« ZurückWeiter »
LEWIS Morin was born at Mans, on the 11th of July, 1635, of parents eminent for their piety. He was the eldest of sixteen children, a family to which their estate bore no proportion, and which, in persons less resigned to Providence, would have caused great uneasiness and anxiety.
His parents omitted nothing in his education, which religion requires, and which their fortune could supply. Botany was the study that appeared to have taken possession of his inclination, as soon as the bent of his genius could be discovered. A countryman, who supplied the apothecaries of the place, was his first master, and was paid by him for his instructions with the little money that he could procure, or that which was given him to buy something to eat after dinner. Thus abstinence and generosity discovered themselves with his passion for botany, and the gratification of a desire indifferent in itself was procured by the exercise of two virtues.
He was soon master of all his instructor's knowledge, and was obliged to enlarge his acquaintance with plants, by observing them himself in the
* Translated from an eloge by Fontenelle, and first printed in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1741.
neighbourhood of Mans. Having finished his grammatical studies, he was sent to learn philosophy at Paris, whither he travelled on foot like a student in botany, and was careful not to lose such an opportunity of improvement.
When his course of philosophy was completed, he was determined, by his love of botany, to the profession of physick, and from that time engaged in a course of life, which was never exceeded either by the ostentation of a philosopher, or the severity of an anchoret; for he confined himself to bread and water, and at, most allowed himself no indulgence beyond fruits. By this method, he preserved a constant freedom and serenity of spirits, always equally proper for study; for his soul had no pretences to complain of being overwhelmed with matter.
This regimen, extraordinary as it was, had many advantages; for it preserved his health, an advantage which very few sufficiently regard; it gave him an authority to preach diet and abstinence to his patients; and it made him rich without the assistance of fortune; rich, not for himself, but for the poor, who were the only persons benefited by that artificial affluence, which, of all others, is most difficult to acquire. It is easy to imagine, that, while he practised in the midst of Paris the severe temperance of a hermit, Paris differed no otherwise with regard to him, from a hermitage, than as it supplied him with books, and the conversation of learned men.
In 1662 he was admitted doctor of physick. About that time Dr. Fagon, Dr. Longuet, and
Dr. Galois, all eminent for their skill in botany, were employed in drawing up a catalogue of the plants in the Royal Garden, which was published in 1665, under the name of Dr. Vallot, then first physician: during the prosecution of this work, Dr. Morin was often consulted, and from those conversations it was that Dr. Fagon conceived a particular esteem of him, which he always continued to retain.
After having practised physick some years, he was admitted Expectant at the Hotel Dieu, where he was regularly to have been made pensionary physician upon the first vacancy; but mere unassisted merit advances slowly, if, what is not very common, it advances at all. Morin had no acquaintance with the arts necessary to carry on schemes of preferment; the moderation of his desires preserved him from the necessity of studying them, and the privacy of his life debarred him from any opportunity.
At last, however, justice was done him in spite of artifice and partiality; but his advancement added nothing to his condition, except the power of more extensive charity; for all the money which he received as a salary he put into the chest of the hospital, always, as he imagined, without being observed. Not content with serving the poor for nothing, he paid them for being served.
His reputation rose so high in Paris, that madamoiselle de Guise was desirous to make him her physician, but it was not without difficulty that he was prevailed upon by his friend, Dr. Dodart, to accept the place. He was by this new adyancement laid under the necessity of keeping a chariot, an equipage very unsuitable to his temper; but while he complied with those exterior appearances which the publick had a right to demand from him, he remitted nothing of his former austerity in the more private and essential parts of his life, which he had always the power of regulating according to his own disposition. : In two years and a half the princess fell sick, and was despaired of by Morin, who was a great master of prognosticks. At the time when she thought herself in no danger, he pronounced her death inevitable; a declaration to the highest degree disagreeable, but which was made more easy to him than to any other by his piety and artless simplicity. Nor did his sincerity produce any ill consequences to himself; for the princess, affected by his zeal, taking a ring from her finger, gave it him as the last pledge of her affection, and rewarded him still more to his satisfaction, by preparing for death with a true Christian piety. She left him by will a yearly pension of two thousand livres, which was always regularly paid him.
No sooner was the princess dead, but he freed himself from the incumbrance of his chariot, and retired to St. Victor without a servant, having, however, augmented his daily allowance with a little rice boiled in water.
Dodart, who had undertaken the charge of being ambitious on his account, procured him, at the restoration of the academy in 1699, to be nominated associate botanist; not knowing, what he would doubtless have been pleased with the knowledge of, that he introduced into that assembly the man that was to succeed him in his place of Pensionary
Dr. Morin was not one who had upon his hands the labour of adapting himself to the duties of his condition, but always found himself naturally adapted to them. He had, therefore, no difficulty in being constant at the assemblies of the academy, notwithstanding the distance of places, while he had strength enough to support the journey. But his regimen was not equally effectual to produce vigour as to prevent distempers; and being 64 years old at his admission, he could not continue his assiduity more than a year after the death of Dodart, whom he succeeded in 1707.
When Mr. Tournefort went to pursue his botanical inquiries in the Levant, he desired Dr. Morin to supply his place of Demonstrator of the Plants in the Royal Garden, and rewarded him for the trouble, by inscribing to him a new plant which he brought from the east, by the name of Morina Orientalis, as he named others the Dodarto, the Fagonne, the Bignonne, the Phelipee. These are compliments proper to be made by the botanists, not only to those of their own rank, but to the greatest persons ; for a plant is a monument of a more durable nature than a medal or an obelisk; and yet, as a proof that even these vehicles are not always sufficient to transmit to futurity the name conjoined with them, the Nicotiana is now scarcely known by any other term than that of tobacco.
Dr. Morin advancing far in age, was now forced to take a servant, and, what was yet a more essential alteration, prevailed upon himself to take an