Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

gard to academical studies is more rigorous, and sets literary honours at a higher price than that of any other country, exacts from the youth, who are initiated in our colleges, a degree of philological knowledge sufficient to qualify them for lectures in philosophy, which are read to them in Latin, and to enable them to proceed in other studies without assistance; so that it may be conjectured, that Burman, at his entrance into the university, had no such skill in languages, nor such ability of composition, as are frequently to be met with in the higher classes of an English school; nor was perhaps more than moderately skilled in Latin, and taught the first rudiments of Greek. In the university he was committed to the care of the learned Graevius, whose regard for his father inclined him to superintend his studies with more than common attention, which was soon confirmed and increased by his discoveries of the genius of his pupil, and his observation of his diligence. One of the qualities which contributed eminently to qualify Graevius for an instructor of youth, was the sagacity by which he readily discovered the predominant faculty of each pupil, and the peculiar designation by which nature had allotted him to any species of literature, and by which he was soon able to determine, that Burman was remarkably adapted to classical studies, and predict the great advances that he would make, by industriously pursuing the direction of his genius. Animated by the encouragement of a tutor so celebrated, he continued the vigour of his application, and, for several years, not only attended the lectures of Graevius, but made use of every other opportunity of improvement, with such diligence as might justly be expected to produce an uncommon proficiency. Having thus attained a sufficient degree of classical knowledge to qualify him for enquiries into other sciences, he applied himself to the study of the law, and published a dissertation, “de Vicesimä Haereditatum,” which he publickly defended, under the professor Van Muyden, with such learning and eloquence, as procured him great applause. Imagining, then, that the conversation of other men of learning might be of use towards his farther improvement, and rightly judging that notions formed in any single seminary are for the greatest part contracted and partial; he went to Leyden, where he studied philosophy for a year, under M. de Volder, whose celebrity was so great, that the schools assigned to the sciences, which it was his province to teach, were not sufficient, though very spacious, to contain the audience that crowded his lectures from all parts of Europe. Yet he did not suffer himself to be engrossed by philosophical disquisitions, to the neglect of those studies in which he was more early engaged, and to which he was perhaps by nature better adapted; for he attended at the same time Ryckius's explanations of Tacitus, and James Gronovius's lectures on the Greek writers, and has often been heard to acknowledge, at an advanced age, the assistance which he received from them. Having thus passed a year at Leyden with great advantage, he returned to Utrecht, and once more

applied himself to philological studies, by the assistance of Graevius, whose early hopes of his genius were now raised to a full confidence of that excellence, at which he afterwards arrived. At Utrecht, in March 1688, in the twentieth year of his age, he was advanced to the degree of doctor of laws; on which occasion he published a learned dissertation, “de Transactionibus,” and defended it with his usual eloquence, learning, and success. The attainment of this honour was far from having upon Burman that effect which has been too often observed to be produced in others, who, having in their own opinion no higher object of ambition, have relapsed into idleness and security, and spent the rest of their lives in a lazy enjoyment of their academical dignities. Burman aspired to farther improvements, and, not satisfied with the opportunities of literary conversation which Utrecht afforded, travelled into Switzerland and Germany, where he gained an increase both of fame and learning. At his return from this excursion, he engaged in the practice of the law, and pleaded several causes with such reputation, as might be hoped by a man who had joined to his knowledge of the law, the embellishments of polite literature, and the strict ratiocination of true philosophy, and who was able to employ on every occasion the graces of eloquence and the power of argumentation. While Burman was hastening to high reputation in the courts of justice, and to those riches and honours which always follow it, he was summoned in 1691, by the magistrates of Utrecht, to undertake the charge of collector of the tenths, an office in that place of great honour, and which he accepted therefore as a proof of their confidence and esteem. While he was engaged in this employment, he married Eve Clotterboke, a young lady of a good family, and uncommon genius and beauty, by whom he had ten children, of which eight died young; and only two sons, Francis and Caspar, lived to console their mother for their father's death. Neither publick business, nor domestick cares, detained Burman from the prosecution of his literary enquiries; by which he so much endeared himself to Graevius, that he was recommended by him to the regard of the university of Utrecht, and accordingly, in 1696, was chosen professor of eloquence and history, to which was added, after some time, the professorship of the Greek language, and afterwards that of politicks; so various did they conceive his abilities, and so extensive his knowledge. At his entrance upon this new province, he pronounced an oration upon eloquence and poetry. Having now more frequent opportunities of displaying his learning, he arose, in a short time, to a high reputation, of which the great number of his auditors was a sufficient proof, and which the proficiency of his pupils shewed not to be accidental or undeserved. In 1714 he formed a resolution of visiting Paris, not only for the sake of conferring in person, upon questions of literature, with the learned men of that place, and of gratifying his curiosity with a more familiar knowledge of those writers whose works he admired, but with a view more important,

of visiting the libraries, and making those enquries which might be of advantage to his darling study.

The vacation of the university allowed him to stay at Paris but six weeks, which he employed with so much dexterity and industry, that he had searched the principal libraries, collated a great number of manuscripts and printed copies, and brought back a great treasure of curious observations.

In this visit to Paris he contracted an acquaintance, among other learned men, with the celebrated father Montfaucon ; with whom he conversed, at his first interview, with no other character but that of a traveller; but their discourse turning upon ancient learning, the stranger soon gave such proofs of his attainments, that Montfaucon declared him a very uncommon traveller, and confessed his curiosity to know his name; which he no sooner heard, than he rose from his seat, and, embracing him with the utmost ardour, expressed his satisfaction at having seen the man whose productions of various kinds he had so often praised; and, as a real proof of his regard, offered not only to procure him an immediate admission to all the libraries of Paris, but to those in remoter provinces, which are not generally open to strangers, and undertook to ease the expences of his journey by procuring him entertainment in all the monasteries of his order.

This favour Burman was hindered from accepting, by the necessity of returning to Utrecht at the usual time of beginning a new course of lectures, to which there was always so great a concourse of students, as much increased the dignity and fame of the university in which he taught.

« ElőzőTovább »