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He then went to Poland in the vain expectation of aiding the people of that hopelessly distracted country in throwing off the foreigners' yoke. Failing in this undertaking and despairing, for the time, of the cause of freedom, we next find him in Berlin and in Vienna.
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He had also previously visited Holland, in which great refuge of freedom he had been received with hospitality. In Paris, upon his return to France, his project of a free colony found better reception than in St.
Petersburg - owing perhaps, to the not altogether disinterested sympathy of the Government with the recently revolted American colonies. To further his plans he accepted an official post in the Ile de France [Mauritius], intending eventually to proceed to Madagascar, where was to be realised his long-cherished idea. On the voyage he discovered that his associates had formed a very different design from his own - to engage in the slave traffic. Separating from these nefarious speculators, he landed in the Ile de France, where he remained two years.
It is to the experiences of this part of his life that we owe his Paul et Virginie , the scenes of which are laid in that tropical island.
Returning home again, he made the acquaintance of D'Alembert and of the other leading men of letters in Paris, and, particularly, of Rousseau, his philosophical master. At the period of the Great Revolution of , St.
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Pierre lost his post as superintendent of the Royal Botanical Gardens under the old Bourbon Government, and he found himself reduced to poverty; and although his sympathies were with the party of constitutional, though not radical, reform, the supremacy of the extreme revolutionists exposed him to some hazard by reason of his known deistic convictions. Upon the establishment of the reactionary revolution of the Empire, St. Pierre recovered his former post, and, with the empty honour of the Imperial Cross, he received the more solid benefit of a pension and other emoluments.
His writings have been collected and published in two quarto volumes Paris, His merits consist in a certain refinement of feeling, in charming eloquence in description of natural beauty, and in the human spirit which breathes in his writings. Of the Paul et Virginie he tells us I have desired to reunite to the beauty of Nature, as seen in the tropics, the moral beauty of a small society of human beings. I proposed to myself thereby to demonstrate several great truths; amongst others this - that our happiness consists in living according to Nature and Virtue.
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He assures us that the principal characters and events he describes are by no means only the imaginings of romance. In truth, it seems difficult to believe that the genius of the author alone could have impressed so wonderful an air of reality upon mere fictitious scenes. The popularity of the story was secured at once in the author's own country, and it rapidly spread throughout Europe.
It became the fashion for mothers to give their children the names of its hero and heroine, and well would it have been had they also adopted for them that method of innocent living which is the real, if too generally unrecognised, secret of the fascinating power of the book. It is thus that he eloquently calls to remembrance the natural feasts of his young heroine and hero How often ion this very have your mothers, pressing you in their arms, thanked Heaven for the consolation you were preparing for them in their old age, and for the happiness of seeing you enter upon life under so happy auguries!
How often, under the shadow of these rocks, have I shared, with them, of your out-door repasts, which had cost no animals their lives. Gourds full of milk, of newly-laid eggs, of rice-cakes upon banana leaves, baskets laden with potatoes, with mangoes, with oranges, with pomegranates, with bananas, with dates, with ananas, offered at once the most wholesome meats, the most beautiful colours, and the most agreeable juices. The conversation was as refined and gentle as their food.
The humaneness of their manners had attracted to the charming arbour, which they had formed for themselves, all kinds of beautiful birds, who sought there their daily meals and the caresses of their human protectors.
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Our readers will not be displeased to be reminded of this charming scene Often would she come there to wash the household linen beneath the shade of the two cocoa-nut trees. Sometimes she led her goats to feed in this place; and, while she was preparing cheese from their milk, she pleased herself in watching them as they browsed the herbage upon the precipitous sides of the rocks, and supported themselves in mid-air upon one of the jutting points as upon a pedestal. Paul, seeing that this spot was love by Virginie, brought from the neighbouring forest the nests of all sorts of birds.
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