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Martine, who, in our opinion, deserves to be hailed as the first French poet who practised the reform, and as the founder of the new school in France.
The French are strongly possessed by the conviction that their literature, and, above all, their stage, reign paramount among the nations of Europe, and are admired by foreigners nearly in proportion to their civilization. This is one of the egregious illusions of their vanity. Their dramatic poets are, indeed, read by the persons who are familiar with their language; and no doubt admired by all who prefer unity of time and place to the human heart; who really are convinced that a piece of painted cloth is Trezene, and the patent lamps of the stage, the sun whom Phedre addresses. Fashion has done much to make their literature and their language, like their modes, current in the polished classes. But the people do not admire them, because the people in every country judge according to one principle, nature; and nature is precisely the thing which is banished from the French stage, the great productions of which remain sequestered in the closet of educated foreigners, but never boldly appear before the general public to prove the national taste, and their own consonance with the common feeling of men. It must be remembered that many circumstances have contributed to make that language the classic language of conversation in the polite circles of Europe. The influence and power of France; her early strength and politeness; her incessant watchfulness to increase her advantages by argumenta ad homines, in which words and manner have so much more effect than thoughts and matter; her intriguing spirit and address, always directed towards gaining to her party sovereigns, ministers, statesmen and cabinets, have made her tongue the current dialect of courts, and of all who would be thought to belong to them. It is with a view to assume a mastery over the minds of those who do not wield it with the same dexterity, that the French have so much studied the arts of conversation at heme, and improved the vehicle by which familiar thoughts are familiarly conveyed; and persuaded foreign nations unused to it, that that vehicle which to themselves is natural, is the only proper idiom for diplomacy, and politics, and fashion. Present enjoyment in this, as in other concerns, is the object to which they sacrifice the good that must be wished for; and led on by ambitious feelings of national supremacy, more than by the impulses of poetry, they have adapted their language to the end which is dearest to their wishes. They may, indeed, win to their opinions living men, and inveigle by their sophistry the generation which stands in their presence, but they take no hold on posterity, and lay up none of the treasures of the immortality which they so much covet. Even in politics,
diplomacy diplomacy and fashion, they have taken none of the great means—.. because they were not impelled by great purposes—to make their language general. It is not the dialect of the people in any country. It does not prevail beyond the precincts of palaces and congresses. No new nations have made it their own; no foreign literature has adopted it. After all their efforts it is confined to courts, and to the courts of Europe. In the east it is extinct. In the west it is hemmed within a single province, which, without being independent, is no longer under French dominion. In the southern hemisphere it has gained no footing; and all it has been able to accomplish in the north, is to establish itself in the capital of an empire which, newly entering into the pale of civilization, thought its own language too barbarous to be its bond of communion with enlightened Europe. If there should be a day on which nations must render up an account of the use they made of the means which nature had confided to them, to what deserts, once unpeopled, could France appeal, and prove by the idiom common there, that the men who inhabit them are her children? on what shores, once heathen, could she say that Christian prayers are uttered in her tongue? amid what people could she find a monument inscribed with her language to show that she had increased the number of beings who share the blessings of this world, and multiplied the generations destined to be eternally happy? where could she produce a French record to make men hope that in the fullness of her power she knew not what glory meant without benevolence? what part did she take in the cultivation of that new world which was discovered by the citizen of a small Italian republic—a world such as never did, and never can again, exercise the generous feelings of mankind? Where the children of England dwell, and where her language is spoken, the sun never sets; and from her loins has sprung the nation which, taught by her, has, of all that history records, employed the shortest time to rise to the greatest power and freedom. Spain too has given all she had,—her laws, her courage, and her generous character, which neither bigotry nor despotism could degrade, to districts wider than herself. Portugal, a province of that heroic peninsula, has founded empires twice as large as France herself. Even Venice, Florence, Genoa, may urge their disproportioned claim to some merit in the present state of that hemisphere, which a century or two must number among the most important habitations of man. But France is a nation without offspring. The curse of sterility is upon her, inflicted by her own selfish luxury. It has taken away from her the hope of progeny; of creating a race who might lisp her name; and to whom, in her decline, she might bequeath her renown and her enjoyments. If it be objected that England, Spain and Portugal
gal undertook discoveries out of ambition, and pursued them "With violence, we shall urge no defence for the present but this :— Happy is it when the evils of our nature turn to good; and dear should we hold the passions which, even in their abuses, lead to human happiness! The vices which are followed by uo compensations, which leave no traces but wretchedness, are the only scourges which present nothing but despair. Rare as such examples are, we assert, and upon no slight grounds, that they are more numerous in the history of France than of any of the nations who, by whatever means, have founded the future greatness of America; and that of all the men who have existed, the French are they who, in proportion to the means which nature and their state of social improvement have confided to them, have contributed the least to promote—and, perhaps, the most to injure— the general happiness and progress of their species.
Aiit. VII.— 1. A Collection of rare and curious Tracts on Witchcraft, and the Second Sight, or an original Essay on Witchcraft. Edinburgh, 1822. 2. The famous History of Friar Bacon, containing the wonderful Things that he did in his Life, also the Manner of his Death; with the Lives and Deaths of the two Conjurers, Bungay and ['undermost. (Reprint.) 'ITCHCRAFT is not wholly disused in the British dominions.; in one instance, at least, it has been recently practised, as we shall have occasion to mention; and the statute which still restrained the practice of the black art in Ireland having been repealed, those who choose to follow the profession may do so with impunity: provided nevertheless, that they keep in mind the law which enacts that any exertion of skill, by which fortunes are told or stolen goods recovered, may be punished as the act of a rogue and a vagabond. Marvellous, indeed, are the perils which attend the violation of this prohibition. Many a weird sister, who could sail to Aleppo in a sieve, has been fettered, without bail or mainprize, by the spells of the parish beadle; and many a wizard who, like Michael Scott of old, could bind the weary demons to their endless task of twisting ropes of sand, has been compelled by the Rhadamanthine Justice, to beat hemp for six calendar months in the house of correction.
We can now sport with these superstitions. They have ceased to alarm us: but they afford a direful exemplification of the calamities to which human nature may be subjected; nor can the history of witchcraft be contemplated without horror. As the rites of the Sect are noticed by the earlier schoolmen and divines, they appear
incorporated .ncorporated in a delusive dream, and connected with the relics of a more ancient Paganism. The beldames collect by night at the command of their many-named Queen—Hecate,—Diana,—Herodias, or Benzoria,—the fair Holda amongst the Teutonic races. Away they scud to Palestine, vying with one another in their mystic course, for she who first can dip her hands in the River Jordan will become the mistress of the world. But in vain— the waters dry beneath their touch, and mock their expectations. Feasting and dancing, mirth and merriment, seem to be the intent of the nocturnal meetings of the initiated. Awkward and uncouth, the revelry possesses that fantastic character of wildness, compounded of sport and mischief, found in the personification of the Satyr of antiquity and in the Puck of the middle ages. Satan, however, does not appear.—If the evil spirit partook of the joy, his presence could only be inferred from the impossibility of such a convention being held under the auspices of a good demon. But we find no trace of the worship of the fiend, ascribed to the Sabbath of the witches in later times. The belief was reprobated by the church, but not punished by the secular arm as a mortal crime. 'Let no woman boast,' it is ordered by Augeriua, bishop of Conserans, that ' she rides by night with Diana, the goddess of the Pagans, or with Herodias, or with Benzoria, accompanied by an innumerable multitude, for this is an illusion of the demon.'
Such was the argument usually employed against witchcraft until the fifteenth century. Bishops and confessors used every endeavour to convince the witch that she was deceived and cheated by the demon, but they did not burn her except when she was clearly a 'heretic.' When exhortations failed, they sometimes used more tangible methods. Vincent de Beauvais relates a story of a witch, who attempted to persuade her confessor, that she could pass through closed doors with her nightly mesnie. He called her into the chancel, and, shutting the door, belaboured her soundly with the handle of the cross. Get out, get out! mistress sorceress, he cried; and as she could not get out, he, at last, allowed her to depart, saying, ' Now see ye not what fools ye are, believing in the emptiness of dreams?' To such modes of dispelling delusion no objection can reasonably be raised. But an era of unutterable misery was fast approaching. The Manichaeans, then secretly dispersed over every part of Christendom, but whose chief strong-holds were in the northern parts of Italy, and the eastern and southern provinces of France, were sought out with unsparing rigour. Denounced as witches and sorcerers, a new impulse was given to their opponents. The popular tales of the aerial flights so dear to Hecate and her daughters, were united to the doctrines of the most ancient and most plausible of heresies ; and
the the Alpine vallies, the Lyunnais, Picardy, and the adjoining states of Germany, were desolated by the fury of the inquisitors and judges, both ecclesastical and civil.
After the Reformation, these persecutions still continued in Protestant countries. It is not clear, that, according to the old English common law, witchcraft and sorcery, as such, were punishable. If, as was often the case, these delusions were combined with other crimes, treason or poisoning, or the lighter misdemeanours of fraud and imposture, then certaiuly the accusation enhanced the punishment. The usual authorities undoubtedly state that sorcerers were to be burnt; and the church might strive to condemn the heretic; but the case reported in the year book, 45 Ed. III. 17. seems to show that the judges of the courts of common law wished to proceed with mildness. 'A man was taken in Southwark with a head and face of a dead man, and with a book of sorcery in his male, and was brought into the King's Bench, before Sir Johu Knevett, then Chief Justice; but seeing no indictment was against him, the clerks did swear him, that from henceforth he should not be a sorcerer, and he was delivered out of prison, and the head of the dead man, and the book of sorcery were burnt at Tothill.' When the offence could be considered as heresy, then of course the witch might be duly puuished. Yet executions upon this charge seem to have been of rare occurrence. And here we may be allowed to observe, that ihe Knights Templars, in chapter assembled, could have had as little power to bum Rebecca, as the Jews of York, in synagogue assembled, to burn Boisgilbert.
The earlier cases of the condemnation of witches or sorcerers, show that the crime, when punished, was treated as ' heresy.' But the statute 33 Hen. VIII. cap. 8. altered the law. It enacts that any person, after the day therein named, devising, practising, or exercising ' any invocations or conjurations of spirits, witchcraftsy enchantments, or sorceries, to the intent to get or find money or treasure, or to waste, consume, or destroy any person in his body, members, or goods, or to provoke any person to unlawful love, or for any other unlawful intent or purpose, or by occasion or colour of such things or any of them, or for despite of Christ, or lucre of money, dig up or pull down any cross or crosses, or by such invocations or conjurations of spirits, witchcrafts, enchantments, or sorcery, or any of them, take upon them to tell or declare where goods stolen or lost shall be come'—that then all and every person or persons offending as before is mentioned, shall be deemed, accepted, and adjudged a felon or felons, without benefit of clergy. This act is carefully worded, inasmuch as it only extends to witchcraft or enchantment practised with a criminal or unlawful intent. The clause respecting thedemolishers of crosses is somewhat remarkable. In