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It suits perfectly well with an idle solitary mariner, lying at length in his vessel at rest on one of these canals, waiting for his company, or for a fare, the tiresomeness of which situation is somewhat alleviated by the songs and poetical stories he has in memory. He often raises his voice as loud as he can, which extends itself to a vast distance over the tranquil mirror, and as all is still around, he is as it were in a solitude in the midst of a large and populous town.
Here is no rattling of carriages, no noise of foot passengers: a silent gondola glides now and then by him, of which the splashing of the oars are scarcely to be heard.
At a distance he hears another, perhaps utterly unknown to him. Melody and verse immediately attach the two strangers ; he becomes the responsive echo to the former, and exerts himself to be heard as he had heard the other. By a tacit convention they alternate verse for verse; though the song should last the whole night through, they entertain themselves without fatigue; the hearers, who are passing between the two, take part in the amusement.
This vocal performance sounds best at a great distance, and is then inexpressibly charming, as it only fulfils its design in the sentiment of remote
It is plaintive but not dismal in its sound, and at times it is scarcely possible to refrain from
tears. My companion, who otherwise was not a very delicately organized person, said quite unexpectedly: e singolare come quel canto intenerisce, e molto più quando lo cantano meglio.
I was told that the women of Libo, the long row of islands that divides the Adriatic from the Lagouns, particularly the women of the extreme districts of Malamocca and Palestrina, sing in like manner the works of Tasso to these and similar tunes.
They have the custom, when their husbands are fishing out at sea, to sit along the shore in the evenings and vociferate these songs, and continue to do so with great violence, till each of them can distinguish the responses of her own husband at a distance.
How much more delightful and more appropriate does this song shew itself here, than the call of a solitary person uttered far and wide, till another equally disposed shall hear and answer him! It is the expression of a vehement and hearty longing, which yet is
every moment nearer to the happiness of satisfaction.
Few philosophers were more deserving of the title than BAYLE. His last hour exhibits the Socratic intrepidity with which he encountered the formidable approach of death. On the evening preceding his decease, he wrote till midnight. In the morning when the printer came for a proof, he still retained sufficient presence of mind to point to where it laid ; yet then was death fixed on his countenance, and his throat rattled: his dissolution was rapidly taking place. The af frighted printer ran out for assistance; no servant was found; and when at length they came to the bed of Bayle, the philosopher was no more!
The irritability of genius is forcibly characterised by this circumstance in his literary life. When a close friendship had united him to Jurieu, he lavished on him the most flattering eulogiums. He was the hero of his “ Republic of Letters.” Enmity succeeded to friendship; Jurieu is then continually quoted in his “ Critical Dictionary,” whenever an occasion offers to give instances of gross blunders, palpable contradictions, and inconclusive arguments. This inequality of sentiment and inconsistent malignity may be sanctioned by the similar conduct of a Saint! Racine tells us, that St. Jerome praised Rufinus as the most learned man of his age, while his friend but when the same Rufinus joined his adversary Origen, he called him one of the most ignorant !
As a logician he had no superior; the best logician will, however, frequently deceive himself. Bayle (observes D'Artigny) made long and close arguments to shew that La Motte le Vayer never
could have been a preceptor to the king. But all his reasonings are overturned by the fact being given in the history of the Academy, by Pelisson.
Basnage said of Bayle, that he read much by his fingers. He meant that he ran over a book more than he read it; and that he had the art of always falling upon that which was most essential and curious in the book he examined.
There are heavy hours in which the mind of a man of letters is unhinged; when the intellectual faculties lose all their elasticity, and when nothing but the simplest actions are adapted to their enfeebled state. At such hours it is recorded of the Jewish Socrates, Moses Mendelsohn, that he would stand at his window, and count the tiles of his neighbour's house. An anonymous writer has told of Bayle, that he would frequently wrap himself in his cloak, and hasten to places where mountebanks resorted; and that this was one of his chief amusements. He is surprized that so great a philosopher should delight in so trifling an object. This observation is not injurious to the character of Bayle, it only proves that the writer himself was no philosopher.
The Monthly Reviewer, in noticing this article, has continued the speculation, by giving two interesting anecdotes. He writes, “The observation concerning heavy hours,' and the want of elasticity in the intellectual faculties of men of
letters, when the mind is fatigued, and the attention blunted by incessant labour, reminds us of what is related by persons who were acquainted with the late sagacious magistrate Sir John Fielding; who, when fatigued with attending to complicated cases, and perplexed with discordant depositions, used to retire to a little closet in a remote and tranquil part of the house,' to rest his mental
powers, and sharpen perception. He told a great physician now living, who complained of the distance of places, as caused by the great extension of London, that he (the physician) would not have been able to visit so many patients to any purpose, if they had resided nearer to each other; as he could have had no time either to think, or to rest his mind.”
In the short journal of Bayle's Life preserved by Maiseaux, I observe this curious entry. “ 1669. March 10, I changed my religion. Next day I resumed the study of Logic”—Should he not have completed his courseof Logic before he changed his religion?
Our excellent logician was, little accustomed to polished society; his life was passed in laborious studies. He had so much simplicity in his nature, that he would speak on anatomical subjects before the ladies with as much freedom as before surgeons. When they inclined their eyes to the ground, and while some even blushed, he would then inquire if what he spoke was indecent; and when they told