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The established character of Bayle for erudition, acute ness, and philosophical impartiality, while it supersedes the necessity of all remark on that elaborate storehouse'of Fact, Opinion, and illustrative Discussion, the HISTORICAL AND CRITICAL DICTIONARY, it is presumed will sufficiently sanction a judicious selection of its most curious and instructive contents. Happily for the interest of mental freedom and the unfettered exercise of reason, BAYLE arose at a period when the Aristotelian, or scholastic philosophy, in the behalf of which priestcraft and bigotry rallied to the last moment, lay prostrate, but not absolutely defunct, and in consequence, when, to a free and investigative spirit, it was necessary to join an accurate notion of the premises and field of knowledge of the doctrines assailed. In the great work of Bayle, therefore, much sound information, subtle disquisition, and curious and instructive fact, is encumbered with a quantity of matter which, however valuable in advertence to gone by studies and associations, Time has for the most part thrown away. This remark leads at once to the grounds of the present undertaking, the object of which is to present to the general reader, in a comparatively small and purchasable form, that portion of the Historical and Critical Dictionary of BAYLE, the value of which, in the way of information, is unequivocal, in learning instructive or curious, and in criti. cal and intellectual philosophy universal and permanent.
To some, to whom the HISTORICAL AND CRITICAL DicTIONARY is but cursorily known, the attraction of a selection from it may be doubted, at a period distinguished by an engrossing attachment to the results of practical science and positive and applicable information. It is thought, however, by those to whom the completion of the present work has been intrusted, that the foregoing ten dency is united to a great avidity for general knowledge, and especially for a keen exercise of the reasoning faculties in reference to speculative points of all kinds. The acute and discriminating mind of Bayle deals with many which will be eternally important, at least while extensive superstructures, in a social point of view, are founded upon them. All his comparative and ingenious disquisition on themes VOL. ).
of this leading nature is of course retained, and a healthy exercise of the understanding upon the grander divisions of human opinion secured. In the selection of biographical, traditional, and mythological matter, with a due attention to the curious and the amusing, an endeavour has been made to include whatever is more or less connected with events of lasting importance, or linked, theoretically or otherwise, to existing associations. It is therefore hoped that every order of readers will find something to interest them ; while it may prove more especially welcome to the rising and increasing body, who are determined to think upon all subjects for themselves.
With regard to the plan of the work, it is unnecessary to observe to those who are acquainted with the original, that the text is comparatively brief, and that the annotation is the more valuable portion of the able Author's labours. With a view to compactness, the text and note will be combined in the Selection, although the Editor will supply nothing but the necessary connexion ; a method that has already been advantageously adopted in a French work of a kindred nature, entitled Analyse Raisonnée de Bayle, by the Abbé de Marsy. This latter production, indeed, in some degree led to the present undertaking, and will be partly rendered serviceable to it, although, selected for the French public half a century ago, it can be made only slightly available.
It is only necessary to add, that while the alphabetical form will be preserved, it cannot from the nature of the plan be that of BAYLE himself, but of the subjects selected from him, which are frequently introduced quite incidentally under the heads in which they appear in the Dictionary, and consequently cannot be retained in a situation in which the connexion would not appear. To prevent all difficulty, however, each article will accurately refer to those in the original from which it is taken.
A Summary of the Life of Bayle has been deemed necessary, in order to convey a general notion of the learned career of this distinguished writer and philosopher, as well as to give an adequate idea of the era, and the circumstances under which his celebrated labours were performed. BIOGRAPHICAL NOTICE
Peter BAYLE. was born at Carla, a small town in the county of Foix, on the 18th November, 1647. His father, who was the Protestant minister of the place, was descended from a respectable family originally of Montauban, and his mother was also allied to persons of consequence in the county of Foix. They had three sons, of whom Peter was the second, having an elder brother Jacob, who became the colleague of his father, and a younger one named Joseph, who, after the French custom, assumed the name of du Peyrat from an estate belonging to the family.
From his infancy Bayle discovered a lively and penetrating genius, a facile and quick conception, and a very extraordinary memory, to which natural endowments was added the ardent thirst for information which is so necessary to render them valuable. His father early initiated him in the Greek and Latin languages, and cultivated his happy dispositions with extreme care, until his nineteenth year, when he placed him at the academy of Puylaurens. Here he remained three years, whence he was removed to the Jesuits' College at Toulouse ; a practice not then unusual with the children of French Protestants, although forbidden by their synods, and often productive of re-conversions to the Church of Rome. Such in fact proved to be the case with young Bayle, who, arriving there in February 1669, in the course of the next month was induced
to profess himself a Roman Catholic*. He had already been shaken by some books of controversy, which had fallen in his way at Puylaurens; and the arguments which he had with a priest who lodged in the same house with him at Toulouse, completed his conversion. The candour and rectitude of following up these temporary convictions, will often atone for the simplicity with which they are attained; but possibly, when a step of this nature is taken by an ardent and inquiring young man, it indicates nothing more certainly than that he will change still further.
When the news of this conversion reached his family, it necessarily produced considerable sorrow; and M. Bertier, bishop of Rieux, fearing that his support would be in consequence withheld, generously took upon himself the temporary charge of it. By this time, the extraordinary attainments of the youthful convert, and the ardent pursuit of study by which they were acquired, had contributed very materially to distinguish him ; and the Catholics very naturally exulted at the conversion of a young man of so much promise, who possessed also the additional merit of being the son of a Protestant minister. When it became his turn to defend theses publicly, it was resolved to give the proceeding all possible éclat ; the most distinguished persons of the clergy, parliament, and city, assisted at them; and what will probably amuse the readers of his Dictionary more than all the rest, his theses were dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and adorned with her picture. This extraordinary appropriation did not however obscure the perspicuity and ingenuity displayed in them; and it is only necessary to dip into the general history of disputation, to be satisfied that the finest faculties may be sharpened and exercised upon premises which are purely conventional and imaginary. Many of these may be said to resemble the coral rocks, which, although the production of mere animalculæ, become the support of a species of artificial terra firma on which men eat, drink, sleep, and build editices, with as much confidence as upon foundations that are solid to the centre, and which with the centre alone can be shaken.
* The reader will doubtless be led by this incident to recollect the conduct of Gibbon, no very dissimilar character. It is unnecessary to observe, that young men of great but undisciplined scholastic acquirements, and solitary reading, are more likely to be caught in the toils of practised controversionalists, than any other description of persons,
furnishing as they usually do the most effective arms against themselves.--Ed.
Stimulated by their success with a genius like that of Bayle, the Catholics formed a design of bringing over the whole family;
and he was induced by the bishop of Rieux to write a letter of invitation to his elder brother. This epistle, which still exists, forms an admirable exainple of the texture and complexion of the arguments in support of authority against innovation usually employed by the Catholics ; but, as it may be supposed, it made no impression upon a person supported and fortified by the counsels of his father and family.
In the mean time, Bayle, who had renounced one religion without studying it, to embrace another of which he knew still less, when he began to think further on the subject, mistrusted the propriety of the step which he had taken. This doubt he communicated to a Protestant gentleman known to his family, who visited him at Toulouse, by which means the fact was sooo communi. cated to his father. On this hint, Mr Jacob Bayle was sent to Toulouse, and an interview was brought about between the brothers, which proved highly affecting. The rapid result was, the secret departure ot Peter from Toulouse to the country-house of a M. Du Vivie, about six leagues from that town, where the very next day (the 21st August 1670) in the presence of his brother, and several Protestant ministers, he abjured his new hastilyembraced religion, and immediately departed for Geneva.