In lately reading tho life of the French mechanician Jacquard, whose name has been immortalized by his inventive genius, we were forcibly struck with a conviction of the important lessons conveyed in the simple narrative of his every-day transactions, and of the benefits that would accrue to the youth of our country if the lives of such eminent men, whether distingnished in the world of arts, letters, or other useful avocations in life, could be displayed before them in the same familiar and instructive form. Knowing full well the passion we are sometimes apt to contract for the most insignificant appendages to the favorite objects of our attention and regard, we do not wonder that the historian who properly comprehends his task does not hesitate to descend into what at first sight might be thought unimportant details. We think it is mnch to be desired, and should always be an object of attention to those who are employed in writing the lives of eminent persons, or in compiling materials from the works of others, to select snch of their actions as are most characteristic of their genius and disposition. A trifling and seemingly inconsiderable action, an expression or word in a man's unguarded moments at home or at ease among his most intimate friends, often conveys a perfect idea of his genins and character, and serves as a key to most of the greatest and important actions of his life. And if these inferior indications of a man's life onght not to be omitted, much less should the greater and more important elements of his ability and character. It must ever be acknowledged in favor of thosa who undertake to instruct us in the transactions of past ages, who faithfully draw from life, and accurately delineate the actions and characters of mankind, that they open before usa noble fnnd of rational enjoyment, and are, at the same time, of the most important service in directing the minds of men to virtue, and exciting them to an honorable and worthy conduct. Whilst they are calling forth into exercise the most generous principles of the hnman heart, in instructing us in the natnre and obligations of private and social virtue, it must be allowed that they increase onr geueral knowledge. The actions and characters of men it is alike their province to describe, with this principal difference, that the former represent them in the public and more active scenes of life, and as they affect the general course of hnman affairs, whereas the latter, without omitting the public, leads ns into the more private and domestic situations, makes us acqnainted with the whole circle of a man's friends, lays open his connections and correspondence, the plan of his edncation, the method of his studies, his leading views in life, and the manner in which he employed his time, and introduces us to the knowledge of a var lty of circumstances of the greatest import: Gee in judging of his character and manners the whole affording very useful hints for others to improve upon. There have been many philosophers, mathematicians, mechanics, and others, at various eras of history, who have in a remarkable manner supported their characters, distinguished themselves in their professions, and merited favor by the service they have rendered mankind, and whose lives if properly detailed, would serve a$ instrnctivo lessons to others. To render them of general and extensive use, however, they should not only be written with the greatest truth and exactness, without the errors too often consequent upon the partialities of friendship or the ij influence of prejudice, bnt those gentlemen Z* who have taken upon themselves the noble | C duty of perpetuating their memories and Wa, orth should search into the records of the periods in which they existed, and collect and dispose other facts of interest which have, transpired in connection with them. Upon .such a plan as this it would be easy to Bee what advance any art or science had made at a particular time, who were a man's predecessors in the same art or profession, and what advantage he enjoyed from them. As we come down, as materials increase, and knowledge and the arts advance, a more extensive account of such cotemporaneous and useful events maybe given, and a correspondingly increased interest and benefit attached to the lives of praiseworthy characters so that in celebrating the virtues of good men who have been the ornaments of human nature, and whose works have benefited their fellow men, the candid chronicler will not only perform a highly useful and delightfnl duty, but convey to his readers the most comprehensive and instructive lessons upon the subjects pertaining thereto.
This article was originally published with the title "The Lives of Eminent Men"