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A DISCOURSE, . .. . . i '.' /.!T
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THE EULOGIUM OF THE DUKE DE LA FORCE.
[From Montesquieu's Posthumous Works.].
This day, so solemn to the Academy—this day, on which it distributes its prizes, cannot but recal to it the mournful recollection of him who was their founder.*
But though I have now the honour of occupying the first place in this company, I will be so bold as to say, that it is not for their losses I am afflicted; I have, myself, lost a delightful companion, and know not whether my mind may not suffer by it equally with my heart.
I have lost him who excited my emulation, whom I always saw taking the lead of me in the walks of science, who raised my doubts, and afterwards knew how to dispel them. Pardon me, gentlemen, if that self-love, which is always the companion of grief, has permitted me to speak of no other but myself. It shall not be said that I conceal my regret; and until a pen more eloquent than mine has composed his eulogy, it is right that I should delineate a few sketches,
"Purpureos spargam flores, animamque sepulti ": His saltern accumulem douis—"
I shall say nothing of the birth or dignities of M. the Duke de la Force, and shall only apply myself to the painting of his character. Death sweeps away titles, possessions, and dignities; and there scarcely remains any more of an illustrious man deceased, than the faithful image which is engraven on the hearts of those who loved him.
One of the great qualities of M. the Duke de la Force was, a certain natural goodness; that virtue of humanity, which does so much honour to men; and he had it in perfection. It attached itself voluntarily, and it never left him.
He possessed great politeness; it was not a forgetfulness of his dignity, but the art of preventing the advantages it gave him from being felt by others. . . , ,,
Nevertheless, he well knew, occasionally, how to make a proper use of that external demeanor which belongs to the great, which
* The Duke de la Force died in Paris in 1725: he was the protector of the Academy of Btardeaui.
3 A—VOL. XVI.
they easily lay aside sometimes, but of which they cannot, without meanness, at all times, divest themselves.
He liked men of merit, generally sought them amongst men of wit, but sometimes was deceived. In his youth, the Belles Lettres only seemed suited to his taste; and he did not confine himself to an admiration of others, but was particularly fortunate in hitting off the Hudibrastic style. There remain some small performances of his, in that way, performed in this province, and at a time when the little taste that prevailed for letters made it little suspected that a great lord would apply himself to the cultivation of them.
He shortly afterwards discovered in himself a stronger relish for the Arts and Sciences, which shortly became a passion,"and that passion never forsook him.
Besides the sciences, which only spring from the source of the memory, he applied himself to those for which genius alone is the proper instrument; to those into which the mind must penetrate, in which it must act, in which it must create.
The faculty of genius in the Duke de la Force was admirable j, whatever he spoke was always more valuable than that which he had learned. The men of learning, who listened to him, were solicitous to hear what he said upon subjects, which he was no otherwise acquainted with than themselves. He explained things, and concealed his art in doing so; and it was easily perceived that he learned without difficulty.
Nature, which seems to have confined each man to some particular pursuit, rarely produces men of universal mind. The Duke de la Force was every thing he wished to be; and in that variety which he always presented, you would be at a loss to decide, whether you found in him a more extensive genius, or a greater multiplicity of talents.
The Duke de la Force preserved in all things a spirit of order and of method. His views were always simple and natural. It was this which made him catch at a new plan, with which great minds, by a kind of fatality, were more dazzled than any other, and which seemed to have been conceived for the express purpose of humbling them.
An air of philosophy, in a new administration, seduced persons of philosophic genius, and only revolted those who had not sufficient spirit to be deceived.
The Duke dc la Force, full of zeal for the public good, was a dupe to the extent and greatness of his mind. He-was in the ministry, and, charmed with a plan which spared all details, he confidently trusted to it.
We know that the error of that time was, believing that the great fortunes of individuals made the fortune of the public, and enlarged the bulk of the national capital.
In this I shall compare he Duke de la Force to those who, in an affray, of a dark night, perform exploits with which nobody is acquainted. In that time of trouble and confusion, he did an infinity of generous actions, for which the public has given him no credit. He did not distribute but strew his benefactions. This generosity increased with his opulence. He knew that the only advantage possessed by a rjch and great lord was, the power of being more generous than others. .
The virtue of generosity belonged properly to him; he exercised it without effort; he loved to do good, and he did it with a good grace. Presents, with him, were always covered with flowers; it seemed as if he had particular charms, and that he reserved them for those times when he had an opportunity to oblige others.
The Duke de la Force arrived at a critical period of life; for he paid the tribute of all illustrious men—he had been unfortunate. He gave up to his country even his justification. He learned from philosophy that there is not less courage in knowing how to bear injuries than misfortunes; and leaving to the public their judgments always blind, he limited himself to the consolation of seeing his disgraces respected by some faithful friends. Thus our country, which has a real right to our fortunes and our lives, sometime* exacts from us the sacrifice of our glory: thus almost all the great men amongst the Greeks and Romans suffered, without complaining, their services to be repaid by the injustice of their country.
The Duke de la Force passed the latter years of his life in a Itind of retirement. He was not one of those who had occasion for the bustle of affairs to fill up the void in their souls. Philosophy offered him great occupations, a magnificent ceconomy, an universal judgment. He lived in the sweets of peaceful society, surrounded by friends who honoured, always delighted to see, and were charmed to hear him. And, if the dead still retain any sensibility for things here below, may he be sensible that his memory is ever dear to us! May he see us employed in transmitting to posterity the remembrance of his rare qualities!
As we see laurels grow on the tomb of a great poet, so does the Academy seem to rise again even from the ashes of its protector. Three whole years have elapsed since we have bestowed a single crown; and, finding that the learned shewed less application, we began to think that they lost the confidence they before reposed in our judgments. This year we announced three prizes, and t*o of them have been bestowed.
Of all the dissertations we have had, on the cause and virtue of baths, not one has merited the suffrages of the Academy. With regard to those made on the cause of thunder, two have deserved, and two have divided our attention. The victorious author has a rival who, but for him, would have deserved to conquer, and whose work could not fail of being honoured with our praises.
THE ANCIENT CUSTOM OF DUELLING.
It appears that a duel was allowed to plaintiff and defendant, in causes that could not be decided otherwise. This method was so generally made use of, to terminate the differences between noblemen, that even ecclesiastics and monks were not dispensed from the observance of it. But lest they should pollute with blood, hand* dedicated to the offering of a pure sacrifice, they were obliged to get a man to fight in their stead. None were excused the observance of this cruel and extravagant law, but women, the sick, the maimed, young persons under twenty, and old men above sixty. It was ordered at first, in all causes, as well criminal as civil; and afterwards confined to those cases which related to honour, or to a capital crime. This custom came from the north: the Burgundians had erected it into a.law; and the French adopted it at their entrance into Gaul. Religion and reason long made useless efforts to bring about its abrogation; it supported itself during almost twelve centuries, in spite of the thunders of the Vatican. Some are of opinion that the combat between Tarnac and Chataigneraie, before Henry the Second, was the last famous duel fought in France by public authority: this is a mistake; for we read in the history of the nobility of the county of Venaissin, that Honore d'Albert, Lord of Luines, fought in an inclosure at the wood of Vincennes, in the presence of King Charles the Ninth, and his whole court, against Captain Panier, who reproached him with the suspicion that was entertained of him, in the affair of Mole and Coconas. The champion of Luines had the whole honour of the combat; he killed his enemy, whom a thousand valiant actions had rendered formidable. The form of this extraordinary procedure deserves the attention of the curious, and suggests strange reflections upon human caprice. The accuser and the accused threw down a pledge, which the judge took up: this mas most commonly a glove. Immediately hereupon the two com
batants were sent to prison, or closely guarded. After this, they could make no accommodation, without the consent of the judge. It was the lord of high jurisdiction that fixed the day for the duel, assigned the field, and furnished the combatants with arms. Whilst they were carried to the field, with fifes playing, and trumpets sounding, a priest blest them with great ceremony. The combat began by the lie being given and returned on both sides. By insensible degrees, the parties grew mild ; and, forgetting that they were going to cut each other's throats, they repeated some pious prayers, made open profession of their faith, and then engaged. Victory decided the innocence of the conqueror, or the validity of the right he supported. It is thus that the representation between grandchildren and uncles is become a fundamental law in Germany. The champion who supported it had the advantage when Otho the First was emperor. We, however, see an example to the contrary in the annals of Spain. The minds of men were divided with regard to tha Human and Mozarabic ritual, nobody knowing to which the preference was due: two champions were accordingly nominated; he that entered the lists for the Mozarabic ritual was conqueror; yet the Roman ritual prevailed. The punishment of the conquered was the same that was incurred by the person accused, if convicted. The champion vanquished underwent the same fate. They were both ignominiously dragged out of the camp, and cither hanged upon a gibbet, or burned, according to the enormity of the crime.
Strength Of Memory.—This seems to have been a quality highly esteemed among the Romans, Pliny often mentioning it when he draws the characters of his friends, as in the number of their most shining talents. And Quintilian considers it as the measure of genius; tautum ingenii, says he, quantum memorise. The extraordinary perfection in which some of the ancients are said to have possessed this useful faculty is almost incredible. Our author speaks, in a former letter, of a Greek philosopher of his acquaintance, who, after having delivered a long harangue extempore, would immediately repeat it again, without losing a single word. Seneca says, he could, in his youth, repeat two thousand names exactly in th« same order they were read to him; and that by the strength of his memory, the audience who attended the same professor with,him