« AnteriorContinuar »
nent like him at once in the walks both of commerce and of literature; but we will only mention that of the late Mr. RICARDO. This gentleman, in the course of not a long life, for he died at the age of fifty-one, amassed a large fortune by his mercantile skill, activity, and attention to business, after having begun the world with little except a character for integrity and talent, and secured for himself not merely a respectable reputation as a writer, but in the important science to which he devoted himself, a place among the very first of his age. As we cannot here enter upon any examination of his peculiar doctrines, we express no opinion respecting the extent to which they may be well founded or may require limitation. But, whatever difference of sentiment may exist as to this point, there can be none as to the ability and ingenuity which their author always displays in unfolding and supporting them, and that originality of view which marks all his works, and has placed him at the head of a new and distinct school of enquirers in this department of philosophy. It has been said that Mr. Ricardo's attention was not directed to political economy till somewhat late in life; and a story has been told about his accidentally finding a copy of the · Wealth of Nations' one day at the country house of a friend, and immediately purchasing the book, reading it through with great eagerness, and resolving to dedicate himself thenceforth exclusively to the study of the subject with which he had thus for the first time become acquainted. But this anecdote has been contradicted on better authority, and is not in itself very probable ; for it is not likely that a mind, such as that of Ricardo, occupied as it was every day among the very matters to which the science in question especially refers, would be long in having its attention drawn to the principles of that science. Be this, however,
as it may, he did not appear as an author till 1809, when he published his pamphlet entitled “The High Price of Bullion, a proof of the depreciation of Bank Notes,' which immediately excited general attention, and went eventually through four editions. He was at this time in the thirty-seventh year of his age, and, we believe, actively engaged in the pursuits of business. He continued to write, and give to the world a succession of productions on his favourite subject, till his death in 1823. His great work, * The Principles of Political Economy and Tax ation,' appeared in 1817, two years after which time he was returned to Parliament, where he greatly distinguished himself, especially in all dis, cussions relating to finance and commerce,
He is understood to have left several manuscripts ready, or nearly ready, for the press.
Literary Pursuits of Booksellers and Printers. Gesner ; Aldus Manu
tius, Paul, and Aldus the Younger ; R. Stephens ; H. Stephens ; Scapula; Colinæus; Badius; Froben; Oporinus ; Ruddiman ; Bowyer ; Nichols; Richardson.
Many of our readers are probably familiar with the English translation of the popular German work, the Death of Abel. SOLOMON GESNER, the celebrated author of this production, and of many others written in a similar style that rank high in the literature of his native country, carried on the business of a bookseller at Zurich, in Switzerland. In his case, however, as in that of the Dutch poet, Vondel, whom we have already mentioned, the cares and interruptions of business were, during the latter part of his life, rendered less annoying by the attention of his wife, who is said to have charged herself with the principal management of his commercial concerns, that he might have more leisure for literature. But it was amid the drudgery of the shop that almost all his earliest studies were carried on, and his literary taste nourished. We are told that Gesner was accounted a dunce by his first schoolmaster, who predicted that he never would get beyond reading and writing; and yet the person who was thus unsuccessful in developing, or even discerning, the talents of the future poet, was no other than the celebrated Bodmer, one of the distinguished names of German literature, and who afterwards became a great poet himself. This anecdote shews that even genius will not always discover genius in another; although possibly some may think that Bodmer must have been but an indifferent
teacher, whatever he was in another capacity. Young Gesner was afterwards sent by his father, who, like himself, was a bookseller in Zurich, to the house of a clergyman in the neighbourhood, who, having probably no poetical powers of his own, had more leisure to attend to the intellectual character of his pupil, and soon drew forth from the condemned dunce no doubtful indications of the light that was hidden within. But the young poet was after some time removed from the care of this congenial, or judicious, instructor, and despatched to Berlin, to take up his abode with a bookseller of that city, in quality of his apprentice or shop-boy, Here he was of course surrounded with books; but, either disliking the business, or not finding that it left him sufficient leisure to derive much advantage from the treasuries of knowledge that were within his reach, he soon abandoned it, and took lodgings, under the idea of supporting himself by poetry and paintingfor he had already, without having any one to give him lessons, begun to apply himself also to the latter art. In this scheme he encountered at the outset the difficulties which naturally beset one in his situation. There was no deficiency of talent, but a sad lack of experience, and ignorance of many things that a person more regularly instructed could not have failed to know. Having shewn his verses to some of his literary acquaintances, he was told that they were so awkwardly constructed that he certainly never would be a poet, and advised to turn his attention forthwith to some less difficult species of composition. His paintings were still more literally the efforts of his own unaided genius than even his poetry. Here he had neither any model to imitate, nor was even acquainted with the elementary rules and most common methods and processes of the art. He had covered the walls of his humble lodging with land,
scapes, and he one day prevailed upon á painter of some reputation and talent, who resided in the city, to come to see what he had done. His visitor had taste enough to discern the genius that animated many parts of his strange and lawless performances ; but was not at all surprised, when, upon asking him after what models he worked, he was told that he had no models, and that the whole was merely the inspiration of his own invention. He was somewhat amused, however, when Gesner, in his ignorance of the way of managing his oil-colours, complained to him that his pictures never dried. The end of all this was, as might have been anticipated, that the runaway was soon forced to throw himself once more upon the protection of his friends, when he was again placed by his father at his own business. He did not, however, relinquish literature; and although his first productions were not very flatteringly received, he persevered in writing and publishing until he had established for himself a distinguished reputation. He began, too, after some years to add to his other employments that of an engraver, having already matured his taste and skill in painting by the study of the great masters of the Flemish school. The father of his wife possessed a valuable collection, the inspection of which had the effect of strongly exciting his early ardour. The remainder of Gesner's life was divided between his business, his duties as a public man, (for he had now become a member of the legislative council of his native city,) and those different intellectual occupations and elegant arts in each of which he had attained so honourable a celebrity. His works were not only in general published by himself, but often embellished with engravings by his own hand from his own designs. Many of them were still more popular in other parts of Europe, especially in France, than even in Ger