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But, among us, the breaking up of a cabinet often only gives rise to a bold and brilliant opposition. It is not like the breaking up of a ship, where the wreck is irrepara. ble, and the timbers are shattered and scattered, and good for nothing; it is often more like the breaking up of a regiment in one of our colonies, where the once compact mass of force, which knew nothing but the command of its colonel, now takes, each man his own way, exhibits his own style of cleverness; instead of the one manual exercise of musket and bayonet, each individual takes the axe or the spade, the tool or the ploughshare, and works a new fertility out of the soil, according to his own “thews and sinews.” The moral of all this is that the distinguished author of these Memoirs is mow devoting himself to a career of literature, to which even his political services may have been of inferior utility. He is recalling the public memory to those eminent achievements, which have so powerfully advanced the mental grandeur of our era; and, while he thus gives due honor to the labors of the past, he is at once encouraging and illustrating the nobleness of the course which opens to posterity. But Lord Brougham's influence cannot be contented, we should hope, with merely speculative benefits; it is for him, and for men like him, to look with interest on the struggles of literary existence at the hour; to call the attention of government and the nation to the neglects, the narrowness, and the caprices of national patronage; to demand “protection for genius depressed by the worldliness of the crowd; to point out to men of rank and wealth a path of service infinitely more honorable to their own taste, and infinitely more productive to their country, than ribands and stars; than the tinkling of a name, than pompous palaces, or picture galleries of royal price ; to excite our nobles to constitute themselves the true patrons of the living genius of the land, and disdain to be content with either the offering of weak regrets, or the tribute of worthless honors to the slumberers in the grave. A tenth part of the sums employed in raising obelisks to Burns, would have rescued one-half of his life from poverty, and the other half from despair. The single sum which raised the monument to Sir Walter Scott in Edinburgh, would have saved him from the final pressure which broke his heart, elastic as it was, and dimmed his intellect, capable as he still
was of throwing a splendor over his native soil. This neglect is known and suffered in no other province of public service. The soldier, the sailor, the architect, the painter, are all within sight of the most lavish prizes of public liberality. Parliament has just given titles and superb pensions to the conquerors of the Sikhs. The India Company has followed its example. We applaud this munificent liberality in both instances. Two general officers have thus obtained the peerage, with £7000 and of 5000 a-year. They deserved these rewards. But the whole literary encouragement of the British empire, with a revenue of fifty-two millions sterling, is £1200, little more than the tenth part of the pensions allotted to those two gallant men. § 1200 for the whole literary encouragement of England . There can be no greater scandal to the intellectual honor of the country. The pettiest German principality scarcely limits its literary encouragement to this sum. We doubt whether Weimar, between literary offices and pensions, did not give twice the sum annually. But named in competition with the liberality of the leading sovereigns, it is utterly mean. Louis XIV., two hundred years ago, allotted 80,000 francs a-year to his forty members of the Academy, a sum equivalent in that day, and in France, to little less than £5000 a-year in our day, and in England. Frederick II, gave pensions and appointments to a whole corps of literary men. At this moment, there is scarcely a man of any literary distinction in Paris, who has not a share in the liberal and wise patronage of government, either in office or public pension. But if we are to be answered by a class, plethoric with wealth and rank; that literature ought to be content with living on its own means; must not the obvious answer be—Is the author to be an author, down to his grave 2 Is there to be no relaxation of his toil 7 Is there to be no allowance for the exhaustion of his overworked faculties? for the natural infirmities of years 7 for the vexations of a noble spirit compelled to submit to the caprices of public change and with its full share of the common calamities of life, increasing their pressure at once by an inevitable sense of wrong, and by a feeling that the delight of his youth must be the drudgery of his age When the great Dryden, in his seventieth year, was forced, in the bitterness of his heart, to
exclaim, “Must I die in the harness" his language was a brand on the common sense, as well as on the just generosity, of his country. We now abandon the topic with one remark. This want of the higher liberality of the nation has already produced the most injurious effects on our literature. All the great works of our ancestral literature were the works of leisure and comparative competence. All the great dramatic poetry of France was the work of comparative competence. Its writers were not compelled to hurry after the popular tastes; they followed their own, and impressed its character upon the mind of the nation. The plays of Racine, Corneille, Molière, and Voltaire, are nobler trophies to the greatness of France than all the victories of Louis XIV., than Versailles, than all the pomps of his splendid reign. Louis Philippe has adopted the same munificent policy, and it will be followed by the same honor with posterity. But, in England, the keeping of a stud of race-horses, the building of a dog-kennel, or the purchase of a foreign picture, is ignominiously and selfishly suffered to absorb a larger sum than the whole literary patronage of the most opulent empire that the sun ever shone upon. We recommend these considerations to Lord Brougham : they are nobler than politics; they are fitter for his combined character of statesman and philosopher: they will also combine with that character another which alone can give permanency to the same of any public man— that of the philanthropist. His ability, his knowledge of human nature, and his passion for public service—qualities in which his merits are known to Europe—designate him as the founder of a great system of public liberality to the enterprise of genius. And when party is forgotten, and cabinets have perished; when, perhaps, even the boundaries of empire may have been changed, and new nations rise to claim the supremacy of arts and arms; the services of the protector of literature will stand out before the eye with increased honor, and his name be rescued from the common ruin which envelopes the memory of ostentatious conquerors and idle kings. The present volume contains biographies of Johnson, Adam Smith, Lavoisier, Gibbon, Sir Joseph Banks, D'Alembert. We shall commence with the lives less known to the generality of readers than those of our great moralist and great political econ
omist, reserving ourselves for sketches of their career, as our space may allow.
Lord Brougham commences his life of Sir Joseph Banks by a species of apology, for placing in the ranks of philosophers a man who had never written a book. But no one has ever doubted that a man may be a philosopher, without being an author. Some of the greatest inventious of philosophy, of science, and of practical power, have been the, work of men who never wrote a book. In fact, the inventor is generally a man of few words; his disciples, or rivals, or imitators, are the men of description. The inventor gives the idea, the follower gives the treatise; but the inventor is the philosopher after all. The question, however, with Sir Joseph Banks is, whether he was any more an inventor than a writer. It does not appear that he was either. Of course, he has no right to rank among men of science. But he had merits of his own, and on those his distinctions ought to have been placed. He was a zealous, active, and influential friend of philosophers. He gave them his time, he received them in his house, and he assisted their progress. He volunteered to be the protector of their class; he sympathized with their pursuits; and while adding little or nothing to their discoveries, he assisted in bringing those discoveries before the world. He loved to be thought the patriarch of British science; and, like the patriarch, he retained his authority even when he was past his labor. If he filled the throne of science feebly, none could deny that he filled it zealously. The true definition of him was, an English gentleman occupying his leisure with philosophical pursuits, and encouraging others of more powerful understanding to do the same.
Sir Joseph Banks was of an old and wealthy family, dating so far back as Edward III.; first settled in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and afterwards in the county of Lincoln. He was born in London in January, 1743. At the age of nine he was sent to Harrow, and at thirteen to Eton, where the tutors observed, as has happened in many other instances, that he was fonder of play than of books. In about a twelvemonth, however, he became studious, though not to the taste of his schoolmasters. The origin of this change was described by himself in a letter to Sir Everard Home, as accidental. One afternoon he had been bathing with some of the Eton
boys, and, on returning to dress himself, found that they had left him alone. Walking down a green lane, whose sides exhibited the wild-flowers of the season, the thought occurred to him, how much more natural and useful would be the knowledge of plants, than of Greek and Latin. From this time he devoted himself to the study of botany, though still continuing that of the classics. On returning to his father's house, he found a copy of Gerard's Herbal, which fixed his taste. He now added to his collecting of plants that of butterflies and other insects. Lord Brougham mentions that his father was one of Banks's associates at this period, and that they employed themselves together in natural history. Natural history has been so frequently the pursuit of studious triflers, that it is difficult to exempt it from the charge of trifling. To gather plants which have been gathered a thousand times before, to ascertain their names from a herbal, and classify them according to its list, seems to be little more than a grave apology for playing the fool. A determination to gather all the butterflies and blue-bottles within the limits of the realm, certainly has nothing that can dignify it with the name of scientific pursuit. The collecting of pebbles and shells, or even the arranging of animals in the cases of a museum, are accomplishments of so easy an order, and of so little actual use, that they serve for little else than to wile away the time. But this trifling assumes a more important shape when it rises to the acquisition of actual knowledge; when, instead of classifying plants, it developes their medicinal virtues, and, instead of embalming animals, it examines their structure, as throwing light on the conformation or diseases of man. But Sir Joseph Banks was fortunately relieved from subsiding into this foppery, by circumstances which forced him into vigorous and useful exertion. An approaching transit of Venus had been long looked to, as giving an opportunity for ascertaining the distance of the sun from the earth. It was recommended, that observations on this phenomenon should be made from different stations on the globe. Accordingly, in 1761, the British government sent out two observers, one to the Cape, and the other to St. Helena. The French government at the same time sent out three —to Pondicherry, Siberia, and the Mauritius. But the weather was unfavorable,
and the observations were to be regarded as a failure. But there was a second transit in 1769, and the leading powers of Europe sent out observers; England sending a vessel to the South Seas, an observer to India, and two to Hudson's Bay. Captain Wallace having lately made several discoveries in the Pacific, public attention had been strongly drawn to that hitherto scarcely known portion of the globe. The celebrated Captain Cook was appointed coinmander, and Sir Joseph Banks, stimulated by an honorable zeal and a rational desire of knowledge, obtained leave from his friend, Lord Sandwich, to join the expedition. He took with him Dr. Solander, the botanist, and two draughtsmen. On the 25th of August, 1768, Cook's vessel, the Endeavor, sailed from Plymouth Sound, and the first point of land at which they touched was the Terra del Fuego, the southern extremity of the American continent. There they encountered such severity of cold, that, although it was the summer of those regions, Banks and Solander, in one of their botanical excursions, had nearly shared the fate of three of their attendants, who perished from the intensity of the cold. The effect of this excess of low temperature has been often felt and often described. It was a general torpor of the frame, producing an almost irresistible propensity to sleep. Every exertion was painful, and the strongest desire was to lie down in the snow and give way to slumber. Solander, who had acquired his experience in botanizing among the Swedish mountains, warned the party of their danger. “Whoever,” said he, “sits down, will sleep; whoever sleeps will wake no more.” Yet he himself was one of the first to yield; he insisted on lying down, fell asleep before he could be brought to the fire which Banks had kindled, and was restored with difficulty. His companion had felt a similar inclination, but resisted it, by the greater energy of youth, and probably of a more vigorous mind. Cook then sailed for Otaheite, which he reached in April. The contrast of the luxurious climate with the inclement region which they had left behind them, was doubly striking to men who, for upwards of half a year, had seen nothing but the ocean or the deserts of Cape Horn. They now proceeded vigorously to the chief purposes of their voyage. The captain and his officers prepared their instruments to observe the transit, while Banks and his botanical attendants ranged the island, made themselves acquainted with its natural productions, and conciliated the natives. The effect of his intelligence and intrepidity was conspicuous on an occasion which might have involved the scientific fate of the expedition. The quadrant, though under charge of a sentinel, had been stolen by the adroitness of some of the natives. But without it no observation could be taken. Banks volunteered to go in search of it into the woods, made himself master of it, and conveyed it in safety to the observatory: though followed by parties of the natives, and occasionally compelled to keep them at bay by exhibiting his pistols. The transit was successfully observed, but it took six hours for the operation. As the period approached, even the crew had felt the strongest anxiety for its success. The state of the sky was reported every half hour during the night before, and their spirits rose and fell as the report gave its answer, clear or cloudy. But at dawn the sky was brilliant, and the day passed without a cloud. Four other observations had been simultaneously made, in Siberia, Lapland, Hudson's Bay, and California. The general result gave the sun's distance at nearly ninety-four millions of miles. The next object of the voyage was a search for the great southern continent, which the philosophers of the day had conceived to exist, as a “necessary balance” to the mass of land in the northern hemisphere. But conjectural philosophy is often at fault, and necessary as this terrestrial balance was asserted to be, no “great” southern continent has yet been found. For a while, even Cook's sagacity seems to have been deceived by the mountains of New Zealand, which had been discovered, in 1620, by Tasman. Cook sailed round it, and explored its shores for six months. He then, on his homeward voyage, examined the east coast of New Holland. Of course, it is not the intention of this paper to trace a career so well known as that of the celebrated navigator. We refer to its incidents, merely as connected with Sir Joseph Banks. They had run about thirteen hundred miles of the coast, when, after having received some alarm from the neighborhood of coral reefs, the vessel suddenly struck. It was Cook's sagacious habit, nightly, to give all his orders and precautions before he went to rest ; and thus, aster having done all that prudence could do, he undressed, went to bed, and such was
the composure of his mind that he instantly fell asleep. But immediately on the vessel's striking, the captain was on deck, and giving his orders with his characteristic coolness. The light of the moon showed the sheathing boards of the ship floating all round, and at last her false keel. Their fate appeared imminent, but it was only when the day broke, that they became fully sensible of their forlorn condition. The land was at eight leagues' distance. There were no intermediate islets on which the crew might be saved, and the boats were wholly insufficient to take them all at once. To lighten the ship was their first object. Guns, ballast, stores, everything was thrown over. After two tides they were enabled to get the ship afloat. To their great relief, the leak did not seem to gain upon them, though to keep it down required the labor of the men night and day. At length a midshipman fortunately suggested an expedient which he had once seen adopted at sea. This was to draw under the ship's bottom a sail, to which were fastened oakum, flax, and other light substances. The sail thus covered the leak, and enabled the ship to swim. On pursuing their voyage, and reaching a river, in which they attempted to repair the ship, they found that her preservation, in the first instance, was owing to the extraordinary circumstance of a large fragment of rock which had stuck into the vessel, and thus partially stopped up the leak. In this most anxious emergency Sir Joseph Banks and his party exhibited all the coolness and intrepidity which were required; and in the subsequent account of the voyage, received from Cook himself well-merited praises. Another peril likely to be attended with still more certain ruin, now assailed the crew. The scurvy began to make its appearance. The devastations of this dreadful disease, in the early history of our navigation, fortunately now appear almost fabulous. It was a real plague; it seemed almost to dissolve the whole frame; teeth fell out, limbs dropped off, and the sufferer sank into a rapid, and, as it was once thought, an inevitable grave. It is a remarkable instance of the powers which man possesses to counteract the most formidable evils, that this terrible disease is now scarcely known. It has been overpowered solely by such simple means as fresh meat and vegetables, and a drink medicated with lemon-juice. Simple as those expedients are, they have saved the lives of thousands and tens of thousands of the sea-going population of England. But new hazards, arising alike from the imperfect condition of the vessel and their ignorance of the coast, continued to pursue them. Never was a voyage attempted with greater difficulties to surmount, or achieved with more triumphant success; after having explored two thousand miles of this perilous coast, Cook took possession of it in the name of his king, giving it the title of New South Wales. At length he arrived at Batavia, where, on laying up his ship to repair, it was discovered that their preservation throughout this long voyage had been little less than miraculous, her planks having been in many instances worn “as thin as the sole of a shoe.” But their trials were not yet over: the marsh fever quickly laid up the crew ; the captain, Banks, and Solander, were taken seriously ill. They set sail from this pestilential island as soon as possible; but before they reached the Cape, three-andtwenty had died, including Green the astronomer, and the midshipman whose suggestion had saved the ship. At length, on the 12th of July, 1771, they cast anchor in the Downs, and Cook"and his companions were received with national acclamation. The triumph of the navigation was naturally due to Cook, but the most important part of the knowledge which had been communicated to the empire was due to the labours of Banks. It was from his journals that the chief details of the habits, manners, and resources of the natives were derived. The vegetable, mineral, and animal products of the Society Islands, and of New Holland, New Zealand, and new Guinea, had been explored, and a vast quantity of general intelligence was obtained relative to countries which now form an essential portion of the British empire. The novelty of those possessions has now worn off, their value has made them familiar. We are fully acquainted with their products, however we may be still ignorant of their powers. But, at the period of this memorable voyage, the Southern Hemisphere was scarcely more known than the hemisphere of the moon. Every league of the coast of New Holland, and the islands of the Great Southern Ocean, abounded with natural perils, heightened by the necessary ignorance of the navigator. Even to this day, many a fearful catastrophe attests the difficulties of the navigation; the coral rocks were a phenomenon wholly new to nautical
experience; and, in all the modern improvements of nautical science, full room is left for wonder, at the skill, the intelligence, and the daring, which carried Cook and his companions safe through the perils of this gigantic navigation. A new expedition was soon demanded at once by the curiosity of the people and the interests of science. The dream of a great southern continent was still the favorite topic of all who regarded themselves as philosophers in England, although Cook had sailed over an unfathomable ocean, in the very tract where he ought, according to this adventurous theory, to have found a continent. Sir Joseph Banks again gallantly volunteered to join the expedition which was equipped for the discovery. His large fortune enabled him to make unusual preparations; but such was his zeal, that he even raised a loan for the purpose. He engaged Zoffani, the painter, with three assistant draughtsmen. He selected two secretaries, and nine attendants, instructed in the art of preserving plants and animals; he also provided books, drawings, and instruments. But his natural ambition was suddenly thwarted by the opposition of Sir Hugh Palliser, controller of the navy. For whatever reason—and it is now difficult to imagine any, except some jealousy too contemptible to name—so many obstructions were thrown in the way, that Banks relinquished the pursuit, and turned his attention to a voyage to Iceland. His suite, seamen and all, amounting to forty persons, reached the island in 1772, examined its chief natural phenomena, Hecla and its hot springs, and furnished its historian, Won Troil, with the materials for the most accurate history of this outpost of the northern world. On his return to England, he commenced the career, natural to an opulent man of a cultivated mind, but yet so seldom followed in England by individuals of even higher means than his own. He fitted up a large house in Soho Square with all the preparatives for a life of literary association—a copious library, collections of natural history, and philosophical instruments. He held frequent conversaziones, gave dinners, and easily and naturally constituted himself the leader of the men of science in London. In Lincolnshire, where his chief property lay, he performed the part of the liberal and hospitable country gentleman on a large scale ; while in London, he was the first person to whom scientific foreigners were