Immagini della pagina

mour; a sincere willingness to instruct those, who sought his society; the most active compassion, whenever he beheld wretchedness-all these qualities composed in him a harmonious whole. A glowing devotion which frequently rose to a kind of pious rapture, a lively sense of his dependence upon God, and of the imperfection of our knowledge of the Supreme Being, animated him from his earliest youth to his grave, and afforded him an uninterrupted serenity of mind frequently suffusing his countenance with a glow of heavenly beauty. He felt the most profound contempt for works which were levelled against the sacred Coillse of religion, while works, which ably defended it, were read by him with rapture. Ile was a real cosmopolite and animated with universal love. He delighted in assisting young men of talents and in contributing to their improvement.

Unbiassed by Flattery or Vanity, he judged with impartiality both of himself and others. But the habitude of speaking as decidedly and freely of his own merits and defects as of those of others made him frequently appear a boaster to those who did not sufficiently know him. He was wedded to his opinions, and relinquished them, with great reluctance, when tenable no longer. lle generally judged correctly in his own sphere; while, out of it, when men and business were the objects of conversation, his judgment was frequently erroncous, either, because he neglected to observe men and the course of business, or because his being accustomed to analyse incapacitated him from discerning by intuition.

His conduct exactly corresponded with his manner of thinking. He proposed to himself certain rules, of the propriety and justness of which he was convinced, and observed them as strictly as the rulcs of arithmetic in calculating. Hence, nothing could affect the calmness of his mind, or divert him, in the slightest clegree, from the pursuit of his studies. His diligence and assiduity were, perhaps, never excelled, or even equalled by any man; though he never manifested the least sign of that imparience, which is so common with people of an active mind, and

involved in a multiplicity of occupations. His mind was constantly unruffled.

He generally was at his writing desk from five o'clock in the morning till noon, and from two o'clock in the afternoon, till midnight, without indulging himself in any kind of recreation, a solitary walk, on a fine day, excepted. The most indifferent occurrence led him to mathematical or philosophical analysis, to which he gave himself up so completely, that no object whatever could make the least impression upon him. When he happened to be overtaken by a shower of rain on a walk, he calculated, while running, which was the shortest and driest way. Several of his treatises owe their existence to incidents of this nature. Even in the management of his economical concerns every thing was conducted with mathematical exactness. Whenever he happened to speak in company of metaphysical or mathematical' subjects, he took not the slightest notice of surrounding persons; and his discourses were real dissertations in which not the least chasm could be discovered, as he always represented his ideas in that order in which they arose in his mind; and when he was interrupted, resumed his discourse at the exact point where he had stopped. Considering his ardent and indefatigable diligence, it is very natural that he should have acquired a profound knowledge of several sciences. He was thoroughly acquainted with the theological system of his age, and was well versed in the oriental tongues. He had also acquired a considerable knowledge of jurisprudence, but logic, metaphysics and mathematics were the leading subjects of his lucubrations. He was uncommonly strong in logic and was guided by its rules not only in his scientific pursuits, but even in common i. He was extremely acute in metaphysical analysis. He meditated upon the plan of a method of treating all simple notions with the same precision as the notion of quantity is treated in mathematics. His manner of treating every subject was the same which he describes in his Organon. He committed to paper every accidental idea that related thereto; arranged the materials, he collected in this manner, after the usual logical rules; he then endeavoured to fill up all chasms,

examined other books, especially vocabularies, in order to collect the whole extension of the notion, and finally revised the subject after a logical table which he published in the Leipzig Transactions. Mathematics were, however, the principal subject of his meditations and researches. The astonishing greatness of his genius manifested itself particularly in the facility with which he reduced to an easy construction the results of extensive and intricate computations. It clearly appears by his cosmological letters, and his computations relative to the supposed satellite of Venus, how casy it was for him to abstract a theory from a few cases or dates, and to carry it to a high degree of probability and completeness.

But having derived all his knowledge almost entirely from himself, it was cxtremely difficult for him to comprehend any thing suggested by others, if he did not light upon it of his own accord. Hence, it was easier for him to invent than to judge rightly of the ideas of oiners.

His memory was uncommonly faithful in matters, which related to his favourite sciences; but very indifferent in others. He was intimately acquainted with the history of these sciences, their cpochas, and the great men who had formed them; though he was little acquainted with history in general.

He died, Sept. 25, 1777, of a decline, aster having rendered to the sciences services which will be recollected with gratitude by the latest posterity.



After acknowledging my sense of your honourable and flattcring introduction of me to the public in the paragraph of your own writing *, permit me to express my regret at seeing in print the jumble of paragraphs of mine which follow, injudiciously

[merged small][ocr errors]

made from several letters that were intended for few other eyes after my father's and brother's. The publication (it appears) is made from a sheet of extracts made by my brother for his own use while the letters were with my father in the country. It is of too little consequence to your readers to explain the error by which they were published at all; and it must be sufficiently obvious that the repetitions occur in letters sent by various and precarious opportunities; nor need I particularly notice several of the disjointed paragraphs which appear exceedingly ridculous in that form, however amusing they might have been, when they were privately addressed by the frankness of a son to the indulgence of a father.

Whether I gain or lose any reputation by letter-writing, will be indifferent to me, while I can pursue the path I have chosen in the field of tirt, and am permitted to press on towards that excellence which it is my ambition to obtain. Continually occupied with my art and its means, I have seldom had lei. sure even to perceive how great has been my foodness for it.. Yet this fondness has not only supported me through the labour of study and exalted the pleasure of practice, but has stimulated every exertion not only to render my works more excellent but more durable by the friendly aid of chemistry. After having perfected the catalogue of durable colours, I could not subduc the desire of discovering a more certain method of employing them to produce the effects desired and to insure the preservation of the picture when painted. This I have accomplished; and since you have introduced the subject I take the liberty of subjoining a letter which was read before the National Institute, accompanied with an example of my painting in that style.

To the President of the Institute of France.


Notwithstanding the decided advantages of oil-painting in solidity of colour, and, in some measure, the certainty of execution, painters have more or less complained of the irregular drying of the colours, the difficulty of retouching, and finally, the embrowning and cracking of the painting. With a view to ob

viate these disadvantages my attention has been long directed to wax as the only vehicle whose chemical properties offered to painters entire confidence in its inalterability and requisite pliancy. To me it was a circumstance of little consequence to ascertain with count Caylus and other antiquarians, whether the great painters of the time of Apelles, who have left us none of their works to admire, painted with Wix. - What is of more consequence is, that such of the Grecian paintings as were done with wax have preserved their colours entire to the present dayAnd therefore if I now attach importance to the discovery, it is because under a permanent form it presents to the painter the inestimable facility of execution which leaves him master of forms, colours, tones, and particularly enables him, as the French express it, to caress his works.

It is not Vanity which induces me to present to the view of the Institute a Picture in Encaustic but I yield to the persuasion that it is niy duty at least to show the result of an art so far brought to perfection in France, alilough my experiments were begun in America. All that has hitherto been done towards Encaustic painting has presented no other plan to the painter but what is chemically bad, or dificult, laborious or uncertain in the operation-And although to insure durability to his picture would be an inducement to the painter to bestow some extra labour or attention on it; yet so great are the other difficulties in his art that he generallyprefers the easisest incans of executing his conceptions, which would be dulled or dissipated under a difficult or laborious process—the artist therefore requires more obedient as well as better materials, and whether his genius requires a bold and rapid execution or accurate and exquisite finishing, the instruments of his art should be the ready servants of his will, and neither as to time lior manner should he be a slave to them.

In this Encaustic Painting, in which no oil nor alkali is employed, and spirits of turpentine is the diluent, I have experienced many peculiar advantages. It has the transparency o? miniature, enough of the mellowness of crayon and the facility of distemper: with a superior preservation to either. In oil paint

« IndietroContinua »