Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

amounted to twenty-five guineas; and ever since have given me their Transactions gratis. They also presented me with the gold medal of Sir Godfrey Copley, for the year 1753, the delivery of which was accompanied with a very handsome speech of the President, Lord Macclesfield, wherein I was highly honoured.” Some years afterwards, when he was in this country with his son, the University of St. Andrews conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws; and its example was followed by the Universities of Edinburgh and Oxford. He was also elected a member of many of the learned societies throughout Europe.

No philosopher of the age now stood on a prouder eminence than this extraordinary man, who had originally been one of the most obscure of the people, and had raised himself to all this distinction almost without the aid of any education but such as he had given himself. Who will say, after reading his story, that any thing more is necessary for the attainment of knowledge, than the determination to attain itthat there is any other obstacle to even the highest degree of intellectual advancement which may not be overcome, except a man's own listlessness or indolence? The secret of this man's success in the cultivation of his mental powers was, that he was ever awake and active in that business; that he suffered no opportunity of forwarding it to escape him unimproved; that, however poor, he found at least a fer pence, were it even by diminishing his scanty meals, to pay for the loan of the books he could not buy; that, however hard-wrought, he found a few hours in the week, were it by sitting up half the night after toiling all the day to read and study ther. Others may not have his original powers of mind; but his industry, his perseverance, his self-command, are for the imitation of all: and though few may look foto

ward to the rare fortune of achieving discoveries like his, all may derive both instruction and encouragement from his example. They who may never overtake the light, may at least follow its path, and guide their footsteps by its illumination.

Were we to pursue the remainder of Franklin's history, we should find the fame of the patriot vying with that of the philosopher, in casting a splendour over it; and the originally poor and unknown trades. man standing before kings, associating as an equal with the most eminent statesmen of his time, and arranging along with them the wars and treaties of mighty nations. When the struggle of American independence commenced, he was sent as ambassador from the United States to the Court of France, where he soon brought about an alliance between the two countries which produced an immediate war between the latter and England. In 1783, he signed on the part of the United States the treaty of peace with England, which recognized their independence. Two years after he returned to his native country, where he was received with acclamation by his grateful and admiring fellow-citizens, and immediately elected President of the Supreme Executive Council

. He closed his eventful and honourable life on the 17th of April, 1790, in the eighty-fifth year of his age.*

* The engraving which we have given of Franklin is copied from portraits taken during his residence in France ;-the face being from a picture in the possession of the Royal Society, and the costume (which is rather more splendid than the philosopher's ordinary dress) as represented in a French print engraved in 1789.

Chapter XVI.

Devotion to Knowledge in extreme poverty. Erasmus ; Kepler ;

Schaeffer ; Bullinger; Musculus; Postellus; Castalio; Adrian VI. Perrier; Claude Lorraine; Salvator Rosa; Marmontel; Hoche; Lagrange ; Dr. Johnson ; Dr. Parr; Spagnoletto; Le Jay; Castell; Davies ; Tyller; William Davy.-In exile and imprisonment, Onid: Boethius ; Buchanın ;

Tasso ;

Smart; Maggi ; Le Maistre ; Lorenzini ; Prynne ; Madame Roland ; Raleigh ; Lady Jane Grey, James I.(of Scotland); Lovelace.

In attempting to illustrate such a subject as the triumphs of the Love of Knowledge, and to set forth the exceeding might of that passion, the delight with which the indulgence of it is fraught, and the obstacles of all sorts in the way of its gratification which it has so often overcome, the materials which present themselves are so abundant and so various, that the chief difficulty in using them is which to choose. The examples we have already cited may be considered sufficient to shew how perfectly practicable it is to unite the pursuit of literature with that of any description of business or professional occupation. We shall now, therefore, proceed to notice some aspirants after knowledge, who have had other difficulties to struggle with than those arising from either the seducing excitements or engrossing cares and toils of active life.

Anecdotes illustrating the devotion with which knowledge has been pursued under the pressure of severe penury, or other forms of worldly misfortune, are evidences, not of any calamities to which literature has a peculiar tendency to expose its votaries, but rather of the power with which it arms them to conquer and rise superior to calamities. Students, and authors, and men of genius, have had their share

66 As soon

as

16 It is

of adversity with others; but few others enjoy their peculiar advantages, if not for warding it off, at least for bearing up against it. The man who is most to be pitied under misfortune, is he whose whole happiness or misery hangs on outward circumstances. The scholar has sources of enjoyment within himself, of which no severity of fortune can altogether deprive him. Hence, a man who is truly in love with philosophy, will often think but lightly of sufferings and privations which would to another be almost intolerable. If his body be in want, his mind has store of riches. When ERASMUS was a poor student at Paris, he was indeed very anxious to be a little richer ; but, almost in rags as he was, it was not fine or even comfortable raiment after which he principally longed.

I

get money,” says he, in a letter to a friend, " I will buy first Greek books, and then clothes.” the mind,” says Shakspeare, “ that makes the body and so the young

scholar felt. Of his two contemplated purchases, it was not the clothes, he knew, but the Greek books, that were to bring him any thing permanent, in the way either of enjoyment or distinction.

And similar to those of Erasmus have been the feelings of many another aspirant after intellectual eminence, when struggling, like him, with the inconveniences of indigence, or braving every variety of labour and privation in pursuit of the object on which his heart was set. The illustrious KEPLER spent his life in poverty ; yet, amidst all his difficulties, he used to declare that he would rather be the author of the works, he had written, than possess the dutchy of Saxony. There is hardly any severity of endurance to which ardent spirits have not subjected themselves, under the inspiration of an attachment to literature or the arts. The German naturalist, Schaeffer,

23

rich;

[ocr errors]

VOL. III.

was so poor when he entered the university of Halle, that for the first six months of his attendance his whole expenditure did not exceed a few halfpence a day ; a little bread, and a few vegetables boiled in water, were his only food ; and, although the winter was a very rigorous one, no fire ever warmed his chimney. Yet all this he bore cheerfully, counting the opportunity he enjoyed of pursuing his studies as more than a compensation for it all. This heroism, indeed, has never been uncommon among German scholars. We have already mentioned the cases of Heyne and Winckelman. The latter, according to a practice not unusual among poor students in that country, was wont, while attending the grammar school, to support himself chiefly by singing at night through the streets ; and not himself only, but, in a great measure, his father also. But Winckelman's expences were always on the very humblest scale. Even when his fondest wishes were at last crowned by an opportunity having been afforded him of visiting Rome, he considered himself in possession of an ample revenue in the pension of a hundred crowns, which he was allowed, by his patron Father Rauch, in addition to his board, which he had free. The learned theologian, HENRY BulLINGER, one of the distinguished names of the reformation, had in like manner supported himself at school for several years by his talents as a street musician. His contemporary and fellow-labourer in the same cause, Wolfgang Musculus, had commenced his career as a scholar in a similar manner, having for some time sung ballads through the country, and begged his way from door to door, in order to obtain a pittance wherewith to put himself to school; he was at length charitably received into a convent of Benedictine monks, who, greatly to his delight, offered to educate him, and admit him of

« AnteriorContinuar »