Page images
PDF
EPUB

rious priesthood. Then, at length, concessions were made which the subjects of Louis the Fourteenth would have thought it impious even to desire,-which the most factious opponent of Louis the Fifteenth had never ventured to ask, which, but a few years before, would have been received with ecstasies of gratitude. But it was too late !

The imprisoned Genie of the Arabian Tales, during the early period of his confinement, promised wealth, empire, and super, natural powers to the man who should extricate him. But when he had waited long in vain, mad with rage at the continuance of his captivity, he vowed to destroy his deliverer without mercy ! Such is the gratitude of nations exasperated by misgovernment to rulers who are slow to concede. The first use which they make of freedom is to avenge themselves on those who have been so slow to grant it. • Never was this disposition more remarkably displayed than at the period of which we speak. Abuses were swept away with unsparing severity. The royal prerogatives, the feudal privileges, the provincial distinctions, were sacrificed to the passions of the people, Everything was given; and everything was given in vain. Distrust and hatred were not to be thus eradicated from the minds of men who thought that they were not receiving favours but extorting rights; and that, if they deserved blame, it was not for their insensibility to tardy benefits, but for their forgetfulness of past oppression. • What followed was the necessary consequence of such a state of feeling. The recollection of old grievances made the people suspicious and cruel. The fear of popular outrages produced emigrations, intrigues with foreign courts; and, finally, a general war. Then came the barbarity of fear; the triple despotism of the clubs, the committees, and the commune; the organized anarchy, the fanatical atheism, the scheming and far-sighted madness, the butcheries of the Chatelet, and the accursed marriages of the Loire, The whole property of the nation changed hands. Its best and wisest citizens were banished or murdered. Dungeons were emptied by assassins as fast as they were filled by spies. Provinces were made desolate. Towns were unpeopled. Old things passed away. All things became new.

The paroxysm terminated. A singular train of events restored the house of Bourbon to the French throne. The exiles have returned. But they have returned as the few survivors of the deluge returned to a world in which they could recognise nothing; in which the valleys had been raised, and the mountains depressed, and the courses of the rivers changed, in which sand i VOL. XLVĮ. NO. 91,

S

and sea-weed had covered the cultivated fields and the walls of imperial cities. They have returned to seek in vain, amidst the mouldering relics of a former system, and the fermenting eles ments of a new creation, the traces of any remembered object. The old boundaries are obliterated. The old laws are forgotten. The old titles have become laughing-stocks. The gravity of the parliaments, and the pomp of the hierarchy; the Doctors whose disputes agitated the Sorbonne, and the embroidered multitude whose footsteps wore out the marble pavements of Versailles, -all have disappeared. The proud and voluptuous prelates who feasted on silver, and dozed amidst curtains of massy velvet, have been replaced by curates who undergo every drudgery and every humiliation for the wages of lackeys. To those gay and elegant nobles who studied military science as a fashionable accomplishment, and expected military rank as a part of their birthright, have succeeded men born in lofts and cellars; educated in the half-naked ranks of the revolutionary armies, and raised by ferocious valour and self-taught skill, to dignities with which the coarseness of their manners and language forms a grotesque contrast. The government may amuse itself by playing at despotism, by reviving the names and aping the style of the old court-as Helenus in Epirus consoled himself for the lost magnificence of Troy, by calling his brook Xanthus, and the entrance of his little capital the Scæan gate. But the law of entail is gone, and cannot be restored. The liberty of the press is established, and the feeble struggles of the Minister cannot permanently put it down. The Bastille is fallen, and can never more rise from its ruins. A few words, a few ceremonies, a few rhetorical topics, make up all that remains of that system which was founded so deeply by the policy of the house of Valois, and adorned so splendidly by the pride of Louis the Great.

Is this a romance? Or is it a faithful picture of what has lately been in a neighbouring land- of what may shortly be, within the borders of our own ? Has the warning been given in vain ? Have our Mannerses and Clintons so soon forgotten the fate of houses as wealthy and as noble as their own? Have they forgotten how the tender and delicate woman,—the woman who would not set her foot on the earth for tenderness and delicateness, the idol of gilded drawing-rooms, the pole-star of crowded theatres, the standard of beauty, the arbitress of fashion, the patroness of genius,—was compelled to exchange her luxurious and dignified ease for labour and dependence, the sighs of Dukes and the flattery of bowing Abbés for the insults of rude pupiks and exacting mothers ;-perhaps, even to draw an infamous and

miserable subsistence from those charms which had been the glory of royal circles—to sell for a morsel of bread her reluctant caresses and her haggard smiles-to be turned over from a garret to a hospital, and from a hospital to a parish vault? Have they forgotten how the gallant and luxurious nobleman, sprung from illustrious ancestors, marked out from his cradle for the highest honours of the State and of the army, impatient of control, exquisitely sensible of the slightest affront, with all his high spirit, his polished manners, his voluptuous habits, was reduced to request, with tears in his eyes, credit for half-a-crown, —to pass day after day in hearing the auxiliary verbs mis-recited, or the first page of Télémaque misconstrued, by petulant boys, who infested him with nicknames and caricatures, who mimicked his foreign accent, and laughed at his thread-bare coat ? Have they forgotten all this? God grant that they may never remember it with unavailing self-accusation, when desolation shall have visited wealthier cities and fairer gardens; when Manchester shall be as Lyons, and Stowe as Chantilly ;-when he who now, in the pride of rank and opulence, sneers at what we have written in the bitter sincerity of our hearts, shall be thankful for a porringer of broth at the door of some Spanish convent, or shall implore some Italian money-lender to advance another pistole on his George !

Note on Viebuhr's Roman History.

We have long been desirous of giving an account to our countrymen of M. Viebuhr's Roman History,--one of the most justly celebrated works of our times. But finding that the allthor was employed in preparing a Second Edition, so enlarged and amended as to be a new work, we postponed our criticism until its publication; and having since learned that a Translation from the Second Edition is now preparing, with the approbation and sanction of M. Niebuhr, by Messrs Hare and Thirlwall, of Trinity College, Cambridge, we think it better to defer the criticism till a version thus authorized shall be in the hands of the general reader. A translation has, indeed, appeared; but we understand it to be made from the first edition, and it would be sufficient for us to know, as we do, that it is disapproved and disavowed by M. Niebuhr, The English public are, in common fairness, bound to try him by the edition of this work which he offers as complete, and by the translation which he adopts as a faithful copy of the original. Mr Thirlwall is already known by his Version of Schleiermacher on St Luke's Gospel,-a volume which surpasses most original works in ability and learning. It has been said, but we believe most inaccurately, that the alterations of M. Niebuhr in his second edition, have a political purpose.

No. XCII. will be published in October.

Printed by Ballantyne & Co.

« PreviousContinue »