struck into the path of fiction at the age of forty-four, and only gave his "Robinson Crusoe" to the world eleven years later; Richardson, who published his first fiction when fifty-one; Sterne, who, after passing many contented years in the seclusion of a country rectory, tried his luck as a novelist by publishing "Tristram Shandy" at the age of forty-six; and Cervantes, who, after years of active service, followed out an early impulse to letters in his thirty-sixth year, and produced his masterpiece at the mature age of fifty-seven.
Scholars, Historians, Critics.—In this rather miscellaneous group we have a number of first-rate instances of precocity. Grotius has been pronounced one of the greatest of prodigies in this respect. At nine he wrote good Latin verses; at twelve he was ripe for the university; at fifteen he was editing the encyclopedic treatise of Capella; and at seventeen did excellent scholarly work. Our own Porson, the son of a parish clerk, at a very early date attracted notice by his exceptional powers of acquisition. At nine he could extract the cube root of a number by a process of mental arithmetic. Before fifteen he was able to repeat the whole of Horace, Virgil, and many parts of Livy, Cicero, etc. His productive work began later (twenty-four). Niebuhr resembles Porson in being the son of poor parents, and having a predilection at first for mathematics. At seven he was regarded as a marvel of boyish erudition. Among our own historians, Macaulay and Thirlwall are distinguished by precocity. Macaulay, whose extraordinary power of retention is well known, showed a decided bent toward literature as a child. Before eight he had given a presage of his historical work by putting together a compendium of universal history. By the same date he had written a romance, and soon after composed long poems. Thirlwall is a still more wonderful example. The son of a clergyman, he was taught Latin at three, and by four could read Greek with a fluency which astonished his family. He began to write at seven, and at twelve appeared before the world in a volume entitled "Primitive," which contained essays, and poems on various subjects, grave and gay. Soon after twelve, when at Charter-house, he wrote elaborate letters in Latin, showing extraordinary reading and critical judgment.
If now we inquire what proportion of the class were distinguished for intellectual prococity, we reach the following results: Out of thirty-six cases, thirty, or five sixths, are said to have been distinguished by preternatural ability, either in childhood or in early youth. So far as I can ascertain, about one half of these betrayed at an early age the precise direction of their future mental activity. This applies, for example, to Gibbon, De Quincey, Hazlitt, and Lessing. The others either proved themselves quick all-round learners, or evinced exceptional intellectual strength in some other direction e. g., mathematics or poetry.It becomes a very different question if we inquire into the age at