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? Such is the character which' M. Necker has given of his wife, and it cannot but prepoffefs us in favour of these volumes. As a compar.ion to this picture, we will exhibit, in part, the portrait of M. Necker, drawn by her hand, in 1787.
"O thou who haft at all times been the object of all my affections ! thou who canft not reproach me with having given to vain pleasures the days which duty and tenderness required to be confecrated to thee, suffer me, before time or disease shall snatch me from thy bosom, to become the faithful interpreter of thy renown! I would show thee to thy own eyes such as it will one day make thee appear! I would how thee to thyself as thou art ! Come and contemplate thy image in a heart which was never filled by any other s read there the permanent tablet of thy rare virtues, and secure thyself from thy own distrust; let that heart which has never deceived thee, teach thee to render justice to thyself, and perinit not calumny to trouble the destiny which thy eminent virtues have rendered so fair.'
M. Necker loves glory; he is not without self-love, if that appellation may be given to the reasonable consciousness of our faculties; and yet he is of all men the least felfish. Beyond the reign of opinion, he accounts himfelf as nothing, and even that opinion he only, efteems before he has obtained it. He pursues glory and praise as hunters pursue a prey, which they neglect and despise as faon as it has fallen at their feet,'
I have never known any one more virtuous as a public man, or more virtuous as a private man ; and yet never two characters had fewer resemblances. The public man is exempt from all defect ; the private man is virtuous even in his defects. The one is firm, and the other is weak; the one is ceconomical, the other is liberal; the one is fevere, the other indulgent. The one reasons, the other feels; the one yields only to motives of justice, while the other yields to all the feelings of humanity; the one furrounds himself with ice, that he may drive back all the force of life to the heart; the other obeys the first impreffion; and we difcover, in all parts of his existence, that warmth of sensibility which the public man reserves for the nation. As a public man, we have seen M. Necker avaricious of his time, reckoning the minutes, retrenching the things that most interested him; as a private man, we see him amufing himfelf with mere trifles, playing like a child, and uniting all his life with those who love him. In the former capacity, we have seen him requiring affiduous labour, and irritated at the
flightest negligence: in the latter, he fcarcely dares demand from those who surround him the most common attentions : it is necessary to fly to meet his wishes ; an air a little less open repels him; he would have nothing but from feeling, and thinks nothing due to him from any other source.
• There never was a more original mind: he always digs in his own foil; he there finds inexhaustible riches, like those mines which we discover in the bowels of the earth, without knowing how they were formed there, although they may suffice for our wants and those of pofterity. He has fucceffively brought forward in his reAections all possible ideas, without knowing the opinion of others, and even without seeking it. He finds resources in the most difficult circumstances; he removes the obstacles to thought as he does the obstacles to business, and finds out the centre in the midst of darkness, as another would do in full day; it appears, indeed, as if he had many senses that are unknown to us. In his youth he reflected always, and read nothing ; so that his mind has something of the antique; one might say that it had existed before the others. Democritus believed it to be his duty ta deprive himself of sight, that he might not be disturbed in his studies by exter. nal objects: the man of genius, who would not be led
away from his own thoughts by those of another, follows a similar fystem ; he rejects all light from without, as he would receive it only from his own understanding. The majority of those persons who do not renew their thoughts by read ing, have something too fubtle; in drawing from one bundle all that must surround their spindle, they are obliged to draw the thread extremely fine to make it last. But M. Necker is very different : whatever comes from him takes a remarkable consilience; the most trivial things aggrandise themselves in the profundity of his thoughts; he resembles those wonderful animals who change the water which nourishes them into branches of corai. He is cera tainly a man of genius; but he has no right to be proud, for he has done nothing by himself ; nature completed him as he is, and he owes even the use of his faculties to circumftances and to folicitations. His reflection is involuntary; he reflects when he ought to act ; he employs hiniself in details as in general ideas; he is governed by the movements of his genius, as others are by the impulse of their pallions. He has ideas of his own upon all subjects, and yet he cannot withdraw himself from the dominion which the fuggestions of others have over him: foreiga ideas are to him fo many shackles which clog and delay him : if you wish him to proceed, he must disembarrais himself. 'In fine, his genius is all or nothing; he mus
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enter into a subject, he must penetrate it, he must follow it through all its ramifications, and must command it ; other wise he will not interest himself in it.'. i Awork like this, consisting of detached thoughts and anecdotes, with a few letters and fragments of letters, is scarcely a proper fubject of criticism. M. Necker attempted to methodise and arrange his wife's papers ; but he foon found it an impracticable and useless taik. The book is therefore a miscellany of everything. Some of the witticisms contained in it may be traced to our countryman Miller, of facetious memory; but perhaps they may be new in Switzerland; as, on the other hand, what may be antiquated jokes in that country, will amule us in this by their novelty. Our extracts will prove that the reader may find in these volumes much amusement and some instruction.
"I know some metaphysicians (says Madame Necker) to whom I will never again fpeak of the beauties of nature ; they have long neglected the intermediate ideas which link sensations with thoughts; and their minds are so much occupied with abstractions, that one cannot make them partake of enjoyments which always suppose the relations of the soul with real and external objects.
A man of genius is the greatest miracle of nature ; and M. de Buffon never spoke to me of the wonders of the world without making me think that he was one himself.*.
A German leaped out of a window :-“ What are you doing," said a person to him." I am endeavouring to be lively,” was the answer.'
'A woman's pleading! I defired this man to make me fome handsome figures-- like my lord the judge. He has made me ugly ones, like himself. Ought I to pay for his tapestry ?:-She gained her cause,'
We might define all crimes, the sacrifices of the future to the present; and all virtues, the sacrifices of the present to the future.'.
• Mr. Gibbon's work is the faithful copy of the fine genius which conceived it; a genius which always found in its brilliant imagination the means of painting truth, and in its erudition a fruitful source of wit and feeling. If this history of many centuries had not been dishonoured by the ignoble and sterilé opinians of the philosophers of our age,
we might have placed it in the same rank with Salluft and with Livy: but men of great talents have, almost all, the heel of Achilles; and the weakness of their judgment, which shows itself in fome essential part of their writings, may, thus deprive them of immortality.'
Simplicity (said M. Necker) is like a straight line in geometry--the shortest line between two points.
When we lose our way, it is better to be upon a bad horse than a good one ; for he will not carry us so far : a faithful image of a man of genius or a fool in an error !'
Queen Christina, in abdicating her throne to give herself up entirely to the literary world, resembles that woman who suffered two fine teeth to be drawn to please her lover, because he was always saying that he was enamoured only of her mind, and that he regarded not her external charms. His mistress being less beautiful, he loved her no longer.'
• An ill-natured wit said of some person, “ He is so little and so thin, that, in case of neceffity, he might serve as a foul for fome body.” I sometimes hear arguments so dull, and reflections so trite, that I am tempted to think the souls of those who make them might, in case of neceffity, serve as bodies for men of talents.'
· Boiffi reproached the poet Roi for wearing a dirty shirt, He replied, “ Every one has not been so fortunate as to marry his washerwoman.” Boifli had married his.'
“The blockhead discovers a man of genius by an instinct of antipathy, much sooner than the man of genius discovers a blockhead.'
(A skilful agricultor, not being able at first to perfuade the people to plant potatoes, left a whole field of them unguarded, in the hope of being robbed : fortunately he was fo, and the people accustomed themselves to that food, Every man of genius, who prefers truth and the public good to his own vanity, will be of a similar opinion, and be pleased at being surrounded by plagiaries.'
( To describe nature well, it is necessary to have seen it, To attempt painting a tempest without having traversed the feas and undergone the dangers of a shipwreck, is like wishinig to draw the portrait of a woman from the descrip
tion of her features: the physiognomy must always be deficient.'
• Nothing is so ridiculous in style as the imitation of fervour. All the new writers of novels wish to tread in the steps of Rousseau. The heroine of one of these ephemeral productions has a lover in prison, about to mount the fcaffold: fhe writes to her friend, “ It is midnight, and I have not yet closed my eyes.”
• The filence of night adds to the soft feelings, to the happiness of loving, by fixing all our thoughts upon the object which occupies us; night also increases forrow, for it seems to leave us alone with our own hearts, by feparating us from all nature.'
. The first wife of the present (late] king of Pruffia had fent for some stuff's from France, and would not pay the officer who demanded the duty. She
gave box on the ear. He complained to Frederic, who replied, « The stuffs are for the princess, the duty is for me, and the box on the ear for you."
• It is mentioned in a song, that a certain king, who was very fond of dancing, used to put nut-shells in his shoes, to mingle pain with pleasure. The apologue is ingenious : vice and the faults of character always produce the effect of the nut-shells.'
In the correfpondence we find little of the ease of epistolary unreserve. We extract a part of a letter to M. de Sauffure.
No, Sir, it is not the carcase of the universe, as you have with so much energy expressed it, that you have seen extended under your feet; it is, on the contrary, the noble and colossal figure of a tremendous and sublime nature. We. have followed you tremblingly amidst precipices and dangers ; you have made us experience all the feelings of hope and fear which render the life of the chamois-hunter fo delightful and so terrible; we have fancied ourfelves enjoying with you that magnificent fight which struck you, when, like a new Enceladus, you had fcaled Mont-Blanc. Certainly the chaos. of Milton, the hell of Virgil, and the palace of the Gnomes in the Thousand and One Nights, are only childish inventions, compared with the wonders which you have unfolded to us; for nature and reality have a character which imagination cannot attain. There is, lays M. de Buffon, a kind of courage of mind in being able