Sir Richard Arkwright, 일산오피 the inventor of the spinning jenny, though a man of great personal strength, suffered from wretched health.

James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine, was continually ailing until he approached old age. He had a prodigious memory and as an inventive genius he has never been surpassed.

Ill health and failing eyesight forced Joseph Niepce to retire from the army at the age of twenty-eight. It was during this opportune leisure that the idea of obtaining sun-pictures first suggested itself to him. In 1826 he learnt that Daguerre was working on the same lines and three years later they cooperated in order to perfect what was, however, Niepce’s discovery.

73
XV
HISTORIANS AND MEN OF LETTERS
Aristides, surnamed Theodosius, was a Greek rhetorician and sophist. He was so celebrated that in many places statues were erected during his lifetime to commemorate his talents. He suffered for many years from a mysterious disease, which was, however, a positive benefit to his studies as they were prescribed as part of his cure.

Pliny, the Younger, was far from robust. He suffered from weakness of the eyes, throat and chest. He himself speaks of his delicate frame.

It has been said of Erasmus that he was the first man of letters since the fall of the Roman Empire. He occupied during his lifetime the position of supreme pontiff to an elect public which the ardors of the Renaissance had called into being. His admirers were to be found in every country and among all ranks. Presents 74were continually sent to him by great and small. We hear of a donation of two hundred florins from Pope Clement XII and of a contribution of comfits and sweetmeats from the nuns of Cologne. From England in particular, he obtained constant supplies of money. “I receive daily,” he writes, “letters from the most remote parts, from kings and princes, prelates and men of learning, and even from persons of whose existence I have never heard.”

His position as regards the Reformation has been for centuries a subject of passionate contention. It was said of him, “Erasmus laid an egg, and Luther hatched it.” This, however, is only partly true. As a matter of fact, Erasmus had but one passion, the passion for learning. When he found that Luther’s revolt aroused a new fanaticism—that of evangelism, he recoiled from the violence of the new preachers. “Is it for this,” he exclaimed, “that we have shaken off bishops and popes that we may come under the yoke of such madmen as Otto and Farel?”

Erasmus’ works are too numerous to 75enumerate separately. His greatest contribution is undoubtedly his Greek Testament.

Erasmus spent the greater part of his life in agony. For twenty years he was unable to sit down either to read, write or even to take his meals. He could eat but little and only of the most delicate meats. He could neither eat nor bear the smell of fish. “My heart,” he said, “is Catholic, but my stomach is Lutheran.” Nevertheless, his various biographers exclaim at the amount of work he accomplished. One of them writes, “Through the winter of 1514–1515 Erasmus worked with the strength of ten. In Venice ... he did the work of two men.”

Montaigne was never strong but, after a few years at the court of Paris, his health gave way completely and he retired to his castle, resolved to devote the rest of his life to study and contemplation. We undoubtedly owe his immortal essays to his invalidism.

The same is true of Brantôme. He was a soldier until a fall from his horse compelled him to retire into private life. This fortunate accident is directly responsible 76for his “Memoirs,” which are not only delightful reading but of the greatest historical value.

Fénelon, the famous tutor to the duke of Burgundy, had an enormous influence, not only on his own but on the succeeding generations. His “Treatise on the Education of Girls” guided French opinion on the subject for almost two centuries. This book brought him literary glory together with the position of tutor to the grandson and heir of Louis XIV. During the eight years at court he published the “Fables,” the “Dialogues of the Dead” and finally “Télemaque.” These books were intended primarily for the instruction of his pupils; they became, however, universally popular. Fénelon was banished from Paris as a result of a doctrinal difference with Bossuet. Pope Innocent XIII, while upholding the latter, gave this verdict: “Fénelon errs by loving God too much and Bossuet by loving his neighbor too little.” Excessively delicate from childhood, Fénelon’s health grew more and more feeble. While Archbishop of Cambrai, to which city he had retired after his disgrace, we read that he was forced to make his bed his retreat 77from whence to say his offices and administer his diocese.

Jean Jacques Rousseau, French “philosopher,” occupied during three years of his youth the position of footman in various houses. From his own account, he made an uncommonly bad one, impertinent, mean, untruthful and dishonest! Rousseau had a most despicable character, and although he never lacked patrons, quarrelled with each in turn. Rousseau leapt into fame in 1749, when he was thirty-seven years old, by reason of an article extolling the savage over the civilized state. His two most celebrated books are “Le Contrat Social” and “La nouvelle Heloise.” Only the indulgence of his contemporaries would have granted him the title of “philosopher,” but as a “man of letters” he occupies “a place unrivalled in literary history.” His fame, great as it was during his lifetime, reached to vertiginous heights after his death. Rousseau’s health was execrable and like Voltaire it was said of him that he “was born dying.”

It might have been better for Lord Chesterfield if he had not dabbled with medicine; he would perhaps not have 78“been so often his own patient, or entrusted his health to the care of empirics.” Even before reaching middle age, his debilitated constitution had given him repeated warning of what he had to expect. When he wrote the renowned letters to his son, he was a deaf, solitary, sick man, who had to resort almost habitually to drugs to help him to endure his sufferings.

Boswell’s “Life of Samuel Johnson” is so universally familiar that I need only remind you that Dr. Johnson was scrofulous and half-blind.

Horace Walpole occupied a curiously large place in the literary as well as the social life of the eighteenth century. Despite his prolific pen the only one of his books which achieved popular success during his lifetime was “The Castle of Otranto.” It was translated into both French and Italian and has been frequently republished. It is a strange book, and I doubt if it will ever again be read with pleasure. Whatever significance it has for us lies in the fact that it forms the starting point of the great romantic revival. Walpole’s diary, published after his death, is of the utmost historical importance. It is, however, chiefly by his 79letters that he will be remembered, for he is undoubtedly the greatest of the English letter-writers. Walpole suffered all his life from frequent attacks of gout which at times completely crippled him.

Winckelmann, the famous German archæologist, was the son of a poor shoemaker. He became librarian to Cardinal Passioni in 1754, and while occupying this position he gave to the world a succession of admirable books. It was from him that scholars first obtained accurate information as to the treasures excavated at Pompeii. His greatest contribution to European literature is the “History of Ancient Art.” It is a delightful book, written with a free and impassioned pen and marked an epoch by “indicating the spirit in which the study of Greek art should be approached and the methods by which investigators might hope to obtain solid results.” He was a great friend of Goethe and many, if not all, of their letters have been preserved. Winckelmann was so delicate that he could never partake of anything but a little bread and wine. His gentle, blameless life was cut short by the hand of a murderer, who killed him for the sake of a few ancient 80coins, the gift of the Empress Maria Theresa.

Herder, one of the most influential writers Germany has produced, was exceedingly delicate; so also was our own Washington Irving, which perhaps accounts for the extreme sensitiveness of the latter’s impressions.

Thierry, the eminent French historian, ransacked the archives with such unremitting zeal that on the eve of beginning to write his history, he became totally blind. “But he never lost heart and in making friends with darkness,” as he puts it, he returned to his work, and by means of dictation was able to finish the masterpiece that was to prove the foundation of a new school of history!... Thierry said: “If, as I believe, the progress of science is to be numbered among the glories of our land, I should again take the road that brought me to this pass. Blind and suffering, without any respite or hope of recovery, I can still witness to one point, that, coming from me, admits of no doubt; that there is something in the world of higher value than material enjoyment, nay, even than bodily health, and that is—devotion to science.” Thus was the road 81discovered which was to be followed by Prescott, Sismondi, Macaulay and many others, including Professor Ranke.

Charles Lamb had a mental breakdown at the age of nineteen, and Mary Lamb suffered from frequent attacks of insanity.

Sir W. F. P. Napier’s health was permanently injured during a campaign which carried hostilities into Spain. This obliged him to retire from the army at the age of thirty-four. This unwelcome leisure was an inestimable benefit not only to himself but to the world, as it permitted him to become the greatest military historian that England has ever produced.

Carlyle became a chronic invalid in his twenty-fourth year. The precise nature of his ailment it is impossible to ascertain, but he declared that a rat was continually gnawing at the pit of his stomach.

A most remarkable example of achievement in the face of terrible physical disabilities is presented by the historian, Francis Parkman. He was unable to open his eyes except in the dark, so that all his information had to be read aloud to him while he made notes with his eyes shut, by means of a machine he had invented as a guide to his hand. For years he suffered 82so intensely that half an hour’s application exhausted him. The superb works he left behind, composed despite such incredible physical obstacles, have been a splendid legacy to his country.

Prescott, the eminent American historian, suffered, while at Harvard, an accident which changed the course of his life. A hard piece of bread, thrown at random in the commons hall, struck his left eye and destroyed the sight. Nevertheless he graduated honourably, but when he entered his father’s office as a student of law the uninjured eye showed dangerous symptoms of inflammation. He was urged, therefore, to travel and it was at the Azores where he had to spend much of his time in a darkened room, that he “began the mental discipline which enabled him to compose and retain in memory long passages for subsequent dictation.” His secretary gives this picture of him, while writing the “History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella”—“seated in a study lined on two sides with books and darkened by screens of blue muslin, which required readjustment with every cloud that passed across the sky.” Prescott trained his memory until he was able to 83retain sixty pages of printed matter, “turning and returning them as he walked or drove.” After fifty his remaining eye showed serious symptoms of enfeeblement and his general health also gave cause for alarm. Nevertheless he gallantly set to work on his “History of Philip II.” The third volume was, however, not through the press, before an attack of apoplexy put an end to his life.

Alfred Ainger, English divine and man of letters, chiefly remembered for his sympathetic writings on Charles Lamb and Thomas Hood, was often speechless with prostration from headaches and sickness. Ainger was no more than a charming writer. I only insert him because his handicap is one of the most difficult to overcome.

Synge, the remarkable Irish dramatist, was delicate and died young.