Imágenes de página



family. And the result, upon the whole, is, that I do not believe there is a country in the world where you see so many long faces, care-worn and cross, as among the very people who are deemed, and believe themselves the merriest in the world. A man of rank and talent, who has spent many years in the Crimea, who employed himself diligently and usefully when there, and who naturally loves a country where he has done much good, praising it to a friend, has been heard to remark, as the main objection to a residence otherwise delightful — 'Mais on est obligé de s'aller coucher tous les soirs à sept heures, — parcequ'en Crimée on ne sait pas où aller passer la soirée !' This remark excites no surprise at Paris. Every one there feels that there can be no alternative, some place, not home, to spend your evenings in, or to bed at seven o'clock! It puts one in mind of the gentleman who hesitated about marrying a lady whose company he liked very much, 'for,' as he observed, where could I then go to pass my evenings?'"

Vol. i. pp. 404, 405.

[ocr errors]

The following, though not a cordial, is at least a candid testimony to the substantial benefits of the Revolution :

"The clamorous, restless, and bustling manners of the common people of Aix, their antiquated and ragged dress, their diminutive. stature and ill-favoured countenances, strongly recalled to my mind the population of France, such as I remembered it formerly; for a considerable change has certainly taken place, in all such respects, between the years 1789 and 1815. The people of France are decidedly less noisy, and graver; better dressed, and cleaner. All this may be accounted for ; but handsomer is not so readily understood, à priori. It seems as if the hardships of war, having successively carried off all the weakly, those who survived have regenerated the species. The people have undoubtedly gained much by the Revolution on the score of property, and a little as to political institutions. They certainly seem conscious of some advantage attained, and to be proud of it not properly civil liberty, which is little understood, and not properly estimated, but a certain coarse equality, asserted in small things, although not thought of in the essentials of society. This new-born equality is very touchy, as if it felt yet insecure; and thence a degree of rudeness in the common intercourse with the lower class, and, more or less, all classes, very different from the old proverbial French politeness. This, though in itself not agreeable, is, however, a good sign. Pride is a step in moral improvement, from a very low state. These opinions, I am well aware, will not pass in France without animadversion, as it is not to be expected the same judgment will be formed of things under different circumstances. If my critics, however, will only go three or four thousand miles off, and stay away a quarter of a century, I dare say we shall agree better when we compare notes on their return."— Vol. i. pp. 333, 334.

The way in which M. Simond speaks of Rousseau, affords a striking example of that struggle between



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

enthusiasm and severity-romance and cool reason, which we noticed in the beginning as characteristic of the whole work. He talks, on the whole, with contempt, and even bitterness, of his character: But he follows his footsteps, and the vestiges and memorials even of his fictitious personages, with a spirit of devout observance

-visits Clareus, and pauses at Meillerie-rows in a burning day to his island in the lake of Bienne-expatiates on the beauty of his retreat at the Charmettesand even stops to explore his temporary abode at Moitier Travers. The following passages are remarkable:—

"Rousseau, from his garret, governed an empire-that of the mind: the founder of a new religion in politics, and to his enthusiastic followers a prophet-He said, and they believed! The disciples of Voltaire might be more numerous, but they were bound to him by far weaker ties. Those of Rousseau made the French Revolution, and perished for it; while Voltaire's, miscalculating its chances, perished by it. Both, perhaps, deserved their fate; but the former certainly acted the nobler part, and went to battle with the best weapons too,— for in the deadly encounter of all the passions, of the most opposite principles and irreconcilable prejudices, cold-hearted wit is of little avail. Heroes and martyrs do not care for epigrams; and he must have enthusiasm who pretends to lead the enthusiastic or cope with them. Une intime persuasion, Rousseau has somewhere said, m'a toujours tenu lieu d'éloquence! And well it might; for the first requisite to command belief, is to believe yourself. Nor is it easy to impose on mankind in this respect. There is no eloquence, no ascendancy over the minds of others, without this intimate persuasion in yourself. Rousseau's might only be a sort of poetical persuasion, lasting but as long as the occasion; yet it was thus powerful, only because it was true, though but for a quarter of an hour perhaps, in the heart of this inspired writer.


"Mr. M- son of the friend of Rousseau, to whom he left his manuscripts, and especially his Confessions, to be published after his death, had the goodness to show them to me. I observed a fair copy written by himself in a small hand like print, very neat and correct; not a blot or an erasure to be seen. The most curious of these papers, however, were ere several sketch-books, or memoranda half filled, where the same hand is no longer discernible; but the same genius, and the same wayward temper and perverse intellect, in every fugitive thought which is there put down. Rousseau's composition, like Montesquieu's, was laborious and slow; his ideas flowed rapidly, but were not readily brought into proper order; they did not appear to have come in consequence of a previous plan; but the plan itself, formed afterwards, came in aid of the ideas, and served as a sort of frame for them, instead of being a system to which they were subservient. Very possibly some of the fundamental opinions he defended so earnestly, and for which his disciples would willingly have suffered martyrdom, were


[ocr errors]


originally adopted because a bright thought, caught as it flew, was entered in his commonplace book.

"These loose notes of Rousseau afford a curious insight into his taste in composition. You find him perpetually retrenching epithets -reducing his thoughts to their simplest expression-giving words a peculiar energy, by the new application of their original meaning — going back to the naïveté of old language; and, in the artificial process of simplicity, carefully effacing the trace of each laborious footstep as he advanced; each idea, each image, coming out, at last, as if cast entire at a single throw, original, energetic, and clear. Although Mr. M——— had promised to Rousseau that he would publish his Confessions as they were, yet he took upon himself to suppress a passage explaining certain circumstances of his abjurations at Anneci, affording a curious, but frightfully disgusting, picture of monkish manners at that time. It is a pity that Mr. M— did not break his word in regard to some few more passages of that most admirable and most vile of all the productions of genius."-Vol. i. pp. 564—566.

The following notices of Madame de Staël are emphatic and original:

"I had seen Madame de Staël a child; and I saw her again on her deathbed. The intermediate years were spent in another hemisphere, as far as possible from the scenes in which she lived. Mixing again, not many months since, with a world in which I am a stranger, and feel that I must remain so, I just saw this celebrated woman; and heard, as it were, her last words, as I had read her works before, uninfluenced by any local bias. Perhaps, the impressions of a man thus dropped from another world into this may be deemed something like those of posterity.

"Madame de Staël lived for conversation: She was not happy out of a large circle, and a French circle, where she could be heard in her own language to the best advantage. Her extravagant admiration of the society of Paris was neither more nor less than genuine admiration of herself. It was the best mirror she could get - and that was all. Ambitious of all sorts of notoriety, she would have given the world to have been born noble and a beauty. Yet there was in this excessive vanity so much honesty and frankness, it was so entirely void of affectation and trick, she made so fair and so irresistible an appeal to your own sense of her worth, that what would have been laughable in any one else, was almost respectable in her. That ambition of eloquence, so conspicuous in her writings, was much less observable in her conversation; there was more abandon in what she said than in what she wrote; while speaking, the spontaneous inspiration was no labour, but all pleasure. Conscious of extraordinary powers, she gave herself up to the present enjoyment of the good things, and the deep things, flowing in a full stream from her own well-stored mind and luxuriant fancy. The inspiration was pleasure-the pleasure was inspiration; and without precisely intending it, she was, every evening of her life, in a circle of company, the very Corinne she had depicted."— Vol. i. pp. 283-286.



(NOVEMBER, 1812.)

Rejected Addresses; or the New Theatrum Poetarum. 12mo. pp. 126. London: 1812.*

AFTER all the learning, wrangling, and solemn exhortation of our preceding pages, we think we may venture to treat our readers with a little morsel of town-made gaiety, without any great derogation from our established character for seriousness and contempt of trifles. We are aware, indeed, that there is no way by which we could so certainly ingratiate ourselves with our provincial readers, as by dealing largely in such articles; and we can assure them, that if we have not hitherto indulged them very often in this manner, it is only because we have not often met with any thing nearly so good as the little volume before us. We have seen nothing comparable to it indeed since the publication of the poetry of the Antijacobin; and though it wants the high seasoning of politics and personality, which no doubt contributed much to the currency of that celebrated collection, we are not sure that it does not exhibit, on the whole, a still more exquisite talent of imitation, with powers of poetical composition that are scarcely inferior.

* I have been so much struck, on lately looking back to this paper, with the very extraordinary merit and felicity of the Imitations on which it is employed, that I cannot resist the temptation of giving them a chance of delighting a new generation of admirers, by including some part of them in this publication. I take them, indeed, to be the very best imitations (and often of difficult originals) that ever were made and, considering their great extent and variety, to indicate a talent to which I do not know where to look for a parallel. Some few of them descend to the level of parodies: But by far the greater part are of a much higher description. They ought, I suppose, to have come under the head of Poetry, but "Miscellaneous" is broad enough to cover any thing.-Some of the less striking citations are now omitted. The authors, I believe, have been long known to have been the late Messrs. Smith.



We must not forget, however, to inform our country readers, that these "Rejected Addresses" are merely a series of Imitations of the style and manner of the most celebrated living writers-who are here supposed to have tried their hands at an address to be spoken at the opening of the New Theatre in Drury Lane-in the hope, we presume, of obtaining the twenty-pound prize which the munificent managers are said to have held out to the successful candidate. The names of the imaginary competitors, whose works are now offered to the public, are only indicated by their initials; and there are one or two which we really do not know how to fill up. By far the greater part, however, are such as cannot possibly be mistaken; and no reader of Scott, Crabbe, Southey, Wordsworth, Lewis, Moore, or Spencer, could require the aid, even of their initials, to recognise them in their portraits. Coleridge, Coleman, and Lord Byron, are not quite such striking likenesses. Of Dr. Busby's and Mr. Fitzgerald's we do not hold ourselves qualified to judge-not professing to be deeply read in the works of these originals.

There is no talent so universally entertaining as that of mimicry-even when it is confined to the lively imitation of the air and manner-the voice, gait, and external deportment of ordinary individuals. Nor is this to be ascribed entirely to our wicked love of ridicule; for, though we must not assign a very high intellectual rank to an art which is said to have attained to perfection among the savages of New Holland, some admiration is undoubtedly due to the capacity of nice observation which it implies; and some gratification may be innocently derived from the sudden perception which it excites of peculiarities previously unobserved. It rises in interest, however, and in dignity, when it succeeds in expressing, not merely the visible and external characteristics of its objects, but those also of their taste, their genius, and temper. A vulgar mimic repeats a man's cant-phrases and known stories, with an exact imitation of his voice, look, and gestures: But he is an artist of a far higher description, who can make stories or reasonings in his

« AnteriorContinuar »