Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

1

he died at the age of seventy-six, being at the time in such a state of indigence, that, when he felt bis end approaching, having inquired of his servant how much money he had remaining, and finding that there was not enough for the expenses of his funeral, he ordered the whole to be given to the poor. He was accordingly buried at the cost of the city of Edinburgh.

Even still more crowded with disasters is the history of the renowned Cervantes, whose admirable Don Quixote ranks so high among the glories of modern literature. Cervantes, too, commenced life as a soldier, lost his left hand in battle, and was afterwards detained for five years in captivity at Algiers. Even after he had recovered his liberty, and had returned to his native country, he was again in a short time thrown into confinement by an unjust decision of the courts, in a cause in which he was implicated; and it was while he lay in prison that he wrote the first part of Don Quixote. He was, soon after the publication of this work, once more restored to freedom; but, although, he afterwards produced various other literary performances, he never succeeded in raising himself above the necessitous circumstances in which his early misfortunes had involved him. The dedication of the last work he gave to the world is dated only four days before his death, and in it he mentions, with great calmness, his approaching dissolution.

Cervantes died at the age of sixty-nine, on the 23d of April, 1617, exactly a year after our own Shakspeare.

There are many cases on record of individuals who, even with scarcely any other education than what they contrived to give themselves while serving in subordinate and laborious situations in the camp on shipboard, have attained

to great familiarity with books, and sometimes risen to consider

or

able literary or scientific distinction. The celebrated English navigator, DAMPIER, although he had been some time at school before he left his native country, yet went to sea at so, early an age that, considering he for a long time led a vagabond and lawless life, he must have very soon forgotten every thing he had been taught, if, he had not, in the midst of all his wild adventures, taken great pains both to retain and extend to his knowledge. That he must have done so is evident from the accounts of his different voyages which he afterwards published. We have few works of the kind more vigorously or graphically written than these volumes; and they contain abundant evidences of a scientific and philosophical knowledge of no ordinary extent and exactness. Along with Dampier's, we may mention an older name, that of John Davis, the discoverer of the well known strait leading into Baffin's Bay. Davis also went to sea when quite a boy, and must have acquired all his knowledge both of science and of the art of composition, while engaged among the duties of his profession. Yet we not only have from his pen accounts of several of his voyages, but also a treatise on the general hydrography of the earth. He was the inventor, besides, of a quadrant for taking the sun's altitude at sea. Robert Drury, too, whose account of the Island of Madagascar, and of his strange adventures there, is now (from having been lately re-published) a well-known book, deserves to be remembered when we are making mention of authors bred at sea. Drury was only fourteen when he set out on his first voyage in a vessel proceeding to India, and he was shipwrecked in returning home on the island we have mentioned, where he remained in a species of captivity for fifteen years; so that when he at last contrived to make his escape, he had almost forgotten his native language. He

sea.

afterwards, however, set] about writing an account of his life-a task which he accomplished whilst acting in the humble capacity of a porter at the India House. The work is composed in a plain but sensible style, and contains many interesting details respecting the manners of the natives of Madagascar. It is perhaps somewhat better for having been compressed by one of the friends of the author, whose original manuscript is said to have extended to eight hundred large folio pages.

FALCONER, the author of The Shipwreck,' as is generally known, spent his life, from childhood, at

He was probably born in one of the small towns in the county of Fife, which border the Frith of Forth; but nothing is very certainly ascertained either as to his native place or his parentage. Nor has any account been given of how he acquired the elements of education, with the exception of a report that he found an instructor in a person of the name of Campbell, a man of some literary taste and acquirements, who happened to be purser in one of the vessels in which young Falconer sailed. However this may be, Falconer appeared as an author at a very early age, having been only, it is said, in his twentyfirst year when he

gave

to the world his first production, a poem on the death of Frederick, Prince of Wales, the father of his late Majesty, George III. He was ten or twelve years older when he published his

Shipwreck,' which is said to be founded in a great measure on the personal adventures of the author. Falconer did not permit the success of his poetical efforts to withdraw him from his profession, in which, having now transferred himself from the merchant service to the navy, he continued to rise steadily till he was appointed purser of a man-of-war. Sometime after attaining this promotion, he published the other work by which he is chiefly known, his ' Uni

FALCONER.

GIORDANI.

FRANSHAM.

129

versal Marine Dictionary,' which was very favourably received, and is a still standard work. He had previously to this written several other poetical pieces on temporary subjects, which have long been forgotten. Shortly after the publication of his dictionary, he sailed for Bengal as purser of the frigate Aurora. This vessel, however, was never heard of, after she passed the Cape of Good Hope, having in all probability foundered at sea.

GIORDANI, an Italian engineer and mathematician of the seventeenth century, was originally a common soldier on board one of the Pope's gallies. In this situation his capacity and good conduct attracted the attention of his admiral; and as a reward he was promoted to the post of purser of one of the vessels. It was his appointment to this situation which first formed his mind to study. Having accounts to keep, he soon found how necessary it was that he should know something of arithmetic, of which he was till then quite ignorant ; and he determined therefore to teach himself the science, which it is said he did without assistance. By pursuing his studies from this commencement, he eventually acquired considerable reputation as a mathematician; and, having published several able works, was appointed at last to a professorship in the Sapienza College at Rome. Giordani died in the year 1711.

The late Mr. John FransHAM, who died at Norwich in 1810, was altogether one of the most eccentric characters to be found in the list of selfeducated persons. His name suggests itself to us here from the circumstance of his having passed part of his early life as a common soldier. He had been originally apprenticed to a cooper, with whom he remained for about two years, and it was in this situation that he taught himself mathematics. But although he obtained the situation of clerk to an

attorney, his restless disposition would not allow him to remain at his desk; and after wandering for some time about the country, he enlisted in the army, where, however, they did not keep him long, finding him quite unfit for service. Indeed, it was by this time become pretty evident that his mind was not a little deranged,-a matter which he shortly after put beyond doubt by renouncing Christianity, and making a formal profession of paganism. Although he published several works, however, in support of his peculiar theology, and in other respects conducted himself with great eccentricity, he contrived to maintain himself by teaching mathematics, in which occupation he is said to have displayed very considerable ability. He resided and took pupils for some years in London. Somewhat similar to Fransham's history is that of Mr. John Oswald, who is said to have taught himself Greek, Latin, and Arabic, while holding a lieutenant's commission in a regiment of infantry in India. He afterwards returned to England, where he published a succession of poetical and political pamphlets, making himself remarkable at the same time by various singularities of behavior and opinions, and especially by a rigid abstinence from animal food, and a professional predilection for the religious doctrines of the Brahmins. When the revolution broke out in France, Oswald went over to that country, and entered the service of the republic, in which he obtained the rank of colonel. He was at length killed in battle.

COLUMBUS himself, one of the greatest men that ever lived, if it be grand ideas grandly realized that constitute greatness, while leading the life of a seaman, not only pursued assiduously the studies more particularly relating to his profession, rendering himself the most accomplished geographer and astronomer of his time, but kept up that acquaintance

« AnteriorContinuar »