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• It is said that his physiognomy has an ironical and malignant cast: it is true that the ludicrous forcibly strikes him, and as he perhaps has some facility in seizing it, it may be that the impression which it makes on his mind is expressed in his countenance.'-- His corversation is very unequal, sometimes serious, and sometimes gay, according to the state of his mind; he is often little on his guard, but is never tiresome' nor pedantic. It is obvious at first sight that he has devoted the greater part of his life to profound studies: but he at times shews a gaiety which is even childish ; and this contrast be. tween schoolboy behaviour, and the reputation which he has attained in the sciences, causes him to please generally, without any effort on his part. He seldom disputes, and never with eagerness ; not because he is not wedded, at least in some cases, to his own ideas, but because he feels too little desire of gaining an ascendancy over others, to take any pains for converting them to his opinion. Besides, with the exception of the exact sciences, he thinks that nothing is so clear and decisive, as not to leave room for difference of sentiment; and his favourite maxim is, “ that almost in every thing, men may say what they chuse."
In appreciating his intellectual claims, he describes distinct. ness of conception and soundness of judgment as the characteristics of his mind :
· Living,' he continues, in retirement, and employed in study till he had passed the age of twenty-five, he entered the world not till late, and never pleased much in it; he could never bend to learn its usages and its language, and he perhaps indulges a sort of vanity which leads him to despise them : nevertheless, he is not unpolished, because he is never gross or rude ; though he is sometimes uncivil through ignorance or inattention. The compliments which are paid to him embarrass him, because he has not at command the prescribed forms by which they are returned: his conversation has neither gal. lantry nor grace; and when he says obliging things, it is because they accord with his real sentiments, and are addressed to those whom he loves. The genuine basis of his character consists in an honesty and an openness which are sometimes blunt, but never rude.
• Impatient and choleric even to violence, that which opposes and thwarts him makes on him the most lively inipression: but his wrath disappears as soon it is expressed: in truth, he is very gentle, and easily governed, provided that the design is kept out of his sight; for his love of independence extends to fanaticism, and goes so far as to make him refuse that which is agreeable to him, when it is in any way connected with constraint ;-a disposition which made one of his friends say that he was a slave to liberty,
Some persons impute malignity to him, because he amuses hiinself at the expence of silly pretenders who fatigue him ; and if this be malignity, it is the sole species of it with which he is chargeable. It would drive him to despair to render any one miserable, even among those who have sought to injure him. He is not insensible to offences,
but he only avenges himself by refusing his friendship and his confi. dence to those against whom he has cause of complaint.
• Without family or connections of any kind, left to himself from his tender years, habituated to a confined and obscure mode of life, born as it were for himelf alone, with some talent and little passion, he found in study and in his natural gaiety sufficient resources; he saised himself to consideration in the world without the assistance of any one, and even without any great exertions on his own part.
• No man was ever less jealous of the talents and success of others, or more readily applauded them if they were unaccompanied by trick or presumption : where he discovers auglit of this sort, he is severe, caustic, and perhaps unjust.'
The philosopher denies that his vanity was so excessive as it was represented : for a moment, he admits, it is very much alive to blame or praise : but he asserts that in the second in. stant his mind recovers its balance, and views eulogiums with indifference and satire with contempt.
Though he is unquestionably to be placed in the first rank of mathematicians, he here makes a claim to exquisite sensibility. • His soul,' he tells us, • loved to lay it itself open to every tender sentiment; at one and the same time all gaiety, and yet ever disposed to melancholy, he finally became wholly resigned to this latter feeling; which inclination to self affliction disposed him in favour of the gloomy and the pathetic.'
• With such a disposition, (he observes) we are not to be surprized if in his youth he was devoted to the most vivid, tender, and delicious of the passions, though distraction and solitude kept him for a while ignorant of it. The sentiment was asleep, if we may so express it, at the bottom of the soul, but when roused it became terrible; love was the source only of misery to him; and the mortifications which it occasioned gave him for a long time a disgust to men, and even to study itself. After having employed his earlier years in research and meditation, he discovered, like the wise man, the vanity of human knowlege, and seemed to adopt the sentiment expressed in the Aminta of Tasso, that all the time not spent in love was lost.'
We suppose that to many of our readers, to whom the name and character of the philosopher are familiar, this trait willexcite. surprize. Can it be that this is said, and truly said of himself by one of the first mathematicians of his age ? Yes, the statement is completely verified by his private history. It appears that for a series of years this distinguished person was the lover, and during several of them, the ill-t: eated lover of a Mademoiselle d'Espinasse, a woman of talents; first the humble friend of the well known Madame Du Deffant, then discarded by her through jealousy, and, in consequence of that ill usage, placed at the head of a very interesting coterie, of which D'ALEMBERT
made one. It does not appear at what period his passion for this lady became of the tender kind ; that at first it met with a due return is to be collected : but the regards of the fair seem to have been very capricious, and to have been attracted by different persons.
Although he lived in the same house with the object of his passion, the innocence of the parties was never questioned. The lady is said to have possessed an ardent mind, and a romantic fancy. Though not handsome, she excelled in all the arts of pleasing, and she cherished hopes of engaging the affections of some of the persons of rank who frequented her circle. The celebrated Guibert, who united to a military character the talent of writing, was at one time the object of her partiality: but to him succeeded a young Spanish Marquis, of high birth. Whether it was owing to love or enthusiasm, it is certain that this noble youth became seriously attached to her; and the intelligence induced his family to hasten his return, in order to marry him in his own country. This roving disposition of the fair had no effect on the regard of pauvre D'ALEMBERT: he was still her faithful swain, though we are told that he experienced not only neglect, but was exposed to unpleasant effects arising from the ill humour of the disappointed damsel. Of the fetters in which the philosopher was held, we may judge when we are informed that he was her messenger to the post-office, and the bearer of the letters of her lover, which he was required to deliver to her when she rose in the morning.
Some time after his return to Spain, the young grandee fell dangerously ill, and medical advice was everywhere sought. At the instigation of the enamoured fair, D’ALÉMBERT was obliged to induce a Parisian physician to certify that the air of France was necessary to the recovery of the noble patient ; who accordingly set out for Paris, tut died on the jour. ney; and Mademoiselle D'Espinasse did not long survive this shock. Unkindly as he had been treated by her, the philosopher was inconsolable for her loss, and bemoaned the solitude in which he found himself. It was vain to remind him of the change in his mistress. “ Yes," replied he,"she was changed, bat I was not; she lived no longer for me, but I always lived for her. Since she has ceased to be, I know not why I desire to exist. Who will now sooth my bitter moments ? what now remains to me, when I return home? I find only her shadow. Home to me exhibits all the horrors of a tomb !"
Let the reader reflect on the hard offices which his mistress assigned to D'ALEMBERT, and on the state of his mind when death had severed them; and let him recollect that this person was at the head of the philosophers of the age ! Hie will then
be tempted to exclaim, “ Alas, how little docs philosophy improve the condition of human life!"-While in this account the dignity and force of philosophy appear to disadvantage, it is impossible to exhibit in a stronger light the paramouut authority of the sex in France. The various memoirs of this celebrated person, which are prefixed to this edition of part of his works, have great value, as they describe the manners of the latter years of the French monarchy, and give an insight into the maxims and temper of that philosophical sect in which D'ALEMBERT was a leader. In this view, they form very interesting documents for history.
The present collection contains the celebrated preliminary discourse to the Encyclopedie ; the Essay on Men of Letters; The Memoirs of Queen Christina ; a Translation of select parts of Tacitus ; Elements of Philosophy, and Dissertations on various subjects, -eloquence, poetry, the latinity of modern dialects, &c.; Apology for Study; Elements of Music; The Destruction of the Jesuits; and a great number of Eulogies.
Whatever grounds might exist for suspicion, no positive proofs of the infidelity of D'ALEMBERT had been given till the appearance of his letters, which were published after his death. It has been observed that his works furnish no direct evidence of this nature ; and in some of them he speaks with much feeling of the beauties of certain parts of scripture, while he renders great justice to the celebrated preachers of the court of Louis XIV. La Harpe admits that he has not found a line in them expressive of hostility to religion ; but that in some parts of his eulogies he mentions it with respect, and even with an appearance of being impressed by it. When La Harpe's conversion had abated much of his enthusiasm in favour of this philosopher, he thus speaks of his grand literary atchievement:
“ It was perhaps the union of a genius for science with the talent of writing, which rendered the preliminary discourse to the Ency: clopedie so distinguishing, and which called forth the very unusal praise that was bestowed on that fine composition. It may be regarded as the vestibule of science, and it is regular and noble; it is constructed with a firm and steady hand, all its proportions are just , and all its ornaments are select. This discourse alone would suffice to secure to its author the first reputation as a man of letters. It indicates a sound and comprehensive mind, just taste, and a pure style.
“ The Elements of Philosophy," continues the same author, “ are inferior to the Discourse, on account of the disproportion of the obects treated: but they bespcak a judicious mind and an elegant pen. Similar praise belongs to the greater part of the culogies. "His Memoirs of Christina, and his Essay on Men of Letters, are eminently ingenious. His translations of Tacitus, if they do not preserve the 7
force of the original, retain its beauty; and this essay will always be of great utility to those who employ themselves on translation. All these pieces are valuable additions to literature."
A pillar of the new Gallican church, M. Coëstlosquet, Bishop of Limoges, bears the following testimony to the philosopher : * I did not know his person, but I have always heard that his manners were simple, and his conduct without reproach. With regard to his works, I read them frequently, and I find in them much of talent, a great portion of illumination, and sound morality. If he did not think so well as he wrote, it was his misfortune: no person has a right to interrogate his conscience." -In this honorable judgment of the French prelate, every liberal mind will join. Those who know D'ALEMBERT only from his posthumous letters will naturally entertain a strong prejudice against his works: but they may be assured that between his productions during his life, and those which were made public since his death, the greatest difference prevails ; and that, while they are justly shocked by the latter, they will find that many of the former possess high and distinguished merit,
Arr. V. De l'Influence de la Nuit, &c.; i. e. On the Influence of
Night over Diseased Persons. A Collection of Memoirs which have obtained Prizes from the Medical Society at Brussels, in answer to the following Questions proposed by the Society; does the Night possess any Influence over Persons who are ill? Are there Discases in wbich this Influence is more or less apparent? What is the Physical Cause of this Influence ? Published by order of the Society. 8vo. pp. 400.
Brussels. 1806. Imported by Dę Boffe. Price 8s. IN n a preliminary discourse, delivered by M. Fournier, secre
tary to the society, we are informed that the prize originally proposed on this occasion was a gold medal, of the value of 200 francs, embellished with the portraits of Lomius, Palfinus, and Vesalius :. but the society thought that it would be more flat. tering to the conqueror, to substitute for these the effigies of the great Napoleon, the model of heroes, the terror of his enemies, the restorer of empires, and the protector of the sciences and the arts.' The number of candidates was fourteen ; and though the judges were unanimous in the decision of the prize, they perceived so much merit in five of the rejected papers, that they resolved to reward these by decreeing to them two secondary and three accessory prizes. The six memoirs are all printed in the volume before us, and we have perused them not without interest; for although we do not think that any one App. Rey. VOL. LII.