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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/686

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ahead of his compositors and correctors. We must leave him to relate in his own words how this was effected. The volume entitled "Glanures" contains a paper, written in the last hours of his life, entitled "Comment j'ai fait mon Dictionnaire," which tells the wonderful story of his literary existence: "My rule of life included the twenty-four hours of the day and night, so as to bestow the least possible amount of time on the current calls of existence. I contrived, by sacrificing every superfluous indulgence, to have the luxury of a dwelling in the country and another in town. My country abode was at Ménil-le-Roi, near Paris, a small old cottage with near an acre of productive garden, which dapibus mensas onerabat inemptis, as it did to the old man in the Georgics. There I was master of my time. I rose at eight; very late, you will say, for so busy a man. Wait an instant. While they put my bedroom in order, which was also my study, I went downstairs with some work in hand. It was thus, for example, that I composed the preface of the 'Dictionary.' I had learnd from Chancellor d'Aguesseau the value of unoccupied minutes. At nine I set to work to correct proofs until the hour of our mid-day meal. At one I resumed work, and wrote my papers for the 'Journal des Savants,' to which I was from 1855 a regular contributor. From three to six I went on with the 'Dictionary.' At six punctually we dined, which took about an hour. They say it is unwholesome to work directly after dinner, but I have never found it so. It is so much time won from the exigencies of the body. Starting again at seven in the evening, I stuck to the 'Dictionary.' My first stage took me to midnight, when my wife and daughter (who were my assistants) retired. I then worked on till three in the morning, by which time my daily task was usually completed. If it was not, I worked on later, and more than once, in the long days of summer, I have put out my lamp and continued to work by the light of the coming dawn. However, at three in the morning I generally laid down my pen, and put my papers in order for the following day—that day which had already begun. Habit and regularity had extinguished all excitement in my work. I fell asleep as easily as a man of leisure does; and woke at eight, as men of leisure do. But these vigils were not without their charm. A nightingale had built her nest in a little row of limes that crosses the garden, and she filled the silence of the night and of the country with her limpid and tuneful notes. O Virgil! how could you, who wrote the Georgics, describe as a mournful dirge, miserabile carmen, those glorious strains?"

We have never heard of another example of severe labor of the brain carried on systematically for seventeen or eighteen hours a day for so many years. But M. Littré, who was himself a great medical authority, is of opinion that it did him no harm. He was past forty when he began this work; he was fifty-nine when he began to print the Dictionary; he was seventy-two when he completed it; and he