« AnteriorContinuar »
ployed as a text-book by all lecturers on the subject of which it treats. This work was written while Grotius resided in France, after making his escape from the castle of Louvenstein by a memorable stratagem. Having, in the religious disputes which then agitated Holland, taken the side of the Arminians in opposition to the Calvinists, when the latter obtained the ascendency, he was put on his trial, convicted of treason, and sentenced to the confiscation of all his property, and imprisonment for life. As some mitigation, however, of so hard a doom, it was permitted that his wife should share his fate; and that excellent and heroic woman accordingly took up her abode with her husband in the fortress we have named, where they remained together nearly two years. At last, however, Grotius resolved to brave the hazards of a plan of escape, which had been some time before suggested by his wife. He he had been in the habit of borrowing books from some of his friends in the neighbouring town of Gorcum, and these were always brought to him in a large chest, which was in like manner employed to convey them back when he had read or consulted them. This chest had at first been regularly searched, as it was carried into and brought back from the apartment of the prisoner; but, after some time, its appearance on its customary service became so familiar to the guards, that their suspicions was lulled, and it was allowed to pass without notice. A day, therefore, having been chosen when it was known that the commandant was to be absent, Madame Grotius informed the commandant's wife, who was left in charge of the place, that she meant to send away all her husband's books, to prevent him from injuring his health by study, and requested that two soldiers might be allowed her to remove the load. In the mean time Grotius had taken his place in the chest
in the top of which small holes had been made for the admission of air. Upon lifting it from the ground one of the soldiers, struck with its weight, jestingly remarked, that there must be an Arminian
6. There are Arminian books in it,” replied the wife of Grotius, with great presence of mind; and, without saying anything more, they took it on their shoulders, and carried it down a ladder, which led from the apartment. It would appear, however, that their suspicions had been again awakened; for, it is said, that, before they had proceeded much further, the men resolved to mention the circumstance of its uncommon weight to the commandant's wife; but she, misled by what had been told her, ordered them to carry
It had been contrived to have a trusty female servant in waiting to accompany the chest to its place of destination, and under her care it was safely deposited in the house of a friend at Gorcum, when the illustrious prisoner was, of course, speedily released from durance. A good deal of management was still necessary to enable him to effect his escape from the town. It is gratifying to have to add, that his wife, who, as soon as she understood that her husband was safe, confessed what she had done, although at first detained in close custody, was liberated, on petitioning the States General, about a fortnight after. It was on the 21st of March, 1621, that Grotius obtained his liberty; and he arrived in Paris on the 13th of April. His wife rejoined him about the end of December.
Literary pursuits of Soldiers. Descartes ; B. Jonson ; Buchanan ;
Cervantes.-Of Sailors. Dampier ; Davis ; Drury ; Falconer ;
Collingwood. If the distractions of business or of professional duty are to be deemed an insurmountable bar to the cultivation of science or literature, what annoyances or interruptions of this description shall seem more unfavourable for such an attempt than those which beset the rude and unsettled life of a seaman or a soldier! Yet it has been in the midst of these that some of the persons whose names are most distinguished in the annals of literature and philosophy have begun their career. The great Des CARTES entered the army, in obedience to the wishes of his family, at the age of twenty, and served first with the troops of the Prince of Orange, and afterwards with those of Maximilian of Bavaria. With the latter prince he was present at the battle of Prague, in 1620, when Maximilian, acting in concert with the Emperor, Ferdinand II., obtained a single victory over the Elector Palatine, Frederick. During his military life, however, Des Cartes never neglected his philosophical studies, of which he gave a striking proor on one occasion while he was in the service of the Prince of Orange. He happened to be in garrison with his regiment at the town of Breda, in the Netherlands, when, walking out one morning, he observed a crowd of people assembled around a placard or advertisement which was stuck up on the wall. Finding that it was written in the Dutch language, which he did not understand, (for he was a native of Touraine, in France,) he inquired of a person whom he saw reading it, what it meant. The individual to whom he addressed his inquiries happened to be the Principal of the university of Dort, à man of distinguished mathematical attainments; and it was with something of a sneer that he informed the young officer, in reply to his question, that the paper contained the announcement of a difficult geometrical problem, of which the proposer challenged the most able men of the city to attempt the solution. Not repulsed, however, by the tone and manner of the learned professor, Des Cartes requested to be favoured with a translation of the placard, which he had no sooner received than he “calmly remarked' that he thought he should be able to answer the challenge. Accordingly, next day be presented himself again before Beckman (that was the name of the professor) with a complete solution of the problem, greatly to the astonishment of that distinguished person, who had probably never before dreamed of the possibility of so much learning being found beyond the walls of a university,
It was at this period of his life, indeed, that this illustrious person laid the foundation of most of those mathematical discoveries which subsequently obtained for him so much celebrity. He wrote a Latin treatise on music, and projected several of his other works, during the time he was stationed at Breda.
Our celebrated countryman, Ben Jonson, some of whose early difficulties we have already mentioned, could find no way of escaping from the humble employment of a working mason or bricklayer, to which he had been doomed on his mother's second marriage, except by enlisting as a private soldier. Accordingly he served in that capacity for some time against the Spaniards in the Netherlands, and gained a high reputation for personal prowess, of which he was in after life not a little vain. This was also the fate of the famous GEORGE BUCHANAN, one of the most elegant scholars and writers that modern times have produced—another illustrious evidence of how little it is in the power of the most unquiet and disjointed times, or the most adverse fortunes to interrupt the intellectual pursuits of a mind really in love with knowledge. Scarcely any part of Buchanan's long life was passed either in leisure or tranquillity. He was born of poor parents, and was sent to the university of Paris to be educated at the expense of an uncle, whose death, however, after some time, left him in such a state of destitution, that, in order to get back to his native country, he was obliged to enter himself as a private in a corps which was leaving France to serve in Scotland, as auxiliaries to the Duke of Albany. It would detain us too long to attempt any sketch of the remainder of a life of whose many troubles this was only the first commencement. Although, in point of learning and genius, confessedly without a rival among his countrymen, and even acknowledged by all Europe as the chief of the poets and eloquent writers of his day, it is melancholy to think, that, amid the civil discords of those unhappy times his portion was little else than poverty, persecution, imprisonment, and exile. But his own mind was to him a kingdom, of which the world's unkindness could not deprive him, and in which he found doubtless, under all he had to suffer, his sufficient consolation. He took refuge in literary labour from the cruel fortunes that pursued him. We know that it was in a Portuguese dungeon that he composed his celebrated Latin version of the Psalms. He had just carried through the press his great work, the History of Scotland, when