Forster, George

, son of the preceding, was born at Dantzic in 1754, and accompanied his father to England when he was about twelve years of age. At Warrington, where he studied for some time, he acquired a perfect use of the English tongue; and possessing a retentive memory and fertile imagination, he distinguished himself by his various literary and scientific attainments. We have already mentioned that he accompanied his father in the circumnavigation of the globe; and on leaving England, after their return, he wished to settle at Paris. After a temporary residence in that city, he removed, in 1779, to Cassel, and undertook the office of professor of natural history in the university of that place. But soon after, the senate of Poland having offered him a chair in the university of Wilna, Forster accepted of the invitation. But, although this office was very lucrative, he accepted of the propositions of Catherine II. empress of Russia, who, jealous of every species of glory, wished to signalize her reign, by procuring to the Russian nation the honour of undertaking, after the example of England and France, a new voyage of discovery round the world. Unfortunately for the progress of knowledge, the war with the Ottoman Porte occasioned the miscarriage of this useful project, but Forster could not long remain in obscurity. The different publications, with which he occasionally enriched natural history and literature, increased his reputation. The elector of Mentz accordingly appointed him president of the university of the same name; and he was discharging the functions of his new office when the French troops took possession of the capital. This philosophical traveller, who had studied society under all the various aspects arising from different degrees of civilization who had viewed man simple and happy at Otaheite an eater of human flesh in New Zealand corrupted by commerce in England; depraved in France by luxury and atheism; in Brabant by superstition, and in Poland by anarchy: beheld with wild enthusiasm the dawnings of the French revolution, and was the first to promulgate republicanism in Germany.

The Mayencois, who had formed themselves into a national convention, sent him to Paris, in order to solicit their re-union with the French republic. But, in the course of his mission, the city of Mentz was besieged and retaken by the Prussian troops. This event occasioned the | loss of all his property; and what was still more disastrous, that of his numerous manuscripts, which fell into the hands of the prince of Prussia. One Charles Pougens, who has written his life, after conducting our hero through these scenes of public life, proceeds to give us a view of his domestic habits and private principles. He tells us, that he formed a connexion (whether a njarriage or not, the studied ambiguity of his language leaves rather uncertain) with a young woman named Theresa Hayne, who, by, the illumination of French philosophy, had divested herself of all the prejudices which, we trust, the ladies of this country still consider as their honour, as they are certainly the guardians of domestic peace. Miss Hayne was indignant at the very name of duty. With Eloisa, she had taken it into her head, that

Love, free as air, at sight of human ties, Spreads his light wings, and in a moment dies.

She was frank enough, however, says our author, to acknowledge the errors of her imagination; and from this expression, and his calling her Forster’s wife, we are led to suppose that she was actually married to him. But their union, of whatever kind, was of short duration. Though the lady is said to have been passionately attached to celebrated names, the name of George Forster was not sufficient to satisfy her. He soon ceased, we are informed, to please her; she therefore transferred her affections to another; and, as was very natural for a woman who was indignant at the name of duty, she proved false to her husband’s bed. Forster, however, pretended to be such a friend to the modern rights of men and women, that he defended the character of his Theresa against crowds who condemned her conduct. Nay, we are told, that he considered himself and every other husband who ceases to please, as the “adulterer of nature.” He therefore laboured strenuously to obtain a divorce, to enable Theresa Hayne to espouse the man whom she preferred to himself. Strange, however, to tell, the prejudices even 'of this cosmopolite were too strong for his principles. While he was endeavouring to procure the divorce, he made preparations at the same time, by the study of the Oriental languages, to undertake a journey to Thibet and Indostan, in order to remove from that part of the world, in which both his heart and his person had experienced so severe a shock. But the chagrin occasioned by his iniffortunea, | joined to a scorbutic affection, to which he had been long subject, and which he had contracted at sea during the voyage of circumnavigation, abridged his life, and prevented him from realizing this double project. He died at Paris, at the age of thirty -nine, on the 15th of February, 1792.

This is a strange tale; but we trust it will not prove useless. The latter part of it, at least, shows, that when men divest themselves of the principles of religion, they soon degenerate from the dignity of philosophers to the level of mere sensualists; and that the woman who can, in defiance of decorum and honour, transfer her affections and her person from man to man, ranks no higher in the scale of being than a female brute of more than common sagacity. It shows, likewise, that the contempt of our modern sages for those partial attachments, which unite individuals in one family, is a mere pretence that the dictates of nature will be heard and the laws of nature’s God obeyed. George Forster, though he was such a zealous advocate for liberty and equality as to vindicate the adultery of his wife, yet felt so sensibly the wound which her infidelity inflicted on his honour, that he could not survive it, but perished, in consequence, in the flower of his age.

His works are, “A Voyage round the World, in hi* Britannic majesty’s sloop Resolution, commanded by captain James Cook, during the years 1772, 3, 4, and 5,London, 1777, 3 vols. 4to. This work was translated by himself and his father into German, and published at Berlin, in 2 vols. 4to, 1778—1780; “Reply to Mr. Wales’ s Remarks on Mr. Forster’s Account of captain Cook’s last Voyage,London, 1778, 4to; “A Letter to the right Honourable the earl of Sandwich,1779, 4to. He was concerned for some time with professor Lichtenberg of Gottingen, in the publication of the Gottingen Magazine; Uo wrote some papers in the Transactions of the Academy of Sciences at Upsal he had a large share in the ;< Characters generum Plantarum, &c." of his father and was employed by professor Pallas, and others, in the continuation of Martini’s Dictionary of Natural History. 1

1

Supplement to the Encyclop. Brit. Nichols’s Bowyer.-Rees’s Cyclopædia.