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Adam Not the First Man

AMONG the many singular opinions which some have endeavoured to establish, and in which indeed they have themselves firmly confided, not the least to be distinguished is that of one Isaac de la Peyrere, of Bourdeaux. He is the author of a book entitled, “The Pre-Adamites,” where he attempts to shew that Adam is not the first of men. He was always dreaming on this during his life, and died in its firm belief. He would have been glad to have known, that an ancient Rabbin was so much inclined towards his system, that he has even ventured to reveal the name of the Preceptor of Adam! But this Rabbin (as Menage observes) was a Rabbin, and that is saying enough.

When this book first made its appearance, it was condemned to be burnt by the hand of the common hangman. Menage has preserved a pretty Bon Mot of the Prince de Guemene, which passed about the time this book made a noise. One Father Adam, a Jesuit, preached at St. Germain, before the Queen. The sermon was execrable; and being at the same time very personal, was greatly disliked at Court. The Queen spoke concerning it to the Prince, and asked him his opinion. “Madam,” he replied, “I am a Pre-Adamite.”—“What does that mean?” said the Queen.—“It, is, Madam,” the Prince wittily answered, “that I do not think Father Adam to be the first of men.” Voltaire, at Ferney, had also a Pere-Adam, on whom he frequently played off this witticism of the Prince; and those who are acquainted with his creed., may believe that his observations on Father Adam were not a little pungent.

These Pre-Adamites bring to my recollection two humorous lines of Prior, in his Alma—

“And lest I should be wearied, Madam,
  To cut things short, come down to Adam.”

In the Memoirs of Niceron are the titles of twelve treatises published against Isaac de la Peyrere, the Pre-Adamite. And this satirical epitaph was also composed on him, that after having been pleased with four religions at once, he became a Pre-Adamite; but his indifference was such, that, after eighty years, he had to choose one, the good man died without choosing any.

La Peyrere ici-git, ce bon Israelite,
Huguenot, Catholique, enfin Pre-Adamite,
Quatre religions lui plurent à la fois,
Et son indifference etoit si peu commune,
Qu’apres quatre vingt ans qu’il eut a faire un choix,
Le bon homme partit, et n’en choisit aucune.

Loredano, a noble Venetian, who lived in the last century, has written The Life of Adam. This work is translated by Richard Murray, 1748. It is composed with great wit, and delicacy; but the world, in those times less profane, was shocked at the romantic, and licentious air, which prevails throughout the work. This is the occupation which he gives, even to the divine Being himself, just after the first sin of Adam—

“In the mean time God walked in the garden, amidst the freshness of the cool zephyrs, when, at the decline of day, they blow with increased force. This action of the divine Majesty shews the disquietude which the sin of Man occasioned him, since, to moderate his just indignation, he seemed to want the aid of the evening breezes, which blow with a tempering coolness.”

On this licentious thought Bayle observes, that a Pagan poet would hardly have been excusable to have written such a circumstance relative to Jupiter.

On the name of Adam, there is a neat epigram by the Duke of Saint Agnan. He addressed it to a famous poetic Carpenter, whose name was Maitre Adam, and whose verses flowed from a charming natural talent. He says, that for his verses, and his name, he was the first man in the world.

Ornement du Siecle ou nous sommes,
Vous n’aurez rien de moi, si non
Que pour les vers, et pour le nom
Vous etes, le premier des Hommes.