Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/425

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THE

POPULAR SCIENCE

MONTHLY.

 

FEBRUARY, 1879


 

DARWIN VS. GALIANI.[1]
By Professor EMIL DU BOIS-REYMOND,

OF THE UNIVERSITY OF BERLIN.

IT was a hundred years ago, in the salon of the Grand-Val, after dinner. Here was assembled that fastidious company of wits as well known to us through the letters of Diderot to Mademoiselle Voland as though we, too, had been guests under Holbach's roof. There was Diderot himself, the most German-like of Frenchmen, and Grimm, the most Frenchy of Germans[2]; that peevish Scot, Hoop, and the little Neapolitan abbé, Galiani,[3] in whom playfulness and levity often concealed profound thinking. There, too, were those women whose redoubtable charms are immortalized in Rousseau's "Confessions," as those of Helen in the "Iliad" and "Odyssey."

The fortunate ones of this world had then a good time, especially in France. The trammels of superstition which for seventeen centuries had made slaves of the human race seemed to have been burst asunder. The sun of a cloudless day was illumining and warming the intellectual world; while on the other side of the Atlantic the dawn of popular freedom and human dignity was beginning to appear. Despotism in church and state was tottering before assaults which daily

  1. Translated from the German, by J. Fitzgerald, A. M.
  2. Sainte-Beuve, "Causeries du Lundi," third edition, vol. ii., 1858, p. 203.
  3. Ferdinand Galiani was a native of the province of Abruzzo, Naples, born in 1728. He was no less remarkable for wit than for solid acquirements. Having made a collection of specimens of the volcanic products of Vesuvius he sent them to the Pope in a box thus labeled, "Beatissime pater, fac ut lapides isti panes fiant" (i. e.. Most Holy Father, command that these stones be made bread); in answer to which the Pope gave him the canonry of Amalfi, with four hundred ducats per annum. He wrote a treatise on "Money," "Annotations upon Horace," "Dialogues on the Corn Trade," etc. He held several important offices under the Neapolitan Government, and died, greatly esteemed, in 1787.—(Gates's "Biographical Dictionary.")