« PreviousContinue »
Art. XI. The Echo of the Study; or Lectures and Conversations, both
characteristic and sentimental. 12ino. 4s. London. 1818. THE HE most extraordinary feature of this book, is to be found
in the astonishing s dl-complacency with which the writer, in the person of bis fictitious characters, lavishes encoiniums on his own qualifications and compositions. He describes bimself
conversant with authors, as having obtained a large stock of general knowledge,' and as being more fully' acquainted with some select branches of science, and particularly with
the subject of natural and revealed religion' Having thus * enriched' his mind, and looking round him upon his more modest or less enlightened neighbours,
Standing upon an intellectual and moral eminence, where he enjoyed peculiar advantages, he looked down with compassion on the multi ude, and the feelings of bis benevolence said, “ come up hither!"
This gifted and compassionate · Lecturer' goes on to state, that having collected an audience, he ' ascended a few steps to make his person more conspicuous, and proceeded to the execution of his condescending and benevolent scheme. After a gracious apology to his genteeler hearers, for the permitted presence of a few. unlearned plebeians' and 'uneducated cottagers, he proceeds to his immediate subject, which is to recommend 'occasional retirement from the world and the domestic circle, for the purpose of acquiring the knowledge of our
selves, and securing genuine piety. In the earlier portion of this eloquent barangue, we have the following illustration of bis deep and extensive knowledge,' accompanied with a whimsically naïve intimation of the original and recondite authorities from which it had been derived.
. We have no Pope Zachary banishing a Virgilius for asserting the antipodes of the earth. We have no Pindarus and Stesichorus tearing the utter extinction of the great luminaries of heaven, or that some alarming catastrophe would befal them in their eclipses. Nor bave we a Ptolemy confidently stating that the earth stands unmoved in the midst of our planetary system ; but the discoveries of a Pythagoras, confirmed and improved by a Newton, which enrich our Encyclopædius, employ a portion of time in our seminaries of learning, and serve to enlarge, strengthen, and adorn our understandings.'
After the Lecture, which certainly contains very good and wholesome advice, a gentleman, who had been present, resumes the subject by bis own fireside, and after praising the clear and 'forcible manner in which it had been enforced by the Lecturer, goes on to express his own conviction of sinful negligence and resolution of amendment, in which he is at last joined by bis daughter.
The second lecture is 'on the excuses persons make for the 'commission of sin ;' and this is followed by two dialogues between Miss Springhope and Mr. Wildflower, in which the latter is ultimately convinced of his error in slighting his immortal interests, and indulging a light and vicious spirit. At the third lecture, on theatrical amusements, the Lecturer presents himself to the attention of his auditory in a manner adapted to
conciliate esteem.' He prefaces by reading a letter, in which his addresses are termed pathetic and heart-searching,' and then goes on to make a number of comments, perfectly just indeed, but without much novelty, in which he contrives to siew his learning by some choice Greek criticisms, much, we presume, to the edification of his 'uneducated cottagers,' and avowedly to the admiration of a Miss Matilda,' who praises hiin to the very skies. We are told that the gentleman evinced consider• able discernment in his discriminations,' that he was 'a fine 'scholar and a good Christian,' that his lecture was delivered with 'pathos and effect,' and other dainty phrases of the same kind. On the evening of the last lecture, public expectation had been screwed up to a high pitch, and the study was crowded to excess. This address turns principally on the broad and narrow way, and contains much sound and salutary urgency on the great business of salvation. The volume is closed with a dialogue between John and Thomas, in which the old propensity manifests itself in the admiration of the gentle'man,' expressed by the rustics.
We confess that we have been astonished out of measure by this strange and injudicious obtrusion of self-applause. The Author surely could not be weak enough to suppose that bis readers would so far indentify the observations with the supposititious speakers, as to lose sight of the fact that they were gravely written by the very individual to whom they were applied. We regret this unaccountable indiscretion the more, because the work itself, though by no means distinguished for depth or richness, is on the whole adapted to do good.
Art. X. 1. Considérations sur les Principaur Evénemens de la Rérol
tion Françoise. Ouvrage Postume de Mad. la Baronne de Staël, publié par M. le Duc de Broglie, et M. le Baron A. de Staël. En trois Tomes. 8vo. pp. 1287. London. 1818.
2. Considerations on the Principal Events of the French Rerolution, &c.
(Concluded from Page 344.) ONTESQUIEU has said that, Quand les dieux ont
souffert que Sylla se soit impunément fait dictateur dans • Rome, ils y ont proscrit la liberté pour jamais.' There might
be some general truth in such a remark, when applied to the Roman commonwealth, which, as a social body, existed alone, at least in the western world, and which, in the period of its decline, could derive the inpulse of political regeneration from no exterior source, its whole stock of motives for renovation being contained in the recollections of past greatness; but the reproaches of history have in no instance proved adequate to recall the spirit of public virtue. Had Carthage and the Grecian States preserved their political existence and their liberties, they would have operated indirectly to preserve or renovate the liberties of Rome. But the course of degradation in wbich she descended, was hopeless, because she had precluded herself from all the benefits of rivalry and comparison, and removed from the earth every shelter for her defeated patriots, and trodden down every foreign nursery for public virtue. The several communities of the modern civilized world, are very differently circumstanced.
The members of the European system are sufficiently independent of each other to secure, in the worst of times, somewhere among them, an asylum for freedom and good principles, and, at the same time, too closely connected for it to be possible entirely to exclude from any one part the leaven of these irresistible principles always existing in other parts. Europe, at once by its political division and its moral union, is fitted to be the conservatory of the social interests of inen: considered as a whole, it contains within itself greater resources, both of impulse and of diffused strength, than any of the solitary empires of antiquity, as well as affords better promise for the liberties of the people, than could belong to a scheme of explicit federation. * Europe, viewed in comparison with the disjoined semi-barbarism of ille rest of the world, presents the image of a family, hopeful by its rivalries, energetic even by its discords, and strong by its sentiment of fraternity. This situation, novel in the history of the world, destroys the conclusiveness of reasonings relative to the fate of particular European states, which rest upon the examples of the Grecian republics or of Rome.
It is the consequence of this domestic reciprocation of independent powers, that any attempt on the part of a people to frame its own condition irrespectively of the standing good sense of the European community, such as that made in France five and twenty years ago, can last no longer
* If it were pot for the reflected influence of Europe, perhaps the preservation of American liberties would necessitate the disunion the States.
than the nine days' date of popular turbulence. It may be hoped also, on the other handi, 'that henceforth it will not be practicable for governors effectually to secrete a whole people from common day-light, and intercept all correspondence with their happier brethren. There is, then, a foundation for the hope of gradual meliorations in modern governments, which did not belong to the instances usually cited as data in such speculations, and which may be set in opposition to the most discouraging appearances of the moment.
It is indeed true, that a revolution-the mere ebullition of slavery, has seemed to exhaust the healthful political force of the French people. It is true, that Syila' has with in punity trodden upou the necks of those who, so lately, could not support even the empty appellation of the inost modest royalty. It is true also, that the French liave been reduced to accept from the moderation of their neighbours, more political liberty than they had strength or virtue to procure and defend for themselves : and yet, with so little that is hopeful in their case, considered by itself, it is hard to imagine that, in the fice of the general opinion of Europe, the people of France will fall back again into the stifling arms of a mere court government, or that they will, from the last of vengeance, take the first occasion to place themselves again under the sword of a military despotism.
The once formidable individual now in our keeping, as an individual, and one whose personal qualities are by no means of the kind to interest the feelings, might well be suffered to rest from attack, sheltered in the depth of his overthrow; but, as the tool, the creature, and the representative of the political vices of the French, be must needs still be spoken of. There is no occasion, however, for inflated invective, or the accumulation of offensive epithets; a characier like that of Bonaparte, needs only be deprived for a time of the means of direct and active influence, to lose all its illusive power. Had the military talent of Bonaparte been supported by great and interesting moral qualities, the rocks of St Helena could not have shut bim up from bis empire over the minds of men. The captivity of a man who has swayed a sceptre, soon proves and determines his real desert Whatever may be the intention or the vengeance of those who bold his person, his prison becomes either an invisible throne, from whence he still rules in the hearts of his people, or a gibbet, precisely according to the personal character of the occupant. So long as Bonaparte survives, he will passively exercise a salutary function for the benefit of mankind, in adding every year a fresh measure of contempt to the load which himself has brought upon the bad principles of his
system. It is then of some importance, that the eminent culprit should still, as it were, be pointed at; at least, until it appears the French people have themselves conceived a thorough and well instructed contempt for the degrading tyranny which has been rent from them.
Mad. de Staël speaks of Bonaparte without passion. It is greatly to be desired that her representations on this subject may be generally read in France. We can quote only her introductory description of his character.
• In the different observations which I have brought together on the character of Bonaparte, I have not referred to his private character, of which indeed I know nothing, and which concerns not the interests of France.'
• I have not advanced a single fact in bis history that is doubtful; for the calumnies that have been lavished upon hiin, seem to more odious, than the adulations of which he was the object. I flatter myself that I have juiged him as all public men ought to be judged, according to what they have done for the prosperity, the illumination, and the morality of nations. The persecutions which Bonaparte has directed against me, have not, I may affirm, influenced my opinion ; on the contrary, I have found it necessary rather to resist that sort of subjection of the imagination, which is produced by an extraordinary genius and a fearful destiny. I could even willingly have suffered myself to be seduced by the satisfaction which elevated souls find in undertaking the defence of an unfortunate man, and by the pleasure of placing myself more directly in contrast with those writers, and those orators, who, yesterday prostrate before him, cease not now to attack him ; prudently reckoning, I suppose, upon the height of the rocks which shut him in. But one cannot be silent with respect to Bonaparte, even now that he is vanquished, because his political doctrine reigns still, among his enemies, as well as among his partisans. For of all the heritage of his terrible power, nothing remains with mankind but the fatal knowledge of some farther secrets in the art of tyranny."
With this preface we may introduce Mad. de Staël's description of Bonaparte.
'General Bonaparte attracted attention as much by his character and his mind, as by his victories; and the imagination of the French began to be fixed upon him. There reigned in his style a moderation and a nobleness, which formed a contrast 10 revolutionary asperity of the civil chiefs of France. The warrior spoke like a magistrate, while magistrales expressed themselves with a military violence. It was under a favourable impression that I saw him for the first time at Paris. I could find no words to reply to him, when he told me, that he had sought for my father at Coppet, and that he regretted having passed