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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/689

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LITTRÉ, DUMAS, PASTEUR, AND TAINE.

work, a translation and edition of the writings of Hippocrates, for winch his medical studies had prepared him. Indeed, he continued to write on medical subjects, in which he always took the strongest interest. "Though I have studied medicine," he said, "without having made any practical use of it, I would not exchange for anything else this fraction of knowledge which I have acquired by persistent labor."

The use he did make of it was to watch over the health of his village, for to a rigorous austerity of life he united the utmost tenderness of heart, and, although he wandered far from all theological belief, his life was one constant example of self-denial, of consideration for others, and of what might be called the religion of duty. No monk ever lived on simpler fare or in a humbler abode. That cottage still remains in the state in which he left it, and over the table, as a visible symbol of reverence and toleration, hangs a picture of our Saviour. We have already related in his own language the extraordinary labor in which his days and nights were spent over the Dictionary. Yet his door was never closed against the visit of a friend; he continued to take part in the transactions of the branch of the Institute to which he belonged; and, yielding to the earnest solicitation of the widow of Auguste Comte, he consented to write, in addition to his other work, a biography of that personage.

Born and educated upon the devastated soil of the French Revolution, Littré had entered upon-life without religious opinions; indeed, like the elder Mill, his father had deliberately withheld them from him. But at the age of forty he read the "System of Positive Philosophy" by Auguste Comte, and he thus described the impression he received from it: "This book subjugated me. A conflict arose in my mind between my old and my new opinions; the latter triumphed. I became a disciple of the Positive Philosophy, and I have remained so. For the last twenty years I have been an adept of this philosophy. The confidence I feel in it has never been shaken. Employed on very different subjects—history, language, physiology, medicine, erudition—I have constantly used it as a sort of tool which traces for me the features, the origin, and the conclusion of each question. It suffices for everything; it never deceives me; it always enlightens me." This is the' best testimony ever borne to the value of M. Comte's philosophy; and it is borne by an eminent man, and that man a Frenchman. M. Comte has had but little honor in his own country; he was detested, despised, and to some extent persecuted in France while he was alive; and, with the exception of M. Littré, we have never heard that he has obtained any eminent disciple among his own countrymen.

From England, on the contrary, he received solid proofs of sympathy and interest, for he lived on an English annuity; and since his death his works have been carefully translated, and his opinions