The Memoirs And Journal Of Jean Georges Wille
( Originally Published 1914 )
IN 1792 a Nurnberg print-seller asked Wille for his Memoirs. The then best-known en-graver in Europe answered that he was neither vain nor ambitious enough to wish to see his story in print, but that if after his death any one cared to write a sketch of his life, he would find enough material in a Journal in which, if he (Wille) had shown some negligence, he had consistently told the truth. Ten years later, however, he yielded to the entreaties of an only son, and wrote the story of the first part of his life. The manuscript was lost in the chaos which followed the Revolution, but it was eventually found and surrendered to the Curator of the Cabinet des Estampes, with the happy result that, in 1857, that enthusiastic savant M. Georges Duplessis was enabled to publish both the Memoirs and the Journal, with a preface by Jules and Edmond de Goncourt.
The work is a precious historical document and most interesting reading for both the student of the eighteenth century and the print-collector. Who, since its publication, has been able to write on the art of that time without drawing plentifully on Wille? He has proved a mine of illuminating detail, and every quotation from him has borne the seal of authority. In spite of many a dry page, his Journal is an entertaining combination of personalities and impersonalities; it is the French counterpart of the Diary of Samuel Pepys. Besides being a well of information concerning the ethics of art in the eighteenth century, the relations between patron, painter, engraver, and publisher, and those between master and apprentice, the book gives us as complete a picture as one could wish of the train de vivre of a famous master of that time. Wille makes frequent mention of a number of his brother artists, particularly of Greuze, a lifelong friend, whom he calls "that profound and solid painter"(!). He also gives us the commercial value of copperplates, prints before and after letters, old masters, coins and rare medals, embroidered waist-coats, carriages, and jeweled snuff-boxes, and this mass of information is supplemented by interesting descriptions of political events. At all times he is very much occupied with living, and throughout his writings we can see him as clearly as did his neighbors on the Quai des Augustins. Here he is sketching in the country, surrounded by his pupils; there he is entertaining a joyous company of artists at dinner, or welcoming a new arrival from a distant town in Germany. At other times he dons his best embroidered costume and sits, a spirited bidder, at the auction sale of a famous art collection; or else he escorts the pick of the nobility of Europe through the various departments of his own art gallery. At odd moments he engraves a plate.
Altogether his is a human diary, and one of those living pictures which can be painted only with such elements as method and love of detail, great frankness, a sincere belief in one's self, and a fair dose of sentiment. The dominant, however, is love of life. That is the ever recurring note throughout those thousand pages. Whatever may have been his shortcomings, and undoubtedly he had more than one, the writer was a healthy enough specimen of the human race to derive enjoyment from many things around him, and he loves to record his happy moments.
For more reasons than one his was a unique figure to find in the world of Boucher, Watteau, Fragonard, and their brilliant translators. The precise and classic work of this easy-going Teuton, who had been so irresistibly attracted to Paris, was too far removed from the imaginative and exquisitely artistic creations of his con-temporaries to have much effect on the art of his time. In spite of his efforts to be French, he remained bound by the limitations of a much colder temperament, one in which, for instance, the artist had many an unsuccessful encounter with the business man. But it was due to an unusually high degree of level-headedness that he was able to sail so placidly through troublous times, preserve such interest in life, and leave us such a convincing record of "the tranquil and prosperous, half bourgeois, half bohemian life" of a Parisian artist in the century of Voltaire.
THE Memoirs begin in this way: "At the age of nearly eighty-eight, it seems to me about time, my dear son, that I should yield to your desires, and make note of those incidents of my life about which my memory is still clear." And lo! the aged hand proceeds to sketch a picture of the careless years of youth with an amazing abundance of detail and freshness of enthusiasm.
Wille tells us that he was born in Königsberg, in the Duchy of Hesse, in 1715, and that for twenty-one years it was impossible for him to stick to one pursuit. Every new interest was abandoned shortly after it was taken up, until he found that to scratch designs on different surfaces gave him real delight. Accordingly, all the pots and pans in the house became embellished with floral designs, and he did not rest until a gunsmith at Giessen employed him to engrave on his gun-barrels dogs, birds, and other emblems of the chase. Two years of this work, however, was enough for this fickle dilettante, and one day he invented an excuse and started for Paris.
The trip is interestingly related. Wille's inquisitiveness does not permit him to miss a sight worth seeing. The cities of Spire, Worms, and Landau, still showing the scars of the wars of the Palatinate, the discomforts of the hostelries, and the squalor of the peasants fill him with dismay, but at Strassburg he is cheered by the company of an engraver from Berlin, who is also bound for Paris, one Georg Friedrich Schmidt. To this artist, who is destined to become his lifelong rival and friend, he becomes immediately attracted when he finds that their "ways of thinking and acting were just about the same." But when they room together in Paris, Schmidt settles down to serious work, while Wille leads the usual student's life and spends his meager allowance on little dinners at picturesque taverns, and on the purchase of the first coins and medals of his collection. Only when his father cuts off further financial assistance is he obliged to seek employment. His first steps lead him to the shop of Odicevre, a publisher known for "asking much and paying little, but yet paying." The bargain is quickly made, and Wille spends his days engraving little portraits of the kings of France at twenty francs a plate, until by a happy inspiration he attempts the portraits of the painter Largilliere and his daughter. Success is already shadowing him, and when he tremblingly presents himself at that sumptuous hotel, the great painter embraces him effusively and exhorts him not to abandon the career of art. The son slips into his hand, a fortune for him at that moment, four louis d'or.
Wille is not satisfied until Schmidt introduces him to his patron Rigaud. The dean of French painters takes a long look at the engraved portrait of his rival, and then in a burst of enthusiasm commissions the young Hessian to engrave his latest canvas, the portrait of the magnificent Duc de Belle Isle. Wille literally jumps at the chance and starts to carry off the picture, but he is forced to stay for a cup of coffee and a lot of delightful fatherly advice. Those were the Arcadian days of Franco-German relations when Rigaud welcomed Wille like a son, and Voltaire lived at Sans Souci!
To keep alive during the many weeks spent on this important work, Wille has to sell to the skinflint Odicevre the plate which has procured him the order, the portrait of Largillière. But shortly afterward the inevitable break occurs and there is a scene in which the publisher, furious at having overreached himself, goes through such antics that his yellowish wig slips down and completely covers his left eye, to the great delight of the artist. "Au revoir," says Wille. "Pas si tot," answers the publisher as he goes through the door. Some money is sent him from home, but that is immediately spent on a feast at the Rotisserie du Panier Fleuri and the purchase of a waistcoat embroidered with silver, a new sword-hilt, and a number of rare medals.
Meanwhile Schmidt, who has made such a hit with his engraving of Rigaud's portrait of the Comte d'Evreux, that, although a Protestant, he is admitted to the Academy, feels that he must seek more fitting lodgings. Wille, obliged to move, finds rooms in a house where lives an affable young man who, in the course of a conversation, informs him that "he is trying to become a good littérateur, and, if possible, a better philosopher." "That young man," adds Wille, "was M. Diderot, who afterwards attained celebrity."
Through Daullé, who ranks as one of the leading masters, Wille earns more bread and butter; but he has to grit his teeth when his employer quietly signs the portraits of The Pretender and his brother The Duke of York, and a dozen others, although he has engraved only the face, and Wille has done all the rest.
But in due course of time the engraving of the Duc de Belle Isle is finished, and the plate is taken to Rigaud's palatial atelier. The painter is so pleased that he forth-with dispatches the engraver to the duke with it. The powerful marshal is no less delighted, and after graciously bestowing most complimentary remarks on the artist's youth and ability, he sends him to his treasurer who "will be charmed to see him, and will receive him well." "Thereupon," Wille adds, "I did not fail to go through as many. bows and pirouettes as would have been thought both fitting and necessary by my instructor in summersaults, an individual who considered himself the most sublime terpsichorean of this lowly world."
The treasurer is surrounded by a score of pressing creditors, but when Wille appears, these are brushed aside, and a gift of six hundred livres is ceremoniously presented to the young artist. To this is added the sum of three hundred livres in payment of one hundred proofs of the portrait which Wille, who goes off with his bag of money under his arm, delivers with all possible despatch.
At this, the turning-point of his career, in the year 1743, and without a word concerning the joyous carousal with which he must have celebrated his initial success, Wille's Memoirs break off. Between this day and that on which his Journal begins there is a gap of sixteen years.
WHAT did the artist accomplish in that time?
The catalogue of Wille's work made in 1847 by Leblanc informs us that out of a total of 172 plates, comprising the engraver's life-work, no less than sixty-eight bear the date of the years between 1743 and 1759. They consist of a suite of twelve pictures of Lanzknechts after C. Parrocel, fifty portraits, his best ones among them, and six plates representing genre subjects. As often happens in documents of this kind, nothing is said concerning the most active part of the writer's life. It would have been interesting to hear from Wille why, after having engraved portraits exclusively for twenty years, he abandoned such serious work for the production of pretty pictures representing family scenes, peasant women, and boys blowing soap-bubbles. It was probably true that his eyes were failing and that his being myope made him unable to work from large canvasses, and besides, he may have been intelligent enough to realize that he was not a born portrait-engraver, that his particular knowledge of physiognomy, and technical ability to model a face, did not permit him to engrave heads without much difficulty and expense of time. Still, we suspect that the greater remuneration resulting from it had much to do with his change of program. In his Journal there is too frequent mention of money, too careful a record of the commercial value of objects bought and sold, not to convince us that our genial Hessian collected the coin current at the time as enthusiastically as he did old medals.
Wille's claim to fame lies solely in the great brilliancy of his burin work. His sternest critic must fain admit that in the virtuosity of his copper cutting he has few equals. His line is unusually clear and spirited, and with it he is constantly achieving tours de force in the expression of texture. The surfaces of velvet and satin, the intricate detail of rich lace, the carving of furniture, and the most elaborate backgrounds have no terrors for him; he expresses them all with such realism and apparent ease that we cannot cease to wonder at his maestria. Unfortunately his heads have not the lifelikeness of the rest of the picture; they count but little in the general effect. They are cold and summarily treated, and point conclusively to his unreliability as an artist. He was mainly preoccupied with technique, and succumbed too easily to the temptation set by the love of display, the exaggerated magnificence of the costumes, and the theatrical composition in which the painters seemed to revel at that time.
Nevertheless several of his portraits are quite effective. They were very popular, for among his models were some of the foremost men of the time. The Due de Belle Isle was the descendant of the unfortunate Nicolas Fouquet, and, at the time his portrait was made, was in great favor at court, thanks to the protection of Mme. de Mailly, the first favorite of the king. Wille's plate reveals a typical Rigaud composition, with the alert and graceful figure of the soldier in full armor posed against clouds of smoke and fighting armies. The portrait of Elizabeth de Gouy, which the artist produced the same year, shows the wife of Rigaud looking through a frame of stonework relieved by a velvet curtain. It is one of the best women's portraits of the century. Two years later appeared that of the Marechal de Saxe after Rigaud. We can easily imagine that it must have made a stir, particularly as it was in that year (1745) that this spoiled child of Mars won his most brilliant victory, the battle of Fontenoy. Well does he look the man who could bend a silver dollar with two fingers, and the hero whom so many women, the unfortunate Adrienne Lecouvreur among them, loved to distraction. Then came a finely executed portrait of the Marechal de Loewendaal, who won great fame by leading to victory in turn the armies of Austria, Poland, and Russia, and afterward taking for France the city of Bergen-op-Zoom which all Europe considered impregnable.
But it was in the portrait of the Comte de Saint-Florentin, who afterward became Duc de la Vrillière, that Wille revealed the full extent — and limitation — of his powers. It was an unusually decorative plate which shows the chancellor of the queen sitting before an elaborately carved table, and dressed in a costume of velvet and silk well-nigh completely covered with gold embroidery. This is all engraved with such brilliance that the weakly modeled face appears decidedly unimportant. In his portrait of the miniature painter, Jean Baptiste Masse, Wille secured a less effective play of contrasting tones, but much greater evenness and breadth in the treatment of the head than in all his other portraits. Beside these there are three plates representing Frederick the Great of Prussia, and a portrait of Jean de Boullogne, who was Controleur-Général des Finances. This leads us to his last achievement in this line, the portrait which he made for his admission to the Academy in 1761. It represents Abel Francois Poisson de Vauditires, Marquis de Marigny, Directeur-Général des batiments du Roi. He was none other than the brother of that attractive young woman called Mlle. Poisson, who one day found herself juggling with the king, the treasury, and the government of France in the role of the Marquise de Pompadour. Marigny attempted to be to Louis XV what Lebrun had been to the Grand Monarque; but times had changed and all his master could do was to say, "Après moi le deluge," and begin to pull down Versailles.
By 1753, Wille was already tiring of portrait-work. The suite of Reitres et Lansquenets which he produced in that year proved an agreeable diversion. He shortly after engraved a rather successful Death of Cleopatra. In 1755 he found his mark when he engraved La Devideuse after Gerard Dow, and produced a pretty picture, the miniature finish of which did not fail to please the public taste. Wille saw what was wanted, and he hence-forth devoted himself to the translation of a mass of genre paintings after Metzu, Mieris, Gerard Dow, and also several contemporary painters, including his son Pierre-Alexandre Wille. They became great favorites all over Europe and secured for their author international fame, as well as a most respectable bank account. They belong to one family, both in point of subject and execution, those plates which we nowadays look at with a smile: the Menagere hollandaise; the Liseuse, of which three hundred proofs were sold in one day; the Bonne Femme de Normandie, and its pendant, Soeur de la bonne femme ; the Petit Physicien, blowing soap-bubbles; the Musiciens Ambulans, the Observateur distrait, the Concert de famille, and many others. They show astonishing brilliance of burin work, but none so much as the Instruction Paternelle after Terborch, the plate which has be-come famous for the virtuosity with which the artist engraved a white satin gown. It brought Wille a fair income, although its publishing price was only twelve francs. The others were sold at six livres apiece, and his smaller plates at three. But Wille's work became more and more an example of accurate and rigid mechanism until he reached his low-water mark in his last plate, the Marechal des Logis, which he produced as an old man in 1790, just as the revolt of the people was turning into a Revolution.
THE Journal begins in May, 1759.
One sees at a glance that Wille is already an import-ant personage in the world of art. With every page we have fresh proofs of his activity not only as an artist and a collector, but also as a buyer for numerous collectors throughout the Continent. He is an authority on things beautiful, particularly prints, paintings, drawings, and medals. He seldom misses an auction sale, and there he makes important purchases for merchants and bankers in Germany and Denmark, ambassadors and attachés of different courts, and he is often given carte blanche by serene highnesses.
Of works of art he seems to make a regular traffic, and the memoranda of orders filled, drafts cashed, and presents exchanged become almost monotonous. Coupled with this is the mention of every letter he either writes or receives, with the gist of its contents, and the description of every package which has been sent to him. He is in correspondence with painters, engravers, and dealers all over Europe, and they either send him their work to sell or they faithfully execute his orders. For the sale of his own work he has agents in different capitals, and he is constantly shipping them rolls of his engravings in choice impressions. Furthermore he collects for himself, indulging his taste for medals and genre paintings of the Dutch school, and above all he receives callers.
Altogether Wille is a very busy man; we do not have to read far to be convinced of this. On the very first page he writes: "I have been asked to engrave for the second time the portrait of the Duc de Belle Isle, but I have recommended for that work, MM. Daullé, Gaillard, and Tardieu"; and on the second: "The painter Roslin has asked me to engrave two of his portraits, but I was obliged to refuse, being too busy." At a later date he refuses to engrave a Dutch celebrity, and also the Queen of England! Why should he undertake such difficult and slow work when he can make money so much more easily? Only once is he tempted; it is when he is offered the portrait of H.S.H. Mme. Anastasie, Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg, that friend of the Empress Elizabeth who accompanied her on the night of her attack on the Emperor Ivan. But, in the words of Cochin, "Monsieur Wille, who on account of his eyesight . . . did not care to undertake important orders unless they brought him a fortune, at first asked an exorbitant price, 30,000 livres, but this sum he afterwards reduced to 16,000." Daullé got the order. Only one more portrait will he make, that of the Marquis de Marigny among whose magnificent titles was that of Director of the Academy. And this is finished and presented to the brother of la Pompadour on the 15th of June, 1761. Nine days later Wille is, on the strength of that achievement, unanimously elected an academician.
The Journal tells us much about his work. We learn, for instance, that it took him two and a half years to en-grave his Hagar presented to Abraham. The Concert de famille took two years and four months, but Wille ex-plains that his copperplate had been imperfectly rolled and had given him much trouble. His work fetched a much higher price abroad than it did in Paris: the Devideuse and the Tricoteuse, which cost three livres in Paris, fetched fifteen livres in Vienna, the Petit Physicien had jumped from two livres to thirteen, and Count Kaunitz had been known to pay seven louis d'or for a portrait of Saint-Florentin. The Instruction Paternelle is dedicated to Maria Theresa, and Wille carefully describes the way in which that plate was presented. "I have set," he says, "an extra fine proof in an ornamental frame decorated with several kinds of gilding, and this under glass; this is for the Empress. A second frame, but less rich in design, containing the same engraving is destined for His Highness (Count Kaunitz). A portfolio of green and gold leather contains twenty-four proofs, for the Empress, six for the Prince, and a few more for other persons."
Three months later the secretary of the Austrian Embassy presents the artist with a package sealed with the Kaunitz arms. "It contains a ring set in superb diamonds, and a letter full of most flattering praise for the engraver, explaining that the ring is a mark of the Empress's esteem, etc., etc." From the King of Denmark he receives a magnificent gold watch.
Many and varied are the presents which this popular artist receives from his friends. M. de Livry sends him regularly rare wines and venison pies from the kitchens at Versailles; admirers in Germany send him preserves, smoked beef, and other delicacies, and in 1775 he has to thank a Mr. Huber of Leipzig for a book which bears the title "Die Leiden des jungen Werthers," by a Mr. Goethe from Frankfort, "auteur original qui fait beau-coup de bruit." All these gifts are noted down as carefully as the names and titles of the people who knock on his door at 35 Quai des Augustins. These are legion, for it is quite the fashion to call on Wille during a visit to Paris. The Duc des Deux-Ponts not only visits him, but also joins one of his sketching parties, while the representatives of such noble families of Russia and Poland as the Galitzins, the Poniatowskis, the Harrachs, and also the Princes of Monaco and Saxe-Weimar, and Count Reuss XLIII vie with the unfortunate Struensee, the painter Vigée-Lebrun, the composer Gluck, such en-gravers as Robert Strange, Woollett, Ryland, and Smith, and a host of art-lovers from all over the Continent, to do homage to the greatest buriniste in Europe.
Many visit him out of sheer curiosity, like that physician from Nurnberg who comes to see him "simplement pour pouvoir dire qu'il m'a vu." Honors without precedent are heaped on him; he is made a member of the Academies of Vienna, Dresden, Berlin, Rouen, and Augsburg, and he is enabled to sign his plates "Wille, graveur du Roi, de leurs Majestés Impériales et Roy-ales, et de sa Majesté le Roi de Danemark"!
But these honors do not turn his head, nor do they inspire him to enlarge his horizon. He makes no return to the portrait, but continues to interpret finely painted Dutch pictures, and to teach his numerous pupils how to handle the burin with virtuosity. Nothing delights him more than to take them out in the country to sketch the ruins of Port-Royal, the old mills, and picturesque landscape around Meudon, Mantes, and Longjumeau. As a rule they are Wille, Jr., Weirotter, Freudeberg, Preisler, Klauber, and Bervic, and they draw all day long with unflagging enthusiasm. These excursions are delightfully described in the Journal, particularly the one to Morcerf where they found peasants who had never seen Parisians, and where they were obliged to rest their heads at night on pillows filled with sand and broken egg-shells.
Wille's house is known as a well-regulated hostelry and a cheerful school of art, and there is no more joyful company in Paris than the fraternity of distinguished German visitors and boarding-pupils which nightly gathers around his festive board while the air is redolent with the odor of sauerkraut. The genial engraver sits between his beloved wife and his son Pierre-Alexandre, a young enthusiast, who, schooled by Greuze, an intimate friend of the household, becomes proficient as a painter and eventually furnishes his father with several subjects for his engraving.
The artist's picture gallery grows at such a rate that when he decides to sell it, in 1784, the' canvases alone number more than a hundred. He has the enthusiasm of the real collector and cannot keep away from the auction room. "I have given over 5000 livres for two small paintings," he remarks, "but I would not sell them for double that sum"; and we can judge of his pecuniary re-sources by the prices he pays for Van Ostades, Rubens, and Rembrandts. Of a Metzu, he makes this characteristic remark: "Je compte graver ca; it le mérite, it m'a couté cher." Fine prints, of course, he does not disdain, and he is delighted when he secures a splendid impression of the Crowning with Thorns, by Bolswert after Van Dyck, at the Mariette sale, and an equally fine proof of The Four Burgomasters of Amsterdam, by Suyderhoef.
On his way home, however, his conscience is apt to prick him, and then he presents his wife with a gold snuff-box which costs 476 livres, or a magnificent diamond brooch. He leads an easy life, this bon-vivant artist-collector, and it is not surprising to learn that he never engraves more than seven plates in one year. In fact, for five years he makes exactly three, for eight years two, and for eighteen years toward the end of his life his annual production does not exceed one. But then he keeps a Journal!
WHEN the Revolution breaks out, Wille is seventy-five years old and lives alone. Four years before his wife has died, causing him such sorrow that for eleven months he makes no entry in his Journal; his son has gotten married. Here the record of his life takes on a new color. It is true that the mention of letters and callers received, of medicines taken for the grippe, a sore throat, and a little bruise on the leg continues as regularly in 1789 as it did thirty years previously, but on the 14th of July of that year, there is the first peal of thunder which announces a new régime, and Wille suddenly turns historian. His record of that day begins: "Ce jour fut le plus terrible que j'aie jamais vu!"; and then follows a stirring account of the storming of the Bastille. The quiet and happy days are over, and the graver and paint-brushes are laid aside as Wille, Jr., hastens to don the uniform of a captain in the National Guard, and his father, the engraver to several kings, becomes a member of the Cordeliers Club.
For five years he attends all the meetings of that body as well as those of the Académie, in which there are also signs of revolution. The rest of the time he spends en-graving his last plate, and running around the streets of the metropolis, eager for interesting sights. He stands in the rain for hours watching innumerable half-clad men and women armed with pitchforks and scythes as they march on Versailles, and spends another day witnessing the procession of "four hundred thousand" people who return, singing and shouting, from the review at the Champ de Mars. Every day he goes to inspect the demolition of the Bastille, or to see Lafayette ride by at the head of the National Guard. At the taking of the Tuileries, he is an excited spectator, and on another day he finds a crowd at the entrance of the Pont Neuf and discovers that his neighbor Marat has been assassinated. He is awakened in the middle of the night by all the bells of Paris, and learns that the royal family has fled.
But all the confusion and excitement of those dark days, all the extraordinary street scenes of which he is a daily witness, seem to him not more than an interesting theatrical performance on a large scale. Often does he say, "Je rentrai chez moi plein de réflexions," without telling us what his thoughts were. When the king is executed, Wille records the fact in three words, and there is no mention of the death of the queen. His favorite sight is that of his son, the painter of the Soins Maternels and other tender scenes, mounting guard at the Tuileries. He admires his patriotic zeal, his martial air, and a showy uniform "qui fait très bien." In 1790 his last plate, the Marechal des logis, after a painting by his son, makes its appearance. It represents a subject in keeping with the times, the "heroic" act of a sergeant freeing a helpless young girl from the brutality of two highwaymen, and attains considerable success in spite of its pronounced lack of artistic merit and its dedication to the King of Prussia. These are the last days of popular respect for royalty.
Finally the Revolution reaches Wille himself — and ruins him. All the contents of his workshop and gallery, all his copperplates and drawings, his paintings and his beloved medals he never sees again. He is furthermore ordered to give up all his diplomas. The Journal breaks off as he is making a list of them; evidently he does not have the heart to describe the little bonfire which is made of them in front of the house in which he has received so many grandees of the old régime.
All that he can save are the plates for a suite of thirty-six landscapes with figures which he has made during the sketching trips of thirty years. These he publishes with a frontispiece, and sells for thirty francs a set. He is at this time eighty-seven years old, deaf and half blind. The frontispiece represents two blind men led by dogs, moving toward each other to beg for alms. One represents Wille, the other, an old friend who was also ruined by the Revolution. The signature has nothing in common with the pompous ones of his famous portraits: it simply reads: "Done at different times and completed in the year VIII of the Republic, by J. G. Wille, of various academies, counsellor of the cidevant academy of Paris, actually dean of the engravers of Europe."
Seven years later, in 1808, he died, in odor of optimism. He had been born when the Grand Monarque was still living, and all through the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI, throughout the Revolution, the Directoire, and the palmy days of the Napoleonic era, he had conscientiously striven to engrave with perfection, and, to use his own words, "to be a philosopher and to perform as faithfully as possible the duties of a French patriot"!