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that scarcely any of them equalled his first performance. The late French orientalist, Jourd AIN, was originally intended for the law, and had been placed with a notary, when, in the year 1805, the admiration he heard bestowed upon Anquetil Du Perron, then newly dead, who had in his youth enlisted as a private soldier in a corps going to India, in order that he might enjoy an opportunity of studying the eastern languages, kindled in him an irresistible passion to devote himself to similar pursuits. Jourdain was at this time only seventeen years of age, and died when just thirty. Yet in that short interval he had acquired a distinguished name as an oriental scholar, and had given to the world a variety of able works; among which may be especially mentioned a very learned statistical account of Persia, in five volumes, which appeared when the author was only in his twentysixth year.
We will mention only a very few other instances of the manner in which accidental, and apparently trivial, occurrences have sometimes operated in exciting latent genius. The Italian sculptor BAND1NELLI, whose name has been mentioned in a former chapter, is said to have been first led to turn his thoughts to the art of statuary, by a great fall of snow, which happened when he was a boy at his native city of Florence. He fashioned a statue of the snow, which was conceived to give a striking indication of his talent for modelling. The late eminent English engraver, Richard EARLoM, is reported to have been originally inspired with a taste for the art of design, by seeing the ornaments on the Lord Mayor's state coach, which happened to have been painted by the elegant pencil of Cipriani. Another of our countrymen, highly distinguished as an engraver of scientific subjects, the late Mr. LowRY, was induced to embrace the profession in
which he afterwards acquired so much celebrity, by the accidental inspection, when he was about fifteen years of age, of a portfolio of prints by Woollet, another of our eminent engravers. Thus, too, the famous German printer, BREITKoPF, the inventor of moveable types for printing music, and of many other improvements in typography and letter-founding, was first inspired with a liking for his profession, which he had originally embraced on compulsion, by falling in with a work of Albert Durer, in which the shapes of the letters are deduced from mathematical principles. The celebrated BERNARD PALIssy, to whom France was indebted, in the sixteenth century, for the introduction of the manufacture of enamelled pottery, had his attention first attracted to the art, his improvements in which form to this time the glory of his name among his countrymen, by having one day seen by chance a beautiful enamelled cup, which had been brought from Italy. He was then struggling to support his family by his attempts in the art of painting, in which he was self-taught; and it immediately occurred to him that, if he could discover the secret of making these cups, his toils and difficulties would be at an end. From that moment his whole thoughts were directed to this object; and in one of his works he has himself given us such an account of the unconquerable zeal with which he prosecuted his experiments, as it is impossible to read without the deepest interest. For some time he had little or nothing to expend upon the pursuit which he had so much at heart; but at last he happened to receive a considerable sum of money for a work which he had finished, and this enabled him to commence his researches. He spent the whole of his money, however, without meeting with any success, and he was now poorer than ever. Yet it was in vain that his wife and his friends besought him to relinquish what they deemed his chimerical and ruinous project. He borrowed more money, with which he repeated his experiments; and, when he had no more fuel wherewith to feed his furnaces, he cut down his chairs and tables for that purpose. Still his success was inconsiderable. He was now actually obliged to give a person, who had assisted him, part of his clothes by way of remuneration, having nothing else left; and, with his wife and children starving before his eyes, and by their appearance silently reproaching him as the cause of their sufferings, he was at heart miserable enough. But he neither despaired, nor suffered his friends to know what he felt; preserving, in the midst of all his misery, a gay demeal ur, and losing no opportunity of renewing his pursuit of the object which he all the while felt confident he should one day accomplish. And at last, after sixteen years of persevering exertion, his efforts were crowned with complete success, and his fortune was made. Palissy was, in all respects, one of the most extraordinary men of his time; in his moral character displaying a high-mindedness and commanding energy altogether in harmony with the reach and originality of conception by which his understanding was distinguished. Although a Protestant, he had escaped, through the royal favour, from the massacre of St. Bartholomew; but, having been soon after shut up in the Bastille, he was visited in his prison by the king, who told him, that if he did not comply with the éstablished religion, he should be forced, however unwillingly, to leave him in the hands of his enemies. “Forced s” replied Palissy. “This is not to speak like a king; but they who force you cannot force me; I can die!” He never regained his liberty, but ended his life in the Bastille, in the ninetieth year of his age.
THE name we are now to mention is perhaps the most distinguished to be found in the annals of self-education. Of all those, at least, who, by their own efforts, and without any usurpation of the rights of others, have raised themselves to a high place in society, there is no one, as has been remarked, the close of whose history presents so great a contrast to its commencement as that of BENJAMIN FRANKLIN. It fortunately happens, too, in his case, that we are in possession of abundant information as to the methods by which he contrived to surmount the many disadvantages of his original condition; to raise himself from the lowest poverty and obscurity to affluence and distinction; and, above all, in the absence of instructors, and of the ordinary helps to the acquisition of knowledge, to enrich himself so plentifully with the treasures of literature and science, as not only to be enabled to derive from that source the chief happiness of his life, but to succeed in placing himself high among the most famous writers and philosophers of his time. It is in this latter point of view, chiefly, that at present we purpose to consider him; and we shall avail ourselves, as liberally as our limits will permit, of the ample details, respecting the early part of his life especially, that have been given to the public, in order to present to the reader as full and distinct an account as possible of the successive steps of a progress so eminently worthy of being recorded, both from the interesting nature of the u
story, and from its value as an example and lesson, perhaps the most instructive to be anywhere found, for all who have to be either the architects of their own fortunes, or their own guides in the pursuit of knowledge. Franklin has himself told us the story of his early life inimitably well. The narrative is given in the form of a letter to his son; and does not appear to have been written originally with any view to publication. “From the poverty and obscurity,” he says, “in which I was born, and in which I passed my earliest years, I have raised myself to a state of affluence, and some degree of celebrity in the world. As constant good fortune has accompanied me, even to an advanced period of life, my posterity will perhaps be desirous of learning the means which I employed, and which, thanks to Providence, so well succeeded with me. They may also deem them fit to be imitated, should any of them find themselves in similar circumstances.” It is not many years since this letter was, for the first time, given to the world by the grandson of the illustrious writer, only a small portion of it having previously appeared, and that merely a re-translation into English from a French version of the original manuscript which had been published at Paris. Franklin was born at Boston, in North America, on the 17th of January, 1706; the youngest, with the exception of two daughters, of a family of seventeen children. His father, who had emigrated from England about twenty-four years before, followed the occupation of a soapboiler and tallow-chandler, a business to which he had not been bred, and by which he seems with difficulty to have been able to support his numerous family. At first it was proposed to make Benjamin a clergyman; and he was accordingly, having before learned to read, put to