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language till now. Our own ALFRED the Great-one of the most perfect characters in history-affords us a still more illustrious example of what may be done by those who are not only advanced in life before they have an opportunity of acquiring what is commonly called learning, but even by those whose most elementary education has been begun comparatively late. Alfred had reached his twelfth year before he had even learned his alphabet; and an interesting anecdote is told of the occasion on which he was first prompted to apply himself to books. His mother, it seems, had shewn him and his brothers a small volume, illuminated, or adorned, in different places with coloured letters, and other such embellishments, as was then the fashion. Seeing it excite the admiration of the children, she promised she would give it to him who should first learn to read it. Alfred, although the youngest, was the only one of the four, perhaps, who had spirit even to attempt getting possession of the prize on such conditions—at least, it was he who actually won it; for he immediately, we are told, went and procured a teacher for himself, and in a very short time, by his assistance, was able to perform the task set him by his mother, and to claim the promised reward. Yet it appears to have been a long while after this before he was enabled to carry his acquirements beyond the mere elements of literature. The miseries to which his kingdom was for so many years exposed from the invasion of the Danes, and the incessant labours and privations to which he was in consequence compelled to submit, left him no leisure, till he had passed at least the twentieth year of his age, to improve his acquaintance with books; and even after he had regained his throne, and re-established his country in peace and independence, he had nearly as many impediments to contend with, from the extreme difficulty of procuring the necessary instructors. Nearly all those possessed of any degree of learning had disappeared, or been destroyed, during the late confusions. Alfred himself informs us, that when he came to the throne, he knew but few priests in the northern part of the kingdom, and not one to the south of the Thames, who could translate the Latin prayers of the church-service. By searching about, however, in all directions, and sending to foreign countries for what his own could not supply, he at last collected at his court some of the ablest men whom that dark age afforded; and he set himself immediately to profit by their instructions, with a docility and zeal that never can be enough admired. In spite of all his public duties and cares, and a tormenting disease, which scarcely ever left him a moment of rest, it was his custom, we are told, day and night, to employ his whole leisure time, either in reading books himself, or in having them read to him by others. Still, however, although he used to have such Latin books as he could procure interpreted to him by his learned friends, his native language was for a long time after this period the only one he knew. It would appear, indeed, by the account of Asser, one of his instructors, who has left us a very interesting biography of his royal pupil, that he had reached his thirtyninth year before he began to attempt translating anything from the Latin tongue himself. He and Asser, we are informed, were one day conversing together as usual, when the latter taking occasion to introduce a quotation from a particular author, the king was so much struck with the passage, that he desired it might be immediately inscribed on one of the blank leaves of a small religious manual, which he was wont to carry about with him in his bosom. This became the commencement of a collection of favourite sentences from the Latin writers, which Alfred, ever

aspiring after excellence; soon became ambitious to be able to peruse himself; and so proceeded at once to the acquirement of the language in which they were written. In no long time he attained to a great proficiency in his new study, as several translations from Latin authors which he has left behind him abundantly testify. Among these are a version of Boethius's Consolations of Philosophy,' which he has rendered exceedingly interesting, by the introduction into the original work of many new ideas and illustrations of his own; and another of Orosius's ‘Ancient History and Geography,' in which he inserts a very curious account of a voyage made in that


towards the North Pole by a Norwegian, which he expressly states he had heard from the lips of the navigator himself.

The celebrated French dramatist, MOLIERE, could only read and write very indifferently when he was fourteen years of age. It had been intended that he should follow the profession of his father, who was an upholsterer; but upon being taken on one occasion, about the time we have mentioned, by his uncle to the theatre, his passion for literature was so much excited, that he would hear of nothing but going to college, to which he was accordingly soon after sent. Another well-known French writer, SAINTE PALAYE, the author of the History of the Troubadours,' had, from the delicacy of his health, been so much indulged by his mother, that he had been allowed to pass his fifteenth year before beginning either Greek * or Latin; but his progress afterwards was so rapid, that he abundantly made up for the time he had lost. Dr. CARTER, the father of the celebrated Miss Carter, had been originally intended for a grazier, and only began his studies at the age of nineteen or twenty. He eventually, however, became a distinguished scholar; and gave his daughters a learned education.

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Valeriano Bolzani, who lived in the earlier part of the sixteenth century, and is better known by the Latinized name of JOANNES Pierius VALERIANUS, (the epithet Pierius having been given him by one of his masters, in allusion to the Greek term, Pierides, one of the names of the Muses,) was fifteen years old before he began to learn to read; his parents, indeed, having been so poor, that he was obliged to commence life as a domestic servant. He afterwards became one of the most learned and elegant scholars of his time, and wrote many books, several of which are still well-known and esteemed, particularly a curious treatise on the misfortunes of literary men, which has been often reprinted; the last edition having been brought out at Geneva, in 1821, under the care of our countryman, Sir Egerton Brydges. Valerianus merits particular commemoration in literary history on another account--for his disinterestedness, namely, in refusing the bishoprics of Capo d'Istria and Avignon, when pressed upon his acceptance by his patron Pope Clement VII., in order that he might devote himself entirely to literature. Joost VAN DEN VONDEL, one of the most distinguished names in Dutch poetry, and the author of works which fill nine quarto volumes, commenced learning Latin only in his twenty-sixth year, and Greek not till some years afterwards. Vondel, like many of the other literary men of Holland, had begun life as a commercial man, and originally kept a hosier's shop at Amsterdam; but he gave up the management of his business to his wife, when he commenced his .career as an author. He died in extreme old


in 1679, after having occupied, during a great part of his life, the very highest place in the literature of his country. The French mathematician, HENRY Pitot, was the author of several ingenious works, and particularly of a treatise on the management of vessels at sea. This book was long adopted by the French Government as the text-book for the instruction of the navy; and, being translated into English, procured the writer the honour of admission into the Royal Society. Yet he had reached his twentieth year before he began to pay any attention to learning. About this period of his life, when he used to spend his time only in idleness and dissipation, he chanced one day, upon going into a bookseller's shop, to open a volume on geometry, the figures in which attracted his attention, and excited his curiosity so much that he determined to study the work. This was the beginning of his fondness both for mathematics and for reading; and he soon grew so much attached to his new occupation, that he abandoned his old habits entirely, and now spent every hour in study, or in watching the stars, by means of instruments of his own invention, from the top of an old tower in his father's house. This mode of employing his time obtained for him at first, it is said, among his ignorant and astonished neighbours, the reputation of being a magician. He was afterwards sent by his father to complete his studies at Paris, where he was introduced to Réaumur, the celebrated naturalist, (whose work on insects is still one of the most philosophical guides to the student of entomology,) and the inventor of the thermometer known by his name; and he soon became, under Réaumur's guidance, an adept in the different departments of his favourite science. It is a curious circumstance, however, and shews at once his ardour in the pursuit of knowledge, and the penalty he was long afterwards obliged to pay for his early negligence, that he actually submitted, when more than fifty years old, to take his first lessons in Latin from his son's tutor, in order to be able to read some mathematical works written in that language which he wished to consult.

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