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that often gives me a fever; but I beg you will read the letters of Memmius.* Then, perhaps, you will be inclined to suspect that the incomprehensible artificer of vegetables, animals, and worlds, having made all for the best, could not have made anything better.
FICTION Is not a fiction which teaches new and interesting truths, a fine thing? Do you not admire the Arabian story of the sultan, who would not believe that a little time could appear long, and who disputed with his dervise on the nature of duration? The latter, to convince him of it, begged him only to plunge his head for a moment into the basin in which he was washing. Immediately the sultan finds himself transported into a frightful desart: he is obliged to labour to get a livelihood; he marries, and has children, who grow up and ill treat him; finally, he returns to his country and his palace, and he there finds the dervise who has caused him to suffer so many evils for five and twenty years. He is about to kill him; and is only appeased when he is assured that all passed in the moment in which, with his eyes shut, he put his head into the water.
You still more admire the fiction of the loves of Dido and Æneas, which caused the mortal hatred between Carthage and Rome; as also that which exhibits, in Elysium; the destinies of the great men of the Roman empire.
You also like that of Alcina, in Ariosto, who possesses the dignity of Minerva with the beauty of Venus, who is so charming to the eyes of her lovers, who in toxicates them with voluptuous delights, and uniteś all the loves and graces; but who, when she is at last reduced to her true self, and the enchantment has passed away, is nothing more than a little shrivelled disgusting old woman.
As to fictions which represent nothing, teach no
Philosophie, tome i.
thing, and from which nothing results, are they any thing more than falsities ? And if they are incoherent and heaped together without choice, are they anything better than dreams?
You will possibly tell me, that there are ancient fictions which are very incoherent, without ingenuity, and even absurd, which are still admired; but is it not rather owing to the fine images which are scattered over these fictions, than to the inventions which introduce them? I will not dispute the point; but if you would be hissed at by all Europe, and afterwards forgotten for ever, write fictions similar to those which you admire.
FIERTE.* Fierte is one of those expressions, which having been originally employed in an offensive sense, are afterwards used in a favourable one.
It is censure, when this word signifies high-flown, proud, haughty, and disdainful. It is almost praise, when it means the loftiness of a noble mind.
It is a just eulogium on a general who marches towards the enemy with fierté. Writers have praised the fierté of the gait of Louis XIV. they should have contented themselves with remarking its nobleness.
Fierté, without dignity, is a merit incompatible with modesty. It is only fierté in air and manners which offends: it then displeases, even in kings.
Fierté of manner, in society, is the expression of
Fierté, as a single word, is untranslatable, conveying one of those complex ideas, which the French are peculiarly in the habit of compounding for themselves, in reference to modes of mind connected with manners. The assumptive ingredient in fierté is possibly national with Frenchmen ; who, as their history proves, have always been distinguished for the arrogant noble and the lowly roturier; the latter of whom, as Voltaire observes, once abjectly made a fine quality of the presumption of his oppressor. The celebrated duke of Guise observed, that God had placed something between the eyes of a man of quality, that the canaille could never steadily look upon. The noblesse of France have been tolerably well cured of this conceit since the days of Guise; but we apprehend that the felicitous word fierté has originated in the sentiment which these and similar notions have engendered.-T.
pride; fierté of soul, is greatness. The distinctions are so nice, that a proud spirit is deemed blameable, whilst a proud soul is a theme of praise. By the former is understood one who thinks advantageously of himself, whilst the latter denotes one who entertains elevated sentiments.
Fierté, announced by the exterior, is so great a fanlt, that the weak, who abjectly praise it in the great, are obliged to soften it, or rather to extol it, by speaking of this noble fierté.” It is not simply vanity, which consists in setting a value upon little things; it is not presumption, which believes itself capable of great ones; it is not disdain, which adds contempt of others to a great opinion of self; but it is intimately allied to all these faults.
This word is used in romances, poetry, and above all in operas, to express the severity of female modesty. We meet with vain fierté, vigorous fierté, &c. Poets are, perhaps, more in the right than they imagine. The fierté of a woman is not only rigid modesty and love of duty, but the high value which she sets upon her beauty.
The fierté of the pencil is sometimes spoken of, to signify free and fearless touches.
EVERY one desirous of instruction should read with attention all the articles in the “ Dictionnaire Encyclopédique,” under the head Figure; viz.
Figure of the Earth, by M. d'Alembert,-a work both clear and profound, in which we find all that can be known on the subject.
Figure of Rhetoric, by César de Marsais,-a piece of instruction which teaches at once to think and to write; and, like many other articles, makes us regret that young people in general have not a convenient opportunity of reading things so useful.
Human Figure, as relating to painting and sculpture,--an excellent lesson given to every artist, by M. Watelet.
Figure, in physiology,-a very ingenious article, by M. d'Abbés de Caberoles.
Figuré, in arithmetic and in algebra, --by M. Mallet.
Figure, in logic, in metaphysics, and in polite literature, by M. le chevalier de Jaucour,
-a man superior to the philosophers of antiquity, inasmuch as he has preferred retirement, real philosophy, and indefatigable labour, to all the advantages that his birth might have procured him, in a country where birth is set above all beside, excepting money.
Figure or Form of the Earth. Plato, Aristotle, Eratosthenes, Posidonius, and all the geometricians of Asia, of Egypt, and of Greece, having acknowledged the sphericity of our globe, how did it happen that we, for for so long a time, imagined that the earth was a third longer than it was broad, and thence derived the terms longitude and latitude, which continually bear testimony to our ancient ignorance ?
The reverence due to the Bible, which teaches us so many truths more necessary and more sublime, was the cause of this our almost universal error.
It had been found, in psalm ciii. that God had stretched the heavens over the earth like a skin; and as a skin is commonly longer than it is wide, the same was concluded of the earth.
St. Athanasius expresses himself as warmly against good astromomers as against the partisans of Arius and Eusebius. “Let us,” says he, “stop the mouths of those barbarians, who, speaking without proof, dare to assert that the heavens also extend under the earth.” The fathers considered the earth as a great ship, surrounded by water, with the prow to the east, and the stern to the west.
We still find, in Cosmas, a monk of the fourth century, a sort of geographical chart, in which the earth has this figure.
Tortato, bishop of Avila, near the close of the fifteenth century, declares in his commentary on Genesis, that the christian faith is shaken, if the earth is believed to be round.
Columbus, Vesputius, and Magellan, not having the fear of excommunication by this learned bishop before their eyes, the earth resumed its rotundity in spite of him.
Then man went from one extreme to the other; and the earth was regarded as a perfect sphere. But the error of the perfect sphere was the mistake of philosophers; while that of a long flat earth was the blunder of ideots.
When once it began to be clearly known that our globe revolves on its own axis every twenty-four hours, it might have been inferred from that alone that its form could not be absolutely round. Not only does the centrifugal zone considerably raise the waters in the region of the equator, by the motion of the diurnal rotation, but they are moreover elevated about twentyfive feet, twice a day, by the tides: the lands about the equator must then be perfectly inundated. But they are not so; therefore the region of the equator is much more elevated, in proportion, than the rest of the earth: then the earth is a spheroid* elevated at the equator, and cannot be a perfect sphere. This proof, simple as it is, had escaped the greatest geniuses; because a universal prejudice rarely permits investigation.
We know that, in 1762, in a voyage to Cayenne, near the line, undertaken by order of Louis XIV. under the auspices of Colbert, the patron of all the arts, Richer, among many other observations, found that the oscillations or vibrations of his time-piece did not continue so frequent as in the latitude of Paris, and that it was absolutely necessary to shorten the pendulum one line and something more than a quarter. Physics and geometry were at that time not near so much cultivated as they now are: what man would have believed that
* For the better information of the non-scientific reader, it may be as well here to observe, that a sphere being a globe, perfectly circular in every direction, a spheroid is to a sphere as an oval to a circle. The oblate spheroid, being flattened at the poles, may be likeved to an orange; the prolate spheroid, being lengthened at the poles, may be likened io an egg, supposing its extremities to be of equal dimensions.-T.