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acceptable to him, they had preferred giving up the possessions which they had inherited to making a sacrifice of their consciences; and, that they might enjoy religious liberty, had sought the protection of an English monarch, and had left their posterity to trust to their own exertions for their support.”—Vol. ii., p. 135.
England and America have both reason to rejoice, with a selfish joy, in the revocation of the edict of Nantes. No one can tell how far the descendants of that body of Christians which it drove into exile, had they been in France, might have assuaged the horrors of their unbelieving revolution; while here, and in Great Britain, some of the best blood of our day may be traced to the emigration which followed that atrocious
It is scarcely necessary to recall to American readers the names of Huger, Legaré, Bowdoin, and that combination of antique firmness and Christian purity immortalized in the name of Jay.
Sir Samuel's grandfather died in poverty, and his father, Peter Romilly, who was born in 1722, became a jeweller. His first five children died in infancy. The sixth was a girl, who lived a few years longer, but was then taken from him ; of which event we have this notice:
“ The death of this favorite child was considered by my father as the greatest calamity of his life. Her extraordinary perfections; my father's doting love of her; his habit of waking her in the morning, by playing on a flute at the side of her bed ; his anxious solicitude during her illness, and the violence of his grief at the loss of her, have often been described to me."-Vol. i., p. 6.
We have quoted this as a proof, apparently slight, but almost conclusive, of the character of the stock whence Sir Samuel sprang. These two lines are enough to show that his father was a man of refinement and delicacy. Indeed, Romilly himself seems to have had much of that gracefulness of mind which gives the French a universal popularity, and which, combined, if it could be, with the more rigid morals of the Anglo-Saxon race, would make, perhaps, the most irresistible union in human shape.
Romilly was born in March, 1757. He inherited a slender constitution and nervous temperament, the finest texture of mortal web, but always most exquisitely susceptible as well of suffering as of enjoyment. He says of his youth:
“ The servant whom I have mentioned was to me in the place of a mother. I loved her to adoration. I remember, when quite a child, kissing, unperceived by her, the clothes which she wore; and when she once entertained a design of quitting our family and going to live with her own relations, receiving the news as that of the greatest misfortune which could befall me, and going up into my room in an agony of affliction and imploring God, upon my knees, to avert so terrible a calamity.
It is commonly said to be the happy privilege of youth to feel no misfortunes but the present; to be careless of the future and forgetful of the past. That happy privilege I cannot recollect having ever enjoyed. In my earliest infancy, my imagination was alarmed and my fears awakened by the stories of devils, witches, and
apparitions; and they had a much ter effect upon me than is even usual with children; at least I judge so, from their effect being of a more than usual duration. The images of terror with which those tales abound, infested my imagination very long after I had discarded all belief in the tales themselves, and in the notions on which they are built ; and even now, although I have been accustomed for many years to pass my evenings and my nights in solitude, and without even a servant sleeping in my chambers, I must, with some shame, confess that they are sometimes very unwelcome intruders upon my thoughts.
“ I had other apprehensions, and some of a kind which are commonly reserved for maturer years. I was oppressed with a constant terror of death ; not indeed for myself, but for my father, whose life was certainly much dearer to me than my own. I never looked on his countenance, on which care and affliction had deeply imprinted premature marks of old age, without reflecting that there could not be many years of his excellent life still to come. If he returned home later than usual, though but half an hour, a thousand accidents presented themselves to my mind; and, when put to bed, I lay sleepless and in the most tormenting anxiety till I heard him knock."-Vol. i., p. 60.
We here undoubtedly find the germ of that temperament which, although subdued for many years by the practical character of his daily avocations, was finally the cause of his most lamented death.
When as yet a mere boy he was sent, with his younger brother, to a day-school, where the scholars were principally the sons of all the barbers, bakers and butchers of the neighborhood, and where the utmost that the master professed to teach, was reading, writing, arithmetic, French and Latin ; " the last being rather inserted in the bill of fare by way of ornament."
Éis father early wished him to be a “special attorney,” but
Romilly, more wilful than Hicks, thought
- he could help it,” and his disgust was so emphatically expressed, that the idea was abandoned. He was then intended for the golden path of commerce; but this scheme also was abandoned, and at fourteen we find him assisting his father in his jeweller's shop, of which the proceeds were, at this time, not less than £20,000 per annum. Here he merely kept his father's accounts, and now and then received orders from his customers. But in one respect it was agreeable to him. He read a great deal of English, and set himself to the assiduous study of Latin. Greek he attempted, but with no success. About this time his prospects were entirely changed by the death of a relation, one M. de la Haize, who left the family fourteen or fifteen thousand pounds.
« Blessed be his memory for it," says Sir Samuel, devoutly.
This did not increase his affection for rings and brooches, and, at sixteen, (1773,) he was articled for five years to Mr. William Lally, one of the six-clerks.
“ The business of a six-clerk,” says Sir Samuel, “ lies in a very narrow compass. It consists almost entirely of making copies of bills, answers, and other pleadings in chancery, in receiving notice of motions to be made in suits, and the service of orders pronounced by the court, and transmitting thereto the solicitors of the different suitors, and in occasional attendance upon the court of chancery when they are proceeding upon matters referred to them.”
About this time, speaking of his home, he says :
“ I love to transport myself, in idea, into our little parlor, with its green paper, and the beautiful prints of Vivares, Bartolozzi, and Strange, from the pictures of Claude, Caracci, Raphael, and Correggio, with which its walls were elegantly adorned ; and to call again to mind the familiar and affectionate society of young and old intermixed, which was gathered round the fire ; and even the Italian greyhound, the cat, and the spaniel, which lay in perfect harmony basking before it. I delight to see the door open, that I may recognise the friendly countenances of the servants, and above all, of the old nurse, to whom we were all endeared; because it was while she attended my mother, that her health had so much improved. But yet, with such means of happiness, and in the midst of enjoyments so well suited to my temper and disposition, I was not completely happy. The melancholy, to which I had from my childhood been subjected, at intervals oppressed me; and my happiness was often poisoned by the reflection that, at some time or other, il must end." — Vol. i., pp. 27, 28.
While pursuing his studies he became acquainted with Mr. John Roget, a native of Switzerland, of whom he says:
Roget was an admirer of the writings of his countryman Rousseau, and he made me acquainted with them. With what astonishment and delight did I first read them! I seemed transported into a new world. His seducing eloquence so captivated my reason, that I was blind to all his errors. I imbibed all his doctrines, adopted all his opinions, and embraced his system
of morality with the fervor of a convert to some new religion. That enthusiasm has long since evaporated ; and though I am not, even now, so cold and insensible as to be able, under any circumstances, to read his writings with an even and languid pulse and unmoistened eyes, yet I am never tempted to exclaim, Malo cum Platone errare, quam cum aliis vera sentire, a motto which I once seriously inscribed in the first page of Emile. But though the writings of Rousseau contain many errors on the most important subjects, they may yet be read with great advantage. There is perhaps no writer so capable of inspiring a young mind with an ardent love of virtue, a fixed hatred of oppression, and a contempt for all false glory, as Rousseau ; and I ascribe, in a great degree, to the irrational admiration of him which I once entertained, those dispositions of mind from which I have derived my greatest happiness throughout life.”—Vol. i., pp.
Roget, in 1778, married Romilly's sister, and here the first journal or fragment ends.* It was written subsequently, in 1796. His next autobiographic sketch was written in 1813; but we shall proceed in chronological order.
At twenty-one he again changed his determination, and, in 1778, resolving to go to the bar, articled himself of the society of Gray's Inn, and became a student under Mr. Spranger, a chancery draftsman. In regard to which he remarks :
“ With the exception of Roget, I believe most of my friends thought it a hazardous and imprudent step; Mr. Lally deemed it so in a very high degree. He did not indeed undervalue my talents, though I believe he did not rate them very high ; but he thought my diffidence invincible, and such as must alone oppose an insurmountable bar to my success.”
Other friends thought his health unequal to it. The reason that decided him is too characteristic to be omitted :
* His son, settled in England, was with his uncle at the time of his death, and has distinguished himself very much in the profession of medicine.
“ What principally influenced my decision was, that it enabled me to leave in my father's hands my little fortune, the two-thousand-pound legacy, and the share of the residue, perhaps seven or eight hundred pounds, which M. de la Haize had left me, and which I knew it would be very inconvenient to him that I should call for, but which would have been indispensably necessary if I had purchased a sworn clerk's seat, (two thousand pounds being about the price it would cost.) This was decisive with me. And it is not the only instance of my life where a decision, which was to be most important in its consequences, has been taken principally to avoid a present inconvenience.”
In 1780 his health gave way, and his debility appears to have been very alarming. The period when sedentary occupations are first commenced, is always critical to one whose youth has been spent in activity. The change is almost universally made at the expense of health. Beside this, he suffered from exposure during Lord George Gordon's mob, when he was whole night under arms as sentinel-the students of the different inns having determined to arm in their own defence. As a means of renovating himself, he went to the continent to see his brother-in-law, Roget, then settled at Geneva, and there became acquainted with Dumont, with whom his intercourse, ripened into friendship, lasted all his life, and of him he thus speaks:
“His vigorous understanding, his extensive knowledge, and his splendid eloquence, qualified him to have acted the noblest part in public life; while the brilliancy of his wit, the cheerfulness of his humor, and the charms of his conversation, have made him the delight of every private society in which he has lived; but his most valuable qualities are his strict integrity, his zeal to serve those whom he is attached to, and his most affectionate disposition.”— Vol. i., p. 58.
On his way home he stopped at Paris, and there became acquainted with d'Alembert and Diderot; of the latter, in a letter to Roget, he tells the following anecdote:
“ I forget what it was I wrote to you from Ostend; I know I mentioned something of Diderot, but did I tell you how zealously he preaches his system of materialism ? In the first visit I paid him, after we had talked a little on political topics, he turned the conversation to his favorite philosophy; he praised the English for having led the way to true philosophy, but the adventurous genius of the French, he said, had pushed them on before their guides. Vous