Page images

stood; and he who has not seen him, cannot know what acting is.'

Cet acteur est le premier et le seul qui ait rempli tout ce que mon imagination attendait et exigeait d'un comédien ; et il m'a démontré, à ma grande satisfaction, que les idées qu'on se forme de la perfection ne sont pas aussi chimériques que certaines gens à tête étroite voudraient nous le persuader: il n'y a point de limites que le génie ne franchisse.'

This great performer spent the better part of a year at Paris; and M. Grimm seems fully to have understood his character. He says it was a standing maxim with him, that no man could play tragedy well who had not an equal capacity for comedy. He speaks of his petulant vanity, his restlessness, and his propensity to eternal mimicry and imitation. Riding one evening through the Bois de Boulogne with Preville, the great French actor, he said all at once, Now I am going to personate a drunk man-do you the same; '--and instantly he threw himself' into such attitudes and movements, as brought all the people to their doors, full of fear, pity, and derision. When they had got into a lonely part of the road, he threw off his intoxica tion, and began to laugh:- Well,' said Preville, did not I do tolerably well?'-O yes,' replies Garrick, very well indeed--but you were not drunk in the legs!' Such was the habitual nicety of his observation.


There is a reasonable ailowance of anecdotes and bon mots scattered through these volumes; but we find it difficult to hunt them up among four thousand great pages of speculation; and our readers must be satisfied with such a poor specimen as we can hit upon in turning over a few leaves. The gallant extravagance of M. Bouret is the first that strikes us. M. Bouret was a Farmer-general, who had made an immense fortune. A lady to whom he had some obligation, agreed one day to dine with him; but being rigorously confined to a milk diet, begged that he would bring no green peas to his table, as the sight of them might tempt her to transgress her regimen. It was then the season when green peas sold for their weight in gold,-and Bouret promised that none should be offered to her. On entering the porch, however, he took occasion to point out to her a fine red cow, which he had provided for her accommodation; and, before this cow there was a vast tub full of green peas, on which she was most luxuriously browsing.-We think we have seen this story somewhere else: But there is another of the same personage, which we take to be original. His Most Christian Majesty, it seems, condescended to pay an annual visit to this magnificent publican. On his arrival in the year 1760, the first

thing he saw was a book superbly bound in two great folios, and titled on the back Le Vrai Bonheur.' Inside there was written upon every page, these words, and no more, Le Roi est venu chez Bouret,' with the date of a separate year to every entry, from 1760 to 1840; and, even then, there was no finis to this interesting treatise, but only The end of the Second Volume.' We doubt whether a Chinese Mandarin could have devised a more cumbrous and extravagant scheme of adulation. There is something ludicrous in the dying words ascribed by the wits of Paris to old Restaut the grammarian. After spending fourscore years in settling the conjugation of the irregular verbs, he is said to have expired with this observation, Je m'en vais donc, ou je m'en vas (car il n'y a rien de decidé la dessus) faire ce grand voyage de l'autre monde. '-There are also some very good mots of La Fontaine; but we can only recollect one.-A worthy antiquary was one day edifying the academy with a monstrous long detail of the comparative prices of commodities at different periods, when La Fontaine observed, Cet homme

connait le prix de tout-excepté le tems. '-Of Voltaire we hear rather less in these volumes than in the former publication. His works, however, are criticized with great freedom and acuteness as they appear.-The Pucelle, it is positively asserted, was the joint work of the Patriarch and three female coadjutors, Madame De Chatelet being one.-There is a ludicrous account of his crowning Madame de Bocage with laurel one evening at supper, and pointing her out all the time to the derision of his guests by the most comical grimaces and contor tions. The poor lady, however, was quite ravished with the honour, and published a long account of it in the next editition of her works; to which she prefixed her own portrait with this modest legend, Formâ Venus, arte Minerva.' She preceded Mr Joel Barlow, it seems, in writing a Columbiad, very nearly as illegible as his own. Voltaire happened to be in company with a pious old lady, when there came on a violent thunderstorm; upon which she fell to her genuflexions, and screamed out, that it was on account of his impiety that she was put in this danger; and that she had no doubt the house that contained him would be dashed to pieces on their heads. The Patriarch, after some compassionate pleasantries, at length lost patience, and said, Sachez, Madame, que j'ai dit plus de bien de Dieu dans un seul de mes vers, que vous n'en penserez de votre vie.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

There are some amusing stories of the deafness and insatiable curiosity of M. de Condamine, and the etourderie of the Chepalier de Lorenzi. It gives one a strong impression of the ex

treme freedom of French society, to find that Madame Geoffrin, discoursing one day on the different sorts of awkwardness, proceeded to illustrate her positions by pointing to this M. de Lorenzi and M. de Beriguy, who were both among her auditors, and desiring the company to observe que celui-ci etait plus gauche de corps, et l'autre plus gauche d'ésprit-ce qui fournit les deux points du sermon.'

Among the uniform personnages de representation of French society, the Comte de Caylus seems to have been regarded as a very great oddity, chiefly because he wore worsted stockings and thick shoes, with a plain coat, and spent most of his fortune in patronizing the arts, and domineering over the taste of his protegés. His death, however, it must be admitted, was a little singular. Having been suspected of a want of orthodoxy, his near relations, and among the rest a pious bishop, were anxiously waiting during his last illness, for some opportunity of suggesting the propriety of some spiritual attentions, when he suddenly relieved them by saying, I see perfectly that you wish to converse with me on the state of my soul;' and when they were all delighted with this happy opening, he proceeded I am very sorry, however, to be obliged to inform you, that I actually have none.' And, notwithstanding the fervent admonitions of the attendants, he persisted in this statement,--and maintained, with great seriousness, that it was a matter of which he was certainly better entitled to judge than any one else. When reduced almost to the last extremity, he still persisted in going out in his carriage, and eating and drinking all sorts of things as usual, and ended with a bad pun on the name of his parish priest. This worthy person, who was called M. Chapeau, having come to see him the day before he died, the Comte told him with great politeness, that he need not come again till he was sent for, which, however, would be very soon, for, as the weather was beginning to be bad, he rather thought he should not go out again sans chapeau;' and next day, accordingly, the good vicar was sent for to bury him!

We must now, however, break off this gossipping, for the present. In our next Number we shall take a final and more serious farewell of the Baron. In closing the book, we are struck with a remark made in the year 1753, that the inherent vices of the Spanish government seem to condemn that nation for ever to a condition of imbecility and discomfort; and that, from the time of Hannibal downwards, it seems rather to have been the theatre and the prize of foreign valeur and enterprise, than a field for patriotic exertions.


ESSAI PHILOSOPHIQUE sur les Probabilités.

M. LE COMTE LAPLACE, Chancelier, &c. Paris, 1814.


I T is to the imperfection of the human mind, and not to any irregularity in the nature of things, that our ideas of chance and probability are to be referred. Events which to one man scem accidental and precarious, to another, who is better in formed, or who has more power of generalization, appear to be regular and certain. Contingency and verisimilitude are therefore the offspring of human ignorance, and, with an intellect of the highest order, cannot be supposed to have any existence. In fact, the laws of the material world have the same infallible operation on the minute and the great bodies of the universe; and the motions of the former are as determinate as those of the latter. There is not a particle of water or of air, of which the condition is not defined by rules as certain as that of the sun or the planets, and that has not described from the beginning a trajectory determined by mechanical principles, subjected to the law of continuity, and capable of being mathematically defined. This trajectory is therefore in itself a thing knowable, and would be an object of science to a mind informed of all the original conditions, and possessing an analysis that could follow them through their various combinations. The same is true of every atom of the material world; so that nothing but information sufficiently extensive, and a calculus sufficiently powerful, is wanting to reduce all things to certainty, and, from the condition of the world, at any one instant to deduce its condition at the next; nay, to integrate the formula in which those momentary actions are included, and to express all the phenomena that ever have happened, or ever will happen, in a function of duration reckoned from any given instant. This is in truth the nearest approach that we can make to the idea of OMNISCIENCE; of the Wisdom which presides over the least as well as the greatest things; over the falling of a stone as well as the revolution of a planet; and which not only numbers and names the stars, but even the atoms that compose them.

The farther, accordingly, that our knowledge has extended, the more phenomena have been brought from the dominion of Chance, and placed under the government of physical causes; and the farther off have the boundaries of darkness been carried. It was, says M. LAPLACE, of the phenomena not supposed to be subjected to the regulation of fixed laws, that superstition took hold, for the purpose of awakening the fears and enslaving the minds of men. The time, adds he, is not far distant, when unusual rains, or unusual drought, the appearance


of a comet, of an eclipse, of an aurora borealis, and, in general, of any extraordinary phenomenon, was regarded as a sign of the of heaven; and prayers were put up to avert its dangerous consequences. Men never prayed to change the course of the sun or of the planets, as experience would have soon taught them the inefficacy of such supplications. But those phenomona of which the order was not clearly perceived, were thought to be a part of the system of nature which the Divinity had not subjected to fixt laws, but had left free, for the purpose of punishing the sins of the world, and warning men of their danger. The great comet of 1456 spread terror over all Europe, at that time alarmed by the rapid successes of the Turks, and the fall of the Greek empire; and the Pope directed public prayers to be said on account of the appearance of the comet, no less than the progress of MAHOMET.

It is curious to remark how different the sensations have been which, after four revolutions, this same comet has excited in the world. HALLEY having recognized its identity with the comets of 1531, 1607, 1682, showed it to be a body revolving round. the sun in 75 years nearly; he foretold its return in 1758, or the beginning of 1759, and the event has verified the most remarkable prediction in science. Comets have since ceased to be regarded as signs of the Divine displeasure; and every body must have remarked, with satisfaction, how far the comet of 1811 was from being viewed with terror, (in this country at least), even by the least instructed of the people, and from exciting any sentiment but admiration of its extraordinary beauty. The dominion of Chance is thus suffering constant diminution;. and the Anarch Old may still complain, as in MILTON, of the encroachments that are continually making on his empire.

Probability and chance are thus ideas relative to human ignorance. The latter means a series of events not regulated by any law that we perceive. Not perceiving the existence of a law, we reason as if there were none, or no principle by which one state of things determines that which is to follow. The axiom, or, as it may be called, the definition, on which the doctrine of Probability is founded, is, that when any event may fall out a certain number of ways, all of which, to our apprehension, are equally possible, the probability that the event will happen with certain conditions accompanying it, is expressed by a fraction, of which the numerator is the number of the instances favourable to those conditions, and the denominator the number of possible instances. Thus, the probability of throwing an ace with one die is denoted by, as there are six ways that the event may turn out, and only one in which it can be an

« PreviousContinue »