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Title: The Gallery of Portraits: with Memoirs. Vol 5 (of 7)

Author: Anonymous

Release Date: August 15, 2017 [EBook #55358]

Language: English

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Duke-Street, Lambeth.


1. Taylor 1
2. Lavoisier 9
3. Sydenham 18
4. Clarendon 25
5. Reynolds 35
6. Swift 45
7. Locke 53
8. Selden 61
9. Paré 69
10. Blake 77
11. L’Hôpital 85
12. Mrs. Siddons 94
13. Herschel 105
14. Romilly 111
15. Shakspeare 122
16. Euler 129
17. Sir W. Jones 134
18. Rousseau 143
19. Harrison 153
20. Montaigne 157
21. Pope 164
22. Bolivar 173
23. Arkwright 181
24. Cowper 189

Engraved by W. Holl.


From the original Picture in the Hall of All Souls College, Oxford.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.



If this great ornament of our church did not boast of an exalted lineage, he numbered among his forefathers one at least, the worthy ancestor of such a descendant, Dr. Rowland Taylor, chaplain to Cranmer, and rector of Hadleigh, distinguished among the divines of the Reformation for his abilities, learning, and piety, as well as for the courageous cheerfulness with which he suffered death at the stake in the reign of Queen Mary. Jeremy Taylor was the son of a barber, resident in Trinity parish, Cambridge; and was baptized in Trinity church, August 15, 1613. He was “grounded in grammar and mathematics” by his father, and entered as a sizar at Caius College, August 18, 1626. Of his deportment, his studies, even of the honours and emoluments of his academical life, we have no certain knowledge. It is stated by Dr. Rust, in his Funeral Sermon, that Taylor was elected fellow: but this is at least doubtful, for no record of the fact exists in the registers of the college. He proceeded to the degree of M. A. in 1633; and in the same year, though at the early age of twenty, we find him in orders, and officiating as a divinity lecturer in St. Paul’s Cathedral. His talents as a preacher attracted the notice of Archbishop Laud, who sent for him to preach at Lambeth, and approved of his performance, but thought him too young. Taylor begged his Grace’s pardon for that fault, and promised that, if he lived, he would mend it. By that prelate’s interest he was admitted to the degree of M. A. ad eundem, in University College, Oxford, October 20, 1635, and shortly after nominated to a fellowship at All Souls College. It was probably through the interest of the same powerful patron that he obtained the rectory of Uppingham in Rutlandshire, tenable with his fellowship, March 23, 1638. The fellowship, however, he vacated by 2his marriage with Phœbe Langsdale, May 27, 1639, who died in little more than three years, leaving two sons.

Taylor attracted notice at Oxford by his talents as a preacher; but he does not seem to have commenced, during this period of ease and tranquillity, any of those great works which have rendered him illustrious as one of the most laborious, eloquent, and persuasive of British divines. The only sermon extant which we can distinctly refer to this period, is one preached by command of the Vice-chancellor on the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, 1638. This piece requires notice, because it is connected with a report, circulated both during Taylor’s residence at Oxford and afterwards, that he was secretly inclined to Popery. It is even said that he “wished to be confirmed a member of the church of Rome,” (Wood, Athenæ Oxon.) but was rejected with scorn in consequence of the things advanced against that church in this sermon. Of this whole statement Bishop Heber, in his ‘Life of Taylor,’ has expressed his disbelief; and the arguments on which his opinion is founded appear to us satisfactory. Not even during his peaceable abode at Uppingham do Taylor’s great works appear to have been projected, as if his amiable, affectionate, and zealous temper had been fully occupied by domestic cares and pleasures, and by the constant though quiet duties of a parish priest. The year 1642, as it witnessed the overthrow of his domestic happiness by his wife’s death, saw also the beginning of those troubles which cast him out of his church preferment, a homeless man. We do not know the date of the sequestration of his living; but as he joined Charles I. at Oxford in the autumn of the year; published in the same year, by the King’s command, his treatise ‘Of the sacred Order and Offices of Episcopacy, &c.;’ was created D. D. by royal mandate; appointed chaplain to the King, in which capacity he frequently preached at Oxford, and attended the royal army in the wars; it is probable that he was among the first of those who paid the penalty of adhering to the losing cause. Little is known of this portion of Taylor’s history. It appears that he quitted the army, and retired into Wales, where he married, became again involved in the troubles of war, and was taken prisoner at Cardigan, Feb. 4, 1644. We do not know the date of his release, or of his marriage to his second wife, Joanna Bridges, a lady possessed of some landed property at Mandinam, near Golden Grove, in the Vale of Towy, in Carmarthenshire, who was commonly said to be a natural daughter of Charles I., born before his marriage. But Heber conjectures that Taylor’s marriage was anterior to his imprisonment, and that his wife’s estate was amerced in a heavy fine, in consequence of his being 3found engaged in the royal cause at Cardigan. It is at least certain that until the Restoration he was very poor, and that he supported himself during part of the time by keeping a school.

During this period of public confusion and domestic trouble, Taylor composed an ‘Apology for authorized and set Forms of Liturgy,’ published in 1646, and his great work, a ‘Discourse on the Liberty of Prophesying,’ published in 1647, “the first attempt on record to conciliate the minds of Christians to the reception of a doctrine which, though now the rule of action professed by all Christian sects, was then, by all sects alike, regarded as a perilous and portentous novelty.”[1] As such, it was received with distrust, if not disapprobation, by all parties; and if it was intended to inculcate upon the Episcopalians the propriety of conceding something to the prejudices of their opponents, as well as to procure an alleviation of the oppression exercised on the Episcopal church, we may see in the conduct of the government after the Restoration, that Taylor preached a doctrine for which neither the one nor the other were then ripe. It is the more to his honour that in this important point of Christian charity he had advanced beyond his own party, as well as those by whom his party was then persecuted. But though his views were extended enough to meet with disapprobation from his contemporaries, he gives a greater latitude to the civil power in repressing error by penal means, than the general practice, at least in Protestant countries, would now grant. “The forbearance which he claims, he claims for those Christians only who unite in the confession of the Apostles’ Creed,” and he advocates the drawing together of all who will subscribe to that ancient and comprehensive form of belief into one church, forgetting differences which do not involve the fundamental points of Christianity. And he inculcates the “danger and impropriety of driving men into schism by multiplying symbols and subscriptions, and contracting the bounds of communion, and the still greater wickedness of regarding all discrepant opinions as damnable in the life to come, and in the present capital.” For a fuller account of this remarkable work, we refer to the Life by Heber, p. 201–218, or still better, to the original.

1.  Heber’s Life of Taylor, p. xxvii.

It was followed at no long interval by the ‘Great Exemplar of Sanctity and Holy Life, described in the Life and Death of Jesus Christ.’ This, the first of Taylor’s great works which became extensively popular, is almost entirely practical in its tendency, having been composed, as the author tells us, with the intention of drawing men’s minds from controverted doctrines, to the vital points on which all men 4are agreed, but which all men forget so easily. It is not an attempt to connect the relations of the four Evangelists into one complete and chronologically consistent account; but a “series of devout meditations on the different events recorded in the New Testament, as well as on the more remarkable traditions which have usually been circulated respecting the Divine Author of our religion, his earthly parent, and his followers,” set off by that majestic style, that store of illustrations derived from the most recondite and miscellaneous learning, and, above all, that fervent and poetical imagination, by which Taylor is distinguished perhaps above all the prose writers in our language. Such qualities, even without a digested plan and connected strain of argument, which, requiring a more continuous and attentive perusal, would not perhaps have made the book more acceptable or useful to the bulk of readers, ensured for it a favourable reception; and the author followed up the impression which he had produced, at no distant period, by two other treatises of a similar practical tendency, which, from their comparative shortness, are better known than any other of Taylor’s works, and probably have been as extensively read as any devotional books in the English language. We speak of the treatises on Holy Living and on Holy Dying.

It has been mentioned that near Mandinam stood Golden Grove, the seat of the Earl of Carbery, a nobleman distinguished by his abilities and zeal in the Royal cause. He proved a constant and sincere friend to Taylor; and the grateful scholar has conferred celebrity upon the name and hospitality of Golden Grove by his ‘Guide to Infant Devotion,’ or manual of daily prayers, which are called by the name of that place, in which they, and many other of the author’s works, were meditated; especially his Eniautos, or course of sermons for all the Sundays in the year.

Considerable obscurity hangs over this portion of Taylor’s life: but it appears that in the years 1654–5 he was twice imprisoned, in consequence of his advocacy of the fallen causes of Episcopacy and Royalty. At some time in 1654 he formed an acquaintance with Evelyn, which proved profitable and honourable to both parties; for the layman, as is evident from his Memoirs and Diary, highly valued and laid to heart the counsels of the man whom he selected as his “ghostly father,” and to whose poverty he liberally ministered in return out of his own abundance.

We learn from Evelyn’s Diary that Taylor was in London in the spring of 1637, and his visits, if not annual, were at least frequent. He made many friends, and among them the Earl of Conway, a nobleman 5possessed of large estates in the north-east of Ireland, who conceived the desire of securing Taylor’s eminent abilities for the service of his own neighbourhood, and obtained for him a lectureship in the small town of Lisburne. Taylor removed his family to Ireland in the summer of 1658. He dwelt near Portmore, his patron’s splendid seat on the banks of Lough Neagh; and some of the islands in that noble lake, and in a smaller neighbouring piece of water called Lough Beg, are still recorded, by the traditions of the peasantry, to have been his favourite places of study and retirement. To this abode his letters show him to have been much attached.

In the spring of 1660 Taylor visited London, to superintend in its passage through the press the ‘Rule of Conscience, or Ductor Dubitantium.’ This, it appears from the author’s letters, was considerably advanced so early as the year 1655. It was the fruit of much time, much diligence, and much prayer; and that of all his writings concerning the execution of which he seems to have felt most anxiety. In this case, as it often happens, the author seems to have formed an erroneous estimate of the comparative value of his works. Neither on its first appearance, nor in later times, did the ‘Ductor Dubitantium’ become extensively popular. Its object, which even at the first was accounted obsolete, was to supply what the Romish church obtained by the practice of confession, a set of rules by which a scrupulous conscience may be guided in the variety of doubtful points of duty which may occur. The abuses are well known, to which the casuistic subtlety of the Romish doctors gave birth; and it may be doubted whether it were wise to lay one stone towards rebuilding an edifice, which the general diffusion of the Scriptures, a sufficient rule, if rightly studied, to solve all doubts, had rendered unnecessary. The work, in spite of its passages of eloquence and profusion of learning, is too prolix to be a favourite in these latter days, but it is still, says his biographer, (p. ccxciii.) one “which few can read without profit, and none, I think, without entertainment. It resembles in some degree those ancient inlaid cabinets, (such as Evelyn, Boyle, or Wilkins might have bequeathed to their descendants,) whose multifarious contents perplex our choice, and offer to the admiration or curiosity of a more accurate age a vast wilderness of trifles and varieties with no arrangement at all, or an arrangement on obsolete principles, but whose ebony drawers and perfumed recesses contain specimens of every thing that is precious or uncommon, and many things for which a modern museum might be searched in vain.”

Taylor’s accidental presence in London at this period, when the hopes of the Royalists were reviving, was probably serviceable to his 6future fortunes. He obtained by it the opportunity of joining in the Royalist declaration of April 24; and he was among the first to derive benefit from the restoration of that King and that Church, of whose interests he had ever been a most zealous, able, and consistent supporter. He was nominated Bishop of Down and Connor, August 6, 1660, and consecrated in St. Patrick’s Cathedral January 27, 1661. In the interval he was appointed Vice-chancellor of the University of Dublin, which during past troubles had been greatly dilapidated and disordered, in respect both of its revenues and discipline. He was the principal instrument in remodelling and completing the statutes, and settling the University in its present form.

In the spring of 1661 Taylor was made a member of the Irish Privy Council, and the small diocese of Dromore, adjacent to Down, was assigned to his charge, “on account,” in the words of the writ under the Privy Seal, “of his virtue, wisdom, and industry.” This praise was well deserved by his conduct in that difficult time, when those who had displaced the episcopal clergy were apprehensive of being in their turn obliged to give way, and religious differences were embittered by thoughts of temporal welfare. Taylor had to deal chiefly with the wilder and most enthusiastic party, and his advances towards an intercourse of Christian charity were met with scorn and insult. But his exemplary conduct, and persevering gentleness of demeanour, did much to soften at least the laity of his opponents; for we are told that the nobility and gentry of the three dioceses over which he presided came over, with one exception, to the Bishop’s side.

His varied duties can now have left little time for the labour of the pen; still he published sermons from time to time, and in 1664 completed and published his last great work, a ‘Dissuasive from Popery,’ undertaken by desire of the collective body of Irish bishops. He continued after his elevation to reside principally at Portmore, occasionally at Lisburne. Of his habits, and the incidents of this latter part of his life, we know next to nothing; except that he suffered the severest affliction which could befal a man of his sensibility and piety, in the successive deaths of his three surviving sons, and the misconduct of two of them. One died at Lisburne, in March, 1661; one fell in a duel, his adversary also dying of his wounds; the third became the favourite companion of the profligate Duke of Buckingham, and died of a decline, August 2, 1667. Of the latter event the Bishop can scarcely have heard, for he died on the 13th of the same month, after ten days’ sickness. He was buried at Dromore. Two of his daughters married in Ireland, into the families of Marsh and Harrison; and 7several Irish families of repute claim to be connected with the blood of this exemplary prelate by the female line.

The materials for Bishop Taylor’s life are very scanty. The earliest sketch of it is to be found in the funeral sermon preached by his friend and successor in the see of Dromore, Dr. Rust, who sums up the virtues of the deceased in a peroration of highly-wrought panegyric, of which the following just eulogy is a part—“He was a person of great humility; and notwithstanding his stupendous parts, and learning, and eminency of place, he had nothing in him of pride and humour, but was courteous and affable, and of easy access, and would lend a ready ear to the complaints, yea, to the impertinence of the meanest persons. His humility was coupled with an extraordinary piety; and I believe he spent the greatest part of his time in heaven.... To all his other virtues he added a large and diffusive charity; and whoever compares his plentiful income with the inconsiderable estate he left at his death, will be easily convinced that charity was steward for a great proportion of his revenue. But the hungry that he fed, and the naked that he clothed, and the distressed that he supplied, and the fatherless that he provided for, the poor children that he put to apprentice, and brought up at school, and maintained at the university, will now sound a trumpet to that charity which he dispensed with his right hand, but would not suffer his left hand to have any knowledge of it.

“To sum up all in a few words, this great prelate had the good humour of a gentleman, the eloquence of an orator, the fancy of a poet, the acuteness of a schoolman, the profoundness of a philosopher, the wisdom of a counsellor, the sagacity of a prophet, the reason of an angel, and the piety of a saint; he had devotion enough for a cloister, learning enough for an university, and wit enough for a college of virtuosi; and had his parts and endowments been parcelled out among his poor clergy that he left behind him, it would perhaps have made one of the best dioceses in the world. But, alas! ‘Our Father! our Father! the horses of our Israel, and the chariot thereof!’ he is gone, and has carried his mantle and his spirit along with him up to heaven; and the sons of the prophets have lost all their beauty and lustre which they enjoyed only from the reflection of his excellencies, which were bright and radiant enough to cast a glory upon a whole order of men.”

There is a life of Taylor by Archdeacon Bonney; and a copious memoir, enriched by a minute analysis of all the more remarkable compositions of our author, is prefixed to Bishop Heber’s edition of Taylor’s works. From this the materials of the present sketch are 8taken. Nor can we better conclude than with the eloquent estimate of Taylor’s merits, with which the accomplished biographer concludes his work. “It is on devotional and moral subjects that the peculiar character of Taylor’s mind is most, and most successfully, developed. To this service he devotes his most glowing language; to this his aptest illustrations, his thoughts, and his words, at once burst into a flame, when touched by the coals of this altar; and whether he describes the duties, or dangers, or hopes of man, or the mercy, power, and justice of the Most High; whether he exhorts or instructs his brethren, or offers up his supplications in their behalf to the common Father of all, his conceptions and his expressions belong to the loftiest and most sacred description of poetry, of which they only want, what they cannot be said to need, the name and the metrical arrangement.

“It is this distinctive excellence, still more than the other qualifications of learning and logical acuteness, which has placed him, even in that age of gigantic talent, on an eminence superior to any of his immediate contemporaries; and has seated him, by the almost unanimous estimate of posterity, on the same lofty elevation with Hooker and with Barrow.

“Of such a triumvirate, who shall settle the precedence? Yet it may, perhaps, be not far from the truth, to observe that Hooker claims the foremost rank in sustained and classic dignity of style, in political and pragmatical wisdom; that to Barrow the praise must be assigned of the closest and clearest views, and of a taste the most controlled and chastened; but that in imagination, in interest, in that which more properly and exclusively deserves the name of genius, Taylor is to be placed before either. The first awes most, the second convinces most, the third persuades and delights most: and, according to the decision of one whose own rank among the ornaments of English literature yet remains to be determined by posterity (Dr. Parr), Hooker is the object of our reverence, Barrow of our admiration, and Jeremy Taylor of our love.”

Engraved by C. E. Wagstaff.


From the original Picture by David in a Private Collection at Paris.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.



Antoine Laurent Lavoisier was born in Paris, August 26, 1743. He was educated under the eye of his father, a man of opulence, with discernment to appreciate his son’s abilities, and liberality to cultivate them without regard to cost. Lavoisier early showed a decided inclination for the physical sciences; and before he was twenty years old, had made himself master of the principal branches of natural philosophy.

In 1764 the government proposed an extraordinary premium for the best and cheapest project of lighting the streets of Paris, and other large cities. To this subject, involving a knowledge of several branches of science, Lavoisier immediately devoted his attention. He produced so able a memoir, full of the most masterly, accurate, and practical views, that the gold medal was awarded to him. This production was the means of introducing him into the Academy of Sciences, of which, after a severe contest, he was admitted a member, May 13, 1768; and he proved himself through life one of its most useful and valuable associates.

At this time the whole range of chemical and physico-chemical science was in an extremely imperfect state; and the first steps to a more improved system involved the necessity of clearing away a vast mass of error which encumbered the path to truth. For instance, one of the fanciful ideas, the offspring of the alchemy of the dark ages, which still continued to haunt the regions of science, was the belief of the conversion of water into earth by gradual consolidation. This 10subject Lavoisier treated in the true spirit of the experimental method, and clearly showed that the pretended conversion was either a deposition of earthy particles, or a sediment arising from the action of the water on the internal surface of the retort. He also laboured on the analysis of the gypsum found in the neighbourhood of Paris, and on the crystallization of salts. He discussed the project of conveying water from L’Yvette to Paris, and the theory of congelation; and to these researches added extensive observations on the phenomena of thunder and the Aurora Borealis.

He next directed his attention more especially to mineralogy; and made excursions, in conjunction with Guettard, into all parts of France, endeavouring to form from different districts a complete collection of their characteristic mineral productions. He made advances towards a systematic classification of facts connected with the localities of fossils, which afterwards served as the basis of his work on the revolutions of the globe and the formation of successive strata, of which two admirable abstracts were inserted in the Memoirs of the Academy of Sciences, for 1772 and 1787.

Thus during the earlier part of his life, Lavoisier does not seem to have devoted himself in particular to any one branch of science. But about the year 1770 the announcement of the existence of more than one species of gaseous matter, arising out of the successive researches of Black, Scheele, Priestley, and Cavendish, had the effect of fixing his attention to the subject of pneumatic chemistry. The invaluable discoveries just alluded to had opened a new world to the inquirer into nature; and the labours of those distinguished experimentalists had conspired to commence a fresh era in science. Lavoisier was one of the first to appreciate at once the importance of the results they had arrived at, and the immense field of further research to which those results had opened the way. He perceived by a sort of instinct the glorious career which lay before him; and the influence which this new science thus, as it were, created, must have over every sort of physical research. Priestley possessed precisely those qualifications which are most available for striking out new and brilliant discoveries of facts; a boundless fertility of invention; a power of rapidly seizing remote analogies; and an equal readiness in framing and in abandoning hypotheses, which have no value, but as guides to experiment. Lavoisier, less eminent in these respects, possessed in a more peculiar degree the mental characteristics which enable their owner to advance to grand generalizations and philosophical theories upon the sure basis of facts. 11He possessed, in its fullest sense, the true spirit of inductive caution, and even geometrical rigour; and his observations, eminently precise and luminous, always pointed to more general views.

In 1774, he published his ‘Opuscules Chimiques,’ in which, after a full and truly philosophical examination of the labours of preceding experimenters in the discovery of the gases and their characteristic properties, he proceeds to describe his own beautiful and fundamentally important researches, from which resulted the ‘True Theory of Combustion,’ which may be termed the very sun and centre of the whole modern system of chemistry.

To the vague dreams of the alchemist had succeeded the remarkable theory of Hooke, who maintained that a certain ingredient of the atmospheric air (which also enters as an ingredient into several other bodies, especially nitre) was the solvent which absorbed a portion of the combustible. This process was continued in proportion as more of the solvent was supplied. The solution took place with such rapidity, as to occasion those motions or pulsations in which Hooke believed heat and light to consist.

This near approach to the truth was thrown into discredit by the more brilliant and imposing theory of Stahl, who captivated the imaginations of chemists by his doctrine of phlogiston, the principle or element of fire, a sort of metaphysical something, which conferred the property of being combustible. Stahl taught that the process of combustion deprived bodies of their phlogiston, which, in the act of separation, exhibited its latent energies in the evolution of light and heat.

This wild chimera long maintained its ground, and received successive modifications in the hands of several distinguished chemists, the most important of which was that of Kirwan; but these all retained the fundamental error that something was abstracted from the burning body. Yet Rey, so early as 1630, and Bayer afterwards, had both shown that metals by calcination increase in weight, or have something added to them. Lavoisier turned his attention to the defects of the existing theory about 1770; and the last-named experiments probably directed him more specifically to the essential point of the inquiry. He pursued his researches with unwearied industry; and by a long series of experiments of the most laborious and precise nature, he succeeded in determining that, in all cases of combustion, that substance which is the real combustible invariably receives an addition, or enters into a new combination; and the matter with which it combines 12is in all cases that same substance which had now been shown by Priestley to be one of the constituents of the atmosphere, and which was then known by the name of vital air.

It was however long before Lavoisier gained a single convert. At length M. Berthollet, at a meeting of the Academy in 1785, publicly renounced the old opinions and declared himself a convert. Fourcroy followed his example. In 1787, Morveau, during a visit to Paris, became convinced, and declared the conclusions of Lavoisier irresistible. The younger chemists speedily embraced the new views; and their establishment was thus complete. There only remained some lurking prejudices in England, where the Essay of Kirwan retained its credit. Lavoisier and his coadjutors translated this essay into French, accompanying each section by a refutation. So completely was this done, that the author himself was convinced; and, with that candour which distinguishes superior minds, gave up his views as untenable, and declared himself a convert.

These discoveries introduced Lavoisier to the notice of the most eminent persons in the State; and in 1776, Turgot engaged him to superintend the manufacture of gunpowder for the Government. He introduced many valuable improvements in the process, and many judicious reforms into the establishment.

In 1778, Lavoisier having been incessantly engaged on the subject of gases and combustion, announced another great discovery, “that the respirable portion of the atmosphere is the constituent principle of acids,” which he therefore denominated oxygen.

The question as to “the acidifying principle” had long formed the subject of discussion. The prevalent theory was that of Beccher with various modifications, which made the acid principle a compound of earth and water regarded as elements. Lavoisier found in the instance of a great number of the acids, that they consisted of a combustible principle united with oxygen. He showed this both analytically and synthetically, and hence proceeded to the conclusion that oxygen is the acidifying principle in all acids. Berthollet opposed this doctrine, and contended that, in general, acidity depended on the manner and proportion in which the constituents are combined. The fact is, that, in this instance, Lavoisier had advanced a little too rapidly to his conclusion. Had he contented himself with stating it as applying to a great number of acids, it would have been strictly true; but he had certainly no proof of its being universally the case. When Sir H. Davy, some years after, showed that one of the most powerful acids (the muriatic) 13does not contain a single particle of oxygen, and when the researches of Guy Lussac and others had exhibited other proofs of the same thing, it became evident that Lavoisier’s assertion required considerable modification. And though nearly all acids have been since included under the general law of containing some supporter of combustion, yet there appear to be exceptions even to this; the cautious language of Berthollet has been completely justified; and a perfect theory of acidity is perhaps yet wanting. Nevertheless, Lavoisier’s discovery is one of first-rate magnitude and importance, and with this qualification, certainly forms the basis of all our present knowledge of the subject.

Another important research in which Lavoisier engaged, in conjunction with Laplace, was the determination of the specific heats of bodies, by means of an ingenious apparatus, which they denominated the calorimeter: these were by far the most precise experiments on the subject which had as yet been made, though some inaccuracies in the method have since been pointed out.

Lavoisier owed much, it must be owned, to those external advantages of fortune, the absence of which, though it cannot confine the flights of real genius, yet may seriously impair the value and efficiency of its exertions; and the presence of which, though it cannot confer the powers of intellect, may yet afford most invaluable aids to the prosecution of research, and the dissemination of knowledge. In the instance before us, these advantages were enjoyed to the full extent, and turned to the best use. Lavoisier was enabled to command the most unlimited resources of instrumental aid; he pursued his researches in a laboratory furnished with the most costly apparatus, and was able to put every suggestion to the test of experiment, by the assistance of the most skilful artists, and instruments of the most perfect construction.

But as he could thus command these essential advantages for the prosecution of his own investigations, he was equally mindful of the extension of similar advantages to others: he always evinced himself ready to assist the inquiries of those who had not the same means at their disposal; and was no less liberal in aiding them by his stores of information and able advice. Indeed no one could be more sensible how much there is of mutual advantage in such intercourse between those engaged in the same scientific labours; and this conviction, joined with a full perception of the immense benefits accruing from personal acquaintance among men of kindred pursuits, and the interchange of social good offices, led him to the regular practice of opening his house on two evenings in every week, for an assembly of all the 14scientific men of the French capital; which very soon became a point of general resort and reunion to the philosophers of Europe.

At these meetings general discourse and philosophic discussion were agreeably intermingled; the opinions of the most eminent philosophers were freely canvassed; the most striking and novel passages in the publications of foreign countries were made known, recited, and animadverted upon; and the progress of experiment was assisted by candid comments and comparison with theory. In these assemblies might be found, mingling in instructive and delightful conversation, all those whose names made the last century memorable in the annals of science. Priestley, Fontana, Landriani, Watt, Bolton, and Ingenhouz, were associated with Laplace, Lagrange, Borda, Cousin, Monge, Morveau, and Berthollet. There was also an incalculable advantage in bringing into communication and intimacy men engaged in distinct branches of science: the intercourse of the mathematician with the geologist, of the astronomer with the chemist, of the computer with the experimenter, and of the artist with the theorist, could not fail to be of mutual advantage. In no instance were the beneficial effects of such intercourse more strikingly displayed than in the chemical sciences; which, from this sort of comparison of ideas and methods, began now to assume a character of exactness from an infusion of the spirit of geometry; and a department hitherto abandoned to the wildest speculations, and encumbered with the most vague and undefined phraseology (derived from the jargon of the alchemists), began to assume something like arrangement and method in its ideas, and precision and order in its nomenclature. This influence was strongly marked in the physical memoirs produced in France from this period downwards. The precision and severity of style, and the philosophical method of the mathematicians, was insensibly transfused into the papers of the physical and chemical philosophers.

Lavoisier individually profited greatly by the sources of improvement and information thus opened. Whenever any new result presented itself to him, which, perhaps, from contradicting all received theories, seemed paradoxical, or at variance with all principles hitherto recognised, it was fully laid before these select assemblies of philosophers; the experiment was exhibited in their presence, and they were invited with the utmost candour to offer their criticisms and objections. In perfect reliance on the mutual spirit of candour, they were not backward in urging whatever difficulties occurred to them, and the truth thus elicited acquired a firmness and stability in its public reception 15proportioned to the severity of the test it had undergone. Lavoisier seldom announced any discovery until it had passed this ordeal.

At length he combined his philosophical views into a connected system, which he published in 1789, under the title of ‘Elements of Chemistry:’ a beautiful model of scientific composition, clear and logical in its arrangement, perspicuous and even elegant in its style and manner. These perfections are rarely to be found in elementary works written by original discoverers. The genius which qualifies a man for enlarging the boundaries of science by his own inventions and researches is of a very different class from that which confers the ability to elucidate, in a simple and systematic course, the order and connexion of elementary truths. But in Lavoisier these different species of talent were most happily blended. He not only added profound truths to science, but succeeded in adapting them to the apprehension of students, and was able to render them attractive by his eloquence.

In 1791 he entered upon extensive researches, having for their object the application of pneumatic chemistry to the advancement of medicine, in reference to the process of respiration. With this view he examined in great detail the changes which the air undergoes, and the products generated in that process of the animal economy. He had previously, however, as far back as 1780, detailed a series of experiments to determine the quantity of oxygen consumed and carbonic acid generated by respiration, in a given time, in the Memoirs of the French Academy.

In the twenty volumes of the Academy of Sciences, from 1772 to 1793, are not less than forty memoirs by Lavoisier, replete with all the grand phenomena of the science:—the doctrine of combustion in all its bearings; the nature and analysis of atmospheric air; the generation and combinations of elastic fluids; the properties of heat; the composition of acids; the decomposition and recomposition of water; the solutions of metals; and the phenomena of vegetation, fermentation, and animalization. These are some of the most important subjects of his papers; and during the whole of this period he advanced steadily in the course which was pointed out to him by the unerring rules of inductive inquiry, to which his original genius supplied the commentary. So well did he secure every point of the results to which he ascended, that he never made a false step. It was only in one subject, before alluded to, that he may be said to have gone a few steps too far. Nor did he ever suffer himself to be discouraged, or his ardour to be damped by the difficulties and obstacles which perpetually impeded his 16progress. He traced new paths for investigation, and founded a new school of science; and his successors had ample employment in following out the inquiries which he had indicated, and exploring those recesses to which he had opened the way.

In the relations of social and civil life Lavoisier was exemplary; and he rendered essential service to the state in several capacities. He was treasurer to the Academy, and introduced economy and order into its finances: he was also a member of the board of consultation, and took an active share in its business. When the new system of measures was in agitation, and it was proposed to determine a degree of the meridian, he made accurate experiments on the dilatation of metals, in conjunction with Laplace (1782), to ascertain the corrections due to changes of temperature in the substances used as measuring rods in those delicate operations.

By the National Convention he was consulted on the means of improving the manufacture of assignats, and of increasing the difficulty of forgery. He turned his attention to matters of rural economy, and, by improved methods of cultivation, on scientific principles, he increased the produce of an experimental farm nearly one half. In 1791 he was invited by the Constituent Assembly to digest a plan for simplifying the collection of taxes: the excellent memoir which he produced on this subject was printed under the title of ‘The Territorial Riches of France.’ He was likewise appointed a Commissioner of the National Treasury, in which he effected some beneficial reforms.

During the terrors of Robespierre’s tyranny, Lavoisier remarked that he foresaw he should be stripped of all his property, and accordingly would prepare to enter the profession of an apothecary, by which he should be able to gain a livelihood. But the ignorant and brutal ruffians who were then in power had already condemned him to the scaffold, on which he was executed, May 8, 1794, for the pretended crime of having adulterated snuff with ingredients destructive to the health of the citizens! On being seized, he entreated at least to be allowed time to finish some experiments in which he was engaged; but the reply of Coffinhall, the president of the gang who condemned him, was characteristic of the savage ignorance of those monsters in human form:—“The Republic does not want savans or chemists, and the course of justice cannot be suspended.”

Lavoisier in person was tall and graceful, and of lively manners and appearance. He was mild, sociable, and obliging; and in his habits unaffectedly plain and simple. He was liberal in pecuniary assistance 17to those in need of it; and his hatred of all ostentation in doing good probably concealed greatly the real amount of his beneficence. He married, in 1771, Marie-Anni-Pierrette Paulze, a lady of great talents and accomplishments, who after his death became the wife of Count Rumford.



The celebrated physician, Thomas Sydenham, in many respects the most eminent that England has produced, was born in the year 1624, at Wynford-Eagle, in Dorsetshire, where his father, William Sydenham, enjoyed a considerable estate. The mansion in which he was born is now converted into a farm-house, and stands on the property of Lord Wynford.

In the year 1642, when eighteen, he was admitted as a commoner at Magdalen-Hall, Oxford; but quitted it in the same year, when that city became the head quarters of the royal army, after the battle of Edge-hill. He was probably induced to take this step by reasons of a political nature; for we find that his family were active adherents of the opposite party. Indeed he is said, though on doubtful authority, to have held a commission himself under the Parliament during his absence from Oxford; and his elder brother, William, is known to have attained considerable rank in the republican army, and held important commands under the Protectorate.

The political bias of his family is not without interest, as affording a probable explanation of some circumstances in his life which would otherwise be rather unaccountable,—such as the fact, that though he reached the first eminence as a practising physician, he was never employed at court, and was slighted by the college, who invested him with none of their honours, nor even advanced him to the fellowship, though a licentiate of their body, and qualified by the requisite University education.

When Oxford was surrendered to the Parliament, Sydenham determined to resume his academical studies; and passing through London

Engraved by E. Scriven.


From the Picture in the Hall of All Souls College, Oxford.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.

19on his way, he met accidentally with Dr. Thomas Coxe, a physician of some repute at that time, who was attending his brother. The choice of a profession became the subject of a conversation between them, which determined him in favour of medicine; for in a letter addressed to Dr. Mapletoft, thirty years after this time, which forms the preface to one of his writings, he refers with much warmth to this conversation as the origin of his professional zeal, and, consequently, of whatever useful advances he had made in medicine. Thus his success, both in the practice and reformation of his art, may show the advantage of waiting till the faculties are fully matured, before they are exercised in a study which requires independence as well as vigour in thinking: for the circumstances of his family being sufficiently affluent to place him above the necessity of choosing a profession early, he had not turned his attention to physic till an age at which the medical education is generally almost completed. We are not, however, to believe in the justice of an accusation brought against him, that he had never studied his profession till he began to practise it; for though we do not know what particular line of study he pursued on his return to Oxford, it is clear from many passages in his works that he had studied the writings of the ancient physicians with no common care; and as his own show no defect of acquaintance with whatever real information had been collected before his time, we may reasonably conclude that this contemporary censure was mistaken or malicious. He certainly held the opinions of his modern predecessors in very little respect, for he does not often mention them, even for the purpose of confutation; and in the letter to Dr. Mapletoft already referred to, he says that he had found the best, and, in fact, the only safe guide, through the various perplexities he had met with in his practice, to be the method of actual observation and experiment recommended by Lord Bacon. This sentiment is often repeated in his works; but it surely does not countenance the idea that he had begun to practise without endeavouring to make what preparation he could, or would have had others follow such an example; for the charge against him goes to this length. The notion might arise from a foolish anecdote related by his admirer, Sir Richard Blackmore, of his having recommended Don Quixote as the best introduction he knew to the practice of medicine, which Sydenham must have intended as a jest, or perhaps as a sarcasm on the narrator himself.

At Oxford he formed a close friendship with John Locke, better known afterwards as a philosopher than as a physician. Their intimacy, 20which lasted to the end of Sydenham’s life, probably contributed not a little to give form to the disgust which he soon displayed at the unsatisfactory and fluctuating state of medical opinion, and to the zeal with which he sought to establish it on surer grounds; for he appeals, as to the highest authority, in confirmation of some of his new views on the treatment of fever, to the approval of his illustrious friend, who even paid him the compliment of prefixing a eulogy in indifferent Latin verse to the treatise in which these views are developed.

On the 14th of April, 1648, he took the degree of bachelor of medicine, being then twenty-four years old; and in the same year obtained a fellowship at All Souls College, by the interest of a relation. The degree of doctor he subsequently took at Cambridge, where, being among those who thought with him in politics, he probably found himself more at his ease. After a visit of some length at Montpellier, then considered the best practical school of medicine on the continent, he settled in Westminster, and soon after married.

His progress to eminence in his profession must have been unusually rapid, which might be owing, in some measure, to the call for men of good capacity to the more stirring scenes of civil strife; for at thirty-six he had succeeded in establishing a first-rate reputation, which he continued to sustain in spite of much hostility and ill-health for upwards of twenty years.

He witnessed the breaking out of the plague in 1665, but when it reached the house adjoining his own, he was induced to remove with his family some miles out of town. Of this desertion of his post, however, he seems to have repented; for he afterwards returned, and occupied himself diligently in visiting the victims of that devastating malady, and has left a short but interesting account of his opinions respecting it, and of the treatment he adopted; for the comparative success of which, he appeals to the physicians who had witnessed or followed his practice.

At the age of 25, though a man of remarkably temperate and regular habits, he became afflicted with gout and stone, from which he suffered extreme torment with great resignation and patience for the rest of his life. Of course he did not neglect the opportunity of studying those diseases in his own person, and recording the result of his observations. His account of gout, especially, is considered to be a most accurate and able history of that disease.

He died, leaving a family, at his house in Pall-Mall, on the 29th of December, 1689, in the 66th year of his age, and was buried in the 21parish church of St. James, Westminster, where, in 1810, a tablet was erected to his memory by the College of Physicians, who became, as a body, tardily but fully convinced of his extraordinary merit and eminent claims to the gratitude and respect of his profession.

He is said to have been a man of the most retiring and unobtrusive disposition, and the utmost placidity of temper. In a biographical sketch by Dr. Samuel Johnson, prefixed to an English edition of his works by Swan, in 1742, it is remarked, that if he could not teach us in his writings how to cure the painful disorders from which he suffered, he has taught us by his example the nobler art to bear them with serenity. Nor was he less patient of mental than of bodily inflictions; for though he was the object of much asperity among the physicians of his time, he made no reprisals upon the reputations of those who slandered him: though he often speaks of their bitterness, he never even mentions their names,—a forbearance to which, as his biographer pungently remarks, they are indebted for their escape from a discreditable immortality. His writings breathe throughout a spirit of warm piety, candour, and benevolence: he is said to have been extremely generous in his dealings with his patients; for which, with other reasons, his practice though large was not very gainful, and he did not leave much wealth behind him. He never was sought after by the great, like his successor and disciple Radcliffe; and had none of the talents by which that singular man was able to push his fortune and establish a kind of professional despotism. Yet, whatever medical skill the latter evinced seems to have been derived from Sydenham, whose doctrines and treatment he contrived to bring into a much more early and general repute in England than they would probably have otherwise obtained. Each had his reward: the one will be long remembered as the founder of a magnificent library; the other can never be forgotten as the author of modern medicine.

The bent of Sydenham’s mind was eminently practical; he thought that the business of a physician is to acquire an accurate knowledge of the causes and symptoms of diseases, and the effects of different remedies upon them, that if he cannot prevent them, he may at least recognise them with certainty, and apply with promptitude the means most likely to cure them: with Hippocrates and the ancient empirical physicians, whose tenets he professed to follow, he condemned all curious speculations upon the intimate nature of disease, as incapable of proof, and therefore always useless, and often hurtful; and maintained that the only trustworthy source of opinion in medicine is 22experience resulting from observations frequently repeated, and experiments cautiously varied; and that no theories worth attention can be framed until the recorded experience of many observers, under many different circumstances, and even through successive ages, shall be embodied into one general system; and he boldly declared his belief that every acute disease might then be cured. An instance, which unfortunately as yet stands alone in support of this rather sanguine expectation, may be taken from the history of small-pox. The observation of its contagious nature led to the general practice of inoculation, and this to the immortal discovery of Jenner, by which a disease but yesterday the scourge of the earth has been almost extinguished. It is remarkable that Sydenham, who first pointed out the important difference between its distinct and confluent forms,—who so materially improved the treatment by changing it from stifling to cooling,—and who studied and has described it with a laborious accuracy hardly paralleled in the history of medicine,—was not aware of this, to us, its most striking characteristic of contagion. A person conversant with such subjects will feel no surprise at this: to the general reader it may be a sufficient explanation, that it lies dormant for ten days; and that as it can only be taken once, and was always prevalent in London, the number of persons susceptible at any given time, and in obvious communication with each other, were comparatively few: so that opportunities were not so likely to arise as might be imagined of tracing its progress in single families or neighbourhoods from one source of contagion.

Sydenham is justly celebrated for the happiness of his descriptions, and his skilful application of simple methods of cure, which are as effectual as they were novel in that age when a medical prescription sometimes contained a hundred different substances; but he has merit of a higher kind, as a discoverer of general laws. Among others, he was the first to notice that there is a uniformity in the fevers prevailing at any one time, which is subject to periodical changes; and that other acute diseases often partake largely of the same general character, and sometimes even merge in it altogether, as the plague is said to have swallowed up all other diseases. This, which he ascribed to some peculiar state of the atmosphere, he called its epidemic constitution; and to be aware of its vicissitudes must of course be very important to the physician as a guide to practice. The value of these laws, which Sydenham deduced from a multitude of observations, has been attested by almost every medical writer since his time.

23His works have been repeatedly printed in the original Latin, as well as in English and the continental languages. The first was published after he had been sixteen years in practice; the last he edited himself, is dated three years before his death; and an elegant compendium of his experience was published posthumously by his son. They all appear to have been extorted by the importunity of his friends or the misrepresentations of his enemies. It is said that they were composed in English, and translated into Latin by his friends Mapletoft and Havers: there is, however, little reason for attaching credit to this report, as we are assured, on the authority of Sir Hans Sloane, who knew him well, that Sydenham was an excellent classical scholar, and perfectly capable of expressing himself elegantly in Latin. They are most carefully written and clearly expressed, and bear marks of the utmost truth and impartiality in the narration of facts, and judgment in arranging them. They are not voluminous, as he studiously refrained from overloading them with trivial matter, and from entering into the detail of a greater number of cases than might be sufficient to illustrate his method of practice. His object was to confine himself to the results of his own observation: to this he pretty strictly adhered, so that little space is occupied in his writings by quotations or criticism. It must be admitted that he occasionally lapses into theoretical discussion, in violation of his own principles; but as he seldom or never permitted his fancy to divert him from what was practically useful, he may be pardoned, if in that age of speculation he could not entirely resist the seduction. A graver charge against him is, that he overlooked or undervalued the immense body of information to be obtained from examining the effects of diseased actions after death, and devoted himself too exclusively to the study of the symptoms during life, and the effect of remedies upon them. It is hardly a sufficient justification of a man of so much independence of spirit to reply, that such examinations were opposed by the prejudices of the age in which he lived. Others have overcome the same obstacles, and with them many of those difficulties which perplexed and misled even the mind of Sydenham. He had equal or greater difficulties to contend against in the deep-rooted absurdities of the chemical and mechanical schools, which in the early part of his life held an almost equally divided sway in medicine: the former originated with Paracelsus and his disciples, and had the advantage of a longer prescription; and the latter had received a fresh accession of strength from the recent 24discoveries of Harvey: both, however, gave way before his energetic appeal to fact and experience. Scarcely less credit is due to him for his successful opposition to the popular superstition in favour of a host of futile remedies, which are now happily consigned to oblivion with the family receipt books and herbals in which their virtues were paraded, than for his victory over false principles and dangerous rules of practice.

On the whole, it may be safely advanced that medicine, as a practical science, owes more to the closely-printed octavo, in which the results of his toilsome exertions are comprised, than to any other single source of information.

Engraved by C. E. Wagstaff.


From the Picture in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.



Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, the third son of Henry Hyde, of Dinton, Esquire, a younger branch of an ancient family long established in Cheshire, was born at Dinton, near Salisbury, February 18, 1609. The most valuable part of his early education he received from his father, who was an excellent scholar: from his residence at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, where he entered in 1622, and took his bachelor’s degree in 1625, according to his own account he obtained little benefit. In February 1627, he was entered at the Middle Temple. At the age of twenty-one, he married his first wife, who died within six months of their union. After the lapse of three years he was again married, to the daughter of Sir Thomas Aylesbury, Master of Requests to the King, by whom he left a numerous family. He was called to the bar in Michaelmas term, 1633. To the study of law he entertained in the first instance a strong dislike, and applied himself chiefly to history and general literature. But from the time of his second marriage he devoted himself steadily to the pursuit of his profession, in which he early acquired considerable practice and reputation. His business was, however, more frequent in the Court of Requests, in the Star Chamber, than in the courts of common law, and his name rarely appears in the reports of that period.

Soon after he was called to the bar, Mr. Hyde was concerned in a transaction of considerable moment, which produced important consequences in his future life, by introducing him to the favourable notice of Archbishop Laud. It arose out of certain Custom-House regulations, by which the London merchants found themselves aggrieved. The leading men among them applied to Mr. Hyde, who, on finding all remonstrances with the Lord Treasurer unavailing, advised them to state their grievances in a petition to the King, which he drew for them. On the death of the Lord Treasurer, the Earl of Portland, 26the affairs of the Treasury were placed under the management of several commissioners, of whom Laud was one. The Archbishop soon found occasion to investigate the complaint of the merchants; and in consequence he sent for, and held several interviews with, Mr. Hyde: to whom he became a valuable and efficient patron, noticing him particularly when he appeared as counsel in the Star Chamber, and consulting and employing him on many public occasions.

Laud’s favour introduced Mr. Hyde to the Lord Keeper Coventry, the Earl of Manchester, then Lord Privy Seal, and other political and legal characters of high rank, of the court party. With the leaders of the popular, or country party also he was upon friendly terms, “having,” as he says, “that rare felicity, that even they who did not love many of those upon whom he most depended, were yet very well pleased with him and with his company.”

Upon the summoning of what was called the Short Parliament, which met April 3, 1640, Mr. Hyde was elected member for Wootton-Basset, and for Shaftesbury. He chose to take his seat for the former place. His first and only speech during the session was in the celebrated debate on the subject of grievances, introduced by a motion of Mr. Pym; on which occasion Mr. Hyde directed the attention of the house to the enormous abuses of the Earl Marshal’s Court. Whitelocke says that “he gained much credit by his conduct in this business.” In the warm debate which took place in the House of Commons upon the question of a supply, it was hinted by members of the house connected with the court, that Charles, upon hearing of their proceedings, would probably dissolve the parliament in displeasure. Mr. Hyde perceived the injurious tendency of such a measure, and immediately went from the house to Archbishop Laud, to entreat him to dissuade the King from so injudicious a course. The Archbishop heard him as usual with patience, but refused to interfere: and the Parliament was dissolved in less than three weeks after its first meeting.

The necessities of the King compelled him to call the Long Parliament in the following November, of which Mr. Hyde was also a member. The elections having in general favoured the popular party, the temper of this parliament was at its commencement decidedly more opposed to the court than the last. At first, Mr. Hyde, whose familiarity with Laud was well known, was an object of jealousy and dislike. His conduct as chairman of the committee appointed to consider the abuses of the Earl Marshal’s Court, which led to the total abolition of that unauthorized jurisdiction, and his avowed disapprobation of several obnoxious branches of the prerogative, restored him 27in some degree to the good opinion of the house, while his influence with the moderate party, both in the court and the parliament, daily increased. Having given up his professional practice since the beginning of the parliament, he was much employed in the ordinary business of the house. He was chairman of the committee appointed to inquire into the legality and expediency of the courts of the President and Council of the North, commonly called the Courts of York; and in April, 1641, he was commissioned to communicate to the House of Lords the resolutions of the Commons against those courts. The performance of this duty he accompanied by a speech, in which he explained to the Lords, with much clearness and precision, the origin and nature of this obnoxious jurisdiction, and which he says in his History, “met with good approbation in both houses.” In July following he was chairman of the committee for inquiring into the conduct of the judges in the case of ship-money; and the management of the impeachment of the Lord Chief Baron Davenport, Baron Weston, and Baron Trevor, before the Lords, was afterwards entrusted to him. Upon this occasion, he delivered an excellent speech, exhibiting, in eloquent language, the destructive effects of the corruption of the judges upon the liberty of the subject and the security of property. During the same year, he appears from the Commons’ journals to have been usually named on the most important committees both of a public and private nature.

The course adopted by Mr. Hyde with reference to the Earl of Strafford’s prosecution cannot be precisely ascertained. That he was employed in arranging the preliminary steps for the impeachment, appears from the journals; but in his History he does not explicitly declare what part he took upon the introduction of the bill of attainder. Some of his biographers state that he warmly opposed it; but no evidence is given in support of the assertion; and it is quite clear that neither his name, nor that of Lord Falkland, his political and personal friend, appear amongst those which were posted as “Straffordians, Betrayers of their Country,” for having voted against the measure. Though he cordially acquiesced in many of the measures at this time introduced by the popular leaders for the redress of grievances, his political opinions, as well as his ultimate views and intentions, differed widely from those of the predominant party. He strenuously opposed a bill for depriving the bishops of their seats in parliament, which passed the House of Commons, though it was rejected in the House of Lords by a great majority. In no degree discouraged by this discomfiture, the leaders of the Puritan party soon afterwards introduced 28a measure for the total abolition of episcopacy, known by the title of ‘The Root and Branch Bill,’ which was read a first time and committed. Mr. Hyde was appointed chairman of the committee, by common consent of both parties; the one wishing to get rid of his opposition in the committee, the other to secure a chairman of their own views. The result proved the latter party to be in the right; for Hyde contrived so to baffle the promoters of the measure, that they at last thought proper to withdraw it, Sir Arthur Haselrig declaring in the house, that “he would never hereafter put an enemy into the chair.” His conduct respecting this measure was warmly approved by the King; who before he went to Scotland in 1641, sent for Mr. Hyde, to express how much he was beholden to him for his services, “for which he thought fit to give him his own thanks, and to assure him that he would remember it to his advantage.”

Before the King left Whitehall, in consequence of the tumults occasioned by his indiscretion in demanding the Five Members, he charged Mr. Hyde, in conjunction with Lord Falkland and Sir John Colepeper, to consult constantly together upon the state of affairs in his absence, and to give him on every occasion their unreserved advice, without which he declared solemnly that he would take no step in the parliament. Though much discouraged by the previous conduct of the King respecting the Five Members, which he had adopted without consulting them, and entirely against their judgment, they undertook and faithfully executed the charge imposed upon them; and after the King had left London, they met every night at Mr. Hyde’s house in Westminster, to communicate to each other their several intelligences and observations, and to make such arrangements as they thought best adapted to stay the falling fortunes of the royal cause.

Mr. Hyde’s good understanding with the leaders of the popular party had rapidly declined, since his opposition to the proposed measure for ejecting the bishops from the House of Lords; and after his conduct in the committee for abolishing episcopacy he was regarded as a declared enemy, and his nightly consultations with Falkland and Colepeper were watched with the utmost jealousy. Though his situation at this time was one of considerable danger, he remained at his post after the King’s departure to York, and constantly took his seat in the House of Commons. About the latter end of April, 1642, Mr. Hyde received a letter from the King, requiring him immediately to repair to him at York; with which requisition he complied in the course of the next month, having first rendered a signal service to the royal cause by persuading the Lord Keeper Littleton to send the Great Seal and also 29to go himself to the King. In consequence of this step the House of Commons passed a resolution, in August, 1642, disabling him from sitting again in that parliament; and their indignation was raised to such a degree, that Mr. Hyde was one of the few persons who were excepted from the pardon which the Earl of Essex was afterwards instructed to offer to those who might be induced to leave the King and submit to the parliament. On joining the King at York, Mr. Hyde continued to be one of his most confidential advisers, and was soon afterwards knighted and made Chancellor of the Exchequer. In this capacity he negotiated with the parliamentary commissioners sent to Oxford in 1643; and in 1645 he acted as one of the King’s commissioners at the treaty of Uxbridge. After the breaking off of that treaty it was thought expedient to send the Prince of Wales into the west of England, both to secure his person from the dangers with which his father was environed, and to give encouragement to the Royalists in that part of the country. Sir Edward Hyde accompanied him as one of his council. The parliamentary successes in the west compelled the Prince to migrate, first to Scilly, thence to Jersey, from which place he departed into France in July, 1646. Hyde remained in Jersey for the space of two years, devoting himself wholly to his History of the Rebellion, which he had commenced in the Scilly Islands, and of which he completed the four first books at that time. While engaged in this manner, he received several letters from the King, expressive of his approbation of his undertaking, and supplying him with a particular relation of the occurrences which had taken place from the departure of the Prince until the period of his joining the Scotch army.

In May, 1648, Hyde received the King’s commands to join the Prince of Wales at Paris. On the way thither, he met Lord Cottington and others at Rouen, where he learned that the Prince was gone to Holland, and was ordered to follow him. After many difficulties and dangers, Cottington and Hyde met their young master at the Hague in the month of August, and were soon afterwards joined by several other members of the King’s council.

On the announcement of the execution of his father, Charles despatched Sir Edward Hyde and Lord Cottington as his ambassadors to Spain. After a fruitless negotiation of fifteen months, they received a message from court shortly after the arrival of the news of Cromwell’s victory at Dunbar, desiring them to quit the Spanish dominions. Hyde then repaired to Antwerp, where he resided with his wife and family, until, at the end of 1651, he was summoned to Paris, to meet Charles II., after his memorable escape from the battle of Worcester. 30He resided at Paris with the exiled court for nearly three years, and during this period enjoyed the unlimited confidence of his master, who left the arduous and difficult task of corresponding and negotiating with the English royalists entirely to his management. At this period the exiled royalists were frequently reduced to great pecuniary distress. The miserable dissensions and petty jealousies which prevailed among them are fully described in the History of the Rebellion. At length Charles, wearied and disgusted by the intrigues and broils which perpetually disturbed his council, while subject to the interference of the Queen Mother, determined to leave Paris; and accordingly he quitted that city in June, 1654, and went to reside at Cologne, Sir Edward Hyde and the rest of his court still following his humble fortunes. Upon the execution of the treaty with Spain, Charles removed from Cologne to Bruges in 1657, and in the course of that year bestowed upon Sir Edward Hyde the then empty dignity of Lord High Chancellor of England. Soon after this event the prospects of the Royalists began to brighten. The government of Cromwell had been for some time growing infirm, in consequence of domestic dissensions, the exhausted state of the revenue, and the distrust entertained towards the Protector, who had successively deceived and disappointed all parties. These seeds of discord were sedulously cultivated by the English royalists; and at last the death of that extraordinary man led to a series of events which introduced the restoration of Charles II.

At the Restoration Sir Edward Hyde was continued as Lord Chancellor; and notwithstanding the constant hostility of the Queen Mother and her faction at court, he maintained for some time a paramount influence with the King, who treated him with the confidence and friendship which his great industry and talents for business, and his faithful attachment to himself and his father so well deserved. In November, 1660, he was raised to the peerage, by the title of Baron Hyde of Hindon in the county of Wilts, and in the spring of the following year he was created Viscount Cornbury and Earl of Clarendon. He was also about this time elected Chancellor of the University of Oxford. Among the tribes of expectant cavaliers who now flocked to the court of the restored monarch, all impatient to obtain something in recompense for their alleged services and sufferings in the royal cause, these honours and distinctions bestowed upon the Earl of Clarendon raised a storm of envy and malice which eventually caused his ruin. The King’s easiness of access, and, as Lord Clarendon calls it, that “imbecillitas frontis, which kept him from denying,” together with the moral cowardice which induced him to escape from 31the most troublesome importunities, by sending petitioners to the Chancellor for their answers, necessarily increased the dislike with which he was regarded. The discovery of the marriage of his daughter to the Duke of York, afterwards James II., though it probably took place without the knowledge of the Chancellor, gave ample opportunity to the malice of his enemies. The King, however, behaved on this occasion in a manner which did him credit. He not only required the Duke to acknowledge his wife, on being certified that the ceremony had been duly performed, but refused with passion the proffered resignation of the Chancellor, who offered to reside in future beyond seas, and conjured him “never more to think of those unreasonable things, but to attend and prosecute his business with his usual alacrity, since his kindness should never fail him.”

The first open act of hostility against Lord Clarendon was undertaken by the Earl of Bristol, who, in 1663, exhibited articles of high treason and other misdemeanors against him in the House of Lords. These articles, which contained a great variety of vague and inconsistent charges, were forwarded by the House of Lords to the King, who informed them, that “he found several matters of fact charged, which upon his own certain knowledge were untrue; and that the articles contained many scandalous reflections upon himself and his family, which he looked upon as libels against his person and government.” Upon a reference by the House of Lords to the judges, they reported that “the whole charge did not amount to treason though it were all true;” and upon this the proceedings were abandoned.

But it was at last the fate of Lord Clarendon to experience the proverbial ingratitude of princes. From the period of the Restoration a powerful union of discontented parties had gradually combined against him. All hated him—the old cavaliers, because they thought he neglected their just claims upon the bounty of the King; the papists and the dissenters, because they found him an uncompromising opponent of all concessions to those whom he regarded as enemies of the established church; the licentious adherents of an unprincipled court, because his honest endeavours to withdraw the King from his levity and profligacy to serious considerations, thwarted their intentions and interrupted their pleasures. Their united efforts erased from Charles’s mind the recollection of services of no common value, and caused him to abandon his best and most faithful counsellor, without having even the appearance of a reason for his conduct, beyond what he called “the Chancellor’s intolerable temper.”

The Great Seal was taken from Lord Clarendon in August, 1667; and in the month of November following, after an angry debate, he 32was impeached by the Commons, in general terms, of high treason and other crimes and misdemeanors; but the Lords, upon the impeachment being carried up, refused to commit him, or to sequester him from parliament, on the ground of the generality of the charge. Before the formal articles of impeachment were prepared, Lord Clarendon left England, in consequence of repeated messages from the King advising him to take that course, having previously addressed to the Lords a vindication of his conduct. Immediately after his departure a bill was introduced into the House of Lords, and rapidly passed, by which he was condemned to perpetual banishment, and declared to be for ever incapable of bearing any public office or employment in England.

The charges made against Lord Clarendon at this time were scarcely less multifarious and inconsistent than those which were instituted by Lord Bristol a few years before. He was accused of designing to govern by a standing army,—of accusing the King of popery,—of receiving bribes for patents,—of selling offices,—of acquiring a greater estate than he could lawfully have gained in a short time,—of advising the sale of Dunkirk to the French,—of causing Quo Warrantos to be issued against corporations in order that he might receive fines on renewals of charters, and many other particulars of alleged corruption. From most of these accusations Lord Clarendon vindicated himself in an address delivered to the House of Lords upon his departure; but during his retirement at Montpellier, he prepared, and transmitted to his children in England a fuller apology, in which he answered each article of the charges objected to him by the Commons.

After some hesitation, Lord Clarendon determined to reside at Montpellier, where he arrived in July, 1668. He was treated with much courtesy and respect by the governor of the city, as well as the French and English inhabitants of all ranks. His first task was to write the vindication of his conduct above-mentioned. During his retirement he made himself master of French and Italian, and read the works of the most eminent writers in both those languages. He also completed his History of the Rebellion, and wrote an answer to Hobbes’s Leviathan, an Historical Discourse on Papal Jurisdiction, a volume of Essays, divine, moral, and political, and also those fragments of his Life, which were first published by the University of Oxford in 1759. Engaged in these pursuits he passed nearly three years at Montpellier in great tranquillity and cheerfulness. He left that city in 1672, and went first to Moulins, then to Rouen, where he died, December 9, 1673. His remains were brought to England and interred in Westminster Abbey.

The political conduct of Lord Clarendon, though variously described 33by writers of opposite parties, appears to have been generally as consistent and upright as can reasonably be expected from men of warm tempers, deeply interested in the most violent civil dissensions. His earliest impressions were decidedly in favour of the popular party; and even after he had become familiar with Archbishop Laud, and was favourably noticed by Charles I., he strenuously supported that party in the removal of actual grievances, and resisted with zeal and energy the encroachments of prerogative. That he afterwards refused to join in the wild and intemperate actions committed by the Parliament, and supported the royal cause against the continually increasing demands of those with whom he had previously acted, is not to be ascribed to inconsistency in his conduct, but to the development of designs and measures at all times repugnant to his principles. His advice to Charles I. and to Laud was always temperate and wise, and was given with boldness and candour. After the Restoration, in the height of his power and influence, he displayed the same moderation in his opinions and conduct, and acted upon the same principles of dislike to fundamental changes, which had influenced him as a member of the Long Parliament. It has been imputed to Lord Clarendon that he neglected to exert himself for the relief of those unfortunate cavaliers whose attachment to the King had involved them in penury and ruin. It is difficult to ascertain the exact truth of this charge; but, whether true or false, such an accusation was sure to be made in a case where the applicants for compensation were numerous, and the means of satisfying them inconsiderable.

In the discharge of the legal functions of his office of Lord Chancellor, as presiding in the Court of Chancery, he was by no means distinguished; he promoted some reforms in the practice of his court, and continued the judicious improvements effected during the Commonwealth; but Evelyn says “he was no considerable lawyer,” and the circumstance that he never decided a case without requiring the presence of two judges is, if true, a sufficient acknowledgment of his judicial incompetency.

For his judicial appointments Lord Clarendon is entitled to unqualified praise. Hale, Bridgeman, and other judges of the highest eminence for learning and independence, were appointed by him immediately after the Restoration, and contributed in a great degree to give stability and moral strength to the new government, by the confidence which their characters inspired in the due administration of the law.

As an historian Lord Clarendon was unquestionably careless and inexact to a surprising degree, which may in some measure be excused 34by the necessity of writing very much from recollection; and he was a perpetual advocate and partisan of the Royal cause, though by no means of most of its supporters. But though his narration constantly betrays the bias of party, and cannot therefore be safely relied upon for our historical conclusions, his misrepresentations arise from the avowed partiality and intense concern he feels for the cause he is advocating, and not from any design to suppress or distort facts. His style is luxuriant and undisciplined, and his expression in the narrative parts of his history is diffuse and inaccurate; but his fervent loyalty and the warmth of his attachment to his political friends have infused a richness of eloquence into his delineations of character, which has perhaps never been surpassed in any language.

[Medal of Clarendon.] [Medal in Commemoration of the Restoration.]

Engraved by J. Posselwhite.


From a 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.



“Sir Joshua Reynolds,” says Burke, “was the first Englishman who added the praise of the elegant arts to the other glories of his country.” Without staying to inquire how far the literal truth of this assertion may be affected by the priority in date of Wilson and Hogarth, not to mention their less illustrious predecessors, it may safely be affirmed, not only that Reynolds was the founder of the English school, but that the most valuable qualities in the art of painting were almost lost sight of throughout Europe when he began his career. In Holland, the rich manner of Rembrandt, feebly sustained by his imitators, had been succeeded by no less opposite a style than that of Vanderwerf; the still more laboured finish of Denner, a native of Hamburgh, followed; while the minute perfection which was in vogue found a more legitimate application in the flower-pieces of Van Huysum. Reynolds was twenty-four years old at the decease of Denner, who had twice visited London, and had been much employed there. The French school about the middle of the last century took its tone from Boucher, a name now almost forgotten, and if remembered, synonymous with the extreme of affectation; he was principal painter to Louis XV. The native country of Claude and Poussin was indeed more illustrious during this time in the department of landscape, as Vernet produced his views of sea-ports about the period alluded to; but this example, however respectable, was itself indicative of a declining taste, and the style of view-painting in the hands of the foreign artists who practised it in Italy, with the Prussian Hackert at their head, had the effect of extinguishing for a time all invention in landscape. The academy at Berlin was under the direction of a Frenchman; Oeser was the greatest name at Leipzic and Dresden; and the south of Germany still imported imitations of the latest Italian 36styles in fashion. The state of the arts in Spain may be judged of by the fact, that when, in 1761, Mengs, who was himself a native of Germany, repaired to Madrid in the service of Charles III., the chief painters established there were a Venetian and a Neapolitan, Tiepolo and Corrado Giaquinto. The Venetian school, sometimes entirely losing its original character, seemed at least to maintain a consistent degeneracy in the styles of Sebastian Ricci and the above-named Giambattista Tiepolo, both weak and mannered imitators of Paul Veronese, but still preserving, at least the latter, some brilliancy of colour and pleasing execution. With Tiepolo the characteristic merits of the school seem however to have ceased altogether: towards the latter part of the century, the chief employment of the Venetian painters was the restoration of old pictures.[2] A particular school was established in 1778 for this purpose, and a description of the extraordinary labours of the artists is preserved in the thirty-eighth volume of Goëthe’s works. In Rome, the talents of Maratta and Sacchi, and “the great but abused powers of Pietro da Cortona,” had been succeeded by feebler efforts, descending or fluctuating through the styles of Cignani, Trevisani, and others, till the time of Sebastian Conca, and Pompeo Battoni. The last-named was approaching the zenith of his short-lived reputation, and almost without a rival (for Mengs was as yet young, and Conca already aged), when Reynolds visited Rome.

2.  It is worthy of remark that about the same time the sculptors in Rome were as exclusively employed in restoring antique statues.

Laborious detail on the one hand, and empty facility on the other, formed the distinguishing characteristics of these different schools; but however opposite in execution, mind was alike wanting in both. Denner may be considered the representative of the microscopic style; a style, if it deserves the name, which he applied even to heads the size of life; and as mere finish never was, and probably never will be carried to a more absurd length, his name, though comparatively obscure, marks an epoch in the art. The same scrupulous minuteness obtained about the same time in landscape; among the view-painters, Hendrick Van Lint, surnamed Studio, may be named as the most remarkable of his class. Reynolds alludes to him in one of his discourses, as noted, when he knew him in Rome, for copying every leaf of a tree. The opposite style, which aimed at quantity and rapidity, was derived from the expert painters of galleries and ceilings, called “Machinisti,” and more immediately from Luca Giordano. Facility and despatch, at the expense of every solid quality of art, were the characteristics of the school which was represented in the earlier part of Reynolds’s career, principally by Sebastian Conca in Italy, and by Corrado Giaquinto in Spain.

37The changes which took place in this state of things, towards the latter part of the century, may be traced partly to the renewed appreciation of the antique statues (a taste which, however beneficial to sculpture, had an unfortunate influence on the sister art), and subsequently to political circumstances. The fluctuations of taste, however deliberately estimated by retrospective criticism, are indeed generally the result of accident, and depend on causes but seldom derived from a just definition of the nature and object of art. It appears, however, that Reynolds, alone as he was, the founder rather than the follower of a school, enjoyed the rare privilege of making the taste of his time instead of being made by it; and although it would be absurd to suppose that he could be independent of the accidents with which he was brought in contact, it will not appear, upon a candid inquiry, that this great artist was in any respect directly influenced by the practice of his age.

Joshua Reynolds was born at Plympton, near Plymouth, in Devonshire, July 16, 1723; he was the son of the Rev. Samuel Reynolds, who taught the grammar school of Plympton. The young artist’s fondness for drawing manifested itself early, and at eight years of age he had become so well acquainted with the “Jesuits’ Perspective,” as to apply its principles with some effect in a drawing of his father’s school, a building elevated on stone pillars. Among other books connected with art to which he had access, Richardson’s ‘Treatise on Painting’ had a powerful effect in exciting his ambition. The earliest known picture he attempted is a portrait of the Rev. Thomas Smart, who was the vicar of Maker, the parish in which Mount Edgecumbe is situated. Reynolds, then a schoolboy about twelve years of age, sketched the portrait of the vicar at church, and afterwards copied it on canvass. This picture is now in the possession of John Boger, Esq., of East Stonehouse near Plymouth. The taste of the young painter becoming every day more decided, his father, urged by the advice of some friends, placed him at the age of seventeen as a pupil with Hudson, who had at that time the chief business in portrait painting, although a very indifferent artist. In 1743 Reynolds returned to Devonshire, in consequence of a disagreement with his master, and set up as a portrait painter in the town of Plymouth Dock, since called Devonport. He here painted various portraits, chiefly of naval officers. One of these works, containing the portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Eliot and family, is in the possession of the Earl of St. Germains. The composition of this picture, the artist’s first attempt at a group, approaches the pyramidal form, and Reynolds, after contemplating it when finished, observed, ‘I see I must have read something about a pyramid, for there it is.’ Six other 38pictures of the artist are preserved in the same collection, at Port Eliot in Cornwall. An admirable picture of a boy reading by a reflected light was also executed about this time. Many interesting works of Reynolds, some of them belonging to his earlier practice, are preserved in the immediate neighbourhood of Plymouth, in the collections of the Earl of Morley, Mr. Pole Carew of Antony, Mr. Rosdew of Beechwood, Mr. Lane of Coffleet, and others. The artist’s early works, although sometimes carelessly drawn, are distinguished by breadth of colour, by freedom of handling, and not unfrequently by great truth of expression: in short, he seems to have contracted none of the defects of Hudson, except, according to some of his biographers, a certain stiffness and sameness in the attitudes of his portraits; defects which he afterwards exchanged for such grace, spirit, and, above all, endless variety, that it was said “his inventions will be the future grammar of portrait painters.” The earliest portrait he painted of himself is in the collection of Mr. Gwatkin of Plymouth, who married a niece of Reynolds: the same gentleman also possesses the last portrait of the artist by himself, together with many other interesting specimens of his pencil. In 1747 Reynolds repaired again to London, and took lodgings in St. Martin’s Lane, then and long afterwards the favourite residence of artists. In 1749 he sailed to the Mediterranean, by the invitation, and in the company of Captain (afterwards Lord) Keppel. Reynolds spent two months in Minorca, where he painted several portraits of military and naval officers, and proceeded thence, by way of Leghorn, to Rome.

He was fully alive to the sources of inspiration which this city of the arts contained. In the midst of his enthusiasm, however, he was secretly humiliated by discovering in himself an absence of all relish for the grand works of Raffaelle in the Vatican. Richardson had inspired him with the most exalted admiration of Raffaelle; and whatever may be supposed, Reynolds could not be entirely unacquainted with the subjects and designs of the works alluded to. Indeed, in some notes of his own that have been preserved, he only confesses a feeling of disappointment, and afterwards says, “In justice to myself, however, I must add, that though disappointed and mortified at not finding myself enraptured with the works of this great master, I did not for a moment conceive or suppose that the name of Raffaelle, and these admirable paintings in particular, owed their reputation to the ignorance and prejudice of mankind: on the contrary, my not relishing them, as I was conscious I ought to have done, was one of the most humiliating circumstances that ever happened to me. I found myself in the midst of works executed upon principles with which I was 39unacquainted; I felt my ignorance, and stood abashed; all the indigested notions of painting which I had brought with me from England, where art was in the lowest state it had ever been in (indeed it could not be lower), were to be totally done away and eradicated from my mind.” The union of candour and docility with good sense, which the above account evinces, was the means of emancipating Reynolds from the taste or fashion of the day. Instead of enrolling himself among the scholars of Pompeo Battoni, as he was strongly recommended to do before his departure from England by his kind patron Lord Edgecumbe, he endeavoured during the practice of his art to penetrate the principles on which the great works around him, particularly those of Michael Angelo and Raffaelle, were produced. His general theory will be found embodied in his writings, and if his principles sometimes appear to be pushed too far, we may perhaps attribute it to the wish to counteract certain prevailing errors among his contemporaries. It is a general notion that, considering the difference in style between the paintings of Reynolds and those of the great models he professes to admire (Michael Angelo received his more especial homage), he could not have been sincere in acknowledging so thorough a conviction of their excellence. To decide fairly on this difficult and often-discussed point, it is necessary to remember the state of the arts when Reynolds formed his style. The great vice of the age was a routine practice, seldom informed by any reference to the general nature of the art, and as little remarkable for a just discrimination of its various styles. In such a state of things it cannot excite surprise that a sagacious and unprejudiced mind, in endeavouring to retrace the leading principles of the art, should at the same time see the necessity of modifying them in their application to a particular, and in some respects a limited, department. As portrait painting, the imitation of individuals, was to be Reynolds’s chief occupation, it certainly did not occur to him that the abstract representations of Michael Angelo, or even of Raffaelle, could be fit models for him to follow, as far as execution was concerned. He saw however that these masters were probably right even in this respect, when the dignity and purity of their aim, and when subject, place, and dimensions are duly considered. His imitation of them therefore began when he endeavoured to define the end and object of the particular style of art which he himself professed; and although he soon concluded that it required a widely different treatment, he failed not to translate, if we may so say, the causes of the grandeur he admired into the language which belonged to his own department. What he considered the distinctive and desirable 40requisites of portrait painting to consist in, may be best learnt from his own works. In the first place, the more delicate refinements of colouring and chiaro-scuro, by no means essential in the grander and more abstract department of the art, are indispensable where the imitation is confined to a single and generally a defective person. It is thus that Rembrandt made up the sum of beauty by the fascinations of gradation and contrast, while the forms he had to deal with were often of the most ordinary description. The just imitation of the colour of flesh, the most beautiful and at the same time the most nameless hue in nature, has ever been considered the triumph of imitative art, and confers value and dignity on the work wherever it is fully accomplished. Again, it must be remembered that the domain of expression begins with the accidents of form; that it belongs to and often recommends individuality and redeems deformity; and that its vivid interest is to be sought less in the abstract personifications of Michael Angelo, far less in the higher region of beauty which the Greeks justly placed above the atmosphere of the passions, than in the varieties of accidental nature. Reynolds seized on the delicacies of expression as strictly harmonizing with the individual forms he had to copy: and, while thus adding a charm to his class of art, he became at the same time the abler portrait painter; for the character and expression of the individual are the chief points which are demanded. Lastly, the conduct and execution of his pictures were in strict conformity with the same principles, and may be said to have been dictated by the largest view of the nature and means of the art.

In his works the attention is always attracted by the important objects, or diverted from them, when diverted, only to conceal the artifice which thus commands the eye of the spectator. It is evident that the general degree of completeness will depend on that of the principal object; and assuming that Reynolds’s style of painting a head was sufficiently elaborate (it is generally less so than Vandyck’s), the unfinish of the accessories could hardly be otherwise than it is, consistently with due subordination. The truth of this consistency of style was ultimately acknowledged, and although so opposite from what had before been in fashion, and so different in many respects from what the vulgar admire, the pictures of Reynolds soon won the favour of the public. If the admiration of his works had any ill effect, it was that it tended to produce an imitation of the same mode rather than of the same consistency.

On his return to England in 1752, which has been somewhat anticipated in the foregoing remarks on his style, Reynolds repaired to his 41native county, and painted one or two pictures at Plymouth: perhaps the earliest of the fine portraits of Mr. Zachary Mudge, Vicar of St. Andrews, was one of these. He returned to London accompanied by his sister Frances. For a short time he again occupied lodgings in St. Martin’s Lane, and produced there the portrait of Giuseppe Marchi, an Italian whom he had brought home as an assistant. This picture, which was in the style of Rembrandt, attracted general admiration; and when his former master Hudson saw it, he exclaimed, stung with jealousy, “Reynolds, you don’t paint so well as when you left England!” Soon after this, in consequence of his increased fame and employment, Reynolds took a house in Great Newport Street, where he resided for some years. The whole length portrait of Admiral Keppel was the next work of importance which he produced: it exhibited such powers that it completely established the fame of the artist, and he was generally acknowledged to be the greatest painter England had seen since the time of Vandyck. From this period his career was one of uninterrupted success and improvement; for his reputation was never greater than at the close of his laborious life. The detraction which such extraordinary merit soon excited was compelled to vent itself in attempting to undervalue the department of art in which he excelled: in consequence of these insinuations, a defence of portrait painting, from the pen of Dr. Johnson, appeared in the forty-fifth number of the Idler. Johnson in that essay, after all, only proved that portrait painting is interesting to a few—that in the hands of Reynolds it was “employed in diffusing friendship, in renewing tenderness, in quickening the affections of the absent, and continuing the presence of the dead.” Reynolds himself, however, without forgetting these important prerogatives, evidently took a more extended view of the matter; he seems early to have felt that the chief difficulty of portrait painting (a difficulty perhaps greater than any in the other branches of art) is to make the representation generally interesting. It is quite obvious that this end can only be attained (especially as beauty of form is not always at command) by a high degree of perfection in all that constitutes the charm of art; for no interest that attaches itself to the individual pourtrayed, however celebrated, can be so universal or so independently intelligible as that which arises from a large and true imitation of nature, to which all are more or less alive. The perfection of art as applicable to portrait painting, was therefore Reynolds’s great object, and it was only in subservience to this that he ventured to introduce what in his hands might be considered a novelty in this department. That novelty was the historic air he often gave his portraits, by happy allusions to some important circumstance in the life 42of the individual. His consummate knowledge of effect enabled him to do this by means which never interfere with the mere portrait, a difficulty which had been in a great measure evaded by preceding painters. It will be remembered that in most of the portraits even of Titian and Vandyck the attention is literally confined to the individual pourtrayed (after all, the subject of the picture), and it was not lightly or inconsiderately that Reynolds occasionally departed from this judicious practice. If ever a painter could depend on the mere character and expression of his heads, to say nothing of the charm of their execution, Reynolds undoubtedly would have been secure of the public approbation on those grounds alone; and it was only where historic interest happened to coincide or to interfere but little with picturesque effect, that he ventured on the additions alluded to. A better instance perhaps cannot be given than the portrait of Lord Heathfield (celebrated for his defence of Gibraltar), in the National Gallery; in the background of which a cannon pointed downwards indicates, by its angle of depression, the elevation of the spot where the veteran stands, grasping the keys of the fortress which he defended so bravely. In his allegorical portraits, such as Garrick between Tragedy and Comedy, Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic Muse, &c., Reynolds encountered a much greater difficulty, and it may be questioned whether any painter who has yet appeared would have succeeded better. The mixture of real and imaginary beings, of individual and abstract personifications, the treatment of which would seem to require so different a style, was so managed by Reynolds as to satisfy, in this respect, the most fastidious taste. The secret of the greatness of his style in these subjects, and indeed in most of his portraits, is to be sought in his colouring, the idea of which is large and general; and under its dignified influence the individuality of forms and locality of dress are rendered with all sufficient fidelity without offending. It is thus we find in many Venetian, Flemish, and Dutch pictures, where the subject and forms are most homely, an air of refined taste, and even of grandeur, which seems unaccountable, till we discover that the colouring is true to the largest idea of nature; and thus, to a certain extent, the art is raised by raising its characteristic quality. In short, to return to the question of his imitation of Michael Angelo, we should find that, keeping the main requisites and attainable excellences of portrait painting in view, Reynolds contrived to infuse into it as much elevation as was calculated to improve it without injuring its character; and when we find that he applied this even to execution, and that his breadth of manner, his disdain of non-essentials, is evidently inspired by the same feeling, we shall no longer wonder at his admiration of the highest style of art, 43or doubt the sincerity of his recorded professions on the subject. The very indirectness of his imitation, in which the whole mystery lies, so sure a proof of his having penetrated the principle of the great master, establishes his claim to originality as well as to consummate judgment and taste.

In 1768 the Royal Academy was instituted, and Mr. Reynolds, holding unquestionably the first rank in his profession, was elected President. On his elevation to this office he received the honour of knighthood. As President he delivered to the students and professors those celebrated discourses, which have reflected so much lustre on his name. Their excellence in a theoretical point of view, the elegance of their composition, and on the other hand the apparent contradictions they sometimes contain, have been the theme of frequent observation and discussion. The other writings of Sir Joshua are the ‘Tour to Flanders and Holland,’ consisting of notes on the paintings seen by him in those countries in the year 1781; ‘Notes on Du Fresnoy’s Poem;’ and three papers in the Idler. Among the last, the Essay on Beauty was not so original as is generally supposed, the same theory having been previously promulgated by the Père Buffier in his ‘Cours des Sciences par des principes nouveaux. Paris, 1732.’ Among the historical and mythological pictures produced by Sir Joshua, that of the Infant Hercules strangling the Serpents, executed in 1786 for the Empress of Russia, is one of the most considerable: it is pretty closely copied, as to invention and composition, from a description of an antique painting of the same subject in Philostratus. This work, so different from the taste of the Russian painters and connoisseurs, was long treated with neglect; but in consequence of the enquiries of English travellers it has lately been cleaned, and placed in the gallery of the Hermitage. It is said to be in a fine state of preservation, and one of the best works of Reynolds. The celebrated picture of Ugolino was produced by an accidental circumstance. The subject was suggested to Sir Joshua by Goldsmith, or, according to others, by Burke, who was struck with the expression of an old emaciated head, among the unfinished studies of the painter, and observed that it corresponded exactly with Dante’s description of Count Ugolino. The head was inserted in a larger canvas, and the rest of the composition added. For the Shakspeare Gallery Sir Joshua painted three pictures,—the Death of Cardinal Beaufort, the Cauldron Scene in Macbeth, and Puck from Midsummer Night’s Dream. The designs for the window of the New College Chapel in Oxford are among the finest of his sacred compositions.

In 1789, finding his eyesight begin to fail, Sir Joshua was compelled 44to give up the practice of his art. In December, 1790, he pronounced his farewell Address at the Royal Academy, and on that occasion repeated and confirmed, as with his dying voice, his admiration of Michael Angelo. His infirmities confined him much during the short remaining portion of his life, and he died at his house in Leicester Fields, February 23, 1792. He was buried in the crypt of the cathedral of St. Paul, near the tomb of Sir Christopher Wren. The honours of his funeral, as may be imagined, corresponded with his justly-earned fame; and the day after his death a well-known eulogium by Burke appeared in the public papers, so characteristic both of the writer and the great artist to whose memory it was dedicated, that it was called the panegyric of Apelles, pronounced by Pericles. It concludes thus:—“His talents of every kind, powerful from nature, and not meanly cultivated by letters, his social virtues in all the relations and all the habitudes of life, rendered him the centre of a very great and unparalleled variety of agreeable societies, which will be dissipated by his death. He had too much merit not to excite some jealousy, too much innocence to provoke any enmity. The loss of no man of his time can be felt with more sincere, general, and unmixed sorrow.”

For a list of the pictures of Sir Joshua Reynolds, and ample details of his life, the memoir of him by Northcote, who had been his scholar, may be consulted; as well as the accounts prefixed to the various editions of his literary works; and that by Allan Cunningham, in his Lives of the most eminent British Painters, Sculptors, and Architects.

[Sketch for the picture of Mr. Eliot and his family.]

Engraved by B. Holl.


From the Picture in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.



Jonathan Swift, by an account in his own handwriting, was the son of an attorney in the city of Dublin. He was born in 1667. Some doubt has been felt concerning his origin, in consequence of his own angry or capricious declaration, when out of humour with Ireland,—“I am not of this vile country; I am an Englishman;” and Sir William Temple has been said to be his real father. This piece of scandal, however, is disproved by circumstances of time and place. Swift was placed at Trinity College, Dublin, at the age of fourteen. Whether through idleness, or contempt of the prescribed studies, at the end of four years he could only obtain his Bachelor’s degree speciali gratiâ; a term denoting want of merit. This disgrace so affected him, that for the following seven years he studied eight hours a day. In 1688 Sir William Temple, whose lady was related to Swift’s mother, took him under his protection, and paid the expenses of his residence at Oxford for a Master’s degree. On quitting that University, Swift lived with Temple as his domestic companion. To a long illness contracted during this period in consequence of a surfeit he ascribed that frequently recurring giddiness which annoyed him through life, and sent him to the grave deprived of reason.

While under Sir William Temple’s roof, Swift rendered material assistance in the revision of his patron’s works, and corrected and improved his own ‘Tale of a Tub,’ which had been sketched out previously to his quitting Dublin. It was published in 1704. He never avowed himself its author; but he did not deny it when Archbishop Sharpe and the Duchess of Somerset, according to some accounts, showed it to Queen Anne, and thereby debarred him from a bishopric. From Temple’s conversation Swift much increased his political knowledge; 46and his early impressions were naturally in favour of the Whigs: but he suspected his patron of neglecting to provide for him, from a desire of retaining his services. This produced a quarrel, and the friends parted in 1694. Swift took orders, and obtained a prebend in the north of Ireland; but at Temple’s earnest request he soon resigned that preferment, and returned to England. A sincere reconciliation took place, and they lived together in the utmost harmony till Sir William’s death in 1699. Swift, in testimony of his esteem, wrote ‘The Battle of the Books,’ of which his friend is the hero; and Temple by his will left him a legacy in money, and the profit as well as care of his posthumous works. Swift had indulged hopes, not without good reason, of being well provided for in the English church, through Temple’s interest. Failing in these hopes, he accepted the post of private secretary and chaplain to the Earl of Berkeley, on the appointment of that nobleman to be one of the Lords Justices of Ireland. By this new patron he seems to have been ill used. He was soon displaced from his post, on the plea of its unfitness for a clergyman. He was then promised the rich deanery of Derry; but that preferment was bestowed on another person, and Swift could only procure the livings of Laracor and Rathbeggin, which together did not amount to more than half the value of the deanery. During his residence at Laracor, he performed the duties of a parish priest with punctuality and devotion, notwithstanding some occasional sallies of no very decorous or well-timed humour, which coupled with the suspicions founded on the anonymous ‘Tale of a Tub,’ fixed on him an imputation of insincerity in his Christian profession, from which the opinion of posterity seems to have absolved him.

During his incumbency at Laracor, he invited to Ireland a lady with whom he became acquainted while with Sir William Temple. She was the daughter of Temple’s steward, whose name was Johnson. About the year 1701, at the age of eighteen, she went to Ireland, to reside near Swift, accompanied by Mrs. Dingley, a lady fifteen years older than herself. Miss Johnson was Swift’s celebrated Stella. Whether Swift’s first impulse in giving this invitation had a view to marriage, or the cultivation of friendship only, is uncertain. His whole conduct with respect to women was most mysterious: apparently highly capricious, and, whatever might be its secret motive, utterly unwarrantable. The reason assigned by the two ladies for transferring their residence to Ireland was, “that the interest of money was higher than in England, and provisions cheap.” Every possible precaution was taken to prevent scandal: Swift and Miss Johnson did not live together, nor were they ever known to meet except in 47presence of a third person. Owing to this scrupulous prudence, the lady’s fame, during fifteen years, was never questioned, nor was her society avoided by the most scrupulous. In 1716 they were privately married, but with no change in their mode of life: she never lodged in the Deanery, except during those fits of giddiness and approaching mental aberration, during which a woman, then of middle age, might venture without breach of decorum to nurse an elderly man.

In 1701 Swift had published his ‘Dissensions in Athens and Rome;’ his first political work, in behalf of King William and his ministers, against the violent proceedings of the House of Commons. According to Lord Orrery, from that year to 1708 he did not write any political pamphlet; but he made frequent journeys to England during the whole of Queen Anne’s reign. Between 1708 and 1710 he changed his politics, worked hard against the Whigs among whom he had been educated, and plunged into political controversy, with a view to open the road to power for the Tories. The year 1710 produced the ‘Examiner,’ of which he wrote thirty-three papers. In that year commenced his acquaintance with Harley, who introduced him to St. John and the rest of the ministers. At this period he dined every Saturday at Harley’s, with the Lord Keeper, Mr. Secretary St. John, and Lord Rivers, to the exclusion of all other persons. He may, therefore, be considered at this time as the confidential friend of the ministry, and almost a member of their cabinet. The company was afterwards enlarged to sixteen, including Swift; all men of the first class in society. He now put forth all his strength in support of the Tory party, in pamphlets, periodical papers, and political poems. Amidst all this political agitation, he wrote down the occurrences of every day, whether consisting of conferences with ministers, or quarrels with his own servant, in a regular journal to Stella.

In 1712, ten days before the meeting of parliament, he published a pamphlet, entitled ‘The Conduct of the Allies,’ to facilitate peace, on which the stability, almost the personal safety of the ministers, seemed to depend. He professes that this piece cost him much pains, and no writer was ever more successful. A sale of eleven thousand copies in two months was in those days unprecedented: the Tory members in both houses drew their arguments from it, and the resolutions of parliament were little more than a string of quotations. During that year and the next he continued to exert himself with unwearied diligence. In 1713 he carried to the then latest date the first sketch of the ‘History of the last four Years of Queen Anne.’ Lord Bolingbroke, when called on for his opinion, was sincere enough 48to speak of it as “a seasonable pamphlet for the administration, but a dishonour to just history.” Swift himself was proud of it, but professed his willingness to sacrifice it to his friend’s opinion. It was, however, published, but with no addition to the author’s fame.

The Queen is said to have intended to promote him to a bishopric; but the story is involved in obscurity. That Archbishop Sharpe had dissuaded her from so doing by representing his belief in Christianity as questionable, is not ascertained by any satisfactory evidence; but whether that were so or not, Johnson’s suggestion seems probable, that the difficulty arose from those clerical supporters of the ministry, “who were not yet reconciled to the author of the ‘Tale of a Tub,’ and would not, without much discontent and indignation, have borne to see him installed in an English cathedral.” The deanery of St. Patrick, in Dublin, was therefore offered to him, and he accepted it. With high pretensions to independent equality with the ministers, and a disinterested support of their measures, it cannot be doubted that he viewed this Irish preferment as a sentence of exile, and was bitterly disappointed. But his temper was too intractable to submit to play the part of a courtier; and it is probable that his English friends were not ill pleased to promote him to competence and dignity at a distance. His feelings are characteristically expressed in one of his letters: “I use the ministry like dogs, because I expect they will use me so. I never knew a ministry do anything for those whom they made companions of their pleasures; but I care not.”

He had indeed little reason to rejoice at first in the land where his lot had fallen: on his arrival in Ireland to take possession of his deanery, he found the country under the strongest excitement of party violence. The populace looked on him as a Jacobite, and threw stones at him as he walked the streets. His chapter received him with reluctance, and thwarted him in whatever he proposed. Ordinary talents and firmness must have sunk under such general hostility. But the revolutions of the Dean’s life were strange; and he, who began with the hatred of the Irish mob, lived to govern them with the authority of a despot.

He had not been in Ireland more than a fortnight when he returned to England for the purpose of attempting, but in vain, a reconciliation between the Lords Oxford and Bolingbroke. While in England, he wrote his ‘Free Thoughts on the Present State of Affairs.’ He was probably still watching the issues of time or chance; but the Queen’s death sealed his political and clerical doom, and he returned to Ireland. To the interval between 1714 and 1720 Lord Orrery ascribes 49‘Gulliver’s Travels.’ His mind was at this time much engrossed by a remarkable circumstance. He had formed an intimacy in England with the family of a Dutch merchant, named Vanhomrigh. The eldest daughter, strangely enough, became enamoured of Swift’s mind, for it could not be of a most homely person, nearly fifty years of age. She proposed marriage: this he declined, and wrote his poem of ‘Cadenus and Vanessa’ on the occasion. On her mother’s death, the young lady and her sister followed him to Ireland; the intercourse was continued, and the proposal renewed on her part. This it was absolutely necessary to decline, as the Dean was already married; but he lived with Stella on the same distant footing as before, and was reluctant either to inflict pain, or to forego his own pleasure, by an avowal of the insuperable obstacle. Vanessa continued to receive his visits, but so guardedly as not absolutely to forfeit her good name. She became however more and more urgent; and peremptorily pressed him to accept or reject her as his wife. Failing to obtain a direct answer, she addressed a note to Miss Johnson, desiring to know whether she were married to him, or not. Stella sent this note to Swift, who in a paroxysm of anger rode to Vanessa’s house, threw a paper containing her own note on the table, and quitted her without a word. This blow she did not survive many weeks. She died in 1723, having first cancelled a will in the Dean’s favour.

Vanessa by will ordered her correspondence with Swift to be published, as well as ‘Cadenus and Vanessa,’ in which he had proclaimed her excellence and confessed his love. The letters were suppressed; the poem was published. This, whether meant as an apology for herself, or as a posthumous triumph over her more successful rival, occasioned a great shock and distress both to Stella and the Dean. It is said that at length, probably as a softening to the mortification incident to the public discovery of his passion for Vanessa, he desired that Stella might be publicly owned as his wife; but her health was rapidly declining. She said, perhaps petulantly, “It is too late,” and insisted that they should continue to live as before. To this the Dean consented, and allowed her to dispose of her fortune, by her own name, in public charity. She died in 1727.

By Stella’s death Swift’s happiness was deeply affected. He became by degrees more misanthropic, and ungovernable in temper; and more miserly in his personal habits, while at the same time he devoted to charity a large part, it is said one-third, of his income. In 1736 his deafness and giddiness became alarming, and his mental powers gradually declined. In 1741 his friends found it 50necessary that guardians should be appointed over his person and estate. In 1742 his reason was entirely overthrown; he became lethargic and, except at short intervals, speechless. On the 30th of November his housekeeper told him that the customary preparations were making to celebrate his birthday: he found words to answer, “It is all folly; they had better let it alone.” He died the latter end of October, 1745; in his seventy-eighth year. With the exception of some few legacies, he left his fortune, amounting to about twelve thousand pounds, to the building of an hospital for idiots and lunatics.

The extent and variety of Swift’s writings render it necessary to confine our notice to two or three of his most curious productions. Of the ‘Tale of a Tub,’ which, being regarded as an attack upon all religion, brought down a weight of censure on the author, against which he protested in the preface to a later edition, Dr. Johnson says that “it has little resemblance to his other pieces. It exhibits a vehemence and rapidity of mind, a copiousness of images, and vivacity of diction, such as he afterwards never possessed or never exerted. It is a mode so distinct and peculiar, that it must be considered by itself; what is true of that is not true of anything else which he has written. In his other works is found an equable tenor of easy language, which rather trickles than flows.”

‘Gulliver’s Travels’ are now probably better known to the public than any other of his productions. That work is a moral and political romance, exhibiting a wonderful specimen of irregular genius. Not only are human actions placed in the most unfavourable light, but human nature itself is libelled. His wayward temper and his ill-concealed disappointment had put him out of conceit with the world; misanthropy had made some inroad into his heart, and, with his pen in his hand, he indulged in the expression of it with affected exaggeration. But however offensive to good feeling the satire might be, the imagination and wit which pervade this extraordinary work will always attract some readers, while the simple, circumstantial air of truth with which such extravagant fictions are related is a source of amusement to less refined tastes.

Neither are the ‘Drapier’s Letters,’ written in 1724, less remarkable, although the temporary nature of the subject has divested them of all interest, except as samples of the powers of his mind and the character of his style. Lord Orrery calls them “those brazen monuments of his fame.” A patent had been taken out by one Wood for a copper coinage for Ireland, to the amount of one hundred and eighty thousand pounds in halfpence and farthings, by which the projector, at 51least as was alleged by the opponents of the ministry, would have gained exorbitant profit, and the nation would of course have incurred proportionate loss. The Dean, in the character of a Drapier, wrote a series of letters, exposing the folly and mischief of giving gold and silver for a debased coin probably not worth a third of its nominal value. He urged the people to refuse this copper money; and the nation acted on the Drapier’s advice. The government took the alarm at this seditious resistance to the King’s patent, and offered three hundred pounds reward for the discovery of the author of the fourth letter; but his precautions were so well taken, and his popularity so universal, that, though known to be the author, the proclamation failed to touch him. The popular indignation rose to such a height that Wood was compelled to withdraw his patent, and the base money was totally suppressed. From this time forward the Dean, who at his first arrival in Ireland had been most unpopular, possessed unlimited influence; he was consulted on all measures of domestic policy; persons of all ranks either courted or feared him; national gratitude was expressed by all ranks in their various ways; the Drapier was a toast at every convivial meeting, and the sign of his head insured custom to an ale-house.

His letters are remarkable for the pure English of their style: there is little of solid information to be derived from them; but the most trifling anecdotes of distinguished men find ready acceptation with a large class of readers.

As a poet, in the higher sense of the word, we rank Swift’s claims to honour very humbly. But he possessed uncommon power of correct, easy, and familiar versification; which, with his racy vein of humour, will secure him admirers among those who can pardon his offensive grossness.

Delany, an Irishman to the backbone, gives the following character of him: “No man ever deserved better of any country, than Swift did of his; a steady, persevering, inflexible friend; a wise, a watchful, and a faithful counsellor, under many severe trials and bitter persecutions, to the manifest hazard both of his liberty and fortune.” With respect to his conversation and private economy some particulars may be worth mentioning. His rule never to speak more than a minute at a time, and to wait for others to take up the conversation, it were well if professed talkers would adopt. He excelled in telling a story, but told the same too often; an infirmity which grew on him, as it does on others, in advancing life. He was churlish to his servants, but in the main a kind and generous master. He 52was unceremonious and overbearing, sometimes brutal; but in company which he respected, not coarse, although his politeness was in a form peculiar to himself. He considered wealth as the pledge of independence; but his frugality towards the close of his life amounted to avarice. As we have represented some features of his character in no very amiable light, we will conclude with an anecdote which shows the kindly portion of his nature to advantage. In the high tide of his influence, he was often rallied by the ministers for never coming to them without a Whig in his sleeve: whatever might have been his expectations from the unsolicited gratitude of his party, he never pressed his own claims personally; but he often solicited favours from Lord Oxford in behalf of Addison, Congreve, Rowe, and Steele. Personal merit rather than political principles directed his choice of friends. His intimacy with Addison was formed when they used to meet at the parties of Lord Halifax or Lord Somers, who were leaders of the Whigs; but it continued unabated when the Tories had gained the ascendency.

Swift’s works have gone through many editions in various forms. The latest and best is that of Sir Walter Scott. That man must be considered fortunate in his biographers, of whom memoirs have been handed down, with more or less detail, by Lord Orrery, Dr. Delany, Dr. Hawkesworth, Dr. Sheridan, Dr. Johnson, and Sir W. Scott.

[Gulliver in Lilliput, from a Design by Stothard.]

Engraved by J. Posselwhite.


From the original Picture by Sir G. Kneller in the Hall of Christ Church, Oxford.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.



John Locke was born August 29, 1632, at Wrington, a village of Somersetshire, about eight miles from Bristol. He was the eldest of two sons of John Locke, a man of some property, who had been bred to the law, but became afterwards a captain under Cromwell. In those turbulent times he met with losses which diminished his fortune, and he left an inconsiderable inheritance to his son. Locke received his education at Westminster School, and Christ Church, Oxford. While an undergraduate he was chosen to write a welcome on the occasion of a visit which Cromwell paid to that University, just after the conclusion of his peace with the Dutch. This he did in a laudatory copy of verses in English and Latin, comparing the great Protector to Julius for warlike, and to Augustus for peaceful, accomplishments. This and some Latin verses, prefixed to a work of Sydenham’s, are Locke’s only poetical attempts. There is little merit in either. He was a great admirer of the meagre verse of Sir Richard Blackmore, which is no great evidence of his poetical taste. Between the degrees of Bachelor and Master of Arts he was elected Student of his college. From that time he applied himself diligently, for many years, to the study of medicine, without, however, practising it as a matter of gain. The weakness of his health probably gave this turn to his thoughts: his brother died of consumption; and he himself was apprehensive through life of falling a victim to the same disease. In 1664 he went abroad as secretary to Sir W. Swan, envoy to the court of Brandenburg; and on his return to Oxford the year following, he applied himself to the discovery of the effects of the air on the human frame. His first work, published in 1667, was a register of the variations in the atmosphere, determined between certain periods by the common instruments, as a supplement to a work by Boyle.

He was amusing himself with such enquiries, when one of the slight but important accidents of life brought him an acquaintance, 54whose influence determined his future course. A friend, being obliged to take a journey, desired Locke to make his excuses to Lord Ashley (afterwards Earl of Shaftesbury) for not having procured for him some mineral waters against his arrival in Oxford. When Lord Ashley did arrive, Locke carried this message to him. They were mutually pleased with each other, and this acquaintance speedily grew up into a strict friendship. Locke’s advice determined Lord Ashley to submit to a surgical operation, by which, it is said, the life of the patient was saved; and he was received into the house, and practised his profession in the family and amongst a few private friends of his noble patron. While living in this way, his thoughts were turned into the channel of politics by the advice of his new associates; and, taking up that study earnestly, he was soon able to advise and assist Ashley in all his plans of state, becoming at the same time the referee of his private affairs. This warm friendship is singular, considering the purity of Locke’s life, and the notoriously bad character, public and private, of his noble patron. But the latter was an eloquent orator, and an admirable talker; and it was probably this latter quality which attached Locke so much. He had so great an esteem for good conversation, as to give it a first place in the formation of a man’s mind, calling books the raw material, and social talk, with meditation, the true architects of our mental constructions. In 1668 Locke attended the Earl and Countess of Northumberland to France. But some accident caused him soon to return to his old residence with Shaftesbury, for whom he drew up the fundamental laws of Carolina, which had just been granted to him and other lords. Two of the articles of this settlement gave great offence to the clergy, and were expunged. They are remarkable, and should be mentioned. One was, “That no man that doth not acknowledge a God, and that God publicly worshipped, should be a freeman or inhabitant of Carolina.” The other was a proposition, that any seven persons agreeing in a form of worship should be esteemed a church, and be supported by the state. The Church of England, however, was alone established in that colony. In 1671 Locke began to form his great Essay on the Human Understanding; but his engagements with Shaftesbury prevented its immediate completion. The year following, his patron becoming Chancellor, Locke was made secretary of presentations, which office he speedily lost on the partial disgrace of the Earl, who, still remaining President of the Board of Trade, appointed him secretary to a commission of inquiry into the state of trade, and the colonial plantations. This office he also lost in the same manner, upon Lord Shaftesbury’s total disgrace in 1674.

55Having retained his studentship, Locke then retired to Oxford, partly for his health’s sake, and partly to pursue his old medical studies. He took the degree of Bachelor of Medicine in this year. It appears that he continued to pay some attention to these studies until an advanced age: for in 1697 he communicated to the Royal Society the history of a curious case which he had seen at the great hospital of La Charité, during his residence in Paris. In 1675, in hope of obtaining relief from an asthmatical complaint, he went to Montpellier. There was also another reason for this journey. He had just published an anonymous pamphlet for Shaftesbury, blaming the conduct of the House of Lords in the matter of the Test Act, containing a vehement abuse of the bishops, and of what he called their favourite doctrine, “the divine right” of kings and priests. This pamphlet does not appear in the folio edition of his works; it was anonymous, like most of his other productions. The odium consequent upon it made his absence from England expedient, if not necessary. During his stay abroad Locke kept a journal of what he saw, did, and thought. In it we find the heads of many of his future works, which are very concise and valuable; but the narrative is dry, and the attempts at humour not very successful: he seems however to have been as observant of what relates to the external world, as he was of the intellectual. In 1679, Shaftesbury, on being made President of the Council, summoned Locke to England. But the old statesman’s favour was short lived: he was committed to the Tower in July, 1681, and soon after his release, retired to Holland, where he died in January, 1683. Locke accompanied him, and continued his faithful services until death. For seventeen years he had been Shaftesbury’s constant partizan and adviser; and the odium attached to that nobleman clung to himself, and prevented his return to England for many years. In 1683 he was reported by the English envoy at the Hague to be on terms of intimacy with the malcontents in Holland; upon which the secretary (Sunderland) wrote to Dr. Fell, the Dean of Christ Church, ordering his expulsion from college. This mandate was not immediately complied with: the Dean declared that for many years he had watched the conduct of Locke, and even tried to entrap him into an exposure of his political sentiments, but had always found him too wary. He allowed Locke time to come and defend himself, which he would not do, and then expelled him from his studentship.

On the accession of James II., William Penn, the quaker of Pennsylvania, being in some favour with the King, would have procured a pardon for Locke, but he refused the offer, through a friend, as having been guilty of no crime. In May, 1685, the English ambassador demanded 56him of the States-General, of the pretext that he was concerned in the unsuccessful expedition of the Duke of Monmouth. It is supposed that he owed this bad turn partly to the malice of the envoy himself, as his name did not appear in the list of those required which was sent from England. He neither liked the person nor the invasion of the duke, and was at Utrecht when the armament of that unfortunate nobleman sailed from the Texel. Locke was not given up, but was obliged to hide himself for about a year in the house of his friend M. Veen, at Amsterdam, receiving assurance from the local authorities that timely warning should be given him of pressing danger. He was obliged to conceal himself so closely as only to take his exercise during the night. It is probable that the real cause of this persecution was his first letter on Toleration, written in Latin about this time, and addressed to his friend Limborch, the sentiments of which were peculiarly offensive to the English court.

Locke had now time to attend to his own affairs, being no longer taken up with those of a patron. He busied himself in the completion of his Essay concerning Human Understanding, which was not, however, printed till 1689. The extracting of passages from various works for reviewal in Le Clerc’s literary journal, the Bibliothèque Universelle, the formation and continuation of a small society for the weekly discussion of all subjects, the members of which were his friends Le Clerc, Limborch, Guenelon, and others, and the abridgment of his Essay, served to fill up his time during the remainder of his stay in Holland. In 1689 he published a second letter on Toleration, and early in the same year returned to his native country in the fleet which conducted the Princess of Orange to the throne of England. The Revolution had completely changed the face of affairs in Locke’s favour; he was considered a martyr to its principles, and was esteemed accordingly by its authors. On his return he immediately petitioned William to cause him to be reinstated in his studentship; but the College refused to restore him, offering at the same time to make him a supernumerary student. This he would not accept; because he felt it not to be a full reparation of the injustice he had suffered. He allowed the matter to drop.

If Locke had been ambitious, his path to political advancement was now open. William offered him the ambassadorship to the Imperial Court, or to that of Brandenburg. He refused both these high appointments; but accepted a Commissionership of Appeals from his friend Lord Mordaunt, afterwards Earl of Peterborough. This office was worth only £200 a year. His friends Sir Francis and Lady Masham (a daughter of the celebrated Cudworth) prevailed on him 57to take apartments in their house at Oates in Essex; between which place and his office in London he spent the remainder of his life. In 1690 Locke published his Treatise on Civil Government. The folio edition of his Essay, and a Letter on Education, appeared in the latter part of the same year. In 1692 he produced a third Letter on Toleration. The state of the coinage being a subject of great importance at that time, he took it into consideration, and published ‘Certain Thoughts on the State of English Silver Money, &c.,’ in a letter to a member of parliament. This treatise was thought so good, that when the matter was inquired into by the government, Locke was consulted, and his advice taken with respect to the new coinage. In consequence of this important assistance, he received from William III. a Commissionership of Foreign Trade and Plantations, the value of which was £1000 a year. The King was exceedingly desirous of a comprehension with the dissenters, and to forward his views Locke wrote his ‘Reasonableness of Christianity.’ This book involved him in a religious controversy with Dr. Edwards, who attacked its opinions in his ‘Socinian Unmasked,’ to which Locke replied by two vindications, each of them longer than the original work. No sooner had he finished this labour than he was called upon to encounter a fresh and more able antagonist. Toland and some other Unitarians having turned to their own use some of the arguments in Locke’s Essay, Dr. Stillingfleet, the learned Bishop of Worcester, confounded Locke with that party. In his defence of the doctrine of the Trinity the Bishop severely censured various passages of Locke’s great work, as tending to subvert some of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity; Locke replied, and there was an alternation of answers between them till the Bishop’s death. That event took place soon after Locke’s third answer, which was the last thing he ever published. These replies of Locke are reputed to be most finished specimens of a grave and subtle irony, too refined perhaps to be generally perceived by the uninitiated eye.

In 1700 Locke’s weak state of health induced him to retire from public life. He resigned his situation in a personal interview with the King, giving no previous notice of his intention to the conductors of the government, and refusing the pension which his master wished him to accept. He took up his residence at Oates, where he passed the remainder of his life in reading and contemplating the Scriptures. He often regretted that he had not more occupied himself in this study. The piety of his latter years was without formality or ostentation, not arising from that sense of disappointment, or irksomeness for want of employment, which often leads men to seek refuge in a late devotion. 58Neither Locke’s mental nor bodily senses failed him to his last moments, though the year before his death was passed in extreme weakness. On taking the sacrament he declared “that he was in peace with all men, and in sincere union with the Church of Christ, by whatever name distinguished.” The affectionate attentions of Lady Masham softened the pain of his last illness, and he died gently in his chair while she was reading to him one of the Psalms of David, October 28, 1704, in his seventy-third year. He died, unmarried, from the natural decay of an originally weak constitution. He was buried in the churchyard at High Laver, near Oates, under a decent monument. His epitaph had been written some years before, by himself, in Latin[3]. He left behind him many unpublished works, among which his ‘Conduct of the Understanding’ stands highest. ‘An Examination of Malebranche’s opinion of seeing all things in God; ‘A Discourse of Miracles;’ part of a fourth letter on the subject of Toleration; some imperfect memorial sketches of the life of the Earl of Shaftesbury; a new method for a commonplace-book; and paraphrases of several of the epistles of St. Paul, make up the list of his posthumous works, almost all of which were translated into French by Le Clerc and others, and appeared (together with those published by himself) in three folio volumes, not many years after his death. A great many of his letters to his friends Molyneux and Limborch are also published in this edition. There remain many more which have been given to the world by various hands, addressed to the Earl of Peterborough, Dr. Mapletoft, &c., and to Newton. In Lord King’s life of Locke his correspondence with the latter is given at full length, and is very curious,—chiefly relating to subjects they were both engaged in, the prophecies and miracles.

3.  Siste, viator; juxta situs est J. L. Si qualis fuerit rogas, mediocritate suâ contentum se vixisse respondet. Literis innutritus eousque tantum profecit ut veritati unicà studeret. Hoc ex scriptis illius disce; quæ, quod de eo reliquum est, majori fide tibi exhibebunt, quam epitaphii suspecta elogia. Virtutis si quas habuit, minores sane quam quas sibi laudi, tibi in exemplum proponeret. Vitia una sepeliantur. Morum exemplum si quæras, in evangelio habes (vitiorum utinam nusquam), mortalis certè quod prosit hic et ubique. Natum . . . . Mortuum . . . . Memorat hac tabula brevi et ipsa interitura.

That which has assured to Locke imperishable fame is the ‘Essay concerning Human Understanding.’ This great work, however, met with considerable obloquy at first: the heads of colleges at Oxford even endeavoured to prevent its being read in their University. The Essay is in the hands of all; the writings of its opponents, comparatively speaking, are forgotten. It will be generally admitted, that in it Locke laid the foundation of modern metaphysical philosophy.

59Two of Locke’s chief works, the ‘Treatise on Civil Government,’ and ‘Essay on Education,’ are more capable of a short analysis. The former may be taken as an expression of his own opinions in defence of the Revolution. It is divided into two parts. The first contains an exposure of the fallacies of Sir Robert Filmer’s ‘Patriarcha,’ arguing that Adam had not such natural or gifted right of dominion as Filmer pretends; that if he had, his heirs had not; that if they had, yet there is no general law, divine or human, which determines the right of succession, much less of bearing rule; lastly, that if such right had been determined, yet the eldest line from Adam being unknown, no man can pretend more than another to that right of inheritance; consequently, that some other source of political power must be found than “Adam’s private dominion and paternal jurisdiction.” Locke proceeds in the second part to declare his opinion as to what this other source may be. He argues, that originally the executive power was in the hands of each individual; but, by mutual consent, for mutual benefit, as men grew into societies, political power was created, and given to persons chosen from the whole body by the major part of such societies. He protests against absolute power, as not expressing the will of the majority; but defends prerogative, as a discretionary power lodged in the hands of the executive government. He maintains that this compact must be held sacred, but reverts to the society if its duration was declared temporary, or upon the misconduct of rulers or delegates. When forfeited, the will of the society may create new forms of government; or, under the old form, continue it in other hands.

The Essay on Education is expressly for the use of gentlemen, since “if that class be properly tended the rest will follow of course.” The child, he says, should have much air and exercise, should be accustomed to little sleep and early habits. That superstitious terrors, and the frequent use of the rod should be carefully avoided; that the boy should be used to suffer pain gradually, to harden him, but not as a punishment; that the parents’ authority should be perfect over the child, and be gradually taken off, till the relation between them becomes a confiding friendship; that particular attention be paid to his manners, so that his courage, learning, wit, plainness, and good-nature, do not turn to brutality, pedantry, buffoonery, rusticity, and fawning. He says, that the child’s curiosity should be encouraged; that he should learn by games, and his attainments never be forced; that he should not be left to flounder in difficulties, but helped through them. Locke prefers a careful tutor to a public school: he says that a boy stands a better chance of being both virtuous and well-bred under the care of the former. What he should know is Latin, Greek, 60a little mathematics, how to keep accounts; the less of logic the better; he should write a good hand; and a virtuous youth so bred, “one may turn loose into the world with great assurance that he will find employment and esteem everywhere.” He further recommends that the boy should travel between the ages of eight and sixteen, rather than between sixteen and twenty one; and that when he comes of age he had better not marry according to the usual custom, but wait some years, that his children “may not tread too closely on his heels.”

The habit of Locke’s mind was perhaps originally severe; but from constant social intercourse with men of all characters and opinions, was rendered mild and equable. Nothing seems to have provoked him into a loss of temper so much as being forced into argument with professed logicians. He calls the logical method taught at Oxford an ill, if not the worst way of acquiring knowledge and seeking truth. He was fond of the society of children, and would enter into the enjoyments of riper youth with facility. He was entrusted by his patron with the education and marriage of his son, who was the father of the author of the ‘Characteristics.’ The latter nobleman (the third Earl of Shaftesbury) owed much to Locke’s care, and was his eulogist.

Locke was of a cautious if not timid disposition. This appears from many of his letters, and may be inferred from the anonymous publication of most of his writings. His weak health, the political persecution to which he was exposed during great part of his life, and the discipline to which he was subjected in childhood, which was strict and severe, in some measure account for this failing. His friendships were very steady; witness his close adherence to his patron Shaftesbury. Sydenham’s contemporary and friendly character of Locke is remarkable: he says, in a prefatory letter to one of his works, that “if we consider his genius, his penetrating and exact judgment, and the strictness of his morals, he has scarcely any superior, and few equals now living.”

[Reverse of a French Medal of Locke.]

Engraved by Robt. Hart.


From a Picture attributed to Sir Peter Lely in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.



John Selden was born at Salvington, a hamlet of Tarring, near Worthing, in the county of Sussex, December 16, 1584 (O.S.). His father, according to Wood, “was a sufficient plebeian,” who, through some skill in music, obtained as his wife Margaret Baker, a daughter of a knightly family of the county of Kent. The baptism of his eminent son, as well as his own musical talents, are noticed in an existing parish registry in these words: “1584.—Johnne, sonne of John Selden, the minstrell, was baptised the XXXth day of December.” The house in which the family lived was called Lacies, and the estate of the father consisted, in 1606, of eighty-one acres, of the annual value of about twenty-three pounds. John Selden, the son, received his early education at the Free Grammar-School of Chichester. At the age of fourteen he entered at Hart Hall, Oxford. After residing four years at the University, he was admitted, in 1602, a member of Clifford’s Inn, one of the dependencies of the greater inns of court, in which students of law were formerly accustomed to commence their legal education. He removed in May, 1604, to the Inner Temple. His attention appears to have been early drawn to the study of civil and legal history, and antiquities; he did not court the more active business of his profession, and his employment at the bar was limited. In 1607, he prepared for the press his first work, entitled ‘Analectωn Anglo-Britannicωn,’ being a collection of civil and ecclesiastical matters relating to Britain, of a date anterior to the Norman conquest. This was soon followed by three other works of a similar character, and in 1614 he printed his ‘Treatise upon Titles of Honour.’ The last of these works has been considered in our courts of law to be of great authority, and has been usually spoken of with 62much commendation. Pursuing his legal inquiries, he edited, in 1616, two treatises, one of Sir John Fortescue, the other of Sir Ralph Hengham, and in the same year wrote a ‘Discourse on the Office of Lord Chancellor.’ In the next year he printed a work, ‘De Diis Syris,’ which added to his celebrity, but is not compiled with that attention to the value of the respective authorities cited, so essentially necessary to the accurate consideration of historical questions. His next work was a ‘History of Tithes,’ printed in 1618, which excited against him the bitter hostility of the clergy. The doctrine of divine right, as the foundation of many ecclesiastical claims, was at this time jealously maintained, and was considered to be peculiarly connected with the right of the clergy to tithes. Selden drew no direct conclusion against the divine nature of the right to tithes, but he had so arranged his authorities as to render such a conclusion inevitable. The nature only of the title was contested, and so far from the clergy having had any reason to look upon Selden as an enemy, he in fact strengthened their claim to tithes by placing it upon the same footing as any ordinary title to property. As soon as the ‘History’ appeared it was attacked. The High Commission Court summoned Selden before it, and to this tribunal he was compelled to apologise. The terms of his submission very accurately state the offence, and are expressive of regret that “he had offered any occasion of argument against any right of maintenance jure divino of the ministers of the gospel.” The work received several answers, but Selden was forbidden by James I., under a threat of imprisonment, to notice them. “All that will,” said he, “have liberty, and some use it, to write and preach what they will against me, to abuse my name, my person, my profession, with as many falsehoods as they please, and my hands are tied: I must not so much as answer their calumnies. I am so far from writing more, that I have scarce ventured for my own safety so much as to say they abuse me, though I know it.”

Hardly had this storm passed, when he became involved in the disputes between the Crown and the House of Commons. One of the earliest steps of that body, upon the convocation of Parliament in 1621, was to present a remonstrance on the state of public affairs. This was succeeded by the memorable protestation of December 18, in which the liberty of the subject was asserted, and the right of the Commons to offer advice to the Crown was insisted on. This protestation was erased from the journals of the House by the King’s own hands, and the parliament was dissolved. Selden, whose advice, though he was not then a member, had been requested by the House in this 63dispute, was in consequence imprisoned, and detained in confinement five weeks. His release was owing to the intercession of Bishop Williams, who represented him to be “a man who hath excellent parts, which might be diverted from an affectation of pleasing idle people to do some good and useful service to his Majesty.” On his release, he dedicated to Williams his edition of Eadmer’s contemporary ‘History of England, from the Norman Conquest to the death of Henry I.,’ which he had prepared for the press during his confinement.

When the next parliament assembled in 1624, Selden sat in it as member for the borough of Lancaster. Though nominated upon several committees, he took no active share in the general business of the House. About this time also he was appointed one of the readers of the Inner Temple; but he refused the office, and was in consequence for some time disabled to be advanced to the rank of a bencher of the inn. Upon the accession of Charles I. a new parliament was called, in which Selden sat for the borough of Great Bedwin. This parliament was almost immediately dissolved, and another summoned, to which Selden was again returned for the same borough as before. The Commons immediately entered upon a consideration of the conduct of the Duke of Buckingham, and his impeachment being resolved on, Selden was one of the members appointed to prepare the articles, and was named a manager for their prosecution. These proceedings were stopped by another dissolution of parliament in June, 1626. But the necessities of the Crown requiring those supplies which parliament refused without a redress of grievances, forced loans were resorted to in the exercise of certain pretended owners of the prerogative. In several instances these loans were refused; among others by Sir Edward Hampden, who was imprisoned in consequence: and the illegality of his commitment was very ably argued by Selden in the King’s Bench. In the third parliament, called by Charles I. in 1628, Selden sat for the borough of Ludgershall; and in the debates which immediately took place upon illegal commitments, the levy of tonnage and poundage, and the preparation of the Petition of Rights, he took a very active share. The attack upon the Duke of Buckingham was renewed, and it was proposed by Selden, that judgment should be demanded against him upon the impeachment of the former parliament. As affecting a great constitutional question, only finally determined in 1791, of the continuance of impeachments, notwithstanding a dissolution of parliament, the suggestion was remarkable. Further proceedings were, however, stopped by the assassination of the Duke.

During the prorogation of parliament, Selden again devoted himself 64to literary pursuits. The Earl of Arundel, a great lover and promoter of the arts, had received from the east many ancient marbles, having on them Greek inscriptions. At the request of Sir Robert Cotton, these inscriptions were transcribed under the superintendence of Selden, and were published under the title of ‘Marmora Arundeliana.’ In January, 1629, parliament again assembled, and the debates upon public grievances were renewed. The goods of several merchants, in the interval of the meeting of parliament, had been seized by the Crown, to satisfy a claim to the duty of tonnage and poundage. Among the sufferers was Rolls, a member of the House. It was moved, that the seizure of his goods was a breach of privilege. When the question was to be put, the Speaker said “he durst not, for that the King had commanded to the contrary.” Selden immediately rose, and vehemently complained of this conduct: “Dare you not, Mr. Speaker, to put the question when we command you. If you will not put it, we must sit still: thus, we shall never be able to do any thing. They that come after you may say, that they have the King’s commands not to do it. We sit here by the command of the King under the great seal, and you are, by his Majesty, sitting in his royal chair before both houses, appointed for our Speaker, and now refuse to do your office.” The House then adjourned in a state of great excitement. When it re-assembled, the Speaker was called upon to put the question, and again refused. On this Holles and Valentine thrust the Speaker into the chair, and held him down, while Sir Miles Hobart locked the door of the house and took possession of the key. A declaration was then produced by Sir John Elliot, which Colonel Stroud moved should be read, and himself put the question. The motion was declared to be carried; and the Speaker, refusing to act upon it, was charged by Sir P. Heyman with cutting up the liberty of the subject by the roots. Selden moved that the declaration should be read by the clerk, which was agreed to. The House then adjourned to a day, previous to which the King came to the House of Lords and dissolved the parliament, on account of “the undutiful and seditious carriage of the Lower House,” without the attendance of the Commons. Selden, and the other members concerned in the violence offered to the Speaker, were committed to prison. This was his last and most rigorous confinement. For some time he was denied the use of pens, ink, paper, and books. When, after many weeks had elapsed, he was brought up with the other prisoners before the King’s Bench upon a writ of habeas corpus, their discharge was offered upon condition of their finding bail for their good behaviour. “We demand,” said Selden, “to be bailed 65in point of right; and if it be not grantable of right, we do not demand it. But finding sureties for good behaviour is a point of discretion merely, and we cannot assent to it without great offence to the parliament where these matters, which are surmised by the return, were acted.” They were remanded, and remained for a long time in prison, where Elliot, one of the ablest members of the popular party, fell a victim to his confinement. In 1634, Selden was suffered to go at large upon bail, which was discontinued upon his petition to the Crown. During his imprisonment he wrote a treatise, ‘De Successionibus in Bona Defuncti ad Leges Ebræorum,’ and another, ‘De Successione in Pontificatum Ebræorum.’ Both those works he dedicated to Archbishop Laud; probably upon account of his being indebted to the Archbishop for the loan of books. Not long after the recovery of his liberty, Selden obtained the favour of Charles I., and dedicated to him his celebrated essay on the ‘Mare Clausum,’ an argument in favour of the dominion of the English over the four seas, copies of which were, by order of the Privy Council, directed to be placed in the council chest, the Court of Exchequer, and the Court of Admiralty.

To the Long Parliament, which commenced its sittings in 1640, Selden was unanimously returned by the University of Oxford; but neither this new connexion with the clergy, nor the favour of Charles, appears to have affected his opinions. Upon the first day of the sitting of parliament he was nominated a member of the committee to inquire into the abuses of the Earl Marshal’s Court, and was appointed with others to draw up a remonstrance upon the state of the nation. He also sat upon the committees which conducted the measures preparatory to the impeachment of the Earl of Strafford, but he was not one of the managers before the House of Lords; and his name was posted in Old Palace Yard as one of “the enemies of justice,” a title given to those who were regarded as favourable to the Earl. It is not very clear what his opinions upon the impeachment were. That he should have been satisfied with all the steps taken by his party is not possible, for his opinions were undoubtedly moderate, and his studious habits must have checked any disposition to violence. He was also nominated to frame the articles of impeachment against Laud, and was a party to the resolutions against the legislative powers of the bishops. The court, however, appears to have considered him favourable to its interests, until he spoke against the commission of array. Upon this question, Clarendon represents the influence of his opinion upon the public to have been very prejudicial to Charles I. About this time the great 66seal was offered to him. He declined it, according to Clarendon, on account of his love of ease, and “that he would not have made a journey to York or have been out of his own bed for any preferment.” The reason which he himself assigned for refusing it, was the impossibility of his rendering any service to the Crown. He sat as member of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, and took the covenant; yet he was not well affected to the Puritans, and declared that “he was neither mad enough nor fool enough to deserve the name of Puritan.” Upon the death of Dr. Eden, Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in August, 1645, Selden was elected his successor, but declined to accept the office. About this time he appears to have gradually withdrawn from public business. His fondness of ease and his increasing age, and the silence he preserved upon many important events, all contribute to leave the inference of his approval or disapproval of much of the conduct of the parliamentary leaders open to adverse parties. He certainly never openly abandoned the popular side, nor does he appear to have forfeited its respect; and yet at the same time he continued to be esteemed by many of the leading Royalists.

The studies of Selden were continued to the latest period of his life, and he was near the age of seventy when his last work was published. The influence he possessed with the parliamentary leaders was frequently exerted in favour of letters. When Archbishop Laud’s endowment of the professorship of Arabic in the University of Oxford, was seized, on the attainder of that prelate, he procured its restitution. Archbishop Usher having preached against the divines of Westminster, and excited their anger, was punished by the confiscation of his library. Selden interfered, and saved it from sale and dispersion. When prelacy was abolished, the library attached to the see of Canterbury was by his efforts transferred to the University of Cambridge, where it remained until the Restoration. Through his entreaties, Whitelocke was induced to accept the charge of the medals and books at St. James’s, and thus secured their preservation. The services which he rendered to the University of Oxford were no less valuable, and were acknowledged in grateful terms by that learned body; and it was through his interference that the papers and instruments of Graves, the Professor of Mathematics, which had been seized by a party of soldiers, were restored.

Selden died November 30, 1654, and was buried in the Temple church. He left behind him no immediate relations, and he bequeathed nearly the whole of his fortune, amounting to nearly 40,000l., to his four executors, giving only one hundred pounds to each of the 67children of his sister, the wife of John Barnard, of Goring. His books and manuscripts he had originally given by his will to the University of Oxford; but that body having demanded of him a heavy bond for the restitution of a book which he desired to borrow from the public library, the bequest was struck out, and they were directed to be placed “in some convenient public library or college in one of the universities.” Sir M. Hale and his other executors, considering that they were the executors “of his will, and not of his passion,” transferred them to the Bodleian Library at Oxford.

To learned men Selden was liberal and generous; and there is a letter from Casaubon in Parr’s ‘Life of Archbishop Usher,’ in which that distinguished scholar with great feeling says, “I was with Mr. Selden after I had been with your Grace, whom, upon some intimation of my present condition and necessities, I found so noble, as that he did not only presently furnish me with a very considerable sum of money, but was so free and forward in his expressions, as that I could not find in my heart to tell him much (somewhat I did) of my intention of selling, lest it should sound as a farther pressing upon him of whom I had received so much.”

Milton terms Selden “the chief of learned men reputed in this land;” and Whitelocke states, “that his mind was as great as his learning, being very generous and hospitable.” Clarendon, who could not regard Selden with any political partiality, though he had in early life been on terms of intimacy with him, describes him to have been “a person whom no character can flatter or transmit in any expressions equal to his merit or virtue. He was of so stupendous learning in all kinds and in all languages (as may appear in his excellent and transcendent writings), that a man would have thought he had been entirely conversant among books, and had never spent an hour but in reading and writing; yet his humanity, courtesy, and affability were such, that he would have been thought to have been bred in the best courts, but that his good nature, charity, and delight in doing good, and in communicating all he knew, exceeded that breeding.”

The motto adopted by Selden was περὶ παντὸς τὴν ἐλευθερίαν (above all things, liberty), and it is to be found neatly written upon the first page of many of his MSS. Its spirit he extended to religious questions; and there are many bold and vigorous passages in his writings in which the necessity of freedom of inquiry upon all subjects is strongly insisted on. Noticing upon one occasion a certain class of ancient philosophers, he remarks, “He who takes to himself their liberty of inquiry, is in the only way that, in all kinds of studies, leads 68and lies open even to the sanctuary of truth; while others, that are servile to common opinion and vulgar suppositions, can rarely hope to be admitted nearer than into the base-court of her temple, which too speciously often counterfeits her innermost sanctuary.” His religious opinions have, with much impropriety, been the subject of dispute. They have been chiefly inferred from several passages of a work published after his death, entitled ‘Selden’s Table Talk.’ From the nature of his studies, his writings are far from being popular, and are, in consequence, now but little read. They obtained, however, for their author, during an age abounding with illustrious and learned men, an honourable reputation, among the most distinguished literary men of continental Europe, as well as among those of his own country. His works were edited by Dr. Wilkins, in 3 vols. folio, in 1726, to which a Latin ‘Life of the Author’ is prefixed.

[Gallery of the Arundel Marbles.]

Engraved by W. Holl.


From the original Picture, in “L’École de Médecine,” at Paris.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.

69 PARÉ.


Ambroise Paré, the father of French surgery, and one of the most useful as well as the earliest of the innovators upon that art as practised by the ancients, was born at Laval, in the district of Maine, in the year 1509. After going through the rudiments of education, he was placed at an early age under the tuition of the chaplain Orsoy, in his native town, to be instructed in the classics; but the means of his family appear to have been very narrow, or the economy with which they were supplied must have been strict; for we find that the worthy chaplain was obliged to make use of the services of his pupil in grooming his mule and other menial capacities, in order to eke out the scanty remuneration he received for his instructions. In truth, these do not appear to have been great; for Paré never achieved a knowledge of Greek, and was but superficially acquainted with the Latin language; and it is probable that even this small amount of classical acquirement was made at a late period of his life, when, being an author, he wished to quote.

On leaving his tutor, he was placed with a barber-surgeon at Laval, named Vialot, who is recorded to have taught him how to bleed. Not long after this change in his pursuits, the lithotomist, Laurent Colot, came to Laval to undertake the treatment of one of the chaplain’s ecclesiastical brethren: on this occasion, Paré was present, and zealously assisted at the operation. This accidental circumstance appears to have suggested to him the ambitious project of following the higher departments of surgery; and he contrived to leave the shop of his master in phlebotomy, and repaired to Paris, where he availed himself with so much diligence of the advantages afforded by that city, as a school of anatomy and medicine, that he was soon entrusted with 70the subordinate charge of the patients of Goupil, who then held the surgical chair in the college of France. From this discerning tutor he learned not only all the knowledge which could at that time be obtained from secondary sources, but the art of expressing himself well, and acquitting himself of his duties with neatness and grace. The talents thus acquired were of the greatest service to him in his after-life, which was chiefly passed among the great; and gave him that ease of manner and power of gaining confidence, which stood him so frequently in stead as court-surgeon to four successive monarchs, and, aiding the natural frankness of his character, carried him safely through many an intrigue and cabal, dangerous not only to his reputation and fortunes, but even to his life. He was never a member of the community of barber-surgeons, but derived his legal qualification to practise from a degree in surgery taken at the college of St. Edme, of which he was afterwards Provost.

Having passed upwards of three years as a student, residing actually within the walls of the Hotel Dieu at Paris, he was appointed Staff-surgeon, in 1536, when twenty-seven years old, to the Mareschal René de Monte-jean, who commanded the infantry under the Constable Montmorenci in the campaign of Piedmont. In this capacity, Paré was present at the siege and capture of Turin.

From this time is to be dated the commencement of his acquaintance with military surgery, for which he afterwards did so much. “I was then,” he says, “very raw and inexperienced, having never seen the treatment of gunshot wounds. It is true that I had read in the Treatise of Jean de Vigo on wounds in general, that those inflicted by fire-arms partake of a poisonous nature on account of the powder, and that they should be treated with hot oil of elder mixed with a little theriacum. Seeing, therefore, that such an application must needs put the patient to extreme pain, to assure myself before I should make use of this boiling oil, I desired to see how it was employed by the other surgeons. I found their method was to apply it, at the first dressing, as hot as possible, within the wound with tents and setons: and this I made bold to do likewise. At length my oil failed me, and I was fain to substitute a digestive, made of the yolks of eggs, rose-oil, and turpentine. At night I could not rest in my bed in peace, fearing that I should find the wounded, in whose cases I had been compelled to abstain from using this cautery, dead of poison: this apprehension made me rise very early in the morning to visit them; but beyond all my hopes, I found those to whom I had applied the digestive suffering little pain, and their wounds free from inflammation; 71and they had been refreshed by sleep in the night. On the contrary, I found those to whom the aforesaid oil had been applied, feverish, in great pain, and with swelling and inflammation round their wounds. I resolved, therefore, that I would never burn unfortunate sufferers from gunshot in that cruel manner again.”

Such was the casual origin of one of Paré’s greatest improvements in surgery,—the substitution of a mild treatment for the cautery in gunshot wounds; a principle which he afterwards successfully extended to other injuries at that time deemed poisonous. The improvement seems as obvious as it was important: yet the adherents of the old practice gave him much trouble, and even made it necessary for him to defend his wholesome innovation long afterwards before Charles IX. in person.

Yet with all his sound sense, Ambroise Paré was not by any means free from the credulity of his age. For instance, he relates, in his account of this siege, an amusing story of the court he paid to an Italian quack doctor, who lived at Turin, to wheedle him out of the secret of a dressing for fresh gunshot wounds, for which he had great fame. This was found to consist of a mixture of bruised worms, the grease of puppies boiled down alive, and other absurd ingredients, constituting the celebrated oleum catellorum, the only merit of which consists in its harmlessness. He is erroneously praised by Dr. Ballingall for having banished this unguent from practice, whereas, on the contrary, he introduced it; and he shows, by his frequent reference to it in his works, that he had no small faith in its virtues, and was exceedingly proud of having been the means of its publication.

The death of his patron, the Mareschal, soon after the fall of Turin, induced him to return to Paris, though tempted by large offers to remain in the camp.

In 1543, he accompanied the Duc de Rohan into Britanny, where Francis I. commanded in person against the English; and the next year he followed that monarch in his expedition to throw supplies into Landrecy. In 1545, he was with the camp at Boulogne, where he cured the general of the royal army, Francis Duke of Guise, of a very dangerous wound, which gained him great reputation.

In 1552, he attended the Duc de Rohan in his campaign in Germany. During this expedition occurred one of those instances of combined humanity and skill, which made Paré the favourite of the French army. He thus tells the story: “A party had gone out to attack a church, where the peasants of the country had fortified themselves, hoping to get some provisions, but they came back very soundly 72beaten; and one especially, a captain-lieutenant of the company of the Duke, returned with seven gashes in his head, the least of which had penetrated to the inner table of the skull, besides four sabre wounds in the arm, and one across the shoulder, which divided the shoulder-blade in half. When he was brought to quarters, the Duke judged him to be so desperately wounded, that he absolutely proposed, as they were to march by daylight, to dig a trench for him, and throw him into it, saying, that it was as well that the peasants should finish him. But being moved with pity, I told him (says Paré), that the captain might yet be cured: many gentlemen of the company joined with me in begging that he might be allowed to go with the baggage, since I was willing to dress and cure him. This was accordingly granted: I dressed him, and put him into a small well-covered bed in a cart drawn by one horse. I was at once physician, surgeon, apothecary, and cook to him; and, thank God, I did cure him in the end, to the admiration of all the troops: and out of their first booty, the men-at-arms gave me a crown a-piece, and the archers half-a-crown each.”

His reputation was now so high, that no expedition of importance, especially if generalled by a prince of the blood, or one of the higher nobility, was considered complete without his presence. This was accordingly solicited by the old King of Navarre, more commonly called the Duc de Vendôme, on an occasion of that kind. But being tired of a military life, and disgusted with its cruelties and horrors, he endeavoured to evade the proposal, alleging the illness of his wife, and other excuses: but the Duke would take no denial; and at last he consented to accompany him to the siege of Chateau le Comte. There he acquitted himself so well, that upon the warm encomiums of the Duke he was received into the service of Henry the Second, in 1552, being then but thirty-three years old. From this time he lived at the court, where, with other advantages, obtained not less by his behaviour and wit than his skill, he enjoyed, though a Huguenot, the especial favour of the Queen, Catherine de’ Medici, who was fond of conversing with him in her own language, with which Paré had become well acquainted in his Italian campaign. She served him powerfully on several important occasions.

Paré, however, still continued to frequent the camp, when any emergency seemed to demand his services. Such an occasion occurred at the renowned siege of Metz, in the winter of 1552, conducted by Charles V. in person, with the Duke of Alva and 120,000 men, against a garrison of 6000, which ended, after two months, in the disastrous retreat of the besiegers. The defence was most gallantly 73carried on by the flower of the French army, headed by many of the higher noblesse, and several of the princes of the blood, under the Duke of Guise. It has been already mentioned that gunshot wounds were at that time thought to have something poisonous about them; and the severe cold, and other circumstances of that siege, being such as unusually to depress and harass the garrison, their wounds proved almost uniformly fatal; and the idea arose and gained ground, that Charles had ordered his bullets to be actually poisoned. Paré alone was thought able to meet the necessity of the case in such an extremity; and the demand for his assistance became so pressing in the dispirited garrison, that at the instance of the Duke of Guise the King was induced to send him. He was stealthily introduced by the treachery of one of Charles’s captains, for a bribe of 1500 crowns, and his appearance on the ramparts was hailed by the troops with the most extravagant expressions of joy. “Now that Paré is with us,” they cried, “we shall not perish of our wounds.” Their spirits revived, and the successful issue of their arduous struggle is generally ascribed to the presence of Paré.

Upon the raising of the siege, of which, as is usual in his writings, he gives a most lively and humorous account, Paré returned to court. In 1553 he was sent on a like errand to the siege of Hesdin, which, after a vigorous defence, and against the faith of a capitulation, was pillaged by the troops of the Duke of Savoy. Paré was himself one of the prisoners, but escaped in disguise after various adventures, and returned to Paris; notwithstanding the tempting offers of the Duke of Savoy, who had witnessed his skill, though kept in ignorance of his name.

He was sent upon many other missions of the same kind; as to the fields of St. Quentin and Moncontour; to Rouen, where he attended the Duc de Vendôme on occasion of the wound of which he died; and to St. Denys, where he performed the same unwelcome duty for the Constable. The long intervals of these services he always passed at court, in the enjoyment of his well-earned reputation and favour.

On the death of Henry II. in 1559, occasioned by an accident at a tournament, Francis II., his eldest son by Catherine de’ Medici, succeeded to the crown. He immediately confirmed Paré in his situation of surgeon in ordinary and counsellor. It will not be supposed that he could enjoy this constant favour and good fortune without the usual drawback in the excited jealousy of his professional rivals. Their rancour was at length carried to such a pitch, that they gravely accused him of causing the premature death of Francis in 1560, by injecting poison into his ear under the pretext of treating him for an inflammation 74seated there, of which he died. Catherine, however, shielded him from this attack, expressing her complete reliance on his integrity as well as his skill, in words which the historians of the period have preserved. A similar accusation was brought against him as unsuccessfully in the case of Henry III., who was afflicted with the same disorder: on which occasion the Queen-Mother again stood forward in his behalf, and his innocence was fully attested by the physicians whom she had placed about her son, and who had witnessed every application he made.

On the death of Francis II. in 1560, Paré maintained his place in the household of Charles IX., to whom it was thought he had rendered essential service after an injury inflicted on one of the nerves of the arm by an unlucky phlebotomist. This misfortune of his humbler brother was of great use to Paré, who, though a courtier during the predominance of the Guises, openly professed the Protestant faith; for it was probably the means of procuring him in Charles the only protector powerful enough to save him from being included in the general massacre of the Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s Day. Brantôme and Sully each connect his name with that event. The words of the former are as follows: “Le Roi quand il fût jour, ayant mis la tête a la fenêtre de sa chambre, et qu’il voyait aucuns dans le fauxbourg St. Germain qui se remuoient, et se sauvoient, il prit une grande arquebuse de chasse qu’il avoit, et en tira tout plein de coups à eux; mais en vain, car l’arquebuse ne tiroit si loin; incessamment crioit, ‘Tuez, tuez,’ en n’en vouloit sauver aucun si non Maître Ambroise Paré, son premier chirurgien, et le premier de la Chrestienté, et l’envoya querir et venir le soir dans sa chambre et garde robbe, commandant de n’en bouger; et disoit qu’il n’etoit raisonnable qu’un qui pouvoit servir à tout un petit monde, fûst ainsi massacré.

De tous ceux,” says Sully, “qui approchoient ce prince (Charles IX.) il n’y avoit personne qui eut tant de part à sa confiance qu’ Ambroise Paré. Cet homme qui n’etoit que son chirurgien, avoit pris avec lui une si grande familiarité, quoiqu’il fût Huguenot, que ce prince lui ayant dit le jour du massacre que c’etoit à cette heure qu’il falloit que tout le monde se fît catholique, Paré lui répondit sans s’étonner, ‘Par la lumière de Dieu, Sire, je crois qu’il vous souvient m’avoir promis de ne me commander jamais quatre choses; sçavoir, de rentre dans le ventre de ma mère, de me trouver à un jour de bataille, de quitter votre service, et d’aller à la messe.’

Paré still retained his situation after the accession of Henry III. in 1574; but he seems to have resigned the cares of active life about that time, and we hear little more of him. He died December 2, 751590, in the eighty-first year of his life, and was buried in the church of St. André des Arcs in Paris.

Paré appears to have been a man of quick and independent observation rather than of reflection or genius. His constitution was vigorous, and fitted no less for social enjoyments than active business: his person was manly and graceful, his spirits buoyant, and his disposition remarkably amiable and attractive; hence he was a universal favourite, particularly in a despotic court, of which the dullness was agreeably relieved by his frankness, and his powers of humour and repartee. The amusing and well-told anecdotes and lively descriptions that teem in all his writings, which, it may be observed, are equal in point of style to any of the time, sufficiently attest his possession of those qualities, even if the stories and bon-mots that are related of him be questioned. His ‘Apology,’ as he calls one of his later pieces, containing an account of his various campaigns and journeys, is full of humour, and well worth the perusal of the general reader. It was published by way of answer to an attack upon his treatment of contused wounds and hæmorrhages, made by an obscure Parisian lecturer, whose name he does not mention; and he diverts himself exceedingly at the expense of the critic, for his presumption in pretending to teach a surgeon whose experience had been gathered from twenty sieges and fields of battle, through an active professional life of forty years. The raillery he employs is often very keen and pointed, but never ill-natured, and indicates the infinite superiority he felt, and had a right to feel, over his merely book-learned adversary.

His conduct throughout life appears to have been remarkably upright and sincere, though tinctured by the adulation which, in that age of violence and despotism, was always exacted by the great from those who were more humbly born.

He was a bold and good operator, and his general skill and success in the practice of his profession is unquestionable; in that day it must have been wonderful. As a surgical writer, his fame principally rests upon his introduction of a soothing method of treating gunshot and other contused wounds, and his discovery or rather restoration of the method of arresting hæmorrhage, by the ligature of the bleeding vessel, instead of searing with hot iron, and other insufficient and painful means. But he made many other novel and useful remarks which only do not deserve the name of discoveries, because they relate to more trivial points, and do not involve important principles: and, upon the whole, much as surgery has been improved since his time, there have been few writers to whom it has owed so much as to him, 76especially in the military department. The whole body of his writings on that subject, though diffuse, merit the perusal of professional men. The same praise cannot be given without exception and reserve to those of his writings which were less the records of his personal experience, than compilations from other sources. His remarks upon the subjects of Physiology, Medical Diseases, the Composition of Remedies, Natural History, and Obstetrics, are not free from error, credulity, and even indelicacy. The latter charge was successfully urged against him by the contemporary Parisian physicians, who were jealous of his encroachments upon what they considered their own domain, and he was obliged to alter the original editions.

He was too much occupied by his practice to engage deeply in the study of anatomy: hence his knowledge of it was rather sufficient than accurate; and though he wrote upon it at some length, and even added new facts to that science, his success in advancing it can only be considered as a proof of the imperfect information of the time. He lived before the discovery of the circulation of the blood.

His first publication, on Gunshot Wounds, in 1545, was incorporated with his other writings, comprising altogether twenty-six treatises, and printed at Paris in one large folio volume in 1561. This, with some posthumous additions, has been often reprinted, and there are translations of it in Latin and other languages. The first English edition was by Thomas Johnson in 1634.

[Medal of Paré.]

Engraved by J. Mollison.


From the Picture in the Hall of Wadham College, Oxford.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.



Robert Blake is believed to have been born at Plansfield, in the parish of Spaxton, Somersetshire, near Bridgewater, in which town his father was a merchant; but the place is not so well ascertained as the date of his birth, which was August, 1598. He was educated in the Free School of Bridgewater, whence in due time he removed to Oxford, and became successively a member of St. Alban’s Hall and Wadham College. His character was studious, yet he was fond of field-sports and other violent exercises; and we may infer that he had at least a decent share of scholastic learning, from his having been a candidate, though unsuccessfully, for a studentship at Christchurch, and a fellowship at Merton College. He returned to Bridgewater when about twenty-five years old, and lived quietly on his paternal estate till 1640, with the character of a blunt, bold man, of ready humour and fearless expression of his sentiments, which, both in politics and religion, were adverse to the pretensions of the court. These qualities gained for him the confidence of the Presbyterian party in Bridgewater, by whom he was returned to the parliament of April, 1640. The speedy dissolution of that assembly gave him no opportunity of trying his powers as a debater; and in the next parliament he was not re-elected. But on the breaking out of the civil war, he displayed his principles by entering the Parliamentary army.

We have no certain information concerning the time or the capacity in which he began to serve; but in 1643 we find him intrusted with the command of a fort at Bristol, when the city was besieged by the Royalists. Here his impetuous temper had nearly brought him to an untimely death; for, having maintained his fort and killed some of the king’s soldiers after the garrison had surrendered, Prince Rupert was 78with difficulty induced to spare his life, which was held to have been forfeited by this violation of the laws of war. Blake served afterwards in the west of England with good repute, and in 1644 was appointed Governor of Taunton, a place of great consequence, being the only Parliamentary fortress in that quarter. In that capacity he distinguished himself by the skill, courage, and constancy with which, during two successive sieges, he maintained the town against the Royalists in 1645; an important service, for which the parliament voted £2000 to the garrison, and £500 to the governor. It is recorded that he disapproved of the extremity to which matters were pushed against Charles, and that he was frequently heard to say, that he would as freely venture his life to save the King’s, as he had ever done it in the service of the Parliament.

In February, 1649, Colonel Blake, in conjunction with two officers of the same rank, Deane and Popham, was appointed to command the fleet. It may be taken as a proof that, notwithstanding the fame of our early navigators, the King’s service at sea had never been treated with much attention, that, down to later times than those of which we now write, the chief command of a fleet seems never to have been given to a man of naval education and habits. It is probable that the sea service then held out no inducements strong enough to tempt men of high birth to submit to its inconveniences, and that the command of a fleet was esteemed too great a post to be conferred on a man of humble origin. For this new employment Blake soon showed signal capacity. When the embers of the war were stirred up after the King’s death, he was ordered to the Irish seas in pursuit of Prince Rupert, whom he blockaded in the harbour of Kinsale for several months. Despair of relief induced the Prince at last to make a daring effort to break through the Parliamentary squadron, in which he succeeded; but with the loss of three ships. Blake pursued him to the Tagus, where being denied liberty to attack his enemy by the King of Portugal, in revenge he captured and sent home a number of ships richly laden, on their way from Brazil. In January, 1651, he attacked and, with the exception of two ships, destroyed the Royalist fleet, in the neutral harbour of Malaga; a breach of national law, which can only be justified on the alleged ground that Rupert had destroyed British ships in the same harbour. These services were recompensed by the Parliament with the post of Warden of the Cinque Ports; and in March an act was passed constituting Blake, with his colleagues Deane and Popham, admirals and generals of the fleet for the year ensuing. In that capacity, he took Jersey, Guernsey, and the Scilly Islands from 79the Royalists; a service, for which he was again thanked by Parliament. In this year he was elected a member of the Council of State.

March 25, 1652, Blake was appointed sole admiral for nine months, in expectation of a war with the Dutch. The United States and England were at this time the two most powerful maritime countries in the world; and it is hard to find any better reason than national rivalry for the bloody war which broke out between them in the spring of this year; a war which seems to have been begun on a point of etiquette, at the discretion of the admirals, without orders for hostilities being known to be given by the governments on either side. On May 18, a fleet of forty-two Dutch ships, commanded by the celebrated Van Tromp, appeared off the Goodwin Sands. Being challenged by Major Bourne, who commanded a squadron in the Downs, they professed to have been driven from their anchorage off Dunkirk by stress of weather; but instead of drawing off the coast as they were required to do, they sailed to Dover and cast anchor, in a manner which showed the deliberate design of insulting the British flag. Blake lay some distance to the westward in Rye Bay. Intelligence was immediately sent to him, and on his approach the Dutch weighed anchor, and seemed about to retreat, but, changing their course, they sailed direct for the English fleet. When within musket shot, Blake ordered a single gun to be fired at the Dutch admiral’s flag, which was done thrice. Van Tromp returned a broadside, and a hot and well-contested action ensued, and was maintained till nightfall. Under cover of the darkness the Dutch retreated, losing two ships (one sunk, the other taken), and leaving the possession of the field and the honour of the victory in the hands of the English. The States appear neither to have authorised nor approved of the conduct of their admiral; for they left no means untried to satisfy the English government; and when they found the demands of the latter so high as to preclude accommodation, they dismissed Van Tromp, and intrusted the command of their fleet to De Ruyter and De Witt. Meanwhile, Blake’s activity was unremitting. He gained a rich harvest of prizes among the Dutch homeward-bound merchantmen, which were pursuing their way without suspicion of danger; and when he had sent home forty good prizes and effectually cleared the Channel, he sailed to the northward, dispersed the fleet engaged in the herring fishery, and captured a hundred of the vessels composing it, together with a squadron of twelve ships of war sent out to protect them. The hostile fleets again came to an engagement, September 28, in which the advantage was decidedly in favour of the English, the rear-admiral of the Dutch 80being taken, and three or four of their ships disabled. Night put an end to the action; and, though for two days the English maintained the pursuit, the lightness and uncertainty of the wind prevented them from closing with the enemy, who escaped into Goree. After this battle the drafting off of detachments on various services reduced the English fleet to forty sail, and those, it is said, in consequence of the negligence or jealousy of the executive government, were ill provided with men and ammunition, and other requisite supplies. Thus weakly furnished, Blake lay in the Downs, when Van Tromp again stood over to the English coast with eighty men-of-war. Of that undaunted spirit which usually prompts the British seaman to refuse no odds Blake had an ample share; indeed, he did much to infuse that spirit into the service. But there are odds for which no spirit can make up, and as he had a brave and skilful enemy, the result of his rashness was that he was well beaten. Not more than half the ships on either side were engaged; but out of this small number of English vessels two were taken, and four destroyed; the rest were so shattered that they were glad to run for shelter into the river Thames. The Dutch remained masters of the narrow seas; and Van Tromp, in an idle bravado, sailed through the Channel with a broom at his mast-head, as if he had swept it clear of English ships. However, neither the admiral nor the nation were of a temper to submit to this indignity; and great diligence having been used in refitting and recruiting the fleet, Blake put to sea again in February, 1653, with eighty ships. On the 18th he fell in with Van Tromp, with nearly equal force, conducting a large convoy of merchantmen up the Channel. A running battle ensued, which was continued during three consecutive days, until, on the 20th, the Dutch ships, which, to suit the nature of their coast, were built with a smaller draught of water than the English, obtained shelter in the shallow waters of Calais. In this long and obstinate fight, the Dutch lost only eleven men-of-war and thirty merchant vessels; but the number killed is said to have amounted to 1500 on either side; a loss of life of most unusual amount in naval engagements.

Another great battle took place on the 3rd and 4th of June, between Van Tromp and Generals Deane and Monk. On the first day the Dutch seem to have had somewhat the advantage: on the second Blake arrived with a reinforcement of eighteen sail, which turned the scale in favour of the English. Bad health obliged him then to quit the sea, so that he was not present at the last great victory of July 29, in which Van Tromp was killed. But out of respect for his services the Parliament presented him with a gold chain, as well as the admirals 81who had actually commanded in the battle. When Cromwell dissolved the Long Parliament, and assumed the office of Protector, Blake, though in his principles a republican, did not refuse to acknowledge the new administration. In conjunction with Deane and Monk he published a declaration of their resolution, “notwithstanding the late change, to proceed in the performance of their duties, and the trust reposed in them against the enemies of the Commonwealth.” He is reported to have said to his officers, “It is not our business to mind state-affairs, but to keep foreigners from fooling us.” He sat in the two first Parliaments summoned by the Protector, who always treated him with great respect. Nor was Cromwell’s acknowledged sagacity in the choice of men at fault, when he chose Blake to command a strong fleet, sent into the Mediterranean in November, 1654, to uphold the honour of the English flag, and to demand reparation for the slights and injuries done to the nation during that stormy period of civil war, when our own discord had made others daring against us. In better hands such a mission could not have been placed. Dutch, French, and Spaniards alike concurred in rendering unusual honours to his flag. The Duke of Tuscany and the Order of Malta made compensation for injuries done to the English commerce. The piratical states of Algiers and Tripoli were terrified into submission, and promised to abstain from further violence. The Dey of Tunis held out, confident in the strength of his fortifications. “Here,” he said, “are our castles of Goletta and Porto Ferino: do your worst; do you think we fear your fleet?” Blake took the same course as, in our own time, Lord Exmouth did against Algiers: he bore right into the bay of Porto Ferino; engaged the fortress within musket shot, and in less than two hours silenced or dismounted its guns; and sending a detachment of boats into the harbour, burnt the shipping which lay there. After this example he found no more difficulty in dealing with the African states.

War having been declared between Spain and England, in 1656, Blake took his station to blockade the bay of Cadiz. At this period his constitution was much broken, insomuch that, in the expectation of a speedy death, he sent home a request that some person proper to be his successor might be joined in commission with him. General Montague was accordingly sent out with a strong squadron. Being obliged to quit the coast of Spain in September to obtain water for his fleet, Blake left Captain Stayner with seven ships to watch the enemy. In this interval the Spanish Plate fleet appeared. Stayner captured 82four ships richly laden with bullion; the rest escaped. Montague conducted the prizes home, so that Blake was again left alone in the Mediterranean. In the ensuing spring, having learnt that another Plate fleet had put into the island of Teneriffe, he sailed thither, and arrived in the road of Santa Cruz, April 20. The bay was strongly fortified, with a formidable castle at the entrance, and a connected chain of minor forts all round it. The naval force collected there was also considerable, and strongly posted, the smaller vessels being placed under the guns of the forts, the galleons strongly moored with their broadsides to the sea; insomuch that the Spanish Governor, a man of courage and ability, felt perfectly at ease as to the security of his charge. The master of a Dutch ship, which was lying in the harbour, was less satisfied, and went to the Governor to request leave to quit the harbour; “For I am sure,” he said, “that Blake will presently be among you.” The Governor made a confident reply. “Begone if you will, and let Blake come if he dares.” Daring was the last thing wanting; nor did the Admiral hesitate, as a wise man might well have done, about the real difficulties of the enterprise in which he was about to engage. The wind blowing into the bay, he sent in Captain Stayner with a squadron to attack the shipping, placed others in such a manner as to take off, and, as far as possible, to silence the fire of the castle and the forts, and himself following, assisted Stayner in capturing the galleons, which, though inferior in number, were superior in size and force to the English ships. This was completed by two o’clock in the afternoon, the engagement having commenced at eight in the morning. Hopeless of being able to carry the prizes out of the bay against an adverse wind, and a still active enemy, Blake gave orders to burn them: and it is probable that he himself might have found some difficulty in beating out of the bay under the fire of the castle, which was still lively, when on a sudden, the wind which had blown strong into the bay, suddenly veered round to the south-west, and favoured his retreat, as it had favoured his daring approach. Of this, the most remarkable, as it was the last exploit of Blake’s life, Clarendon says, “The whole action was so incredible, that all men who knew the place wondered that any sober man, with what courage soever endowed, would ever have undertaken it; and they could hardly persuade themselves to believe what they had done: while the Spaniards comforted themselves with the belief, that they were devils and not men who had destroyed them in such a manner. So much a strong resolution of bold and courageous men can bring to pass, that no resistance or advantage of ground can disappoint 83them; and it can hardly be imagined how small a loss the English sustained in this unparalleled action, not one ship being left behind, and the killed and wounded not exceeding two hundred men; when the slaughter on board the Spanish ships and on shore was incredible.”

It will be recollected with interest that, on the same spot, Nelson lost his arm, in an unsuccessful night-attempt to capture Santa Cruz with an armed force in boats.

For this service the thanks of Parliament were voted to the officers and seamen engaged, with a diamond ring to the Admiral worth 500l. Blake returned to his old station off Cadiz; but the increase of his disorders, which were dropsy and scurvy, raised a desire in him to return to England, which, however, he did not live to fulfil. He died as he was entering Plymouth Sound, August 17, 1657. His body was transported to London, and buried with great pomp in Westminster Abbey, at the public expense. After the Revolution it was thought unworthy to remain in that treasure-house of England’s departed greatness; and with the bones of others who had found a resting-place there during the short period of the Commonwealth, it was transferred to St. Margaret’s churchyard. It has been disputed whether this was done with more or less of indecency; but the matter is little worth inquiry. The real indecency and folly lay in thinking that any ground, however sanctified by the reverent associations of centuries, could be polluted by the tomb of a man whose leading passion was the glory of his country, and who made the name and flag of that country respected wheresoever he carried it: a man of whom not one mean or interested action is recorded, and whose great qualities extorted praise even from the Royalists. Bate, in his ‘Elenchus Motuum,’ speaks of him as a man “blameable in this only, that he joined with the parricides;” and it may be remarked that Dr. Bate’s horror of a parricide did not prevent his being physician to Cromwell, as well as to Charles I. and II.

We conclude with Clarendon’s character of this great man. “He was of private extraction, yet had enough left him by his father to give him a good education, which his own inclination disposed him to receive in the University of Oxford, where he took the degree of a Master of Arts, and was enough versed in books for a man who intended not to be of any profession, having sufficient of his own to maintain him in the plenty he affected, and having then no appearance of ambition to be a greater man than he was. He was of a melancholic and sullen nature, and spent his time most with good fellows, who liked his moroseness, and a freedom he used in inveighing against the licence of the time and the power of the court. They who knew 84him inwardly, discovered that he had an anti-monarchical spirit, when few men thought the government in any danger.” After a short sketch of Blake’s actions in the civil war, the noble author continues, “He then betook himself wholly to the sea, and quickly made himself signal there. He was the first man that declined the old track, and made it manifest that the science might be attained in less time than was imagined, and despised those rules which had long been in practice, to keep his ship and his men out of danger; which had been held in former times a point of great ability and circumspection, as if the principal art requisite in the captain of a ship had been to be sure to come safe home again. He was the first man who brought the ships to contemn castles on shore, which had been thought ever very formidable, and were discovered by him to make a noise only, and to fright those who could be rarely hurt by them. He was the first who infused that proportion of courage into the seamen, by making them see by experience what mighty things they could do, if they were resolved, and taught them to fight in fire as well as upon water, and though he has been very well imitated and followed, he was the first that gave the example of that kind of naval courage, and bold and resolute achievements.”

The earliest life of Blake which we have seen is in the second volume of a collection entitled ‘Lives English and Foreign,’ published at the beginning of the last century. Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion, Heath’s Chronicle of the Civil Wars, the Memoirs of Ludlow, Whitelock, and other contemporary authorities, will furnish minute accounts of the many battles of which we have here only made short mention.

Engraved by R. Woodman.


From the original by Janet, in the Musée Royal, Paris.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.



Michel de l’Hôpital was born at Aigueperse in Auvergne. The date of his birth he himself declares, in his testament, to be uncertain, but at the same time he refers it to the year 1505. His father was the domestic physician, the faithful friend, and trusted counsellor of the Constable of Bourbon, and still followed his patron’s fortunes, when that ill-used and misguided prince took up arms against France in 1523. Michel de l’Hôpital, then a student at the University of Toulouse, was arrested as the son of one of Bourbon’s partizans; but after a short time he was set at liberty by the express order of Francis I., and after the lapse of two or three years was permitted to rejoin his father in Italy. He completed his education during a residence of six years at the celebrated University of Padua. Quitting that University with high credit for his acquirements both in polite literature and legal knowledge, he took up his abode at Rome with his father, and soon obtained the favourable notice both of the Emperor Charles V. and the French ambassador, Cardinal de Grammont. But preferring the hope of re-establishment in his native country to the prospects of advancement held out in a foreign land, he returned to France in the train of the Cardinal; was present at the espousal of Catherine de Medici with the Dauphin, afterwards Henry II., in 1583; and laid a stepping-stone towards his fortunes by attracting the notice of his future queen. The death of the Cardinal however in the following year overclouded his prospects. His father was unable to procure a reversal of the sentence of exile and confiscation passed on him for his adherence to Bourbon; and Michel de l’Hôpital, without means or friends, betook himself to the practice of the law in the courts of Paris. Fortunately, his merits procured a discerning friend in Jean Morin, a high legal functionary, who gave him his daughter in marriage in 1537, with the judicial office of Conseiller for her dowry.

86L’Hôpital filled this office during nine years. It was one in which he found no pleasure; for though attached to the philosophical study of the law (and he mentions it as one of the evils of his situation that he had been obliged to abandon a project for collecting into one body the laws of France, both written and resting on judicial decisions), he found the daily routine of trying causes extremely irksome. His letters are full of complaints of this drudgery, as he esteemed it, and express in lively terms the pleasure which he felt in escaping during the vacations into the country, and renewing his literary pursuits. He numbered the most intellectual and learned men of France among his friends, nor was he backward in seeking to conciliate the great and powerful. It is worth noting, as indicative of the manners of the age, that his favourite method of addressing such persons was in Latin hexameters. Accounts of his way of life, statements of his wishes, petitions, &c., are conveyed in that form; and he composed with fluency, and with a competent share of elegance, without great attention to correctness. One of his frequent correspondents, to whose favour he owed in great measure his future rise, was Cardinal Lorraine. The Chancellor Olivier, a man of no common virtue, was another of his best friends, and to him L’Hôpital was indebted for being withdrawn from the hated bustle of the law, by his appointment as envoy to the Council of Bologna. This proved a sinecure; and he employed his time in wandering about the neighbourhood of that city, and writing letters to the Chancellor, full of poetical descriptions, and requests for a more permanent provision away from the tumult of the law courts.

Early in 1549 L’Hôpital was recalled, after remaining upwards of a year in Italy. He found the Chancellor in disgrace; but his acknowledged merit obtained the notice of Margaret of Valois, daughter of Francis I., a steady patroness of learning, herself devoted to literary as well as religious study. Being created Duchess of Berri, she appointed him her Chancellor, to manage the affairs of the province; and one of his first steps in that capacity was the establishment of a new law-school at Bourges, to which he endeavoured to attract the most eminent teachers. Her influence, added to that of Cardinal Lorraine, procured for him the high financial appointment of Superintendent of the Chamber of Accounts, in 1554. His conduct in that station was firm and honest. He laboured to put a stop to numberless abuses, which had prevailed both in the collection and disposition of the revenue; and his zeal is testified by the ill-will which it brought upon him, and which twice endangered the loss 87of his place. His independence in this respect is ill contrasted by his obsequiousness in supporting the edict known in French history by the name of the Semestre. This requires a few words of explanation. No legislative body was recognised by the French constitution. Even the States-General could not enact: the power of making laws resided solely in the sovereign. But by the practice of the land, the edicts of the monarch required to be registered by the body of lawyers called the Parliament of Paris, before they could possess validity as law: a wholesome practice, which often served as a check upon the court. It was probably with the intention of rendering that body more subject to control, that Henry II., or his ministers, introduced the above-mentioned edict, by which it was proposed to divide the Parliament into two bodies, to relieve each other every six months. Under this arrangement it would have been easy to collect the refractory spirits into one body, and then to bring measures forward for registration in whichever half year might best suit the views of the crown. L’Hôpital’s accession to this measure has been palliated by alleging, that, as the price of it, he stipulated for the abolition of a custom which prevailed, for suitors to offer fees to the judges before whom their causes were to be tried, under the name of spices (épices),—a ready means of corruption, for yielding to which, or something not much worse, Bacon, about half a century later, was removed with disgrace from the chancellorship of England. The whole tenor of L’Hôpital’s policy in after times tended to depress the Parliament; and this furnishes a presumption that his conduct in this particular instance was honest. But it is strange that he should not have perceived any inroad on the independence of the judicial body to be a still greater evil than even that from which he endeavoured to free it. After all, the scheme failed, and he was deeply mortified at the obloquy which his accession to it incurred.

The accession of Francis II., by bringing the house of Guise into power, proved the means of L’Hôpital’s advancement. One of the first acts of the new government was to restore to the office of chancellor Olivier, a man of tried integrity, and a friend to toleration. But while the princes of Guise availed themselves of his high character to court popularity, they had no thought of acting by his advice; and Olivier, compelled to be the unwilling instrument of a policy which he detested, and afraid or unable to resign, was hastened by vexation to his grave. L’Hôpital was selected to be his successor in June, 1560. The Guises and the Queen Mother are said to have been actuated by different views in agreeing upon this appointment. The former thought 88that from an old adherent and petitioner of Cardinal Lorraine they had no opposition to fear: the latter is said to have been influenced by the hope that L’Hôpital’s patriotism would lead him to be a check on the over-powerful house of Lorraine.

The circumstances under which he became Chancellor were such as might fairly breed suspicion of his honesty. None but a bold man could have hoped to do good after the example of Olivier; none but a dexterous man could have succeeded. And such dexterity is seldom joined with that sincerity and purity of purpose, which is one of the most valuable qualities of a statesman, or any man. There are sometimes seasons in which an honest man may take office, with the certainty not only that he will not be permitted to do much that he would wish, but also that he will be obliged to do a good deal that he disapproves. But such compromises are of bad example and evil influence, and can only be excused by the necessity of the times, and by the good results which ensue. By this test, L’Hôpital’s conduct is vindicated. He conferred a signal benefit on France at his first entrance upon office, by dexterously contriving to prevent the establishment of the Inquisition, which had been resolved on. He obtained the convocation of an Assembly of Notables at Fontainebleau, in which, through his influence, conciliatory measures were adopted towards the Protestants, and it was resolved to summon a meeting of the States-General. But the Guises, by working on the young king’s fears, turned that measure to their own advantage. Condé no sooner appeared than he was arrested, tried, and condemned to death. The King of Navarre was threatened with a similar fate; and but for the opportune death of Francis II., the kingdom probably would have been plunged at once into the utmost fury of a religious war. But the succession of Charles IX., a minor, in December 1560, threw the regency into the hands of Catherine; and she, encouraged by L’Hôpital, asserted her independence of the Guises, and, to conciliate the support of a powerful party, released Condé, and allied herself with the King of Navarre.

At first, the Chancellor’s liberal measures seemed to prosper. As if in compliance with the demands of the States, he published the celebrated Ordonnance of Orleans, which embodied most of his views for the reformation of the state, and introduced a variety of bold and important changes into the church, the courts of justice, and the financial system. One portion of it is expressly directed against the oppressive rights claimed and exercised by the nobility. But the spirit of the age was not ripe for such extensive reforms: they were too far in advance to produce a lasting influence. And in attempting 89to overcome an interested and prejudiced opposition, the Chancellor was led to an act unworthy of his real zeal for the welfare of his country. His legal improvements had not conciliated the good will of the lawyers; and, foreseeing that the Parliament of Paris might probably refuse to register his edicts, he took it on himself to dispatch them to the provinces, without ever having submitted them to that body. To justify such a step, it is not enough to say that his views were enlarged and noble, theirs bigoted and illiberal; for it is seldom or never that any object can be of importance enough to justify a constitutional statesman in breaking down a constitutional security. Nor had he even the bad excuse of success. The Parliament were justly incensed, and probably became still more hostile to the measures adopted in defiance of its authority; and the high Catholic party prevailed in obtaining a new Assembly of Notables, at which all was undone which the Chancellor had been labouring to do, and the persecuting edicts against the Protestants were re-established in full force.

This blow to his system of toleration the Chancellor contrived to obviate. He had no assembly, no body of recognised authority on which to lean for support. The Parliament of Paris was against him; the Assembly of Notables, composed of lawyers and nobility, was against him; the States-General were tedious to convoke, and were paralysed by their division into three orders. In this difficulty he bethought himself of calling an assembly of deputies from the provincial Parliaments of the kingdom; and fortified by their recommendation, he promulgated and obtained registration of the celebrated edict of January, 1562, which, under certain restrictions, permitted the open profession of the Protestant faith. Upon this the furious bigotry of the Duke of Guise broke into open violence, and kindled the first of those religious wars which long desolated France. Strengthened by the adhesion of the Constable Montmorenci, and by possession of the persons of the King, and Queen Regent, the brothers of Lorraine usurped the conduct of affairs, and excluded L’Hôpital from the council. It is remarkable, considering his resolute opposition to their policy, that they did not deprive him of his office; and this may be taken as an evidence either of the consummate prudence with which, without betraying his own principles, he avoided giving personal offence to his opponents; or that his character stood so high as to render his opponents unwilling to incur the odium of displacing him.

The assassination of the Duke of Guise, in February, 1563, restored to Catherine her own free-will, and L’Hôpital to power; and he immediately availed himself of it to lay the basis of peace by fresh 90edicts in favour of toleration, which as usual were opposed by the Parliament. In the following year, Charles IX. having reached the age of fourteen, the Chancellor revived an old law which fixed the majority of Kings of France at that age, and declared the King’s majority before the Parliament of Rouen. Soon after, he was engaged in a quarrel with his old patron, Cardinal Lorraine, relative to the privileges of the Gallican Church. The question was, whether or not the decrees of the Council of Trent should be admitted as authority in France. The Chancellor opposed this, and he carried his point.

To amuse Charles, and to avoid some of the evils which usually beset a court, the Chancellor conducted his young sovereign on a tour to the southern provinces of France. This was attended with unforeseen and evil consequences. At Bayonne Charles was met by his sister, the Queen of Spain, attended by the Duke of Alva and other Spanish noblemen. Alva acquired the confidence of Catherine, whom he persuaded that in the hands of L’Hôpital she really had no more freedom of action than under the control of the Guises; and as in her opposition to them she had been actuated by no love of toleration, she had little to unlearn under the tuition of that bigoted and able partizan of the papacy. L’Hôpital soon perceived that his power was shaken. He laboured to make up for the lost confidence of Catherine, by attaching himself more and more to Charles IX.; and for a time he succeeded in retaining influence over that prince, who, during the years 1565 and 1566, was kept in a state of vacillation between those who pleaded for peace and toleration, and those who would have exterminated Protestantism at all hazards and by all means. The religious war was renewed in 1567. Peace was concluded in 1568; but L’Hôpital was not employed to manage it. His only hold upon power was now in the reverence of the King; and this was shaken by the artful representations of Catherine. It shows, however, in a strong light, the ascendancy which L’Hôpital had acquired over Charles’s mind, that the joint influence of Catherine and the House of Guise could not induce him absolutely to dismiss his faithful minister. In 1568 he sent to request the Chancellor to give up the seals for a time, with a promise of returning them. L’Hôpital says in his Testament, that “he judged it better to yield to the necessity of the state, and to its new governors, than to contend with them.” He retired to his estate at Vignay, near Etampes, where he returned with avidity to his literary pursuits, and to the amusements and occupations of the country, to which his letters represent him as devotedly attached.

91The Chancellor had not amassed wealth in his various high employments; but his pensions were continued by the King; and Catherine herself did not forget his former services. Even in the dreadful massacre of St. Bartholomew’s they interfered to protect him; though his family were Protestants, and he himself, though a Catholic by profession and in observances, was so suspected by the bigot party, who did not understand how sincerity and tolerance could go together, that it passed into a sort of proverb, ‘Lord deliver us from the Chancellor’s mass.’ A troop of horse was sent from court to preserve his mansion from insult. His domestics were alarmed, and proposed to shut the gates. “No,” said the Chancellor; “but if the small gate is not enough, open the great one.” His daughter, then in Paris, was in imminent danger, and escaped only through the intervention of the Duchess of Guise.

The Chancellor did not long survive this signal proof that his labours had been in vain. “I have lived too long,” he said, “since I have seen what has occurred in my last days,—a youth changed from a mild king into a merciless tyrant.” He died, March 13, 1573; and was buried in his parish church of Champmoteux. His monument is among those which have been collected at Paris, in the Musée des Petits-Augustins.

Brantôme has described the person of L’Hôpital. He wore a long white beard; his face was pale, his demeanor grave, and he resembled the pictures of St. Jerome, by which name he was known at court. He and the Constable Montmorenci were famous as rabroueurs, or reprimanders, and were joint terrors to the idle courtiers; and this harshness, if we may trust his own representations, was not natural, but assumed as a necessary qualification for his office. His private habits were very simple and frugal, and he regarded the increase of luxury as the bane of France. Brantôme says that once, when he paid the Chancellor a visit with Maréchal Strozzi, their host gave them for dinner a single dish of bouillie, and that his whole stock of plate consisted of one silver saltcellar. He adds an amusing account of the way in which the Chancellor rated two newly appointed functionaries, who came to present themselves, and who could not pass satisfactorily through a legal examination, which he bestowed upon them.

The leading objects of L’Hôpital’s political life were to obtain the reformation of abuses, to establish the independence of the Gallican church against the usurpations of Rome, and to procure toleration for the Protestants. He is, we believe, the first minister who laid down the principle of toleration, and proclaimed the impossibility and absurdity 92of making force the rule of reason; and he has thus gained an indefeasible title to the reverence, not only of his countrymen, but of mankind. “What laws,” he said, in his inaugurative speech to the Parliament of Paris, “have not been promulgated on this point of religion? What judgments and punishments, of which even the magistrates of the Parliament have been victims? To what purpose have served such continued armaments and combats in Germany, in England, and in Scotland? The ancient religion has been shaken by these combats, and the new confirmed. The mistake lies in treating the maladies of the mind as if they were those of the body. Experience teaches us that it is the force of reason, the gentle persuasion of words alone, which can win hearts, and cure diseased spirits.”

This great man has another claim to notice, as one of the most distinguished jurists and reformers of France. He has been classed with Charlemagne and St. Louis, as one of the three principal legislators of that country; and his eminent successor D’Aguesseau bore testimony to the merits of his edicts, as the foundation of the most useful laws which were afterwards enacted. His constitutional views were directed towards raising the royal authority, at the expense of the nobility and the Parliament. We have expressed our belief that in the latter instance his conduct was wrong. His views of reform are embodied in the Ordonnance of Orleans (January, 1561), and that of Moulins (February, 1566), which De Thou describes as being the complement of the former. Of the contents of the Ordonnance of Orleans we have already given such notice as our space allows; that of Moulins pertains rather to legal and judicial reforms; it limits and defines the powers of judicial officers, and determines the law on various points, relative to entails, arrests for debt, sales, &c. In short, these two edicts provide for the removal of most of those evils which, unredressed, produced the first Revolution.

It is much to be regretted that L’Hôpital’s essay towards a work on French law is lost. There is a volume extant of his Poetical Epistles, of which the best edition is that of Amsterdam, 1732. To these, and to his Testament, which is printed in the Bibliothèque Choisie of Colomiès, and in Brantôme (article of the Constable Montmorenci), we may refer for authentic details of his life; of which numerous particulars will be found in the history of De Thou, the Memoirs of Brantôme, the Letters of Pasquier, the Eloges of Thevet, and other contemporary writers. His speeches before the States of Orleans have been published; and a Collection of Memoirs, consisting 93of various State Papers, printed at Cologne, 1672, has been ascribed to him. The Eloge of L’Hôpital was proposed as a prize by the French Academy in 1777. Slight accounts of him will be found in the various biographical dictionaries; but no publication, so far as we know, has appeared either in French or English, which can dispense with the necessity of consulting the original authorities, on the part of those who wish to obtain more than a superficial acquaintance with the history of this illustrious statesman.

[The Conciergerie at Paris, from whence the Huguenot prisoners were liberated by L’Hôpital himself,—from a Print in the British Museum.]



The light esteem in which the theatrical profession has commonly been held renders it probable that the introduction of an actress among the few female names included in our Gallery may seem to some persons uncalled for and injudicious. That there are few players entitled to such admission we allow: but for one who studied acting as a branch of art, discarding every unworthy species of stage trickery; and who, by profound study, and a rare union of mental and bodily excellence, has inseparably connected her name and memory with the masterpieces of the British drama, we do claim a place (to which her eminent brother is almost equally entitled) among the master-minds of the fine arts.

Sarah Kemble came of a theatrical stock. Her father was manager of a provincial company of actors; her mother was the daughter of a provincial manager. Both parents maintained a high character for moral rectitude; and the latter is said to have been distinguished by a strength of mind, and stateliness of demeanour, which may have had some influence upon the character and manners of her celebrated children. Sarah, their eldest daughter, was born at Brecon, July 5, 1755. From an early period of childhood she was trained to the stage. She was scarcely more than seventeen when her affections were engaged by an actor of her father’s company, named Siddons, to whom, after some opposition on the part of her parents, she was married, November 26, 1773. Her early married life was beset with difficulties. Mr. Siddons possessed little merit as an actor; and during nine years, which elapsed before Mrs. Siddons established a metropolitan reputation, she had to endure hard work and low pay. The first encouragement which she received in her career was from the notice of the Hon. Miss Boyle, afterwards Lady O’Neil, a lady possessed of high mental qualities, as well as birth and beauty, who was so much struck

Engraved by W. Holl.


After the Picture by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.

95by the young actress’s performance of Belvidera at Cheltenham in 1774, that she sought her out in her obscurity, and there commenced a warm and lasting friendship. Through this connection Mrs. Siddons seems to have been introduced to Garrick, by whom she was engaged at Drury Lane theatre. Her first appearance was in the character of Portia, December 29, 1775. She was received with indifference; and during the remainder of the season she did not establish herself in the favour of the London audiences, nor did she appear in any first-rate part. Garrick professed high admiration for her, and on quitting the stage, which he did towards the close of that season, promised to procure for her an advantageous engagement with his successors in the management. In this promise he failed, for during the summer of 1776 she received an abrupt dismissal from Drury Lane. Her failure to produce a sensation in the first instance does not seem to have weighed much on her mind. She knew her powers, but was conscious that they were immature; and she was deeply sensible through life how necessary, even to the greatest powers, are cultivation and study. But this dismissal affected her in a very different manner. In her own words, quoted from the autograph ‘Recollections’ intrusted to her friend and biographer, Mr. Campbell, “it was a stunning and cruel blow, overwhelming all my ambitious hopes, and involving peril, even to the very subsistence of my helpless babes.”

Her fears were soothed, and her mortification relieved by her success at several of the provincial theatres. She received her dismissal from Drury Lane while at Birmingham, where she was engaged during the summer to perform the highest characters; and where she laid the foundation of her fame, by acquiring the good opinion of the actor Henderson, who pronounced, within a year of her expulsion from Drury Lane, that she was an actress who never had an equal, nor would ever have a superior. Through his recommendation, in the following year she obtained a permanent engagement at Bath, where she was received with distinguished favour, and where she remained until her increasing reputation procured for her an invitation to return to Drury Lane. She chose the part of Isabella, in the ‘Fatal Marriage,’ for her debut, October 10, 1782. The anxiety with which she approached this second trial is described in an interesting manner in her own memoranda. On this occasion her hopes were fully gratified. She played Isabella eight times between October 10, and October 30, when she appeared in her second character, Euphrasia, in the ‘Grecian Daughter.’ Her other parts, during this first season, were Jane Shore, Calista, Belvidera, and Zara in the ‘Mourning Bride.’

96We propose in this sketch of Mrs. Siddons’s theatrical life to notice only the most remarkable of her characters, reserving to the end a complete list of them, together with a few remarks on her style of acting. In November, 1783, she played Isabella in ‘Measure for Measure,’ with entire success; and thus solved the real or pretended doubts of a few persons, who questioned her courage or capacity to represent the masterpieces of Shakspeare to a London audience. No one could do more justice to the pure, uncompromising, clear-sighted virtue of Isabella, so consonant to her own honest and high-souled simplicity: nor was she at fault in attempting, during the same season, Constance, in ‘King John,’ a character of more varied emotion, and far greater demand on the resources of the player. Of this part she says, in an elaborate criticism, worthy of being read with attention by all persons, and especially by actors, “I cannot conceive in the whole range of dramatic character a greater difficulty than that of representing this grand creature.” Those who remember her performance of it in the meridian of her powers, bear testimony, with Mr. Campbell, to the depth of her maternal affection, her queen-like majesty, and her tremendous power of invective and sarcasm: when first revived for her the play seems to have been coldly received.

The celebrated portrait of Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic Muse was painted by Reynolds in 1783. The character was suggested by the painter: the attitude is that in which the sitter first placed herself, by which Reynolds was so struck that he at once adopted it.

An interesting anecdote relative to Mrs. Siddons’s first country performance of Lady Macbeth, is told in the Memoranda from which we have already quoted. “It was my custom to study my characters at night, when the domestic cares and business of the day were over. On the night preceding that in which I was to appear for the first time, I shut myself up, as usual, when all the family were retired, and commenced my study of Lady Macbeth. As the character is very short, I thought I should soon accomplish it. Being then only twenty years of age, I believed, as many do believe, that little more was necessary than to get the words into my head; for the necessity of discrimination, and the development of character, at that time of my life, had scarcely entered into my imagination. But, to proceed, I went on with tolerable composure in the silence of the night, (a night I can never forget,) till I came to the assassination scene, when the horrors of the scene rose to a degree that made it impossible for me to get farther. I snatched up my candle, and hurried out of the room, in a paroxysm of terror. My dress was of silk, and the rustling of it, 97as I ascended the stairs to go to bed, seemed to my panic-struck fancy like the movement of a spectre pursuing me. At last I reached my chamber, where I found my husband fast asleep. I clapt my candlestick down upon the table, without the power of putting the candle out; and I threw myself on my bed, without daring to stay even to take off my clothes. At peep of day I rose to resume my task; but so little did I know of my part when I appeared in it at night, that my shame and confusion cured me of procrastinating my business for the remainder of my life.”

“About six years afterwards I was called upon to act the same character in London. By this time I had perceived the difficulty of assuming a personage with whom no one feeling of common general nature was congenial or assistant. One’s own heart could prompt one to express with some degree of truth the sentiments of a mother, a daughter, a wife, a lover, a sister, &c.; but to adopt this character must be an effort of the judgment alone.”

In accordance with this, Mrs. Siddons has been known to say, that Lady Macbeth gave her more trouble than any other of her characters, both in settling her conception of the poet’s meaning, and determining the means of giving effect to it. Her success however in the eyes of the public was complete: in Mr. Campbell’s words, “the moment she seized the part she identified her image with it in the minds of the living generation.” She appeared in it for the first time in London, February 2, 1785. Smith played Macbeth. As in the case of Constance, Mrs. Siddons has left, in an elaborate essay on the character of Lady Macbeth, interesting evidence of the deep study which she bestowed on her profession; a point in which, as well as in general mental cultivation, the Kemble family have been advantageously distinguished from others even of our first-rate actors. It is scarcely possible to conceive ‘Macbeth’ so well performed as when the principal characters were filled by Mrs. Siddons and Kemble: the actors might have been thought born for the parts. The same may be said of ‘Coriolanus,’ in which they appeared together for the first time in February, 1789. But the season of 1785 is also memorable for Mrs. Siddons’s first appearance in Desdemona, a character as widely different from the Scottish Queen as can well be imagined. Yet it is recorded to have been one of the actress’s most exquisite performances; and this is one of the strongest proofs of her extraordinary talent. Unsuitable as her person, voice, and general demeanour may seem to those who knew her only in her later days, we have the undeniable testimony of competent judges to the grace, loveliness, and sweetness 98with which she personated the gentle Venetian. Her very stature, Mr. Boaden says, seemed to be lowered. Ophelia she performed once, and once only, for her benefit, May 15, 1786, to her brother’s Hamlet; and, though a poor singer, she rendered the part deeply affecting. Juliet she also performed, we believe once only, for her benefit in 1789. Cordelia and Imogen are to be added to the list of characters of the gentler cast. The former was not one of her most popular, probably not one of her most effective, performances, for Lear is said to have been almost the only play in which, when both were on the stage, the brother made a stronger impression than the sister. The pure, gentle dignity of Imogen must have found in her a most effective representative.

In the autumn of 1783, about a year before Dr. Johnson’s death, Mrs. Siddons, at his own request, paid him a visit, which was several times repeated. He expressed a strong desire to see her in Queen Katherine, his favourite character among Shakspeare’s females. He was not so gratified; for the play was not brought forward until November 28, 1788, after an absence from the stage of near half a century. This, like Lady Macbeth, we must regard as one of Mrs. Siddons’s peculiar characters. “It was an era,” Mr. Campbell says, “not only in Mrs. Siddons’s history, but in the fortune of the play as an acting piece; for certainly, in the history of all female performance on the British stage, there is no specific tradition of any excellence at all approaching to hers as Queen Katherine.” The two principal scenes belonging to the part are strikingly contrasted. The high mind and majestic deportment of the actress, and the sarcasm which she pours out on the Cardinal, render the Trial Scene one of the most effective on the stage; and it has fortunately been preserved from oblivion by the pencil of Harlowe. But the last scene, in the sick chamber, was among the strongest proofs of Mrs. Siddons’s close adherence to nature, and one of her greatest triumphs over the difficulties of her art, enhanced as they were by the extravagant dimensions of the modern theatres. It may be mentioned to show her confidence in her own judgment as to the truth of nature that, though the audience in the gallery sometimes asked her to speak louder, she never obeyed the call; but left the architect responsible for any failure of effect, rather than herself overstep the bounds of propriety in the most solemn event of human life.

Mrs. Siddons quitted Drury Lane for the season 1789–90, in consequence of the difficulty of obtaining her salary while the treasury was in the hands of Sheridan. She was induced by promises to return in 99the following season; but a weak state of health prevented her playing more than seven nights, and she appeared in no new character; nor, during the summer of 1791, did she act on any provincial stage. She returned to Drury Lane in 1794, after the rebuilding of the theatre, and remained there until 1802; when the impossibility of rescuing the reward of her labours from that “drowning gulf,” as she justly calls Sheridan in one of her letters, drove her away finally. The most remarkable of her new characters, during this period of eight years, were Millwood, in ‘George Barnwell,’ and Agnes, in ‘Fatal Curiosity,’ both plays of Lillo; Mrs. Haller; Elvira in ‘Pizarro,’ which, in spite of the demerits of the play, she rendered one of her most popular characters; and Hermione, in the ‘Winter’s Tale,’ her last new part, which she acted for the first time, March 25, 1802. The statue scene was one of her most extraordinary performances, both for its illusion while she remained motionless, and for the effect produced by her descent from the pedestal, and recognition of her daughter Perdita.

In one of her early performances of this character she met with an accident which might well have ended fatally. The muslin draperies in which she was enveloped caught fire from a lamp; fortunately, one of the scene-men saw and extinguished it before it spread. Her gratitude for his interposition is eloquently expressed in her correspondence; and her warmth of feeling was subsequently evinced in the pains which she took to procure for the man’s son, who had deserted from the army, remission from what she justly calls “the horrid torture and disgrace of the lash,” and in the lively pleasure which she expresses in the prospect of succeeding.

Upon her final departure from Drury Lane, Mrs. Siddons formed an engagement at Covent Garden, where she appeared for the first time, September 27, 1803. She continued there until June 29, 1812, on which day she bid farewell to the stage. During this time she performed in no new characters, nor is any circumstance which requires notice recorded of this part of her professional life. In her last season we find that, of her earlier characters, she performed Isabella, in ‘The Fatal Marriage,’ twice; Isabella, in ‘Measure for Measure,’ seven times; Euphrasia, twice; Belvidera, six times; and Mrs. Beverley, four times. It may perhaps be taken as an indication of that by which she wished chiefly to be remembered, that she played Lady Macbeth ten times, and chose it for her farewell. Queen Katherine she played six times; Constance and Volumnia, four times each; Elvira, five times; Mrs. Haller, twice; Hermione, four times. 100On her last appearance the house was crowded to excess, and the excitement of the occasion was testified by a general demand that the play should be stopped after Lady Macbeth’s appearance in the sleeping scene. Mrs. Siddons returned to the boards on various occasions, chiefly for her brother Charles’s benefit: her last performance was in the part of Lady Randolph, June 9, 1819.

In giving, in addition to what we have already said, a short general notice of the professional merits of Mrs. Siddons, we shall confine our remarks chiefly to those characters which better suited her maturer years, in which alone a large majority of our readers can have seen her. She was throughout the tragic department the unrivalled actress of her time; though in such parts as Belvidera, Desdemona, Cordelia, &c., the power of exciting the sympathy of an audience might have been shared with her by Mrs. Cibber and other of her predecessors, or by her successors, Miss O’Neil or Miss Kemble. But in one respect she stands alone in her profession: she was the most intellectual of actresses. She was a person of deep thought, and an habitual student of nature with a view to the perfection of her art; and that as much, or more, in advanced life, than when she had her reputation to make or to enjoy in the first years of her celebrity. Mrs. Siddons sat day after day in her study, looking at Shakspeare and whatever bore upon him, not as if he were the mere poet of the stage, furnishing an outline to be filled up by her peculiar powers, but as if he were the high priest and expositor of human nature, whose lessons it was the serious business of her life to learn, and having learned, to teach.

We shall not add to what we have already said of her Queen Katherine, or Lady Macbeth, except one circumstance, illustrative of the above position. Mrs. Siddons, who repeatedly read ‘Macbeth’ before the most competent judges, made a deeper and more lasting impression, not only in her own part, but in the other characters, than did the representation on the stage by her brother and herself, with all the advantages of dress and the illusion of scenery. The audience, at her readings, consisting of men and women of taste and literature, professed never to have understood Shakspeare so thoroughly before.

Her Isabella, in ‘Measure for Measure,’ claims a short notice. This play in Garrick’s reign was acted occasionally to empty benches in the dull part of the season; but neither the manager himself, nor his leading performers, condescended to appear in so grave and sermonizing a piece. Even when played by Kemble and his sister, it did not draw crowded houses; but it ensured a critical and enlightened 101audience. The theatre seldom contained so many men of the first reputation for taste and literature as when that play was performed. John Kemble’s mind was framed in the same mould with his sister’s; he gave to a sententious and philosophic part dignity and interest, where an ordinary actor would preach his audience to sleep. The scene between the Duke in the disguise of a Confessor, and Isabella, excited neither tears nor rapturous applause, but intense interest, and breathless attention. The Duke’s exposition of his project is long, her intervening speeches short, and not emphatic; so that such a scene bids fair to be called prosing. But the intense and intelligent expression in her eyes, and more perhaps in her mouth, the great seat of expression, filled up whatever was wanting: the gradually increasing, but as yet far from complete comprehension of the device, and of its consistency with her own purity, marked without words what was passing in her mind: but when she exclaims “The image of it gives me content already, and I trust it will grow to a most prosperous perfection,” the burst of perfect understanding, the lighting up of every feature, and the tones of sudden joy, produced a corresponding effect in the spectators, which scenes of intense pathos could scarcely surpass in effect. Mrs. Siddons’s power over the mind was as great as over the passions.

Another extraordinary performance was her Millwood, in ‘George Barnwell.’ She took that part, which had never been played by a first-rate actress, in hopes that she might be of service to her brother Charles, then a young actor, who was to be brought forward as Barnwell. In the early scenes the severity of her blandishments bordered on the ludicrous; she was more like Barnwell’s mother than his mistress: but in her scene of dissimulation with Thorowgood, and in her subsequent arrest and diabolically triumphant avowal of the motive of her conduct through life, the desire to revenge her wrongs on the opposite sex, she pourtrayed wickedness with grand and appalling force. Her thundering exclamation, “I know you, and I hate you all; I expect no mercy, and I ask for none,” was made with a withering effect. The scene in ‘Fatal Curiosity,’ in which Agnes suggests to her husband the murder of their unknown son, was another of her wonderful exhibitions: in Mr. Campbell’s words, “it made the flesh of the spectator creep.”

Mrs. Siddons is said to have thought well of her own talents for comedy; and her reading of Shakspeare’s characters of low humour was admirable. She played at different times Katherine, in ‘The Taming of the Shrew,’ and Rosalind; as well as Mrs. Oakley, and a 102few other characters of the modern drama. There seems to have been nothing against her success in genteel comedy but a deficiency of animal spirits. Her delivery of the level conversation in tragedy was easy, graceful, and refined. Her representation of the early scenes in ‘The Gamester,’ where she had merely to personate an elegant and highbred woman, bearing up against present anxiety and impending misfortune, was as attractive and as finished as her deep tragedy in the sequel was pathetic and harrowing. And in the first scenes of Mrs. Haller, the charm of her manners and delivery imparted interest even to the dull detail of a housekeeper’s weekly routine.

We subjoin a list of the parts which Mrs. Siddons performed in London. The reader will be surprised to find how many of them are in plays all but forgotten, and utterly unworthy of her talents. In those marked (*) she made her first appearance for her own benefit: in those marked (†), for John Kemble’s.

Characters. Plays.
Isabella Fatal Marriage
Euphrasia Grecian Daughter
Jane Shore Jane Shore
Calista Fair Penitent
*Belvidera Venice Preserved
*Zara Mourning Bride
Isabella Measure for Measure
Mrs. Beverley Gamester
Constance King John
*Lady Randolph Douglas
Countess of Salisbury Countess of Salisbury (Hartson.)
*Sigismunda Tancred and Sigismunda
Margaret of Anjou Earl of Warwick (Franklin.)
Zara Zara (from Voltaire.)
Matilda Carmelite (Cumberland.)
Camiola Maid of Honour
*Lady Macbeth Macbeth
Desdemona Othello
Elfrida Elfrida (Mason.)
Rosalind As you like it
The Duchess Duke of Braganza (Jephson.)
Mrs. Lovemore Way to keep Him
*Hermione Distressed Mother
*Ophelia, and the Lady in Comus  
Malvina The Captives (Delap.)
Elwina Percy (Miss H. More.)
Cleone Cleone (Dodsley.)
Imogen Cymbeline
Hortensia Count of Narbonne (Jephson.)
†Lady Restless All in the Wrong
Julia Italian Lovers (Jephson.)
Alicia Jane Shore
Cordelia Lear
Cleonice Fall of Sparta (Mrs. Cowley.)
†Katherine Taming the Shrew
Dionara Regent (Greatheed.)
*Cleopatra All for Love
Queen Katherine Henry VIII.
Volumnia Coriolanus
*The Princess and Mrs. Riot Law of Lombardy (Jephson.)
Lethe (Farce. Garrick.)
Mary Mary Queen of Scots (St. John.)
*Juliet Romeo and Juliet
Queen Elizabeth Richard III.
Mrs. Oakley Jealous Wife
Ariadne Ariadne (Murphy.)
Countess Orsini Emilia Galotti (from Lessing.)
Horatia Roman Father (Whitehead.)
103Elvira Edwyn and Elgiva (Miss Burney.)
Palmira Mahomet (from Voltaire.)
Emmeline Edgar and Emmeline (Afterpiece.)
Roxana Alexander the Great (Lee.)
Almeyda Queen of Granada (Miss Lee.)
Julia Such Things were (Prince Hoare.)
Eleanora Edwin and Eleonora (Thomson.)
Vitellia Conspiracy (Jephson.)
Millwood George Barnwell
Athenais Force of Love (Lee.)
Aspasia Tamerlane (Rowe.)
Dido Queen of Carthage (Reed.)
Agnes Fatal Curiosity
Julia Rivals
Mrs. Haller Stranger
Miranda Aurelio and Miranda (Boaden.)
Countess Castle of Montval (Dr. Whalley.)
Elvira Pizarro
Adelaide Adelaide (Pye.)
Lady Jane De Montfort
Helena Antonio (Godwin.)
Agnes Julian and Agnes (Sotheby.)
Hermione Winter’s Tale

Of Mrs. Siddons’s private life it is not necessary for us to speak at length. She had a full share of domestic troubles; and suffered the most poignant sorrow which could have befallen her affectionate temper, in the successive deaths of two lovely daughters in the prime of youth, and of her eldest son at a more advanced age. Nor was she exempted by her brilliant success and large gains from great anxiety upon pecuniary matters, and from the necessity of diligent labour at times when rest would have been most grateful to a distressed spirit, and a body weakened by frequent indisposition. And she made it her boast that she had never wilfully disappointed either a manager or the public; and that in point of punctuality, she had always been an honest actress. But Mr. Siddons lost money in some unfortunate speculations; and this, combined with the extreme difficulty of extracting from Sheridan her salary, or even the proceeds of her benefits, kept Mrs. Siddons poor for many years. It is however gratifying to know that the evening of her life was spent in affluence.

In social intercourse Mrs. Siddons commanded the respect of all, the admiration and love of those who knew her intimately. To a constitutional want of animal spirits, and to a fear of that presumptuous intrusion to which actresses are often exposed, we may attribute a gravity, not to say severity of manner, from which distant observers sometimes inferred a corresponding severity of character. That this was not the case, that she was benevolent, cheerful, and affectionately interested in the welfare of all who enjoyed her friendship, is shown by the testimony of many, and by the evidence of her own actions.

To be courted by the rich and noble is not the best proof or reward 104even of professional merit; and no one ever was less disposed than Mrs. Siddons to act the part of what is called a lion. But it should be mentioned that her acquaintance was eagerly cultivated among the highest of the land; and that she was personally esteemed by George III. and his queen, and often summoned to attend on their private circle. She possessed a still higher honour, and one which she is said to have esteemed more highly, in the admiration and friendship of Johnson, Reynolds, Burke, Fox, and other intellectual ornaments of the age.

After quitting the stage, Mrs. Siddons gave public readings of poetry at the Argyle Rooms, and also, by special invitation from the Universities, at Cambridge and Oxford. At home her readings of Shakspeare were the delight of large and frequent parties, till within a year or two of her death. The latter years of her life were spent, the winter months at her house in London, the summer months at some watering-place, and in visits to her numerous friends. Time laid his touch gently on her noble face and person; and to the end of life she looked some years younger than her age, and preserved her mental powers unimpaired. She died June 8, 1831, in her seventy-sixth year.

We need hardly refer to the Lives of Messrs. Boaden and Campbell. The interest of the latter is much increased by the critical and other writings of Mrs. Siddons, with which it is interspersed.

[Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic Muse, from Sir J. Reynolds.]

Engraved by E. Scriven.


From a Crayon Picture by the late J. Russell, Esqre. R.A. in the possession of Sir John Herschell.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.



William Herschel was born at Hanover, November 15, 1738. His father was a musician, and brought up his four sons to his own art, which in Germany gave him better means of educating his children, than would have fallen to the lot of a person holding the same station in England. The subject of our memoir is said to have had a master who instructed him in French, ethics, and metaphysics: but at the age of fourteen he was placed in the band of the Hanoverian regiment of guards, and in 1758 or 1759 he accompanied a detachment of the regiment to England. Another account states that he grew tired of his occupation, and came to England alone. Here, after struggling with poverty for some time, he was chosen by Lord Darlington to organize a band for the Durham militia; after which he passed several years in the West Riding of Yorkshire, employed in teaching music and studying languages. About 1765 he was elected organist at Halifax, and employed himself in the study of harmony and mathematics. Such at least is the statement of the ‘Obituary;’ but in that respectable work we find no references to the sources from which these minute particulars of Herschel’s early life are obtained. About this time he is said to have visited Italy; and, without professing to give credit to it, we may here insert a curious story which appears to have been copied into English works from the ‘Dictionnaire des Auteurs Vivans,’ &c., Paris, 1816. Being at Genoa, and not having wherewith to pay his passage home to England, he procured from a M. L’Anglé the use of some public rooms for a concert, at which he played a quartett, alone, 106upon a harp, and two horns, one fastened to each shoulder. Those who are in the least acquainted with wind instruments will hardly believe that a horn fastened to the shoulder would be of much more use than one growing out of the head, as a musical instrument; to say nothing of the difficulty of blowing two horns at once, or of playing a quartett upon three instruments. Remarkable characters are generally made the subject of wonderful stories, of which each is fashioned in accordance with the general habits of the inventor: the groom’s idea of a wit was “a gentleman who could ride three horses at once;” surely two horns and a harp are not too much to be played at once by a planetary discoverer.

About 1766, he is said to have been one of the Pump-room band at Bath, and was shortly afterwards organist of the Octagon Chapel there. He taught and read as before; and here he turned his attention to astronomy. He borrowed a small reflecting telescope of a friend; and at length, finding that the purchase of such an instrument was (“fortunately,” as it has been well expressed,) above his means, he endeavoured to construct one for himself. His first attempt was a five-feet Newtonian reflector. It was some time before he perfected himself in the method of forming mirrors: in one instance he is said to have spoiled 200 before he succeeded.

In 1781, he announced to the world the discovery of his new planet, of which we shall presently speak. He was immediately appointed private astronomer to the King, by George III., a post which, we believe, was created for him, and died with him, with a salary of £400, and removed, first to Datchet, afterwards to Slough, where he continued till his death, August 23, 1822. During this period he ran that career of patient and sagacious investigation, terminating in brilliant discovery, which has made his name so well known to the world. Little has been published concerning his private life; but the whole results of his mind are to be found in the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ between the years 1782 and 1818.

We have not been able to find the dates of his knighthood, or of his receiving the degree of Doctor of Civil Law from the University of Oxford. He married (we cannot find the date) Mrs. Mary Pitt, a widow; and his only son, Sir John Herschel, has selected from the many tasks to which he is competent, that of developing and adding to his father’s discoveries.

In the space which we can devote to the astronomical and optical labours of Herschel, we cannot attempt to furnish even the smallest detail of their end and objects, since the catalogue of titles alone 107would occupy more room than we have to give. We can do no more than address ourselves to the impression which generally exists upon the subject, and which supposes the inventor and the philosopher to be no more than an industrious man with good eyes, clever at grinding mirrors for reflecting telescopes, and lucky enough to point one at a new planet. Such being the common notion, it is not possible to make any mere description of Herschel’s papers an index of his merits. Nor have we here understated the scientific knowledge of the public in general. When Sir John Herschel lately set out for the Cape of Good Hope, the newspapers announced his approaching departure, accompanied by the information that “six waggon loads of telescopes” were on their way to the ship, which was all that was said, except in publications expressly scientific. That one principal object of the son’s voyage was to complete a great branch of astronomy, by doing in the southern hemisphere what the father had done in the northern, was not stated for a very simple reason—that this portion of the father’s labours is hardly known by name to any but astronomers. And it is to astronomers only that Herschel is truly known. The notion entertained of him by others often reminds us of the farmer, who came to him to know the proper time to cut his hay. The philosopher replied by pointing to his own crop, which happened to be rotting on the ground under a heavy rain.

The planet which Herschel called after George III. (but which now goes under the more appropriate name of Uranus) was discovered by him March 13, 1781; not accidentally, but as one of the fruits of a laborious investigation, with a distinct and useful object. He was examining every star with one telescope, that he might obtain a definite idea of relative phenomena, which should enable him to distinguish changes actually taking place, from differences of appearance caused by the use of different telescopes: the whole being in furtherance of the design of “throwing some new light upon the organization of the celestial bodies.” The last words, which are part of the title of one of his subsequent papers, aptly express the line of astronomy to which Herschel devoted his life; and the discovery of the planet Uranus was not the chance work of a moment, but the consequence of sagacity strengthened by habit, the latter being formed with a perfect knowledge of what was wanted, as well as of what would be useful in supplying it. Had he been merely registering the places of the stars, he would probably (as others did before him) have passed the planet, perhaps with some remark upon its apparent diskiness: for though the stars have no well-defined discs, yet some have so much more of the 108appearance of discs than others, that a faint planet, viewed with a low power, might easily be taken for a star. But being engaged upon the stars, expressly with a view to trying how much of such a circumstance would be telescopic, and how much real, he was thereby led to try higher powers, and, eventually, other telescopes. The existence of the planet was soon ascertained, and forms one of the two great features of Herschel’s reputation in the eyes of the world at large.

The celebrated forty-foot telescope, first described to the Royal Society by Herschel, June 2, 1795, was the result of a long series of experiments on the construction of mirrors, begun at Bath, on telescopes from two to twenty feet in length. And we may here remark, that “the bulk of his fortune arose from the sale of telescopes of his own construction, many of which were purchased for the chief observatories of Europe,” and not from the salary of £400 a year which he received as private astronomer to George III. See ‘Statement of Circumstances,’ &c., a pamphlet printed on the occasion of the last election of a President by the Royal Society. In 1785, George III. furnished Herschel with the means of undertaking an instrument larger than any he had yet made. The greatest difficulty (independent of the stand) was the obtaining a mirror of sufficient size, which should not crack in cooling, and should be strong enough not to bend under its own weight. This instrument has been so frequently described that we shall say no more of it, except that Herschel dates the completion of it from August 28, 1789, when he discovered the sixth satellite of Saturn, and obtained his best view of the spots on that planet. A month later, the seventh satellite was discovered by Herschel. This telescope is now never used. Sir J. Herschel prefers a twenty-foot reflector for his own observations.

The first discovery of the satellites of Uranus was also in a minor degree the work of thought. Such bodies were repeatedly looked for by Herschel, but none were seen. A small change in the instrument, by which the light was increased, suggested one more trial; and the result was the establishment of the existence of the two first satellites, in January, 1787. Two more were discovered by Herschel, in 1790, and two more in 1794. These satellites cannot be seen but with an instrument of first-rate power, and in a favourable position of the planet. No one has observed the four last satellites except Herschel himself, or the two first, except himself and Sir J. Herschel, who has confirmed his father’s determination of their periods. See Mem. Royal Astron. Soc. vol. viii. He found that their orbits were nearly perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic, and ascertained their retrograde 109motion, and some remarkable relations between their mean distances. It has a brilliant sound, but it is literally true as to the number of known bodies composing the solar system, that Herschel left it exactly half as large again as he found it. To the Sun, Mercury, Venus, the Earth and Moon, Mars, Jupiter and four satellites, Saturn and five satellites, and Halley’s Comet, eighteen in all, he added nine, namely, two satellites to Saturn, Uranus and six satellites.

But not content with augmenting our own, it is to Herschel we owe the discovery of other systems. That the fixed stars were each the centre of a number of planets was suspected, perhaps rather prematurely, before his observations were made known. But the first positive addition to our knowledge of systems, that is of bodies which move in any degree of connexion with each other, is to be found in his paper read to the Royal Society, June 9, 1803, announcing that Castor, γ Leonis, ε Bootis, ζ Herculis, δ Serpentis, γ Virginis, were most probably binary[4] stars. The existence of such systems has been confirmed by Sir J. Herschel and Professor Struve, and the duration of the periods given by Herschel has been sufficiently confirmed to make the exactness of his observations remarkable. But to new planets, and new systems, Herschel added new universes; or, more properly speaking, showed that the universe consisted of portions, each conveying as large an idea of extent and number, as the whole of what was previously called the universe. His great telescope furnished sufficient facts, and his mind was not slow to draw a conjectural inference, which must be classed among the happiest efforts of reasoning speculation. The resolution of the milky way into stars proved that we are situated in a stratum of such bodies much thicker in some directions than others: this led to the inference that some or all of the nebulæ with which the sky is crowded might be similar enormous groups of stars; and the resolution of some of the nebulæ into detached portions was a first step towards the demonstration of the conjecture.

4.  Double stars, those which are so near to each other as to appear one to the naked eye: binary systems, double stars which revolve round each other.

There is enough yet unmentioned,—in the discovery of the time of rotation of Saturn—that of Jupiter’s satellites—that of the refrangibility of heat—the experiments on colours—the enormous collection of nebulæ—the experimental determination of the magnitude of stars—the researches and conjectures on the physical constitution of the sun—those on the qualities of telescopes, &c. &c.,—to form by itself 110no ordinary title to the recollection of posterity. But we must refer to Sir J. Herschel’s Astronomy, in which will be found such an account of them as the plan of the work permitted, by one who has shown himself as indisposed to exaggerate, as interested to explain.

In the labours of his observatory Herschel was assisted by his sister, Miss Caroline Herschel, with whose help he published, in 1798, his catalogue of Flamsteed’s stars. This lady, whose exertions, both as an observer and calculator, are well known to astronomers, is still living, at a very advanced age, in Hanover.

We do not know of any very trustworthy account of Herschel. ‘The Obituary for 1822,’ the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine,’ the ‘Annual Register,’ &c., do not state their authorities. We have followed the first-mentioned work as to facts and dates in most of the particulars here mentioned.

[View of the great telescope erected at Slough.]

Engraved by R. Woodman.


From an Enamel after a Picture by Sir Thomas Lawrence.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.



The grandfather of Sir Samuel Romilly, as we learn from the following passage of a speech which he made at Bristol, “was born the heir to a considerable landed estate at Montpellier, in the South of France. His ancestors had early imbibed and adopted the principles and doctrines of the Reformed Religion, and he had been educated himself in that religious faith. He had the misfortune to live soon after the time when the Edict of Nantes, the great Toleration Act of the Protestants of France, was revoked by Louis XIV.; and he found himself exposed to all the vexations and persecutions of a bigoted and tyrannical government for worshipping God in the manner in which he believed was most acceptable to Him. He determined to free himself from this bondage; he abandoned his property, he tore himself from his connexions, and, quitting the country and its tyrant, sought an asylum in this land of liberty, where he had to support himself only by his own exertions. He himself embarked in trade; he educated his sons to useful trades; and he was contented, at his death, to leave them, instead of his original patrimony, no other inheritance than the habits of industry he had given them—the example of his own virtuous life, an hereditary detestation of tyranny and injustice, and an ardent zeal in the cause of civil and religious freedom.” One of these sons became eminent as a jeweller, and married Miss Garnault, by whom he had a numerous family. Of these three only lived to maturity, Thomas, Catherine, and Samuel. Samuel was the youngest, and was born March 1, 1757.

His father was a man of extreme benevolence, and strict integrity; warm in his affections, and cheerful in his disposition. Under the influence of his precepts and example the moral character of Samuel Romilly was formed: for his mother, from an habitual state of bad 112health, was incapable of superintending the early education of her children, which was consequently much neglected. Samuel and his brother were sent to a common day-school, the master of which pretended to teach Latin, although really ignorant of that language. It was at one time contemplated to train him to commercial business in the house of the Fludyers, who were then considerable merchants in the city, and near relations of his family: but the sudden death of both the partners of that house put an end to these projects; and in the absence of other occupation, his father employed him in keeping his accounts, and sometimes receiving orders from customers. He had thus leisure to cultivate tastes more congenial to his nature; and at the age of fourteen he commenced that self-education, to which he owed all his future success. Every volume of his father’s little collection, and of the circulating libraries in the neighbourhood, was anxiously and attentively perused. Ancient and modern history, treatises on science, works of criticism, travels, and English poetry, were among his favourite books. But a passion for poetry soon predominated over other tastes; and from admiring the poetry of others he aspired at becoming a poet himself. He wrote eclogues, songs, and satires, translated passages from French poets, and imitated English ones; and resolving to devote himself steadily to literature he hoped to acquire fame as an author. He now set about learning Latin in earnest; and was soon able, by dint of unremitting assiduity, and with some assistance from a private tutor, to understand the easier Latin authors. In the course of about three years he had read through Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus three times; he had studied almost the whole of Cicero, as well as the principal poets; he had gone through the Latin translations of the Greek historians, orators, and philosophers; and had made numerous translations from the Latin classics into English, which he retranslated into Latin. This double exercise he found to be eminently useful in rendering him, what he at length became, a very excellent scholar. In addition to these studies, he attended lectures on natural philosophy, painting, architecture, and anatomy.

In the meanwhile he felt his father’s business become every day more irksome; and it was definitively arranged that he should enter into some branch of the law; a plan which he was enabled to execute by the accession to the family of a considerable legacy. At the age of sixteen, he was articled to Mr. Lally for five years, with a view of succeeding to him as one of the six clerks in Chancery. The society, however, of Mr. Lally and the pursuit of his literary tastes had greater attractions for him than the regular occupation of the office; and 113although he scrupulously performed the duties required of him, his favourite classics engrossed a large portion of his time, and his mind was still intent upon a life of peaceful retirement, and the prospect of literary fame.

At the expiration of the term of his apprenticeship, however, he determined, much against the opinion of many of his friends, to study at one of the inns of court, and to be called to the bar. His real motive in deciding against a clerkship in chancery, which was then only to be obtained by purchase, was little suspected at the time; it was, that he might not be obliged to call for his share of the legacy just alluded to, amounting to 2000l.; which he knew it would be very inconvenient to his father to pay. This trait of pious benevolence was, by a just retribution, the pivot upon which his future fortunes more immediately turned.

It was not till he had attained his twenty-first year that he entered upon these new studies; and they were pursued with so much persevering assiduity, that at length he became seriously indisposed, and all application was for months prohibited by his medical advisers. So serious an interruption to his pursuits was likely to be most injurious to him in his profession; when, fortunately, an opportunity occurred of making an excursion to the continent. The Rev. John Roget, who had recently married his sister, had been attacked with a pulmonary complaint, which obliged him to remove with her to a southern climate, leaving behind them in England their first and then only child. They were no sooner settled at Lausanne, than they ardently desired to have this child conveyed to them, and Mr. Romilly, from a deep sense of the obligations he already owed to his brother-in-law for assisting him in his studies, and supplying that judicious and well-timed encouragement, which, on a susceptible and ardent mind, ever acts as the most powerful incentive to exertion, readily undertook the charge. The change of air and scene, the lively interest he took in visiting new countries, and the consciousness of rendering no small service to relatives to whom he was most affectionately attached, produced a rapid and favourable change upon his health. Still more important was the effect produced on the tone of his mind by this renewed intercourse with a friend, who had early discerned his latent abilities and extraordinary capacity, and who, on this occasion, placing before his view the wide field on which those talents might be advantageously exercised, and the important services he might thus be capable of rendering to his fellow-creatures, produced impressions which were indelible, and which, as he himself has often said, had a marked influence upon the subsequent events of his life.

114On his return to England he resumed his studies with renovated strength and with redoubled ardour. He was called to the bar in 1783. More than ten years, however, elapsed before any real prospect of success opened to him in his profession. It is true that he was employed in drawing pleadings in chancery, and this business gradually increased; but it never required him to open his lips in court; and although he regularly attended the Midland circuit, he had no connexions on it, and it was not until he commenced an attendance on the sessions that the circuit at length became a source of some profit to him. In 1792 he appeared for the first time as a leader: in a short time he was employed in almost every case, and not many years passed before he was at the head of his circuit.

But we are anticipating a later period. In 1784 Mr. Romilly became acquainted with Mirabeau, and through him with Lord Lansdowne. That nobleman appreciated the knowledge and character of the rising lawyer, and becoming intimate with him, did all in his power to encourage and bring forth his talents. About the same time there was published a tract by the Rev. Dr. Madan, entitled ‘Thoughts on Executive Justice.’ It had attracted some attention, and was so much admired by Lord Lansdowne, that he suggested to his friend the task of writing a treatise in the same spirit. But Mr. Romilly was so much shocked at the principle upon which it proceeded, namely, that of rigidly executing the criminal code in all cases, barbarous and sanguinary as it then was, that, instead of adopting its doctrines, he sat down to refute them. The triumphant reply which he drew up and published anonymously did not meet with the success it deserved. Nevertheless he had the satisfaction of hearing it praised from the bench; and Lord Lansdowne himself had the singular candour to acknowledge the merit of a production, which, although written at his own suggestion, was at variance with the opinions he had desired to see inculcated.

Allusion has been made to Mr. Romilly’s acquaintance with Mirabeau. He was one of those of whose talents Mirabeau had availed himself on more than one occasion. It is unnecessary, however, to mention more than the following instance, which is too characteristic to be omitted. During one of Mr. Romilly’s visits to Paris, in 1788, curiosity led him to see the prison of the Bicêtre, and on meeting Mirabeau the next day, he described to him all the horror and disgust with which the place had inspired him. Mirabeau, struck with the force of his description, begged him to express it in writing, and to be allowed to use it. Mirabeau translated and published this account in a pamphlet, which, in spite of the title, ‘Lettre d’un Voyageur 115Anglais sur la Prison de Bicêtre,’ was everywhere ascribed to him; while the real author, on his return to England, printed his own MS. in the ‘Repository,’ as the translation, although it was in fact the original.

It was not till the autumn of 1796, when on a visit to Bowood, the country-seat of Lord Lansdowne, that Mr. Romilly first met Miss Garbett, to whom he was afterwards united, and who formed the charm of the remainder of his existence. With such sacred inducements to renew his efforts in his profession, his advancement was proportionably rapid. On November 6, 1800, he was appointed king’s counsel; and it was soon clear that he might aspire to the highest ranks of his profession. In 1806 he was made Solicitor-general, under the administration of Mr. Fox and Lord Grenville. He was, much against his will, knighted on his appointment; and was brought into Parliament by the Government for Queenborough. Soon after, he was called upon to sum up the evidence on the trial of Lord Melville; a duty which he performed with consummate skill, though with a feebleness of voice which deprived his most able speech of its just effect in the vast hall where it was delivered.

During the first session of his parliamentary career, Sir Samuel Romilly confined himself principally to questions of law, and seldom addressed the House, except in committee; but in the beginning of 1807 he took a more prominent part, and made his first great speech in favour of the abolition of the Slave-trade—a speech, which at once placed him on a level with the most successful orators of the day. In this subject he had always felt deep interest. From his earliest youth he had expressed the warmest indignation against this infamous traffic; he had translated, with a view to publication, Condorcet’s pamphlet against West Indian slavery, and, at the beginning of the French Revolution, he had written an eloquent paper against the Slave-trade, and had transmitted it to his friend Dumont, from whom he trusted it would pass to Mirabeau, and would remind him of the importance of the question, at a time when a comparatively slight effort would have settled it in that country for ever. These previous efforts had produced no effect; but he had afterwards the satisfaction of belonging to the ministry to whom the honour was due of abolishing the slave-trade, and of thus preparing the way for putting an end to slavery itself. This ministry were soon after dismissed from their offices, for not sacrificing their opinions in favour of Catholic emancipation to the lamentable and persevering prejudices entertained by George III. on that question, prejudices adopted by his son and successor, to the infinite detriment of his dominions.

116On the dissolution of parliament which followed, Sir Samuel Romilly, having procured for himself a seat for Wareham, lost no time in re-introducing a measure, which had been rejected in the former parliament, to enable a creditor to obtain the payment of his debts from the landed property of persons dying indebted. With a view to prevent opposition, he had confined the operation of his measure to freehold estates only. The bill, however, even in this modified form, met with the greatest opposition. Its introduction by Sir Samuel was ascribed to “his hereditary love of democracy;” it was denounced by Canning, “as the first step of something that might end like the French Revolution, and as a dangerous attack against the aristocracy, which was thus to be sacrificed to the commercial interest;” and it was finally rejected by a considerable majority. Rather than give up his object entirely, he determined to make another concession to the prejudices of his opponents; and a few days after the rejection of the measure, on introducing a second bill on the same subject, he limited its operation to the landed estates of traders. This expedient succeeded; the aristocracy, caring little what became of traders’ estates, suffered the bill to pass both houses without the slightest opposition, and it received the Royal assent in August, 1807. After the lapse of seven years, he made fresh attempts in favour of his original bill, but in vain. It was indeed carried by the Commons, in 1814, by a majority of nearly two to one; and again in the same house, in the two succeeding years, without the slightest opposition; but on all these occasions it was as regularly rejected by the House of Peers. The original measure, including copyhold as well as freehold estates, has recently become part of the law of the land.

During the vacation of 1807 Sir Samuel Romilly prepared some of those reforms in the criminal law, by which he is most known to the public. For many years he had been intent on this subject, and had made it his particular study. During repeated visits to the continent, he never missed an opportunity of attending any important trial; and for the sixteen years during which he attended the circuit, he had been in the habit of noting down whatever appeared to him worthy of observation in the criminal courts. Shocked at instances of judicial injustice, which thus fell under his notice, he had secretly resolved that, if it should ever be in his power, he would endeavour to provide a remedy for such gross abuses. The principles of his intended reforms were contained in his answer to Dr. Madan. He held that the prevention of crime is more effectually accomplished by certainty than by severity of punishment; that to approximate to certainty of punishment, it was necessary to mitigate the severities of the penal code; 117that, unless this were done, there would still be an indisposition on the part of the public to prosecute, of witnesses to give evidence, of juries to convict, and even of judges to put in execution the sentences they had themselves passed;—that all these were so many chances of escape offered to a culprit, operating rather as encouragements than as checks to crime. These doctrines, then so new, although now received as axioms, made but few converts at first; and it was not till they were again brought before the public in the House of Commons, in 1808, that they attracted some of that attention to which they were entitled. One of his first bills, which repealed the punishment of death for stealing privately from the person to the amount of five shillings, passed both houses with but little opposition; but, as the number of prosecutions increased in consequence, it was alleged that the crime itself had increased, and that all similar reforms would be attended with similar mischief. Romilly urged in vain that, when the measure was under consideration, he had foretold that it would produce an increase of prosecutions; and that this, far from being an argument against the mitigation of punishment, was the best proof of its efficacy. In vain did he defend his principle, with the varied stores of his knowledge, with the most powerful arguments, and with the eloquence of deep conviction. The mature reflections of above thirty years’ study and experience were treated as the rash innovations of a wild theorist. The effect of government circulars was too seldom counteracted by the attendance of his own political friends; no party advantage could be gained from such enlightened labours; there was no large and powerful body in the country to second his efforts; and when, at length, after unremitting perseverance, he occasionally succeeded in carrying a bill through the Commons, it was rarely permitted to pass through the ordeal of the Upper House. But these efforts were not thrown away. His views, ably and diligently supported by Sir James Mackintosh and others, have since been confirmed and acted on even by his political opponents. The credit which was due to him who had sown the seed has since been claimed by those who reaped it; but the harvest is not lost to the public.

But Romilly did not shrink from taking an active part on questions more generally interesting to the public, even though the avowal of his opinions might endanger his advancement in life. A remarkable instance of this kind occurred in the beginning of 1809, when the conduct of the Duke of York was brought before the house by Colonel Wardle. He was aware that to support this inquiry would not be 118less obnoxious to many members of the former government than to those then in office. It had been significantly intimated to him that the Prince of Wales would consider any attack on the duke as an attack on himself; and he felt under some obligation to the Prince for having formerly offered him a seat in parliament, which, however, he had declined. Such was his position; entertaining, however, a strong opinion on the subject, he resolved not to abandon his duty; and he spoke and voted in favour of the motion. He concluded his speech in these words: “The venerable judge[5] who took an early part in the discussion of this question has attested the sincerity of his vote by an affecting allusion to his age and infirmities, to the few inducements which the remainder of his life presented to him. I cannot say the same thing. Not labouring under the same affliction, and not having arrived at the same period of life, I may reasonably be allowed for myself, and for those who are most dear to me, to indulge hopes of prosperity yet to come. Reflecting on the vicissitudes of human life, I may entertain apprehensions of adversity and persecution which perhaps await me. I have, however, the satisfaction to reflect, that it is not possible for me to hope to derive, in any way the most remote, advantages from the vote which upon this occasion I shall give, and from the part which I have thought it my duty to act.”

5.  Mr. Barton, a Welsh judge, who was then at the age of nearly seventy, and deprived of his sight.

These anticipations were afterwards corroborated by several persons, who told him, that after such a speech, he must give up all thoughts of ever being Chancellor. The public also felt that he had made a sacrifice in their cause. Thanks were voted to him in conjunction with Mr. Whitbread, Lord Folkstone, and some others, from the City of London, Liverpool, Carmarthen, Wiltshire, Bristol, Berwick, &c. &c.; and he was invited by the Livery of London to a public dinner, as a mark of approbation of his conduct. He declined, however, to accept the intended honour, and his answers to the addresses were drawn up with that unaffected modesty, and love of simple truth, which were so peculiarly characteristic of his mind. Instead of dwelling upon his own merit, he drew the picture of what would have been thought of him had he pursued an opposite course. “Seeing the case,” he said in his answer to the Livery, “in the light in which I saw it, to have acted otherwise than I did, I must have been base enough to have deserted my public duty upon a most important occasion, from the mean apprehension that to discharge my duty might be attended with personal disadvantage to myself. If there be much merit in not having been 119actuated by such unworthy motives, (which I cannot think, but if there be,) that merit I certainly may pretend to, &c.”

The course which he took in the year following on the imprisonment of Gale Jones, and the alleged breach of privilege by Sir Francis Burdett, was again at variance with that adopted by either of the two great parties in the house. The Opposition as well as the Ministry, and all the lawyers who took any part in the debate, concurred in thinking the paper written by Sir Francis Burdett a breach of privilege, and deserving of punishment of one kind or another; while Romilly maintained that the house had no jurisdiction to take cognizance of the offence. He did not dispute the right to imprison for a breach of privilege which obstructed their proceedings, but he denied the right and the policy of doing so for the publication of animadversions on matters already concluded. He urged that these latter questions “ought not to be decided on by the house, which thus constituted itself prosecutor, party, and judge, without affording to the accused the opportunity of even hearing the charges preferred against him; but they ought to be left to the ordinary tribunals, the courts of law.” These arguments, disregarded at the time, were amply justified by the events which followed. The folly of the course adopted was proved by serious disturbances, attended with the loss of life; petitions couched in the most disrespectful language were sent up, and inserted on the Journals; and the question of the privileges of the Commons came, in the first instance, before the courts of law, and was finally decided by the House of Lords. Invitations to public dinners were again sent to him, which he again declined; and addresses of thanks were voted “for the stand he had made in favour of the dominion of the law, against arbitrary discretion and undefined privilege.”

But it was not only in this way that the public showed how much they appreciated his integrity and independence. In 1812 he was pressed to allow himself to be put in nomination for several large constituencies; amongst others for Liverpool, Chester, Middlesex, and Bristol. At Bristol, his past political conduct was considered a sufficient guarantee for the future; no pledge was required of him, he was to be put to no expense, and it was agreed that he should be excused from personal canvas. On terms so honourable he consented to be put in nomination; and although a total stranger in the town, his reception was most encouraging, and there seemed every prospect of success. Nevertheless the common but dishonest maxim, of every thing being fair at an election, being acted upon by the opposite party, it was soon evident that he would not be returned; and on the seventh day he resigned any further contest.

120Although his opinions were not as yet to receive the sanction of any large and popular constituency, he did not relax his efforts in favour of the rights and interests of the people. On being returned for Horsham, during the six sessions which this parliament lasted, we find him the same strenuous advocate for civil liberty and religious toleration in the most extensive sense of the words, at home and abroad; the same determined enemy to peculation and corruption, the same ardent and judicious reformer of the laws; “incapable on every occasion of being swerved from his duty by the threats of power, the allurements of the great, the temptations of private interest, or even the seduction of popular favour. All the toil, the pain, and the fatigue of his duties were his own; all the advantage which resulted from his labours were for the public.”

He spoke and voted against military flogging, the game laws, the punishment of the pillory, the poor laws, the law of libel, and lotteries; against the suspension of the Habeas Corpus act, Lord Sidmouth’s circular letter, and the employment of spies and informers; and against the persecution of the Protestants in France, and the Alien bill at home; in favour of Catholic emancipation, the education of the poor, and the liberty of the press. He was always a zealous advocate for peace; against the system of the corn laws, and all restrictions on commerce, and he was in favour of an extensive change in the representation of the people, of shortening the duration of parliament, and ensuring the free exercise of the elective franchise. He was also in favour of the promulgation of laws, of allowing counsel to prisoners, of giving compensation to those who had been unjustly accused, of greatly extending the rules respecting the admission of evidence; of introducing secondary punishments, and of instituting a public prosecutor; and all this not more for the sake of humanity towards the guilty, than for the great ends of justice, the prevention of crime, and the reform of criminals.

At the conclusion of this parliament in 1818, Sir Samuel Romilly, after having again been invited to stand for several large constituencies, by any of which he was assured he would be elected, was at length put in nomination for Westminster; and although he was violently opposed by the court on the one side, and by the ultra popular party on the other; although, during the whole of the contest, he was calmly pursuing his professional duties in the Court of Chancery, and never once appeared on the hustings till the conclusion, he was returned at the head of the poll. After his election, he did all in his power to avoid the ceremony of chairing; but on his objections being over-ruled, his greatest pleasure was when, after he had addressed the multitude from 121the windows of Burlington House, he was able to escape by a back door and walk by the less frequented streets to his home, there to receive congratulations no less hearty, and more congenial to his temper and taste. But he did not live to take his seat. A life of uninterrupted and rarely equalled domestic happiness, and of great success in his professional and political career, was suddenly embittered by the loss of that being, to whom he had been deeply and devotedly attached for above twenty years, and with whom he had ever considered his happiness and prosperity as being indissolubly connected. He sank under this calamity, and mankind was deprived of his services for ever[6].

6.  Strong symptoms of an incipient brain fever showed themselves, and these increased so rapidly as to produce, before they could be checked, a temporary delirium, as most frequently happens in that malady; and in this paroxysm he terminated his existence, November 22, 1818, three days after Lady Romilly’s death.

Romilly was reserved and silent in general society, but affectionate, entertaining, and instructive with his friends; and full of joyousness, humour, and playfulness with his children, and in the bosom of his family. He was endowed with a lively imagination, he was fond of retirement, and was a passionate admirer of the beauties of nature. Indefatigable in his profession and in parliament, he yet found time to keep up with the literature of the day, to write criticisms on the books which he read, to keep a regular diary of his political career, and to compose essays on various branches of the criminal law. His eloquence was of that kind which never fails to make a lasting impression: it was full of earnest conviction and deep sensibility. He was a great master of sarcasm, but he considered it an unfair weapon and rarely employed it. So jealous was he of his independence, that when he was solicitor-general, and one of his nephews was peculiarly anxious to be placed in the Military Academy at Woolwich, he refused to lay himself under any obligation, even for so slight a favour; and the application was never made. Few ever gained so large a portion of public favour, and yet so studiously avoided courting popularity; and no one ever rose higher in the esteem of his political contemporaries. Unsullied in character as a lawyer, as a politician, and as a man, his life, which was prolonged to the age of sixty-one, was a life of happiness and of honour. No statues are erected to his memory; no titles descend to his children; but he has bequeathed a richer, a prouder, and a more lasting inheritance, than any which the world can bestow: the recollection of his virtues is still fresh in the minds of his countrymen, and the sacrifices he made in the cause of humanity will not be forgotten by mankind.



The materials which we possess for the biography of Shakspeare are very unsatisfactory. The earliest life is that by the poet Rowe, who, as if aware of its scantiness, merely entitles it ‘Some Account.’ It contains what little the author could collect, when no sources of information were left open but the floating traditions of the theatre after the lapse of nearly a century. Mr. Malone prefixed a new life to his edition, extending to above 500 pages; but he only brings his author to London, and as to his professional progress, adds nothing to Rowe’s meagre tale, except some particles of information previously communicated in notes by himself and Steevens.

William Shakspeare was born at Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, April 23, 1564. He was one of ten children. His father was a dealer in wool, as it is generally said, but according to Malone, a glover, and alderman in the corporation of Stratford. Our great poet received such education as the lower forms of the Grammar School at Stratford could give him; but he was removed from that establishment at an early age, to serve as clerk in a country attorney’s office. This anecdote of his boyhood receives confirmation from the frequent recurrence of technical law-phrases in his plays; and it has been remarked that he derives none of his allusions from other learned professions. Before he was eighteen years of age he contracted a marriage with Anne Hathaway, a woman some years older than himself, and the daughter of a substantial yeoman in his own neighbourhood. He went to London about 1586, when he was but twenty-two years of age, being obliged, as the common story goes, to fly the country, in consequence of being detected in deer-stealing. This tale is thought to be confirmed by the ridicule cast on his supposed prosecutor, Sir Thomas Lucy, in the character of Justice Shallow, pointed as it is by the

Engraved by E. Scriven.


From the Picture in the Possession of His Grace the Duke of Buckingham, at Stowe.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street. June 1, 1835.

123commendation of the “dozen white luces as a good coat.” But as this is the only lawless action which tradition has imputed to one of the most amiable and inoffensive of men, we may perhaps esteem the tale to be the mere gossip of the tiring-room: indeed, Malone has adduced several arguments to prove that it cannot be correctly told. It is not necessary to suppose that Shakspeare was compelled to fly his native town because he came to the metropolis; his emigration is sufficiently accounted for by his father’s falling into distressed circumstances, and being obliged in this very year, 1586, to resign his alderman’s gown on that account. Another traditional anecdote, that Shakspeare’s first employment was to wait at the play-house door, and hold the horses of those who had no servants, is discredited by Mr. Steevens, who says, “That it was once the general custom to ride on horseback to the play I am yet to learn. The most popular of the theatres were on the Bankside; and we are told by the satirical pamphleteers of that time that the usual mode of conveyance to those places of amusement was by water; but not a single writer so much as hints at the custom of riding to them, or at the practice of having horses held during the hours of exhibition. Let it be remembered too, that we receive this tale on no higher authority than that of Cibber’s ‘Lives of the Poets.’”

Nothing is authentically proved with respect to Shakspeare’s introduction to the stage. His first play is dated by Malone in 1589, three years after the time assigned for the author’s arrival in London. It appears from the dedication to ‘Venus and Adonis,’ published in 1593, in which he calls that poem “the first heir of his invention,” that his earliest essays were not in dramatic composition. The ‘Lucrece,’ published in 1594, and the collection of sonnets, entitled the ‘Passionate Pilgrim,’ published in 1599, also belong to an early period of his poetical life. The ‘Lover’s Complaint,’ and a larger collection of sonnets, were printed in 1609. It may be conjectured that he was led to write for the stage in consequence of the advice and introduction of Thomas Green, an eminent comedian of the day, who was his townsman, if not his relation. Shakspeare trod the boards himself, but he never rose to eminence as an actor: it is recorded that the Ghost in ‘Hamlet’ was his masterpiece. But the instructions to the players in ‘Hamlet’ exhibit a clear and delicate perception of what an actor ought to be, however incompetent the writer might be to furnish the example in his own person.

The extent of Shakspeare’s learning has been much controverted. Dr. Johnson speaks of it thus: “It is most likely that he had 124learned Latin sufficiently to make him acquainted with construction, but that he never advanced to an easy perusal of the Roman authors. Concerning his skill in modern languages, I can find no sufficient ground of determination; but as no imitations of French or Italian authors have been discovered, though the Italian poetry was then high in esteem, I am inclined to believe that he read little more than English, and chose for his fables only such tales as he found translated.” Other writers have contended that he must have been acquainted with the Greek and Roman classics: but Dr. Farmer, in his ‘Essay on the Learning of Shakspeare,’ has accounted in a very satisfactory manner for the frequent allusions to the facts and fables of antiquity to be met with in Shakspeare’s writings, without supposing that he read the classic authors in their original languages. The supposition indeed is at variance with his whole history. Dr. Farmer has particularly specified the English translations of the classics then extant, and concludes on the whole, that the studies of Shakspeare were confined to nature and his own language.

The merit of Shakspeare did not escape the notice of Queen Elizabeth. He evinced his gratitude for her patronage in that beautiful passage in the ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ where he speaks of her as “a fair vestal, throned in the west.”

Sheffield, Duke of Buckinghamshire, is the relater of an anecdote which shows the continuance of high favour to our author. It is expressed in these words: that “the most learned prince and great patron of learning, King James I., was pleased with his own hand to write an amicable letter to Mr. Shakspeare;” and Dr. Farmer supposes, with apparent probability, that this honour was conferred in return for the compliment paid to the monarch in ‘Macbeth.’ Shakspeare also possessed the esteem of, and was admitted to familiar intercourse with, the accomplished Earls of Southampton and Essex; and enjoyed the friendship of his great contemporary Ben Jonson.

Of the poet’s career before the London public nothing authentic has come down to us; and perhaps if more were known, it might not be worth recording. But his retirement in 1611 or 1612, about four years before his death, though it afford no story, furnishes a pleasing reflection. He had left his native place, poor and almost unknown: he returned to it, not rich, but with a competence and an unblemished character. His good-natured wit made him a welcome member of private society when he no longer set the theatre in a roar; and he ended his days in habits of intimacy, and in some cases in the bonds 125of friendship, with the leading gentlemen of the neighbourhood. He died on his birthday, April 23, 1616, when he had completed his fifty-second year. If we look merely at the state in which he left his productions, we should be apt to conclude that he was insensible of their value. To quote the words of Dr. Johnson, “It does not appear that Shakspeare thought his works worthy of posterity; that he levied any ideal tribute upon future times, or had any further prospect than that of present popularity and present profit.” But the imperfect form in which they came before the public is not necessarily to be accounted for by this extravagance of humility. It is clear that any publication of his plays by himself would have interfered at first with his own interest, and afterwards with the interest of those to whom he made over his share in them; besides which, such was the revulsion of the public taste, that the publication of his works by Hemings and Condell was accounted a doubtful speculation. For several years after his death the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher were more frequently acted than those of Shakspeare; and the beautiful works of the joint dramatists afterwards gave place to the rhyming rhapsodies of Dryden and the bombast of Lee. Garrick brought back the public to Shakspeare and every-day nature; Kemble exhibited him in the more refined dress of classical taste and philosophy.

Mr. Malone has observed, that our author’s prose compositions, should they be discovered, would exhibit the same perspicuity, the same cadence, the same elegance and vigour, which we find in his plays. In 1751, an attempt was made to impose on the public by a book entitled ‘A Compendious or Brief Examination of certayne Ordinary Complaints of divers of our Countrymen in these our Days, &c., by William Shakspeare, Gentleman;’ the signature to which, in the original edition of 1581, was “W. S., Gent.;” and Dr. Farmer has clearly proved the initials to mean “William Stafford, Gent.” Another and more impudent forgery was attempted by Ireland, who published in 1795 a volume, entitled ‘Shakspeare’s Manuscripts.’ The fraud met with partial success, and the tragedy of ‘Vortigern’ was performed as one of Shakspeare’s, to the great disgust, it is said, of John Kemble, who had to act in it much against his will. Malone exposed the imposition in 1796, and Ireland himself ultimately acknowledged it. With respect to the probable character of Shakspeare’s prose compositions, it is needless to speculate on it, as we have no reason to believe that he ever wrote any prose, except for the stage.

Some interesting criticisms of Mrs. Siddons on the chief female 126characters of Shakspeare will be found in the life of that eminent actress in this volume. We may here introduce another observation of hers on Constance in ‘King John.’ She said that the intuition of Shakspeare in delineating that character struck her as all but supernatural: she could scarcely conceive the possibility of any man possessing himself so thoroughly with the most intense and most inward feelings of the other sex: had Shakspeare been a woman and a mother, he must have felt neither less nor more than as he wrote.

The two first folio editions are in great request among book-collectors, and, owing to their scarcity, fetch high prices at auctions. They have nothing to recommend them either as to accuracy or elegance of typography, but are really valuable for the various readings which they contain. The best modern editions are those of Johnson and Steevens, and Malone. The last edition is the posthumous one of Malone, edited by Boswell, and little room is left for any farther elucidation of our great dramatist, as far as verbal criticism is concerned. But for the higher branches of criticism, the works of such a poet are as inexhaustible as those of Homer; and if his fame be equally immortal, its fate is more singular. However ardent may be the admiration of Homer on the part of modern scholars, and however profound their investigation of his merits, far from pretending to discoveries unknown to the Grecian critics and philosophers, they support their own views by constant references to the ancients; but Shakspeare has found his most elaborate, and with certain drawbacks, his best critics, among foreigners. In England Shakspeare is the idol of those who read either for the amusement of the imagination, or as students not of poetical or metaphysical, but of every-day nature; and his English editors have rather criticised down to the level of such readers, than aimed at ripening their taste, or elevating their conceptions. We find eminent men among them, such as Pope, Warburton, and Johnson, yet none well qualified to perform the highest functions of a commentator. Johnson’s Preface is highly valued for the justness of his general criticism, and his vindication of the poet on the score of the unities is triumphantly conclusive. But his remarks at the end of each play are so jejune and superficial, that short as they are, no reader perhaps ever wished them longer. One cannot help wondering that the acute, and in many instances profound, though sometimes partial, critic of Cowley, Milton, Dryden, Pope and Gray, should have skimmed so lightly over the surface of Shakspeare. Not so his German translators and critics. No sooner did the Germans take up the study of English literature, than they selected Shakspeare on 127whom to try their powers; and they are thought to have dived deeper into his mind than have his own countrymen, with their apparently better opportunities. Nor is this wonderful: for they have regarded the poet not merely as the minister of amusement to an admiring audience, but as a metaphysical philosopher of nature’s forming, possessed of deepest insight into the complex motives which move the hearts, and stimulate the actions of mankind. And seeking with a reverent attention to trace the workings of the maker’s mind (for in this instance there is a peculiar propriety in translating the Greek word poet) they have succeeded in furnishing profound and satisfactory explanations of much that less intellectual critics had treated as instances of the author’s irregular and capricious genius. In this, as in other branches of German literature, Goëthe stands pre-eminent: and the translation of his ‘Wilhelm Meister’ has placed within the reach of all readers a series of original and masterly criticisms, especially on that stumbling-block of commentators, the character of Hamlet. We may quote as a specimen his exposition of the principle upon which the anomalies of the Prince of Denmark’s conduct are to be solved. “It is clear to me that Shakspeare’s intention was to exhibit the effects of a great action, imposed as a duty upon a mind too feeble for its accomplishment. In this case I find the character consistent throughout. Here is an oak tree planted in a china vase, proper only to receive the most delicate flowers. The roots strike out and the vessel flies to pieces. A pure, noble, highly moral disposition, but without that energy of soul which constitutes the hero, sinks under a load which it can neither support nor endure to abandon altogether. All his obligations are sacred to him; but this alone is above his powers! An impossibility is required at his hands; not an impossibility in itself, but that which is so to him. Observe, how he turns, shifts, hesitates, advances, and recedes;—how he is continually reminded and reminding himself of his real commission, which he nevertheless in the end seems almost entirely to lose sight of, and this without ever recovering his former tranquillity!” How different this from the praise of variety allowed to this tragedy by Johnson, to “the pretended madness, causing mirth,” without any adequate cause for feigning it, and the objection that through the whole piece he is “rather an instrument than an agent!”

Malone’s “attempt to ascertain the order in which the plays of Shakspeare were written” occupies 180 pages. Where so many words are necessary, the arrangement to be justified may not be very certain; but that of Malone is generally received. It runs thus: 128The First Part of King Henry VI., 1589. Second and Third Parts, Two Gentlemen of Verona, 1591. Comedy of Errors, 1592. King Richard II. and III., 1593. Love’s Labour’s Lost, Merchant of Venice, Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1594. Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, King John, 1596. First Part of King Henry IV., 1597. Second Part, All’s well that ends well, 1598. King Henry V., As You like it, 1599. Much ado about Nothing, Hamlet, 1600. Merry Wives of Windsor, 1601. Troilus and Cressida, 1602. Measure for Measure, King Henry VIII., 1603. Othello, 1604. King Lear, 1605. Macbeth, 1606. Twelfth Night, Julius Cæsar, 1607. Antony and Cleopatra, 1608. Cymbeline, 1609. Coriolanus, Timon of Athens, 1610. Winter’s Tale, 1611. Tempest, 1612. Except the placing of the historical plays in separate succession, the order of Malone’s edition follows the above dates. Previous editions arranged the plays as comedies, histories, and tragedies, beginning with the Tempest, the last written, and ending with Othello. We must add to the list of plays ascribed to Shakspeare, and included in the editions of his works, Pericles and Titus Andronicus, which are now acknowledged not to be the composition of Shakspeare, though perhaps retouched by him. The Yorkshire Tragedy, Lord Cromwell, and others, have still less right to bear the honour of his name.

[Shakspeare’s Monument at Stratford-upon-Avon.]

Engraved by B. Holl.


From a Picture by A. Lorgna 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.

129 EULER.


Leonard Euler[7] was born at Basle, April 15, 1707. His father was the clergyman of Reichen, near Basle, and had himself been a pupil of James Bernouilli. He intended his son for his own profession, and after having been himself his first instructor in mathematics, sent him to the university of Basle. John Bernouilli was at this time Professor, and his sons, Nicolas and Daniel, two more of the eight Bernouillis known to the history of science, were under him. With the sons Euler contracted an intimate friendship; and obtained such a degree of favour even with their father, that the latter gave him a private lesson weekly, upon points more advanced than those treated in the public course. This was a strong mark of favour from John Bernouilli, who was of an unamiable disposition, jealous of his brother, of his son, and finally of almost every one who displayed a superior talent for mathematics. Euler at first turned his attention to theology, in accordance with the wishes of his father, but this was not of long continuance. At the age of nineteen, besides obtaining a degree from his University, he had merited the notice of the Academy of Sciences for a memoir on some points of naval architecture. In the same year, he was an unsuccessful candidate for a Professorship at Basle, an unlucky event, M. Condorcet observes, for his country, inasmuch as a few days afterwards he left it for Russia, and never returned. His friends the Bernouillis (Nicolas and Daniel) had, two years before, accepted invitations from the Empress Catherine; and he followed them in hopes of obtaining 130employment and subsistence at St. Petersburgh. But by the time he arrived, both Nicolas Bernouilli and the Empress were dead, the Academy of St. Petersburgh was left without a patron, and Euler, a nameless stranger, could not for a long time obtain any settled avocation. How he maintained himself we are not told; but he was upon the point of entering the Russian service as a sailor, when his prospects brightened, and he obtained the place of Professor of Natural Philosophy. In 1733 he succeeded Daniel Bernouilli, who returned to his own country, as Professor of Mathematics. In the same year he married a young lady named Gsell, the daughter of an artist of Basle, who had emigrated to Russia in the reign of Peter the Great.

7.  We have followed the éloge of Condorcet as to facts and dates. We should have preferred that of M. Fuss, but have not had the opportunity of seeing it. The mere biographical details of Euler’s life are, however, of the simplest character.

The despotism of the Russian government could not please the republican born; but circumstances obliged him to endure it till 1741, when he quitted Petersburgh for Berlin on the invitation of Frederic the Great. To the necessity for continual reserve and government of the tongue which was necessary in the Russian capital has been attributed his love of silence and study, which exceeded all that is related of any of his contemporaries. The mother of Frederic, who was as much attached to the conversation of distinguished men as the King himself, could never obtain more than a few syllables from Euler at any one time. On her asking the reason why he would not speak, he is said to have replied, “Madam, I have lived in a country where men who speak are hanged.”

Euler remained at Berlin till 1766. In 1761 he lost his mother, who had resided with him for eleven years. During this time he was not considered as having abandoned his Russian engagements, and a part of his salary was regularly paid. When the Russians invaded Brandenburg in 1760, a farm belonging to him was destroyed, but he was immediately more than reimbursed, by the order of the Empress Elizabeth. On the invitation of that princess he consented to return to Petersburgh in 1766. He had for some years suffered from weakness in the eyes; and not long after his return to Russia he became so nearly blind, that he could distinguish nothing except very large letters marked with chalk on a slate. In this state he continued for the remainder of his life; and by constant exercise he acquired a power of recollection, whether of mathematical formulæ or figures, which would be totally incredible, if it were not supported by strong evidence. He formed in his head, and retained in his memory, a table of the first six powers of all numbers up to 100, containing about 3000 figures. Two of his pupils had summed seventeen terms of a converging series, and differed by a unit in the fiftieth decimal of the 131result; Euler decided between them correctly by a mental calculation[8]. His chief amusement during his deprivation was the formation of artificial magnets, and the instruction of one of his grandchildren in mathematics. His studies were in no degree relaxed by it. In 1771 Euler’s house was destroyed by fire, together with a considerable part of the city. He was himself saved by a fellow-countryman named Grimm, and his manuscripts were also rescued. In 1776 he married the aunt of his first wife. No other event worthy of special notice occurred before his death, which took place suddenly, September 7, 1783. He had been employed in calculating the laws of the ascent of balloons, which were then newly introduced; he afterwards dined with his family and M. Lexell, his pupil, conversed with them on the newly-discovered planet of Herschel, and was amusing himself with one of his grandchildren; suddenly the pipe which he held in his hand dropped on the ground, and it was found that[9] “life and calculation were at an end.” He had thirteen children, of whom only three survived him; one of them, John Albert Euler, was known as a mathematician.

8.  We suspect some mistake in this account, which is constantly given. A very surprising story ought to be consistent: now it is difficult to believe that any series which was actually employed in practice (and people do not sum series to fifty places for amusement) would converge so quickly, as to give fifty places in seventeen terms. The well-known series for the base of Napier’s logarithms is called a rapidly converging series, and gives about fifteen places in seventeen terms. We cannot help thinking, either that Euler settled one disputed term only, or that there is some mistake about the number of figures.

9.  Il cessa de calculer et de vivre.Condorcet.

Of the scientific character of Euler it is impossible to speak in detail, since even the resumé of M. Condorcet, which is much longer than any account we can here insert, is meagre in the extreme; and we imagine that the reader would form no idea whatsoever of the man we are describing, from any brief enumeration of discoveries for which we should be able to allow room. In more than fifty years of incessant thought, Euler wrote thirty separate works and more than seven hundred memoirs: which could not altogether be contained in forty large quarto volumes. These writings embrace every existing branch of mathematics, and almost every conceivable application of them, to such an extent, that there is no one among mathematicians, past or present, who can be placed near to Euler in the enormous variety of the subjects which he treated. And the contents of these volumes are without exception the original fruit of his own brain; seeing that he left no subject as he found it. He is not a diffuse writer, except 132in giving a large number of examples, and this renders him in some respects the most instructive of all writers. His works are full of the most original thoughts developed in the most original manner; so that they have been a mine of information for his successors, which is even now far from being exhausted. Let a student be employed upon any subject connected with mathematics, however remotely, and he has discovered but little if he has not found out that Euler was there before him.

Of all mathematical writers, Euler is one of the most simple, and this in a manner which renders his writings not by any means a sound preparation for future investigations. Difficulties seem to have disappeared in the progress, or never to have been encountered; and the student is rather made to feel that Euler could take him anywhere, than furnished with the means of providing for himself, when his guide shall have left him. Hence the writings of others, in every way inferior to Euler in elegance and simplicity, are to be preferred, and have been preferred, for the formation of mathematical power.

Euler is to be measured by the assistance which he gave to his immediate successors, and here it is well known that he paved the way for the research of others in a more effectual manner than any of his contemporaries. The incessant repetition of his name in later authors is sufficient authority for this assertion. His writings are the first in which the modern analysis is uniformly the instrument of investigation. His predecessors, James and John Bernouilli, had perhaps the largest share in bringing the infinitesimal analysis of Newton and Leibnitz to the state of power required for extensive application. To Euler (besides important extensions) belongs the distinct merit of showing how to apply it to physical investigations, in conjunction with D’Alembert, who ran a splendid and contemporary career of a similar character in this respect. But though it would be perhaps admitted that there are individual results of the latter which exceed anything done by the former, in generality of application, there is no comparison whatsoever between the extent of the labours of the two.

Euler was a man of a simple, reserved, and benevolent mind; with a strong sense of devotion, and a decided religious habit, according to the Calvinism of the Established Church of his country. At the court of Frederic, he himself conducted the devotions of his family every evening; a practice which then and there implied much moral courage, and insensibility to ridicule. But he possessed humour, 133for when he was asked to calculate the horoscope of one of the Russian princes, he quietly suggested that it was the official duty of the astronomer, and imposed the duty upon a colleague, who doubtless did not feel very much flattered by the application.

There are few men whom the usual biographical formulæ as to moral character and habits would better fit than Euler, according to every account which has appeared of him. But such praises are no distinction; and it will be more to the purpose to state that the only occasion in which he was betrayed into printing a word which his eulogists have regretted, was in the dispute between Maupertuis and himself against others on the principle known by the name of least action, one of the warmest and most angry discussions which ever took place.

Perhaps it is to the quiet abstraction of his life that he owed the perpetuity of his tenure of investigation. Many eminent mathematical discoverers have run the brilliant part of their career while comparatively young. Euler “ceased to calculate and to live” at once. But it may be that this was a part of his natural constitution, and a distinct feature of his mind. The nature of his writings rather confirms the latter supposition. There is the same difference between them and those of others, that there is between conversation and oratory. He seems to be moving in his natural element, where others are swimming for their lives.

The best works of Euler for a young mathematician to read, in order to get an idea of his style and methods, are the ‘Analysis Infinitorum,’ and the ‘Treatise on the Integral Calculus.’



William Jones, the most accomplished Oriental scholar of the last century, an upright magistrate, and eminent benefactor of the native subjects of our Indian dominions, was born in London on Michaelmas Eve, 1746. His father, a man esteemed by his contemporaries, a skilful mathematician, and the friend of Newton, died in July, 1749. His mother then devoted herself entirely to the education of this her only surviving son; and to her careful and judicious culture of his infant years, bestowed indeed upon a happy soil, is to be ascribed the early development of that thirst for learning and faculty of profitable application, which enabled Jones to accumulate in a short and busy life a quantity and variety of abstruse knowledge, such as the same age does not often see equalled. To the end of her life he acknowledged and repaid her care and affection by ardent love and unchanging filial respect. When only seven years old, he was sent to Harrow. His progress, slow at first, afterwards became most rapid; and the head master, Dr. Thackeray, a man not given to praise, spoke of him as “a boy of so active a mind, that if he were left naked and friendless on Salisbury Plain he would find the way to fame and riches.”

At the time of his quitting school, besides a much deeper acquaintance with the classical languages than usually falls to the lot of a schoolboy, Jones had acquired the French and Italian languages, had commenced the study of Hebrew, and (a thing only worth mention as indicative of his tastes) had made himself acquainted with the Arabic letters. Botany, the collection of fossils, and composition in English verse, were his favourite amusements at this period. March 16, 1764, he was entered as a student of University College, Oxford. He was elected a scholar on the Bennett foundation, October 30, 1764; and fellow on the same foundation, August 7, 1766, before he was of standing to proceed to the degree of B.A., which he took in 1768. At an early period of his residence he applied in earnest

Engraved by J. Posselwhite.


From the Picture in the Hall of University College, Oxford.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.

135to the study of Arabic; and his zeal was such, that, though habitually self-denying, and anxious not to trespass on his mother’s slender income, he maintained at Oxford, at his own expense, a Syrian, with whom he had become acquainted in London, for the benefit to be derived from his instruction. From the Arabic he proceeded to learn the Persian language.

His residence was varied, though his favourite studies do not appear to have been interrupted, by an invitation to undertake the care of the late Lord Spencer, then a boy of seven years old. This was in 1765. The next five years he spent with his pupil chiefly at Harrow, and occasionally at Althorp, or in London, or on the continent. It appears from the college books that he resided at Oxford very little in the years 1766, 1767, and 1768. Wherever he was, his time was diligently employed, not only in his severer studies, but in the pursuit of personal accomplishments and the cultivation of valuable acquaintances, especially with those who, like himself, were attached to the investigation of Eastern languages and science. In 1768 he received a high, but an unprofitable compliment, in being selected to render into French a Persian Life of Nadir Shah, transmitted to the English government by the King of Denmark for the purpose of translation. To this performance, which was printed in 1770, Mr. Jones added a ‘Treatise on Oriental Poetry,’ in which several of the odes of Hafiz are translated into verse. This also was written in French; and it has justly been observed by a French writer in the ‘Biographie Universelle,’ that the occurrence of some imperfections of style ought not to interfere with our forming a high estimate of the talents of a man who, at the age of twenty-two, possessed the varied qualifications and recondite acquirements displayed in this work. By the end of the same year, 1770, the author finished his ‘Commentaries on Asiatic Poetry,’ a Latin treatise, which for its style is commended by the competent authority of Dr. Parr; and which has also obtained high praise for the taste and judgment displayed in selecting and translating the passages by which the text is illustrated. It was not printed till 1774.

Not the least striking part of Mr. Jones’s character was an ardent love of liberty, and a high and honourable feeling of independence in his own person. The former was displayed in his open and fearless advocacy of opinions calculated to close the road to preferment, such as an entire disapprobation of the American war, and a strong feeling of the necessity of reform in Parliament. It should also be noticed that at an early period he denounced in energetic language the abomination of the Slave Trade. His personal love of independence was at this time manifested in his resolution to quit the certain road to ease and competence 136which his connexion with the noble family of Spencer laid before him, to embark in the brilliant but uncertain course of legal adventure. Ambition was a prominent feature in Jones’s character; and it was his hope and his earnest wish to distinguish himself in the House of Commons as well as at the bar. He was admitted of the Middle Temple November 19, 1770; and his Oriental studies, though not entirely abandoned, especially at first, were thenceforth much curtailed until the prospect of being appointed to a judicial office in India furnished an adequate reason for the resumption of them. But he gave a proof that his devotion to Oriental had not destroyed his taste for Grecian learning, by publishing in 1778 a translation of the ‘Orations of Isæus,’ relative to the laws of succession to property in Athens. The subject appears to have interested him; for in 1782, when his attention was again directed to the East, he published translations of two Arabian poems; one on the Mohammedan law of succession to the property of intestates, the other on the Mohammedan law of inheritance. About the same time he translated the seven ancient Arabian poems, called Moallakat, or ‘Suspended,’ because they had been hung up, in honour of their merit, in the Temple of Mecca; and to show, perhaps, that his attention had not been withdrawn from his immediate profession, he wrote an ‘Essay on the Law of Bailments.’

Mr. Jones was called to the bar in 1774. Within two years’ space he obtained a commissionership of bankrupts; by what influence does not appear: it could not be from any professional eminence. A letter written to Lord Althorp so early as October, 1778, intimates a wish to obtain some judicial appointment in India, not only in consequence of the interest which he had felt from an early age in every thing connected with the East, but from a motive which has sent other eminent men to the same unhealthy climate; a feeling that pecuniary independence was almost essential to success in political life, and the hope of returning in the prime of manhood with an honourable competence.

In 1780 Mr. Jones became a candidate to represent the University of Oxford. His political opinions were not calculated to win the favour of that learned body, and though respectably supported, he did not find encouragement to warrant him in coming to a poll. From this time forward Mr. Jones’s mind was much occupied by the thought of going to India. His letters contain frequent allusions to the subject, and express doubt whether, notwithstanding the personal friendship of Lord North, his own known views of politics, especially his often and strongly-declared reprobation of the American war, would not interfere with his obtaining the desired promotion. The event proved him to be right, for it was not until after the formation of 137the Shelburne ministry that he received information of his appointment to a seat in the Supreme Court of Judicature at Calcutta, March 3, 1783. For this he was indebted to the friendship of Lord Ashburton (Mr. Dunning). The state of uncertainty in which he was so long retained interfered considerably with his attention to his legal practice, which was rapidly increasing. He was the more anxious on this subject, because he had been long attached to Miss Shipley, daughter of the Bishop of St. Asaph; and his union with her was only deferred until professional success should place him in a fit station to support a family. His marriage took place in April, and in the same month he embarked for India. It remains to be noticed, that in 1782 Mr. Jones had written an essay, entitled ‘The Principles of Government,’ in a dialogue between a farmer and country gentleman, intended to express in a cheap and simple form his own views on constitutional questions. This was first printed by the Society for Constitutional Information, of which Mr. Jones was a member: it was reprinted by his brother-in-law, the Dean of St. Asaph, who was in consequence indicted for libel. In the prosecution which ensued, Mr. Erskine made one of his first and most remarkable appearances, and the series of speeches which he delivered in this case prepared the way for the Libel Bill of 1792.

Sir William Jones arrived in Calcutta in September, and entered on his judicial functions in December, 1783. One of his first employments was the organization of a scientific association, under the title of the Asiatic Society. The Governor-general, Warren Hastings, was requested to become president; and on his declining to accept, as an honorary distinction, an office the real duties of which he was unable to fulfil, Sir William Jones was fitly placed at the head of that institution, which, but for him, probably would not have existed. The transactions of that society, under the name of ‘Asiatic Researches,’ were published under his superintendence, and owe a large portion of their interest to the labours of his pen. Another work, the ‘Asiatic Miscellany,’ was also indebted to him for several valuable contributions. But the perfect acquisition of the Sanscrit language was the chief employment of that time which could be spared from his judicial labours; a task indeed subsidiary to those labours, and performed with the benevolent design of insuring to the Indian subjects of Britain a pure administration of justice, by rendering the knowledge of their laws accessible to British magistrates. Bound to adjudicate between the natives according to their own native laws, and ignorant for the most part of the very language in which those laws were written, the judges were obliged to have recourse to native lawyers, called Pundits, who 138were regularly attached to the courts as a species of assessors. Of these men Sir W. Jones, no harsh or hasty reprover, says, “It would be unjust and absurd to pass indiscriminate censure on so considerable a body of men; but my experience justifies me in declaring that I could not, with an easy conscience, concur in a decision merely on the written opinion of native lawyers, in a case in which they could have the remotest interest in misleading the court.” The obvious remedy was to obtain a trustworthy digest of the Hindoo laws, which should then be accurately translated into English. The scheme indeed had been already undertaken in part at the desire of Mr. Hastings, by Mr. Halhed: but as the code of Hindoo law, compiled by that gentleman, was merely a translation from a defective Persian version of the original Sanscrit, it did not possess the requisite correctness, or authority. It appears from Sir W. Jones’s correspondence, that at an early period he had contemplated supplying this great desideratum by his own labour and expense. But prudence did not warrant such an uncalled-for act of liberality; and he addressed a letter to Lord Cornwallis, dated March 19, 1788, in which the necessity for such a work, and the means by which it might be executed, are fully laid down. It was to be compiled by the Mohammedan or Hindoo lawyers, working under the superintendence of a director and translator, who should be qualified to check and correct intentional or careless error: and a chief difficulty, in Sir W. Jones’s own words, was “to find a person who, with a competent knowledge of the Sanscrit and Arabic, has a general acquaintance with the principles of jurisprudence, and a sufficient share even of legislative spirit, to arrange the plan of a digest, superintend the compilation of it, and render the whole, as it proceeds, into perspicuous English. Now (he continues), though I am truly conscious of possessing a very moderate portion of those talents which I should require in the superintendent of such a work, yet I may without vanity profess myself equal to the labour of it;—and I cannot but know that the qualifications required, even in the low degree in which I possess them, are not often found united in the same person.” The proposal of course was eagerly accepted. That he should have acquired the necessary acquaintance, first with the language, then with the law, in the space of four years and a half, is sufficiently remarkable; and the method in which he proposed to execute it will startle those who know the enervating influence of a tropical climate. “I should be able,” he says, “if my health continued firm, to translate every morning, before any other business is begun, as much as the lawyers could compile, and the writers copy, in the preceding day.” The quantity of work which Jones did in India was indeed astonishing; but he was a severe economist 139of time, and even his hours of recreation were rendered serviceable to the increase of knowledge. Botany especially was a favourite pursuit of his more leisure hours; and his correspondence with Banks and others shows at once the zeal with which, when duty would permit, he followed that fascinating science, and the readiness with which he communicated his own discoveries to his friends, and laboured to answer their inquiries. Nor did he neglect poetry. Several odes to Hindoo deities, originally published in the Asiatic Miscellany, will be found in his works; and these, with an elegant and cultivated fancy, display considerable power of composition. He projected a more serious undertaking,—an epic poem, of which a Phœnician colonist of Britain was to be the hero, and the Hindoo mythology was to furnish the machinery: the whole being an allegorical panegyric on the British constitution, and furnishing the character of a perfect King of England. But the extravagant fictions of the Hindoo religion have never proved permanently popular in an English dress; and there is no reason to regret that this scheme never advanced beyond its first sketch. The author made a more acceptable present to European literature in translating ‘Sacontala, or the Fatal Ring,’ a very ancient Indian drama, which contains a lively, simple, and pleasing picture of the manners of Hindustan at a remote age. It is ascribed to the first century before Christ.

For a catalogue of Sir W. Jones’s works, we must refer to the edition published by Lady Jones. We have only noticed a few of the most important: to which are to be added, the series of anniversary discourses addressed to the Asiatic Society, and the translation of the ‘Ordinances of Menu.’ The former, eleven in number, treat of the History, Antiquities, Arts, &c. of Asia, and more especially of the origin and connection of the chief nations among whom that quarter of the globe is divided. His last work was the translation of the ‘Ordinances of Menu,’ “a system of duties” (we quote from the translator’s preface) “religious and civil, and of law in all its branches, which the Hindoos firmly believe to have been promulged in the beginning of time by Menu, son or grandson of Brahma, or, in plain language, the first of created beings, and not the oldest only, but the holiest of legislators: a system so comprehensive, and so minutely exact, that it may be considered as the Institutes of Hindoo law, preparatory to the copious Digest which has lately been compiled by Pundits of eminent learning.” This was his last work. It was begun in 1786, though not completed and published till 1794, a short time before the author’s death.

140The private history of Sir William Jones, during the period of his life which was spent in India, affords very little scope for narration. During his first summer he nearly fell a victim to the climate; but an absence of seven months spent in travelling recruited his strength, and after his return to Calcutta, in February, 1785, he seemed to be acclimated, and suffered little from serious illness till his last fatal attack. His domestic habits are thus described by his biographer, Lord Teignmouth. “The largest portion of each year was devoted to his professional duties and studies; and all the time that could be saved from these important avocations was dedicated to the cultivation of science and literature. While business required the daily attendance of Sir W. Jones in Calcutta, his usual residence was on the banks of the Ganges, at the distance of five miles from the court; to this spot he returned every evening after sunset, and in the morning rose so early as to reach his apartments in town by walking, at the first appearance of the dawn. The intervening period of each morning, until the opening of the court, was regularly allotted and applied to distinct studies. He passed the months of vacation at his retirement at Crishnagur (a villa about fifty miles from Calcutta) in his usual pursuits.” Those portions of his correspondence which are preserved in Lord Teignmouth’s life may be read with pleasure; and indeed constitute the chief interest of the latter part of the work. Busy, tranquil, and cheerful, his life afforded little of material for the biographer: and but for the impaired health of his wife, his residence in India would have been one of almost unmixed happiness. Lady Jones was compelled to embark for England in December, 1793. The mere desire of increasing a fortune, which he professed to find already large enough for his moderate wishes, would not have tempted Sir William Jones to remain alone in Bengal: but he felt an earnest desire to complete the great work on Hindoo Law, which he had originated; and no apprehension was felt on his account, as his constitution seemed to have become inured to the climate. But in the following spring he was attacked by inflammation of the liver, which ran its fatal course with unusual rapidity. He died, April 27, 1794. The ‘Digest,’ to which he had thus sacrificed his life, was completed by Mr. Colebrooke, and published in 1800.

Blameless in his domestic relations, consistent and enlightened in his political views, an honest and indefatigable magistrate, few men have gone through life with more credit, or as far as it is possible to form an opinion, with more happiness than Sir William Jones. As a scholar, the circumstances of his life being considered, his acquirements 141were extraordinary; and in this light the most remarkable feature of his character was his singular facility in learning languages. A list, preserved in his own handwriting, thus classes those with which he was in any degree acquainted; they are twenty-eight in number. “Eight languages studied critically—English, Latin, French, Italian, Greek, Arabic, Persian, Sanscrit. Eight studied less perfectly, but all intelligible with a dictionary—Spanish, Portuguese, German, Runic, Hebrew, Bengali, Hindi, Turkish. Twelve studied less perfectly, but all attainable: Thibetian, Pâli, Pahlair, Deri, Russian, Syriac, Ethiopic, Coptic, Welsh, Swedish, Dutch, Chinese.” Besides law, which as his profession, was his chief business through life, his writings embrace a vast variety of subjects in the several classes of philology, botany, zoology, poetry original and translated, political discussion, geography, mythology, astronomy as applied to chronology, and history, especially that of the Asiatic nations. And the praise of ‘adorning everything that he touched’ is singularly due to him, for the elegance of his style, and his power of throwing interest over the dry and uncertain inquiries in which he took such delight. As far as England is concerned, he was our great pioneer in Eastern learning; and if later scholars, profiting in part by his labours, have found reason to dissent from his opinions, it is to be recollected, as far as our estimate of his powers is concerned, that most men, who have obtained eminence in this recondite department of literature, have done so by the devotion of their undivided powers: what Jones accomplished was performed, on the contrary, in the intervals of those official labours, to which the best hours and energies of his life were, as his first point of duty, devoted. What he had meditated, if life and leisure had been granted, may be inferred from the list of ‘Desiderata,’ which his biographer (vol. ii., p. 301, it is not said on what authority) regards as exhibiting his own literary projects. The following emphatic panegyric, conceived in the warm language which affection naturally indulges in on such an occasion, has been pronounced on him by his friend and school-fellow, Dr. Bennet, Bishop of Cloyne. “I knew him from the early age of eight or nine, and he was always an uncommon boy. Great abilities, great particularity of thinking, fondness for writing verses and plays of various kinds, and a degree of integrity and manly courage, of which I remember many instances, distinguished him even at that period. I loved and revered him, and though one or two years older than he was, was always instructed by him from my earliest age. In a word, I can only say of this wonderful man, that he had more virtues and less faults than I ever yet saw in any human being; and that the goodness of his head, admirable as it 142was, was exceeded by that of his heart. I have never ceased to admire him from the moment I first saw him, and my esteem for his great qualities and regret for his loss will only end with my life.”

Due honours were paid after death to this great man. The Court of Directors placed a statue of him in St. Paul’s cathedral; and Lady Jones erected a monument to him in the ante-chapel of University College, Oxford. In conformity with his own expressed opinion, that “the best monument that can be erected to a man of literary talent, is a good edition of his works,” she caused them to be collected and printed in 1799, in six quarto volumes. They have been reprinted in octavo. A life of Sir William Jones was afterwards written by Lord Teignmouth, his intimate friend in India, at Lady Jones’s request. There is a memoir in the Annual Obituary for 1817, which is chiefly devoted to set forth the political opinions of Sir William Jones, in a stronger light than seemed fitting to his noble biographer.

[Statue of Sir W. Jones, by John Bacon, R.A., in St. Paul’s.]

Engraved by Robt. Hart.


From an original Picture by Latour, in the possession of M. Bordes, at Paris.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.



Jean Jacques Rousseau, the son of a watch-maker at Geneva, was born June 28, 1712. His mother dying while he was yet a child, his father took a second wife; and he himself was placed at school at the village of Bossey, near Geneva, where he learnt but little, and was afterwards apprenticed to an engraver, a coarse, brutal man, whose treatment of him tended to sour a temper already wilful and morose. He became addicted to idleness, pilfering, and lying. The fear of punishment for some act of especial misconduct induced him to run away from his master, and he wandered into Savoy, where finding himself totally destitute, he applied to the Bishop of Annecy, on the plea of wishing to be instructed in the Catholic religion. The bishop recommended him to Madame de Warens, a Swiss lady, herself a convert to Catholicism, who lived at Annecy. She received the boy kindly, relieved his present wants, and afforded him the means of proceeding to Turin, where he entered the College of Catechumens, and after going through a preparatory course of instruction, abjured the reformed religion, and became a Catholic. But as he refused to enter into holy orders, on leaving the college he was again thrown upon his own resources. He became a domestic servant; but his want of self-control and discretion rendered him very unfit for his employment: and in 1730 he returned to the house of Madame de Warens, who received him kindly, and afforded him support and protection during the next ten years. Of his foolish, profligate, and ungrateful course of life during this period, we have neither space nor wish to give an account: after many absences, and many returns, Rousseau quitted her finally in 1740, receiving letters of introduction to some persons at Lyons. Tutor, musician, and private 144secretary to the French Ambassador, his restless temper and versatile mind led him successively from Lyons to Paris and Venice. From the last-named city he returned to Paris in 1745; and alighting at an obscure inn, met with a servant girl, Therese Levasseur, with whom he formed a connexion which lasted all the rest of his life. He tried to compose music for the stage, but did not succeed in his attempts. He was next employed as a clerk in the office of M. Dupin, Fermier-général, but did not remain long in his new employment. In 1748 he became acquainted with Madame d’Epinay, who proved afterwards one of his steadiest and kindest friends. He frequented the society also of D’Alembert, Diderot, and Condillac, and he was engaged to write the articles on music for the Encyclopédie, which he did very ill, as he himself acknowledges. One day he saw by chance in an advertisement, that a prize had been offered by the Academy of Dijon, for the best essay on the question, Whether the progress of sciences and of the arts has been favourable to the morals of mankind? He at once resolved to write for the prize, and apparently without having ever before considered the subject, made up his mind to take the negative side of the question. Diderot encouraged, but did not, as has been commonly said, originate this determination. He supported his position, that science, literature, and art, have been fatal to the virtues and happiness of mankind, with a glowing eloquence; and the Academy awarded him the prize. His success confirmed him in a turn for paradox and exaggeration; and he seems to have adopted, as a general principle, the doctrine that the extreme opposite to wrong must necessarily be right. At the same time his reputation as an author became established, and in a few years after his first essay, he was acknowledged to be one of the most, or rather the most, eloquent writer among his contemporaries. Meantime he persevered in his attempts at musical composition, and wrote ‘Le Devin du Village,’ an opera which was played before the king at the Court Theatre of Fontainebleau, and met with the royal approbation. Rousseau was in one of the boxes with a gentleman belonging to the court. The king having expressed a desire to see the composer of the opera, Rousseau became alarmed or ashamed at the slovenly condition of his dress, and instead of repairing to the royal presence, he ran out of the house and hastened back to Paris. Naturally shy, he possessed neither ease of manners nor facility of address, and he could never throughout life subdue his own acute feeling of these deficiencies; a feeling which of course tended to perpetuate and increase his awkwardness. This was the secret spring of most of his eccentricities. In order to hide his 145imperfections, he resorted to the plan of affecting to disregard manners altogether; he put on the appearance of a cynic, of a misanthropist, which he was not in reality.

It was about the year 1750, soon after writing his dissertation for the Dijon prize, that he made a total change in his habits and mode of living. He gave up all refinement about his dress, laid aside his sword, bag, and silk stockings, sold his watch, but kept his linen apparel, which, however, was stolen from him shortly after. He spent one half of the day in copying music as a means of subsistence, and he found constant employment. Several persons who knew his circumstances offered him three or four times the value of his labour, but he would never accept more than the usual remuneration. In 1753 he wrote his ‘Lettre sur la Musique Française,’ in which he asserted that the French had no music deserving the name, that they could not possibly have any, and then added, that “were they ever to have any it would be all the worse for them;” a sentence unintelligible to his readers, and probably to himself also. When years after this he heard Gluck, with whose music he was delighted, he observed to some one, “this man is setting French words to very good music, as if on purpose to contradict me;” and upon this reflection he broke off acquaintance with Gluck. However, his letter on French music sorely wounded the national vanity, and he was exposed to a sort of petty persecution in consequence of it. Rousseau wrote next his letter to D’Alembert, ‘sur les Spectacles,’ which led to a controversy between them. He wrote also the ‘Discours sur l’Origine de l’Inégalité parmi les Hommes,’ for another prize of the Academy of Dijon, with a dedication to the magistrates of his native town Geneva, which was much admired as a specimen of dignified eloquence. The discourse itself is composed in his accustomed paradoxical vein. He maintains that men are not intended to be sociable beings; that they have a natural bias for a solitary existence; that the condition of the savage, untutored and free in his native wilds, is the natural and proper state of man; and that every system of society is an infraction of man’s rights, and a subversion of the order of nature. He assumes that men are all born equal by nature, disregarding the daily evidence of the contrary, in respect both of their physical and moral powers. His idea of the equal rights of men, which he afterwards developed in the ‘Contrat Social,’ instead of being founded upon enlightened reason, religion, and morality, rests upon the base of his favourite theory, of man’s equality in a state of nature; while we know from experience, that those savage tribes who approach nearest to this imaginary natural 146state, acknowledge no other right than that of the strongest. Most of Rousseau’s paradoxes proceed from the false position assumed in his first dissertation, that a savage, unsocial state, is the very perfection of man’s existence.

After the publication of this discourse Rousseau repaired to Geneva, where he was well received by his countrymen. He there abjured Catholicism and resumed the profession of the reformed religion. But he soon returned to Paris; and, at the invitation of Madame d’Epinay, in 1756, took up his residence at the house called L’Hermitage, in the valley of Montmorency, near Paris. It was in this pleasant retirement that he began his celebrated novel ‘Julie, ou la Nouvelle Heloïse,’ which he finished in 1759. As a work of imagination and invention it is little worth; but as a model of impassioned eloquence, it will be admired as long as the French language shall continue to be spoken or read by men. Rousseau, while he wrote it, was himself under the influence of a passion which he had conceived for the beautiful Madame d’Houdetot, Madame d’Epinay’s sister-in-law, a love totally hopeless and ridiculous on his part, but which no doubt inspired him while engaged in the composition of this work. When it appeared, many people, especially women, thought that Julie was a real living object of his attachment, and the supposition being favourable to the popularity of the book and its author, Rousseau was not very anxious to undeceive them. He esteemed the fourth portion of the work the best. “The first two parts are but the desultory verbiage of feverish excitement, and yet I could never alter them after I had once written them. The fifth and the sixth are comparatively weak, but I let them remain out of consideration of their moral utility.... My imagination cannot embellish the objects I see; it must create its own objects. If I am to paint the spring, I must do it in winter; if to describe a landscape, I must be shut up within walls: were I confined in the Bastille, I should then write best on the charms of liberty. I never could write as a matter of business, I can only do it through impulse or passion.” (Rousseau’s ‘Notes to the Nouvelle Heloïse,’ in Mercier and Le Tourneur’s edition.) He had great difficulty in constructing his periods; he turned them and he altered them repeatedly in his head, often while in bed, before he attempted to put them on paper.

La Nouvelle Heloïse has been censured for the dangerous example it affords, and for the interest it throws upon seduction and frailty. The character of St. Preux is decidedly faulty, and even base, in spite of all his sophistry, which however has probably led other young men 147placed in a similar situation to forget the relative duties of society, and the obligations of hospitality. Here we perceive also the influence of Rousseau’s favourite paradox; for in a state of nature, such as Rousseau has fancied it, the intimacy of St. Preux and Julie would have been unobjectionable. But then the relative position of the teacher, his pupil, and her parents, would not have been the same as in the novel, for they would have been all savages together. Rousseau has however redeemed the character of Julie after she becomes a wife, and he has thus paid a sincere homage to the sacredness of the marriage bond, and to the importance of conjugal duties, the basis of all society. Rousseau was not a contemner of virtue; he felt its beauty, though his practice was by no means modelled on its dictates. He tells us himself the workings of his mind on this subject. “After much observation I thought I perceived nothing but error and folly among philosophers, oppression and misery in the social order. In the delusion of my foolish pride I fancied myself born to dissipate all prejudices; but then I thought that, in order to have my advice listened to, my conduct ought to correspond to my principles. I had been till then good-hearted, I now became virtuous. Whoever has the courage of showing himself such as he is, must, if he be not totally depraved, become such as he ought to be.” It was probably in compliance with his growing sense of moral duty, that he married at last the woman he had so long been living with, when she was forty-seven years of age, and, as he himself acknowledges, was not possessed of any attractions of either mind or person, having nothing to recommend her except her attention to him, especially in his frequent fits of illness or despondency. He seems also to have bitterly repented, in the latter years of his life, having in his youth sent his illegitimate children to the foundling hospital.

Rousseau’s next work was the ‘Emile, ou de l’Education,’ which appeared in 1762. It contains many excellent precepts, especially in the first part, although, as a whole system, it may be considered as impracticable, at least in any state of society which has yet been formed upon the earth. It was remarked at the time, that the author, after having brought up his Emile to manhood, ought to create a new world for him to live in. Rousseau himself seems to have been of this opinion, for when a Mr. Angar introduced to him his son, whom he said he had educated according to the principles of the Emile, Rousseau quickly replied, “So much the worse for you, and for your son too.” The ‘Emile,’ however, introduced some beneficial changes in the early treatment of children. It discredited the absurd practice of swaddling 148infants like mummies, to the manifest injury of their tender limbs; it induced mothers of the higher ranks to suckle their children, instead of committing them to the care of nurses; it corrected several wrong principles of early education, such as that of ruling children through fear, of considering them as slaves having no will of their own, and of terrifying them by absurd stories and fables; it inculcated freedom of body and mind, the necessity of amusement and relaxation, of appealing to the feelings of children, of treating them like rational beings. Rousseau may be truly called the benefactor of children. As he proceeded, however, in his plan for boys grown older, Rousseau became involved in some of his favourite speculations about religion and metaphysics, which gave offence to both Catholics and Protestants. The Parliament of Paris condemned the work. The Archbishop issued a mandement against it. The States-General of Holland likewise proscribed the book. At Geneva, it was publicly burnt by the hand of the executioner. The publication of the ‘Contrat Social, ou Principes du Droit Politique,’ which appeared soon after, added to the storm against the author. It contains much speculative truth, combined with much ignorance of men’s nature and passions. The idea of a perfect and universal model of government, without regard to local circumstances, seems chimerical. It is a curious fact that Rousseau, after reading Bernardin de St. Pierre’s political works, observed that they contained projects which were impracticable on account of a fundamental error, out of which the author was unable to extricate himself, namely, “that of supposing that men in general and in all cases will conduct themselves according to the dictates of reason and virtue, rather than according to their passions.” Rousseau, in uttering these words, passed judgment on his own ‘Contrat Social,’ which he afterwards also acknowledged having written, “not for men but for angels.” In fact, he never meant it for anything but a speculative treatise, and in his ‘Considérations sur le Gouvernement de la Pologne,’ published some years after, having to write for a practical purpose, he considerably modified his former principles.

In consequence of the excitement produced by these works, Rousseau left Paris for Switzerland in 1762. He went first to Yverdun, but the Senate of Berne enjoined him to leave its territory. He then repaired to Neuchatel, which was subject to the King of Prussia, and of which the old Marshal Keith was Governor. Keith received him very kindly, and Rousseau took up his residence at the village of Motiers, in the Val de Travers. There he wrote a Reply to the Archbishop of Paris, and a Letter to the Magistrates of Geneva, in 149which he renounced his rights of citizenship. He next wrote the “Lettres de la Montagne,” which is a series of severe strictures on the political government and church of Geneva. It is curious as a sketch of the old institutions of that republic, written by one of its own citizens. This work increased the existing irritation against its author, a feeling which spread even to the villagers of Motiers, who are said to have annoyed their eccentric visiter in various ways. Rousseau, however, is suspected of having greatly magnified, if not invented, some of the acts of aggression of which he complains. He spoke of them as amounting to a regular conspiracy against his person, and removed his abode to the little island of St. Pierre, on the lake of Bienne. Thence, after a time, as if to court notice, he wrote a letter to the Senate of Berne, requesting permission to remain on the island. For answer he received an order to quit the territory of the canton in twenty-four hours. At the invitation of his former friend Marshal Keith, he meditated a visit to Berlin. But the advice of some friends in Paris induced him to change his mind, and accept the friendly offer of our historian Hume, who was anxious to procure for him a safe asylum in England, where he might quietly attend to his studies and live in peace. Rousseau arrived in London in January, 1766; and in the following March, went to his intended home at Wootton in Derbyshire. Knowing the man he had to deal with, Hume, with the real kindness of character which he possessed, had sought by every means to avoid shocking the irritable delicacy or vanity of his protégé: and the residence which he procured for him in the house of a man of fortune, Mr. Davenport, is said to have been unexceptionable. But before long he quarrelled with both Hume and Davenport, left Wootton abruptly, and returned to France. The ostensible cause of all this was the publication of a letter in the newspapers, bearing the King of Prussia’s name, and reflecting severely upon Rousseau’s weaknesses and eccentricities. Rousseau accused Hume, or some of his friends, of having written it. Hume protested in vain that he knew nothing of the matter. At last Horace Walpole acknowledged himself to be the author. Rousseau, however, would not be pacified, and attributed to Hume the blackest designs against him. The correspondence that passed between the parties on the subject is curious, and is given in the complete editions of our author’s works. He afterwards seemed to say that during his residence in England he had been subject to fits of insanity.

Returning to France, Rousseau led an unsettled life, with frequent changes in his place of residence, until June, 1770. He then returned 150to Paris, and took lodgings in the Rue Plâtrière, which has since been called Rue J. J. Rousseau. It is to be noticed that in the interim he had published his ‘Dictionnaire de Musique,’ a work which has the reputation of being both imperfect and obscure. Indeed, notwithstanding his passionate fondness for the art, he never attained to a profound acquaintance with it. Passing through Lyons on his way to Paris, he subscribed his mite towards the erection of a statue to Voltaire: thus avenging himself for the coarse abuse which the latter had on many occasions poured upon him, and which Rousseau never returned. Voltaire is said to have been exceedingly annoyed at this. After his return to the capital, he was overwhelmed with visits and invitations to dinner. Though there was a prosecution pending against him for his ‘Emile,’ he was left undisturbed: but at the same time he was cautioned not to exhibit himself too conspicuously in public; advice which he utterly disregarded. He soon relapsed into his former misanthropy, and became subject to convulsive fits, which fearfully disfigured his features, and gave a haggard expression to his looks. He fancied that every body was conspiring against him, and he also complained of inward moral sufferings which tortured his mind.

Among other imaginary grievances he thought that the French ministers had imposed restrictions upon him with respect to his writings. One of his friends applied to the Duc de Choiseuil to ascertain the fact. The Duke’s answer, dated 1772, is as follows: “If ever I have engaged M. Rousseau not to publish anything without my previous knowledge, of which fact however I have no remembrance, it could only have been in order to save him from fresh squabbles and annoyance. However, now that I have no longer the power of protecting him (the Duke had resigned his premiership), I fully acquit him of any engagement of the kind.”

As Rousseau was walking one day in the street Menil Montant, a large dog that was running before the carriage of the President Saint Fargeau tripped his legs, and he fell. The President alighted, expressed his regret at the accident, and begged the sufferer to accept of his carriage to return home. Rousseau, however, refused. The next day the President sent to inquire after his health. “Tell your master to chain up his dog,” was the only reply.

Being old and infirm, the labour of copying music had become too irksome for him: still he would accept of no assistance from his friends, though all his income consisted of an annuity of 1450 livres. His wife was also in bad health, and provisions were very dear at the time; he therefore began to look out for a country residence. A friend 151mentioned this to the Marquis de Girardin, who immediately offered Rousseau a permanent habitation at his château of Ermenonville, near Chantilly. Rousseau accepted the proposal, and chose for his residence a detached cottage near the family mansion. He removed to it in May, 1778, and appeared more calm and contented in his new abode. He was fond of botany, and used to take long walks in quest of flowers with one of M. de Girardin’s sons. On July 1st he went out as usual, but returned home fatigued and ill: he however slept quietly that night. Next morning he rose early according to his custom, and went out to see the sun rise; he came back to breakfast, after which he went to his room to dress, as he intended to pay a visit to Madame de Girardin. His wife happening to enter his room shortly after, found him sitting with his elbow leaning on a chest of drawers. He said he was very ill, and complained of cold shivering and of violent pain in his head. Madame de Girardin being informed of this, came at once to visit him; but Rousseau, thanking her for all her kindness to him, begged of her to return home and leave him alone for the present. He then having requested his wife to sit by him, begged her forgiveness for any pain or displeasure of which he might have been the cause, and said that his end was approaching, that he died in peace, as he never had intended or wished evil to any human being, and that he hoped in the mercy of God. He begged that M. de Girardin would allow him to be buried in his park. He gave directions to his wife about his papers, and requested her particularly to have his body opened, that the cause of his death might be ascertained. He then asked her to open the window, “that he might once more behold the beautiful green of the fields.” “How pure and beautiful is the sky!” he then observed, “there is not a cloud. I trust the Almighty will receive me there above.” In so saying, he fell on his face to the floor, and on raising him, life was found to be extinct. On opening the body, a considerable quantity of serum was found between the brain and its integuments. His sudden death was attributed by many persons to suicide: but there is no direct evidence of which we know to prove this. On the other side there is the positive assertion of the physician who examined the body, that his death was natural. Rousseau was buried in an island shaded by poplars, on the little lake of the park of Ermenonville. A plain marble monument was raised to his memory.

The first part of his ‘Confessions,’ which he had begun to write while at Wootton, was published in 1781. He had himself fixed the year 1800 for the publication of the second part, judging that, by that time, the persons mentioned in the work would be dead; but, through 152an abuse of confidence on the part of the depositories of the MSS., it was published in 1788. His autobiography does not include the latter years of his life.

Rousseau was temperate and frugal in his habits, disinterested and warm-hearted, and impressed with strong feelings against oppression and injustice. He was not envious of the fame or success of his brother authors. He never sneered at religion like Voltaire and others of his contemporaries, although in his speculative works he expressed his doubts concerning revelation, and brought forth the arguments that occurred to him on that side of the question: but he had none of the fanaticism of incredulity against Christianity. Of the morality of the Gospel he was a sincere admirer, and a most eloquent eulogist. “I acknowledge,” he says in his ‘Emile,’ “that the majesty of the Scriptures astonishes me, that the holiness of the Gospel speaks to my heart. Look at the books of the philosophers; with all their pomp, how little they appear by the side of that one book! Can a book so sublime, and yet so simple, be the work of man? How prejudiced, how blind that man must be, who can compare the son of Sophroniscus (Socrates) to the son of Mary!” With such sentiments Rousseau could not long agree with Helvetius, Diderot, D’Holbach, and their coterie. They, on their side, ridiculed and abused him, because he was too sincere and independent for them. “I have spent my life,” says Rousseau, “among infidels, without being seduced by them; I loved and esteemed several of them, and yet their doctrine was to me insufferable. I told them repeatedly that I could not believe them.... I leave to my friends the task of constructing the world by chance. I find in the very architects of this new-fangled world, and in spite of themselves and their arguments, fresh proofs of the existence of a God, a Creator of all.” A very good collection of the moral maxims scattered about Rousseau’s works was published under the title of ‘Esprit, Maximes et Principes de J. J. Rousseau,’ 8vo., Neuchatel, 1774.

Rousseau set to music about 100 French romances, which he called ‘Consolations des Misères de ma Vie.’ Several editions of all his works have been made at different times: that by Mercier and Le Tourneur, 38 vols. 4to., has been long considered as one of the best. The edition of Lefevre, 22 vols. 8vo., 1819–20, and that of Lequien, 21 vols. 8vo., 1821–2, are now preferred to all former ones.

Engraved by W. Holl.


From an Engraving by Tassaerts published in 1708 after a Painting by King.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.



John Harrison was born in May, 1693, at Foulby, in Yorkshire. His father, who was a joiner, trained him from an early age to the same business; but he soon began to study machinery. He turned his attention to the mechanism of clocks; and, to obviate the irregularities produced in their rate of going by variations of temperature, he invented the method of compensation, employed in what is now called the gridiron pendulum, before the year 1720. This contrivance consisted in constructing a pendulum with bars of different metals, having different rates of expansion so as to correct each other: it is described in all popular treatises on physics. By this means it is stated that he had, before the year above-mentioned, constructed two clocks which agreed with each other within a second a month, and one of which did not vary, on the whole, more than a minute in ten years.[10]

10.  Folke’s Address to the Royal Society, Nov. 30, 1749.

This success induced him to turn his attention to watches, or rather to time-keepers for naval purposes. It would be impossible without the help of plates to render intelligible the rise and progress of his methods, for which we must refer the reader to treatises of Horology. His first instrument was tried upon the Humber, in rough weather, and succeeded so well that he was recommended to carry it to London, for the inspection of the Commissioners of Longitude.

The question of the discovery of the longitude had been considered of national importance since the year 1714, when an Act was passed offering 10,000l., 15,000l., and 20,000l. for any method of discovering the longitude within 60, 40, or 30 miles respectively. In 1735 Harrison 154arrived in London with his time-piece, and showed it to several members of the Royal Society. He obtained a certificate of its goodness, signed by Halley, Smith, Bradley, Machin, and Graham, in consequence of which he was allowed to proceed with it to Lisbon, in a king’s ship, in 1736. The watch was found to correct the ship’s reckoning a degree and a half; and the commissioners thereupon gave Harrison 500l., to enable him to proceed. He finished a second time-piece in 1739, and a third in 1758, each nearer to perfection than the former, and both abounding in ingenious contrivances to overcome the effects of temperature, and of the motion of a vessel at sea. In 1741 he obtained another certificate, signed by almost every name of eminence in English science of the time. In 1749 the gold medal of the Royal Society was awarded to him. In 1761, having then a fourth time-piece in hand, but being convinced that the third was sufficiently correct to come within the limits of the act of parliament, he applied to the Commissioners for a trial of it. Accordingly, in 1761 (Nov. 18), his son, William Harrison, was sent in a king’s ship to Jamaica with the watch, and returned to Portsmouth, March 26, 1762. On arrival at Port Royal, Jan. 19, 1762, the watch was found wrong only 5⅒ seconds; and at its return, only 1 minute 54½ seconds. This was sufficient to determine the longitude within 18 miles; and Harrison accordingly claimed 20,000l., in a petition to the House of Commons, presented early in 1763. The Commissioners had awarded him 1,500l., and promised 1,000l. more after another voyage. Owing to some doubt as to the method of equal altitudes employed in finding the time at Port Royal, they do not appear to have been of opinion that the first voyage was conclusive. In 1763 an act passed, by which, firstly, no other person could become entitled to the reward until Harrison’s claim was settled; and, secondly, 5,000l. was awarded to him on his discovery of the structure of the instrument. But the Commissioners not agreeing about the payment, another voyage was resolved on, and Mr. William Harrison sailed again for Barbadoes, with Dr. Maskelyne, afterwards the Astronomer Royal. The result was yet more satisfactory than before; and in 1765 a new act was passed, awarding to Harrison the whole sum of 20,000l.: the first moiety upon the discovery of his construction; the second, so soon as it should be found that others could be made like it. In this act it is stated that the watch did not lose more than ten miles of the longitude. But Harrison had by this time been rendered unduly suspicious of the intentions of the Commissioners. He imagined that Dr. Maskelyne had treated him unfairly, and was desirous of having 155no method of finding the longitude except that of lunar observations. An account of the subsequent proceedings, of which the following is an abstract, was printed in self-defence by the Commissioners:—

May 28, 1765, Mr. Harrison’s son informs the Commissioners that he is ready to deliver the drawings and explanations, and expects a certificate that he is entitled to receive the first moiety of the reward. The Commissioners are unanimously of opinion that verbal explanations and experiments, in the presence of such persons as they may appoint, will be necessary. May 30, Mr. Harrison attends in person, and consents to the additional explanation; and certain men of science, as well as watchmakers, are instructed to receive them. June 13, Mr. Harrison, being present, is informed that the Board is ready to fix a time to proceed, on which he denies ever having given his assent, and refers to a letter which he had delivered at the last meeting. The letter had not, says the Commissioners’ Minute, been delivered, but had been left upon the table, unnoticed by any one. It was to the effect that Harrison was willing to give further verbal explanation, but requires to know to whom it must be given; “for,” says he, “I will never attempt to explain it to the satisfaction of the Commissioners, and who they may appoint; nor will I ever come under the directions of men of theory.” He further refuses to make any experimental exhibition, and ends by complaining of the usage he has received. He was then told by the Board that he would only be asked for experiments in cases where there were operations which could not be fully explained by words, such, for instance, as the tempering of the springs; on which he left the Board abruptly, declaring, “that he never would consent to it, as long as he had a drop of English blood in his body.” The Commissioners thereupon declined further dealing with him.

The reason of the above absurd conduct we suspect to have been, that Harrison desired, in addition to the large reward claimed by him, to have a monopoly of the manufacture of his watches, such as would have necessarily been created for his benefit, had he been allowed to keep his actual methods of working a secret. For he offered, upon receiving the reward, “to employ a sufficient number of hands, so as with all possible speed to furnish his Majesty’s navy, &c. &c., not doubting but the public will consider the charge of the outset of the undertaking.” We quote here from the Biographia Britannica, in the last volume of which, published in 1766, is an account of him, from materials avowedly furnished by himself, and plainly written by a partisan. It is the only instance we can find in which a memoir of a living person has been inserted in that work.

156The next circumstance we find, (for there is no connected history of this discussion, which exists only in a number of detached pamphlets,) is the delivery of the watch to Dr. Maskelyne, at the Royal Observatory, in May, 1766, that its rate of going might there be tried. The Report of the Astronomer Royal states, that it could not be depended upon within a degree of longitude in a voyage of six weeks; and a very angry pamphlet, published by Harrison in the following year, accuses Maskelyne of having treated the instrument unfairly. Many circumstances are stated which now appear ludicrous, and some which, if true, would have reflected discredit on the Commissioners. But nothing can be inferred, after the refusal of Harrison to accede to the very reasonable demand of the Commissioners, except that he was most probably as wrong in his suspicions as he had been foolish in his dealings. The end of this dispute was, that in 1767 Harrison complied with the conditions insisted upon; and, it having been found that his improvements were such as admitted of execution by another person, he received the whole sum awarded to him by the Act of Parliament.

Harrison was not a well-educated man, and was deficient in the power of expressing his meaning clearly. It was easier for him, no doubt, to make two watches than to explain one; and hence, perhaps, his aversion to “men of theory,” who troubled him for descriptions and explanations.

He died in 1776, at his house in Red Lion Square, having been engaged during the latter years of his life in bringing his improvements still nearer to perfection. His last work, which was tried in 1772, was found to have erred only four seconds and a half in ten weeks.

In his younger days, some church-bells, which were out of tune, set him upon examining the musical scale, with a view to correct them. He communicated his ideas on the subject to Dr. Smith, who confirmed and extended them in his well-known work on Harmonics. In the Preface it is stated that Harrison made the interval of the major-third bear to that of the octave the proportion of the diameter of a circle to its circumference. This, he said, he did on the authority of a friend, who assured him it would give the best scale. Harrison himself wrote a treatise on the scale, but we do not know whether it was published.

He is, on the whole, a fine instance of the union of originality with perseverance. The inventions, of which it takes so short a space to tell the history, were the work of fifty years of labour, and to them the art of constructing chronometers, and consequently the science of navigation, is indebted for much of its present advanced state.

Engraved by C. E. Wagstaff.


From an original Picture at Paris, in the “Dépot des Archives du Royaume.”

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.



Michel, Seigneur, or Lord, of Montaigne, a feudal estate in the province of Perigord, near the river Dordogne, was born February 28, 1533, of a family said to have been originally from England. He was a younger son; but, by the death of his elder brother, inherited the estate by the title of which he is known. His father, a blunt feudal noble, who had served in the wars of Francis I., placed him out at nurse in a village of his domain, and directed that he should be treated in the same manner as the children of the peasants. As soon as he could speak, he was placed under the care of a German tutor, selected for his ignorance of the French, and intimate acquaintance with the Greek and Latin languages. All Montaigne’s intercourse with his preceptor was carried on in Latin; and even his parents made a rule never to address him except in that language, of which they picked up a sufficient number of words for common purposes. The attendants were enjoined to follow the same practice. “They all became latinized,” says Montaigne himself, “and even the villagers around learnt words in that language, some of which took root in the country, and became of common use among the people.” Thus, without any formal course of scholastic teaching, Montaigne spoke Latin long before he could speak French, which he was afterwards obliged to learn as if it had been a foreign language. When, at a mature age, he was writing his Essays, he professed to be still ignorant of grammar, having learnt various languages by practice, and not knowing yet the meaning of adjective, conjunctive, or ablative, (Essais, b. i. c. 48.) This last assertion probably is not to be taken strictly to the letter. He studied Greek also by way of pastime, rather than as a task. The object of his father was to make him learn 158without constraint and from his own wish; and, as an instance of the old soldier’s whimsical notions on education, he caused his son to be awakened in the morning to the sound of music, that his nervous system might not be injured by any sudden shock. At six years old Montaigne was sent to the College of Guienne, at Bordeaux, an establishment which then enjoyed a very high reputation. He soon made his way to the higher classes; and at thirteen years of age had completed his college education. Having no taste for military life, which was then the usual career of young noblemen, he studied the law; and in 1554 was made Councillor (or Judge) in the Parliament of Bordeaux, in which capacity he acted for several years. He went several times to Court, and enjoyed the favour of Henry II., by whom, or as some say, by Charles IX., he was made a Gentleman of the King’s Chamber, and Knight of the Order of St. Michel. Among his brother councillors at Bordeaux there was a young man of distinguished merit, called La Boëtie, for whom Montaigne conceived a feeling of the most romantic friendship, which soon became reciprocal. The sentiments and opinions of the two seem to have sympathized in an extraordinary degree. La Boëtie died young, but his friend’s affection survived: a chapter of the Essays is devoted to his memory, and in other parts of Montaigne’s writings we find frequent recurrence to the same subject.

Montaigne married Françoise de la Chassaigne when he was thirty-three years of age; and this he did, as he says, in consequence of external persuasions, and in order to please his friends rather than himself, for he was not inclined to a married life; “but once married, although he had been till then considered a licentious man, he observed the conjugal laws more strictly than he had himself expected.” On succeeding to the family estate, on which he generally resided, he took the management of it into his own hands; and although his father, judging from his habits of abstraction and seeming carelessness of worldly objects, had foretold that he would ruin his patrimony, Montaigne, at his death, left the property if not much better, certainly not worse than he found it. He was not rich, for we are told, by Balzac, that his income did not exceed 6000 livres, which was no great revenue for a country gentleman even at that time. In 1569 he translated into French a Latin work of Sebonde or Sebon, in defence of the mysteries and doctrines of the Church of Rome, against Luther and other Protestant writers. France was at that time desolated by civil and religious war. Montaigne, although he evidently disapproved of the conduct of the Court towards the Protestants, yet remained loyal to 159the King. He lived in retirement, and took no part in public affairs, except by exhorting both parties to moderation and mutual charity. By this conduct he became, as it generally happens, obnoxious to both factions, and he incurred some danger in consequence. The massacre of St. Bartholomew plunged him into a deep melancholy. He detested cruelty and the shedding of blood, and in several passages of his Essays has animadverted in strong terms upon the atrocities committed against the Protestants. It was about this dismal epoch of 1572, when, solitude and melancholy urging him to the task, he began to write that celebrated work, of which we shall presently speak more at length. It was first published in March, 1580; and had great success. After some time, Montaigne printed a new edition of it, with additions; but without making any alterations in the part which had appeared before. The popularity of the book was such that in a few years there was hardly a man of education in France who had not a copy of it.

Soon after the first publication of his Essays, Montaigne undertook a journey for the sake of his health. He went to Germany, Switzerland, and, lastly, to Italy. He visited several bathing-places, among others, Baden, and the baths of Lucca in Tuscany. He proceeded to Rome, where he was well received by several Cardinals and other persons of distinction, and was introduced to Pope Gregory XIII. Montaigne was delighted with Rome; he found himself at home among those localities and monuments which were connected with his earliest studies, and with the first impressions of his childhood. His remarks on what he saw in the course of his journey are those of a man of penetration, sincere and plain spoken, and written in his peculiar antique style. His MS. journal, after lying forgotten for nearly two centuries, was discovered in an old chest in the château of his family, and published in 1775, by M. de Querlon, under the following title, ‘Journal du Voyage de Michel de Montaigne en Italie, par la Suisse et l’Allemagne, en 1580–1.’ It is one of the earliest descriptions of Italy in a modern language. In this journey, Montaigne received the freedom of the city of Rome, by a special bull of the Pope, which he valued as the proudest distinction of his life.

While he was abroad, he was elected mayor of Bordeaux by the votes of the citizens; an honour which he would have declined, but that the king, Henry III., insisted on his accepting of it. This was a mere honorary office, no emolument being attached to it. The appointment was for two years; but Montaigne was re-elected at the 160expiration of that period, which was a mark of public favour of rare occurrence.

On retiring from his office, Montaigne returned to his estate. The country was then ravaged by the war of the League. He had great difficulty in saving his family and property in the midst of the contending parties, and once narrowly escaped assassination in his château. To add to the miseries of civil war, the plague broke out in his neighbourhood in 1586; and he then, with his family, left his home and became a wanderer, residing successively at several friends’ houses in other parts of the country. He was at Paris in 1588, busy about a new edition of his Essays. It appears from De Thou, that about this time he was employed in negotiation with a view to mediate peace between Henry of Navarre, afterwards Henry IV., and the Duke of Guise. At Paris, he made the acquaintance of Mademoiselle de Gournay, a young lady, who had conceived a kind of sentimental affection for him by reading his book. In company with her mother, she visited and introduced herself to him, and from that time he called her his “fille d’alliance,” or adopted daughter, a title which she retained for the rest of her life, as she never married. This attachment, which, though warm and reciprocal, has every appearance of being of a purely platonic nature, is one of the remarkable circumstances of Montaigne’s life. At the time of his death, Mademoiselle de Gournay and her mother crossed one-half of France, in spite of the civil troubles and the insecurity of the roads, to mix their tears with those of his widow and daughter.

On his return from Paris, in the latter part of 1588, Montaigne stopped at Blois, with De Thou, Pasquier, and other friends. The famous States-General were then assembled in that city, where the murder of the Duke of Guise, and of his brother, the Cardinal, soon after took place (23d and 24th December, 1588). Montaigne had long foreseen that the civil dissensions could only terminate with the death of one of the great party leaders; and he also said to De Thou that Henry of Navarre was inclined to embrace the Catholic faith, were he not afraid of being forsaken by his party; and that, on the other side, Guise himself would not have been averse from adopting the Protestant religion, if he could thereby have promoted his ambitious views. After these events, Montaigne returned to his château. In the following year, he became acquainted with Pierre Charron, a theological writer of considerable reputation. An intimate friendship ensued between the two authors; and Charron, in his book ‘De la 161Sagesse,’ borrowed many thoughts from the Essays, which he held in high estimation. Montaigne, by his will, empowered Charron to assume the coat of arms of his family, as he himself had no male issue.

Montaigne’s health had been declining for some time; he was afflicted with gravel and cholic, and he was obstinately resolved against consulting physicians. In September, 1592, he fell ill of a malignant quinsy, which kept him speechless for three days, during which he had recourse to his pen to signify to his wife his last intentions. He desired that several gentlemen of the neighbourhood should be requested to come and take leave of him. When they were assembled in his room, a priest said mass, and at the elevation of the host, Montaigne half raised himself on his bed, with his hands joined together, and in that attitude expired, September 13, 1592, in the sixtieth year of his age. His body was buried at Bordeaux, in the church of the Feuillans, where a monument was erected to him by his widow. He left an only daughter, heiress of his property.

Montaigne’s Essays have been the subject of much and very conflicting criticism. If we consider the age and the intellectual condition of the country in which the author was born, we must pronounce them a very extraordinary work, not so much on account of the learning contained in them, as for the philosophical spirit and the frank, independent, liberal tone that pervades their pages. Civilization and literature were then at a low ebb in France; the language was hardly formed, the country was still torn by the rude turbulence, and subject to the oppression, of feudal lords and feudal laws; and was, moreover, distracted by ignorant fanaticism, by deadly intolerance, and by civil factions, rendered more fierce by religious feuds. It is very remarkable that, in a remote province of a country so situated, a country gentleman, himself belonging to the feudal aristocracy, should have composed a work full of moral maxims and precepts, conceived in the spirit of the philosophers of Greece and Rome, and founded, not on the sanctions of revealed religion, but on a sort of natural system of ethics, on the beauty of virtue, on the innate sense of justice, on the lessons of history. It is almost more remarkable that such a book should have been read with avidity amidst the turmoil of factions, the din of civil war, the knell of persecution and massacre.

The morality of the Essays has been called, and justly so, a pagan morality: it is not founded on the faith and the hopes of a Christian; and its principles are in many respects widely different from those of the Gospel. Scepticism was the bias of Montaigne’s 162mind; his philosophy is, in great measure, that of Seneca, and other ancient writers, whose books were the first that were put into his hands when a child. Accordingly, Pascal, Nicole, Leclerc, and other Christian moralists, while rendering full justice to Montaigne’s talents and the many good sentiments scattered about the Essays, are very severe upon his ethics, taken as a system. Yet he was not a determined infidel, for not only in the Essays, but in the journal of his travels, which was not intended for publication, he manifests Christian sentiments; and we have seen that the mode of his death was that of a Christian. In his chapter on prayers, (Essais, b. i. 56,) he recommends the use of the Lord’s Prayer in terms evidently sincere; and in a preceding chapter, after speaking of two sorts of ignorance, the one, that which precedes all instruction, and the other, that which follows partial instruction, he says, that “men of simple minds, devoid of curiosity and of learning, are Christians through reverence and obedience; that minds of middle growth and moderate capacities are the most prone to error and doubt; but that higher intellects, more clear-sighted and better grounded in science, form a superior class of believers, who, through long and religious investigations, arrive at the fountain of light of the Scriptures, and feel the mysterious and divine meaning of our ecclesiastical doctrines. And we see some who reach this last stage, through the second, with marvellous fruit and confirmation; and who, having attained the extreme boundary of Christian intelligence, enjoy their success with modesty and thanksgivings, accompanied by a total reformation of their morals, unlike those men of another stamp, who, in order to clear themselves of the suspicion of their past errors, become violent, indiscreet, unjust, and throw discredit on the cause which they pretend to serve.” (Essais, b. i. ch. 54.) And a few lines after, he modestly places himself in the second rank, of those who, disdaining the first state of uninformed simplicity, have not yet attained the third and last exalted stage, and who, he says, are thereby rendered “inept, importunate, and troublesome to society. But I, for my part, endeavour, as much as I can, to fall back upon my first and natural condition, from which I have idly attempted to depart.” Although we may not trust implicitly to the sincerity of this modest admission, yet we clearly see from this and other passages, that Montaigne’s mind was anything but dogmatical, and that he felt the insecurity of his own philosophy, which was made up of impulses and doubts, rather than of argumentation and conviction.

Montaigne has been also censured for several licentious and some cynical passages of his ‘Essais.’ This licentiousness, however, is 163rather in the expressions than in the meaning of the author. He spoke plainly of things which are not alluded to in a more refined state of society, but he did so evidently without mischievous intentions, and as a thing of common occurrence in his days. His early familiarity with the Latin classics probably contributed to this habit.

Notwithstanding these faults, Montaigne’s Essays are justly admired for the sound sense, honesty, and beauty which abound in them. ‘The best parts of them (says a French critic) are those in which he speaks of the passions and inclinations of men; as for his learning, it is vague, not methodical, and uncertain; and his philosophical maxims are often dangerous.’ (Mélanges d’Histoire et de Litterature,’ Rouen, 1699, tom. i. p. 133.) Montaigne combats most earnestly all the malignant feelings inherent in man, inhumanity, injustice, oppression, uncharitableness; cruelty he detests, his whole nature was averse from it. His chapters on pedantry and on the education of children are remarkably good. He throws, at times, considerable light on the state of society and manners in France in his time, which may be considered as the last period of feudal power in that country. In his chapter on the inequality among men, he speaks of the independence of the French nobility, especially in the provinces remote from the Court, as Britanny; where the feudal lords living on their estates, surrounded by their vassals, their officers and valets, their household conducted with an almost royal ceremonial, heard of the king but once a-year as if he were some distant king or Sultan of Persia, and only remembered him on the score of some distant relationship, which they hold carefully registered among their ancestral documents.

Mademoiselle de Gournay edited Montaigne’s ‘Essais’ in 1635, and dedicated the edition to the Cardinal de Richelieu. She wrote a long preface to it, which is a zealous apology for Montaigne and his works against the charges of the earlier critics. An edition of the ‘Essais’ was published by Pierre Coste, 3 vols. 4to. London, 1724, enriched with valuable notes and several letters of Montaigne at the end of the third volume. The edition of Paris, 3 vols. 4to. 1725, is, in great measure, a reprint of that of Coste, except that the publishers have added extracts of the various judgments of the most distinguished critical writers concerning the ‘Essais,’ and also two more letters of Montaigne’s at the end. These additions render this Paris edition the most complete. The ex-senator Vernier published in 1810, ‘Notices et Observations pour faciliter la Lecture des Essais de Montaigne,’ Paris, 2 vols. 8vo. It is a useful commentary.

164 POPE.


Alexander Pope was born in London, June S, 1688. His father was a merchant, of good family, attached to the Roman Catholic religion; and his own childish years were spent, first under the tuition of a priest, then at a Roman Catholic Seminary at Twyford, near Winchester. He taught himself to write by copying printed books, in the execution of which he attained great neatness and exactness. When little more than eight years old he accidentally met with Ogilby’s Translation of Homer. The versification is insipid and lifeless; but the stirring events and captivating character of the story so possessed his mind, that Ogilby became a favourite book. When about ten years old he was removed from Twyford to a school at Hyde Park Corner. He had there occasional opportunities of frequenting the theatre; which suggested to him the amusement of turning the chief events in Homer into a kind of play, composed of a succession of speeches from Ogilby, strung together by verses of his own. In these two schools he seems, instead of advancing, to have lost what he had gained under his first tutor. When twelve years old he went to live with his parents at Binfield, in Windsor Forest. He there became acquainted with the writings of Spenser, Waller, and Dryden. For the latter he conceived the greatest admiration. He saw him once, and commemorates the event in his correspondence, under the words “Virgilium tantum vidi:” but he was too young to have made acquaintance with that master of English verse, who died in 1701. He studied Dryden’s works with equal attention and pleasure, adopted them as a model of rhythm, and copied the structure of that author’s periods. This was, however, so far from a grovelling imitation, that it enabled him to raise English rhyme to the most perfect melody of which it is capable.

Engraved by J. Posselwhite.


From the Picture by Hudson in the possession of His Grace the Duke of Buckingham.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.

165In the retirement of Binfield, Pope laboured successfully to make amends for the loss of past time. At fourteen years of age he had written with some elegance, and at fifteen had attained some knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages, to which he soon added French and Italian. In 1704 he began his pastorals, published in 1709, which introduced him, through Wycherley, to the acquaintance of Walsh, who proved a sincere friend to him. That gentleman discovered at once that Pope’s talent lay less in striking out new thoughts of his own, than in easy versification, and in improving what he borrowed from the ancients. Among other useful hints, he pointed out that we had several great poets, but that none of them were correct; he therefore admonished him to make that merit his own. The advice was gratefully received; and Pope’s correspondence shows that it was carefully followed. His melodious numbers, so marked a feature of his style, were in a great measure the result of that suggestion.

In the same year, 1704, he wrote the first part of his ‘Windsor Forest’: the whole was not published till 1713. The fault charged on this poem is, that few images are introduced which are not equally applicable to any other sylvan scenery. It was dedicated to Lord Lansdowne, whom he mentions as one of his earliest acquaintance. To those already named, may be added Bolingbroke, Congreve, Garth, Swift, Atterbury, Talbot, Somers, and Sheffield, whose friendship he had gained at sixteen or seventeen years of age. Pope, to his credit be it set down, cultivated friendships not only with the great, but with his brethren among the poets. Wycherley indeed was infected with the weakness of the archbishop in ‘Gil Blas,’ touching his own compositions, and the young poet was imprudently caustic in his criticism on the old one. Their correspondence was consequently dropped; and though renewed through the mediation of a common friend, it was with no revival of cordiality. But in 1728, some time after Wycherley’s death, his poems were republished; and in the following year Pope printed several letters which had passed between them, in vindication of Wycherley’s fame as a poet, in answer to certain misrepresentations prefixed to that edition. This quarrel was a trying affair in the outset of Pope’s career, and his conduct had been above his years; but young as he was, his talents were now beginning to ripen. His example confirms the truth of Lord Bacon’s remark, that personal deformity acts as a spur to that improvement of the mind, which is most likely to rescue him who is curtailed of his due proportion from a sense of degradation.

To this early period of Pope’s life belong the ‘Messiah,’ the ‘Ode 166for St. Cecilia’s Day,’ ‘Verses to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady,’ and other of Pope’s minor pieces, which were collected and published in a small 8vo. volume in 1720. It is stated in a note to Dr. Johnson’s Life, that Pope himself was the object of the passion commemorated in the last-mentioned poem. The date of that most brilliant composition, ‘Eloisa to Abelard,’ is uncertain. The ‘Essay on Criticism’ was written in 1709, “A work,” says Johnson, “which displays such extent of comprehension, such nicety of distinction, such acquaintance with mankind, and such knowledge both of ancient and modern learning, as are not often attained by the maturest age and longest experience.” Pope’s fame was carried to its height by the ‘Rape of the Lock.’ That poem originated in an impertinence offered by Lord Petre to Mrs. Arabella Fermor, which led to a quarrel between their respective families. Both parties were among Pope’s acquaintance, and this lively piece was written to produce a reconciliation, in which it succeeded. The universal applause given to the first sketch induced the author to enrich it with the machinery of the Sylphs. In that new dress the two cantos, extended to five, came out in 1712, accompanied by a letter to Mrs. Arabella Fermor, to whom he afterwards addressed another after her marriage, in the spruce and courtly style of Voiture. A sentence or two may be quoted as a sample of the poet’s epistolary manner. “Madam, you are sensible, by this time, how much the tenderness of one man of merit is to be preferred to the addresses of a thousand; and by this time, the gentleman you have made choice of is sensible how great is the joy of having all those charms and good qualities which have pleased so many, now applied to please one only.... It may be expected, perhaps, that one who has the title of being a wit should say something more polite upon this occasion; but I am really more a well-wisher to your felicity, than a celebrator of your beauty.... I hope you will think it but just that a man, who will certainly be spoken of as your admirer after he is dead, may have the happiness, while he is living, to be esteemed, Yours, &c.” This letter is sometimes annexed to the poem, and not injudiciously, as it completes the winding-up in the happy marriage of the heroine. In the same year he published his ‘Temple of Fame,’ which, according to his habitual caution, he had kept two years in his study. It appears from one of his letters, that at that time he had made some progress in translating the Iliad: in 1713, he circulated proposals for publishing his translation by subscription. He had been pressed to this undertaking some time before by several of his friends, and was now encouraged in the design by others. The publication of 167the first four books, in 1715, gave general satisfaction; and so materially improved the author’s finances, that he resolved to come nearer to his friends in the capital. With that view, the small estate at Binfield was sold, and he purchased a house at Twickenham, whither he removed with his father and mother before the end of the year 1715. While employed in the decoration of his seat, he could not forbear doubling his pleasures by boasting of it in his communications with his friends. In a letter to Mr. Blount he says, in his customary tone of gallantry, “The young ladies may be assured that I make nothing new in my gardens, without wishing to see them print their fairy steps in every corner of them.... You’ll think I have been very poetical in this description, but it is pretty nearly the truth.” This letter was written in 1725. Warburton tells us that the improvement of his celebrated grotto was the favourite amusement of his declining years: not long before his death, by enlarging and ornamenting it with ores and minerals of the richest and rarest kind, he had made it a most elegant and romantic retirement. But modern taste will scarcely confirm the reverend editor’s assertion, that “the beauty of his poetic genius, in the disposition and ornaments of those romantic materials, appeared to as much advantage as in any of his best-contrived poems.”

Pope’s father survived his removal to Twickenham only two years. The old gentleman had sometimes recommended to his son the study of medicine, as the best method of increasing his scanty patrimony. Neglect of pecuniary considerations was not among Pope’s weaknesses: he did not indeed engage in the medical profession; but he took other opportunities of pushing his fortune. With this view, he published an edition of his collected poems in 1717; a proceeding as much suggested by profit as by fame. In the like disposition, he undertook a new edition of Shakspeare, which was published in 1721. The execution of it proved the editor’s unfitness for the task which he had undertaken. Immediately after the completion of the Iliad, in 1720, Pope engaged, for a considerable sum, to undertake the Odyssey. Only twelve books, however, of the translation proceeded from his own pen: the rest were done by Broome and Fenton under his direction. The work was completed in 1725. The following year was employed, in concert with Swift and Arbuthnot, in the publication of miscellanies, of which the most remarkable is the celebrated ‘History of Martinus Scriblerus.’ About this time, as he was returning home one day in Lord Bolingbroke’s chariot, it was overturned on Chase Bridge, near Twickenham, and thrown with the horses into the river. The glasses being up, Pope was nearly drowned, and was extricated with difficulty 168from his hazardous situation. He lost the use of two fingers, in consequence of a severe cut from the broken glass.

Having secured an independent fortune, Pope endeavoured to protect his literary fame from all future attacks, by browbeating every one into silence: this he hoped to accomplish by the poem of the ‘Dunciad,’ which came out in 4to. in the year 1727. He somewhere says, that the life of an author is a state of warfare: he now showed himself a master in literary tactics, a great captain in offensive as well as defensive war. The poem made its first appearance in Ireland, cautiously, as a masked battery; nor was the triumph completed without the co-operation of an Eugene with this satirical Marlborough in the person of Swift, who furnished some of the materials in his own masterly style of sarcasm. The improved edition was printed in London in 1728. Sir Robert Walpole presented it to the King and Queen, and, probably at the same time, offered to procure the author a pension; but Pope refused this, as he had before, in 1714, rejected a similar proposal from Lord Halifax. In a letter to Swift, written about this time, he expresses his feelings thus: “I was once before displeased at you for complaining to Mr. —— of my not having a pension; I am so again at your naming it to a certain lord.” In 1710, Mr. Craggs had given him a subscription for one hundred pounds in the South Sea Fund; but he made no use of it. These favours must be understood to have been proffered for the purpose of estranging him from his personal friends; and this repeated rejection of them is an honourable proof of steadiness to his attachments.

In 1729, the poet, by Lord Bolingbroke’s advice, turned his pen to moral subjects; and, with the assistance of his friend, set to work upon the ‘Essay on Man.’ Bolingbroke writes thus to Swift: “Bid Pope talk to you of the work he is about, I hope in good earnest; it is a fine one, and will be, in his hands, an original.” Pope tells the dean, in his next letter, what this work was. “The work Lord Bolingbroke speaks of with such abundant partiality, is a system of ethics, in the Horatian way.” In another letter, written probably at the beginning of the following year, we trace the general aim which he at all events wished the public to attribute to this work. “I am just now writing, or rather planning, a book to bring mankind to look upon this life with comfort and pleasure, and put morality in good humour.” This subject was well suited to his genius. He found the performance more easy than he had expected, and employed his leisure by following up the design in his Ethic Epistles, which came out separately in the course of the two following years. The fourth, addressed to the Earl of Burlington, 169did no good to the author’s character, in consequence of the violent attack supposed to be made on the Duke of Chandos, a beneficent and esteemed nobleman, under the name of Timon. Pope loudly asserted that in drawing Timon’s character he had not the Duke in view: but his denials have not obtained credence; and he has thus incurred the charge of equivocation and falsehood, without exculpating himself from that of ingratitude and wanton insolence. The vexation caused by this business was somewhat softened by the rapid and lucrative sale of the epistle, which very soon went through the press a third time. In a letter to Lord Bolingbroke he says, “Certainly the writer deserved more candour, even in those who knew him not, than to promote a report, which, in regard to that noble person, was impertinent; in regard to me, villainous. I have taken an opportunity of the third edition, to declare his belief not only of my innocence, but of their malignity; of the former of which my heart is as conscious as I fear some of theirs must be of the latter. His humanity feels a concern for the injury done to me, while his greatness of mind can bear with indifference the insult offered to himself.” He concludes with a threat of using real instead of fictitious names in his future works. How far he carried that menace into effect will presently be seen. The complaints made against the epistle in question by secret enemies provoked him to write satire, in which he ventured to attack the characters of some persons in high life: the affront was of course resented, and he retaliated by renewing his invective against them, both in prose and verse. In the imitation of the first satire of the second book of Horace, he had described Lord Hervey and Lady Mary Wortley Montague so characteristically, under the names of Lord Fanny and Sappho, that those noble personages, besides fighting the aggressor with his own weapons, used their interests to his injury, not only among the nobility, but with the King and Queen. Pope remonstrated most strongly against this last mode of revenge. He continued writing satires till the year 1739, when he entertained some thoughts of undertaking an epic poem on the pretended colonization of our island by the Trojan Brute. A sketch of this project, which he never carried into effect, is given in Ruffhead’s ‘Life of Pope,’ p. 410.

Pope was an elaborate letter-writer; and many of his familiar epistles found their way into the world without his privity. Under the plea of self-defence he published a correct and genuine collection of them in 1737. About this time the weak state of his health drew him frequently to Bath. Mr. Allen, a resident in the neighbourhood, 170having been pleased with the letters, took occasion to form an acquaintance with the author, which soon ripened into friendship. Hence arose Pope’s intimacy with Warburton, who tells us that, before they knew each other, he had written his ‘Commentary on the Art of Criticism, and on the Essay on Man.’ One complaint against that essay had rested on its obscurity, of which the author had previously been warned by Swift. But this was comparatively a slight objection: the philosophic poet was charged with having insidiously laid down a scheme of deism. A French translation, by the Abbé Resnil, appeared at Paris in 1738, on which a German professor, by name Crousaz, animadverted, as a system of ethics embodying the doctrine of fatalism. Pope thus acknowledges his obligation to Warburton for his defence: “You have made my system as clear as I ought to have done, and could not; you understand me as well as I do myself, but you express me better than I express myself.” The ‘Essay on Man’ was republished with the Commentary annexed in 1740; and at the instance of Warburton, a fourth book was added to the ‘Dunciad,’ and printed separately in 1742.

In the course of the following year the whole poem of the ‘Dunciad’ was published together, as a specimen of a more correct edition of Pope’s works, which the author had then resolved to give to the world; but he did not live to complete it. He had through life been subject to an habitual headache inherited from his mother, and this was now greatly increased, with the addition of dropsical symptoms. He died on the 30th of May, 1744, in the fifty-sixth year of his age. Pursuant to his own request, his body was laid in the same vault with those of his parents, to whose memory he had erected a monument, with an inscription written by himself, immediately on their respective deaths. To this, in conformity with his will, the simple words, “Et sibi,” with the date of his death, were added. He bequeathed to Warburton the property of such of his works already printed as he had written, or should write, commentaries upon, provided they had not been otherwise disposed of or alienated; with this condition, that they were to be published without future alterations. After he had made his will, he wrote a letter to this legatee, announcing his legacy, and saying, “I own the late encroachments upon my constitution make me willing to see the end of all further care about me, or my works. I would rest for the one in a full resignation of my being to be disposed of by the Father of all mercy; and for the other (though indeed a trifle, yet a trifle may be some example), I would commit them to the candour of a sensible and reflecting judge, rather than to the malice of every shortsighted 171and malevolent critic, or inadvertent and censorious reader. And no hand can set them in so good a light, or so well can turn their best side to the day, as your own.” In discharge of his trust, Warburton put forth a complete edition of all Pope’s works in 1751; and, according to his own persuasion, executed it conformably to the presumed wishes of the author. In point of elegance, allowing for the state of typography at the time, no objection could be made, nor could the poet’s orders have been more faithfully obeyed, in forming the various pieces into a collection. But some of Warburton’s remarks are in a less friendly tone than might have been expected; and if not absolutely injurious to his memory, are such as leave Pope’s moral character in a measure open to attack. Many circumstances are related in the large biographies of Pope, which our inclination would as little allow us as our limits to detail. Some of them would not compensate in desirable information for the tediousness of the narrative: others relate to defunct controversies. To the latter of these classes may be referred Pope’s quarrel with Colley Cibber, which loaded the press with vulgar indecency on both sides; also, Bolingbroke’s charge of treachery brought against Pope in an advertisement prefixed to a tract published by his lordship in 1749, five years after the accused could no longer answer his accuser.

We shall not devote any part of our confined space to an examination of the faults and weaknesses of this eminent man: they have been fully dwelt on in works of easy access. Some apology for many of them may be found in his bodily infirmities, deformed frame, and extreme debility of constitution. Pope’s person, character, and writings are treated of at large by Dr. Warton, in his ‘Essay.’ Ruffhead’s ‘Life of Pope’ contains much curious and entertaining matter. Dr. Johnson’s examination of Pope’s works is among the most elaborate and best pieces of criticism in his ‘Lives of the Poets.’ We cannot better conclude than with his description of Pope’s appearance, and summing up of his poetical character. “The person of Pope is well known not to have been formed by the nicest model. He has, in his account of the ‘Little Club,’ compared himself to a spider, and by another is described as protuberant before and behind. He is said to have been beautiful in his infancy: but he was of a constitution originally feeble and weak; and, as bodies of a tender frame are easily distorted, his deformity was probably in part the effect of his application. His stature was so low, that, to bring him to a level with common tables, it was necessary to raise his seat. But his face was not displeasing, and his eyes animated and vivid....” “It is 172surely superfluous to answer the question that has once been asked, whether Pope was a poet, otherwise than by asking, in return, if Pope be not a poet, where is poetry to be found? To circumscribe poetry by a definition will only show the narrowness of the definer, though a definition which shall exclude Pope will not easily be made. Let us look round upon the present time, and back upon the past; let us inquire to whom the voice of mankind has decreed the wreath of poetry; let their productions be examined, and their claims stated, and the pretensions of Pope will be no more disputed. Had he given the world only his version, the name of poet must have been allowed him: if the writer of the Iliad were to class his successors, he would assign a very high place to his translator, without requiring any other evidence of genius.” With respect to the translation of the Iliad, it is fair to give Pope the benefit of Dr. Johnson’s praise. But we are justified by the consentient voice of almost all scholars, in condemning it as an unfaithful and meretricious version, composed in a spirit totally different from that of Homer, and bearing no resemblance to his manner.

Our engraving is from a copy of the original picture by Hudson, made by T. Uwins, A.R.A.

[Entrance to Pope’s Grotto.]

Engraved by W. Holl.


From an Engraving by Mr. H. Ponte.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.



The history of Bolivar is that of the revolutions in Columbia and Peru. Nothing remarkable is related of his early life; and with respect to his personal merits as a soldier and statesman, he has shared the common lot of eminent men, in being extravagantly praised and violently censured. He has been compared to Cæsar and Napoleon on the one hand; and he has been accused of frivolity, incompetency, and even cowardice, on the other. The time for forming a dispassionate opinion of his character is not yet arrived. We shall, therefore, confine ourselves to a short sketch of the establishment of independence on the Spanish Main, so far as Bolivar was concerned in it; premising that we merely follow the course of history in giving him the credit of those measures which were carried into execution under his authority and ostensible guidance.

Simon Bolivar was born in the city of Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, on the 24th or 25th of July, 1783. In early childhood he lost both his parents, who were of noble family, and possessed of large estates. At the age of fourteen or sixteen, he was sent to Spain for education. His habits are said to have been dissipated; but he paid some attention to the study of jurisprudence. After visiting Italy and France, he returned to Madrid, married, and in 1809 returned to reside on his estates near Caracas. It is positively asserted, and as positively denied, that Bolivar had an active share in the decisive movement at Caracas, April 19, 1810, when the Spanish authorities were deposed. A congress was summoned, which met March 2, 1811. Bolivar received a colonel’s commission, and was sent to claim the protection of Great Britain. The date of his return to South America we do not find: but he is said to have been concerned in the first military operations of the patriots; and in September, 1811, 174he was appointed governor of the strong sea-port of Puerto Cabello. In March, 1812, a violent earthquake took place. The clergy succeeded in producing a considerable reaction in favour of royalist principles, by representing this calamity to be a manifestation of God’s wrath against revolution. Monteverde, the royal general, then advanced, and met with rapid success. The strong hold of Puerto Cabello, the chief depôt of the patriots, was wrested from Bolivar by an insurrection of the prisoners confined in it; the patriot army became dispirited; and General Miranda, under the sanction of congress, concluded a treaty, July 26, 1812, by which an amnesty was concluded, and the province of Venezuela returned under the dominion of Spain. Miranda was subsequently arrested on a futile charge of treachery to the patriot cause, and delivered to the Spaniards, who kept him in prison to the day of his death. In this unjustifiable transaction, Bolivar had a principal share.

Bolivar retired for a short time to his estate; but he soon became uneasy at the frequency of arrests, and obtained a passport to quit the country. He retired to Curaçoa. In the following September, his active temper led him to seek employment in the patriot army of New Granada, which had declared itself independent in 1811, and still held out, with better fortune than Venezuela. He obtained a trifling command, not such as to satisfy his ambition; and on his own responsibility, he undertook an expedition against the Spaniards on the east bank of the river Magdalena, in which he succeeded; clearing the country of Spanish posts from Mompox, on the above named river, to the town of Ocaña, on the frontier of Caracas. This exploit attracted public notice. He conceived the bold plan of invading Venezuela with his small forces, and the congress of New Granada consented to his making the attempt, and raised him to the rank of brigadier. He crossed the frontier with little more than 500 men; but the country rose in arms to second him; and after several engagements, in which the patriots were successful, he defeated Monteverde in person at the battle of Lastoguanes, and, finally, entered Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, in triumph, August 4, 1813.

At this time no regular government could be said to exist; but a convention of the chief civil and military functionaries, held at Caracas, January 2, 1814, conferred on Bolivar the title of Liberator of Venezuela, and invested him with the office of Dictator, and the supreme control over both branches of the executive. But these successes were followed by a rapid reverse; and before the end of the year, he was beaten out of Venezuela, and obliged to return to New Granada. 175That country was harassed by the contests of numerous and discordant parties. Bolivar was received with respect by the congress; and was entrusted with the task of compelling the dissentient province of Santa Fe de Bogotá, afterwards named Cundinamarca, to accede to the union of the other provinces. He marched against the city of Bogotá in December, at the head of 2000 men. It was not in a condition to resist, and capitulated, after the suburbs had been taken by storm. It will afford an instance of the difficulty of getting at the real character of Bolivar, to say, that we find it stated in one account that his behaviour at Bogotá received not only the thanks of Congress, but the approbation of the citizens; while another author asserts, that notwithstanding the capitulation, and in spite of the most urgent remonstrances, he permitted the pillage of part of the city for the space of forty-eight hours. He was then appointed to act against the strong town of Santa Martha, which commands the mouth of the river Magdalena. Unfortunately, private enmity between himself and Castillo, the governor of Carthagena, led to dissensions which ended in the investment of Carthagena, instead of Santa Martha, by Bolivar. During this civil strife, which led to consequences most injurious to the patriot cause, General Morillo arrived from Spain, now enabled by the peace of 1814 to act with more vigour against her revolted colonies; and Bolivar gave up his command, on the pretext that the harmony and advantage of the army required it, and embarked for Jamaica, May 10, 1815. During his abode at Kingston, he narrowly escaped assassination at the hands of a Spaniard, who stabbed to the heart a person who chanced to occupy the bed in which Bolivar usually slept. From Jamaica, he went to Hayti, where, with the help of the president Petion, and in conjunction with a French officer, Commodore Brion, he drew together a force, with which he again raised the standard of independence in the province of Cumana, in May, 1816: but he was soon driven out of the country, and returned to Hayti, whence, in December, he again sailed to the island of Margarita, and he issued a proclamation convoking a congress of the representatives of Venezuela. He then repaired to Barcelona, and organised a provisional government. During the years 1817 and 1818, the struggle was obstinate; but the patriot cause on the whole gained a decided advantage. In February 1819, Bolivar summoned a congress at Angostura, on the river Orinoco, and resigned his authority into its hands. The assembly, however, continued to him the executive power, with the title of Provisional President of Venezuela, until the expulsion of the enemy should afford a prospect of more settled times.

176Bolivar rejoined the army in March, and soon after conducted his forces to join the patriots in New Granada. Two battles, on the 1st and 23d of July, were fought to the advantage of the patriots, whose cause obtained a final triumph in the decisive victory won August 7, at Bojaca. Bolivar advanced at once to Bogotá, where he was enthusiastically welcomed; and within a short time, eleven provinces of New Granada announced their adhesion to the cause of independence. He summoned a congress, by which he was appointed President, and Captain-general of the Republic. Meanwhile a party, jealous of his intentions, had obtained the ascendancy in the Venezuela Congress held at Angostura; and Bolivar, fearful of being supplanted, quitted the scene of war with his best troops and marched to Angostura. His presence, with such a force, turned the scale in favour of the party attached to his interest. It was determined to summon a general convention from the independent provinces of Venezuela and Granada; and December 17, 1819, the celebrated decree was passed by which the two states were united, and entitled the Republic of Columbia. Bolivar was appointed President.

Strengthened by union, the patriots took the field in greater force than they had hitherto been able to raise. The course of war during 1820 was on the whole favourable to them. In November, an armistice for six months was concluded. Soon after the renewal of hostilities, an important victory was gained by the Columbian troops under Bolivar, at Carabobo, not far from the city of Valencia, June 21, 1821, which may be regarded as having closed the war in Venezuela. Before the end of the year, Columbia was nearly cleared of Spanish troops, with the exception of the province of Quito; and time was found to attend to the establishment of civil order. The constitution of the short-lived Columbian Republic was adopted, August 20, 1821, and Bolivar was appointed First Constitutional President.

The war was then directed against the Spaniards in the south. In January, 1822, Bolivar himself conducted operations in the province of Pasto, lying to the north of Quito, while General Sucre, who had been sent previously to assist the cause of independence in Guayaquil, after liberating the southern provinces of Loxa and Cuenca, advanced northwards, and secured independence to the province of Quito by the decisive victory of Pichincha, May 24, 1822. But though this portion of Columbia was now cleared of enemies, there could be no security to the frontier provinces while the Spaniards held Peru; and it was therefore determined to send assistance to the patriots in that country. Bolivar landed at Lima, September 1, 1823, and was 177invested with supreme power as Dictator of Peru. It was not until the end of 1825, however, that the war of independence was finished; and the honour of this, in a military point of view, belongs rather to Sucre than to Bolivar.

On the establishment of a separate republic in 1825, in the province called by the Spaniards Upper Peru, the new state paid a high compliment to the Liberator, by assuming the name of Bolivia, and requesting him to draw up a constitution for its adoption. In compliance with the wish thus expressed, he presented to the constituent congress in May, 1826, the celebrated Bolivian Code; for an account of which we must refer to the ‘Encyclopædia Americana,’ or the appendix to the ‘Memoirs of General Miller.’ This forms a remarkable era in Bolivar’s life; for, out of the institutions of this code, arose the first suspicions that the Liberator was at heart indisposed to republican institutions. It was however adopted; and Sucre was appointed President. Meanwhile, though the deliverance of Peru was completed, Bolivar showed no intention of leading home the Columbian troops. A congress summoned at Lima, in February, 1825, continued to him, for another year, the dictatorial power which he had received on his first entrance into the country. A second congress, held in 1826, adopted the same course, adding a recommendation that he should consult the provinces as to the form of government which it might be desirable to establish. The result was, that the Bolivian Code was declared to be adopted by Peru, and Bolivar himself was nominated President.

During the Liberator’s long absence in the south, the northern provinces of Columbia became involved in civil confusion. The Vice-president, General Santander, was a man of firmness and ability; but the newly-formed government wanted consistency, and that habitual respect which is paid to long recognised authority. In April, 1826, General Paez, who commanded in Venezuela, being summoned before the senate of Columbia to answer certain charges, refused obedience, trusting to the devoted attachment of the troops under his command: and to this private act of rebellion, something of a national character was given, by the accession of many in Venezuela, who disapproved of the union with New Granada, or distrusted the intentions of those who held the reins of power. At the same time, the southern departments, which had formerly composed the presidency of Quito, displayed a strong inclination to adopt the Bolivian Code. Bolivar has not escaped the suspicion of having fomented these troubles, with a view to convince all parties that tranquillity could only be secured by strengthening the executive, by appointing him Dictator of the Columbian 178Republic. Being recalled for the suppression of these disturbances, he quitted Lima in September, 1826, and hastened to Caracas, where, instead of punishing, he met Paez upon friendly terms, confirmed him in the office which he held, and published a general amnesty on the submission of the insurgents. The term for which he was elected President had now expired. He had been re-elected, and should have gone through the forms of taking office at the beginning of 1827; but in February, he announced his intention to resign, and retire to his estates, in consequence of the imputations of ambition cast upon him. The spring was spent by Congress in discussing this matter; and at last, June 6, it was finally determined not to accept his resignation, and a general convention was summoned to meet at Ocaña, March 2, 1828, to revise the constitution. In September, Bolivar again assumed the office of President.

Meanwhile a speedy revolution had taken place in Peru. It is no great argument of Bolivar’s purity of purpose, that, a year after the war was finished, the Columbian auxiliaries were still retained by him in Bolivia and Peru, one division being quartered in the former country, and two in the latter. Many of them were strongly attached to their general, and perhaps had no objection to becoming instruments of his ambition, so far as Peru was concerned. But when he incurred the suspicion of meditating the overthrow of the Columbian constitution, they took fire. The division quartered at Lima matured a plan of revolt, arrested their generals, who were personally attached to Bolivar, and announced to the authorities of Lima their desire to relieve the Peruvians from a constitution which had been forced upon them, and to return home to defend their own country. Hereupon, in concurrence with the generally declared wish of the people throughout Peru, the Bolivian Code was thrown aside only a few weeks after it had been adopted; and in June, 1827, a new congress was summoned, and a new President and Vice-president of the republic were elected. The troops embarked; but on their landing in Columbia, part placed themselves under the orders of officers sent to take the command of them, and the rest were easily reduced to obedience.

The convention met at the appointed time. Bolivar opened the proceedings with an address, in which he ascribed the internal troubles of Columbia to the want of sufficient power in the executive department, and plainly intimated his opinion that the constitution had been founded on views too liberal to be adapted to the state of society existing in that country. His speech was very much in accordance with the views developed in the Bolivian Code, and furnished good 179reason for believing that he was no less willing to accept supreme power than his friends were disposed to invest him with it, as the only remedy for existing evils. The majority of the convention, however, were suspicious of the President’s intentions. Finding themselves in a minority, his friends vacated their seats in the assembly, which being thus reduced below the number necessary to give validity to its proceedings, became virtually extinct.

In this state of things, a meeting was convened at Bogotá, June 13, of the principal civil and military residents, at which resolutions were passed investing Bolivar with the most extensive powers as Supreme Chief of Columbia. He himself was not present, but in the near neighbourhood; and on receiving intimation of these resolutions, he made a solemn entry into Bogotá, June 20, and assumed the powers thus gratuitously bestowed upon him, not, it is to be observed, by the act of the convention, or of any body authorised to interfere in any way with the existing constitution. Great dissatisfaction was felt by those who were not attached to the party of Bolivar; and in the following September, a conspiracy was organised in the garrison of Bogotá, to which the President’s life had nearly fallen a sacrifice. It was quelled however. General Santander, the Vice-president, was accused of being concerned in it, and was banished from Columbia. Partial insurrections subsequently broke out in various places. Towards the close of 1829, the discontent which had formerly appeared in Venezuela, manifested itself more decidedly. Paez put himself at the head of the dissatisfied party; and in a very short time, the whole province raised the standard of independence, and expressed its determination to be merged no longer in the Columbian Republic. In the midst of these tumults, Bolivar resolved at length to retire from the eminent station in which he had been the cause of so much offence. He had issued a proclamation, December 24, 1828, summoning a convention in January, 1830, to frame a new permanent constitution for Columbia. It met at the appointed time. Bolivar, in opening the deliberations, expressed his determination not to accept again the chief magistracy of the state; but, as he had said the same thing in equally strong terms before, nobody paid much attention to the declaration. This time, however, he adhered to it. Besides the labour of making a new constitution, the convention had to discuss the difficult question of the secession of Venezuela: nor was this all, for as that district had separated itself from the Columbian Republic, in a great degree Owing to its distrust of Bolivar, so the southern provinces refused to acknowledge the new constitution unless he were placed at its head. 180The convention wisely resolved, with respect to Venezuela, that every peaceful method should be tried to prevent its secession, but that it would not be expedient or proper to attempt to maintain the union by force. To anticipate a little the order of time, the Venezuelans were resolved to have an independent government; and finally, in 1832, the short-lived republic of Columbia was divided into three, bearing respectively the titles of Venezuela, New Granada, and the Republic of the Equator, which was formed out of the southern provinces of Quito, Guayaquil, and Assuai.

After the adoption of the new constitution of 1830, Bolivar retired to the province of Carthagena, exhausted both in body and mind. He died at Santa Martha, December 17, 1830, leaving a character on the merits of which it is difficult to pronounce a decided opinion. His name will not soon be forgotten, for it is indissolubly connected with the cause of independence in South America: but, in reviewing the progress and prospects of North and South America, it is impossible not to remark Bolivar’s inferiority to Washington, both in talent and virtue, and not to reflect with regret how different, in all probability, the conduct and the prosperity of the South American republics would have been if they had possessed such a leader as the first President of the United States.

The chief books which have been consulted for this sketch have been the ‘Annual Register,’ General Ducoudray Holstein’s ‘Memoirs of Bolivar,’ a work evidently written under strong feelings of personal hostility, the article Bolivar in the ‘Encyclopædia Americana,’ and a short account of the Liberator in the ‘Memoirs of General Miller.’ In these works there is so much discrepancy, not only of opinions, but of facts and dates, that we do not venture to hope that we have escaped errors. A clear and impartial history of the war of independence is still a desideratum.

Engraved by J. Posselwhite.


From a Picture by Wright of Derby.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.



In the history of trade there is nothing so remarkable as the rapid and immense increase of the British cotton manufacture during the last thirty years of the eighteenth century. Two nearly contemporaneous discoveries concurred to produce that increase: the invention of machinery for spinning; and the improvement, we might almost say completion, of the steam-engine by James Watt. To his eminent merits we have borne our testimony in the first volume of this work; and scarcely less important, though less imposing, have been the services of the ingenious men who contrived to spin thread without the use of the human hand. We do not hesitate to take Arkwright as the representative of those who wrought this great revolution in our manufacturing system, for though recent evidence has refuted his claim to the invention, properly speaking, of spinning by machinery, he was the first person who rendered that invention profitable.

By the year 1760, the manufacture of cotton goods, which had been increasing slowly from the beginning of the century, had attained considerable importance. In 1764, the declared value of British cotton goods exported was upwards of 200,000l., having increased tenfold within forty or fifty years. At this period the demand for them exceeded the supply, in consequence of the difficulty of obtaining a sufficient quantity of yarn for weaving. The one-thread spinning-wheel, now nearly banished from our cottages, was then the sole source from which spun-yarn could be obtained; and the trades of spinning and weaving were commonly united in a humble manner—the man wove, while his wife and daughters spun. If this domestic supply was insufficient, the weaver had often to waste time and labour in collecting 182materials for his daily work. Mr. Guest states, that “it was no uncommon thing for a weaver to walk three or four miles in a morning, and call on five or six spinners, before he could collect weft to serve him for the remainder of the day; and when he wished to weave a piece in a shorter time than usual, a new ribbon or a gown was necessary to quicken the exertions of the spinner.” This check existing on the industry of the weaver, it is no wonder that mechanical ingenuity was tasked to invent a quicker way of spinning. The principle of the first plan by which this was effected may be easily explained. Suppose a ribbon placed between two horizontal cylinders which are in contact with each other; if the cylinders are made to revolve, it is evident that they will draw the ribbon onwards in the direction of their motion. Again, if the foremost end of it be presented to a second pair of similar revolving cylinders, it will be drawn through these also. If both pairs revolve with exactly the same velocity, it will pass through them unaltered; but if the second pair revolve with greater velocity than the first, there will be a certain strain on the intermediate ribbon, which, if extensible, will be stretched in the same degree that the velocity of the second pair of rollers exceeds that of the first. Now cotton, after being cleaned and carded, comes from the card in fleecy rolls, the fibres of which are laid parallel, and so made fit to spin. To reduce these to thread or yarn takes more than one operation: the first brings the cardings into thick, loosely twisted threads, called rovings; the subsequent ones reduce the rovings into yarn fit for the loom. It is evident that both the cardings and rovings are fitted by their texture for the process of extension by rollers described above; and that they would be drawn out twofold, fourfold, or in any greater or less degree, proportionate to the difference of velocity between the first and second pair of rollers. From the second pair the thread is delivered to a spindle, which gives the due degree of twist; and it is finally wound on a bobbin: the whole being set in motion by the same mechanical power. It is evident that many spindles might be attached to, and many threads spun by, the same combination of rollers. Arkwright claimed the merit of this invention. It is proved, however, by the undeniable evidence of an existing patent, printed by Mr. Baines in his History of the Cotton Manufacture, that this principle of spinning by rollers was patented so early as the year 1738, by a foreigner named Lewis Paul; the real inventor was John Wyatt, of Birmingham. In their hands however, though the invention did not absolutely fail, it did not so succeed as to be brought into general use, or even to become 183profitable to the inventors. Simple and obvious as the principle appears when once laid down, great difficulties were to be overcome in forming this stretched cotton into a useful thread; as may be conceived from reflecting on the great rapidity with which, to make spinning profitable, parts of the machine must move, the perfect regularity of motion requisite, and the slightness of the strain which a few untwisted filaments of cotton will bear. For the apparently trivial object of producing a uniform line of fine yarn, the utmost efforts of mechanical ingenuity have been called forth, and some of the most beautiful, delicate, and powerful machinery in existence has been constructed. It was in overcoming these difficulties that the talent or perseverance of Paul and Wyatt failed; the merit of conquering them, and giving birth to a new system of manufacture, belongs to Arkwright. We quote the following notice of his early life from Mr. Baines:—

“Richard Arkwright rose by the force of his natural talents from a very humble condition in society. He was born at Preston, December 23, 1732, of poor parents. Being the youngest of thirteen children, his parents could only afford to give him an education of the humblest kind, and he was scarcely able to write. He was brought up to the trade of a barber, at Kirkham and Preston, and established himself in that business at Bolton, in 1760. Having become possessed of a chemical process for dyeing human hair, which in that day, when wigs were universal, was of considerable value, he travelled about collecting hair, and again disposing of it when dyed. In 1761, he married a wife from Leigh, and the connexions he thus formed in that town are supposed to have afterwards brought him acquainted with Highs’s experiments in making spinning machines. He himself manifested a strong bent for experiments in mechanics, which he is stated to have followed with so much devotedness as to have neglected his business and injured his circumstances. His natural disposition was ardent, enterprising, and stubbornly persevering; his mind was as coarse as it was bold and active, and his manners were rough and unpleasing.”

In the course of his travels in 1767, he fell in with a clockmaker, named Kay, at Warrington, whom he employed as a workman in prosecuting some of his mechanical experiments. Kay, according to his own account, gave Arkwright some description of a machine contrived by one Highs, for spinning by rollers. It is certain that from thenceforward Arkwright abandoned his former pursuits, and applied himself, in conjunction with Kay, to the construction of a 184spinning machine. One Smalley, a liquor-merchant of Preston, assisted him with money; and the two, fearing lest they might be endangered by a riotous spirit which had been directed against machinery in Lancashire, went to settle at Nottingham. There Arkwright obtained an introduction to Messrs. Need and Strutt, two gentlemen largely engaged in the stocking manufactory, who appreciated his talents, and entered into partnership with him. What became of Mr. Smalley we do not hear. Arkwright took out a patent for his invention, which was enrolled, July 15, 1769. The partners erected a mill near Nottingham, which was turned by horse-power: but this was soon superseded by a much larger establishment at Cromford in Derbyshire, on the river Derwent, in which water-power was applied for the first time to the purpose of spinning; and from that circumstance Arkwright’s machine was called the water-frame.

As the difficulty of meeting the weavers’ demand for yarn had led to the invention of machines for spinning, so the rapid manufacture of yarn rendered it indispensable to facilitate the prior operations in preparing the raw material. Men’s minds had been turned to this object for some time. The operation of carding, whether wool or cotton, was at first done with hand-cards of small size. The first improvement was the invention of stock-cards, one of which was fixed, and the other held in the hand, or afterwards suspended from above, so that the workman could manage a much larger card, and prepare more cotton in a given time. The next and main improvement was placing cards lengthways upon a cylinder, which worked within a concave half cylinder of the same diameter. This process was patented by Paul in 1748. But he derived no profit from this, any more than from his former patent; and it was not until after the improvements in spinning that the method of carding by cylinders was brought into use. Arkwright was not the first to revive it, but he had a great share in perfecting the carding machinery when it had been revived. The raw cotton being carded, an extension, or rather a new application, of the principle of spinning by rollers converted the cardings into rovings, which again were made into yarn fit for the loom by the water-frame, or, as it is now called in an improved form, the throstle. Arkwright took out his second patent, December 16, 1775; this included the carding machine, drawing-frame, and roving-frame, a series of engines by which the cotton, from its raw state, was rendered fit for the last process of spinning. We shall not attempt to explain the construction of these elaborate machines, which can hardly be rendered intelligible even by the help of numerous plates.

185The process of turning cotton-wool into thread by machinery was thus completed. Before we follow its effects upon Arkwright’s fortunes, it is proper to say a few words concerning other improvements. About, or somewhat earlier than, the time when Arkwright’s attention was first turned to spinning, a weaver named James Hargreaves, of Stand Hill, near Blackburn, invented a machine by which, according to the terms of the patent, sixteen or more threads might be spun by one person at the same time. This is the machine so well known under the name of the spinning-jenny. Hargreaves’ patent was invaded, and invalidated on technical grounds; so that his machine came rapidly into general use, and for spinning the weft was preferred to Arkwright’s water-frame, from which it was entirely different in principle. Samuel Crompton, an ingenious weaver resident near Bolton, between the years 1774 and 1779, tried to unite the principles of both, and produced a machine which, on that account, he called a mule. This, under different improved forms, is the machine now generally used in spinning; but the water-frame, or throstle, is still found to answer best for some kinds of work[11]. But to return to the fortunes of Arkwright: the series of machines which he invented or improved gave an amazing impulse to the cotton trade. “Weavers could now obtain an unlimited quantity of yarn at a reasonable price; manufacturers could use warps of cotton, which were much cheaper than the linen warps formerly used. Cotton fabrics could be sold lower than had ever before been known. The demand for them consequently increased. The shuttle flew with fresh energy, and the weavers earned immoderately high wages. Spinning-mills were erected to supply the requisite quantity of yarn. The fame of Arkwright resounded through the land, and capitalists flocked to him to buy his patent machines, or permission to use them.” * * *

11.  A third person has been mentioned as the inventor both of the jenny and of roller-spinning, Thomas Highs, of Leigh, above-mentioned, whose claims seem entitled to more courteous notice than they have met with in the Edinburgh Review. There is nothing unreasonable in supposing that both Highs and Arkwright may have heard of Wyatt’s method of spinning by rollers, which was practised in two factories, one erected at Birmingham, the other at Nottingham.

“The factory system in England takes its rise from this period. Hitherto the cotton manufacture had been carried on almost entirely in the houses of the workmen: the hand or stock-cards, the spinning-wheel, and the loom, required no larger apartment than that of a cottage. A spinning-jenny of small size might also be used in a cottage, and in many instances was so used; when the number of spindles was considerably 186increased, adjacent workshops were used. But the water-frame, the carding-engine, and the other machines which Arkwright brought out in a finished state, required both more space than could be found in a cottage, and more power than could be applied by the human arm. Their weight also made it necessary to place them in strongly-built mills, and they could not be advantageously turned by any power then known but that of water.”

“The use of machinery was accompanied by a greater division of labour than existed in the primitive state of the manufacture; the material went through many more processes, and of course the loss of time and the risk of waste would have been much increased, if its removal from house to house at every stage of the manufacture had been necessary. It became obvious that there were several important advantages in carrying on the numerous operations of an extensive manufacture in the same building. Where water-power was required, it was economy to build one mill, and put up one water-wheel, rather than several. This arrangement also enabled the master-spinner himself to superintend every stage of the manufacture; it gave him a greater security against the wasteful or fraudulent consumption of the material; it saved time in the transference of the work from hand to hand; and it prevented the extreme inconvenience which would have resulted from the failure of one class of workmen to perform their part, when several other classes of workmen were dependent upon them. Another circumstance which made it advantageous to have a large number of machines in one manufactory was, that mechanics must be employed on the spot to construct and repair the machinery, and that their time could not be fully occupied with only a few machines.”

“All these considerations drove the cotton-spinners to that important change in the economy of English manufactures, the introduction of the factory system; and when that system had once been adopted, such were its pecuniary advantages that mercantile competition would have rendered it impossible, even had it been desirable, to abandon it.” (Baines, ‘History of Cotton Manufacture,’ pages 183, 185.)

It was not to be expected that Arkwright would enjoy undisturbed so valuable a monopoly as that which he had created, and many persons infringed his patents, in the belief that he was not the real owner of the inventions which he claimed. An attempt was made in 1772 to set aside his first patent for the water-frame; but this failed, and he retained the enjoyment of that patent unquestioned till the expiration of the fourteen years. To preserve his second patent, for the carding, 187drawing, and roving machines, he brought several actions against master-spinners, one of which, against Colonel Mordaunt, was tried in 1781, and a verdict was obtained for the defendant, setting aside the patent. Arkwright for some time did not contest this decision. But in 1785, he made another attempt to establish his second patent before a court of law; and in the first instance obtained a verdict in his own favour, but on the cause being reheard, the patent was finally declared invalid.

Notwithstanding this defeat, Arkwright rapidly acquired a very large fortune, through the magnitude of his concerns, and his industry, penetration, and skill in business. On the dissolution of his partnership with the Messrs. Strutt about 1783, the extensive works at Cromford fell to his share. In 1786, he was High Sheriff of Derbyshire, and was knighted, on occasion of presenting an address to the King. We find no other record worth notice of the last years of his life. He died, August 3, 1792, in his sixtieth year.

Arkwright’s originality and honesty as an inventor have been violently impugned by Mr. Guest, in his History of the Cotton Manufacture. The arguments on the other side may be seen in the Edinburgh Review, No. 91, to which Guest published a reply. Mr. Baines’s History of the Cotton Manufacture, which we have chiefly followed and largely quoted from in this account, contains the latest and fullest account which we have seen of Arkwright’s character and history. There appears to have been some alloy of selfishness and disingenuousness in his disposition, some ground for the statement of counsel in the trial of 1785: “It is a notorious story in the manufacturing counties; all men that have seen Mr. Arkwright in a state of opulence have shaken their heads, and thought of these poor men, Highs and Kay, and have thought, too, that they were entitled to some participation of the profits.” Still it becomes us to speak with gentleness of the faults of a person to whose talents, nationally speaking, we owe so much: and there is much to be said in extenuation of them, in consideration of the lowness of his original calling, of the self-complacency and sensitive jealousy common to almost all schemers, and the fascination of wealth when it flows largely and unexpectedly upon a man bred in extreme poverty. As an inventor Arkwright’s merit is undeniable. Mr. Baines, who seems to have judged calmly and impartially, assigns to him the high praise, that “in improving and perfecting mechanical inventions, in exactly adapting them to the purposes for which they were intended, in arranging a comprehensive system of manufacturing, and in conducting vast and complicated concerns, he displayed a bold and 188fertile mind, and consummate judgment, which, when his want of education, and the influence of an employment so extremely unfavourable to mental expansion as that of his previous life, are considered, must have excited the astonishment of mankind. But the marvellous and ‘unbounded invention,’ which he claimed for himself and which has been too readily accorded to him—the creative faculty which devised all that admirable mechanism, so entirely new in its principles, and characteristic of the first order of mechanical genius—which has given a new spring to the industry of the world, and within half a century has reared up the most extensive manufacture ever known—this did not belong to Arkwright.” * * * * * * *

“The most marked traits in the character of Arkwright were his wonderful ardour, energy, and perseverance. He commonly laboured in his multifarious concerns from five o’clock in the morning till nine at night; and when considerably more than fifty years of age, feeling that the defects of his education placed him under great difficulty and inconvenience in conducting his correspondence, and in the general management of his business, he encroached upon his sleep, in order to gain an hour each day to learn English grammar, and another hour to improve his writing and orthography! He was impatient of whatever interfered with his favourite pursuits; and the fact is too strikingly characteristic not to be mentioned, that he separated from his wife not many years after his marriage, because she, convinced that he would starve his family by scheming when he should have been shaving, broke some of his experimental models of machinery. Arkwright was a severe economist of time; and, that he might not waste a moment, he generally travelled with four horses, and at a very rapid speed. His concerns in Derbyshire, Lancashire, and Scotland, were so extensive and numerous as to show at once his astonishing power of transacting business, and his all-grasping spirit. In many of these he had partners, but he generally managed in such a way that, whoever lost, he himself was a gainer. So unbounded was his confidence in the success of his machinery, and in the national wealth to be produced by it, that he would make light of discussions on taxation, and say that he would pay the national debt! His speculative schemes were vast and daring; he contemplated entering into the most extensive mercantile transactions, and buying up all the cotton in the world, in order to make an enormous profit by the monopoly; and from the extravagance of some of these designs, his judicious friends were of opinion that, if he had tried to put them in practice, he might have overset the whole fabric of his prosperity.”

Engraved by W. Holl.


From a Picture in the Possession of the Publisher.

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

London, Published by Charles Knight, Ludgate Street.



William Cowper was born at the rectory of Berkhampstead, in Hertfordshire, Nov. 26, 1731. He was nearly related to the noble family of that name, his great-uncle having been chancellor and first Earl Cowper: his grandfather, the brother of the chancellor, was a judge of the common pleas. Cowper’s mother died before he was six years old. Soon afterwards he was sent to a country school, from which, at the age of nine, he was removed to Westminster. It is probable that one cause among others of his future unhappiness was the early loss of that tender parent, whose “constant flow of love,” beautifully acknowledged in his verses on receiving her picture, and in many parts of his correspondence, made a deep and lasting impression on his infant mind. Cowper was exactly the boy to require a mother’s care. His constitution was delicate, his mind sensitive and timid; and he discovered a tendency to dejection, which was aggravated by the tyranny then practised at our public schools. Quitting Westminster at eighteen, with a good character for talent and scholarship, he went at once into an attorney’s office; where he spent three years, according to his own account, with very little profit. He then became a member of the Inner Temple, intending to practise at the bar. At this period of life he amused himself with composition, and showed a strong predilection for polite literature and agreeable society; but he had no taste for the law, and took no pains to qualify himself for his profession. Long afterwards he deeply lamented the loss of time during his early manhood, and earnestly warned his young friends against a similar error.

In 1763 Cowper was appointed to the lucrative office of reading clerk, and clerk of the private committees of the House of Lords. The fairest prospect of happiness now lay before him, for his union with one of his cousins, it is said, had only been deferred until he should obtain a satisfactory establishment. But the idea of reading in public was intolerable 190to him; and he gave up this office for the less valuable one of clerk of the journals, in which it was hoped that his personal appearance before the House would not be required. Unfortunately it did prove necessary that he should appear at the bar to qualify himself for the post. “They whose spirits are formed like mine,” he thus expressed himself in after-life, “to whom a public exhibition of themselves is mortal poison, may have some ideas of the horrors of my situation: others can have none.” He fought hard against this morbid feeling; but, when the day arrived for entering upon his duties, such was his terror and distress, that even his friends acquiesced in his abandoning the attempt. But his mind had been disordered in the struggle, and he shortly sank into deep religious despondency; so that it was found necessary, in December, 1763, to place him in a lunatic asylum at St. Albans, under the care of Dr. Cotton.

Cowper’s insanity at this period, and the grievous dejection of the last twenty-seven years of his life, have been imputed to the so-called gloominess of his religious tenets. From that opinion we entirely dissent. No sense of religious abasement can be conceived able to drive a sane man to distraction at the thought of having to appear in a public capacity before Parliament; and Cowper’s struggles and mental distress on that occasion were anterior to his receiving any serious impressions of religion. Moreover, it appears certain that his recovery was due to more encouraging views of the doctrines of the Gospel, assisted by the kind and judicious mental, as well as bodily, treatment of Dr. Cotton. For eight years his religion was the source of unfailing cheerfulness and active benevolence; and after he ceased to derive pleasure from it in his own person, he was still mild and charitable in his conduct towards others, and his opinions concerning them. The extent of Cowper’s mental wandering on subjects unconnected with his own spiritual state is not perhaps generally known. A remarkable instance of it occurs in a letter to his esteemed friend, Mr. Newton, dated October 2, 1787, from which it appears that, during thirteen years, Cowper had entertained doubts of Mr. Newton’s personal identity. At this latter period, therefore, there was hallucination of mind, as well as religious gloom. Cowper’s recovery from his first illness is dated in July, 1764; but he remained with his friendly and beloved physician nearly a year more, after which he took lodgings at Huntingdon, directed by the wish of being within easy reach of his brother, who was a resident Fellow of Benet College, Cambridge.

He soon became acquainted with a family, bearing the name of Unwin, consisting of a clergyman, his wife and daughter, and one son, 191an undergraduate of Cambridge. Struck by Cowper’s appearance, the latter threw himself into the stranger’s way; and a feeling of mutual regard and esteem led to Cowper’s establishing himself as a permanent inmate in Mr. Unwin’s family in November, 1765. After the lapse of nearly two years in tranquil happiness, the sudden death of Mr. Unwin led to the family’s departure from Huntingdon to Olney in Buckinghamshire, in October, 1767. But the foundation had been laid of a friendship which no misfortune or change of circumstance could destroy; and Cowper and Mrs. Unwin united their slender incomes, and continued to dwell under the same roof. The first six years of their abode at Olney were spent in domestic quiet and retirement almost unbroken, except by the society of Mr. Newton, an eminent and exemplary divine, who was then curate on the living. The well-known collection called the “Olney Hymns” were composed by Cowper and Newton, for the most part, during this period. But in 1773 Cowper’s mental disease returned in the dreadful shape of religious despondency. He conceived himself to be set apart for eternal misery: yet amid the deep gloom produced by the loss of that spiritual happiness which he had enjoyed since his recovery from his first illness, he was so entirely submissive that he was accustomed to say, “If holding up my finger would save me from endless torments, I would not do it against the will of God;” and in accordance with the belief that his own fate was sealed, he ceased to pray, and absented himself entirely from divine worship. The depth of his dejection was gradually cheered by the affectionate, watchful, and judicious care of his guardian friend, Mrs. Unwin. One of the first signs of improvement was a desire to tame some leverets. He was soon supplied with three, which have obtained celebrity in prose and verse, such as no other hares have enjoyed before or since. He tried at different times gardening, drawing, and a variety of trifling manual occupations, as methods of diverting his thoughts from his own miseries. “Many arts I have exercised with this view,” he says in a letter to Mrs. King, “for which nature never designed me, though among them were some in which I arrived at considerable proficiency, by mere dint of the most heroic perseverance. There is not a squire in all this country who can boast of having made better squirrel houses, hutches for rabbits, or bird-cages, than myself; and in the article of cabbage-nets I had no superior. But gardening was, of all employments, that in which I succeeded best, though even in this I did not suddenly attain perfection.” (Oct. 11, 1788.) At last he devoted himself to writing, “a whim,” he says elsewhere, “that has served me longest and best, and will probably be my latest.” His first volume of poems, containing 192“Table Talk,” &c. was published in the summer of 1781, having been written chiefly in the preceding winter. It was undertaken at the instance of Mrs. Unwin, who, on his recovery from a long fit of unusual dejection, urged him to devote his attention to a work of some extent, and such as should require a considerable share of application and attention. At the same time she suggested as a subject the “Progress of Error,” which is the second piece in the volume. Cowper had already written many of his lighter pieces, and that at the times when he was labouring under the severest depression. He accounts for this singular phenomenon with his peculiar and playful humour. “The mind, long wearied with the sameness of a dull, dreary prospect, will gladly fix its eyes on anything that may make a little variety in its contemplations, though it were but a kitten playing with its tail.”

Early in 1780, Cowper lost a valued friend, and almost his only associate, by the removal of Mr. Newton to London. In the following year he became acquainted with Lady Austen, who, for a short time, fills a prominent place in the poet’s history. We must refer to fuller memoirs for the tale of her introduction, and the gradual growth of that strict intimacy which ensued between herself, Mrs. Unwin, and Cowper. For some time the three friends spent a considerable portion of every day in each other’s society; and Cowper was indebted to Lady Austen’s liveliness in conversation and varied accomplishments for a great alleviation of his mental sufferings. The famous history of John Gilpin owes its birth to a story told by her one evening, to rouse the poet out of a fit of despondency; and it engaged his fancy so strongly, that in the course of the night, during which he was kept awake by fits of laughter, he turned it into verse. The ballad soon got abroad, and obtained unusual popularity: it was long before the author was known. “The Task” was composed at Lady Austen’s request. She saw the benefit which Cowper derived from earnest literary employment, and often urged him to try his strength in blank verse. After some pressing, he promised to comply, if she would furnish him with a subject. “Oh, you can write on anything,” she said; “write on this sofa.” The lively answer chimed in with his peculiar humour, and he adopted it literally: his sofa forms the subject of the poem; the first book of which is entitled “The Sofa,” and opens with a history of the invention and merits of that piece of furniture, which is unsurpassed in its peculiar vein of humour. But the author soon rises into a higher strain, and in his discursive range paints the beauty of the country with that fidelity and exquisite sense of natural beauty which constitutes his chief poetic merit; describes the peculiar appearances and occupations of the winter season; weighs 193the evils and advantages attendant on a high state of civilization; exhibits, in reproving the faults of the age, his power both in the lighter skirmishing of satire, and in the stern outpouring of an honest indignation; inculcates the doctrines of that religion of peace and love from which it was his own singular and melancholy lot to derive no peace; and all with a beauty and facility of versification, and power of illustration, sufficient to attract many whom the grave nature of the subjects to be discussed would rather deter. The scope and conduct of the work is well described in the following lines from the conclusion, in which, anticipating death, he says—

It shall not grieve me then, that once, when call’d
To dress a sofa with the flowers of verse,
I played awhile, obedient to the fair,
With that light task: but soon, to please her more,
Whom flowers alone I knew would little please,
Let fall the unfinish’d wreath, and roved for fruit;
Roved far and gather’d much: some harsh, ’tis true,
Pick’d from the thorns and briers of reproof,
But wholesome, well digested, grateful some
To palates that can taste immortal truth;
Insipid else, and sure to be despised.

“The Task” was accompanied by a shorter poem, entitled “Tirocinium,” written expressly in dispraise of the existing system of public schools in England; and prompted by Cowper’s bitter recollection of his sufferings at Westminster. The volume was published in 1785.

As soon as this was completed, Cowper engaged in another more laborious undertaking, the translation of Homer. This also was suggested by Lady Austen; and it had a most beneficial effect in furnishing the poet with constant employment from this time forward to the end of his life, with the exception of those periods in which the pressure of disease was too severe to admit of any exertion. He spared no pains in the execution of this great work; and after his version was made, subjected it to a most careful revision, amounting nearly to a re-translation. It was published in 1791, and was preceded by a list of subscribers, whose number and individual eminence bear testimony to the high esteem in which Cowper was then held. His translation, however, has never been popular: he has avoided Pope’s errors, but he has failed in giving life and interest, and in catching the vital spirit of his author.

During the long period which the literary labours above-mentioned occupied, Cowper’s domestic history is characterized by the same general depression and the same seclusion as we have above described. In 1784 his friendship with Lady Austen was interrupted 194by a disagreement between her and Mrs. Unwin, who seems to have feared that the former might obtain an influence over the poet paramount to her own; and to have been justly hurt at the prospect of becoming second in the affections of him, to whom, for so many years, she had devoted herself with a zeal which merited the utmost return. Cowper felt this, and he himself broke off his intercourse with Lady Austen, in a way which was admitted by herself to do credit to his delicacy and judgment, no less than to his generosity. In about a year after the termination of this valuable friendship, he received the best amends that could be made, in the renewal of intercourse, after it had been interrupted for twenty-three years, with his cousin Lady Hesketh, to whom from childhood he had been strongly attached. She visited Olney in June, 1786; and from that time forwards her purse and her personal exertions were unsparingly bestowed to promote the comfort of her beloved cousin. At her instance his confined and ruinous abode at Olney was exchanged in November, 1786, for a commodious house in the pretty neighbouring village of Weston, which was especially recommended to Cowper as being the residence of his esteemed friends Mr. and Mrs. Throckmorton. Here Lady Hesketh commonly spent part of the year. The state of Cowper’s spirits during his residence at Weston was variable; but he made a few new acquaintance, and among them his correspondent, Mr. Rose, and his biographer, Mr. Hayley. He also enjoyed a vivid pleasure in the renewal of intercourse with his maternal relations, among whom his young cousin Johnson, who afterwards became his tender and devoted guardian, obtained an especial place in his affections. Still, however, his mental malady continued unabated; and a new cause of uneasiness beset him in the growing infirmities of Mrs. Unwin. In March, 1792, the disease which had been for some time sapping her strength, manifested itself in a paralytic attack, from which she never entirely recovered. From thenceforward Cowper’s time and attention were devoted, as his primary object, to contributing to her comfort and amusement. In her company he quitted his home, the first time for twenty-seven years, to visit Mr. Hayley’s seat at Eartham, in Sussex. Two important works had engaged his attention: one a poem on the four ages of man’s life, the other an edition of Milton. These, however, were successively laid aside; and such time as his weak spirits and melancholy occupation allowed him, be employed in revising his Homer for a second edition. But Mrs. Unwin became more and more enfeebled in mind and body; and in the beginning of 1794 Cowper relapsed into a gloom as deep as that which he had endured at the commencement of his malady. To watch over him in 195this melancholy Lady Hesketh made Weston her constant, instead of her occasional abode, until the middle of the following year, when her health gave way under the constant pressure of anxiety. Mr. Johnson, who had taken orders, and resided at East Dereham in Norfolk, then undertook the charge of his unhappy relation; removed him and Mrs. Unwin into his own neighbourhood, and watched over their decline with the most unwearied and judicious tenderness. But little could now be done to give Cowper pleasure. The pathetic poem, “To Mary,” is supposed by Mr. Hayley to have been the last thing written by him before quitting Weston; and the only original verses which he composed afterwards were some Latin lines, which he translated into English, on the appearance of some ice islands in the German Sea, and the touching poem called the “Cast-away,” founded on the loss of a man overboard in Anson’s voyage, and alluding in an affecting strain to his own unfortunate condition. After his departure from Weston, he who had been so diligent a correspondent only wrote three or four letters; nor could he be excited to converse by the visits even of his most intimate friends, as Mr. Rose and Sir John Throckmorton. In January, 1800, his final illness, which was dropsy, commenced. He died April 25th in the same year; nor to the last did one gleam of hope break through the darkness which had surrounded him for twenty-seven years.

It was Cowper’s especial merit as a poet to cultivate simplicity and nature. He set the example of throwing aside conventional affectations and unmeaning pomp of diction, and in consideration of this great service may well be pardoned for occasionally incurring the opposite fault of being tame and prosaic. His genius was truly original: all his writings, whether moral, satirical, or descriptive, bear the legible impress of his own peculiar constitution of mind and habits of thinking. His minor and occasional poems are very happy, for his imagination could extract a deep and beautiful moral from slight occurrences, which commonly pass unnoticed in the bustle of life. Many of his letters are published in Hayley’s Life of Cowper; and these are embodied with the Private Correspondence afterwards given to the world by Mr. Johnson, in the edition of Cowper’s works by Mr. Grimshawe now in the press. As a letter writer Cowper appears to us to be unequalled in the English language. His correspondence is the genuine intercourse of friend with friend; full of wit and humour, but a humour that never vents itself in the depreciation of others; and abounding in passages of graver beauty, expressed in the most easy, yet elegant and correct language. When once a man knows that his letters are admired, he is in great danger of writing for admiration. 196Cowper was aware of this, and occasionally alludes to the temptation in lively terms. “I love praise dearly, especially from the judicious, and those who have so much delicacy themselves as not to offend mine in giving it. But then I found this consequence attending, or likely to attend, the eulogium you bestowed. If my friend thought me witty before, he shall think me ten times more witty hereafter; where I joked once, I will joke five times; and for every sensible remark, I will send him a dozen. Now this foolish vanity would have spoiled me quite, and have made me as disgusting a letter writer as Pope, who seems to have thought that unless a sentence was well turned, and every sentence pointed with some conceit, it was not worth the carriage. I was willing therefore to wait until the impression that your commendation had made on the foolish part of me was worn off, that I might scribble away as usual, and write my uppermost thoughts, and those only.” (June 8, 1780. To the Rev. W. Unwin.) No one ever avoided this danger better. It is strange and wonderful that these compositions, which bear the stamp of so much cheerfulness and benevolence, should have been written, most of them, in his deepest gloom, and avowedly for the purpose of withdrawing his thoughts from his own misery.

[Tomb of Cowper, in East Dereham Church, Norfolk.]


  1. Changed “better” to “letter” on p. 28.
  2. Changed “the placing the” to “the placing of the” on p. 128.
  3. Silently corrected typographical errors.
  4. Retained anachronistic and non-standard spellings as printed.

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Memoirs. Vol 5 (of 7), by Anonymous


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