« PreviousContinue »
created by the Bourbons, in order to judge all public disturbances, and from whose decisions there was no appeal. They in some sort assimilated to our special commission. Cuvier, in giving an account of the means by which he accomplished this very desirable object, informs us, that, when first established, the judicial power was given to them, not only over revolts and attempts openly committed on the public peace, but over conspiracies and attempts plotted in secret; and not only over crimes which might take place after the law was promulgated, but over all which had taken place at any period whatever. It was very evident that in a country like France, where there were so many men of all classes ever ready to follow the torrent of the day, these two powers would have transformed the Prevotal Courts into so many revolutionary tribunals. Nevertheless, he did not obtain any thing from the united Committees of the Interior, and the law was prepared; but, after a meeting of the Council of State, presided by the Duc de Richlieu, Cuvier demanded a discussion of these questions in his presence before a new assemblage of the Committees. He never spoke with so much fire; and, notwithstanding the violence of and thanks to upright and honest mind of the Duc de Richlieu, he succeeded in getting the articles concerning secret plots entirely erased. His efforts did not stop here, for it was through his exertions likewise that the power of visiting former offences by these courts was altogether done away with, and at a later period his honest and enthusiastic resistance alone prevented the surrender of the University to the Jesuits. These facts constitute no small amount of evidence towards proving how little Cuvier had been inclined to sacrifice his convictions at the shrine of his interests, and if any confirmation of the truth of this remark were wanted, it will be found in the unconquerable opposition which he gave to the censorship of the press. This subject brings us to the history of an incident which may be taken as a very good specimen of the meanness of the French government in these days. At the very moment when Cuvier had exhausted all his powers to try and abolish this censorship, the minister, Peyronnet, without giving the least warning, sends off a despatch in the middle of the night, announcing to Cuvier that his appointment to the office of a censor would appear in the Moniteur next morning! It actually did appear, but Cuvier took care that the trick should not be concealed from the world. Mrs. Lee continues to a considerable length her account of Cuvier's legislative labours, and follows it up in the details respecting the share he had in diffusing the blessings of education. The principles by which his actions on this great point were governed, were briefly summed up in his own forcible language, when he said—“Give schools before political rights; make citizens comprehend the duties that the state of society imposes on them; teach them what are political rights before you offer them for their enjoyment. Then all ameliorations will be made without causing a shock; then each new
idea, thrown upon good ground, will have time to germinate, to grow, and to ripen, without convússing the social body. Imitate nature, who, in the development of beings, acts by gradation, and gives time to every member of her most powerful elements. The infant remains nine months in the body of its mother; man's physical perfection only takes place at twenty or thirty, and his moral completion from thirty to forty. Institutions must have ages to produce all their fruits; witness Christianity, the effects of which are not yet accomplished, notwithstanding a thousand years of existence.'
The facility with which Cuvier was allowed to organize and encourage the Protestant church in France is a most remarkable testi. mony to the liberality of the nation: schools were opened for Protestant children at the expense of the state, and gratuitous places in colleges set apart for them; their ministers also were supported from the public revenue, and had an allowance superior in its amount to that assigned for the Catholic clergy, in consequence of the former being permitted to have families.
After having gone through the history of Baron Cuvier, as a naturalist, a writer, and a political character, Mrs. Lee comes at last to consider him in his social and domestic capacity. She corrects some misrepresentations which had been published respecting his early life, and shows that he was neither in the army, as his friend DecandoÍle imagined, nor was he destined for the Lutheran church as others had predicted. Another erroneous report contradicted by this lady is, that his talents for natural history were developed only at a late period of his life, for she proves that at a very early stage of his youth he was devoted to Buffon, and had not only drawn for himselt many of the quadrupeds in the work of that celebrated man, but actually formed ä museum of insects collected by himself at Stuttgardt. The following passages present the illustrious Baron before us with qualifications of the most interesting kind.
His delineations of quadrupeds were equally extraordinary; and, when lecturing, he would turn to the black board behind him, with the chalk in his hand, and, speaking all the time, he would rapidly sketch the subject of his discourse, sometimes beginning even at the tail, proportioning every part with admirable precision, and preserving the character to such a degree, that even the species could be immediately pronounced. The taste for drawings of natural history extended to all branches of the art, and it was his delight to visit every collection or exhibition of the kind. During his last visit to England be went to Hampton Court, and it was with difficulty he could tear himself away from the cartoons of Raffaelle, in order to keep a dinner appointment. The admiration he felt for this most wonderful of all painters amounted to a species of worship; and no one, whether an artist or not, ever comprehended or delighted in the beauties of Raffaelle more than did M: Cuvier.
He was accused of knowing more of the English language than he chose to own; but there could be no motive for concealing what would have afforded him pleasure to make use of; besides which, he has often
vol. IV. (1833) NO. II.
tried to put little sentences together in jest, and ask if they were right. If a reply was given in the affirmative, he would threaten to begin in earnest one day, and probably would have performed his intention, had not his daughters always acted as able interpreters in this respect. His knowledge of the dead languages was not only a source of exquisite enjoyment to him, but was absolutely necessary to his profound researches. He seldom alluded to Greek or Latin authors in conversation, but there was a classical precision and elegance of expression, even in his ordinary discourse, which can scarcely be acquired by other means than the study of such writers. The minor accomplishments which he added to these mental stores are almost surprising, because each must have taken time to acquire. Among them was a thorough knowledge of heraldry, which, it is well known contains a large portion of detail.
No one enjoyed a ludicrous circumstance more than he did; no one was happier at the performance of a comedy; for, when I was living in Paris, a ridiculous afterpiece was frequently represented on the stage, called "Le Voyage à Dieppe," in which the professors of the Jardin des Plantes were brought forward in the most amusing way possible; and such was M. Cuvier's uncontrollable risibility at its performance one evening, that the people in the pit several times called out to him to be quiet.
• The nerves of M. Cuvier were particularly irritable by nature, and frequently betrayed him into expressions of impatience, for which no one could be more sorry than himself, the causes of which were immediately forgotten; and the caresses and kindnesses which were afterwards bestowed, seldom seemed to him to speak sufficiently the strength of his feelings at his own imperfection. Any thing wrong at table, to be kept waiting, a trifling act of disobedience, roused him into demonstrations of anger which were occasionally more violent than necessary, but which it would have been impossible to trace to any selfish feeling; even the loss of his own time was the loss of that which was the property of others; and, where his mere personal inconvenience was concerned, he was seldom known to give way to these impetuous expressions. It was almost amusing to see the perfect coolness with which the servants, more especially about his person, occasionally disobeyed his orders, or replied to his injunctions, without exciting a hasty word from him. His impatience, however, was not confined to little annoyances; but if he expected any thing, or any body, he scarcely rested till the arrival took place. If he had workmen employed for him, the alteration was done in his imagination as soon as commanded; and thus in advance himself, he unceasingly inspected their labours, and hastened them in their tasks. He would walk along the scene of operation, exclaiming every instant, “ Dépêchez vous, donc,” (make haste, then,) and impeding all celerity by the rapidity of his orders. Perhaps, at the moment of pasting the paper on the walls, he brought in a pile of engravings to be put on afterwards, and which, in fact, were often nailed up before the paste was dry. But although he was perfectly happy while thus engaged, he could not be alone, and, fetching his daughter-inlaw back as often as she escaped from him, he associated her in all his contrivances.'--pp. 275-277.
Notwithstanding such proofs of an impatient mind, Cuvier in his researches in science showed the opposite qualities in the greatest
perfection, for he always carried his labours to the minutest point that was capable of being examined, with not only patience and good temper, but with a high degree of delight, such as the naturalist alone can know.
Mrs. Lee has left us the record of Cuvier's last moments, but it contains little in addition to what has already been before the public in various journals. With respect to the personal appearance and manners of this great man she had excellent opportunities of studying them, and from her we learn that he was moderately tall, and in youth slight; but the sedentary nature of his life had'induced corpulence in his later years, and his extreme near-sightedness brought on a slight stoop in the shoulders. His hair had been light in colour, and to the last flowed in the most picturesque curls, over one of the finest heads that ever was seen.
The immense portion of brain in that head was remarked by Messrs. Gall and Spurzheim, as beyond all that they had ever beheld; an opinion which was confirmed after death. His features were remarkably regular and handsome, the nose aquiline, the mouth full of benevolence, the forehead most ample; but it is impossible for any description to do justice to his eyes ;
and then that love of order which so prevailed in great things was, by M. Cuvier, carried even into the minutiæ of life. His dissecting dress, it is true, was not of brilliant appearance, but it was adapted to the occasion; in this he would frequently walk about early in the summer mornings, in the open air, or pace up and down the galleries of anatomy, but on all other occasions luis toilette was adjusted with care; he himself designed the patterns for the embroidery of his Court and Institute coats, invented all the costumes of the University, and drew the model for the uniform of the council, which drawing accompanied the decree by which it was established..
Occasionally Cuvier showed a stiffness in his dignity, which perhaps was necessary in his political character; but to youth and to ladies, particularly when the latter were remarkable for their accomplishments, he paid the most cordial and flattering attention. Mrs. Lee describes in glowing terms the powers of his conversation, his affection to his family, his benevolence to objects who required the band of charity to assist them, and his aversion to the employment of ridicule or severe language, together with a total absence of all selfconceit and resentment. Cuvier paid two visits to London, the last of which took place in 1830. The first thing he did after his arrival in the city was to go out and see all the new caricatures contained in our shop windows; for he was a warm admirer of our performances in this art, and already possessed a voluminous collection of the best which had appeared. They afforded him more than mere amusement, for he considered them as curious documents of the moral and political history of certain periods; and often, in the midst of a serious conversation concerning the events of oiir own times, or those immediately preceding us, he would cite various
circumstances which had been stamped upon his recollection by the sight of an English caricature. During the fortnight he was in London, he was in incessant motion; but his anxiety respecting public events embittered all his enjoyment. An accidental circumstance delayed one of Madame Cuvier's daily epistles, and he scarcely rested during these hours of expectation. One morning, however, he flew into the room where Mademoiselle Duvaucel was with Mrs. Lee, preparing to go out, entered without the slightest ceremony, embraced us both, and exclaimed, “I have heard from my wife;" then, reading the letter, he asked us if we were not as happy as himself; and taking an affectionate leave, as if his heart was quite full, he hastened to an appointment at the British Museum. He made a great many notes, and several drawings, while here, relative to his Fossil Remains and Ichthyology, but contrived a few hours for visiting
In addition to numerous other facts relating to the great subject of this volume, Mrs. Lee presents us with a complete list of his works in the chronological order of their composition.
Art. II.-- The Reform Ministry and the Reformed Parliament.
London: Ridgway. 1833. ALTHOUGH this pamphlet is evidently the work of at least a strong partizan, if not a member of the present ministry, yet so far as the facts are concerned, we believe them to be exempt even from the charge of exaggeration. In this respect the composition may be garded as a plain statement of recent public measures intended, and certainly well calculated, to establish the right of the existing cabi. net to the character of a wise and useful government. The session, which has just closed, presented one of the most interesting national assemblages which has ever fixed the attention of the people of England: it was the object of many bright hopes, and of as many desperate apprehensions, for whilst by the extreme disciples of one great faction of the state, it was contemplated as a pandemonium of evil influence about to be opened upon the country, those of another party were pleased to consider it as the panacea which was to convert our national distress into a sort of golden age of plenty, prosperity, and innocence. The tories constituting the first class, and the radicals forming the last, were alike mortified that their anticipations had failed, and sympathy in this one feeling alone led to a combination which proved in practice to be very troublesome to the ministry. Both now join in the clamour-“What has this ministry done for the people?” The radicals no doubt would reply, "top little," whilst from the tories would be heard the exclamation, “ too much.” Under such circumstances every rational mind would at once come to the conclusion that that must have been a prudent ministry, which had taken a middle course between the fatal roeks