Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim

, a distinguished German writer, was born at Kamenz, in Pomerania, in 1729. His father, who was a man of talents and learning, had destined himself to an academical life, but was called to take charge of a congregation at Kamenz, the place of his nativity. Here he was in correspondence with the most famous preachers of his time, published some works of his own, and translated several treatises of AbjJ. Tillotson. He also left behind him a manuscript refutation of some prejudices against the reformation. There can be no doubt but the example and cares of so learned and thoughtful a father had no inconsiderable influence on the early turn which Lessing shewed for literature. When, in his sixth year, his father chose to have his picture drawn, in which he was to be represented sitting under a tree playing with a bird, young Lessing shewed his utter dislike to the plan, and said, “if I am to be painted, let me be drawn with a great heap of books about me, otherwise I had rather not be painted at all;” which was accordingly done. He passed five entire years at the high-school at Meissen, to which, by his own account, he was indebted for whatever learning and solidity of thinking he possessed. Though the Latin poetry belongs to the officiis perfectis of a scholar in this academy, and the German poetry to the imperfectis, yet he pursued the latter much more than the former, and celebrated the battle of Kesseldorf in German verse, at the request of his father. Professor Klemm particularly encouraged him to the-study of mathematics and | philosophy while Grabner, the rector of the academy, wrote to his father concerning them “He is a colt that requires a double allowance of provender. The lessons that are found too difficult for others, are but child’s play to him. We shall hardly be sufficient for him much longer.” Being removed to Leipsic, he soon displayed his inclination to write for the stage, and likewise made great proficiency in the bodily exercises of horsemanship, fencing, dancing, and leaping. Mr. Weisse was his first and principal friend at this place; and their friendship was only dissolved by death. Lessing frequented the college-exercises but little, and that irregularly: none of the professors gave him satisfaction, excepting Ernesti, whose lectures he sometimes attended; but he was himself an extensive reader, and was especially partial to the writings of Wolff in German. He kept up a great intimacy with Naumann, the author of “Nimrod,” on account of his possessing many singular qualities, which were always more agreeable to Lessing, than the common dull monotony of character, even though mingled with some weaknesses and defects. Under Kastner he exercised himself in disputation; and here began his close connection with Mylius, whose works he after-, wards published. His intercourse with this free-thinker, and with the company of comedians, however, gave great uneasiness to his parents. His first literary productions appeared in a Hamburgh newspaper. In company with M. Weisse, he translated “Hannibal,” the only tragedy of Marivaux, into rhyming Alexandrines. His comedy of the “Young Scholar,” which he had begun while a schoolboy, was finished at Leipsic, from an actual event that happened to a young scholar disappointed in his hopes of the prize from the academy at Berlin. His father about this time thought proper to recall him home for a time, in order to wean him from the bad company he was thought to frequent. In this interval, he composed a number of Anacreontics on love and wine. One day, his pious sister coming into his room, in his absence, saw these sonnets, read them over, and, not a little angry that her brother could so employ his time, threw them into the fire. A trifling burst of resentment was all he felt on the occasion. He took a handful of snow, and threw it into her bosom, in order to cool her zeal. He now went back to Leipzig; which place he soon after quitted, going by Wittenberg to Berlin. This gave his father fresh uneasiness; and | produced those justificatory letters of his son, which at least display the frankness of his character. At Berlin, in conjunction with Mylius, he compiled the celebrated “Sketch of the History and Progress of the Drama.” The father of a writer who had been sharply criticised in this work, made complaint of it to Lessing’s father. To this person he wrote in answer: “The critique is mine, and I only lament that I did not make it more severe. Should Gr. complain of the injustice of my judgment, I give him full liberty to retaliate, as he pleases on my works.” One of his first acquaintances in Berlin was a certain Richier de Louvain, who, in 1750, from a French teacher, was become secretary to Voltaire, with whom he brought our author acquainted. From Berlin he went to Wittenberg, where he plied his studies with great diligence, and took the degree of master, but remained only one year, and then returned to Berlin. At Berlin he undertook the literary article for the periodical publication of Voss, in which employment he both wrote and translated a great variety of pieces, and formed several plans which were never executed. Among others, he agreed with Mendelsohn to write a journal, under the title of “The best from bad Books:” with the motto taken from St. Ambrose, “Legimus aliqua ne legantur.” “We read some books to save others the trouble.” Jn 1755, he went back to Leipzic, and thence set out upon a journey, in company with a young man of the name of Winkler: but this was soon interrupted, and brought op a law-suit, in which Lessing came off conqueror. He now, in order to please his sister, translated “Law’s serious Call,” which was finished and published by Mr. Weisse. At the beginning of 1759, Lessing went again to Berlin, where he very much addicted himself to gaming. This has been attributed to his situation at Breslaw, where he was in the seven years war for some time in quality of secretary to general Tauenzien. Even the care for his health was conducive to it. “Were I able to play calmly,” said he, “I would not play at all; but it is not without reason that I play with eagerness. The vehement agitation sets my clogged machine in motion, by forcing the fluids into circulation; it frees me from a bodily torment, to which I am often subject.” His intimate friends among the learned at Breslaw were Arletius and Klose. Here he was attacked by a violent fever. Though he suffered much from the disease, yet be declared that his greatest torment arose | from the conversations of his physician, old Dr. Morganbesser, which he could scarcely endure when he was well. When the fever was at its height, he lay perfectly quiet, with great significance in his looks. This so much struck his friend standing by- the bed, that he familiarly asked him what he was thinking of? “I am curious to know what will pass in my mind when I am in the act of dying.” Being told that was impossible, he abruptly replied: “You want to cheat me.” On the day of his reception into the order of free-masons at Hamburgh, one of his friends, a zealous free-mason, took him aside into an adjoining room, and asked him, “Is it not true, now, that you find nothing among us against the government, religion, or morals” “Yes,” answered Lessmg, with great vivacity, “would to heaven I had I should then at least have found something” The extent of his genius must be gathered from his numerous writings. Mendelsohn said of him in a letter to his brother, shortly after his death, that he was advanced at least a century before the age in which he lived.

lu 1762, he accompanied his general to the siege of Schweidnitz; but after the peace, he was introduced to the king of Prussia, and then resumed his literary occupations at Berlin. Though he produced many works, yet they were not the source of much profit, and, in 1769, his circumstances were so narrow, that he was obliged to sell his library for support. At this critical juncture he met with a generous patron in Leopold, heir-apparent to the duke of Brunswick, through whose means he was appointed librarian at Wolfenbuttle. One of the fruits of this very desirable situation was a periodical publication, entitled “Contributions to Literary History,” containing notices and extracts of the most remarkable Mss. The “Contributions” were made the vehicle of “Fragments of an anonymous Writer discovered in the Library at Wolfenbuttle,” which consisted of direct attacks upon the Christian revelation. They occasioned a great commotion among the German theologians, and would not have been printed but for the interference of prince Leopold with the licensers of the press. In 1778 they were suppressed. Lessing, from his rising fame, and connection with prince Leopold, with whom he went on a tour to Italy, was so distinguished among the German literati, that several potentates of that country made him offers. of an advantageous settlement. | Nothing, however, could lead him to break his connection with his liberal patron the prince of Brunswick, who, by his accession in 1730 to the sovereignty, was enabled to augment his favours towards him. His latter publications were “Nathan the Wise;” a second part of the same drama, entitled “The Monk of Lebanon;” and “A Dissertation on the Education of the Human Race.” He died at Hamburgh in the month of February, 1781. Lessing had more genius than learning, and his fame, therefore, even in his own country, rests on his plays, fables, songs, and epigrams. His life was published at Berlin in 1793, and is more replete with anecdote than instruction, as may be gathered from the few circumstances we have detailed. He was a decided deist, and his morals corresponded. 1


Life as above. —Dict. Hist.

LEstrange (Sir Roger), was descended from an ancient and reputable family, seated at Hunstanton-hall, Norfolk; where he was born Dec. 17, 1616. He was the youngest son of sir Hamond L’Estrange, knt. a zealous royalist during the disputes between king Charles and his parliament; who, having his estate sequestered, retired to Lynn, of which town he was made governor. The son had a liberal education, which was completed probably at Cambridge; and adopted his father’s principles with uncommon zeal, and in 1639, when about two-and- twenty, attended king Charles upon his expedition to Scotland, his attachment to whom some years after neatly cost him his life. In 1644, soon after the earl of Manchester had reduced the town of Lynn in Norfolk, Mr. L’Estrange, thinking he had sorpe interest in the place, as his father had been governor of it, formed a plan for surprizing it, and received a commission from the king, constituting him governor of the town in case of success: but, being seized, in consequence of the treachery of two of his associates, Leman and Hager, and his majesty’s commission found upon him, he was carried first to Lynn, thence to London, and there transmitted to the city court-martial for his trial; where, after suffering all manner of indignities, he was, as Whitlocke says, condemned to die as a spy, coming from the king’s quarters without drum, trumpet, or pass.

His sentence being passed, he *was cast into Newgate; whence he dispatched a petitionary appeal to the lords, the time appointed for his execution being the Thursday | following; but with great difficulty he got a reprieve for fourteen days, and, after that, a prolongation for a farther hearing. In this condition he lay almost four years a prisoner, in continual fear of being executed. He published in the mean time, “An Appeal from the Courtmartial to the Parliament:” and about the time of the Kentish insurrection, in 1648, he escaped out of the prison, with the keeper’s privity, and went into Kent. He retired into the house of Mr. Hales, a young gentleman, heir to a great estate in that county, and spirited him to undertake an insurrection; which miscarrying, L’Estrange with much difficulty was enabled to reach the continent, where he continued till 1653. Upon the long parliament’s being dissolved by Cromwell, he returned into England, and immediately dispatched a paper to the council at Whitehall to this effect; “that, finding himself within the act of indemnity, he thought it convenient to give them notice of his return.” On his being summoned to that board, he was told by one of the commissioners, that his case was not comprehended in the act of indemnity, and he therefore formed the bold resolution of applying in person to Cromwell himself, which he effected in the Cockpit*; and, shortly after, received his discharge by the following order, dated October 31 1653: “Ordered, that Mr. Roger L 1 Estrange be dismissed from his farther attendance upon the council, he giving in two thousand pounds security to appear when he shall be summoned so to do, and to act nothing prejudicial to the commonwealth. Ex. John Thurloe, secretary.

This appearance at the court of Cromwell was much censured, after the restoration, by some of the royal party, who also objected to him, that he had once been heard playing in a concert where the usurper was present, and, therefore, they nick-named him “Oliver’s Fidler.” He was charged also with having bribed some of the protector’s people, but he positively disavows it; averring, he never spoke to Thurloe but once in his life about his discharge; and that, though during the dependency of that affair he might well be seen at Whitehall, yet he never spoke to Cromwell on any other business, or had the least


Cromwell then talked to him of the restlessness of hit party: telling him, “that they would do well to give some testimony of their quiet and peaceable intentions;” and adding, that “rigour was not at all his inclination, but that he was but one man, and could do little by himself.

| commerce of any kind with him.*

As to the affair of the concert, which seems to have been thought an affair of greater importance than it deserves, he informs us that, while the question of his indemnity was depending, being one day in St. James’s park, he heard an organ touched in a low room belonging to one Mr. Hitickson; that he went in, and found a private company of five or six persons, who desired him to take up a viol and bear a part, that he did so, not much, as he allows, to the reputation of his skill; that by and by, “without the least colour of a design or expectation, in comes Cromwell, who found them playing:,” and as far as sir Roger remeinbered, left them so. Sir Roger’s family, according to Dr. Burney, were always great patrons of music and musicians and Cromwell we know would sometimes forgive a royalist, if he was a good performer; and robbed Magdalen college of its organ from pure love of the art.

From this to the time of the restoration, he seems to have lived free from any disturbance from the then governing powers; and perhaps the obscurity into which he had fallen made him be overlooked by Charles II. and his ministry, on that prince’s recovering his throne. He did not, however, so undervalue his own sufferings and merits, as to put up quietly with this usage, and therefore addressed a warm expostulation to the earl of Clarendon, in the dedication to that minister of his “Memento,” published in 1662; where he joins himself with other neglected cavaliers, who had suffered for their attachment to the royal family during the civil wars and the succeeding usurpation, at the same tima acknowledging the personal obligations he had received from Clarendon. For some time his remonstrances appear to have produced little effect, but at length he was made licenser of the press, a profitable post, which he enjoyed till the eve of the revolution. This, however, was all the recompence he ever received, except being in the commission of the peace, after more than twenty years, as he says, spent in serving the royal cause, near six of them in gaols, and almost four under a sentence of death in Newgate. It is true, he hints at greater things promised him; and, in these hopes, exerted his talents, on behalf of the crown, in publishing several pieces. In 1663, for a farther support, he set up a paper, called “The Public Intelligencer, and the News;‘ f the first of which came out the 1st of August, and continued to be published twice a week, till January 19, 1665; when he laid it down, on the design then concerted of publishing theLondon Gazette,“the first of which papers made its appearance on. Saturday Feb. 4.

This paper succeeded “The Parliamentary Intelligencer” and “Mercurius Publicus,” published in defence of the government, against the “Mercurius Politicus.” L’Ustrange desist-


cA, because, in November preceding, the Oxford Gazette began to be published twice a week, in a folio halfsheet; the first of which came out November 7, 1665, the king aud queen, with the court, being then at Oxford; but, upon the removal of the court to London, they were called “The London Gazette,” the fust of which was pubFished in February following, on a Saturday, the Oxford one having been published on a Tuesday; and these have been the days of publishing that paper ever since. Heath’s Chronicle; and Athen. Oxon.

| After the dissolution of Charles’s second parliament, in 1679, he set up a paper, called
” The Observator;“the design of which was to vindicate the measures of the court, and the character of the king, from the charge of being popislily affected. With the same spirit he exerted himself in 1681, in ridiculing the popish plot; which he did with such vehemence, that it raised him many enemies, who endeavoured, notwithstanding his known loyalty, to render him obnoxious to the government. But he appeared with no less vehemence against the fanatic plot in 1682; and, in 1683, was particularly employed by the court to publish Dr. Tillotson’s papers exhorting lord Russel to avow the doctrine of non-resistance, a little before his execution. In this manner he weathered all the storms raised against him during that reign, and, in the next, unrewarded with the honour of knighthood, accompanied with this declaration,” that it was in consideration of his eminent services and unshaken loyalty to the crown, in all extremities; and as a mark of the singular satisfaction of his majesty, in his present as well as his past services.“In 1687, he was obliged to lay down his” Observator,“now swelled to three volumes; as he could not agree with the toleration proposed by his majesty, though, in all other respects, he had gone the utmost lengths. He had even written strenuously in defence of the dispensing power, claimed by that infatuated prince; and this was probably one reason, why some accused him of having become a proselyte to the church of Home, an accusation which gave him much uneasiness, and which was heightened by his daughter’s defection to that church. To clear himself from this aspersion, he drew up a formal declaration, directed to his kinsman, sir Nicolas L’Estrange, on the truth of which he received the sacrament at the time of publishing the same, which is supposed to be in 1690 .*

The letter runs in these terms: “Sir, the late departure of my daughter, from the church of England t the church of Rome, wounds the very heart of me; for I do solemnly protest, as in presence of God Almighty, that I knew nothing of it: and, fur your farther satisfaction, t take the liberty to assure you, upon the faith of a man of honour and conscience, that as C was born and brought up in the communion


of the church of England, so I have been true to it ever since, with a firm resolution, with God’s assistance, to continue in the same to my life’s end. Now, in case it should please God in his providence to suffer this scandal to be revived upon my memory when I an dead and gone, make use, I be­ seech you, of this paper in my justification, which I deliver as a sacred truth. So help me God, “Roger L‘Estrange. Signed in the presence of us, “John L’Estrange, “Richard Sure, “To Sir Mcholas L’Estrange, bart.”

By this declaration we | find he was married his lady’s name was Anne Doleman but what issue he had by her, besides the just- mentioned daughter, has not come to our knowledge. After the revolution, he seems to have been left out of the commission of the peace; and, it is said, queen Mary shewed her contempt of him by the following anagram she made upon his name,
” Lying- Strange Roger:" and it is certain he met with some trouble, for the remainder of his life, on account of his being a disaffected person.

Among others who attacked the character of sir Roger, was the noted Miles Prance, who was convicted of perjury in the affair of the murder of sir Edmundbury Godfrey. Echard, in his History of England, gives us an anecdote of these two worthies which seems characteristic of both parties. Echard says that Dr. Sharp told him, when archbishop of York, that while he was rector of St. Giles’s in the Fields, L‘Estrange, the famous Richard Baxter, and Miles Prance, on a certain sacrament-day, all approached the communion-table; L’Estrange at one end, Prance at the other, and Baxter in the middle; that these two by their situation, were administered to before L‘Estrange, who, when it came to his turn, taking the bread in his hand, asked the doctor if he knew who that man (pointing to Prance) on the other side of the rails was, to which the doctor answering in the negative, L’Estrange replied, “That is Miles Prance, and I here challenge him, and solemnly declare before God and this congregation, that what that man has sworn or published concerning me is totally and absolutely false; and may this sacrament be my damnation if all this declaration be not true.” Echard adds, “Prance was silent, Mr. Baxter took special notice of it, and Dr. Sharp declared he would have refused Prance the sacrament had the challenge been made in time.” Sir Roger L’Estrange died Sept. 11, 1704, in the eightyeighth year of his age, during the latter part of which his faculties were impaired. His corpse was interred in the church of St. Giles’s in the Fields, where there is an | inscription to his memory. He was author of many political tract*, and translated several works from the Greek, Latin, and Spanish. Among his political effusions are, “Roger L’Estrange’s Apology” “Truth and Loyalty vindicated,” c< “The Memento” “The Reformed Catholic” “The free-born Subject” “Answer to the Appeal,” &c.; “Seasonable Memorial” “Cit and Bumpkin,” in two parts “Farther Discovery;” “Case put;” “Narrative of the Plot;” “Holy Cheat;” “Toleration discussed;” “Discovery on Discovery;” “L’Estrange’s Appeal,” &c. “Collections in defence of the King” “Relapsed Apostate” “Apology for Protestants” “Richard against Baxter;” “Tyranny and Popery;” “Growth of Knavery” “L’ Estrange no Papist,” &c. “The Shammer shammed” “Account cleared” “Reformation reformed” “Dissenters Sayings,” two parts “Notes on College, i. e Stephen College;” the “Protestant Joiner;” “Zekieland Ephraim;” “Papist in Masquerade;” “Answer to the Second Character of a Popish Successor;” “Considerations on lord RussePs Speech.” All these were printed in 4to. “History of the Plot” “Caveat to the Cavaliers;” “Plea for the Caveat and its Author.” These were in folio. His translations were, “Josephus’s Works,” his best performance “Cicero’s Offices” “Seneca’s Morals” “Erasmus’s Colloquies” “Æsop’s Fables” “Quevedo’s Visions” “Bona’s Guide to Eternity” and “Five Letters from a Nun to a Cavalier.” Besides these, he wrote several news-papers, and occasional pieces.

Mr. Granger has very justly remarked that L’Estrange was one of the great corruptors of the English language, and he might have added, exhibits one of the worst models of political controversy. He had, however, often to contend with men whose language was equally vulgar and intemperate; and having at all times more zeal than judgment, we can but just discover real talents in a vast mass of declamation, which few will now have patience to examine. His newspapers, and some of his political pieces, may yet be consulted with advantage for the information they contain, and the many traits of characters and manners which they exhibit; but a cautious reader will find it often necessary to verify his reports by contemporary evidence. Coarse, virulent, and abusive writers have sometimes been thought necessary to the support of political parties, and the present age is not without them; but such | men leave no impression of respect on the minds even of those who employ them, and are generally condemned as the mercenary tools of a party. In the character of sir Roger L‘ Estrange we see not much to distinguish him from this class of writers, except that he sometimes discovers a portion of ease, elegance, and perspicuity, and might probably have displayed these qualities more frequently had he not written more from passion than reflection. It may be added too, that he was more consistent than some of his successors; and being the first who regularly “enlisted himself under the banners of a party for pay, he fought for the cause through right and wrong for upwards of forty campaigns.” This intrepidity gained him the esteem of Cromwell himself, and the papers which he wrote even just before the revolution, with almost a rope about his neck, have the same character of perseverance.

He had a brother, Hammond LEstrange, who wrote a learned work entitled “The Alliance of Divine Offices,” and a “Life of Charles I.” Of him we find no memoirs worth transcribing. In 1760 sir Henry L’Estrange, bart. of Hunstanton, died, and with him the title became extinct. 1

1 Biog. Brit Gen. Dict. —Cibber's Lives. Nichols’s Bowyer. Nichols’s Potns.~ Granger. Echard’s Hist, of England.- Literary Magazine for 1758.