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Characters of Fontenelle, of Montesquieu, and Henault. 325. lowed to be printed. These strokes, We have excellent institutes of the however, increased the circulation of Roman law, and even of the French the book, and the reputation of the civil law, but we have none of public author. He would never have been law in general. We have not the Spie of the Academy without this book, rit of Laws; and I doubt much, wheó which ought to have excluded him ther my friend Montesquieu will be from it. The Cardinal de Fleury, fo able to give us such as may serve for fagacious in other respects, displayed a guide and compass to the legislators on that occasion a compliance that of other countries. I know his vast might have had very serious conse- genius, and that he has acquired a quences. : Montesquieu quitted his great deal of information, not only in Presidency that his non-refidence at his travels, but during his retirement Paris might be no bar to his admission in the country; and yet I venture into the Academy; though he pre- to foretell, that he will not produce tended that it was on account of a the book we want, though we may great work on Laws in which he was find in that which he is about to pubengaged. The President Henault too, lish,many profoundideas,new thoughts, when he quitted his charge, gave a striking images, fallies of wit and geSimilar reason. It was said of these nius, and a multitude of curious facts, gentlemen, that they left their trade the application of which requires more in order to learn it.
taste than study. . In fact Montesquieu wanted to tra I return to the character he bears in ..vel, that he might make philosophical fociety: he has much gentleness of
remarks on men and nations. As his disposition, abundance of gaiety, a Persian letters had already made him perfect equality of temper, an air of known, he was received with enthu- fimplicity and good nature, which, fiasm and eagerness in Germany, in considering the reputation he has ac. England, and even in Italy. We do quired, is particularly engaging. He hot know the extent of the observa- is sometimes liable to absence of mind : tions and reflections that he has made and there escape from him, at those in these different countries. He has times, sentiments of such amiable lim. published nothing since his return but plicity, as when contrasted with his a work in 1734, called Confiderations acknowledged genius make his com: fur les causes de la Grundeur, and de la pany exceedingly agreeable. I forgot Decadence des Romains. He appears to mention his little poem in prose, there as lively, but more learned and in the Greek stile, called Le Temple reserved than in his Persian Letters, de Gnide. I imagine the fame which the matter not leading him in the same the President had already acquired by tract. It is said that he is at length the Persian Letters, contributed to about to publish his great work on the make this little piece be more prized laws. I have already seen some pas. than it deserves ; there is a great deal sages of it, which will not fail to in- of spirit and elegance in the compoficrease the reputation of the author : tion of it ; some of the paintings are But I am afraid, that as a whole, it rather too voluptuoully drawn, and will be deficient, and that there may that turn for philosophical observation, be more chapters agreeable to read, which characterizes the author, runs more ingenious and captivating ideas, through the whole ; but it is altogether than true or useful deductions, with re- misplaced. Fontenelle perhaps was gard to the manner of studying laws unequal to the Considerations on the and enacting them. It is precisely, Roman empire, but the Temple of however, fuch a book as we want, not. Gnidus would have succeeded better withstanding all that has been written in his hands than in those of Montes, on the subject.
I will not contrast the gallantry of neither nervous nor elevated, neither the President with that of Fontenelle; fat nor infipid. He was for some for the former has no pretensions to it, time Father of the Oratory, where he and he makes few or no verses ; but imbibed his taste for study, and acindependent of gallantry and poetry, he quired some erudition, but without is exceedingly engaging in company. any pedantry. I am assured, that at Fontenelle, on the contrary, stands in the palace, he was an excellent judge need of the assistance of these qualities. without having a profound knowledge The talent he has of making those of the law, because he has an upright things appear witty, which from any mind and a sound judgment. He ne other body would have been thought ver had the supercilious look of the fiat and insipid, sets off to much advan- magiítracy, nor the narrow-minded. tage his knowledge and erudition,. nels of the long robe. He neither which probably are not very profound. boasts of birth nor titles, but he is rich
The President Henault will not, per- enough to be independant ; and in this haps, obtain in the temple of memory happy state, assuming no unwarrantable fo distinguished a place as either of pretensions, he wisely keeps himself the former, but in company I prefer at a distance from insolence on the one bim to both. He is not so old as Fone hand, and meanncís on the other. tenelle, and not so troublesome, as he Many ladies of fashion hare excused in docs not require so much complaisance him the want of birth, of beauty, and or so many attentions. On the con- even of vigour. On these occasions uary, he is extremely complaisant him- he has always behaved with modelty, felf, his manner is easy, and I may say never boasting of more than he was a. noble. The performance of this vir- ble to perform ; and nothing but what tue of politeness seems to cost him no- he could easily perform was ever exacthing; and therefore many people ted of him. At the age of fifty he re. think, unjustly enough, that he lavishes solved to devote himself to his studies his civilities without judgment or dif- and to religion : he made a general tinction : but those who know him confession of the sins of his whole life. well, and study him near, are satisfied One is never so rich, said he, as when that he knows how to discriminate; and one is giving away. His devotion, that his behaviour is directed by nice however, is as exempt from fanaticism, discernment, and a thorough knowledge from persecution, malevolence, or in. of the world. His character, especial- trigue,as his studies are from pedantry, ly when he was young, seemed to fit He is at present busied in compiling a him for the service of the ladies ; for chronological abridgment of our hil. he had wit, the graces, delicacy, and tory, which will have the merit of an infinuating address : he successfulcombining an exact chronology and ly cultivated music, poetry, and the accurate tables, with a summary of lighter forts of literature : his music facts methodically digested; and of be. was not learned, but agreeable : his ing neither dry, nor barren, por fiat, poetry was not sublime, though he at- nor tedious. We shall there not only tempted to compose a tragedy; its me- be able to seek ard to find those prin. sit is negative, being neither ridiculous ciple periods of our history, which it nor tedious. His other verses are in is necessary to fix in the memory, but the manner of those of Fontenelle, ten- we shall be able to read his abridgment der and fprightly : his prose is easy from one end to the other without fa. and flowing: his eloquence not mascu- tigue; the author having prepared on line or in the great ftile, though he this long road proper resting-places for carried the prize in the French acade- his reader. The most interesting facts my more than thirty years ago ; it is will be displayed with clearness and
Reflections on the Method of Reading and Study. 324 Precision; and particular remarks will be more useful than all that they have determine, at each particular period, written, because it will open a new road the state of our manners and opinions. to science; while the others will only In fine, this book, excellent in itself, produce a croud of wretched imitators, will serve as a model for many other who will bewilder themselves in engood and useful works. There is rea- deavouring to trace the footsteps of son to think, that the histories of all their predecessors. Upon the whole, nations will soon be written in the to sum up the character of President fame way, and that this work will be Henault in a few words,he is insinuthe root and first growth of a new and ating without deceit, gentle without instructive manner. I allow, however, infipidity, friendly without selfishness that the literary fame of President or ambition, polite without flattery, Henault will never equal that of and zealous without enthusiasın or preFontenelle or Montesquieu; but I be- possession ; he is a model in fociety, as lieve that this single work of his will perfect as his book is in literature.
Reflections on the Method of Reading and Study *
1 tention of people in active life resources against ennui, and a plentiful
is entrusted, studies the principles of the follies of certain persons whom we Said Bey do that business, and makes the application too often meet, but with whom it is
of those principles as occasion offers. improper to form an intimacy. Our e from The father of a family is obliged to stu- studies in company, however, mult levolencia dy the means of preserving or increas- neceffarily be limited: they often sufre from the ing his fortune, and of keeping just ac- fer violent interruptions, which are of.
counts with himself and with others. ten of longer duration than we would
These studies are necessary occupa- wish. We must then have recourse to ve the rigtions, which no one is permitted to study in solitude, that is to reading : chronicles neglect. But there is another kind of but it is of importance to know how 7 2 fetus study, that of more amusement, which to read with advantage : for desultory eltedy is free in its choice, and serves as a reading, without choice or taste, is lost hare, si relaxation from the labours of the labour with regard to the mind; it' - Il ehere no other. There are some people fortu- ferves at best but to fill up a few cam
nate enough to have nothing else to cant moments, and to relieve the irke
occupy themselves with but these last fomeness of inoccupation. When we he must studies. The Ladies particularly, read in this way, though we may a base in when they have a turn for reading, have an excellent memory, we neither
cannot indulge in this fort too much: learn nor retain any thing.
such as it is my duty to study: in the down ; this I do, and although the first place, I reflect on the information harvest may not be abundant, it is I received in my youth on all the sci- fonetimes precious. Nothing, in my ences; then I consider with which of opinion, is so insupportable as the those sciences I wish to have a more continued reading of a collection of extended acquaintance: this I do not poems; but by reading them at interseek in didactic books, or in treatises vals, by taking them up and laying written expressly to teach it ; such them down again as humour directs, reading would form too laborious a we get through them, and generally study, it would require too much ap- find something to reward us for our plication, and would not serve the pains. . purpose of recreation to such as quitted I judge of theatrical performances for it more serious studies : but I in- by the effect they have on me, and I quire for those books that contain the am not solicitous about their being history of the science, the progress it conformable to the rnles of the dra. has made in different ages, and the fys. maí: if there is an appearance of protematic series of authors and artists to bability in the plot and in the characs whom it is indebted for its perfection. ters, if the first is interesting, and the I am perfuaded, that merely with this latter are well drawn, then I set down historical study of arts and sciences, a the piece for good. If it is well writman engaged in public life may learn ten in prose, or in verse, so much the all with regard to them that it is ne- better, but I do not consider that aś cessary for him to know; and that an of chief importance. excellent Encyclopedia might be made He who has never read, and never by collecting the history of each art reads, is certainly a dunce, whose ig. and each science, and shewing their norance must make him be laughed mutual relations and dependencies. at. Neither mixing with the world,
My custom is, after the first reading nor in good company, will ever shield of a book on an interesting subject, to such a man from ridicule : but at the endeavour to form a general judgement same time, he who does nothing but of the work; then, if I find it worth the read and study, and has never enga. while, I read it again with the pen in 'ged in active life, or frequented good my hand. I extract from it what ap- company, becomes a dull unpolished pears to me to be new and import- pedant, and talks as absurdly as the ant, and I criticise the principal er- other, though in another style. For rors into which I think the author has as there are some things that can't be fallen. This is my method with re- learned without books, so books will gard to books of science and history: as not teach the manners of polished life. to those of literature, poetry, romances, Hugo Grotius, one of the most learn. facetiæ, &c. a sort of reading which ed men at the beginning of the last must not be altogether prohibited, I century, and who was Ambassador at do not make extracts from them; but our court about a hundred years ago, I content myself, after having read made a most wretched figure at it. them, with writing down, in a few As he was unacquainted with our words, what I think of each, that I manners, he knew nothing of what may save such as might be tempted to was passing at court: he kept company read them after me the trouble of with none but the pedants of the uniengaging with an author, neither able versity, from whom he received no va« to amuse or interest them. There are luable instruction: they were incapable books very frivolous on the whole, in of informing him how he should be which I sometimes find sentiments have before kings and queens, princes worthy of being particularly taken · and ministers. He drew his intelli
Reflections on the Method of Reading and Study. 329 rence from impure sources, but he been told, however, that Bayle wantwrote it to the States General in pure ed this knowledge ; but he had so Latin, for he could not write the much learning and wir, that, when we French language, nor even the Dutch. read him, we do not perceive white The court laughed at him and his he wanted. What exquisite pleasure wife, and no body read his book, must this author have eajoyed, when which has, however, been much ad. he was compofing his Dictionary, and mired, as it contains excellent rules writing his Nouvelles de la Republique with regard to the law of nature and des Lettres ! He went from one thing nations, but it will never teach the to another, and gave his opinion on art of negociating. The Letters of all with freedom, superiority, and ease. the President Teannin, who was a man His Journal is the best that ever was, of a gentle and insinuating disposition; or perhaps ever will be publifhed. those of the Cardinal d’Offat, who The judgments we there find of books was prudent, and who had wisdom are those of a master. If we could enough to make good his point with-, ever hope to see such another Journal, our serving himself against the preju- it would be the work of a well-regudices of anv body; and those of the lated society, under the direction of a Compte d'Estrades, whose dispatches man of superior abilities. Whoever are so elegantly and so sensibly writ- shall establish such a one, will do an • ten, are true models for imitation. In- essential service to science and literadeed, it is better for an ambassador to ture. imitate no body, but to make a style I have a pretty large library, but it for himself, suitable to the character is composed solely of books for use: it he has to maintain, to the spirit of is a luxury, blameable in some degree, the court he comes from, and to that to have more books than one can read of the court he is sent to. He should or consult; yet it is the most elegant, . beware of affecting wit in his dispatch- the nobleft, and consequently the most es, but be particularly careful to ex- excuseable of all luxuries. I acknowplain occurrences to his court with ledge, that if I were to indulge in any, clearness and precision. As to the it would be in this. It is not easy to memorials presented to the court he imagine of what use books can be ta treats with, there are sometimes rea- others which we do nct use ourselves, sons for drawing them up with stu- and it is absurd and ridiculous to vadied obscurity and reserve.,
lue ourselves on such as have no other But I am wandering from my pur- merit but their being rare. Those pose. I meant to observe, that knows that are valuable merely because they scdge of the world is preferable to are the beft editions, or magnificently Icarning, in an author that would bound, form another species of luxa please as well as inform. To this St ury; but this is pardonable in people Evremont and Fontenelle owed their who are rich enough to buy a good success. The last acknowledged to book, though it may be a gaudy one; me the other day, that he had given otherwise they would resemble the over reading. " It is long since I man who spent so much money on have compleated my stock, said he, frames, that he had nothing left to and now I am disposing of iny goods.” buy pictures for them. But to arrive at this point, three When a library is small, we should things are necessary ; we must study know by the books that compose it and read with method and judgment, the disposition of the proprietor ; it we must have a good memory, and would be ridiculous to find in that of we must have talents joined with a a magistrate, nothing but poetry and knowledge of the world. We have romances ; or in that of a soldier, no VOL, VI. No 35.