« AnteriorContinuar »
INSTANCE OF EXTRAORDINARY MEMORY. Antonio MAGLIABECHI, an Italian, and librarian to the grand duke of Tuscany, was born at Florence, October 29, 1633. Such was the poverty of his parents, that they thought themselves happy in getting him into the service of a man who sold herbs and fruit. Here he took every opportunity, though he could not tell one letter from another, to pore on the leaves of some old books that served for waste paper, declaring that he loved it of all things. A neighbouring bookseller, who observed this, took him into his service. Young Magliabechi soon learned to read; and his inclination for reading became his ruling passion; and a pro. digious memory his distinguished talent. He read every book that came into his hands, and retained not only the sense of what he read, but often all the words, and the very manner of spelling, if singular. To make trial of the force of his memory, a gentleman lent him a manuscript he was going to print. Some time after it was returned, the gentieman came to him, with a melancholy face, and pretended it was lost. Magliabechi being requested to recollect what he remembered of it, wrote the whole, without missing a word or varying the spelling. He was consulted by all the learned who proposed to write on any subject. If a priest, for instance, was going to compose a panegyric on a saint, Magliabechi would tell him every author, to the number of an hundred sometimes, who had said any thing of that saint, naming the book and the page, and the very words. He did this so often, and so readily, that he came at last to be looked upon as an oracle; and Cosmo III., grand duke of Florence, made him his librarian, the most suitable office to Magliabechi's genius. In the latter part of his life, when a book came into his hands, he would read the title page all over, dip here and there in the preface, dedication, and prefatory advertisements, if there were any; and then cast his eyes on each of the divisions, sections, or chapters. After this he could tell at any time what the book contained.
Though Magliabechi must have lived a very sedentary life, yet he attained to the age of eighty-one years. He died July 14, 1714, in the midst of the public applause, after enjoying, during all the latter part of his life, such an affluence as very few persons haye ever procured by their knowledge or learning. By his will he left a very fine library collected by himself, for the use of the public, with a fund to maintain it; and the overplus of the fund to the poor. It had been usual for every author and printer to make him à present of a copy of every thing they published.
Though he was not an ecclesiastic, he would never marry. He was quite slovenly in his dress. He received his friends, and those who came to consult him on any point of literature, in a civil and obliging manner; though in general he had almost the air of a savage, and even affected it; together with a cynical or contemptuous smile. In his manner of living, he affected the character of Diogenes: three hard eggs, and a draught or two of water, were his usual repast. When any one went to see him, they most usually found him lolling in a sort of fixt wooden cradle in the middle of his study, with a multitude of books, some thrown in heaps, and others scattered about the floor, all around him; and this his cradle or bed was attached to the nearest pile of books by a number of cobwebs. At their entrance he commonly used to call out to them not to hurt his spiders.”
SPANIARDS AND PORTUGUESE. We are apt to mistake the character of the Spaniards: there is, in the very excess and abundance of their wit, joy, and good humor, a certain steady evenness of manners, equally distant from pedantry, levity, and affectation; more mirth of the heart than all the noise, grimace, and badinage of their neighbours; a kind of grave, dry, sententious humor, with a serene and placid firmness of counte
But, froni too much of the religious, and then of the military spirit, they have rapidly declined into enthusiasm and cruelty; and as the human character never stops, have still continued to sink into indifference, pride, indolence, and barren devotion; they cannot be excited to any great effort but by superstitious terrors, love, revenge, and a fandango, the favourite dance of all ranks, in which, from a state of deathlike stupidity, they will, at the first touch of an instrument, join with enthusiasm, animation, grace and delight. VOL. IV.
It seems to have been the system of Spain and Portugal, to protect themselves by distance and desolation; to leave whole districts uncultivated, and roads impassable; as military science declined, timidity succeeded to discipline, and men prepared for war by casing themselves in armour, to be smothered, or by shutting themselves up in castles to be starved, they forgot that national strength consists in an active, moving disposable force; and that the safest state of defence is, being always ready to attack.
The Portuguese pride has usefully changed its object; from the black cloak, spectacles, an affectation of wisdom and sanctity, and having nothing to do, they are grown fond of fine clothes, are become diligent, enterprising, and active.
Lisbon is a mixture of luxury and misery, nastiness and magnificence; the buildings erected since the earthquake of 1755, are barbarously gigantic; the Marquis de Pombal, their chief projector, had the misfortune of being elevated out of the reach of controlno man presumed to understand even his own trade so well as the prime minister.
THE LESSON OF LOVE'S ALPHABET.
In vain every letter I quote;
Which is merely repeated by rote.
If you still remain D, E, F;
This really is wasting my breath.
Yet from you every vow is absurd;
But consonant be to my word.
And far beyond others esteem;
By night 'tis of I you must dream.
That 'tis ended so, heaven forbid!
And what e'en in a glove may be hid.
A magical circle's the next after this,
That is oft the expression of wo,
And this circle of magic is O.
Without which heaven's self would be gloom-
And which gives to the face all its bloom.
And to that e'en our birth do we owe;
Had he Houris like you met below.
For your eyes tell me now you attend;
It is U that must give it an end.
And had conn'd half the alphabet through;
Till the spell that he utter'd was U.
This is all that I wish to impart;
And repeat it, as I do, by heart!
REFORM. “It is better,” says a modern writer, “ that reformation should be difficult, or even unattainable, than that laws should be uncertain and the enjoyment of life and property precarious."
Being asked, if reform was never to be risked? he almost confessed as much, for a reason personal, and not at all applicable to the subject, because the promoters of it will, in every instance, be sacrificed, as the bulk of mankind always think enough has not been done."
Another of his reasons for delay is, “that abuse should become deep and hoary, and in its dotage, before you attack it; any institution, law, or custom, generally despised and ridiculed, however colossal, must in a given time tumble to the ground unsupported; its removal then will not endanger public tranquillity."
“ I consider every evil as trifling, when compared to rousing the vengeance, and exciting the energies of that omnipotent sovereign, the people; in a word, I prefer the leprosy, the itch, and a thousand little nasty teasing diseases, which fret a man dismally, I confess, to the plague, to pestilence, and famine. I would rather pay a government of my own countrymen ten or even twenty per cent. of all I possess, than be stripped by a Gallic proconsul."
ON THE POETRY OF CHAUCER.
“Old Chaucer, like the morning star,
SiR JOHN DENHAM. CHAUCER has constantly been styled the FATHER of English poetry. He possesses every claim to this high and honourable appellation, both from the number, variety and excellence of his works, as well as their great superiority, not only to those who preceded him, or even his cotemporaries, but to many who succeeded him for centuries afterwards. His poetry is strictly in the language of nature, and is not deformed by an admixture of such unmeaning quibbles and farfetched conceits as are to be found in the works of Cowley and his cotemporaries. “I hold Chaucer," says Dryden, “in the same degree of veneration as the Grecians held Homer, or the Romans Virgil: he is a perpetual fountain of good sense; learned in sciences, and therefore speaks properly on all subjects; as he knew what to say, so also he knows when to leave off: a continence which is practised by few writers, and scarcely by any of the ancients, excepting Virgil and Horace." Dryden, indeed, has given us a sufficient proof in what estimation he held the old bard, by his excellent version of the Canterbury Tales; and perhaps Chaucer is more known to the world through the medium of his great successor, than from his own intrinsic merit. It is a very general opinion that the poetry of Chaucer is almost as unintelligible to a modern reader as if it were written in some foreign language, and that recourse must as often be had to a glossary on reading the former, as to a dictionary in studying the latter.