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logical study. Meantime, the annals of biography are not wanting in names suggesting all that a morbid excitement can crave, for food of the startling and wonderful. Psalmanazar, for in stance; or, Cagliostro Paracelsus ; or, Dr. Dee. Wonderfully do these lives illustrate to us what boundless patience, talent, industry, and tact, a man may display, to consecrate and give vitality to an imposture; when probably a tenth portion expended upon some truthful pursuit, instead of covering his name with obloquy, might have made him a useful member of society, and handed down his name with honour to posterity.
Such reflections arise from the perusal of the life of the first mentioned of the above persons, George Psalmanazar: few names have more romantic interest than his,-if falsehood, carried to the last climax of imagination, invention, and impudence can be romantic, -of great and varied learning, (one of the writers of the Universal History)—the inventor of a language which he gave out to be the language of the Island of Formosa, and the describer of the manners of a country altogether in “terra incognita.”
Psalmanazar drew up, in Latin, an account of the Island of Formosa, a consistent and entertaining work, which was translated and hurried through the press, had a rapid sale, and is quoted
without suspicion by Buffon: while his adherence to certain singularities in his manners and diet gathered from popular opinion or from books, considerably strengthened the imposition : for the carrying on of which he was eminently qualified, by possessing a command of countenance, temper, and recollection, which no perplexity, rough usage, or cross-examination could ruffle or derange.
The Bishop of Oxford sent him to study in the famous university, and on his return to London he drew up, at the desire of his ecclesiastical friends, a version of the Church Catechism, in what he called his native tongue, which was examined by the learned, found regular and grammatical, and pronounced a real language, and no counterfeit.By these and other conciliating arts, the supplies of his patrons continued liberal, and he was enabled to lead an idle, and in some instances, when he was thrown off his guard, an extravagant life. The person of our Formosan was far from being attractive; but his qualities, it is said, were thought otherwise by some fashionable ladies, one of whom is reported to have exclaimed
“I positively shall never be easy till I have been introduced to this strange man with a hard name, who has fled from Japan, and eats raw meat.”
By-and bye the imposture of his relations began
to appear; yet all his fictions have never been well cleared up. Leigh Hunt says of him
“Upon the whole, Psalmanazar appears to have been a clever, weak, and not bad-hearted mau, whose vanity supported him in his falsehood, till he got tired of it, and then took extreme pity on himself, and so was drowned in tears. The best point about him, and which shows his nature to have been good in the main, was his being able to sit down quietly and earn an honest living.”
But, if the reader would see this spirit of romance in the chronicles of biography, let him procure, and read, the one hundred romances of real life, of Leigh Hunt. It is the intention of the “present editor," to publish even another volume
for real life furnishes romances by thousands, rather than by hundreds. Who would not wish to read, how Felix Peretti, the ignorant son of a poor peasant in Italy, rose to be the mighty Prince of Italy, and the Pontiff of Europe. How Henry Willey lived a recluse, in the very heart of London ; his heart shocked by intended unkindness to him, yet bearing with him to his hermitage love to his fellow-men, and desire to alleviate their sorrows. How Riperda, born a Dutchman, became a Spanish Catholic Minister, and died a bashaw. How revenge has dogged its victim for years, assumed the priestly habit,
the better to conceal the motive, and slain its object at the very grates of the confessional. How the dead have come forth, or those who seemed dead, and lived to dance at marriage feasts. Romances of generosity, romances of love and goodness; and questionless, the interest of some paragraphs from the life of humanity, has a high and wonderful tone of interest to every phase of character. Philosophers may speculate, the curious gape, and the human find some shades of brotherhood, and learn.
Looking over the list of so called great men, we shall, perhaps, find that they may all be arranged in two divisions :
First in eminence, in worth, in the memory of mankind, we place the originators of ideas—those who project their shadows over futurity, the pioneers through the the forests and rocks of time, the Columbuses of the intellect, the first who dared to adventure into strange seas of thought, and inquiry, and action; the men who ploughed up the desolation, and first planted the seeds of future harvests.
The study of the uses of great men has led to some conclusions with which we have no sympathy: in a clever article in the “Foreign Quarterly Review," some years since, we were told
“ A great man is a result, and not a cause ; he is created, if we may so speak, by the spirit of the age which he embodies and represents. But on this subject we cannot do better than quote the words of Victor Cousin " A great man, whatever may be the kind of his greatness, whatever the epoch of the world in which he makes his appearance, comes to represent an idea, such an idea, and not any other idea, at the precise time when that idea is worth representing, and neither before it or after it; consequently he appears when he ought to appear, and he disappears when nothing is left for him to do: he is born and he dies in due season. When nothing great is to be done, the existence of a great man is impossible. In fact, what is a great man ? He is the representative of a power not his own; for all power merely individual is pitiful, and no man yields to another man : he yields only to the representative of a general power. When, therefore, no such general power exists, or when it exists no longer ; when it fails or falls into decay, what strength can its representative possess ? Hence, also, no human power can cause a great man to be born or die before his hour