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AN HEROIC WOMAN.
When first an infant draws the vital air,
I KNOW not, whether Madam de Villacerfe's depar ture out of this life, a man of philosophy will call unfortunate or not, since it was attended with some circumstances as much to be desired as to be lamented. She was her whole life happy in an uninterrupted health, and was always honoured for an evenness of temper and greatness of mind. That lady was taken with an indisposition which confined her to her chamber; but was such as was too slight to make ber take a sick bed, and yet too grievous to admit of any satisfaction in being out of it. It is notoriously known, that, some years ago, Monsieur Festeau, one of the most considerable surgeons in Paris, was desperately in love with this lady: her. quality placed her above any application to her on the account of his passion; but, as a woman always has some regard to the person whom she believes to be her real admirer, she now took it in her head (upon advice of her physicians to lose some of her blood) to send for Monsieur Festeau on that occasion. I happened to be there at that time, and my near relation gave me the privilege to be present. As soon as her arm was stripped bare, and he began to press it in order to raise the vein, his colour changed, and I observed him seized with a sudden tremor, which made me take the liberty to speak of it to my cousin with some apprehension; she smiled,
and said, she knew Mr. Testeau had no inclination to do her injury. He seemed to recover himself, and, smiling also, proceeded in his work. Immediately after the operation he cried out, that he was the most unfortunate of all men, for that he had opened an artery instead of a vein. It is as impossible to express the artist's distraction as the patient's composure. I will not dwell on little circumstances, but go on to inform you, that within three days time it was thought She was so far from necessary to take off her arm. using Festeau as it would be natural to one of a lower spirit to treat him, that she would not let him be absent from any consultation about her present condition, and on every occasion asked whether he was satisfied in the measures that were taken about her. Before this last operation she ordered her will to be drawn, and, after having been about a quarter of an hour alone, she bid the surgeons, of whom poor Festeau was one, go on in their work. I know not how to give the terms of art; but there appeared such symptoms after the amputation of her arm, that it was visible she could not live four-and-twenty hours. Her behaviour was so magnanimous throughout this whole affair, that I was particularly curious in taking notice of what passed, as her fate approached nearer and nearer, and took notes of what she said to all about her, particularly word for word what she spoke to Mr. Festeau, which was as follows:
A "Sir, you give me inexpressible sorrow for the anguish with which I see you overwhelmed. I am removed to all intents and purposes from the interests of human life, therefore I am to begin to think like one wholly unconcerned in it. I do not consider you as one by whose error I have lost my life; no, you are my benefactor, as you have hastened my entrance into an happy immortality. This is my sense of this accident; but the world in which you live may have thoughts of it to your disadvantage: I have therefore taken care to provide for you in my will, and have
placed you above what you have to fear from their illnature."
While this excellent woman spoke these words, Festeau looked as if he received a condemnation to die, instead of a pension for his life. Madam de Vil. lacerfe lived till eight of the clock next night; and, though she must have laboured under the most exqui site torments, she possessed her mind with so wonderful a patience, that one may rather say she ceased to breathe than she died at that hour. You who had not the happiness to be personally known to this lady have nothing but to rejoice in the honour you had of being related to so great merit; but we who have lost her conversation cannot so easily resign our own happiness by reflection upon hers.
There hardly can be a greater instance of an heroic mind, than the unprejudiced manner in which this lady weighed this misfortune. The regard of life itself could not make her overlook the contrition of the unhappy man, whose more than ordinary concern for her was all his guilt. It would certainly be of singu lar use to human society to have an exact account of this lady's ordinary conduct, which was crowned by so uncommon magnanimity. Such greatness was not to be acquired in the last article, nor is it to be doubted but it was a constant practice of all that is praiseworthy, which made her capable of beholding death, not as the dissolution, but the consummation of her life. T.
-Præsens, absens ut sies.
is a hard and nice subject for a man to speak of himself," says Cowley; " it grates his own heart to say any thing of disparagement, and the reader's ears to hear any thing of praise from him." Let the tenour of his discourse be what it will upon this subject, it generally proceeds from vanity. An ostentatious man will rather relate a blunder or an absurdity he has committed, than be debarred of talking of his own dear person.
Some very great writers have been guilty of this fault. It is observed of Tully in particular, that his works run very much in the first person, and that he takes all occasions of doing himself justice. "Does he think," says Brutus, "that his consulship deserves more applause than my putting Cæsar to death, be cause I am not perpetually talking of the Ides of March, as he is of the Nones of December?" I need not acquaint my learned reader, that in the Ides of March, Brutus destroyed Cæsar, and that Cicero quashed the conspiracy of Catiline in the Calends of December. How shocking soever this great man's talking of himself might have been to his contempo. raries, I must confess I am never better pleased than when he is on this subject. Such openings of the heart give a man a thorough insight into his personal character, and illustrate several passages in the history of his life: besides that, there is some little pleasure in discovering the infirmity of a great man, and seeing how the opinion he has of himself agrees with what the world entertains of him.
The gentlemen of Port Royal, who were more eminent for their learning and for their humility than
any other in France, banished the way of speaking in the first person out of all their works, as rising from vain-glory and self conceit. To show their particular aversion to it, they branded this form of writing with the name of an egotism; a figure not to be found among the ancient rhetoricians.
The most violent egotism which I have met with in the course of my reading, is that of Cardinal Wolsey, Ego et rex meus, "I and my king," as perhaps the most eminent egotist that ever appeared in the world, was Montaigne, the author of the celebrated essays. This lively old Gascon has woven all his bodily infir mities into his works, and after having spoken of the faults or virtues of any other men, immediately pub lishes to the world how it stands with himself in that particular. Had he kept his own counsel, he might have passed for a much better man, though perhaps he would not have been so diverting an author. The title of an essay promises perhaps a discourse upon Virgil or Julius Cæsar; but when you look into it, you are sure to meet with more upon Monsieur Mon. taigne, than of either of them. The younger Scaliger, who seems to have been no great friend to this author, after having acquainted the world that his father sold berrings, adds these words; La grand fadaise de Montaigne, qui a ecrit qu'il aimoit mieux le vin blanc-que diable a-t-on a faire de scavoir ce qu'il aime?"For my part," says Montaigne, "I am a great lover of your white wines."-" What the devil signifies it to the public," says Scaliger, "whether he is a lover of white wines, or of red wines?"
I cannot here forbear mentioning a tribe of egotists for whom I have always had a mortal aversion, I mean the authors of memoirs, who are never men. tioned in any works but their own, and who raise all their productions out of this single figure of speech.
Most of our modern prefaces favour very strongly of the egotism. Every insignificant author fancies it of importance to the world, to know that he writ his