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and which, from the strength and accuracy of other statements among which it was found, might lead some weak minds astray. Had the task of original publication devolved on him, he would have felt differently : for it is right that every man should have a fair opportunity of giving his opinions to the world. But in making a translation for the benefit of a subsequent age, it is perfectly equitable to select that which common consent has stamped with its approbation, and to leave out the few remains of prejudice and unscriptnral opinion, which might borrow, from the sanction of such a name, an influence that they ought not to have.
Finally, the Translator does not hesitate to say, that the intervals of time, which the duties of an active pastoral charge allowed him to give to this work, and to the meditations which its pages suggested, have been among the happiest and most gratifying portions of his life; and, that if this version, though imperfect, shall afford even a moderate share of such gratification to those readers who are shut out from the pages of the original, or shall lead others to seek for that pleasure in the original text, he will have realized an ample reward.
GREAT KING STREET, EDINBURGH,
Ist June, 1825.
ALTHOUGH the facts of PASCAL's Life cannot but be very extensively known, it seems scarcely correct to send forth a fresh translation of his Thoughts to the world, without a brief Memoir of that extraordi
BLAISE PASCAL was born at Clermont in Auvergne, 19th June, 1623. His father, Stephen Pascal, was first president of the Court of Aids, and had, by his wife, Antoinette Begon, three other children, a son who died in infancy, and two daughters; Gilberte, married to M. Perier, and Jacqueline, who took the veil in the convent of Port Royal in the Fields, and died there of grief, arising from the persecutions under which that community suffered.
Stephen Pascal was a superior and well educated man, and possessed an extensive knowledge of the Law, of Mathematics, and Natural Philosophy; to which he added the advantages of noble birth, and of manner's peculiarly simple. Till the year 1626, he shared with an amiable wife, during the intervals of public occupation, the duties of educating his family; but in that year she died, and he then devoted himself exclusively to this object. For this purpose he retired from office; and having continued a few years in the country, in the year 1631, brought his family to Paris to complete their education.
The attention of Stephen Pascal was, of course, chiefly occupied with his son, who gave promise, at a very early age, of superior genius, and readily received the elementary principles of language, and of the sciences in general ; but one of the earliest features of those talents which were subsequently developed, was the eagerness, and the nice, and accurate discernment with which, on all subjects, he sought for truth, and which would not allow him to feel satisfied till he had found it.
The circle of his father's acquaintance was of a superior order. He numbered among his friends, Mersenne, Roberval, Carcavi, Le Pailleur, &c. At their occasional meetings, for the discussion of scientific subjects, Blaise Pascal was sometimes allowed to be present, at which times he listened with great attention to what passed, and thus gradually formed the habit of scientific research. To trace effects up to their causes, was one of his chief pleasures; and it is stated, that at eleven years of age, having heard a plate give forth, on its being struck, a musical vibration, which ceased on its being touched again, he applied his mind to the subject which it presented to him, and at length produced a short treatise upon the nature of sounds.
His father, however, fearful that this evidently strong predilection for scientific pursuits would delay his progress in the attainment of classical learning, agreed with his friends that they should refrain from speaking on such topics in his presence; and this opposition to his evidently ruling tendency was, on principle, carried so far, that on his making an application to his father to be permitted to learn Mathematics, the permission was positively withheld, till he should have mastered the Greek and Latin languages. In the mean time, he obtained no other information on the subject, but that Geometry was a science which related to the extension of bodies—that it taught the mode of forming accurate figures, and pointed out the relations which existed between them. But beyond this general information, he was forbidden to inquire ; and all books on the subject were positively forbidden to him.
This vague definition, however, was the ray of light which guided him onward in Mathematical study. It became the subject of continued thought. In his play hours, he would shut himself up in an empty room, and draw with chalk on the floor, triangles, parallelograms, and circles, without knowing their scientific
He would compare these several figures, and would examine the relations that their several lines bore to each other; and in this way, he gradually