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I have a little time. I quite long to hear how you are captivated with Alcestes, for captivated, I am sure, you will be.
I was just going to end without noticing Pindar. I dare say the obscurities are chiefly owing to our want of means of making out the allusions; his style is more full of allusions than that of any other poet, except, perhaps, Dante, who is on that account so difficult, and as I think, on that account only. The fine passages in Pindar are equal to, if not beyond, any thing; but the want of interest in the subjects, and, if it is not blasphemy to say so, the excessive profusion of words, make him something bordering upon tedious. There is a fire in the celebrated passage in the 2d Olympick, which begins copes à molλ sows qua, that is quite unequalled in any poem whatever; and the sweetness in the preceding part, describing the happy islands, is in its way almost as good. Pray let us hear from you soon, that you are well and happy; if you read the Heraclidæ of Euripides, pray tell me if you are particularly struck by one passage in Demophoon's part; if you miss it, I will point it out to you.
withers the imagination, and dries up the heart. Madame du Deffant had a fund of goodness; she was obliging, generous; she combined, in conversation, extreme simplicity, with a great deal of wit; she was the only female philosopher who had neither pedantry nor pretensions, neither the ambition of ruling, nor the desire of shining, and attracting admirers; the only one, in short, who had not the absurd intolerance of impiety. But, with too sound an understanding to be strongly attached to her errors, too much weakness and indolence to reject them, she lived in the most painful uncertainty.
Madame du Deffant, discontented, restless, had a temper extremely unequal; her soul was susceptible neither of joy nor of any other sentiment in a lively degree; but her conversation was always agreeable, because always rational. Her house, during more than twenty years, was the rendezvous of all the men of letters, who were most distinguished for their talents and celebrity. She served a great number of them, and found more than one ungrateful. She had received into her house a young person of good birth, but with no fortune, (Mad. L'Espinasse,) who soon supplanted her benefactress in her own house, formed there a separate society, who 'daily preferred the apartment of Mad. L'Espinasse to the drawing-room of Mad. du Deffant. The latter, hurt by being thus abandoned, complained; the other replied with hauteur; the misunderstanding increased, and became violent. At last Mad. L'Espinasse, through the friends whom she had formed in the house of Mad. du Deffant, obtained a pension from the king. This certainly was a very extraordinary favour, for it was not founded upon any species of claim,
Then Mad. L'Espinasse abandoned for ever the person who had given her an asylum. She formed a colony of wits, deserters from the house of Madame du Deffant; this insurrection produced a little literary republic, which detested the ancient sovereign whose yoke they had thrown off.Never were the American insurgents more embittered against his Britannic majesty, than was M. d'Alembert, (the Washington of this revolt) against Mad. du Deffant. La Harpe says, that Mad. L'Espinasse had a soul singularly loving;-singularly indeed, since she had two violent passions at once, a degree of the loving faculty, with which she alone, I believe, was ever endowed. La Harpe says, that the death of a young Spanish lord, the Count de Mora, overwhelmed with grief Mad. L'Espinasse, and that profound chagrin shortened her days. This, however, was not the sole cause of the ruin of her health; she had, it is true, a violent love for this young Spaniard; but at the same time, she loved with ardour M. Guibert, and she had likewise a passionate attachment to M. d'Alembert, who was the confident of her two loves, and himself distractedly fond of her. If the heart often sinks under the torments of a single passion, it is not wonderful that it should be unable to resist the strange auxieties caused by two or three. All these things appear, to the vulgar, shameful and incomprehensible follies, the fruit of a depraved imagination, especially as the heroine of this romance, so new in its kind, was up. wards of forty; but modern philosophy admires this vast faculty of loving, this amorous philanthropy, which renders the heart of an energetic and feeling woman the same to her ado. rers, as that of a good mother is to her children. We might write beneath the portrait of Mad. L'Espinasse:
"She was the most interesting vietim of love; for she loved equally all her lovers."
Madame du Deffant had the merit of not being soured by so much ingratitude; she spoke of Mad. L'Espinasse and of d'Alembert with a moderation full of mildness and indul
gence; thus, without intending it, she aggravated their wrongs.
Madame du Deffant died in 1780, aged 84; she had been blind for 30 years.
THIS lady, born 1699, was the patroness of some artists, and of all modern philosophers. She was the widow of a glass manufacturer, who left her a considerable fortune. She opened her house also to foreigners. She paid particular attention to Count Poniatowsky, who was afterwards king of Poland, and who called her his mother. When this prince was upon the throne, he wrote to Mad. Geoffrin, Mamma, your son is a king. He invited her to visit him, and, though sixty-nine, she had the resolution to undertake this long journey. At Vienna, through which she passed on her way to Warsaw, the empress lavished upon her the most flattering attentions. She was received at Warsaw by the king with the utmost kindness and favour. She died at Paris in 1777. She did not forget her friends in her will; she left legacies to Thomas and d'Alembert; this last showed her eulogy so few days after her death, that, had it been possible to doubt the sensibility of a philosopher, we might have supposed it prepared at all hazards during her illness. But, as an impromptu, this writing is most astonishing; for it is difficult to conceive, that a man plunged in deep grief should have the faculty of arranging phrases,
antitheses, and of recollecting that infinity of words and little facts which forms the basis of this discourse. M. d'Alembert had just lost Mad. L'Espinasse, with whom he passed his evenings; he consecrated his mornings to Madame Geoffrin," so that now, said he, there is to me neither morning nor evening."
La Harpe, who loved Madame Geoffrin, says that she had very little wit, but that she was obliging, and had a studied neatness, the ornament of old age. This praise is not extravagant. It appears, in fact, all that can be said of this person, whose celebrity could with difficulty be conceived, did we not recollect that she had as her friends the persons who at this time distributed reputation.
THIS lady, the daughter of a Protestant minister, received the most careful education, She learned Latin, and applied with success to severe studies. She acquired extensive information; she had much natural understanding, and the noblest sentiments. Her works, by the knowledge and purity of morals which they display, do great honour to her instructors; but her conduct, which was always correct and irreproachable, does them still more.
She married Mons. Necker, who was then the mere clerk of a Swiss banker. When he rose to the management of the finances of France, Madame Necker used his power only to do more good. She contributed to the amelioration of the interior management of hospitals, and herself directed one which she had established at her own expense near Paris. She had every thing that characterises true virtue-immovable religious principles; a great elevation of soul; a regularity of conduct superior to
all suspicion; and an extreme indulgence. She was a good mother, a faithful friend, and the tenderest, best of wives. This woman, so worthy of esteem and admiration, had but one fault; but this fault disturbed her life, involved her in many inconsistencies, and at length led astray her judgment and her understanding. She had too passionate a taste for literature; so true it is, that the most innocent and even noblest sentiment, when not confined within just limits, may have serious inconveniences, especially to a woman. This having become the ruling passion in one who possessed the consciousness of strength, and who justly thought herself superior, in regard to understanding and information, to all other women, inspired her with an ardent desire of obtaining a great celebrity both for herself, and for the object of her warmest affection, whose glory would be reflected back upon her.
Madame Necker, as well as Madame Geoffrin, was the friend and patroness of all philosophers. But what was very natural in Madame Geoffrin was inconsistent in Madame Necker, because she had religious. sentiments. Indulgence does in no degree prescribe that we should make our society consist of all the persons whose principles are most directly opposite to ours. Different circumstances may lead us to form one or two such acquaintances; but it is odd to seek them all, and not to let a single one escape. Madame Necker, though most religious, was, and by her own choice, habitually surrounded only by deists and atheists. With the purest virtue, she wrote to the scandalous author of the Bijoux Indiscrets, as she would have written to Bossuet; she called him a great man, and congratulated him on his genius. She said that there were in Switzerland better morals and much
travagant, unveiled by their own author, appeared the strangest thing in the world, even in an age when the public ought to be accustomed to intimate and singular confidential communications.
more virtue than at Paris; but as there is an infinitely greater number of wits at Paris, she confessed that, for this reason, she tired in Switzerland, though she had there all her relations, a charming estate, and all whom she loved. This woman, born for those simple tastes Character of the late Lord Newton. which virtue inspires, could not endure the country, though surround-scended of the Hays of Rannes, late Lord Newton was de
ed by those who were dear to her; she needed a court of literary men. Too reasonable to disdain the occu
one of the most ancient branches of the family of Hay. He was born in the year 1747, and was callpations of her sex, she could not ap-ed to the bar in 1769. He had so
ply to them. The rage of being a belle esprit deprived her of all the natural graces of a woman. She had an inexhaustible craving for learned and witty conversations. She never enjoyed the pleasure of talking about, and amusing herself with, trifles; with an extremely good disposition, she never tasted the pleasure of frank good-humoured conversation; she never, in short, knew the happiness of writing to her friend without pretension, without reflection, whatever struck her fancy: there is not a letter of hers which was not meditated, corrected, rewritten; she kept copies of them all.
A woman so Christian, a soul so elevated, should naturally have had modesty and sincerity; but an unbounded ambition for brilliant celebrity altered too much, in this respect, her taste and her character. To obtain praises, how many has she
lavished on works which she did not
love, and on men whom she did not esteem. Wishing always, from a very respectable sentiment, to associate M. Necker in her pretensions to glory and renown, we see her incessantly braving all received customs and all decorum, in order to extol him with equal exaggeration and intrepidity. It is true that M. Necker has well returned the kindThese domestic concerts of praise, these secrets of a pride so ex
thoroughly studied the principles of the profession on which he now entered, that he used often to say, that he was as good a lawyer at that time as he ever was at any future period. His strong natural abilities, assisted with such preparation for business, could not fail to attract notice, and he became soon distinguished for his acuteness, his learning, and his profound knowledge of law. It was remarkable of him, that he always appeared as much versed in the common and daily practice of the Court, and even in those minute forms that are little known, except to the inferior practitioners, as in the higher branches of legal knowledge, that are only understood by the greatest lawyers. The great simplicity of character, which he carried with him through the whole of his life, was nowhere more conspicuous than in his appearances at the bar. His pleadings exhibited facts; a profound and accurate exa plain and fair statement of the position of the law, and a very abut there was an entire absence of cute and solid reasoning on both; every thing merely ornamental, and especially of those little arts by which a speaker often tries to turn the attention of his auditors on himself. He seemed full of the cause in which he was engaged, and not a word escaped which could lead any one to imagine the thoughts of
the orator were ever turned to his ⚫wn performance.
Though his reputation continued always to increase, he practised at the bar without obtaining any preferment till the beginning of the year 1808, when, on the death of the late Lord Methven, he was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court, by the Ministry of which Mr Fox was a member, and was the only Judge in the Court of Session appointed while that great statesman was in power, a distinction on which he always professed to set a high value.
Lord Newton's talents never appeared to greater advantage than after he took his seat on the Bench. As a lawyer, the opinions he gave were probably never surpassed, for their acuteness, discrimination, and solidity; and, as a Judge, he now shewed that all this was the result of such a rapid and easy application of the principles of law, as appeared more like the effect of intuition than of study and laborious exertion. The clearest and most comprehensive view of every question seemed naturally to present itself; and his opinions, at the same time that they were readily and decisively formed, were considered by professional men as being perhaps less liable to error than those of any other Judge who h appeared in our time. He was unremitting in his exertions; and it is certain that, for his dispatch of business, and the correctness of his judgment, Lord Newton has been rarely excelled.
As to political principles, Lord Newton was an ardent and steady Whig. Owing to the great openness and sincerity of his character, and the entire absence of the least approach to art or duplicity, he passed through a period remarkable for the hostility which political opinions engendered, with fewer per
sonal enemies than any other man, equally unreserved in condemning the measures which he thought wrong, and equally inflexible in supporting those which he thought right.
In private life he was extremely amiable, and his social qualities, as well as his great worth, endeared him to his friends. He possessed an extraordinary fund of good humour, a disposition extremely playful, great simplicity of character, with the entire absence of all vanity and affectation. A few peculiarities or little eccentricities, which he possessed, appeared with so good a grace, and in the company of so many estimable qualities, that they only tended to render him more interesting to his friends.
Lord Newton appeared to possess two characters that are but rarely united together. Those who saw him only on the Bench were naturally led to think that his whole time and thoughts had, for his whole life, been devoted to the laborious study of the law. Those, on the other hand, who saw him in the circle of his friends, when form and austerity were laid aside, could not easily conceive that he had not passed his life in the intercourse of society.-With great gentleness and kindness of heart, he had a manly and firm mind; he had hardly any feeling of personal danger; and he seemed to despise pain, to which he was a good deal exposed in the last year of his life. He was a man of great bodily strength, and till the latter years of his life, when he became very corpulent, of great activity.
He was never married, and the large fortune which he left is inherited by his only sister, Mrs Hay Mudie, for whom he always entertained the greatest esteem and affection.