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THE

EDINBURGH REVIEW,

JULY, 1846.

No. CLXIX.

Art. 1.- Gottfried Wilhelm Freiherr von Leibnitz-eine Bio

graphie. (Life of G. M. Leibnitz.) Von Dr G. E. GUHRAUER. Zwei Bände. 2 vols 12mo. Breslau : 1842.

SAGES
Ages and poets have vied with each other in the invention of

significant symbols by which to express the littleness of all earthly greatness, and the vanity of all human ambition-not always superior themselves to a secret ambition of obtaining fame even by showing it to be nothing-of being remembered for the beauty and the excellence wherewith they have typified vanity. Like the sculptor employed to ornament the tomb, they have hoped to be celebrated for their eloquent images of death, and their graceful emblems of mortality. Yet neither amongst the devices feigned by art, nor the objects presented to us by the ravages of time-the broken column, the sarcophagus empty even of ashes, the stone inscribed with a silent history, or with half legible characters,—is there any memento of these truths more expressive or more touching, than that which presents itself in the tarnished decorations of a series of portly folios or quartos of a past age, the product of some capacious and restless intellect, which toiled, as was fondly thought and hoped, for immortality, which aspired to be remembered, not merely in Biographical Dictionaries—those crowded Cemeteries of mind-but to hold active and familiar converse with

VOL. LXXXIV. NO. CLXIX.

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the mind of successive generations,—to live in perpetual citation on the lips of grateful and admiring readers. Yet are these misjudging aspirants for fame often consigned to the “ dust and darkness of the upper shelf;” rarely opened except by some chance visitor, out of idle curiosity,—not from any wish to hold communion with their spirits, or to emancipate even for an instant their imprisoned wit and wisdom. These remains are guarded, it is true, with jealous care, and kept safe behind handsome doors and gratings; but the page is as mute as the voice of him who wrote it; and that supplementary body of ink and paper by which the fond authors hoped to perpetuate their existence, and secure a second and longer life on earth, is dead as the first tenement of flesh and blood, and without a hope of resurrection. To traverse an old library filled with such remains, is like walking through the catacombs of a great city. Could the thought of the utter want of sympathy, the cold oblivion' which awaited him, have obtruded itself on the imaginings of those who wrought for immortality, it had been enough to paralyse all their energies, and make the pen drop from their nerveless hands.

We have been led into these gloomy reflections by the lot of that great and shining man, on whose Life and Genius we are about to offer a few remarks. His name is no obscure one; on the contrary, he has achieved, if ever man did, a high European reputation, and his name is laid up with those of the great of all time; and yet we believe there are few, even of the utterly obscure, who, having written so much, are read so little. It is the smallest possible fraction of his works that even those who have troubled themselves to peruse any thing, are acquainted with; while the immense majority, who yet know him renowned for mathematical discoveries and metaphysical theories, have never read a syllable of him.

For this comparative neglect there are more reasons than one. To a certain extent he shares but the lot of all great philosophers. Their condition, in this respect, is far less enviable than that of great poets. The former can never possess so large a circle of readers under any circumstances; but that number is still further abridged by the fact, that even the truths they have taught or discovered, form but stepping-stones in the progress of science, and are afterwards digested, systematized, and better expounded in other works composed by smaller men. The creations of poetry, on the contrary, remain ever beautiful, as long as the language in which they are embodied shall endure : even to translate is to injure them. Thus it is, that for one reader of Archimedes, (even amongst those who know just what Archimedes achieved,) there are thousands of readers of Homer; and of Newton it may

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