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Welsh, Swedish, Dutch, and Chinese. But, as we have seen, his acquirements in this direction did not prevent him from pursuing with energy and success the other branches of knowledge ; and he nourished his mind, fed his imagination, and guided his life by “the doctrines of philosophy, the records of history, and the teachings of science." *
* Our chief authority for the foregoing sketch is, of course, Lord Teignmouth's “ Life of Sir William Jones.”
Sir Samuel Romilly.
AMUEL ROMILLY was born on the 1st of March,
1757, in Frith Street, Soho, London, Like some
other illustrious Englishmen, he sprang from a Huguenot family, who at one time held land at Montpelier, in the south of France. His grandfather, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes—the great act of toleration which France owed to the wisdom of Henri Quatre—withdrew from his native country for conscience' sake, and settled in England. The patrimonial estates having passed away from him, he struggled as best he might against the pressure of poverty, but at a comparatively early age fell in the unequal fight. His eldest son, Peter, born in 1712, was brought up to the trade of a jeweller. He married a lady of the name of Gamaule, who, like himself, was of French extraction, and by her had several children, of whom only three, Thomas, Catherine, and the subject of this sketch, escaped the perils of childhood.
Few particulars of the early life of Samuel Romily have come down to us, but it is known that he showed inuch sensibility of temperament, an amiable disposition, and exceptional activity of intellect.
When very young he and his brother were sent to a neighbouring day-school, where they contrived to acquire, through their own exertions rather than any effort on the part of their master, some knowledge of writing, arithmetic, and the rules of the French grammar. At the age of fourteen Samuel Romilly left school, and for a couple of years gave assistance to bis father in keeping his accounts, and occasionally taking the orders of his customers. This occupation left him a good deal of leisure, which he occupied in reading—reading all such books as he could possibly procure, while preferring those in ancient history, criticism, and English poetry. I suppose that most young men with a taste for letters dabble in rhyme, and think themselves poets. Romilly did not escape the delusion, and scrawled an infinite number of eclogues, songs, and satires, translated Boileau, and imitated Spenser. There is one advantage in this form of composition—the practice of it chastens the taste, trains the ear, and accustoms the writer to the choice of words.
A young man who writes verses can soon persuade himself that he is a genius. This was the case with Romilly, but he had good sense enough to perceive that even genius needs culture. He applied himself, therefore, to the study of Latin, and in the course of three or four years mastered the principal Latin authors in poetry and prose, and attained to some degree of facility in Latin composition. In Greek he was unable to make much progress, but he read the Greek writers in Latin and English versions. Meanwhile, by his process of desultory reading, he had gained some knowledge of a good many sciences, and an inherited taste had led him to study the works of the great painters,—so that, at eighteen, young
Romilly would have been justified in considering himself tolerably well educated, and certainly knew a great deal more than most young men of his age with far greater educational advantages.
His home-life was of a sort well calculated to encourage and develop in him a love of culture. He drew a picture of it which I cannot but contemplate with pleasure, and I sometimes think it may have suggested an idea to the author of " Daniel Deronda” for her admirable description of the household of the Meyricks. Here it is :
"I love," he says, “to transport myself in idea into our little parlour, with its green paper, and the beautiful prints of Vivares, Bartolozzi, and Strange, from the pictures of Claude, Caracci, Raphael, and Correggio, with which its walls were elegantly adorned ; and to call again to mind the familiar and affectionate society of young and old intermixed, which was gathered round the fire ; and even the Italian greyhound, the cat, and the spaniel, which lay in perfect harmony looking before it.” Here might be found "a lively, youthful, and accomplished society, blest with every enjoyment that an endearing home can afford, -a society united by a similarity of tastes, dispositions, and affections, as well as by the strongest ties of blood. They would have admired our lively, varied, and innocent pleasures; our summer rides and walks in the cheerful country, which was close to us; our winter evening occupations of drawing, while one of us read aloud some interesting book, or the eldest of my cousins played and sung to us with exquisite taste and expression; the little banquets with which we celebrated the anniversary of my father's wedding, and of the birth of every member of our happy society; and the dances with which, in spite of the smallness of our rooms, we were frequently indulged.”
From such an atmosphere as this Romilly imbibed that refinement of taste and feeling which distinguished him throughout his later life, and he also derived from it, perhaps, that keen susceptibility which became both his pleasure and his pain.
By the time that he was eighteen Romilly had ceased to think himself a genius, but he had formed a strong dislike to his father's business, and an earnest desire for a more intellectual employment. It was determined, therefore, that he should enter into some department of the law; and the office of the Six Clerks in Chancery being selected, he was duly articled to a Mr. Lally. He still continued to reside at home, and in his leisure, which was ample, to pursue his favourite studies and amusements. His scheme of life he had duly settled ; he was to follow up his profession for a subsistence, and to aspire to fame by his literary pursuits. That he was no poet he had convinced himself, and, having given up versifying, he sought to exercise himself in prose composition; and judging translations to be exceedingly useful in forming a style, he rendered into English the finest passages in the Latin literature; almost all the speeches in Livy, very copious extracts from Tacitus, the whole of Sallust, and much of the best of Cicero. For the same purpose of improving his style, he read and studied the best English writers, Addison, Swift, Bolingbroke, Robertson, Hume, carefully noting down every curiosa felicitas of expression. No doubt these exercises were exceedingly useful in guiding his judgment and enlarging his vocabulary ; but, after all, a man's style is as much a part of himself as his thoughts or feelings are, and if he have anything to say, he will find a way of his own in which to say it.
It was a fortunate circumstance for the young student that he made, while he was thus engaged, the acquaint