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our errors, and supply our defects from subsequent intelligence, where the importance of the subject merits an extraordinary attention, or when we have any peculiar opportunities of procuring information. The particulars here inserted we thought proper to annex by way of note to the following passages, quoted from the Magazine for Dec. 1740, and for Feb. 1741."
P. 150. At the age of nine years he not only was master of five languages.
French, which was the native language of his mother, was that which he learned first, mixed, by living in Germany, with some words of the language of the country. After some time his father took care to introduce, in his conversation with him, some words of Latin, in such a manner that he might discover the meaning of them by the connexion of the sentence, or the occasion on which they were used, without discovering that he had any intention of instructing him, or that any new attainment was proposed.
By this method of conversation, in which new words were every day introduced, his ear had been somewhat accustomed to the inflections and variations of the Latin tongue, he began to attempt to speak like his father, and was in a short time drawn on by imperceptible degrees to speak Latin, intermixed with other languages.
Thus, when he was but four years old, he spoke every day French to his mother, Latin to his father, and High Dutch to the maid, without any perplexity to himself, or any confusion of one language with another.
P. 151. He is no stranger to biblical criticism.
Having now gained such a degree of skill in the Hebrew language as to be able to compose in it both in prose and verse, he was extremely desirous of reading the Rabbins; and having borrowed of the neighbouring clergy, and the Jews of Schwabach, all the books which they could supply him, he prevailed on his father to buy him the great Rabbinical Bible, published at Amsterdam in 4 tomes, folio, 1728, and read it with that accuracy and attention which appears by the account of it written by him to his favourite M. Le Maitre, inserted in the beginning of the 26th volume of the Bibliothèque Germanique.
These writers were read by him, as other young persons peruse romances or novels, only from a puerile desire of amusement; for he had so little veneration for them, even while he studied them with most eagerness, that he often diverted his parents with recounting their fables and chimeras.
P. 155. In his twelfth year he applied more particularly to the study of the Fathers.
His father being somewhat uneasy to observe so much time spent by him on Rabbinical trifles, thought it necessary now to recall him to the study of the Greek language, which he had of late neglected, but to which he returned with so much ardour, that in a short time he was able to read Greek with the same facility as French or Latin.
He then engaged in the perusal of the Greek Fathers, and Councils of the first three or four centuries ; and undertook, at his father's desire, to confute a treatise of Samuel Crellius, in which, under the
name of Artemonius, he has endeavoured to substitute in the beginning of St. John's gospel, a reading different from that which is at present received, and less favourable to the orthodox doctrine of the divinity of our Saviour.
This task was undertaken by Barretier with great ardour, and prosecuted by him with suitable application, for he not only drew up a formal confutation of Artemonius, but made large collections from the earliest writers, relating to the history of heresies, which he proposed at first to have published as preliminaries to his book, but, finding the introduction grew at last to a greater bulk than the book itself, he determined to publish it apart.
While he was engrossed by these enquiries, accident threw a pair of globes into his hands in Oct. 1734, by which his curiosity was so much exalted, that he laid aside his Artemonius, and applied himself to geography and astronomy. In ten days he was able to solve all the problems in the doctrine of the globes, and had attained ideas so clear and strong of all the systems, as well ancient as modern, that he began to think of making new discoveries; and for that purpose, laying aside for a time all searches into antiquity, he employed his utmost interest to procure books of astronomy and of mathematics, and made such a progress in three or four months, that he seemed to have spent his whole life upon that study; for he not only made an astrolabe, and drew up astronomical tables, but invented new methods of calculation, or such at least as appeared new to him, because they were not mentioned in the books which
he had then an opportunity of reading, and it is a sufficient proof both of the rapidity of his progress, and the extent of his views, that in three months after his first sight of a pair of globes, he formed schemes for finding the longitude, which he sent, in Jan. 1735, to the Royal Society at London.
His scheme, being recommended to the society by the Queen, was considered by them with a degree of attention which, perhaps would not have been bestowed upon the attempt of a mathematician so young, had he not been dignified with so illustrious a patronage. But it was soon found, that for want of books he had imagined himself the inventor of methods already in common use, and that he proposed no means of discovering the longitude, but such as had been already tried and found insufficient. Such will be very frequently the fate of those whose fortune either condemns them to study without the necessary assistance from libraries, or who in too much haste publish their discoveries.
This attempt exhibited, however, such a specimen of his capacity for mathematical learning, and such a proof of an early proficiency, that the Royal Society of Berlin admitted him as one of their members in 1735.
P. 156. Princes, who are commonly the last.
Barretier had been distinguished much more early by the Margravine of Anspach, who, in 1726, sent for his father and mother to the court, where their son, whom they carried with them, presented her with a letter in French, and addressed another in Latin to the young prince; who afterwards, in 1794,
granted him the privilege of borrowing books from the libraries of Anspach, together with an annual pension of fifty florins, which he enjoyed for four years.
In this place it may not be improper to recount some honours conferred upon him, which, if distinctions are to be rated by the knowledge of those who bestow them, may be considered as more valuable than those which he received from princes.
In June 1731, he was initiated in the university of Altdorft, and at the end of the year 1732, the synod of the reformed churches, held at Christian Erlang, admitted him to be present at their consultations, and to preserve the memory of so extraordinary a transaction, as the reception of a boy of eleven years into an ecclesiastical council, recorded it in a particular article of the acts of the synod.
P. 158. He was too much pleased with science and quiet.
Astronomy was always Barretier's favourite atudy, and so much engrossed his thoughts, that he did not willingly converse on any other subject; nor was he so well pleased with the civilities of the greatest persons, as with the conversation of the mathematicians. An astronomical observation was sufficient to withhold him from court, or to call him away abruptly from the most illustrious assemblies; nor was there any hope of enjoying his company without inviting some professor to keep him in temper, and engage him in discourse; nor was it possible, without this expedient, to prevail upon him to sit for his picture.