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as many are there ; but when I saw in yesterday's paper her good character described, I conclude it is but too true.
I little thought her so near her end when I saw her last, though her long and prevailing indispositions gave but little hopes of a long life ; but, wbatever natural causes appear to us to be the occasion of our friend's death, our departure hence certainly depends entirely on the will of the great Author of life, who gives us a longer or a shorter life, as he sees best for us; and, though it be very grierous and shocking to nature to part with our dearest friends, yet, when the natural debt of grief is paid, the most solid arguments of comfort are very obvious to us; to wit, that our separation is but for a very short time; and that our Religion furnishes us with solid grounds of hope, that we shall soon meet again in those blessed mansions, which our gracious and merciful Saviour assures us he is gone to prepare for those that truly love and fear him.
As nothing more endears our own country to us than the enjoyment of our friends and dearest relations ; so nothing more strongly and naturally takes off our love to this world, and makes us seem as strangers here, than the loss and departure of our friends : a happy effect, most graciously in. tended by Providence, thereby to take our affections off from present things, and in earnest to prepare ourselves for a better and an everlasting state of happiness.
I am, Sir, with much esteem,
Your affectionate humble servant, 1799, July.
I. Account of the premature genius and learning of Barretier. * JOHN PHILIP BARRETIER was born at Schwabach, Jan. 19, 1720-21. His father was a Calvinist Minister of that place, who took upon himself the care of his education. What arts of instruction he used, or by what method he regulated the studies of his son, we are not able to inform the public, but take this opportunity of intreating those who have received more complete intelligence, not to deny mankind so great a benefit as the improvement of education. If Mr. Le Fevre thought the method, in which he taught his children, worthy to he communicated to the learned world, how justly may Mr. Barretier claim the universal attention of mankind to a scheme of education, that has produced such a stupendous progress! The authors, who have endeavoured to teach certain and unfailing rules for obtaining a long life, however they have failed in their attempts, are universally confessed to have, at least, the merit of a great and noble design, and to have deserved gratitude and honour. How much more then is due to Mr. Barretier, who has succeeded in what they have only attempted; for to prolong life, and improve it, are nearly the same. If to have all that riches can purchase is to be rich; if to do all that can be done in a long time, is to live long; he is equally a benefactor to mankind, who teaches them to protract the duration, or shorten the business of life.
(* Drawn up by Dr. Samuel Johnson, from letters written by Barretier's father. F.] VOL. 111.
That there are few things more worthy our curiosity than this method, by which the father assisted the genius of the son, every man will be convinced, that considers the early proficiency at which it enabled him to arrive; such a proficiency as no one has yet reached at the same age, and to which it is therefore probable that every advantageous circumstance concurred.
At the age of nine years, he not only was master of five languages, an attainment in itself alınost incredible, but understood, says his father, the holy writers, better in their original tongues, than in his own. If he means by this assertion, that he knew the sense of many passages in the original, which were obscure in the translation, the account, however wonderful, may be admitted ; but if he intends to tell his correspondent, that his son was better acquainted with the two languages of the Bible, than with his own, he must be allowed to speak hyperbolically, or to admit that his son had somewhat neglected the study of his native language ; or we must own, that the fondness of a parent has transported him into some natural exaggerations.
Part of this letter I am tempted to suppress, being unwilling to demand the belief of others to that which appears incredible to myself; but as my incredulity may, perhaps, be the product rather of prejudice than reason, as envy may beget a disinclination to admit so immense a superiority, and as an account is not to be immediately censured as false, merely because it is wonderful, I shall proceed to give the rest of his father's relation, from his letter of the 3d of March, 1729-30. He speaks, continues he, German, Latin, and French equally well
. He can, by laying before him a translation, read any of the books of the old or New Testament in its original language, without hesitation or perplexity. He is no stranger to biblical criticism or philosophy, nor upacquainted with ancient or modern geography, and is qualified to support a conversation with learned men, who frequently visit and correspond with bim.
In his eleventh year, he not only published a learned letter in Latin, but translated the Travels of Rabbi Benjamin from the Hebrew into French, which he illustrated with notes, and accompanied with Dissertations; a work in which his father, as he hiinself declares, could give him little assistance, as he did not understand the Rabbinical dialect.
The reason for which his father engaged him in this work, was only to prevail upon him to write a fairer hand than he had bitherto accustomed himself to do, by giving him hopes, that if he should translate sone little author, and offer a fair
copy of his version to some bookseller, he might in return for it, have other books which he wanted and could not afford to purchase.
Incited by this expectation, he fixed upon the “ Travels of Rabbi Benjamin," as most proper for his purpose, being a book neither bulky nor common; and in one month completed his translation, applying only one or two hours a day to that particular task. "In another month, he drew up the principal notes ; and in the third, wrote some Dissertations upon particular passages which seemed to require a larger examination.
These notes contain so many curious remarks and inquiries, out of the common road of learning, and afford so many instances of penetration, judgment, and accuracy, that the reader finds in every page some reason to persuade him that they cannot possibly be the work of a child, but of a man long accustomed to these studies, enlightened by reflection, and dexterous by long practice in the use of books. Yet, that it is the performance of a boy thus young, is not only proved by the testimony of his father, but by the concurrent evidence of M. Le Maitre, his associate in the church of Schwabach, who not only asserts his claim to this work, but affirms that he heard him at six
age, explain the Hebrew text as if it had been his native language; so that the fact is not to be doubted without a degree of incredulity, which it will not be very easy to defend.
This copy was, however, far from being written with the neatness which his father desired, nor did the booksellers, to whom it was offered, make proposals very agreeable to the expectation of the young translator; but after having examined the performance in their manner, and determined to print it upon conditions not very advantageous, returned it to be transcribed, that the printers miglit not be embarressed with a copy so difficult to read.
Barretier was now advanced to the latter end of his twelfth year, and had made great advances in his studies, notwithstanding an obstinate tumour in his left hand, which gave him great pain, and obliged him to a tedious and troublesome inethod of cure; and reading over his performance, was so far from contenting himself with barely transcribing it, that he altered the greatest part of the notes, new-modelled the Dissertations, and augmented the book to twice its former bulk.
The few touches which his father bestowed upon his revi. sal of the book, though they are minutely set down by him in the Preface, are so inconsiderable that it is not necessary to mention them, and it may be much more agreeable as well as useful to exhibit the short account which he there gives of the method by which he enabled his son to shew so early, how easy an attainment is the knowledge of the languages, a knowledge which some men spend their lives in cultivating, to the neglect of more valuable studies, and which they seem to regard as the highest perfection of human nature.
What applauses are due to an old age, wasted in a scrupulous attention to particular accents and etymologies, may appear, says his father, by seeing how little time is required to arrive at such an eminence in these studies, as many even of these venerable Doctors have not attained, for want of rational methods and regular application.
This censure is doubtless just upon those who spend too much of their lives upon useless niceties, or who appear to labour without making any progress ; but as the knowledge of languages is necessary, and a minute accuracy sometimes requisite, they are by no means to be blamed, who, in compliance with the particular bent of their own minds, make the difficulties of dead languages their chief study, and arrive at excellence proportionate to their application, since it was to the labour of such men that his son was indebted for his own learning.
The first languages which Barretier learned were the French, German, and Latin, which he was taught not in the common way by a multitude of definitions, rules, and exceptions, which fatigue the attention and burthen the memory without any use proportionate to the time which they require, and the disgust which they create. The method by which he was instructed was easy and expeditious, and therefore pleasing. He learned them all in the same manner and alunost at the same time, by conversing in them indifferently with his father.
The other languages of which he was master, he learned by a method yet more uncommon. The only book which he made use of was the Bible, which his father laid before him in the language that he then proposed to learn, accompanied with a translation, being taught by degrees the inflections of nouns and verbs. This method, says his father, made the Latia inore familiar to him in his fourth year than any other language.
When he was near the end of his sixth year, he entered upon the study of the Old Testament in its original language, beginning with the book of Genesis, to which his futhier confined him for six months; after which he read cursorily over the rest of the historical books, in which he