Baratier, John Philip

, a very extraordinary German scholar, and whom Baillet, if he had lived in his time, would have placed at the head of his “Enfans Celebres,” was born at Schwoback, in the margravate of Brandenburg- Anspach, the 19th of January 1721. His father Francis had quitted France, for the sake of professing the religion of Calvin, and was then pastor of the Calvinist church of Schwoback. He took upon himself the care of his son’s education, and taught him languages without study, and almost without his perceiving that he was learning them, by only introducing words of different languages as it were casually into conversation with him. By this means, when he was but four years old, he spoke every day French to his mother, Latin to his father, and German to the maid, without the least perplexity to himself, or the least confusion of one language with another.

The other languages of which he was master, he learnt by a method yet more uncommon, which was by only using the bible in the language he then proposed to learn, accompanied with a translation. Thus he understood Greek at six, and Hebrew at eight years of age insomuch that, upon opening the book, and without a moment’s hesitation, he could translate the Hebrew bible into Latin or French. He was now very desirous of reading the Rabbins, and prevailed upon his father to buy him the great Rabbinical bible published at Amsterdam, 1728, in 4 vols. folio, which he read with great accuracy and attention, as appears from his account of it, inserted in the 26th volume of the Bibliotheque Germanique. In his eleventh year he published the travels of Rabbi Benjamin, translated from Hebrew into French, which he illustrated with notes, and accompanied with dissertations, that would have done honour to an adept in letters.

He afterwards applied himself to the study of the fathers and the councils, of philosophy, mathematics, and above all, of astronomy. This boy, as he really was, formed schemes for finding the longitude, which he sent in January 1735, to the royal society at London; and, though these schemes had been already tried and found insufficient, yet they exhibited such a specimen of his capacity for mathematical learning, that the royal society of Berlin admitted him, the same year, as one of their members. Notwithstanding these avocations and amusements, he published, in 1735, the fourteenth year of his age, a learned | theological work, entitled “Anti Artemonius” written against Samuel Crellius, who had assumed the name of Artemonius, and the subject is the text at the beginning of St. John’s gospel. In 1735 too, he went with his father to Halle, at which university he was offered the degree of M. A. or (as it is there termed) doctor in philosophy. Baratier drew up that night fourteen theses in philosophy and the mathematics, which he sent immediately to the press, and which he defended the next day so very ably, that all who heard him were delighted and amazed he was then admitted to his degree. He went also to Berlin, and was presented to the king of Prussia as a prodigy of erudition, who shewed him remarkable kindness, and conferred upon him great honours, but, not being very fond of men of letters, treated him, as some write, with a small tincture of severity. He asked him, for instance, by way of mortifying him, whether he knew the public law of the empire which being obliged to confess that he did not, “Go,” says the king, “and study it, before you pretend to be learned.” Baratier applied himself instantly to it, and with such success, that at the end of five months he publicly maintained a thesis in it.

He continued to add new acquisitions to his learning, and to increase his reputation by new performances he was, in his nineteenth year, collecting materials for a very large work concerning the Egyptian antiquities, but his constitution, naturally weak and delicate, and now impaired by intense application, began to give way, and his health to decline. Cough, spitting of blood, fever on the spirits, head-ach, pains at the stomach, oppressions at the breast, frequent vomitings, all contributed to destroy him, and he died at his father’s at Halle the 5th of October 1740, in the twentieth year of his age. He was naturally gay, lively, and facetious, and he neither lost his gaiety, nor neglected his studies, till his distemper, ten days before his death, deprived him of the use of his limbs. He was a wonderful proof how much in a short time may be performed by indefatigable diligence and yet it is remarkable, that he passed twelve hours in bed till he was ten years old, and ten hours from thence to the time of his death so that he spent nearly half his life in sleeping.

He was not only master of many languages, but skilled almost in every science, and capable of distinguishing himself in every profession except that of physic," towards | which, having been discouraged by the diversity of opinions among those who consulted upon his disorders, and also by the inefficacy of their applications, he had conceived a dislike, and even an aversion. His learning, however vast, had not depressed or overburdened his natural faculties, for his genius appeared always predominant; and when he inquired into the various opinions of the writers of all ages, he reasoned and determined for himself, having a mind at once comprehensive and delicate, active and attentive. He was able to reason with the metaphysicians on the most abstruse questions, or to enliven the most unpleasing subjects by the gaiety of his fancy. He wrote with great elegance and dignity of style. He was no imitator, but struck out new ideas, and formed original systems. He had a quickness of apprehension and firmness of memory, which enabled him to read with incredible rapidity, and at the same time to retain what he had read, so as to be able to recollect and apply it. He turned over volumes in an instant, but seldom made extracts, being always able at once to find what he wanted. He read over, in one winter, twenty vast folios, and the catalogue of the books which he had borrowed comprised forty-one pages in 4to, the writing close, and the titles abridged. He was a constant reader of literary journals.

With regard to common life he had some peculiarities he could not bear music, and if ever he was engaged at play, could not attend to it. He neither loved wine nor entertainments, nor dancing, nor sports of the field, nor relieved his studies with any other diversion than that of walking and conversation. He ate little flesh, and lived almost wholly upon milk, tea, bread, fruits, and sweetmeats. He had great vivacity in his imagination, and ardour in his desires, yet was always reserved and silent except among his favourites, who were few and the delicacy of his habit, together with his constant application, suppressed those passions which often betray others of his age into irregularities. The last of his works was entitled “Disquisitio historico-chronologica de successione antiquissima episcoporum Romanorum, cum quatuor dissertationibus,” c. 1740, 8vo. 1


Life by Formey, Works of tfce Learned for 1743. Life by Dr. Johnson, in his works, and additions to, in —Gent. Mag. 1742, —Saxii Onomasticon, —Moreri.