Изображения страниц

declined more and more, he thought of an expedient which had been formerly often resorted to in Virginia, that of disposing of his estate by lottery, by which his fellow-citizens might afford him relief, if they were so inclined, in a way the least disagreeable to their feelings or his own. He accordingly obtained the sanction of the legislature, but death intervened before the plan was carried into effect.

In a letter to Mr. Madison, a short time before his death, le gives a history of his embarrassments, and concludes with this interesting appeal to that friend of many years.

“But why afflict you with these details ? 'Indeed, I cannot tell, un less pains are lessened by communications with a friend. The friendship which has existed between us, now half a century, and the harmony of our political principles and pursuits, have been sources of constant happiness to me through that long period ; and if I remove beyond the reach of attention to the University, or beyond the bourne of life itself, as I soon must, it is a comfort to leave that institution under your control, and an assurance that it will not be wanting. It has also been a great solace to me to believe, that you are engaged in vindicating to posterity the course we have pursued, in preserving to them, in all their purity, the blessings of self-government, which we had assisted too. in acquiring for them If ever the earth has beheld a system of administration, conducted with a single and steadfast eye to the general interest and happiness of those committed to it, one which, protected by truth can never know reproach, it is that to which our lives have been devoted. To myself, you have been a pillar of support through life-take care of me when dead, and be assured I shall leave with you my last affections."

That friend will surely not be unmindful of this last request, s to take care of him when dead;" but if he should be arrested by fate in the discharge of this just and pious office, posterity will surely supply the loss. They will do justice to his virtues, his talents and his services. We shall not attempt to draw a character of this illustrious man. A mere outline of one so well known, would be superfluous; and this is not the place or the time for the shades and touches of a finished picture. We may, however, say, that he was one of that class of men, who, by reason of their moral and intellectual qualities and the circumstances in which they are placed, are inseparably linked with the destinies of their country, and by the impetus of whose character, that country is advanced or retarded in its onward march, or deflected from the course it would otherwise take ; and we think there are few of his contemporaries who have exerted this influence to a greater extent, or whose opinions will unite more suffrages in their favour than those of THOMAS JEFFERSON.

ART V.-Euvres Completes de Paul Louis Courier. 4 vols. Svo.

Bruxelles. 1828.

A SOLDIER, during his campaigns, studying and editing Greek authors, and a vine-dresser, while attending to his wine-presses, exposing effectively with his pen the encroachments of church and state, are characters which, separately, excite our surprise and curiosity, but still more when, as in the case of Courier, they are united in the same individual. There was much in other respects to mark him as an extraordinary man, whether in society we view his purity of principles and noble bearing, or in politics his reckless independence amid varying factions, under the Republic, Napoleon and the Bourbons.

leon and the Bourbons. The reputation he acquired was totally independent of extrinsic circumstances. He was not puffed into vogue by the periodical press; he lived remote from the metropolis, with few acquaintances and fewer intimates; he belonged to no party, he possessed neither wealth, office nor rank.

Paul Louis Courier de Mery, as he was baptized, was born at Paris, 1773. He always refused to bear the name of Mery, which was that of his paternal estate, lest it should be suspected that his blood was tainted with nobility. His contempt for titles, did not, as with many others, pass away with the Republic; but during all the changes of government, his language is consistent. “Born among the people,” says he, late in life, “ I have remained there through choice. It depended only on myself, 'to quit my class, like many others, who, thinking to ennoble, have, in fact, degraded themselves. When it shall be neces. sary to choose, according to the law of Solon, I will be of the party of the people-of the peasants, like myself."'*

The father of Courier was a man of talent and learning, and with no other master, the son learnt Greek at the age of fifteen, in the family mansion in Touraine. Being intended for the engineer corps, he was sent to Paris for the purpose of studying mathematics; his teachers there, were, successively, Callet and Labey, both authors of reputation. He also prosecuted his Greek studies, for which he now evinced a strong predilection, under Vauvilliers, well-known as a classical scholar. Now,' writes he to his father, “ I sacrifice every thing to my principal • design, but I do not on that account totally renounce the Greek and Latin poets; it is an effort of which my virtue is not


* Réponse aux Anonymes.---Euv. vol. ii. p. 50.

[ocr errors]

capable; on the other hand, the less I devote myself to this • study, the more pleasure I enjoy as often as I am permitted to 'quit for a moment the rocks of Euclid (silvestribus horrida dumis) to descend into plains sprinkled with flowers and intersected with streamlets.”+

Labey having been afterwards appointed Professor in the military school at Chalons, his pupil followed him thither. But the classics had so completely won the affections of Courier, that he certainly displayed no great application in any thing else, although he acquired a good knowledge of mathematics. The restraint too of a military institution, was little suited to one of his independent disposition, and who had never known restraint at home. Hence he often forgot the hour of locking the gates, and had to enter by scaling the walls.

June 1, 1793, he left the school with the rank of sub-lieutenant of artillery, and soon after joined his company, then in garrison at Thionville. Ambition, new scenes and new companions could not divert him a moment from his favourite pursuits. We see in bis correspondence with his parents, an officer of twenty-one, anxious for private lodgings in order to study with more tranquillity, and complaining of the interruptions from acquaint

Some of those letters to his mother, are every way characteristic of him. In one, after requesting her to send him the works of Belidor on Engineering and Artillery, he continues


“Hunt among my books for two volumes in octavo, that is, of the shape of the Royal Almanack, in green boards; one is all full of Greek, and the other of Latin. It is a Demosthenes you must send me with my other books. These two volumes are both large enough and dirty enough too. My books are my happiness, and almost my only society. I never feel weariness but when I am forced to quit them, and always revisit them with pleasure. Especially, I love to reperuse those which I have already perused a number of times, and by that I acquire an erudition less extensive, but more solid. In truth, I shall never have a great acquaintance with history, which requires far more study, but I shall gain something else, which I have no desire of explaining to you; for I shall never finish if I give way to an indescribable tendency which leads me to speak of iny studies. I should add, however, that one thing is wanting to all this, which is almost enough to destroy the pleasure I take in such pursuits. I mean the tranquil life I lead with you. Female small talk, follies of youth, what are you in comparison ? I can speak on this subject-I, who knowing both, have, in my moments of sadness, never felt the want of any thing but the smiles of my parents, to use the expression o a poet.” Vol. iv.

p. 17.

Euvres, vol. iv. p. 11.

In another letter, he complains that he had been drawn into society, and that his precious time is lost, but that in spite of a round of visiting, he was become habitually melancholy.

“ I see,” adds he, “ that I must at last resume my former manner of living, which is the only one that suits me; but alas ! even in that, it is impossible for me to follow the tastes which nature has given, and which circumstances, study and conversation have, to my misfortune, strengthened. However, I hope, in the end, to have greater facilities for giving myself up to them; and, I believe, that the next winter will be entirely at my disposal. I shall then take good cure to make acquaintances of no kind, a rule which I intend to observe, rigorously, for the future, in whatever country I shall find myself. My father views, as badly employed, the time I give to the dead languages, but I confess I do not think so. If, in this, I should have no other end than my own satisfaction, it is an important point in my calculations; and I do not consider as lost in my life, any but the time which I cannot enjoy without either repentance for the past, or fear for the future If I can place myself beyond the reach of poverty, it is all I need; the remainder of my time shall be employed in gratifying a taste that none can blame, and that offers me pleasures ever new. I know very well that the majority of mankind think otherwise, but it seems to me that their calculation is incorrect ; for most confess that their life is not happy. My philosophy will, perhaps, make you smile, but I am persuaded you will regard all that I have written, as my true sentiments, conformably to which, the practice of my life shall be regulated.” --Vol. iv. p. 22.

Courier, in the spring of 1794, joined the army of the Moselle, and saw, for the first time the pomp and circumstance' of war. After the occupation of Treves, he was ordered to organize a work shop, for the repairing of arms, and for this purpose, took possession of a large monastery, deserted by the monks. For his own lodgings, he appropriated to himself the apartments of the father abbot, who had tried to render his sojourn in this vale of tears as pleasant as possible, by furnishing his earthly tabernacle with every thing that comfort or luxury could ask. Great care was taken by Courier, that no depredation should be committed by the soldiery, and that every thing should be restored to its original condition.

While at Mayence, in 1795, he was appointed Captain. Receiving there the news of his father's death, he was so overwhelmed with grief, that forgetting every thing but his bereaved mother, he hastened to join her in Touraine, without thinking one moment of a furlough. It afterwards required all the exertions of his friends in Paris, to smooth over this flagrant breach of military discipline. He was next stationed in the

South of France, and lived for some time at Toulouse. That city was an incessant'scene of gayety, and Courier, all unskilled,

“ In the smooth dance, to move with graceful mein,”

had daily cause to lament his early inattention to that art. At various times he had taken masters, who found in him all the qualifications necessary for complete success in the poetry of motion-save patience. He now laboured with such assiduity, that he was soon not only able to 'trip it on the light fantastic toe with good approbation, but to give lessons. Among his pupils, were some ladies. While toiling amain to shew them steps and figures, unfortunately he taught one fair élève some graceless steps, not needed in fashionable figures, that rendered it necessary for our young officer to make an early retreat, one morning, without drum or trumpet. Pleasure, however, did not interrupt his more serious avocations. He made a particular study of Cicero, but without neglecting his Greek in the mean. while. His literary labours were partaken by a M. Chlewaski, a learned Pole, with whom he afterwards kept up a correspondence.

During a short period, Courier was in Brittany, with what was called the Army of England, but in 1798, he was ordered to Italy—the very land of his choice. In his very first letter from Rome, we find him comfortably domiciliated in the Vatican, tumbling over MSS. and decyphering inscriptions. We may here remark, by the way, that throughout his military career, as soon as he arrived in a city, he immediately installed himself in the libraries, where he always continued, without leave or license, so long as his troops were not engaged in fighting In his letters, he laments the rapid disappearance of the monuments of antiquity from Italy, from wanton outrage, and the cupidity of both French and Italians. After advising his friends to hasten to Rome, if they wished to see it before its disappearance, he says, "Every thing that was at the Chartreux, at

the Villa Albani, among the Farnese, the Honesti, at the Muse“um Clementi, at the Capitol, is carried off, pillaged, lost or sold. The English have their part, and the French Commissioners suspected of this commerce, have been arrested; but the matter · will end here. Some soldiers who entered the Vatican Libra'ry, destroyed, among other rarities, the famous Terence of Bembo, one of the most valuable manuscripts, in order to have some of the gilding that ornamented it. The Venus of the Villa Borghese has been wounded in the hand by some of the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »