of nature and pathos. His tragedy seldom touches the passions: his staple commodities are pompous language, poetical flights, and picturesque description. His characters all speak in one language—that of the author. Addison says, “It is peculiar to Dryden to make all his personages as wise, witty, elegant, and polite as himself.” In confirmation of the proofs internally afforded by his writings, that his taste for tragedy was not genuine, he expresses his contempt for Otway, master as that poet was of the tender passions. But however uncongenial with his natural talent dramatic composition might be, his temporary disgust soon passed away. In his Essay on Dramatic Poetry, he tells his patron, Dorset, that the writing of that treatise served as an amusement to him in the country, when he was driven from London by the plague; that he diverted himself with thinking on the theatres, as lovers do by ruminating on their absent mistresses. But whatever opinion he might entertain of his own tragic style, he was himself sensible that his talents did not lie in the line of comedy. “Those who decry my comedies do me no injury, except it be in point of profit: reputation in them is the last thing to which I shall pretend.” He retaliated on the criticisms levelled against his extravagances in tragedy, by an ostentatious display of defiance. We find in his Dedication of the Spanish Friar, “All that I can say for certain passages of my own Maximin and Almanzor is, that I knew they were bad enough to please when I wrote them.”

In 1671 he was publicly ridiculed on the stage in the Duke of Buckingham’s comedy of the Rehearsal. The character of Bayes was at first named Bilboa, and meant for Sir Robert Howard; but the representation of the piece in its original form was stopped by the plague in 1665: it was not reproduced till six years afterwards, when it appeared with alterations in ridicule of the pieces brought out in the interval, and with a correspondent change of the hero. Dryden affected to despise the satire. In the Dedication to his Translation of Juvenal, he says, “I answered not to the Rehearsal, because I knew the author sat to himself when he drew the picture, and was the very Bayes of his own farce.”

An Essay on Satire, said to be written jointly by Dryden and Lord 129Mulgrave, was first printed in 1679. This piece was handed about in manuscript, for some time before its publication. It contained reflections on the Duchess of Portsmouth and Lord Rochester. Anthony Wood says, that suspecting Dryden to be the author, the aggrieved parties hired three ruffians, who cudgelled the poet in Will’s coffee-house.

In 1680 a translation of Ovid’s Epistles into English came out: two of which, together with the Preface, were by Dryden. In the following year he published Absalom and Achitophel; a work of first-rate excellence as a political and controversial poem. Dr. Johnson ascribes to it “acrimony of censure, elegance of praise, artful delineation of character, variety and vigour of sentiments, happy turns of language, and pleasing harmony of numbers; and all these raised to such a height as can scarcely be found in any other English composition.” In the same year, the Medal, a satire, was given to the public. This piece was occasioned by the striking of a medal, on account of the indictment against Lord Shaftesbury being thrown out, and is a severe invective against that celebrated statesman.

In 1682 Dryden published ‘Religio Laici,’ in defence of revealed religion against Deists, Papists, and Presbyterians. Yet soon after the accession of James the Second, he became a Roman Catholic; and in the hope of promoting Popery, was employed on a translation of Maimbourg’s History of the League, on account of the parallel between the troubles of France and those of Great Britain. This extraordinary conversion exposed him to the ridicule of the wits, and especially to the gibes of the facetious and celebrated Tom Brown.

The Hind and Panther, a controversial poem in defence of the Romish church, appeared in 1687. The Hind represents the church of Rome, the Panther the church of England. The first part of the poem consists mostly of general characters and narration; which, says the author, “I have endeavoured to raise, and give it the majestic turn of heroic poetry. The second, being matter of dispute, and chiefly concerning church authority, I was obliged to make as plain and perspicuous as possibly I could, yet not wholly neglecting the numbers, though I had not frequent occasion for the magnificence of verse. The third, which has more of the nature of domestic conversation, is, or ought to be, more free and familiar than the two former. There are in it two episodes, or fables, which are interwoven with the main design; so that they are properly parts of it, though they are also distinct stories of themselves. In both of these I have made use of the commonplaces of satire, whether true or false, which are urged by the members of one church against another.” The absurdity of a fable exhibiting two 130beasts discoursing on theology, was ridiculed in the City Mouse and Country Mouse, a burlesque poem, the joint production of Montague, afterwards Earl of Halifax, and Prior, who then put forth the first sample of his talents. Dryden is supposed to have been engaged for the translation of Varillas’s History of Heresies, but to have dropped the design, from a feeling of his own incompetency to theological controversy. Bishop Burnet, in his Reflections on the Ninth Book of the first Volume of M. Varillas’s History, classes together that work, and the Hind and Panther, as “such extraordinary things of their kind, that it will be but suitable to see the author of the worst poem become likewise the translator of the worst history that the age has produced.” Dr. Johnson supports the Bishop’s hostile criticism so far as to pronounce the scheme of the work injudicious and incommodious, and to censure the absurdity of making one beast advise another to rest her faith on a pope and council: but he allows it to be written “with great smoothness of metre, a wide extent of knowledge, and an abundant multiplicity of images; the controversy to be embellished with pointed sentences, diversified by illustrations, and enlivened by sallies of invective;” and a poem inlaid with such ornaments, however little worth the solid material might be, was but peevishly represented as “the worst that the age had produced.” Pope, a higher authority than the honest Bishop in such matters, considered it as the most correct specimen of Dryden’s versification. Malone has shown that Burnet was mistaken in attributing to our author the answer to Burnet’s Remarks on the History.

In 1688 Dryden published Britannia Rediviva, a poem on the birth of the Prince afterwards known by the title of the Pretender. The poem is to be noticed only for its extravagant and ill-timed adulation, which deservedly involved the author in the disgrace and fall of his party. But even had he not so identified himself with the ejected dynasty, his conversion to Popery disqualified him for holding his place. He was accordingly dispossessed of it; and the mortification of its being conferred on an object of his confirmed dislike, aggravated the pecuniary loss, which he could ill afford. Shadwell, his successor, was an old enemy, whom he had formerly stigmatized under the name of Og. In consequence of this appointment, Dryden again attacked him in a poem called MacFlecknoe; one of the severest as well as most witty satires in the English language. The poetry of the new laureat was so indifferent, as to give ample scope for ridicule:—

This Flecknoe found, who, like Augustus, young
Was call’d to empire, and had governed long;
In prose and verse, was own’d, without dispute,
Through all the realms of nonsense, absolute.

131Although these lines be written of Flecknoe, Shadwell is the hero of the piece, introduced as if selected by Flecknoe to succeed him on the throne of dulness. Richard Flecknoe was an Irish priest, well known about the court; but notwithstanding Cibber’s assertion in his Lives of the Poets, he was never poet laureat. The above is the story told by all the biographers; but if Mr. Malone’s laborious and minute researches have been pursued with his usual accuracy, they have been mistaken in the date of the publication, which he fixes in October, 1682. If this be correct, the satire must have been a sportive anticipation of an event, which its author little expected to come to pass; and not the ebullition of revenge for the loss of an honourable and lucrative employment. Taking the earlier as the true date, we might suspect that the prophecy was fulfilled in the person of Shadwell, as a vindictive aggravation of the deposed laureat’s fall. Yet it is difficult to reconcile it to probability that Dryden should have dishonoured an office which he had been holding for the last twelve years, and must then have calculated on holding for his life, by a fictitious successive inauguration of two blockheads, who “never deviated into sense.”

Pope’s Dunciad, though more extended in its plan, and more diversified in its incidents, was professedly written in imitation of this poem. The leisure and pains bestowed on his performance gave the imitator the superiority in point of elaborate execution; but there are bursts of pleasantry in MacFlecknoe, and sallies of wit and humour, equal if not superior to any thing in Pope or Boileau, or perhaps in any poet excepting Horace. Dr. Joseph Warton says of it, that “in point of satire, both oblique and direct, contempt and indignation, clear diction, and melodious versification, this poem is perhaps the best of its kind in any language.”

Dr. Johnson doubts whether Dryden was the translator of the Life of Francis Xavier, by Father Bouhours, to which his name is affixed. The borrowing of popular names for title-pages was very prevalent in those days, and the loan probably not without profit to the lenders.

In 1693 a translation of Juvenal and Persius appeared. The first, third, sixth, tenth, and sixteenth satires of Juvenal, and the whole of Persius, are Dryden’s: also the Dedication to Lord Dorset, a long and ingenious discourse, in which the writer gives an account of a design, which he never carried into effect, of writing an epic poem either on Arthur or the Black Prince. Lord Dorset well deserved the compliment of so masterly a dedication; for he continued to patronise the poet in the reverse of his fortunes, and allowed him an annuity equal to the salary which he had lost.

In 1694 Dryden published a prose translation of Du Fresnoy’s Art 132of Painting, with a Preface, exhibiting a parallel between painting and poetry. Pope addressed a copy of verses to Jervas, the painter, in praise of this work.

The most laborious of Dryden’s works, the translation of Virgil, was given to the world in 1697. The Pastorals were dedicated to Lord Clifford, the Georgics to Lord Chesterfield, and the Æneid to Lord Mulgrave: an economical and lucrative combination of flattery which the wits suffered not to pass unnoticed. The translation had an extensive sale, and has since passed through many editions. Like most of Dryden’s longer productions, it has many careless passages, which do not well accord with an original so remarkable for finish and correctness; but it still stands its ground, and is a stock-book in the face of the more careful and perhaps more scholarlike performances of Warton, Sotheby, and Pitt.

Besides the original pieces and translations already mentioned, Dryden wrote many others, the most important of which were published in six volumes of Miscellanies, to which he was the principal contributor. They consist of translations from the Greek and Latin poets; epistles, prologues, and epilogues; odes, elegies, epitaphs, and songs. Alexander’s Feast, an ode for Saint Cecilia’s Day, displays one of the highest flights within the compass of lyric poetry. Dryden, although no lover of labour, is said to have devoted a fortnight to this masterpiece. Yet the poetic fervour is so supported throughout, that it reads as if struck off at a heat; so much so, that the few negligences which escaped the enthusiasm of the writer are scarcely ever noticed. Dr. Johnson, seldom carried beyond the wariness of criticism by the inspiration of his author, did not discover that some of the lines are without correspondent rhymes, till after an acquaintance with it of many years. The splendour of this poem eclipsed that of his first ode for Saint Cecilia’s Day, which would have fixed the fame of any other poet. In Alexander’s Feast the versification is brilliantly worked up, and abruptly varied, according to the rapid transitions of the subject; the language is natural though elevated, and the sentiments are suited to the age and occasion. Had Dryden never written another line, his name would yet be as undying as the tongue in which he wrote. His Fables in English verse from Homer, Ovid, Boccaccio, and Chaucer, were his last work; they were published in 1698. The preface gives a critical account of the authors from whom the Fables are translated. In this work he furnished us with the first example of the revival of ancient English writers by modernizing their language. Yet those readers who can master Chaucer’s phraseology, and have an ear so practised as to catch the 133tune of his verse, will like him better in the simplicity of his native garb, than in the elaborate splendour of his borrowed costume.

Dryden was a voluminous writer in prose as well as in verse, and quite as great a master of the English language in the former as in the latter. His performances in prose consist of Dedications, Prefaces, and controversial pieces; the Lives of Plutarch and Lucian, prefixed to the translation of those authors by several hands; the Life of Polybius, prefixed to the translation of that historian by Sir Henry Shears; and the Preface to Walsh’s Dialogue concerning Women.

Dryden died on the 1st of May, 1701, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. He married Lady Elizabeth Howard, daughter to the Earl of Berkshire. He had three sons by this lady; Charles, John, and Henry. They were all educated at Rome, where John died of a fever. He translated the fourteenth satire of Juvenal, and was author of a comedy. Charles translated the seventh satire. There is a confused story respecting some vexatious and tumultuary incidents occurring at Dryden’s funeral, which rests on no satisfactory authority; and, even if true, would occupy more room in the detail, than would square either with our limits or its own importance.

Dryden was the father of English criticism; and his Essay on Dramatic Poetry is the first regular and judicious treatise in our language on the art of writing. Although, after so many valuable discourses have been delivered to the public on the same subject during the century and a half which has elapsed since his original attempts, his prose works may now be read more for the charm of their pure idiomatic English, than for their novelty or instructive matter, yet the merits of a discoverer must not be underrated because his discoveries have been extended, or his inventions improved upon. Before his time, those who wished to arrive at just principles of taste, or a rational code of criticism, if they were unacquainted with the works of the ancients and the modern languages of Italy and France, had no guides to lead them on their way. Dryden communicated to his own learning, which, though not deep nor accurate, was various and extensive, the magic of his style and the popular attraction of his mother tongue: the Spectator followed his lead, in essays less diffusive, and therefore more within the reach of the million: in our day, such is the accumulation of material, and so cheap and copious the power of circulating knowledge, that the poorest man who can read may inform his mind on subjects of general literature, to the enlargement of his understanding, and the improvement of his morals. But we must not forget our obligations to those who began that hoard, whence we have the privilege of drawing at will.

134With respect to those prose works of our author which are devoted to controversy, their interest has quite passed away, farther than as they may evince his powers in argument, or command of language. Dr. Johnson gives a just estimate of his general character. “He appears to have a mind very comprehensive by nature, and much enriched with acquired knowledge. His compositions are the effects of a vigorous genius, operating upon large materials.”

Dryden’s works have been constantly before the public, in various shapes and successive editions. Those best deserving a place in the library are, his Prose Works in four volumes, edited by Mr. Malone; his Poetical Works in four volumes, with notes, by Dr. Joseph Warton, and his son, the Rev. John Warton; and the whole of his Works in eighteen volumes octavo, by Sir Walter Scott. The earlier authorities for his Life are Wood’s Athenæ Oxonienses; the Biographia Britannica; and a Life by Derrick, poorly executed, prefixed to Tonson’s edition, in 1760. Johnson’s admirable Essay on this subject is in the hands of every reader, and is one of the most masterly among his Lives of the Poets. He was peculiarly well qualified to appreciate a writer in whom, to use his own words, “strong reason rather predominated than quick sensibility.” Scott also has written a copious Life, occupying the first volume of his edition of Dryden’s Works.

[Monument of Dryden in Westminster Abbey.]

Engraved by T. Woolnoth.


From a Miniature in the possession of
La Perouse’s niece at Alby.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.

135 La Perouse.


The latter half of the last century was distinguished by a rekindling of that spirit of maritime discovery which, active at the close of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth centuries, had lain comparatively dormant for many years. The voyages of Wallis and Carteret, the circumnavigation of the globe by Anson, had done something to enlarge our knowledge, and to recall to mind the discoveries of Dampier, Tasman, and other early navigators of the western world. The leading objects, however, of those voyages were political and warlike; the information gleaned in them was secondary and incidental; and the first expedition sent out expressly for scientific purposes was that under the command of Cook, of which we have formerly given a short account. The brilliant success of that admirable navigator roused France to emulation; and, under the auspices of Louis XVI., a voyage of discovery was planned, and entrusted to La Perouse, a name well known for the interest excited by his mysterious disappearance, and for the frequent and (for a long time) fruitless attempts which have been made to trace his fate, and which interest has been recently renewed, by the unexpected discovery of the place and manner in which he perished.

Jean Francois Galaup de la Perouse was born at Albi, in 1741, where he entered the French marine in 1756; and, after passing regularly through the subordinate ranks, in the course of which he saw some active service, was promoted to the command of a frigate in 1778. In that year hostilities broke out between France and England, in the course of which La Perouse had the honour of capturing more than one British ship of war. In 1782 he was 136appointed to command a small squadron sent to attack our settlements in Hudson’s Bay. The object of the expedition was trifling, being confined to the capture of a few insignificant forts, which made no resistance. But La Perouse had the opportunity of displaying his merits as a seaman in the successful navigation of a tempestuous and icy sea, rendered more dangerous by the prevalence of thick fogs; and the credit which he thus acquired caused him to be selected as a proper leader in an intended voyage of discovery. He is entitled to still higher praise for his humanity, in leaving a provision of food and arms for the support and protection of those English residents who had fled into the woods on his approach.

The expedition in question was planned in conformity with the views of Louis XVI. Attached to the science, and well versed in the study of geography, he was desirous, on behalf of France, at once of emulating the glory which England had just acquired through Cook’s discoveries, and of opening new channels for her commerce in the most distant regions. A rough draft of the intended course was made out in conformity with the king’s views, and submitted to his perusal; and the nature of the scheme is concisely explained in a few sentences appended to the document by Louis himself. “To sum up the contents of this paper, and my own observations on them, the objects in view belong to the two heads of commerce and discovery. Of the former class there are two principal ones: the whale fishery in the southern ocean, and the trade in furs in the north-west of America, for transport to China, and, if possible, to Japan. Among the points to be explored, the principal are the north-west of America, which falls in with the commercial part of the scheme; the seas round Japan, which do the same, but I think the season proposed for this in the paper is ill chosen; the Solomon Islands, and the south-west of New Holland. All other objects must be made subordinate to these: we must confine ourselves to what is most useful, and can be accomplished without difficulty in the three years proposed.”

La Perouse’s official instructions were only a development of this sketch. Men of science were invited to communicate their views as to the objects to be pursued, and the best manner of pursuing them; and the expedition was fitted out with every appliance calculated to promote its success. It consisted of two frigates, La Boussole, commanded by La Perouse, and L’Astrolabe, commanded by an accomplished officer, his friend, named Delangle; each of them with a complement of a hundred men. They sailed August 1, 1785, doubled Cape Horn without adventures worthy of notice, and cast 137anchor in the Bay of La Conception, February 22, 1786. Hence he steered northward, touching at Easter and the Sandwich islands, until he reached the coast of America, at Mount St. Elias, in about the sixtieth degree of north latitude. In prosecution of the first part of his instructions, he ran down southwards, examining the coast minutely, to the harbour of Monterey, in California, a distance between five and six hundred leagues: hence he sailed for Japan, September 24. In crossing the Pacific, the group of small islands named after the statesman Necker was discovered. During this run, the two frigates, which were instructed always to keep close to each other, were in imminent danger of being wrecked on an unknown reef. They were upon it so suddenly, that La Boussole was thought scarcely to have cleared the rock by a hundred fathoms. They reached Macao without more adventures, visited Manilla, where they spent some time, and then set sail for the Japanese isles, and the coast of Tartary, a part of the globe little known, except through the reports of missionaries. La Perouse sailed up the narrow channel, called the Gulf of Tartary, lying between the Asiatic continent and the almost unknown island of Segalien, or Sagalin. His progress was stopped by shoals, consisting of the deposits brought down by the river Amoor; but he went far enough to be satisfied that Sagalin is not united to the continent; and his belief has since been shown to be correct. He discovered and gave his own name to the strait which separates that island from the neighbouring one of Jesso, or Matsmai; and having thus ascertained that the land to the north of the principal island of Japan, hitherto believed to be one island, consisted of two, he sailed northward, traversing the Kurile Islands, visited Kamtschatka, and passing southwards by the Friendly Islands, dropped anchor in Botany Bay, January 16, 1788.

It should be mentioned that from the harbour of St. Peter and St. Paul, in Kamtschatka, M. de Lesseps was dispatched home overland, bearing the navigator’s charts and journals up to the period of their arrival at that place. To this precaution the world owes that any record of La Perouse’s wanderings and discoveries has been preserved; for neither vessel ever was seen or heard of, after they left Botany Bay. The last communication which reached home from La Perouse was dated February 7, 1788; and expressed his intention of returning to the Friendly Islands, of exploring the southern coast of New Caledonia, and the Louisiade of Bougainville. He proposed to coast the western side of New Holland to Van Dieman’s Land, so as to arrive at the Mauritius in the close of the same year. Of this 138scheme but a small portion could have been executed. Both ships were lost, there is every reason to believe, on the island of Mallicolo, or Vanicoro, one of the New Hebrides, a group lying about the sixteenth degree of south latitude; but the exact time and circumstances remain unknown, for not one of the crews ever reached an European settlement. When the non-arrival of La Perouse in France began to be the subject of alarm, an expedition was fitted out under Admiral d’Entrecasteaux, with orders strictly to pursue the route laid down above, and to use every means of ascertaining the fate of, and if they yet lived, ministering relief to, his unfortunate countrymen. The service was performed with zeal and ability, but without success. Chance led a private English trader to the solution of this question, vainly, yet anxiously, sought for many years.

In 1813, Mr. Dillon, a subordinate officer on board a Calcutta trading vessel, escaped almost by miracle from an affray with the natives of the Fegee, or Beetee islands, a group lying to the west of the Friendly Islands, about the eighteenth degree of south latitude, in which fourteen of the ship’s crew were killed, and of his immediate companions only two survived. One of these was a Prussian, named Martin Busshart, who had been for some time on the island where this tragical event occurred. This man, certain of being sacrificed to the revenge of the natives, of whom many were killed, if he remained there, requested to be transported to some other spot; and he was put ashore upon an island named Tucopia. In time Mr. Dillon became owner and commander of a vessel named the St. Patrick, and being again in those seas, he visited Tucopia in May, 1826, to procure some tidings of his old companion in danger. Here a silver sword-guard was offered for sale. Inquiry being made how the article was obtained, it was replied, that “when the old men in Tucopia were boys,” two ships had been wrecked on an island not very far off, called Mallicolo, or Vanicoro, and that there yet remained large quantities of the wreck. Captain Dillon guessed that these might be La Perouse’s vessels, and made sail for the island pointed out; but he was baffled by adverse circumstances, and forced to pursue his course to Calcutta without obtaining the desired satisfaction. Arrived at the capital of India, he laid before the government information and evidence which was deemed sufficiently conclusive to warrant the fitting out a ship, named the Research, with the design of fetching off two white men, who were said to have escaped, and to be living on the island; or, at least, to seek, by inquiry on the spot, some conclusive evidence of the fate of La Perouse. 139Captain Dillon reached Vanicoro, and obtained an ample harvest of European articles, both in wood and metal. The tale told by the natives was simple and probable: “A long time ago the people of this island, upon coming out one morning, saw part of a ship on the reef opposite to Paiow, where it held together till the middle of the day, when it was broken by the sea, fell to pieces, and large parts of it floated on shore along the coast. The ship got on the reef in the night, when it blew a tremendous hurricane, which broke down a considerable number of our fruit-trees. We had not seen the ship the day before. Four men were saved from her, and were on the beach at this place, whom we were about to kill, supposing them to be spirits, when they made a present to our chief of something, and thus saved their lives. They lived with us a short time, and then joined their people at Paiow, who built a small ship there, and went away in it. The things which we sell you now have been procured from the ship wrecked on that reef, on which, at low water, our people were in the habit of diving, and bringing up what they could find. The same night another ship struck on a reef near Whannow, and went down. There were several men saved from her, who built a little ship and went away, five moons after the big one was lost. While building it they had a great fence of trees round them, to keep off the islanders, who being equally afraid of them, they consequently kept up but little intercourse. The white men used often to look at the sun through something, but we have none of those things. Two white men remained behind after the last went away: the one was a chief, and the other a common man, who used to attend on the white chief, who died about three years ago. The chief, with whom the white man resided, was obliged, about two years and a half ago, to fly from his country, and was accompanied by the white man. The only white people the inhabitants of this island have ever seen were, first, the people of the wrecked ship; and, secondly, those before me now.”—Dillon’s Discovery of the Fate of La Perouse, vol. ii. p. 194.

Whannow and Paiow are two villages about ten nautical miles distant from each other in a straight line, on the western side of the island, which is nearly surrounded by an abrupt and dangerous coral reef. The climate is reported to be wet and hazy, so that probably the sufferers were not aware of their approach to danger till all chance of escape was past. The story just related is consistent and probable, and it was confirmed by examination of the shore at Paiow, where a small cleared space, of about an acre (the only one on the island), was found, in a place well suited for building and launching a ship; and 140in the neighbourhood of which stumps of trees, evidently felled with axes many years before, were discovered. The spot where one of the ships had struck was ascertained, and some heavy articles, as guns, raised in the shallow water on the reef. No trace of the others could be found; and it was said by the natives to have gone down in deep water. Captain Dillon returned to Calcutta, and thence to England, bringing the articles he had obtained along with him.

No doubt can be entertained but that two French ships, apparently ships of war, were wrecked at Vanicoro. There are no other vessels whose loss is to be accounted for, and the apparent length of time since their destruction, corresponds with the date of La Perouse’s expedition. There is therefore the strongest presumptive evidence for concluding that the fate of that intrepid navigator is at length revealed: but the articles collected, though indisputably belonging to French ships, could not be conclusively identified as having been on board La Boussole and L’Astrolabe. It was suggested that the point might be determined by comparing the marks of the cannon with the registers of the French ordnance, in which the numbers and weight of the guns supplied to each ship would of course be set down. We do not know whether, or with what success, this has been done. But the French government appears to have been satisfied; for on visiting Paris Captain Dillon received the personal thanks of Charles X., and the cross of the Legion of Honour, together with a liberal pecuniary reward for his exertions.

The French, even during the excitement of the early part of the revolution, manifested a lively interest for La Perouse and his crew. D’Entrecasteaux, we have said, was sent out expressly in quest of them; and a reward was offered to whosoever should bring intelligence of their fate, which Captain Dillon was the first to claim. A narrative of the voyage, compiled from the papers brought home by M. de Lesseps, was printed in four quarto volumes, with an atlas, at Paris, 1797, at the national expense, and a certain number of copies being reserved, the rest of the impression was presented to La Perouse’s widow, who continued to receive her husband’s pay. Recently the “Voyage de la Perouse” has been compiled from the original documents, with notes by M. de Lesseps, in an octavo volume, with an Appendix, containing an account of Captain Dillon’s researches, and of the voyage of a French ship, L’Astrolabe, which was engaged at the same time in the same office. To this work, to Captain Dillon’s publication above quoted, and to the “Bulletins de la Société de Géographie,” we refer the readers for a full account of all that is known of the progress and catastrophe of this celebrated expedition.

Engraved by W. Holl.


From an original Picture in the Collection
at Lambeth Palace.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.



Thomas Cranmer was born July 2, 1489, at Aslacton, in Nottinghamshire. He was descended from an ancient family, which had long been resident in that county. At the age of fourteen he was sent to Jesus College, Cambridge; where he obtained a fellowship, which he soon vacated by marriage with a young woman who is said to have been of humble condition. Within a year after his marriage he became a widower, and was immediately, by unusual favour, restored to his fellowship. In 1523, he was admitted to the degree of doctor of divinity, and appointed one of the public examiners in that faculty. Here he found an opportunity of showing the fruits of that liberal course of study which he had been for some time pursuing. As soon as his teachers left him at liberty, he had wandered from the works of the schoolmen to the ancient classics and the Bible; and, thus prepared for the office of examiner, he alarmed the candidates for degrees in theology by the novelty of requiring from them some knowledge of the Scriptures.

It was from this useful employment that he was called to take part in the memorable proceedings of Henry the Eighth, in the matter of his divorce from Catherine.

Henry had been counselled to lay his case before the universities, both at home and abroad. Cranmer, to whom the subject had been mentioned by Gardiner and Fox, went a step farther, and suggested that he should receive their decision as sufficient without reference to the Pope. This suggestion was communicated to the king, who, observing, with his usual elegance of expression, that the man had got the sow by the right ear, summoned Cranmer to his presence, and immediately received him into his favour and confidence.

In 1531, Cranmer accompanied the unsuccessful embassy to Rome, 142and in the following year was appointed ambassador to the Emperor. In August, 1532, the archbishopric of Canterbury became vacant by the death of Warham, and it was Henry’s pleasure to raise Cranmer to the primacy. The latter seems to have been truly unwilling to accept his promotion; and when he found that no reluctance on his part could shake the king’s resolution, he suggested a difficulty which there were no very obvious means of removing. The Archbishop must receive his investiture from the Pope, and at his consecration take an oath of fidelity to his Holiness, altogether inconsistent with another oath, taken at the same time, of allegiance to the king. All this had been done without scruple by other bishops; but Cranmer was already convinced that the Papal authority in England was a mere usurpation, and plainly told Henry that he would receive the archbishopric from him alone. Henry was not a man to be stopped by scruples of conscience of his own or others; so he consulted certain casuists, who settled the matter by suggesting that Cranmer should take the obnoxious oath, with a protest that he meant nothing by it. He yielded to the command of his sovereign and the judgment of the casuists. His protest was read by himself three times in the most public manner, and solemnly recorded. It is expedient to notice that the transaction was public, because some historians, to make a bad matter worse, still talk of a private protest.

In 1533, he pronounced sentence of divorce against the unhappy Catherine, and confirmed the marriage of the king with Anne Boleyn. He was now at leisure to contemplate all the difficulties of his situation. It is commonly said that Cranmer himself had, at this time, made but small progress in Protestantism. It is true that he yet adhered to many of the peculiar doctrines of the Roman Church; but he had reached, and firmly occupied, a position which placed him by many degrees nearer to the reformed faith than to that in which he had been educated. By recognising the Scriptures alone as the standard of the Christian faith, he had embraced the very principle out of which Protestantism flows. It had already led him to the Protestant doctrine respecting the pardon of sin, which necessarily swept away all respect for a large portion of the machinery of Romanism. As a religious reformer, Cranmer could look for no cordial and honest support from the king. Every one knows that Henry, when he left the Pope, had no mind to estrange himself more than was necessary from the Papal Church, and that the cause of religious reformation owes no more gratitude to him, than the cause of political liberty owes to those tyrants who, for their own security, and 143often by very foul means, have laboured to crush the power of equally tyrannical nobles. From Gardiner, who, with his party, had been most active and unscrupulous in helping the king to his divorce and destroying papal supremacy, Cranmer had nothing to expect but open or secret hostility, embittered by personal jealousy. Cromwell, indeed, was ready to go with him any lengths in reform consistent with his own safety; but a sincere reformer must have been occasionally hampered by an alliance with a worldly and unconscientious politician. The country at large was in a state of unusual excitement; but the rupture with Rome was regarded with at least as much alarm as satisfaction; and it was notorious that many, who were esteemed for their wisdom and piety, considered the position of the church to be monstrous and unnatural. The Lollards, who had been driven into concealment, but not extinguished, by centuries of persecution, and the Lutherans, wished well to Cranmer’s measures of reform: but he was not equally friendly to them. They had outstripped him in the search of truth; and he was unhappily induced to sanction at least a miserable persecution of those men with whom he was afterwards to be numbered and to suffer.

His first and most pressing care was by all means to reconcile the minds of men to the assertion of the king’s ecclesiastical supremacy, because all further changes must necessarily proceed from the royal authority. He then addressed himself to what seem to have been the three great objects of his official exertions,—the reformation of the clerical body, so as to make their ministerial services more useful; the removal of the worst part of the prevailing superstitious observances, which were a great bar to the introduction of a more spiritual worship; and above all, the free circulation of the Scriptures among the people in their own language. In this last object he was opportunely assisted by the printing of what is called Matthews’s Bible, by Grafton and Whitchurch. He procured, through the intervention of Cromwell, the king’s licence for the publication, and an injunction that a copy of it should be placed in every parish church. He hailed this event with unbounded joy; and to Cromwell, for the active part he took in the matter, he says, in a letter, “This deed you shall hear of at the great day, when all things shall be opened and made manifest.”

He had hardly witnessed the partial success of the cause of Reformation, when his influence over the king, and with it the cause which he had at heart, began to decline. He had no friendly feeling for those monastic institutions which the rapacity of Henry had marked for destruction; but he knew that their revenues might, as national 144property, be applied advantageously to the advancement of learning and religion, and he opposed their indiscriminate transfer to the greedy hands of the sycophants of the court. This opposition gave to the more unscrupulous of the Romanists an opportunity to recover their lost ground with the king, of which they were not slow to avail themselves. They were strong enough at least to obtain from Parliament, in 1539, (of course through the good will of their despotic master,) the act of the Six Articles, not improperly called the “Bloody Articles,” in spite of the determined opposition of Cranmer: an opposition which he refused to withdraw even at the express command of the king. Latimer and Shaxton immediately resigned their bishoprics. One of the clauses of this act, relating to the marriage of priests, inflicted a severe blow even on the domestic happiness of Cranmer. In his last visit to the continent, he had taken, for his second wife, a niece of the celebrated divine Osiander. By continuing to cohabit with her, he would now, by the law of the land, be guilty of felony; she was therefore sent back to her friends in Germany.

From this time till the death of Henry in 1546, Cranmer could do little more than strive against a stream which not only thwarted his plans of further reformation, but endangered his personal safety; and he had to strive alone, for Latimer and other friends among the clergy had retired from the battle, and Cromwell had been removed from it by the hands of the executioner. He was continually assailed by open accusation and secret conspiracy. On one occasion his enemies seemed to have compassed his ruin, when Henry himself interposed and rescued him from their malice. His continued personal regard for Cranmer, after he had in a measure rejected him from his confidence, is a remarkable anomaly in the life of this extraordinary king; of whom, on a review of his whole character, we are obliged to acknowledge, that in his best days he was a heartless voluptuary, and that he had become, long before his death, a remorseless and sanguinary tyrant. It is idle to talk of the complaisance of the servant to his master, as a complete solution of the difficulty. That he was, indeed, on some occasions subservient beyond the strict line of integrity, even his friends must confess; and for the part which he condescended to act in the iniquitous divorce of Anne of Cleves, no excuse can be found but the poor one of the general servility of the times: that infamous transaction has left an indelible stain of disgrace on the Archbishop, the Parliament, and the Convocation. But Cranmer could oppose as well as comply: his conduct in the case of the Six Articles, and his noble interference in favour of Cromwell 145between the tiger and his prey, would seem to have been sufficient to ruin the most accommodating courtier. Perhaps Henry had discovered that Cranmer had more real attachment to his person than any of his unscrupulous agents, and he may have felt pride in protecting one who, from his unsuspicious disposition and habitual mildness, was obviously unfit, in such perilous times, to protect himself. His mildness indeed was such, that it was commonly said, “Do my Lord of Canterbury a shrewd turn, and you make him your friend for life.”

On the accession of Edward new commissions were issued, at the suggestion of Cranmer, to himself and the other bishops, by which they were empowered to receive again their bishoprics, as though they had ceased with the demise of the crown, and to hold them during the royal pleasure. His object of course was to settle at once the question of the new king’s supremacy, and the proceeding was in conformity with an opinion which at one time he undoubtedly entertained, that there are no distinct orders of bishops and priests, and that the office of bishop, so far as it is distinguished from that of priests, is simply of civil origin. The government was now directed by the friends of Reformation, Cranmer himself being one of the Council of Regency; but still his course was by no means a smooth one. The unpopularity, which the conduct of the late king had brought on the cause, was even aggravated by the proceedings of its avowed friends during the short reign of his son. The example of the Protector Somerset was followed by a herd of courtiers, and not a few ecclesiastics, in making reform a plea for the most shameless rapacity, rendered doubly hateful by the hypocritical pretence of religious zeal. The remonstrances of Cranmer were of course disregarded; but his powerful friends were content that, whilst they were filling their pockets, he should complete, if he could, the establishment of the reformed church. Henry had left much for the Reformers to do. Some, indeed, of the peculiar doctrines of Romanism had been modified, and some of its superstitious observances abolished. The great step gained was the general permission to read the Scriptures; and, though even that had been partially recalled, it was impossible to recall the scriptural knowledge and the spirit of inquiry to which it had given birth. With the assistance of some able divines, particularly of his friend and chaplain Ridley, afterwards Bishop of London, Cranmer was able to bring the services and discipline of the church, well as the articles of faith, nearly to the state in which we now see them. In doing this he had to contend at once with the determined hostility of the Romanists, with dissensions in his own party, and conscientious opposition from sincere friends of the cause. In these 146difficult circumstances his conduct was marked generally by moderation, good judgment, and temper. But it must be acknowledged that he concurred in proceedings against some of the Romanists, especially against Gardiner, which were unfair and oppressive. In the composition of the New Service Book, as it was then generally called, and of the Articles, we know not what parts were the immediate work of Cranmer; but we have good evidence that he was the author of three of the Homilies, those of Salvation, of Faith, and of Good Works.

It should be observed, that Cranmer, though he early set out from a principle which might be expected eventually to lead him to the full extent of doctrinal reformation, made his way slowly and by careful study of the Scriptures, of which he left behind sufficient proof, to that point at which we find him in the reign of Edward. It is certain that during the greater part, if not the whole, of Henry’s reign, he agreed with the Romanists in the doctrine of the corporal presence and transubstantiation.

The death of Edward ushered in the storms which troubled the remainder of his days. All the members of the council affixed their signatures to the will of the young king, altering the order of succession in favour of the Lady Jane Grey. Cranmer’s accession to this illegal measure, the suggestion of the profligate Northumberland, cannot be justified, nor did he himself attempt to justify it. He appears, weakly and with great reluctance, to have yielded up his better judgment to the will of his colleagues, and the opinion of the judges.

Mary had not been long on the throne before Cranmer was committed to the Tower, attainted of high treason, brought forth to take part in what seems to have been little better than a mockery of disputation, and then sent to Oxford, where, with Latimer and Ridley, he was confined in a common prison. The charge of high treason, which might undoubtedly have been maintained, was not followed up, and it was not, perhaps, the intention of the government at any time to act upon it: it was their wish that he should fall as a heretic. At Oxford he was repeatedly brought before commissioners delegated by the Convocation, and, in what were called examinations and disputations, was subjected to the most unworthy treatment. On the 20th of April, 1554, Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer were publicly required to recant, and on their refusal were condemned as heretics. The commission however having been illegally made out, it was thought expedient to stay the execution till a new one had been obtained; which, in the case of Cranmer, was issued by the Pope. He was consequently dragged through the forms of another trial and examination; summoned, 147whilst still a close prisoner, to appear within eighty days at Rome; and then, by a sort of legal fiction, not more absurd perhaps than some which still find favour in our own courts, declared contumacious for failing to appear. Finally, he was degraded, and delivered over to the secular power. That no insult might be spared him, Bonner was placed on the commission for his degradation, in which employment he seems to have surpassed even his usual brutality.

Cranmer had now been a prisoner for more than two years, during the whole of which his conduct appears to have been worthy of the high office which he had held, and the situation in which he was placed. Whilst he expressed contrition for his political offence, and was earnest to vindicate his loyalty, he maintained with temper and firmness those religious opinions which had placed him in such fearful peril. Of the change which has thrown a cloud over his memory, we know hardly any thing with certainty but the fact of his recantation. Little reliance can be placed on the detailed accounts of the circumstances which accompanied it. He was taken from his miserable cell in the prison to comfortable lodgings in Christchurch, where he is said to have been assailed with promises of pardon, and allured, by a treacherous show of kindness, into repeated acts of apostacy. In the mean while the government had decreed his death. On the 21st of March, 1556, he was taken from his prison to St. Mary’s Church, and exhibited to a crowded audience, on an elevated platform, in front of the pulpit. After a sermon from Dr. Cole, the Provost of Eton, he uttered a short and affecting prayer on his knees; then rising, addressed an exhortation to those around him; and, finally, made a full and distinct avowal of his penitence and remorse for his apostacy, declaring, that the unworthy hand which had signed his recantation should be the first member that perished. Amidst the reproaches of his disappointed persecutors he was hurried from the church to the stake, where he fulfilled his promise by holding forth his hand to the flames. We have undoubted testimony that he bore his sufferings with inflexible constancy. A spectator of the Romanist party says, “If it had been either for the glory of God, the wealth of his country, or the testimony of the truth, as it was for a pernicious error, and subversion of true religion, I could worthily have commended the example, and matched it with the fame of any Father of ancient time.” He perished in his sixty-seventh year.

All that has been left of his writings will be found in an edition of “The Remains of Archbishop Cranmer,” lately published at Oxford, in four volumes 8vo. They give proof that he was deeply imbued 148with the spirit of Protestantism, and that his opinions were the result of reflection and study; though the effect of early impressions occasionally appears, as in the manner of his appeals to the Apocryphal books, and a submission to the judgment of the early fathers, in a degree barely consistent with his avowed principles. See his First Letter to Queen Mary.

This brief memoir does not pretend to supply the reader with materials for examining that difficult question, the character of the Archbishop. It is hardly necessary to refer him to such well-known books as Strype’s Life of Cranmer, and the recent works of Mr. Todd and Mr. Le Bas.

The time, it seems, has not arrived for producing a strictly impartial life of this celebrated man. Yet there is doubtless a much nearer agreement among candid inquirers, whether members of the Church of England or Roman Catholics, than the language of those who have told their thoughts to the public might lead us to expect. Those who are cool enough to understand that the credit and truth of their respective creeds are in no way interested in the matter, will probably allow, that the course of reform which Cranmer directed was justified to himself by his private convictions; and that his motive was a desire to establish what he really believed to be the truth. Beyond this they will acknowledge that there is room for difference of opinion. Some will see, in the errors of his life, only human frailty, not irreconcileable with a general singleness of purpose; occasional deviations from the habitual courage of a confirmed Christian. Others may honestly, and not uncharitably, suspect, that the habits of a court, and constant engagement in official business, may have somewhat marred the simplicity of his character, weakened the practical influence of religious belief, and caused him, whilst labouring for the improvement of others, to neglect his own; and hence they may account for his unsteadfastness in times of trial.

In addition to the works mentioned above, we may name as easily accessible, among Protestant authorities, Burnet’s History of the Reformation; among Roman Catholic, Lingard’s History of England. Collier, in his Ecclesiastical History, stands, perhaps, more nearly on neutral ground, but can hardly be cited as an impartial historian. Though a Protestant, in his hatred and dread of all innovators, and especially of the Puritans, he seems ready to take refuge even with Popery; and examines always with jealousy, sometimes with malignity, the motives and conduct of Reformers, from his first notice of Wiclif to the close of his history.

Engraved by Robt. Hart.


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Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

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149 TASSO.


Torquato Tasso, born at Sorrento March 11, 1544, was the son of Bernardo Tasso by Portia de Rossi, a lady of a noble Neapolitan family. His father was a man of some note, both as a political and as a literary character; and his poem of ‘Amadigi,’ founded on the well-known romance of Amadis de Gaul, has been preferred by one partial critic even to the Orlando Furioso. Ferrante Sanseverino, Prince of Salerno, chose him for his secretary, and with him and for him Bernardo shared all the vicissitudes of fortune. That Prince having been deprived of his estates, and expelled from the kingdom of Naples by the court of Spain, Bernardo was involved in his proscription, and retired with him to Rome. Tarquato, then five years old, remained with his mother, who left Sorrento and went to reside with her family in Naples.

Bernardo Tasso having lost all hopes of ever returning to that capital, advised his wife to retire with his daughter into a nunnery, and to send Torquato to Rome. Our young poet suffered much in parting from his mother and sister; but, fulfilling the command of his parents, he joined his father in October, 1554. On this occasion he composed a canzone, in which he compared himself to Ascanius escaping from Troy with his father Æneas.

The fluctuating fortunes of the elder Tasso caused Torquato to visit successively Bergamo, the abode of his paternal relatives, and Pesaro, where his manners and intelligence made so favourable an impression, that the Duke of Pesaro chose him for companion to his son, then studying under the celebrated Corrado of Mantua. In 1559, he accompanied his father to Venice, and there perused the best Italian authors, especially Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. The next year he went to the University of Padua, where, under Sperone Speroni, 150and Sigonio, he studied Aristotle and the critics; and by Piccolomini and Pandasio he was taught the moral and philosophical doctrines of Socrates and Plato. However, notwithstanding his severer studies, Torquato never lost sight of his favourite art; and, at the age of seventeen, in ten months, he composed his Rinaldo, a poem in twelve cantos, founded on the then popular romances of Charlemagne and his Paladins. This work, which was published in 1562, excited great admiration, and gave rise to expectations which were justified by the Gerusalemme Liberata. The plan of that immortal poem was conceived, according to Serassi’s conjecture, in 1563, at Bologna, where Tasso was then prosecuting his studies. The first sketch of it is still preserved in a manuscript, dated 1563, in the Vatican Library, and printed at Venice in 1722. Unfortunately, while thus engaged, he was brought into collision with the civil authorities, in consequence of some satirical attacks on the University, which were falsely attributed to him. The charge was refuted, but not until his papers had been seized and himself imprisoned. This disgusted him with Bologna, and he returned to Padua in 1564. There he applied all his faculties to the accomplishment of his epic poem; collected immense materials from the Chronicles of the Crusades; and wrote, to exercise his critical powers, the Discorsi and the Trattato sulla Poesia. While thus engaged, the Cardinal Luigi d’Este appointed him a gentleman of his court. Speroni endeavoured to dissuade the young poet from accepting that office, by relating the many disappointments which he had himself experienced while engaged in a similar career. These remonstrances were vain. Tasso joined the Cardinal at Ferrara at the end of October, 1564, and soon attracted the favourable notice of the Duke Alphonso, brother of the Cardinal, and of their sisters; one of whom, the celebrated Eleonora, is commonly supposed to have exercised a lasting and unhappy influence over the poet’s life. Ferrara continued to be his chief place of abode till 1571, when he was summoned to accompany his patron the Cardinal to France. The gaieties of a court, celebrated in that age for its splendour, did not prevent his prosecuting his poetic studies with zeal; for it appears from his will, quoted by Mr. Stebbing, that, at his departure for France, he had written a considerable portion of the Gerusalemme, besides a variety of minor pieces. His reputation was already high at the court of France, where he was received by Charles IX. with distinguished attention. But he perceived, or fancied that he saw, a change in the Cardinal’s demeanour towards him, and, impatient of neglect, begged leave to return to Italy. In 1572, he was at Rome with the Cardinal 151Ippolito d’Este. In the same year he entered the service of the Duke of Ferrara, and resumed with zeal the completion and correction of the Gerusalemme.

In 1573, Tasso wrote his beautiful pastoral drama Aminta. This new production added greatly to his reputation. He chose simple Nature for his model; and succeeded admirably in the imitation of her.

The Gerusalemme Liberata was completed in 1575. Tasso submitted it to the criticism of the most learned men of that age. The great confusion which prevailed in the remarks of his critics caused him extraordinary uneasiness and labour. To answer their objections, he wrote the Lettere Poetiche, which are the best key to the true interpretation of his poem.

During 1575, Tasso visited Pavia, Padua, Bologna, and Rome, and in 1576 returned to Ferrara. His abode there never was a happy one; for his talents, celebrity, and the favour in which he was held, raised up enemies, who showed their spleen in petty underminings and annoyances, to which the poet’s susceptible temper lent a sting. He was attracted, however, by the kindness of the Duke and the society of the beautiful and accomplished Eleonora, the Duke’s sister, for whom the poet ventured, it is said, to declare an affection, which, according to some historians, did not remain unrequited. The portrait of Olinda, in the beautiful episode which relates her history, is generally understood to have been designed after this living model: while some have imagined that Tasso himself is not less clearly pictured in the description of her lover Sofronio. But about this time, whether from mental uneasiness, or from constitutional causes, his conduct began to be marked by a morbid irritability allied to madness. The Gerusalemme was surreptitiously printed without having received the author’s last corrections; and he entreated the Duke, and all his powerful friends, to prevent such an abuse. Alfonso and the Pope himself endeavoured to satisfy Tasso’s demands, but with little success. This circumstance, and other partly real, partly imaginary troubles, augmented so much his natural melancholy and apprehension, that he began to think that his enemies not only persecuted and calumniated him, but accused him of great crimes; he even imagined that they had the intention of denouncing his works to the Holy Inquisition. Under this impression he presented himself to the Inquisitor of Bologna; and having made a general confession, submitted his works to the examination of that holy father, and begged and obtained his absolution. His malady, for such we may surely call it, was continually exasperated by the arts of his rivals; and on one 152occasion, in the apartments of the Duchess of Urbino, he drew his sword on one of her attendants. He was immediately arrested; and subsequently sent to one of the Duke’s villas, where he was kindly treated and supplied with medical advice. But his fancied injuries (for in this case they do not seem to have been real) still pursued him; and he fled, destitute of every thing, from Ferrara, and hastened to his sister Cornelia, then living at Sorrento. Her care and tenderness very much soothed his mind and improved his health; but, unfortunately, he soon repented of his hasty flight, and returned to Ferrara, where his former malady soon regained its power. Dissatisfied with all about him, he again left that town; but, after having wandered for more than a year, he returned to Alfonso, by whom he was received with indifference and contempt. By nature sensitive, and much excited by his misfortunes, Tasso began to pour forth bitter invectives against the Duke and his court. Alfonso exercised a cruel revenge; for, instead of soothing the unhappy poet, he shut him up as a lunatic in the Hospital of St. Anne. This act merits our unqualified censure; for if Tasso had in truth any tendency to madness, what so likely to render it incurable as to shut him up in solitary confinement, in an unhealthy cell, deprived of his favourite books, and of every amusement? Yet, strange to say, notwithstanding his sufferings, mental and bodily, for more than seven years in that abode of misery and despair, his powers remained unbroken, his genius unimpaired; and even there he composed some pieces both in prose and verse, which were triumphantly appealed to by his friends in proof of his sanity. To this period we may probably refer the ‘Veglie,’ or ‘Watches’ of Tasso, the manuscript of which was discovered in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, towards the end of the last century. They are written in prose, and express the author’s melancholy thoughts in elegant and poetic language. The Gerusalemme had now been published and republished both in Italy and France, and Europe rang with its praises; yet the author lay almost perishing in close confinement, sick, forlorn, and destitute of every comfort.

In 1584, Camillo Pellegrini, a Capuan nobleman, and a great admirer of Tasso’s genius, published a Dialogue on Epic Poetry, in which he placed the Gerusalemme far above the Orlando Furioso. This testimony from a man of literary distinction caused a great sensation among the friends and admirers of Ariosto. Two Academicians of the Crusca, Salviati and De Rossi, attacked the Gerusalemme in the name of the Academy, and assailed Tasso and his father in a gross strain of abuse. From the mad-house Tasso answered with great 153moderation; defended his father, his poem, and himself from these groundless invectives; and thus gave to the world the best proof of his soundness of mind, and of his manly philosophical spirit.

At length, after being long importuned by the noblest minds of Italy, Alphonso released him in 1586, at the earnest entreaty of Don Vincenzo Gonzaga, son of the Duke of Mantua, at whose court the poet for a time took up his abode. There, through the kindness and attentions of his patron and friends, he improved so much in health and spirits, that he resumed his literary labours, and completed his father’s poem, Floridante, and his own tragedy, Torrismondo.

But, with advancing age, Tasso became still more restless and impatient of dependence, and he conceived a desire to visit Naples, in the hope of obtaining some part of the confiscated property of his parents. Accordingly, having received permission from the Duke, he left Mantua, and arrived in Naples at the end of March, 1588. About this time he made several alterations in his Gerusalemme, corrected numerous faults, and took away all the praises he had bestowed on the House of Este. Alfieri used to say, that this amended Gerusalemme was the only one which he could read with pleasure to himself, or with admiration for the author. But as there appeared no hope that his claims would be soon adjusted, he returned to Rome, in November, 1588. Ever harassed by a restless mind, he quitted, one after another, the hospitable roofs which gave him shelter; and at last, destitute of all resources, and afflicted with illness, took refuge in the hospital of the Bergamaschi, with whose founder he claimed relation by the father’s side: a singular fate for one with whose praises Italy even then was ringing. But it should be remembered, ere we break into invectives against the sordidness of the age which suffered this degradation, that the waywardness of Tasso’s temper rendered it hard to satisfy him as an inmate, or to befriend him as a patron.

Restored to health, at the Grand Duke’s invitation, he went to Florence, where both prince and people received him with every mark of admiration. Those who saw him, as he passed along the streets, would exclaim, “See! there is Tasso! That is the wonderful and unfortunate poet!”

It is useless minutely to trace his wanderings from Florence to Rome, from Rome to Mantua, and back again to Rome and Naples. At the latter place he dwelt in the palace of the Prince of Conca, where he composed great part of the Gerusalemme Conquistata. But having apprehended, not without reason, that the prince wished to possess himself of his manuscripts, Torquato left the palace to reside with his 154friend Manso. His health and spirits improved in his new abode; and besides proceeding with the Conquistata, he commenced, at the request of Manso’s mother, ‘Le Sette Giornate del Mondo Creato,’ a sacred poem in blank verse, founded on the Book of Genesis, which he completed in Rome a few days before his death.

He visited Rome in 1593. A report that Marco di Sciarra, a notorious bandit, infested the road, induced him to halt at Gaeta, where his presence was celebrated by the citizens with great rejoicing. Sciarra having heard that the great poet was detained by fear of him, sent a message, purporting, that instead of injury, Tasso should receive every protection at his hands. This offer was declined; yet Sciarra, in testimony of respect, sent word, that for the poet’s sake he would withdraw with all his band from that neighbourhood; and he did so.

This time, on his arrival at Rome, Tasso was received by the Cardinals Cinzio and Pietro Aldobrandini, nephews of the Pope, not as a courtier, but as a friend. At their palace he completed the Gerusalemme Conquistata, and published it with a dedication to Cardinal Cinzio. This work was preferred by its author to the Gerusalemme Liberata. It is remarkable that Milton made a similar error in estimating his Paradise Regained.

In March, 1594, Tasso returned to Naples in hope of benefiting his rapidly declining health. The experiment appeared to answer; but scarcely had he passed four months in his native country, when Cardinal Cinzio requested him to hasten to Rome, having obtained for him from the Pope the honour of a solemn coronation in the Capitol. In the following November the poet arrived at Rome, and was received with general applause. The Pope himself overwhelmed him with praises, and one day said, “Torquato, I give you the laurel, that it may receive as much honour from you as it has conferred upon them who have worn it before you.” To give to this solemnity greater splendour, it was delayed till April 25, 1595; but during the winter Tasso’s health became worse. Feeling that his end was nigh, he begged to be removed to the convent of St. Onofrio, where he was carried off by fever on the very day appointed for his coronation. His corpse was interred the same evening in the church of the monastery, according to his will; and his tomb was covered with a plain stone, on which, ten years after, Manso, his friend and admirer, caused this simple epitaph to be engraved,—Hic Jacet Torquatus Tasso.

Tasso was tall and well proportioned; his countenance very expressive, but rather melancholy; his complexion of a dark brown, with lively eyes. Our vignette is taken from a cast in wax, made after his death. He has left many beautiful and remarkable pieces, both in 155verse and prose; but his fame is based upon the Gerusalemme Liberata: the others are comparatively little read. Among his countrymen, the comparative merits of this great work, and of the Orlando Furioso, have, ever since the days of Pellegrini, been a favourite subject of controversy. Some who persist in asserting that Ariosto was the greater poet, do not refuse to allow the superiority of the Gerusalemme as a poem; and of this opinion was (at least latterly) Metastasio, who, in his youth, was so great an admirer of the Orlando, that he would not even read the Gerusalemme. In after-life, however, having perused it with much attention, he was so enchanted by its beauties and regularity, that, being requested to give his opinion on the comparative merits of the two, he wrote in these words:—“If it ever came into the mind of Apollo to make me a great poet, and were he to command me to declare frankly whether I should like to choose for model the Orlando or the Gerusalemme, I would not hesitate to answer, the Gerusalemme.”

The principal biographers of Tasso, among his own countrymen, are his friend Manso, who wrote his Life in 1600, six years only after the poet’s death; and the Abate Serassi, whose work was first published at Rome in 1785, and again at Bergamo in 1790. Besides these is his Life, in French, by the Abbé de Charnes (1690); and that by M. Suard, prefixed to the translation of the Gerusalemme by Prince Lebrun (1803, two tom. 8vo.): while in English we have a Life of Tasso by Mr. Black (1810); and a Memoir by the Rev. Mr. Stebbing (1833). The best complete edition of Tasso’s works is that of Molini, in eight volumes 8vo., Florence, 1822–6.

[From a Cast taken after death.]



The rapid growth and early maturity of the drama form a remarkable portion of the literary history of Britain. Within forty years from the appearance of the first rude attempts at English comedy, all the most distinguished of our dramatists had graced the stage by their performances. Among the worthies, he whom we familiarly call Ben Jonson holds a prominent place. He was born in Westminster, June 11, 1574, and placed, at a proper age, at Westminster School, where Camden then presided. He made unusual progress in classical learning, until his mother, who was left in narrow circumstances, married a bricklayer, and removed her son from school, that he might work with his step-father in Lincoln’s-Inn. In his vexation and anger at this domestic tyranny, he enlisted as a private soldier, was sent abroad to join the English army in the Netherlands, and distinguished himself against the Spaniards by a gallant achievement. In an encounter with a single man of the enemy, he slew his opponent, and carried off his spoils in the view of both armies.

Engraved by E. Scriven.


From a Picture in the possession of Mr. Knight.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.

On his return home, he resumed his former studies at St. John’s, Cambridge; but thither the miseries of slender means followed him, and he quitted the University after a short residence. He then turned his thoughts to the stage. The encouragement afforded to dramatic talent coincided with his taste and inclination; and the example of Shakspeare, who had successfully adopted the same course under similar difficulties, determined his choice. He was admitted into an obscure theatre, called the Green Curtain, in the neighbourhood of Shoreditch and Clerkenwell; but his salary there must have been insufficient for his support, and his merits were too meagre to entitle him to a place in any respectable company. While in this humble station, he fought 157a duel with one of the players, in which he was wounded in the arm, but killed his antagonist, who had been the challenger. During his imprisonment for this offence, he was visited by a Popish priest, who profited by his depressed state of mind to win him over to the Church of Rome, within the pale of which he continued for twelve years. Thus did melancholy produce a change in his religious condition; but his spirits returned with his release, and he ventured to offer up his recovered liberty on the altar of matrimony.

Considering that he was only about twenty-four years of age when he rose to reputation as a dramatic writer, his life had been unusually, but painfully, eventful. He had made some attempts as a playwright from his first entrance into the profession, but without success. His connexion with Shakspeare has been variously related. It has been stated that when Jonson was unknown to the world, he offered a play to the theatre, which was rejected after a very careless perusal; but our great dramatist, having accidentally cast his eye on it, thought well of the production, and afterwards recommended the author and his writings to the public. For this candour he is said to have been repaid by Jonson, when the latter became a poet of note, with an envious disrespect. Farmer, of all Shakspeare’s commentators, was most inclined to depart from these traditions, and to think the belief in Jonson’s hostility to Shakspeare absolutely groundless. This question, triumphantly, but with needless acrimony, argued by Mr. Gifford, we regard as now determined in Jonson’s favour. Without any imputation of ingratitude, the acknowledged superior in learning might chequer his commendations with reproof; as he undeniably did, partly from natural temper, and partly from a habit of asserting his own preeminence, as having first taught rules to the stage. He has been loosely, not to say falsely, accused of endeavouring to depreciate The Tempest, by calling it a foolery, a term which unquestionably cannot be applied to any work without such design. But he called it, not a foolery, but a drollery. In present acceptation the terms may be nearly equivalent; but in that age, the word conveyed no censure. Dennis says, in one of his letters, that he went to see the Siege of Namur, a droll. In after-times, the word implied a farcical dialogue in a single scene. Where Jonson says, “if there be never a servant-monster in the fair, who can help it?”—he is supposed to fling at Caliban; but the satire was general. Creatures of various kinds, taught a thousand antics, were the concomitants of puppet-shows. In the Dumb Knight, by Lewis Machin, 1608, Prate, the orator, cautions his wife thus:—“I would not have you to step into the suburbs, and acquaint yourself 158either with monsters or motions; but holding your way strictly homeward, show yourself still to be a rare housewife.” It has been alleged in the controversy, that Jonson seems to ridicule the conduct of Twelfth Night in his Every Man out of his Humour, where he makes Mitis say, “that the argument of the author’s comedy might have been of some other nature, as of a duke to be in love with a countess, and that countess to be in love with a duke’s son, and the son to love the ladies’ waiting-maid; some such cross-wooing, with a clown to their serving-men, better than to be thus near, and familiarly attired to the time.” Unfortunately for Stevens’s application of this passage, Ben Jonson could not have ridiculed Twelfth Night, which was produced at least eight years after the play quoted. Among the commendatory poems prefixed to the editions of Shakspeare, Jonson’s is not only the first in date, but the most judicious, zealous, and affectionate. His personal attachment is expressed on various occasions with more enthusiasm than is apt to be felt by men of his temperament. We have no right to doubt its sincerity.

We are told that, “having improved his fancy by keeping scholastic company, he betook himself to writing plays.” The comedy entitled Every Man in his Humour was his first successful piece. It was produced in 1598, on the stage with which Shakspeare was connected, and the generous poet and proprietor sanctioned it by playing the part of Kno’well. This was followed the next year by Every Man out of his Humour. After this time he produced a play every year, for several years successively. In 1600 he paid his court to Queen Elizabeth, by complimenting her under the allegorical character of the goddess Cynthia, in his Cynthia’s Revels, which was acted that year by the choristers of the Queen’s Chapel, In his next piece, The Poetaster, which was represented in 1601 by the same performers, he ridicules his rival Decker under the character of Crispinus. Some reflections in it were also supposed to allude to certain well-known lawyers and military men. A popular clamour was raised against him; in vindication of himself, he replied in an apologetical dialogue, which was once recited on the stage, and on the publication of his works annexed to this play. But Decker was bent on revenge, and resolved, if possible, to conquer Jonson at his own weapons. He immediately wrote a play called Satiromastix, or the Untrussing of the Humourous Poet, in which Jonson is introduced under the character of Horace Junior. Jonson’s enemies industriously gave out that he wrote with extreme labour, and was not less than a year about every play. Had it been so, it was no disgrace: the best 159authors know by experience, that what appears to be the most natural and easy writing is frequently the result of study and close application. But the insinuation was meant to convey, that Jonson had heavy parts, and little imagination: a charge which applies only to two of his works, Sejanus and Catiline. Jonson retorted upon Decker in the prologue to Volpone, or The Fox. We are there told that this play, which is one of his best, was finished in five weeks. He professes that, in all his poems, his aim has been to mix profit with pleasure; and concludes with saying, that all gall is drained from his ink, and “only a little salt remaineth.”

“Eastward Hoe” was the joint production of Ben Jonson, George Chapman, and John Marston. What part each author had in it is not known; but the consequences were near being very serious to them all. They were accused of reflecting on the Scots, who crowded the court at that time to the utter disgust of the English gentlemen; and, in perfect unison with the arbitrary temper of the times, were all three not only committed to prison, but in peril as to their ears and noses. On submission however they received pardons. Jonson, on his releasement from prison, gave an entertainment to his friends, among whom were Camden and Selden. His mother seems now to have risen mightily in her ideas, and to have affected the Roman matron, although the bricklayer’s wife would, in past time, have bound her son to the hod and trowel. In the midst of the entertainment she drank to him, and produced a paper of poison, which she intended to have mixed with his liquor, having first taken a portion of it herself, if the punishment of mutilation had not been remitted.

That mixture of poetry and spectacle, which, in our ancient literature, is termed a masque, had been encouraged by Elizabeth, and became still more fashionable during the reigns of James and Charles. The queens of both monarchs, being foreigners, understood the English language but imperfectly, so that the music, dancing, and decorations of a masque were better adapted to their amusement than the more intellectual entertainment of the regular drama. After Queen Elizabeth’s example, they occasionally assisted in the representation, and probably were still better pleased to be performers than spectators. Jonson was the chief manufacturer of this article for the court; and a year seldom passed without his furnishing more than one piece of this sort. They were usually got up, as the phrase is, with the utmost splendour. In the scenery, Jonson had Inigo Jones for an associate. As compositions, these trifles rank little higher than shows and pageants; but they possessed a property peculiarly 160acceptable at court—they abounded with incense and servility. However crusty Jonson might be as a critical censor, he saw plainly what food his royal master relished, and furnished the table plentifully.

This occupation interrupted the periodical production of his regular plays; but the interval had not been frivolously passed. In 1609, he produced “Epicœne, or the Silent Woman.” This was generally esteemed to be the most perfect pattern of a play hitherto brought out in England, and might be selected as a proof that its author was a careful and learned observer of the dramatic laws. We are assured that Jonson was personally acquainted with a man quite as ridiculous as Morose is represented to be. It may here be observed that the description of humour, drawn from the knowledge and observation of particular persons, was in the line of this author’s peculiar genius and talent. There is more wit and fancy in the dialogue of this play than in any by the same hand. Truewit is a scholar, with an alloy of pedantry; but he is the best gentleman ever drawn by Jonson, whose strength, in general, was not properly wit or sharpness of conceit, but the natural imitation of various and contrasted follies. The Alchemist came out in 1610. Jonson shows in it much learning relative to changes in the external appearance of metals, and uses some of the very terms of art met with in Eastward Hoe; which makes it probable that the passages in which they are contained are from his pen. This piece was unusually free from personal allusions; yet it was not popular at first. The partisans of inferior writers were constantly let loose whenever Jonson brought out a new play; but their censure was harmless, for he numbered among his friends and admirers, Shakspeare, Beaumont, Fletcher, Donne, Camden, Selden, and a host of worthies of every class. In 1613, he made the tour of France, and was introduced to Cardinal Perron, who showed him his translation of Virgil; but Perron not being his master and sovereign, but a foreign cardinal, with his customary bluntness he told him it was a bad one. About this time he and Inigo Jones quarrelled; and he ridiculed his colleague of the Masques, under the character of Sir Lantern Leatherhead, a Hobby-horse Seller. His next play was “The Devil is an Ass,” 1616.

In 1617, the salary of poet-laureat was settled on him for life by King James, and he published his works in one folio volume. His fame, both as to poetry and learning, was now so fully established, that he was invited to the University of Oxford by several members, and particularly by Dr. Corbet, of Christ Church. That college was his residence during his stay, and he was created Master of Arts in 161full convocation, in July, 1619. In the following October, on the death of Daniel, he received the appointment of Poet-laureat, after having discharged the duties of the office for some time. At the latter end of this year he travelled into Scotland on foot, to visit his correspondent, Drummond of Hawthornden. Jonson had formed a design of writing on the history and geography of Scotland, and had received some curious documents from Drummond. The acquisition of additional materials appears to have been the main object of his journey. In the freedom of social intercourse, he expressed his sentiments strongly concerning the authors and poets of his own time. Drummond committed the heads of their conversations to writing, and has been severely censured on account of what he has left us concerning his guest. He says that he was “a great lover and praiser of himself; a contemner and scorner of others; chusing rather to lose his friend than his jest; jealous of every word and action of those about him, especially after drink, which was one of the elements in which he lived; a dissembler of the parts which reigned in him; a bragger of some good that he wanted; he thought nothing right, but what either himself or some of his friends had said or done. He was passionately kind and angry; careless either to gain or keep; vindictive, but if he was well answered, greatly chagrined; interpreting the best sayings and deeds often to the worst. He was for either religion, being versed in both; oppressed with fancy, which over-mastered his reason, a general disease among the poets.” Drummond’s letters exhibit Jonson in a much more favourable light; and this inconsistency may, perhaps, be explained by supposing that they exhibit the Scotch poet’s deliberate opinion of his guest, while the strictures contained in his loose notes were probably penned in a moment of irritation, to which he appears to have been subject. If, indeed, the received notions of Jonson’s heat of temper had any foundation, we may suppose him and his northern host to have been occasionally so far advanced in disputation, that “testy Drummond could not speak for fretting.” Jonson recorded his adventures on this journey in a poem, which was accidentally burnt; a loss which he lamented in another poem called “An Execration upon Vulcan.”

The laureateship obliged him annually to provide, besides other entertainments of the court, the Christmas Masque: of these we have a series in his works, from 1615 to 1625. In 1625, his comedy called The Staple of News was exhibited. In 1627, The New Inn was performed at the Blackfriars theatre, and deservedly hissed off the stage. Three of Jonson’s plays underwent that fate. He was so much incensed 162against the town, that in 1631 he published it with the following title: “The New Inn, or the Light Heart, a comedy; as it was never acted, but most negligently played, by some, the king’s servants, and more squeamishly beheld and censured by others, the king’s subjects, 1629; and now at last set at liberty to the readers.” To this he annexed an ode to himself, threatening to leave the stage, which was sarcastically parodied by Owen Feltham, a writer of note, and author of a book called “Resolves.” Jonson’s mingled foibles and excellencies are pleasantly touched by Sir John Suckling, in his “Session of the Poets.” An improbable story is told by Cibber, and repeated by Smollet, that in 1629, Ben, being reduced to distress, and living in an obscure alley, petitioned his Majesty to assist him in his poverty and sickness; but that, on receiving ten pounds, he said to the messenger who brought the donation, “His Majesty has sent me ten pounds, because I am poor and live in an alley: go and tell him that his soul lives in an alley.” His annual pension had been increased from a hundred marks to a hundred pounds, with the welcome addition of a yearly tierce of Canary wine. He received from the king a further present of one hundred pounds in that very year, which he acknowledged in an epigram published in his works. Could he, as he does in his “Epistle Mendicant,” have further solicited the Lord Treasurer for relief in 1631, had he been guilty of such an insult to royalty in 1629? There is reason to believe that he had pensions from the city, and from several of the nobility and gentry; particularly from Mr. Sutton, the founder of the Charter-house. Yet, with all these helps, his finances were unredeemed from disorder.

In his distress, he came upon the stage again, in spite of his last defeat. Two comedies without a date, “The Magnetic Lady,” and “The Tale of a Tub,” belong to these latter compositions, which Dryden has called his dotages; at all events, they are the dotages of Jonson. Alexander Gill, a poetaster of the times, attacked him with brutal fury, on account of his “Magnetic Lady.” Gill was a bad man as well as a bad poet; and Jonson availed himself of his adversary’s weak points in a short but cutting reply. His last masque was performed July 30, 1634, and the only piece extant of later date is his “New Year’s Ode for 1635.” He died of palsy, August 6, 1637, in his sixty-third year, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. His grave-stone only bears the quaint inscription,—“O rare Ben Jonson!

In the beginning of 1638, elegies on his death were published, under the title of “Jonsonius Virbius, or, the Memory of Ben Jonson 163Revived, by the Friends of the Muses.” This collection contains poems by Lord Falkland, Lord Buckhurst, Sir John Beaumont, Sir Thomas Hawkins, Mr. Waller, Mayne, Cartwright, Waryng, the author of “Effigies Amoris,” and other contributors of note. In 1640, the former volume of his works was reprinted; with a second, containing the rest of his plays, masques, and entertainments; Underwoods; English Grammar; his translation of Horace’s Art of Poetry; and Discoveries. The latter is a prose work of various and extensive learning, containing opinions on all subjects, worthy to be weighed even at this distant period. In 1716, his works were reprinted in six volumes octavo. Another edition appeared in 1756, under the care of Mr. Whalley, of St. John’s, Oxford, with notes, and the addition of a comedy not inserted in any former edition, called “The Case is Altered.” But all former editions are superseded in value by that of Mr. Gifford.

Jonson was married, and had children; particularly a son and a daughter, both celebrated by him in epitaphs at their death; but none of his children survived him.

As a dramatic writer, he is remarkable for judgment in the arrangement of his plots; a happy choice of characters; and skill in maintaining character throughout the piece. The manners of the most trifling persons are always consistent. Dryden censures him for exhibiting mechanic humour, “Where men were dull and conversation low.” This remark is so far just, that Jonson chiefly aimed at mirth by the contrast and collision of what Dryden terms humour. The reader, however, would do the dramatist injustice, were he to apply the word humour to him in its modern and confined sense. Jonson cultivated it according to a more philosophical definition; as a technical term for characters swayed and directed by some predominant passion, the display of which, under various circumstances, formed the strength of the comedy. Among the writers of that age, Jonson alone perhaps felt all the impropriety arising from frequent and violent change of scene. Yet Jonson himself, who disapproved of Shakspeare’s practice in that particular, was not wholly free from it, as Dryden has remarked with some appearance of triumph. Pope has touched on his genius in respect to dramatic poetry. He says,—“That when Jonson got possession of the stage, he brought critical learning into vogue; and this was not done without difficulty, which appears from those frequent lessons, and indeed almost declamations, which he was forced to prefix to his first plays, and put into the mouths of his actors the grex, chorus, &c., to remove the prejudices and reform the judgment of his hearers. Till then the English 164authors had no thoughts of writing upon the model of the ancients; their tragedies were only histories in dialogue, and their comedies followed the thread of any novel as they found it, no less implicitly than if it had been true history.” In fact, this author’s object was to found a reputation on understanding, and submitting to the discipline of the ancient stage; but his success fell short of his just expectations, and he growls on every occasion against the rude taste of an age which preferred to his laboured and well-concocted scenes, the more glowing, wild, and irregular effusions of his unlearned contemporaries. Beyond this there appears nothing to confirm the eagerly propagated opinion of his pride and malignity, at least in the earlier part of his life. At that time he contributed an encomium to almost every play or poem that appeared, from Shakspeare down to the translator of Du Bartas. His antagonist, Decker, seems to hint at a personal failing, seldom allied to malignity, when, in the “Satiromastix,” Sir Vaughan says to Horace, that is, Jonson, “I have some cousin-german at court shall beget you the reversion of the master of the king’s revels, or else to be his Lord of Misrule now at Christmas.” We have already quoted Drummond to the purport, that “drink was one of the elements in which he lived;” which accounts but too well for the poverty of his latter days, in spite of royal and noble munificence. In reference to this unfortunate propensity, the following amusing story is told:—Camden had recommended him to Sir Walter Raleigh, who trusted him with the care and education of his eldest son Walter, a gay spark, who could not brook Ben’s rigorous treatment; but perceiving one foible in his disposition, made use of that to throw off the yoke of his government. This was an unlucky habit Ben had contracted, through his love of jovial company, of being overtaken with liquor, which Sir Walter did of all vices most abominate, and hath most exclaimed against. One day, when Ben had taken a plentiful dose, and was fallen into a sound sleep, young Raleigh got a great basket, and a couple of men, who laid Ben in it, and then with a pole carried him between their shoulders to Sir Walter, telling him their young master had sent home his tutor.

Engraved by J. Posselwhite.


From a Picture by
Sir Thomas Lawrence,
in the possession of the Abate Canova at Rome.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.



About the middle of the last century the art of Sculpture, which had been long on the decline, may be said to have reached the lowest point to which it has sunk since the revival of the arts; for, although the seventeenth century was the great æra of bad taste, the genius which was often apparent in the mannered productions of that time, no longer survived in those of the imitators who succeeded. The works of Bernini in Italy, and of Puget in France, both men of extraordinary talent but most mistaken principles, were still regarded as types of excellence. Their fame still produced a host of followers, who, with perhaps the single exception of Duquesnoy, called Fiammingo, naturally aimed at the extravagances and peculiarities of their models; and the consequence was, a constantly increasing deviation from nature, and a total misconception of the style and limits of the art. The works which were produced in Rome about the period alluded to, thus fluctuated between manner and insipidity; till the art had relapsed into a state of such lethargic mediocrity, that even sculptors of note, such as Cavaceppi, Pacetti, and Albacini, were content to occupy themselves in restoring and mending antique statues. But the germs of a better taste, and a more rational imitation, were already expanding. If the mania for collecting antique statues had the temporary effect of paralysing invention in the artist, and diverting the means of patronage, a gradual appreciation of the principles of ancient art was, nevertheless, the result; while the illustration and description of museums, and the works of Winkelmann, all tended to awaken the attention of the connoisseur to the amazing difference between the ill-advised caprices of the Bernini school and the sagacious simplicity of the ancients.

These circumstances concurred ultimately to work a change and an 166improvement of taste among the artists themselves, and thus prepared a better æra of sculpture. The partiality of the Italians may be excused, when they attribute the reformation of the art to the single efforts of Canova, although the designs of Flaxman, composed about the same time that the Italian artist was beginning his career, exhibit a more decided feeling for the long-lost purity of the antique, and a more thorough comprehension of the style and language of sculpture, than we find in the works of his continental contemporaries. But it is time to give a more particular account of the subject of this memoir.

Antonio Canova was born A.D. 1757, at Possagno, a small town in the province of Treviso. His father, Pietro Canova, was a stonemason and builder; and the first occupation of the future sculptor taught him to use the chisel with dexterity. At the age of fourteen, he was introduced to the notice of Giovanni Faliero, a Venetian senator, who used annually to pass the autumn near Possagno. By the kind assistance of this nobleman, the young Canova was placed with one Torretti, a sculptor who had studied in Venice, and who resided in a neighbouring town. On the return of this artist to Venice, Canova accompanied him. A year afterwards however Torretti died, and the young sculptor, unwilling to continue with Ferrari, his master’s nephew and heir, established himself in a studio of his own. While with Ferrari, he produced his first work, a pair of baskets of fruit and flowers, done for the noble Faliero. They are still to be seen in the stair-case of the Farsetti palace, in Venice, more generally known as the Albergo della Gran Bretagna. The same patron next employed him on two statues of Orpheus and Eurydice, preserved in the villa of Pradazzi, near Possagno. After one or two other less important performances, he executed his Dædalus and Icarus, for the Procurator Pisani. In all these works he aimed at a close imitation of individual nature, and this was carried so far in the Dædalus, that, when it was afterwards shown in Rome, the sculptor was hardly believed when he asserted that it was not moulded from a living model.

The imitation of the softness, surface, and accidents of skin was an early excellence and a lasting peculiarity of Canova; and however he may have been smitten with the antique statues in Rome, it is certain that, while in Venice, where he remained till the age of twenty-two, he paid little attention to the specimens of ancient art in the Farsetti Gallery. It is probable that the prejudice against the antique, which had prevailed ever since Bernini’s time, was hardly yet effaced in Venice; and if Canova’s admiration of the ancients 167increased in Rome, it was undoubtedly greatly owing to the opinion and examples of those among whom he had the good fortune to be first thrown.

In 1779, Girolamo Zulian being appointed ambassador of the Republic at Rome, Faliero recommended Canova to his notice. The young sculptor had already determined to visit the metropolis of the arts, and soon followed the ambassador thither. The course of study which he adopted, founded on the comparison of nature with the best specimens of art, showed that he was earnest to improve; and his new patron Zulian, who had introduced him to the distinguished amateurs and artists residing in Rome, recommended him to send for a cast of his Dædalus and Icarus, in order to show them what he had done, and profit by their advice. He did so, and the day on which that group was submitted to the judgment of the connoisseurs was a memorable one for Canova. His work by no means excited unqualified approbation. It was, indeed, so different from the style which was then prevalent, that his judges remained silent, till the generous Gavin Hamilton openly declared, that it was a simple imitation of nature, which showed that the artist had nothing to unlearn; at the same time reminding him, that although the greatest artists had always begun thus, they had subsequently refined their taste by comparison and selection, and their execution by an ampler and larger treatment; all which, aiming at the grandest impressions of nature, but by no means departing from nature, approaches what is called the divine and ideal in art. This opinion, from so good a judge as Hamilton, delighted Zulian, who asked “what was to be done with the young man?” “Give him a block of marble,” said Hamilton, “and let him follow his own feeling.” From this hour the fate of the young artist was decided: Zulian furnished him with a studio and materials, and he began his career in Rome.

Canova always spoke with gratitude of Gavin Hamilton, and acknowledged that he owed to him every sound principle of art. The vast knowledge of the antique which the Scotch artist possessed, gave more than common weight and value to his advice respecting its imitation. Canova’s first work in Rome, was an Apollo crowning himself. The sculptor himself was not satisfied with it, and felt all the difficulty of uniting a purer and broader style with a sufficient attention to the details of nature. His engagements soon after recalled him to Venice, to complete an unfinished work, the statue of the Marquis Poleni, placed in the Prato della Valle, at Padua. It was probably hurried, that he might get back sooner to Rome.

On his return to Rome, he produced his celebrated group of Theseus 168sitting on the slain Minotaur. The moment chosen was recommended by Hamilton, who observed, that it was generally safer for young artists not to aim at too much action in their subjects. In this composition Canova endeavoured to infuse still more of the style of the antique, and he succeeded so well, that the exhibition of it may be considered an epoch in the art. Quatremère de Quincy (an eminent French sculptor) spoke of it in these words in 1804:—“This group struck foreigners even more than the Romans, who were still attached to their accustomed manner. Nevertheless, Canova, from that time, was considered the sculptor who was destined to restore good taste, and to reduce the art to its grand principles.” The fame which this work gained for its author has been allowed, on all hands, to have been justly awarded; and, after the efforts of the artist to fix his style and define the mode of imitation which he believed to be the best, it may be supposed that the praises he received would have confirmed him in the principles he had formed to himself, and encouraged him to carry them farther. None of his Italian biographers, however, have taken sufficient notice of the fact, that he never followed up the style which is observable in this group. His subsequent works were undoubtedly more refined in execution and more anatomically studied; but it is quite certain that he never approached the breadth of the antique so much in any later works. Hence it would appear that, in this effort, he was in some degree doing violence to his real feelings; and having once established his reputation, he was more likely afterwards to exercise his own unbiassed taste. It was, indeed, some time before he was occupied on a subject which afforded a display of the figure.

His next work was the monument of Ganganelli (Clement XIV.), placed in the Church de’ Santi Apostoli at Rome; in this he was again fortunate. Its originality and simplicity, for such was the character of the design, compared with the extravagant compositions of preceding artists, gave very general satisfaction; but the advocates of the taste of a former age did not remain silent. Pompeo Battoni, the most celebrated Italian painter of his day, having condescended to accompany Hamilton to see the model of the monument while it was in the clay, observed, in Canova’s hearing, that the young artist had talent, but that it was a pity he had chosen a bad road, and that it would be better to retrace his steps while there was time. Hamilton, in consoling Canova afterwards, reminded him, that it was the style of Pietro da Cortona, Carlo Maratti, and Bernini, which Battoni considered synonymous with excellence; and it was the departure from this, in search of the purer style of sculpture, which he called “the bad road.” The fastidious Milizia, on the other hand, gave this work unqualified approbation.

169The monument of Rezzonico (Clement XIII.), which was the next subject the sculptor was invited to treat, was begun in 1787, and only placed in St. Peter’s in 1795. While engaged on this, and the monument of Ganganelli, other works of less extent were from time to time finished. Among these were a group of Cupid and Psyche, a group of Venus and Adonis, which, however, was not executed in marble, and a second composition of Cupid and Psyche, the one in which Psyche is recumbent. These were the works which first procured for their author, among his Italian admirers, the reputation and title of the sculptor of the Graces; and it was in these that a certain effeminacy of style—at least what would be so called by less indulgent critics—seemed to supersede the simplicity, and almost severity, which he had appeared to aim at in the Theseus and Minotaur. To the same period belong most of the bassi relievi of Canova. These were composed and executed when his imagination was warmed by the study of the ancient poets; and although wrought in the intervals of greater occupations, there can be no doubt that they received his mature attention, and exhibited the free expression of his own taste. Of all the works of the artist, these bassi relievi have, perhaps, been most universally and deservedly condemned; but, defective as they are, they are still purer in the forms and drapery than the works of his predecessors.

The monument of Rezzonico completely established Canova’s reputation; the expression and attitude of the kneeling Pope, and the novelty and happy execution of the lions, excited the utmost admiration. The figure of the Genius is again an instance of a total dereliction of the style of the antique, for a soft and pulpy fleshiness without sufficient characteristic marking; but even this was found to be new and agreeable, and the drapery of the figure of Religion was almost the only part of the work which was criticised. On revisiting Venice, after an illness brought on by severe application, the Venetian government commissioned him to execute a monument for the Procurator Angelo Emo, which was afterwards placed in the arsenal. He returned to Rome to execute this work; but first revisited his native village, where he was surprised, and somewhat disconcerted, at finding a fête prepared for his welcome. A deputation of the inhabitants lined the roads to receive him; the streets were strewed with laurel; the bells of the campanile, and the mortaletti, usually fired on festivals, saluted him as he entered; and a band of music accompanied him to his mother’s house. The enthusiasm of his countrymen went so far, that a statue was erected to him even in early life, and placed in the Prato della Valle, at Padua.

A group of Venus and Adonis was next completed, and sent to 170Naples, where it contributed to spread his fame. A new group of Cupid and Psyche, standing, done for Murat, was sent to Paris, and being fortunately one of his best works, it excited a great sensation when exhibited there. The reputation Canova had acquired in Italy naturally provoked a close and keen scrutiny into the merits and defects of this work; but its success was complete, and from that time his great merit was as fully acknowledged in France as elsewhere. Some of his subsequent works exhibited in the Louvre were, it is true, severely criticised, but they always found ardent defenders, and those among the most respectable connoisseurs and artists.

The celebrated kneeling Magdalen, which ultimately became the property of Count Sommariva, and adorned his house in Paris, was Canova’s next performance; it was afterwards, like many of his works, copied, or rather repeated, for other amateurs.

This statue created a still greater sensation than the Cupid and Psyche when it was exhibited in Paris. The well-known Hebe was executed about the same time; this, too, was often repeated, and one copy was exhibited in the Louvre bearing a golden vase and cup, and with the lips and cheeks slightly tinged with vermilion. These innovations were severely objected to by the French critics, while the general taste of this and other works of the artist was still less indulgently treated in London. But the execution of individual parts of his statues was every where allowed to be exquisite, and many a time, in Rome, artists who were his professed rivals have purchased casts of the joints and extremities of his figures as models of perfect imitation: such detached portions have even been mistaken for casts from the antique.

Much has been said by the Italian eulogists of Canova of his skill in painting, and a story is told of his having done a pretended portrait of Giorgione on an old panel, which Angelica Kaufmann, and other very sufficient judges, for a time believed to be an original by the Venetian master. Canova’s attempts at painting were regarded with complacency, at least by himself, remarkable as he was for great modesty in speaking of his works in sculpture. He seems never to have forgotten that he was a Venetian, and gloried in the perfections, and almost in the defects, of the painters of that school. It is not impossible that this predilection may have operated in some degree to check his pursuit of the severe style of the ancients in sculpture, and it may, perhaps, account for the picturesque licences which he sometimes indulged in, as, for instance, in the Hebe; but if his efforts in painting were naturally defective in execution, they were still more open to criticism in their invention and taste, and, on the whole, call rather for indulgence than admiration.

171The unsettled state of Italy consequent upon the French Revolution, and the troubles in Rome, induced Canova, about the close of the century, to retire for a time to his native province. From thence he accompanied the Senator Rezzonico into Germany, and visited Munich, Vienna, Dresden, and Berlin. At Vienna, he received from Duke Albert of Saxe Teschen, the commission for the monument to Maria Christina of Austria.

His first ambition, however, on returning to Italy, was to embody in a picture some of the impressions he had received from contemplating the galleries of Germany, and particularly the Notte of Correggio; and he actually painted a large altar-piece for the parochial church of Possagno. This work, though since considered unworthy of criticism, was highly extolled at the time it was done. On his return to Rome, he began the model of his celebrated group of Hercules and Lichas, a work which found favour even with those who had objected to the want of manliness of taste in his treatment of most other subjects. It is indeed impossible to contemplate this group, without feeling it to be the production of a man of genius; while the patient elaboration of the anatomical details, and the power and knowledge with which the difficulties of the composition are overcome, have never failed to excite the high praise which is awarded to rare excellence. The originality of the idea has, however, been lately disputed; and a bronze has come to light which, if its history be true, at least proves that some earlier sculptor than Canova had conceived the subject nearly in the same manner. This grand work, first intended for Naples, was purchased by Torlonia, Duke of Bracciano, and is now the principal ornament of the Bracciano Palace in Rome.

Soon after this the Perseus was produced, a statue which, by command of Pius VII., received the unparalleled honour of being placed in the Vatican, in a situation similar to that of the Apollo, or rather to supply its place, for the Apollo at this time was not returned from Paris. The honour was even greater when that statue was restored to Rome, for the Perseus then remained as a companion or pendant to it. The two Pugilists were modelled soon after for the same patron, Pope Pius VII., and were placed, when finished, in the Vatican, together with the Perseus. A cast of the Creugas, one of these figures, exhibited about the same time at Paris, was very generally admired, and very ably and generously defended from the hostile criticisms it called forth, by the sculptor Quatremère de Quincy. The high estimation in which Canova was held, and his zeal for the preservation of the ancient monuments in Rome, as well as the frescoes of the Vatican, induced the Pope to confer on him the appointment and title of Inspector-General 172of the Fine Arts. Though at first unwilling to assume the responsibility of this charge, Canova at last undertook it; and it appears that his conscientious attention to the duties connected with it, gave a new impulse to the Roman school, and excited in all a zeal and ardour for the preservation of the precious remains of antiquity. The conduct of Canova in furthering the general interests of the arts of his country is worthy of all praise: his private benevolence is well known. It may be said that his happy freedom from jealousy was owing to the quiet security of established fame; but he was equally remarkable for magnanimity when placed in competition with those whom he had reason to regard as possible rivals.

After finishing a model of the colossal statue of the King of Naples, Canova received a flattering invitation to visit the court of Bonaparte, then First Consul; and in obedience to the wishes even of the Pope he proceeded to Paris. His conversations with Bonaparte during this and a subsequent visit have been preserved; and it appears that he lost no opportunity of representing the fallen and impoverished state of Italy (the consequence of the French invasion) to the arbiter of its destinies, whom he dexterously reminded of his Pisan or Florentine origin. His recommendation of the arts in Rome was at least successful, for soon after his return thither ample funds were forwarded by command of Bonaparte for the revival and extension of the Academy of St. Luke, of which Canova was naturally appointed the Director, and for prosecuting the excavations in the Forum. When Canova, in one of his visits to Paris, ventured to ask for the restitution of the statues that had been taken from Rome, the French ruler replied, that “they might dig for more.”

Having modelled the bust of Bonaparte, Canova returned to Italy to complete the colossal statue of Napoleon, now in the possession of the Duke of Wellington. In this work, which he considered an heroic representation, he elevated the forms to his highest conceptions of an abstract style, and, probably in imitation of the statue of Pompey, exhibited the figure naked. The censures which were passed on this bold attempt were most satisfactorily answered by the celebrated Visconti. In Canova’s second visit to Paris, Napoleon himself remarked, that his statue should have been in the ordinary dress, to which Canova replied, “Our art, like all the fine arts, has its sublime language; this language in sculpture is the naked, and such drapery as conveys a general idea.” The extensive monument for Vienna was next finished, and Canova repaired to the Austrian capital to see it put together. The artist’s general deviation from the style of sculpture practised by the ancients, may be illustrated by this work, 173admirable as it is for its details. The real aperture, or door of the tomb, into which the procession is entering, the literal reality of the steps, the accurately-imitated drapery, and other circumstances, are all nearer to nature than the flesh, the reverse of the principle of the Greeks. The partial or absolute truth of the accessories thus reminds us that colour and life are wanting in the figures—a discovery the spectator should never be permitted to make. Again, the indistinctness which must exist more or less in an assemblage of figures similar in colour (the unavoidable condition of the art), far from being obviated by indiscriminate imitation, requires rather to be counteracted by those judicious conventions which, in some measure, represent the varieties of nature, and constitute the style of sculpture. The Venus for Florence, (afterwards more than once repeated,) and the statues of the Princess Borghese, and the mother of Napoleon, were the next works of Canova. The attitude and treatment of the last seem to have been inspired by the statue of Agrippina; it was completely successful in Paris. After these, the well-known Dancing Nymphs occupied him, and seem to have been favourite works of his own. Although these statues excited more attention in Paris than perhaps any of his former works, and raised his reputation more than ever, they have since been very generally censured as meretricious in their taste. The portrait statues of the Princess Borghese and Madame Letitia, invited many other commissions of the same kind, which it would be long to recount. The monument of Alfieri, and the statues of Hector and Ajax, the latter admirable for their details, but with little of the antique character in their general treatment, were successively produced, together with many busts of individuals and of ideal personages. An opportunity was soon after afforded the sculptor, in a statue of Paris for the Empress Josephine, of exhibiting his best powers to the French critics. He was perhaps better satisfied with this than with any other single figure he had done. It was much admired when exhibited in the Louvre, and Quatremère de Quincy published an eulogium on it.

In 1810, Canova again proceeded to the French capital to receive the commands of Napoleon, and modelled the bust of Maria Louisa. The statue of the Empress, as Concord, and of the Princess Eliza, in the character of a Muse, were finished on his return to Rome. The group of the Graces, and a statue of Peace, were next completed. The colossal horse, first intended to bear Napoleon, and then Murat, was finally surmounted with the statue of Charles III. of Naples, and placed in that city. A recumbent nymph, Canova’s next work, was 174succeeded by one of his most extraordinary productions, the Theseus and Centaur, a group now in Vienna, where it is placed in a temple built for its reception. Opinions are divided between the merits of this work and of his Hercules and Lichas.

In 1815, when the Allies occupied Paris, Canova was sent there by Pope Pius VII. on an honourable and interesting mission, namely, to intercede with the French government and the invading powers, for the restitution of the works of art which had been torn from Rome by the treaty of Tolentino. The French ministry resisted his application, and it was ultimately by the decision of the Allied Powers, and literally under the protection of foreign bayonets, that Canova removed the objects in question from the Louvre. The gratitude of the Pope to the British government on this occasion led to Canova’s visit to London. The honours he received in England from George IV., then Prince Regent, from the nobility, and the professors of the arts, perhaps even exceeded the homage which had been paid him on the continent; and it ought not to be forgotten, that the great Flaxman, who was among the warmest in welcoming him, wrote a letter to Canova on his return to Rome, which did honour to both, and in which he says, “You will be always a great example in the arts, not only in Italy, but in Europe.”

Canova’s return to Rome, in 1816, was little short of a triumph. The Pope created him Marquis of Ischia, with an annual pension of three thousand crowns; but the noble-minded artist divided this sum, till his death, among the institutions of the arts, in premiums for the young and in aids for the old and decayed. Long was his benevolence to rising artists the general theme of gratitude and regret; and in every case of ill-rewarded industry, or fancied oppression, the exclamation was, “Ah! if Canova were alive!”

The statue of Washington; the Stuart monument in St. Peter’s; the group of Mars and Venus, which was done for George IV.; the Sleeping Nymphs; the recumbent Magdalen, executed for the Earl of Liverpool, were successively produced at this highly-honoured period of his life; and a third monument in St. Peter’s, viz., that of Pope Pius VI.

The last great act of Canova’s life was the foundation of a magnificent church at Possagno, the first stone of which was laid by him July 11, 1819. The monument for the Marquis Salsa Berio, sent to Naples, the figures of which are in basso relievo; seven mezzi relievi for the metopes of the frieze of his church at Possagno, the design of which combines the forms of the Parthenon and the Pantheon; and 175the beautiful group of the Pietà, or dead Christ in the lap of the Virgin at the foot of the cross, accompanied by the Magdalen, intended for the altar of the same church, were the last works of Canova.

In 1822, he visited Possagno, partly to see the progress of the building, and still more on account of his infirm state of health. After a short stay in the neighbourhood, his illness increased so much that he was forced to repair to Venice for medical assistance; but his recovery was hopeless, and he died October 13, 1822, in the 65th year of his age. Gratitude was among the prominent virtues of Canova, and among his legacies, it is pleasing to observe that the sons of Faliero, his earliest patron, were remembered. He was buried at Possagno; but his funeral obsequies were celebrated throughout Italy, and a statue to his memory was afterwards placed in the Academy of St. Luke, at Rome.

Ample details of Canova’s life, his precepts on art, and conversations with Napoleon, will be found in the account of him by Missirini: for a catalogue and eulogy of his works, Cicognara’s ‘Storia della Scultura’ may be consulted. The memoir of him by that nobleman, together with his own ‘Thoughts on the Arts,’ taken down and recorded by Missirini, will be found in the splendid edition of Canova’s works, engraved in outline by Moses.

[Monument to the Archduchess Maria Christina.]



There is considerable discrepance between the generally received and the probable date of Geoffrey Chaucer’s birth. In the life prefixed to the edition of his works by Speght, it is stated, that he “departed out of this world in the year of our Lord 1400, after he had lived about seventy years.” The biographer’s authority for this is “Bale, out of Leland.” Leland’s accuracy on this, as on many other points, may be doubted, since he believed Oxfordshire or Berkshire to have been the poet’s native county. But Chaucer himself, in his Testament of Love, mentions London as the “place of his kindly engendure.” The received date of his birth is 1328: if that be correct, he was fifty-eight in 1386. But a record in the Appendix to Mr. Godwin’s Life shows that in that year he was a witness on oath, in a question between Sir Richard le Scrope and Sir Robert Grosvenor. The point at issue occasioned an inquiry to be made as to Chaucer’s age, which he stated to be “forty years and upwards.” Eighteen years upon forty is a large upwards on a sworn examination. Mr. Sharon Turner, therefore, in his History of the Middle Ages, suggests, with every appearance of reason, that 1340, or thereabouts, is a date fairly corresponding with the witness’s “forty years and upwards,” and even necessary to vindicate his accuracy in a predicament requiring the most scrupulous adherence to truth. Chaucer might not be certain as to the precise year of his birth; and, in that case, it was natural to fix on the nearest round number. The chronology of his Works must be deeply affected by this difference of twelve years: it will be to be seen whether the few authenticated facts of his life are to be reconciled with this presumptive later date.

Engraved by J. Thomson.


From a Limning in Occleve’s Poems
in the British Museum.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street, & Pall Mall East.

Chaucer is represented by Leland to have studied both at Cambridge and at Oxford. At the latter University, he is said to have diligently frequented the public schools and disputations, and to have 177affected the opinions of Wiclif in religion. “Hereupon,” says Leland, “he became a witty logician, a sweet rhetorician, a pleasant poet, a grave philosopher, and a holy divine.” But Mr. Tyrwhitt thinks that nothing is known as to his education, and doubts his having studied at either University. The evidence that he was of the Inner Temple seems to rest on a record of that house, seen some years afterwards by one Master Buckley, showing that Geoffrey Chaucer was fined two shillings for beating a Franciscan Friar in Fleet Street. Mr. Tyrwhitt complains of the want of date to this record. The sally is plainly a youthful one, and inclines him to believe that Chaucer was of the Inner Temple before he went into the service of Edward III. That he could have been engaged in the practice of the law in after-life, as stated by Leland, is shown by Mr. Tyrwhitt to be utterly inconsistent with his employments under the crown. In the paucity of biographical anecdotes, Chaucer’s personal career will be most satisfactorily ascertained by following the succession of his appointments, as verified by the public documents in Mr. Godwin’s valuable appendices. In 1367, Edward III. granted him, for his good services, an annuity of twenty marcs, payable out of the Exchequer. In 1370, he was sent to the Continent on the king’s business. Two years afterwards, he, with two others, was employed on an embassy to the Doge of Genoa. This negotiation probably regarded the hiring of ships for the king’s navy. In those times, although the necessity for naval armaments was frequent, very few ships were built by the English. This deficiency was supplied by the free states either in Germany or Italy. The age of thirty and thirty-two squares well enough with such appointments. In 1374, the king granted to him a pitcher of wine daily, to be delivered by the Butler of England. At the same time, he made him Comptroller of the Customs of London, for wool, wool-fells, and hides, on condition of his executing the office in person, and keeping the accounts with his own hand. In the following year he obtained from the king the wardship of the lands and body of Sir Edmund Staplegate, a young Kentish heir. In 1377, the last year of King Edward, “Geoffrey Caucher” is mentioned by Froissart as one of those envoys employed abroad, as his protection expresses it, “on the king’s secret service.” The object of the mission is divulged by the French historian; it was a treaty between the Kings of England and France, in which the marriage of Richard with the French Princess Mary was debated; but neither the peace nor the marriage were brought about. Here end both the commissions and benefactions received by Chaucer from Edward III.

178Some time after 1370, and before 1381, according to Mr. Turner’s calculation, but in 1360 according to others, Chaucer married a lady who, according to documents taken from Rymer, had been one of the “domicellæ,” damsels, or, in modern court phrase, maids of honour to Queen Philippa. Mr. Turner places the marriage within those limits, on the following grounds:—Chaucer, in his “Treatise on the Astrolabe,” dates an observation as made in 1391, and mentions his son Lewis as being then ten years old. A grant to the queen’s damsel, on quitting her service, is dated 1370, and made to her by her maiden name. The “Astrolabe” and the grant together furnish conclusive evidence in favour of Mr. Turner’s limits; but the current story of the Duke and Duchess of Lancaster having concocted the match, can only be reconciled with the earlier date, as the duchess died in 1369. It is unnecessary to enumerate those various grants made to Chaucer by Richard II., which bear on no other events of his life. An important document of the year 1398, states that the king had ordered Chaucer to expedite several urgent affairs for him, as well in his absence as in his presence, in various parts of England. As a security against alarms expressed by Chaucer respecting suits and other molestations, Richard granted him a protection from arrest, injury, violence, or impediment, for two years. Richard was deposed in August of the following year. In October, Henry IV. confirmed Richard’s donations, with an additional annuity of forty marcs. The last document as to Chaucer is an indenture of lease to him, dated 24th December, 1399, of a tenement in the Priory Garden of Westminster, for a term of fifty-three years. Chaucer, therefore, was active at the end of 1399, and seems, from the length of his lease, still to have thought himself a good life, as he well might, if his age were only sixty; but his biographers (probably because they traced him in no later documents, and thought seventy-two a good old age) in the absence of any other positive evidence, than the date on a monument erected in the sixteenth century, have fixed his death in 1400.

We have thought it expedient not to mix up the facts proved by official documents, with the few others to be gleaned from passages in his works. Such as are attested by neither of these vouchers have no claim to implicit credit. In his Testament of Love, he speaks of having “endured penance in a dark prison.” Again, “Although I had little in respect of other great and worthy, yet had I a fair parcel, as methought for the time; I had riches sufficiently to wave need. I had dignity to be reverenced in worship; power methought that I had to keep from mine enemies, and me seemed to shine in glory of 179renown.” With this picture of former prosperity, he contrasts his present state. “For riches now have I poverty; instead of power, wretchedness I suffer; and for glory of renown, I am now despised and foully hated.” We cannot with certainty connect this reverse of personal fortune with any passage of general history. He alludes to it thus:—“In my youth I was drawn to be assenting, and in my might helping to certain conjurations, and other great matters of ruling of citizens, so painted and coloured, that at first to me seemed then noble and glorious to all the people.” He intimates that he had made some discoveries concerning certain transactions in the city. He was, consequently, exposed to calumny, and the charge of falsehood. To prove his veracity, he offered an appeal to arms, and “had prepared his body for Mars’s doing, if any contraried his saws.” He alludes to his escape out of the kingdom, when we are told by his biographers that he spent his time in Hainault, France, and Zealand, where he wrote many of his books. He himself says, that during his exile those whom he had served never refreshed him with the value of the least coined plate; those who owed him money would pay nothing, because they thought his return impossible. Mr. Godwin, like preceding biographers, refers these personal misfortunes to his support of John Comberton, generally styled John of Northampton, who, in 1382, attempted reform in the city on Wiclif’s principles. This was highly resented by the clergy; Comberton was taken into custody, and Chaucer is stated to have fled the kingdom. Mr. Turner thinks, that as the date assigned to these reverses is purely conjectural, they may be referred with more probability to a later period. He argues that, had Chaucer joined any party against the court, he would not have enjoyed Richard’s continued favour. The protection from the king, in 1398, implies that he was intermeddling in hazardous concerns; and in the Testament of Love, which may be considered as an autobiography composed of hints rather than facts, there is this remarkable passage. “Of the confederacies made by my sovereigns, I was but a servant; and thereof ought nothing in evil to be laid to me wards, sithen as repentant I am turned.” Mr. Turner infers, from the singular protection granted to Chaucer, in the very year when, after Gloucester’s murder, Richard adopted his most illegal and tyrannical measures, that the poet was prosecuted as an accomplice in those measures; that Henry might have thrown him into prison, as implicated in the deposed monarch’s unlawful acts; but on his professions of repentance, and in consideration of his connexion and alliance with his own father, might have pardoned him 180with others, at his coronation. In this difference of opinion, or rather of conjecture, between the biographers and the historian, we may, perhaps, be allowed to hazard the supposition, that those scattered allusions in the Testament may refer not to the same, but to different periods of evil fortune; indeed, the very expressions quoted seem hardly reconcileable with any one event. The “conjurations, noble and glorious to the people,” seem to point at some measures distasteful to the higher powers: and as both Chaucer and his patron the Duke of Lancaster had adopted many of Wiclif’s tenets, it seems not improbable that the conspiracy alluded to may be identified with that of John of Northampton. Delicately as the circumstance is glossed over by the poet, he appears to have turned what in homely phrase is called king’s evidence, the imputation of which he parries by a chivalrous appeal to “Mars’s doing.” This will account for his being received back into royal favour, and for his lending himself in after-time, no longer to the conjurations of the people, in plain English, the rebellion of the commons, but to the confederacies of his sovereigns. If his allusion to his personal misfortunes, and his expressions of conscientious remorse, may be referred to different periods, and to events of opposite character; in that view of the case, neither Mr. Godwin nor Mr. Turner may be in the wrong.

Few particulars of Chaucer’s private history are to be gathered from his poems. In his Dream, of which Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster, is the subject, the poet describes himself as a victim to nervous melancholy from habitual want of sleep, accompanied with a dread of death. The translation of Boethius, and occasional quotations from Seneca and Juvenal, attest that he retained through life his juvenile acquaintance with the Latin classics. The chronology of his works must be rendered doubtful by the uncertainty respecting that of his life. Mr. Turner places the time of his death later than 1400, but before 1410. The poet is said to have had the unusual honour of being brother-in-law to a prince of the blood, by the marriage of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, with Catherine, widow of Sir Hugh Swinford, and sister to Chaucer’s wife. He is said to have lived at Woodstock at a late period of his life, and finally, to have retired to Donnington Castle on the Duke of Lancaster’s death. By his wife, Philippa, he had two sons, Thomas and Lewis. Thomas was Speaker of the House of Commons in the reign of Henry IV., ambassador to France and Burgundy, and discharged other public duties. Chaucer’s principal biographers are Leland, Thomas Speght, Mr. Tyrwhitt, and Mr. Godwin. The work of the latter would have been more valuable had it been less 181voluminous, less discursive, and less conjectural. Mr. Tyrwhitt’s edition of the Canterbury Tales is a model of criticism on an old English classic. His Introductory Discourse on the Language and Versification of Chaucer will enable its readers to form just and clear ideas of the history of our ancient tongue, and Chaucer’s peculiar use of it.

Chaucer was held in high estimation by his most distinguished contemporaries. John the Chaplain, who translated Boethius into English verse, as Chaucer had into prose, calls him the Flower of Rhetoric. Occleve laments him with personal affection as his father and master, and styles him the honour of English tongue. Lydgate, the monk of Bury, mentions him as a chief poet of Britain; the loadstar of our language; the notable rhetor. Dryden says, in the preface prefixed to his Fables,—“As Chaucer is the father of English poetry, so I hold him in the same degree of veneration as the Grecians held Homer, or the Romans Virgil; he is a perpetual fountain of good sense, learned in all sciences, and therefore speaks properly on all subjects; as he knew what to say, so he knows also when to leave off, a continence which is practised by few writers, and scarcely by any of the ancients, excepting Virgil and Horace.”

Our account of his principal works must be brief. The Romaunt of the Rose is professedly a translation of the French Roman de la Rose. It is a long allegory, representing the difficulties and dangers encountered by a lover in the pursuit of his mistress, who is emblematically described as a Rose, and the plot, if so it may be called, ends with his putting her in a beautiful garden.

Troilus and Creseide is for the most part a translation of the Filostrato of Boccaccio, but with many variations and large additions. As a tale, it is barren of incident, although, according to Warton, as long as the Æneid; but it contains passages of great beauty and pathos.

The story of Queen Annelida and false Arcite is said to have been originally told in Latin. Chaucer names the authors whom he professes to follow. “First folwe I Stace, and after him Corinne.” The opening only is taken from Statius, so that Corinne must be supposed to have furnished the remainder; but who she was has never yet been discovered. False Arcite is a different person from the Arcite of the Knight’s Tale. It is probable therefore that this poem was written before Chaucer had become acquainted with the Teseide of Boccaccio.

The opening of the Assembly of Foules is built on the Somnium Scipionis of Cicero. The description of a garden and temple is almost entirely taken from the description of the Temple of Venus in the 182Fourth Book of the Teseide. Mr. Tyrwhitt suspects this poem to allude to the intended marriage between John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster, which took place in 1359.

Warton, in his History of English Poetry, intimates his belief that the House of Fame was originally a Provençal composition. But Mr. Tyrwhitt differs from him in opinion, and states that he “has not observed, in any of Chaucer’s writings, a single phrase or word which has the least appearance of having been fetched by him from the South of the Loire.” With respect to the matter and manner of his compositions, Mr. Tyrwhitt adds, that he “shall be slow to believe that in either he ever copied the poets of Provence,” or that he had more than a very slender acquaintance with them. The poem is an allegorical vision; a favourite theme with all the poets of Chaucer’s time, both native and foreign.

The Flower and the Leaf was printed for the first time in Speght’s edition of 1597. Mr. Tyrwhitt suggests a doubt of its correct ascription to Chaucer; but it seems to afford internal evidence of powers at all events congenial with those of Chaucer, in its description of rural scenery and its general truth and feeling. Dryden has modernised it, without a suspicion of its authenticity.

Chaucer’s prose works are—his Translation of Boethius, the Treatise on the Astrolabe, and the Testament of Love. The Canterbury Tales were his latest work. The general plan of them is, that a company of Pilgrims, going to Canterbury, assemble at an inn in Southwark, and agree that each shall tell at least one tale in going and another on returning; and that he who shall tell the best tales shall be treated by the rest with a supper at the inn, before they separate. The characters of the Pilgrims, as exhibited in their respective Prologues, are drawn from the various departments of middle life. The occurrences on the journey, and the adventures of the company at Canterbury, were intended to be interwoven as Episodes, or connected by means of the Prologues; but the work, like its prototype the Decameron, was undertaken when the author was past the meridian of life, and was left imperfect. Chaucer has, in many respects, improved on his model, especially in variety of character and its nice discrimination; but the introductory machinery is not contrived with equal felicity. Boccaccio’s narrators indulge in the ease and luxury of a palace; a journey on horse-back is not the most convenient opportunity of telling long stories to a numerous company.

The works of Chaucer, notwithstanding the encomiums of four successive centuries, emanating from poets and critics of the highest 183renown and first authority, are little read excepting by antiquaries and philologers, unless in the polished versions of Dryden and Pope. This is principally to be attributed neither to any change of opinion respecting the merit of the poet, nor to the obsoleteness of the language; but to the progressive change of manners and feelings in society, to the accumulation of knowledge, and the improvement of morals. His command over the language of his day, his poetical power, and his exhibition of existing characters and amusing incidents, constitute his attractions; but his prolixity is ill suited to our impatient rapidity of thought and action. Unlike the passionate and natural creations of Shakspeare, which will never grow obsolete, the sentiments of Chaucer are not congenial with our own: his love is fantastic gallantry; he is the painter and panegyrist of exploded knight-errantry. Hence the preference of the Canterbury Tales above all his other works; because the manners of the time are dramatized, in other ranks of life than that of chivalry; his good sense, and capacity for keen observation are called forth, to the exclusion of conventional affectations. With respect to his prose, it is curious as that “strange English” and “ornate style,” adopted by him as a scholar for the sake of distinction, rather than as a specimen of the language and mode of expression characteristic of his age.

[The Wife of Bath, from Stothard’s Canterbury Pilgrimage.]



So rapid and complete has been the decay of the Ottoman empire as an aggressive power, that any person now living, unacquainted with history anterior to the date of his own birth, would treat the notion of danger to Christian Europe from the ambition of Turkey, as the idle fear of an over-anxious mind. Yet there was a time, and that within a century and a half, when Popes summoned the princes of Europe to support the Cross, and the Eastern frontier of Christendom was the scene of almost constant warfare between Christian and Moslem. That period of danger was to Poland a period of glory; and the brightest part of it is the reign of the warrior-king, John Sobieski. It proved, indeed, no better than an empty glitter, won at a vast expense of blood and treasure, the benefits of which were chiefly reaped by the faithless and ungrateful Austria.

Engraved by J. Thomson.


From an original Picture, in the
Gallery of the Louvre.

Under the Superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.

London, Published by Charles Knight, Pall Mall East.

Sobieski was the younger son of a Polish nobleman, high in rank and merit. He was born in 1629. The death of his brother, slain in warfare with the Cossacks of the Ukraine, in 1649, placed him in possession of the hereditary titles and immense estates of his house. To these distinctions he added high personal merits, an athletic body, a powerful, active, and upright mind, and, as the result proved, the qualities which make a general and statesman. It is no wonder therefore that, in the wars carried on by Poland during his youth against Tartars, Cossacks, and Swedes, he won laurels, though the Republic gained neither honour nor advantage. At an early age he acquired the confidence of Casimir, the reigning king of Poland, and was employed in various services of importance. On the revolt of Lubomirski, Grand Marshal of Poland, Sobieski was invested with that office, and soon after made Lieutenant-General (if we may so translate it) of the Polish army. In that capacity he led the royal troops 185against Lubomirski. The king’s obstinacy forced him to give battle at a disadvantage, and he was defeated, July 13, 1666; but the blame of this mishap was universally thrown on the right person, while the skilful conduct of Sobieski’s retreat obtained general admiration.

He married Marie de la Grange d’Arquien, a French lady of noble birth, who had accompanied the queen into Poland. She was a woman of wit and beauty, who exercised throughout life an unusual and unfortunate influence over a husband devotedly attached to her. Aided by her favour with her mistress, Sobieski obtained the highest military office, that of Grand General, in 1667. Happy for Poland, that in this instance favour and merit went hand in hand: for a host of fourscore thousand Tartars broke into the kingdom, when its exhausted finances could not maintain an army, and its exhausted population could hardly supply one. By draining his own purse, pledging his own resources, and levying recruits on his immense estates, the General raised his troops from twelve to twenty thousand, and marched fearlessly against a force four times as great. The scheme of his campaign was singularly confident, so much so as to excite the disapprobation even of the intrepid Condé. He detached eight thousand men in several corps, with secret orders, and took post with the remaining twelve thousand in a fortified camp at Podahiecz, a small town in the Palatinate of Russia, to stand the attack of eighty thousand Tartars, while his detachments were converging to their assigned stations. The assault was renewed for sixteen successive days; and day after day the assailants were repulsed with slaughter. On the seventeenth, Sobieski offered battle in the open field. A bloody contest ensued; but while victory was doubtful, the Polish detachments appeared on the Tartar flanks, and turned the balance. Disheartened by their loss, the Tartars made overtures of peace, which was concluded equally to the satisfaction of both the belligerents, October 19, 1667.

The circumstances attendant on the abdication of Casimir, in 1668, and the election of his successor Michael Wiesnowieski, do not demand our notice, for Sobieski took little part in the intrigues of the candidates, or the deliberations of the Diet. The new king wept and trembled as he mounted a throne to which he had never aspired, and which he protested himself incapable to fill; and the event proved that he was right. Yet, when he had tasted the sweets of power, he looked jealously on the man most highly esteemed and most able to do his country service, and therefore most formidable to a weak and suspicious prince. The Ukraine Cossacks had been converted by oppression from good subjects into bad neighbours, and on the accession of 186Michael they again raised the standard of war. Partly by negotiation, partly by force, the Grand General reduced all the country from the Bog to the Dniester in the campaign of 1671, and he received the thanks of the Republic for performing such eminent services with such scanty means. It is still more to his credit that he interfered, not for the first time, in favour of the revolted Cossacks, and insisted on their being received into allegiance with kindness, and encouraged to good behaviour by equitable and friendly treatment.

King Michael was of a very different mind in this matter. Determined on the subjugation of the whole Ukraine, he intrigued to hinder the Diet from confirming the peace, and thus induced the Cossacks to call in the help of Turkey, by threatening which they had stopped the progress of Sobieski. This brought on a fresh discussion in the Diet, in which Sobieski warmly urged the expediency of concession. Michael, however, persisted in his course; and from this period we may date the commencement of a league to dethrone him. In this, at first, Sobieski took no active, certainly no open, part. When compelled to declare himself, he asserted, with zeal, the right of the Republic to depose a prince who had shown himself unfit to reign. The consequences of this discord were very serious. At a Diet held in the spring of 1672, Michael was openly required to abdicate. To avoid this he summoned the minor nobility, who had no seats in the Diet, and with whom, having formerly been of their body, he was more popular, to meet in the field of Golemba, on the bank of the Vistula; and he thus raised a sort of militia, to the number of a hundred thousand, ready to uphold him as the king. Sobieski, encamped at Lowicz with an army devoted to him, maintained the cause of the confederate nobles. Neither party, however, was in haste to appeal to arms; and in the interim, Mahomet IV., with 150,000 Turks and 100,000 Tartars, invaded Poland. The king, instead of marching against the enemy, contented himself with setting a price on Sobieski’s head, in whom alone the hope of Poland rested. Too weak however to oppose the Turks, he sought the Tartars, who had dispersed to carry ruin through the country, routed them in five successive battles, and recovered an immense booty and thirty thousand prisoners from their hands. Meanwhile the Turks overran Podolia, and took its capital town, the strong fortress of Kaminiec, the bulwark of Poland. Incapable himself of action, and apprehensive alike of the failure or success of Sobieski, Michael hastily concluded an ignominious peace, by which the Ukraine and part of Podolia were ceded to Turkey, and the payment of an annual tribute was agreed upon.

This treaty of Boudchaz, signed October 8, 1672, prevented Sobieski 187from continuing the war, and he returned indignantly to his camp at Lowicz. Before the end of the year, the king found it necessary to adopt conciliatory measures, and Sobieski, and other nobles who had been outlawed with him, were restored to civil rights and the enjoyment of their property. At the Diet held in February, 1673, he inveighed against the scandalous treaty of Boudchaz, which, in truth, was void, being concluded without the sanction of that body, and it was resolved to renounce the treaty, and renew the war. Eighty thousand Turks were stationed in a fortified camp at Choczim, to overawe the newly-conquered provinces. November 12, 1673, Sobieski stormed their camp. Observing that the infantry wavered, he dismounted his own regiment of dragoons, and led them to the ramparts, which they were the first to scale. The infantry rushed forward to support their general; the entrenchments were won, and the Turks routed with great slaughter, and entirely disorganized. This victory was disgraced by the massacre of a great number of prisoners in cold blood. Soon after it the death of Michael relieved Poland from the burden of a weak king, and the Interrex stopped the victorious general’s progress, by requiring his attendance in Poland.

The diet of election commenced its sittings May 1, 1674. As before, there were a number of foreign candidates, but none who commanded a decisive majority among the electors; and at last the choice of the assembly fell on Sobieski, who, whatever his secret wishes or intrigues may have been, had never openly pretended to the crown. That choice was received with general rejoicing. The new king’s first care was to follow up the blow struck at Choczim, and wrest the Ukraine from Turkey. During this and the two following years, that unhappy country was again the scene of bloodshed and rapine. There is little in the history of the war to claim our attention. It was concluded at the memorable leaguer of Zurawno, where, with a policy somewhat similar to that which he pursued at Podahiecz, he advanced to meet an invading army outnumbering his own six to one. Fortunately the Turkish government stood in need of peace, and their general had authority and orders to put an end to the war in the best manner he could; and after besieging the Polish camp for five weeks, he consented to a treaty, signed October 29, 1676, the terms of which were far more favourable than could have been anticipated by Poland. Two-thirds of the Ukraine, and part of Podolia, were restored to her, and the tribute imposed by the treaty of Boudchaz was given up. These terms were ratified by the Porte, and seven years of peace succeeded to almost constant war.

188This interval of rest from arms is not important in the history of Sobieski’s life. As he had anticipated, he found the throne no easy seat; and his criminal weakness in admitting the queen, who never scrupled at disturbing public affairs to gratify her own passions or prejudices, to an undue weight in his counsels, lessens our sympathy with his vexations, and casts a shade over his brilliant qualities. In 1680, greater matters began to be moved. Ever watchful of the Porte, Sobieski knew through his spies that Mahomet was preparing for war with Austria, as soon as the existing truce expired; and he conceived the project of uniting the money of Rome, and the arms of Austria and Venice, with those of Poland; and, by thus distracting the power of Turkey, to regain more easily the much coveted fortress of Kaminiec, and the remnant of Podolia. He had, indeed, sworn solemnly to maintain a treaty, which the Turks religiously observed; but the Pope was ready to absolve him from the oath, and this the morality of the age thought quite sufficient. For a time his views were frustrated, both at home and abroad; but as the political storm which was collecting grew darker and darker, both Pope and Emperor entered more heartily into the scheme, and an offensive and defensive treaty was concluded between Austria and Poland.

The Turkish troops assembled in the plains of Adrianople, in May, 1683, in number, according to the calculations of historians, upwards of 200,000 fighting men. The brave Hungarians, heretofore the bulwark of Austria against the Ottoman, but now alienated by oppression and misgovernment, revolted under the celebrated Tekeli, and opened a way into the heart of the Austrian empire. Kara Mustapha commanded the immense army destined by the Porte for this warfare, and for once he showed judgment and decision in neglecting small objects and pushing forward at once to Vienna. Leopold fled in haste with his court: the Imperial General, the brave Charles of Lorraine, threw in part of his small army to reinforce the garrison, but was unable to oppose the progress of the besiegers. The trenches were opened July 14, and the heavy artillery of the Turks crumbled the weak ramparts, and carried destruction into the interior of the city. Unhappy is the country which trusts to foreign aid in such a strait! The German princes had not yet brought up their contingents; and even Sobieski, the last man to delay in such a cause, could not collect his army fast enough to meet the pressing need of the occasion. Letter reached him after letter, entreating that he would at least bring the terror of his name and profound military skill to the relief of Austria; and he set off to traverse Moravia with 189an escort of only two thousand horse, leaving the Grand General Jablonowski to bring up the army with the utmost speed. After all, the Polish troops reached Tuln, on the Danube, the place of rendezvous, before the Bavarians, Saxons, and other German auxiliaries were collected. September 7, the whole army was assembled, in number about 74,000. Vienna was already in the utmost distress. Stahremberg, the brave commandant, had written to the Duke of Lorraine a letter, containing only these pithy words, “No more time to lose, my Lord; no more time to lose.” Incapable of resisting with its enfeebled garrison a general assault, the place must have fallen but for the avarice and stupid pride of Mustapha, who thought that the imperial capital must contain immense treasures, which he was loth to give up to indiscriminate plunder; and never dreamed that any one would be hardy enough to contest the prize with his multitudes before it fell into his hands from mere exhaustion. There was indeed no more time to lose: it was calculated on August 22, that Vienna could only hold out three days against a general assault; and September 9 arrived before the Christian army moved from Tuln. Five leagues of mountain road still separated it from Vienna, in any part of which its progress might have been stopped by such a detachment as the immense Turkish army might well have spared.

The battle of deliverance, fought September 12, 1683, was short and decisive: the Turks were disgusted and disheartened by their general’s misconduct. Sobieski was not expected to command in person; but the Tartars had seen him lead his cavalry to the charge too often to overlook the signs which marked his presence, and the knowledge of it sunk their hearts still more. “Allah!” said the brave Khan of the Tartars, as he pointed out to the Visir the pennoned lances of the Polish Horse Guards, “Allah! but the wizard is amongst them, sure enough.” The Visir attempted to atone by courage for his past errors, but despair or disaffection had seized on soldiers and officers. Even the veteran Tartar chief replied to his entreaties,—“The Polish king is there. I know him well. Did I not tell you that all we had to do was to get away as fast as possible?” The Polish cavalry pushed forward to the Visir’s tent, and cut their way through the Spahis, who alone disputed the victory; and with the capture of their great standard the consternation and confusion of the Turks became final and complete. Entering Vienna the next day, Sobieski was received with an enthusiasm little pleasant to the jealous temper of the Emperor, who manifested his incurable meanness of disposition, not only in his cold reception and ungracious thanks of the deliverer 190of his kingdom, but in the ingratitude and perfidy of all his subsequent conduct.

Whether from pure love of beating the Turks, or from a false hope that Leopold might be induced to perform his promises, Sobieski, contrary to the wishes of the Republic, pursued the flying enemy into Hungary. Near Gran, on the Danube, he met with a severe check, in which his own life had nearly been sacrificed to the desire of showing the Imperialists that he could conquer without their help. This he acknowledged after his junction with the Duke of Lorraine. “Gentlemen,” he said, “I confess I wanted to conquer without you, for the honour of my own nation. I have suffered severely for it, being soundly beat; but I will take my revenge both with you and for you. To effect this must be the chief object of our thoughts.” The disgrace was soon wiped off by a decisive victory gained nearly on the same spot. Gran capitulated, and the king led his army back to Poland in the month of December.

The glory of this celebrated campaign fell to Poland, the profit accrued to Austria. Kaminiec was still in the possession of Turkey, and continued so during the whole reign of Sobieski: not from want of effort, for the recovery of that important fortress was the leading object of the campaigns of 1684, 5, and 7; but the Polish army was better suited for the open field than for the tedious and expensive process of a siege. In 1686, Leopold, apprehensive lest Sobieski should break off an alliance distasteful to his subjects and unsatisfactory to himself, (for the Emperor had broken every promise and failed in every inducement which he had held out to the Polish sovereign,) threw out another bait, which succeeded better than the duplicity and ingratitude of the contriver deserved. He suggested the idea of wresting from the Turks Moldavia and Wallachia, to be held as an independent and hereditary kingdom by Sobieski and his family, and promised a body of troops to assist in the undertaking. The great object of Sobieski’s ambition, by pursuing which he lost much of his popularity and incurred just censure, as aiming at an unconstitutional object by unconstitutional means, was to hand the crown of Poland to his son at his own decease, and render it, if possible, hereditary in his family. The possession of the above-named provinces was most desirable as a step to this; or, if this wish were still frustrated, it was yet desirable as placing his posterity among the royal houses of Europe: and with a preference of private to public interest, which is not less censurable for being common, he rejected an offer made by Mahomet to restore Kaminiec, and to pay a large sum to 191indemnify Poland for the expenses of the war, that he might pursue his favourite scheme of family aggrandizement. Satisfied, however, with having engaged him in this new diversion of the Turkish power, Leopold had not the smallest intention of sending the promised troops; and the King of Poland was involved in great danger from their non-appearance at the expected place. This campaign, however, was so far satisfactory, that Moldavia yielded without resistance or bloodshed; a second and a third expedition, undertaken in 1688 and 1691, to consolidate and extend this conquest, were unsuccessful, and the sovereignty soon passed back into the hands of Turkey. The campaign of 1691 was the last in which Sobieski appeared in the field.

The reader will see from this brief account that he added few laurels, after the campaign of Vienna, to those by which his brows were so profusely garlanded. Indeed he scarcely deserved to do so; for great and disinterested as his conduct often was, in this juncture he sacrificed national to family interests, and consumed the blood and riches of his countrymen in a needless and fruitless war.

Sobieski’s internal policy has little to recommend it, or to exalt his fame. Devoted to his wife, who proved herself unworthy his affection by the most harassing demands upon his time and attention, and still more by a pertinacious, unwise, and unconstitutional interference in state affairs, which had not even the excuse of being well directed, but was continually employed to promote private interests, to gratify private prejudices, and, ultimately, at once to violate the laws and sow dissension in her own family by securing the crown of Poland to her own son, and choosing a younger in preference to the elder branch, the king lowered his popularity and reputation by thus weakly yielding to an unworthy influence, and, as the natural consequence, he was continually thwarted by a harassing and often factious opposition. Civil discord, family quarrels, and the infirmities of a body worn out prematurely by unsparing exposure for more than forty years to the toils of war, combined to embitter the decline of his life. In the five years which elapsed from Sobieski’s last campaign to his death, the history of Poland records much of unprincipled intriguing, much personal ingratitude, and some upright opposition to his measures, but nothing of material importance to his personal history. He died June 17, 1696, on the double anniversary, it is said, of his birth and his accession to the throne; and by another singular coincidence, his birth and death were alike heralded by storms of unusual violence.

The character of Sobieski is one of great brilliancy and considerable faults. As a subject, he displayed genuine, disinterested patriotism; 192as a king, the welfare of his family seems to have been dearer to him than that of his country. Nor did his domestic government display the vigour and decision which we might reasonably have expected from his powerful mind. But his justice was unimpeachable; he was temperate, and unrevengeful even when personally affronted, which often happened in the tumultuous Diets of Poland; and, in a bigoted age, he displayed the virtue of toleration. The constant labours of an active life did not choke his literary taste, and his literary attainments were considerable; he spoke several languages, aspired to be a poet, and loved the company of learned men. He was remarkable for the suavity of his temper and the charms of his conversation. Such a character, though far from perfection, is entitled to the epithet GREAT, which he won and enjoyed; and, as a soldier, he has a claim to our gratitude, which not every soldier possesses. His warfare was almost uniformly waged against an aggressive and barbarian power, which, in the utmost need of Christian Europe, he stood forward to resist, and finally broke. Like other nations, Turkey has had its alternations of success and loss; but never, since the campaign of Vienna, have the arms of the East threatened the repose of Europe.

The history of Sobieski’s life and reign is told at large in the works of his countryman Zaluski; in the Life by the Abbé Coyer, of which there is an English translation; and in a recent publication by M. Salvandy. The same writer has republished a most interesting collection of Letters, written by Sobieski to his queen during the campaign of Vienna, printed for the first time in Poland about ten years ago.


  1. Changed “General Keith” to “Governor Keith” on p. 78.
  2. Changed “well worthy attention” to “well worth attention” on p. 119.
  3. Changed “Geographie” to “Géographie” on p. 140.
  4. Silently corrected typographical errors.
  5. Retained anachronistic and non-standard spellings as printed.

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