Images de page
[ocr errors]

Information. How Lord Edward Fitzgerald could be implicated in the other promised subjects we never could have guessed; but Sir John brings it about as naturally as possible.

The muleteers have the reputation of being high spirited fellows, very proud, and full of the dignity of their country. A guide is commonly called a mozo de espuellas, or groom of the spurs. When the unfortunate Lord Edward Fitzgerald was in this part of the country, several years since, one of the muleteers who attended him, upon their reaching the place to which they were hired, said to his comrades, this man is a duke; he is one of us, and we must not charge him any thing.'

The following equally acute and novel way of accounting for vallies being better cultivated than mountains, though stated by Sir John with regard to Spain only, seems capable of a more general application.

' In Spain, the rains descend with such fury, as to carry away the greater part of the vegetable mould, upon the surface of the mountains, which will account for the low lands being in general so highly cultivated.'

At Valencia he makes some equally ingenious and valuable observations: Fish boiled with rice,' he finds a favourite dish at dinner :'--and • such is the fecundity of the pigeons of those parts, that they lay two eggs in twenty-four hours. Sir John has also been at the pains to assure us, that it is calculated that not less than seven thousand turkeys are exported from the kingdom of Valencia to Cadiz.' (p. 240.)

Such are the observations, moral, political, historical, and philosophical, with which Sir John has adorned his book; and the reader who has a taste for such information and amusement will find abundant gratification from the beginning to the end of the volume. We do not wish, however, to represent this

work as containing nothing but such stuff as we have quoted. There is in Spain, and in Spanish scenes and Spanish manners, so peculiar and romantic a character, that even Sir John Carr cannot degrade it to absolute flatnes; and sometimes, when he so far forgets himself as to tell just what he sees and no more, his relation is not uninteresting—but these are rare and involuntary occasions; and on the whole we do not know that we ever met a book of travels in which a good subject was so miserably spoiled by ignorance, and presumption.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

ART. XIV. Biographie Moderne : Lires of remarkable Cha

racters who have distinguished themselves from the Commencement of the French Revolution to the present time. From the

French. 3 vols. 8vo. London ; Longman and Co. 1812. IN N the years 1797 and 1798 appeared two volumes under the title

of Biographical Anecdotes of the Founders of the French Republic,'made up from the communications of Englishmen in France and Freuchmen in England, and from such memoirs of the revolu. tion as had at that time appeared. The principles of the compiler led him to hazard opinions upon the passing scene, and upon the actors who then possessed the stage, with ludicrous temerity; but he had the merit of collecting many remarkable and authentic facts. The work now before us is of the same kind, with this difference only, that it is arranged in alphabetic order; it is more copious, and not written with the same bias; but, considering the years which have elapsed and the opportunities which they have afforded, it is not so much better as it ought to have been, and would have been if equal industry had been bestowed upon it. It is said to have been first published at Paris, in the year 1801, but immediately suppressed there because it was written in a republican spirit, and exposed the inconsistency of those persons who, after having distinguished themselves by their professions of republican zeal, had become the supple agents of the consular government. In 1806 it appeared in a new form, whatever could be thought offensive being omitted, and the lives of foreign contemporaries introduced. Still the subject was offensive to the established tyranny; the book was again prohibited, and the authors were punished. A translation of this mutilated work is what is now offered to the English public.

What the book may have lost by these omissions we know not; but the manner in which it is executed is not such as to excite much regret for what may have been curtailed. It is a collection of facts and dates put together in a dry and jejune manner, perfectly worthy of the abecedary form in which it is arranged. A most interesting dictionary might indeed be formed upon the same subject, but it would require a man like Bayle to form it. Materials for the history of the French revolution could not perhaps be brought together in a more convenient form than that of clear and precise biographical notices, with copious notes appended, forming a digest of the opinions and actions of those who figured in the dreadful revolutionary drama. That sort of industry which Bayle possessed would be peculiarly adapted to such an undertaking; an industry to which his various desultory researches served as relaxation, and which was not to be deterred either by the quantity or the quality of


the documents upon which it worked. Such a temper and such talents, if employed upon the French revolution, would produce a work more valuable than the great • Dictionnaire Historique et Critique,' and one which no perversity of intellect, or impurity of imagination, could render mischievous, now that the character of that revolution can no longer be mistaken.

Poor and meagre as these volumes are, if compared with what they might have been and with what a man of talents and of industry may produce upon the same subject, they have yet their value. To those readers who do not remember the beginning of the French revolution it would be difficult or impossible to convey the feelings 'which they have excited in us, in whom they revive the memory of that stirring season when the best and the worst principles and passions were not only called into action with equal force, but were even blended together as strangely as the discordant elements of chaos. That season has past away. A generation has gone by since the commencement of this bloody drama. They who were the chief actors in the first part have disappeared. To how many parts it may be prolonged is beyond the reach of human foresight. We who saw the beginning may probably never see the end: but it is so far advanced that men of all parties, with that sad wisdom' which exa perience as well as folly leaves behind,' may profitably look back upon the different errors which led them to such opposite yet equally erroneous conclusions. Mr. Roscoe himself will now perhaps admit that the star which rose over the vine-covered hills' of France was not the day-star of liberty;' and he who celebrated "the pilot that weathered the storm,' would probably, at this moment, allow that the storm is by no means over, and (transcendant 'as may have been the pilot's merits) that the ship is still far from port.

The first age of the French revolution was the age of reformers. Many things in France required reform; the people were prepared for it; and by a strong government and an able minister it miglit safely have been effected. But the government was weak, the finances embarrassed, the royal family, with the exception of the king, unpopular, the lower classes ignorant, the higher classes immoral and irreligious, the character of the nation vain, fickle, and presumptuous beyond that of any other people, with a latent ferocity of which they did not even suspect theinselves, though their whole history bore testimony of it.

Est-il dans l'univers des humains plus aimables,
Plus dignes d'être aimés, à leur roi plus sounis ?

Prompts, extrêmes, legers, mais de vice incapables, was what they said of themselves only five years before the worst I E 2


crimes of the revolution were committed! and so little has that revolution contributed to their self-knowledge that the president of Buonaparte's senate, when he congratulated Maria Louisa upon her marriage, told her she would find the French a tender-hearted people, always anxious to love those who governed them, and to place affection by the side of obedience! If she has ears to hear, with what feelings must the niece of Marie Antoinette have heard this language!

The intentions of the first movers of the revolution were, in many instances, good. Whatever errors they may have committed, such men as D'Espremenil, Mounier, Lally Tollendal, and Barnave, may be allowed even by the warmest adherent of the Bourbons to have meant well, and it had been well for Mirabeau if his other of fences had been as venial as his political ones. Mirabeau at tacked the edifice of government not for the purpose of destroying it, but because he wanted to force his way in and obtain a command in the garrison. He relied upon his own great talents to controul the ferment which he had contributed to raise: great as those talents were they would probably have proved insufficient; and if he had lived he would have found that he had conjured up stronger spirits than he knew how to lay. The state of public feeling which he and his colleagues bad excited has been well described by Cardinal de Retz, a man as profligate and as able as himself. Dans cette agitation les questions que leurs explications firent naître d'oba scures qu'elles étoient et vénérables


leurs obscurités, devinrent problématiques, et de-, à l'égard de la moitié du monde, odieuses. Le peuple entra dans le sanctuaire, il leva le voile qui doit toujours couvrir tout ce que l'on peut croire du droit des peuples et de celui des rois, qui ne s'accordent jamais si bien ensemble lence. Retz’s mensoirs might have prevented any well informed men from being deceived by the French revolution. Whoever, indeed, had studied the history of France, and especially that portion of it in which Goudy acted so conspicuous a part, ought to have understood the character of the people too well to hope that any fine fabric of political wisdom could be formed of such materials.

Among the reformers were many sincere patriots and some statesmen. The republicans who rose upon their ruins were of all men least fitted for the perilous situation into which they had thrust themselves. There are epidemics of the mind as well as of the body; the revolutionary fever of France was a complaint of a violent and deadly type: nothing but this endemic derangement could have made such men as the Brissotines fancy themselves qualified for the management of a state. In other times Brissot himself would have beon contented to twinkle in his proper sphere among literatuli of


que dans le si

the third or fourth order; Condorcet would have confined himself to his mathematics, and his drier metaphysics; Roland would have continued to set an example of virtue in private life, and the talents of his wife might probably have been known only to her family and to her friends-not to posterity. This extraordinary woman perceived the disease of the times, even though she partook of it so strongly. Il est fort difficile,' said she, 'de ne point se passioner en révolution; on ne peut y parvenir qu'avec une activité, un

dévouë. ment qui tiennent de l'exaltation, ou qui la produisent. She perceived also the cause which brought on the destruction of her husband's party. Dès lors on saisit avidemment ce qui peut servir, et l'on perd la faculté de prévoir ce qui pourra nuire. De-cette confiance, cet empressement à profiter d'un mouvement subit, sans remonter à son origine pour bien savoir comment on doit le diriger; de-cette indelicatesse, si je peux ainsi parler, dans la concurrence d'agens qu'on n'estime pas, mais qu'on laisse faire, parce qu'ils semblent aller au même but.'

This cause was fatal both to the Constitutionalists and the Brissotines. Each of these parties proceeded consistently enough upon its own principles ; but the reformers availed themselves of the republicans to accomplish their own ends, and the republicans, in like manner, brought about their objects by the agency of men, whom they neither esteemed nor trusted, and who, after the overthrow of the monarchy, scarcely allowed them to enjoy their triumph for a single hour in peace. Ou the tenth of August their schemes were completed, and the republic was proclaimed ; on the second of September their agents began to act for themselves, and from that day the Brissotines saw the consequence of having inflamed an ignorant and ferocious people; they perceived their own danger, but wanted strength or courage to try the only means of averting it that of punishing the Septembrizers, and curbing the press; they were within the influence of the whirlpool and every moment brought them nearer to the gulph. The power was still nominally vested in them, but in reality it was in the hands of the Terrorists; and the intrigues of Orleans and his party, the patriotism of the reformers, and the mistaken philosophy of the republicans, ended in delivering up the country to the vilest wretches that ever disgraced humanity.

« Tout Paris,' says M. Roland, speaking of the massacres of September, fut témoin de ces horribles scènes, executées par un petit nombre de bourreaur. Tout Paris laissa faire; tout Paris fut maudit à mes yeur, et je n'esperai plus que la liberté s'établit parmi des lâches, insensibles aux derniers outrages qu'on puisse faire à la nature et à l'humanité; froids spectateurs d'attentats que le courage de cinquante hommes armées auroit facilement empêché.

E I 3


« PrécédentContinuer »