Зображення сторінки

towards Louis Philippe, we are inclined to call him, as he audas ciously called his infamous FATHER, le plus honnête homme de la France.

We beg, however, to say that there is a class of men of whom we do not wish to speak in the same breath with those men

- MM. de Chateaubriand, De Brezé, Fitzjames, De Conny, Berruyer, Kergolay-and many less eminent--but honest and unhappy men—both royalists and republicans—who are expiating the sincerity of their opinions in the Bastilles of liberty, and under the iron rod of a Citizen-King.

As to Bonnellier himself, who has given us his clue into this labyrinth of corruption, profligacy, and incapacity, we have heard that, immediately after the revolution, he was hoisted up into the sous-prefecture of Compiègne ; that he was, however, very justly, perhaps, but somewhat ugratefully removed from that office; and that he was afterwards appointed to some pequin employment in the Algerine expedition. We do not choose to repeat what we have heard of the alleged causes of his successive dismissals, but we learn that the ex-secretary of the provisional government is now again restored to his native nothing on the pavé of ParisPulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris !--is the sum of revolutionary life!

Art. VI.-1. Recherches sur les Poissons Fossiles, contenant une

Introduction à l'étude de ces Animaux, l'Anatomie comparée des Systêmes organiques qui peuvent contribuer à fuciliter la Détermination des Espèces Fossiles ; une nouvelle Classification des Poissons, erprimant leurs rapports avec la série des Formations ; PExposition des lois de leur Succession, et de leur Développement durant toutes les Métamorphoses du Globe Terrestre, accompagnée de Considérations géologiques générales ; enfin la Description de cinque cents Espèces qui n'existent plus, et dont on a rétabli les Caractères d'après les Débris qui sont contenus dans les Couches de la Terre. Par Louis Agassiz, Docteur en Philosophie, Médecine, et Chirurgie ; Membre de la Société Helvétique des Sciences Naturelles, de la Société Géologique de France, de celles des Sciences Naturelles de Francfort, de Strasbourg, &c., Professeur d'Histoire Naturelle à Neuchâtel.-Neuchâtel

(Suisse). Aux frais de l'Auteur. 1835. 2. Happort sur les Poissons Fossiles découverts en Angleterre.

(Extrait de la 4me livraison des Recherches sur les Poissons

Fossiles.) Par Louis Agassiz.-Neuchâtel. 1835. W I THIN the last few years the progress of fossil zoology,

that talisman by whose aid the secret history of our earth is laid open, has been most rapid. Among the works which have

2 F 2

lately lately contributed to throw so much light on this useful branch of science, that of Professor Agassiz stands pre-eminent. The beauty and nice accuracy of the magnificent illustrations are worthy of the text; which exhibits a happy union of sound philosophical views and practical information, the product of hard work executed by a mind of no ordinary patience and intelligence.

To those who cannot look without interest on a gallant spirit winning its way, in obedience to an irresistible impulse, amid toil and difficulty, as, modestly but resolutely, it climbs

• The steep where Fame's proud temple shines afar,' it may not be wholly unpleasing if we attempt to give a sketch of some few passages in the life of the gifted author. His annals are indeed simple ; but a glance at them may be worth something as a lesson of perseverance, and as demonstrating with how little how much may be done.

Louis Agassiz was born in 1807. His father, a Protestant minister of the gospel, living on the banks of the lake Morât, was the schoolmaster of his district-and his son, who learned with facility, was permitted, as soon as he had finished his task, to enjoy his merry holyday in his own way; but his hours of play were not passed in the mysteries of trap-ball and taw.

From his earliest youth the angling rod was always in his hand, and the observation of the habits of fishes his delight. We think we can see the little Agassiz, leaving the noisy herd behind him, and sallying forth from the worthy pastor's door with his tiny tackle 'to templ the trout.' His whole soul seems to have been absorbed in his favourite pursuit; and the only parental chastisement he ever received was for embarking in a cockle-shell of a boat at a very tender age on a perilous pike-fishing expedition. This correction made an impression not yet etfaced ; the Professor confesses that even now, when he is employed in decyphering a fossil pike, he “lingles at the view.'

In the course of his watchings in well selected haunts, a mind such as his could not fail to be arrested by the phenomena of insect life which teemed around him ; and he soon began to collect these gay creatures (especially Lepidoptera),* not for the purpose of making a collection, but in order to observe their metamorphoses : when he was satisfied, the new-born Imago † was dismissed to the enjoyment of its sunny hour. But the finny inhabitants of his little lake and its tributary streams formed the great attraction : and, young as he was, he then made observations which gave him a knowledge of the fishes of his country not to be learned from books, and an insight into their organization and habits yet unknown to ichthyologists. Thus he became an outdoor naturalist, and his passion for the study grew with his growth.

* Butterflies, moths, &c. + The perfect or winged insect that emerges from the pupa or chrysalis.

But these bright days were soon clouded. At the age of ten he was removed from the paternal roof and his beloved lake to a German school, that he might, among other things, learn that language, with a view to his employing it in commerce. Little did he think that the prizes which he brought home so frequently were only hastening his intended separation from the pursuits so dear to him. A fair prospect at last presented itself-his fate was pronounced—and poor Agassiz had all the horrors of a counting-house before his eyes. Visions of hard stools, high desks, and ponderous ledgers, with reams of letters, of which he was destined to be the unhappy copyist, haunted him nightly; and when he started from the dream, he

• Awoke and found it true.' He now earnestly begged to be allowed to choose a literary career, and his master, who fortunately possessed a prophetic eye, saw that there was something in the lad superior to the wood of which merchants' clerks may be made, and seconded his prayer. A respite was granted, and he was permitted to study for one or two years at the Academy of Lausanne. Here he first received lessons in natural history, and, as the enchanting science opened upon a mind already disposed for its adoption, he intreated to be allowed to assume the medical profession, as the only one which might favour his studies. His maternal grandfather and uncle both were medical men, and he induced the worthy pair to urge every argument to shake the determination of his mother, who was more particularly anxious to see him in the mercantile line. A period of indecision followed, which he passed at home entirely under the guidance of his own discretion. His time was employed in the woods, in the fields—wherever, in short, the worship of his dear goddess' led him. A collection of plants, land shells, and insects was soon formed, and a kindred spirit, which he discovered in a neighbouring young curé who possessed Decandolle's · French Flora,' was his sole resource in his botanical difficulties. The caricatures of God's creatures in a vile counterfeit of Buffon, which he had discovered in a nook of his father's little library, so disgusted him, that he took lessons to enable him to draw animals from the life, and soon became a proficient.

At length Agassiz obtained permission to enter upon the study of surgery; and, at the age of seventeen, he was sent to the Medical School of Zurich. Both human and comparative anatomy were pursued with ardour, and the lessons of Professor Schinz gave him a taste for ornithology, which induced him to compile a bistory of the birds of Switzerland.


Ichthyology bad hitherto remained a mere souvenir of his infancy; but when he proceeded to the university of Ileidelberg in 1826, the Rhine and Neckar brought back the scenes of his youth in all their freshness. He now perceived that the ichthyological department of natural history was comparatively new ground, and laid the foundation for a work on fresh-water fishes which we hope soon to see published.

Gradually his collections increased, and his portfolio was onriched with beautiful and accurate drawings; to obtain which his humble income, made up of the contributions of his far from wealthy relatives, was divided with M. Dinkel, the excellent artist of whose labours we shall presently have to speak. Every privation was cheerfully undergone for the attainment of this great object. . At one time he was on the very brink of despair. A suspicion, it seems—sufficiently well founded we must own-had arisen in the minds of bis relatives, that natural history obtained more than a fair share of his regards; and suddenly he found himself without resources, and with a considerable amount,-considerable for his limited means, due to his draftsman. In short, the supplies were stopped ; and we have heard him describe, in a way which we can but faintly shadow forth to the imagination of the reader, the agonies of mind that he endured. But the spirit of zoology was strong in him ; and he went in his utmost need to an entire stranger,-to one of that nuuch abused class who have so often stood between genius and destruction. He told the tale of his destitution. The worthy publisher instantly advanced the required sum, aud enabled our ichthyologist to pay for his drawings and continue his pursuits.

By degrees his labours attracted attention. The death of Spix had left upon the hands of his fellow-traveller his collection of Brazilian fishes and drawings, unaccompanied by any notes ;-and M. Von Martius proposed to Agassiz, who had now reached the age of twenty-one, to charge himself with their publication. Jos fully did he avail himself of an opportunity which opened to his examination all the treasures of the noble collection at Munich, and in the years 1829 and 1830 the first and second parts of • The Fishes of Brazil' made their appearance. Medicine was now abandoned, and time was gliding away innoted amid occupations so congenial to him, when he was aroused from his reverie by a hint from his father that he should begin to think of exercising his profession in his own country. Natural history was, for a time, laid aside, and Agassiz went to Vienna, with the determined purpose of giving all his attention to clinical lectures ;-but this tirm resolve soon gave way. After a few weeks he was more frequently to be found in the Museum of Natural History, than at the bedside of the patient.

On On his return to Switzerland he passed six months in arranging his collections, and in preparing himself for the practice of medicine; but before beginning his drudgery he was permitted to visit the capital of France. Thither he accordingly went, taking with bim some hundreds of drawings of fossil fishes which he had seen in the German museums. This was the crisis of our author's fate. Cuvier, with the good feeling and penetration of character which distinguished that great philosopher, received him cordially; and, when he had examined the drawings and conversed with the young man, he gave him every encouragement, opened his laboratory to him, nay,_instantly abandoning one of his own greatest projects-placed all his matériel in the fossil fish department at the disposal of the obscure aspirant whom he had thus at once appreciated. The History of Science does not record a nobler trait than this fact in the life of Cuvier.

Dr. Agassiz now determined, if he could obtain the consent of his parents, to give up physic, and stand for a vacant professorship of natural history. This consent was at last given; he obtained the chair-and his great work, the · Poissons Fossiles,' was commenced.

Before the appearance of this splendid publication, and of the system which it developes, the history of fossil fishes was involved in confusion. The most celebrated localities in Europe for obtaining these remains are the coal formations of Saarbrück iņ Lorraine, the bituminous slate of Mansfeld in Thuringia, the calcareous lithographic slate of Solenhofen, the compact blue slate of Glaris, the limestone of the well-known Monte Bolca near Verova, the marlstone of Qeningen in Switzerland, and that of Aix in Provence. Specimens from these deposits were to be found scattered in various cabinets, but all attempts to arrange them under existing genera and families had failed. Nearly eight thousand species of living fishes had come under the observation of Cuvier, when death deprived the world of that illustrious zoologist; but he was sensible of the imperfection of his system as applicable to fossil genera, and, indeed, with respect to that department, no results of any consequence, either physiological or geological, had been or could be derived from it. Now fossil ichthyology is of peculiar importance to the geologist, for it opens up to him the study of a class of vertebrated animals that he may pursue through the whole series of strata of which the crust of our earth is formed. The state of the science, therefore, obliged Professor Agassiz to examine the recent species with a view of comparing them with the fossils; and he ere long arrived at and matured a classitication differing considerably from the various arrangements previously


« НазадПродовжити »