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His spirits were less elastic, and he was more subject to absence or indifference in general society. But his mind had lost none of its vigour; and he never failed, when he exerted himself, to display his peculiar powers. His remarks were original; and his knowledge, assisted by a most retentive memory, afforded a perpetual supply of ingenious and well-applied illustrations. But the quality for which his conversation was most remarkable, and from which it derived one of its peculiar charms, was a singular cast of humour, which, as it was of a gentle, equable kind, and had nothing very pointed or prominent, is hardly capable of being exemplified or described. It seldom appeared in the direct shape of what may be called pure humour, but was so much blended either with wit, fancy, or his own peculiar character, as to be in many respects entirely original. It did not consist in epigrammatic points, or brilliant and lively sallies; but was rather displayed in fanciful trains of imagery, in natural, but ingenious and unexpected, turns of thought and expression, and in amusing anecdotes, slightly tinged with the ludicrous. The effect of these was much heightened by a perfect gravity of countenance, a quiet familiar manner, and a characteristic beauty and simplicity of language. This unassuming tone of easy pleasantry gave a very peculiar and characteristic colouring to the whole of his conversation. It mingled itself with his casual remarks, and even with his graver discussions. It had little reference to the ordinary topics of the day, and was wholly un
tinctured by personality or sarcasm.
It should be mentioned, among the peculiarities of Mr. Tcnnaat's literary taste, that in common perhaps with most other original thinkers, he bestowed little attention on books of opinion or theory; but chiefly confined himself to such as abound in facts, and afford the materials fur speculation. His reading for many yean had been principally directed to accounts of voyages and travels, especially those relating to Oriental nations; and there was no book of this description, possessing ever. tolerable merit, with which he was not familiarly conversant.— His acquaintance with such works had supplied him with a great fund of original and curioiu ininformation, which he employed with much judgment and ingenuity, in exemplifying many of his particular opinions, and illustrating the most important doctrines in the philosophy of commerce and government.
Of his leading practical opinions, sufficient intimations hate been given in the course of the preceding narrative. They were of a liberal and enlightened cast, and such as might be expected from the character of his genius and understanding Among them must be particularly mentioned an ardent, but rational, seal for civil liberty; which was not, ia him, a mere effusion of generoas feeling, but the result of deep reflection and enlarged philosophic views His attachment to the general principles of freedom originated from his strong conviction of their influence in promoting the wealth and happiness of nations. nations. A due regard to these principles he considered as the only 'olid foundation of the most important blessings of social life, and as the peculiar cause of that distinguished superiority, which our own country so happily enjoys among the nations of Europe.
Of his moral qualities, it is scarcely possible to speak too highly. He described himself as naturally passionate and irascible, and as roused to indignation by any act of oppression or wanton exercise of power. The latter feeling he always retained, and it formed a distinguished feature of his character. Of his irritability, a few traces might occasionally be discovered; but they were only slight and momentary. His virtuous dispositions appeared on every occasion, and in every form, which the tranquil and retired habits of his life would admit of.— lie had a high sense of honour and duty; and was remarkable for benevolence and kindness, especially towards his inferiors and dependants. But his merits were most conspicuous in the intercourse of social life. His amiable temper, and unaffected desire of giving pleasure, no less than his superior knowledge and talents, had rendered him highly acceptable to a numerous and distinguished circle of society, by whom he was justly valued, and is now most sincerely lamented. But the real extent of his private worth, the genuine simplicity and virtuous independence of his character, and the sincerity, warmth, and constancy of his friendship, can only be felt and estimated by those, to whom he was long and intimately known, and to whom the recol
lection of his talents and virtues must always remain a pleasing, though melancholy, bond of union.
From the Biographical Account by M. Cuvier. ,
Antoine Augustin Parmentier was born at Montdidier in 1T37. of a family established for many years in that city, the chief offices in the magistracy of which it had fulfilled.
The premature death of his father, and the small fortune which he left to a widow and three young children, confined the first education of M. Parmentier to soma notions of Latin, which his mother gave him—a woman of abilities, and better informed than most of her rank.
An honest ecclesiastic undertook to develope these first germs, on the supposition that, this young man might become a precious subject for religion; but the necessity of supporting his family obliged him to choose a situation which would offer more speedy resources. He was therefore under the necessity of interrupting his studies; and his laborious life never allowed him to resume them again completely. This is the reason why his works, so important for their utility, have not always that order and precision which learning and long practice alone can give to a writer.
In 1755 he was bound apprentice to an apothecary of. Montdidier, and next year came to continue it with one of his relations, who exercised the same profession in Paris. Having shown intelligence and industry, he was employed ployed in 1757 as apothecary in the hospitals of the army of Hanover. The late M. Bayen, one rf the most distinguished members whom that Class ever possessed, presided then over that part of the science. It is well known that he was no less estimable for the elevation of his character than for his talents, lie observed the dispositions and the regular conduct of young Parmentier, contracted an acquaintance with him, and introduced him to M. Chairioufiset, Intcndant General of the Hospitals, rendered so celebrated by his active benevolence, and to whom Paris and France are indebted for so many useful establishments.
It was in the conversation of these two excellent men that M. Parmentier imbibed the notions and sentiments which produced afterwards all his labouis. He learned two things equally unknown to those, whose duty it was to have been acquainted with them: the extent and variety of misery fiom which it would be possible to free the common people, if we were seriously to occupy ourselves with their happiness; and the number and power of the resources which nature would offer against so many scourges, if we were at the trouble to extend and encourage the study of them.
Chemicid knowledge, which originated in Germany, was at that time more general in that country than in France. More applications of it had been made. The many petty sovereigns who divided that country had paid particular attention to the amelioration of their dominions; and the chemist, the agriculturist, the frioid of useful arts, met equally
with facts before unknown to them.
M. Parmentier, stimulated by his virtuous masters, took advantage of these sources of instruction with ardour. When bis service brought him to any town, he *isited the manufactures least known in France; he requested of the apothecaries leave to work in ther laboratories. In the country he observed the practice of the fa> mer. He noted down the interesting objects which struck him in his marches along with the troops Nor did he want opportunities of seeing all varieties of things; for he was five times taken prisoner, and transported to places whither his generals would not have carred him. He learned then by his own experience how far the horrors of need might go, a piece of information necessary perhaps to kindle in him in all its vigour that glowing fire of humanity which burnt in him during the whole cf his long life.
But before making use of the knowledge which he had acquired, and attempting to ameliorate the lot of the common people, it was necessary to endeavour to render his own situation less precarious.
He returned then at the peace of 1763 to the capital, and resumed in a more scientific manner the studies belonging to his art. The lectures of Nollet, Rouelle and d'Antoine, and of Bernard de Jussieu, extended his ideas, and assisted him in arranging them. He obtained extensive and solid knowledge in all the physical sciences: and the place of lower apothecary being vacant at the Inralidain 1766, he obtained it, after an examination obstinately disputed.
His maintenance was thus secured, and his situation soon became sufficiently comfortable.— The administration of the house seeing that his conduct justified his success, induced the King in 1772 to make him Apothecary in Chief; a recompense which an unforeseen accident rendered more complete than had been intended, or than he had expected.
The pharmacy of the Invalids had been directed from its first establishment by the Saeun de Charili. These good women, who had made a great deal of young Parmentier while he was only their boy, took it ill that he should be put upon a level with them. They made so much noise, and put in motion such powerful interest, that the King himself was obliged to draw back; and after two years of controversy, he made the singular decision that Pannentier should continue to enjoy the advantages of his place, but should no longer fulfil its functions.
This enabled him to devote the whole of his time to his zeal for researches of general utility. From that moment he never interrupted them.
The first opportunity of publishing some results respecting his favourite subject had been given him in 1771 by the Academy of Besangon. The scarcity in 1769 had drawn the attention of the administration and of philosophers towards vegetables which might supply the place of corn, and the Academy bad made the history of them the subject of a prize, which Parmentier gained. He endeavoured to prove in his dissertation that the most useful nourishing substance in vegetables is starch,
and he showed how it might be extracted from the roots and seeds of different indigenous plants, and how deprived of the acrid and poisonous principles which alter it in some plants. He pointed out likewise the mixtures which would assist in converting this starch into good bread, or at least into a kind of biscuit fit for being eaten in soup.
There is no doubt that in certain cases some advantage may be derived from the methods which he proposes; but as most of the plants pointed out are wild, scanty, und would cost wore than tbe dearest corn, absolute famine is the only thing that could induce mankind to make use of them.— Parmentier easily perceived that it was better to turn the attention of cultivators to such plants as would render a famine, or even a scarcity, impossible. He therefore recommended the potato* with all his might, and opposed with constancy the prejudices which opposed themselves to the propagation of this important root.
Most botanists, and Parmentier himself, have stated on the authority of Gaspar Bauhin that the potatoe was brought from Virginia about the end of the sixteenth century; and they usually ascribe to the celebrated and unfortunate Raleigh the honour of having first brought it to Europe. I think it more probable that it was brought from Peru by the Spaniards. Raleigh only went to Virginia in the year 1586; and we may conclude, from the testimony of Cluvius, that in 1587 the potatoe was common in different parts of Italy, and that it was already given to cattle in that country. try. This supposes at least several years of cultivation. This vegetable was pointed out about the end of the sixteenth century by several Spanish writers, as cultivated in the environs of Quito, where it was called papas, and where different kinds of dishes were prepared from it: and, what seems decisive, Banister and Clayton, who have investigated the indigenous plants of Virginia with great care, do not reckon the potatoe among the number; and Banister mentions expressly that he had for 12 years sought in vain for that plant; whileDombey found it in a wild state on all the Cordilleras, where the Indians still apply it to the same purposes as at the time of the original discovery.
The mistake may have been owing to this circumstance, that Virginia produces several other tuberose plants, which from imperfect descriptions may have been confounded with the potatoe. Bauhin, for example, took for the potatoe the plant called openawk by Thomas Harriot. There are likewise in Virginia ordinary potatoes; but the anonymous author of the history of that country says that they have nothing in common with the potaloe of Ireland and England, which is our poilime de terre.
Be this as it may, that admirable vegetable was received in a very different manner by the nations of Europe. The Irish seem to have taken advantage of them first; for at an early period we find the plant distinguished by the name of Ir'ult potatoe. But in France they were at first proscribed. Bauhin states that in his time the use of them had been prohi
bited in Burgundy, because it w*= supposed that they produced the
It is difficult to believe thai a plant so innocent, so agreeable, so productive, which requires so little trouble to be rendered fit for food; that a root so well defended against the intemperance of the seasons; that a plant which by a singular privilege unites in itself everyadvantage, without any other inconvenience than that, of not lasting all the year, but which evea owes to this circumstance the additional advantage that it canto: be hoarded up by monopolists— that such a plant should have required two centuries in order to overcome the most puerile prejudices.
Yet we ourselves have been witnesses of the fact. The Eoslish brought the potatoe into Flanders during the wars of Lou* XIV. It was thence spread, but very sparingly, over some parts of France. Switzerland had put a higher value on it, and had fcur.d it very good. Several of our southern provinces had planted it in imitation of that country at the period of the scarcities, which were several times repeated during the last years of Louis XV. Turgot in paiticular rendered it common in the Limousin and ihe Angoumois, over which he was Intendant; and it was to be expected that in a short time this new branch of subsistence would be spread over the kingdom, when some old physicians renewed againstit the prejudices of the 16th century.
11 was no longer accused of producing leprosy, but fevers. The scarcities hud produced in the