Condamine, Charles Marie De La

, chevalier de St. Lazare, member of a great number of academies, and a celebrated traveller, was born at Paris in 1701. He began his journey to the east very young; and after having coasted along the shores of Africa and Asia in the | Mediterranean, he was chosen, in 1736, to accompany M. Godin to Peru, for the purpose of determining the figure of the earth at the equator. The difficulties and dangers he surmounted in this expedition are almost incredible; and at one time he had nearly perished by the imprudence of one of his companions, M. Seniergues, whose arrogance had so much irritated the inhabitants of New Cuenca, that they rose tumultuously against the travellers; but, fortunately for the rest, the offender was the only victim. On his return home, la Condamine visited Rome, where pope Benedict XIV. made him a present of his portrait, and granted him a dispensation to marry one of his nieces, which he accordingly did, at the age of fifty-five. By his great equanimity of temper, and his lively and amiable disposition, he was the delight of all that knew him. Such was his gaiety or thoughtlessness, that two days before his death he made a couplet on the surgical operation that carried him to the grave; and, after having recited this couplet to a friend that came to see him, “You must now leave me,” added he, “1 have two letters to write to Spain; probably, by next post it will be too late.” La Condamine had the art of pleasing the learned by the concern he shewed in advancing their interests, and the ignorant by the talent of persuading them that they understood what he said. Even the men of fashion sought his company, as he was full of anecdotes and singular observations, adapted to amuse their frivolous curiosity. He was, however, himself apt to lay too much stress on trifles; and his inquisitiveness, as is often the case with travellers, betrayed him into imprudencies. Eager after fame, he loved to multiply his correspondences and intercourse; and there were few men of any note with whom he had not intimacies or disputes, and scarcely any journal in which he did not write. Replying to every critic, and flattered with every species of praise, he despised no opinion of him, though given by the most contemptible scribbler. Such, at least, is the picture of him, drawn by the marquis de Condorcet in his eloge. Among his most ingenious and valuable pieces are the following 1 “Distance of the tropics,London, 1744. 2. “Extract of observations made on a voyage to the river of the Amazons,1745. 3. “Brief relation of a voyage to the interior of South America,” 8vo. 1745. 4. “Journal of the voyage jnade by order of the king to the equator; with the supplement,” 2 vols. 4to. 1751, 1752. 5. On the | Inoculation of the Small-pox,“12mo, 1754. 6.A letter on Education,“8vo. 7.A second paper on the Inoculation of the Small pox,“1759. 8.” Travels through Italy,“1762, 12mo. These last three were translated and published here. 9.” Measure of the three first degrees of the meridian in the southern hemisphere,“1751, 4to. The style of the different works of la Condamine is simple and negligent; but it is strewed with agreeable and lively strokes that secure to him readers. Poetry was also one of the talents of our ingenious academician; his productions of this sort were, <e Vers de societe,” of the humorous kind, and pieces of a loftier style, as the Dispute for the armour of Achilles and others, translated from the Latin poets; the Epistle from an old man, &c. He died the 4th of February 1774, in consequence of an operation for the cure of a hernia, with which he had been afflicted. 1


Eloges, by Condorcct, &c. vol. I. —Dict. Hist.