« AnteriorContinuar »
Arrother French mathematician, the ingenious PAUCTON, whose · Metrology,' or treatise on weights and measures, although first published nearly half a century ago, is still considered one of the most valuable extant, had, owing to the poverty of his parents, scarcely received any education at all, till after he had reached his eighteenth year.
He was at last noticed by a charitable ecclesiastic, who gave him lessons for about two years ; after which he completed his studies at Nantz. Paucton eventually obtained the professorship of mathematics at Strasburg; but his labours here must have been but indifferently recompensed, for when the city was threatened with a blockade by the Austrians, and the magistrates had issued orders that
inhabitant who could not supply himself beforehand with sufficient store of provisions for the siege, should quit the place, Paucton, being too poor to afford the necessary outlay, was obliged to take his departure with his wife and three children. He was afterwards, however, patronized by the French Government; and had the prospect of passing his latter days in comfortable circumstances, when he died in 1798, at the age of sixty-two.
We shall at present mention only another example. JOHN OGILBY, the well known translator of Homer, was originally a dancing-master. He had apprenticed himself to that profession on finding himself reduced to depend upon his own resources, by the imprisonment of his father for debt in the King's Bench. Having succeeded in this pursuit, he was very soon able to release his father, which he did, very much to his credit, with the first money he procured. An accident, however, put an end to his dancing, and he was left again without any permanent means of subsistence. In these circumstances, the first thing he did was to open a small theatre in Dublin; but just when he
had fairly established it, and had reason to hope that it would succeed, the rebellion of 1641 broke out, and not only swept away all his little property, but repeatedly put even his life in jeopardy. He at last found his way back to London, in a state of complete destitution; but although he had never received any regular education, he had before this made a few attempts at verse-making, and in his extremity he bethought him of turning his talent in this way, which certainly was not great, to some account. He immediately commenced his studies, which he was enabled to pursue chiefly, it is said, through the liberal assistance of some members of the university of Cambridge; and although then considerably above forty years of age, he made such progress in Latin that he was soon considered in a condition to undertake a poetical translation of Virgil. This work made its appearance in the year 1650. A second edition of it was printed a few years after, with great pomp of typography and embellishments. Such was its success that the industrious and enterprising translator actually proceeded, although now in his fiftyfourth year, to commence the study of Greek, in order that he might match his version of the Æneid by others of the Iliad and the Odyssey. In due time both appeared; and Ogilby, who had in the meanwhile established himself a second time in Dublin, in the management of a new theatre, was in the enjoyment of greater prosperity than ever, when, having unfortunately disposed of his Irish property, and returned to take up his residence in London just before the great fire of 1666, he was left by that dreadful event once more entirely destitute. With unconquerable courage and perseverance, however, he set to work afresh with his translations and other literary enterprises; and was again so successful as to be eventually enabled to re-build his house which had
been burned down, and to establish a printing-press; in the employment of which he took every opportunity of indulging that taste for splendid typography, to which his first works had owed so much of their
He was now also appointed cosmographer and geographic printer to Charles II. ; and at last,
age of seventy-six, terminated a life remarkable for its vicissitudes, and not uninstructive as an evidence both of the respectable proficiency in literature which may be acquired by those who begin their education late in life, and also of what may be done by a stout heart and indefatigable activity in repairing the worst injuries of fortune. Ogilby was no great poet, although his translations were very popular when they first appeared ; but his Homer, we ought to mention, had the honour of being one of the first books that kindled the young imagination of Pope, who, however, in the preface to his own translation of the Iliad, describes the poetry of his predecessor and early favourite
too mean for criticism."
Early Age of Great Men. Short Term of their Lives. Newton; Gre
gory; Torricelli; Pascal; Cowper; Burns; Byron; Sydney; Otway; Collins ; Mozart; Raphael; Correggio; Politian ; Mirandola.
CONSIDERABLE as are the disadvantages which those persons have to contend with who begin their acquaintance with books only late in life, it ought not to be forgotten, on the other hand, that all the chances of the race are not against them. The time they have lost, and are anxious to redeem, of itself gives a stimulus that will make up for many disadvantages. Then, although they have not yet learned much from books, they have nevertheless learned of necessity a great deal from other sources; and they come to their studies, too, with faculties, which, if not quite so pliant as those of childhood, have much more vigour and comprehension. And as for the comparative shortness of the space which they may reasonably count upon as being still left to them for their new pursuit, after the years they have already spent, as it were, in sleep, we would remark that in a right view of the subject, this is truly a little matter.
Between the ultimate point of discovery, and the place we now occupy on the ascent towards it, the steps are so inconceivably many, as, with regard to us, that they may be most truly described as interminable. So far as we have experience, or can conceive, of knowledge, it is an expanse ever widening before us and around us. Its horizon seems not only always as distant as ever, but always becoming more distant the more we strive to approach it. For every
one discovery is merely the opening of a road to other discoveries; and the lifting of us at the same time to a new eminence, from which we see a broader domain than before, both of the known and of the unknown. It is the attainment of a comparatively small portion of knowledge only, that even the longest life can compass; and the shortest is sufficient for the attainment of some portion, In other words, the pleasure belonging to the acquisition of knowledge is one which all may enjoy who choose, let the time of life at which they commence the pursuit of it be what it may. In so far, therefore, as we are to be allured by this temptation, it matters not, as we have said, whether we find ourselves in the morning or in. the evening of our days, when we would yield ourselves up to its influence. · If we were even certain that we had but a few years longer to live, it would still offer, for what leisure we could
from other duties, the most delightful as well as the most ennobling of all occupations.
Such considerations we would address to the generality of those whose attention may not have been attracted to literature till late in life.
But even to him who feels within himself the ambition, and something of the power, of high intellectual achievement, and only regrets that so many of his years have been lost in other pursuits before he has had any opportunity of turning to this, we would say that the field in which he longs to distinguish himself is still open for his admission, and its best prizes waiting to be won by him, if only his ardour and courage do not fail. When there is a real superiority of faculties, it is wonderful how much has often been accomplished even in a very few years devotedly given to the pursuit of eminence. Some of the greatest men that ever lived have either died early, or might have done so for their fame. NEWTON