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BUFFON. dience, but esteem or admiration, establish a power wbich will be ever paramount, that of truth and reason. And here again the comparison already made applies with respect to the manner in which nature herself operates on a grand scale: it is by process of time and innumerable ramifications that reason and truth establish their empire, and not by convulsions and irruptions. It is not a revolution, a conquest; it is an order of things which receives birth from the successive action of principles and individual instruction. To this end every good work concurs.
As a writer, Buffon is admirable. Historian, orator, painter, and poet, he has embraced every style, and merited, as observed by Vic. d’Azyr, the palm of eloquence. He employs, as appears necessary, two different modes of writing. In the one a grateful steady light spreads itself over the surface : in the other, a sudden brilliant light strikes only on a single point. No one has more ably displayed those delicate truths which should be only developed to men. And in his style what consistency between the expression and the thought! In the exposure of facts his diction is simply elegant. When he applies calculation to morality he contents himself with appearing intelligible. If he details an experiment he is precise and clear; we see the object of which he is speaking. But we perceive without difficulty that it is elevated subjects he delights to write upon, and which command the extent of his powers. In those pictures where the imagination reposes ypon any marvellous occurrence, like Manlius and Pope, he depictures to instruct. ... Like them he waits the moment of inspiration to produce, and like them he becomes a poet. ....” M. de Buffon, says M. de Saint Lambert, is one of those extraordinary geniuses which every mind might admire. Many writers of singular merit have attained the various beauties of the style of Buffon. But he did more; he revealed in 1749 the secret of his excellence, in a discourse before the French academy. There we find in a few pages all that has been most ably said and thought on the art of writing.
The private life of Buffon presents but few interest. ing details. His whole existence was a kind of consecration to glory. Every thing conspired to that end. What may be imputed to vanity, to weakness, and to egotism in another, becomes interesting when we consider the object he proposed to himself, his long and absolute devotion to the most noble enterprise. He lived eight months in the year in his retreat at Montbar: at break of day he repaired to an insulated tower, in which no one presumed to disturb him, whenever his genius was put in meditation. From thence he exercised himself in a retreat secluded from the rest of mankind. Free and independent, he wandered amid its seclusions: he hastened, moderated, or suspended his walk. Sometimes his countenance directed towards heaven in the moment of inspiration, and satisfied with his ideas; sometimes collected, seeking not finding, or ready to produce, he wrote, effaced, comprised anew again to efface; collecting, combining with the same care, the same taste and skill all the parts of his discourse, he pronounced it at different times, correcting himself at each delivery; and satisfied at length with his efforts, he declaimed it aloud for his amusement, and as it were to recompence him for the trouble it bad caused. So many times reFRANCE.]
BUFFON. .peated, his polished prose, like melodious numbers iinprinted itself on his memory : he recited it to his friends, induced them to read it themselves in his presence. He then listened to it with the severity of a critic, and laboured at it without intermission.
The pieces which Buffon the most esteemed are the Discourse on the First Man, successively animated by the developement of his different sensations, the picture of the Deserts of Arabia, under the article Camel, and another representation on the article Kamichi. Prince Henry of Prussia, to whom he had read at Montbar the article Cygne, sent him from Berlin a service of China, decorated with swans, represented in all their attitudes; of which the prince had given the designs.
Louis XV. ennobled the estate of M. de Buffon. The Empress of Russia, Catherine II. corresponded with him. Montesquieu and Helvetius were of the number of his friends. J.J. Rousseau religiously salated the threshold of his cabinet. The poet Le Beau celebrated him in a fine ode. In short, Buffon lived honoured by his cotemporaries and by Europe. He was married in 1752, and left an only son, who suffered under Robespierre, in 1798. On the scaffold he said to the people,“ Citizens, my name is Buffon.”
M. de Buffon's conversation was unadorned, but sometimes very cheerful. He was exact in his dress, particularly in dressing his hair. He sat long at table, and then seemed at his ease. His conversation was at this time unembarrassed, and his guests had frequently occasion to notice some happy turn of phrase, or some deep reflection. His complaisance was very considerable: he loved praise, and even praised himself; but it was with so much frankness, and with so little contempt of others, that it was never disagreeable. Indeed, when we consider the extent of his reputation, the credit of his works, and the attention with which they were always received, we do not wonder that he was sensible of his own value. It would perhaps have displayed a stronger mind to have concealed it. Buffon died at an advanced age, in April 1788.