ePub 版

China, planted at Beaugensier, and from thence propagated.” It was he who first cultivated in France “ the gourd of Mecca, or silk plant, because it bears plenty of threads not unlike silk, fit to weave into stuffs." He planted cocoa-trees, “and saw them bud, but whether through the coldness of the air, or because they were not well looked to, they came not to that perfection which he desired.” We next learn that “ginger did wax green in his garden.”

“ I say nothing (we quote Gassendus) of the broad-leaved myrtle, with the full flower of the storax, and lentisc-tree which yields mastic ; and other plants mentioned before. Much less shall I speak of the great American jessamine, with the crimson-coloured flower; nor of the Persian with a violet-coloured flower; nor of the Arabian with a full flower; of the orange-trees, with a red and parti-coloured flower ; of the medlar and sour cherry without stones ; Adam's fig-tree, which Peireskius conceived to be one of those which the spies brought back that went to view the land of Canaan; the rare vines which he had from Tunis, Smyrna, Sidon, Damascus, Nova Francia, and other places."

There have been volumes enough, and too many, recording the guilt and madness of conquerors, whose lives were a curse to the bleeding world.—The kind, gentle, enlightened benefactor of his race, who silently makes his foreign conquests grow and blossom in our gardens—who carries away the jessamine captive, and clothes our walks with its beauty, and scents our colder air with its sweetness; who gives to the poor the cheap and lasting luxury of flowers-deserves a grateful memory among men, a memory growing and spreading with his gifts. The victories of the Cæsars are recorded by a few medals, shut up in the cabinets of museums, in the drawers of the virtuoso; the glories of men like Peiresc are still green among us-still glitter with the dews of the morningstill, with their constant sweetness,“ scent the evening gale.” Nor must we fail to record that the benevolent labours of Peiresc were continued, whilst he suffered acutest tortures from a disease which at last exhausted him. In the Easter of 1631, he was “ sitting without his door, at the entrance of his garden,” struck with a sudden palsy, which deprived him of motion and speech. This he suffered for a whole week, when body singing curiously an hymne of the Lives of the Lily and the Rose, he was so taken with the sweetness of the song, and the elegancy of some strain or other, that like the son of Cræsus, desiring to utter some words, and particularly these “how excellent is this !' he forthwith uttered them, and at that very moment his limbs were all freed from the palsy.” In this year, an extraordinary foreigner arrived at Toulonno other than an elephant lately exhibited at Rome. Peiresc caused the stranger to be led to Beaugensier, where he took a cast of his grinders in wax, and had him painted in a lying posture, “ that his joints might be seen,” to the confusion, we presume, of the sceptics, who denied any such advantages to the quadruped. In 1633, Peiresc entertained" the famous poet Santamantius” at Beaugensier, who had a brother, a traveller, who had seen in Java “live-wights, of a middle nature between men and apes ;" whereupon, Peiresc quotes the authority of another traveller, a personal friend and a physician, who had seen in Guinea “ apes with long, gray, combed beards, almost venerable, who stalk an alderman's pace, and take themselves to be very wise." Our readers may have possibly beheld animals of this species.

[ocr errors]



In 1634 we find Peiresc studying hard at anatomy, which he follows with a degree of enthusiasm, perhaps not altogether justifiable to the non-professional reader. Smitten by the theory of Asellius with respect to the“ milkie veins in the mesentery,” which“ could not be discerned save in a creature living and panting, and that therefore they could not be observed in a man, whom to cut up alive was wickedness, yet did he not therefore despair.To be brief, a poor wretch condemned to be hanged—before sentence was performed -- was by the order of Peiresc “ fed lustily and securely,” and an hour and a half after death was carried to the theatre of anatomy, where the wished discovery was effected.

Peiresc, having suffered intolerable agony for a month before his decease, died in the sixty-fifth year of his age. The account of his sufferings is written by Gassendus with that graphic simplicity which makes the charm of the book, but which, in deference to this over-nice age, we will not venture to copy. The portrait of the philosopher is in the happiest style of the unaffected biographer. “ He was therefore (to begin

with his stature) of a middle and decent pitch, neither too tall, nor over low. The habit of his body was lean, and consequently his veins conspicuous, both in his forehead and hands. His constitution, as it was subject to diseases, so was it none of the strongest; which made him in his latter years to go with a staff. And for the same reason, his members were easily put out of joint; especially his left shoulder, which was three times dislocated. His forehead was large, and apt to be filled with wrinkles, when he admired anything or was in a deep study. His eyes were gray, and apt to be blood-shotten, by the breach of some little vein. He fixed his eyes either upon the ground, when he was seriously discoursing upon any subject, or upon the auditors, when he perceived they were pleased with what he said. He was a little hawk-nosed : his cheeks being tempered with red, the hair of his head yellow, as also his beard, which he used to wear long. His whole countenance carried the appearance of an unwonted and rare courtesy and affability: however, no painter had the happiness to ex: press him such as he was in deed and in truth.”

To our mind this portrait is painted with all the force of life. We see rare old Peireskius; we see the learning and the contemplation of the scholar-in his large forehead, “apt to be filled with wrinkles”tempered and made gracious by the kindliness of nature and the breeding of a gentleman. He is clearly one of Montaigne's men—a fine specimen of the simple, sterling book-men, with stored skulls and gentle hearts. What a capital contrast is Nicholas Fabricius to the literary coxcomb

“Who having writ a prologue with much pains,

Feels himself spent, and fumbles for his brains !" What a relief from the “ pardonnez-mois” of literature-the be-scented and be-lioned petlings, who spoil “ wire-wove” with Babylonish verse and prose-who, drawing their fingers through their raven-locks, swear, “ by Gad!” they've “ writ a d—d fine book," and vote all men vulgar fools who dare gainsay it. To continue from Gassendus :

“Though he was careful that the clothes he wore abroad might not be unsuitable to his dignity, yet he never wore silk. In like manner, the rest of his house he would have adorned according to his condition, and very well furnished, but he did not at all, in a manner, regard his own chamber. Instead of tapestry, there hung the pictures of his chief friends, and of famous men. His bed was exceeding plain, and his table continually loaded and covered with papers, books, letters, and other things; as also all the seats round about, and the greatest part of the floor."

In his gardens at Beaugensier he was a delighted with the pleasant verdure of plants, beauty of Alowers, gentle murmur and purling noise of brooks and water-streams, together with the various songs of little birds,” which, in the winter, we are told, he caused to be fed with corn, forbidding any one to catch or molest them.

“Moreover he preferred the singing of birds before the voices of men or any musical instruments—not but that he was therewith also delighted, but because, after the music that men made, there remained in his mind a continual agitation, drawing his attention and disturbing his sleep; the rising, falling, and holding of the notes, with the change of sounds and concords running to and fro in his fancy; whereas no such thing could remain in the bird's music, which (we dispute the 'because' here advanced], because it is not so apt by us to be imitated, it cannot therefore so much affect and stir our inward faculty. He would also, for the same cause, continually breed up nightingales and such like small birds, which he kept also in his own chamber, and of which he was so careful that he learned, by divers signs and tokens, what they wanted or desired, and presently would see them satisfied. They, therefore, as out of gratitude, would sing unto their benefactor hymns of praise ; and whereas, in his absence, they were for the most part silent, as soon as ever, by his voice or staff, they perceived he was coming, they would fall to singing.”

The above presents us with a charming picture of the kind old scholar amidst his books and manuscripts, his medals, vases, and singing nightingales! There were, however, other inhabitants of the chamber, though we are left unsatisfied as to their conduct towards the minstrels.

“And by reason of mice, which did gnaw his books and papers in his chamber, he became a lover of cats, which he had formerly hated : and whereas, at first, he kept a few for necessity sake, he had, afterwards, a great company for his delight. For he procured out of the East ash-coloured, dun, and speckled cats, beautiful to behold : of the brood whereof he sent to Paris and other places to his friends."

(In this ingenuous avowal of Gassendus there is the germ of a delicious essay. How many a man has become the lover of a cat in some shape -of a cat formerly despised" by reason” of devouring mice !

How many have been brought to endure and love the lesser evil when found to be the only remedy for the greater plague! There was—to quote one instance from a hundred-Jack Spangle, the gay, prodigal Jack Spangle, a fellow shapely and agile as Mercury. He had the loudest laugh, the blackest moustache, and the whitest teeth of any spark of the day. Mrs. Sybil, the rich, withered widow of a scoundrel moneylender looked feloniously upon him-she was determined to become the wife of Jack Spangle. Jack saw and shuddered at her purpose. Oh, how Jack Spangle abominated, loathed, anathematized Mrs. Sybil! In the depth and intensity of his hatred he invented new terms of horror and disgust: it was merriment for his friends to hear him swear at the widow Sybil. Three years passed away, and a former companion met Jack and the widow, man and wife. “The fact is, my dear fellow,” said Jack, stepping forward to his acquaintance—“the fact is, I lost every farthing I had—was flung by creditors into gaol-hadn't a penny to-humph! eh?-1-allow me to introduce you to Mrs. Spangle. Jack was a second “ Lord of Peiresc:" we do not mean to assert that he became a devoted lover of his ancient wife; but she was rich, he was penniless and in prison, and he married her “by reason of the mice.” The “mice” have married many besides Jack and the widow.)

“The Lord of Peiresc" displays, in all his bearings, a finisbed portrait of the scholar and philosopher of the seventeeth century. There is the simplicity, the modesty, the kindliness of a truly great and wellregulated mind. It is to such men-lightly as their labours may be esteemed by a more imaginative generation—that we owe the greatest benefits. They were the collectors of facts to be employed by their successors--the gatherers of materials to be worked up into a thousand shapes of beauty and utility by those who should follow them. In the time of Peiresc, when the hard student-an anchorite amid his books— was considered by the vulgar as little less than liegeman to a magician, if not a necromancer himself—when the large black dog of the scholar was the malus genius of his mysterious and devil-doomed master, our philosopher was peculiarly fortunate in the advantages of birth and means: they afforded him, in station and power, a security and respect among men, not too liberally awarded to the indigent book-man. He was "the lord” of Peiresc, and the patent of the senator gave grace and authority to the investigations of the philosopher.

The purpose of this slight paper has been to beg of the “ general reader” a short pause for the consideration of the lineaments of a gr though almost unregarded, benefactor of letters ; to take him from the candied conceits of these our most refined and delicate times, to the healthful simplicity of earlier days. Not that, with rash, bigoted judgment, we would sneer at the antiquarians of 1837: there are among them wise, profound teachers; men of great discoveries; men who have


the portrait of a genuine flea,

Caught upon Martin Luther long ago;" and will, therefore, walk upon tiptoe to their graves, drawn up by a prodigious sense of their own greatness. Let them have their “

peppercorn of praise ;” and let small lecturers to the weariness of boardingschools, talk their hour of nothings : all we ask is, some passing attention to the early student—the pioneer in the field of letters and of science. Whilst we do not envy, but wonder, at the rich appointments of wellpaid sciolists, let us refresh our memory with a view of our old philosopher in his study, and sometimes let our heart “leap up,” as cheerfully as his own nightingales, at the staff of the “ LORD OF Peiresc.”


[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]


Tired of the Town, the other day, it struck me o' the sudden that there were several ways of getting out of it for a few hours, open to all goers-forth from it, whether on horse-back or foot-back, and that I knew them, and could make essayal of at least one of them—“ one at a time" being a good rule at almost all times. It struck me likewise that I had a tolerable pair of town-made legs that loved strolling and rigmarolling along dusty roads, green lanes, over commons, “thorough wood, thorough briers ”—anywhere, on any ground not paved or macadamized. As they have been good legs to me, and not bad ones to any one else, I made up my mind generously to give them a treat, and allow them “ go out.” No sooner said than done: they took me at my word, got themselves booted in no time, and stood ready to start : I snatched my hat, and placed it, I believe, on my head-seized my trusty walkingstick, and off we went in capital style, keeping close together-as the book-keepers say at Newmarket, “ you might have thrown a blanket over us,"

we were so close--leg and leg ; not that such a warm woollen compliment would have gratified us, for the sun was warming enough. It was really a hot June day--such a day as one would not have looked for at the commencement of the month, when, as Lord Byron says, “the Summer" seemed to threaten to “set in with its usual severity".

'-not of heat, but cold. As one contra-indication of what some false poet calls “the burning month of June” having arrived, I noticed, on the 10th, that the poor summer flies were glad to settle on my pipe, when smoking, to warm their feet, perishing with the cold : I was too niuch a humanist to brush them away, and so—we smoked a pipe together. Yes, it was undeniably a hot day, was June the 28th, A.D. 1837: I am particular in writing down the date, that it may be referred to hereafter by weather-wise persons and chronologists of things remarkable. Some walkers would have said that it was too hot for walking in: we agreed that it was not, and pushed on, at a good pace. Sunshine should never be too hot or too bright for us : for I believe that it is as essential to the health of the blood of men as to that of the juices of plants and fruits ; and that the more we get of it the riper we grow, and the sweeter, and the more generous, like Portugal grapes : wanting it, we are like English grapes--not worth gathering, and as sour as verjuice. Look at the people who shut themselves up in shady parlours, and will not let the sun get at them, what wbite, bloodless beings they look like-wrinkled, withered, and wan as summer pippins kept through the winter in dry closets. Sunshine for me-moonshine for melancholy poets, full of a sonnet to the “ chaste Dian," but stuck fast in the first line at Moon !”—and gas-shine for late getters to bed.

On we went our way, rejoicing in the sunshine, and expatiating as we went upon “ the beneficial ” good it did this world-how well it“ aired" it-how comfortable and cheerful it made it, and all that. Right shoulder forward” was the word of command: Kennington Common was soon “ left shoulder backward;" Clapham Road wondered who we were that had all its road to ourselves, for no one else seemed wishful to be “ broiled to death :" the lovers of the cool “ affected the shade :"


[ocr errors]
« 上一頁繼續 »