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BETWEEN RICARDO AND ADAM SMITH? Part II.,
VINCES IN 1836–7. PART III.,
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We have at length arrived at the to a new source of power; that, aban. tenth and closing volume of Mr Ali- doning the old and formal influences son's able and important work; and, of the state, they adopted influences while we congratulate the writer on altogether new ; that, abandoning the the intelligence which conceived, the old official organs of national imtalent which sustained, and the vigour pression, they spoke directly to the which completed such a performance, multitude. Leaving thrones and we still more congratulate the coun- hierarchies to their stately ineffitry on the possession of one of the ciency, they turned their faces at noblest offerings which our age has once to the vast aggregate who stood laid upon the altar of historic lite- without the walls of palace and temrature.
ple, and who answered them with a The choice of the subject itself was shout, which in the former instance highly judicious. It gave great op- shook superstition in its strongholds, portunities to a writer capable of and in the latter loosened the foundaemploying them. The French Revo. tions of all established rule. But lution was the most influential event here the similitude ends. The Reforsince the Reformation. In its magni- mation was the greatest gift of Protude, its depth of appeal to human vidence since the establishment of opinions, the extent to which it im- Christianity ; the French Revolution pressed the old European system, and the most reckless display of human the strong impulse which it has given guilt since the supremacy of Rome. to the minds of nations, there is a The one was an illustrious example singular resemblance to the rime of those interpositions by which the mover of the sixteenth century. Their Supreme Disposer condescends from principles alone differ, and the differ- time to time to invigorate man, willence, in that point, is obviously ex- ing, but too weak, for virtue. The treme; but their instrumentality has latter was an example of that rea remarkable similitude. The same morseless and precipitate rapidity element which sweeps away the har- with which man, left to the guidance vest and the soil, is the source of all of the passions, plunges into public fertility. The furrow torn up by the and personal ruin. thunderbolt differs little in appear- But the advantages of the Revoluance from the tillage of the plough. tion as a subject of authorship, are The especial characteristic of both more striking than those of the Reforwas, that they addressed themselves mation. It was a complete event,
History of Europe, from the Commencement of the French Revolution in 1789, to the Restoration of the Bourbons in 1815. By ARCHIBALD ALison. Vol. x.
VOL. LII. NO. CCCXXIV.
circumscribed within a quarter of the flame in its own ashes, and sagaa century; an entire action, of the ciously and constantly employing at highest interest and most extraordi- once the splendours of monarchy and nary variousness of incident and cha- the vigilance of despotism, to make racter, compressed into the briefest the people forget the license of the period of any one great change in Republic, or dread a collision with the history; an action, too, near enough weight of the sovereignty.
At once to our time to possess the full excite- to dazzle and restrain; to make the ment of novelty, yet remote enough populace proud, yet afraid of the to supply us with the calmness and
sceptre; to indulge the national love strength of ascertained fact. The of display, and yet keep the national Revolution has utterly passed away in caprices in rigid subordination, is the substance, but still exists in spirit; existing policy. Far be it from us to for no man can rationally look upon visit it with blame; it is the only pothe feverish condition of Europe at licy for France. Yet this is only the the present day, the restlessness of the régime of Louis XIV., exercised with public mind, or the power of popular a more delicate skill, and adapted to opinion every where, without tracing a more trying era. The building of their alliance with the convulsions of Versailles was more a stratagem of 1789. Nothing can be clearer, than state than even an indulgence of royal that the old constitution of European luxury. The new embellishment of government has been essentially alter- Versailles is in the same spirit; but the ed, however it may retain its shape, in king has added to it the fortification foreign countries. Like the conjecture of Paris, and the union is only em. of some of our philosophers, that, in blematic of the time. the deluge, the axis of the earth sus. Mr Alison will have achieved antained a shock which changed its cli- other triumph if the success of his mates ; the moral deluge which, in work shall excite a taste for historical our day, overran the civilized world, writing among our authors. In the did more than sweep its surface it last century England took the lead in shifted the position of its governmental history. It was most unfortunate that poles, and impressed a new character Gibbon's irreligious follies should have upon the temperament of its nations. been transferred to his “ Decline and Representation, a principle once un- Fall of Rome;" for in all other reheard of but in England, is now the spects he stands at the head of all the demand or the possession of Europe. historians of his time. His copiousWhat termination it may find is be- ness of knowledge, his rich though yond our conjecture; but that it is formal style, and his singular power advancing, and will continue to ad- of arrangement, rendered his vast vance, until it absorbs every other history the first in the world. Its principle, is almost a matter of de- massiveness and magnificence remind monstration. Yet the French Revo- us of the architecture of antiquity ; lution has wholly past away. We have one of those great Basilicas, at once seen its cradle, its maturity, and its a palace, a seat of judgment, and a grave. Like the double entombment temple, exhibiting boundless ornaof Napoleon, it was inhumed alike at ment, costliness, and solidity of maMarengo and at Waterloo. Or, like that terial; yet degraded by many an mighty soldier himself, its spirit may impure emblem, filled with false worbe wandering through earth or air, ship, and breathing the incense of the but its body will never reappear be- passions. fore men, at least in the shape in The other two great historians of which it descended into the sepulchre. this period have been too long fixed Europe exhibits an almost total sup- in their rank to suffer modern cenpression of the republican forms; and
Hume was evidently a man of the first fruits of the Revolution have remarkable skill, and nothing can be been a harvest of minor monarchies. more adroit than his general ingeFrance herself is controlled by a puity, or more graceful than the chief powerful throne, using popular forms portion of his narrative. But more only to exercise a more resolute au- exact knowledge has gradually dimi. thority over popular passions ; skil- nished his interest, and a true and fully using the Revolution to put great history of England is yet to be down the Revolution, extinguishing written,
Robertson's name must always be ing of its candour, venality pretendregarded among the honours of his ing to independence, and perfidy trafcountry. He has sincerity, knowledge, ficking in principle. A Wbig can no and a serious yet forcible eloquence. more comprehend the constitution It is to be regretted that his tempera- than a gambler can honour the tenth ment does not display more of the commandment. glow which reanimates dead transac- The modern French historians have tions, and gives immediate interest to the universal vice of their country. men and things long swept away All their tastes are theatrical; their from the eyes of man ; perhaps some language, their conceptions, their consideration of his rank as a divine judgments are all borrowed from the may have modelled his style as a his. stage. With the most painful effort torian. The most gallant enterprize for novelty, they have not the power of patriotism, or the severest sacrifice of producing any thing new beyond of piety, is too often recorded with the smartness of a vaudeville. Where the unimpassioned severity of an in- great events come before them, they scription on the grave.
are marched across their pages as if Hallam is an exact, laborious, and they were heralded by the trumpets and vigorous writer. But, probably dis- drums of the “ Grande opera ;” chadaining the graces of style, he natu- racters are dressed in tinsel; show and rally loses their captivation. No man sentimentare borrowed from Corneille more keenly discovers facts, or more and Racine. The History of the Rerigidly separates truth from fiction, volution from the pen of M. Thiers, but there he is content. Having quar- might be cut up into scenes, and reried the marble, he leaves it to some presented on the Française at twentyfuture hand to bring out the form, four hours' notice. and give it those fine touches which Germany has yet, produced but one constitute beauty. The steinness of man gifted with the true powers of a his political principles, gives sternness historian, and that man also her only to all his conceptions. His saturnine great dramatist. Schiller's “ Thirty and formal school is never surprised Years' War" is a noble performance, into sympatby with human actions. at once profound and glowing, subtle He classes the noblest historic recol- and substantial; but it is too narrow lections like the plants of a hortus for the foundation of a historic fame. siccus, or the minerals of a museum,
It has another obstacle. No man can and lectures on them with the cold- be a great writer without the spirit of ness of a philosopher in the midst of a poet. But Schiller has made his bis shelves. The king, the soldier, history too poetical; it is a gallery of and the beauty, are to him merely illustrious shades, which he less despecimens. In his most glowing mo- scribes than invocates.
It is an epic ments, he only sits like one of the in prose. The tastes of Germany, judges of the dead in the ancient my- though ultra.commonplace in the thology, calmly passes sentence on general things of life, yet swell the departed clay, and coldly dismisses into unaccountable extravagance the mighty movers of the earth to wherever the subject belongs to higher the land of shadows.
scenes. There is an evident consci. The later writers of history in Eng- ousness of its earthward tendency in land have scarcely risen beyond the the German mind, which makes it rank of compilers. “ Memoirs to fearful of trusting to the course of serve for the use of historians," nature; it doubts its own limbs, and “ Notes," “ Dissertations," are in therefore borrows stilts; it knows the general the highest title which their national propensity to creep on the labours deserve. Their volumes have ground, and therefore it strains every been chiefly written by Whigs, and effort to spring into the air ; the most of course, for party purposes--this
matter.of-fact of all existing generarenders them useless for purposes of tions, it yearns to be the most etheall higher kinds. Whiggism, in its real; a German genius is nothing best points of view, is prejudice that without a rapture, and his rapture is refuses to be enlightened, ignorance reverie ; his muse is metaphysical, that defies instruction, and self-suffi- and his metaphysics press as nearly as ciency that perverts experience. In possible to the verge where “madness its worse points, it is hypocrisy boast- rules the realm beyond." There is