Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1857: TO M. A. RIVET. - Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville, vol. 2
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1857: TO M. A. RIVET. - Alexis de Tocqueville, Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville, vol. 2 
Memoir, Letters, and Remains of Alexis de Tocqueville. Translated from the French by the translator of Napoleon’s Correspondence with King Joseph. With large Additions. In Two Volumes (London: Macamillan, 1861). 2 vols.
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TO M. A. RIVET.
Tocqueville, July 20, 1857.
Ampère has told you, my dear friend, with what pleasure your visit was thought of by us all, and expected by the majority. I say the majority, for I formed a sceptical minority. I know too much of business, and of the enormous extent of yours, to really believe that we should see you. But my doubts did not shake the confidence with which my wife and Ampère maintained that you would come. Their disappointment, therefore, was greater than mine, though their pleasure would not have been. After all, it is only a postponement. I try to think not of the delight which I should have had if you had come to us, but of that which I shall soon have in going to you. We shall be in Paris by the end of next month. Our arrival, however, will be saddened by many painful recollections.
* * * * * *
I cannot tell you how many thousand reasons make me little inclined for the world, though the society of real friends was never more precious to me. We tear ourselves from this place with pain. We have passed some months here with no very great enjoyments, but without the friction which people of our feelings and opinions must encounter in Paris. Our solitude has been really agreeable. Nothing was wanting except a little more mental exercise. I do not think that for twenty years I have been so idle. It is only during the last month that I have resumed serious work. We have had, and we have still, an army of workmen transforming the pleasure ground behind the castle. Looking after and directing them has been one cause of my intellectual inactivity, and I begin to think that there is no place so bad for study as home. But my idleness has amused me, which is not the case with all idlers. I like country work, and my wife passionately delights in it. She was impatient for you to advise her on a thousand difficult questions. What is to be the line of this walk, or the position of this thicket? Shall this tree be cut down? Valuing highly your taste, she hoped much from you. But the maker of so many roads has not time to set out walks. . . .
TO M. J. J. AMPÈRE.
Tocqueville, January 27, 1857.
I hope, my dear friend, that your protecting Divinity accompanied you to Rome. It must be the God who watches over drunken men. Your absence of mind gives you an equal right to his protection. With his help, I trust that you are this instant quietly established in a good lodging, enjoying Rome and good health. You must have embarked last Thursday. We were thinking about you all that day. With us the weather was warm and calm; I hope that it was so on the Mediterranean. Before and after there were storms. You must have passed between them. Oh God of the drunken, and of the absent, great is thy power! You are safe now, but we have been anxious ever since you left Tocqueville. We were afraid of Paris. You might have been attacked there by influenza, and we should have felt in some degree responsible. But you had spring weather, such as we have not enjoyed before or since.
You were most kind in spending so much time in looking for books for me. Believe me, that, if I could have procured in any other way those which you have collected for me from different libraries, I should not have troubled you, knowing how busy you must have been in Paris. I am very grateful, and what consoles me is, the serious use which I am making of my materials. I feel as if I were about to set to work in earnest here, and still more eagerly, I trust, in Paris. After all, my workmen are a greater distraction than society will be in my present state of mind. I hope, on my arrival, to plunge into libraries and archives, if it were merely to divert my attention from the thoughts which pervade my mind: for in my inmost heart there is a deep sadness, a sorrow for which there is no remedy, as I do not even wish to shake it off. It is interwoven with my best feelings, and it is that which is produced by my clear perception of what is going on in my country. . . .
Tell us about your labours in Rome; you know how they interest us. So many of them were begun at Tocqueville, that we seem to have had something to do with them. We talk of your success as ours. How I wish that you may be induced to repeat the experiment of passing three months at Tocqueville. It was not, indeed, a fortunate one, and this makes me fear for the future. Tocqueville has never been, and never will be again, so uncomfortable a residence, and I think that I may venture to say that the next time we have the happiness to receive you, it shall not be in a marsh. The paths shall be dry, and I hope, sheltered. You are an element in all our plans. When we are laying out a walk, we say, “Ampère is sure to like this.” Judge us, therefore, I pray, not according to our past shortcomings, but to our future merits.
TO MRS. GROTE.
Tocqueville, January 31, 1857.
My dearest Mrs. Grote,
I was surprised and delighted by your letter of the 18th, following so quickly that of the 3d. I cannot thank you too much for having remembered and talked of me so kindly at Harpton Court;* one result was, a letter from Lady Theresa, as charming as yours. My wife tells me that I am being spoilt. Perhaps so. It is very pleasant.
Is it possible that I have never acknowledged the illustrated plan of sheep-folds? I scarcely believe it: I am sure that my thanks will be found in some of my letters, though, perhaps, concealed from you in the darkness of my bad handwriting. Your reproaches are very amusing, and very well deserved. You infer from the improvement in my writing a falling-off in my affection. Allow me to say you are ungrateful. It was the last effort of friendship which alone could ever have made me write tolerably. Even such friendship does not enable me to suppress erasures and interlineations, and even occasional blots. I never could copy—besides hating it, I always found that I wrote the second time worse than the first.
I resign myself, therefore, to the complaints of my friends. Somebody told me the other day that my writing was midway between hieroglyphics and cuniform. I console myself, however, with trying to believe that there is a man who writes still worse, our excellent friend, Senior.
You are right when you say that a foreigner cannot understand the peculiarities of the English character. It is the case with almost all countries. I do not know how national character is formed, but I do know, that when once formed, it draws such broad distinctions between nations, that to discover what is passing in the minds of foreigners, one must give up one’s own nationality, almost one’s identity. Who but the French ever understood France? It is not, however, clear to me that they understand themselves. Like you, we are an agglomeration of different races, but these dissimilar elements have been amalgamated into a new composite being, resembling no other.
What you say of the simple character of the English is true. Their perception is just, somewhat narrow, but clear: they see only what they look at; they do well only one thing at a time. This accounts to me for one of their remarkable peculiarities. In the eyes of an Englishman a cause is just, if it be the interest of England that it should succeed. A man or a government that is useful to England, has every kind of merit, and one that does England harm every possible fault. The criterion of what is honourable, or great, or just, is to be found in the degree of favour or of opposition to English interests. There is much of this everywhere; but there is so much of it in England that a foreigner is astonished. This accounts for the Machiavellism, often attributed to the policy of England, which in my opinion does not exist among you more, but rather less than elsewhere. The principal reason of this phenomenon is because you see only one thing at a time, and also in your laudable desire to connect the actions of your country with objects greater and higher than mere interest, even though it be the interest of a nation. You want to succeed. You need for that purpose the help of a man, or of a government. You think of nothing else—you pass over the crimes of the one and the faults of the other. You scarcely perceive them in your concentrated eagerness for success. In France we often do things useful to ourselves and unjust to others; but their convenience does not conceal their injustice. We employ rogues, but we admit that they are rogues. I am not sure that our conduct is more moral than yours; but it shows greater comprehensiveness, it shows that we can see two sides of a question.
As for the indifference of the English to the liberty of the continental nations, which seem to forget that they ever were or can be free, I understand it. We cannot ask foreigners to care for us more than we do for ourselves. I do not require you to destroy, against your own interests, bad governments which are tolerated by their own subjects; but I cannot allow you to call them good governments. I admit that these are not times in which England can play in the World her great and ancient part of a liberal power. But then let her give it up, at least for a time. She must not ally herself to despotism in one country, and in another, for instance in Italy, to liberalism. She must choose.
Kindest regards, first to Mr. Grote, then to Senior, and then to Reeve.
TO M. FRESLON.
Tocqueville, February 3, 1857.
It seems to me, my dear friend, that I have been terribly long without writing to you. Influenza, under which I suffered for a week, and a steady resumption of work, have deprived me of the pleasure of conversing with you. I am amused with the vanity of a man who thinks that he can discover the causes of a Revolution, and does not know what makes him act himself, at different times, in different ways. This is my case. I know not why I was almost out of humour with my subject; nor do I know why it again delights me. The first state was painful, the second is pleasant. I hope that it may last. I cannot work unless I am strongly excited. At this instant, I think that I have before my eyes all the mighty movement which has carried us from the ancien régime to our present state. I think that I see it begin, rush on, slacken, and stop. The Revolution, viewed as a whole, is as yet an indistinct, undefined object, but so vast, that it excites and enlarges the imagination. It must be in the background of every picture, to keep up one’s spirits in the tiresome working out of the details.
I wish that you, too, could shake off the depression which I think that I perceived in you. I admit that we have great reason to be sad. But we live in a time of such unexpected changes, we belong to a nation so excitable and so variable, that no one need despair while he himself is consistent. Live, and good times will come. You laugh at my philosophy, and with good reason; for no one is less philosophic than I who preach philosophy. Laugh, then, at the preacher, but believe in the sermon.
Adieu. Remember me to all our friends, particularly to Lanjuinais and Dufaure.
TO HENRY REEVE, ESQ.
Tocqueville, January 11, 1857.
Thank you, my dear friend, for your interesting letter of the 5th. I had already read with pleasure and instruction the excellent article on Macaulay. I suspected that the article on Philip the Second was not entirely English;* but I did not know before that it was due in part to M. Guizot. Even that on Convocation interested me. You see that, whether intelligent or not, I am at least your attentive reader.
I am surprised by our statistics as much as you are. Two things must be distinguished—the migration from the country to the towns, and the absence of increase in the whole population. The former is an old tale, and is not peculiar to France. It is the necessary result of the progress of trade and manufactures. It has, indeed, been greater during the last four or five years, in consequence partly of the increase of Paris, and of the works which are going on there; and partly of the spirit of speculation, the hope of sudden wealth, which a thousand causes, and especially the temptations offered by the Government to small capitals by the State loans, have excited. In many provinces this fever has reached even the country people, and a peasant who has caught it, becomes discontented with his position, and tries to make a rapid fortune in a town.
Whatever be the cause, it is certain that the country population has been falling off throughout the last twenty-five years. Twenty-five years ago Tocqueville contained more than 700 souls. It has not now more than 600. But in five years Cherbourg has gained 10,000 inhabitants. I have watched man by man the emigration from Tocqueville. The greater part are artizans, who, in search of higher wages and greater means of employment, go to Cherbourg, Caen, or Havre, and generally get at last to Paris. They are not our best people. The remainder, which is small, consists of peasants belonging to families in easy circumstances, who become little tradesmen: they hope to rise in the world. Many such cases have occurred in my neighbourhood. This migration is easily accounted for, and would not alarm me, unless, as I fear, it should largely increase.
But I own that I cannot account for the absence of increase in our population taken as a whole. I absolutely refuse to attribute it to increasing poverty. Nothing can be more striking than the contrary. I know nothing of the provinces of the centre, nor of the south, the ancient Languedoc. I believe that in these provinces, where several of their peculiar crops have of late almost utterly failed, there is great distress. But that is a local and temporary accident. In all the provinces that I am acquainted with, the peasant is better fed, better lodged, better clothed, better off, and more industrious than he was twenty-five years ago. I judge, as I usually do, from what I see around me. I affirm that throughout all my neighbourhood, every new house is better built, neater, and more wholesome than those which were built when I was young.
Thirty years ago the peasant was dressed in linen all the year round; now, the poorest family wears warm and substantial woollens. Then he eat black bread; his bread now would have appeared a luxury even to the rich of those days. Butcher’s meat was then almost unknown. Twenty-five years ago the little town of St. Pierre had only a single butcher: he killed a cow once a week, and had great difficulty in selling his meat. Now there are nine, and they sell more in a day than was then sold in a week. Nor is this peculiar. I have observed a similar change in Touraine, in Picardy, in all the Ile-de-France, and in Lorraine.
How then is it that a population undeniably prosperous, has scarcely increased in number during five years? Accidental causes, such as the war, the bad seasons, the dearness of provisions, are insufficient, and I see no general cause, except one, which I will explain to you.
That is the one general wish in France to limit narrowly the number of children. Without entering into details, I state the fact. And it is remarkable that the most prosperous families are those which have the fewest children, and the most miserable those which have the most. The instant a family becomes rich, or even desires to do so, the number of children becomes small. The parents wish every one of their children to have the wealth and the position which they themselves have acquired. For this purpose there ought not to be more than two, or at most three. I will not say that this is the principal cause which keeps down the population of France, but it is an important one.
TO MADAME SWETCHINE.
Tocqueville, February 14, 1857.
* * * * * *
Since I wrote to you, I have seriously resumed my work, but it has been insufficient to restore the tone of my mind. I am still unhinged; but this is nothing new. I have always been subject to a vague restlessness, and a longing for I know not what. Though this malady has become chronic, I wonder that I suffer from it so much under circumstances in which I ought to enjoy peace. Assuredly I cannot complain, and I do not wish to complain, of the lot which Providence has assigned to me. Still, the most essential of the conditions of happiness fails me, the power of quietly enjoying the present. Yet I have by my side a person whose society ought long ago to have cured me of this great, though absurd misery. And, in fact, this society has been most salutary to me. For the last twenty years it has kept my mind from giving way, but has not rendered it perfectly and habitually steady. My wife, whom the world little knows, thinks and feels strongly. Misfortune affects her sharply and violently, but she can thoroughly enjoy happiness. She does not waste herself in vain agitation. She floats calmly and quietly down the current of tranquil days and favourable circumstances. The serenity of our home sometimes extends to me, but I soon lose it, and relapse into the idle useless excitement in which my mind keeps turning like a wheel out of gear
TO N. W. SENIOR, ESQ.
Tocqueville, March 8, 1857.
I shall write to you, my dear Senior, from hence. We cannot tear ourselves away from the charm of our retreat, or from a thousand little employments.
The papers tell us that your ministry has been beaten on the Chinese war. It seems to me to have been an ill-chosen battle-field. The war was, perhaps, somewhat wantonly begun, and very roughly managed; but the fault lay with distant and subordinate agents. Now that it has begun, no cabinet can avoid carrying it on vigorously. The existing ministry will do as well for this as any other. As there is no line of policy to be changed, the upsetting it is merely to put in the people who are now out.
If the ministry fall, the man least to be pitied will be our friend Lewis. He will go out after having obtained a brilliant triumph on his own ground, and he will enjoy the good fortune, rare to public men, of quitting power, greater than he was when he took it, and with the enviable reputation of owing his greatness, not merely to his talents, but also to the respect and the confidence which he has universally inspired.
All this delights me; for I feel towards him and towards all his family a true friendship.
To return to China.
It seems to me that the relations between that country and Europe are changed, and dangerously changed.
Till now Europe has had to deal only with a Chinese government—the most wretched of governments. Now you will find opposed to you a people, and a people, however miserable and corrupt, is invincible on its own territory, if it be supported and impelled by common and violent passions.
Yet I should be sorry to die before I have seen China open to the eyes as well as to the arms of Europe.
Do you believe in a dissolution? If so, when?
A thousand regards to Mrs. Grote, to the great historian, to the Reeves, and generally to all who are kind enough to remember my existence.
I delight in the prospect of meeting you in Paris; yet I fear that you will find it dull. All that I hear from the great town shows me that never, at least during the last two hundred years, has intellectual life been less active.
If there be talent in the official circles, it is not the talent of conversation, and among those who formerly possessed that talent, there is so much torpidity, such want of interest on public affairs, such ignorance as to what is passing, and so little wish to hear about it, that no one, I am told, knows on what subject to talk, nor how to make that subject amusing. Your conversation, perhaps, may put souls into these dead bodies. Come and try to work this miracle.
TO M. J. J. AMPÈRE.
Tocqueville, May 12, 1857.
Your letter of the 29th April, my dear friend, reached me four or five days ago. I am glad that you are at work; and I long to know what you are reserving for Tocqueville. Pray do not work too much at night. I am told that you take lonely walks and amuse yourself all the day and all the evening, and work from midnight till five in the morning. I implore you to avoid such excesses. Believe me, that some day you will find yourself suddenly exhausted, and be forced to recruit yourself by a long and miserable idleness. For the love of God, and of your friends, lead a life that can last. You have many friends besides those who are intimate. Your name is constantly mentioned to me by people who feel a real interest in you and in your works. They talk to me about you, in order to make me converse, as a skilful converser breaks the ice by talking to a man about himself. Two of your friends in particular, D’Oudon and Mohl, delighted me by their acute and true criticisms, the general result being, that the excellence, both of your style and of your matter, has greatly increased, and goes on increasing; which is also my opinion. . . .
Notwithstanding all that I see, and all that you say, I do not fear that we shall perish, like your Roman Empire. The resemblance is superficial; the differences are deep: the chief one is that we are only asleep, your Romans were dead.
TO THE COMTESSE DE CIRCOURT.
Tocqueville, February 22, 1857.
I have just received, Madame, an interesting pamphlet, by M. Beulé,* on the cover of which I recognised, with gratitude, your writing. Mixed with my gratitude was a deep-rooted remorse for having been silent ever since your last letter. My excuse is in the kindness of M. de Circourt, who tells us all your news, which has made me less anxious to ask you for them. I infer, from what he says, that you are slowly but surely approaching complete cure. I trust that the fine weather will restore you entirely to yourself, and to your friends. As one of them, I shall take no small part in the general joy.
M. Beulé’s speech is a distinguished work. It is marked by all his especial merits—acuteness of thought and elegance of expression. Unhappily he finds it easier to tell us what we ought not to do, than what we ought to do.
I see that architecture resembles politics. I agree with him that Gothic is not a French style; but I am not sure that, at least in churches, it is not a Catholic one. At least, I am sure that its dim sanctuaries, its spires springing up to heaven, its tall and slender forms, suit a religion full of mystery and of asceticism, which seems to employ what is material only to raise us to what is spiritual. It has been well said, that while our old cathedrals put us in mind of heaven, our rich modern palace-like churches bring us back to the enjoyments of this world. I have felt it a thousand times. The “Imitation of Jesus Christ” and Gothic architecture seem to me to belong to the same inspiration. I do not say that we ought to return to a style unsuited to modern ideas. We live in a century, not of monasteries, but of railways and Exchanges. The arts ought to belong to their age. But what is the architecture suited to this age? M. Beulé ought, I think, to have told us; but he does not.
TO LADY THERESA LEWIS.
Paris, May 6, 1857.
I have been absent from Paris, Madame, for some days, and I have turned my leisure to profit by reading through attentively the book which you sent to me,* and I have great pleasure in describing the impression which it has left on me.
The historical period to which you have devoted yourself has always, as I think you know, especially interested me. I have read much on it; but I can sincerely say, that no history ever painted it to me so vividly as your biographies. They make me feel that I live in a real world, in the midst of the details which form the peculiar physiognomy of an epoch. I might venture, perhaps, to accuse you of having almost superstitiously sought for truth in the minutest particulars, if such a defect were not incidental to one of the rarest of merits. I had rather praise the admirable impartiality, which makes you anxious rather to find and to exhibit the truth, than to adorn it. You resemble in this rather one of our old celebrated Benedictines than a charming woman of the world. But what our Benedictines could not do, was to estimate with your wonderful good sense, tact, and impartial justice, the facts so patiently collected and described.
I never saw better, never indeed so well, the causes of the great Civil War of 1640, the spirit of those who took part in it, the circumstances which enabled it to begin, to go on, and to last for so long, and the forms, thoroughly English and aristocratic, in which human passions then exhibited themselves. Your biographies show the truth of your remark, that no two things can be more unlike than your Revolution of 1640 and ours of 1789. No two things, in fact, can be more unlike than the state of your society and of ours at those two periods. These differences, added to those between the character and the education of the two nations, are such that the two events do not admit of even comparison.
When your revolution broke out, you still preserved, in spite of the progress of knowledge, all the powerful social organization of the middle ages. The most enlightened classes were always masters of themselves, and decided for themselves the events. They were divided; they were opposed to one another, and they fought; but never, for a single day, did they abdicate. The consequences were, less boldness of intention, less violence of action, and a regularity, a mildness, even a courtesy, admirably described by you, which showed itself even in the employment of physical force. If what then passed in England is to be compared, not as to the substance, but as to the details, with any event in France, it must be with the Fronde. The passions which excited the Fronde were as wretched, and its results were as ridiculous, as the characters of the men of your Great Rebellion were grand and its results important. But, as respects the conduct towards each other of the opponents, even in the hot blood of battle, their mutual respect, kindness, and generosity, the two civil wars were alike; and your 1640 resembles much more our 1648 than our 1793.
Nothing in your work struck me more than your power of throwing yourself into the current of the thoughts and feelings of those days, so as to show what were the real motives of men so different from ourselves. One sentiment especially, dead in the hearts of our generation, lives in your pages, the idolatry of royalty which made obedience noble, and the greatest sacrifices, not merely to a principle, but to the person of the sovereign, easy. Throughout the world this sentiment is going; in France, it is gone. Even its traces have disappeared. You give to it its real power and importance. I recognised it with a pleasing remembrance, for it is associated with my earliest infancy. At this day, I remember, as if it were still before me, an evening in my father’s château, when some family rejoicing had brought together a large number of our near relations. The servants were gone, and we sat round the fire. My mother, whose voice was sweet and touching, began to sing a well-known royalist song, of which the sorrows of Louis XVI. and his death were the subject. When she ended, we were all in tears; not for our own misfortunes, not even for the loss of so many of our own blood, who had perished on the field of civil war and on the scaffold, but for the fate of a single man, who had died fifteen years before, and whom few of us who wept for him had ever seen. But this man had been our King.
Forgive, Madame, my bringing you back to times which will never return; and forgive this ill-connected letter. It proves, at least, the uninterrupted interest with which I have read your book. I owe to it emotions and reflections; two obligations, for which I am most grateful. I wish that I could be sure of being able soon to thank you in person. I hope, but not confidently, to be able to do so. Kind remembrances to Sir G. C. Lewis, and to your children.
EXTRACTS FROM MR. SENIOR’S JOURNAL.
Paris, Thursday, May 7, 1857.
Tocqueville and I dined with M. and Madame de Bourke, and met there Ary Scheffer.
We talked of De la Roche’s pictures, and Scheffer agreed with me in preferring the smaller ones. He thought that De la Roche improved up to the time of his death, and preferred his “Moses” and “Drowned Martyr,” painted in 1853 and 1855, to the earlier large ones, and his “Girondins,” finished in 1856, to the earlier small ones.
We passed on to the increased and increasing population of Paris.
“The population of Paris,” I said, “is only half that of London, while that of the British Islands is not much more than three-fourths of that of France. If you were to double the population of Paris, therefore, it would still be proportionably less than that of London.”
“That is true,” said Tocqueville; “but yet there are many circumstances connected with the Parisian population, each of which renders it more dangerous than the London one. In the first place, there is the absence of any right to relief: the English workman knows that neither he nor his family can starve. The Frenchman becomes anxious as soon as his employment is irregular, and desperate when it fails. The English workmen are unacquainted with arms, and have no leaders with military experience. The bulk of the Frenchmen have served, many of them are veterans in civil war, and they have commanders skilled in street fighting. The English workmen have been gradually attracted to London by a real and permanent demand for their labour. They have wives and children. At least 100,000 men have been added to the working population of Paris since the coup d’état. They are young men, in the vigour of their strength and passions, unrestrained by wives or by families. They have been drawn hither suddenly and artificially, by the demolition and reconstruction of half the town, by the enormous local expenditure of the Government, and by the fifty millions spent in keeping the price of bread in Paris unnaturally low. The 40,000 men collected in Paris, by the construction of the fortifications, are supposed to have mainly contributed to the Revolution of 1848. What is to be expected from this addition of 100,000? Then, the repressive force is differently constituted, and differently animated.
“In England you have an army which has chosen arms as a profession, which never thinks of any other employment, and, indeed, is fit for no other, and never expects any provision except its pay and its pension. The French soldier, ever since 1789, is a citizen. He serves his six years because the law and the colonel force him to do so; but he counts the days until he can return to his province, his cottage, and his field. He sympathises with the passions of the people. In the terrible days of June, the army withstood the cries and the blessings, the imprecations and the seductions of the mob, only because they had the National Guard by their side. Their presence was a guarantee that the cause was just. The National Guard never fought before as they did in those days; yet, at the Château d’Eau, the miraculous heroism and the miraculous good-luck of Lamoricière were necessary to keep them together. If he had not exposed himself as no man ever did, and escaped as no man ever did, they would have broken.”
“I was there,” said Scheffer, “when his fourth horse was killed under him. As his horse was sinking, he drew his feet out of the stirrups, and came to the ground without falling, but his cigar dropped from his mouth. He picked it up, and went on with the order which he was giving to an aide-de-camp.”
“I saw that,” said Tocqueville. “He had placed himself immediately behind a gun, in front of the Château d’Eau, which fired down the Boulevard du Temple. A murderous fire from the windows in a corner of the Rue du Temple killed all the artillerymen. The instant that Lamoricière placed himself behind it, I thought that I saw what would happen. I implored him to get behind some shelter, or at least not to stand as a mark. ‘Recollect,’ I said, ‘that if you go on in this way, you must be killed before the day is over, and where shall we all be?’
“ ‘I see the danger of what I am doing,’ he answered; ‘and I dislike it as much as you can do, but it is necessary. The National Guards are shaking; if they break, the Line follows. I must set an example that everybody can see and can understand. This is not a time for taking precautions. If I were to shelter myself, they would run.’ ”
Tocqueville and I walked home together.
“Scheffer,” he said, “did not tell all that happened at the Château d’Eau. Men seldom do when they fight over their battles.
“The insurgents, by burrowing through walls, had got into a house in the rear of our position. They manned the windows, and suddenly fired down on us from a point whence no danger had been feared. This caused a panic among the National Guards, a force, of course, peculiarly subject to panics. They turned and ran back two hundred and fifty yards along the Boulevard St. Martin, carrying away with them the Line, and Lamoricière himself. He endeavoured to stop them by outcries, and by gesticulations, and, indeed, by force. He gave to one man, who was trying to run by him, a blow with his fist, so well meant and well directed, that it broke his collar-bone. At length he stopped them, re-formed them, and said, ‘Now you shall march, I at your head, with the drummer beating the charge, as if you were on parade, up to that house.’ They did so. After a few discharges, which miraculously missed Lamoricière, the men in the house deserted it.”
“What were you doing at the Château d’Eau?” I asked.
“We were marching,” he said, “with infantry and artillery on the Boulevard du Temple, across which there was a succession of barricades, which it was necessary to take one by one.
“As we advanced in the middle, our sappers and miners got into the houses, broke through the party-walls, and killed the men at the windows.
“Those three days,” he continued, “impress strongly on my mind the dangers of our present state.
“It is of no use to take up pavements, and straighten streets, and pierce Paris by long military roads, and loophole the barracks, if the executive cannot depend on the army. Ditches and bastions are of no use if the garrison will not man them.
“The new law of recruitment, however, may produce a great change. Instead of 80,000 conscripts, 120,000 are to be taken each year. This is about all that are fit for service. If the change ended there, our army would be still more a militia than it is now. It would be the Prussian Landwehr. But those entitled to their discharge are to be enticed by higher pay, promotion, bounties, and retiring pensions, in short by all means of seduction, to re-enter for long periods, for ten or fifteen, or perhaps twenty years. It is hoped that thus a permanent regular army will be formed, with an esprit de corps of its own—unsympathizing with the people, and ready to keep it down—and such will, I believe, be the result. But it will take nine or ten years to produce such an army, and the dangers that I fear are immediate.”
“What are the motives,” I asked, “for the changes as to the conscription—the increase of numbers, and the diminution of the time of service?”
“They are parts,” he answered, “of the system. The French peasant, and indeed the ouvrier, dislikes the service; the proportion of conscripts who will re-enlist is small; therefore the whole number must be large. The country must be bribed to submit to this, by the shortening of the term. The conscript army will be sacrificed to what is to be the regular army. It will be young and ill-trained.”
“But your new regular army,” I said, “will be more formidable to the enemy than your present force.”
“I am not sure of that,” he answered. “The merit of the French army was the impetuosity of its attack—the Furia Francese, as the Italians called it. Young troops have more of this quality than veterans. The Maison du Roi, whose charge at Steenkirk Macaulay has so well described, consisted of boys of 18.”
“I am thinking,” I said, “of re-editing my old articles. Among them is one written in 1841, on the national character of France, England, and America, as displayed towards foreign nations. I have not much to change in what I have said of England or of America.
“England has become, perhaps, a little more prudent; America a little less so. But France seems to me to be altered. I described her as a soldier, with all the faults of that unsocial character. As ambitious, rapacious, eager for nothing but military glory and territorial aggrandizement. She seems now to have become moderate and pacific, and to be devoted rather to the arts of peace than to those of war.”
“France is changed,” answered Tocqueville, “and when compared with the France of Louis XIV. or of Napoleon, was already changed when you wrote, though the war cry raised for political purposes in 1840 deceived you.
“At the same time I will not deny that military glory would, more than any other merit, even now strengthen a government, and that military humiliation would inevitably destroy one. Nor must you attach too much importance to the unpopularity of the last war. Only a few even of the higher classes understood its motives.
“ ‘Que diable veut cette guerre?’ said my country neighbours to me. ‘Si ç’était contre les Anglais—Mais avec les Anglais, et pour le grand Turc, qu’est ce que cela peut signifier?’* But when they saw that it cost only men, that they were not invaded or overtaxed, and that prices rose, they were reconciled to it.
“It was only the speculators of Paris that got tired of it. And if, instead of the Crimea, we had fought near our own frontiers, or for some visible purpose, all our military passions, bad and good, would have broken out.”
May 8, 1857.
Tocqueville dined with us.
A lady at the table d’hôte was full of a sermon which she had heard at the Madeleine. The preacher said, sinking his voice to an audible whisper, “I will tell you a secret, but it must go no further. There is more religion among the Protestants than with us. They are better acquainted with the Bible, and make more use of their reading; we have much to learn from them.”
I asked Tocqueville, when we were in our own room, as to the feelings of the religious world in France, with respect to heretics.
“The religious laity,” he answered, “have probably little opinion on the subject; they suppose the heretic to be less favourably situated than themselves, but do not waste much thought on him. The ignorant priests, of course, consign him to perdition. The better instructed think, like Protestants, that error is dangerous only so far as it influences practice.
“X. Y. Z. was one of the best men that I have known, but an unbeliever. The Archbishop of —— tried in his last illness to reconcile him to the Church. He failed. X. Y. Z. died as he had lived. But the Archbishop, when lamenting to me his death, expressed his own conviction that so excellent a soul could not perish. You recollect that Duchess, in St. Simon, who on the death of a sinner of illustrious race, said, ‘On me dira ce qu’on veut, on ne me persuadera pas que Dieu n’y regarde deux fois avant de damner un homme de sa qualité.’* The Archbishop’s feeling was the same, only changing qualité into virtue.
“There is something amusing,” he continued; “when, separated as we are from it by such a chasm, we look back on the prejudices of the ancien régime. An old lady once said to me, ‘I have been reading with great satisfaction the genealogies which prove that Jesus Christ descended from David. Ça montre que notre Seigneur était gentilhomme.’†
“We are somewhat ashamed,” I said, “in general of Jewish blood; yet the Levis boast of their descent from the Hebrew Levi.”
“They are proud of it,” said Tocqueville; “because they make themselves out to be cousins of the blessed Virgin. They have a picture in which a Duke de Levi stands bareheaded before the Virgin.’ ‘Couvrez vous donc, mon cousin,’ she says. ‘C’est pour ma commodité, Madame,’ he answers.”‡
The conversation passed to literature.
“I am glad,” said Tocqueville, “to find, that imperfect as my knowledge of English is, I can feel the difference in styles.”
“I feel strongly,” I said, “the difference of styles in prose, but little in poetry.”
“The fact is,” said Tocqueville, “that the only French poetry, except that of Racine, that is worth reading, is the light poetry, I do not think that I could now read Lamartine, though thirty years age he delighted me.”
“The French taste,” I said, “in English poetry differs from ours. You read Ossian and the Night Thoughts.”
“As for Ossian,” he answered, “he does not seem to have been ever popular in England; but the frequent reference to the Night Thoughts, in the books and letters of the last century, shows that the poem was then in everybody’s memory. Foreigners are, in fact, provincials; they take up fashions of literature, as they do fashions of dress, when the capital has left them off. When I was young you probably had ceased to be familiar with Richardson. We knew him by heart. We used to weep over the lady Clementina, whom I dare say Miss Senior never heard of.
“During the first Empire, we of the old régime abandoned Paris, as we do now, and for the same reasons. We used to live in our châteaux, where I remember, as a boy, hearing Sir Charles Grandison and Fielding read aloud. A new novel was then an event. Madame de Cottin was much more celebrated than George Sand is now; for all her books were read, and by everybody. Notwithstanding the great merits of George Sand’s style, her plots and her characters are so exaggerated and so unnatural, and her morality is so perverted, that we have ceased to read her.”
Thursday, May 15, 1857.
“Do you agree,” I asked, “in the general opinion as to the effect in Paris of our opposition to the Suez canal?”
“I agree,” he answered, “in it thoroughly. There is nothing that has done you so much mischief in France and in Europe. I am no engineer; I should be very sorry to pronounce a decided opinion as to the feasibility or the utility of the canal, but your opposition makes us believe that it must be practicable.”
“Those among us,” I answered, “who fear it, sometimes found their fears on grounds unconnected with its practibility. They say that it is a political, not a commercial scheme. That the object is to give to French engineers and French shareholders a strip of land, separating Egypt from Syria, and increasing the French interest in Egypt.”
“What is the value,” answered Tocqueville, “of a strip of land in the desert, where no one can live?
“And why are the shareholders to be French? The Greeks, the Styrians, the Dalmatians, the Italians, and the Sicilians, are the people who will use the canal, if any use it. They will form the bulk of the shareholders, if shareholders there be.
“My strong suspicion is, that if you had not opposed it, there never would have been any shareholders, and that if you now withdraw your opposition, and let the scheme go on until calls are made, the subscribers, who are ready enough with their names, as patriotic manifestations against you, as long as no money is to be paid, will then withdraw en masse from an undertaking which, at the very best, is a most hazardous one.
“As to our influence in Egypt, your journal shows that it is a pet project of the Viceroy’s. He hopes to get money and fame by it. You irritate both his covetousness and his vanity, and throw him for support upon us.”
TO HENRY REEVE, ESQ.
May 20, 1857.
I write to you, my dear friend, to recommend to your attention the first two volumes of the great work by Duvergier de Hauranne,* which have just appeared. I sincerely esteem and love the author, but I do not believe that I am influenced by those feelings, when I say that these volumes are the first really important work on the period to which they refer. You know well that one’s own time is that with which one is least acquainted. One knows only the events which one has seen, just as a soldier can tell what he himself did and saw in a battle, but cannot describe—indeed, does not understand—the battle as a whole. I have learned much from what Duvergier has already published, and I hope to learn still more from what is to come.
I have not read the first volume, which is introductory, and treats of the whole Revolution. I told Duvergier that I should not read it, and he cannot be angry, as I have only obeyed the law which I have prescribed to myself, as a means of preserving the originality of my opinions, never to read anything on the French Revolution which was not written at the time.
But I have studied carefully the second volume on the Restoration, and it is excellent. I fear that we may agree less thoroughly when he comes to recent times, such as the reign of Louis Philippe. But as yet I find no mistakes. His facts, as far as I know them, are accurate; his judgments on men are generally calm and just. History will, I think, appreciate events as he has done, and you perceive that the writer has acted a part in the greatest events of his time.
I trust that you will be as much pleased as I have been. I am anxious, for the sake both of the author and of the liberal party in France, which they represent, that your great review should devote to the work an elaborate article. The publication will be quick. Another volume is expected next year. You will have, therefore, to review successively the whole history of modern France, related by a man of strong and well-directed mind, and perfectly informed. To do so well will be a brilliant work; I may say an important action; for the manner in which this part of the past is appreciated may considerably influence the future.
I still hope to be in England next month. To see you and yours will not be one of my least pleasures. A thousand kind and cordial regards.
TO MRS. GROTE.
Paris, May 31, 1857.
Though you have punished me, my dear Mrs. Grote, by not writing for three months, I must tell you that I delight in the hope of soon seeing you. I hope to be in London in the middle of June, and I need not say that I shall immediately try to find out you and Mr. Grote. Your conversation is a great pleasure, and, like other great pleasures, a rare one. Allow me to enjoy it frequently. London is now the only place for conversation. I have been passing two months in Paris. I have heard scarcely a word worth recollecting. It is not merely that the fools are still fools; but that the clever people are getting foolish.
The charming art of conversation—to touch and to set in motion a thousand thoughts, without dwelling tiresomely on any one—is among the lost arts. It must be sought for in History Hut.* There I shall look for it, unless, as is probable at this time of year, I find you in London. I know that in a great town, and in the “season,” one cannot reasonably hope to get much of one’s friends; but the little that I shall get will be very precious.
I date from Paris that you may have my address, in case, as is not very probable, you should answer me. But in fact I write from the ancient château of Chamarande, about forty miles from Paris, where my wife has lived for the last two months, in order to see her aunt every day. I pass three or four days of the week with her, and the rest in the great town.
Chamarande recalls to me the whole history of the French aristocracy. It is immense; built in the reign of Louis XIII. It used to be surrounded by a large park, planted under Louis XIV. by Lenôtre. It was the seat of a great family, of which the last, Marquis Talaru, died without children a few years ago. Though he chose to be buried here, he forgot to devise the estate. His heirs have sold it in lots. A man who keeps a shop in Paris has bought the park, and also the house; he has not pulled it down, because the materials, being brick, are worth nothing. He lets it in apartments. He has cut down the ancient trees, and plants potatoes in the avenues. Statues of goddesses stand among cabbages. You stumble against broken marbles. The fountains work a saw-mill. The splendour of the idle higher classes is gone. Well-regulated and productive industry has not yet come.* It is a picture of revolutionary destruction; a sad picture which the nations that have not seen the reality should look at.
I am writing without thinking, and scarcely know what I have been saying, or whether it was worth saying; but I have done what I wished, which was to express my real pleasure in the hope of seeing you soon. Remember me to Mr. Grote.
TO N. W. SENIOR, ESQ.
London, July 10, 1857.
I was too ill, my dear friend, to go to you yesterday. Dr. Ferguson tells me that I have been doing too much, and prescribes perfect rest.
I have already read half your journal of 1857. It is very curious; but I am glad that you have disguised me.
It is terrible to be in London, and to see so little of you; but the force of circumstances is greater than the force of wishes.
TO LORD RADNOR.
Portsmouth, July 19, 1857.
I leave London, my lord, to-morrow. I cannot do so without thanking you for all your kindness, and telling you how much I enjoyed my visit to you: I regret only that it was not longer. You know my curiosity; and among its objects none interest me more than the relations between different classes of men, and their respective circumstances. These facts, I think, explain the most important social problems. I should have delighted in studying a part of the population neglected by almost every traveller, that of the middle and lower rural classes—to study their mode of life, their moral and religious education, and their management of their own affairs. Lady Mary would, perhaps, have permitted me to visit with her your cottages. She would, I think, have found me a sympathising companion, anxious to receive all the information which she would have been kind enough to give me. I had not time for so useful and agreeable an employment, and when shall I have another opportunity? You are so good as to ask me to return; but my life is so arranged at present as to admit of little travelling. My last tour will be full of precious recollections, and the best will belong to Coleshill.
TO M. J. J. AMPÈRE.
Tocqueville, July 26, 1857.
I am just arrived from England, dear friend, and I find your letter of the 26th of June. I do not wonder that you still linger on the shore of the Lake of Como. What a charming study it must make for a man who reads and writes all day out of doors!
I fear that after living in the poetry of nature, you will care little for our prose; the less, as we must expect a wet autumn. We have had the finest of springs and of summers. A cloudless sky, and the centigrade thermometer at 25°. We shall have to pay for it by torrents of rain, which will not spare you. My wife is already miserable about it. But I venture to maintain that you will not be unhappy at Tocqueville, even in the rain; for one can never be thoroughly unhappy where there are true friends to receive one with open arms, and to show deep regret when one goes away.
As I told you, I come from a tour of five weeks in England. I lived in such a vortex, that I could not write to any of my best friends; and as for you, who are at the head of the list, I did not know to what part of Europe to address a letter. Yet I had much to say. My principal object was the British Museum, which contains about 12,000 pamphlets published in France during the Revolution. This collection is larger than any that we have, but for want of a catalogue I could make little use of it. I fared rather better in the State Paper Office, which was opened to me exceptionally.* I read there an interesting correspondence between the English diplomatic agents and their Government during the first year of our Revolution. Though I did not learn as much as I expected during my tour, I was far more amused than I could have hoped. I was almost ashamed of the warmth of my reception; for you know I do not deceive myself as to the real amount of my merits.
We stay here till February. So choose your time, and believe in the delight with which we shall receive you.
TO M. DE CORCELLE.
Tocqueville, July 2, 1857.
I have so much to say on England, which I have revisited after a lapse of twenty years, and with a larger experience of men, that it would take many letters to describe the impressions and the ideas produced by the scenes which I witnessed.
The spectacle is the greatest that the world affords, though every portion of it is not great. It contains indeed things unknown in the rest of Europe—things which consoled me.
I have no doubt that there exist among the lower orders some feelings hostile to their superiors; but they do not show themselves. What does show itself is the union of all the educated classes, from the humblest tradesman to the highest noble, to defend society, and to use freely their joint efforts to manage as well as possible its affairs. I do not envy the wealth or the power of England, but I envy this union. For the first time, after many years, I breathed freely, undisturbed by the hatreds and the jealousies between different classes, which, after destroying our happiness, have destroyed our liberty.
I enjoyed, too, in England what I have long been deprived of—a union between the religious and the political world, between public and private virtue, between Christianity and liberty. I heard the members of every denomination advocate free institutions, as necessary not only to the welfare but to the morality of society. Never, on any occasion, did I see what prevails on the Continent, the moral monstrosity of pious men applauding despotism, leaving to infidels the cause of liberty.
TO M. DE CORCELLE.
Tocqueville, August 5, 1857.
You have made to me, my dear friend, an undeserved reproach. I compared England to the Continent, not Catholicism to Protestantism.
Read over my letter, and you will find that I talk of Christians of all denominations. This must include Catholics. In fact, I never met with an English Catholic who did not value, as much as any Protestant, the free institutions of his country, or who divided morality into two sections, one consisting of public virtues, which might be safely neglected, and the other of private duties, which alone need be observed. No Catholic, lay or clerical, thought this. I did not compare the religions, but the countries. I said only that I breathed freely in a country in which liberty and religion were united. And I said truly, for, from my youth, the spectacle of their disunion has oppressed my soul. I said this more than twenty years ago, in the introduction to my “Democratie.” I feel this now as I did in youth. It is the thought most constantly in my mind.
The feeling which I am going to mention is common, and seems to me symptomatic. “We have, indeed, lost political liberty, but we keep an unlimited liberty of anti-Catholic philosophy. That is enough; it supplies the place of all others. It is the highest development of man.”
What do our clergy, who delight in political neutrality and apathy, say to this? I venture to predict that in our days it will not be found safe to withdraw the human mind from political action. As soon as it ceases to act, it theorises most dangerously. The German school, pretending not to care for politics—indeed, to utterly despise them—so undermined the foundations of society, that all the German Governments, unsupported by principles or habits capable of resistance, fell at one moment, and under one blow.
A thousand kind regards to you and yours.
TO LORD HATHERTON.
Tocqueville, August 7, 1857.
I tried in vain to see you, my lord, the day that I left London. Luckily I found Lady Hatherton at home; I could thank her for all the kindness which you both showed to me during my most instructive and most agreeable residence in London. No portion of it pleased me more than our little excursion to Teddesley. Your kindness made me feel as if we had been friends for twenty years.
You may easily believe that Madame de Tocqueville and I are much tempted to accept your pressing invitation to visit you this year or the next. But great as the temptation is, I doubt the possibility of our yielding to it. We are at work on our pleasure-grounds, and no one knows better than your lordship the attraction of such an employment, and the difficulty of escaping from it. Our visit must, I fear, be delayed, but we hope not to be deprived of the pleasure of seeing you in the meantime. My wife begs to repeat to Lady Hatherton the delight which we should feel in receiving you under our roof. She would find here the rusticity of ancient France, but, at the same time, hosts so happy in receiving her, that she would, I think, tolerate its inconveniences. I hope, too, my lord, that though you live in a large domain, you are not incapable of being interested by a very small one, and that in our walks you would give me good advice for my garden and for my farm.
Let me flatter myself that these hopes will be fulfilled next summer. I wish that I might rely on you. A yacht would bring you to us in eight or ten hours. It would be rather a party of pleasure than a voyage.
TO MRS. HOLLOND.
Tocqueville, August 9, 1857.
The torrent by which I was carried away in London, and the suddenness of my departure, defeated, Madame, to my great regret, my intention of taking leave of you. But the copy which you gave me of your book is a recollection which can never be effaced. I brought it to this place, and Madame de Tocqueville and I have been reading it with great delight. It fulfilled as a whole the expectations raised in me by the first hundred pages. Your narrative is most attractive, above all, from its simplicity—a merit rare, and peculiarly appropriate to your subject. The painter forgets herself in her picture. The judgments are sober, moderate, and just; without ambition or affectation. Your book pleased and interested us from the first page to the last; and you bestowed upon us an intellectual enjoyment which left a salutary moral effect. These were, I believe, your objects, and you have attained them perfectly.
What you say of Channing’s reserved address explains my impression on my visit to him in 1831, at Boston. I thought him cold. I had been excited by his writings, but his conversation froze me. I was somewhat displeased, and never returned, and now regret my lost opportunity. But I knew well the Tuckermans whom you so well describe. Mr. Tuckerman and I were brought together by our common interest in prisons. The attractiveness of his admirable character made me see him frequently. What struck me as peculiarly loveable was not so much the immense good that he did, nor the labour which he underwent for that purpose, as the pleasure which he took in this sacred employment, and the frankness with which he expressed that pleasure. I remember his saying, “If God will allow me to continue to reside near ——— Street (the poorest in Boston), and pass there a part of every day, I ask for nothing more; I shall be perfectly happy.”
You have struck me by your vivid picture of one of the finest of Channing’s moral and intellectual features. Though Channing, from his lofty point of view, looked calmly on the character and the destiny of the whole human race, he considered greatness to depend upon the individual man. It was the individual whom he wished to see great, independent, noble, and free. Though some of his notions might have led him to exaggerate the importance of human societies, no one supported or honoured more man as an individual—a most useful and instructive example to this generation, which is always tempted to magnify man not as an individual, but as a mere bit of a social machine.
The end of my paper tells me that I have already been too long. Remember me to Mr. Hollond, and accept my thanks for the pleasure which you have given to me.
TO M. J. J. AMPÈRE.
Tocqueville, August 9, 1857.
I write to you, my dear friend, with no object, except to tell you our news, and to ask for yours. Not that I am anxious about you. You seem to me to be plunged in all the delights of Capua, except that you do not let them enervate you. To live with friends in a pretty villa in Upper Italy, and write in view of the Lake of Como and the Alps, is a most luxurious manner of working.
We well understand the difficulty of dragging you from this retreat to our Hyperborean country, and we make only two conditions. One, that you come before the end of September, that you may not jump suddenly from your summer to our winter; the other, that you do not run away too soon. I am trying to induce the Loménies to meet you. We have endeavoured by every means to persuade them to come, and I trust that we shall succeed.
I am not yet writing steadily, but I hope that I am getting into the humour, and that I shall also work efficiently. I judge from the disquiet and uneasiness which my barrenness gives to me, and from my anxiety, vague, but eager, to be again productive.
I want to get the machine in motion. Yours is always at work. I would to God that I resembled you. Nothing is more capricious or restive than my mind, and, unfortunately, I cannot say to it, as Turenne did to his body, “You tremble, carcass, but I shall take you into places which you will like still less.” I am very impatient to see your Cæsar with its last embellishments, to know what is the book which you allude to without telling me what it is like, and above all to embrace you, and to talk to you about everything.
India employs all our thoughts here, and, I suppose, everywhere; for no man under the sun can be indifferent to events which affect so much the destinies of the human race. I expect England to triumph, and to regain her empire. In the meantime she is in the state of a lobster changing its shell. At every other time it is invulnerable—at that instant the smallest fish may wound it. England has not merely to reconquer India, she must change its form of government; and while she is doing so, she must be at peace everywhere else. I foresee, therefore, as one of the first consequences, a greater warmth of friendship between her cabinet and ours. Her respect for our Government will return in proportion as she wants us.
TO THE SAME.
Tocqueville, August 28, 1857.
Though it is long since I heard from you, my dear friend, I suppose that you are still on the shores of your lake, and I write only to tell you some news of which you would be sorry to be ignorant.
Corcelle tells us that he, wife, and children, will be here about the 8th or 9th of September, and stay with us a fortnight. Luckily, the visit of these excellent friends coincides with that of the Loménies; and if yours could be added, for at least a part of the time, the pleasure of “Hôte” and “Hôtes” (for in French we are absurd enough to give the same appellation to the visitor and to the visited) would be complete.
I say this to inform you, not to press you. I know that when one has finished one’s arrangements, mapped out one’s route, and made one’s engagements, it is difficult to extemporise a change. So I shall forgive you, if you do not come. But you will allow me to be enchanted if you do come. This, however, you know to be at all times my feeling.
We have had splendid weather for three months, which I only half enjoy, fearing that it implies an autumnal deluge. Happily the weather, in spite of its reputation for inconstancy, does not rush, like man, inevitably, from extreme to extreme: a dry summer is sometimes followed by a dry winter.
We take in the Revue des Deux Mondes, and have read, therefore, and with the utmost pleasure, your last article on the history of Rome. It is wonderful that you can treat so long the same subject, and in the same form (which is unavoidable, since you trace the history of Rome only by its ruins), with unabated vigour, without fatiguing yourself or your reader, who derives always the same pleasure, instruction, interest, and amusement, from your pages. It is a literary tour de force, and requires all your peculiar strength and versatility. I am eager to see what you have to show us, and what, without describing it, you promise us. My wife and I are puzzling ourselves with guesses.
TO M. FRESLON.
Tocqueville, September 11, 1857.
Your friendship makes you anxious as to the inferences which I shall draw from my long study of the Revolution. You fear that I shall end by despair of the future.
It is true that I have often to struggle against it. I own that I cannot see how, with such a past history and with such results, we shall ever create permanent institutions, with which you or I can be satisfied. I confess that my inability to find a remedy for such inveterate evils throws me sometimes into a dark despondency as to politics which can lead to no good.
But I can assure you that, in the first place, I am resolved to fight with all my strength against this melancholy; and secondly, that I am certain that the black horizon which bounds our view conceals something far better beyond it. Society with us is tired—exhausted, if you choose to say so—but not worn out. It is sick, but its constitution is strong. I do not believe that we are to be compared to the Romans. We have Christianity, modern knowledge, energy, though latent; we have no slaves; we belong to one country. In all these things we differ. We no more resemble the Romans of the age of Augustus, of whom we hear so much, than we resembled twenty-five years ago the English of 1688, though there was some resemblance in the two Revolutions, and though Louis Philippe seemed to be the ghost of William the Third. Nothing is more deceitful than historical resemblances. No; we shall have something better than Rome under the Cæsars; and because I see no such dawn, I do not believe that we have sunk into a similar night.
Observe, too, that I do not blame the destruction of the ancien régime, but the mode of destruction. I am not opposed to democracies. They may be great, they may be in accordance with the will of God, if they be free. What saddens me is, not that our society is democratic, but that the vices which we have inherited and acquired make it so difficult for us to obtain or to keep well-regulated liberty. And I know nothing so miserable as a democracy without liberty.
Such is the state of my mind on these matters. I do not fear that it will give a mischievous colour to my book. Believe me when I assure you that all my efforts will be to raise men, not to depress them. But I must preserve my identity. Only feelings and opinions that belong to the very depths of the soul have the vigour and the warmth which rouse and stimulate the reader. A writer must beware of weakening the strength of his thoughts, above all in their first expression. I am far from the end of my work, and of course my friends will see it and judge it before the public does. What will it be? Really I cannot tell.
TO THE COMTESSE DE CIRCOURT.
Tocqueville, September 24, 1857.
You were right in supposing, Madame, that I must be deeply grieved by the death of Madame Swetchine. I did not expect it to be so sudden—such was not the impression produced on me by my last news of her, through M. de Circourt. Hope, in fact, I could not have, after my conversations with M. Rayer; but, without believing in her recovery, I cherished an expectation of seeing once again a person for whom I had a sincere affection and a deep respect—a union rarer than is generally supposed. I do not think that I ever met with truer, and, therefore, greater virtue, and I certainly never met with any that was more attractive. She was a happy mixture of the highest and the most endearing qualities, so harmoniously combined, that your admiration did not prevent your being at your ease and amused. Where shall I find again so much sympathy with others, so excitable a sensibility, a kindness so effectual, such quickness of apprehension and of feeling, and such a passionate love of truth—a quality very different from mere veracity, and very superior to it? Rarely does God create anything so charming, and still more rarely does He make goodness so attractive.
I am truly grieved by what you tell me of Madame de Rauzan. She must be struck down. To lose an only son so suddenly and so prematurely! If you write to Thil, mention me, and my sincere sympathy with their sorrows.
TO LADY THERESA LEWIS.
Tocqueville, October 18, 1857.
I must thank you immediately, Madame, for your interesting letter. India fills our thoughts at Tocqueville almost as much as it does yours in London. My wife often talks of it, and is always thinking of it. A mail has sometimes spoilt her rest for a night, yet happily she has not a relation or an intimate friend in Bengal. But though her marriage makes her French by law, she has remained in her affections, her habits, and her ideas, thoroughly English. As for me, nothing in the world interests me more than the destiny of your great nation. You may think, therefore, how anxiously we read all that you told us of the East. I recognised at once the habitual clearness and the sagacity of your mind. I think, with you, that there was more of accident in the insurrection than was at first supposed; and also, that the principal effect of the accident was to throw light on the general causes, and to accelerate their action. Perhaps I attach rather less importance than you do to the accidents, and more to the general causes, which you point out so well. I will venture to add to them one more.
England, the only civilized nation which has retained an aristocratic government, is forced, strangely enough, to destroy or degrade aristocracy in all her dependencies. It is the business of every master, native or foreign. For a hundred years you have been doing this in India, prudently but perseveringly. You have spared the native princes and higher classes, as much as was consistent with your domination. But you have been constantly employed in straitening, weakening, or destroying, some of the foreign if not hostile sovereignties which were inclosed in your territories, without being actually your subjects.
It seems to me that the time has come, when all these princes, indeed, all the higher classes, have seen (you yourselves almost telling them so) that they are to be reduced to the general level. It is only a question of time. One falls to-day, another will fall to-morrow. They have experience and intelligence enough to see this, and strength enough to hope that they can resist it. This is the critical period for an empire like yours. But it is a matter of astonishment and congratulation that no man superior to the present wretched insurgents has been able to make use of this feeling. I believe that if such a man had shown himself, you would have seen all the little princes and dominant races of Northern India march at once against you, instead of remaining, in general, mere spectators.
I venture, also, to differ from you when you say that England would not be weakened by the loss of India, and that only a heroic vanity leads you to keep it. Many enlightened Englishmen have said this to me. I never could agree with them.
It is true that, as a mere question of money and of physical strength, India costs more than it brings in—that it forces you to make distant exertions, which may paralyse your force when most wanted near home. I admit all this. Perhaps you had better have hanged Clive, instead of making him a peer. Still I think that the loss of India would greatly lower the position of England. I could give many reasons. I shall be satisfied with one.
Nothing under the sun is so wonderful as the conquest, and still more the government, of India by the English. Nothing so fixes the eyes of mankind on the little island of which the Greeks never heard even the name. Do you believe, Madame, that a nation, after having filled this vast place in the imagination of the whole human race, can safely withdraw from it? I do not. I believe that England obeys an instinct, not only heroic, but wise when, already possessing India, she resolves at any price whatever to keep it. I add, that I am convinced that she will keep it, though, perhaps, on less favourable conditions.
I am sure that you agree with me in wishing that her victory may show as few traces as possible of the revengeful passions which she cannot but feel. The civilized world is now with her. She is pitied and admired. Nothing would be easier than, by pushing repression too far, to reverse this sympathy. I see already symptoms of a change. You have, undoubtedly, to deal with savages, whose barbarity surpasses all known limits; you have witnessed in India horrors from which the human imagination recoils. But your title to govern these savages is, that you are better than they are. You ought to punish them, not to imitate them. You would imitate them if, for instance, you were to massacre the whole population of Delhi. And this has been proposed, though many of the inhabitants of Delhi were themselves pillaged and oppressed by your enemies.
Forgive my warmth. I love too passionately the glory of England, which is that of liberty, not to desire eagerly that she should be as great in her victory as she has been up to this time in her battle; and I feel that all who wield power or influence ought to labour in concert for this purpose.
I have only one fault to find with your letter, Madame, and it is no small one. You write most interestingly on politics, and say not a word of yourself or of your family. Do you suppose that politics are all that I care about in England?
I should have liked to know why you are in London, and for how long? what is become of Sir George? and of your children, who treated me as an old friend? I should have liked, too, to hear of Lord Clarendon, whom I remember so agreeably. On all these important points you are dumb, and I complain.
I ought to finish this endless letter; but I must add, what you will be glad to hear, that your Queen, short as was her visit, charmed the people of Cherbourg. This is not a mere compliment. Her graciousness and simplicity so gained the hearts of our good Normans, that, in his emotion, the editor of the local newspaper, (a better organ of the popular feeling than courtier), printed in his paper that even the Emperor was never better received.
TO M. FRESLON.
Tocqueville, November 5, 1857.
A thousand thanks, my dear friend, for your two letters. You may well believe that the second gave me much pain. I do not know whether anything was left for Cavaignac to do; but there was a great charm in his elevation of character. It is sad to see him so suddenly disappear. He was the only great figure on the dark canvas of 1848; and he will remain great in history. In fact, every year—almost every month—sees the extinction in obscurity of those who once were illustrious. They are not replaced. We are sinking gradually into general mediocrity. All who were known, or deserved to be known, disappear; and where is the new man from whom we have to hope anything in science, in art, in literature, or in politics? Set him before me, and I will confess that I am an old, ill-natured critic. It is painful to belong to such times, if you desire anything besides a life of mere comfort.
Why did you tell me, in your former letter, that you would have written to me from the country, if you had not feared tiring me by an account of the books you read, and the subjects which interest you?
You ought to know that one of your greatest merits, and you have many others, is, that you are a conversing friend. The others say little or say nothing. The weight of lead, which oppresses us, crushes the spirit of conversation even among those whose minds are fullest of ideas, and with whom one would most like to exchange them. Their affection remains; but, like old lovers, they find nothing to say. The elasticity of your mind struggles against the weight which depresses every one else. You still feel an interest in general subjects; you like to talk, you are excited even when you think of them. All the others are advocates, or judges, or farmers, or soldiers, caring for nothing, and not wishing to care for anything, except their own little matters of business. With a few exceptions, we have come out of this revolution like labourers, who leave the field hanging their heads, worn out by the day’s work, thinking of nothing but to get home, get their supper, and get to bed.
Write to me, then, every thing that comes into your head, and be sure that every sparkle of life which you can throw into the darkness of this death will be the greatest delight of which I am now susceptible.
I am beginning again to be tolerably diligent. A thousand kind regards.
TO M. GUSTAVE DE BEAUMONT.
Tocqueville, November 20, 1857.
* * * * * *
All this indisposes me to my work. Often I should have abandoned it, if the want of some really useful employment did not soon make me miserable. This want forces me back to it after I have been driven from it by despair. To the troubled state of my mind is to be added the intrinsic difficulty of the subject. To treat it with novelty seems an absurd attempt, yet I cannot repeat the common-places which we have heard ever since we were children. Even before I had tired the reader, I should be tired to death myself. Besides, I must mix ideas with facts, tell enough of the latter to make the former intelligible, to make the reader feel their importance, and do all this without writing a history, properly so called. I sometimes ask myself, and with some doubt, Can all this be done? I think that I discern the object which I wish to paint, but the light is so uncertain that its features escape me.
In your letter before last, you describe well the manner in which the little occupations of the country take possession of one’s life, and fill it till it can hold nothing else. To a certain degree I feel this, and I am surprised sometimes at the amusement which I feel in these small details, and at the importance which I attach to things which really have scarcely any. To think about the French Revolution requires an effort; one’s thoughts flow easily when their subject is how to make a sheep-fold or build a stable. But I know myself; my incurable restlessness, and the changeableness of my feelings too well, to think that mere country life and country employments would satisfy me.
As for you, do not talk to me of being sad. You have no right to be so when you have such a son. I saw him the other day, for an instant, at Sainte Barbe. I fell into the sin of envy. His person is as distinguished as his mind. It is impossible to be more intelligent, more affectionate, more noble in ideas or in feelings. I understand your anxiety as to his choice of a profession. After all, I envy you your anxiety. You do not know what it is to grow old in solitude. The happiness of my married life thus becomes itself a source of pain. It is terrible to feel that only one single being attaches me to life, and to consider what interest this world would have left for me if I lost her.
TO N. W. SENIOR, ESQ.
Tocqueville, November 15, 1857.
I am somewhat angry with you, my dear Senior, for not having yet given us your news.* It is treating our friendship unfairly. I have not written to you because I doubted your following exactly your intended route, but I write to you at Athens, as I think that you must now be there. Your travels will be curious and instructive.
What say you of our friends the Turks? Was it worth while to spend so much money and to shed so much blood in order to retain in Europe savages who are ill disguised as civilized men? I am impatient to talk to you, and almost equally so to read you.
I shall have little to tell you; I have not stirred from home since I left England, and am leading the life of a gentleman farmer—a life which pleases me more and more every day, and would really make me happy, if my wife were not suffering from an obstinate neuralgic affection in the face. I fear that she may have to go to some mineral waters, which she would be sorry to do, for, as you know, she hates travelling, and does no justice to the reputation for wandering possessed by the English race.
I can tell you nothing on politics which you will not find in the newspapers.
As for India, you are out, not perhaps of your difficulties, but of your greatest dangers. This affair, and that of the Crimea, show how little sympathy there is for England abroad. There was everything to interest us in your success—similarity of race, of religion, and of civilization. Your loss of India would have served no cause but that of barbarism. Yet I venture to affirm that the whole Continent, though it detested the cruelties of your enemies, did not wish you to triumph.
Much of this is, without doubt, to be attributed to the evil passions which make men always desire the fall of the prosperous and the strong. But much belongs to a less dishonourable cause—to the conviction of all nations that England considers them only with reference to her own greatness; that she has less sympathy than any other modern nation; that she never notices what passes among foreigners, what they think, feel, suffer, or do, but with relation to the use which England can make of their actions, their sufferings, their feelings, or their thoughts; and that when she seems most to care for them she really cares only for herself. All this is exaggerated, but not without truth.
Kindest regards from us both to you and to Mrs. Senior.
TO LORD HATHERTON.
Tocqueville, November 27, 1857.
I received, not long ago, my Lord, a letter from our friend Sumner, dated from Teddesley. He tells me how kindly you talked of me. I write partly to thank you and partly to ask for your news—not as a mere form, for they will interest me sincerely. I am full of grateful recollection of your simple and cordial hospitality, and I think I told you before that our little excursion to Teddesley dwells in my memory as one of the pleasantest episodes in my English tour. Writing to you recalls vividly the time passed with you so usefully and so agreeably.
Many thanks for your agricultural information. My farming is on a very small scale, and yet it occupies me considerably. All my estate is let, except some home meadows, which supply me hay and pasture. But this is enough to give me great interest in agriculture, and to amuse my solitude. My daily life is almost equally divided; in the forenoon I am an author, in the afternoon a peasant. I never forget my fields for my books; but when I am among my books, I often think of my fields. The evening brings my wife and me together, before a bright fire in a great ancient fireplace, round which many generations of my ancestors have sat. There we read our favourite books, and the time flies. You know that our country habits differ from yours. We receive our friends in summer, and are alone in the winter.
Yet we are not too much estranged from the world to follow its events with attentive curiosity. The scenes of India have excited us in the Towers of Tocqueville. I never doubted your triumph, which is that of Christianity and of civilization. I believe, too, that the shock will be salutary, and that your empire in India will rest on a firmer basis. But that will require a larger military force. This appears to me to be the worst consequence of the rebellion. It seems to me that you must gradually be forced on maintaining a large standing army. I regret it, but I believe that you will be driven on it by irresistible causes.
I once collected materials for a work on British India, an attempt which I have long given up. I must have gone thither in order to understand my subject.
The impression left on me by this study was that England, though ruling over these populations for a century, had not done for them what might have been expected from her institutions and her intelligence. It seemed to me that she had been satisfied with assuming the place of the native sovereigns, and applying, with more justice, mildness, and intelligence, the same mode of government. More was to have been hoped from her. I trust that these events will throw light on Indian affairs, and attract and fix on them the attention of the whole nation. It is the part of your administration which, till now, has been least known to others, and, indeed, to yourselves. It is for this reason, especially, that I wish to see the Company abolished, and the administration of this vast country brought under the eyes of Parliament and of the public. Then you will feel that your task is not merely to rule India, but also to civilize it—two things most closely connected.
[*]The seat of Sir G. C. and Lady Theresa Lewis.
[*]In the original the word is “Français;” but the context requires it to be “Anglais.”—Tr.
[*]“A Speech on beginning a Course of Lectures on Archæology.”
[*]“Friends and Contemporaries of the Lord Chancellor Clarendon.”
[*]“What the devil is the meaning of this war? If it were against the English —— But with the English, and for the Turk, what can that mean?”
[*]“They may say what they like, but no one shall persuade me that God does not think of it twice before he damns a man of his birth.”
[†]“It shows that our Lord was a gentleman.”
[‡]“Pray put your hat on, cousin.”—“I had rather keep it off.”
[*]“History of Parliamentary Government in France.” There are now four volumes.
[*]Mrs. Grote’s house, near Burnham.
[*]Chamarande, now the seat of M. de Persigny, is reassuming its former splendour.
[*]The correspondence up to 1789 is all that is usually shown.—Tr.
[*]Mr. Senior was at this time in the East.—Tr.