« НазадПродовжити »
To obtain the full benefit of really good biography, it should be not read merely, but studied. The principles should be traced into the character, and the parts of the character combined into a whole. The external should be traced back again to the inward. Right should be understood, and wrong : redundance, defect, or want of harmony and proportion. Few know how to get good fully from a memoir. It amuses them; and while they are reading there is a little pleasing excitement, happily in a right direction. They who know how to read religious biography, will never be either unwilling or unable to read with profit pages from the great volume of nature. But no. This last requires a mental effort which they will not give even to the first; and therefore, as from what they do not read, they get no good at all, from what they do read, they get, in comparison with what they might find, very little good. Certainly, better this than nothing; but something more would be better still.
J. But, I think I infer from your statements, that we should study religious biography and natural science in the same manner, and from the same motives.
S. Certainly. Am I studying mineral crystals? or trees, herbs, plants, flowers, and seeds? or chemistry? or what else ? I am studying God's work, that I may see God. Am I studying the workings of religious principle and experience, the growth and formation of religious character? I am still studying God's work, that I may see him. Ask a person who refuses to read anything besides the last, Do you read only for easy amusement, without trouble? But is this enough? Do you say, I want to see God's work? That is right; and if you have time for nothing but this and the Bible, be God's blessing on you. But have you more time? Then why not strengthen and cultivate your mind by exercising it in what is likewise God's work ? Wherever God may be seen, the Christian, as he has opportunity, should turn aside to see a sight always so truly great. Only, remember, wherever you get the fragrant gums, pound them, kindle them with fire from the altar, and wave your censer as before your great High Priest, for acceptance with God. The God whose works you see in nature, is the Triune God, our covenant God and portion in Christ our Saviour.
J. After these conversations on the general principles of the subject, I should be thankful to have them illustrated in particular instances.
S. If our life and health be spared to do this, it will be as pleasing to myself as it can be to you.*
SUICIDE FROM MORTIFIED VANITY. MADAME DE Sevigne, the celebrated French epistolarian, in one of her lively letters to her daughter, mentions a circumstance which had just occurred in the circle in which she was then visiting, and had produced a powerful impression, though, we fear, no more lasting than the ripple on the surface of the water into which a pebble has been cast. It seems that the King (Louis XIV.) was about to honour Chantilli (the residence of the Prince de Condé) with his presence. Of course, great preparations had to be made, and no expense was spared. The amusements and entertainments were to be on the largest scale. Madame tells her daughter, (Friday evening, April 24th, 1671,) that the King had arrived the day before, and hunted a stag by moonlight; that the lanterns (probably in the illuminated grounds) were marvellous; also the fire-works, with the supper, the amusements, and the whole evening; all went off splendidly. But now for the occurrence which, like a passing cloud, cast a shadow on all. “ Vatel, the great Vatel, maitre d'hotel” (head housekeeper, superintendent of cooks, tables, and dishes, and of all the requisite preparations) “ of Mons. Fouquet, and just now of Monsieur le Prince,” (procured, no doubt, for the occasion, because of his great reputation as an artiste in such matters,) “this man, of a capacity distinguished from all others, with a head capable of containing all the care of the State; this man,-seeing that eight o'clock had come, and the fish from the sea was not brought, unable to sustain the disgrace which he felt was about to overwhelm him,poignarded himself. You may guess into what a horrible
* In the Numbers for 1848, we shall insert some occasional papers illustrating the perfections of God from natural phenomena, both facts and laws -ED. Y. I.
disorder this sad accident has thrown us at the feast. And only think. Just as he expired, the fish arrived.”
In her next letter, (Sunday, April 26th, 1671,) she gives her daughter a more particular account:-"I will give you the relation which I have just received from Moreuil concerning Vatel. The King came on Thursday evening : the promenade, the collation in a place carpeted with jonquils ; all was as well as could be desired. They supped; but at some of the tables there was not a proper supply of roast meat, as more had been used than had been expected. This laid hold of Vatel. • My honour's lost,' he said: 'I can never support this affront.' He told Gourville that his head was turned; that for a dozen nights he had not slept, and begged him to help him in giving orders. Gourville consoled him all that he could, and reminded him that the supply of róti had not failed at the royal table, only at some of the lower ones. This seemed a little to revive him. Gourville mentioned the case to the Prince, who went to Vatel's room, and said to him, ' Vatel, all went on capitally. Never was anything finer than the supper you gave the King.' He replied, “Ah, Monseigneur, your goodness quite overcomes me. I know that there was no róti at two tables.' 'Not at all,' said the Prince. Don't perplex yourself about that. All goes on famously.' Well; midnight came, the fire-works did not appear to advantage. A sort of cloud obscured them. They cost sixteen thousand francs. At four in the morning, Vatel went round, but found every body asleep. He only met one of his messengers, who brought him no more than two parcels of fish. He asked,
Is this all?' He did not know that poor Vatel had sent to all the sea-ports. He waited some time, looking for the others. They did not come. He was all excitement. He believed there would be no more fish. He found Gourville. • Monsieur,' he said, "I will never survive this affront.' Gourville laughed at him. He went to his chamber, placed his sword against the door, and directing the point towards his heart, forced himself upon it. He gave himself two wounds that were not mortal, but the third pierced his heart, and he fell dead. Meanwhile fish arrived from all quarters. They called for Vatel to take charge of it. They went to his
room, knocked at the door, broke it open, and found him bathed in his blood. They ran to the Prince, who was thrown into despair. Monsieur the Duke wept; for on Vatel depended his journey into Burgundy. Monsieur the Prince told the King with great grief, and said it arose from his having such a strong sense of honour. They praised him much, and both commended and censured his courage. The King said that for five years he had put off coming to Chantilli, knowing the excessive trouble he should occasion. He told the Prince he must only have two tables, and not put himself to such charges : he swore that he would not allow the Prince to use him thus any more. But all this was too late for poor Vatel. Meanwhile Gourville endeavoured to repuir the loss of Vatel. And he did repair it. They dined very well, made the collation, went to the chase, supped, walked, played; all was perfumed with the jonquils; all was as if enchanted. Yesterday, Saturday, they did the same ; and in the evening, the King went to Liancourt.”
An instructive specimen, this, of the manners of the age. Society had entered the rapids leading to the revolutionary cataract. As to the poor man himself, had not matters terminated so seriously, they would have furnished some capital subjects for caricature. The amazement of the purveyor of the supper because, in the midst of splendour and profusion, at one or two of the lower tables, certain dishes were wanting! Then, running about at four in the morning to see if all were not on the alert for the work of the day, and finding them, O horrible,-comfortably asleep! Then, the fish, the fish which had been sent for from all the sea-ports round, at eight o'clock only one poor little fishmonger had arrived, and he with only two packages! And Friday too, the fish day! In a short time there was as much as he wanted. But his honour was wounded. He felt like some man of fashion who had received an affront. He says, (though his fellow-attendant himself could only laugh at the matter,)“ I will not survive this !” And with the resolution of despair, putting the hilt of the sword against the door, and the point on his breast, he forced himself upon it, twice not mortally, but the third time it went through his heart !
Trifling as the cause may appear, we see how even trifles may be magnified by the inward temper. The tragic close only allows us to say, “ The sorrow of the world worketh death.”
Alas! how soon was the “loss repaired !” We believe that at the present day, even in France, especially with the present Court, the whole party would have been broken up. But no. The loss was repaired. They dined, hunted, walked, played, supped, as they had done the day before ; and the corpse of poor Vatel in the house !
OCCASIONAL SPECIMENS OF ELOQUENCE.
(Concluded from page 398.) Specimen II. There is considerable difficulty in extracting specimens from Lord Erskine’s “Speeches at Bar," because of the compactness of the argumentation, and the almost epic unity of the whole address. The speaker always seems in earnest, and to pursue his object without swerving from his line, from first to last; never leaving off before he has done; never going on when he has arrived at his proper conclusion. Such are his speeches for Lord George Gordon, (Feb. 5th, 1781,) and for Mr. Thomas Hardy, (Nov. 1st, 1794,) both of whom were accused of high treason. In both cases, the object of the advocate was to prove that, even were the conduct of his clients criminal, it was not the crime actually charged, as that crime is so carefully defined by the ancient English statute on the subject. Of the speech for Hardy some idea of the length may be formed, when we say that it occupies eighty-five closely printed, large octavo pages ; and throughout, the reasoning, everywhere logical and consecutive, is ably sustained. We may just say, that in each case he obtained a verdict.
Perhaps, on the whole, his most able speech was that which he delivered on a motion for a new trial of the Dean of St. Asaph, (Nov. 15th, 1784,) for publishing a seditious libel. The Jury had simply given a verdict of guilty of