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sonal knowledge, is a well-printed book, perhaps better worth buying than any of the others; yet without arrangement, without coherence, purport; often lamentably in need of commentary; on the whole, in reference to the wants and specialities of this time, as good as unedited. Brière seems, indeed, to have hired some person, or thing, to play the part of Editor; or rather more things than one, for they sign themselves Editors in the plural number; and from time to time, throughout the work, some asterisk attracts us to the bottom of the leaf, and to some printed matter subscribed “ Edito.”: but unhappily the journey is for most part in vain; in the course of a volume or two, we learn too well that nothing is io be gained there; that the Note, whatever it professedly treat of, will, in strict logical speech, mean only as much as to say: “ Reader! thou perceivest that we Editors, to the number of at least two, are alive, and if we had any information would impart it to thee.-Edite.” For the rest, these “ Edite.” are polite people; and, with this uncertainty (as to their being persons or thingy) clearly before them, continue, to all appearance, in moderately good spirits.
One service they, or Brière for them (if, indeed, Brière is not himself they, as we sometimes surmise), have accomplished for us : sought out and printed the long-looked-for, long-lost Life of Diderot by Naigeon. The lovers of biography bad for years sorrowed over this concealed Manuscript, with a wistfulness from which hope had nigh fled. A certain Naigeon, the beloved disciple of Diderot, had (if his own word, in his own editorial Preface, was to be credited) written a Life of him; and, alas! whither was it now vanished ? Surely all that was dark in Denis the Fatalist had there been illuminated; nay, was there not, probably, a glorious “ Light-street” carried through that whole Literary Eighteenth Century; and Diderot, long belauded as “ the most encyclopedical head that perhaps ever existed," was now to show himself as such in, the new Practical Encyclopædia, philosophic, economic, speculative, digestive, of Life-in three score and ten Years, or Volumes? Diderot too was known as the vividest, noblest talker of his time: considering all that Boswell, with his slender opportunities, had made of Johnson, what was there we had not a right to expect!
By Brière's endeavour, as we said, the concealed Manuscript of Naigeon now lies, as published Volume, on this desk. Alas! a written life, too like many an acted life, where hope is one thing, fulfilment quite another! Perhaps, indeed, of all biographies ever put together by the hand of man, this of Naigeon's is the most uninteresting. Foolish Naigeon! We wanted to see and know how it stood with the bodily man, the clothed, boarded, bedded, working and warfaring Denis Diderot, in that Paris of his; how he looked and lived, what he did, what he said: had the foolish Biographer so much as told us what colour bis stockings were! Of all this, beyond a date or two, not a syllable, not a hint; nothing but a dull, sulky, snuffling, droning, interminable lecture on Atheistic Philosophy; how Diderot came upon Atheism, how he taught it, how true it is, how inexpressibly important. Singular enough, the zeal of the devil's house bath eaten Naigeon up. A man of coarse, mechanical, perhaps intrinsically rather feeble intellect; and then, with the vehemence of some pulpit-drumming “ Gowkthrapple,” or “ precious Mr. Jabesh Rentowel,”-only that his kirk is of the other complexion! Yet must he too see himself in a wholly backsliding world, where much theism and other scandal still rules; and many times Gowkthrapple Naigeon be tempted to weep by the streams of Babel. Withal, however, he is wooden; thoroughly mechanical, as if Vaucaoson himself bad made him; and that singularly tempers his fury.- Let the reader, finally, admire the bounteous produce of this Earth, and how one element bears nothing but the other matches it: here have we not the truest odium theologicum, working quite demonologically, in a worshipper of the Everlasting Nothing! So much for Naigeon; what we looked for from him, and what we have got.
Must Diderot then be given up to oblivion, or remembered not as Man, but merely as Philosophic-Atheistic Logic-Mill? Did not Diderot live, as well as think? An amateur reporter in some of the Biographical Dictionaries, declares that he heard him talk one day, in nightgown and slippers, for the space of two hours, concerning earth, sea and air, with a fulgorous impetuosity almost beyond human, rising from height to height, and at Jength finish the climax by “ dashing his nightcap against the wali.” Most readers will admit this to be biography; we, alas, must say, it comprises nearly all about the Man Diderot that hitherto would abide with us.
Here, however, comes “ Paulin, Publishing-Bookseller,” with a quite new contribution : a long series of Letters, extending over fifteen years; unhappily only love-letters, and from a married sexagenarian; yet still letters from his own hand. Amid these insipid Hoods of tendresse, sensibilité, and so forth, vapid, like long-decanted small-beer, many a curious biographic trait comes to light; indeed, we can hereby see more of the individual Diderot, and his environment, and method of procedure there, than by all the other books that have yet been published of him. Forgetting or conquering the species of nausea that such a business, on the first announcement of it, may occasion, and in many of the details of it cannot but confirm, the biographic reader will find this well worth looking into. Nay, is it not something, of itself, to see that Spectacle of the Philosophe in Love, or, at least, zea
lously endeavouring to fancy himself so? For scientific purposes a considerable tedium, of“ noble sentiment" (and even worse things) can be undergone. How the most encyclopedical bead that perhaps ever existed, now on the borders of his grand climacteric, and already provided with wife and child, comports bimself in that trying circumstance of preternuptial (and, indeed, at such age, and with so many“ indigestions,” almost preternatural) devotion to the queens of this earth, may, by the curious in science, (who have nerves for it), be here seen. There is besides a lively Memoir of him by Mademoiselle Diderot, though too brief, and not very true-looking. Finally, in one large Volume, his Dream of d'Alembert, greatly regretted and commented upon by Naigeon ; which we could have done without. For its bulk, that litile Memoir is the best of the whole. Unfortunately, as hinted, Mademoiselle, resolute of all things to be piquante, writes, or rather thinks, in a smart, antithetic manner, nowise the fittest for clearness or credibility: without suspicion of voluntary falsehood, there is no appearance that this is a camera-lucida picture, or a portrait drawn by legitimate rules of art. Such resolution to be piquant is the besetting sin of innumerable persons of both sexes, and wofully mars any use there might otherwise be in their writing or their speaking. It is, or was, the fault specially imputed to the French : in a woman and Frenchwoman, who besides has much to tell us, it must even be borne with. And now, from these diverse scattered materials, let us try how coherent a figure of Denis Diderot, and his earthly Pilgrimage and Performance, we can piece together.
In the ancient Town of Langres, in the month of October, 1713, it begins. Fancy Langres, aloft on its bill-top, amid Roinan ruins, vigh the sources of the Saone and of the Marne, with its coarse substantial houses, and fifteen thousand inhabitants, mostly engaged in kuife-grinding; and one of the quickest, clearest, most volatile and susceptive little figures of that century, just landed in the World there. In this French Sheffield, Diderot's Father was a Cutler, master of his craft; a much-respected and respect-worthy man; one of those ancient craftsmen (now, alas! nearly departed from the earth, and sought, with little effect, by idyllists, among the “ Scottish peasantry,” and elsewhere) who, in the school of practice, have learned not only skill of hand, but the far harder skill of head and of heart; whose whole knowledge and virtue, being by necessity a knowledge and virtue to do somewhat, is true, and has stood trial : humble modern patriarchs, brave, wise, simple; of worth rude, but unperverted, like genuine unwrought silver, native from the mine! Diderot loved his father, as he well might, and regrets on several occasions that he was painted in holiday clothes, and not in the workday costume of his trade,“ with apron and grinder's-wheel, and spectacles pushed up,”—even as he lived and laboured, and honestly made good for himself the small section of the Universe he pretended to occupy. A man of strictest veracity and integrity was this ancient master; of great insight and patient discretion, so that he was often chosen as umpire and adviser; of great humanity, so that one day crowds of poor were to “ follow him with tears to his long home.” An outspoken Langres neighbour gratified the now fatherless Philosopher with this saying—" Ah, Monsieur Diderot, you are a famous man, but you will never be your father's equal." Truly, of all the wonderful illustrious persons that come to view in the biographic part of these six-and-twenty Volumes, it is a question whether this old Langres Cutler is not the worthiest; to us no other suggests himself whose worth can be admitted, without lamentable pollutions and detacements to be deducted from it. The Mother also was a loving-hearted, just woman : so Diderot might account himself well-born ; and it is a credit to the man that he always (and sometimes in the circle of kings and empresses) gratefully did so.
The Jesuits were his schoolmasters : at the age of twelve the encyclopedical head was “ tonsured.”
“ tonsured.” He was quick in seizing, strong in remembering and arranging; otherwise flighty enough; fond of sport, and from time to tine getting into trouble. One grand event, significant of all this, he has himself commemorated : his Daughter records it in these terms.
“ He had chanced to have a quarrel with bis comrades: it bad been serious enough to bring on bim a sentence of exclusion from college on some day of public examination and distribution of prizes. The idea of passing this important time at home, and grieving his parents, was intolerable: he proceeded to the college-gate; the porter refused him admittance; be presses in while some crowd is entering, and sets off running at full speed; the porter gets at him with a sort of pike he carried, and wounds bim in the side: the boy will not be driven back; arrives, takes the place that belonged to bim: prizes of all sorts, for composition, for memory, for poetry, he obtains them all. No doubt he had deserved them; since even the resolution to punish him could not withstand the sense of justice in his superiors. Several volumes, a number of garlands bad fallen to bis lot; being too weak to carry them all, he put the garlands round bis neck, and, with his arms full of books, returned bome. His mother was at the door; and saw him coming through the public square in this equipment, and surrounded by bis schoolfellows: one should be a mother to conceive what she must have felt. He was feasted, he was caressed: but next Sunday, in dressing hivi for church, a considerable wound was found on bim, of wbich he had not so much as thought of complaining.'
“ One of the sweetest moments of my life," writes Diderot himself, of this same business, with a slight variation, was more than thirty years ago, and I remember it like yesterday, when my Father saw me coming home from the college, with my arms full of prizes that I bad carried off, and my shoulders with the garlands they had given me, wbich, being too big for my brow, had let my head slip through them. Noticing me at a distance, he threw down his work, bastened to the door to meet me, and could not help weeping. It is a fine sigbt, a true man and rigorous falling to weep!"
Mademoiselle, in her quick-sparkling way, inforins us, nevertheless, that the school-victor, getting tired of pedagogic admonitions and inflictions, wbereof there were many, said • one morniing' to his father, ' that he meant to give up school !?— Thou hadst rather be a cutler, then ?'— With all my heart.' – They handed him an apron, and he placed himself beside his father. He spoiled whatever he laid hands on, penknives, whittles, blades of all kinds. It went on for four or five days; at the end of which he rose, proceeded to his room, got his books there, and returned to college,”—and having, it would appear, in this simple manner sown his college wild-oats, never stirred from it again.
To the Reverend Fathers, it seemed that Denis would make an excellent Jesuit; wherefore they set about coaxing and courting, with intent to crimp him. Here, in some minds, a certain comfortable reflection on the diabolic cunning and assiduity of these Holy Fathers, now happily all dissolved and expelled, will suggest itself. Along with which may another melancholy reflection no less be in place : pamely, that these Devil-serving Jesuits should have shown a skill and zeal in their teaching vocation, such as no Heaven-serving body, of what complexion soever, anywhere on our earth now exhibits. To decipher the talent of a young vague Capability, who must one day be a man and a Reality; to take him by the band, and train him to a spiritual trade, and set him up in it, with tools, shop, and good-will, were doing him in most cases an unspeakable service,-on this one proviso, it is true, that the trade be a just and honest one; in which proviso surely there should lie no hindrance to such service, but rather a help. Nay, could many a poor Dermody, Hazlitt, Heron, Derrick, and such like, have been trained to be a good Jesuit, were it greatly worse than to have lived painfully as a bad Nothing-atall? But indeed, as was said, the Jesuits are dissolved; and Corporations of all sorts have perished (from corpulence); and now, instead of the seven corporate selfish spirits, we have the one-andthirty millions of discorporate selfish; and the rule, Man, mind thyself, makes a jumble and a scramble, and crushing press (with dead-pressed figures, and dismembered limbs enough); into