Изображения страниц

Dresden; and here ended his hard fortunes. Some time before his arrival in that city, the Professorship of Eloquence in the University of Gottingen had become vacant, by the death of the celebrated John Mathias Gesner. The chair had been offered, in the first instance, to David Ruhnken, one of the first scholars of the

age, who declined, however, to leave the University of Leyden, where he had lately succeeded the eminent Hemsterhuys as Professor of Greek. Fortunately, however, for Heyne, Ruhnken was the few to whom his edition of Tibullus, and another of Epictetus, which he had published shortly after, had made his obscure name and great merits known; and with a generous anxiety to befriend one whom he considered to be so deserving, he ventured, of his own accord, to recommend him to the Hanoverian minister, as the fittest person he could mention for the vacant office. Such a testimony from Ruhnken was at once the most honourable and the most efficient patronage Heyne could have had. He was immediately nominated to the Professorship; although so little known, that it was with considerable difficulty he was found. He held this appointment for nearly fifty years; in the course of which, as we have already remarked, he may be said, by his successive publications, and the attraction of his lectures, to have placed himself nearly at the head of the classical scholars of his age; while he was at the same time loved and venerated as a father, not only by his numerous pupils, but by all ranks of his fellowcitizens, who, on his death, in 1812, felt that their University and city had lost what had been for half a century its chief distinction.

one of



Humble Station no Obstacle. Epictetus ; Protagoras; Cleanthes ;

Haüy; Winckelman; Arnigio; Duval.-Affectation of high Birth.
Bandinelli; Scaliger.-Men proud of their low Origin. Proto-
gones ; Baudouin; Gelli.-Obscure Origin. Metastasio ; Haydn ;
Opie; Parini; Prideaux; Saunders; Linnæus; Lomonosoff ;
B.Jonson; the Milners; John Hunter.-Application of Examples.

The difficulties which Heyne had to encounter in his pursuit of knowledge commenced with his life itself-his very birth throwing him out of the sphere of those excitements by which even the desire of knowledge is generally kindled. Yet this is a disad

a vantage which, great as it is, aspiring minds have often overcome. Of the ancient authors, not to mention the well-known case of Æsop, Publius SYRUS, and TERENCE were both originally slaves. EPICTETUS, the celebrated Stoic philosopher, was born in the same condition, and spent many years of his life in servitude. Having been at last fortunate enough to obtain his freedom, he retired to a small hut; and when he was barely able to procure the necessaries of life, devoted himself to the study of philosophy. A treatise of this writer was one of the works edited by Heyne, while at Dresden; and he used to relate that his fortitude, amid the difficulties that he had to struggle with at the time, was not a little strengthened and upheld by the precepts of severe virtue and determined endurance, which he found in the pages of the old philosopher. Epictetus's own conduct was strikingly in conformity with the lessons he taught, at least if we may believe one of the stories which are told of him. It is said, that

[ocr errors]


before he had obtained his liberty, his master, who was a very brutal man, chose one day to amuse himself by twisting the leg of his slave. “ You will break it for me,” remarked Epictetus. Immediately after, it happened as he had said. “I told you

, so,” added the philosopher, with all the indifference in the world. He lived at Rome in a house without a door; and with no furniture, except a table, a small bedstead, and a wretched coverlet; and this even at a time when he enjoyed the greatest familiarity with the Emperor Adrian. One day he was extravagant enough to purchase for himself a lamp made of iron; but he was punished for this deviation from his usual habits, by a thief soon after finding his way into the house, and running off with it. “He shall be cheated,” said Epictetus, “ if he come back to-morrow, for he shall find only an earthen one." PROTAGORAS, too, another of the Greek philosophers, had been a common porter, before he applied to study. He lived at Abdera, in Thrace, the same town in which resided the famous Democritus, commonly called the Laughing Philosopher, who one day met him carrying into the city a very heavy load of wood on his back, and was a good deal surprised on perceiving that the pieces were piled on one another exactly in the way best adapted to make the burthen rest easily on the shoulders. In order to discover whether this geometrical arrangement was the effect of skill or chance, he requested the young man to unbind the load, and make it up again in the same manner: this Protagoras immediately did with great dexterity; upon which Democritus, convinced that his talents were of a superior order, admitted him forthwith among his disciples, and spared no pains in instructing him in the different branches both of natural and moral philosophy. And, to mention no more instances, CLEANTHES, another

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

any one.”

of the Stoics, was brought up to the profession of a pugilist, and used to exhibit himself in that character at the public games; till, longing to study philosophy, he betook himself for that purpose to Athens, where he arrived with only three drachms (about three shillings and sixpence) in his pocket. In these circumstances he was obliged, for his support, to employ himself in drawing water, carrying burdens, and other such humble and laborious occupations. He contrived, however to proceed with his studies at the same time, bringing his fee of an obolus, or penny, every day to his master, Zeno, with great punctuality. On the death of Zeno, he succeeded him in his school, but still continued his menial labours as usual. draw water," he was wont to say, “and do any other sort of work which presents itself, that I may give myself up to philosophy, without being a burthen to

He was so poor, indeed, that the wind having blown aside his mantle one day when he happened to be present at one of the public shews, his fellow-citizens perceived that he had no tunic, or under garment, and gave

him one. He was always treated, notwithstanding his poverty, with the greatest respect at Athens.

In modern times we have many examples, also, of persons whom the love of knowledge has found in the lowest obscurity, and who have possessed themselves of the highest acquirements in science or literature, in spite of every disadvantage of birth. Heyne, as we have mentioned, was the son of a poor weaver. So was the Abbé Hauy, who died in Paris a few years ago, celebrated for his writings and discoveries in Crystallography-a science, indeed, of which he may be almost considered as the founder. It is the science which treats of those curious regular figures which so many solid bodies are found to possess in their natural state, or which they may be made to assume artificially, by dissolving or fusing them, and then allowing their particles to return to a state of solidity, which latter process is called their crystallization. Now it happens that the same substance is not found to have always the same figure externally when in a crystallized state, but is susceptible of several different forms, some of which do not appear at first to have any resemblance to each other. All preceding inquirers had been very much perplexed by this circumstance, in their attempts to establish a theory of crystallized bodies ; and various principles had been successively adopted and rejected as the foundations of a scientific arrangement of them. At length the attention of Haüy was directed to the subject, by having accidentally picked up an uncommonly beautiful specimen of calcareous spar, which presented the figure of a six-sided prism, and had been detached from a group of similar crystals. By trying to split this specimen in various directions with the blade of a knife, and dividing it only where be found a natural joint, he at last reduced it to the form of a rhomboid, or oblongated cube, which it retained in spite of all subsequent sections. Now this is exactly the form in which another calcareous spar, called Iceland Spar, is commonly found; whence Haüy was led to suspect that, by the application of the process he had employed, all crystallized substances of the same species might be reduced to the same primitive form. This idea he pursued with exceeding ingenuity; till, by means not only of his unparalleled dexterity in the dissection of crystals, but of a most masterly combination of algebraical and geometrical reasoning, le rested his theory upon grounds which would almost lead to the conclusion, that the principle is of universal application, and that it is only necessary to strip


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »