Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

plated. If we had not learned the lesson before, certainly the present state of the world, when nearly the whole map of Europe has been twice completely changed in twenty years, when, in the same period, the ancient landmarks of the world have been removed and restored, might teach us not to calculate very confidently upon the stability of empires. Suppose, then, that in the course of a century India should be severed from Great Britain, how different would be the political result, according to the system which is now adopted, of giving or withholding Christianity. Deny them religion, and when the severance takes place they remain a people who owe you nothing, care nothing for you, who are assimilated to you in none of their wants or habits, and are therefore prompted to seek your commercial or political alliance neither by affection or convenience. Give them religion, and, as far as climate will admit, you identify them with yourselves. You give them the same habits; you create in them wants which the manufactories of your own country alone can supply. Thus, a division in name will not be a division in fact. They will continue to respect you as Christians, to love you as benefactors, to need you as commercial and manufacturing allies. And the probability is, that, as in the case of America, the ally will be more valuable than the colony. She will then buy from you, as well as sell to you. Those articles which the India captain now hawks about in vain from port to port, a needy supplicant to a few European thousands, will find a devouring market amidst the millions of native converted iuhabitants. Thus, then, does expediency take the side of religion; and“ honesty,” according to the old proverb, which every body repeats and very few seem to believe, evinces itself “ the best policy." For ourselves we can truly say, that we account ourselves happy to live in days in which this important principle has been so signally recognized in and out of the great councils of the nation. It is to us a happy omen of better and happier times. Already does the storm seem in a measure to subside: and we venture to hope, that as the nations of the world disclose a disposition to consecrate their energies and resources to the cause of the Gospel, the mighty God will hush the angry elements, will subdue the tumult, will prepare the field, as it were, for the pacific enterprizes of the cross, and will pave the way for universal holiness, by giving us universal peace.

Yes! it shall come : e’en now my eyes behold,
la distant view, the wished-for years unfold;
Lo! o'er the shadowy days that roll between,
A wandering gleam foretells the ascending scene:

O, doomed victorious from thy wounds to rise,
Dejected India! lift thy downcast eyes,
And mark the hour, whose faithful steps for thee,
Through time's pressed ranks brings on the jubilee;
Roll back, ye crowded years, your

thick

array, Greet the glad hour, and give the triumph way. We cannot wish to leave our readers in a more desirable frame of mind than these noble lines are calculated to inspire. We will therefore conclude by observing, that government and the nation have only one additional step to take in this glorious career. We are by no means disposed to overlook the importance of endeavouring to consolidate, to harmonize, and to regulate, the efforts of devout men, for the promulgation of religion in India: and this, we conceive, is best to be accomplished by giving enlargement, dignity, and vigour, to our own church establishment in that country. It is not, perhaps, to be hoped, that the various ranks of dissenting missionaries will be brought to range themselves under our banner. But still the predominance of the establishment will, as it does in this country, give a character to the doctrines preached, to the practice exhibited; will protect religion in general; will supply a sort of point d'appui, in which the various classes of Christians may rest; a centre to which all will converge; a parent to whose embraces all will fly. The dissidents will excite the church to exertion, and the church reduce the dissidents to order. If it be asked, “how is the church, which now produces not a single missionary for India, to supply her defect of service to this sacred cause ? ”

We answer, m consonance with a proposition already stated in these volumes, “ let the bishops ordain men exclusively for the office of missionaries, exempting them from the costs of university degrees, but submitting their piety and good sense to the severest scrutiny." This measure would, we conceive, supply our remote dependencies, without burthening or endangering the church of the mother country. We may hope to possess, as far as human institutions can provide them, a pious and learned ministry at home, and a pious and enterprizing ministry abroad.

ART. XVIII. De la Litterature considerée dans ses Rapports

avec les Institutions Sociales. By Madame de Staël Holstein. Avec un precis de la Vie et les Ecrits de l'Auteur. 2 Toms.

12mo. pp. 600. 1812. The Influence of Literature, &c. of Madame de Staël, translated.

London."1813.

MADAME de Staël, the daughter of the celebrated M. Neckar, is qualified to perpetuate to his family that celebrity which he himself sought with such vain solicitude and doubtlul success. Nor is even the celebrity derived to him from his daughter alto-, gether such as would be inost coveted by the prudent parent. Her works, although illuminated by genius, are in many instances darkened with passages unfavourable to female refinerent at least, if not to social morality. Their general tendency is, we suspect, to create a class of women of a different order from those who have long cheered the fire-side, doubled the joys and divided the sorrows of Englishmen; to take the gentler sex from the quiet circle of domestic duties, and force thein on the tumultuous and showy stage of public life; to rob them of those noiseless virtues, of that "soft green," of the soul on which the harassed mind . finds it so necessary to repose; and finally to stimulate them to undertake the various functions of man instead of helping and disposing us to discharge them. Her own perturbed and desultory life is, perhaps, the best comment upon her opinions. There is no point in her history which leads us to think that the condition of society, and especially of the female part of it, would be improved by the transformation at which she evidently aims. Surely when Madame de Staël compares the women of England with those of other nations, when she contrasts, our domestic scenery with that of revolutionary France, she must be tempted to check her innovating hand, nor seek to substitute splendid wretchedness for unambitious joy. But our business is not at present with the novels or the life of Madame de Stael; but with the little work before us. This is a work written in the heat of the French revolution, but lately republished in this country, displaying extensive reading, singular acuteness, and much of that habit of analysis and generalization by which the authoress is distinguished. It is designed to shew the influence of literature upon social institutions, and, reciprocally, the influence of these institutions upon literature, involving throughout an attempt to prove, that the world is tending to perfection by the sole influence of letters. This last fact will at once serve to determine the

character of the work, and to create a distrust of that mind of whose creed such a preposterous opinion can constitute an article. Still, as the work is full of matter of a novel and interesting kind, and as it leads naturally to some important discussions, we hope to deserve the thanks of our readers by a candid and careful examination of it. We deem it necessary, however, to premise, that we by no means pledge ourselves to the accuracy of many of the sentiments included in those extracts, which, for their general ability, we may be tempted to exbibit; and, secondly, that we shall, from charity to our merely English reader, take these extracts from the translation named at the head of this article.

The introduction begins by tracing the connexion of literature with“ virtue." And we rejoice to learn from the authoress, that literature can erect her most durable and lofty claims only upon the basis of morals. The necessity of a moral object to the candidate for permanent repuiation is thus eloquently enforced by the author.

“ Never was it in the power of any poet, however ardent his fancy, to draw forth a tragic effect from an incident which admitted the smallest tendency to an immoral principle. Opinion, which fluctuates so much respecting the events of real life, assumes a character of constancy and decision, when it has to pronounce on the productions of the imagination. Literary criticism is not unfrequently, indeed, a sort of treatise on morality. By yielding merely to the impulse and guidance of their talents, eminent writers might discover every thing that is heroic in self-devotion, and all that is affecting in the sacrifices we make of our interests or passions. By studying the art of moving the affections, we explore the recesses and discover the secrets of virtue." (Vol. I. p. 37.)

It is her opinion, that the contemplation of excellence of any kind adapts the mind for excellence of all kinds. As literature assists religion, religion assists literature.

“ If we raise our eyes towards heaven, our thoughts swell into a nobler nature; it is by soaring aloft that we breathe a purer air and are cheered by a brighter light.” Men of talents also, she conceives, are disposed to many generous and virtuous qualities by the very applause conferred upon them. “To him whom the world admires the happiness of the world must be dear." Literature also assists virtue by the correction which it inflicts upon the yicious. And, if it be objected against this favourable influence of letters, that many works of genius are employed in portray

ing reprehensible morals, she answers, that the reputation and intluence of such works, is never permanent. Sprightly or licentious writings serve only as a 'transient relaxation of the mind, which rarely retains any recollection of them.”

“ Hunan nature is of a serious cast, and, in the silence of medi. tation, we attach ourselves solely to those works which are calculated to exercise our reason or our sensibility. It is in this kind of writing only that literary glory has been acquired, and in it alone can the real influence of literature be displayed." (P. 45.)

Upon the whole, this chapter is both important and, in the main, just; though it errs in forgetting that men may know what is right and yet fail to love or practise it. At the same time, we firmly believe that literature and religion usually suffer together; and that piety is at this moment degraded in the eyes of the world by the language and images with which some good men have contrived to associate it. We do not hope or wish to form a nation of literati; but, believing religion to be the very consummation of refined taste, we think that it will, cateris paribus, be best followed where the principles of taste are best understood. The mischiefs of literature have chiefly displayed themselves where, as in France, the upper ranks have been cultivated and the lower neglected. Where this is the case, the learned will be apt to mislead the mob, or the mob to mistake the learned.

The next chapter of Madame de Staël is on the connexion of literature with "glory.Her first maxim is a valuable concession from the mouth of philosophy. “ If literature contributes to the improvement of morals, it must, by that circumstance alone, have a powerful influence upon glory: for there can be no durable glory enjoyed by a country in which due regard is not paid to public morals.” Grand ideas prompt to grand actions ; the expectation of poetical or historical renown will stimulaté men to achievements worthy of poetry and history. We cannot help quoting the following passage, describing the fastidious, cold-hearted state to which, under peculiar circumstances, a nation tends, as a sort of canon for those who write Reviews, and those who read either them or any thing else.

“They are afraid of being deceived should they attempt to bestow praise; and, like young fops who assume the air and tone of fashion, they imagine they distinguish themselves more by an unjust censure than by too great a facility to commend. Such a people, under such circumstances, generally sink into apathy and indifference: the frost of age seems to have benumbed their rational faculties. They have a sufficient knowledge of things to guard them against surprise, but not enough to qualify them for discriminating what deserves esteem. They may have destroyed a number of illusions, but have

« AnteriorContinuar »