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GIFT OF
CAROLINE E. LE CQNTE




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MEMOIRS



OF



CELEBRATED CHARACTERS.



ALPHONSE DE J.AMARTINE,

AUTHOR OF "HISTORY OF THE GIRONDISTS," ETC., ETC.



IN TWO VOLUMES.

VOL. I.



NEW YORK:

HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS,
FRANKLIN SQUARE.

1854.



CONTENTS OF VOL. I.



I- AGE

INTRODUCTION V

NELSON , 33

HELOISE 103

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS 141

BERNARD DE PALISSY, THE POTTER 233

ROOSTAM 267

MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO .... 335



INTRODUCTION.



HISTORY is the legitimate repository of the^records of
the civil, religious, and moral condition of nations, at vari
ous periods of their existence. It is the written world,
human nature in relief, evoked from its ashes, resuming
soul, life, motion, and speech, before us and before posteri
ty, and affording for our instruction a lesson and example
for the future, in the eternal drama of humanity, represent
ed in this vast arena, girt with tombs, of which the dust is
the ashes of what once was man. History is the picture
of human destiny, which memory presents, to excite, some
times admiration and applause, at other times horror and
aversion, according as virtue or crime, barbarism or civil
ization, are placed before us, but always with advantage to
ourselves. In a word, history is to a nation what the fac
ulty of memory is to individuals, the link of unity and con
tinuity between our existence of yesterday and our exist
ence of to-day ; the basis of all our experience, and, by
means of experience, the source of all improvement. With
out history, then, there would be no social advancement,
no progressive civilization, in a nation. With history, we
scarcely need any other lesson. History knows all things,
contains all things, teaches all things ; not in winged words
which strike the ear without impressing the mind, but in
great and striking actions. It renders us impassioned and
enthusiastic sharers in the scenes of the past, filling our
eyes with tears, and making our hearts palpitate with emo-



v j INTRODUCTION.

tion. It fills us with enthusiasm or pity by our sympathy
with its impersonation of a hero, a sage, or a martyr, with
whom we completely identify ourselves ; and in so far as
our distance from the events makes us more impartial, and
impartiality induces justice, we derive much more moral
benefit from the contemplation of the past, than even from
the observation of the present. As regards the men of
other days, there is nothing to warp our consciences ; no
personal interest to corrupt us, no popularity to fascinate,
no acknowledged hatred to repel : we consider, revolve,
and decide with the impartiality and unerring judgment of
innate and unbiased rectitude. The ultimate result of all
our impressions is an aversion to evil and a love for good.
Virtue increases and becomes more deeply rooted in nations
which have grown old with these historical associations
and reminiscences, and we may say, without risk of error,
that the country which has the most history is consequent
ly that which has the greatest display of virtues. A series
of historical biographies, therefore, may with propriety be
designated a Journal of Civilization.

We are of opinion that history is, of all human studies,
that which contains the greatest amount of instruction, of
principles, and of ideas in the facts that it relates ; because
narration is the most popular and most attractive form of
persuasion ; because humanity, viewed as a whole, is the
most interesting subject for man, and because the spirit of
the world itself is but a great and unending tale repeated
from age to age, the poem of God, the source of human in
spiration !

Is not every man, in his transit through the world, con
tinually asking himself these questions, Whence come I?
Whither am I going ? Philosophy and religion answer
them with reference to things supernatural, but without
these two obstinate questions ceasing to persist in present-



INTRODUCTION. vii

ing themselves, century after century, to every man coming
into this world.

With reference, also, to the purely human question of
civilization, a man asks himself these two questions :
Whence come I? Whither am I going? The generality
have not even leisure to listen to the answer, but pass on
without knowing any thing of this mystery of their origin,
their progress, and their end sons of a family whose her
itage is immortality, but who know not their titles or their
ancestry.

To those who, like ourselves, have not their bread to
earn, and who have time to listen to the answer, History
alone can reply. We wish that she should now reply to
all men. We desire that no man shall come into this
world, and leave it without making himself acquainted
with the place he occupies in the order of time, the origin
and history of his race, the starting-point and progress of
ideas and things which form what is called its civilization,
the successive stages of advancement, interrupted, resumed,
increasing or decreasing of this civilization, age by age,
nation by nation, and, so to speak, man by man. We de
sire, moreover, that this complete picture of humanity,
painted with broad strokes for the eyes of the people, in
place of being a lifeless analytical table like a chronology,
or uninteresting, as all abridgments are, shall be living, like
men, and vivid like a drama. Interest is the true key to
memory. The heart of man only remembers what moves
and impassions it. Now, what is it in history that moves
or excites the masses? Is it things or is it men? It is
men men only. You can not excite yourself over a chart,
or be moved by a chronology. These abridged and ana
lytic processes are the algebra of history, freezing while
they instruct. This algebra of memory must be left to the
learned, who, amid their dusty books, after reading all their



viii INTRODUCTION.

lives, and crowding their repertories with millions of facts,
names, and dates, desire to make a synoptical table of their
science, in order to be able at any moment to lay their fin
ger on the date of a year or the name of a dynasty.

Popular reading is not like this : it is not erudite, but
impassioned. It attaches no value to these maps of ages,
to these confused ramifications of the genealogical tree of
the human race, which uselessly darken the sphere of his
tory with as many intersecting lines as the geographer s
compass traces and intertraces on the surface of his globe.
No : the mass goes straight forward to a small number of
dominant facts which overtop history as lofty mountain
chains divide and overlook continents : it fixes these facts
in its memory by a small number of names of superior and
truly historical men, who have associated their existence,
their lives, or their death with these facts ; and if the his
torian have the art or the gift of penetrating in thought
into the spirit, the heart, the ideas, the passions, the public
or even the private lives of these great men, the common
run of readers agrees in neglecting all secondary events
and characters, and identifies itself with him in thought,
in admiration, in emotion, and even in tears, with the
thoughts, actions, vicissitudes, virtues, greatness, fall, tri
umph, and catastrophe of these grand actors of the drama
of humanity ; it enters into their destiny, identifies its heart
with their hearts, is agitated by the same feelings, bleeds
with the same wounds, has the same zeal for the public
good, burns with the same indignation at fortunate crime,
avenges the same injustice, the same ingratitude, and the
same persecutions of the day, by similar appeals to poster
ity. Then also the country, the nation ; the era at which
these ancestors of the human race lived, thought, wrote, or
acted on, and the events which they shared, assume a
shape, a soul, a countenance, a name, and an individuality



INTRODUCTION.



in the reader s mind. The enthusiastic and impassioned
sentiment has identified itself with memory ; the knowl-
edo-e has passed into the inmost recesses of the heart ; the
historic type is stamped burning hot within us. History
was dead because it had become a book, but returns to life
because it has again become a living man.

There were two modes of following out the plan we have
conceived. One was to write the lives of great civilizers
according to their chronological arrangement, passing from
the first in order of date to the second, then to the third,
and fourth, and so on, descending step by step from the
most remote days to our own.

The other mode was to choose, as it were by chance
sometimes in one century and sometimes in another in
India to-day, in Egypt to-morrow, in Athens, Rome, Con
stantinople, London, or Paris superior men from these
different ages and different races, to write their histories
for the public.

The former of these methods appears incontestably the
most natural and the most instructive, and we should un
doubtedly have adopted it if we had been writing a course
of lectures instead of a book.

A book requires, as the first condition of its success, that
it should be interesting. Without this no readers ; with
out a mass of readers, no propagation of knowledge, no
moral effect produced upon the generation. Every one
fears ennui, but especially he who has no time for it.
Now, to prevent tediousness, and to excite interest, it is in
dispensable that we should avoid monotony. To this end
we must have a certain degree of variety and abruptness ;
a continual excitement of curiosity, which can only be
raised by a frequent change of style in the narratives, the
facts, and the expressions. This pleasure, this attraction,
this curiosity, must be awakened in the minds of readers

A 2



x INTRODUCTION.

by frequently shifting the scene : we must transport them,
to prevent their getting sleepy, from one century to anoth
er, from one country to another, from a sage to a conquer
or, from a warrior to a legislator, from a poet to a philoso
pher, from a king to an artist, from the founder of a relig
ion to the inventor of a trade. Thus it was with Plu
tarch, that great portrait-painter of all types, the Vandyck
of antiquity. Herein lies the charm, but also the imper
fection of his volumes. He produced portraits, not pic
tures : there is nothing to connect his figures with each
other. Every thing is grand, but isolated. He teaches
man, but not history. This is the evil we shall endeavor
to avoid. We intend our figures, scattered in the first in
stance, and presented one by one, without any order of
date, to the public view, to group themselves naturally at
the end of the work, so as to form, not only portraits, but
pictures.

By this plan, the reader whose time is interrupted will
be enabled to learn all that he needs to know of the most
important events of past ages the great men and great
actions, the deep shadows and great lights, the great per
versities and high moral perfections of his race. The
general aspect will be sufficiently discerned among the
thoughts and acts of these principal and critical individ-
ualizations which will be passed in review before him.
In this living and breathing chart of the human race, he
will dimly perceive the work and plan of God in human
ity, as we faintly trace the scheme of the world in the in
animate map of the geographer. He will not be discour
aged by his weariness and falls, considering the immensi
ty of his road, the progress he has already made, and the
infinite reward at the end. He will know that the race,
of which he is one, eternally advances before him, with
him, and after him, toward the destiny fixed by Providence,



INTRODUCTION. xi

which it is in his power to accelerate by his virtues, or to
delay by his vices. Every thing good or great that has
been imagined in the world will be stored in his mind.
His prejudices will depart gradually with his ignorance.
He will no longer live for himself alone, or for the narrow
circle of country, time, profession, space, and ideas, among
which nature has placed him for a few short days. He
will live, of the life of ages, a small portion, doubtless, but
a portion which comprehends and contains the whole.
This is the effect of history, skillfully personified, on the
minds of men : it changes and purifies them : it is the re
ligion of memory, as poetry is the religion of imagination,
as logic is the religion of reasoning ; for each of our facul
ties must have its religious element, as all of them must
rise to God, to bring back man to him man, that master
piece, sketched out by the Creator, and whom, as a su
preme honor, he has charged with the duty of completing
himself by liberty, labor, and virtue.

Now, to give the general reader this exhibition of the
human race in action, it is not necessary, as it might be
supposed, to evoke a multitude of historic names and per
sonages from the catacombs of libraries. No: the human
race is vast, but not infinite. A hundred principal actors,
at most, are sufficient to represent, under the pen of the
historian, the drama, sometimes varied, but oftener uni
form, of human vicissitudes. Every thing depends on a
judicious choice of characters.

There are also two ways of choosing them. They may
be selected in respect of the greatness or importance of
their conventional rank in the world, the nobility of their
race, the brilliancy of their reign, the immensity of their
empire, the magnificence of their title, the multitude of
their subjects, or the prowess of their armies. On the other
hand, they may be chosen in regard of their natural abili-



x ii INTRODUCTION.

ty, the extent of their ideas, the influence which their ap
pearance exercised upon human intellect, the greatness of
the personal part they acted, the holiness of their mission
upon earth, their labors, their persecutions, and sometimes
their death ; for such is often their only reward for the
truths they brought into the world. They must especial
ly be selected for the epic or dramatic interest of their
lives. In this point of view, the more one of these great
actors of the drama of existence has been maligned, the
more unhappy he is, the more he is persecuted, the more
there is of toil, vicissitude, tears, and blood in his history,
the more there is also of interest, love, passion, and devo
tion in the feeling of posterity toward him, and the more
strongly he impresses himself on the imagination. From
this point of view in the human heart, which is that of
the masses, Socrates is more historical than Alexander,
Christopher Columbus than Charles the Fifth, Torquato
Tasso than the Medici or than Francis the First.

These are the characters we have sought out for our bi
ographies. We do not lose sight of the immense ascend
ency given by rank, royalty, military power, or hereditary
dynastic authority to the leaders of nations and shepherds
of the people in modern times. An exalted destiny is the
foundation of a high influence. The same natural abili
ties which, when placed by fortune at the bottom of the
scale, only shine for a narrow circle in the mediocrity of
common life, illumine the whole human race when Prov
idence places them on high. A great idea dies unborn in
an obscure man without power, while it produces great
results in one who sits upon a throne. We must be blind
or envious to deny this truth. A man s social position is
one of the conditions of his action on his fellows. Rank
is an initiation to glory. When we have met with per
sonal valor in sovereigns or in royal legislators, we have



INTRODUCTION. xiii

,nven them the first place in history ; but when we have
seen in other, obscure ranks of life, men, superior in them
selves, but usually neglected or placed in the lowest ranks
by distributors of fame-as, for instance, prophets, philo,
ophers, poets, orators, historians, artists, artisans, martyrs
to a faith useful in the world we have restored to thes
naturally great men the position which of right belongs to
them, among the masters and models of our race. Histo
ry in our opinion, is like Michael Angelo s Last Judgment,
in which people appear before God, not in their own cos
tume, but in that of nature.

We repeat it, then, a small number of well-selected
characters are sufficient to bring all known time in review
under the eyes and imagination of the living races of
men. Suppose that you have the power of calling from
their tombs, and examining for a moment in their own
tongues, the variety and confusion of historical characters
whom we are about to name by chance, and then to class
each of them by their epoch and rank in the different
centuries, to make up link by link the long chain of dates
and facts :



MOSES.

HOMER. PERICLES.

HERODOTUS. PYTHAGORAS.

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS. GUTENBERG.

ALEXANDER. VlRGIL -

SOCRATES. CONFUCIUS.

PLATO. MOHAMMED.

CICERO. CORTEZ.

CHARLEMAGNE. HANNIBAL.

ZOROASTER. MONTEZUMA.

BOSSUET. LAS CASAS

ST Louis THE GREAT ANONYMOUS author



CROMWELL. of the * <* / Jesus

CONSTANTINE. Chnst.



XIV



INTRODUCTION.



LEO THE TENTH.

CORNEILLE.

PHIDIAS.

HIPPOCRATES.

FENELON.

GODFREY DE BOUILLON.

ARISTOTLE.

FREDERICK THE SECOND.

RAPIN.

MlRABEAU.

MOZART.
SEMIRAMIS.

L HoPITAL.

THUCYDIDES.

ROOSTAM, the hero of Persia.

PETER THE GREAT.

CYRUS.

DANTE.

SOPHOCLES.

CAESAR.

BACON.

ARISTIDES.

MARTIN LUTHER.

MILTON.

WASHINGTON.

MARCUS AURELIUS.

DEMOSTHENES.

POMPEY.

SIR ISAAC NEWTON.

DAVID.

SOLOMON.

PHOCION.

DUGUESCLIN.

THEMISTOCLES.

NAPOLEON.

ST. VINCENT DE PAUL.

DESCARTES.

RICHELIEU.

RACINE.



WATT.

LEONIDAS*.

ST. AUGUSTINE.

CHARLES THE FIFTH.

MlTHRIDATESv

MACHIAVELLI.

XERXES.

AURUNGZEBE.

JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU.

DIOCLETIAN.

LYCURGUS.

HENRY THE FOURTH OF FRANCE.

MARIUS.

SYLLA.

ORPHEUS.

SESOSTRIS.

CLEOPATRA.

SCIPIO.

ALCIBIADES.

TIMOUR KHAN.

GENGHIS KHAN.

THE GREAT MEDICI.

FRANKLIN.

DANTON.

ATTILA.

CHARLOTTE CORDAY.

GALILEO.

CAMOENS.

WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR.

MARY STUART.

BENVENUTO CELLINI.

RAFEAELLE, the painter.

MADAME ROLAND.

MADAME DE STAEL.

CATHARINE II. of Russia.

SAPPHO.

EPICTETUS.

VlTTORIA COLONNA.

WILLIAM TELL.



INTRODUCTION. XV

BYRON, the poet. Louis THE SIXTEENTH.

JACQUARD, the mechanist. NELSON.

GOJ . THE HELOISE, the wife of Abelard.

BUFFON, the naturalist. BERNARD DE PALISSY, the potter.

CUVIER. JoAN OF ARC "

CERVANTES. TACITUS.

MOLIERE. &C "

GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS. &c.

CHARLES THE FIRST, of England. &c.

Here are altogether a hundred or a hundred and fifty
names, personifying human intellect and human life. Is
it not apparent that, after a communion of some years
with this council of past ages, the superficial reader will
have an approximate idea of universal history, more ex
tensive and more vivid than after running through the
cold and lifeless pages of an abridgment?

History, thus examined, is no longer a study, but a con
versation; not a science, but a continuous drama; not
depending upon mere memory, but bound up with our in
most feelings. It is the most certain mode of conveying
knowledge instruction by means of emotion.

This method of instruction by serious reading it is now
time to take up, in the silence and quiet between the
great catastrophes of the past and the unknown birth of
the future. The human mind is so much the more atten
tive as it is more undecided and in suspense among its
ideas. We shall not concern ourselves with the politics
of the day, but with that everlasting policy which grows
up and increases under all forms of government, because
it is independent of the transitory forms of institutions;
because it addresses itself to -the intellect and not to ti
passions ; and because its object is morality, and not pop
ular opinion.

The new phases of the modern world, by destroying



xv i INTRODUCTION,

slavery, and calling up the masses to a larger share in
their own destinies, make morality and instruction two
indispensable conditions of liberty. These two fortunate
requirements of our time demand that the philosophers
and writers who hold in their hands the mirror of truth,
should turn down the bright side, which they formerly
held upward. Light has been ascending long enough :
it is now time to turn it downward. Truth has often
been incarnate in a man : it is now time it should walk
among the crowd. We know how difficult this is. The
people and the authors have not hitherto spoken the same
language : it is for the authors to change, and stoop to
place the words of truth within reach of the masses. To
stoop thus is not to degrade genius, but to make it manly.
WHO MAKES IT POPULAR MAKES IT DIVINE. We feel our
own insufficiency, but shall endeavor to raise the style
of our narratives to the perfection of art SIMPLICITY.
Simplicity, that universal language, which renews be
tween the rich and the poor, between the learned and the
ignorant, the wise man and the child, that symbolic mir
acle of the first messengers of the Gospel, who spoke but
one tongue, and were understood by the disciples of all
nations. Take and read, we shall say, like the clockma-
ker s son, to the families of workmen who have the least
knowledge of letters. Here we have history, come down
from the dusty shelves of libraries, stripped of its purple
and its pomp, and speaking the common language, in its
calm and clear narratives, with your wives and children.
We shall endeavor to be her interpreter. We have for
merly sung the poet s language for the happy and idle of
earth. We have since spoken the language of orators in
the tribune, and of statesmen among the storms of the
republic. More humble to-day, and perhaps more useful,
we blush not to learn the phraseology which reaches the



INTRODUCTION. xvii

intellect through the heart, to be simple with the simple,
and child-like with children.

But of what use, it may be asked, is elementary history
to the men of labor, and in the occupations of the poor ?
"What have they in common with heroes, kings, philoso
phers, politicians ? What need is there of teaching them
the great games of fortune, the catastrophes of empires,
the conduct of human affairs, in order to forge a bar, to
thread the shuttle, to prune the vine, or steer the boat ?

Doubtless the mass does not want to know history in
order to carry on any one of these trades : it does not re
quire it to live, but it requires it to think. And, inasmuch
as thought makes the man, if you desire that your masses
should consist of men, and not of human machines, give
them the elements of reflection. History is perhaps the
most healthy and most improving of these elements. It
develops in the people that in which it is most deficient
conscience. It exhibits Providence in retribution, and in
the unfailing reward of good and evil. If it is given in a
right and religious spirit, a course of history is a lesson of
justice and a lecture on conscience to all nations.

It is not only a lesson of justice and a popular course of
lectures on political morality, but also of love for the beau
tiful. This love of moral beauty is the instinct the most
nearly approaching to virtue that God has bestowed on
man. It is the involuntary and passionate aspiration of
the soul to the acme of perfection in every thing, the sur-
sum corda of the human race, making the heart rise from
marvel to marvel, even unto God, the beginning and end
of all beauty. This faculty, like all others, whether in in
dividuals or in masses, can only be strengthened by exer
cise. What more magnificent field for the exercise of this
enthusiasm than history ? It has been remarked with rea
son, that the medium in which we live, physically no less



INTRODUCTION.

than morally, never fails within a certain period to modify
our constitutions and our minds. If, then, you allow a peo
ple to live in habitual and exclusive communion with the
superficial philosophy, the low instincts, the false heroes,
and the impure literature with which it is flooded in the
work-shop and the cottage, what can you expect from
your rising youth ? Generation will succeed generation in
vice, with stupidity stamped on the forehead, unbelief in
the heart, a sneer on the lip, prurient stories in the imagin
ation, impure couplets on the tongue ; taking success for
justice, cupidity for their God, and sedition for liberty
a curse to themselves, the shame of their country and their
time!

But if you raise them by well-chosen and well-adapted
history to the contemplation of the great operations of Prov
idence on the human race, to understand the great destiny



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