« AnteriorContinuar »
pas," was his candid avowal; and, that in his last moments, too, various symptoms of returning faith were discernible-for his pathetically uttered apprehension, in the dread uncertainty of a future state, and for Diderot's disciple, Naigeon's watchful guard, lest he should relapse into christian submission, we have the indisputable authority of M. de Fontanes, Grand Master of the University-the "Studiorum alma parens," as complacently distinguished. An endearing title, which if ever deserved, now truly, we may passingly observe, is little applicable to an institution tyrannous in system, and, from the well-known principles of many of the professors, scarcely to be supposed blameless in doctrine, rigidly intolerant of all instruction not immediately or permissively emanating from its own bosom, while not always the seat of desirable tuition. But Fontanes, whose memory we cherish as the friend of our youth, though he uniformly expressed a strong affection for D'Alembert, paid due homage, in belief and practice, to Christian Revelation, as when he emphatically declared to Pius VII. at Fontainebleau-" Toutes les pensées irréligieuses sont des pensées dangereuses: tout attentat contre le Christianisme est un attentat contre l'état," (Vie de Pie VII. par le Chevalier Artaud, tome i., pages 496-507.) And, on his last illness, in March, 1821, when his wife ordered the instant attendance of the physician-no, said he--first send for the priest"Commencez par envoyer chercher le curé," in whose embrace he penitently died. He was one of the most eloquent men in France; and the oration delivered by him, at Bonaparte's invitation, the 18th February, 1800, on the death of Washington, may not shrink
from emulative comparison with any existing similar effort. The subject, indeed, was an inspiring one, and he rose with it, proving the observation of Tacitus: "Crescit cum amplitudine rerum vis ingenii; nec quisquam claram et illustrem orationem efficere potest, nisi qui causam parem invenit." (Dialog. de Orator. cap. 37.) This incidental advertence to a favored, yet unperverted friend of D'Alembert, will not, we trust, appear misplaced. In one of his poems, he thus characterises the Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation-" Ce dictame immortel qui fleurit dans les cieux."
Fontenelle, like D'Alembert, had been an associate of the three old academies, and secretary also to one; distinctions of which he expressed himself prouder than of the most pompous titles. "De tous les titres du monde, je n'en ai jamais eu que d'une espèce, des titres d'Académiciens, et ils n'ont été profanés par aucun autre plus mondain et plus fastueux," was the forcible declaration of the celebrated centenarian, adopted in full appliance to himself, and complacently repeated by D'Alembert. Bailly and Condorcet received a similar accession of honors, but both fell victims to their revolutionary enthusiasm. In 1789, the three academies numbered collectively one hundred and eighty-seven members, of whom not more than twelve embraced the new order of things; a very small proportion truly, under the great ordeal of the period. Of these twelve, the French Academy, then containing thirty-seven members, (the maximum was forty,) furnished seven. La Harpe, (who quickly repented,) Ducis, Condorcet, Bailly, Chamfort, Turgot, and the Marquis de Montesquiou. The Academy
of Sciences reckoned ninety members, and that of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres sixty. Two only of the former became conspicuous as revolutionary adherents, exclusively of Condorcet and Bailly, who respectively belonged to the three institutions, and of the latter not more than three,-Camus, Dussaulx, and Pastoret. They all outlived the reign of terror, except Bailly and Condorcet, who fell its victims, the one by the guillotine, the other (Condorcet,) by poison, taken to avoid the revolutionary axe. In 1793, the academies were all suppressed, but reconstructed the 25th October, 1795, on the motion, as previously stated, of the Abbé Grégoire, with the subsisting designation of the "National Institute of France," including the "Fine Arts," and "Moral and Political Science;" consequently, forming five distinct but coordinate branches. Again, on the 25th January 1805, this encyclical embodiment of human acquirements was subjected, by an imperial decree, to a new organisation, when among the foreign associates of the scientific class, we find the appropriate names of Sir William Herschel, Sir Joseph Bankes, Dr. Maskeleyne, with, strange to add, that of Charles James Fox, whose fitting location was surely in the literary department. The fifth section, or that of Moral and Political Science, was little accordant with Napoleon's policy; for he viewed it as the school of vague abstractions, the nursery of those theorising philosophers, whom, by an epithet of his special application, he denominated "des idéologues," and whom he knew in general, to be adverse to Christianity. It was, therefore, abolished, but has since resumed its place; and it is in it that Lord Brougham
is classed, and thence derives the title which so prominently figures on the title pages of his publications. It is to the reputed incredulity of this branch, that M. Thiers, in the sixth book of his recent history, ascribes its suppression by the Emperor; but the imputation, we may hope, no longer applies to it. As the result of some curious calculations made by M. Benoiston de Châteauneuf, who likewise belongs to this section of the Institute, on the duration of learned life, deduced from the ascertained ages of nine hundred associates of the old academies, it appears that the medium length of each individual life was sixtyseven years, ten months, and of academic survivance, twenty-six years, six months, while their age, when elected, was between thirty-nine and forty, on an average. Not one of the old Academicians now survives; the last two were Pastoret, author of the inscription on the pediment of the Pantheon-" Aux Grands Hommes, la Patrie reconnaissante,”—and Jacques Dominique Cassini, who lately died, and closed the list of the successive astronomers of that name from 1669, when his ancestor, Giovanni Domenico Cassini, removed from Bologna to Paris, up to the year 1846. The mean of military life in Great Britain, is found to be within a fraction of sixty years, not much under the Academic average, all circumstances considered.
D'Alembert's death occurred on the 29th of October, 1783, when he was buried in the cemetery of St. Germain L'Auxerrois, Extra Muros, the archbishop having interdicted the interment, as then usual in the church, in consequence of the publicité persévérante de ses opinions, another authoritative contradiction of
Lord Brougham's asserted reserve in his avowal of these opinions. Nothing was more absurd, as was remarked by Grimm, than the anxiety expressed by these infidels for a christian sepulture in the church, which they gloried in desecrating during their lives. On the preceding month, the 18th, Euler's demise had deprived science of another of its highest proficients, but he was a declared believer in revelation.
Various salaries and pensions had raised D'Alembert's final income from 8,200 francs, as previously stated, to about 14,000, but his beneficence was commensurate with this gradual advance; and he consequently had little to bequeath in his will, which, it was found singular of observation, began with the customary, though by no means necessary, invocation of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Condorcet and De Watelet were named his executors and residuary legatees. Several epitaphs celebrated his praises, but the inscription destined for his portrait by Marmontel, his successor as secretary to the French Academy, was considered the most suitable—
"Ce sage à l'amitié rend un culte assidu,
Se dérobe à la gloire, et se cache à l'envie;
Et simple comme la vertu."
His personal appearance little corresponded with his high fame, nor was the "gratia oris," which instinctively won for Agricola the beholder's favor, as we learn from Tacitus, (cap. 44,) among nature's gifts to D'Alembert, nor, again, the Béos 'Attikòs, adverted to by Aristophanes. His features and aspect, of homely form and expression, reflected not his innate powers, nor did his small stature and