The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XX - Essays on French History and Historians, ed. John M. Robson, Introduction by John C. Cairns (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/235,
Vol. 20 of the 33 vol. Collected Works contains a number of Mill’s essays and book reviews about French history.
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Westminster Review, V (Apr., 1826), 385-98. Headed. “Art. V.—Histoire de la Révolution Française, depuis 1789, jusqu’en 1814. / Par F[rançois] A[uguste] Mignet Paris [ Firmin Didot], 1824, 2 vols. [sic for 2 parts.] 8vo. Pp. 735. / History of the French Revolution. By F.A. Mignet, 8vo. 2 vols. / 12mo. 2 vols. 1826. [London:] Hunt and Clarke.” Running titles: “French Revolution,” Unsigned. Not republished. Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “A review of Mignet’s History of the French Revolution, in the 10th number of the Westminster Review” (MacMinn, 7). There is no separate copy of this article in Mill’s library, Somerville College.
For comment on the essay, see xxxix-xlii and xciv-xcv above.
this is a very sprightly narrative of the French Revolution, in two small volumes: which is as much as to say, that it is calculated to be most extensively popular. It possesses, indeed, all the requisites for a popular history. It tells an interesting story; it tells it in an interesting manner; it is not too long to be readable; it addresses itself to the reigning sentiment in the nation for which it is written, and there is just philosophy enough in it to persuade common readers that they are deriving instruction, while there is not enough to task their attention or their patience. There is a sort of middle point which it is difficult to hit exactly, between a philosophical history and a mere narrative. M. Mignet seems to have aimed at this point; he has at any rate attained it.
The old mode of writing a history resembled the mode of writing a novel; with only this difference, that the facts were expected to be true. In both cases there was a story to be told, and he who told it best was the best novelist, or the best historian. The poems which preceded the first histories, and which were probably intended, with some qualifications, to pass for histories, were written with the same ends in view as the prose histories which followed them. Greater license of amplification was, indeed, allowed to the poet, but in other respects the standard of excellence was the same: he who raised the most vivid conceptions, and the most intense emotions, was the greatest master of his art. This mode of writing history attained its highest excellence in the hands of the Greek and Roman historians. Livy, perhaps, exemplifies it in its purest state. In what remains of his history we have a surprising instance of the perfection to which the art of narration may be carried, where no other part of the duties of a historian is attended to; and for that very reason. Thucydides, with the exception of his early chapters,[*] which consist chiefly of a comment upon evidence, may be regarded as another variety of the same class. Each stands preeminent among his countrymen in the talent of narrative, each avoids generalization, and when he has any reflections to make, puts them into the mouth of one of the dramatis personae; retaining the character of the story-teller, even when he puts on that of the orator or the politician.
Between this style of historical composition, and the more modern one, which makes history subservient to philosophy, in which the narrative itself is but a Edition: current; Page:  secondary object, the illustration of the laws of human nature and human society being the first, there is an intermediate style, which endeavours to unite the characteristic properties of both the others. In this the primary object is still the gratification of that large class, who read only for amusement. With this purpose long inductions of facts or trains of reasoning being inconsistent, they are accordingly avoided, or banished to an appendix. Dramatic interest is with these, as with the first class of historians, the main object; but such general reflections are interspersed, drawn from the surface of the subject, as may be comprehended without any effort of attention, by an ordinary understanding. The common reader is thus provided with such instruction, or supposed instruction, as his habits of mind render him capable of receiving, and is possessed with a high idea of the powers of the writer, who can communicate wisdom in so easy and entertaining a form. Of the popularity which may be acquired by this mode of writing history, the success of Hume is a striking example.[*] Excelling all modern historians in his powers of narrative, he has also obtained credit for the profundity of his reflections. That his reputation for this quality is so widely diffused, is of itself a sufficient proof that it is undeserved. Had his reflections been really profound, we may venture to affirm that they would have been less popular. By a profound reflection, is meant a reflection, the truth of which is not obvious at first sight, and to a cursory reader, but which, in proportion as a man grows wiser, and takes a deeper insight into things, forces itself upon his assent.
When we say, that M. Mignet seems to have formed himself in this school, and that he is the highest specimen of it, among recent writers, which our recollection suggests to us, we have conveyed, we think, a tolerably accurate conception of his character as a historian. Little, therefore, remains to be done beyond the selection of such passages as seem best adapted to exhibit the degree in which he possesses the various attributes of his class: for we do not purpose to enter at present into the general question of the French revolution; it being our intention, at no distant period, to treat of that subject at greater length.[†] In the main, our view of the subject accords with that of M. Mignet; and for this reason, among others, we are anxious that his work should be extensively circulated in this country. There is nothing more disgraceful to Englishmen than their utter ignorance, not only of the causes and effects, but of the very events, the story, of the French revolution. With the majority of them, even of those among them who read and think, the conception they have of that great event is all comprehended in a dim but horrible vision of mobs, and massacres, and revolutionary tribunals, and guillotines, and fishwomen, and heads carried on pikes, and noyades, and fusillades, and one Edition: current; Page:  Robespierre, a most sanguinary monster. What the Tory prints choose to tell them of this most interesting period of modern history, so much they know, and nothing more: that is, enough to raise in their minds an intense yet indefinite horror of French reforms and reformers, and as far as possible of all reforms and reformers. Now, however, when they have ceased to tremble for themselves, and to start from their sleep at the terrific idea of a landing of French Jacobins or a rising of English ones to confiscate their property and cut their throats, they can, perhaps, bear to look at the subject without horror; and we exhort them to buy and read M. Mignet’s work, that they may know in what light the revolution is regarded by the nation which saw and felt it, which endured its evils, and is now enjoying its benefits.
M. Mignet, in his two volumes, had not space to do more than relate the story of the revolution. Proofs, in seven hundred pages, he could give none; his work is not even attended by the pièces justificatives, which usually follow in the train of a French history. The revolution has been long une cause jugée, in the minds of all disinterested persons in France; and none of M. Mignet’s countrymen would have asked him for his proofs, who would have been capable of being convinced by them if offered. To an English reader, this omission will diminish in some degree the value of the book. A writer who opposes the current opinion, has need of all the proofs he can muster. Happily, the proofs are not scanty, and are, even in this country, accessible.[*] We purpose to lay some of them before our readers ere long.
M. Mignet’s narrative powers are of a high order. He has mastered the grand difficulty in narration; he is interesting, without being voluminous; concise, without being vague and general Former writers on the French revolution had either lost themselves in a sea of details, dwelling on circumstance after circumstance with such painful minuteness that he who had patience to read to the end of the story had time before he arrived there to forget the beginning; or had contented themselves with a meagre abstract, describing the most remarkable scenes in terms so general as to have fitted a hundred other scenes almost as well. In narrative, as in description, it is impossible to excite vivid conceptions, in other words it is impossible to be interesting, without entering somewhat into detail. A particular event cannot be characterized by a general description. But details are endless. Here then is the dilemma. All the details it is not possible to give, not only because nobody would read them, but because if read they would defeat their own purpose. If the reader’s conception wants vivacity where there are no details, where there is excess of details it wants distinctness. The multitude of the parts injures the ensemble. The difficulty is in the apt selection of details. It is in judging which of the individualizing features it is best to delineate, when there is not room for all: it is in fixing upon those features which are the most strikingly Edition: current; Page:  characteristic, or which, if delineated, will of themselves suggest the remainder, that the rarest quality, perhaps, of the skilful narrator displays itself. M. Mignet possesses this quality in an extraordinary degree. His narrative may be pronounced a model of the apt selection of details. No one has better allied circumstantiality with condensation. We have all heard of graphic descriptions. M. Mignet’s is a graphic narrative: and whoever looks even at the outside of the voluminous compilations which are called Histories of the Revolution, and then turns to M. Mignet’s small volumes, will wonder by what art he can abridge so much, with so little of the appearance of an abridgement.
We quote the following sketch of the state of affairs at the opening of the Etats Généraux, partly for the complete justification which it affords of the early revolutionists, and partly as a specimen of the manner in which M. Mignet has executed one of the most important parts of his task:
The government ought to have been better aware of the importance of the States-general. The re-establishment of that assembly announced of itself a great revolution. Looked forward to by the nation with eager hope, they reappeared at a moment when the ancient monarchy was in a state of decrepitude, and when they alone were capable of reforming the state, and supplying the necessities of the king. The difficulties of the times, the nature of their commission, the choice of their members, every thing announced that they were convoked no longer as the payers of taxes, but as the makers of laws. The public voice and the instructions of their constituents had confided to them the right of regenerating France; and public support, and the enormity of existing abuses, promised them strength to undertake and accomplish this great task.
It was the interest of the monarch to associate himself in their undertaking. By this means he might have re-established his power, and protected himself against the revolution, by being himself the author of it. Had he taken the lead in reforms, settled with firmness but with justice the new order of things; had he realized the wishes of the nation by defining the rights of the citizen, the functions of the States-general and the bounds of the royal authority; had he sacrificed his own arbitrary power, the superiority of the nobles, and the privileges of the corporate bodies; had he, in short, executed all the reforms which were called for by the public voice, and subsequently effected by the Constituent Assembly; he would have prevented the fatal dissensions which afterwards broke out. It is rarely that a prince consents to the diminution of his power, and has the wisdom to concede what he will ultimately be forced to sacrifice. Yet Louis XVI would have done so, if instead of being ruled by those around him, he had obeyed the impulses of his own mind. But utter anarchy prevailed in the royal councils. At the meeting of the States-general, no measures had been adopted, nothing previously settled, to prevent future disputes. Louis wavered irresolute, between his ministry, directed by Necker, and his court, governed by the queen and several princes of his family.
The minister, satisfied with having carried the double representation of the commons, dreaded the king’s indecision and the discontent of the court. Insufficiently alive to the magnitude of a crisis which he regarded as financial rather than political, instead of anticipating he waited for the result, and flattered himself that he could guide the course of events which he had done nothing to prepare. He felt that the ancient organization of the states could no longer be maintained, and that the existence of three estates, with each a veto on the other two, was a hindrance to the accomplishment of reforms and to the conduct of administration. He hoped, after the effects of this threefold opposition should be proved by Edition: current; Page:  experience, to reduce the number of the orders, and obtain the adoption of the British form of government, including the nobles and clergy in one chamber, and the commons in another. He did not perceive that when once the struggle had begun, his interference would be vain, and half-measures be satisfactory to nobody, that the weaker party from obstinacy, and the stronger from the force of circumstances, would refuse their assent to this system of conciliation. A compromise can only be satisfactory, while the victory is undecided.
The court, far from wishing to give regularity to the States-general, desired to annul them. It preferred the occasional resistance of the great public corporations to a division of authority with a permanent assembly. The separation of the orders favoured its designs: by fomenting their disunion, it sought to prevent them from acting. From the vice of their organization, former States-general had effected nothing, and it the more confidently anticipated a similar result now, as the first two estates seemed less than ever inclined to acquiesce in the reforms demanded by the third. The clergy desired to retain their wealth and privileges, and foresaw that they would have more sacrifices to make than advantages to gain. The nobles were conscious that even in resuming their long-lost political independence, they would have more to concede to the people on the one hand, than to obtain from the monarch on the other. The approaching revolution was about to take place almost exclusively in favour of the commons, and the first two estates were led to coalesce with the court against the commons, as they had previously coalesced with the commons against the court. Interest was the sole motive of this change of side; and they allied themselves to the monarch with no attachment to him, as they had defended the people with no view to the public good.
No means were spared to keep the nobles and clergy in this disposition. Courtship and seducements were lavished upon their leaders. A committee, partly composed of the most illustrious personages, was held at the house of the Comtesse de Polignac, and the principal members of the two orders were admitted to it. It was there that two of the most ardent defenders of liberty in the parliament, and before the convocation of the States-general, d’Epréménil and d’Entragues, were won over, and became its most inveterate enemies. There were regulated the costumes of the three orders,[*] and etiquette first, intrigue next, and lastly force, were applied to disunite them. The court was led away by the recollection of the old States-general: and imagined it possible to manage the present like the past; to keep down Paris by the army, and the deputies of the commons by those of the nobles; to control the States, by disuniting the orders, and to disunite the orders by reviving the old usages which elevated the nobility and humiliated the commons. It was thus that after the first sitting of the assembly, they imagined that they had prevented every thing by conceding nothing.*
Of the rapidity and dramatic interest of his narrative, the following passage is an example. He has just been relating the early acts of the Constituent Assembly.
The attempt to prevent the formation of the assembly having failed, nothing remained to the court but to become a party to its proceedings, in order to get the direction of them into its own hands. By prudence and good faith it might yet have repaired its errors and effaced the memory of its hostilities. There are times when we can originate sacrifices; there are others when we can do no more than take the merit of accepting them. At the opening of the States-general the monarch might have made the constitution. It was now only time to receive it from the assembly; if he had accommodated himself to this situation, his situation Edition: current; Page:  would infallibly have been improved. But the counsellors of Louis, recovered from the first emotion of surprise at their defeat, resolved to have recourse to the bayonet, having had recourse to authority in vain. They intimated to him that the contempt of his commands, the safety of his throne, the maintenance of the laws of the kingdom, and even the happiness of his people, demanded that he should recal the assembly to submission; that the assembly, sitting at Versailles, in the immediate neighbourhood of Paris, and supported by both places, required to be subdued by force; that it must either be removed or dissolved; that this design required immediate execution, to arrest the progress of the assembly, and that to carry it into effect it was necessary to call in the troops without delay, to intimidate the assembly, and keep down Paris and Versailles.
While these schemes were in preparation, the deputies of the nation were commencing their legislatorial labours, and preparing that constitution so impatiently waited for, and which they thought it no longer fitting to delay. Addresses poured in from Paris and the great towns, applauding their wisdom, and encouraging them to carry forward the work of the regeneration of France. In this posture of affairs the troops arrived in great numbers; Versailles assumed the appearance of a camp; the hall of the states was surrounded by guards, and entrance interdicted to the public; Paris was environed by several bodies of troops, which seemed posted to undertake, as need might be, a blockade or a siege. These immense military preparations, the arrival of trains of artillery from the frontiers, the presence of foreign regiments, whose obedience was without limits, every thing gave indication of sinister designs. The people were in agitation; the assembly wished to undeceive the king, and request the removal of the troops. On the motion of Mirabeau, it presented to the king a firm and respectful address, but in vain.[*] Louis declared that he was sole judge of the necessity of calling in or of withdrawing the troops, which he assured them were no more than an army of precaution, to prevent disturbances, and protect the assembly; he likewise offered to remove the assembly to Noyon or Soissons, in other words, to place it between two armies, and deprive it of the support of the people.[†]
Paris was in the most violent fermentation; that immense city was unanimous in its devotion to the assembly: its own danger, that of the national representatives, and the scarcity of subsistence, predisposed it to insurrection. The capitalists, from interest and the fear of a national bankruptcy, enlightened men and all the middle class from patriotism, the populace, oppressed by want, imputing its sufferings to the court and the privileged orders, desirous of agitation and of novelty, had ardently embraced the cause of the revolution. It is difficult to figure to one’s self the internal commotion which agitated the capital of France. Awakened from the repose and silence of servitude, it was still, as it were, astonished at the novelty of its situation, and intoxicated with liberty and enthusiasm. The press blew up the flame; the newspapers gave circulation to the deliberations of the assembly, and seemed to make their readers actually present at its meetings: and the questions which were there agitated, were again discussed in the open air, in the public places. It was in the Palais Royal especially that the deliberative assembly of the capital was held. It was thronged by a multitude, which seemed permanent, but which was perpetually changing. A table was the rostra, the first comer was the orator; they harangued on the dangers of the country, and exhorted to resistance. Already, on a motion made at the Palais Royal, the prisons of the Abbaye had been forced, and some grenadiers of the French guards carried off in triumph, Edition: current; Page:  who had been confined there for refusing to fire upon the people. This commotion had led to no result; a deputation had solicited, in favour of the liberated prisoners, the good offices of the assembly, who had appealed to the clemency of the king in their behalf: they had returned to their confinement, and had received their pardon. But this regiment, one of the bravest and fullest in its numbers, had become favourable to the popular cause.[*]
We give the sequel of this passage in the original, despairing to preserve its spirit in a translation.
Telles étaient les dispositions de Paris lorsque Necker fut renvoyé du ministère. La cour, après avoir établi des troupes à Versailles, à Sèvres, au Champ-de-Mars, à Saint-Denis, crut pouvoir exécuter son plan. Elle commença par l’exil de Necker et le renouvellement complet du ministère. Le maréchal de Broglie, Lagallissonnière, le duc de la Vauguyon, le baron de Breteuil et l’intendant Foulon, furent désignés comme remplaçants de Puiségur, de Montmorin, de la Luzerne, de Saint-Priest et de Necker. Celui-ci reçut le samedi, 11 juillet, pendant son dîner, un billet du roi qui lui enjoignait de quitter le royaume sur le champ. Il dîna tranquillement sans faire part de l’ordre qu’il avait reçu, monta ensuite en voiture avec madame Necker, comme pour aller à Saint-Ouen, et prit la route de Bruxelles.
Le lendemain dimanche, 12 juillet, on apprit à Paris, vers les quatre heures du soir, la disgrace de Necker et son départ pour l’exil. Cette mesure y fut considérée comme l’exécution du complot dont on avait aperçu les préparatifs. Dans peu d’instants la ville fut dans la plus grande agitation; des rassemblements se formèrent de toutes parts, plus de dix mille personnes se rendirent au Palais-Royal, émues par cette nouvelle, disposées à tout, mais ne sachant quelle mesure prendre. Un jeune homme plus hardi que les autres, et l’un des harangueurs habituels de la foule, Camille Desmoulins, monte sur une table, un pistolet à la main, et il s’écrie. “Citoyens, il n’y a pas un moment à perdre; le renvoi de M. Necker est le tocsin d’une Saint-Barthélemy de patriotes! ce soir même tous les bataillons suisses et allemands sortiront du Champ-de-Mars pour nous égorger! il ne nous reste qu’une ressource, c’est de courir aux armes.” On approuve par de bruyantes acclamations. Il propose de prendre des cocardes pour se reconnaître et pour se défendre.—“Voulez-vous, dit-il, le vert, couleur de l’espérance, ou le rouge, couleur de l’ordre libre de Cincinnatus?”—“Le vert, le vert, répond la multitude.” L’orateur descend de la table, attache une feuille d’arbre à son chapeau, tout le monde l’imite, les marronniers du Palais sont presque dépouillés de leurs feuilles, et cette troupe se rend en tumulte chez le sculpteur Curtius.
On prend les bustes de Necker et du duc d’Orléans, car le bruit que ce dernier devait être exilé, s’était aussi répandu; on les entoure d’un crêpe et on les porte en triomphe. Ce cortége traverse les rues Saint-Martin, Saint-Denis, Saint-Honoré, et se grossit à chaque pas. Le peuple fait mettre chapeau bas à tous ceux qu’il rencontre. Le guet à cheval se trouve sur sa route, il le prend pour escorte; le cortége s’avance ainsi jusqu’à la place Vendôme, où l’on promène les deux bustes autour de la statue de Louis XIV. Un détachement de royal allemand arrive, veut disperser le cortége, est mis en fuite à coups de pierres, et la multitude continuant sa route, parvient jusqu’à la place Louis XV. Mais là, elle est assaillie par les dragons du prince de Lambesc; elle résiste quelques moments, est enfoncée, le porteur d’un des bustes et un soldat des gardes-françaises sont tués, le peuple se disperse, une partie fuit vers les quais, une autre se replie en arrière sur les boulevards, le reste se précipite dans les Tuileries par le pont tournant. Le prince de Lambesc les poursuit dans le jardin, le sabre nu, à la tête de ses cavaliers; il charge une multitude sans armes qui n’était point du cortége et Edition: current; Page:  qui se promenait paisiblement. Dans cette charge, un vieillard est blessé d’un coup de sabre; on se défend avec des chaises, on monte sur les terrasses, l’indignation devient générale, et le cri aux armes retentit bientôt partout, aux Tuileries, au Palais-Royal, dans la ville et dans les faubourgs.
Le régiment des gardes-françaises était, comme nous l’avons déjà dit, bien disposé pour le peuple; aussi l’avait-on consigné dans ses casernes. Le prince de Lambesc, craignant malgré cela qu’il ne prît parti, donna ordre à soixante dragons d’aller se poster en face de son dépôt, situé dans la Chaussée-d’Antin. Les soldats des gardes, déjà mécontents d’être retenus comme prisonniers, s’indignèrent à la vue de ces étrangers, avec lesquels ils avaient eu une rixe peu de jours auparavant. Ils voulaient courir aux armes, et leurs officiers eurent beaucoup de peine à les retenir en employant, tour-à-tour, les menaces et les prières. Mais ils ne voulurent plus rien entendre, lorsque quelques-uns des leurs vinrent annoncer la charge faite aux Tuileries et la mort d’un de leurs camarades. Ils saisirent leurs armes, brisèrent les grilles, se rangèrent en bataille, à l’entrée de la caserne, en face des dragons, et leur crièrent: Qui vive?—Royal Allemand.—Etes-vous pour le tiers-état?—Nous sommes pour ceux qui nous donnent des ordres.—Alors les gardes-françaises firent sur eux une décharge qui leur tua deux hommes, leur en blessa trois et les mit en fuite. Elles s’avancèrent ensuite au pas de charge et la baionnette en avant jusqu’à la place Louis XV, se placèrent entre les Tuileries et les Champs-Elysées, le peuple et les troupes, et gardèrent ce poste pendant toute la nuit. Les soldats du Champ-de-Mars reçurent aussitôt l’ordre de s’avancer. Lorsqu’ils furent arrivés dans les Champs-Elysées, les gardes-françaises les reçurent à coups de fusil. On voulut les faire battre, mais ils refusèrent: les Petits-Suisses furent les premiers à donner cet exemple que les autres régiments suivirent. Les officiers désespérés ordonnèrent la retraite, les troupes rétrogradèrent jusqu’à la grille de Chaillot, d’où elles se rendirent bientôt dans le Champ-de-Mars. La défection des gardes-françaises, et le refus que manifestèrent les troupes, même étrangères, de marcher sur la capitale, firent échouer les projets de la cour.
Pendant cette soirée le peuple s’était transporté à l’Hôtel-de-Ville, et avait demandé qu’on sonnât le tocsin, que les districts fussent réunis et les citoyens armés. Quelques électeurs s’assemblèrent à l’Hôtel-de-Ville, et ils prirent l’autorité en main. Ils rendirent pendant ces jours d’insurrection les plus grands services à leurs concitoyens et à la cause de la liberté par leur courage, leur prudence et leur activité; mais dans la première confusion du soulèvement, il ne leur fut guère possible d’être écoutés. Le tumulte était à son comble; chacun ne recevait d’ordre que de sa passion. A côté des citoyens bien intentionnés étaient des hommes suspects qui ne cherchaient dans l’insurrection qu’un moyen de désordre et de pillage. Des troupes d’ouvriers, employés par le gouvernement à des travaux publics, la plupart sans domicile, sans aveu, brûlèrent les barrières, infestèrent les rues, pillèrent quelques maisons; ce furent eux qu’on appela les brigands. La nuit du 12 au 13 se passa dans le tumulte et dans les alarmes.*
After every allowance is made (and much ought to be made) for the deep interest of the events themselves, great praise is still due to the powers both of narration and description, which the above passage displays.
M. Mignet generally subjoins to each chapter a résumé of the progress of events during the period which it embraces. The same sort and degree of talent is manifested in these résumés which is conspicuous in the body of the work. We Edition: current; Page:  quote the following, though one of the longest, not because it is the best, but because it contains a summary view of the early history of the Revolution:
If one were to describe a nation which had just passed through a great crisis, and to say, There was in this country a despotic government whose authority has been limited, two privileged orders whose supremacy has been abolished, an immense population already enfranchised by the growth of civilization and intelligence, but destitute of political rights, and which, when they were refused to its entreaties, has been compelled to assume them by force; if to this it were added that the government, after resisting for a time, had at length yielded to the revolution, but that the privileged orders stedfastly persevered in their resistance, the following are the conclusions which might be drawn from these data:
The government will feel regret, the people will show distrust, the privileged orders, each in its own way, will make war on the new order of things. The nobles, too feeble at home to make any effectual opposition, will emigrate and stir up foreign powers, who will make preparations for an attack; the clergy, who abroad would be deprived of their means of action, will remain in the interior, and there endeavour to raise up enemies to the revolution. The people, threatened from without, endangered from within, irritated against the emigrants for exciting foreigners to hostilities, against foreigners for attacking its independence, and against the clergy for stirring up insurrections at home, will treat the emigrants, the foreigners, and the clergy as enemies. It will first demand that the refractory priests be placed under surveillance, next that they be banished, that the revenues of the emigrants be confiscated, and finally, that war be made upon confederated Europe, to prevent the disadvantage of having to sustain the attack. The original authors of the revolution will condemn those of its measures which are inconsistent with the law; the continuators of the revolution will see in them, on the contrary, the salvation of their country. A discord will break out between those who prefer the constitution to the state, and those who prefer the state to the constitution, the prince, impelled by his interests as king, his affections, and his conscience, to reject this policy, will pass for an accomplice in the counter-revolutionary conspiracy, because he will appear to protect it. The revolutionists will then attempt, by intimidation, to draw the king to their side, and, failing of success, they will subvert his power.
Such was the history of the Legislative Assembly. The internal tumults led to the decree against the priests; the menaces of foreigners to that against the emigrants; the confederacy of foreign powers, to the war against Europe; the first defeat of our armies, to the formation of the camp of twenty thousand. The suspicions of the Girondists were directed towards Louis, by the refusal of his assent to most of these decrees.[*] The division between that party and the constitutional monarchists, the latter wishing to appear legislators, as in time of peace, the former, enemies, as in time of war, disunited the partisans of the revolution. In the minds of the Girondists, liberty depended upon victory, and victory upon these decrees. The 20th of June was an attempt to compel the acceptance of the decrees; on its failure, they deemed it necessary to renounce the revolution or the throne, and they made the 10th of August. Thus but for the emigration which produced the war, and the schism in the church Edition: current; Page:  which produced the tumults, the king would probably have been reconciled to the revolution, and the revolutionists would never have thought of a republic.*
We have given this and other extracts in a translation with reluctance. Our only remaining specimen shall be in the original language.
The following is a brief but interesting résumé of the decline and fall of the virtuous and unfortunate Gironde:
Ainsi succomba le parti de la Gironde, parti illustre par de grands talents et de grands courages, parti qui honora la république naissante par l’horreur du sang, la haine du crime, le dégoût de l’anarchie, l’amour de l’ordre, de la justice et de la liberté; parti mal placé entre la classe moyenne, dont il avait combattu la révolution, et la multitude dont il repoussait le gouvernement. Condamné à ne pas agir, ce parti ne put qu’illustrer une défaite certaine, par une lutte courageuse et par une belle mort. A cette époque, on pouvait avec certitude prévoir sa fin: il avait été chassé de poste en poste: des Jacobins, par l’envahissement des Montagnards; de la commune, par la sortie de Pétion; du ministère, par la retraite de Roland et de ses collègues; de l’armée, par la défection de Dumouriez. Il ne lui restait plus que la convention; c’est là qu’il se retrancha, qu’il combattit, et qu’il succomba. Ses ennemis essayèrent tour-à-tour, contre lui, et des complots et des insurrections. Les complots firent créer la commission des douze,[*] qui parut donner un avantage momentané à la Gironde, mais qui n’en excita que plus violemment ses adversaires. Ceux-ci mirent le peuple en mouvement, et ils enlevèrent aux Girondins, d’abord leur autorité en détruisant les douze, ensuite leur existence politique en proscrivant leurs chefs.
Les suites de ce désastreux évènement ne furent selon la prévoyance de personne. Les Dantonistes crurent que les dissensions des partis seraient terminées, et la guerre civile éclata. Les modérés du comité de salut public crurent que la convention reprendrait toute la puissance, et elle fut asservie.[†] La commune crut que le 31 mai lui vaudrait la domination, qui échut à Robespierre, et à quelques hommes dévoués à sa fortune ou à l’extrême démocratie. Enfin, il y eut un parti de plus à ajouter aux partis vaincus, et dès-lors aux partis ennemis; et comme on avait fait, après le 10 août, la république contre les constitutionnels, on fit, après le 31 mai, la terreur contre les modérés de la république.†
Did space permit, we would gladly quote M. Mignet’s characters of the leading members of the Constituent Assembly. In general it appears to us that the characters of eminent men, which we read in historians, are very little to be depended upon. It is no easy matter to draw a character at once correct and complete, even of one who is personally known to us, if there be any thing about him more than common; but from hearsay, or from his public acts, it may be pronounced impossible. The troubled period, however, of the French revolution exhibited many of its actors in such varied situations, several of them very trying Edition: current; Page:  ones, that the data it affords for judging of their characters, though far from adequate, are less scanty than ordinary. M. Mignet has turned these data to the best account. His portraits seem accurate, and they are, at any rate, animated.
Our preliminary observations will have prepared the reader to find that we cannot speak altogether so favourably of M. Mignet’s reflections as of his narrative. The prevailing vice of French writers, since Montesquieu, is that of straining at point, at sententiousness, at being striking—we want a word—at producing an effect by mere smartness of expression; and from this vice M. Mignet’s work, though one of the best of its kind, is not wholly free. The sort of writers in whom this defect is conspicuous, and of whom, in recent times, Madame de Staël is one of the most favourable specimens, can never communicate a fact without edging in, to account for it, some axiom or principle, wide in its extent and epigrammatic in its form. Generalization in history is so far from being blamable, that history would be of no use without it, but general propositions intended to be of any use, concerning the course of events in matters where large bodies of men are concerned, cannot be compressed into epigrams; for there is not one of them that is true without exception, and an epigram admits not of exceptions. What do these generalizations amount to? Commonly to this: that something which has happened once or twice will happen always.
M. Mignet’s generalizations are, in most cases, the generalizations of an acute mind; but in his anxiety to be sententious, he almost always overdoes the generalization; he affirms that to be true in all cases which is only true in some, or enunciates without qualification a proposition which must be qualified to be defensible. He generalizes upon first impressions; and as first impressions are sometimes right, he often, by generalizing on the first impression of a remarkable fact, stumbles upon a valuable and even a recondite truth—a truth which, if it did not stand single among so many faux brillans, might be supposed to have emanated from a mind profoundly versed in human nature. When this happens, the point of the expression adds great force to the sentiment, and imprints it in the imagination. Here, however, M. Mignet is far excelled by Madame de Staël, whose chief merit, in our opinion, is the unrivalled felicity with which she has given expression to many important truths suggested to her forcibly by the circumstances of the times in which she lived, which will be remembered long after the brilliant paradoxes and pompous inanities, which she threw out in such abundance along with them, shall be forgotten.
M. Mignet has been occasionally betrayed into dressing up a truism in epigrammatic guise, and bringing it out with the air of an oracle, as a piece of consummate wisdom. The following maxims—“C’est toujours sur le passé qu’on règle sa conduite et ses espérances” (p. 458). “Tout ce qui existe s’étend” (p. 166), to account for the rapid growth of the Jacobin club. “Il ne suffit pas d’être grand homme, il faut venir à propos” (p. 107). “Dès qu’il y a des partis déplacés dans un état, il y a lutte de leur part,” &c. (p. 204), and several others, are examples.Edition: current; Page: 
The following are obvious cases of incorrect generalization: “Tous les partis sont les mêmes, et se conduisent par les mêmes maximes, ou si l’on veut par les mêmes nécessités” (p. 518), merely because the Girondists and the Montagnards died with equal courage.
“Quand on sait ce qu’on veut, et qu’on le veut vite et bien, on l’emporte toujours” (p. 357). Had he said souvent, the proposition would have been true: as it stands, it is extravagant.
“En révolution les hommes sont mûs par deux penchans, l’amour de leurs idées et le goût du commandement” (p. 442). Two very powerful forces, it is true; but that they are far from being the only ones which act upon man, “en temps de révolution,” is evident enough. The other principles of human nature are not suspended, during that period, or any other.
“En révolution les hommes sont facilement oubliés, parce que les peuples en voient beaucoup et vivent vite. Si l’on ne veut pas qu’ils soient ingrats, il ne faut pas cesser un instant de les servir à leur manière” (pp. 160-1). A general proposition grounded on one or two instances, and only on the surface of those.
The next two are examples of important truths, or rather of approximations to important truths, spoiled by their epigrammatic form: “On est bientôt, en révolution, ce qu’on est cru être” (p. 311). “Le plus grand tort des partis, après celui d’être injustes, est celui de ne vouloir pas le paraître” (p. 317).
To have expressed accurately what there is of truth in these maxims, in such manner as to be intelligible, would have spoiled all the point of the phrase.
The following remark, with a slight qualification, contains the expression of an important fact: “Dès qu’on est en révolte, le parti dont l’opinion est la plus extrême et le but le plus précis, l’emporte sur ses associés” (p. 388). The party which has the most definite purpose commonly prevails; and this (as it happens) is generally the party which goes to the greatest lengths in matter of opinion. The men who have no fixed set of opinions follow the march of events: those who have, lead it.
The following is a profound remark, happily expressed: “Barrère, qui, comme tous les esprits justes et les caractères faibles, fut pour la modération, tant que la peur ne fit pas de lui un instrument de cruauté et de tyrannie” (p. 363). It is most true, as is hinted in this passage, that the great incentive to cruelty is fear.
The last observation which we shall quote, relates to the formation of a judicial establishment; and, though somewhat loosely expressed, indicates an acute perception of an important principle of legislation: “Ce redoutable pouvoir, lorsqu’il relève du trône, doit être inamovible pour être indépendant; mais il peut être temporaire lorsqu’il relève du peuple, parce qu’en dépendant de tous, il ne dépend de personne” (p. 153).
We shall now take our leave of M. Mignet’s work, by recommending the perusal of it to all who desire either to be amused by a most entertaining and well told story, or to learn, by a few hours reading, what intelligent Frenchmen think and say on the subject of the French Revolution.
Westminster Review, VI (July, 1826), 62-103. Headed: “Art. IV.—Histoire Physique, Civile, et Morale de Paris, depuis les premiers temps historiques jusqu’à nos jours: contenant par ordre chronologique, la description des accroissemens successifs de cette ville et de ses monumens anciens et modernes; la notice de toutes ses institutions, tant civiles que religieuses; et, à chaque période, le tableau des moeurs, des usages, et des progrès de la civilisation. Ornée de gravures représentant divers plans de Paris, ses monumens et ses édifices principaux [1821-25], Par J[acques] A[ntoine] Dulaure, de la Société Royale des Antiquaires de France. Seconde édition, considérablement augmentée en texte et en planches. 10 vols. 8vo. Paris [ Guillaume], 1823. / Histoire des Français. Par J[ean] C[harles] L[éonard] Simonde de Sismondi Les neuf premiers volumes. [Ultimately 31 vols.] 8vo. Paris [. Treuttel and Würtz], 1821, 1823, 1826.” Running titles. “Modern French Historical Works— / Age of Chivalry.” Unsigned Not republished Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “A review of Dulaure’s History of Paris and Sismondi’s History of France. In the 11th number of the Westminster Review” (MacMinn, 7). There is no separate copy of this essay in Mill’s library, Somerville College.
For comment on the article, see xxxiii-xxxvii and xcv above.
though we have not, like so many of our contemporaries, made it our grand occupation, to impress our countrymen with a deep sense of their own wisdom and virtue, and to teach them how proud they ought to be of every thing English, more especially of every thing that is English and bad; we are far from being unconscious how much they have really to be proud of, and in how many respects they might be taken as models by all the nations of the world. If we saw them in any danger of forgetting their own merits, we too might preach them a sermon on that hacknied text. But it is not their failing to underrate themselves, or to overrate other nations. They are more in need of monitors than of adulators; and we cannot but think that it may be of some use to them to know, that if there are some points in which they are superior to their neighbours, there are others in which they are inferior; that they may learn something from other nations, as well as other nations from them.
While the Quarterly Review is labouring to convince us that we are a century and a half in advance of our nearest continental neighbours,[*] it is impossible to shut our eyes to the fact, that those neighbours are at present making a much greater figure in the world of literature than ourselves. This is something quite new in the history of the two countries; it certainly was not the case before the French revolution; but it undoubtedly is the case now. While our littérateurs, with the usual fate of those who aim at nothing but the merely ornamental, fail of attaining even that; an entirely new class of writers has arisen in France, altogether free from that frivolousness which characterized French literature under the ancien régime, and which characterizes the literature of every country where there is an aristocracy. They write as if they were conscious that the reader expects something more valuable from them than mere amusement. Though many of them are highly gifted with the beauties of style, they never seem desirous of shewing off their own eloquence; they seem to write because they have something to say, and not because they desire to say something. In philosophy, they do not sacrifice truth to rhetoric; in history they do not sacrifice truth to romance. This change in the character of French literature is most of all remarkable in their historical compositions. The historians of ci-devant France were justly charged with despising facts, and Edition: current; Page:  considering, not what was true, but what would give scenic interest to their narrative; the French historians of the present day are distinguished by almost German research, and by a scrupulousness in producing vouchers for their minutest details, which forbids the idea of their having any thing in view but truth.
In the last five years France has produced many historical works of great importance; more than were ever produced by one nation within the same space of time. Some of these have been already mentioned in this journal;[*] others we may perhaps take a future opportunity of making known to our readers. At the present moment, two of the most important lie before us; and we have derived so much instruction as well as gratification from their perusal, that we purpose giving in the present article some account of their contents.
M. Dulaure has named his work a history of Paris: the title is less attractive than the book. It is a history of Paris, even in the ordinary sense; but if it had been no more, we should have left it to antiquaries, and to the amateurs of steeples, columns, and old tomb-stones. M. Dulaure’s work, as a topographical history, is admirable; but it has other and far greater merits. Our histories of London are histories of buildings,[†] but his subject is men. His history of Paris is a chapter of the history of mankind. After describing the city of Paris as it existed at each period of its history, he does what is not often done by antiquaries, he condescends to bestow some attention upon the inhabitants. This part of his book, which, we are happy to observe, has been detached from the rest, and printed as a separate work in two octavo volumes, is not so much a history of Paris, as a history of civilization in France; which is, to a great degree, the history of civilization in Europe. In it we may read how men were governed, and how they lived and behaved, in the good old times; subjects on which little is said in the vulgar histories, and that little is but little to be relied upon. M. Dulaure has one merit, which is not a common one with historians: he pays great regard to facts, and little to assertions. He has not been satisfied with taking upon trust from one author, what he had already taken upon trust from another. His work is not a mere register of the opinions of his predecessors, predecessors who did but register the opinions of their contemporaries. His ideas, such as they are, are his own.Edition: current; Page: 
M. de Sismondi is already known to the public as a historian. His History of France, though it has not done every thing which a history of France might have done, may be pronounced worthy of his reputation; and, when completed, will supply an important desideratum in literature. Indeed, when it is considered in what spirit, and with what objects, all former histories of France had been written, it is matter of congratulation that they were as dull in manner as they were dishonest in their purpose, and deceptious in their tendency; and that the sphere of their mischievousness was considerably narrowed, by the happy impossibility of reading them. We have in our own history a standing example how deep a root party lies may take in the public mind, when a writer, in whom the arts of the most consummate advocate are combined with all the graces of style, employs his skill in giving them the colour of truth.[*] It is most fortunate, therefore, that the first readable history of France should be the production of a writer who is of no party, except that of human nature; who has no purpose to serve except that of truth, and whose only bias is towards the happiness of mankind. The chief defect of M. de Sismondi’s work, considered as a popular history, is the prolixity of the three first volumes; a space which, we should think, might have been better occupied than in relating how one dull, uninteresting battle or murder was succeeded by another exactly similar, in the reigns of the rois fainéans, or of the grandsons of Louis the Debonair. M. de Sismondi, perhaps, may urge in his defence, that his object was, to give a practical feeling of the state of society which he was describing: that, dull as these incidents are, their incessant recurrence was the sole characteristic of the period; a period the most distracted and miserable which is recorded in history: that to have merely related a battle and a murder or two, as a specimen of the rest, would have made but a feeble impression; and that it was necessary to convince the reader by tedious experience, that the history of the times consisted of nothing else. How far this apology might avail M. de Sismondi with ordinary readers, we do not consider ourselves perfectly qualified to judge: for ourselves, we think that our incredulity would have yielded to a less ponderous argument than three mortal volumes. It is but just to state, that these volumes do give, in a high degree, that practical feeling of the times, which they are apparently designed to convey, and that the reader who will have patience to go through them (for without reading them he will not fully understand the history of the subsequent period), will be amply repaid by the never-flagging interest which is kept up throughout the other six volumes.
All that is published of M. de Sismondi’s work, and the more novel and interesting part of M. Dulaure’s, relate to the middle ages; and to that period we shall, in the present article, confine our remarks; reserving the privilege of making ample use, on future occasions, of the important information which M. Edition: current; Page:  Dulaure has furnished relative to the later period of the French monarchy. Our purpose at present is, to do something towards forming, if possible, a correct estimate of what is called the age of chivalry. Hitherto, in this country especially, we have judged of that age from two or three of the facts, and no more: and even of those we have looked only at one side. The works before us are almost the first, in which any pains have really been taken to discover the truth with regard to the age of chivalry. In these, however, an ample stock of facts has been collected, and the subject is now ripe for a deliberate examination. All these facts lead but to one conclusion; and that conclusion is so directly at variance with the conceptions ordinarily entertained respecting the age of chivalry, that the very enunciation of it will be startling to the majority of readers; and it will not be embraced upon any evidence not absolutely irresistible. We are persuaded, however, that the more narrowly the records of the period are looked into, and the more accurately its real history becomes known, the more strictly conformable this conclusion will appear to historical truth.
The conclusion is, that the compound of noble qualities, called the spirit of chivalry (a rare combination in all ages) was almost unknown in the age of chivalry; that the age so called was equally distinguished by moral depravity and by physical wretchedness; that there is no class of society at this day in any civilized country, which has not a greater share of what are called the knightly virtues, than the knights themselves; that, far from civilizing and refining the rest of the world, it was not till very late, and with great difficulty, that the rest of the world could succeed in civilizing them.
If this conclusion be true, it must be obvious that there is not in all history a truth of greater importance. There is scarcely any portion of history the misapprehension of which has done more to rivet the most mischievous errors in the public mind. The age of chivalry was the age of aristocracy, in its most gigantic strength and wide-extending sway; and the illusions of chivalry are to this hour the great stronghold of aristocratic prejudices. All that is aristocratic in European institutions comes to us from those times. In those times lived our ancestors, whose wisdom and virtue are found so eminently serviceable in bearing down any attempt to improve the condition of their descendants. All those whose great grandfathers had names, and who think it more honourable (as it certainly is less troublesome) to have had brave and virtuous ancestors, than to be brave and virtuous themselves; all those who, loving darkness better than light, would have it thought that men have declined in morality in proportion as they have advanced in intelligence; all, in short, whose interest or taste leads them to side with the few in opposition to the many, are interested in upholding the character of the age of chivalry. “On nous a dit,” says M. de Sismondi,
que la plus basse superstition, que l’ignorance et la brutalité des manières, que l’asservissement des basses classes, que l’anéantissement de toute justice, de tout frein salutaire pour les plus hautes, n’avaient point empêché cet héroïsme universel que nous Edition: current; Page:  avons nommé la chevalerie, et qui n’exista jamais que dans des fictions brillantes. Plutôt que de perdre cette douce illusion, et de détruire ce monde poétique, ferons-nous violence à l’histoire, et nous refuserons-nous à voir qu’un semblable état social n’a jamais produit que l’intolérable souffrance et l’avilissement de la féodalité?*
Before we proceed to indicate, for we can but indicate, the evidence of the important proposition which is the grand result both of M. Dulaure’s and of M. de Sismondi’s work, we think it proper to exhibit a specimen of what may be termed a mild, candid, and well-bred mode of dealing with unwelcome assertions; for we are not, as yet, entitled to call them truths. It always gives us pleasure to meet with these virtues in a controversialist; and the serviles in France, to do them justice, seem nowise inferior to their English brethren in these points. No sooner did M. Dulaure’s work make its appearance than the hue and cry was raised against it. The sort of arguments, with which the book and its author were assailed, are nearly decisive of the great merit of both. Invective in general, and imputation of enmity to religion, royalty, and his country, in particular, these, together with defamation of his private character, are the reply which has been made to M. Dulaure’s work.†
We own that we are in general predisposed in favour of a man whom we hear accused by a certain class of politicians of being an enemy to his country. We at Edition: current; Page:  once conclude, that he has either actually rendered, or shown himself disposed to render, some signal service to his country. We conclude, either that he has had discernment to see, and courage to point out, something in his own that stands in need of amendment, or something in another country which it would be for the advantage of his own to imitate; or that he has loved his country well enough to wish it free from that greatest of misfortunes, the misfortune of being successful in an unjust cause; or (which is the particular crime of M. Dulaure), that he has given his countrymen to know, that they once had vices or follies which they have since corrected, or (what is worse still), which they have yet to correct. Whoever is guilty of any one of these crimes in this country, is a fortunate man if he escapes being accused of un-English feelings. This is the epithet which we observe to be appropriated to those, whose wish is that their country should deserve to be thought well of. The man of English feelings is the man whose wish is, that his country should be thought well of; and, above all, should think well of itself, particularly in those points wherein it deserves the least. The modern English version of the maxim Spartam nactus es, hanc exorna,[*] may be given thus—England is your country, be sure to praise it lustily. This sort of patriotism is, it would appear, no less in request with certain persons in France, than with the corresponding description of persons in England. Accordingly, M. Dulaure’s bold exposure of the vices and follies of his countrymen in the olden time, has been thought by many persons extremely un-French. But he shall speak for himself.
L’histoire, quoique très-instructive, lorsqu’elle est écrite avec une sévère fidélité, a des parties qui peuvent paraître désolantes aux lecteurs peu familiarisés avec ses tableaux austères; aux lecteurs habitués au régime des panégyriques et des complimens; aux lecteurs pénétrés d’un aveugle respect pour les temps passés et pour les personnes revétues de la puissance; aux lecteurs trompés par des historiens qui, dans la crainte des persécutions, ou dans l’espoir des récompenses, ont altéré les traits les plus caractéristiques des personnages historiques.
Si l’on présente à ces lecteurs mal disposés des vérités qui leur sont inconnues, des vérités contraires à leurs préventions, à leurs idées reçues, ils s’irritent contr’elles, ne pouvant les vérifier, ils les révoquent en doute, ou accusent l’auteur d’être inexact, même infidèle. C’est ce qu’ils ont fait pour mon Histoire de Paris.
On m’a, en conséquence de ces préventions, adressé plusieurs reproches, et surtout celui d’avoir écrit en ennemi de la France. Je n’ai écrit qu’en ennemi de la barbarie, qu’en ennemi des erreurs et des crimes qui l’accompagnent. J’aime beaucoup mon pays, mais j’aime autant la vérité. [And wherefore should he love truth, but for the sake of his country?]
On m’a encore accusé d’avoir de préférence cité les crimes, et passé sous silence les actes de vertu. Ignore-t-on que, dans les temps malheureux dont j’ai décrit les moeurs, les vices étaient la règle générale, et les actes de vertu les exceptions.
Je devais abondamment décrire le mal, puisque le mal abondait; mais je n’ai pas négligé le peu de bien que les monumens historiques m’ont fourni. . . . Qu’on me cite une action, Edition: current; Page:  justement célèbre, justement louable, et non étrangère à mon sujet, que je n’aie mentionnée honorablement?
On s’est permis de dire que la publication de mon Histoire de Paris était un scandale sans exemple. Ce reproche, qui doit s’adresser plutôt aux personnages historiques qu’à l’historien, prouve que celui qui me l’adresse n’a lu ni Tacite, ni Suétone, ni les monumens de notre histoire, ni Grégoire de Tours, ni nos annales, ni nos chroniques, ni les écrits de l’abbé Suger, ni des milliers de pièces où les actions scandaleuses se reproduisent à chaque page. Il n’a pas lu non plus les Homélies du pape saint Grégoire-le-Grand, qui dit. Si du récit d’un fait véritable il résulte du scandale, il vaut mieux laisser naitre le scandale que de renoncer à la vérité.[*]
Je pourrais ramener les lecteurs de bonne foi; je ne réussirais jamais à persuader ceux qui ont pris le parti de se refuser à l’évidence.*
The countryman who, being present at a dispute in Latin, discovered which of the disputants was in the wrong, by taking notice which of them it was who lost his temper, would have had little difficulty in deciding between M. Dulaure and his ultra antagonists.
The tone of fearless honesty in the above passage, and the beautiful simplicity of its style, are maintained throughout the work, and may serve, once for all, as a specimen of its general character. Our whole remaining space will be far from sufficient to do justice to the more important subject of this article.
We premise, that whatever we may say against the age of chivalry, is or is not to be applied to chivalry itself, according to the ideas which the reader may attach to the term. If by chivalry be meant the feelings, habits or actions of an ordinary chevalier, we shall easily shew it to have been not admirable, but detestable. But if by chivalry be meant those virtues, which formed part of the ideal character of a perfect knight, it would be absurd to deny its beneficial tendency, or to doubt that the estimation in which those virtues were held contributed to render them more prevalent than they otherwise would have been, and by that means to elevate the moral condition of man. We propose only to inquire, to what extent any such virtues really were prevalent during the age of chivalry.
A few introductory observations on the feudal system (and on so hacknied a subject we promise that they shall be few) are an indispensable introduction to a view of that state of society of which the feudal system formed so important a feature.
It is now acknowledged, and therefore needs not here be proved, that the feudal system was not the work of contrivance, of skill devising means for the attainment of an end, but arose gradually, and, as it were, spontaneously, out of the Edition: current; Page:  pre-existing circumstances of society; and that the notion of its having been introduced into the countries of western Europe by their Gothic and Teutonic conquerors is wholly erroneous. It is now known that those barbarians were very like any other barbarians; and that without any refined notions of feudal or any other sort of polity, they spread themselves over the land and appropriated it. Their kings, like all other kings, had exactly as much power as they could get; that is to say, in a rude nation, more or less according to circumstances. Originally they enjoyed, during good behaviour, a considerable share of voluntary obedience, but had little power of enforcing any obedience which was not voluntary. They became powerful sovereigns, however, when the followers of a single chief, scattered in small parties over a large country, acquired the habit of looking to the king and not to their countrymen in a body, for protection in case of need.
The vigorous monarchs of the second race, from Pépin d’Héristal to Charlemagne, at first under the title of Maires du Palais, afterwards under that of kings, extended the Frankish empire over Germany, Italy, and a great part of Spain, as well as over Belgium and France. The military talents of these sovereigns, and the accession of power which they derived from their vast territorial acquisitions, put a finishing hand to the change which had been going on from the time of Clovis downwards, and the government of Charlemagne may be considered a despotic monarchy. As such, it shared the fate of other despotisms. After a few generations, the sceptre fell into the hands of princes entirely destitute of spirit and ability; the reins of government became relaxed; the power of the state became unequal to the protection of its subjects; disorder at first insensibly crept in, but soon advanced with gigantic strides; and the empire, which had spread itself from one end of Europe to the other, became incapable of opposing effectual resistance to the most contemptible aggressor.
In the despotic governments of Asia, this series of events has always been, from the beginning of history, of periodical recurrence. A Pepin founds a great empire, a Charlemagne consolidates it, which it then becomes the occupation of a series of Lothaires to lose. By the time it has reached the condition of Germany and France in the third and fourth generations of the descendants of Charlemagne, internal revolt or foreign invasion subverts the old dynasty, and establishes a new one; which, after a time, degenerates, and is in its turn displaced. Events took another turn among the conquerors of Europe. They had as yet no standing armies; the nurseries of that class of military adventurers who have always so much abounded in Asia, the materials and instruments of revolutions. Nor was a Genghis or a Timour found among the pirates of the north. The enemies whom Europe had to dread were a race who sought, not conquest, but plunder. The Danes or Normans, repelled from our own country by the vigour of Alfred, fell with redoubled fury upon France, and reduced its northern provinces almost to the condition of a desert. The government, which had, by this time, fallen into the last stage of Edition: current; Page:  decrepitude, could still less protect its subjects against these invaders, than it could protect them against one another.
A state of anarchy has this advantage over a despotism, that it invariably works its own cure. When the monarch could no longer protect his subjects, they were forced to protect themselves. Protect themselves they could not, except by combination: and they therefore combined. Where all were left to their own resources, it of course happened, that some had resources, and some had not. Those who had, were able to command assistance, and could therefore protect themselves: those who had not, were reduced to seek protection from others. The monarch, to whom they had been accustomed to look for protection, being no longer capable of affording it, their next recourse was to their strongest neighbour. Land was at that time the only source of wealth; the great landholder alone had the means of fortifying a castle, and maintaining a sufficient number of warriors to defend it. To him, therefore, all his neighbours, and among the rest the smaller landholders, had recourse. To induce the superior to extend his protection over their land and its produce, they had no return to offer except their aid in defending his. Here we see the principle of the feudal system. The forms of that system arose gradually; we have not room to show how.
The combination, which to its weaker members had been intended only as a means of defence, gave to its stronger head an accession of strength for purposes of attack. The weaker communities or principalities had often to sustain aggressions from the stronger; which they sometimes found themselves able to resist, and sometimes not. In the latter case, the same motives which had induced individuals to place themselves under the protection of a combination, induced the head of that combination, when in his turn attacked, to place himself under the protection of the head of a stronger combination than his own. And thus arose by degrees the great feudal principalities which we hear of for the first time during the decline of the Carlovingian race, and some of which were large and powerful kingdoms, when the authority of the feeble descendant of Charlemagne did not extend beyond the city of Laon and its vicinity.
In England, during the reign of Edward the Confessor, the formation of the feudal system had already proceeded thus far. Godwin Earl of Wessex, Leofric Earl of Mercia, Siward Earl of Northumberland, and others, were virtually independent princes, any one of them capable of coping single-handed with the acknowledged monarch of their common country. It has been supposed that the feudal system was introduced into England at the Conquest. But this is only so far true, that the great lords had not, until that epoch, become the vassals of the crown. In France and Germany, this last step in the formation of the feudal system was taken at a much earlier date; but in what manner, and when, is left, like every thing that is valuable in the history of that remote period, to inference and conjecture. It appears probable that the chiefs who, under the name of dukes and counts, had already Edition: current; Page:  exercised, by the king’s appointment, a delegated authority in the municipal towns, and who, in the decline of the royal power, had gradually withdrawn themselves from subjection, became the heads of all the greater combinations: or perhaps that the heads of those combinations found it convenient to obtain, from the petty prince who was still called king of France, a nominal delegation of his nominal authority, to facilitate the establishment of their ascendancy over the fortified towns; for an expiring authority always lingers in the towns for some time after it has lost all footing in the country. The transition was easy (when feudal ideas gained vigour) from this relation to the scarcely less nominal one of lord and vassal; for the paramountcy of the king was for many years almost a nominal privilege.
Thus arose the feudal system: of the workings of which we shall now attempt a rapid sketch. Our examples and proofs will be drawn chiefly from France. This, to an English reader, requires explanation. Our reasons for not selecting our own country as the theatre on which to exhibit feudality and its train of effects, are these:—In the first place, no one has yet been found to perform for England the service which has been performed by M. Dulaure for his own country; the toilsome and thankless service of dragging into light the vices and crimes of former days: and, secondly, the feudal system never existed in its original purity, in England. The kings of England enjoyed, from the Conquest downwards, a degree of power which the kings of continental Europe did not acquire till many generations later. There were no Godwins and Leofrics after the Conquest. The lands having come into the possession of the followers of the Conqueror at different times, as they were successively forfeited by their Saxon proprietors, all the various territorial acquisitions of a great baron were rarely situated in one part of the island, he was never strong enough in any one of his fiefs to establish his independence in that one, while the attempt, even if successful, would have involved the forfeiture of the rest. The king, therefore, was always stronger than any one, or any two or three, of his vassals. They could resist him only when combined. It is difficult to say how much of our present liberty we may not owe to this fortunate vigour of the royal authority, which compelled the barons to have recourse to parliaments, as the single means of effectual opposition to the encroachments of the king. This comparative strength of the general government of the country mitigated many of the worst evils of the feudal system. Great crimes could not be committed with the same impunity in England as in France. Private wars never prevailed to the same extent: it being the interest of the king to make himself the arbiter of all disputes, and his power being in general sufficient to enforce obedience. It was only in times of acknowledged civil war, such as the calamitous period which followed the usurpation of Stephen, that England was subject to those evils from which France never was free.
In Germany, on the other hand, the principal feudatories not only made themselves independent, but remained so. It is in France that we must contemplate Edition: current; Page:  the feudal system, if we wish to observe it in both its stages; the feudal aristocracy and the feudal monarchy; the period in which the great vassals were independent princes, and the period in which they were subjects. Each of these periods had its peculiar characteristics: we will begin with the first.
In the year 987, Hugh Capet, one of the chiefs who at that time shared France among them, usurped the throne. We have already stated the narrow limits, within which the possessions of the descendant of Charlemagne were at that time confined. Hugh Capet therefore acquired, as king of France, little territory beyond what he had previously held as count of Paris; a domain greatly inferior to that of the dukes of Burgundy or Normandy, or the counts of Flanders or Poitiers. It extended, in length, from Laon to Orleans, in breadth from Montereau to Pontoise. He and his immediate successors, being princes of no talent, instead of enlarging their territory or extending their influence, allowed what power they had to slip out of their hands; and, in the reign of Philip, third in descent from Hugh Capet, we find their authority bounded by the walls of five towns, Paris, Orleans, Etampes, Melun, and Compiègne.
The combinations which gave birth to the feudal system had, to a certain extent, answered their end. They afforded considerable protection against foreign, and some degree of protection against internal, assailants. The seed was put into the ground with some chance that he who sowed would be enabled to reap: and, from this time, progression in wealth and civilization recommenced. But, though some security to person and property is absolutely necessary to enable wealth to accumulate at all, the feudal system is a decisive experiment how small a portion of security will suffice.
Three classes composed, at this early period, the population of a feudal kingdom: the serfs who produced food, the nobles, or military caste, who consumed it, and a class of freemen who were neither nobles nor serfs: but this class, among the laity at least, soon terminated its short-lived existence. A class of freemen it can scarcely be called. Their freedom, the sort of freedom which they enjoyed, excluded them from protection, without exempting them from tyranny. The slave was at least secure from the oppressions of all masters but his own; the freeman was, like uninclosed land, the common property of all. We learn from the capitularies, or ordinances, of the Carlovingian race, that the ingenui, or free-born, were frequently forced to perform menial offices in the houses of the seigneurs: if poor, they were compelled to follow the nobles to the wars; if rich, they were amerced in an amount exceeding their property.* They were thus driven to seek subsistence and comparative security by becoming the slaves of their oppressors. As for the serfs, they were, literally, in the condition of domestic cattle; their master considered them as such, and treated them in the same manner, or rather, much more cruelly, because he feared them more. They were liable, at Edition: current; Page:  his will, to the infliction of any amount of stripes; to the loss of their ears, eyes, nose, feet, or hands, and, finally, of their lives. Power absolutely unchecked, in the hands of such men as the feudal chieftains, men utterly unaccustomed to control any impulse of passion, had its customary effect. We are informed that a hundred and fifty lashes were a frequent punishment for the most trivial fault.*
In order to form some further conception of this state of society, we have to imagine a perpetual civil war: war, not between two great divisions of the nation, which might rage in one district, leaving the others in tranquillity, but between every landed proprietor and his next neighbour.
That the knights of old were very easily affronted, is acknowledged by their panegyrists themselves. Even in these days, when that salutary instrument of moral discipline, the gallows, renders the consequences of an affront offered to an irascible neighbour somewhat less serious than formerly, we are not wont to regard irascible characters with much veneration or esteem. But we invest the irascible characters of former days with all the courage of a captain of dragoons, and so delighted are we with our own romantic conceptions, that we are ready to fall down and worship their imaginary original. When a knight was insulted, or thought fit to consider himself so, our notion is, that with scrupulous regard to all the niceties of modern honour, he sent his squire with a defiance to his enemy, challenging him to single combat. Possibly some knights might have been found who were thus punctilious; but the generality of them had a much less refined notion of the point of honour. Assassination, indeed, though horribly frequent, was but the exception, not the rule; or society must have ceased to exist. It was the labourers, and other cattle, on the offender’s estate, who in general paid the penalty of their master’s offence. The insulted party sallied out of his castle, and without any previous notice, proceeded to devastate the lands of his enemy; destroying the crops, burning the habitations, and carrying away both the species of live stock above spoken of. This done, he made haste to seek shelter in his castle, before his enemy had time to call together his vassals and pursue him. The other party, if he did not succeed in overtaking the plunderers, retaliated by entering upon the domain of the aggressor, and doing all the mischief he could. If they met, a battle took place; and woe to the vanquished! If unfortunate enough to be taken prisoner, he was subjected to the most excruciating torments, until forced to comply with whatever demands the victor’s rapacity might dictate. Catasta was the name of the most usual instrument of torture. The prisoner, being placed on an iron cage, or chained down upon an iron bed, was exposed, in that situation, to fire. One of M. Dulaure’s anecdotes will serve for illustration. Theobald V, Count of Chartres and Blois, a contemporary of our Henry II, and one of the most powerful feudatories north of the Loire, was engaged in hostilities with Sulpice, Seigneur of Amboise. His enemy fell into his hands, was put in irons, and exposed every day to the Edition: current; Page:  catasta. In vain did he offer large sums by way of ransom; the rapacity of the conqueror would be satisfied with nothing less than the possession of the town and castle of Chaumont. The required concession was at length extorted from the agonized captive: but his vassals still held the place, and refused to surrender it. His life speedily fell a sacrifice to this horrible torture.*
The celebrated anecdote of King John and the Jew’s teeth,[*] as it has, besides the cruelty, something whimsical in it, fixes itself in the memory; and is perpetually quoted as an extraordinary instance of the cruel treatment to which the Jews were subject in that reign. Yet what is this, compared to what we here see practised by one seigneur upon another? Judge what must have been the treatment of the mere knight, and still more that of the burgess and the slave.
The fortresses, in which the terrified cultivators took refuge, were generally strong enough to defy any means of attack which the art of war at that time afforded. But the strongest castle might be taken by treachery or surprise, and, on these occasions, men, women and children were cut to pieces. This, indeed, was in a manner the law of war. On the storming of a place, it was the ordinary course of events. We hear much of the horrible butcheries which were practised in the wars of religion, on the storming of a town. We imagine, few are aware that these butcheries were neither new nor extraordinary; that they were no more than what the barons practised in their most ordinary wars, both foreign and domestic, when they had not even the imaginary dictates of their horrible superstition to plead in excuse.
It was an easy transition from these exploits to highway robbery. This practice, we are accordingly informed, was universal among the poorer nobility. Any honest employment would have been disgraceful: they wanted money, if they had cities to pillage, it was well; if not, they pillaged travellers. An Indian Brahmin, when his profession fails him, is at liberty to engage in the occupations of that caste which is next in rank to his own: on a similar principle, the greatest chieftains of France, princes of the blood, and even kings themselves, when they could no longer support themselves by their respective vocations of governing and fighting, betook themselves to the profession of a highwayman as the next in dignity. Eudes I, Duke of Burgundy; another Eudes, brother to King Henry I; Philip, a son of King Philip I, and that monarch himself, are numbered among the high-born predecessors of Cartouche and Turpin. What was to them only an occasional resource, was to an inferior class of nobles their daily bread. Sometimes they sallied out, and waylaid pedlars on the highway, or pilgrims journeying with valuables to some sacred place: at other times they seized the peasants in the public market, stripped them of what they had, and detained them prisoners, or put them to the torture, to extort the disclosure of hidden treasure.Edition: current; Page: 
When Louis VI, surnamed le Gros, the fourth descendant of Hugh Capet who filled the throne, and the first who was worthy of it, arrived at the age of manhood, the royal authority was at the lowest ebb. For many years of his life, he found full occupation in reducing his immediate subjects, the petty landholders of the royal domain, to a moderate degree of obedience. A description of the state in which he found that portion of France, may serve as a specimen of what must have been the condition of the remainder.
The rural counts, viscounts, and barons, who held immediately of the king, in the duchy of France, had availed themselves of Philip’s weakness to shake off his authority altogether, in the castles in which they had fortified themselves. From these castles they sallied forth and fell upon the travellers and traders (marchands) who passed within reach of their retreat, unless the latter consented to redeem themselves with a high ransom, they equally abused their strength against the monasteries, and against all the ecclesiastical lords. Sometimes they went and lodged with them, together with their squires, their soldiers, their horses, and their dogs, and required that the religious establishment whose forced hospitality they were enjoying, should defray the expense of their maintenance for months; sometimes they levied contributions in money or in kind, upon the peasants of the bishops or monks, as a compensation for the protection which these warriors promised to extend towards them. The barons, in particular, who were vassals of any ecclesiastical body, seemed to think that their vassalage itself gave them a title to the spoil of their clerical superiors.*
Louis, who was not only king of France, but the immediate feudal superior of these freebooters, found himself not only no match for their united strength, but scarcely able to cope with the lord of a castle single-handed. He prudently limited his first undertakings to the protection of the monasteries against the extortions of the nobility. By this means he obtained the sanction of the church, and the co-operation of the abbey troops, by whose aid he repressed the disorders of the principal Châtelains, and brought most of them into comparative subjection to his authority.
The names and designations of some of these worthies have been preserved to us. Hugh de Pompone, Seigneur of Crécy, and Châtelain of Gournay, infested with his depredations, not only the highway, but the river Marne, stopping passengers by land and water, and levying contributions. When attacked by Louis, this bandit was defended by his father, Guy, Count of Rochefort, and by Theobald, Count of Champagne. The fortress of Montlhéri, the patrimony and residence of a branch of the Montmorency family, was the retreat of a band of robbers, who desolated the whole country from Corbeil to Châteaufort, and interrupted all communication between Paris and Orleans. Hugh, Seigneur of Puiset, a place situated not far from the road which connects Chartres with Orleans, plundered travellers to the very gates of Chartres. Louis reduced his castle, and retained him for some time in confinement; but on his succeeding, by the death of an uncle, to the county of Corbeil, the relinquishment of this inheritance in favour of Louis was the price of his release. This lesson produced no change in his habits of life. No sooner was Edition: current; Page:  Louis occupied in another quarter, than he rebuilt, in violation of an express engagement, the fortifications of Puiset, seized the king’s peasants in the public market-place, and extorted sums of money by way of ransom.
But these were vulgar trespasses, hardly worthy of mention. It was reserved for Thomas de Marne, a baron of Picardy, to exemplify in its perfection the true greatness of villainy. “This seigneur,” says the abbot of Nogent.[*] quoted by M. de Sismondi,
had, from his earliest youth, continually augmented his riches by the pillage of travellers and pilgrims, and extended his domain by incestuous marriages with rich heiresses, his relations. His cruelty was so unheard-of, that even butchers, who nevertheless pass for unfeeling, are more sparing of the sufferings of the cattle which they are slaying, than he was of the sufferings of men for he was not contented with punishing them by the sword, for determinate faults, as people are accustomed to do, he racked them by the most horrible tortures. When he wished to extort a ransom from his captives, he hung them up by some delicate part of the body; or laid them upon the ground, and, covering them with stones, walked over them; beating them at the same time, until they promised all that he required, or perished under the operation.*
It was not until the twenty-second year of his reign, that Louis could subjugate this demon in human form. For eighteen years at least of this long interval, he continued his execrable mode of life; and might have continued it longer, had he not, when besieged in his castle of Coucy, been mortally wounded and taken prisoner in a sortie. “The king,” says M. de Sismondi, “tried to induce him, in his last moments, to release the traders whom he had kidnapped on the highway; whom he kept in prison to extort a ransom, or tortured for his amusement: but even in the agonies of death Coucy refused all mercy, and seemed to regret the loss of dominion over his prisoners, much more than the termination of life.”[†] Thus perished Thomas de Marne. But his eldest son Enguerrand de Coucy trod faithfully in his steps; and succeeded in making head against the whole power of the king. After being vainly besieged in the castle of la Fère, he was taken into favour, and received in marriage a princess of the blood royal.
In 1109, says M. Dulaure, one of those horrible occurrences, so frequent in the annals of feudality, took place at the castle of la Roche-Guyon on the Seine. The lord of this castle, Guy de la Roche-Guyon, is praised by contemporary writers for renouncing the practices of his father and grandfather: “Il était enclin à se conduire en homme probe et honnête, et s’abstenait de pillage et de vol: ‘Peut-être,’ adds one author, ‘se serait-il laissé aller aux habitudes de ses pères, s’il eût plus longuement vécu.’ ”† This chief, whom the chronicler supposes to have died just Edition: current; Page:  in time to save his virtue, was assassinated by Guillaume his brother-in-law, who, with the aid of several knights, laid an ambuscade in the chapel of the castle, and murdered Guy, his wife and children, and every other human being in the place. Had this been all, he might have retained the castle to the end of his natural life: but he was suspected by the neighbouring barons of being in an understanding with the English. They resolved to dislodge him. Being besieged in the castle, he opened the gates, stipulating for his life and liberty. It seems that some of the besiegers were not parties to the capitulation. Guillaume was massacred, together with the rest of the besieged: we are not told whether by those who had not engaged for his safety, or by those who had.
In this state was the royal domain, under the fifth of the Capets. But enough of causes; it is time to look at effects. Of the seventy-three years which composed the reigns of Hugh Capet, his son, and grandson, forty-eight were years of famine; being two out of three. Of these famines, pestilence was almost a uniform, cannibalism a frequent, accompaniment.* So much for the feudal system, and the perpetual civil war which was its consequence. In the long reign of Charlemagne we hear only of two famines; and even under the feeble Louis le Débonnaire, whose reign was disgraced by so many rebellions, there is only mention of one.† So much more destructive of security was feudal order, than what elsewhere goes by the name of civil war; and so endurable a thing is even despotism, compared with “liberty,” when all the liberty is for a few barons, and the mass of the people are slaves.
In this country, it has been the interest of the powerful, that the abominations of the clergy in the middle ages should be known; and accordingly they are known. But it has not been the interest of the powerful in this country, that the abominations of the barons should be known; and consequently they are not simply unknown, but their authors are believed to have been patterns of the noblest virtues. The clergy were, in reality, by many degrees the less wicked of the two. They at all times administered better justice to their vassals, than the military chiefs; they at all times discouraged depredations and private wars. True it is, that in their eyes these were secondary offences; it was not for such crimes that interdicts and excommunications were sent forth: these were reserved for the man who married his fourth cousin, or who presumed to summon an ecclesiastic before a secular court. Robbery and murder were not, it is true, sins of so black a dye as the foregoing; they were sins, however, and, as such, were condemned. To the exertions of the clergy was owing the truce of God, one of the most curious traits in the character of the times. In a council composed of laymen and ecclesiastics, held in the diocese of Perpignan, it was resolved that three days and two nights in each week should be allowed to the nobles, to fight, burn, and plunder, under certain Edition: current; Page:  restrictions; by which concession it was hoped to induce them to suspend those recreations during the remainder of the week. This attempt to compromise with the vices of the times, was not, we are told, at first, altogether unsuccessful. But the compact was not adopted in all the districts of France, nor even in the royal domain; and as there existed no means of enforcing its observance, it fell every where into desuetude. It being thought that the time allowed for pillage was possibly not quite long enough, it was enlarged to four days and three nights, and at length to nearly six days and five nights; but the shortest intermission of mutual devastation was more than could be endured.*
During the succeeding reigns, the power of the crown was gradually on the increase, and that of the great feudatories on the wane. Many of the most powerful fiefs became, by marriage or otherwise, integral parts of the English or French monarchies. The expulsion of the English from the north of France, by Philip Augustus, added their possessions to the royal domain; and the enfranchisement of the large towns, which uniformly allied themselves with the king against their old masters, enabled him to break the power of the feudal aristocracy. While this great change in the frame of society was going on, no improvement took place in the moral habits of the nobility. They continued to rob on the highway, and to quarrel and fight with one another, as before. Nor was it till long after the reign of Saint Louis, that the châtelains of France universally abandoned the profession of a highwayman. “Tels,” says M. Dulaure,
étaient les chevaliers du douzième et treizième siècle, dont la loyauté tant exaltée dans les romans, dans les compositions poétiques, et sur notre scène moderne, se trouve constamment démentie par l’histoire. Ces hommes auxquels on attribue tant d’exploits glorieux, tant d’actions généreuses et honorables, n’étaient que des brigands impitoyables, des misérables dignes de figurer dans les bagnes ou les cachots de Bicétre. Je révèle ici une des nombreuses impostures de nos écrivains.†
It is not asserted, that there were no exceptions to this general depravity. All which is contended for is, that the virtuous characters of those days were as much less virtuous than those of our own, as the wicked characters were more wicked, and that they were proportionally much more rare. Such is not the impression conveyed by the romances of chivalry; and it is the misfortune of modern writers, that they have mistaken the romances of chivalry for the history of chivalry. We shall be told, that romances are good evidence of manners. We answer with M. Roederer:‡ of manners, yes: of the characters of their heroes, not at all. The romances of chivalry did not even profess to represent the knights as they were, but as they ought to be. What would be thought of a writer who should seriously infer, Edition: current; Page:  that in the time of Richardson the character of an English gentleman resembled that of Sir Charles Grandison?[*]
Even Mr. Hallam does not believe in the reality of knights-errant; of persons who travelled about, liberating captives, and redressing wrongs.[†] But a romance must have a hero, and a hero must be a character to be admired. There never was a state of society (howsoever depraved) in which the character of a redresser of wrongs was not admired; on the contrary, it is admired in the direct ratio of the frequency of grievous wrongs. The romances of the east abound with good viziers: when the hero is a vizier, we may be sure he is always a good one: and how often does a good vizier arise? About as often as a good king: once in two hundred years.
One would expect to find the most admirable models of chivalrous virtue among those whose names and actions history has celebrated, and who were most admired by their contemporaries.* In these respects no chevalier ever exceeded Richard Coeur de Lion. A few anecdotes, therefore, of his life, will go far to illustrate, not only the practical morality of the age, but moreover its theoretical standard of moral approbation. This mirror of chivalry is first introduced to our notice in the character of a rebellious and treacherous son, intrusted by his father with the government of a province, and exciting that province to rebel. As Duke of Edition: current; Page:  Aquitaine, we find him carrying off the wives and daughters of his principal vassals; and, after keeping them until he was weary of possession, giving them away in presents to his followers.* When reconciled to his father, he turns round upon his former partizans, invades their territories, captures their towns, and loads them with exactions.† Again and again received into favour, again and again did he rebel. At length his father died, and he succeeded to the throne. His first act, in this new situation, was to place his father’s treasurer, Stephen of Tours, seneschal of Anjou, in irons: nor did he release him until (says Roger de Hoveden) he had delivered up all the late king’s money, and his own, to the last penny.‡
He appears to no greater advantage as a champion of the cross. It is related of him, that, when walking in the streets of Messina, he heard the cry of a hawk proceeding from the house of a peasant. A hawk, in England, was to plebeians a prohibited bird. Richard, forgetting that he was no longer in England, but in a country where the peasants had knives, and knew how to use them, entered the house, and took possession of the bird; but an assembled crowd speedily put him to flight. The same imperious temper and despotic habits soon after led him to commit a still greater outrage. A monastery, situated on the strait of Messina, appeared to him a convenient place for lodging his magazines: with him, to desire and to seize were one; he turned out the monks, and put a party of soldiers into their place. Disgusted at these and other acts of oppression, the inhabitants of Messina shut the gates upon Richard and his troops; a conflict ensued, and he forced his way into the place.§ Another anecdote, which is related of him while at Messina, is strikingly characteristic of his jealous and vindictive disposition. In the crusading army he had no rival in warlike exercises, except a French knight, named Guillaume des Barres. On one occasion, while the knights were exercising without the walls, an ass passed by loaded with reeds, which then, as now, were used in that country as vine props. They seized the reeds, and commenced a mock fight. Richard and Guillaume des Barres were opposed to one another. Their reeds were shivered at the first shock, but the reed of Guillaume tore Richard’s cloak. This insignificant mischance provoked Richard to such a degree of fury, that he rushed upon his adversary, and strove violently to unhorse him. In this endeavour he was defeated, which inflamed his passion still more; he swore that he would be for ever the enemy of Guillaume des Barres, and was mean enough to require that the king of France should withdraw his protection from that knight, and banish him from Messina. Nor was it till long after, that, by the entreaties of Philip, aided by those of all the barons and prelates in the army, who placed themselves on their knees Edition: current; Page:  before him, he was prevailed upon to restrain his resentment during such time as he and Guillaume should both wear the badge of the crusade.*
The conduct of Coeur de Lion, after the surrender of Acre, was even in that age remarkable for its ferocity. The garrison and inhabitants were to remain prisoners for forty days, at the expiration of which term, if not previously ransomed, they were to be at the mercy of the conqueror. Not being ransomed, they were, by Richard’s order, put to death in cold blood.†
On his return to England, having laid siege to Nottingham, he erected a gibbet within sight of the walls, and hanged several men-at-arms whom he had taken prisoners, to strike terror into the besieged.‡
At a later period, we find him raising the wind in a manner truly royal, by turning off his chancellor,[*] and declaring all the acts of that functionary null and void; obliging those whose titles were thus invalidated, to purchase valid ones, or forfeit their right.
We soon after find him swearing a truce with the king of France, and violating it immediately.§ Nor was this his last breach of faith. After resigning, by solemn treaty, the paramountcy of Auvergne to his rival the king of France, and even undertaking to aid him in enforcing the right against the unwilling Auvergnats, he broke the treaty, and made an alliance with the Auvergnats against their new liege lord. He very soon broke his faith with them too, and concluding a separate truce, looked on quietly, and saw them subdued. The truce expired, and hostilities renewed between the two kings. Richard had the assurance to renew his correspondence with the Auvergnats, claim their performance of the engagement which he himself had violated, and exhort them to renew the war. They were too prudent to be again deceived; and the royal troubadour consoled himself by composing satirical verses upon what he termed their breach of faith.¶Edition: current; Page: 
But the reader has probably had enough of the “glory of chivalry.”[*] To be the glory of chivalry, indeed, nothing was necessary but the reputation of military prowess: a reputation founded upon achievements in war, and superiority in jousts and tournaments. The pomp and pageantry which adorned these exhibitions have captivated the imaginations, not only of contemporaries but of posterity; and when the imagination is gained, the reason, as experience shows, very seldom fails to follow. That the characteristics of a knight were undaunted courage and the most ardent desire of glory, is a proposition which has hitherto been taken for granted by the admirers, and hardly denied by the impugners of chivalry; and when we wish to say of any one that he is a pattern of all the military virtues, our expression is, that he is worthy of the age of chivalry. Now this proceeds, as it appears to us, upon a complete misapprehension. That courage and the love of glory were not uncommon among the knights, it would be absurd to doubt; since these are qualities which are never wanting, where there are dangers, and a public opinion. But that either quality was universal among them is the dream of a romancer; and we will venture to affirm, that there is more real courage in a single regiment of the British or French army in the year 1826, than there was in the whole chivalry of France or England five centuries ago.
We must not be misled by the great estimation in which military prowess was held. This is no proof of its universality, but the reverse. When particular examples of any virtue are extravagantly praised, it is a certain sign that the virtue is rare. It is pertinently remarked (we believe, by M. Dulaure), that there are at this day hundreds in the French army who possess all the heroic qualities which immortalized Bayard,* but who are utterly unknown, precisely because there are so many. Thus it is that we continue to talk of the continence of Scipio; yet, what mighty matter did this continence amount to? He did not ravish a beautiful woman, whom the fortune of war had thrown into his hands.[†] Now, if this be greatness, what subaltern officer, we were going to say, common soldier, in the British army, is not as great a man as Scipio? As a proof of Scipio’s continence, the story is Edition: current; Page:  ridiculous; but, as a proof of the lawless and brutal incontinence of his contemporaries, this one anecdote, though it be but an anecdote, is worth a thousand volumes.
The ardour of the knights for military enterprises was indeed universal. But this ardour was no proof of exalted courage. Their military enterprises exposed them to hardly any danger. Cased in impenetrable armour, they could in general defy all attempts on life or limb; and the battles of chivalry, how destructive soever to the almost unarmed infantry, were rarely fatal to the men-at-arms. It might be, that a few knights were trampled on by horses, or crushed, in falling, by the weight of their armour. But if unhorsed, and at the victor’s mercy, their lives were scarcely ever in any danger, except from private vengeance; it was neither esteemed dishonourable to give, nor to accept, a ransom; it was the law of war. To compare the courage of an average knight, with that of a modern private soldier, would be like drawing a comparison, for endurance of cold, between a man wrapped up in furs, and a barefooted and naked savage.*
Trifling, however, as was the danger of their warlike enterprises, they always courted in preference the least hazardous even of these. In their hostilities with one another, we have already mentioned that it was their great endeavour, after devastating the country, to escape to their strongholds without the risk of an engagement. They always preferred to encounter the inhabitants of the towns, who were destitute of defensive armour, and of whom they might hope to cut down thousands without the loss of a man. If, indeed, we look for real courage in the feudal times, we must seek it among those brave citizens, who did not fear, under such tremendous disadvantages, to face these terrible opponents in the field, in defence of all that they held dear. Among the few pages of the feudal annals which it gives pleasure to read, is that which records the glorious struggle which the burgesses of Flanders, forsaken and sold by their ally Edward I of England, maintained against Philippe le Bel and the whole chivalry of France. Thousands and thousands of them were cut to pieces; but they triumphed!
The taste of the chevaliers for tournaments, and other warlike exercises, may be as easily explained as their love of military adventure. M. de Sismondi treats both merely as the resources of désoeuvré savages to expel ennui. They sought excitement in the lists and in the field, as our German ancestors sought it by staking Edition: current; Page:  their liberty on the throw of a die. “Un esprit inquiet, un vague désir d’aventures, le besoin d’émotions, et l’espoir d’améliorer sa condition par la violence plus que par l’industrie, formaient alors le caractère de la noblesse Française.”* The following passage characterizes chivalry with equal vigour and accuracy. We give it in the original, because it is at the same time a specimen of the style of M. de Sismondi’s work:
Les paysans, les bourgeois, tous ceux qui travaillaient pour gagner leur misérable vie, qui se trouvaient sans cesse vexés, opprimés, insultés par leurs supérieurs, ne demandaient que le repos, et une sûreté que l’ordre public était loin de leur garantir, mais les nobles étaient, au contraire, dévorés par l’ennui, et souvent aussi aiguillonnés par la cupidité, leur esprit, qui n’avait reçu aucune culture, qui ne soupçonnait pas même les avantages de l’instruction, ne trouvait aucune ressource dans la solitude ou la vie domestique: toute occupation laborieuse ou lucrative leur était interdite, elle dérogeait à la noblesse, elle les assimilait à ces vilains qu’ils faisaient travailler comme des bêtes de somme et qu’ils maltraitaient comme des ennemis. Les cours plénières, les tournois, les pas d’armes se présentent à notre imagination comme les divertissemens de cette noblesse brillante. Nous y voyons les riches récompenses décernées à la valeur, et nous oublions que même pour ceux qui pouvaient en jouir, huit jours de fête étaient achetés par une année de langueur et de solitude. Mais tandis que les serfs de chaque baron lui fournissaient le pain, la viande, peut-être la laine et le lin dont il avait besoin pour sa consommation habituelle, il fallait qu’il achetât les armes, les équipages, les habits somptueux avec lesquels il voulait paraître aux fêtes chevaleresques, et lui qui ne produisait rien, qui ne vendait rien, il n’avait jamais de l’argent, il ne pouvait s’en procurer que par la rapine et par la guerre: la cupidité avait donc bien plus de part que l’amour du danger à cet empressement avec lequel il courait partout où il entendait le bruit des armes La cupidité et l’ennui étaient les deux mobiles de la noblesse, la vanité concourait avec l’ennui pour entretenir cette passion pour les tournois que les excommunications de l’église ne pouvaient modérer; car Grégoire IX avait de nouveau, le 27 Février 1228, frappé d’anathème ceux qui combattaient dans les jeux de lance (hastiludia) et soumis leurs terres à l’interdit. La cupidité et l’ennui conduisaient les gentilshommes Français partout où la vue du sang ruisselant réveillait l’âme engourdie, et où le pillage livrait au guerrier cet or qu’aucune honnête industrie ne pouvait lui procurer.†
M. de Sismondi’s two great stimuli, cupidity and ennui, were quite capable of leading them into danger, but it required another sort of qualities to bring them successfully out of it. As often as the demand for excitement and the demand for plunder brought a large number of them together in one enterprise, the same passions invariably hurried them into irregularities which put to hazard, if they did not frustrate, the success of the expedition. Their impatience of subordination made them regardless of discipline, and uncontrollable by the authority of their commander; their habitual thoughtlessness rendered them incapable of directing their own conduct, and they would not suffer it to be directed by any one else. Let the admirer of chivalry read the history of any enterprise of real danger in which they were ever engaged; of any of the crusades for example, more especially of the Edition: current; Page:  two last; let him mark, not only the rapine and cruelty, but the stupidity, the supineness, the headlong confidence, the incapacity of foreseeing and providing against the most obvious difficulties, which rendered their whole career one series of blunders and misfortunes. If he weighs all this, and moreover bethinks himself of the peculiar character of their warfare, by which even personal prowess was made to depend almost entirely on the steeds, the armour, and the bodily strength of the combatants,* he must acknowledge that the far-famed knights of the middle ages were nearly as destitute even of the military virtues, in any extended sense of the term, as they were of all other virtues whatsoever.
So much for the “cheap defence of nations.” Now for the “nurse of manly sentiment and heroic virtue.”[*]
The characteristic virtues of chivalry, according to Mr. Hallam, were loyalty, courtesy, and munificence.[†] Its claim to these qualities has in general been allowed; and it has, on this foundation, been without further question admitted to have been the great refiner of manners, and purifier of morals. Is this notion well grounded, or not? Let us inquire.
If by munificence be meant, according to Mr. Hallam’s definition, “disdain of money,”[‡] meaning disdain of wealth, not only this quality did not characterize the age of chivalry, but the diametrically opposite qualities did. In no age was the thirst for plunder a more all-engrossing passion, nor the source of more numerous or greater crimes. But if it be only meant, that the wealth which was lightly got was lightly squandered; that the feudal chief was profuse in bestowing upon the instruments of his strength, or the ministers of his vanity or his amusement, gifts which cost him nothing but the groans of his bondmen, or the blood of those of his neighbour; the little value set upon wealth thus obtained, is only a proof how lightly the crimes by which it was purchased weighed upon the conscience of the offender. When all that had been got by one crime had been expended, what could be more obvious than, by another crime, to get more?
Loyalty is defined by Mr. Hallam to mean, fidelity to engagements. By courtesy, was meant, not only ceremonious politeness, but good feeling and good conduct towards each other, and particularly towards prisoners.[§] Of both these qualities there were shining examples towards the conclusion of the age of chivalry. There was but little of either in the earlier period; and at no time were these virtues very commonly practised. While the feudal nobility retained their turbulent independence, no perfidy was thought too odious in order to gain an end, nor any abuse of power too flagrant when practised upon the defenceless. The Edition: current; Page:  treacherous devices which they employed to entrap one another, the horrid cruelties which they practised upon one another when entrapped, the assassinations which they sometimes perpetrated, sometimes (though more rarely) suborned, and of which the altar was not unfrequently the scene, are topics which we have already in some measure illustrated, and have not room to exhibit further. When one baron took a fancy to the wife of another, it appears, from several instances related by M. de Sismondi, that he made no scruple of carrying off the object of his passion, and marrying her; so much for the loyalty, the courtesy, and we will add, the religion, of the times.*Edition: current; Page: 
But when the greater barons ceased to be independent sovereigns, and the smaller barons and knights to be subjects and retainers of those sovereigns; when their exploits came to be performed in national armies, and their virtues and vices to be exhibited on a great theatre, exposed to the view of whole nations; they then became, for the first time, amenable to a sort of public opinion. It is when individuals come under the influence of public opinion, that they begin to exhibit some glimmerings of virtue. But what kind of virtue? This will depend upon the kind of public to whose opinion they are amenable. The only public to which the knights of chivalry were amenable, was a public composed of one another. The opinion which other classes might form concerning their conduct, was a matter of too little importance to them to be at all regarded.
The consequences of this situation well deserve to be traced. Though it is not true of every individual that his interest makes his morality, it is strictly true of every class of men. When a set of persons are so situated as to be compelled to pay regard to the opinion of one another, but not compelled to pay any regard to the opinion of the rest of the world, they invariably proceed to fabricate two rules of action; one rule for their behaviour to one another, another rule for their behaviour to all persons except themselves. This was literally, strictly, what the chevaliers did. A chevalier was bound by the opinion of the chevaliers to keep his word with another chevalier, and to treat him, when a prisoner, with gentleness and respect. His own interest would prompt him to do so, if a man of common prudence; since he could not know how soon he might be a prisoner, and might have occasion to be released upon parole, or promise of ransom. But we are not to suppose that it was necessary for a knight to fulfil his engagements with any one except a knight. Exactly as the profligate man of fashion of the present day will pay a gaming debt to the last farthing, though it leave him pennyless, while he internally resolves never to pay his tradesmen at all: so would a baron keep his word with another baron, and break his word, and his oath too, with a low-born bourgeois.
History, though conversant only with events upon a great scale, affords abundant evidence to bear out this assertion. Notwithstanding the rapacity and avarice of the barons, their profusion rendered them in general needy. The towns, which at first were part of their domain, amenable to their jurisdiction and subject to their arbitrary exactions, took advantage of their wants to purchase, among other privileges, that of having an adminstration of justice and a municipal government of their own. This was a concession which nothing but the most pressing necessities could ever have extorted from those haughty superiors, and which they never afterwards thought of without resentment. No opportunity was missed of resuming the concession, and re-establishing their former supremacy over the town; retaining, however, the purchase-money of freedom. The pages of M. de Sismondi exhibit such numerous examples of this kind of perfidy, that it is impossible to suppose that it could have been considered at all disgraceful. Every privilege, in fact, which a town could succeed in wringing from the penury of its Edition: current; Page:  lord, was the commencement of a long struggle between the town and the seigneur; the seigneur struggling to get back his power, the townsmen to prevent him. If the lord succeeded, any new attempt to throw off his authority was called rebellion, and treated accordingly; for this also see Sismondi, passim.
King John of France, who was taken prisoner at Poitiers, is related to have said, that if truth and good faith had disappeared from the earth, they ought to be found on the lips and in the hearts of monarchs. This John, who was surnamed the Good, and who, if the anecdote be authentic, could talk in such magnifient terms about justice and good faith, had solicited and obtained from the pope, a few years before, for himself and his successors, a curious sort of privilege: it was that of violating all vows made and to be made, all oaths taken and to be taken, which they could not conveniently keep, quae servare commode non possetis, commuting them for other pious works.*
This John, who was a contemporary of the Black Prince and of Bertrand du Guesclin, and who lived, therefore, in the halcyon days of chivalrous virtue, had, it seems, but an indifferent opinion of the knights of his day. He accused the French knights of having become insensible to honour and fame: Honoris et famae, proh dolor! neglectâ pulchritudine.† The same prince, on hearing the song of Roland, observed, Il y a long-temps qu’on ne voit plus de Roland en France. An old captain, who was present, did not deny the fact, but threw all the blame of it upon the monarch himself: On en verrait encore s’ils avaient un Charlemagne à leur tête.‡ Deceived, like ourselves, by romances, even the chevaliers of that day looked back, it seems, with admiration, to the imaginary heroism of their forefathers. Yet this was the most shining period of the age of chivalry. It was also the last. A few years after, chivalry silently expired. The use of fire-arms became general. Cuirasses, as it turned out, were not bullet-proof. The chevaliers tried hard to render them so, by making them thicker and thicker, heavier and heavier, till at last (says Lanoue) Il n’y avait homme de trente ans qui n’en fût estropié.§ Finding that all this would not save them from gunpowder, the cowards forsook the field, and abandoned the defence of their country and their liege-lord to hired soldiers—to plebeians.
Such was the age of chivalry. But to all our denunciations of the vices of that age, one glorious exception must be made. Either the whole testimony of history is false, or Saint Louis never violated his word, nor swerved from what he thought the dictates of his conscience. Historians have not done justice to Saint Louis. He has been pictured as a virtuous man, but a slave to priestcraft. Nothing can be more Edition: current; Page:  unfounded. His mind was strongly tinctured with the superstitions of the age; he conceived the deity not as an indulgent father, but as an irritable and jealous master; all this is true: but it is not true that he was priest-ridden; for he several times resisted not only his clergy, but the pope himself.* He followed the dictates of his own mind. His ideas of religious duty were his own; and every action of his life was governed by them. He thought it his duty to persecute, and he did persecute; he thought it his duty to be an ascetic, and he was an ascetic; but he also thought it his duty to keep his word, and he kept it inviolably; he thought it a sin even to retain what his predecessors had unjustly acquired, and he made restitution with the most scrupulous exactness. He was a perfect specimen of a mind governed by conviction; a mind which has imperfect and wrong ideas of morality, but which adheres to them with a constancy and firmness of principle, in its highest degree perhaps the rarest of all human qualities.
When we contemplate one who in so barbarous an age, and under all the temptations of power, although misled by a bad religion, did not make that religion a substitute for morality, but devoted himself to the fulfilment of his real duties, with the same earnestness as his imaginary ones, we admire even the power over himself which his austerities display; we lament the erroneousness of his opinions, but we venerate the man. Very differently are we affected by the religion which characterized the times. The knights and nobles of the day were as pious, many of them, as Saint Louis himself; but how different a piety! All his intolerance was theirs, without a spark of his virtue. When we read of their crusades, their pilgrimages, and their persecutions, we are apt, by a natural mistake, to speak of their fanaticism. But fanaticism is far too respectable a name. Fanaticism supposes principle: the notion of fulfilling a duty. Their fires were kindled not to fulfil a duty, but to escape from its fulfilment. They thought to strike a bargain with Omnipotence; to compound for one crime by practising another. It was not from principle, but from mere selfishness, that they burned heretics, slaughtered Saracens, and plundered Jews. They imagined that he who sacrificed hecatombs of unbelievers to the God of mercy, was freed from every moral obligation towards his fellow-men. Never did their religion for a moment stand in the way of their passions. In sacking a town, neither priests, nor nuns, nor crosses, nor relics, were sacred to them.† In their private wars, the church lands, being an easier prey, were even less respected than those of one another; nor were their devastations restrained by that excommunication which encroachments upon that species of property invariably entailed. But they had been taught that by giving way to their darling passions, their avarice and cruelty, against the miscreants who denied the faith, they atoned for the indulgence of the same passions against the true Edition: current; Page:  believers. The publication of a crusade, especially against the emperor or the Albigenses, was commonly accompanied by an offer to the champions of the cross, of—what? Remission of all sins, past and future, in the other world, together with permission to rob their creditors in this. They were exempted, during the crusade, from the payment of interest on their debts. The cunning priests, who added this earthly recompense to the heavenly one, knew well the sort of persons with whom they had to deal. That some of the crusading knights were mainly influenced by motives of religion, is as true, as that some were influenced by the desire of military glory; but the great bulk were influenced by nothing but M. de Sismondi’s “deux mobiles de la noblesse,” cupidity and ennui.
There is one feature in the chivalrous character which has yet to be noticed; we mean, its gallantry. And this we shall think it necessary to examine the more fully, because we are persuaded that nine-tenths of the admiration of chivalry are grounded upon it. We own it is hard to speak ill of men who could make vows to their lady-love that they would wear a scarf over one eye till they should have signalized her charms by some exploit, or who could leave the ranks and challenge one another to single combat, to settle which man of them adored the most beautiful mistress. We trust, however, that without treason to the fair sex, of which we profess ourselves devoted admirers, it may be permitted to doubt whether these fopperies contributed much to the substantial happiness of women, or indicated any real solicitude for their welfare. To us it seems very clear, that such demonstrations of eagerness, not to make a woman happy, but to make the whole world acknowledge the pre-eminence of her charms, had their source in mere vanity, and the love of distinction; and that the knight who fought a duel concerning the beauty of his mistress, because she was his mistress, would have done the same thing for his falcon, if it had been the fashion.
If it could be proved that women, in the middle ages, were well treated, it would be so decisive a proof of an advanced stage of civilization, as it would require much evidence to rebut. That they were so treated, however, is not to be believed without proof. That a knight prided himself upon the beauty of his mistress, and deemed his honour concerned in maintaining it at the sword’s point, is no proof. In the Asiatic kingdoms, in which, above all countries in the world, women are not only practically ill-treated, but theoretically despised, the whole honour of a family is considered to be bound up in its women. If their seclusion is intruded upon; if the foot of a stranger profanes the zenana, the disgrace is indelible. This is one species of foppery: the gallantry of the middle ages was another: and, like the ceremonious politeness which distingished alike the chevaliers and the orientals, they characterize that period in the progress of society, which may be termed the age of false refinement, and which is situated half way between savage and civilized life.
Good treatment of women, we have already observed, is one of the surest marks of high civilization. But it seems to be very little considered, in what good Edition: current; Page:  treatment of women consists. It does not consist in treating them as idols to be worshipped, or as trinkets to be worn for display; any more than in shutting them up like jewels in a case, removed from the light of the sun and the sight of men. In both cases, this treatment is a proof that they are valued; else why are so much pains taken about them? But in both cases they are valued exactly like beautiful trinkets; the value set upon them is quite compatible with perfect indifference to their happiness or misery.
Professor Millar, perhaps the greatest of philosophical inquirers into the civilization of past ages, has observed, with truth, that during the savage state, when the attention of men is wholly engrossed by the pursuit of the necessaries of life, the pleasures of sex are little regarded, and little valued; but as soon as the satisfaction of their more pressing wants gives leisure to cultivate the other enjoyments within their reach, these pleasures are among the first which engage their attention. If the savage state is, of all others, that in which the sexual passion is weakest, the half-savage state, or the state immediately bordering on barbarism, is that in which it is strongest.[*] This remark explains the treatment of women in feudal Europe, as well as in Asia, different as their condition in these two states of society may appear. In Asia, where food could always be obtained with comparatively trifling labour, and where very little clothing and lodging were necessary either to existence or to comfort, the savage or hunting state seems never to have existed; the pleasures of sex were probably cultivated from the beginning, and, man abusing his natural superiority, the women were made slaves. In Europe, on the contrary, as among the North American Indians, women were not valued as sources of pleasure, and were not valuable for the labour of hunting, in that state of society the only kind of hard labour. No motives, therefore, existed for reducing them to bondage; and when these barbarians over-spread the Roman empire, and, possessing themselves of the land, began to lead an idle life instead of a laborious one, this new state of society found the women free. From this circumstance arose the different situation of women in Asia and in feudal Europe. In the latter, where they were free, to obtain the woman who was the object of desire became often a matter of extreme difficulty, and generally could not be effected without her own consent: in the former, where they were slaves, to obtain any number of women independently of their consent, became, to a rich man, a matter of no difficulty at all; and his solicitude was transferred to the means of keeping them.
We thus see that the seclusion of women in Asia, and the idolatry of them in Europe, were both marks of the same low state of civilization. The latter, no doubt, gave to some women for a time more power. But we must not overrate the value of this power to their happiness. The question is not, how much power a knight would give his mistress leave to fancy she exercised over him, in order that she might Edition: current; Page:  consent to his obtaining power over her; but in what manner he employed his power over her when obtained. Of the domestic lives of the knights, we have hardly any direct information; and in the absence of any, we may proceed upon the general presumption, that men who were brutal towards one another, would not be less brutal towards their wives. Allowing that a woman who had been an object of desire, and who was still a source of vanity from her personal charms, might command tolerable treatment on account of those charms, while they lasted, and on account of her children at a later period; we profess ourselves not to be of the number of those who sympathize exclusively with beautiful women. Although the heroines of romances were somehow always beautiful, it may yet be inferred, from the inherent probabilility of the thing, that there were ugly women in those days as well as in our own; though we are left to conjecture what sort of treatment may peradventure have been undergone by such ill-fated females, if any such there were. A knight who had to maintain at the point of the sword, that his lady was the most beautiful lady in the whole world, would, in common prudence, attach himself to some fair one, whose pretensions to that character might be maintained without subjecting him to any extraordinary degree of ridicule. We know, in point of fact, that a small number of beautiful women engrossed all the admiration and all the vows of all the knights, and that the large and unattractive majority were altogether neglected. It is the treatment of them, however, and not that of their more attractive sisters, which is the test of civilization.
There is positive evidence, how little regard was paid by a warrior of the age of chivalry, to the feelings even of the object of his passion, when he had the power of gratifying that passion independently of her consent. If a baron happened to be smitten by the charms of the daughter of one of his vassals, he demanded of her father, as a matter of course, that she should be yielded up to his embraces.* The frequency of rapes and abductions, even in the case of women of elevated rank, is another important proof how little connection the foppish gallantry of that age had with the real happiness of the sex affected to be adored. We have mentioned in a former page the chivalrous treatment of the Gascon ladies by Coeur de Lion. Matilda, daughter of Malcolm III, King of Scotland, while residing in England previously to her marriage with our Henry I, is well known to have taken the habit of a nun, “not,” says Hume, “with a view of entering into a religious life, but merely in consequence of a custom, familiar to the English ladies, who protected their chastity from the brutal violence of the Normans, by taking shelter under that Edition: current; Page:  habit, which, amidst the horrible licentiousness of the times, was yet generally revered.”*
We reject the giants of romance; why should we continue to believe in the reality of the knights-errant, their antagonists? Yet if both are the representatives of really existing personages, let us remember that the knights who liberated imprisoned damsels were few, while the giants who held these damsels in durance were many; and that the prototypes of the giants were knights and noblemen, though they were not knights-errant.
Though it is almost unnecessary to add, that whatever portion of power or good treatment the women enjoyed, was confined entirely to the women of rank, and that all other women were, like their husbands, slaves; we will, however, conclude our observations on this subject, by a very sensible passage from M. Roederer’s work, already alluded to, in which this as well as some other very pertinent observations are forcibly put. The age of chivalry, he says,
Fut pour les femmes, ainsi que les hommes, une période d’abjection et de malheur. Ne regardant pas le bonheur des seigneurs qui opprimaient la nation comme partie du bonheur de la nation, ou comme une compensation de son malheur, je ne compte pas non plus la gloire des châtelaines dans le bilan des femmes Françaises du même temps. Celles-ci vivaient dans l’oppression comme leurs pères, leurs maris, leurs enfans. On pourrait même contester à ces dames de château, qui brillaient de tant d’éclat sur les amphithéâtres d’un tournoi, qui étaient pour la confrérie des chevaliers l’objet d’un culte religieux et d’une adoration solennelle; on pourrait leur contester un bonheur correspondant à de si belles apparences, et demander si cette idolâtrie qui leur était vouée, n’était pas une des pompes de la grandeur de ces temps-là, l’ostentation intéressée d’une courtoisie profitable, ou l’exagération d’une servilité réelle sous des apparences passionnées; et si, dans l’intérieur de la société domestique, les grandes dames n’étaient pas exposées comme les autres à toute la rudesse d’une domination sans frein?
We have dwelt so long upon the period of the feudal aristocracy, that we have not time to give a detailed character of the feudal monarchy; and perhaps it will be better, before attempting the task, to wait for the additional materials which we may expect to find in the next portion of M. de Sismondi’s history. We shall content ourselves with mentioning a few facts, merely to show that the aristocracy did not change its character during the two or three centuries which followed its subjugation by the crown.
Enguerrand de Coucy, having seized two young noblemen, who, with their preceptor, had trespassed on his forests in pursuit of rabbits, hanged them all three. In the reign of any other prince than Saint Louis, he might possibly have come off with impunity. Saint Louis at first intended to put him to death, but at the intercession of all the great barons, he contented himself with imposing a heavy Edition: current; Page:  fine, and three years exile in Palestine, with the forfeiture of the seignorial rights of haute justice, and garenne: of keeping rabbits, and of judging men.*
Guy de Montfort assassinated Henry, son of Richard, Duke of Cornwall, before the altar, at Viterbo.†
Saint Louis besieged the castle of La Roche de Gluy upon the Rhone, to punish its lord for practising robbery on the highway: having made himself master of the castle, he restored it to its owner, first stipulating for the discontinuance of his depredations.‡
The next person of whom we shall make mention is Amalric, Viscount of Narbonne, who, having the droit de justice, violated the laws, and, what was of more consequence, offended the monarch, by putting to death two of his own vassals, notwithstanding their appeal to the royal court. Amalric’s sovereign was far from being a Saint Louis; he imprisoned the rebellious vassal for a time, then took him from prison and put him at the head of an army.§
Jourdain de l’Isle, sire (seigneur) of Casaubon, after receiving the royal pardon eighteen times for different offences, was hanged the nineteenth for rape, rapine, and murder. This happened under Charles IV, in 1323.
Hannot and Pierre de Léans were hanged in 1332, for assassinating la demoiselle Péronne d’Estreville in the church.
Mathieu de Houssaie was condemned to a gibbet in 1333; Jourdan Ferron, a damoiseau or page, in the same year. In the following year eleven nobles were executed (suppliciés) for the assassination of Emeri Béranger.
Adam de Hordain, another knight, was hanged in 1348, and so on.¶ It was not till the climax of the power of Louis XIV, that the nobles were reduced into perfect obedience to the laws.
As the king’s government, however, increased in strength, assassination became too dangerous to be openly practised, and a safer mode of taking vengeance upon an enemy now came into vogue. Accusations of poisoning became frequent, and gained general credit. The imperfection of the courts of justice, and the peculiar nature of this crime, generally prevented the fact from being judicially proved; but the generality of the suspicion is a sufficient proof of the spirit of the times. Another mode of getting rid of an enemy was suggested by the superstitions of the day. The practice of enchantments, for the destruction of particular persons, became very frequent. The efficacy of these operations was imaginary, but the intention was real. Waxen images, says M. Dulaure, play a very conspicuous part in French history. A waxen image was constructed, as nearly as possible resembling the person intended to be destroyed; a priest was Edition: current; Page:  employed to baptise the image by the name of the intended victim, and it was then tortured, mutilated, or pierced through and through, with the proper forms of incantation. The effect of the operation thus performed upon the image, was supposed to be felt by its human namesake in his own person.
The gradual disuse of trial by battle, which was abolished by Saint Louis in his own domains, and discouraged every where, both by him and his successors; the substitution of technical procedure in the king’s court, and the gradual supercession of the seignorial jurisdictions by the royal ones, gave rise and encouragement to another sort of crime, judicial perjury. This, which is perhaps the most pernicious of offences, because it destroys the efficacy of the remedy against all others, and the frequency of which is, for that and other reasons, one of the most decisive tests of the moral depravity of a nation, became, if we may credit historians, horribly frequent. Corruption in the judges also became a common offence.*
When the nobles no longer enjoyed any power of their own, except over their serfs and domestics, they had no chance for importance but by resorting to the court, and rivalling with one another in magnificence and servility.† The means of magnificence had to be squeezed out of their vassals, whose situation consequently became more miserable than ever.‡ The same cause brought about a considerable change in the manners of the nobility. No longer permitted to seek excitement in private wars, they sought it in the licentiousness of a court. Intrigue took the place of rape, as poisoning had done of assassination. The manners of the later period of the age of chivalry, and of the age which immediately succeeded it, as they are pictured in Brantôme[*] and other works of his day, were dissolute to a degree never since equalled. Nor did their debauchery resemble the refined gallantry of the court of Louis XV; it was coarse and gross to a degree of which even the language of Rabelais is hardly an exaggeration. To sum up all in few words: when the vices of a highwayman ended, the vices of a courtier began.
We had intended to quote some striking anecdotes of the times; such as the expedition of the pastoureaux, the destruction of the Templars, the pretended conspiracy of the lepers to poison the fountains and subvert Christianity: and to have sketched the persecutions of the Jews and of the Albigenses, and the still more extraordinary persecution of the mendicant Franciscans, for offending the Edition: current; Page:  pope, by denying that their meat was their own at the moment when they were putting it into their mouths. But these, and innumerable other interesting facts, which M. Dulaure and M. de Sismondi have recorded, we must content ourselves with exhorting the reader to gather from those authors themselves. Both works are as delightful in style, as they are important in matter. The manner of M. Dulaure is characterized by extreme neatness and exquisite simplicity, and carries the reader along with it, by its deep earnestness, and high tone of moral feeling. To one who is daily sickened by the repulsive tone of heartless levity, and recklessness about good and evil, which is one of the besetting sins of our own literature in the present day, this quality of M. Dulaure’s work renders it peculiarly attractive.* M. de Sismondi’s style is more diffuse, but almost always sprightly, and frequently eloquent. His eloquence, however, flows naturally from him; neither he nor M. Dulaure is infected by that rage for fine writing, which is the bane of all real eloquence; they never declaim, never hunt after common-place metaphors, but speak the plain and unaffected language of men who wish that the reader should think of their ideas more than of themselves.
There is little appearance in M. Dulaure’s work of a generalizing, that is, of a philosophical, mind: he states the facts as he finds them, praises and censures where he sees reason, but does not look out for causes and effects, or parallel instances, nor applies the general principles of human nature to the state of society he is describing, to show from what circumstances it became what it was. It is true he does not profess to be a historian, but only to sketch a tableau moral M. de Sismondi aims much more at generalization; and the reflections with which he frequently commences his chapters, exhibit far more of the genuine philosophy of history, than is to be found in any other work on the middle ages (those of Professor Millar excepted)[*] with which we are acquainted.
The badness of those ages will now be thoroughly understood by a large class of readers in France. In this country, we cannot hope that it will be comprehended as yet. There is no popular book on the middle ages in our language; nor any book in which the truth is plainly and fully told concerning chivalry and its times. Millar’s Historical View of the English Government, though admirable as far as it goes, is rather a history of institutions, than of morals and manners, and when it does touch upon the latter, is not detailed enough to give any thing like a vivid conception of the times. The design of the work, moreover, is confined to our own country. Yet he is almost the only writer we have, who has made the middle ages a subject of philosophical investigation. There is, indeed, Mr. Hallam; but we should be much Edition: current; Page:  surprised if the nation which has produced a Millar, could admire or read the History and Government of Europe during the Middle Ages. This work appears to us equally faulty in the design and in the execution. In the first place, the design is fundamentally bad. The work is neither a history of Europe, nor a history of European civilization. Considered as a history of Europe, it is the most meagre of abstracts. Conceive an attempt to write “the history of France from its conquest by Clovis to the invasion of Naples by Charles VIII,” in one chapter of ninety-nine quarto pages! It is evident that nothing worth relating of the history of France could be included in that compass: it is not a historical sketch, but a chronological table, or the table of contents to a historical work; and it is long since we remember to have read ninety-nine duller pages. If, on the other hand, the work was intended to be a history, not of Europe, but of its civilization, why encumber it with several hundred pages of tiresome and useless narrative? Even in the dissertations, which compose the remainder of the work, we cannot help seeing much more of pretension than of real merit. Mr. Hallam is not wanting in liberality; his leanings are in general towards the side of the many; his incidental remarks are frequently pointed in expression, and occasionally soar somewhat above the level of common-place. But he has neither discernment enough to see through any reigning error, nor philosophy enough to trace the causes and consequences of the things which he describes; but deals out little criticisms and little reflections, and little scraps of antiquarian lore, which neither throw any light upon the condition of mankind in the middle ages, nor contribute either to support or illustrate any important principle: in fine, he has succeeded in rendering a sketch of one of the most remarkable states of society ever known, at once uninstructive and tiresome. The best part of his work is that which relates to our own country. In this part he must be allowed the merit of having resorted to the original authorities, and established several interesting points of constitutional history. But considering him as a historian of the middle ages, we are compelled to pronounce his work an utter failure. Its want of merit is rendered still more striking, when compared with the merit of other writers. To appreciate Mr. Hallam, it is not even necessary to have read Millar; it is sufficient to have read Sismondi.
Westminster Review, IX (Apr., 1828), 251-313. Headed: “Art. I.—The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte, Emperor of the French. With a Preliminary View of the French Revolution. By the Author of ‘Waverley,’ &c. [Walter Scott.] In Nine Volumes. Edinburgh [: Cadell; London. Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green], 1827.” Running titles: “French Revolution— / Scott’s Life of Napoleon.” Unsigned. Pamphlet offprint, with title page reading: “A / Critical Examination / of the / Preliminary View / of the / French Revolution, / prefixed to / Sir Walter Scott’s Life of Bonaparte. / With Observations on the Work Itself. / From the Westminster Review, No. XVIII.” Printed London. Hansard, 1828. Headed: “Critical Examination, &c. &c. &c.” Paginated 1-63; no running titles. Unsigned. Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “A review of Sir Walter Scott’s Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, in the 18th number of the Westminster Review” (MacMinn, 10). The copies of the offprint in Mill’s library, Somerville College, have no corrections or emendations.
For comment on the essay, see xliii-xlvi and xcv-xcvi above.
sir walter scott cannot write any thing which, as a literary composition, will not be read with pleasure; and if it were possible to consider the work before us merely as a well-told story, we are not sure that it is inferior even to the most perfect of his former productions. Few books, indeed, have ever afforded so much for minute criticism to fasten upon; and that description of critics with whom the substitution of one connecting particle where another would have been more appropriate is a crime for which all the higher excellencies of composition cannot atone, have made so great a noise concerning its small blemishes, that comparatively little has been heard of its uncommon merits.[*] But the extreme of carelessness in the minutiae of style, a fault always more endurable than the opposite one of a too studious and visible attention to them, is pardonable, and almost allowable, in a writer who has merits of so much higher a rank than mere correctness. In Sir Walter Scott, no faults are worth noting except those which impair the effect of beauties. The author who could conceive and execute the admirable narrative of Napoleon’s first Italian expedition, in the third volume,[†] could afford to be inelegant, to be even ungrammatical, in every page. His occasional repetitions, and the intermixture of many inappropriate, among many felicitous, similies, will be forgiven by those who know how few writers are capable of unfolding a complicated and intricate train of events so that it shall appear simple and intelligible, and of maintaining, throughout a voluminous work, so lively, rapid, and spirited a style, that the interest never flags, the attention never is wearied; in which qualities this work pre-eminently excels.
But these excellencies do not suffice to constitute a history. From that which is offered to the public as a record of real events, something more is required than that it should be sprightly and entertaining. The Life of Napoleon would be admirable as a romance: to have made it any thing higher, would have required far other endowments than had been displayed even in the most finished performances of the Author of Waverley.[‡]
If it be any part of the duty of an historian to turn the facts of history to any use; Edition: current; Page:  and if a fact can be of use only by being made subservient either to the confirmation or illustration of a principle; the historian who is fit for his office must be well disciplined in the art of connecting facts into principles, and applying principles to the explanation of facts: he must be a man familiar with generalization and general views; a man whose knowledge is systematic, whose mind can embrace classes as well as individuals, who can discriminate between the results of narrow and partial observation, and those of enlarged experience; in short, a philosopher. Further, if it be ever the duty of an historian to elicit real facts, from vague, scanty, or conflicting, testimony, it is necessary that he should be profoundly skilled in the difficult art of weighing evidence: he must be capable of combining together a chain of circumstances, each of which proves nothing by itself, but every thing when skilfully combined; he must be practised in striking the balance between opposing testimonies, or between testimony on the one side and probability on the other; he must be, to sum up this also in one word, a consummate judge. Sir Walter Scott’s title to these high qualifications still remained to be established. It is in the present volumes that we must look for the proof of it, if proof is to be found.
Of the degree in which he possessed those more common qualities, which suffice for giving a correct statement of ordinary events—the qualities of industry, candour, and impartiality—the public had some means of judging from his previous performances. And first, with respect to industry; while his earlier writings had proved how much he is capable of, his later ones had afforded no less conclusive evidence, that any degree of pains employed upon his productions, more than was necessary to their sale, was, in his estimation, superfluous. Applying himself in this frame of mind to the composition of an historical work, it was not very likely that he should have recourse to any other than the vulgar authorities, nor, consequently, that he should take any other than the vulgar view of the events which he relates. And the celerity with which he projected and completed a work which, to execute it tolerably, would have required many years reading, was a satisfactory proof, if there were no other, that, on this point at least, the presumption had not been fallacious.
With respect to his candour: if the studied forbearance towards political adversaries which distinguishes his writings, had flowed from a genuine, passionate, and overpowering love of truth, there would have been room for highly favourable anticipations indeed. But the prevailing tone of his works in every other respect, forbids us to ascribe to any such cause his specious semblance of impartiality. There is sufficient evidence in Sir Walter Scott’s writings, that he is a person of a mild and tolerant disposition, constitutionally exempt from acrimony of all kinds, with a decided bias towards aristocratic persons and aristocratic opinions, but not attaching so much importance to the difference between one opinion and another, as to feel, even towards persons of the most opposite principles, much positive dislike. This original liberality, and almost indifference, in matters of opinion, enabled him to fall easily into a practice which he appears to Edition: current; Page:  have prescribed to himself from an early period—that of adopting such a mode of writing as should be best calculated to win the good word and good opinion of every body. For this purpose he has laboured, with a skill and success surpassing all previous example; and since to please all is to please persons of all political opinions, the precise degree of compromise conducive to this end, was very accurately calculated, and studiously employed. All the substantial advantage in point of opinion must, indeed, be given to the aristocracy, because they, being accustomed to entire subservience, can ill bear any thing which falls far short of it; while, on the other hand, even democrats and democratic principles must be treated with a certain appearance of respect, because, the object being to please every body, it will not do to make intemperate and offensive attacks either upon men or opinions in which any considerable section of the reading public take an interest. But the democrats, being accustomed to pure abuse, are tolerably well satisfied when they meet with a writer in whom the abuse is a little qualified; and their favour is sufficiently attained by keeping somewhat to the liberal side of high Tory opinions, and allowing a fair share of the common feelings and intellect of men, to persons who, by Tory writers in general, are considered as destitute of them, being addicted to the notion that the House of Commons should represent the people, and similar heterodoxies. By this mark, accordingly, Sir Walter Scott has guided himself; and has taken pains to be, on all occasions, a little more just towards the friends of the people than is usual with their enemies. His Old Mortality is a miserable travestie of the Scottish Covenanters, compared with Laing’s History, or Mr. Galt’s Ringan Gilhaize;[*] and so is his View of the French Revolution, compared with Mignet or Bailleul.[†] But a bigotted Tory can scarcely read either work without some mitigation of his prejudices. Sir Walter Scott is not the man from whom it could be expected that he should be an unbiassed judge between the aristocracy and the people; but considering him as the advocate of the aristocracy against the people, he is not altogether an illiberal or disingenuous one.
The work may be appropriately divided into two parts; the History of the French Revolution, and that of the Reign of Napoleon Bonaparte. This is somewhat more than a merely chronological division. The two subjects are as unlike as those of the Iliad and of the Odyssey; though, like these, they form a portion of the same series of events, and concern in part the same persons. The former period seems to contain nothing but what is extraordinary; the latter, hardly any thing but what is common-place. The reign of Napoleon affords little or nothing to the historian, Edition: current; Page:  except ordinary characters and ordinary events. The career which he ran, had been trodden times out of number by successful adventurers; there have never been wanting just such men as he, when such prizes have been attainable by them: the most obvious causes suffice to account for every event in his history: to comprehend it thoroughly, there needed no extraordinary depth of philosophy; the lowest impulses of the lowest description of human beings are the moving principle of the whole, and few men know and understand less of these than they ought. Where one man is the sole disposer of events, history is easily written: it is only to study the character of that one man: if this be vulgar, all is vulgar; if it be peculiar, he who has seized its peculiarities has the key to all which may appear remarkable in the events of the period. The lines of Napoleon’s character are few, and strongly marked: to trace them correctly, far inferior powers to those of Sir Walter Scott would have been sufficient. And if his story be inaccurate, as we have no doubt that it is, in many of the details, those details are of such sovereign unimportance for any purpose of utility or instruction, that we, for our share, should have little objection, provided they be amusing, to dispense altogether with their being true.
To write the history of the French Revolution was a task requiring far other powers, involving far other difficulties. To say that, on no occasion, did surprising events succeed one another with such breathless rapidity, that never were effects so extraordinary produced by such a complication of causes, nor in so short a space of time, would be to form a very inadequate idea of the peculiarities of that momentous period, considered as a theme for history. It was marked by a characteristic still more embarrassing to such men as those by whom history is commonly written. The moving forces in this vast convulsion, the springs by which so much complex machinery was now set in motion, now stopt, now swept away, were of a class for the laws of whose action the dictionary of historical common-places does not yet afford one established formula—a class which the routine-historian has not yet been taught by familiarity to fancy that he understands. Heretofore, when a change of government had been effected by force in an extensive and populous country, the revolution had been made always by, and commonly for, a few: the French Revolution was emphatically the work of the people. Commenced by the people, carried on by the people, defended by the people with a heroism and self-devotion unexampled in any other period of modern history, at length terminated by the people when they awoke from the frenzy into which the dogged resistance of the privileged classes against the introduction of any form whatever of representative government, had driven them; the French Revolution will never be more than superficially understood, by the man who is but superficially acquainted with the nature and movements of popular enthusiasm. That mighty power, of which, but for the French Revolution, mankind perhaps would never have known the surpassing strength—that force which converts a whole people into heroes, which binds an entire nation together Edition: current; Page:  as one man, was able, not merely to overpower all other forces, but to draw them into its own line, and convert them into auxiliaries to itself. The vulgar politician finds to his confusion (if indeed it is in the power of any vulgar politician to make the discovery), that all the causes which he is in the habit of calling in upon other occasions to account for every thing in history which perplexes him, are powerless here; that party interests, and class interests, and personal interests, and individual depravity, and individual virtue, and even the highest endowments of individual intellect and genius, appear to influence the train of events only when they fall in with it, and add force to the current, which, as often as they are thrown into opposition with it, they are found inadequate to withstand. The rules by which such a period is to be judged of, must not be common rules: generalizations drawn from the events of ordinary times, fail here of affording even that specious appearance of explanation, which is the utmost that such empirical philosophy can ever accomplish. The man who is yet to come, the philosophical historian of the French Revolution, will leave these solemn plausibilities far behind, and will draw his philosophy from the primaeval fountain of human nature itself. Whatever else he may derive from what are called the records of past times, a lesson which he will not learn from them is, what is meant by a people; or from what causes, and in obedience to what laws, the thing, which that name expresses, is accustomed to act, on those rare occasions on which the opportunity of acting is allowed to it, and it is quite possible to be a tolerable poet, and much more than a tolerable novelist, without being able to rise to the comprehension of that one idea, or to know more of those laws and those principles than a child in the cradle.
We have stated but a part of the inherent difficulties of the subject. That the very facts of the French Revolution, from the multitude of conflicting testimonies, are incapable of being elicited but by one who possesses all the endowments of the most sagacious and practised judge, is still but a part, perhaps not the greatest part, of those difficulties. Suppose the facts ascertained—to interpret and account for them would demand, along with the most minute knowledge of the circumstances of France and of the French people for centuries back, a mind profoundly conversant with human nature under all the modifications superinduced by acting upon the extensive theatre of a whole nation; and the deepest insight into the springs of human society, into the causes by the perpetual and often unseen agency of which, a nation is made to be what it is, in respect to civilization, morals, modes of thinking, physical condition, and social relations. Nor is this all. To judge of the French Revolution, is to judge statesmen, and the acts of statesmen, in novel and critical situations. It is to form an estimate of great changes in the government and institutions of a country; of new laws established, of old ones overthrown, and of the manner in which the helm of government was conducted through a course beset with perils and difficulties more trying, perhaps, than were ever before experienced by a great and powerful nation. It is not too much to expect, that the writer, whose judgment is to guide that of his readers in such high concerns, shall Edition: current; Page:  himself know as much as philosophy and experience can teach, of the science of government and legislation: that he shall be well skilled both in the theory and in the practice of politics; shall know at the same time what is best in itself, and how to make allowance for the obstacles and counteracting forces, which often render what is not best in itself, necessary either as a precaution or as a compromise.
To this rare combination of qualities, Sir Walter Scott has no claim. In political and social philosophy his principles are all summed up in the orthodox one, that whatever is English is best; best, not for England only, but for every country in Christendom, or probably the world. By starting from this point it must be acknowledged that much trouble is saved, and not a little of what is apt to be thought the duty of a historian, very comfortably abridged. To a mind properly imbued with this axiom, to sit in judgment upon the statesmen or institutions of other countries is an easy task. To inquire patiently into the suitableness of a system of government to the nature of man in general, or to the circumstances of any nation in particular; to examine how far it did or did not provide for the exigencies of that nation; to take account of the degree in which its framers might expect that causes peculiar to that nation would promote, modify, or impede, its action; and, if it be pronounced bad, to consider what means they had by whom it was adopted, of establishing any thing better; all this, to a person of such enlarged views, is unnecessary labour. Sir Walter Scott settles all these questions in a moment, by a summary appeal to that ever-ready standard of comparison, English practice. Whatever he finds here established, or whatever bears the same name with any thing which is here established, is excellent, and if the statesmen of France, unfortunately for themselves, not judging of things by the same comprehensive rule, formed a different opinion, the folly thus evinced accounts for all the subsequent misfortunes of their country. Should an institution happen not to be English, it is condemned: and here something more of thought is required in making out a case against it, though not much; for nobody is ignorant how ridiculously easy it is to find inconveniences and dangers on one side of every political question, sufficient to decide it, if we only take care to keep our eyes well shut to the inconveniences and dangers on the other. Although, too, no other reasons for condemnation should be discoverable, there is one argument against all systems that are not English, which can never be wanting; they are untried theories: no free institutions except ours, according to our author, having ever had the sanction of experience; for it never occurs to him that the principle of an institution may have been tried successfully any number of times, although the exact model may be to be found nowhere.
While Sir Walter Scott’s acquirements are of this mean description, in the science of politics, and the philosophy of the social union, he is almost equally deficient in that acquaintance with facts, without which the most philosophical statesman is no better qualified to judge what is fittest for a nation, than the most profound physician to prescribe what is fittest for a patient whom he has not seen. There is no proof, in this work of Sir Walter Scott, that he has taken the trouble to Edition: current; Page:  make himself well acquainted with the state of France at the time when the Revolution broke out; with the physical condition and mental peculiarities of the people, the habitual feelings and modes of thinking of the different classes of society, and the working of the great machine of government in the detail. Not only is there no proof that he has made himself well acquainted with these circumstances, but there is conclusive proof that he has not made himself acquainted with them at all; that he has scarcely so much as adverted to them as being among the things which it is necessary for a historian of the Revolution to know; and has therefore committed all the mistakes that are incident to a historian who is thoroughly unacquainted with the spirit of the times which he is describing. His complete ignorance of the position in which individuals and parties were placed, leads him regularly to ascribe their actions to other than the true causes. He blames men who did the best they could, for not doing better; treats men who had only a choice of inconveniences, as if they were the masters of events, and could regulate them as they pleased; reproaches men who were beset by dangers on both sides, because they did not, to avoid the dangers on one side, precipitate themselves into those on the other; goes to search for discreditable motives at an immense distance, when the most creditable ones were obviously afforded by the state of affairs; and judges of the conduct of men in the crisis of a revolution, by the same standard which he would have applied to persons securely in possession of the governing power in peaceable times.
Such and no higher being the qualifications which Sir Walter Scott brings to the task of making an estimate, moral and philosophical, of the French Revolution; the reader may judge what is the value of his opinions on the subject, and how well the conception which his book conveys of the Revolution resembles its real character. The work has, in addition to these, all the defects of a book hastily written: it is utterly without research. The author has been satisfied with resorting to the most hackneyed and obvious authorities: he has read perhaps one or two of the professed histories of the period; some of the more popular of the memoirs he has consulted, but we find it difficult to believe that he has read them: he has left but few references at the bottom of the page to betray to the public in general the superficiality of his reading, but, that some even of these few are made from memory, is demonstrated by his referring, for proof of an assertion, to the very passage which proves the assertion to be false.* The documents which breathe the Edition: current; Page:  living spirit of the time, the only monuments of really cotemporary history, (which is the most different thing imaginable from history written by cotemporaries, after they have undergone a thousand changes of opinion and feeling, and when the genuine impression of the present events has faded from their recollection) are the decrees of the national assemblies, the speeches of their members, the papers laid before them, and the immensely numerous books, pamphlets, and periodicals, of the day. These genuine authorities, as neither fame nor profit was to be got by consulting them, our author had not thought it necessary to consult. We doubt whether he has given, to more than two or three of them, even the most cursory perusal.
It may be thought surprising, that a book should be offered to the public, by so distinguished a writer, as the history of so recent and so universally interesting a period, in which so little pains have been taken to ensure that which, all other qualities being put out of the question, is at any rate a sine quâ non of history, namely, truth. But our author enjoyed two advantages, either of which would have made it safe for him to deviate from the truth even more widely than he has: he wrote for readers thoroughly ignorant of the subject, and for readers the whole of whose prepossessions were more or less strongly on his side. For being ignorant of the subject, some of his readers have the excuse, that to this very hour there does not exist one tolerable account of this remarkable portion of history, in the English tongue. But the number of Englishmen to whom works written in the French language are accessible, is now so great, that the marvellous extent of their ignorance respecting the French Revolution, must be regarded as a proof, that this reading nation chuses to read dissertations on Aeolic Digammas, or Iron Masks,[*] or any other matter of frivolous and idle curiosity, sooner than any thing which will furnish them with evidence upon matters on which their minds have been made up without it. For ignorance has not here had the effect which conscious ignorance in a well-regulated mind ought to have, that of preventing them from forming any opinion. Acted upon as their ignorance has been, from day to day and from year to year, by the torrents of unmeasured and undiscriminating invective which have been poured forth against the Revolution, by men who knew nearly as little about it as the public themselves, but who knew perfectly what mode of treating the subject Edition: current; Page:  would be acceptable to those on whom the reputation and the sale of their lucubrations depended; a feeling has been generated, which predisposes men to credit upon any evidence or no evidence, any assertion with respect to the French Revolution or revolutionists, provided only it be sufficiently unfavourable: and he who would seek to refute even the most extravagant of these assertions, finds it difficult to obtain a hearing, and scarcely possible to persuade.
It cannot, however, be deemed of small importance to the best interests of mankind, that the opinions which they form on such a subject as the French Revolution, should be correct opinions. So long as all who hold the lot of mankind to be capable of any material improvement, or conceive that any good can be accomplished by taking the powers of government out of the hands of those who are interested in abusing them, are deemed to be sufficiently answered by pointing to the calamitous issue of that great experiment; so long it will be a duty not to suffer that its history should be rendered the fitter to form the groundwork of these decisive conclusions, by being falsified and garbled. It is not in such an article as the present, that we can pretend to sketch the true history or trace the character of the French Revolution. But we can at least shew that Sir Walter Scott is not to be trusted; which we the more willingly do, as, in refuting his misrepresentations, we are exposing à fortiori those of the crowd of hirelings, who with inferior abilities, but with the same purposes, daily essay to fling each his minute and separate portion of dirt upon some of the noblest deeds and brightest characters in history. Such men are not important enough for any other chastisement than they may indirectly suffer, from the blow aimed at a more formidable enemy, and we shall mention them no further in this notice.
The work opens with a sketch of the state of France before the Revolution, and a view of the remote causes of that catastrophe. The whole of this is comprehended in two chapters, which consist of seventy-nine pages: a shorter space, therefore, than is frequently taken up by the dull introductions of our author’s novels, is all that he allows for what ought to be the quintessence of the internal history of France during more than a century. To have executed this portion of his task well, would of itself have required more reading and research than he has given to the entire work. It is almost unnecessary to say, therefore, that he has performed it ill, and has not only failed to communicate full and accurate knowledge, but has betrayed the lamentable extent of his own ignorance. This is the more to be regretted, as he has stated the little which he knows, with considerable force, and very tolerable fairness. The influence of such an aristocracy as that of France upon the national literature, is powerfully delineated; the character of the noblesse and clergy, during the fifty years preceding the Revolution, is traced with an indulgent, but with no feeble hand: and the exclusion of the tiers-état, that is, of almost the whole of the talent, and much the greater part of the opulence, of France, from all employment or influence in the affairs of the state, is deservedly reprobated. Our author, however, shares the vulgar error, which considers this monopoly of office Edition: current; Page:  as the principal, and almost the sole, cause of the Revolution: at least we may gather as much from the fulness with which he developes and expatiates upon it, while all the other causes are lumped together in a short and passing notice. This is by no means a trifling error; on the contrary, few can be named, which have contributed more to prevent the Revolution from being understood, or to lend an apparent sanction to the conclusions which aristocratic logic has drawn from it for aristocratic purposes. We dwell not upon the gross injustice towards the eminent men who originally took the lead in the Revolution, and whom this theory represents as ambitious spirits, struggling for no higher object than the removal of their personal disabilities, instead of patriots striving to free their country from a yoke which weighed it down to the earth. We shall not insist upon this, characteristic though it be—for thus it is that our author always contrives to disguise or throw into the shade whatever is exalted in purpose or generous in sentiment, in those whose principles he disapproves, while he gives credit to the royalists for the most chivalrous disinterestedness and honour, not only without evidence, but in direct contradiction to the testimony of the better members of their own body. But (to say no more upon this point) mark the implied imputation upon the French people, which this theory of the Revolution conveys. If the excesses of the Revolution had no greater provocation than our author tells us of, what must not we think of them? Slur over the fact that every man’s liberty was at the mercy of every minister or clerk of a minister, or lacquey of a minister, or mistress of a lacquey of a minister—that every man’s property was at the mercy of intendants and subdélégués, and the whole fry of agents and sub-agents in one of the most odious systems of fiscal tyranny ever known; sink all this, and a hundred things besides, and fix upon non-admissibility to office as the great practical grievance of the tiers-état, and what is the inference? For our author certainly will not succeed in persuading anybody, that it was the ineligibility of the merchants and avocats of Paris and Bordeaux to public offices, and of their sons to promotion in the army, which caused the peasants of several of the provinces of France to rise in arms and burn the houses of their seigneurs:[*] the provocations, therefore, which are assigned, being obviously insufficient, and the real ones having been carelessly overlooked or purposely passed over, the only explanation which seems to offer itself is the perversity of the people: of whose supposed readiness at all times, unless kept down by terror, to rise against their superiors and make war upon person and property, another example is thus manufactured.
Sir Walter Scott may be well assured that the grievances which could excite in the peasantry feelings of such bitter hatred towards the privileged classes, were grievances which affected themselves, and not other people. The Roman tribune understood the nature of the people much better, when he reproached them with being abundantly eager and zealous when their efforts were required to prevent the Edition: current; Page:  usurpation of their lands, or protect their persons from the rapacity and cruelty of their creditors, but deaf to the call of their leaders when there was nothing to contend for except the privilege of rewarding those leaders with offices and honours.[*] The feelings of the people are not wont to be excited by an abstract principle. It is not a distant or a contingent evil which works upon them. The tyranny which excites them to resistance must be felt, not conceived; they must discover it by their sensations, not by their reason. The abuses which they resent, are those which bear upon their direct interests; which “come home to their business and bosoms.”[†] Never yet did a people hate their superiors, but for some real or imagined wrong; never were they stimulated to such outrages as those which signalized the breaking out of the French Revolution, except by the intolerable pressure of active, grinding oppression. And in no country, pretending to civilization, had the peasantry been so borne down by oppression as in France. “Les jeunes gens et les étrangers,” says Madame de Staël.
qui n’ont pas connu la France avant la révolution, et qui voient aujourd’hui le peuple enrichi par la division des propriétés et la suppression des dímes et du régime féodal, ne peuvent avoir l’idée de la situation de ce pays, lorsque la nation portait le poids de tous les priviléges. Les partisans de l’esclavage dans les colonies ont souvent dit qu’un paysan de France était plus malheureux qu’un nègre. . . . La misère accroît l’ignorance, l’ignorance accroît la misère; et quand on se demande, pourquoi le peuple François a été si cruel dans la révolution, on ne peut en trouver la cause que dans l’absence de bonheur, qui conduit a l’absence de moralité.*
Our author himself observes, that in La Vendée alone had the privileged classes done their duty towards the cultivators of the soil, and that in La Vendée alone was any stand made by those cultivators in their defence.[‡] This observation is an approach to the true theory of the causes of the Revolution, and is conceived in a spirit of which it were to be wished that there were more frequent examples in these volumes. Indications of such a spirit are indeed not rare in his occasional remarks; in which respect he resembles many other writers, who have falsified history in the gross, as thoroughly as himself. He is far too acute not to see a part of the truth; far too slightly acquainted with the monuments of the times, to have the faintest or most distant perception of it as a whole. We may perhaps take some future opportunity of making known to our readers, what substantial reasons the peasants had for detesting both the government and their seigneurs. In the meantime, we Edition: current; Page:  shall do no more than refer them to a book which is in every man’s hands. If, in place of his first two chapters, Sir Walter Scott had merely reprinted the concluding dissertation in the first volume of Arthur Young’s excellent work on France,[*] he would have done more to convey a just idea of the causes of the French Revolution than will be done by twenty such productions as his “Preliminary View.” We believe, that most men who have read that dissertation, will exclaim with its author, who had himself seen and heard all he describes—that no man of common sense and feeling can lament the fall of such a government, or look with any but a mitigated severity upon the terrible retribution which an oppressed people exacted from their tyrants the moment they were free.
Among the causes which most powerfully promoted, or at least directed, the tendency to change, our author justly assigns a high rank to the increased influence of literature. And here we may be sure that the opportunity is eagerly seized, of recommending himself to our moral public, by an invective against the French philosophers, as they are termed; principally upon the two points of licentiousness and irreligion. In the course of this diatribe, our author manifests no very accurate knowledge of the writings or lives of these objects of his somewhat undiscriminating dislike. As for fairness, it would be too much to expect it from such a writer on such a subject; and accordingly we are not surprised to find the immense benefits which the philosophers conferred upon their country and mankind, altogether overlooked, while whatever either is, or can be made to appear, objectionable in them or in their works, is grossly exaggerated. Thus, they are gravely stated to have been engaged in a sort of “anti-crusade,” not only against Christianity, but against “religious principles of every kind;”[†] a description which, if applicable at all, can apply only to one or two of them, and those neither the ablest nor the most influential, perhaps to one only, and him not a Frenchman, the Baron d’Holbach; while on the other hand, how large a portion of the writings of Rousseau, and especially of Voltaire, is taken up in maintaining and enforcing the being and attributes of God, is known to every one who has read them. The ancient fiction of a “league,” a “conspiracy,”[‡] is revived; when it is notorious, that the supposed heads of this conspiracy, Voltaire and Rousseau, were at open war with each other, that Condorcet, in like manner, did not disguise his contempt for Mably,[§] that Turgot wrote against Helvétius,[¶] while equal dissensions and differences of opinion existed among the less distingished thinkers and writers of Edition: current; Page:  the class; and that nothing like an organized system of concert or co-operation ever existed among any portion of their number. Our author can know little of French literary history, or he would not talk of the close union and alliance which existed among the philosophers, “and more especially the Encyclopedists”[*]—we presume, between Diderot and d’Alembert—for of these two individuals only was this formidable corps, whose name has so long resounded from every corner of Europe, composed; they having written (with scarcely any exception but that of a small number of articles by Voltaire) the whole of the moral, theological, and metaphysical part of the Encyclopédie;[†] and it is worthy of remark, that of this pair of conspirators against religion, d’Alembert never published a single line against it. With respect to licentiousness, our author forgets that what was the vice of their age and of the society in which they moved, cannot with justice be laid at their door; it was not they who made French society what it was; on the contrary, it was through the influence principally of their writings, that it ever became any thing else. It is high time that Sir Walter Scott should be told, if he has not yet found it out, that licentiousness was a quality with which what are termed the philosophers were not more, but, on the contrary, less chargeable, than most writers of their day; that none of the authors peculiarly remarkable for it were to be found in their ranks, while several of those most distinguished by it (among whom it is sufficient to name Piron) were no less characterized by a bitter hostility against the persons and principles of the philosophers: that the virtues most opposite to licentiousness, found in Rousseau, if not always a consistent, at least an enthusiastic, advocate, and that many of the most distinguished among the philosophical writers, as Condillac, Condorcet, and above all, Turgot, were pure on this point, some of them to a degree of scrupulosity. However, it must be admitted, that several of the writers whom our author mentions, have produced works in some degree deserving the character which he assigns to them. Most certainly we do not quarrel with him for expressing his disapprobation of these writings: he should remember, however, that there ought to be bounds even to the most merited censure, and that there is still an immense distance between any licentiousness of which they can be accused, and that libertinism, which he justly characterizes as inconsistent with manly and virtuous patriotism. Because the ideas prevalent in a country allow a certain latitude of speaking, or even of acting, with respect to the branch of morality here concerned, it does not follow that all who in any degree avail themselves of this licence must therefore make the pursuit of sensual gratifications the business of their lives. Such an occupation, like the Edition: current; Page:  inordinate pursuit of every other merely individual enjoyment, is incapable of co-existing with any nobler aspirations, and if it does not begin, is sure to terminate, in utter selfishness; but it is false that voluptuousness, in this sense of the word, was, or is, more prevalent in France than in any other nation; and most especially is it false that any portion of the philosophers, either in their own lives, or in the doctrines and principles they inculcated, are chargeable with it.*Edition: current; Page: 
Our author does not, like others of the alarmists, represent the philosophers, with the “licence and infidelity”[*] which they promoted, as the sole causes of, and movers in, the Revolution. He owns that a great political change would have been needed, and would have taken place,
had the French court and her higher orders retained the simple and virtuous manners of Sparta, united with the strong and pure faith of primitive Christians. The difference lay in this, that a simple, virtuous, and religious people, would have rested content with such changes and alterations in the constitution of their government as might remove the evils of which they had just and pressing reason to complain. They would have endeavoured to redress obvious and practical errors in the body politic, without being led into extremes, either by the love of realizing visionary theories, the vanity of enforcing their own particular philosophical or political doctrines, or the selfish arguments of demagogues, who, in the prospect of bettering their own situation by wealth, or obtaining scope for their ambition, aspired, in the words of the dramatic poet, to throw the elements of society into confusion, and thus
Now, inasmuch as the most moral and religious people that ever existed, the English of the reign of Charles I, carried their “changes and alterations” so far as to abolish monarchy and cut off the king’s head, we see that our author’s ideas of avoiding “extremes” and redressing “obvious and practical errors,” are of a tolerably radical extent.
It well becomes him to rail at theorists, who can overlook such a fact because it interferes with his theory. But it is ever thus with those who style themselves par excellence the men of practice and experience.
Our author takes a juster view of the causes which produced the errors of the Revolution, in the following acute and original remarks on the state of infancy in which the public mind had been kept by the restraints on the press.
An essay on the French monarchy, showing by what means the existing institutions might have been brought more into union with the wishes and wants of the people, must have procured for its author a place in the Bastille, and yet subsequent events have shown, that a system which might have introduced prudently and gradually into the decayed frame of the French government the spirit of liberty, which was originally inherent in every feudal monarchy, would have been the most valuable present which political wisdom could have Edition: current; Page:  rendered to the country. The bonds which pressed so heavily on the subject might thus have been gradually slackened, and at length totally removed, without the perilous expedient of casting them all loose at once. But the philosophers, who had certainly talent sufficient for the purpose, were not permitted to apply to the state of the French government the original principles on which it was founded, or to trace the manner in which usurpations and abuses had taken place, and propose a mode, by which, without varying its form, those encroachments might be restrained, and those abuses corrected. An author was indeed at liberty to speculate at any length upon general doctrines of government; he might imagine to himself an Utopia or Atalantis, and argue upon abstract ideas of the rights in which government originates; but on no account was he permitted to render any of his lucubrations practically useful, by adapting them to the municipal regulations of France. The political sage was placed with regard to his country, in the condition of a physician prescribing for the favourite sultana of some jealous despot, whom he is required to cure without seeing his patient, and without obtaining any accurate knowledge of her malady, its symptoms, and its progress. In this manner the theory of government was kept studiously separated from the practice. The political philosopher might, if he pleased, speculate upon the former, but he was prohibited, under severe personal penalties, to illustrate the subject by any allusions to the latter. Thus, the eloquent and profound work of Montesquieu[*] professed, indeed, to explain the general rights of the people, and the principles on which government itself rested, but his pages shew no mode by which these could be resorted to for the reformation of the constitution of his country. He laid before the patient a medical treatise on disease in general, instead of a special prescription, applying to his peculiar habits and distemper.
In consequence of these unhappy restrictions upon open and manly political discussion, the French government in its actual state was never represented as capable of either improvement or regeneration; and while general and abstract doctrines of original freedom were everywhere the subject of eulogy, it was never considered for a moment in what manner these new and more liberal principles could be applied to the improvement of the existing system. The natural conclusion must have been, that the monarchical government in France was either perfection in itself, and consequently stood in need of no reformation, or that it was so utterly inconsistent with the liberties of the people as to be susceptible of none. No one was hardy enough to claim for it the former character, and least of all those who presided in its councils, and seemed to acknowledge the imperfection of the system by prohibiting all discussion on the subject. It seemed, therefore, to follow, as no unfair inference, that to obtain the advantages, which the new elementary doctrines held forth, and which were so desirable and so much desired, a total abolition of the existing government to its very foundation, was an indispensable preliminary; and there is little doubt that this opinion prevailed so generally at the time of the Revolution, as to prevent any firm or resolute stand being made in defence even of such of the actual institutions of France as might have been amalgamated with the proposed reform.*
This is well thought, and well expressed; and the illustration which concludes the first paragraph, has a merit which our author’s figurative illustrations do not always possess; it really illustrates.
The reign of Louis XVI previous to the Revolution, is sketched in our author’s usual lively manner; the character of that well-meaning, but weak and vacillating prince, is justly estimated, and the series of blunders by which the court not only Edition: current; Page:  precipitated the crisis, but threw away the chances of giving it a direction favourable to themselves, are tolerably exposed.[*] But what our author sees and condemns in these proceedings is their weakness only, not their wickedness. The frantic struggles of enraged despotism to put down by force that rising spirit of liberty, which it already hated and feared with as much intensity as now after twenty years of exile—these are to be mildly censured, not for the atrocity of the end, but for the inefficacy of the means, and because the conspirators, being as imbecile as they were base, had the awkwardness to endanger their precious persons and privileges by the consequences of failure. A government, beggared by its profligate expenditure, exhausts every illegal resource, and tries all that can be done by the most desperate and tyrannical expedients to extort money from the people without giving them in return those constitutional reforms to which they were entitled; and this conduct appears to our author highly blameable, because it was bad policy, and rendered the crown “odious and contemptible.”[†] A government does its utmost to tread out the few sparks which centuries had not extinguished of freedom and constitutional control—it does this not so much as a year before the assembly is convened, which is destined to give to France a representative constitution; and this our author condemns—why? Because it excites “national discontent!”[‡] So liberal and indulgent is Sir Walter Scott towards the royalists: but his liberality and indulgence stop there. When every violence which tyranny prompted and fear would permit, has been tried in vain, this government at length has recourse to the people, and condescends to ask for what it has at last found that it no longer has power to seize: the National Assembly meets, and by means of a temporary popular enthusiasm, wrings from the government ten times as many of its unjust privileges, as the parliaments had ever dreamed of questioning; it adds, by its reforms, the parliaments themselves, and the whole of the privileged classes, to the number of its enemies;—and now, if the Assembly is not so silly as to suppose that the power of misrule has been resigned willingly, if it harbours even a suspicion that the fate of the parliaments is in reserve for it, or takes the commonest precaution to secure itself against the hostility of the court, and of the numerous and powerful classes whom it has offended,—not only its conduct is disapproved of, but its motives are misconstrued, and its whole system of action tortured and perverted. “Et voilà justement comme on écrit l’histoire.”*Edition: current; Page: 
There is something amusing in the naïveté with which our author lays it down, that the elections ought to have been tampered with, to obtain returns favourable to the court; evidently without the slightest suspicion that a course so perfectly according to the English model, can deserve or incur the disapprobation of any body. He says, with equal gravity, that the public mind ought to have been Edition: current; Page:  preoccupied with arguments of a sound and virtuous tendency. This is extremely fine; but by whom preoccupied? By the court and aristocracy of France? “Sound and virtuous”[*] arguments from such a quarter would indeed have been something new. By Necker? Does our author suppose that he could have retained his office for an hour, if he had attempted to promulgate among the people, either in his ministerial or in his private capacity, ideas of rational freedom? Necker shewed himself, on more than one occasion during the Revolution, unequal to the Edition: current; Page:  great difficulties of his very trying situation; but a writer who can so little appreciate those difficulties is scarcely entitled to sit in judgment on him, and affect to point out by what means he might have been more successful.
There was a reason, more than Sir Walter Scott dreams of, for doing nothing to gain over the tiers-état to the court. Nobody doubted that they would be on the side of the court, without prompting. It was not from the commons, but from the privileged orders, that all resistance to the will of the monarch had previously come; it was they who, when called upon for the sacrifice of their pecuniary immunities, had demanded the convocation of the Etats Généraux to sustain them in their refusal. The commons, it was well known, were, and with good reason, inveterately hostile to the privileged orders, but they neither were, nor did any one suppose them to be, disaffected to the king; on the contrary, the privileged classes openly proclaimed that the tiers-état would be, as it had ever been, in favour of the king, and against liberty, that is, against aristocratical ascendancy. Accordingly the court party took no trouble to gain the tiers-état, while, on the contrary, every man and even every woman about the palace was assiduously engaged in paying court to the deputies of the noblesse, from whom alone any resistance was apprehended; and succeeded in gaining those who had taken the lead in the previous resistance, d’Epréménil and d’Antraigues.*Edition: current; Page: 
That chivalrous loyalty, therefore, which Sir Walter Scott admires in the noblesse, only commenced when they discovered that other persons than themselves were about to gain the ascendancy in the Etats Généraux, and that the engine which they had constructed in hopes to wield it against the royal authority, was wrested from them and turned against themselves, by that people whom they had scorned. Then, they were extremely willing to make a parade of their loyalty; as some of them who had never before mentioned the name of God but in mockery, became patterns of devotion from the moment when they had hopes that the yell of fanaticism might serve them to incite the country-people against the Assembly.* Then they were ready to die for that king, whom many of them had ridiculed and lampooned; that queen, whose character they had been the first to vilify;† and that despotism, against which, for their own purposes, they had struck the first blow.‡ Yet, amid all this pretence, still true to their character, they thought merely of their own privileges, and not for one instant of his safety whom they professed to serve. The majority fled to the courts of other despots, there to stir up foreign enemies, to make war upon their country in the name of their king: that king being all the time, as they studiously gave out, a captive in the hands of the very men whom they thus irritated to frenzy. Those who remained proclaimed everywhere the king’s insincerity, made his name a pretext for all their liberticide intrigues, and leagued themselves with the worst of the Jacobins to promote every measure which they Edition: current; Page:  thought calculated to raise the disorder to its height, in order to ruin those whom they hated bitterest of all, the partisans of an orderly and well-regulated liberty.*
We have now arrived at the opening of the Revolution itself; and from this point we can no longer give to our author’s attempt at history, even that qualified praise which we have bestowed upon the introductory chapters. From this point it conveys none but false impressions: it is a story skilfully, and even artfully constructed for a purpose. We have no intention of imputing insincerity to Sir Walter Scott. Though he obviously attempts throughout to impress the reader with a certain view of the facts, he probably is himself persuaded that this view is the true one. But that important branch of the talent of the narrator, which Sir Walter Scott in his character of a romancer pre-eminently possesses, the art of so relating every incident that it shall strike the reader not as an isolated incident, but as a part of the train of events,—of keeping the whole posture of affairs, such as it is supposed to be in the story, constantly present to the reader’s conception, and almost to his sight—is a talent most delightful in a novelist, most dangerous when the subject is real history, and the author’s view of the posture of affairs happens to be wrong. It is nothing less than the art of so dressing up a fact, as to make it appear to mean more than it does; of so relating and arranging the events to be related, as to make them tell a different story from what would be implied in the mere chronological recital of them. We are far from maintaining that this mode of relating facts is always blameable. We by no means affirm that an historian should be required to state first the naked facts, without any admixture of inference, and then speculate upon causes, motives, and characters, if he pleases. It would often be impossible to find room for all the facts, upon which inferences of this sort may very properly have been founded; and such part of the facts as are related, when the nature of the case does not permit the introduction of the whole, may justifiably be coloured, that is, although not sufficient in themselves to prove the theory, may be so related as to suggest it, if the theory be true, and evidence to prove it be produceable on fit occasions. Our quarrel with Sir Walter Scott is, that his theory is not true: that his view of the rationale of the French Revolution is not capable of being proved, but capable, on the contrary, of being disproved by the most cogent Edition: current; Page:  evidence. And if this be so, it undoubtedly is a great additional evil, that what cannot be proved is insinuated almost in every sentence; that the language in which the events are related, invariably implies a particular mode of accounting for them; that every separate fact as it arises, finds the reader artificially prepared to put that interpretation upon it which the author’s system requires; that causes are feigned, and the events so managed as to appear the natural consequences of them; that the hypothesis is slid in and gains credence under cover of the facts, because they are so related as seemingly not to allow of any other explanation.
During the Revolution, a variety of shades of opinion manifested themselves, and a variety of distinct and hostile parties grew up, among the defenders of the popular cause. The vulgar mouth-pieces of aristocracy to whom in our own country the office of forming the public sentiment on the Revolution was abandoned, have generally lumped all these parties and opinions together, in order that all of them, and the Revolution itself, might share the opprobrium which is justly due to the terrorists alone. Sir Walter Scott is quite superior to these low artifices: but he has fallen into an error as gross, and far more plausible. He has committed the very common blunder of ascribing to persons what was the effect of circumstances, and to settled design what was the result of immediate impulse. Every one of his characters has a part premeditated and prepared, and is ready to march upon the stage and enact it at the precise moment when his entrée will produce the most striking scenic effect. All the parties which gradually arose during the Revolution are represented as already existing from its commencement. At the very opening of the drama, we have already Constitutionalists, Republicans, and Jacobins, all of whom are described as even then entertaining all the opinions, and prosecuting systematically all the designs, which they manifested when they were most conspicuous, and most powerful. The struggle between the people and the court is made to appear, in all its stages, to have arisen solely from the endeavours of these different parties to carry their supposed designs into effect: the events are, with much skill, so presented as on every occasion to make the revolutionists appear the aggressors; they are pictured as omnipotent, having nothing to fear, nothing, for any good purpose, to desire; while the court and the aristocracy are represented from the first in no character but that of helpless unresisting victims, altogether without power even of self-defence, and quite impotent for attack. If any precaution, therefore, is taken, under the idea that any attack from that quarter is possible, it is held up as a studied indignity, intended to prepare the way for the subversion of the throne, and clear the ground for trying quackish political experiments, at the expense of a nation’s happiness.
Now there is not a word of all this but what is purely fabulous. There is not a truth in history more firmly established, than the non-existence of any republican party at the commencement of the Revolution. The wishes of all then centered in a constitutional monarchy. There may have been, and probably were, speculative philosophers, at that time as at most others, who preferred in the abstract a Edition: current; Page:  republican form of government; but, if such there were, they had not the remotest idea of introducing it into France; and it is not proved that at this early period so much as one member of the Constituent Assembly was even in this speculative sense a republican. If any were so, they were of the number of those whom Sir Walter Scott acknowledges to have been, in their conduct, supporters of monarchy.* The men who formed the extremity of the côté gauche, who were esteemed the most exagérés among the democrats, were Barnave, Duport, and the Lameths: yet all these, when at length there was a republican party, were its most determined opponents, and threw away safety, fortune, popularity, every thing which they most valued, to save the throne. One of the Lameths, even, on the subversion of monarchy, expatriated with La Fayette, and shared with him that memorable captivity which the brutal vengeance of an infuriated despot[*] inflicted, and in which the author of “New Morality,” in a spirit worthy of his sarcasm upon Ogden, found matter for savage exultation.[†]
The very name of a French republic was scarcely breathed, never publicly pronounced, until the king’s flight from Paris: when two years experience, terminated by that ill-fated attempt, had clearly proved the impossibility of trusting to his good faith, so long as all who surrounded him were inveterately hostile to the new order of things; when the experiment of a free constitution with him at its head, had decidedly failed, and all discerning persons saw the impossibility of arriving at a settled government, or maintaining the authority of the laws, while the executive authority was in hands which could not safely be intrusted with the power necessary to enforce them. It was not till after ample and melancholy experience of this fact, that some of those who afterwards composed the Girondist party became republicans; but even then, by the great majority of that party, nothing more was at first thought of than a change of monarch; and nothing more would have been thought of to the last, if the Duke of Orleans, the only member of the royal family who was not inveterately hostile to the popular cause, had been of a character to possess, or to deserve, the smallest portion of public respect.
It may surprise some readers to find that Sir Walter Scott makes no allusion to the Orleanist party, which used to be employed with so much effect, in the character of a bugbear, by the enemies of liberal principles in France. This party, which was supposed to comprise all the abler and more energetic of the adherents Edition: current; Page:  of the popular cause, was represented as compassing the king’s destruction as a means, and, as an end, the elevation of the Duke of Orleans either to the regency or to the throne, and of themselves to the principal offices of state. As it is unquestionable that Orleanists, if not an Orleanist party, did at one time exist, the discerning reader, when he finds that Sir Walter Scott is generous enough to forego all the advantages which the impugners of the popular leaders have derived from the connexion of several of them with that unhappy man, is apt to think that a writer with his partialities would hardly have been so unnecessarily candid on this point, without some ulterior object. Sir Walter Scott has sagacity enough to know, that different imputations suit different times, and that attacks upon visionary theorists take much better now, in this country at least, than accusations of aiming at personal aggrandizement under the mask of popular principles. This we suspect to be the true reason of his conjuring up a republican party, and putting aside not only what is fictitious, but what is true, in the denunciations of royalist writers against the Orleanists. For it is impossible that he should be ignorant (scanty and careless as his reading on the subject of the Revolution has been), that not Republicanism but Orleanism was the only reproach, connected with designs against the king, which was imputed at the time to any individual member of the Constituent Assembly: not Republicanism but Orleanism was the accusation brought against the only member of it, whom our author singles out by name as one of the republican party;* and, in fact, the only shade of opinion which existed in the Edition: current; Page:  Assembly beyond what our author terms the party of Bailly and La Fayette, was Orleanism. The difference between the Orleanists and the other section of the popular party did not consist in a greater hostility to royalty; for, on the contrary, their leader Mirabeau was inclined, as his speeches prove, to give a larger share of power to the king than even Necker himself, the largest indeed which was at all consistent with the circumstances of the time, or perhaps with constitutional freedom.[*] The distinction lay in this—that, while both parties desired a monarchical and representative government, La Fayette and the majority felt sufficient confidence in the good intentions of Louis, to be desirous of retaining him at its head, while the other party would have preferred his peaceable deposition, and the elevation of some individual to the constitutional throne, who had never known what it was to be a despot. All the more discerning among the friends of freedom, and especially Mirabeau, perhaps the only true statesman whom the Revolution produced, thoroughly distrusted the king. They knew, what in our times some other persons ought to have learned,—that it is next to an impossibility for a monarch, used to absolute power, to accommodate himself to limitations; and they were convinced that Louis, at least, was not the man who would be an exception to the rule. Incapable of maintaining and abiding by his firmest convictions, if they were in opposition to the will of those by whom he was immediately surrounded, he was formed to be the tool of any person who had the opportunity and the will to use him as such: completely at the beck of his queen and her counter-revolutionary counsellors, he had shewn by his conduct both before and immediately after the meeting of the Etats Généraux, that he was capable of being hurried into every extreme of despotism by such counsellors, although he personally did not share the passions in which their counsels originated: and the patriots thought, not without reason, that the man who, after saying that nobody except Turgot and himself desired the good of the people,[†] could dismiss this same Turgot a few months Edition: current; Page:  afterwards, at the persuasion of the very men of whose worthlessness he was so clearly convinced, was a man whose good feelings were no security against the worst conduct. Having this opinion of Louis, these statesmen, though fully aware of all the objections to the Duke of Orleans as a man, still thought, that owing the crown to the new order of things, and being unable to maintain it by any support but that of the friends of freedom, he would be less objectionable as the head of a constitutional monarchy, than a man who thought himself, and was thought by a powerful party, to be a despot by divine right. Our Revolution of 1688 formed at once a precedent for such a settlement of affairs, and an example of its beneficial effects. It is deeply to be regretted that uncontrollable circumstances prevented these views from being realized. As it turned out, the change of dynasty was only thought of for an instant, not by a party, but by scattered individuals, and thought of merely, like the republic at a later period, as a pis aller. The nullity of the Duke of Orleans as a politician, which became more clearly manifested by subsequent events, and the complete annihilation of the little character he possessed, detached from him all the more sincere and disinterested of his adherents; and when Louis had so acted that even Sir Walter Scott admits he ought not to have been replaced on the throne,[*] these and many others, being of the same opinion with Sir Walter Scott, became republicans because they had no choice.*
But it is not the republicans alone that have had the misfortune to offend our author: the constitutional royalists come in for nearly an equal share of his displeasure. Much good indignation, and no inconsiderable quantity of what is intended to be wit, is expended upon them, for rejecting the counsels of experience, and attempting to renovate the constitution of France by means of abstract and untried theories. It is with such vulgar weapons, that Sir Walter Scott does not disdain to assail some of the most remarkable men who have ever figured in public affairs. To point out the real faults in the conduct of the early revolutionists—to shew in what respects the means which they employed, were ill-suited to attain the ends which they had in view,—this, it is not every body who is capable of; but if to dub them theorists be sufficient, then there is not a creature so dull, so ignorant, so thoroughly mean in understanding and void of ideas, who is not perfectly competent to condemn philosophers and statesmen without a hearing, and decide at his ease all the questions which perplexed the most thinking Edition: current; Page:  men of their day. It seems no more than reasonable to demand, in behalf of conclusions which are the result of thought, that some portion of thought shall also be deemed necessary in order to criticize them; and that a body of men, who comprised in their ranks nearly all the political wisdom which could be found in an age and country abounding in it, shall at least be thought worthy of having their motives and reasons weighed, and of being condemned, if condemned they must be, for the injustice or inexpediency of their course of action, not for its novelty.
It cannot be denied that the early revolutionists did attempt to discover what was the best possible form of government; and, having, in their own opinion, found it, did endeavour to bring the government of their own country as nearly into accordance with it as they could. We shall not seek to defend them against these imputations; but, if our author’s objection to their scheme of government be that it was untried, we are entitled to require him to shew that there was any tried scheme, which would have afforded better prospects of success.
His opinion on the subject might have been foretold. It is, that they should have adopted the English constitution; or something as nearly resembling it as possible.
Now this, from a writer who is perpetually crying out against visionary projects, is a tolerable specimen of a visionary project; and its author is justly chargeable with the very fault which he imputes to the revolutionists, that of being so wedded to a favourite system, as to insist upon introducing it at all hazards, even when the very circumstances which constitute its excellence at other times, would infallibly work its destruction.
It is not on account of the imperfections of the British constitution, great as we deem these to be, on its native soil, that we blame those who, at this period of the Revolution, sought to introduce it into France. With all its defects, we are well content that foreign nations should look to it as their model; for there is little danger of their copying it in those parts which are the cause of our evils. It is not probable that they should fail of making their Lower House a real representative organ: and as we should be satisfied with this in our own country, so we are of opinion that in any other, the British constitution, with this modification alone, would suffice for good government.
But what may be very true of a settled order of things, it may be altogether absurd to affirm of a revolution. Why do the King and the House of Peers, in this country, never convert the powers which they constitutionally possess, to the overthrow of the constitution and the abolition of the House of Commons? Nobody supposes that it is because they would not; for it is the theory of our constitution, that every one who has power seeks its enlargement, and, in times more favourable to them, they have attempted such things. It is because they could not; and because, power to effect such schemes being manifestly wanting, the desire never arises in their minds. Nobody, however, will deny that it is in their power to impede and thwart in a hundred ways the operations of the Commons, and even to Edition: current; Page:  put a stop to the business of government altogether. They have, therefore, much power, capable of being mischievously employed. Our security against their so employing it is, that they could serve no purpose by doing so, except that of destroying the constitution; and, of success in such a design, they well know that they have no chance. Give them a chance, and you will soon know the mischief which they can still do. Let the time ever come, when by the exercise of their powers in a manner opposed to the end for which those powers were given, the king may hope to erect an absolute monarchy, or the peers to establish themselves in undivided rule as an aristocratical senate, and we are justified in saying that either their powers must be suspended, or the government cannot be carried on. Such was the posture of affairs during the French Revolution; and he who does not carry this conviction along with him through the whole of its history, will never form a rational conception of the Revolution in any of its stages, much less as a whole.
If the attempt to establish a government of two chambers on the English model, had been made, the Upper House must have been formed from among the high noblesse and clergy, either by the king’s choice, or by the suffrages of the privileged orders themselves. In whichever way selected, this second chamber would have been, as the high noblesse and the high clergy almost universally were, inveterately hostile to nearly every necessary reform, and (as soon as they saw that they were not about to have absolute control over the legislature) to the representative system itself. Not one of the great objects of the Revolution would, with their consent, have been effected; and either those objects must have been renounced, or it would have been necessary to decide which chamber should turn the other out of doors, or, what is most probable, the court would have taken advantage of their dissensions to discredit them in the public mind, and would have availed itself of the authority of one branch of the legislature to rid itself for ever of both. This is what stamps the conduct and counsels of Mounier (whom our author characterizes as one of the wisest men in France),[*] of Lally Tolendal, and the remainder of the modérés (or monarchiens, as they were afterwards called), with absurdity; and marks them as altogether unequal to the difficulties of the crisis which they had aided so powerfully in bringing on. That the intentions of these men were good, is not to be denied; but the good intentions of men, who not only give the most unseasonable and ruinous advice, but desert their post and abandon their country because that advice is not listened to, are of little use. The emigration of Mounier and Lally, at the time when, if ever, the presence of wise and moderate men was required, admits of but one excuse, and that is, the supposition that they were conscious of being deficient in all the qualities which could be available in Edition: current; Page:  troubled times, and felt that the moment was past when such men as they were, could act a part in the Revolution.*
Our author next pronounces that the Assembly erred, by not giving sufficient power to the king.[*] He gets over all the difficulties of this question very summarily. It was surely very foolish in the Assembly to waste so much time and labour in anxious deliberation on points which our author settles so perfectly at his ease. Nothing can be more conclusive than the case he can always make out against them; nothing more completely satisfactory than the reasons he gives, to prove them always in the wrong; and the chief impression which is made upon the reader, is one of astonishment, that a set of persons should have been found so perversely blind to considerations so obviously dictated by sound policy and common sense. But when we examine the original authorities, we find that these considerations were no more unknown or unheeded by the Assembly than by our author himself. The difference in point of knowledge between them and him consisted chiefly in this, that they likewise knew the reasons which made for the other side of the question, and might therefore be pardoned if, being thus burthened with arguments on both sides, they were slower to decide, and sometimes came to a different decision from that which, as long as we confine ourselves to one, appears so eminently reasonable.
The point which Sir Walter Scott so quietly disposes of was, in fact, the great difficulty of their situation. There is no denying, that the king, or whoever else is placed at the head of the executive, ought to have more power than the Constituent Assembly gave him. And most of the popular leaders felt this strongly enough; all, after a very short experience of the constitution they had framed. In truth, the executive had not power enough to enforce obedience to the laws, or to prevent, in many places, the most worthless part of the population, often headed and organized by professional robbers, from availing themselves of the universal relaxation of restraint, and perpetrating the most horrid enormities. The popular party knew all this; but they knew also, that every atom of power which they gave to the executive over the military, through whom alone these disorders could have been suppressed, would be employed at the first favourable opportunity to put down the Revolution and restore absolute monarchy. It was this conviction, strong from the first, and continually gaining strength by the conduct of the court from 1789 to 1792, which finally brought on, and rendered imperatively necessary, the subversion of the throne. And it is this conviction which induced even d’Escherny, Edition: current; Page:  a writer who regards the republicans with horror, and calls the constitution of 1791 un systême monstrueux, to declare, that the day of the 10th of August decided whether France should be governed by an absolute king, or by demagogues, meaning the republican leaders.*
“Avant d’avoir une monarchie constitutionnelle,” says M. Bailleul, “il fallait vaincre les hommes puissans qui n’en voulaient pas. Les erreurs viennent de ce qu’on confond toujours les institutions avec les combats qu’il fallait livrer pour les obtenir.”† This is a truth which, as applied to the French Revolution, our author cannot or will not see. In reading him, nobody would ever guess, that France had for the time no choice but between an absolute monarchy and a republic. Of the first we should never learn from him that there was the least danger; and to the latter, France according to him was only brought by the criminal recklessness of a set of hair-brained enthusiasts, wild in their ends and unscrupulous in the choice of their means, who were willing to let murder and rapine loose upon society, to deluge their country with bloodshed, and stain their consciences with guilt, for the mere difference between monarchical and republican forms.
“N’est-il pas bien étrange de voir,” says M. Bailleul, “et ceux qui prennent le titre d’historiens, et ceux qui prétendent faire de la morale sur la révolution, en saisir l’esprit, comme Madame de Staël,” and we will add, like Sir Walter Scott, “faire une abstraction entière et complète de l’attaque, ne s’occuper que de ceux contre qui elle est dirigée, signaler comme des forfaits, non seulement les coups que par erreur ou par esprit de vertige, ils se sont portés entr’eux, mais appeler surtout crimes, forfaits, les combats qu’ils ont livrés aux ennemis de la patrie?”‡ This sentence might be imagined to have been written on purpose to describe the work before us. Our author systematically “makes abstraction of the attack,” and treats the defence as a premeditated and unprovoked aggression. This it is to start Edition: current; Page:  with false ideas, and read just enough to be confirmed in them—not enough to correct them.
Burke has asserted, in one of his rhapsodies against the French Revolution, that, from the day when the Etats Généraux assembled at Versailles, despotism was no more.[*] We will not take this assertion in the sense in which it was meant; for, in that sense, nothing was ever thrown out even by that author in his wildest moments, more glaringly absurd. But there is a sense in which it is perfectly well founded; that despotism, and the National Assembly, could not subsist together; and that the existence of the one necessarily implied the subversion of the other. The popular party were thoroughly aware of this. So were the royalists. They knew that, not indeed when the Assembly met, but as soon as it shewed itself firmly determined that France should be free, she was free, and could not be again enslaved while the Assembly remained, to guard and consolidate her freedom. Accordingly, the dissolution of the Assembly entered into all their plans; and they never, for a single moment, ceased plotting to accomplish it. We agree with Burke, that the Revolution, so far as it was necessary or justifiable, was terminated when the Assembly met. From that time the struggle was not for a revolution, but against a counter-revolution. To the well-grounded apprehension of such a calamity, and to the precautions necessary to be taken in order to guard against it, ought really to be ascribed all those proceedings, both of the constitutionalists and of the Gironde, which, in the former party, our author imputes to the desire of reducing the royal authority to a name; in the latter, to a fanatical hatred even of the name.[†]
Could the revolutionists forget that the attempt to put down the Revolution had once been made, and had failed only because the military had remembered that they were citizens before they were soldiers? We allude to the events which preceded the insurrection of Paris and the destruction of the Bastille.
Few of our readers, we hope, are ignorant, that in July 1789, when the Constituent Assembly had only sat for a few weeks, when it had done nothing, as yet, of what our author deems blameable in its proceedings; when his friends Lally and Mounier were still predominant in its counsels; when it had scarcely begun to occupy itself with the reform of abuses, or the establishment of a constitution, and had only had time to shew that it would not resign the entire power of legislation to the privileged classes, by giving to each order a separate voice; so early as this, troops from distant parts of the kingdom were marched upon Paris; a large force, under an avowed anti-revolutionist,[‡] was encamped in its immediate vicinity, and artillery was moved upon that city and upon Versailles, sufficient for a siege. At this juncture, Necker, and all the ministers not decidedly hostile to the new Edition: current; Page:  order of things, received an abrupt dismissal, and Necker was banished from France. They were succeeded by men notoriously inimical to the Revolution;[*] men odious to the people, some of them for their personal corruption, all for their political views, and every thing seemed prepared for dissolving the Assembly and crushing resistance by force of arms. That this purpose was really entertained, none but the most prejudiced and dishonest even among the royalist writers have hitherto been bold enough to deny. The king in person, at the famous séance royale, had threatened the Assembly with dissolution if it did, what it had nevertheless done.* The courtiers themselves made no secret of what was intended: with their accustomed fool-hardiness, they openly triumphed in the approaching humiliation of the popular party, and punishment of its leaders; and it is a fact known to many now living, that several members of the minority of the noblesse, who had relatives or friends connected with the court, were warned by them to save themselves, by a timely flight, from the death or captivity which was in store for them.† At this crisis the people rose in arms, organized the burgher-milita afterwards called the National Guard, were joined by a portion of the military, took the Bastille, and reduced the court to the necessity of indefinitely postponing the execution of its criminal design. Now let us hear our author speculate, and conjecture, and calculate, probabilities, in opposition to the plain and well-established facts above related.
The successful party may always cast on the loser the blame of commencing the brawl, as the wolf punished the lamb for troubling the course of the water, though he drank lowest down the stream. But when we find one party completely prepared, and ready for action, forming plans boldly, and executing them skilfully, and observe the other uncertain and unprovided, betraying all the imbecility of surprise and indecision, we must necessarily believe the attack was premeditated on the one side, and unexpected on the other. The abandonment of thirty thousand stand of arms at the Hotel des Invalides, which were surrendered without the slightest resistance, though three Swiss regiments lay encamped in the Champs Elysées; the totally unprovided state of the Bastille, garrisoned by about one hundred Swiss and Invalids, and without provisions even for that small number; the absolute inaction of the Baron de Bezenval, who—without entangling his troops in the narrow streets, which was pleaded as his excuse—might, by marching along the Boulevards, a passage so well calculated for the manoeuvres of regular troops, have relieved the siege of that fortress; and finally, that general’s bloodless retreat from Paris—shew that the king had, under all these circumstances, not only adopted no measures of a hostile character, but must, on the contrary, have issued such orders as prevented his officers from repelling force by force. We are led, therefore, to believe, that the scheme of assembling the troops round Paris was one of those half-measures, to which, with great Edition: current; Page:  political weakness, Louis resorted more than once—an attempt to intimidate by the demonstration of force, which he was previously resolved not to use.*
And accordingly, the insurrection is ascribed to “dark intrigues,”[*] which had been long formed by the Republican and Jacobin parties for the subversion of the throne. Thus far Sir Walter Scott. Now hear the marquis de Ferrières; himself a member of the Assembly, a deputy of the noblesse, who always voted with the noblesse, and who is so far from being a revolutionist, that there are few of the revolutionists to whom he will allow the common merit of sincerely desiring the public good: “Trente régimens,” says he, “marchaient sur Paris. Le prétexte était la tranquillité publique; l’objet réel, la dissolution des états” (Vol. I, p. 71); with much more to the same effect, from which we shall quote only what follows. The circumstances which it relates took place on the very day on which the Bastille was taken, and are the more memorable from the allusion made to them the next day by Mirabeau, in perhaps the most splendid apostrophe recorded in history.[†]
La cour était résolue d’agir cette même nuit. Les régimens de Royal-Allemand et de Royal-Etranger avaient reçu ordre de prendre les armes. Les hussards s’étaient portés sur la place du château; les gardes-du-corps occupaient les cours. A ces préparatifs menaçans la cour joignit un air de fête, qui, dans la circonstance, ajoutait l’insulte à la cruauté. Le comte d’Artois, les Polignac, Mesdames, Madame,[‡] et Madame d’Artois, se rendirent sur la terrasse de l’orangerie. On fit jouer la musique des deux régimens. Les soldats, auxquels on n’avait pas épargné le vin, formèrent des danses: une joie insolente et brutale éclatait de toutes parts: une troupe de femmes, de courtisans, d’hommes vendus au despotisme, regardaient cet étrange spectacle d’un oeil satisfait, et l’animaient par leurs applaudissemens. Telle était la légèreté, ou plutôt l’immoralité de ces hommes, qu’assurés, à ce qu’ils croyaient, du succès, ils se livraient à un insultant triomphe. L’assemblée nationale offrait un aspect bien différent, un calme majestueux, une contenance ferme, une activité sage et tranquille, tout annonçait les grands desseins dont elle était occupée, et le danger de la chose publique. Ce n’était point ignorance des desseins de la cour. L’assemblée savait qu’au moment même de l’attaque de Paris, les régimens de Royal-Etranger et les hussards devaient environner la salle des états-généraux, enlever les députés que leur zèle et leur patriotisme avaient désignés pour victimes, et en cas de résistance employer la force. Elle savait que le roi devait venir le lendemain faire accepter la déclaration du 23 Juin, et dissoudre l’assemblée;[§] que déjà plus de quarante mille exemplaires de cette déclaration étaient envoyés aux intendans et aux subdélégués, avec ordre de la publier, et de l’afficher dans toute l’étendue du royaume.
Is this sufficient? We are curious to know what more unexceptionable evidence our author can demand. No doubt he disbelieves Ferrières—though he too can quote Ferrières when it answers his purpose. No doubt he disbelieves Madame de Edition: current; Page:  Staël;* he disbelieves Bailly;† he disbelieves Dumouriez—a writer to whom, on other occasions, he gives even more credit than is due, and who informs us, that, even at Cherbourg, the royalists were exulting in their anticipated victory, and triumphing in the thought that the minority of the noblesse were, perhaps, already in the Bastille.‡ But we will make free to inquire, does he disbelieve two persons, who ought to know whether the design existed or not; viz. the person who planned it, and the person who was to have executed it—the minister Breteuil, and the minister and commander of the troops, the Maréchal de Broglie himself? The former boasted, both subsequently and at the time, not only of the conspiracy, but of what were to have been its sanguinary consequences; and named several of the very men who were marked out to pay with their lives the penalty of having wished their country to be free. As for Broglie, the letter is extant in which he offered himself to be the wretched instrument in the perpetration of crimes, compared with which those of the butcher of Porlier and Lacy are innocence itself.[*] “Avec cinquante mille hommes,” says he, “je me chargerais volontiers de dissiper tous ces beaux esprits qui calculent sur leurs prétentions, et cette foule d’imbécilles qui écoutent, applaudissent, et encouragent. Une salve de canons, ou une décharge de coups de fusils, aurait bientôt dispersé ces argumentateurs, et remis la puissance absolue qui s’éteint, à la place de cet esprit républicain qui se forme.” See the Correspondence published at Paris and London in 1789, and never disavowed; or the History, by the abbé de Montgaillard.§ We shall now adopt the words of the latter author.
Lorsque le maréchal de Broglie eut pris le commandement des troupes destinées à dissoudre l’assemblée des états-généraux, le baron de Breteuil, qu’on pouvait considérer en quelque sorte, comme premier ministre, par l’influence sans bornes qu’il exerçait sur l’esprit de la reine et sur celui du roi, le baron de Breteuil disait, portes ouvertes; “Au surplus, s’il faut brûler Paris, on brûlera Paris, et l’on décimera ses habitans, aux grands maux, les grands remèdes.” On répète mot pour mot ce qu’on a entendu dire au baron de Breteuil en 1794, ce dont il se glorifiait encore à cette époque.¶ . . . On tient également de ce ministre, que le duc Edition: current; Page:  d’Orléans, le marquis de la Fayette, le comte de Mirabeau, l’abbé Sieyès, Barnave, Chapelier, Lally-Tolendal, Mounier, et huit ou dix autres membres de l’assemblée nationale étaient désignés comme victimes impérieusement réclamées par le salut du trône et de l’état. Une compagnie de canonniers avait été casernée aux écuries de la reine, et l’on ne cachait pas que cette compagnie était destinée à mitrailler l’assemblée.*
Let no man wonder that Mounier and Lally, men whose love of freedom was sufficiently lukewarm to suit even Sir Walter Scott, were doomed to perish on the same scaffold with Barnave and Mirabeau. To have desired the liberty of France was an offence which nothing could redeem. By being more scrupulous, more moderate, a less envenomed opponent than the rest, all which was ever gained was, to be more bitterly detested. An enemy always hates those most whom he most fears; a criminal ever most abhors those among his pursuers whom he believes to be most inflexibly virtuous.
It is of little use to heap up quotations in order to convince a writer who, by an elaborate argument, concludes that it is most likely a thing is white, when every credible person who has seen it assures him that it is black. yet we cannot refrain from quoting one passage more; it is from Lacretelle; an author whose principles are those of the most decided royalism, and who has written a History of the Constituent Assembly, in a spirit generally as unfair as that of Sir Walter Scott, but who, on this occasion, pays the following tribute to truth:
Le château était rempli de généraux, de colonels, d’aides-de-camp qui revenaient essouflés de leurs courses insignifiantes. Tout présentait à la fois un air de mystère et de confiance. Le roi seul laissait lire sur son visage la perplexité de son esprit. La reine semblait jouir avec orgueil de la pensée qu’elle seule dirigeait toute cette noblesse armée pour la défense du trône. Sa figure était empreinte d’une majesté nouvelle. Les adorateurs de la cour lui faisaient oublier les aveugles et atroces malédictions du peuple. Il n’était plus douteux pour personne qu’un coup d’état ne dût être frappé. Quelles en devaient être la force et l’étendue? Les mémoires de ce temps sont si stériles et si rares, qu’ils fournissent peu de moyen d’éclaircir ce mystère. Ce qu’il y a de certain, c’est que la reine, ni le comte d’Artois, n’avaient ni conçu ni présenté des projets sévères et cruels, qui, fort éloignés de leurs propres penchans, auraient fait une violence intolérable au coeur du roi. Il s’agissait, si j’en crois et la vraisemblance et les renseignemens particuliers qu’il m’a été possible de recueillir, de faire respecter la déclaration du 23 Juin dans toute son étendue, d’y ajouter encore quelques clauses satisfaisantes pour le parti populaire, et de dissoudre l’assemblée, si elle persistait à vouloir, à elle seule, déterminer la constitution du royaume.†
This is the testimony which Sir Walter Scott would refute by a ratiocination: and what a ratiocination! Nothing can be more engaging than the amiable simplicity which it betokens, if the author is himself persuaded by his own reasoning. That want of preparation, or rather of means adequate to the intended purpose, which Edition: current; Page:  was really owing to blind, besotted, headlong confidence, imagining that the troops had only to show themselves and all would be quiet, he, good man, esteems a demonstrative proof that no violence was intended! Truly it is no wonder that they were unprepared, when, on the very day of the capture of the Bastille, at the very instant when a deputation of the Assembly was waiting upon the king, to represent to him the state of Paris, and express their alarms; “l’intendant de Paris était dans la chambre, en bottes et le fouet à la main, assurant que tout était tranquille;”* when, “le soir même du 14 Juillet, on regardait à Versailles dans les cercles des femmes à-la-mode et des petits-maîtres, tous les avis que l’on recevait de Paris comme autant de fables; à les entendre, il ne s’agissait que de quelques misérables, dont la maréchaussée ferait justice.”†
Hear Ferrières again: “La cour, habituée à voir Paris trembler sous un lieutenant de police, et sous une garde de huit cents hommes à cheval, ne soupçonna pas même une résistance. Elle ne prévit rien, ne calcula rien, ne songea pas même à s’assurer des soldats dont elle voulait faire l’instrument de ses desseins.” (Vol. I, p. 75.) And again, speaking of the ministers, “Ils regardaient la situation de Paris comme l’effet d’une émeute passagère; ils ne doutaient pas qu’à l’approche des troupes le peuple tremblant ne se dispersât, que les chefs consternés ne vinssent implorer la clémence du monarque” (p. 116). He even intimates a suspicion that they allowed the insurrection to proceed, in order that they might have a better excuse for the rigorous measures which they had previously resolved upon (p. 115).‡
No wonder that the king had not given the necessary orders, when he was kept in such profound ignorance of what was passing, that he did not even know of the insurrection, and the capture of the Bastille, until the duc de Liancourt, a member of the popular party in the Assembly, who had access to him by office, as grand master of his wardrobe, awakened him in the night, and apprised him of those events which his counsellors had till then concealed from him: “Mais, dit le roi, après un silence, c’est une révolte.—Sire, c’est une Révolution.”§
Our readers must excuse us for dwelling a little longer on this great aera in the history of the Revolution. If the events themselves are important, the manner in Edition: current; Page:  which they are here treated is no less curious, as a specimen of the book. We are presented with a lecture, in a strain of lofty morality, on the duties which were incumbent upon Louis in this great emergency.[*] We are told, that he ought to have marched into Paris at the head of his guards, and put down the insurrection by the strong hand of power: his life itself was not too much to be sacrificed in the performance of this sacred obligation, so exalted is Sir Walter Scott’s idea of the duties of kings; but, when the revolt was quelled, our author is pleased to say that Louis would have been infinitely criminal, if he had not given to his subjects a national representation. This is excellent advice, and admirably, no doubt, the latter part of it would have been observed, if the enterprise had succeeded; but we could have suggested something which would have been still better, viz. not to attempt to deprive his subjects of the national representation which they already possessed. This would have been less grand; it would not have called upon the monarch for any exposure of his life; but it would have prevented the insurrection. To tell us that Louis ought to have put down the tumults and to have renounced despotism, when if he had renounced despotism there would have been no tumults to put down, is a very pleasant way of begging the question against the people. Other persons besides kings would have reason to be thankful for a similar lesson of morality. You rob a man of his watch: the man discovering the theft, seizes you by the collar, and insists upon your giving back the stolen property: at this juncture Sir Walter Scott comes up, and lectures you as follows: Knock down the insolent aggressor: when you have done this, I shall then hold you infinitely criminal, if you do not restore to him his watch; but in the mean time, I will gladly assist you in chastising him, his violence deserves it!
We must not pass unnoticed another characteristic trait in our author’s narrative of these transactions. When the soldiers, who were intended to overawe Paris, fraternized with the people, and refused to fire upon their fellow citizens, he can find no means of accounting for conduct so extremely un-military, except the influence of debauchery. “They were plied,” says he, “with those temptations which are most powerful with soldiers—wine, women, and money, were supplied in abundance—and it was amidst debauchery and undiscipline that the French army renounced their loyalty, which used to be even too much the god of their Edition: current; Page:  idolatry, and which was now destroyed like the temple of Persepolis, amidst the vapours of wine, and at the instigation of courtezans.”*
Does not Sir Walter Scott richly deserve the pointed sarcasm of Madame de Staël, upon the royalist party? “Un des grands malheurs de ceux qui vivent dans les cours, c’est de ne pouvoir se faire une idée de ce que c’est qu’une nation.”† Once more, does our author really not believe in the possibility of public spirit or patriotism, or if these expressions do not please him, sincere enthusiasm? The alternative was that of being slaves or freemen, of enslaving their countrymen or helping them to be free; and he can find no more creditable motive for preferring freedom, than wine, women, and money! If Sir Walter Scott had one tenth part as much knowledge of the Revolution, as an author who writes its history ought to have, he would have known that the sentiments which, according to him, it required debauchery to excite in the regiments assembled at the metropolis, were shared by the military without the aid of debauchery, all over France. Let him read, for example, the address of the garrison of Strasbourg to the National Assembly on the 16th October, 1789, a perfect model of propriety and good taste:‡ let him read in Dumouriez’s Memoirs§ the conduct of the garrison of Cherbourg; let him read in Bouillé’s Memoirs,¶ or in Soulavie’s Annals of Louis XVI,[*] or in the Life of Malesherbes, the refusal of the troops in Dauphiné, even before the Revolution, to act against the people:** let him read in the Histoire de la Révolution par Deux Amis de la Liberté, numerous instances of the most sublime disinterestedness and self-devotion in these very gardes-françaises whom he has so unjustly inculpated, and he will then see whether these were men who needed the “vapours of wine” and the “instigation of courtezans,” to impel them to act as citizens and freemen ought.[†]
We make no apology for having detained our readers so long on the first and greatest epoch of the Revolution. Where, from the immensity of the subject, much must necessarily be left undone, it is better to establish one important point thoroughly, than a hundred imperfectly. If the reader is now convinced, that Sir∥ Edition: current; Page:  Walter Scott has altogether misunderstood and misrepresented that event upon which all the subsequent history of the Revolution turns (and if he is not, we utterly despair of making any impression upon him), he will be willing to believe without much further proof, that the other great events of the Revolution are similarly dealt with. Yet, in alluding to the plots and aggressions of the royalist party against the order of things established by the Constituent Assembly, we cannot help pausing for a moment at the famous fifth of October, 1789, to give a further specimen of our author’s fitness for the office of an accurate and impartial historian.
We need scarcely remind any reader, not thoroughly unacquainted with the facts of the Revolution, that, on the occasion to which we allude, the king was brought from Versailles to the Tuileries, under circumstances of considerable indignity, by a mob of Parisians who sallied out from Paris for this if for any preconcerted purpose, and by a portion of whom, during their stay at Versailles, various excesses were committed, and in particular an attempt was made (there is too much reason to believe) against the life of the queen. In all this, our author is very perfect; but he never hints that a plot existed among the royalists to convey the king to Metz, and placing him under the protection of the anti-revolutionary general Bouillé, to commence a civil war; that a variety of other intrigues were on foot for effecting a counter-revolution, and that the removal of the king from Versailles to Paris, was really on the part of the revolutionists a defensive act. Yet he would have found all this asserted not only by many writers of the constitutional party, but by the royalist Ferrières;* it has been avowed by Breteuil, Bouillé,[*] and the comte de Mercy, then ambassador of Austria at the court of France;† and it may be gathered even from the proceedings before the Châtelet, notwithstanding the strenuous efforts of that tribunal to disguise it. Our author does not scruple to quote Ferrières for an insignificant expression vaguely attributed to Barnave, which he imagines can be turned in some manner to the discredit of that distinguished person.[†] We have seen, however, that Sir Walter Scott can be very incredulous, as well as very easy of belief, when a favourite hypothesis is concerned. Even if he did not give credit to the assertion of Ferrières with respect to the royalist plots, that assertion proves at least, that their reality was generally believed; and might have suggested to our author that there may have been a more creditable motive for wishing to bring the king to Paris, than the desire of placing him and the Assembly “under the influence of popular frenzy.”[‡]
But our author had a different theory. We need scarcely say, that in his theory all is ascribed to the manoeuvres of the republican party; his established mode of accounting for all the commotions under the first two national assemblies. The Edition: current; Page:  imputed object of these agitators, is of course the establishment of a republic; and he insinuates that regicide formed, even at this time, part of their ultimate intentions. Need we repeat, that this pretended republican party is a mere fiction of his own brain; that no such party existed for nearly two years afterwards; and that most of the men who subsequently composed it were, at this time, peaceably following their professions at Bordeaux or Marseilles? Will our author pretend that Mirabeau and the Duke of Orleans were republicans, or will he deny, that, by the universal admission of revolutionists and royalists, this affair was concerted by them, if concerted at all? Sir Walter Scott is not contented with inventing leaders for this popular tumult, he must invent subordinate agents for it too. “The Jacobins were the first to sound the alarm through all their clubs and societies.”[*] The reader may form some conception of the accuracy of this history, and of the spirit in which it is written, when we inform him, that at this time the Jacobin club did not exist, much less any of the affiliated societies. The “alarm” was sounded, to use our author’s expression, not in any club or society, but in the district assemblies, and in a place tolerably well known in the Revolution, to wit, the gardens of the Palais-Royal; not by Jacobins, but by all the more ardent and enthusiastic partisans of the Revolution, to whom indeed it is sufficiently fashionable to give that now opprobrious name, but who had nothing whatever in common with the party called the Terrorists, to whom alone the appellation of Jacobins is usually given by our author.
The reader must forgive us, if a desire to do justice to the wisest, most honest, and most calumniated, body of legislators, who ever held in their hands the destinies of a nation, induces us to be more prolix than may perhaps suit that class of minds, to whom the truth or falsehood of an historical statement is matter of indifference compared with its liveliness or dulness. It is for the maligner of the Constituent Assembly, it is for the apologist, the panegyrist, of the vindictive and sanguinary satellites of despotism, it is for him to be amusing, he knows that his readers, at least those whom he chiefly cares for, are to the full as eager to believe him, as he to be believed. It is for Sir Walter Scott to assert: our part must be to prove. Assertion is short, and proof is long: assertion is entertaining, and proof is dull: assertion may be read, as glibly and as cursorily as it is written; proof supposes thought in the writer, and demands it of the reader. Happy the historian who can permit himself to assert, for he will count ten readers to one of him who is compelled to prove!
There was scarcely a month during the first three years of the Revolution, which was not signalized by some plot or counter-revolutionary movement in the interior.* In the south of France, large bodies of armed men were repeatedly collected, for the avowed purpose of restoring the ancient order of things. The Edition: current; Page:  assemblages which took place and the camps which were formed at Jalès and elsewhere, form a highly important, though to most persons almost an unknown, chapter of the history of the Revolution.* Armed bodies of emigrant Frenchmen were constantly hovering over the frontiers, by the connivance, and at length with the open encouragement, of the neighbouring powers: while France might be said to be without an army for her defence, the officers being counter-revolutionists almost to a man, feuds existing in most of the regiments between them and the soldiers, which were fomented even by the royalists, in order to disorganize the army, and disable it from offering any effectual resistance.† The ministers of the king were several of them declared anti-revolutionists. The courtiers and the privileged classes were continually giving out, that the emigrants were on the point of returning with a powerful army to dissolve the Assembly, and deliver its leaders to the rigour of the law.‡ The royalists openly and universally asserted that the king was insincere in his professions of attachment to the new institutions; and nothing contributed more than these reports, to convert the enthusiastic attachment which was universally manifested towards him when he gave in his adhesion to the constitution, into suspicion and hatred. Ferrières has no doubt that, if Louis had put forth his authority, and exerted his personal influence over the troops, he could have crushed the Assembly;§ and so conscious were the popular leaders of their own insecurity, that the abbé Sieyès said to a person, from whom we have the information, toutes les nuits je vois ma tête rouler sur le plancher. Even in 1791, the aristocrats, according to Ferrières, “ne parlaient que de guerre, de sang, et de vengeance.”¶ It was suspected at the time, it is now fully established by the avowals of the minister Bertrand de Moleville (who enters into the minutest details on the subject), that the king was in regular correspondence with the emigrants and with foreign powers, to procure his restoration to absolute authority by Austrian bayonets. Meanwhile he continued to profess, in language apparently the most feeling and sincere, his adherence to the new order of things. He came spontaneously to the Assembly on the 4th of February, 1790, to associate himself formally (such was his expression) with the plans and proceedings of the Assembly; and professed a devoted attachment to the new constitution, in a really eloquent and affecting speech, if we could suppose it to be sincere, which rendered him for a considerable time the idol of the people.[*] At the federation of July 1790∥ Edition: current; Page:  (an event of which, strange to say, our author makes no mention), he solemnly swore adherence to the constitution; he spontaneously renewed his oath but a few weeks before his flight from Paris;* he spontaneously addressed to his ambassadors abroad, for communication to the courts at which they were accredited, a long letter, embodying every thing in sentiment which was constitutional, and revolutionary, and such as La Fayette himself would have dictated, together with the firmest assurances that he highly approved of the Revolution; that France’s greatest enemies were the enemies of the new order of things, and that the pretence that he was not free was a calumny:† again and again he solemnly assured La Fayette, Rochambeau, and others, that he had no intention of flying; and this almost up to the very day when he fled to join the allies, leaving behind him a solemn protestation against all which had been done since the 5th of October 1789, from which date, he pretended, his want of liberty had rendered the sanction which he had given to all the decrees of the Assembly, a nullity.[*]
We do not recite these facts for the sake of casting reproach upon the memory of Louis. His faults have been bitterly expiated. But, in bare justice to the men who, after all this, had the generosity to replace him on the throne, it ought to be considered whether they had not reason to be niggardly of power to such a king, so circumstanced; a king, whose word, whose oath, was an empty sound; a king, incapable of adhering to his firmest convictions, and surrounded by persons who, if he formed an honest resolution, never suffered him to keep it.
If we have had any success at all in convincing our readers, we have now made it apparent to them, that the Constituent Assembly understood their own position, and that of their country, far better than Sir Walter Scott imagines, and that if they did not adopt the course which he, judging after the event, imagines would have prevented the ills which befel their country, it was not because they were less wise than he, but because they were wiser. No course which they could have adopted would have been so dangerous, as to establish a vigorous and efficient executive government with Louis at its head. And few will blame them for not having adopted the only third course which was open to them, the deposition and confinement of the king; few will deny that, before proceeding to this last and most painful extremity, such a scheme of limited monarchy as they attempted was an experiment which they would not have been excusable if they had refused to try. It is on the probabilities of success which this scheme held out, that we ground the Edition: current; Page:  justification of the Constituent Assembly; it is on the failure of the experiment, that we rest our defence of the Gironde, or, as our author terms it, the Republican party, who succeeded them.
None have sustained so much injustice at the hands of our author as this last, and most unfortunate party: of none have the conduct and aims been so miserably misunderstood, so cruelly perverted. The following extract is a very favourable specimen of his mode of treating them.
After saying that the Girondist party was “determined that the Revolution should never stop until the downfal of the monarchy,” our author continues:
Its most distinguished champions were men bred as lawyers in the south of France, who had, by mutual flattery, and the habit of living much together, acquired no small portion of that self-conceit and over-weening opinion of each other’s talents, which may be frequently found among small provincial associations for political or literary purposes. Many had eloquence, and most of them a high fund of enthusiasm, which a classical education, and their intimate communication with each other, where each idea was caught up, lauded, re-echoed, and enhanced, had exalted into a spirit of republican zeal. They doubtless had personal ambition, but in general it seems not to have been of a low or selfish character. Their aims were often honourable though visionary, and they marched with great courage towards their proposed goal, with the vain purpose of erecting a pure republic in a state so disturbed as that of France, and by hands so polluted as those of their Jacobin associates. It will be recorded, however, to the disgrace of their pretensions to stern republican virtue, that the Girondists were willing to employ, for the accomplishment of their purpose, those base and guilty tools which afterwards effected their own destruction. They were for using the revolutionary means of insurrection and violence, until the republic should be established, and no longer; or, in the words of the satirist,
He afterwards terms them, in a spirit of more bitter contempt, “the association of philosophical rhapsodists, who hoped to oppose pikes with syllogisms, and to govern a powerful country by the discipline of an academy.”†
He derides “the affected and pedantic fanaticism of republican zeal of the Girondists, who were amusing themselves with schemes, to which the country of France, the age and the state of manners were absolutely opposed.”‡
And elsewhere, he calls them, “the Brissotin, or Girondist faction” (he seldom, if ever, terms the supporters of despotism a faction), “who, though averse to the existence of a monarchy, and desiring a republic instead, had still somewhat more Edition: current; Page:  of principle and morals than the mere Revolutionists and Jacobins, who were altogether destitute of both.”*
The utmost which he can find to say in behalf of the purest and most disinterested body of men, considered as a party, who ever figured in history, among whose leaders not so much as one man of even doubtful integrity and honour can be found, is, that they had “somewhat more” of principle and morals, than persons who were “altogether destitute of both”!
His commendations of one of their number are less sparingly bestowed.
In raking up the disgusting history of mean and bloody-minded demagogues, it is impossible not to dwell on the contrast afforded by the generous and self-devoted character of Barbaroux, who young, handsome, generous, noble-minded, and disinterested, sacrificed his family-happiness, his fortune, and finally his life, to an enthusiastic, though mistaken, zeal for the liberty of his country.†
Unquestionably nothing can be better deserved than this panegyric; but why is a particular individual singled out to be the subject of it, when he, although excellent, was only one among many, alike in all the noble qualities which adorned this favourite of our author, and for the misery of France, alike also in their unhappy fate? Justice required that the same measure should be dealt out to them as to Barbaroux, even if it were true that their zeal for the liberty of their country was a “mistaken” zeal, and that they were for using the “revolutionary means of insurrection and violence” to establish a republic. But their zeal was not a mistaken zeal, and they were not for establishing a republic by insurrection and violence; most of them did not contemplate a republic at all, and designed at most nothing further than to depose the king, and elevate the young prince royal, under the direction of a council of regency, to the constitutional throne.
These may be startling assertions to some, who have formed their opinions solely from the indefatigable perseverance with which Sir Walter Scott, almost in every page, assures us of the contrary: but however paradoxical here, on the other side of the channel they are established truths, which few persons indeed of any party think of disputing, and of which nothing but the profound ignorance of our countrymen on the Revolution, could render it necessary to offer any proof: especially as this is not in any degree a question of opinion and reasoning, but one of mere fact and evidence, which every person, who has read the authorities carefully, is competent to decide.
We have already mentioned, that the first germ of a republican party appeared in France, when the king, after a long course of dissimulation and insincerity, fled from the capital, and was brought back by force. Notwithstanding the decisive evidence which he had thus afforded of his undiminished hostility to the constitution, the predominant party in the Constituent Assembly thought fit to Edition: current; Page:  restore him to the throne. We are far from contending that they ought to have acted otherwise, although Sir Walter Scott is of that opinion, and maintains that they were alike wrong in again offering, and Louis in accepting, the constitutional crown.[*] What is now his opinion, was that of many of the more ardent revolutionists at the time; and, among the rest, of a few who subsequently became aggregated to the Gironde party; for the great majority, including those from whom that party derives its distinctive name, were not in Paris until they came thither as members of the second National Assembly. In July 1791, before the resolution had been definitively taken to reinstate the king, a meeting was held in the Champ de Mars to subscribe a petition calling for his dethronement.[†] In this document no change in the monarchical constitution of France, as decreed by the Constituent Assembly, was hinted at: but the acknowledged fact, that the petition was drawn up by Brissot, whose speculative opinions were certainly republican, together with an expression of Brissot and Pétion, about the same time, which is recorded by Madame Roland, “qu’il fallait préparer les esprits à la république,”[‡] and the fact, that a newspaper under the title of The Republican was set on foot at this period by Brissot and Condorcet (although it only reached the second number), seem to render it probable, that if they had succeeded in obtaining the deposition of Louis, they would really have made an effort for the establishment of a republican government in preference to a change of monarch.* When the Assembly, however, under the guidance of Barnave and Chapelier, esteemed up to that time the most democratic of the popular leaders, re-established royalty in the person of the former sovereign, the idea of a republic was dropped, and the two or three men who had entertained it became amalgamated with the general body of the Girondist party, who, as we have previously stated, were not republicans.
The difference between the Constitutionalists and the Gironde, at the opening of the second, or Legislative Assembly, is thus expressed by Mignet: “Il [the Gironde party] n’avait alors aucun projet subversif; mais il était disposé à défendre la révolution de toutes les manières, à la différence des constitutionnels, qui ne voulaient la défendre qu’avec la loi.”[§] This assertion of Mignet (whom however we do not cite as an authority, since he was not, any more than ourselves, a contemporary and actor in the scene) is borne out by the direct testimony of every credible witness who had any tolerable means of knowing the fact. It is demonstrated as cogently by the recorded acts and speeches of the men themselves.Edition: current; Page: 
Sir Walter Scott, as we have already observed, has allowed, has asserted indeed, with more confidence than we should venture to do, that the reasons for deposing Louis preponderated, at the time of his return from Varennes, over those for retaining him on the throne.[*] These reasons, which our author considered sufficient, could be no others, than the certainty of the king’s insincerity, and the necessity of having a first magistrate sincerely attached to the constitution. Let us reflect how vastly more imminent that necessity had become, in the interval which separated the meeting of the second National Assembly from the memorable 10th of August 1792.
During this period, a new and most formidable element of danger had been introduced into the already perilous and embarrassing state of public affairs. A foreign despot had not only countenanced the emigrants in their warlike preparations, and in assuming a hostile attitude on the frontier, but had presumed to require, as a condition of friendship between the two governments, the re-establishment of the monarchy upon the footing of the royal declaration of the 23rd of June, 1789.[†] War had ensued; its commencement had been disastrous, an invasion was at hand, and the disorganization of the army, from the general relaxation of discipline, the emigration of most of the officers, and the want of military experience in the soldiers, had reached to such a height, that nothing but the most unheard-of efforts, such efforts as were at last made by Dumouriez and Carnot, could give the nation a chance of saving herself from the enemies of her freedom. It was not in such times as these that France could be preserved by men who were only half desirous that she should extricate herself from her difficulties. There were needed other “organizers of victory”[‡] than a chief magistrate who sympathized with the invaders of his country more than with his country itself. It was not from Louis that exertions could be expected for the prosecution of a war against his own brothers, and the assertors of his absolute authority. Yet not so soon did the Gironde renounce the hope of saving at once their country and the king. Louis, who was as vacillating in his choice of counsellors as in his counsels, had changed from a purely royalist to a mixed administration composed of constitutionalists and royalists. The divisions which speedily arose in this motley ministry (our author is here, as usual, most elaborately wrong) had terminated by the dismissal of the leading constitutional minister,[§] which the Assembly soon caused to be succeeded by the forced retirement of his royalist colleagues. Louis selected his next ministers from the ranks of the Gironde; and so far was this party from entertaining any hostility to the king, that Roland and Clavières, as Madame Edition: current; Page:  Roland informs us,[*] were at first completely the dupes of his apparent sincerity. Had he consented to the strong measures which they deemed necessary to secure the constitution against its foreign and internal enemies, they would have continued in office, and Louis probably, had remained constitutional monarch of France. But he refused to sanction the two decrees of the Assembly, for the banishment of the non-juring priests,* and for the formation of a camp of twenty thousand men under the walls of Paris.[†] The discussions consequent on this refusal occasioned the dismissal of the Girondist ministers, and ultimately produced the downfall of the throne: not however until the leading Girondists had made another effort to save the unfortunate and misguided monarch, which we shall relate in the words of their friend and apologist Bailleul.
J’ai déjà dit plusieurs fois dans le cours de cet ouvrage, et je viens de répéter tout à l’heure, que le parti républicain se formait insensiblement, et n’existait pas. En effet, l’autorité royale circonvenue, obsédée par les intrigues et les projets de la conspiration, ne laissait plus même échapper de ces lueurs de bonne volonté qui avaient jusque-là soutenu l’espoir des patriotes. Que faire? Que résoudre dans cet état d’anxiété? L’établissement d’une république se présentait à eux comme une dernière ressource, s’il était impossible de sauver autrement la liberté, contre laquelle toutes les forces étaient dirigées.
Puisque Madame de Stael† veut bien accorder quelque valeur aux députés que l’on a désignés sous le nom de Girondins,[‡] a-t-elle pu croire que des hommes de ce talent, tout grand qu’était leur enthousiasme, n’aient pas quelquefois réfléchi sur la position où se trouvait la France, et qu’ils se soient ainsi précipités en aveugles dans les événemens les plus affreux et les plux épouvantables? A-t-elle pu croire même qu’ils n’aient pas prévu les dangers dont cette conflagration les menaçait personnellement? Ce serait une bien grande erreur. Non-seulement ils y avaient pensé, mais ils en étaient occupés, et singulièrement préoccupés: on en jugera par le récit suivant.
Je ne crois pas me tromper, en disant que les trois hommes les plus distingués du parti appelé de la Gironde, étaient Vergniaud, Guadet, et Gensonné. Vergniaud, l’un des orateurs les plus éloquens qui aient jamais parlé aux hommes, avait une âme encore bien au-dessus de son talent. Guadet, d’un caractère emporté, était un homme de beaucoup d’esprit, plein de franchise, et capable de revenir à toutes les idées saines et raisonnables La gravité de Gensonné eût pû passer en proverbe: esprit méditatif et profond, chacune de ses paroles, même dans la conversation, était pesée et mûrie avant d’être livrée à l’examen et à Edition: current; Page:  la réflexion des autres. On fera peut-être bien à des hommes de cette supériorité, la grâce de croire, sans que j’insiste, qu’ils ne se sont pas trouvés environnés de toutes les circonstances extraordinaires et redoutables, sans y donner quelqu’attention. Voici ce que Vergniaud et Gensonné ont répété nombre de fois devant moi, et tous les prisonniers qui se trouvaient alors à la Conciergerie, du côté nommé des douze.
Ils avaient cherché à se ménager une entrevue avec Thierry, valet-de-chambre du roi. Cette entrevue eut lieu. Là, Vergniaud, Guadet et Gensonné exposèrent à Thierry les dangers de la patrie et les dangers personnels du roi; ils lui en indiquèrent les causes, et, par suite, ils tracèrent des plans de conduite, au moyen desquels des rapprochemens indispensables, si l’on ne voulait livrer l’état aux plus horribles convulsions, auraient lieu.
Thierry, accoutumé à n’entendre que les choses les plus dégoûtantes sur le compte de ces hommes; qui, comme tout ce qui composait l’entourage du roi, croyait être généreux à leur égard, en pensant qu’ils ne mangeaient pas des petits enfans, fut on ne peut plus ébahi de tant de franchise, de raison et de prévoyance; je dois dire plus, il en fut touché il leur exprima à quel point il était enchanté de les avoir entendus, il ne leur dissimula point combien cette ouverture lui donnait de consolations et d’espérances, et il les termina en les priant de mettre par écrit tout ce qu’il venait d’entendre, s’ils l’autorisaient à en faire part au roi. La proposition fut acceptée avec empressement. On se sépara, en convenant du jour où l’on se réunirait. Tous furent exacts au rendez-vous. Un mémoire contenant le fond de ce qui avait été dit à Thierry dans la premiere conférence, lui fut remis. Il promit de le communiquer aussitôt au roi, et de faire connaître sa réponse; ce qui donna lieu à une troisième réunion, dans laquelle Thierry, fondant en larmes, déclara que l’on ne voulait entendre à aucun rapprochement. Vergniaud lui répondit: Dites bien à votre maître que nous ne nous dissimulons pas nos propres dangers, mais qu’à partir de ce moment il n’est plus en notre pouvoir de le sauver. Voilà ce que j’ai entendu dire, répéter, et répéter encore par Vergniaud et par Gensonné. Guadet n’était pas avec nous à la Conciergerie, il était en fuite. Ce mémoire, confié par eux à Thierry, s’est, autant qu’il m’en souvient, retrouvé dans l’armoire de fer, et l’on en fit un des chefs les plus graves de l’accusation de ses auteurs.[*]
This Mémoire, admirable for its good sense and good feeling, may be seen in the Appendix to the second volume of the Memoirs of Dumouriez, as recently reprinted at Paris.[†] It is with difficulty that we refrain from increasing the length of an already long article, by transcribing this document into our pages. We beseech the reader to refer to it, to read it diligently, and then endure, if he can, to hear these men represented as conspirators, who plotted the destruction of royalty, who watched the king’s acts with a desire to find them such as afforded a hold for misrepresentation, and were never so well pleased as when he rendered himself unpopular, and gave pretexts for holding up his office as a nuisance, and himself as an enemy of the people. We cannot deny ourselves the pleasure of employing, for the expression of our own feelings, the affecting words of M. Bailleul.
O vous qui serez grands dans la postérité, vous dont je reçus, avec vos derniers adieux, les protestations d’un amour si sincère, si ardent pour votre patrie, l’expression si pure de vos voeux pour le bonheur de vos concitoyens; vous qui versiez des larmes si amères sur les malheurs de ces temps, et qui en retraciez les causes avec tant de justesse et d’énergie, Edition: current; Page:  auriez-vous jamais cru qu’on eût pu vous accuser d’avoir bouleversé la France pour le plaisir d’essayer un systême de gouvernement absolument nouveau pour elle, et qu’une femme aimant la liberté, par conséquent la vérité, écrirait, sous les yeux des témoins de votre courage, de votre sublime dévouement et de vos derniers momens, ces paroles: “Les Girondins voulurent la république, et ne parvinrent qu’à renverser la monarchie?”[*] Ils ne voulaient que la liberté; une monarchie constitutionnelle franchement établie eût fait leur bonheur. M. de Lally, cité par Madame de Staël, en proclamant que leur existence et leur mort furent également funestes à la patrie,[†] a commis dans la première partie de son assertion une effroyable injustice; il a prouvé qu’il ne soupçonnait même pas les causes véritables des événemens qui se sont succédés avec tant de rapidité à cette époque.*
Greatly as we have already exceeded the usual limits of an article, we cannot permit ourselves to leave the stain which is attempted to be cast upon men in so many respects admirable, imperfectly washed away. We should feel as if we had violated a duty, if we did not exhibit by ample evidence how unanimously men of all parties have concurred in exculpating the Girondists from the imputations now sought to be fixed upon them by Sir Walter Scott. We shall offer no apology to the reader for heaping up a multitude of attestations; we do not solicit his attention to this mass of evidence, we demand it. We demand it in the name and in behalf of the whole human race, whom it deeply imports that justice should be done, at least by another age, to the few statesmen who have cared for their happiness. Does the man exist who, having read the accusation brought against such men, will consider it too much trouble to listen to the defence? Let such amuse themselves with romance; it belongs to other men to read history.
Our first quotation shall be drawn from the Histoire de la Révolution de France, par Deux Amis de la Liberté, one of the most impartial works which have appeared on the subject of the Revolution, and written, as our quotation will shew, in a spirit very far indeed from being favourable to the Gironde:
La vérité est, que ni les uns ni les autres [the Gironde nor the Montagne] ne pensoient à cette époque à fonder une république en France. Le parti de la Gironde ou de Brissot, fier d’appartenir à une ville qui s’étoit, plus qu’aucune autre, fait remarquer par un ardent amour pour la liberté, comptant d’ailleurs sur le talent de la plupart des individus qui le composoient, vouloit s’illustrer par quelque coup d’éclat, soit en se rendant maître des volontés d’un monarque au moins avili, soit en le faisant descendre d’un trône où il ne pouvoit plus être qu’un objet de dérision, afin d’y placer son fils dont ils auroient dirigé l’enfance, exercé les pouvoirs et distribué les faveurs. S’il n’est pas démontré par des preuves écrites, que ce fussent-là les intentions ultérieures de Brissot et des députés de la Gironde, ou de ceux qui suivoient la même bannière, le projet n’en est pas moins incontestable, pour tous les hommes qui ont un peu observé la conduite des intrigans qui s’agitoient alors, et je dirai à ceux qui peuvent en douter, rappelez-vous les discours des chefs, quelques jours avant que le canon écrasât le château des Tuileries, vous les verrez éperdus, essayant de soutenir, pour quelque tems encore, le colosse ruiné qu’ils avoient Edition: current; Page:  eux-mêmes sappé par ses bases, vous les verrez effrayés de l’audace de ceux dont jusqu’alors ils avoient su diriger les mouvemens, qu’ils avoient regardés comme des machines dont ils avoient cru pouvoir disposer à volonté, vous les verrez prévoir les désordres sanglans auxquels cette troupe avide de trésors, avide de pouvoirs dont elle étoit incapable de jouir, devoit nécessairement s’abandonner: mais il n’étoit plus tems, l’abîme qu’ils avoient eux-mêmes ouvert étoit sous leurs pas; il n’y avoit plus d’espoir rétrograde, il fallait suivre le torrent, et s’y précipiter.
Au surplus, leur conduite publique prouvoit assez qu’ils ne vouloient qu’une simple déchéance. Dans toutes les adresses qu’ils se faisoient faire contre le roi, on ne demandoit que la déchéance, on ne parloit que de la déchéance, en maintenant l’acte constitutionnel, jamais on n’y insinua le mot de république.
Mais voici un fait plus positif: lorsque, pour porter le dernier coup de massue à Louis XVI, on fit venir à la barre les prétendues sections de Paris, le maire a leur tête. Pétion, l’intime ami de Brissot, et la plus vigoureuse colonne du parti, Pétion, introduit dans la salle du corps législatif, tout enivré de sa gloire présente, et encore plus de celle qui l’attendoit, dit hautement, et avec une naïveté qui n’étoit qu’à lui, aux députés qui faisoient grouppe à l’entrée de la salle. Ma foi, Messieurs, je vois que la régence me tombe sur la tête, je ne sais pas comment m’en défendre. Et ce propos, ou tel autre semblable, il l’a répété plusieurs fois, des personnes qui l’ont entendu, et qui vivent encore, peuvent dire si on en impose.
Compare this account of the conduct and designs of the Gironde with that of Sir Walter Scott. Need we say more?
Our next citation shall be from Toulongeon, also a constitutional monarchist, equal to the author last quoted in impartiality, and far superior to him in philosophy. We shall not quote from this writer any of the passages in which he denies the existence of a republican party at the commencement of the Revolution. In his account of the events which followed the king’s flight, he says, “La république n’était alors même, ni dans l’opinion de ceux qui réfléchissaient, ni dans le sentiment de ceux qu’il détermine toujours seuls” (Vol. II, p. 49). Of the Gironde at the opening of the second national assembly, he remarks, “Ce parti ne voulait pas la république; mais la marche de ce parti rendit la république nécessaire” (Vol. II, p. 91). Even in June, 1792, “Vergniaud, Isnard, étaient des chefs du parti de la Gironde: ils voulaient mettre l’autorité royale dans leur dépendance; mais ils ne voulaient pas la détruire en l’avilissant” (Vol. II, p. 171). Again, “Vergniaud, Guadet, tout ce qu’on appelait la Gironde, parce que les députés de ce département s’y faisaient le plus remarquer, voulut d’abord gouverner la royauté, plus encore par son influence et par son crédit, que par l’autorité, qu’ils aimaient mieux distribuer qu’exercer; et lorsque la royauté fut abolie, ils voulurent fonder la république par les moyens licites et avec les formes légales” (Vol. III, p. 9). And, finally, of Vergniaud, on the very day of the subversion of the throne, “Au dix Août, il voulait encore une monarchie systématique peut-être, mais tempérée. Dès que le mot république fut proclamé, il fut républicain.” (Vol. IV, p. 11.)[*] These are Sir Walter Scott’s fanatical Edition: current; Page:  enthusiasts, who plotted the destruction of royalty for years before, and made no scruple of employing insurrection and bloodshed to realize their visionary projects of a pure republic.
“Quoique la faction des Girondins,” says Soulavie, “fût un composé de toute sorte d’opinions, sa majorité a voulu une régence pendant la minorité du fils de Louis XVI, pour gouverner et pour perdre la reine, dont les projets connus de contre-révolution mettaient en péril, non-seulement l’existence politique mais la vie même des Girondins.”* If we were disposed to place much dependence upon anecdotes, which are only related by this author, we could transcribe several which he adduces to show that not only down to the subversion of the throne, but almost to the very day when the convention met and the republic was proclaimed, neither the Gironde nor the Montagne had finally decided upon establishing it: we could quote the story which he tells of the almost ludicrous consternation of Condorcet and Sieyès, when this event was reported to them,† and the declaration of the minister Montmorin to Soulavie himself, that a republic was then the least bad of all governments which were likely to be established, but that what the Gironde desired was a regency, which would be infinitely worse.[*] As we have less confidence, however, in the testimony of Soulavie, than in that of either of the writers whom we have before quoted, we allude to his evidence only in confirmation of theirs, and shall proceed to show that the royalists themselves, even those among them who have spoken of the Gironde with the most bitter hatred, have by no means accused them of being republicans, but of wishing for a king who should distribute honours and places among themselves, or, at most, of being indifferent to every form of government, provided they themselves were at the head of it. We have no apprehension that these last imputations should be believed, for Sir Walter Scott himself does ample justice to the character of the Girondists, as far as regards personal views; but, that the only accusation brought against them by their bitterest enemies should be that of selfish ambition,[†] proves at least the extreme absurdity of the charge of fanatical republicanism, and the following passages further add the direct testimony of the most decided, and the most trustworthy of the royalist writers, to the fact that most of these statesmen were not republicans.
We shall begin with Ferrières, generally the most candid and impartial of the royalists, but whose moderation entirely deserts him when he touches upon the Girondists. This writer particularly distinguishes the Girondist party from the republicans. Among the latter, he ranks Buzot and Pétion; but of the Girondists, especially the deputies of the Gironde itself, Vergniaud, Guadet, Gensonné, Edition: current; Page:  Ducos, and Fonfrède, he says, “Les Girondins étaient assez indifférens à la forme du gouvernement pourvu qu’ils gouvernassent et qu’ils pussent disposer de l’argent et des places; mais sentant que les constitutionnels ne lâcheraient pas leur proie, ils se rallièrent aux républicains, attendant à prendre un parti décidé d’après les événemens, et à se vendre à la cour ou à se donner à la république, selon que l’exigeraient leurs intérêts et les circonstances” (Vol. III, pp. 16-17). Assuredly, if these persons had shown the slightest symptom of fanatical attachment to a republican government, and hatred of royalty, such things could not have been said of them. Again, long after the insurrection, or rather tumult, of the 20th June 1792, we are told by Ferrières, “les Girondins ne voulaient qu’effrayer la cour. La déchéance n’entrait pas alors dans leurs vues,” (Vol. III, p. 165): that Pétion opposed the insurrection of the 10th of August, because it was the wish of the Gironde that the deposition of Louis should be decreed by the Assembly, and executed without tumult or violence (p. 178); that the Gironde had no concern in that insurrection (p. 180); that they were astonished at it (p. 182); that even at the opening of the convention, “la république n’était point définitivement arrêtée dans l’opinion des Girondins” (p. 245); and was carried independently of them, by what he terms the republican party.
Our next authority shall be Bertrand de Moleville, a royalist far more inveterately prejudiced than Ferrières; a man who avowedly disapproves of the introduction of any form of representative government into France, and cannot quite reconcile himself to its existence in England; and this man, it is important to observe, was a minister of Louis within a few months preceding his deposition. This author always speaks of the Girondists in the bitterest terms, and even accuses them of what we believe was never imputed to them by any other writer (it was scarcely insinuated even in the acte d’accusation against them, by the horrible Amar),[*] we mean personal corruption. After speaking of the letter (formerly alluded to) which was addressed to the king by the trois scélérats (it is thus that he designates Vergniaud, Guadet, and Gensonné)*—of which letter he seems to confess that he knew the contents only at second-hand (he certainly gives a most incorrect account of them), he next describes a plan of insurrection, which he affirms to have been devised by the Gironde in consequence of the ill success of their attempt to conciliate the king; and hereupon he observes.
Les chefs du parti de la Gironde, qui avaient conçu et dirigé ce plan, n’avaient point alors le projet de détruire le gouvernement monarchique, ils voulaient seulement que la déchéance du roi fût prononcée, pour faire passer la couronne à son fils, et établir un conseil de régence qu’ils auraient composé de leurs créatures, s’ils n’avaient pu s’y placer eux-mêmes, et sur lequel ils auraient eu, dans tous les cas, assez d’influence pour être assurés d’en obtenir tout l’argent et tous les emplois qu’ils auraient demandés, mais, comme il était bien plus aisé d’exciter une insurrection violente, que de la modérer à volonté, et d’en Edition: current; Page:  obtenir précisément tels ou tels résultats, ils n’auraient pas hésité à abandonner ce plan, si le roi avait voulu consentir à rappeler au ministère trois scélérats [by this polite expression we are here to understand Roland, Servan and Clavières] qui leur étaient trop servilement dévoués, pour oser leur rien refuser.
The abbé Georgel, a Jesuit, than whom the abbé Barruel himself scarcely regards the Revolution with a more frantic abhorrence, takes precisely the same view of the conduct and designs of the Gironde.* We shall not prolong our article by quoting, in the ipsissima verba of this author, any portion of his dull abuse. The substance of it is all contained in the passages which we have already quoted from Bertrand and Ferrières.
It will be thought, probably, that we have rather been too profuse than too sparing of evidence to prove Sir Walter Scott ignorant of his subject, and the story of the reckless enthusiasm and republican zeal of the Girondists a romance. It will amuse the reader to compare the above quotations with the passages which we previously transcribed from Sir Walter Scott. They contradict him point-blank in every particular, whether of praise or of blame. In support of his view of the Gironde we can find only one authority, that of Madame de Staël;[*] the most questionable of all witnesses, when she deposes to any facts but those within her own immediate observation. We have not nearly exhausted the evidence on the other side. We have cited as yet none of the witnesses who may be supposed partial to the Gironde, except Bailleul, from whom, moreover, we have drawn but a small part of the testimony which his highly instructive pages afford. We shall only further direct the attention of the reader to Lavallée, a writer of no very decided political opinions, but friendly to the Gironde, being personally acquainted with their principal leaders, and having been an employé of Roland, when minister of the interior. From him we have an interesting statement of what passed at a secret meeting of the leading Girondists and one or two other persons. They were all agreed that France was in a state nearly approximating to anarchy; that it would remain so, until there was a change of government; and that, with a view to this change, it was above all to be desired, that the king should voluntarily abdicate; but they were by no means agreed, supposing that a change could be brought about, what the change should be. Brissot declared strongly for a republic; Gensonné desired time for consideration; Condorcet and Guadet were not indisposed to a proposition which was made, of elevating the prince of Conti to the Regency; and, when the meeting broke up, nothing had been resolved upon.† If any decision was subsequently come to, the appointment of the Girondist ministry, which took place Edition: current; Page:  subsequently, must naturally have altered it; and what is known of their subsequent plans has been already stated.
We shall here take our leave, both of the Girondists and of Sir Walter Scott. We have left much unsaid, which cannot so properly be said on any other occasion; many misrepresentations unanswered, which it would have been of importance to expose. We would willingly have entered into considerable details respecting the royalist party, whose faults our author has extenuated as much as he has exaggerated those of the revolutionists; respecting the Montagnards, some of whom individually he has treated with great injustice, and of whose character and principles of action, as a body, he has no more than the most superficial conception; respecting the libéraux of the present day, whom he has treated, in the latter part of his work, with greater asperity and unfairness than is shewn towards the revolutionists themselves.* We could have wished to take notice of his sophisms on the Napoleon Code,[*] and on every subject, without exception, connected with English institutions and English politics; sophisms which are adapted to the state of all these different questions twenty years ago, and which prove that from that time he has kept his eyes closed to all that has been passing around him, and can neither accommodate his mode of defence to the present modes of attack, nor to the existing state of the public mind. But we must forbear all this, and in conclusion, we shall only say, that with all the faults which we have pointed out Edition: current; Page:  and all those which we have not pointed out in this book, the lover of truth has reason to rejoice at its appearance. Much as Sir Walter Scott has wronged the honest part of the revolutionists, the general opinion has hitherto wronged them far more; and to have much chance of correcting that opinion, it was perhaps necessary to temporize with it, and at first give into some portion of the prevailing error. The work contains juster views, and above all, breathes a less malignant spirit, than almost any other Tory publication on the Revolution, and will so far work a beneficial effect upon many minds, which would turn from a perfectly true history of the Revolution without examination or inquiry. We have, therefore, pointed out the errors of this work, not with any wish to see its influence diminished, far less with any hostility towards the author, for whom, politics apart, we share that admiration which is felt by every person possessing a knowledge of the English language. We have been influenced solely by the conviction, that if some readers can as yet endure no more than a part of the truth, there are many who are fully prepared to listen to the whole; and that our remarks have a greater chance of being extensively read and attended to, by being connected, however indirectly, with so celebrated a name.
Monthly Repository, n.s. VII (July, and Aug., 1833), 507-11, and 513-16. Title footnoted: “History of Europe during the French Revolution, embracing the period from the Assembly of the Notables in 1789, to the establishment of the Directory in 1796. By Archibald Alison, F.R.S.E. Advocate. In 2 vols. 8vo. [Edinburgh: Blackwood: London: Cadell,] 1833.” Running titles: “The French Revolution.” Unsigned. Most of the second part (Aug., 1833) republished in Dissertations and Discussions, I, 56-62, entitled: “A Few Observations on the French Revolution,” with the title footnoted: “From a review of the first two volumes of Alison’s History of Europe, Monthly Repository, August 1833.” Running titles: “The French Revolution.” Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “A review of Alison’s History of the French Revolution in the Monthly Repository for July and August 1833” (MacMinn, 32-3). The copy of the article (tear-sheets) in Mill’s library, Somerville College, headed in Mill’s hand, “From the Monthly Repository for July & August 1833,” contains two corrections also in Mill’s hand (here adopted), at 116.14 “this” is altered to “his”, at 119.2 “our” is altered to “an”.
The following text, taken from the Monthly Repository (our usual rule of using the latest version as copy-text here not applying to D&D because only part of the text was republished), is collated with those in D&D, 1st ed. (1859), and 2nd ed. (1867). In the footnoted variants, “59” indicates D&D, 1st ed., and “67” indicates D&D, 2nd ed.
For comment on the essay, see xlvi-l and xcvi-xcvii above.
of history, the most honoured, if not honourable species of composition, is not the whole purport biographic? History, it has been said, is the essence of innumerable biographies.[*] Such, at least, it should be: whether it is, might admit of question. But, in any case, what hope have we in turning over those old interminable chronicles, with their garrulities and insipidities; or still worse, in patiently examining those modern narrations, of the philosophic kind, where philosophy, teaching by experience, must sit like owl on house-top, seeing nothing, understanding nothing, uttering only, with solemnity enough, her perpetual most wearisome hoo, hoo,—what hope have we, except the for most part fallacious one of gaining some acquaintance with our fellow-creatures, though dead and vanished, yet dear to us; how they got along in those old days, suffering and doing, to what extent, and under what circumstances, they resisted the devil, and triumphed over him, or struck their colours to him, and were trodden under foot by him; how, in short, the perennial battle went, which men name life, which we also in these new days, with indifferent fortune, have to fight, and must bequeath to our sons and grandsons to go on fighting, till the enemy one day be quite vanquished and abolished, or else the great night sink and part the combatants; and thus, either by some Millennium or some new Noah’s Deluge, the volume of universal history wind itself up! Other hope, in studying such books, we have none and that it is a deceitful hope, who that has tried knows not? A feast of widest biographic insight is spread for us; we enter full of hungry anticipation, alas! like so many other feasts, which life invites us to, a mere Ossian’s feast of shells,[†] the food and liquor being all emptied out and clean gone, and only the vacant dishes and deceitful emblems thereof left! Your modern historical restaurateurs are indeed little better than high-priests of famine, that keep choicest china dinner-sets, only no dinner to serve therein. Yet such is our biographic appetite, we run trying from shop to shop, with ever new hope, and, unless we could eat the wind, with ever new disappointment.*
Thus writes, although in a publication unworthy of him, an author whom the multitude does not yet, and will not soon understand. The biographic aspect here so exclusively dwelt upon, is indeed not the only aspect under which history may profitably and pleasantly be contemplated: but if we find ourselves disappointed of what it ought to afford us in this kind, most surely our search will be equally vain for all other fruit. If what purports to be the history of any portion of mankind, keep Edition: current; Page:  not its promise of making us understand and represent to ourselves what manner of men those were whose story it pretends to be, let it undertake what else it may, it will assuredly perform nothing.
To know our fellow-creature, [we still quote from the same author,] to see into him, understand his goings forth, decipher the whole heart of his mystery;[*] nay, not only to see into him, but even to see out of him, to view the world altogether as he views it, so that we can theoretically construe him, and could almost practically personate him, and do now thoroughly discern both what manner of man he is, and what manner of thing he has got to work on and live on.[†]
This is what a perfect biography, could such be obtained, of any single human being, would do for us, or more properly enable us to do for ourselves, and the perfection of a history, considered in its biographic character, would be to accomplish something of the same kind for an entire nation or an entire age. Thus in respect to the French Revolution, though complete insight is not to be had, we should have been thankful for anything that could have aided us in forming for ourselves even an imperfect picture of the manner in which a Frenchman, at the period of the breaking out of the Revolution lived: what his thoughts were habitually occupied with; what feelings were excited in him by the universe, or by any of the things that dwell therein; above all, what things he fixed his desires upon; what he did for his bread; what things he cared for besides bread; with what evils he had to contend, and how he was enabled to bear up against them; what were his joys, what his consolations, and to what extent he was able to attain them. Such clear view of him and of his circumstances, is the basis of all true knowledge and understanding of the Revolution. Having thus learnt to understand a Frenchman of those days, we would next be helped to know, and to bring vividly before our minds, the new circumstances in which the Revolution placed him, how those circumstances painted themselves to his eyes, from his point of view; what, as a consequence of the conception he formed of them, he thought, felt, and did, not only in the political, but perhaps still more in what may be called “the private biographic phasis; the manner in which individuals demeaned themselves, and social life went on, in so extraordinary an element as that; the most extraordinary, one might say, for the ‘thin rind of habit’ was utterly rent off, and man stood there with all the powers of civilization, and none of its rules to aid him in guiding these.”[‡]
Such things we would willingly learn from a history of the Revolution; but who among its historians teaches the like? or has ought of that kind to teach? or has ever Edition: current; Page:  had the thought strike him that such things are to be taught or learnt? Not Mr. Alison’s predecessors, of whom, nevertheless, there must be some twenty who have written better books than his; far less Mr. Alison himself. How should he? When in the course of ages a man arises who can conceive a character, though it be but of one being, and can make his readers conceive it too, we call him a dramatist, and write down his name in the short list of the world’s great minds; are we then entitled to expect from every respectable, quiet, well-meaning Tory gentleman, that he shall be capable of forming within himself, and impressing upon us, a living image of the character and manner of existence, not of one human being, but of a nation or a century of mankind? To throw our own mind into the mind and into the circumstances of another, is one of the most trying of all exercises of the intellect and imagination, and the very conception how great a thing it is, seems to imply the capacity of at least partially performing it.
Not to judge Mr. Alison by so high a standard, but by the far lower one of what has actually been achieved by previous writers on the subject, let us endeavour to estimate the worth of his book, and his qualifications as a historian.
And first, of his merits. He is evidently what is termed a kind-hearted, or, at the very least, a good-natured man. Though a Tory, and, therefore, one in whom some prejudices against the actors in the Revolution might be excused, he is most unaffectedly candid and charitable in his judgment of them. Though he condemns them as politicians, he is more indulgent to them as men than even we are, who look with much less disapprobation upon many of their acts. He has not, indeed, that highest impartiality which proceeds from philosophic insight, but abundance of that lower kind which flows from milkiness of disposition. He can appreciate talent; he does not join in the ill-informed and rash assertion of the Edinburgh Review, reechoed by the Quarterly, that the first authors of the French Revolution were mediocre men;[*] on the contrary, speaking in his preface of the Constituent Assembly, he talks of its “memorable discussions,” and of himself as “most forcibly impressed with the prodigious, though often perverted and mistaken ability, which distinguished them.”[†] Mr. Alison has a further merit, and in a man of his quality of mind it is a most positive one—he is no canter. He does not think it necessary to profess to be shocked, or terrified, at opinions or modes of conduct contrary to what are deemed proper and reputable in his own country. He does not guard his own respectability by a saving clause, whenever he has occasion to name or to praise even a Mirabeau. We should never think of this as a quality worthy of particular notice in a mind accustomed to vigorous and independent thought; but in Edition: current; Page:  whatever mind it exists, it is evidence of that which is the first condition of all worth, a desire to be rather than to seem.
Having said thus much on the favourable side, turn we to the other column of the account, and here we have to say simply this, that, after reading both these volumes carefully through, we are quite completely unable to name any one thing that Mr. Alison has done, which had not been far better done before; or to conjecture what could lead him to imagine that such a work as he has produced was any desideratum in the existing literature on the subject. It is hard to say of any book that it is altogether useless; that it contains nothing from which man, woman, or child can derive any one particle of benefit, learn any one thing worth knowing; but a more useless book than this of Mr. Alison’s, one which approaches nearer to the ideal of absolute inutility, we believe we might go far to seek.
We have not often happened to meet with an author of any work of pretension less endowed than Mr. Alison with the faculty of original thought; his negation of genius amounts almost to a positive quality. Notwithstanding, or, perhaps, in consequence of, this deficiency, he deals largely in general reflections; which accordingly are of the barrenest; when true, so true that no one ever thought them false; when false, nowise that kind of false propositions which come from a penetrating but partial or hasty glance at the thing spoken of, and, therefore, though not true, have instructive truth in them; but such as a country-gentleman, accustomed to be king of his company, talks after dinner. The same want of power manifests itself in the narrative. Telling his story almost entirely after Mignet and Thiers,[*] he has caught none of their vivacity from those great masters of narration; the most stirring scenes of that mighty world-drama, under his pen turn flat, cold, and spiritless. In his preface he apologizes for the “dramatic air” produced by inserting fragments of speeches into his text:[†] if the fact were so, it would be a subject of praise, not of apology; but if it were an offence, we assure Mr. Alison that he never would be found guilty of it; nothing is dramatic which has passed through the strainer of his translations; even the eloquence of Mirabeau cannot rouse within him one spark of kindred energy and fervour. In the humbler duties of a historian he is equally deficient; he has no faculty of historical criticism, and no research; his marginal references point exclusively to the most obvious sources of information; and even among these he refers five times to a compilation, for once to an original authority. In this he evinces a candour worthy of praise, since his crowded margin betrays that scantiness of reading which other authors leave theirs blank on purpose to conceal. We suspect he has written his book rather from memory and notes than with the works themselves before him; Edition: current; Page:  else how happens it that he invariably misspells the name of one of the writers, he oftenest refers to?* why are several of the names which occur in the history, also misspelt, in a manner not to be accounted for by the largest allowance for typographical errors? why are there so many inaccuracies in matter of fact, of minor importance indeed, but which could hardly have been fallen into, by one fresh from the reading of even the common histories of the Revolution? The very first and simplest requisite for a writer of French history, a knowledge of the French language, Mr. Alison does not possess in the necessary perfection. To feel the higher excellences of expression and style in any language implies a mastery over the language itself, and a familiarity with its literature, far greater than is sufficent for all inferior purposes. We are sure that any one who can so completely fail to enter into the spirit of Mirabeau’s famous “Dites-lui que ces hordes étrangères dont nous sommes investis,”[*] of that inspired burst of oratory upon la hideuse banqueroute,[†] and of almost everything having any claim to eloquence which he attempts to render, must be either without the smallest real feeling of eloquence, or so inadequately conversant with the French language, that French eloquence has not yet found its way to his soul. We are the more willing to give Mr. Alison the benefit of this excuse, as we find his knowledge of French at fault in far smaller things. He mistakes l’impôt du timbre for a tax on timber; fourche, apparently from not understanding what it is, he translates a fork, and chariot a chariot. The waggoner Cathelineau he terms a charioteer, and the victims of the revolutionary tribunal are carried from the prison to the guillotine in a chariot. Mr. Alison might with as much reason call the dead-cart, during the plague of London, by that name.
If our sole object were to declare our opinion of Mr. Alison’s book, our observations might stop here. But Mr. Alison’s subject seems to require of us some further remarks, applicable to the mode in which that subject is treated by English writers generally, as well as by him.
* * * * *
aHistory is interesting under a two-fold aspect, it has a bscientificb interest, and a cmoralc or dbiographicd interest. A scientific, inasmuch as it exhibits the general Edition: current; Page:  laws of the moral universe acting in circumstances of complexity, and enables us to trace the connexion between great effects and their causes. A moral or biographic interest, inasmuch as it erepresents to use the characters and lives of human beings, and calls upon us, according to their deservings or to their fortunes, for four sympathy, our admiration, or our censuref.
gNow, withoutg entering at present, more than to the extent of a few words, into the hscientifich aspect of the history of the French Revolution, or stopping to define the place which we would assign to it as an event in universal history, we need not fear to declare utterly unqualified for estimating the French Revolution any one who looks upon it as arising from causes peculiarly French, or otherwise than as one turbulent passage in a progressive irevolutioni embracing the whole human race. All political revolutions, not effected by foreign conquest, originate in moral revolutions. The subversion of established institutions is merely one consequence of the previous subversion of established opinions. The jhundredj political revolutions of the last three centuries were but a few outward manifestations of a moral revolution, which dates from the great breaking loose of the human faculties commonly described as the “revival of letters,” and of which the main instrument and agent was the invention of printing. How much of the course of that moral revolution yet remains to be run, or how many political revolutions it will yet generate before it be exhausted, no one can foretell. But it must be the shallowest view of the French Revolution, which can knowk consider it as any thing but a mere lincidentl in a great change in man himself, in his mbeliefm, in his principles of conduct, and therefore in the outward arrangements of society; a change nwhich is but half completed, and which is now in a state of more rapid progress here in England, than any where elsen.
Now if this view be justo, which we must be content for the present to assumeo, surely for an English historian, writing at this particular time concerning the French Revolution, there was something pressing for consideration of greater interest and importance than the degree of praise or blame due to the few individuals who, with more or less pofp consciousness what they were about, happened to be personally implicated in that strife of the elements.Edition: current; Page: 
But also, if, feeling his incapacity for treating history from the scientific point of view, an author thinks fit to confine himself to the qmoralq aspect, surely some less common-place moral result, some more valuable and more striking practical lesson, might admit of being drawn from this extraordinary passage of history, than merely this, that men should beware how they begin a political convulsion, because they never can tell how or when it will end; which happens to be the one solitary general inference, the entire aggregate of the practical wisdom, deduced therefrom in Mr. Alison’s book.
Of such stuff are ordinary rmen’sr moralities composed. Be good, be wise, always do right, take heed what you do, for you know not what may come of it. Does Mr. Alison, or any one, really believe that any human thing, from the fall of man to the last bankruptcy, ever went wrong for want of such maxims as these?
A political convulsion is a fearful thing: granted. Nobody can be assured beforehand what course it will take: we grant that too. What then? No one ought ever to do any thing which has any tendency to bring on a convulsion: is that the principle? But there never was an attempt made to reform any abuse in Church or State, never any denunciation uttered, or mention made of any political or social evil, which had not some such tendency. Whatever excites dissatisfaction with any one of the arrangements of society, brings the danger of a forcible subversion of the entire fabric so much the snearer: doess it follow that there ought to be no censure of any thing which exists? Or is this abstinence, peradventure, to be observed only when the danger is considerable? But that is whenever the evil complained of is considerable; because the greater the evil, the stronger is the desire excited to be freed from it, and because the greatest evils are always those which it is most difficult to get rid of by ordinary means. It would follow, then, that mankind are at liberty to throw off small evils, but not great ones, that the most deeply-seated and fatal diseases of the social system are those which ought to be left for ever without remedy.
Men are not to make it the sole object of their political lives to avoid a revolution, no more than of their natural lives to avoid death. They are to take reasonable care to avert both those contingencies when there is a present danger, but tthey aret not to forbear the pursuit of any worthy object for fear of a mere possibility.
Unquestionably it is possible to do mischief by striving for a larger measure of political reform than the national mind is ripe for; and so forcing on prematurely a struggle between elements, which, by a more gradual progress, might have been brought to harmonize. And every honest and considerate umanu, before he engages Edition: current; Page:  in the career of a political reformer, will inquire whether the moral state and intellectual culture of the people are such as to render any great improvement in the management of public affairs possible. But he will inquire too, whether the people are likely ever to be made better, morally or intellectually, without a vpreviousv change in the government. If not, it may still be his duty to strive for such a change at whatever wrisksw.
What decision a perfectly wise man, at the opening of the French Revolution, would have come to upon these several points, he who knows most will be most slow to pronounce. By the Revolution, substantial good has been effected of immense value, at the cost of immediate evil of the most tremendous kind. But it is impossible, with all the light which has been, or probably ever will be, obtained on the subject, to do more than conjecture whether France could have purchased improvement cheaper; whether any course which could have averted the Revolution, would not have done so by arresting all improvement, and barbarizing down the people of France into the condition of Russian boors.
A revolution, which is so ugly a thing, certainly cannot be a very formidable thing, if all is true xthe Toriesx say of it. For, according to them, it has always depended upon the will of some small number of persons, whether there should be a revolution or ynoy. They invariably begin by assuming that great and decisive immediate improvements, with a certainty of subsequent and rapid progress, and the ultimate attainment of all zpracticalz good, may be had by peaceable means at the option of the leading reformers, and that to this they voluntarily prefer civil war and massacre for the sake of marching somewhat more directly and rapidly towards their ultimate ends. Having thus made out a revolution to be so mere a bagatelle, that, except by the extreme of knavery or folly, it may always be kept at a distance; there is little difficulty in proving all revolutionary leaders knaves or fools. But unhappily theirs is no such enviable position; a far other alternative is commonly offered to them. We will hazard the assertion, that there anevera yet happened a political convulsion, originating in the desire of reform, where the choice did not, in the full persuasion of every person concerned, lie between ballb and cnothingc; where the actors in the revolution had not thoroughly made up their minds, that, without a revolution, the enemies of all reform would have the entire ascendency, and that not only there would be no present improvement, but the door would for the future be shut against dalld endeavour towards it.Edition: current; Page: 
Unquestionably, such was the conviction of those who took part in the French Revolution, during its earlier stages. eTheye did fnotf choose the way of blood and violence in preference to the way of peace and discussion. Theirs was the cause of law and order. The States General at Versailles were a body, legally assembled, legally and constitutionally sovereign of the country, and had every right which law and opinion could bestow upon them, to do all that they did. But as soon as they did any thing disagreeable to the king’s courtiers, (at that time they had not even gbegung to make any alterations in the fundamental institutions of the country,) the king and his advisers took steps for appealing to the bayonet. Then, and not till then, the adverse force of an armed people stood forth in defence of the highest constituted authority—the legislature of their country—menaced with illegal violence. The Bastille fell; the popular party became the stronger; and success, which so often is said to be a justification, has here proved the reverse: men who would haveh ranked with Hampden and Sidney, if they had quietly waited to have their throats cut, ibecomei odious monsters because they have been victorious.
We have not now time nor space to discuss the quantum of the guilt which attaches, not to the authors of the Revolution, but to the jsubsequent, to the variousj revolutionary governments, for the crimes of the Revolution. Much was done which could not have been done except by bad men. But whoever examines faithfully and diligently the records of those times, whoever can conceive the circumstances and look into the mindsk of the men who planned and lwhol perpetrated those enormities, will be the more fully convinced, the more he considers the facts, that all which was done had one sole object. That object was, according to the phraseology of the time, to save the Revolution; to msavem it, no matter by what means; to defend it against its irreconcilable enemies, within and without; to prevent the undoing of the whole work, the restoration of all nwhichn had been demolished, and the extermination of all who had been active in demolishing; to keep down the royalists, and drive back the foreign invaders; as the means to these ends to erect all France into a camp, subject the whole French people to the obligations and the arbitrary discipline of a besieged city, and to inflict death, or suffer it with equal readiness—death or any other evil—for the sake of succeeding in the object.Edition: current; Page: 
But nothing of all this is dreamed of in Mr. Alison’s philosophy:[*] he knows not enough, oneither of his professed subject, noro of the universal subject, the nature of man, to have got even thus far, to have made this first step towards understanding what the French Revolution was. In this he is without excuse, for had he been even moderately read in the French literature, psubsequentp to the Revolution, he would have found this view of the details of its history familiar to every writer and to every reader.a
It was scarcely worth while to touch upon the French Revolution for the sake of saying no more about it than we have now said; yet it is as much, perhaps, as the occasion warrants. Observations entering more deeply into the subject will find a fitter opportunity when it shall not be necessary to mix them up with strictures upon an insignificant book.
Monthly Repository, n.s. IX (June, 1835), 393-6. Headed by title. Running titles as title. Signed “A.” Not republished. Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “An article headed ‘The Monster Trial’ in the Monthly Repository for June 1835” (MacMinn, 44). The copy (tear-sheets) in Mill’s library, Somerville College, headed in Mill’s hand, “From the Monthly Repository for June 1835”, has no corrections or emendations. In the Somerville College copy of the Examiner for 26 Jan., 1834, from which Mill here quotes, there is one correction, “institution” for “constitution” (127:18), which is here accepted.
The long quotation from Mill’s own unheaded leader in the Examiner is collated with the original. In the footnoted variants, “34” indicates the Examiner.
For comment on the essay, see lx-lxii and xcvii-xcviii above.
so little is the general course of French affairs attended to in this country, that when, as at present, some single event, either from its importance or its strangeness, attracts a certain degree of notice, its causes, and all which could help to explain it, have been forgotten. It is true that the most assiduous reader of only the English newspapers, even if he retained all he had read, would understand little or nothing of the real character of events in France, for the editors of the English newspapers are as ignorant of France as they probably are of Monomotapa; and their Paris correspondents, being mostly Frenchmen, write as if for Frenchmen, and repeat the mere gossip of the day, pre-supposing as already known all which Englishmen would care to know. By being the solitary exception to this rule, the writer who signed “O.P.Q.”[*] in the Morning Chronicle gained a temporary popularity, merely because, unlike the rest of the fraternity, he assumed that his readers knew nothing, and had to learn everything. In the Examiner alone, for the last four years, those who take interest in the fate of that great country, which divides with ourselves the moral dominion of Europe, have had the passing events placed carefully before them with regular explanatory comments.[†]
From that paper we quote part of an article which appeared on the 26th January, 1834, descriptive of the character and objects of that portion of the French republicans against whom the procès-monstre[‡] is mainly directed.
The Société des Droits de l’Homme is at present the hobgoblin or bugbear of the juste milieu. The language and manner of the partisans of Louis Philippe with respect to that association are a curious medley of affected contempt and intense personal hatred, not without an admixture of fear. They are constantly and studiously imputing to the members of the society the absurdest opinions and the most criminal purposes, they are incessantly averring, with a degree of emphasis which betrays a lurking doubt, that those opinions and purposes are abhorred by the French people, and that the society has not, and never will have, the support of any class whatever, even the lowest. Yet, in the very same breath in which they declare it to be harmless by reason of its insignificance, they proclaim it so mischievous and so formidable, that society is certain to perish unless it be put down, by whatever means.
In truth, the alarmists are equally wrong in both feelings, whether the feelings be sincere or affected. This much-talked-of association is not to be despised; neither, on the other Edition: current; Page:  hand, is it to be feared. It does not aim at subverting society, and society would be too strong for it if it did. Were we to believe some people, the edifice of society is so tottering, and its foundations so unstable, that a breath is enough to blow it down; nay, there cannot be any stir in the surrounding atmosphere, nor any knocking upon the ground, without its certain destruction. But we have another idea of society than this; for us it is something more steady and solid than a house of cards. The evil we are apprehensive of is stagnation, not movement; we can anticipate nothing in the present age but good, from the severest, from even the most hostile scrutiny of the first principles of the social union. Instead of expecting society to fall to pieces, our fear is lest (the old creeds, which formerly gave to the established order of things a foundation in men’s consciences, having become obsolete) the fabric should mechanically hold together by the mere instinctive action of men’s immediate personal interests, without any basis of moral conviction at all. Rather than see this we should prefer to see the whole of the working classes speculatively Owenites or Saint Simonians. We are not frightened at anti-property doctrines. We have no fear that they should ever prevail so extensively as to be dangerous. But we have the greatest fear lest the classes possessed of property should degenerate more and more into selfish, unfeeling Sybarites, receiving from society all that society can give, and rendering it no service in return, content to let the numerical majority remain sunk in mental barbarism and physical destitution. . . .a
The bSociety of the Rights of Manb some months ago embodied their principles on the subject of property in the form of a manifesto, along with which they republished, as a compendium of their opinions, a Declaration of the Rights of Man,[*] which was proposed by Robespierre to the National Convention to be prefixed to their republican constitution,[†] and was by that body rejected. The name of Robespierre was well calculated to excite a prejudice against this document, but any thing more harmless than its contents can scarcely be conceived Such, however, was not the impression of the Parisian public. The writer of this was at Paris when the document made its appearance, and he well remembers his Edition: current; Page:  astonishment at the nature and intensity of the sentiments it appeared to excite. Those who did not deem it too contemptible to be formidable were filled with consternation. The Government party, the Carlists, the Liberals, were unanimous in crying anarchy and confusion: even Republicans shook their heads and said, “This is going too far.” And what does the reader imagine was the proposition which appeared so startling and so alarming to all parties? It was no other than the definition which, in the Robespierrian declaration of rights, was given of the “right of property,” and ran as follows.
“The right of property is the right which every one possesses of using and enjoying the portion of wealth which is guaranteed to him by the law.” (La portion de biens qui lui est garantie par la loi.)[*]
Such is the superstitious, or rather idolatrous, character of the respect for property in France, that this proposition actually appeared an alarming heresy, was denounced with the utmost acrimony by all the enemies of the propounders, and timidly and hesitatingly excused rather than vindicated by their friends. The maxim was evidently too much for all parties, it was a doctrine considerably in advance of them, even republicans required some time to make up their minds. Ardent revolutionists, men who were ready to take up arms at five minutes’ notice for the subversion of the existing dynasty, doubted whether they could admit, as a speculative truth, that property is not of natural right, but of human institution, and is the creature of law. Truly, there is little fear for the safety of property in France. We believe that in no country in the world, not even the United States of America, is property so secure, the most violent convulsion would not endanger it; in a country where nearly two-thirds of the male adult population possess property in land, and where the notions entertained of the inviolability of property are so pedantic and (if we may be permitted the expression) so prudish, that there are persons who will gravely maintain that the state has no right to make a road through a piece of land without the owner’s consent, even on payment of compensation.
Strange as it may appear, in the declaration of rights, drawn up by Robespierre, and adopted by the Société des Droits de l’Homme, there is not, with the one exception which we have mentioned, one single proposition on the subject of property which was considered exceptionable even by those who were so scandalized at the above definition. No limitation of the right of property was hinted at; no new or alarming maxim promulgated, unless such be implied in the recognition of the principle of the English poor laws, that society is bound to provide subsistence and work for its indigent members;[†] and this document was rejected by the convention, by the body which put to death Louis XVI, and created the revolutionary tribunal, rejected by that body as anarchical. Yet there are people who believe that the principle of the French revolution was spoliation of property! For the thousandth time, we say to the English Tories and Whigs, that they are as utterly ignorant of the French revolution as of the revolutions among the inhabitants of the moon. Acts of injustice were done; rights, which really partook of the nature of property, were not always treated as such; but the respect of the revolutionary assemblies for all that they considered as entitled to the name of property amounted to actual narrowness and bigotry. We do not affirm this solely of the comparatively moderate and enlightened men who composed the constituent assembly, but in even a greater degree of the violent revolutionists of the convention, to whose obtuser and less cultivated intellects such a prejudice was more natural. In the height of the reign of terror anti-property doctrines would have been scouted, even more decidedly than now; no one dared avow them for fear of the guillotine; nor do Edition: current; Page:  such doctrines figure in the history of the revolution at all, save in the solitary instance of the conspiracy of Baboeuf, greatly posterior to the fall of Robespierre and the Montagne.c[*]
In April, 1834, about three months after the above article was written, the leaders in a general strike of the silk-weavers of Lyons, which had just terminated unsuccessfully, were prosecuted by order of government; and this prosecution, together with the knowledge that the detestable law[†] then in progress through the Chambers for putting down all associations unlicensed by government would be applied to the extinction of trades’ unions, provoked the unfortunate insurrection at Lyons, which lasted five days, and was with some difficulty suppressed. This was not a political, but a trades’ union insurrection. The government, however, took that base advantage of the alarm excited by it which all French governments have long been accustomed to take of all events exciting a panic among those who have something to lose. They got up an insignificant riot in the streets of Paris, called it an insurrection, took the most violent measures for repressing it, (a house was broken open, and all the inhabitants, twenty or thirty in number, butchered by the troops,) and availed themselves of the excuse for seizing the persons and papers of all the leading members of the Société des Droits de l’Homme.[‡] Not one of those leaders was even suspected of being concerned in either of the two insurrections, but the opportunity was thought a good one for laying, under colour of law, the clutches of the government upon the correspondence of the society. It is now a year that these distinguished persons have been kept in prison; and that time has been employed in manufacturing, from the papers which government got into its possession, evidence of a plot. The next desideratum was, to bring the prisoners before a tribunal which would be sure to convict them. Paris juries had been tried, Edition: current; Page:  and found not sufficiently docile. They had always scouted the miserable attempts to hunt down innocent men on charges of treason and conspiracy; and memorable had been the exposure, on more than one such occasion, of the malignant and fraudulent artifices of the government. There was, however, a resource. In servile imitation of the English constitution, the Chamber of Peers had been, by the French charter, invested with the power of trying ministers for treason or malversation on the prosecution of the Chamber of Deputies.[*] This provision Louis Philippe, following a questionable precedent of Louis XVIII’s reign, has applied to the case of persons who are not ministers, nor prosecuted by the Chamber of Deputies; and has brought the pretended authors of the pretended republican conspiracy of Paris, along with the presumed authors of the real trades’ union revolt at Lyons, before the Chamber of Peers, that is, before a body named by the government, and mostly holding places under it.
Nothing can denote more complete ignorance of France than the daily speculations in our liberal newspapers as to the embarrassments which the Chamber of Peers is supposed to have brought upon itself by consenting to be made the tool of the government in this matter, and the loss it is likely to sustain in public estimation. The Chamber of Peers is so happily situated, that it cannot possibly suffer any loss of public estimation; any change on that score must be to its advantage. It is as completely insignificant as our House of Lords would be if it were a body of mere pensioners, not hereditary, containing as little talent as at present, and scarcely any fortune. The Chamber of Peers, previously to this trial, was heartily despised. It may now attain the more honourable, and, to a Frenchman especially, far more enviable position of being hated. By showing that it has still the power (in spite of the imbecility inherent in its constitution) of making itself formidable as an instrument of tyranny in the hands of the other two branches of the legislature, it may have a chance, which it certainly had not before, of regaining a certain sort of consideration. The Monster Trial is its last throw for political importance.
London and Westminster Review, V & XXVII (July, 1837), 17-53. Headed: “The French Revolution: A History. In three volumes. By Thomas Carlyle. Small 8vo. [London:] Fraser, 1837.” Running titles: “The French Revolution.” Signed “A.” Not republished. Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “A review of Carlyle’s History of the French Revolution, in the same review [as ‘Taylor’s Statesman,’ by Mill and George Grote] for July 1837. (No. 10 and 53.)” (MacMinn, 48.) The copy (bound sheets) in Mill’s library. Somerville College, has no corrections or emendations.
In the extensive quotations, the footnotes that Mill takes from Carlyle are signalled by “[TC].”
For comment, see l-lv and xcix-c above.
this is not so much a history, as an epic poem; and notwithstanding, or even in consequence of this, the truest of histories. It is the history of the French Revolution, and the poetry of it, both in one; and on the whole no work of greater genius, either historical or poetical, has been produced in this country for many years.
It is a book on which opinion will be for some time divided; nay, what talk there is about it, while it is still fresh, will probably be oftenest of a disparaging sort; as indeed is usually the case, both with men’s works and with men themselves, of distinguished originality. For a thing which is unaccustomed, must be a very small thing indeed, if mankind can at once see into it and be sure that it is good: when, therefore, a considerable thing, which is also an unaccustomed one, appears, those who will hereafter approve, sit silent for a time, making up their minds; and those only to whom the mere novelty is a sufficient reason for disapproval, speak out. We need not fear to prophesy that the suffrages of a large class of the very best qualified judges will be given, even enthusiastically, in favour of the volumes before us; but we will not affect to deny that the sentiment of another large class of readers (among whom are many entitled to the most respectful attention on other subjects) will be far different; a class comprehending all who are repelled by quaintness of manner. For a style more peculiar than that of Mr. Carlyle, more unlike the jog-trot characterless uniformity which distinguishes the English style of this age of Periodicals, does not exist. Nor indeed can this style be wholly defended even by its admirers. Some of its peculiarities are mere mannerisms, arising from some casual association of ideas, or some habit accidentally picked up; and what is worse, many sterling thoughts are so disguised in phraseology borrowed from the spiritualist school of German poets and metaphysicians, as not only to obscure the meaning, but to raise, in the minds of most English readers, a not unnatural nor inexcusable presumption of there being no meaning at all. Nevertheless, the presumption fails in this instance (as in many other instances); there is not only a meaning, but generally a true, and even a profound meaning; and, although a few dicta about the “mystery” and the “infinitude”[*] which are in the universe and in man, and such like topics, are repeated in varied phrases greatly too often for our taste, this must be borne with, proceeding, as one cannot but see, Edition: current; Page:  from feelings the most solemn, and the most deeply rooted which can lie in the heart of a human being. These transcendentalisms, and the accidental mannerisms excepted, we pronounce the style of this book to be not only good, but of surpassing excellence; excelled, in its kind, only by the great masters of epic poetry; and a most suitable and glorious vesture for a work which is itself, as we have said, an epic poem.
To any one who is perfectly satisfied with the best of the existing histories, it will be difficult to explain wherein the merit of Mr. Carlyle’s book consists. If there be a person who, in reading the histories of Hume, Robertson, and Gibbon (works of extraordinary talent, and the works of great writers)[*] has never felt that this, after all, is not history—and that the lives and deeds of his fellow-creatures must be placed before him in quite another manner, if he is to know them, or feel them to be real beings, who once were alive, beings of his own flesh and blood, not mere shadows and dim abstractions; such a person, for whom plausible talk about a thing does as well as an image of the thing itself, feels no need of a book like Mr. Carlyle’s; the want, which it is peculiarly fitted to supply, does not yet consciously exist in his mind. That such a want, however, is generally felt, may be inferred from the vast number of historical plays and historical romances, which have been written for no other purpose than to satisfy it. Mr. Carlyle has been the first to shew that all which is done for history by the best historical play, by Schiller’s Wallenstein,[†] for example, or Vitet’s admirable trilogy,* may be done in a strictly true narrative, in which every incident rests on irrefragable authority; may be done, by means merely of an apt selection and a judicious grouping of authentic facts.
It has been noted as a point which distinguishes Shakespeare from ordinary dramatists, that their characters are logical abstractions, his are human beings: that their kings are nothing but kings, their lovers nothing but lovers, their patriots, Edition: current; Page:  courtiers, villains, cowards, bullies, are each of them that, and that alone; while his are real men and women, who have these qualities, but have them in addition to their full share of all other qualities (not incompatible), which are incident to human nature.[*] In Shakespeare, consequently, we feel we are in a world of realities; we are among such beings as really could exist, as do exist, or have existed, and as we can sympathise with; the faces we see around us are human faces, and not mere rudiments of such, or exaggerations of single features. This quality, so often pointed out as distinctive of Shakespeare’s plays, distinguishes Mr. Carlyle’s history. Never before did we take up a book calling itself by that name, a book treating of past times, and professing to be true, and find ourselves actually among human beings. We at once felt, that what had hitherto been to us mere abstractions, had become realities; the “forms of things unknown,” which we fancied we knew, but knew their names merely, were, for the first time, with most startling effect, “bodied forth” and “turned into shape.”[†] Other historians talk to us indeed of human beings; but what do they place before us? Not even stuffed figures of such, but rather their algebraical symbols; a few phrases, which present no image to the fancy, but by adding up the dictionary meanings of which, we may hunt out a few qualities, not enough to form even the merest outline of what the men were, or possibly could have been; furnishing little but a canvas, which, if we ourselves can paint, we may fill with almost any picture, and if we cannot, it will remain for ever blank.
Take, for example, Hume’s history; certainly, in its own way, one of the most skilful specimens of narrative in modern literature, and with some pretensions also to philosophy. Does Hume throw his own mind into the mind of an Anglo-Saxon, or an Anglo-Norman? Does any reader feel, after having read Hume’s history, that he can now picture to himself what human life was, among the Anglo-Saxons? how an Anglo-Saxon would have acted in any supposable case? what were his joys, his sorrows, his hopes and fears, his ideas and opinions on any of the great and small matters of human interest? Would not the sight, if it could be had, of a single table or pair of shoes made by an Anglo-Saxon, tell us, directly and by inference, more of his whole way of life, more of how men thought and acted among the Anglo-Saxons, than Hume, with all his narrative skill, has contrived to tell us from all his materials?
Or descending from the history of civilization, which in Hume’s case may have been a subordinate object, to the history of political events: did any one ever gain from Hume’s history anything like a picture of what may actually have been passing, in the minds, say, of Cavaliers or of Roundheads during the civil wars? Does any one feel that Hume has made him figure to himself with any precision Edition: current; Page:  what manner of men these were; how far they were like ourselves, how far different; what things they loved and hated, and what sort of conception they had formed of the things they loved and hated? And what kind of a notion can be framed of a period of history, unless we begin with that as a preliminary? Hampden, and Strafford, and Vane, and Cromwell, do these, in Hume’s pages, appear to us like beings who actually trod this earth, and spoke with a human voice, and stretched out human hands in fellowship with other human beings; or like the figures in a phantasmagoria, colourless, impalpable, gigantic, and in all varieties of attitude, but all resembling one another in being shadows? And suppose he had done his best to assist us in forming a conception of these leading characters: what would it have availed, unless he had placed us also in the atmosphere which they breathed? What wiser are we for looking out upon the world through Hampden’s eyes, unless it be the same world which Hampden looked upon? and what help has Hume afforded us for this? Has he depicted to us, or to himself, what all the multitude of people were about, who surrounded Hampden; what the whole English nation were feeling, thinking, or doing? Does he shew us what impressions from without were coming to Hampden—what materials and what instruments were given him to work with? If not, we are well qualified, truly, from Hume’s information, to erect ourselves into judges of any part of Hampden’s conduct!
Another very celebrated historian, we mean Gibbon—not a man of mere science and analysis, like Hume, but with some (though not the truest or profoundest) artistic feeling of the picturesque, and from whom, therefore, rather more might have been expected—has with much pains succeeded in producing a tolerably graphic picture of here and there a battle, a tumult, or an insurrection; his book is full of movement and costume, and would make a series of very pretty ballets at the Opera-house, and the ballets would give us fully as distinct an idea of the Roman empire, and how it declined and fell, as the book does. If we want that, we must look for it anywhere but in Gibbon. One touch of M. Guizot removes a portion of the veil which hid from us the recesses of private life under the Roman empire, lets in a ray of light which penetrates as far even as the domestic hearth of a subject of Rome, and shews us the government at work making that desolate;[*] but no similar gleam of light from Gibbon’s mind ever reaches the subject; human life, in the times he wrote about, is not what he concerned himself with.
On the other hand, there are probably many among our readers who are acquainted (though it is not included in Coleridge’s admirable translation) with that extraordinary piece of dramatic writing, termed “Wallenstein’s Camp.”[†] Edition: current; Page:  One of the greatest of dramatists, the historian of the Thirty Years’ War,[*] aspired to do, in a dramatic fiction, what even his genius had not enabled him to do in his history—to delineate the great characters, and, above all, to embody the general spirit of that period. This is done with such life and reality through ten acts, that the reader feels when it is over as if all the prominent personages in the play were people whom he had known from his childhood; but the author did not trust to this alone: he prefixed to the ten acts, one introductory act, intended to exhibit, not the characters, but the element they moved in. It is there, in this preliminary piece, that Schiller really depicts the Thirty Years’ War; without that, even the other ten acts, splendid as they are, would not have sufficiently realized it to our conception, nor would the Wallensteins and Piccolominis and Terzskys of that glorious tragedy have been themselves, comparatively speaking, intelligible.
What Schiller must have done, in his own mind, with respect to the age of Wallenstein, to enable him to frame that fictitious delineation of it. Mr. Carlyle, with a mind which looks still more penetratingly into the deeper meanings of things than Schiller’s, has done with respect to the French Revolution. And he has communicated his picture of it with equal vividness; but he has done it by means of real, not fictitious incidents. And therefore is his book, as we said, at once the authentic History and the Poetry of the French Revolution.
It is indeed a favourite doctrine of Mr. Carlyle, and one which he has enforced with great strength of reason and eloquence in other places, that all poetry suitable to the present age must be of this kind:[†] that poetry has not naturally any thing to do with fiction, nor is fiction in these days even the most appropriate vehicle and vesture of it; that it should, and will, employ itself more and more, not in inventing unrealities, but in bringing out into ever greater distinctness and impressiveness the poetic aspect of realities. For what is it, in the fictitious subjects which poets usually treat, that makes those subjects poetical? Surely not the dry, mechanical facts which compose the story; but the feelings—the high and solemn, the tender or mournful, even the gay and mirthful contemplations, which the story, or the manner of relating it, awaken in our minds. But would not all these thoughts and feelings be far more vividly aroused if the facts were believed, if the men, and all that is ascribed to them, had actually been; if the whole were no play of imagination, but a truth? In every real fact, in which any of the great interests of human beings are implicated, there lie the materials of all poetry; there is, as Mr. Carlyle has said, the fifth act of a tragedy in every peasant’s death-bed;[‡] the life of every heroic character is a heroic poem, were but the man of genius found, who could so write it! Not falsification of the reality is wanted, not the representation of it as being any thing which it is not; only a deeper understanding of what it is; the Edition: current; Page:  power to conceive, and to represent, not the mere outside surface and costume of the thing, nor yet the mere logical definition, and caput mortuum of it—but an image of the thing itself in the concrete, with all that is loveable or hateable or admirable or pitiable or sad or solemn or pathetic, in it, and in the things which are implied in it. That is, the thing must be presented as it can exist only in the mind of a great poet: of one gifted with the two essential elements of the poetic character—creative imagination, which, from a chaos of scattered hints and confused testimonies, can summon up the Thing to appear before it as a completed whole: and that depth and breadth of feeling which makes all the images that are called up appear arrayed in whatever, of all that belongs to them, is naturally most affecting and impressive to the human soul.
We do not envy the person who can read Mr. Carlyle’s three volumes, and not recognize in him both these endowments in a most rare and remarkable degree. What is equally important to be said—he possesses in no less perfection that among the qualities necessary for his task, seemingly the most opposite to these, and in which the man of poetic imagination might be thought likeliest to be deficient; the quality of the historical day-drudge. A more pains-taking or accurate investigator of facts, and sifter of testimonies, never wielded the historical pen. We do not say this at random, but from a most extensive acquaintance with his materials, with his subject, and with the mode in which it has been treated by others.
Thus endowed, and having a theme the most replete with every kind of human interest, epic, tragic, elegiac, even comic and farcical, which history affords, and so near to us withal, that the authentic details of it are still attainable; need it be said, that he has produced a work which deserves to be memorable? a work which, whatever may be its immediate reception, “will not willingly be let die;”[*] whose reputation will be a growing reputation, its influence rapidly felt, for it will be read by the writers; and perhaps every historical work of any note, which shall hereafter be written in this country, will be different from what it would have been if this book were not.
The book commences with the last illness of Louis XV which is introduced as follows:
President Hénault, remarking on royal Surnames of Honour how difficult it often is to ascertain not only why, but even when, they were conferred, takes occasion in his sleek official way to make a philosophical reflection. “The Surname of Bien-aimé (Well-beloved),” says he, “which Louis XV bears, will not leave posterity in the same doubt. This Prince, in the year 1744, while hastening from one end of his kingdom to the other, and suspending his conquests in Flanders that he might fly to the assistance of Alsace, was Edition: current; Page:  arrested at Metz by a malady which threatened to cut short his days. At the news of this, Paris, all in terror, seemed a city taken by storm: the churches resounded with supplications and groans; the prayers of priests and people were every moment interrupted by their sobs; and it was from an interest so dear and tender that this Surname of Bien-aimé fashioned itself, a title higher still than all the rest which this great Prince has earned.”*
So stands it written; in lasting memorial of that year 1744. Thirty other years have come and gone; and “this great Prince” again lies sick; but in how altered circumstances now! Churches resound not with excessive groanings, Paris is stoically calm, sobs interrupt no prayers, for indeed none are offered, except Priests’ Litanies, read or chanted at fixed money-rate per hour, which are not liable to interruption. The shepherd of the people has been carried home from Little Trianon, heavy of heart, and been put to bed in his own Château of Versailles: the flock knows it, and heeds it not. At most, in the immeasurable tide of French Speech (which ceases not day after day, and only ebbs towards the short hours of night), may this of the royal sickness emerge from time to time as an article of news. Bets are doubtless depending, nay some people “express themselves loudly in the streets.”† But for the rest, on green field and steepled city, the May sun shines out, the May evening fades, and men ply their useful or useless business as if no Louis lay in danger.[*]
The loathsome deathbed of the royal debauchee becomes, under Mr. Carlyle’s pencil, the central figure in an historical picture, including all France: bringing before us, as it were visibly, all the spiritual and physical elements which there existed, and made up the sum of what might be termed the influences of the age. In this picture, and in that of the “Era of Hope” (as Mr. Carlyle calls the first years of Louis XVI,)[†] there is much that we would gladly quote. But on the whole we think these introductory chapters the least interesting part of the book; less distinguished by their intrinsic merit, and more so by all the peculiarities of manner which either are really defects, or appear so. These chapters will only have justice done them on a second reading, once familiarized with the author’s characteristic turn of thought and expression, we find many passages full of meaning, which, to unprepared minds, would convey a very small portion, if any, of the sense which they are not only intended, but are in themselves admirably calculated to express, for the finest expression is not always that which is the most readily apprehended. The real character of the book, however, begins only to display itself when the properly narrative portion commences. This, however, is more or less the case with all histories, though seldom to so conspicuous an extent.
The stream of the narrative acquires its full speed about the hundred and sixty-fifth page, and the beginning of the fourth book. The introductory rapid sketch of what may be called the coming-on of the Revolution, is then ended, and Edition: current; Page:  we are arrived at the calling together of the States General. The fourth book, first chapter, opens as follows:
The universal prayer, therefore, is to be fulfilled! Always in days of national perplexity, when wrong abounded and help was not, this remedy of States General was called for; by a Malesherbes, nay by a Fénélon:* even Parlements calling for it were “escorted with blessings.”[*] And now behold it is vouchsafed us, States General shall verily be!
To say, let States General be, was easy; to say in what manner they shall be, is not so easy. Since the year 1614, there have no States General met in France, all trace of them has vanished from the living habits of men. Their structure, powers, methods of procedure, which were never in any measure fixed, have now become wholly a vague Possibility. Clay which the potter may shape, this way or that:—say rather, the twenty-five millions of potters; for so many have now, more or less, a vote in it! How to shape the States General? There is a problem. Each Body-corporate, each privileged, each organised Class has secret hopes of its own in that matter; and also secret misgivings of its own,—for, behold, this monstrous twenty-million Class, hitherto the dumb sheep which these others had to agree about the manner of shearing, is now also arising with hopes! It has ceased or is ceasing to be dumb; it speaks through Pamphlets, or at least brays and growls behind them, in unison,—increasing wonderfully their volume of sound.
As for the Parlement of Paris, it has at once declared for the “old form of 1614.” Which form had this advantage, that the Tiers Etat, Third Estate, or Commons, figured there as a show mainly, whereby the Noblesse and Clergy had but to avoid quarrel between themselves, and decide unobstructed what they thought best. Such was the clearly declared opinion of the Paris Parlement. But, being met by a storm of mere hooting and howling from all men, such opinion was blown straightway to the winds; and the popularity of the Parlement along with it,—never to return. The Parlement’s part, we said above, was as good as played. Concerning which, however, there is this further to be noted, the proximity of dates. It was on the 22nd of September that the Parlement returned from “vacation” or “exile in its estates;” to be reinstalled amid boundless jubilee from all Paris. Precisely next day, it was that this same Parlement came to its “clearly declared opinion:” and then on the morrow after that, you behold it “covered with outrages;” its outer court, one vast sibilation, and the glory departed from it for evermore.† A popularity of twenty-four hours was, in those times, no uncommon allowance.
On the other hand, how superfluous was that invitation of Lornénie, the invitation to thinkers! Thinkers and unthinkers, by the million, are spontaneously at their post, doing what is in them. Clubs labour: Société Publicole; Breton Club; Enraged Club, Club des Enragés. Likewise dinner-parties in the Palais Royal; your Mirabeaus, Talleyrands dining there, in company with Chamforts, Morellets, with Duponts and hot Parlementeers, not without object! For a certain Neckerean lion’s-provider, whom one could name, assembles them there;‡—or even their own private determination to have dinner does it. And then as to pamphlets—in figurative language, “it is a sheer snowing of pamphlets; like to snow up the Government thoroughfares!”[†] Now is the time for friends of freedom; sane, and even insane.Edition: current; Page: 
Count, or self-styled Count, d’Aintraigues, “the young Languedocian gentleman,” with perhaps Chamfort the Cynic to help him, rises into furor almost Pythic; highest, where many are high.* Foolish young Languedocian gentleman, who himself so soon, “emigrating among the foremost,” must fly indignant over the marches, with the Contrat Social[*] in his pocket,—towards outer darkness, thankless intriguings, ignis-fatuus hoverings, and death by the stiletto! Abbé Sieyès has left Chartres Cathedral, and canonry and book-shelves there; has let his tonsure grow, and come to Paris with a secular head, of the most irrefragable sort, to ask three questions, and answer them. What is the Third Estate? All. What has it hitherto been in our form of government? Nothing. What does it want? To become something.[†]
D’Orleans, for be sure he, on his way to Chaos, is in the thick of this,—promulgates his Deliberations;† fathered by him, written by Laclos of the Liaisons Dangereuses.[‡] The result of which comes out simply. “The Third Estate is the Nation.”[§] On the other hand, Monseigneur d’Artois, with other Princes of the Blood, publishes, in solemn Memorial to the King, that, if such things be listened to, Privilege, Nobility, Monarchy, Church, State, and Strongbox are in danger.‡ In danger truly: and yet if you do not listen, are they out of danger? It is the voice of all France, this sound that rises. Immeasurable, manifold, as the sound of outbreaking waters: wise were he who knew what to do in it,—if not to fly to the mountains, and hide himself!
How an ideal, all-seeing Versailles Government, sitting there on such principles, in such an environment, would have determined to demean itself at this new juncture; may even yet be a question. Such a Government had felt too well that its long task was now drawing to a close, that, under the guise of these States General, at length inevitable, a new omnipotent Unknown of Democracy was coming into being, in presence of which no Versailles Government either could or should, except in a provisory character, continue extant. To enact which provisory character, so unspeakably important, might its whole faculties but have sufficed; and so a peaceable, gradual, well-conducted Abdication and Dominedimittas have been the issue!
This for our ideal, all-seeing Versailles Government. But for the actual irrational Versailles Government? Alas! that is a Government existing there only for its own behoof, without right, except possession, and now also without might. It foresees nothing, sees nothing; has not so much as a purpose, but has only purposes,—and the instinct whereby all that exists will struggle to keep existing. Wholly a vortex, in which vain counsels, Edition: current; Page:  hallucinations, falsehoods, intrigues, and imbecilities whirl; like withered rubbish in the meeting of winds! The Oeil-de-Boeuf has its irrational hopes, if also its fears. Since hitherto all States General have done as good as nothing, why should these do more? The Commons indeed look dangerous; but on the whole is not revolt, unknown now for five generations, an impossibility? The Three Estates can, by management, be set against each other; the Third will, as heretofore, join with the King, will, out of mere spite and self-interest, be eager to tax and vex the other two. The other two are thus delivered bound into our hands, that we may fleece them likewise. Whereupon, money being got, and the Three Estates all in quarrel, dismiss them, and let the future go as it can! As good Archbishop Loménie was wont to say: “There are so many accidents; and it needs but one to save us.”—How many to destroy us?
Poor Necker in the midst of such an anarchy does what is possible for him. He looks into it with obstinately hopeful face; lauds the known rectitude of the kingly mind; listens indulgent-like to the known perverseness of the queenly and courtly;—emits if any proclamation or regulation, one favouring the Tiers Etat; but settling nothing; hovering afar off rather, and advising all things to settle themselves. . . .[*]
But so, at least, by Royal Edict of the 24th of January,* does it finally, to impatient expectant France, become not only indubitable that national deputies are to meet, but possible (so far and hardly further has the royal regulation gone) to begin electing them.[†]
The next Chapter is “The Election.”
Up then, and be doing! The royal signal-word flies through France, as through vast forests the rushing of a mighty wind. At Parish Churches, in Townhalls, and every House of Convocation; by Bailliages, by Seneschalsies, in whatsoever form men convene, there, with confusion enough, are primary assemblies forming. To elect your electors; such is the form prescribed: then to draw up your “Writ of Plaints and Grievances (Cahier de plaintes et doléances),” of which latter there is no lack.
With such virtue works this Royal January Edict; as it rolls rapidly, in its leathern mails, along these frost-bound highways, towards all the four winds. Like some fiat, or magic spell-word;—which such things do resemble! For always, as it sounds out “at the market-cross,” accompanied with trumpet-blast, presided by Bailli, Seneschal, or other minor functionary, with beefeaters; or, in country churches, is droned forth after sermon, “au prône des messes paroissiales,”[‡] and is registered, posted, and let fly over all the world,—you behold how this multitudinous French people, so long simmering and buzzing in eager expectancy, begins heaping and shaping itself into organic groups. Which organic groups, again, hold smaller organic grouplets: the inarticulate buzzing becomes articulate speaking and acting. By Primary Assembly, and then by Secondary, by “successive elections,” and infinite elaboration and scrutiny, according to prescribed process,—shall the genuine. “Plaints and Grievances” be at length got to paper; shall the fit National Representative be at length laid hold of.
How the whole People shakes itself, as if it had one life, and, in thousand-voiced rumour, Edition: current; Page:  announces that it is awake, suddenly out of long death-sleep, and will thenceforth sleep no more![*] The long looked-for has come at last; wondrous news, of victory, deliverance, enfranchisement, sounds magical through every heart. To the proud strong man it has come, whose strong hands shall no more be gyved, to whom boundless unconquered continents lie disclosed. The weary day-drudge has heard of it, the beggar with his crust moistened in tears. What! To us also has hope reached; down even to us? Hunger and hardship are not to be eternal? The bread we extorted from the rugged glebe, and, with the toil of our sinews, reaped and ground, and kneaded into loaves, was not wholly for another, then, but we also shall eat of it, and be filled? Glorious news (answer the prudent elders), but all too unlikely!—Thus, at any rate, may the lower people, who pay no money taxes and have no right to vote,* assiduously crowd round those that do, and most halls of assembly, within doors and without, seem animated enough.[†]
Has the reader often seen the state of an agitated nation made thus present, thus palpable? How the thing paints itself in all its greatness—the men in all their littleness! and this is not done by reasoning about them, but by showing them. The deep pathos of the last paragraph, grand as it is, is but an average specimen, as, indeed, is the whole passage. In the remaining two volumes and a half there are scarcely five consecutive pages of inferior merit to those we have quoted. The few extracts we can venture to make, will be selected, not for peculiarity of merit, but either as forming wholes in themselves, or as depicting events or situations, with which the reader, it may be hoped, is familiar.† For the more he previously knew of the mere outline of the facts, the more he will admire the writer, whose pictorial and truly poetic genius enables him for the first time to fill up the outline.
Our last extract was an abridged sketch of the State of a Nation: the next shall be a copious narrative of a single event: the far-famed Siege of the Bastille. How much every such passage must suffer by being torn from the context, needs scarcely be said; and nothing that could be said, could, in this case, make it adequately felt. The history of the two previous days occupies twenty-two pages, rising from page to page in interest. We begin at noon on the fourteenth of July:
All morning, since nine, there has been a cry every where. To the Bastille! Repeated “deputations of citizens” have been here, passionate for arms; whom de Launay has got Edition: current; Page:  dismissed by soft speeches through portholes. Towards noon, Elector Thuriot de la Rosière gains admittance; finds de Launay indisposed for surrender; nay disposed for blowing up the place rather. Thuriot mounts with him to the battlements; heaps of paving-stones, old iron and missiles lie piled; cannon all duly levelled; in every embrasure a cannon,—only drawn back a little! But outwards, behold, O Thuriot, how the multitude flows on, welling through every street; tocsin furiously pealing, all drums beating the générale; the Suburb Saint-Antoine rolling hitherward wholly, as one man! Such vision (spectral yet real) thou, O Thuriot, as from thy Mount of Vision, beholdest in this moment: prophetic of what other Phantasmagories, and loud-gibbering Spectral Realities, which thou yet beholdest not, but shalt! “Que voulez-vous?” said de Launay, turning pale at the sight, with an air of reproach, almost of menace. “Monsieur,” said Thuriot, rising into the moral-sublime, “What mean you? Consider if I could not precipate both of us from this height,”—say only a hundred feet, exclusive of the walled ditch![*] Whereupon de Launay fell silent. Thuriot shews himself from some pinnacle, to comfort the multitude becoming suspicious, fremescent, then descends; departs with protest; with warning addressed also to the Invalides,—on whom, however, it produces but a mixed indistinct impression. The old heads are none of the clearest; besides, it is said, de Launay has been profuse of beverages (prodigua des boissons). They think, they will not fire,—if not fired on, if they can help it; but must, on the whole, be ruled considerably by circumstances.
Wo to thee, de Launay, in such an hour, if thou canst not, taking some one firm decision, rule circumstances! Soft speeches will not serve; hard grape-shot is questionable, but hovering between the two is unquestionable. Ever wilder swells the tide of men; their infinite hum waxing ever louder, into imprecations, perhaps into crackle of stray musketry,—which latter, on walls nine feet thick, cannot do execution. The outer drawbridge has been lowered for Thuriot; new deputation of citizens (it is the third, and noisiest of all) penetrates that way into the outer court: soft speeches producing no clearance of these, de Launay gives fire; pulls up his drawbridge. A slight sputter,—which has kindled the too combustible chaos, made it a roaring fire-chaos! Bursts forth Insurrection, at sight of its own blood (for there were deaths by that sputter of fire), into endless rolling explosion of musketry, distraction, execration;—and over head, from the fortress, let one great gun, with its grape-shot, go booming, to shew what we could do. The Bastille is besieged!
On, then, all Frenchmen that have hearts in their bodies! Roar with all your throats, of cartilage and metal, ye Sons of Liberty; stir spasmodically whatsoever of utmost faculty is in you, soul, body or spirit; for it is the hour! Smite, thou Louis Tournay, cartwright of the Marais, old-soldier of the Regiment Dauphine, smite at that outer drawbridge-chain, though the fiery hail whistles round thee! Never, over nave or felloe, did thy axe strike such a stroke. Down with it, man; down with it to Orcus, let the whole accursed Edifice sink thither, and Tyranny be swallowed up for ever! Mounted, some say on the roof of the guard-room, some “on bayonets stuck into joints of the wall,” Louis Tournay smites, brave Aubin Bonnemère (also an old soldier) seconding him: the chain yields, breaks; the huge drawbridge slams down, thundering (avec fracas).[†] Glorious: and yet, alas, it is still but the outworks. The Eight grim Towers, with their Invalides’ musketry, their paving stones and cannon-mouths, still soar aloft intact;—ditch yawning impassable, stone-faced; the inner drawbridge with its back towards us: the Bastille is still to take!
To describe this siege of the Bastille (thought to be one of the most important in History) perhaps transcends the talent of mortals. Could one but, after infinite reading, get to understand so much as the plan of the building! But there is open Esplanade, at the end of the Edition: current; Page:  Rue Saint-Antoine; there are such Forecourts, Cour Avancé, Cour de l’Orme, arched Gateway (where Louis Tournay now fights); then new drawbridges, dormant-bridges, rampart-bastions, and the grim Eight Towers: a labyrinthic mass, high-frowning there, of all ages from twenty years to four hundred and twenty;—beleaguered, in this its last hour, as we said, by mere Chaos come again![*] Ordnance of all calibres; throats of all capacities; men of all plans, every man his own engineer: seldom since the war of Pygmies and Cranes[†] was there seen so anomalous a thing. Half-pay Elie is home for a suit of regimentals; no one would heed him in coloured clothes half-pay. Hulin is haranguing Gardes Françaises in the Place de Grève. Frantic patriots pick up the grape-shots: bear them, still hot (or seemingly so), to the Hôtel-de-Ville:—Paris, you perceive, is to be burnt! Flesselles is “pale to the very lips,” for the roar of the multitude grows deep. Paris wholly has got to the acme of its frenzy; whirled, all ways, by panic madness. At every street-barricade, there whirls simmering, a minor whirlpool,—strengthening the barricade, since God knows what is coming: and all minor whirlpools play distractedly into that grand Fire-Mahlstrom which is lashing round the Bastille.
And so it lashes and it roars. Cholat the wine-merchant has become an impromptu cannoneer. See Georget, of the marine service, fresh from Brest, ply the King of Siam’s cannon.[‡] Singular (if we were not used to the like). Georget lay, last night, taking his ease at his inn;[§] the King of Siam’s cannon also lay, knowing nothing of him, for a hundred years. Yet now, at the right instant, they have got together, and discourse eloquent music. For, hearing what was toward, Georget sprang from the Brest Diligence, and ran. Gardes Françaises also will be here, with real artillery: were not the walls so thick!—Upwards from the Esplanade, horizontally from all neighbouring roofs and windows, flashes one irregular deluge of musketry,—without effect. The Invalides lie flat, firing comparatively at their ease from behind stone; hardly through portholes, shew the tip of a nose. We fall, shot; and make no impression!
Let conflagration rage; of whatsoever is combustible! Guard-rooms are burnt, Invalides’ mess-rooms. A distracted “Perukemaker with two fiery torches” is for burning “the saltpetres of the Arsenal;”[¶]—had not a woman run screaming, had not a Patriot, with some tincture of Natural Philosophy, instantly struck the wind out of him (butt of musket on pit of stomach), overturned barrels, and stayed the devouring element. A young beautiful lady, seized escaping in these Outer Courts, and thought falsely to be de Launay’s daughter, shall be burnt in de Launay’s sight; she lies swooned on a paillasse: but again a Patriot, it is brave Aubin Bonnemère the old soldier, dashes in, and rescues her. Straw is burnt; three cartloads of it, hauled thither, go up in white smoke, almost to the choking of Patriotism itself; so that Elie had, with singed brows, to drag back one cart, and Réole the “gigantic haberdasher” another.[∥] Smoke as of Tophet;[**] confusion as of Babel;[††] noise as of the Crack of Doom![‡‡]
Blood flows; the aliment of new madness. The wounded are carried into houses of the Edition: current; Page:  Rue Cerisaie; the dying leave their last mandate not to yield till the accursed Stronghold fall. And yet, alas, how fall? The walls are so thick! Deputations, three in number, arrive from the Hôtel-de-Ville; Abbé Fauchet (who was one) can say, with what almost superhuman courage of benevolence.* These wave their Town-flag in the arched Gateway: and stand, rolling their drum; but to no purpose. In such Crack of Doom, de Launay cannot hear them, dare not believe them: they return, with justified rage, the whew of lead still singing in their ears. What to do? The Firemen are here, squirting with their fire-pumps on the Invalides’ cannon, to wet the touchholes; they unfortunately cannot squirt so high; but produce only clouds of spray. Individuals of classical knowledge propose catapults. Santerre, the sonorous brewer of the suburb Saint-Antoine, advises rather that the place be fired, by a “mixture of phosphorus and oil-of-turpentine spouted up through forcing pumps:” O Spinola-Santerre,[*] hast thou the mixture ready? Every man his own engineer! And still the fire-deluge abates not; even women are firing, and Turks; at least one woman (with her sweetheart), and one Turk.† Gardes Françaises have come: real cannon, real cannoneers. Usher Maillard is busy, half-pay Elie, half-pay Hulin rage in the midst of thousands.
How the great Bastille Clock ticks (inaudible) in its Inner Court there, at its ease, hour after hour; as if nothing special, for it or the world, were passing! It tolled One when the firing began; and is now pointing towards Five, and still the firing slakes not.—Far down, in their vaults, the seven Prisoners[†] hear muffled din as of earthquakes, their Turnkeys answer vaguely.
Wo to thee, de Launay, with thy poor hundred Invalides! Broglie is distant, and his ears heavy: Besenval hears, but can send no help. One poor troop of Hussars has crept, reconnoitring, cautiously along the quais, as far as the Pont Neuf. “We are come to join you,” said the Captain; for the crowd seems shoreless. A large-headed dwarfish individual, of smoke-bleared aspect, shambles forward, opening his blue lips, for there is sense in him; and croaks: “Alight then, and give up your arms!” The Hussar-Captain is too happy to be escorted to the barriers, and dismissed on parole. Who the squat individual was? Men answer, It is M. Marat, author of the excellent pacific Avis au Peuple![‡] Great truly, O thou remarkable Dogleech, is this thy day of emergence and new-birth, and yet this same day come four years—!—But let the curtains of the Future hang.
What shall de Launay do? One thing only de Launay could have done: what he said he would do. Fancy him sitting, from the first, with lighted taper, within arm’s length of the powder-magazine; motionless, like old Roman Senator, or bronze Lamp-holder; coldly apprising Thuriot, and all men, by a slight motion of his eye, what his resolution was:—Harmless he sat there, while unharmed; but the King’s fortress, meanwhile, could, might, would, or should, in nowise, be surrendered, save to the King’s Messenger: one old man’s life is worthless, so it be lost with honour; but think, ye brawling canaille, how will it be Edition: current; Page:  when a whole Bastille springs skyward!—In such statuesque, taper-holding attitude, one fancies de Launay might have left Thuriot, the red Clerks of the Bazoche, Curé of Saint-Stephen and all the tagrag-and-bobtail of the world, to work their will.
And yet, withal, he could not do it. Hast thou considered how each man’s heart is so tremulously responsive to the hearts of all men, hast thou noted how omnipotent is the very sound of many men? How their shriek of indignation palsies the strong soul, their howl of contumely withers with unfelt pangs? The Ritter Gluck confessed that the ground-tone of the noblest passage, in one of his noblest Operas, was the voice of the populace he had heard at Vienna, crying to their Kaiser, Bread! Bread![*] Great is the combined voice of men, the utterance of their instincts, which are truer than their thoughts, it is the greatest a man encounters, among the sounds and shadows, which make up this World of Time. He who can resist that, has his footing somewhere beyond time. De Launay could not do it Distracted, he hovers between two, hopes in the middle of despair, surrenders not his fortress, declares that he will blow it up, seizes torches to blow it up, and does not blow it. Unhappy old de Launay, it is the death-agony of thy Bastille and thee! Jail, jailoring and jailor, all three, such as they may have been, must finish.
For four hours now has the World-Bedlam roared call it the World-Chimaera, blowing fire! The poor Invalides have sunk under their battlements, or rise only with reversed muskets: they have made a white flag of napkins, go beating the chamade, or seeming to beat, for one can hear nothing. The very Swiss at the Portcullis look weary of firing, disheartened in the fire-deluge, a porthole at the drawbridge is opened, as by one that would speak. See Huissier Maillard, the shifty man! On his plank, swinging over the abyss of that stone-ditch; plank resting on parapet, balanced by weight of patriots,—he hovers perilous such a dove towards such an ark! Deftly, thou shifty Usher, one man already fell, and lies smashed, far down there, against the masonry! Usher Maillard falls not deftly, unerring he walks, with outspread palm. The Swiss holds a paper through his porthole, the shifty Usher snatches it, and returns. Terms of surrender Pardon, immunity to all! Are they accepted?—“Foi d’officier, on the word of an officer,” answers half-pay Hulin,—or half-pay Elie, for men do not agree on it, “they are!” Sinks the drawbridge,—Usher Maillard bolting it when down; rushes-in the living deluge the Bastille is fallen! Victoire! La Bastille est prise!*
We quote next the passage on the Burning of Châteaux. Mr. Carlyle gives rather a different account from what English people have been used to, of that feature of the Revolution:
Starvation has been known among the French commonalty before this, known and familiar. Did we not see them, in the year 1775, presenting, in sallow faces, in wretchedness and raggedness, their Petition of Grievances, and, for answer, getting a brand-new gallows forty feet high?[†] Hunger and darkness, through long years! For look Edition: current; Page:  back on that earlier Paris riot, when a great personage, worn out by debauchery, was believed to be in want of blood-baths; and mothers, in worn raiment, yet with living hearts under it, “filled the public places”[*] with their wild Rachel-cries,—stilled also by the gallows. Twenty years ago, The Friend of Men (preaching to the deaf) described the Limousin peasants as wearing a pain-stricken (souffre-douleur) look, a look past complaint, “as if the oppression of the great were like the hail and the thunder, a thing irremediable, the ordinance of nature.”* And now, if in some great hour, the shock of a falling Bastille should awaken you; and it were found to be the ordinance of art merely; and remediable, reversible!
Or has the reader forgotten that “flood of savages,” which, in sight of the same Friend of Men, descended from the mountains at Mont d’Or? Lank-haired haggard faces; shapes rawboned, in high sabots; in woollen jupes, with leather girdles studded with copper-nails! They rocked from foot to foot, and beat time with their elbows too, as the quarrel and battle which was not long in beginning went on; shouting fiercely; the lank faces distorted into the similitude of a cruel laugh. For they were darkened and hardened: long had they been the prey of excise-men and tax-men, of “clerks with the cold spurt of their pen.” It was the fixed prophecy of our old Marquis, which no man would listen to, that “such Government by Blind-man’s-buff, stumbling along too far, would end by the General Overturn, the Culbute Générale!”[†]
No man would listen, each went his thoughtless way;—and Time and Destiny also travelled on. The Government by Blind-man’s-buff, stumbling along, has reached the precipice inevitable for it. Dull Drudgery, driven on, by clerks with the cold dastard spurt of their pen, has been driven—into a Communion of Drudges! For now, moreover, there have come the strangest confused tidings; by Paris Journals with their paper wings; or still more portentous, where no Journals are,† by rumour and conjecture: Oppression not inevitable, a Bastille prostrate, and the Constitution fast getting ready! Which Constitution, if it be something and not nothing, what can it be but bread to eat?
The traveller, “walking up hill bridle in hand,” overtakes “a poor woman;” the image, as such commonly are, of drudgery and scarcity, “looking sixty years of age, though she is not yet twenty-eight.” They have seven children, her poor drudge and she: a farm, with one cow, which helps to make the children soup, also one little horse, or garron. They have rents and quit-rents, Hens to pay to this Seigneur, Oat-sacks to that; King’s taxes, Statute-labour, Church-taxes, taxes enough;—and think the times inexpressible. She has heard that somewhere, in some manner, something is to be done for the poor. “God send it soon; for the dues and taxes crush us down (nous écrasent)!”‡
Fair prophecies are spoken, but they are not fulfilled. There have been Notables, Edition: current; Page:  Assemblages, turnings out and comings in. Intriguing and manoeuvring; parliamentary eloquence and arguing, Greek meeting Greek in high places,[*] has long gone on; yet still bread comes not. The harvest is reaped and garnered, yet still we have no bread. Urged by despair and by hope, what can Drudgery do, but rise, as predicted, and produce the General Overturn?
Fancy, then, some five full-grown millions of such gaunt figures, with their haggard faces (figures hâves); in woollen jupes, with copper-studded leather girths, and high sabots,—starting up to ask, as in forest-roarings, their washed Upper-Classes, after long unreviewed centuries, virtually this question. How have ye treated us; how have ye taught us, fed us, and led us, while we toiled for you? The answer can be read in flames, over the nightly summer-sky. This is the feeding and leading we have had of you. Emptiness,—of pocket, of stomach, of head, and of heart. Behold there is nothing in us, nothing but what nature gives her wild children of the desert. Ferocity and Appetite, Strength grounded on Hunger. Did ye mark among your Rights of Man, that man was not to die of starvation, while there was bread reaped by him? It is among the Mights of Man.
Seventy-two Châteaus have flamed aloft in the Maconnais and Beaujolais alone this seems the centre of the conflagration, but it has spread over Dauphiné, Alsace, the Lyonnais; the whole south-east is in a blaze. All over the north, from Rouen to Metz, disorder is abroad, smugglers of salt go openly in armed bands the barriers of towns are burnt; toll-gatherers, tax-gatherers, official persons put to flight. “It was thought,” says Young, “the people, from hunger, would revolt,”[†] and we see they have done it Desperate Lackalls, long prowling aimless, now finding hope in desperation itself, everywhere form a nucleus. They ring the Church bell by way of tocsin, and the Parish turns out to the work.* Ferocity, atrocity, hunger and revenge: such work as we can imagine!
Ill stands it now with the Seigneur, who, for example, “has walled up the only Fountain of the Township;” who has ridden high on his chartier and parchment; who has preserved Game not wisely but too well.[‡] Churches also, and Canonries, are sacked, without mercy; which have shorn the flock too close, forgetting to feed it. Wo to the land over which Sansculottism, in its day of vengeance, tramps roughshod,—shod in sabots! Highbred Seigneurs, with their delicate women and littles ones, had to “fly half-naked,” under cloud of night; glad to escape the flames, and even worse. You meet them at the tables-d’hôte of inns; making wise reflections or foolish that “rank is destroyed,” uncertain whither they shall now wend.† The metayer will find it convenient to be slack in paying rent. As for the Tax-gatherer, he, long hunting as a biped of prey, may now get hunted as one, his Majesty’s Exchequer will not “fill up the Deficit,”[§] this season: it is the notion of many that a Patriot Majesty, being the Restorer of French Liberty, has abolished most taxes, though, for their private ends, some men make a secret of it.
Where this will end? In the Abyss, one may prophesy; whither all Delusions, are, at all moments, travelling; where this Delusion has now arrived. For if there be a Faith, from of old, it is this, as we often repeat, that no Lie can live for ever. The very Truth has to change its vesture, from time to time; and be born again. But all Lies have sentence of death written down against them, in Heaven’s Chancery itself, and, slowly or fast, advance incessantly Edition: current; Page:  towards their hour. “The sign of a Grand Seigneur being landlord,” says the vehement plain-spoken Arthur Young, “are wastes, landes, deserts, ling, go to his residence, you will find it in the middle of a forest, peopled with deer, wild boars and wolves. The fields are scenes of pitiable management, as the houses are of misery. To see so many millions of hands, that would be industrious, all idle and starving, oh, if I were legislator of France, for one day, I would make these great lords skip again!”* O Arthur, thou now actually beholdest them skip;—wilt thou grow to grumble at that too?
For long years and generations it lasted, but the time came. Featherbrain, whom no reasoning and no pleading could touch, the glare of the firebrand had to illuminate, there remained but that method. Consider it, look at it! The widow is gathering nettles for her children’s dinner; a perfumed Seigneur, delicately lounging in the Oeil-de-Boeuf, has an alchemy whereby he will extract from her the third nettle, and name it Rent and Law such an arrangement must end. Ought it? But, O most fearful is such an ending! Let those, to whom God, in His great mercy, has granted time and space, prepare another and milder one.[*]
We shall now give a still more striking scene; the opening of the “Insurrection of Women.”[†]
If Voltaire once, in splenetic humour, asked his countrymen. “But you, Gualches, what have you invented?”[‡] they can now answer: the Art of Insurrection. It was an art needed in these last singular times, an art, for which the French nature, so full of vehemence, so free from depth, was perhaps of all others the fittest.
Accordingly, to what a height, one may well say of perfection, has this branch of human industry been carried by France, within the last half century! Insurrection, which, Lafayette thought, might be “the most sacred of duties,”[§] ranks now, for the French people, among the duties which they can perform. Other mobs are dull masses, which roll onwards with a dull fierce tenacity, a dull fierce heat, but emit no light-flashes of genius as they go. The French mob, again, is among the liveliest phenomena of our world. So rapid, audacious; so clear-sighted, inventive, prompt to seize the moment; instinct with life to its finger-ends! That talent, were there no other, of spontaneously standing in queue, distinguishes, as we said, the French People from all Peoples, ancient and modern.
Let the reader confess too that, taking one thing with another, perhaps few terrestrial Appearances are better worth considering than mobs. Your mob is a genuine outburst of Nature, issuing from, or communicating with, the deepest deep of Nature. When so much goes grinning and grimacing as a lifeless Formality, and under the stiff buckram no heart can be felt beating, here once more, if nowhere else, is a Sincerity and Reality. Shudder at it, or even shriek over it, if thou must; nevertheless consider it. Such a Complex of human Forces and Individualities hurled forth, in their transcendental mood, to act and react, on circumstances and on one another; to work out what it is in them to work. The thing they will do is known to no man; least of all to themselves. It is the inflammablest immeasurable Edition: current; Page:  Fire-work, generating, consuming itself. With what phases, to what extent, with what results it will burn off, Philosophy and Perspicacity conjecture in vain.
“Man,” as has been written, “is for ever interesting to man; nay, properly there is nothing else interesting.”[*] In which light also, may we not discern why most Battles have become so wearisome? Battles, in these ages, are transacted by mechanism, with the slightest possible development of human individuality or spontaneity, men now even die, and kill one another, in an artificial manner. Battles ever since Homer’s time, when they were Fighting Mobs, have mostly ceased to be worth looking at, worth reading of, or remembering. How many wearisome bloody Battles does History strive to represent; or even, in a husky way, to sing,—and she would omit or carelessly slur-over this one Insurrection of Women?
A thought, or dim raw-material of a thought, was fermenting all night, universally in the female head, and might explode. In squalid garret, on Monday morning, Maternity awakes, to hear children weeping for bread. Maternity must forth to the streets, to the herb-markets and Bakers’-queues, meets there with hunger-stricken Maternity, sympathetic, exasperative. O we unhappy women! But, instead of Bakers’-queues, why not to Aristocrats’ palaces, the root of the matter? Allons! Let us assemble. To the Hôtel-de-Ville; to Versailles; to the Lanterne!
In one of the Guardhouses of the Quartier Saint-Eustache, “a young woman” seizes a drum,—for how shall National Guards give fire on women, on a young woman? The young woman seizes the drum; sets forth, beating it, “uttering cries relative to the dearth of grains.” Descend, O mothers, descend, ye Judiths, to food and revenge!—All women gather and go, crowds storm all stairs, force out all women the female Insurrectionary Force, according to Camille, resembles the English Naval one; there is a universal “Press of women.”[†] Robust Dames of the Halle, slim mantua-makers, assiduous, risen with the dawn, ancient Virginity tripping to matins, the Housemaid, with early broom; all must go. Rouse ye, O women, the laggard men will not act; they say, we ourselves may act!
And so, like snowbreak from the mountains, for every staircase is a melted brook, it storms, tumultuous, wild-shrilling, towards the Hôtel-de-Ville. Tumultuous, with or without drum-music, for the Faubourg Saint-Antoine also has tucked up its gown, and, with besom-staves, fire-irons, and even rusty pistols (void of ammunition), is flowing on. Sound of it flies, with a velocity of sound, to the utmost Barriers. By seven o’clock, on this raw October morning, fifth of the month, the Townhall will see wonders. Nay, as chance would have it, a male party are already there; clustering tumultuously round some National Patrol, and a Baker who has been seized with short weights. They are there; and have even lowered the rope of the Lanterne. So that the official persons have to smuggle forth the short-weighing Baker by back doors, and even send “to all the Districts” for more force.
Grand it was, says Camille, to see so many Judiths, from eight to ten thousand of them in all, rushing out to search into the root of the matter! Not unfrightful it must have been, ludicro-terrific, and most unmanageable. At such hour the overwatched Three Hundred are not yet stirring, none but some Clerks, a company of National Guards, and M. de Gouvion, the Major-General. Gouvion has fought in America for the cause of civil Liberty, a man of no inconsiderable heart, but deficient in head. He is, for the moment, in his back apartment, Edition: current; Page:  assuaging Usher Maillard, the Bastille-serjeant, who has come, as too many do, with “representations.” The assuagement is still incomplete when our Judiths arrive.
The National Guards form on the outer stairs, with levelled bayonets, the ten thousand Judiths press up, resistless, with obtestations, with outspread hands,—merely to speak to the Mayor. The rear forces them; nay, from male hands in the rear, stones already fly: the National Guard must do one of two things; sweep the Place de Grève with cannon, or else open to right and left. They open; the living deluge rushes in. Through all rooms and cabinets, upwards to the topmost belfry; ravenous; seeking arms, seeking Mayors, seeking justice;—while, again, the better-dressed speak kindly to the Clerks; point out the misery of these poor women; also their ailments, some even of an interesting sort.*
Poor M. de Gouvion is shiftless in this extremity;—a man shiftless, perturbed, who will one day commit suicide. How happy for him that Usher Maillard, the shifty, was there, at the moment, though making representations! Fly back, thou shifty Maillard, seek the Bastille Company; and O return fast with it; above all, with thy own shifty head! For, behold, the Judiths can find no Mayor or Municipal; scarcely, in the topmost belfry, can they find poor Abbé Lefevre the Powder-distributor. Him, for want of a better, they suspend there; in the pale morning light; over the top of all Paris, which swims in one’s failing eyes:—a horrible end? Nay, the rope broke, as French ropes often did, or else an Amazon cut it. Abbé Lefevre falls, some twenty feet, rattling among the leads; and lives long years after, though always with “a tremblement in the limbs.”†
And now doors fly under hatchets: the Judiths have broken the Armoury; have seized guns and cannons, three money-bags, paper-heaps; torches flare: in few minutes, our brave Hôtel-de-Ville which dates from the Fourth Henry, will, with all that it holds, be in flames![*]
Here opens a new chapter.
In flames, truly,—were it not that Usher Maillard, swift of foot, shifty of head, has returned!
Maillard, of his own motion, for Gouvion or the rest would not even sanction him,—snatches a drum; descends the Porch-stairs, ran-tan, beating sharp, with loud rolls, his Rogues’-march: to Versailles! Allons, à Versailles! As men beat on kettle or warming-pan, when angry she-bees, or say, flying desperate wasps, are to be hived; and the desperate insects hear it, and cluster round it,—simply as round a guidance, where there was none, so now these Menads round shifty Maillard, Riding-Usher of the Châtelet. The axe pauses uplifted; Abbé Lefevre is left half-hanged; from the belfry downwards all vomits itself. What rub-a-dub is that? Stanislas Maillard, Bastille-hero, will lead us to Versailles? Joy to thee, Maillard; blessed art thou above Riding-Ushers! Away then, away!
The seized cannon are yoked with seized cart-horses, brownlocked Demoiselle Théroigne, with pike and helmet, sits there as gunneress, “with haughty eye and serene fair countenance;” comparable, some think, to the Maid of Orleans, or even recalling “the idea of Pallas Athene.”‡ Maillard (for his drum still rolls) is, by heaven-rending acclamation, admitted General. Maillard hastens the languid march. Maillard, beating rhythmic, with sharp ran-tan, all along the Quais, leads forward, with difficulty, his Menadic host. Such a host—marched not in silence! The bargeman pauses on the river; all wagoners and Edition: current; Page:  coach-drivers fly; men peer from windows,—not women, lest they be pressed. Sight of sights: Bacchantes, in these ultimate Formalised Ages! Bronze Henri looks on, from his Pont-Neuf; the Monarchic Louvre, Medicean Tuileries see a day not theretofore seen.
And now Maillard has his Menads in the Champs Elysées (fields Tartarean rather); and the Hôtel-de-Ville has suffered comparatively nothing. Broken doors, an Abbé Lefevre, who shall never more distribute powder; three sacks of money, most part of which (for Sansculottism, though famishing, is not without honour) shall be returned:* this is all the damage Great Maillard! A small nucleus of order is round his drum, but his outskirts fluctuate like the mad ocean: for rascality male and female is flowing in on him, from the four winds; guidance there is none but in his single head and two drumsticks.
O Maillard, when, since war first was, had General of Force such a task before him, as thou this day? Walter the Penniless still touches the feeling heart but then Walter had sanction: had space to turn in, and also his Crusaders were of the male sex. Thou, this day, disowned of Heaven and Earth, art General of Menads. Their inarticulate frenzy thou must, on the spur of the instant, render into articulate words, into actions that are not frantic. Fail in it, this way or that! Pragmatical Officiality, with its penalties and law-books, waits before thee, Menads storm behind. If such hewed off the melodious head of Orpheus, and hurled it into the Peneus waters, what may they not make of thee:—thee rhythmic merely, with no music but a sheepskin drum!—Maillard did not fail. Remarkable Maillard, if fame were not an accident, and history a distillation of rumour, how remarkable wert thou!
Scarcely was Maillard gone, when M. de Gouvion’s message to all the Districts, and such tocsin and drumming of the générale, began to take effect. Armed National Guards from every District; especially the Grenadiers of the Centre, who are our old Gardes Françaises, arrive, in quick sequence, on the Place de Grève. An “immense people” is there; Saint-Antoine, with pike and rusty firelock, is all crowding thither, be it welcome or unwelcome. The Centre Grenadiers are received with cheering: “it is not cheers that we want,” answer they gloomily; “the nation has been insulted; to arms, and come with us for orders!” Ha, sits the wind so? Patriotism and Patrollotism are now one!
The Three Hundred have assembled: “all the Committees are in activity,” Lafayette is dictating despatches for Versailles, when a Deputation of the Centre Grenadiers introduces itself to him. The Deputation makes military obeisance, and thus speaks, not without a kind of thought in it. “Mon Général, we are deputed by the Six Companies of Grenadiers. We do not think you a traitor, but we think the Government betrays you, it is time that this end. We cannot turn our bayonets against women crying to us for bread. The people are miserable, the source of the mischief is at Versailles we must go seek the King, and bring him to Paris. We must exterminate (exterminer) the Regiment de Flandre and the Gardes-du-Corps, who have dared to trample on the National Cockade. If the King be too weak to wear his crown, let him lay it down. You will crown his Son, you will name a Council of Regency, and all will go better.”† Reproachful astonishment paints itself on the face of Lafayette, speaks itself from his eloquent chivalrous lips: in vain. “My General, we would shed the last drop of our blood for you; but the root of the mischief is at Versailles, we must go and bring the King to Paris; all the people wish it, tout le peuple le veut.”[*]
My General descends to the outer staircase, and harangues; once more in vain. “To Versailles! To Versailles!” Mayor Bailly, sent for through floods of Sansculottism, attempts academic oratory from his gilt state-coach; realises nothing but infinite hoarse cries Edition: current; Page:  of: “Bread! To Versailles!”[*]—and gladly shrinks within doors. Lafayette mounts the white charger; and again harangues, and reharangues: with eloquence, with firmness, indignant demonstration; with all things but persuasion. “To Versailles! To Versailles!” So lasts it, hour after hour;—for the space of half a day.
The great Scipio Americanus can do nothing; not so much as escape. “Morbleu, mon Général,” cry the Grenadiers serrying their ranks as the white charger makes a motion that way, “You will not leave us, you will abide with us!”[†] A perilous juncture: Mayor Bailly and the Municipals sit quaking within doors, My General is prisoner without: the Place de Grève, with its thirty thousand Regulars, its whole irregular Saint-Antoine and Saint-Marceau, is one minatory mass of clear or rusty steel, all hearts set, with a moody fixedness, on one object. Moody, fixed are all hearts, tranquil is no heart,—if it be not that of the white charger, who paws there, with arched neck, composedly champing his bit; as if no World, with its Dynasties and Eras, were now rushing down. The drizzly day tends westward, the cry is still. “To Versailles!”
Nay now, borne from afar, come quite sinister cries, hoarse, reverberating in longdrawn hollow murmurs, with syllables too like those of Lanterne! Or else, irregular Sansculottism may be marching off, of itself; with pikes, nay with cannon. The inflexible Scipio does at length, by aide-de-camp, ask of the Municipals. Whether or not he may go? A Letter is handed out to him, over armed heads; sixty thousand faces flash fixedly on his, there is stillness and no bosom breathes, till he have read. By Heaven, he grows suddenly pale! Do the Municipals permit? “Permit and even order,”[‡]—since he can no other. Clangour of approval rends the welkin. To your ranks, then; let us march!
It is, as we compute, towards three in the afternoon. Indignant National Guards may dine for once from their haversack, dined or undined, they march with one heart. Paris flings up her windows, claps hands, as the Avengers, with their shrilling drums and shalms tramp by, she will then sit pensive, apprehensive, and pass rather a sleepless night.* On the white charger, Lafayette, in the slowest possible manner, going and coming, and eloquently haranguing among the ranks, rolls onward with his thirty thousand. Saint-Antoine, with pike and cannon, has preceded him, a mixed multitude, of all and of no arms, hovers on his flanks and skirts; the country once more pauses agape. Paris marche sur nous.[§]
We cannot stop here. See the beginning of the next chapter.
For indeed, about this same moment, Maillard has halted his draggled Menads on the last hill-top; and now Versailles, and the Château of Versailles, and far and wide the inheritance of Royalty opens to the wondering eye. From far on the right, over Marly and Saint-Germain-en-Lay; round towards Rambouillet, on the left beautiful all; softly embosomed; as if in sadness, in the dim moist weather! and near before us is Versailles, New and Old; with that broad frondent Avenue de Versailles between,—stately-frondent, broad, 300 feet as men reckon, with four rows of elms; and then the Château de Versailles, ending in royal Parks and Pleasances, gleaming lakelets, arbours, Labyrinths, the Ménagerie, and Great and Little Trianon. High-towered dwellings, leafy pleasant places, where the gods of this lower world abide: whence, nevertheless, black Care cannot be excluded; whither Menadic Hunger is even now advancing, armed with pike-thyrsi!Edition: current; Page: 
Yes, yonder, Mesdames, where our straight frondent Avenue, joined, as you note, by Two frondent brother Avenues from this hand and from that, spreads out into Place Royale and Palace Forecourt, yonder is the Salle des Menus. Yonder an august Assembly sits regenerating France. Forecourt, Grand Court, Court of Marble, Court narrowing into Court you may discern next, or fancy, on the extreme verge of which that glass-dome, visibly glittering like a star of hope, is the—Oeil-de-Boeuf! Yonder, or nowhere in the world, is bread baked for us. But, O Mesdames, were not one thing good: That our cannons, with Demoiselle Théroigne and all show of war, be put to the rear? Submission beseems petitioners of a National Assembly; we are strangers in Versailles,—whence, too audibly, there comes even now sound as of tocsin and générale! Also to put on, if possible, a cheerful countenance, hiding our sorrows; and even to sing? Sorrow, pitied of the Heavens, is hateful, suspicious to the Earth.—So counsels shifty Maillard, haranguing his Menads, on the heights near Versailles.
Cunning Maillard’s dispositions are obeyed. The draggled Insurrectionists advance up the Avenue, “in three columns” among the four Elm-rows; “singing Henri Quatre,” with what melody they can; and shouting Vive le Roi.[*] Versailles, though the Elm-rows are dripping wet, crowds from both sides, with. “Vivent nos Parisiennes, Our Paris ones for ever!”[†]
We skip 20 pages, and pass to a later part of the same incident.
Deep sleep has fallen promiscuously on the high and on the low, suspending most things, even wrath and famine. Darkness covers the Earth.[‡] But, far on the north-east. Paris flings up her great yellow gleam, far into the wet black Night. For all is illuminated there, as in the old July Nights; the streets deserted, for alarm of war, the Municipals all wakeful, patrols hailing, with their hoarse Who-goes. There, as we discover, our poor slim Louison Chabray, her poor nerves all fluttered, is arriving about this very hour. There Usher Maillard will arrive, about an hour hence, “towards four in the morning.” They report, successively, to a wakeful Hôtel-de-Ville what comfort they can report, which again, with early dawn, large comfortable placards, shall impart to all men.[§]
Lafayette, in the Hôtel de Noailles, not far from the Château, having now finished haranguing, sits with his officers consulting: at five o’clock the unanimous best counsel is, that a man so tost and toiled for twenty-four hours and more, fling himself on a bed, and seek some rest. . .
The dull dawn of a new morning, drizzly and chill, had but broken over Versailles, when it pleased Destiny that a Bodyguard should look out of window, on the right wing of the Château, to see what prospect there was in Heaven and in Earth. Rascality male and female is prowling in view of him. His fasting stomach is, with good cause, sour, he perhaps cannot forbear a passing malison on them, least of all can he forbear answering such.
Ill words breed worse till the worst word came, and then the ill deed. Did the maledicent Bodyguard, getting (as was too inevitable) better malediction than he gave, load his musketoon, and threaten to fire, nay, actually fire? Were wise who wist! It stands asserted, to us not credibly. Be this as it may, menaced Rascality, in whinnying scorn, is shaking at all Grates: the fastening of one (some write, it was a chain merely) gives way. Rascality is in the Grand Court, whinnying louder still.
The maledicent Bodyguard, more Bodyguards than he do now give fire, a man’s arm is Edition: current; Page:  shattered. Lecointre will depose that “the Sieur Cardaine, a National Guard without arms, was stabbed.” But see, sure enough, poor Jerôme l’Heritier, an unarmed National Guard he too, “cabinet maker, a saddler’s son, of Paris,”* with the down of youthhood still on his chin,—he reels death-stricken; rushes to the pavement, scattering it with his blood and brains!—Allelew! Wilder than Irish wakes, rises the howl: of pity; of infinite revenge. In few moments, the Grate of the inner and inmost Court, which they name Court of Marble, this too is forced, or surprised, and bursts open: the Court of Marble too is overflowed, up the Grand Staircase, up all stairs and entrances rushes the living Deluge! Deshuttes and Varigny, the two sentry Bodyguards, are trodden down, are massacred with a hundred pikes. Women snatch their cutlasses, or any weapon, and storm-in Menadic:—other women lift the corpse of shot Jerôme; lay it down on the marble steps; there shall the livid face and smashed head, dumb for ever, speak.
Wo now to all Bodyguards, mercy is none for them! Miomandre de Sainte-Marie pleads with soft words, on the Grand Staircase, “descending four steps.”—to the roaring tornado.[*] His comrades snatch him up, by the skirts and belts; literally, from the jaws of Destruction; and slam-to their Door. This also will stand few instants; the panels shivering in, like potsherds. Barricading serves not: fly fast, ye Bodyguards; rabid Insurrection, like the hellhound Chase, uproaring at your heels!
The terrorstruck Bodyguards fly, bolting and barricading; it follows. Whitherward? Through hall on hall: wo, now! towards the Queen’s Suite of Rooms, in the furthest room of which the Queen is now asleep. Five sentinels rush through that long Suite; they are in the Anteroom knocking loud: “Save the Queen!” Trembling women fall at their feet with tears, are answered: “yes, we will die; save ye the Queen!”
Tremble not, women, but haste: for, lo, another voice shouts far through the outermost door, “save the Queen!” and the door is shut. It is brave Miomandre’s voice that shouts this second warning. He has stormed across imminent death to do it; fronts imminent death, having done it. Brave Tardivet du Repaire, bent on the same desperate service, was borne down with pikes; his comrades hardly snatched him in again alive.[†] Miomandre and Tardivet: let the names of those two Bodyguards, as the names of brave men should, live long.
Trembling Maids of Honour, one of whom from afar caught glimpse of Miomandre as well as heard him, hastily wrap the Queen; not in robes of state. She flies for her life, across the Oeil-de-Boeuf; against the main door of which too Insurrection batters. She is in the King’s Apartment, in the King’s arms; she clasps her children amid a faithful few. The Imperial-hearted bursts into mother’s tears: “O my friends, save me and my children, O mes amis, sauvez-moi et mes enfans!”[‡] The battering of Insurrectionary axes clangs audible across the Oeil-de-Boeuf. What an hour!
Yes, friends: a hideous fearful hour; shameful alike to Governed and Governor; wherein Governed and Governor ignominiously testify that their relation is at an end. Rage, which had brewed itself in twenty thousand hearts, for the last four-and-twenty hours, has taken fire: Jerôme’s brained corpse lies there as live-coal. It is, as we said, the infinite Element bursting in, wild-surging through all corridors and conduits.
Meanwhile, the poor Bodyguards have got hunted mostly into the Oeil-de-Boeuf. They may die there, at the King’s threshold; they can do little to defend it. They are heaping Edition: current; Page:  tabourets (stools of honour), benches and all moveables, against the door; at which the axe of Insurrection thunders. But did brave Miomandre perish, then, at the Queen’s outer door? No, he was fractured, slashed, lacerated, left for dead, he has nevertheless crawled hither; and shall live, honoured of loyal France. Remark also, in flat contradiction to much which has been said and sung, that Insurrection did not burst that door he had defended, but hurried elsewhither, seeking new Bodyguards.*
Poor Bodyguards, with their Thyestes’ Opera-Repast! Well for them, that Insurrection has only pikes and axes; no right sieging-tools! It shakes and thunders. Must they all perish miserably, and Royalty with them? Deshuttes and Varigny, massacred at the first inbreak, have been beheaded in the marble court, a sacrifice to Jerôme’s manes. Jourdan with the tile-beard did that duty willingly; and asked, If there were no more? Another captive they are leading round the corpse, with howl-chauntings: may not Jourdan again tuck up his sleeves?
And louder and louder rages Insurrection within, plundering if it cannot kill; louder and louder it thunders at the Oeil-de-Boeuf, what can now hinder its bursting in?—On a sudden it ceases; the battering has ceased! Wild rushing: the cries grow fainter; there is silence, or the tramp of regular steps; then a friendly knocking. “We are the Centre Grenadiers, old Gardes Françaises; open to us, Messieurs of the Garde-du-Corps; we have not forgotten how you saved us at Fontenoy!”† The door is opened; enter Captain Gondran and the Centre Grenadiers, there are military embracings; there is sudden deliverance from death into life.
Strange Sons of Adam! It was to “exterminate” these Gardes-du-Corps that the Centre Grenadiers left home, and now they have rushed to save them from extermination. The memory of common peril, of old help, melts the rough heart; bosom is clasped to bosom, not in war. The King shews himself, one moment, through the door of his apartment, with “Do not hurt my Guards!”—“Soyons frères, let us be brothers!” cries Captain Gondran;[*] and again dashes off, with levelled bayonets, to sweep the Palace clear.
Now too Lafayette, suddenly roused, not from sleep (for his eyes had not yet closed), arrives; with passionate popular eloquence, with prompt military word of command. National Guards, suddenly roused, by sound of trumpet and alarm-drum, are all arriving. The death-knell ceases: the first sky-lambent blaze of Insurrection is got damped down: it burns now, if unextinguished, yet flameless, as charred coals do, and not inextinguishable.[†]
And what (it may be asked) are Mr. Carlyle’s opinions?
If this means, whether is he Tory, Whig, or Democrat; is he for things as they are, or for things nearly as they are;[‡] or is he one who thinks that subverting things as they are, and setting up Democracy is the main thing needful? we answer, he is none of all these. We should say that he has appropriated and made part of his own frame of thought, nearly all that is good in all these several modes of thinking. Edition: current; Page:  But it may be asked, what opinion has Mr. Carlyle formed of the French Revolution, as an event in universal history; and this question is entitled to an answer. It should be, however, premised, that in a history upon the plan of Mr. Carlyle’s, the opinions of the writer are a matter of secondary importance. In reading an ordinary historian, we want to know his opinions, because it is mainly his opinions of things, and not the things themselves, that he sets before us; or if any features of the things themselves, those chiefly, which his opinions lead him to consider as of importance. Our readers have seen sufficient in the extracts we have made for them, to be satisfied that this is not Mr. Carlyle’s method. Mr. Carlyle brings the thing before us in the concrete—clothed, not indeed in all its properties and circumstances, since these are infinite, but in as many of them as can be authentically ascertained and imaginatively realized: not prejudging that some of those properties and circumstances will prove instructive and others not, a prejudgment which is the fertile source of misrepresentation and one-sided historical delineation without end. Every one knows, who has attended (for instance) to the sifting of a complicated case by a court of justice, that as long as our image of the fact remains in the slightest degree vague and hazy and undefined, we cannot tell but that what we do not yet distinctly see may be precisely that on which all turns. Mr. Carlyle, therefore, brings us acquainted with persons, things, and events, before he suggests to us what to think of them: nay, we see that this is the very process by which he arrives at his own thoughts; he paints the thing to himself—he constructs a picture of it in his own mind, and does not, till afterwards, make any logical propositions about it at all. This done, his logical propositions concerning the thing may be true, or may be false; the thing is there, and any reader may find a totally different set of propositions in it if he can; as he might in the reality, if that had been before him.
We, for our part, do not always agree in Mr. Carlyle’s opinions either on things or on men. But we hold it to be impossible that any person should set before himself a perfectly true picture of a great historical event, as it actually happened, and yet that his judgment of it should be radically wrong. Differing partially from some of Mr. Carlyle’s detached views, we hold his theory, or theorem, of the Revolution, to be the true theory; true as far as it goes, and wanting little of being as complete as any theory of so vast and complicated a phenomena can be. Nay, we do not think that any rational creature, now that the thing can be looked at calmly, now that we have nothing to hope or to fear from it, can form any second theory on the matter.
Mr. Carlyle’s view of the Revolution is briefly this: That it was the breaking down of a great Imposture: which had not always been an Imposture, but had been becoming such for several centuries.
Two bodies—the King and Feudal Nobility, and the Clergy—held their exalted stations, and received the obedience and allegiance which were paid to them, by virtue solely of their affording guidance to the people: the one, directing and Edition: current; Page:  keeping order among them in their conjunct operations towards the pursuit of their most important temporal interests; the other, ministering to their spiritual teaching and culture. These are the grounds on which alone any government either claims obedience or finds it: for the obedience of twenty-five millions to a few hundred thousand never yet was yielded to avowed tyranny.
Now, this guidance, the original ground of all obedience, the privileged classes did for centuries give. The King and the Nobles led the people in war, and protected and judged them in peace, being the fittest persons to do so who then existed; and the Clergy did teach the best doctrine, did inculcate and impress upon the people the best rule of life then known, and did believe in the doctrine and in the rule of life which they taught, and manifested their belief by their actions, and believed that, in teaching it, they were doing the highest thing appointed to mortals. So far as they did this, both spiritual and temporal rulers deserved and obtained reverence, and willing loyal obedience. But for centuries before the French Revolution, the sincerity which once was in this scheme of society was gradually dying out. The King and the Nobles afforded less and less of any real guidance, of any real protection to the people; and even ceased more and more to fancy that they afforded any. All the important business of society went on without them, nay, mostly in spite of their hindrance. The appointed spiritual teachers ceased to do their duty as teachers, ceased to practise what they taught, ceased to believe it, but alas, not to cant about it, or to receive wages as teachers of it. Thus the whole scheme of society and government in France became one great Lie: the places of honour and power being all occupied by persons whose sole claim to occupy them was the pretence of being what they were not, of doing what they did not, nor even for a single moment attempted to do. All other vileness and profligacy in the rulers of a country were but the inevitable consequences of this inherent vice in the condition of their existence. And, this continuing for centuries, the government growing ever more and more consciously a Lie, the people ever more and more perceiving it to be such, the day of reckoning, which comes for all impostures, came for this: the Good would no longer obey such rulers, the Bad ceased to be in awe of them, and both together rose up and hurled them into chaos.
Such is Mr. Carlyle’s idea of what the Revolution was. And now, as to the melancholy turn it took, the horrors which accompanied it, the iron despotism by which it was forced to wind itself up, and the smallness of its positive results, compared with those which were hoped for by the sanguine in its commencement.
Mr. Carlyle’s theory of these things is also a simple one: That the men, most of them good, and many of them among the most instructed of their generation, who attempted at that period to regenerate France, failed in what it was impossible that any one should succeed in: namely, in attempting to found a government, to create a new order of society, a new set of institutions and habits, among a people having no convictions to base such order of things upon. That the existing government, habits, state of society, were bad, this the people were thoroughly convinced of, Edition: current; Page:  and rose up as one man, to declare, in every language of deed and word, that they would no more endure it. What was, was bad; but what was good, nobody had determined; no opinion on that subject had rooted itself in the people’s minds; nor was there even any person, or any body of persons, deference for whom was rooted in their minds and whose word they were willing to take for all the rest. Suppose, then, that the twelve hundred members of the Constituent Assembly had even been gifted with perfect knowledge what arrangement of society was best:—how were they to get time to establish it? Or how were they to hold the people in obedience to it when established? A people with no preconceived reverence, either for it or for them; a people like slaves broke from their fetters—with all man’s boundless desires let loose in indefinite expectation, and all the influences of habit and imagination which keep mankind patient under the denial of what they crave for, annihilated for the time, never to be restored but in some quite different shape?
Faith, doubtless, in representative institutions, there was, and of the firmest kind; but unhappily this was not enough; for all that representative institutions themselves can do, is to give practical effect to the faith of the people in something else. What is a representative constitution? Simply a set of contrivances for ascertaining the convictions of the people; for enabling them to declare what men they have faith in; or, failing such, what things the majority of them will insist upon having done to them—by what rule they are willing to be governed. But what if the majority have not faith in any men, nor know even in the smallest degree what things they wish to have done, in what manner they would be governed? This was the condition of the French people. To have made it otherwise was possible, but required time; and time, unhappily, in a Revolution, is not given. A great man, indeed, may do it, by inspiring at least faith in himself, which may last till the tree he has planted has taken root, and can stand alone; such apparently was Solon,* and such perhaps, had he lived, might have been Mirabeau: nay, in the absence of other greatness, even a great quack may temporarily do it; as Napoleon, himself a mixture of great man and great quack, did in some measure exemplify. Revolutions sweep much away, but if any Revolution since the beginning of the world ever founded anything, towards which the minds of the people had not been growing for generations previous, it has been founded by some individual man.
Much more must be added to what has now been said, to make the statement of Mr. Carlyle’s opinions on the French Revolution anything like complete; nor shall Edition: current; Page:  we any further set forth, either such of those opinions as we agree in, or those, far less numerous, from which we disagree. Nevertheless, we will not leave the subject without pointing out what appears to us to be the most prominent defect in our author’s general mode of thinking. His own method being that of the artist, not of the man of science—working as he does by figuring things to himself as wholes, not dissecting them into their parts—he appears, though perhaps it is but appearance, to entertain something like a contempt for the opposite method; and to go as much too far in his distrust of analysis and generalization, as others (the Constitutional party, for instance, in the French Revolution) went too far in their reliance upon it.
Doubtless, in the infinite complexities of human affairs, any general theorem which a wise man will form concerning them, must be regarded as a mere approximation to truth; an approximation obtained by striking an average of many cases, and consequently not exactly fitting any one case. No wise man, therefore, will stand upon his theorem only—neglecting to look into the specialties of the case in hand, and see what features that may present which may take it out of any theorem, or bring it within the compass of more theorems than one. But the far greater number of people—when they have got a formula by rote, when they can bring the matter in hand within some maxim “in that case made and provided” by the traditions of the vulgar, by the doctrines of their sect or school, or by some generalization of their own—do not think it necessary to let their mind’s eye rest upon the thing itself at all; but deliberate and act, not upon knowledge of the thing, but upon a hearsay of it; being (to use a frequent illustration of our author) provided with spectacles, they fancy it not needful to use their eyes.[*] It should be understood that general principles are not intended to dispense with thinking and examining, but to help us to think and examine. When the object itself is out of our reach, and we cannot examine into it, we must follow general principles, because, by doing so, we are not so likely to go wrong, and almost certain not to go so far wrong, as if we floated on the boundless ocean of mere conjecture; but when we are not driven to guess, when we have means and appliances[†] for observing, general principles are nothing more or other than helps towards a better use of those means and appliances.
Thus far we and Mr. Carlyle travel harmoniously together; but here we apparently diverge. For, having admitted that general principles (or formulae, as our author calls them, after old Mirabeau, the crabbed ami des hommes)[‡] are helps to observation, not substitutes for it, we must add, that they are necessary Edition: current; Page:  helps, and that without general principles no one ever observed a particular case to any purpose. For, except by general principles, how do we bring the light of past experience to bear upon the new case? The essence of past experience lies embodied in those logical, abstract propositions, which our author makes so light of:—there, and no where else. From them we learn what has ordinarily been found true, or even recal what we ourselves have found true, in innumerable unnamed and unremembered cases, more or less resembling the present. We are hence taught, at the least, what we shall probably find true in the present case; and although this, which is only a probability, may be lazily acquiesced in and acted upon without further inquiry as a certainty, the risk even so is infinitely less than if we began without a theory, or even a probable hypothesis. Granting that all the facts of the particular instance are within the reach of observation, how difficult is the work of observing, how almost impossible that of disentangling a complicated case, if, when we begin, no one view of it appears to us more probable than another. Without a hypothesis to commence with, we do not even know what end to begin at, what points to enquire into. Nearly every thing that has ever been ascertained by scientific observers, was brought to light in the attempt to test and verify some theory. To start from a theory, but not to see the object through the theory; to bring light with us, but also to receive other light from whencesoever it comes; such is the part of the philosopher, of the true practical seer or person of insight.
Connected with the tendency which we fancy we perceive in our author, to undervalue general principles, is another tendency which we think is perceptible in him, to set too low a value on what constitutions and forms of government can do. Be it admitted once for all, that no form of government will enable you, as our author has elsewhere said, “given a world of rogues, to produce an honesty by their united action;”[*] nor when a people are wholly without faith either in man or creed, has any representative constitution a charm to render them governable well, or even governable at all. On the other hand, Mr. Carlyle must no less admit, that when a nation has faith in any men, or any set of principles, representative institutions furnish the only regular and peaceable mode in which that faith can quietly declare itself, and those men, or those principles, obtain the predominance. It is surely no trifling matter to have a legalized means whereby the guidance will always be in the hands of the Acknowledged Wisest, who, if not always the really wisest, are at least those whose wisdom, such as it may be, is the most available for the purpose. Doubtless it is the natural law of representative governments that the power is shared, in varying proportions, between the really skilfullest and the skilfullest quacks; with a tendency, in easy times, towards the preponderance of Edition: current; Page:  the quacks, in the “times which try men’s souls,”[*] towards that of the true men. Improvements enough may be expected as mankind improve, but that the best and wisest shall always be accounted such, that we need not expect; because the quack can always steal, and vend for his own profit, as much of the good ware as is marketable. But is not all this to the full as likely to happen in every other kind of government as in a representative one? with these differences in favour of representative government, which will be found perhaps to be its only real and universal pre-eminence: That it alone is government by consent—government by mutual compromise and compact; while all others are, in one form or another, governments by constraint: That it alone proceeds by quiet muster of opposing strengths, when that which is really weakest sees itself to be such, and peaceably gives way; a benefit never yet realized but in countries inured to a representative government; elsewhere nothing but actual blows can show who is strongest, and every great dissension of opinion must break out into a civil war.
We have thus briefly touched upon the two principal points on which we take exception, not so much to any opinion of the author, as to the tone of sentiment which runs through the book; a tone of sentiment which otherwise, for justness and nobleness, stands almost unrivalled in the writings of our time. A deep catholic sympathy with human nature, with all natural human feelings, looks out from every page of these volumes; justice administered in love, to all kind of human beings, bad and good; the most earnest exalted feeling of moral distinctions, with the most generous allowances for whatever partial confounding of these distinctions, either natural weakness or perverse circumstances can excuse. No greatness, no strength, no goodness or lovingness, passes unrecognized or unhonoured by him. All the sublimity of “the simultaneous death-defiance of twenty-five millions”[†] speaks itself forth in his pages—not the less impressively, because the unspeakable folly and incoherency, which always in real life are not one step from, but actually pervade, the sublimities of so large a body (and did so most notably in this instance) are no less perceptible to his keen sense of the ludicrous. We presume it is this which has caused the book to be accused, even in print, of “flippancy,” a term which appears to us singularly misapplied.[‡] For is not this mixture and confused entanglement of the great and the contemptible, precisely what we meet with in nature? and would not a history, which did not make us not only see this, but feel it, be deceptive; and give an impression which would be the more false, the greater the general vivacity and vigour of the delineation? And indeed the capacity to see and feel what is loveable, admirable, Edition: current; Page:  in a thing, and what is laughable in it, at the same time, constitutes humour; the quality to which we owe a Falstaff, a Parson Adams, an Uncle Toby, and Mause Headriggs and Barons of Bradwardine without end.[*] You meet in this book with passages of grave drollery (drollery unsought for, arising from the simple statement of facts, and a true natural feeling of them) not inferior to the best in Mr. Peacock’s novels; and immediately or soon after comes a soft note as of dirge music, or solemn choral song of old Greek tragedy, which makes the heart too full for endurance, and forces you to close the book and rest for a while.
Again, there are aphorisms which deserve to live for ever; characters drawn with a few touches, and indicating a very remarkable insight into many of the obscurest regions of human nature; much genuine philosophy, disguised though it often be in a poetico-metaphysical vesture of a most questionable kind; and, in short, new and singular but not therefore absurd or unpractical views taken of many important things. A most original book; original not least in its complete sincerity, its disregard of the merely conventional: every idea and sentiment is given out exactly as it is thought and felt, fresh from the soul of the writer, and in such language (conformable to precedent or not) as is most capable of representing it in the form in which it exists there. And hence the critics have begun to call the style “affected;”[†] a term which conventional people, whether in literature or society, invariably bestow upon the unreservedly natural.*
In truth, every book which is eminently original, either in matter or style, has a hard battle to fight before it can obtain even pardon for its originality, much less applause. Well, therefore, may this be the case when a book is original, not in matter only or in style only, but in both; and, moreover, written in prose, with a Edition: current; Page:  fervour and exaltation of feeling which is only tolerated in verse, if even there. And when we consider that Wordsworth, Coleridge, and others of their time, whose deviation from the beaten track was but a stone’s throw compared with Mr. Carlyle, were ignominiously hooted out of court by the wise tribunals which in those days dispensed justice in such matters, and had to wait for a second generation before the sentence could be reversed, and their names placed among the great names of our literature, we might well imagine that the same or a worse fate awaits Mr. Carlyle; did we not believe that those very writers, aided by circumstances, have made straight the way[*] for Mr. Carlyle and for much else. This very phenomenon, of the different estimation of Wordsworth and Coleridge, now, and thirty years ago, is among the indications of one of the most conspicuous new elements which have sprung up in the European mind during those years: an insatiable demand for realities, come of conventionalities and formalities what may; of which desire the literary phasis is, a large tolerance for every feeling which is natural and not got-up, for every picture taken from the life and not from other pictures, however it may clash with traditionary notions of elegance or congruity. The book before us needs to be read with this catholic spirit; if we read it captiously, we shall never have done finding fault. But no true poet, writing sincerely and following the promptings of his own genius, can fail to be contemptible to any who desire to find him so; and if even Milton’s Areopagitica,[†] of which now, it would seem, no one dares speak with only moderate praise, were now first to issue from the press, it would be turned from with contempt by every one who will think or speak disparagingly of this work of Mr. Carlyle.
We add one short extract more from near the end of the book; a summing up, as it were, of the morality of the great catastrophe:
The Convention, now grown Anti-Jacobin, did, with an eye to justify and fortify itself, publish lists of what the Reign of Terror had perpetrated—lists of persons guillotined. The lists, cries splenetic Abbé Montgaillard, were not complete. They contain the names of—how many persons thinks the reader?—Two Thousand all but a few. There were above four thousand, cries Montgaillard, so many were guillotined, fusilladed, noyaded, done to dire death; of whom nine hundred were women.[‡] It is a horrible sum of human lives, M. l’Abbé; some ten times as many shot rightly on a field of battle, and one might have had his Glorious-Victory with Te Deum. It is not far from the two-hundredth part of what perished in the entire Seven Years’ War. By which Seven Years’ War, did not the great Fritz wrench Silesia from the great Theresa; and a Pompadour, stung by epigrams, satisfy herself that she could not be an Agnes Sorel? The head of man is a strange vacant sounding-shell, M. l’Abbé, and studies Cocker to small purpose.[§]Edition: current; Page: 
But what if History, somewhere on this planet, were to hear of a Nation, the third soul of whom had not, for thirty weeks each year, as many third-rate potatoes as would sustain him? History, in that case, feels bound to consider that starvation is starvation: that starvation from age to age presupposes much: History ventures to assert that the French Sansculotte of ninety-three, who, roused from long death-sleep, could rush at once to the frontiers and die fighting for an immortal Hope and Faith of Deliverance for him and his, was but the second-miserablest of men! The Irish Sans-potato, had he not senses then; nay, a soul? In his frozen darkness, it was bitter for him to die famishing; bitter to see his children famish. It was bitter for him to be a beggar, a liar, and a knave. Nay, if that dreary Greenland-wind of benighted Want, perennial from sire to son, had frozen him into a kind of torpor and numb callosity, so that he saw not, felt not, was this, for a creature with a soul in it, some assuagement, or the cruellest wretchedness of all?
Such things were—such things are: and they go on in silence peaceably, and Sansculottisms follow them. History, looking back over this France through long times, back to Turgot’s time, for instance, when dumb Drudgery staggered up to its King’s Palace, and in wide expanse of sallow faces, squalor and winged raggedness, presented, hieroglyphically, its Petition of Grievances, and for answer got hanged on a “new gallows forty feet high,”[*]—confesses, mournfully, that there is no period to be met with, in which the general twenty-five millions of France suffered less than in this period which they name Reign of Terror! But it was not the Dumb Millions that suffered here; it was the Speaking Thousands, and Hundreds, and Units, who shrieked, and published, and made the world ring with their wail, as they could and should that is the grand peculiarity. The frightfullest Births of Time are never the loud speaking ones, for these soon die, they are the silent ones which can live from century to century! Anarchy, hateful as Death, is abhorrent to the whole nature of man, and so must itself soon die.
Wherefore let all men know what of depth and of height is still revealed in man, and, with fear and wonder, with just sympathy and just antipathy, with clear eye and open heart, contemplate it and appropriate it; and draw innumerable inferences from it. This inference, for example, among the first.—That “if the gods of this lower world will sit on their glittering thrones, indolent as Epicurus’ gods, with the living Chaos of Ignorance and Hunger weltering uncared for at their feet, and smooth Parasites preaching Peace, peace, when there is no peace,” then the dark chaos, it seems, will rise. . . . That there be no second Sansculottism in our earth for a thousand years, let us understand well what the first was: and let Rich and Poor of us go and do otherwise.[†]
Dissertations and Discussions, 2nd ed. (1867), I, 211-83, where the title appears as “Armand Carrel. / Biographical Notices by MM. Nisard and Littré”; the title is footnoted, “London and Westminster Review, October 1837.” Reprinted from L&WR, XXXVIII (Oct., 1837), 66-111, where it is headed: “Art IV.—Armand Carrel, his Life and Character. From the French of D. Nisard. Preceded by a Biographical Sketch, abridged from the French of E. Littré. London: Hooper (not yet published).” (For reasons given in the Textual Introduction, cii above, references in the text are not to this work, but to Jean Marie Napoléon Désiré Nisard, “Armand Carrel,” La Revue des Deux Mondes, XII [Oct., 1837], 5-54; and Emile Littré, “Notice biographique,” in Oeuvres littéraires et économiques d’Armand Carrel, ed. Charles Romey [Paris: Guillaumin and Lecou, 1854], 5-66.) Running titles: “Armand Carrel.” Signed “A.” Also pamphlet offprint, with a title page reading: “Life and Character / of / Armand Carrel. / From the ‘London and Westminster Review,’ No. XI and LIV. / London: / Printed by C. and W. Peynell, / Little Pulteney Street. / MDCCCXXXVII.” Repaginated -47,  blank. Identified in Mill’s bibliography as “An article entitled ‘Armand Carrel’ in the same number of the same review [as ‘Parties and the Ministry’]” (MacMinn, 49). A copy of the pamphlet reprint in Mill’s library, Somerville College, has no corrections or emendations.
The following text, taken from the 2nd ed. of D&D (the last in Mill’s lifetime) is collated with that in D&D, 1st ed., the pamphlet offprint, and that in the L&WR. The two long quotations from Mill’s letter of 25 Nov., 1833, are collated with the original as printed in Earlier Letters. In the footnoted variants, “33” indicates the letter to Carlyle in Earlier Letters, “371” indicates L&WR, “372” indicates the pamphlet offprint, “59” indicates D&D, 1st ed. (1859), and “67” indicates D&D, 2nd ed. (1867).
For comment on the essay, see lxii-lxvii and c-ciii above.
athese little works area the tribute paid by btwob distinguished cwritersc to one whose memory, though he was but shown to the world, the world will not, and must not be suffered to let die.[*] Cut off at the age of thirty-six by that union of misfortune and fault (Schicksal und eigene Schuld)[†] to which it has been asserted that all human miscarriages are imputable, he lived long enough to show that he was one of the few, never dso few as in these latter timesd, who seem raised up to turn the balance of events at some trying moment in the history of nations, and to have or to want whom, at critical periods, is the salvation or the destruction of an era.
eWe seize fthef opportunity to contribute what we can, as well from our own knowledge as from the materials supplied by MM. Nisard and Littré, towards a true picture of a man, more worthy to be known, and more fit to be imitated, than any who has occupied a position in European politics for many years. It has not been given to those who knew Carrel, to see him in any of those situations of outward power and honour, to which he would certainly have forced his way, and which, instead of being honours to ghimg, it was reserved for him perhaps to rescue from ignominy. The man whom not only his friends but his enemies, and all France, would have proclaimed President or Prime Minister with one voice, if any of the changes of this changeable time had again given ascendancy to the people’s side, is goneh; and his place is not likely to be again filled in our time. But there iarei left to us his memory, and his example jWe can stillj remember and meditate Edition: current; Page:  on what he was, how much and under how great disadvantages he accomplished, and what he would have been. We can learn from the study of him, what we all, but especially those of kindred principles and aspirations, must be, if we would make those principles effectual for good, those aspirations realities, and not the mere dreams of an idle and self-conceited imagination.
Who, then, and what was Armand Carrel? “An editor of a republican newspaper,” exclaims some English Tory, in a voice kbyk which it is doubtful whether the word “republican” or “newspaper” is uttered linl the most scornful intonation. Carrel was the editor of a republican newspaper: his glory consists precisely in this, that being that, and by being that, he was mthe greatest political leader of his timem. And we do not mean by a political leader one who can create and keep together a political party, or who can give it importance in the State, or nevenn who can make it deserve importance, but who can do any and every one of all these, and do them with an easy superiority of genius and character, which renders competition hopeless. Such was Carrel, Ripened by years and favoured by opportunity, he might have been the Mirabeau or the Washington of his age, or both in one.
The life of Carrel may be written in a few sentences. “Armand Carrel,” says M. Littré,
was a sub-lieutenant and a journalist: in that narrow circle was included the life of a man who, dying in the flower of youth, leaves a name known to all France, and lamented even by his political enemies. His celebrity came not from the favour of governments, nor from those elevated functions which give an easy opportunity of acquiring distinction, or, at the least, notoriety. Implicated in the conspiracies against the Restoration, an officer in the service of the Spanish Constitution, taken prisoner in Catalonia and condemned to death; bold in the opposition before the July Revolution, still bolder after it; he was always left to his own resources, so as never to pass for more than his intrinsic worth: no borrowed lustre was ever shed on him; he had no station but that which he created for himself. Fortune, the inexplicable chance which distributes cannon-balls in a battle, and which has so large a dominion in human affairs, did little or nothing for him, he had no “star,” no “run of luck;” and no one ever was less the product of favourable circumstances: he sought them not, and they came not. Force of character in difficult times, admirable talents as a writer at all times, nobleness of soul towards friends and enemies; these were what sustained him, and gave him in all quarters and in all times, not only an elevated place in the esteem of men, but an ascendancy over them.[*]
Thus far M. Littré, a man who does not cast his words at random—a witness, whose opinions indeed are those of Carrel, but whose life is devoted to other pursuits than politics, and whose simplicity and purity of character, esteemed by Edition: current; Page:  men who do not share his opinions, peculiarly qualified him to declare of Carrel that which othe besto men in France, of whatever party or shade of opinion, feel, M. Nisard, the representative of a much fainter shade of liberalism than M. Littré, does but fill up the same outline with greater richness of detail, with the addition of many interesting traits of personal character, and with a more analytical philosophy. From the two together we have learned the facts of the early life of Carrel, and many particulars of his habits and disposition, which could be known only to familiar companions. On the great features which make up a character, they show us almost nothing in Carrel which we had not ourselves seen in him: but, in what they have communicated, we find all those details which justify our general idea; and their recollections bear to our own the natural relation between likenesses of the same figure taken from different points. We can therefore, with increased confidence, attempt to describe what Carrel was; what the world has lost in him, and in what it mayp profit by his example.
The circumstance most worthy of commemoration in Carrel is not that he was an unblemished patriot in a time of general political corruption; others have been that, others are so even at present. Nor is it that he was the first political writer of his time: he could not have been this, if he had not been something to which his character as a writer was merely subsidiary. There are no great writers but those whose qualities as writers are built upon their qualities as human beings—are the mere manifestation and expression of those qualities: all besides is hollow and meretricious, and if a writer who assumes a stile for the sake of stile, ever acquires a place in literature, it is in so far as he qassumesq the stile of those rwhose stile is not assumedr; of those to whom language altogether is but the utterance of stheir feelings, or the means to their practical endss.
Carrel was one of these; and it may even be said that tbeing a writer was to him merely an accident. He was neither by character nor by preference a man of speculation and discussion, for whom the press, if still but a means, is the best and often the sole means of fulfilling his vocation. The career of an administrator or that of a umilitary commanderu would have been more to Carrel’s taste, and in either of them he would vprobablyv have excelled. The true idea of Carrel is not that of a literary man, but of a man of action, using the press as his instrument; and in no other aspect does his character deserve more to be studied by those of all countries, whow are qualified to resemble him.Edition: current; Page: 
He was a man called to take an active part in the government of mankind, and needing an engine with which to move them. Had his lot been cast in the cabinet or in the camp, of the cabinet or of the camp he would have made his instrument. Fortune did not give him such a destiny, and his xprinciplesx did not permit him the means by which he could have acquired it. Thus excluded from the region of deeds, he had still that of words; and words are deeds, and the cause of deeds. Carrel was not the first to see, but he was the first practically to realize, the new destination of the political press in modern times. It is now beginning to be felt that journalism is to modern Europe what political oratory was to Athens and Rome, and that, to become what it ought, it should be wielded by the same sort of men: Carrel seized the sceptre of journalism, and with that, as with the ybatony of a general-in-chief,z ruled amidst innumerable difficulties and reverses that “fierce democracy,”[*] which he perhaps alone of all men living, trampled upon and irritated as it has been, could have rendered at once gentle and apowerfula.
Such a position did Carrel occupy, for a few short years in the history of his time. A brief survey of the incidents of his career and the circumstances of his country, will show how he bacquittedb himself in this situation. That he committed no mistakes in it, we are nowise concerned to prove. We may even, with the cmodestyc befitting a distant observer, express our opinion as to what his mistakes were. But we have neither known nor read of any man of whom dit could be saidd with assurance that, in Carrel’s circumstances and at his years, he would have committed fewer; and we are certain that there ehavee been none whose achievements would have been greater, for whosef errors nobler or more nobly redeemed.
Carrel was the son of a merchant of Rouen. He was intended for business, but his early passion for a military career induced his father (a decided royalist) to send him to the Ecole Militaire of St. Cyr. “His literary studies,” says M. Nisard,
were much neglected. He himself has told me that, although one of the best scholars in capacity, he was one of the most moderate in attainment. His military predilections showed themselves, even at school, in the choice of his reading. His favourite authors were the Edition: current; Page:  historians, especially where they treated of military events.g All other studies he was impatient of, and they profited him little. I have heard him say, however, that Virgil made an impression on him, and he has sometimes repeated verses to me which his memory had retained unforgotten, though never again read. . . . After leaving school, and while preparing for St. Cyr, he directed his studies exclusively to history and the strategic art. At St. Cyr he devoted to the same occupation all the time which the duties of the place allowed him.[*]
On leaving St. Cyr he entered the army as a sub-lieutenant, the grade answering in the French army to that of an ensign in the English.
In this early direction of the tastes and pursuits of Carrel, we may trace the cause of almost his only defects, and of his greatest qualities. From it he doubtless derived the practicalness (if the word may be pardoned) in which the more purely speculative Frenchmen of the present day (constituting a large proportion of the most accomplished minds of our age) it may be said without disrespect to them, are generally deficient; and of which in England we have too much, with but little of the nobler quality which in Carrel it served to temper and rein in. It is easy to be practical, in a society all practical: there is a practicalness which comes by nature, to those who know hlittleh and aspire to nothing, exactly this is the sort which the vulgar form of the English mind exemplifies, and which all the English institutions of education, whatever else they may teach, are studiously conservative of, but the atmosphere which kills so much thought, sobers what it spares, and the English who think at all, speculating under the restraining influence of such a medium, are guided more often than the thinkers of other countries into the practicalness which, instead of chaining up the spirit of speculation, lights its path and makes safe its footsteps.
What is done for the best English thinkers by the influences of the society in which they igrow upi, was done for Carrel by the inestimable advantage of an education and pursuits which had for their object not thinking or talking, but doing. jHe who thinks without any experience in action, or without having action perpetually in view; whose mind has never had anything to do but to form conceptions, without ever measuring itself or them with realities,j may be a great man; thoughts may originate with him, for which the world may bless him to the latest generationsk. There ought to be such men, for they see many things which Edition: current; Page:  even wise and strong minds, which are engrossed with active life, never can be the first to see. But the man to lead his age is he who has been familiar with thought directed to the accomplishment of immediate objects, and who has been accustomed to see his theories brought early and promptly to the test of experiment; the man who has seen at the end of every theorem to be investigated, a problem to be solved; who has learned early to weigh the means which can be exerted against the obstacles which are to be overcome, and to make an estimate of means and of obstacles habitually a part of all his theories that have for their object practice, either at the present or at a more distant period. This was essentially Carrel’s distinguishing character among lthe popular party in his own country;l and it is a side of his character which, naturally perhaps, has hardly yet been enough appreciated in France. In it he resembled Napoleon, who had learnt it in the same school, and who by it mastered and ruled, as far as so selfish a man could, his country and age. But Napoleon’s really narrow and imperfectly cultivated mind, and his peremptory will, turned aside contemptuously from all speculation, and all attempt to stand up for speculation, as bavardagem. Carrel, born at a more fortunate time, and belonging to a generation whose best heads and hearts war and the guillotine had not swept away, had an intellect capacious enough to appreciate and sympathize with whatever of truth nandn ultimate value to mankind there might be in all theories, together with a rootedly practical turn of mind, which seized and appropriated to itself such part only of them as might be realized, or at least might be hoped to be realized, in his own day. As with all generous spirits, his hopes sometimes deceived him as to what his country was ripe for; but a short experience always corrected his mistake, and warned him to point his efforts towards some more attainable end.
Carrel entered into life, and into a military life, at a peculiar period. By foreign force, and under circumstances humiliating to the military pride of the nation, the Bourbons had been brought back. With them had returned the emigrants with their feudal prejudices, the ultra-Catholics with their bigotry and pretensions to priestly domination. Louis XVIII, taking the advice of Fouché, though in a different sense from that in which it was given, had lain down in the bed of Napoleon, “s’était couché dans les draps de Napoléon”—had preserved that vast net-work of administrative tyranny which did not exist under the old French government, which the Convention created for a temporary purpose, and which Napoleon made permanent;[*] that system of obureaucracyo, which leaves no free agent in all Edition: current; Page:  France, except the man at Paris who pulls the wires; which regulates from a distance of several hundred miles, the repairing of a shed or the cutting down of a tree, and allows not the people to stir a finger even in their local affairs, except indeed by such writing and printing as a host of restrictive laws permitted to them, and (if they paid 300 francs or upwards in direct taxes) by electing and sending to Paris the two-hundredth or three-hundredth pfractionalp part of a representative, there to vote such things as the Charter of Louis XVIII placed within the competency of the national council.[*] That Charter, extorted from the prudence of Louis by the necessities of the times, and “broken ere its ink was dried,” alone stood between France and a dark, soul-stifling and mind-stifling despotism, combining qsome ofq the worst of the evils which the Revolution and Napoleon had cleared away, with the worst of those which they had brought.
By a combination of good sense and rfollyr, of which it is difficult to say which swass most profitable to the cause of freedom, the Bourbons saw the necessity of giving a representative constitution, but not that of allying themselves with the class in whose hands that constitution had placed so formidable a power. They would have found them tractable enough; witness the present ruler of France,[†] who has “lain down in the sheets of Napoleon” with considerably more effect. The Constitution of 1814, like that of 1830 which followed it, gave a share of the governing power exclusively to the rich:[‡] if the Bourbons would but have allied themselves with the majority of the rich instead of the minority, they would have been on the throne now, and with as absolute a power as any of their predecessors, so long as they conformed to that condition. But they would not do it: they would not see that the only aristocracy possible in a wealthy community, is an aristocracy of wealth: Louis during the greater part of his reign, and Charles during the whole of his, bestowed exclusively upon the classes which had been powerful once, those favours which, had they been tsharedt with the classes which were powerful unowu, would have rendered the majority of those classes the most devoted adherents of the throne. For the sake of classes who had no longer vthe principalv weight in the country, and whose power was associated with the recollections of Edition: current; Page:  wallw which the country xmostx detested, the Bourbons not only slighted the new aristocracy, but kept both them and the people in perpetual alarm, both for ywhatevery was dearest to them in the institutions which the Revolution had given, and which had been cheaply purchased by the sacrifice of a whole generation, and even for the “material interests”[*] (such as those of the possessors of national property) which had grown out of the Revolution, and were identified with it. The Chamber of Deputies, therefore, or, as it might have been called, the new Estate of the Rich, worked like the Comitia Centuriata of the Roman Commonwealth, which, in this respect, it resembled. Like the Comitia Centuriata, it was, from the principle of its constitution, the organ of the rich; and like that, it served as an organ for popular purposes so long as the predominant section of the rich, being excluded from a direct share in the government, had a common interest with the people. This result might have been foreseen; but the Bourbons either did not foresee it, or thought themselves strong enough to prevent it.
At the time, however, when Carrel first entered into life, any one might have been excused for thinking that the Bourbons, if they had made a bad calculation for the ultimate zdurationz of their dynasty, had made a good one for aits present interestsa. They had bput down,b with triumphant success, a first attempt at resistance by the new aristocracy.
A Chamber of furious royalists, elected immediately after the second restoration (afterwards with affectionate remembrance called the chambre introuvable, from the impossibility of ever cagainc getting a similar one), had sanctioned or tolerated excesses against the opposite party, worthy only of the dmostd sanguinary times of the Revolution; and had carried their enterprises in behalf of feudalism and bigotry to a pitch of rashness by which Louis, who was no fanatic, was seriously alarmed: and in September 1817, amidst the applauses of all France, he dissolved the Chamber, and called to his councils a semi-liberal ministry. The indignation and alarm excited by the conduct of the royalists, produced a reaction among the classes possessed of property, in favour of liberalism. By the law as it then stood, a fifth part of the Chamber went out every year:[†] the elections in 1818 produced Edition: current; Page:  hardly any but liberals; those in 1819 did the same; and those of 1820, it was evident, would give the liberal party a majority. The electoral body too, as, fortunately, electoral bodies are wont, had not confined its choice to men who represented exactly its own interests and sentiments, but had mingled with them the ablest and most honoured of its temporary allies, the defenders of the “good old cause.”[*] The new aristocracy could still hear, and not repudiate, the doctrines of 1789, pronounced with the limitations dictated by experience, from the eloquent lips of Foy, and Benjamin Constant, and Manuel. It could still patronize a newspaper press, efree for the first time since 1792e, which raised its voice for those doctrines, and for an interpretation of the charter in the spirit of them. Even among the monied classes themselves there arose, as in all aristocracies there will, some men whose talents or sympathies make them the organs of a better cause than that off aristocracy. Casimir Périer had not yet sunk the defender of the people in the defender of his counting-house; and Laffitte was then what he is still, and will be to the end of his disinterested and generous career. Among the new members of the legislature there was even found the Abbé Grégoire, one of the worthiest and most respected characters in France, but a gconspicuous member of the Montagne party in the Conventiong.*
This rapid progress of the popular party to ascendancy was not what Louis had intended: he wished to keep the liberals as a counterpoise to the priestly party, but it never entered into his purposes that they should predominate in the legislature. His “système de bascule”, literally hsystem of see-sawh, of playing off one party against another, and maintaining his influence by throwing it always into the scale of the weakest, required that the next move should be to the royalist side. Demonstrations were therefore made towards a modification of the electoral law; to take effect while the anti-popular party had still a majority, before the dreaded period of the next annual elections. At this crisis, when the fate of parties hung trembling in the balance, the Duc de Berri, heir presumptive to the throne, fell by the hand of an assassin. This catastrophe, industriously imputed to the renewed propagation of revolutionary principles, excited general horror and alarm. The new aristocracy recoiled from their alliance with liberalism. The crime of Louvel was as serviceable to the immediate objects of those against whom it was Edition: current; Page:  perpetrated, as the crime of Fieschi has been since. A change of ministry took place; laws were passed restrictive of the press, and a law which, while it kept within the letter of the charter by not disfranchising any of the electors, created within the electoral body a smaller body returning an additional number of representatives.[*] The elections which took place in consequence, gave a decided majority to the feudal and priestly party; an ultra-royalist ministry was appointed; and the triumph of the iretrogradesi, the party of ancient privileges, seemed assured.
It is incident to a country accustomed to a state of revolution, that the party which is defeated by peaceful means will try violent ones. The popular party in France was now in a similar situation to the popular party in England during the royalist reaction which followed the dissolution of the last parliament of Charles II. Like them, they had recourse to what Carrel afterwards, in his History of the Counter-Revolution in England, called “the refuge of weak parties,” conspiracy.[†] The military revolutions in Spain, Portugal, and Naples, had jinspiredj many ardent spirits in France kwith a desire to follow the examplek: from 1820 to 1822 lCarbonarol societies spread themselves over France, and military conspiracies continually broke out and were suppressed. It would have been surprising if Carrel, whose favourite heroes even at school were Hoche, Marceau, and Kléber, whose democratic opinions had attracted the notice of his superiors at St. Cyr, and to whose youthful aspirations no glory attainable to him appeared equal to that of the successful general of a liberating army, had not been implicated in some of these conspiracies. Like almost all the bravest and most patriotic of the young men in his rank of society entertaining liberal opinions, he paid his tribute to the folly of the day; and he had a narrow escape from discovery, of which M. Littré gives the following narrative.
Carrel was a sub-lieutenant in the 29th of the line, in 1821, when conspiracies were forming in every quarter against the Restoration. The 29th was in garrison at Béfort and New Brisach. Carrel was quartered in the latter place. He was engaged in the plot since called the conspiracy of Béfort. The officers at New Brisach who were in the secret, were discouraged by repeated delays, and would not stir until the insurrection should have exploded at Béfort. It was indispensable, however, that they should move as soon as the blow should have been successfully struck in the latter place. The Grand Lodge (of Edition: current; Page:  Carbonari) had sent from Paris several conspirators, one of them. M. Joubert, had come to New Brisach, to see what was to be done; Carrel offered to go with him to Béfort, to join in the movement, and bring back the news to New Brisach. Both set off, and arrived at Béfort towards midnight. The plot had been discovered, several persons had been arrested, the conspirators were dispersed. Carrel rode back to New Brisach at full gallop, and arrived early in the morning. He had time to return to his quarters, put on his uniform, and attend the morning exercise, without any one’s suspecting that he had been out all night. When an inquiry was set on foot to discover the accomplices of the Béfort conspirators, and especially to find who it was that had gone thither from New Brisach, nothing could be discovered, and suspicion rested upon any one rather than Carrel, for his careless levity of manner had made his superiors consider him a man quite unlikely to be engaged in plots.[*]
Nine years later, M. Joubert was heading the party which stormed the Louvre on the 29th of July, and Carrel had signed the protest of the forty-two journalists, and given, by an article in the National, the first signal of resistance.[†] This is not the only instance in the recent history of France, when, as during the first French Revolution, names lost sight of for a time, meet us again at the critical moments.
These attempts at insurrection did the Bourbons no damage, but caused them some uneasiness with regard to the fidelity of the army. The counter-revolutionary party, however, was now under the conduct of the only man of judgment and sagacity who has appeared in that party since the Revolution; M. de Villèle. This minister madopted (though, it is said, with misgiving and reluctance)m the bold idea of conquering the disaffection of the army by sending it to fight against its principles. He knew that with men in the position and in the state of feeling in which it was, all depended on the first step, and that if it could but be induced to fire one shot for the drapeau blanc against the tricolore, its implicit obedience might be reckoned on for a long time to come.n Accordingly, constitutional France took the field against constitutional government in Spain, as constitutional England had done before in France—in order that Ferdinand, save the mark! might be restored to the enjoyment of liberty: and the history of the campaign, by which he was restored to it, ofurnisheso a curious picture of a victorious army putting down by force those with whom it sympathized, and protecting them against the vengeance of allies whom it despised and detested.
At this period, political refugees, and other ardent lovers of freedom, especially military men, flocked to the Spanish standard; even England, as it may be remembered, contributing her share, in the persons of Sir Robert Wilson and others. Carrel, already obnoxious by his opinions to his superior officers, and now placed between the dictates of his conscience and those of military discipline, Edition: current; Page:  acted like Major Cartwright at the opening of the American war: he threw up his commission rather than fight in a cause he pabhorredp. Having done this, he did what Major Cartwright did not: he joined the opposite party, passed over to Barcelona in a Spanish fishing-boat, and took service in the “foreign liberal legion,”[*] commanded by a distinguished officer, Colonel Pachiarotti, an Italian exile.
We shall not trace Carrel through the vicissitudes of this campaign, which was full of hardships, and abounded in incidents honourable to him both as an officer and as a man. It is well known that in Catalonia the invading army experienced from Mina, Milans, and their followers, almost the only vigorous resistance it had to encounter; and in this resistance the foreign legion, in which Carrel served, bore a conspicuous part. Carrel himself has sketched the history of the contest in two articles in the Revue Française, qmuch remarked at the timeq for their impartiality and statesmanlike views, and which first established his reputation as a writer.[†]
In September 1823, the gallant Pachiarotti had already fallen; supported on horseback by Carrel during a long retreat after he was mortally wounded, and recommending with his dying breath to the good offices of the rpersons presentr, “ce brave et noble jeune homme.” What remained of the legion, after having had, in an attempt to relieve Figueras, two desperate encounters with superior force, at Llado and Llers, in which it lost half its numbers, capitulated,* and Carrel became the prisoner of his former commanding officer, the Baron de Damas. As a condition of the surrender, M. de Damas pledged himself to use his utmost exertions for obtaining the pardon of all the French who were included in the capitulation. Though such a pledge was formally binding only on the officer who gave it, no government could without sdishonours have refused to fulfil its conditions; least of all the French cabinet, of which M. de Damas almost immediately afterwards became a member. But the rancour which felt itself restrained from greater acts of vindictiveness, with characteristic littleness took refuge in smaller ones. Contrary to the express promise of M. de Damas (on whose Edition: current; Page:  individual honour, however, no imputation appears to rest), and in disregard of the fact that Carrel had ceased to be a member of the army before he committed any act contrary to its laws, the prisoners, both officers and soldiers, were thrown into gaol, and Carrel was among the first selected to be tried by military law before a military tribunal. The first court-martial declared itself incompetent. A second was appointed, and ordered to consider itself competent. By this second court-martial he was found guilty, and sentenced to death. He appealed to a superior court, which annulled the sentence, on purely technical grounds. The desire of petty vengeance was now somewhat appeased. After about nine months of rigorous and unwholesome confinement, which he employed in diligent studies, chiefly historical, Carrel was brought a third time to trial before a third court-martial, and acquitted; and was once again, at the age of twenty-four, turned loose upon the world.
After some hesitations, and a struggle between the wishes of his family, which pointed to a counting-house, and his own consciousness of faculties suited for a different sphere, he became secretary to M. Augustin Thierry, one of that remarkable constellation of tcotemporaryt authors who have placed France at the head of modern historical literature. Carrel assisted M. Thierry (whose sight, since totally lost, had already been weakened by his labours) in collecting the materials for the concluding volume of his longest work, The History of the Conquest of England by the Normans:[*] and it was by M. Thierry’s advice that Carrel determined to make literature his profession. M. Nisard gives an interesting account of the manner in which the doubts and anxieties of Carrel’s mother gave way before the authority of M. Thierry’s reputation.
During this period, Carrel’s mother made a journey to Paris M. Thierry’s letters had not removed her uneasiness; the humble life of a man of letters did not give her confidence, and did not seem to be particularly flattering to her. She needed that M. Thierry should renew his former assurances, and should, in a manner, stand surety for the literary capacity and for the future success of her son. At two different meetings with M. Thierry, she made a direct appeal to him to that effect “Vous croyez donc, Monsieur, que mon fils fait bien, et qu’il aura une carrière?” “Je réponds de lui,” answered M. Thierry, “comme de moi-même: j’ai quelqu’expérience des vocations littéraires: votre fils a toutes les qualités qui réussissent aujourd’hui.” While he thus spoke, Madame Carrel fixed upon him a penetrating look, as if to distinguish what was the prompting of truth, from what might be the effect of mere politeness, and a desire to encourage. The young man himself listened in respectful silence, submissive, and according to M. Thierry almost timid, before his mother, whose decision and firmness of mind had great sway over him. Carrel, in this, bowed only to his own qualities: what awed him in his mother was the quality by which afterwards, as a public man, he himself overawed others. The first meeting had left Madame Carrel still doubtful. M. Thierry, pressed between two inflexible wills, the mother requiring of him almost to Edition: current; Page:  become personally responsible for her son, the son silently but in intelligible language pledging himself that the guarantee should not be forfeited, had doubtless at the second meeting expressed himself still more positively. Madame Carrel returned to Rouen less uneasy and more convinced.[*]
Here then closes the first period of the life of Carrel; and the second, that of his strictly literary life, begins. This lasted till the foundation of the National, a few months before the Revolution of July.
The period of six years, of which we have now to speak, formed the culminating point of one of the most brilliant developments of the French national mind: a development which for intensity and rapidity, and if not for duration, for the importance of its durable consequences, has not many parallels in history. A large income not being in France, for persons in a certain rank of society, a necessary of life; and the pursuit of money being therefore not so engrossing an object as it is here, there is nothing to prevent the whole of the most gifted young men of a generation from devoting themselves to literature or science, if favourable circumstances combine to render it fashionable to do so. Such a conjuncture of circumstances was presented by the state of France, at the time when the Spanish war and its results seemed to have riveted on the necks of the French people the yoke of the feudal and sacerdotal party for many years to come. The Chamber was closed to all under the age of forty; and besides, at this particular period, the law of partial renewal had been abrogated, a septennial act had been passed,[†] and a general election, at the height of the Spanish triumph, had left but sixteen Liberals in the whole Chamber of Deputies. The army, in a time of profound peace, officered too by the detested émigrés, held out no attraction. Repelled from politics, in which little preferment could be hoped for by a uroturieru, and that little at a price which a Frenchman will least of all consent to pay—religious hypocrisy; the élite of the educated youth of France precipitated themselves into literature and philosophy, and remarkable results soon became evident.
The national intellect seemed to make a sudden stride, from the stage of adolescence to that of early maturity. It had reached the era corresponding to that in the history of an individual mind, when, after having been taught to think (as every one is) by teachers of some particular school, and having for a time exercised the power only in the path shown to it by its first teachers, it begins, without abandoning that, to tread also in other paths; learns to see with its naked eyes, and Edition: current; Page:  not through the eye-glasses of its teachers,[*] and, from being one-sided, becomes many-sided[†] and of no school. The French nation had had two great epochs of intellectual development. It had been taught to speak by the great writers of the seventeenth century,—to think by the philosophers of the eighteenth. The present became the era of reaction against the vnarrownessesv of the eighteenth century, as well as against those narrownesses of another sort which the eighteenth century had left. The stateliness and conventional decorum of old French poetic and dramatic literature, gave place to a licence which made free scope for genius and also for absurdity, and let in new forms of the beautiful was well as manyw of the hideous. Literature shook off its chains, and used its liberty like a galley-slave broke loose; while painting and sculpture passed from one unnatural extreme to xanotherx, and the stiff school was succeeded by the spasmodic. This insurrection against the old traditions of classicism was called romanticism: and now, when the mass of yrubbishy to which it had given birth has produced another oscillation in opinion the reverse way, one inestimable result seems to have survived it—that life and human feeling may now, in France, be painted with as much liberty as they may be discussed, and, when painted truly, with approval: as by George Sand, and in the best writings of Balzac. While this revolution was going on in the artistic departments of literature, that in the scientific departments was still more important. There was reaction against the metaphysics of Condillac and Helvetius; and some of the most eloquent men in France imported Kantism from Germany, and Reidism from Scotland, to oppose to it, and listening crowds applauded, and an “eclectic philosophy” was formed. There was reaction against the irreligion of Diderot and d’Holbach; and by the side of their irreligious philosophy there grew up religious philosophies, and philosophies prophesying a religion, and a general vague feeling of religion, and a taste for religious ideas. There was reaction against the premises, rather than against the conclusions, of the political philosophy of the Constituent Assembly: men found out, that underneath all political philosophy there must be a social philosophy—a study of agencies lying deeper than forms of government, which, working through forms of government, produce in the long run most of what these seem to produce, and which sap and destroy all forms of Edition: current; Page:  government that lie across their path. Thus arose the new political philosophy of the present generation in France; which, considered merely as a portion of science, may be pronounced zgreatlyz in advance of all the other political philosophies which ahad yet existed;a—a philosophy rather scattered among many minds than concentrated in one, but furnishing a storehouse of ideas to bthoseb who meditate on politics, such as all ages and nations could not furnish previously; and inspiring at the same time more comprehensive, and therefore more cautious views of the past and present, and far bolder aspirations and anticipations for the future. It would be idle to hold up any particular book as a complete specimen of this philosophy: different minds, according to their capacities or their tendencies, have struck out or appropriated to themselves different portions of it, which as yet have only been partially harmonized and fitted into one another. But if we were asked for the book which up to the present time embodies the largest portion of the spirit, and is, in the French phrase, the highest expression, of this new political philosophy, we should point to the Democracy in America, by M. de Tocqueville.[*]
It was above all, however, in history, and historical disquisition, that the new tendencies of the national mind made themselves way. And a fact may be remarked, which strikingly illustrates the difference between the French and the English mind, and the rapidity with which an idea, thrown into French soil, takes root, and blossoms, and fructifies. Sir Walter Scott’s romances have been read by every educated person in Great Britain who has grown up to manhood or womanhood in the last twenty years; and, except the memory of much pleasure, and a few mediocre imitations, forgotten as soon as read, they have left no traces that we know of in the national mind. But it was otherwise in France. Just as Byron, and the cast-off boyish cextravagancesc of Goethe and Schiller which Byron did but follow, have been the origin of all the sentimental ruffians, the Lacenaires in imagination and in action, with which the Continent swarms, but have produced little fruit of that description, comparatively speaking, in these islands; so, to compare good influences with badd, did Scott’s romances, and especially Ivanhoe,[†] which in England were only the amusement of an idle hour, give birth e(or at least nourishment)e to one of the principal intellectual products of Edition: current; Page:  our time, the modern French school of history. M. Thierry, whose Letters on the History of France gave the first impulse, proclaims the fact.[*] Seeing, in these fictions, past events for the first time brought home to them as realities, not mere abstractions; startled by finding, what they had not dreamed of, Saxons and Normans in the reign of Richard I;f thinking men felt flash upon them for the first time the meaning of that philosophical history, that history of human life, and not of kings and battles, which Voltaire talked of,[†] but, writing history for polemical purposes, could not succeed in realizing. Immediately the annals of France, England, and other countries, began to be systematically searched; the characteristic features of society and life at each period were gathered out, and exhibited in histories, and speculations on history, and historical fictions. All works of imagination were now expected to have a couleur locale; and the dramatic scenes and romances of Vitet, Mérimée, and Alfred de Vigny, among the best productions of the romantic school