, or, as some spell the name, Gessner (Solomon), a distinguished German poet, was born at Zurich in 1730. His youth afforded no remarkable symptoms of his future fame, but his father was assured that the boy had talents, which would one day or other exalt him above his school-fellows. As. these, however, were not perceptible at that time, and the progress he made in school-learning at Zurich was unpromising, he was sent to Berg, and put under the care of a clergyman, where he appears to have made greater proficiency. In about two years he returned to his father, who was a bookseller at Zurich, and, probably encouraged by the men of genius who frequented his father’s shop, our author now began to court the muses. His success, however, not being such as to induce his father to devote him to a literary life, he preferred sending him to Berlin in 1749 to learn the trade of a bookseller. Young poets are not easily confined by the shackles of commercial life, and young Gesner soon eloped from his master, while his father, irritated at this step, discontinued his remittances as the most effectual mode of recalling him ta his duty.

At this crisis, after he had secreted himself for some time in a hired room, he waited on Hempel, the king’s painter, whose friendship he had already gained, and requested that gentleman to follow him to his chambers. Here the walls were covered with paintings which he had just finished, entirely from his own invention. The painter | complimented him, although with the proviso, that farther labour and experience would be necessary to render him an accomplished artist. Probably, by Hempel’s means, his father was persuaded not only to pardon him, but to grant him leave to prolong his stay at Berlin, where he formed an acquaintance with artists and men of letters. Krause, Hempei, Rainier, and Sulzer, were his principal companions, and Ramler, to whom he had communicated some of his poetical attempts, gave him very useful advice on the nature of poetical composition, and the defects which he perceived in Gesner' s pieces.

From Berlin he went to Hamburgh, where, in the company of Hagedorn and other eminent characters, he improved his taste and knowledge, and returned to Zurich at a time when his countrymen were prepared to relish the beauties of his pen. The famous Klopstock, and Weiland, who now visited Zurich, paid particular attention to the rising genius of Gesner. His first publication, in 1754, was “Daphnis” his next “Inkle and Yarrco;” and his fame was soon after completely established by his " Pastorals. On the appearance of these he was hailed as another Theocritus. Of all the moderns, says Dr. Blair, Gesner has been the most successful in his pastoral compositions. He has introduced many new ideas. His rural scenery is often striking, and his descriptions lively. He presents pastoral life to us with all the embellishments of which it is susceptible, but without any excess of refinement. What forms the chief merit of this poet is, that he wrote to the heart, and has enriched the subjects of his idyls with incidents that give rise to much tender sentiment.

Notwithstanding this reputation, his contemporaries we*e unwilling to place him in any other rank than that of a writer of light, easy compositions, in which the higher attributes of poetry are not to be found. Gesner, to conrince them of their mistake, produced his “Death of Abel,” in order to prove that he could soar to the sublime, which, however, we think he has not reached; the sublimity of this work appearing to us to be mere turgidity and affectation, more calculated to deprave taste than to gratify it.

The success of this work, however, was uncommon. Soon after its appearance it was translated into French, and 90 much pleased the readers in that country that three editions were sold in less than a year. It was at up long | Distance translated (by Mrs. Collier) into English, and almost every other European tongue. In this country it is still a very favourite work with the lower classes. His other publications became now in higher request, and the most celebrated men in France, especially Turgot and Diderot, lent their assistance towards rendering the translation of the “Death of Abel” more perfect. The duchess of Choiseul, who was then at the head of taste in France, requested Gesner to settle at Paris but he declined it, stating, by way of apology, that he was retained in his native place by the tenderest ties of nature.

About his thirtieth year be became acquainted with Heidegger, a man of taste, who bad a large collection of paintings and engravings, and, what was more interesting, a daughter, whose charms made a very lively impression on our author. After some difficulties were surmounted, he married this lady, and from this time appears to have carried on the businesses of poet, engraver, painter, and bookseller. The latter department, however, was attended to chiefly by Mrs. Gesner, as well as the care of the house and the education of the children. With him, painting and engraving occupied the hours which were not devoted to poetry, and his mode of life was marked by cheerfulness and liveliness of temper, and a condu-ct truly amiable and exemplary. He was highly loved and respected, and uniting to taste and literature the talents requisite for active life, he was raised by the citizens of Zurich to the first offices in the republic. In 1765 he was called to the great council, and in 1767 to the lesser. In 1768 he was appointed bailiff of Eilibach; and to other offices, all which he filled with the greatest honour and fidelity. But in the height of his fame and usefulness, he was cut off by a stroke of the palsy, on the 2d of March 1788, in the fifty-eighth year of his age, leaving a widow, three children, and a sister behind. His fellow-citizens have since erected a statue to his memory, in his favourite walk on the banks of the Limrnot, where it meets the Sihl.

In 1765 he published ten landscapes, etched and engraved by himself. Twelve other pieces of the same nature appeared in 1769; and he afterwards executed ornaments for many publications that issued from his press, among which were his own works, a translation into German of the works of Swift, and various others. The reputation which he acquired by his pencil, was scarcely | inferior to that arising from his pen. He was reckoned among the best artists of Germany; and Mr. Fnessli, his countryman, in his “Historical Essay on the Painters, Engravers, Architects, and Sculptors, who have done honour to Switzerland,” gives a distinguished place to Gesner, though then alive. In 1802 his “Works,” translated from the German, were published here, in 3 vols. 8vo, with an account of his life and writings, to which this article is principally indebted. 1


Life, as above. Meister’s “Portraits des Hemmes Illustres de la Suisse,