Gebelin, Anthony Court De

, an eminent French writer of the last century, was born at Lausanne in 1727. His father, who was a protestant clergyman of that place, took extraordinary pains in cultivating his mind, and at the age of twelve years, young Gebelin could read German, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew; and at fifteen, he spoke German and Latin with ease, as well as French in compliment to his parents, who were natives of France, but had left it on account of their religion. His thirst of knowledge was such as to prevent his hours of rest; and when his parents, in order to break him of the habit of studying at night, would not allow him candles, he used to pore over his books as well as he could by moon -light. In 1763, after the death of his father, he came to Paris, bringing with him nothing but a great stock of learning, and the greatest simplicity of manners; and as the persons to whom he had recommendations happened to be absent, he remained for some time alone and friendless in that great metropolis. The first acquaintances he made were two ladies who lived opposite to him, and who lived together in such harmony as to desire no other connections, but were yet so pleased with Gebelin’s amiable manners, as to admit him into their friendship, and furnish him with every assistance he could wish in carrying on his great work, “Le monde primitif,” in digesting the materials of which he employed ten years. One of these ladies, mademoiselle Linot, learned engraving solely with the view of being useful to him in his labours, and actually engraved | some of the plates in his work; while the other, mademoiselle Fleury, contributed 5000 livres towards the expences of the first volume of his work. After his -death they transferred their kindness to his relations, a sister and two nieces whom he had sent for to reside at Paris, but to whom he was not able to leave much.

The love of study and retirement was so strong in him, that he entirely neglected opportunities of making his way in the world. “I like better,” he used to say, “to pay court to the public, than to individuals whom that public despises.” In his need, for he was long unprovided for, he knew how to contract his wants, and never was ashamed to own that in the first years of his residence at Paris he brought himself to live on bread and water, which he preferred to the more painful necessity of soliciting his friends. His modesty was equal to his learning, which all acknowledge was extensive and profound. In the first volume of his great work, “Le monde primitif,” we find him acknowledging with the greatest exactness, as well as gratitude, every assistance he derived from books, or living authors. The French academy, knowing his merit and modesty, adjudged him twice the prize of 1200 livres, which was founded by count de Valbelle as a recompense to authors who had made the best use of their talents.

At length the first volume of his “Le monde primitif” made its appearance in 1773, and was continued until it extended to 9 vols. 4to, in which he endeavours to trace the history of the moral and physical world to its origin. Perhaps no man ever endeavoured to compass so great a variety of objects; and although the author has indulged in some paradoxical notions, yet his learning, extensive reading, and sentiment, create a reverence for his talents, and it is not without reason that the French rank this work among those which have done the greatest honour to their nation. D’Alembert was so struck with the first volume, that he asked if it was the academy of forty (the number of the French academy) that were employed in executing so vast an undertaking, and expressed the greatest astonishment, when told that Gebelin was the sole author.

The continual labour, however, which Gebelin bestowed on this, and his other works, is supposed to have hastened his death, although this was not the only cause to which that event has been attributed. A stone had formed in his kidnies, which although voided by nature, brought on | symptoms of decay, and he unfortunately had recourse to Mesmer, the noted quack, who by his animal magnetism seemed to afford him relief. Gebelin was so grateful, as to write a book in favour of Mesmer and his remedy, and had scarcely finished it, when a return of his complaints put an end to his useful life, May 10, 1784. As a protestant he could not be buried in catholic ground. His remains were therefore removed to the gardens of his friend and biographer comte D’Albon at Franconville, where a handsome monument was erected to his memory, with this inscription: “Passant, venerez cette tombe Gebelin y repose.

Gebelin was one of the most learned men of his time, and not only familiar with the ancient and modern languages, but with natural history, mathematics, mythology, ancient monuments, statues, gems, inscriptions, and every species of knowledge and research which goes to form the accomplished antiquary. Besides the “Monde primitif,” he published, 1. “Le Patriote Fran$ais et impartiale,1753, 2 vols. 12 mo. 2. “Histoire de la guerre des Cevennes, ou de la guerre des Camisards,1760, 3 vols. 12mo. 3. “L’Histoire Naturelle de la Parole, ou precis de la Grammaire Universelle,1776, 8vo. This forms a part of his “Monde primitif.” 4. “Dictionnaire etymologique et raisotme des racines Latines, a l’usage des jteunes gens,1780, 8vo. 5. “Lettre sur le Magnetisme Animal,” 4to; his defence of this quackery, which for a time was too much encouraged even in this country. 6. “Devoirs du prince et du citoyen,” a posthumous publication which appeared in 1789, 8vo. 1

1 Dict. Hist. in Court. Meister’s Portrait* de Hommes Illustres. Ktoge par Comte D’Albon.