« PreviousContinue »
be considered the very few hours every day which were the utmost that Frederick could, by possibility, have given to study. But these works by no means require any apology for their quality on the score of their quantity. They consist of historical, poetical, and philosophical compositions generally of respectable ability, and several of considerable merit. His poem entitled The Art of War,' his · History of his own Times, that of "The Seven Years' War," and his · Memoirs of the House of Brandenburg,' may be especially mentioned as works received into European literature.
It would be easy to select from the catalogue of those who have made the greatest stir in the world, either as conquerors or legislators, or borne the most active and conspicuous parts in any other way in the conduct of human affairs, many other names equally famous in the annals of literature, as in those of war or politics. In former times, indeed, a taste for science or general literature, and a familiarity with it, was somewhat more common among European statesmen, and professional men of all descriptions, than it now is. There is no greater name among those of the statesmen of France than that of the celebrated Duke of Sully, the writer of the well-known Memoirs, as well as of a variety of other works; and equally distinguished as a soldier, a financier, and an author. This great man used to find time for the multiplied avocations of every day, by the most undeviating economy in the distribution of his hours. He rose all the year round at four o'clock in the morning, and was always ready to appear at the council by seyen. His hour of dining was at noon, after which he gave audience to all, without distinction, who sought to be admitted to him. The business of the day was always finished in this way before supper, and at ten he regularly retired to bed. Sully's illus
trious countryman and contemporary, the President DE Thou, affords us another instance of the same sort. During the greater part of his life, De Thou was actively employed, in one capacity or another, in the management of affairs of state ; and yet he found time to write one of the greatest and most elaborate historical works in existence, his celebrated
History of his own Times,' extending to one hundred and thirty-eight books, in Latin, beside various poetical pieces in the same language. In our own country, none were ever more mixed up with the political transactions of their times, or led busier lives from their earliest years, than Sir THOMAS MORE, the great Bacon, and Lord CLARENDON. these are three of the most eminent writers in our language; and the works of the two latter, particularly, are of considerable extent. We may add to the list the names of JOHN SELDEN and Sir MATTHEW HALE. Both were public men, and necessarily involved in the ceaseless political convulsions of one of the stormiest periods of English history; yet they were two of the most distinguished luminaries both of the law and the literature of their day. Selden's works, embracing many subjects of history, political controversy, and sacred, classical, and English antiquities, have been collected in three large volumes folio. Those of Sir Matthew Hale are also very numerous; and relate to history, divinity, mathematics, and natural philosophy, as well as to several of the most important departments of the learning of his profession. He is said, during many years of his life, to have studied sixteen hours every day. Selden is called the Glory of England by his contemporary, the celebrated Dutch scholar GROTIUS (or Groot), who was himself one of the most remarkable instances on record, of the success with which the cultivation of general lites
rature may be carried on, together with legal and political studies, and even amid the toils and distractions of a public life of unusual bustle and vicissitude. From his sixteenth year, when he first appeared at the bar, till that of his death, at the age of sixty-two, Grotius was scarcely ever released from the burthen of political employment, except while he lay in prison, or, altogether exiled from his country, wandered about from one foreign land to another, in search of a temporary home. Yet, even in these seemingly most unpropitious circumstances, he produced a succession of works, the very titles of which it would require several pages to enumerate, all displaying profound erudition, and not a few of them ranking to this day with the very best, or as the very best, that have been written on the subjects to which they relate. He occupies a respectable place in the poetry of his native language, and a high one among modern Greek and Latin poets. His critical labours in reference to the classical authors of antiquity are im
In history, beside several other works, he has written one entitled “The Annals of Belgium,' in eighteen books. . Of a variety of theological productions we may mention only his celebrated • Treatise on the Truth of Christianity, one of the most popular books ever written, and which has been translated, not only into almost every language of modern Europe, but even into Greek, Arabic, Persian, and several of the tongues of India. Finally, not to mention his other works in the same department, by his famous treatise on international law, entitled On the Law of War and of Peace,' he has established for himself an immortal reputation in jurisprudence, not in his own country merely, but over all Europe, in every part of which the work was received, on its first appearance, with universal admiration, translated, commented upon, and em
ployed as a text-book by all lecturers on the subject of which it treats. This work was written while Grotius resided in France, after making his escape from the castle of Louvenstein by a memorable stratagem. Having, in the religious disputes which then agitated Holland, taken the side of the Arminians in opposition to the Calvinists, when the latter obtained the ascendancy, he was put on his trial, convicted of treason, and sentenced to the confiscation of all his property, and imprisonment for life. As some mitigation, however, of so hard a doom, it was permitted that his wife should share his fate ; and that excellent and heroic woman accordingly took
her abode with her husband in the fortress we have named, where they remained together nearly two years. At last, however, Grotius resolved to brave the hazards of a plan of escape, which had been some time before suggested by his wife. He had been in the habit of borrowing books from some of his friends in the neighbouring town of Gorcum, and these were always brought to him in a large chest, which was in like manner employed to convey them back when he had read or consulted them. This chest had at first been regularly searched, as it was carried into and brought back from the apartment of the prisoner; but, after some time, its appearance on its customary service became so familiar to the guards, that their suspicions were lulled, and it was allowed to pass without notice. A day, therefore, having been chosen when it was known that the commandant was to be absent, Madame Grotius informed the commandant's wife, who was left in charge of the place, that she meant to send away all her husband's books, to prevent him from injuring his health by study, and requested that two soldiers might be allowed her to remove the load. In the mean time Grotius had taken his place in the chest
in the top of which small holes had been made for the admission of air. Upon lifting it from the ground, one of the soldiers, struck with its weight, jestingly remarked, that there must be an Arminian in it. • There are Arminian books in it,” replied the wife of Grotius, with great presence of mind ; and, without saying anything more, they took it on their shoulders, and carried it down a ladder, which led from the apartment. It would appear, however, that their suspicions had been again awakened; for, it is said, that, before they had proceeded much further, the men resolved to mention the circumstance of its uncommon weight to the commandant's wife ; but she, misled by what had been told her, ordered them to carry it away. It had been contrived to have a trusty female servant in waiting to accompany the chest to its place of destination, and under her care it was safely deposited in the house of a friend at Gorcum, when the illustrious prisoner was, of course, speedily released from durance. A good deal of management was still necessary to enable him to effect his escape from the town. It is gratifying to have to add, that his wife, who, as soon as she understood that her husband was safe, confessed what she had done, although at first detained in close custody, was liberated, on petitioning the States General, about a fortnight after. It was on the 21st of
Tarch, 1621, that Grotius obtained his liberty; and he arrived in Paris on the 13th of April. His wife rejoined him about the end of December.