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WHILE some are lost in dissipation and thoughtlessness, there are others whose minds are absorbed in diligent and laborious study. And, indeed, to have no taste for intellectual pleasures, seems to put man but a small remove from the animal tribes. He who cannot bear thinking, or at least has no disposition for investigation, but takes things merely from the report of others, or as they are imposed upon him by custom or prejudice, is a mere slave, and hardly can be wise. It is a remark worthy of attention, that “ Thinking has been one of the least exerted privileges of cultivated humanity:" It must be confessed there is too much truth in the observation. That all men think, is not denied; but, alas! few think with propriety, few bend their thoughts to right objects, few divest themselves of the shackles of ignorance and custom: to be, however, intelligent, to be candid, to be useful, a man should inure himself to application. In a word, he who would be happy in himself, respectable in society, and a blessing to the world, should industriously persevere in the study of those subjects which are calculated to enlarge the mind, ameliorate the disposition, and promote the best interests of mankind.
Instances of intense Study, &c. Demosthenes's application to study was surprising. To be the more removed from noise, and less subject to distraction, he caused a small chamber to be made for him under ground, in
which he shut himself up sometimes for whole months, shaving on purpose half his head and face, that he might not be in a condition to go abroad. It was there, by the light of a small lamp, he composed the admirable orations, which were said, by those who envied him, to smell of the oil, to imply that they were too elaborate.
66 It is plain,” replied he, “ your's did not cost you so much trouble.” He rose very early in the morning, and used to say, that he was sorry when any workman was at his business before him." He copied Thucydides' history, eight times, with his own hand, in order to render the style of that great man familiar to him.
Adrian Turnebus, an illustrious French critic, was indefatigable in his application to study, insomuch, that it was said of him, as it was of Budæus, that he spent some hours of study even on the day he was married.
Frederick Morel had so strong an attachment to study, that, when he was informed of his wife's being at the point of death, he would not lay down his pen till he had finished what he was upon ; and when she was dead, as she was before they could prevail upon him to stir, he was only heard to reply coldly, “I am very sorry; she was a good woman,"
Sir Isaac Newton, it is said, when he had any mathematical problems or solutions in his mind, would never quit the subject on any account. Dinner has been often three hours ready for him before he could be brought to table. His man often said, when he has been getting up of a morning, he has sometimes begun to dress, and with one leg in his breeches sat down again on the bed,
where he has remained for hours before he has got his clothes on.
Mr. Abraham Sharp, the astronomer, through his love of study, was very irregular as to his meals, which he frequently took in the following manner : a little square hole, something like a window, made a communication between the room where he usually studied and another cham. ber in the house where a servant could enter; and before this hole he had contrived a sliding-board: the servant always placed his victuals in this hole, without speaking a word, or making the least noise; and when he had a little leisure he visited his cupboard, to see what it contained, to satisfy his hunger or thirst. But it often happened that the breakfast, the dinner, and the supper remained untouched by him, when the servant went to remove what was left; so deeply was he sometimes engaged in his calculations and solemn musings. It is related, that, at one time, after his provisions had been neglected for a long season, his family, being uneasy, resolved to break in upon his retirement; he complained, but with great mildness, that they had disconcerted his thoughts, in a chain of calculations which had cost him intense application for three days successively. On an old oak table, where for a long course of years he used to write, cavities might easily be perceived, worn by the perpetual rubbing of his arms and elbows,
Such has been the pleasure arising from reading and study, that even the full prospect of death itself has not eradicated the love for it.
Of the famous Hooker it is related, thut notwithstanding his severe and lingering illness, he continued his studies to the last. He strove particularly to finish his Ecclesiastical Polity, and said often to a friend who visited him daily, that “ he did not beg a long life of God for any other reason, but to live to finish the three remaining books of Polity ; and then, Lord let thy servant depart in peace,” which was his usual expression. A few days before his death his house was robbed; of which having notice, he asked, “ Are my books and written papers safe?” And being answered that they were, “ Then,” said he, “ it matters not, for no other loss can trouble me.”
A singular circumstance is related of the illustrious Boerhaave, who kept feeling his pulse, the morning of his death, to see whether it would beat till
a book he was eager to see was published. He read the book, and said, “Now the business of life is over.”
When Gesner found his last hour approaching, he gave, orders to be carried into his study, that he might meet death in a place which had been most agreeable to him in his life.
The Progress of Old Age in New Studies.
Cato, at eighty years of age, thought proper to learn Greek; and Plutarch, almost as late in life, Latin.
Henry Spelman, having neglected the sciences in his youth, cultivated them at fifty years, and produced.good fruit.
Fairfax, after having been general of the parliamentary forces, retired to Oxford to take his degrees in law.
Colbert, the famous French minister, almost at sixty returned to his Latin and law studies.
Tellier, the chancellor of France, learnt logic merely for an amusement, to dispute with his grand-children.
Though the above instances be somewhat singular, yet young persons should beware of procrastination, and not lose the present moment in expectation of improving the future. Very few are capable of making any proficiency under the decrepitude of old age, and when they have been long accustomed to negligent habits. Greai defects and indigested erudition have often characterised the websis, or “late learned,”
Singular Methods of Study. It is recorded of Anthony Magliabechi, that his attention was continually absorbed day and night among his books. An old cloak served him for a gown in the day, and for bed clothes at night. He had one straw chair for his table, and another for his bed, in which he generally remained fixed, in the midst of a heap of volumes and papers, until he was overpowered with sleep: with all this intense application to reading, his knowledge was well estimated in the observation applied to him, that he was a learned man among booksellers, and a bookseller among the learned.
John Williams, an English prelate, used to study in a particular way. He used to allot one month to a certain province, estecming variety almost as refreshing as cessation from labour; at the end of which he would take up some other matter, and so on till he came round to his former courses. This method he observed, especiVOL. III.