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Hereditary Genius
THE merits of literary men are so differently rated by their
contemporaries and by posterity, that I gave up in despair the project
of selecting a small list of first-class authors. I have, therefore,
confined myself to the names of able writers that came most
prominently in my way, and have occasionally inserted men who
were not quite of the first class, but who were interesting in other
respects. It is remarkable to find how little is known of the near
kinsmen of many of the greatest literary men, especially of those who
lived in ancient times; and I have reason to think that our ignorance is
in many cases due to mere historical neglect rather than to the fact of
their abilities or achievements being unworthy of record. The general
result of my inquiries is such as to convince me, that more than one-
half of the great literary men have had kinsmen of high ability.
The total number of names included in my list of kinships is
thirty-seven. I will here add the names of those into whose lives
I inquired, who do not appear to have had “eminent” relations;
they are nineteen in number, as follow:—
Cervantes; De Foe (his son wrote, but was ridiculed by Pope); Fichte; La Fontaine;
Genlis, Mme.; Gibbon (however, see Lord Chancellor Hardwicke for a distant kinship);
Goldsmith; Jeffrey; Samuel Johnson (but his father was not an ordinary man);
Montaigne; Montesquieu; Rabelais; Richardson, the novelist; Rousseau; Scott, Sir W.;
Sydney Smith; Smollett; Sterne; and Voltaire.
Addison, Joseph; author of the Spectator, &c. He was well known to the great
patrons of literature, aet. 25. Was a most elegant writer. Secretary of State
under George I.
F. Launcelot Addison; a divine of considerable learning and observation; Dean of
Lichfield; author.
Aikin, John, M.D.; eminent physician and popular author of
the last century.
(“Evenings at Home.”)
b. Mrs. Barbauld, charming writer of children's tales.
[S.] Arthur Aikin, inherited much of his father's literary talent, but was chiefly
interested in science. Editor of the “Annual Review.”
[s.] Lucy Aikin, also authoress. Previous page Top Next page