Page images
PDF
EPUB

all derive the highest sources of our happiness, the surest safeguard of our virtue; and more especially should those who possess little besides, make their mental resources supply as far as possible whatever else may be wanting to them.'

The lives of men distinguished for their literary or scientific attainments are seldom very eventful, but some of these memoirs contain details of almost romantic interest; and Mrs. Strutt has very properly referred to the various authorities which vouch for the several articles. The Life of Heyne will probably be new to most of our readers. It is indeed a touching narrative, in part supplied by himself.

. I was born,' he says, and brought up in the greatest indigence, The earliest companion of my childhood was want; and the first im. pressions I received were the tears of my mother, who did not know where to obtain bread for her children. How often have I seen her on a Saturday with weeping eyes, when she returned home, unable to find a purchaser for the work which the utmost exertions of her husband, and the labour of many a night, had produced! Sometimes a new attempt to sell the articles was made by my sister, or by me; I was obliged to call again on the draper, or dealer, to see whether we could not find a purchaser for our goods. There is a sort of persons in that part of the country, called dealers, who do nothing but buy up articles, especially in the linen-trade : they purchase the cloth from the poor workinen for the lowest price possible, and sell it afterwards, in other places, at high profits. I often saw one of these petty tyrants, with the pride of an Eastern despot, reject the goods offered him, or deduct a trifle from the price asked, or from the wages of the labour. The poor workmen were forced to part with their hard earnings for less than was their due, and to make up by severe privations what they thus had lost. By such sights were the first sparks of sen. sibility kindled in my childish heart. Instead of being dazzled by the prosperity of these persons, who lived and throve upon the crumbs taken from so many hundreds of starving workmen-instead of being struck with awe by their splendour-I was filled with indignation against them. The first time I heard of the death of a tyrant, the idea rose within me to become a Brutus against every oppressor of the poor; for to such beings I conceived that the misery of my starving fainily was owing. I have often since had occasion to reflect, that it is by the interposition of a kind Providence, that the unhappy wretch who is sunk in misery, is placed in such circumstances as preserve him from being driven to extremities and plunging into crime; that his energy is restrained, and his feelings withheld from violence."

pp. 212–214. His parents did for him what they could, in sending him to a common school in the suburbs. Here, when he was but ten years old, he began to instruct the child of a neighbour in reading and writing, in order to earn the money which he had to pay his schoolmaster. The common instructions given in the school, soon left him nothing to learn ; and to be instructed in Latin involved an extra expense of twopence a-week, which his parents could not afford. A worthy baker, his god-father, on observing the dejection of the little student, inquired the cause, and on learning it, kindly offered to pay the weekly twopence, on condition that Heyne should come to him every Sunday, and say by heart the lesson from the Gospel. The little that his master could teach him, was soon acquired; and now, nothing would satisfy him, but to go to the public Latin school. But, whence was the money to come,-about half-a-crown a quarter? How were the requisite books to be procured, and the scholar's blue gown? A clergyman munificently engaged to pay the quarterly money, and to purchase the gown ; but to purchase the books he would not consent, and young Heyne was compelled to borrow them from his schoolfellows, and to transcribe the daily lesson. What he gained at this school, however, was for the most part confined to words from the vocabulary and Latin phrases; and when he was to leave school, he was almost entirely a stranger to what is properly called classical learning. In his last year, he obtained from a Mr. Krebs, a pupil of Ernesti, some faint idea of a better mode of study.

Had I been in more fortunate circumstances,' he says, and could have further profited by his instructions, I should have obtained introduction to the classics. But every where I saw myself impeded and thwarted. The perverse mode of treatment which I experienced from the old clergyman, the dissatisfaction of my parents, especially of my father, who could not succeed in his line of business, and vet cherished the thought, that if I had continued in his occupation, Í might now prove a support to him in gaining his livelihood ; extreme indigence, and a consciousness of inferiority, did not suffer any com. fortable idea or satisfactory feeling to rise within me. A timid, shy, and awkward demeanour was calculated still more to disfigure my outward appearance :--but where was I to learn manners and ad. dress ? where to acquire a right way of thinking, and the necessary cultivation both of mind and heart? Yet I felt a desire of struga gling with my fortune. A sense of honour, a wish for improvement, à solicitude to raise myself above my low fortune, incessantly attended me: but, without a guide to direct them, those feelings only led to scorn, misanthropy, and rudeness. At last a situation pre. sented itself, in which I had a chance of being a little cultivated. One of the aldermen of the town had taken two children of a relation into his house, for the purpose of educating them—a boy and a girl, both nearly of my own age. A coinpanion was wanted to read with the boy, and I was proposed. This attendance brought me in a florin a-month, which served to secure me, in some degree, against

the displeasure of my family. I had hitherto often been obliged to assist in their work, that I might not hear the reproach that I wanted to eat their bread for nothing. By means of some other lessons which I gave, I was enabled to purchase oil for my lamp, and raiment for my body; I had it even in my power to give part of my earnings to my father; and thus my condition became somewhat more easy. But I had now, also, the advantage of frequently see.' ing persons of a better education. I obtained the good-will of the family, and was permitted to live with them, even when I was not engaged with my pupil. This conversation gave me some polish, enlarged my notions, and improved my exterior. It was not long before I conceived a passionate attachment for the sister of my pupil, which made me feel most acutely the pressure of my fate, that had placed me in a situation of poverty. But I was not weighed down by my despondency, Pleasing dreams of a possibility that I might, at some future time, still become possessed of the beloved object, diverted me from the contemplation of the present impossibility to make an impression on the young lady's heart, and I succeeded in obtaining hers and her mother's friendship. I coinmitted numberless follies, such as belong to a lover; one of which was, that I became a poet. But as I hail no one to guide and correct me, and as no good poet fell into my hands, I could become nothing but a bad poet.

* • The time approached, when I was to go to the University of Leipzig. But whence were the means to be derived ? All my hopes rested upon the old clergyman. Proinises were not wanting on his part ; but one day passed after another, the hour of departure arrived, and I obtained nothing. He committed me to the care of his assis. tant, or curate, who was going to Leipzig; and this was all. With great anguish I quitted my native place, and that house in which I had received more kindness than a mere wretched existence. I was in hopes that I should know more of my patron's intentions when I had reached Leipzig. But how forsaken and desolate did I feel my. self, when my companion, upon leaving me, told me that he had received nothing for me from the old clergyman! My whole stock of money consisted of about two florins: I was in other respects badly equipped ; books I had none. Worn out by previous affliction, I fell sick ; but nature overcame the disorder, though it left me in a state of melancholy dejection. I lived in the same apartment with the brother of my former master, Mr. Krebs. This gentleman, like his brother, was a pupil of Ernesti, and by him I was introduced to the lectures of this celebrated professor ; through his kindness, I also occasionally obtained a book. As to any plan in my studies, I had none: I did not know what lectures to frequent; for it had not even been settled what line I was to follow. The old clergynan had des. tined me for the church, and, as I still hoped for his support, I did not oppose that expectation. At last he sent me a few dollars : but what he sent, was very insufficient to pay what I owed, and was only obtained by a great deal of solicitation. If I veptured to renew my application, I received letters full of bitter reproaches ; and the un

feeling man went so far in his harshness, as frequently to put on the direction of the letter some disgraceful epithet to mortify me. One of those directions, for example, was written in this manner :• 'A Mr. Heyne, Etudiant négligent, à Leipzig'

In this manner I fell into circumstances in which I became a prey to despair: being educated without fixed principles, with a character entirely unformed, without a friend, a guide, or adviser, I cannot at this moment understand how I could possibly have endured so helpless a condition. What urged me on in the world, was not ambition, or a youthful imagination, or a wish that I might one day be ranked among the learned: I was incessantly haunted by the painful consciousness of my forlorn situation, of the want of good education, and manners, and of my awkward behaviour in social intercourse. That which operated most strongly upon me, was à spirit of defiance against my ill fortune: this gave me courage not to yield, but to risk every thing in the struggle against adversity. I met, in these difficul. ties, with one compassionate soul the poor maid-servant who waited upon the persons in the house : she laid out her money for the necessaries I wanted, and paid for my daily bread ; risking all she had, in order to prevent me from starving. Oh! could I find thee now, still in this world, thou kind and compassionate soul! that I might compensate thee for what thou didst for me!'

We shall not pursue the narrative, which exhibits a series of distresses and vicissitudes singularly trying,-but transcribe a sentence or two from the close of the memoir.

1. Heyne's eightieth birth-day was celebrated on the 26th of Sep. tember, 1809, with the most fattering solemnities. All the public bodies waited upon him with demonstrations of their respect; and. great numbers of individuals, even such as were not personally. acquainted with him, were anxious to manifest the interest they took . in his welfare. Three years after, on the 14th of July, 1812, this excellent man was deprived of life by a paralytic stroke.'

The niemoir concludes with the following appropriate remarks.

“We have now gone through the life of this great man, wlio was so unconscious of the vastness of his own attainments, that his first idea of possessing any beyond his coadjutors, was given him by'a passage in the English newspaper, " The Morning Post," wherein he was mentioned, in “ A Letter from a gentleman at Gottingen to his friend at Cambridge," as the first genius in the place. From his early strug. gles and their happy termination in honourable independence, combined with well-grounded fame in the pursuits he loved above all others that could have been offered to him, we have the most encouraging demonstration of the power that a man possesses in himself, of triumphing over almost every evil. We may learn, too, from the delightful contrast which the tranquil evening of Heyne's day afforded to its cheerless, morning, never lo despair. Heyne hiinself had nearly given way to this destructive feeling at one period of his life ; and that was just after he had lost, by the invasion of the Prussians into Dres. den, all his own property, all that was entrusted to him by his Theresa, all his papers, and all his collections for his Epictetus and Tibullus. A memorandum, written in pencil, under the immediate pressure of this calamity, was found, after his death, among his papers ; it was dated the 6th of August, 1760, and contained these words: “ My idols are broken; they are destroyed; now I care for nothing in this world !" Yet, to bim, how much, through the blessing of God, had the world, at that moment, still in store for him! How many years of happiness did he afterwards enjoy in it ! 'How tranquilly did he exchange it for a better, at the end of a period greatly exceeding that assigned to " the days of man!” To such an example, then, let the friendless, the unhappy, look for encouragement; and may their early sorrows, like his, be sanctified to the succeeding attainment of such wishes as reason and virtue may approve!'

This specimen will sufficiently shew the pleasing style in which the memoirs are written, and the well-selected nature of the materials. Altogether, the volume deserves to be popular. . With regard to the other two, by the same Author, - Practical Wisdom" is a collection of valuable tracts, too well known to require any distinct notice or encomium from us. • A sense • of gratitude for a powerful impression made upon the mind of • the Compiler by an accidental perusal of one of the discourses • contained in it,' is stated to have suggested the first idea of the compilation, which merits the praise of being well adapted for usefulness. “ Self-Advancement" contains some of the most remarkable instances of extraordinary transitions from • obscurity to greatness by the mere force of talent and sted• fastness of pursuit.' The Contents are given in the title-page, and the general character and spirit of the volume may be judged of from the citations given from the companion work.

Art. VIII. Discourses on the Duties and Consolations of the Aged. By

Henry Belfrage, D.D. Minister of the Gospel, Falkirk." 12mo.

pp. 478. Price 8s. Edinburgh. 1827. W E are happy to have it in our power to introduce to the

W notice of our readers, a new work from the pen of Dr. Belfrage. This respectable author has already drawn liberally upon the public approbation by his former works, and we are most willing to yield him our tribute of praise for the present volume, which is in no respect inferior to its predecessors. It is the last of a series, and is desigued to be a suitable appendage to his “ Monitor to Families," and his " Discourses to the Young." Dr. Belfrage, both by his native turn of mind and his

« PreviousContinue »