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thers, delighted with his views upon conjugal duties, offered him their daughters; and a young rich lady of Lausanne, actually wrote to him herself, upon that delicate subject, with the consent of her mother: the parties disagreed, without having seen each other, on account of their different religious tenets. – All this may be true, in some degree; for, in the midst of the disordered state of opinions upon all subjects, which characterized France at that epoch, it is no wonder that an exaggerated importance was attached to the literary career, and to literary reputation.
St. Pierre became acquainted with Necker and his family; and through them he made his re-appearance in general society, and was introduced to Marmontel, St. Lambert, Laharpe, Delille, Suard, Morellet, and Thomas. Mr. Martin gives curious anecdotes of that society, and describes neatly the character of several of those distinguished writers. This part of his work is, as we have said at the beginning, really interesting, though it is in many particulars conneoted with the affairs of the rest of the world, but by a very slender thread. Arnaud intended to bring St. Pierre over to Necker's party, against Maurepas; but he declined: and Madame Necker ceased, from that moment, to favour him with her regard. St. Pierre had a slight relapse of his moral weakness; and intended again to form a colony, though upon somewhat sounder principles; but fortunately for him, Necker rejected his plan.
St. Pierre had read the MS of his Paul and Virginia,' to a coterie of beaux-esprits,' at Madame Necker's; but the effect of it was such, as to make him almost desist from publishing it. Vernet, the painter, reanimated his courage; he persevered,
, and the work had signal success. With the product of Paul and Virginia,' of which fifty piratical editions were published, in the course of one year, St. Pierre bought a little house and garden, at the extremity of the suburb St. Marceau; and there he lived during the early period of the Revolution, in undisturbed solitude. He wrote for a journal, to awaken good feelings and pity for the unfortunate King. "The Duke of Orleans, of execrable memory, desired him to lend his pen to his own cause ; but instead of acquiescing, he published a work, which he dedicated to Louis XVI.'; and lost by it, very honourably, the pension which the Duke had allowed him.
In 1792, St. Pierre was appointed superintendent of the Botanical Garden, at Paris, (Jardin des Plantes.) The unfortunate King told him: “I have read your works; they are the production of an honest man, and I have chosen you as a worthy suc
The reader remembers, probably, that Châteaubriand came to America upou a similar scheme
cessor of Mr. de Buffon.” In this situation, he rendered some services to science.
He was now at an age, when he could have little hope of finding a suitable wife. But Mademoiselle Didot was, it seems, long since captivated by his character, manners, and reputation; and her parents readily consented to their union.
The Revolution had already reached a dreadful height. St. Pierre revolted at the scenes he witnessed, and foreseeing the calamitous events which followed, discontinued his relations with some of the principal actors in that great tragedy, and with Condorcet particularly, who became his open enemy. That savant was instrumental in the destruction of the ménagerie of Versailles, and in the slaughter of all the rare animals. On the other hand, the peuple roi seized upon the botanical garden, under the pretence that it belonged to the nation, and it was necessary to organize a "fraternal guard” (garde fraternelle) from among the citizens of the neighbouring wards, to prevent an entire destruction of that excellent establishment. St. Pierre thus lost his office of superintendent, and he concluded to retire to a house which he possessed in a beautiful little island near Essone. Here he was met by the rabble, armed with pikes, who challenged him to exhibit his certificate of citizenship. Conducted before a political club, he tried to mollify them, by offering to indite for them petitions and addresses. After a month's solicitation, he was at last permitted to live in his own house. The clerk who sent him his certificate, wrote him : “ enclosed thou wilt find thy certificate : thus thou hast henceforth a new motive to believe in Providence, and to bless it.”
He passed quietly in his island a part of the revolutionary epoch, and wrote or finished there his Harmonies of Nature: on a sudden he was appointed, in 1794, professor of moral philosophy to the new “Normal School” at Paris. Gens d'armes brought him his appointment, and he was obliged to obey. He pronounced once in the course of a lecture the name of the Almighty ; at which his auditory broke out into enthusiastic applause; but he did not remain long in this situation, as at that epoch of never ceasing changes the school was shut before he had time to finish the composition of his lectures.
The next year he was elected a member of the Institute, where he found more enemies than friends, on account of his religious opinions. None of his memoirs were suffered to be printed among the transactions of the Society. Upon one occasion, while he was reading a passage relative to his religious sentiments, the room resounded with furious cries. Bernardin retired into the library to write a memoir, by which he flattered himself he would be able to convert the atheists; but of course, he did not succeed. St. Pierre caused his rejected memoir to be published.
This scene occurred in what was called la Classe de la morale, by a most striking contrast between name and object.
Mad. St. Pierre's health soon rapidly declined : and her aged husband accompanied her to Paris in search of medical assistance; but she died, after a few months, leaving two children, of whom the youngest was only eight months old.
After having sought in vain, in the solitude of his favourite retirement, relief from his sorrow for this loss, he returned to the capital, and obtained lodgings in the Louvre. He was then sixtythree years old; and the education of his children, says his biographer, was a difficult task for him. He used to visit a Countess le G. who was then at the head of a boarding school. One of the pupils, Mlle. de Pellepore, particularly attracted his notice, by the talent she displayed in her literary exercises ; from that moment he thought of choosing her as a mother to his children, and Mlle. de P. accepted the veteran's offer. Not long afterwards, he was about losing his little fortune by the failure of a banker; when his debtor, upon his refusal to acquiesce in any compromise, gave him a country seat, near the village of Eragny, on the banks of the Oise. He accepted the proposal
We have no space for Mr. St. Pierre's intimacy with Ducis; nor for the domestic history of the latter, who was hen-pecked by one of the most frightful shrews with whom a literary man could be plagued; nor the anecdotes relative to Napoleon's intercourse with some of the literati. But it is a part of our task to mention, that the latter desired St. Pierre to write the history of his campaigns in Italy, and that in consequence of his refusal, he was excluded from the Senate. Not long after, Joseph Buonaparte (Count Survilliers) offered him spontaneously a public employment, and on his declining it, gave him an annual pension of six thousand francs, and wrote him a very affectionate letter. From that moment, his affairs were in a more prosperous state than ever ; and shortly afterwards, he obtained besides, of Napoleon, an additional pension of two thousand francs, and the cross of the Legion d'Honneur.
He retired at last to his country-seat at Eragny, and received a new favour from the government, by the admission of his children into the imperial schools.
But his health had begun to decline, and after repeated apoplectic attacks, he died in the arms of his wife and his daughter, on the 21st of January, 1814.
Mad. de Genlis could not fail to mention Bernardin St. Pierre in her Memoirs. She procured him, she says, his pension from the Duke of Orleans, and he visited her house for a long time. But being once rallied by another wit, he waxed so angry, that he “ got up in a fury, saying he would never return to her house,”
and was deaf to the lady's repeated solicitations to remain her friend. Mad. de Genlis is not apt to spare those with whom she has some reason to be dissatisfied; and a drop of female gall may have fallen on her palette, when she depicted him as one of the literary men, “the least agrecable in society, and the least formed for it. With all due respect for her age and sex, we must express something like a strong disbelief of this latter assertion ; for it is only by his elegant manners, or superior colloquial powers, and light and agreeable talents, that he could have obtained access to the most brilliant circles of Europe, before he had acquired his literary reputation, and when he was neither entitled to it by his birth, nor his rank, nor his fortune.
We have thus accompanied him, in his irregular path over the globe, through a labyrinth of follies, shadowed more or less with the darker hues of vice, and through adventures which brought him within a hair's breadth of a most calamitous end. Received every where with much kindness and an excessive indulgence, he was more than once in the way of attaining an honourable station by a little patience; but being always querulous, and pursuing chimerical ends, he passed a restless, vagrant, and comparatively dishonourable existence. His character was by no means of an iron cast: he was ambitious, but still more vain and frivolous : inclining, by ardour of temper, to melancholy, he was prone to enjoy pleasures whenever fortune smiled upon him: easily moved to tender feelings, the softer emotions were, however, less lasting than his piques and resentments. He was brought, by his chimeras, to the brink of ruin, but was so fortunate as to escape it, not only without disreputable eclat, but without any overt act of dishonesty that we know, excepting his conduct towards Russia. It may be safely said that he had a good natural disposition, but was weak, and behaved ill to himself more than to others, from want of principle. Such we conceive him to have been, at least from the materials furnished by his biographer: His works, as we have more than once intimated, would lead us to think more favourably of him; though, after all, we should never have ranked him very high, in regard to judgment and reasoning. In the latter part of his life, his vagraney and his obliquities were less striking, and his writings earned him more fame than he ever could reasonably have expected from his gigantic plans. He found peace and independence in literary pursuits, and happiness in two marriages, at a very advanced period of his life. Fortune was, upon the whole, any thing but unfriendly to him.
We are aware that we have spoken with severity of the biographer and his hero. But folly must be censured. Such a biography is likely to find many readers. The French newspapers are full of its praises; editions are multiplied; and, for the same
reason that it ought not to have been published, it is our duty to warn the unwary. It struck us as fit to be noticed in this journal, on account of the currency of St. Pierre's works in our country, and the interest which is probably felt in the career and character of the author of such volumes. Besides, the epitome which we have made will serve to illustrate the bad taste, which is but too common in some parts of Europe, in the choice of biographical details and the course of literary heroes.
Art. IV.- Personal Narrative of Travels in the United
States and Canada, in 1826 ; illustrated by Plates. With Remarks on the present state of the American Navy. By Lieut. the Hon. FREDERICK FITZGERALD DE Roos, Royal Navy. London: 8vo. pp. 207.
LIEUTENANT. DE Roos is certainly the most extraordinary traveller of all travellers and voyagers, not excepting Peter Wilkins, the Flying Dutchman, Captain Parry, Captain Gulliver, or him of the Golden Arrow. We do not mean on the score of the extraordinary stories he relates, the extraordinary sights he sees in the dark, or the extraordinary dangers he encounters in taverns, steam-boats, stage-coaches, and soda shops. It is the unequalled speed and unparalleled accuracy of the author and his book, when we consider how the latter was concocted without stopping by the way, or looking either to the right or to the left, that has excited this our unqualified testimony. For this latter omission, it is freely confessed the Lieutenant is somewhat excusable, since there would have been little use in his looking, as, according to his own account, by far the greater portion of his miraculous journey was achieved before daylight in the morning and after daylight in the evening. It is this most original peculiarity that makes the Personal Narrative so valuable and curious. It is, in fact, a wonderfully accurate midnight and moonlight view of this country, like that given by Le Diable Boiteux to the scholar of Spain ; and all circumstances considered, we are of opinion that the aforesaid Diable must have had a hand in it, as it seems impossible to admit that a mere mortal English lieutenant could possibly have groped his way through towns and cities, by water and land as it were, thus in the dark, with so few blunders in matters of fact, grammar, spelling, and geography. Even admitting this supernatural agency, Lieutenant De Roos must be a right clever youth; and we cordially hope His Royal Highness, the Lord High Admiral of England, to whom VOL. 11.NO. 4.