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An Obituary Notice is designed to commemorate the vir. ues which distinguished an individual recently deceased. Writings of this kind are generally fugitive in their character, and seldom survive the occasion which called them forth. They are not designed to present many of the events of the life of the individual, but rather a general summary of his character. An obituary notice is a kind of writing generally confined to periodical publications, and destitute of the dig. nity of biography, and the minute detail of memoirs.
OBITUARY NOTICE OF DR. MATIGNON.
The Rev. Francis A. Matignon, D. D., who died on the 19th of Septem ber, 1818, was born in Paris, November 10th, 1753. ' Devoted to letters and religion from his earliest youth, his progress was rapid and his piety conspicuous. He attracted the notice of the learned faculty, as he passed through the several grades of classical and theological studies; and, having taken the degree of Bachelor of Divinity, he was ordained a Priest, on Saturday, the 19th of September, 1778, the very day of the month and week, which, forty years after, was to be his last. In the year 1782 he was admitted a licentiate, and received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from the college of the Sorbonne in 1785. At this time he was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity in the college of Navarre, in which seminary he performed his duties for several years, although his state of health was not good.
His talents and piety had recommended him to the notice of a Prelate in great credit, (the Cardinal De Brienne,) who obtained for him the grant of an annuity from the king, Louis the Sixteenth, which was sufficient for all his wants, established him in independence, and took away all anxiety for the future. But the ways of Providence are inscrutable to the wisest and best of the children of men. The revolution, which dethroned his beloved monarch, and stained the altar of his God with the blood of holy men, drove Dr. Matignon an exile from his native shores. He fled to England, where he remained several months, and then returned to France, to prepare for a yoyage to the United States. He landed in Baltimore, and was appointed by Bishop Carroll Pastor of the Catholic Church in Boston, at which place he arrived August 20th, 1792.
The talents of Dr. Matignon were of the highest order. In him were united a sound understanding, a rich and vigorous imagination, and a logical precision of thought. His learning was extensive, critical, and profound, and all his productions were deeply cast, symmetrically formed, and beauti fully colored. The fathers of the church, and the great divines of every Age were his familiar friends. His divinity was not merely speculative, not
merely practical; it was the blended influence of thought, feeling, and action. He had learned divinity as a scholar, taught it as a professor, felt it as a worshipper, and diffused it as a faithful pastor. His genius and his virtues were understood; for the wise bowed to his superior knowledge, and the humble caught the spirit of his devotions. With the unbelieving and doubtful, he reasoned with the mental strength of the apostle Paul; and he charmed back the penitential wanderer with the kindness and affection o. John the Evangelist. His love for mankind flowed in the purest current, and his piety caught a glow from the intensity of his feelings. Rigid and scrupulous to himself, he was charitable and indulgent to others. To youth, in a particular manner, he was forgiving and fatherly. With him the tear of penitence washed away the stains of error ; for he had gone up to the fountains of human nature, and knew all its weaknesses. Many, retrieved from folly and vice, can bear witness how deeply he was skilled in the science of parental government; that science so little understood, and, foi want of which, so many evils arise. It is a proof of a great mind, not to be soured by misfortunes nor narrowed by any particular pursuit. Dr. Mat ignon, if possible, grew milder and more indulgent, as he advanced in years. The storms of life had broken the heart of the man, but out of its wounds gushed the tide of sympathy and universal Christian charity. The woes of life crush the feeble, make more stupid the dull, and more vindictive the proud; but the great mind and contrite soul are expanded with purer be nevolence, and warmed with brighter hopes, by suffering, — knowing, that through tribulation and anguish the diadem of the saint is won.
To him whose heart has sickened at the selfishness of mankind, and who has seen the low and trifling pursuits of the greater proportion of human beings, it is sweet and refreshing to contemplate the philosopher, delighted with the visions of other worlds, and ravished with the harmonies of nature, pursuing his course abstracted from the bustle around him; but how much nobler is the course of the moral and Christian philosopher, who teaches the ways of God to man. He holds a holy communion with Heaven, walks with the Creator in the garden at every hour in the day, without wishing to hide himself. While he muses, the spirit burns within him, and the high influ ences of the inspiration force him to proclaim to the children of men the deep wonders of divine love.
But this contemplation must give angels pleasure, when they behold this purified and elevated being dedicating his services, not to the mighty, not to the wise, but to the humblest creatures of sorrow and suffering. Have we not seen our friend leaving these sublime contemplations, and entering the habitations of want and woe ? relieving their temporal necessities, administering the consolations of religion to the despairing soul in the agonies or dissolution ? Yes, the sons of the forest in the most chilling climates, the tenants of the hovel, the erring and the profligate, can bear witness with what patience, earnestness, constancy, and mildness, he labored to make them better.
In manners, Dr. Matignon was an accomplished gentleman, possessing that kindness of heart and delicacy of feeling, which made him study the wants and anticipate the wishes of all he knew. He was well acquainted with the politest courtesies of society, for it must not, in accounting for his accomplishments, be forgotten, that he was born and educated in the bosom of refinement; that he was associated with chevaliers and nobles, and was patronized by cardinals and premiers. In his earlier life, it was not uncommon to see ecclesiastics mingling in society with philosophers and courtiers, and still preserving the most perfect apostolic purity in their lives and conversation. The scrutinizing eye of infidel philosophy, was upon them, and these unbelievers would have hailed it as a triumph, to have caught them in the slightest deviation from their professions. But no greater proof of the soundness of their faith, or the ardor of their piety, could be asked, taan the fact, that, from all the bishops in France at the commence
ment of the revolution, announting to one hundred and thirty-eight, bas three only were found wanting in integrity and good faith, when they were put to the test; and it was such a test, too, that it could have been sup ported by religion only. In passing such an ordeal, pride, fortitude, phi losophy, and even insensibility would have failed. The whole strength of human nature was shrunken and blasted, when opposed to the besom of the revolution. Then the bravest bowed in terror, or fled in affright; but then these disciples of the lowly Jesus taught mankind how they could suffer for his sake.
Dr. Matignon loved his native country, and always expressed thc deepest interests in her fortunes and fate; yet his patriotism never infringed on his philanthropy. He spoke of England, as a great nation which container much to admire and imitate; and his gratitude kindled at the remembrance of British munificence and generosity to the exiled priests of a hostile nation of different religious creeds:
When Dr. Matignon came to Boston, new trials awaited him. His predecessors in this place wanted either talents, character, or perseverance ; and nothing of consequence had been
done towards gathering and directing a Hock. The good people of New England were something more than sus picious on the subject of his success; they were suspicious of the Catholic doctrines. Their ancestors, from the settlement of the country, had been preaching against the Church of Rome, and their descendants, even the most enlightened, felt a strong impression of undefined and undefinable dislike, if not hatred, towards every papal relation. Absurd and foolish legends of the Pope and his religion were in common circulation, and the prejudice was too deeply rooted to be suddenly eradicated, or even opposed. It re quired a thorough acquaintance with the world, to know precisely how to meet those sentiments of a whole people. Violence and indiscretion would have destroyed all hopes of success. Ignorance would have exposed the cause to sarcasm and contempt, and enthusiasm, too manifest, would have produced a reaction, that would have plunged the infant establishment in absolute ruin. Dr. Matignon was exactly fitted to encounter all these diffi culties. And he saw them, and knew his task, with the discernment of a shrewd politician. With meekness and humility he disarmed the proud; with prudence, learning, and wisdom, he met the captious and slanderous, and so gentle and so just was his course, that even the censorious forgot to watch him, and the malicious were too cunning to attack one armed so strongly in honesty. For four years he sustained the weight of tius coarge alone, until Providence sent him a coadjutor in the person of the present excellent Bishop Cheverus, who seemed made by nature, and fitted by edu cation and grace, to soothe his griefs by sympathy, (for he too had suffered,, to cheer him by the blandishments of taste and letters, and all congenial pursuits and habits; and, in fact, they were as far identified as two em bodied minds could be. These hóly seers pursued their religious pilgrimage together, blessing and being blessed, for more than twenty years; and the young Elisha had received a double portion of the spirit, and worn the mantle of his friend and guide, long before the sons of the prophets heard the cry of, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof May the survivor find consolation in the religion he teaches, and long be kept on his journey, to bless the cruise of oil in the dwellings of poverty and widowhood, and to cleanse by the power of God the leprosy of the sinfui soul.
Far from the sepulchre of his fathers repose the ashes of the good and great Dr. Matignon; but his grave is not as among strangers, for it was wa tered by the tears of an affectionate flock, and his
memory is cherished by all who value learning, honor genius, or love devotion.
The writer of this brief notice offers it, as a faint and rude memorial only of the virtues of the man whose character he venerated. Time must as suage the wounds of grief before he, who loved him most, and knew him best, can attempt his enitaph
Select some biographical work; state any impression you may have received of it as to the age, — the contemporaries, --the influence, the difficulties and advantages of the au thor, — the style of his narrative, &c
Example.* I have selected the Life of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, written by himself, to a late period. The style of the work is simple and concise, which is the peculiar characteristic of all nis writings; indeed, his writing principally for the advantage of the people, (though the most elevated ranks may be benefited by his instructions,) accounts for his desire of express ing himself in plain and simple language. The first part of the book, not being intended for public perusal, is written with more minuteness of particulars, than it otherwise would have been; he even apologizes to his son for the familiarity of the style; observing, that we do not dress for a private company as for a formal ball."
Dr. Franklin was remarkable from his youth for persevering and indefatigable industry. This, with his prudent and reflecting mind, secured him his fame and importance in the world. He early manifested a love of learning, which his humble birth and narrow circumstances allowed him few opportunities of indulging; but when they did offer, he never suffered them escape unimproved. He was frugal in his mode of life that he might employ his savings in the purchase of books; and diligent at his work, that he might gain time for his studies. Thus, all obstacles were removed in his pursuit of knowledge. We behold him emerging by degrees from obscurity; then advancing more and more into notice and soon taking a high stand in the estimation of his fellow-citizens.
He was continually before the world in various characters. As a natu ral philosopher, he surpassed all his contemporaries; as a politician, he adhered to his country during her long struggle for independence, and, throughout his political career, was distinguished for his firm integrity and skilful negotiations; às a citizen, his character shines with peculiar lustre; he seems to have examined every thing, to discover how he might add to the happiness of his friends. Philadelphia shows with delight the many institutions he has founded for her advantage, and boasts of the benefits conferred on her sons by his philanthropic zeal. Indeed, to do good was the grand aim of his life. From the midst of his philosophical researches, he descends to attend to the daily intereste por kis fellow creatures ; after bringing down lightning from the clouds, he invent stove for the comfort of men. In the midst of the honors paid him the
* This is a genuine college exercise, presented at one of our tirersiti a few years ago.
his discovery of the sameness of lightning with electricity he rejoices in the thought, that the knowledge of this mportant fact might contribute to the safety of mankind.
After lhis death, even, his example is of great use; to the young, his self-acquired learning, which procured for him the honorary distinctions of the European universities and philosophical societies, affords a practical illustration of the value of perseverance and industry; his advanced years offer to the aged an excellent model for the occupation of their time. His private life exhibits a splendid catalogue of virtues; to his temperance he owed his long sojourn upon earth; to his resolution and industry, his wide-spread fame; to his sincerity and moderation, the affection of his friends; to his frugality, the means of benevolence; and to his prudence and integrity, the esteem and approbation of his countrymen. "The temptation of courts, and the favors heaped upon him by princes and nobles, robbed him of none of these virtues. These he retained, with a contented mind and a clear conscience. till he was sum moned to receive his final rewa
The following criticism by Dr. Blair is here presented that the student may understand the principles by which literary merit is to be estimated. The subject criticised No. 411 of the Spectator, written by Mr. Addison ; of whom Dr. Johnson has said that all who wish to write the English language with elegance should study the pages of Addison.
“Our sight is the most perfect, and most delightful of all our senses.".
This sentence is clear, precise, and simple. The author in a few plain words lays down the proposition, which he is going to illustrate. A first Bentence should seldom be long, and never intricate.
He might have said, our sight is the most perfect and the most delightful But in omitting to repeat the particle the, he has been more judicious ; for as between perfect and delightful there is no contrast, such a repetition is
He proceeds : " It fills the mind with the largest variety of ideas, converses with its ob jects
at the greatest distance, and continues the longest in action, without being tired or satiated with its proper enjoyments.".
This sentenco is remarkably harmonious, and well constructed. It is en tirely perspicuous. It is loaded with no unnecessary words. That quality of a good sentence, which we termed its unity, is here perfectly preserved. The members of it also grow, and rise above each other in sound, till it is conducted to one of the most harmonious closes which our language ad mits. It is moreover figurative without being too much so for the subject. There is no fault in it whatever, except this, the epithet large, which he