« PreviousContinue »
afterwards, however, set about writing an account of his life--a task which he accomplished whilst acting in the humble capacity of a porter at the India, House. The work is composed in a plain but sensible style, and contains many interesting details respecting the manners of the natives of Madagascar. It is perhaps somewhat better for having been compressed by one of the friends of the author, whose original manuscript is said to have extended to eight hundred large folio pages.
FALCONER, the author of The Shipwreck, as is generally known, spent his life, from childhood, at
He was probably born in one of the small towns in the county of Fife, which border the Frith of Forth; but nothing is very certainly ascertained either as to his native place or his parentage. Nor has any account been given of how he acquired the elements of education, with the exception of a report that he found an instructor in a person of the name of Campbell, a man of some literary taste and acquirements, who happened to be purser in one of the vessels in which young Falconer sailed. However this may
be, Falconer appeared as an author at a very early age, having been only, it is said, in his twentyfirst year when he gave to the world his first production, a poem on the death of Frederick, Prince of Wales, the father of his late Majesty, George III. He was ten or twelve years older when he published his * Shipwreck, which is said to be founded in a great measure on the personal adventures of the author. Falconer did not permit the success of his poetical efforts to withdraw him from his profession, in which, having now transferred himself from the merchant service to the navy, he continued to rise steadily till he was appointed purser of a man-of-war. Sometime after attaining this promotion, he published the other work by which he is chiefly known, his . Uni
He had pre
versal Marine Dictionary,' which was very favourably received, and is a still standard work. viously to this written several other poetical pieces on temporary subjects, which have long been forgotten. Shortly after the publication of his dictionary, he sailed for Bengal as purser of the frigate Aurora. This vessel, however, was never heard of after she passed the Cape of Good Hope, having in all probability foundered at sea.
GIORDANI, an Italian engineer and mathematician of the seventeenth century, was originally a common soldier on board one of the Pope's gallies. In this situation his capacity and good conduct attracted the attention of his admiral; and as a reward he was promoted to the post of purser of one of the vessels. It was his appointment to this situation which first formed his mind to study. Having accounts to keep, he soon found how necessary it was that he should know something of arithmetic, of which he was till then quite ignorant; and he determined therefore to teach himself the science, which it is said he did without assistance. By pursuing his studies from this commencement, he eventually acquired considerable reputation as a mathematician; and, having published several able works, was appointed at last to a professorship in the Sapienza College at Rome. Giordani died in the year 1711.
The late Mr. John FRANSHAM, who died at Norwich in 1810, was altogether one of the most eccentric characters to be found in the list of selfeducated
persons. His name suggests itself to us here from the circumstance of his having passed part of his early life as a common soldier. He had been originally apprenticed to a cooper, with whom he remained for about two years, and it was in this situation that he taught himself mathematics. But although he obtained the situation of clerk to an
attorney, his restless disposition would not allow him to remain at his desk; and after wandering for some time about the country, he enlisted in the army, where, however, they did not keep him long, finding him quite unfit for service. Indeed, it was by this time become pretty evident that his mind was not a little deranged a matter which he shortly after put beyond doubt by renouncing Christianity, and making a formal profession of paganism. Although he published several works, however, in support of his peculiar theology, and in other respects conducted himself with great eccentricity, he contrived to maintain himself þy teaching mathematics, in which occupation he is said to have displayed very considerable ability. He resided and took pupils for some years in London. Somewhat similar to Fransham's history is that of Mr. John Oswald, who is said to have taught himself Greek, Latin, and Arabic, while holding a lieutenant's commission in a regiment of infantry in India. He afterwards returned to England, where he published a succession of poetical and political pamphlets, making himself remarkable at the same time by various singularities of behaviour and opinions, and especially by a rigid abstinence from animal food, and a professed predilection for the religious doctrines of the Brahmins. When the revolution broke out in France, Oswald went over to that country, and entered the service of the republic, in which he obtained the rank of colonel. He was at length killed in battle.
Columbus himself, one of the greatest men that ever lived, if it be grand ideas grandly realized that constitute greatness, while leading the life of a seaman, not only pursued assiduously the studies more particularly relating to his profession, rendering himself the most accomplished geographer and astronomer of his time, but kept up that acquaintance
which he had begun at school with the different branches of elegant literature. We are told that he was even wont to amuse himself by the composition of Latin verses. It was at sea, too, that our own Cook acquired for himself those high scientific, and we may even add literary accomplishments, of which he showed himself to be possessed. The parents of this celebrated navigator were poor peasants, and all the school education he ever had was a little reading, writing, and arithmetic, for which he was indebted to the liberality of a gentleman in the neighbourhood. He was apprenticed, at the age of thirteen, to a shopkeeper in the small town of Snaith, near Newcastle; and it was while in this situation that he was first seized with a passion for the sea. After some time, he prevailed upon his master to give up his indentures, and entered as one of the crew of a coasting vessel engaged in the coal trade. He continued in this service till he had reached his twenty-seventh year, when he exchanged it for that of the navy, in which he soon distinguished himself so greatly that he was three or four years after appointed master of the Mercury, which belonged to a squadron then proceeding to attack Quebec. Here he first shewed the proficiency he had already made in the scientific part of his profession, by an admirable chart which he constructed and published of the River St. Lawrence, He felt, however, the disadvantages of his ignorance of mathematics ; and, while still assisting in the hostile operations carrying on against the French on the coast of North America, he applied himself to the study of Euclid's Elements, which he soon mastered, and then began that of astronomy. A year or two after this, while again stationed in the same quarter, he communicated to the Royal Society an account of a solar eclipse which took place on the 5th of August, 1766; des
ducing from it, with great exactness and skill, the longitude of the place of observation; and his paper was printed in the Philosophical Transactions. He had now completely established his reputation as an able and scientific seaman ; and it having been determined by Government, at the request of the Royal Society, to send out qualified persons to the South Sea to observe the approaching transit of the planet Venus over the sun's disca phenomenon which promised several interesting results to astronomy, --Cook was appointed to the command of the Endeavour, the vessel fitted out for that purpose. He conducted this expedition, which, in addition to the accomplishment of its principal purpose, was productive of a large accession of important geographical discoveries, with the most consummate skill and ability; and was, the year after he returned home, appointed to the command of a second vessel destined for the same regions, but having in view more particularly the determination of the question as to the existence of a southern polar continent. He was nearly three years absent upon this voyage; but so admirable were the methods he adopted for preserving the health of his seamen, that he reached home with the loss of only one man from his whole crew. Having addressed a paper to the Royal Society upon this subject, he was not only chosen a member of that learned body, but was farther rewarded by having the Copley gold medal voted to him for his experiments. Of this second voyage he drew
up the account himself, and it has been universally esteemed a model in that species of writing.
All our readers know the termination of Cook's distinguished career. His third voyage, undertaken for the discovery of a passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific along the north coast of America, although unsuccessful in reference to this object,