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Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay, Miscellaneous Writings, Vol.2 [1830]

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Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay, The Miscellaneous Writings of Lord Macaulay, vol. 2, (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1860). http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/366

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About this Title:

The second volume of a two volume collection of Macaulay’s essays. The first volume contains his essays from Knight’s Quarterly Magazine written during the mid-1820s. The second volume contains essays published in the Edinburgh Review in the 1830s and 1840s; in the Encyclopedia Britannica in the 1850s; and miscellaneous poems and inscriptions.

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This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [i]
LORD MACAULAY’S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS
vol. ii.
Edition: current; Page: [ii]

LONDON

PRINTED BY SPOTTISWOODE AND CO. NEW-STREET SQUARE

Edition: current; Page: [iii]
THE MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS of LORD MACAULAY
in two volumes VOL. II.
LONDON
LONGMAN, GREEN, LONGMAN, AND ROBERTS
1860
Edition: current; Page: [iv] Edition: current; Page: [v]

CONTENTS OF THE SECOND VOLUME.

  • CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE EDINBURGH REVIEW.

  • Sadler’s Law of Population. (July 1830.) . . . . page 3
  • Sadler’s Refutation Refuted. (January 1831.) . . . 35
  • Mirabeau. (July 1832.). . . . . . . . 70
  • Barère. (April 1844.) . . . . . . . . 103
  • CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA.

  • Francis Atterbury. (December 1853.) . . . . . 209
  • John Bunyan. (May 1854.) . . . . . . . 227
  • Oliver Goldsmith. (February 1856.) . . . . . 244
  • Samuel Johnson. (December 1856.) . . . . . 262
  • William Pitt. (January 1859.) . . . . . . 304
Edition: current; Page: [vi]
  • MISCELLANEOUS POEMS, INSCRIPTIONS, ETC.

  • Epitaph on Henry Martyn. (1812.) . . . . page 377
  • Lines to the Memory of Pitt. (1813.) . . . . . 378
  • A Radical War Song. (1820.) . . . . . . 379
  • The Battle of Moncontour. (1824.) . . . . . 382
  • The Battle of Naseby, by Obadiah Bind-their-kings-in-chains-and-their-nobles-with-links-of-iron, Serjeant in Ireton’s Regiment. (1824.) . . . . . . . . 384
  • Sermon in a Churchyard. (1825.) . . . . . . 388
  • Translation of a Poem by Arnauld. (1826.) . . . 392
  • Dies Iræ. (1826.) . . . . . . . . . 394
  • The Marriage of Tirzah and Ahirad. (1827.) . . . 396
  • The Country Clergyman’s Trip to Cambridge. An Election Ballad. (1827.) . . . . . . . . 413
  • Song. (1827.) . . . . . . . . . 417
  • Political Georgics. (March 1828.) . . . . . 418
  • The Deliverance of Vienna. (1828.) . . . . . 421
  • The Last Buccaneer. (1839.) . . . . . . 427
  • Epitaph on a Jacobite. (1845.) . . . . . . 429
  • Lines Written in August, 1847. . . . . . . 430
  • Translation from Plautus. (1850.) . . . . . 434
  • Paraphrase of a Passage in the Chronicle of the Monk of St. Gall. (1856.) . . . . . . . . 436 Edition: current; Page: [vii]
  • Inscription on the Statue of Lord Wm. Bentinck, at Calcutta. (1835.) . . . . . . . . 438
  • Epitaph on Sir Benjamin Heath Malkin, at Calcutta. (1837.) . 439
  • Epitaph on Lord Metcalfe. (1847.) . . . . . 440
Edition: current; Page: [1] Edition: current; Page: [2]

CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE EDINBURGH REVIEW.

Edition: current; Page: [3] Edition: current; Page: [4]

SADLER’S LAW OF POPULATION. (July 1830.)

The Law of Population: a Treatise in Six Books, in Disproof of the Superfecundity of Human Beings, and developing the real Principle of their Increase. By Michael Thomas Sadler, M.P. 2 vols. 8vo. London: 1830.

We did not expect a good book from Mr. Sadler: and it is well that we did not; for he has given us a very bad one. The matter of his treatise is extraordinary; the manner more extraordinary still. His arrangement is confused, his repetitions endless, his style everything which it ought not to be. Instead of saying what he has to say with the perspicuity, the precision, and the simplicity in which consists the eloquence proper to scientific writing, he indulges without measure in vague, bombastic declamation, made up of those fine things which boys of fifteen admire, and which everybody, who is not destined to be a boy all his life, weeds vigorously out of his compositions after five-and-twenty. That portion of his two thick volumes which is not made up of statistical tables, consists principally of ejaculations, apostrophes, metaphors, similes, — all the worst of their respective kinds. His thoughts are dressed up in this shabby finery with so much profusion and so little discrimination, that they remind us of a company of wretched strolling players, who have huddled on suits of ragged and faded tinsel, taken from a common wardrobe, and fitting neither their persons nor their parts; and who then exhibit themselves to the laughing and pitying spectators, in a state of strutting, Edition: current; Page: [4] ranting, painted, gilded beggary. “Oh, rare Daniels!” “Political economist, go and do thou likewise!” “Hear, ye political economists and anti-populationists!” “Population, if not proscribed and worried down by the Cerberean dogs of this wretched and cruel system, really does press against the level of the means of subsistence, and still elevating that level, it continues thus to urge society through advancing stages, till at length the strong and resistless hand of necessity presses the secret spring of human prosperity, and the portals of Providence fly open, and disclose to the enraptured gaze the promised land of contented and rewarded labour.” These are specimens, taken at random, of Mr. Sadler’s eloquence. We could easily multiply them; but our readers, we fear, are already inclined to cry for mercy.

Much blank verse and much rhyme is also scattered through these volumes, sometimes rightly quoted, sometimes wrongly,—sometimes good, sometimes insufferable,—sometimes taken from Shakspeare, and sometimes, for aught we know, Mr. Sadler’s own. “Let man,” cries the philosopher, “take heed how he rashly violates his trust;” and thereupon he breaks forth into singing as follows:

  • “What myriads wait in destiny’s dark womb,
  • Doubtful of life or an eternal tomb!
  • ’Tis his to blot them from the book of fate,
  • Or, like a second Deity, create;
  • To dry the stream of being in its source,
  • Or bid it, widening, win its restless course;
  • While, earth and heaven replenishing, the flood
  • Rolls to its Ocean fount, and rests in God.”

If these lines are not Mr. Sadler’s, we heartily beg his pardon for our suspicion — a suspicion which, we acknowledge, ought not to be lightly entertained of any human being. We can only say that we never met with them before, and that we do not much care how long it may be before we meet with them, or with any others like them, again.

Edition: current; Page: [5]

The spirit of this work is as bad as its style. We never met with a book which so strongly indicated that the writer was in a good humour with himself, and in a bad humour with everybody else; which contained so much of that kind of reproach which is vulgarly said to be no slander, and of that kind of praise which is vulgarly said to be no commendation. Mr. Malthus is attacked in language which it would be scarcely decent to employ repecting Titus Oates. “Atrocious,” “execrable,” “blasphemous,” and other epithets of the same kind, are poured forth against that able, excellent, and honourable man, with a profusion which in the early part of the work excites indignation, but, after the first hundred pages, produces mere weariness and nausea. In the preface, Mr. Sadler excuses himself on the plea of haste. Two-thirds of his book, he tells us, were written in a few months. If any terms have escaped him which can be construed into personal disrespect, he shall deeply regret that he had not more time to revise them. We must inform him that the tone of his book required a very different apology; and that a quarter of a year, though it is a short time for a man to be engaged in writing a book, is a very long time for a man to be in a passion.

The imputation of being in a passion Mr. Sadler will not disclaim. His is a theme, he tells us, on which “it were impious to be calm;” and he boasts that, “instead of conforming to the candour of the present age, he has imitated the honesty of preceding ones, in expressing himself with the utmost plainness and freedom throughout.” If Mr. Sadler really wishes that the controversy about his new principle of population should be carried on with all the license of the seventeenth century, we can have no personal objections. We are quite as little afraid of a contest in which quarter shall be neither given nor taken as he can be. But we would advise him seriously to consider, before he publishes the promised continuation of his work, whether he be not one of that Edition: current; Page: [6] class of writers who stand peculiarly in need of the candour which he insults, and who would have most to fear from that unsparing severity which he practises and recommends.

There is only one excuse for the extreme acrimony with which this book is written; and that excuse is but a bad one. Mr. Sadler imagines that the theory of Mr. Malthus is inconsistent with Christianity, and even with the purer forms of Deism. Now, even had this been the case, a greater degree of mildness and self-command than Mr. Sadler has shown would have been becoming in a writer who had undertaken to defend the religion of charity. But, in fact, the imputation which has been thrown on Mr. Malthus and his followers is so absurd as scarcely to deserve an answer. As it appears, however, in almost every page of Mr. Sadler’s book, we will say a few words respecting it.

Mr. Sadler describes Mr. Malthus’s principle in the following words:—

“It pronounces that there exists an evil in the principle of population; an evil, not accidental, but inherent; not of occasional occurrence, but in perpetual operation; not light, transient, or mitigated, but productive of miseries, compared with which all those inflicted by human institutions, that is to say, by the weakness and wickedness of man, however instigated, are ‘light:’ an evil, finally, for which there is no remedy save one, which had been long overlooked, and which is now enunciated in terms which evince anything rather than confidence. It is a principle, moreover, pre-eminently bold, as well as ‘clear.’ With a presumption, to call it by no fitter name, of which it may be doubted whether literature, heathen or Christian, furnishes a parallel, it professes to trace this supposed evil to its source, ‘the laws of nature, which are those of God;’ thereby implying, and indeed asserting, that the law by which the Deity multiplies his offspring, and that by which he makes provision for their sustentation, are different, and, indeed, irreconcilable.”

“This theory,” he adds, “in the plain apprehension of the many, lowers the character of the Deity in that Edition: current; Page: [7] attribute, which, as Rousseau has well observed, is the most essential to him, his goodness; or otherwise, impugns his wisdom.”

Now nothing is more certain than that there is physical and moral evil in the world. Whoever, therefore, believes, as we do most firmly believe, in the goodness of God must believe that there is no incompatibility between the goodness of God and the existence of physical and moral evil. If, then, the goodness of God be not incompatible with the existence of physical and moral evil, on what grounds does Mr. Sadler maintain that the goodness of God is incompatible with the law of population laid down by Mr. Malthus?

Is there any difference between the particular form of evil which would be produced by over-population, and other forms of evil which we know to exist in the world? It is, says Mr. Sadler, not a light or transient evil, but a great and permanent evil. What then? The question of the origin of evil is a question of ay or no, — not a question of more or less. If any explanation can be found by which the slightest inconvenience ever sustained by any sentient being can be reconciled with the divine attribute of benevolence, that explanation will equally apply to the most dreadful and extensive calamities that can ever afflict the human race. The difficulty arises from an apparent contradiction in terms; and that difficulty is as complete in the case of a headache which lasts for an hour as in the case of a pestilence which unpeoples an empire,—in the case of the gust which makes us shiver for a moment as in the case of the hurricane in which an Armada is cast away.

It is, according to Mr. Sadler, an instance of presumption unparalleled in literature, heathen or Christian, to trace an evil to “the laws of nature, which are those of God,” as its source. Is not hydrophobia an evil? And is it not a law of nature that hydrophobia should be communicated by the bite of a mad dog? Is not Edition: current; Page: [8] malaria an evil? And is it not a law of nature that in particular situations the human frame should be liable to malaria? We know that there is evil in the world. If it is not to be traced to the laws of nature, how did it come into the world? Is it supernatural? And, if we suppose it to be supernatural, is not the difficulty of reconciling it with the divine attributes as great as if we suppose it to be natural? Or, rather, what do the words natural and supernatural mean when applied to the operations of the Supreme Mind?

Mr. Sadler has attempted, in another part of his work, to meet these obvious arguments, by a distinction without a difference.

“The scourges of human existence, as necessary regulators of the numbers of mankind, it is also agreed by some, are not inconsistent with the wisdom or benevolence of the Governor of the universe; though such think that it is a mere after-concern to ‘reconcile the undeniable state of the fact to the attributes we assign to the Deity.’ ‘The purpose of the earthquake,’ say they, ‘the hurricane, the drought, or the famine, by which thousands, and sometimes almost millions, of the human race, are at once overwhelmed, or left the victims of lingering want, is certainly inscrutable.’ How singular is it that a sophism like this, so false, as a mere illustration, should pass for an argument, as it has long done! The principle of population is declared to be naturally productive of evils to mankind, and as having that constant and manifest tendency to increase their numbers beyond the means of their subsistence, which has produced the unhappy and disgusting consequences so often enumerated. This is, then, its universal tendency or rule. But is there in Nature the same constant tendency to these earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts, and famines, by which so many myriads, if not millions, are overwhelmed or reduced at once to ruin? No; these awful events are strange exceptions to the ordinary course of things; their visitations are partial, and they occur at distant intervals of time. While Religion has assigned to them a very solemn office, Philosophy readily refers them to those great and benevolent principles of Nature by which the universe is regulated. But were there a constantly operating tendency to these Edition: current; Page: [9] calamitous occurrences; did we feel the earth beneath us tremulous, and giving ceaseless and certain tokens of the coming catastrophe of nature; were the hurricane heard mustering its devastating powers, and perpetually muttering around us; were the skies ‘like brass,’ without a cloud to produce one genial drop to refresh the thirsty earth, and famine, consequently, visibly on the approach; I say, would such a state of things, as resulting from the constant laws of Nature, be ‘reconcilable with the attributes we assign to the Deity,’ or with any attributes which in these inventive days could be assigned to him, so as to represent him as anything but the tormentor, rather than the kind benefactor, of his creatures? Life, in such a condition, would be like the unceasingly threatened and miserable existence of Damocles at the table of Dionysius, and the tyrant himself the worthy image of the Deity of the anti-populationists.”

Surely this is wretched trifling. Is it on the number of bad harvests, or of volcanic eruptions, that this great question depends? Mr. Sadler’s piety, it seems, would be proof against one rainy summer, but would be overcome by three or four in succession. On the coasts of the Mediterranean, where earthquakes are rare, he would be an optimist. South America would make him a sceptic, and Java a decided Manichean. To say that religion assigns a solemn office to these visitations is nothing to the purpose. Why was man so constituted as to need such warnings? It is equally unmeaning to say that philosophy refers these events to benevolent general laws of nature. In so far as the laws of nature produce evil, they are clearly not benevolent. They may produce much good. But why is this good mixed with evil? The most subtle and powerful intellects have been labouring for centuries to solve these difficulties. The true solution, we are inclined to think, is that which has been rather suggested, than developed, by Paley and Butler. But there is not one solution which will not apply quite as well to the evils of over population as to any other evil. Many excellent people think that it is presumptuous Edition: current; Page: [10] to meddle with such high questions at all, and that, though there doubtless is an explanation, our faculties are not sufficiently enlarged to comprehend that explanation. This mode of getting rid of the difficulty, again, will apply quite as well to the evils of over-population as to any other evils. We are sure that those who humbly confess their inability to expound the great enigma act more rationally and more decorously than Mr. Sadler, who tells us, with the utmost confidence, which are the means and which the ends,—which the exceptions and which the rules, in the government of the universe;—who consents to bear a little evil without denying the divine benevolence, but distinctly announces that a certain quantity of dry weather or stormy weather would force him to regard the Deity as the tyrant of his creatures.

The great discovery by which Mr. Sadler has, as he conceives, vindicated the ways of Providence is enounced with all the pomp of capital letters. We must particularly beg that our readers will peruse it with attention.

“No one fact relative to the human species is more clearly ascertained, whether by general observation or actual proof, than that their fecundity varies in different communities and countries. The principle which effects this variation, without the necessity of those cruel and unnatural expedients so frequently adverted to, constitutes what I presume to call The Law of Population; and that law may be thus briefly enunciated:—

The Prolificness of human beings, otherwise similarly circumstanced, varies inversely as their numbers.

“The preceding definition may be thus amplified and explained. Premising, as a mere truism, that marriages under precisely similar circumstances will, on the average, be equally fruitful everywhere, I proceed to state, first, that the prolificness of a given number of marriages will, all other circumstances being the same, vary in proportion to the condensation of the population, so that that prolificness shall be greatest where the numbers on an equal space are the fewest, and, on the contrary, the smallest where those numbers are the largest.”

Mr. Sadler, at setting out, abuses Mr. Malthus for Edition: current; Page: [11] enouncing his theory in terms taken from the exact sciences. “Applied to the mensuration of human fecundity,” he tells us, “the most fallacious of all things is geometrical demonstration;” and he again informs us that those “act an irrational and irreverent part who affect to measure the mighty depth of God’s mercies by their arithmetic, and to demonstrate, by their geometrical ratios, that it is inadequate to receive and contain the efflux of that fountain of life which is in Him.”

It appears, however, that it is not to the use of mathematical words, but only to the use of those words in their right senses that Mr. Sadler objects. The law of inverse variation, or inverse proportion, is as much a part of mathematical science as the law of geometric progression. The only difference in this respect between Mr. Malthus and Mr. Sadler is, that Mr. Malthus knows what is meant by geometric progression, and that Mr. Sadler has not the faintest notion of what is meant by inverse variation. Had he understood the proposition which he has enounced with so much pomp, its ludicrous absurdity must at once have flashed on his mind.

Let it be supposed that there is a tract in the back settlements of America, or in New South Wales, equal in size to London, with only a single couple, a man and his wife, living upon it. The population of London, with its immediate suburbs, is now probably about a million and a half. The average fecundity of a marriage in London is, as Mr. Sadler tells us, 2·35. How many children will the woman in the back settlements bear according to Mr. Sadler’s theory? The solution of the problem is easy. As the population in this tract in the back settlements is to the population of London, so will be the number of children born from a marriage in London to the number of children born from the marriage of this couple in the back settlements. That is to say—

2 : 1,500,000 :: 2·35 : 1,762,500.

The lady will have 1,762,500 children: a large “efflux Edition: current; Page: [12] of the fountain of life,” to borrow Mr. Sadler’s sonorous rhetoric, as the most philoprogenitive parent could possibly desire.

But let us, instead of putting cases of our own, look at some of those which Mr. Sadler has brought forward in support of his theory. The following table, he tells us, exhibits a striking proof of the truth of his main position. It seems to us to prove only that Mr. Sadler does not know what inverse proportion means.

Countries. Inhabitants on a square mile, about Children to a Marriage.
Cape of Good Hope 1 5·48
North America 4 5·22
Russia in Europe 23 4·94
Denmark 73 4·89
Prussia 100 4·70
France 140 4·22
England 160 3·66

Is 1 to 160 as 3·66 to 5·48? If Mr. Sadler’s principle were just, the number of children produced by a marriage at the Cape would be, not 5·48, but very near 600. Or take America and France. Is 4 to 140 as 4·22 to 5·22? The number of births to a marriage in North America ought, according to this proportion, to be about 150.

Mr. Sadler states the law of population in England thus:—

“Where the inhabitants are found to be on the square mile,

From 50 to 100 (2 counties) the births to 100 marriages are 420
— 100 to 150 (9 counties) 396
— 150 to 200 (16 counties) 390
— 200 to 250 (4 counties) 388
— 250 to 300 (5 counties) 378
— 300 to 350 (3 counties) 353
— 500 to 600 (2 counties) 331
— 4000 and upwards (1 county) 246

“Now, I think it quite reasonable to conclude, that, were there not another document in existence relative to this subject, Edition: current; Page: [13] the facts thus deduced from the census of England are fully sufficient to demonstrate the position, that the fecundity of human beings varies inversely as their numbers. How, I ask, can it be evaded?”

What, we ask, is there to evade? Is 246 to 420 as 50 to 4000? Is 331 to 396 as 100 to 500? If the law propounded by Mr. Sadler were correct, the births to a hundred marriages in the least populous part of England, would be lf1228-02_eq01.png that is 19,680,—nearly two hundred children to every mother. But we will not carry on these calculations. The absurdity of Mr. Sadler’s proposition is so palpable that it is unnecessary to select particular instances. Let us see what are the extremes of population and fecundity in well-known countries. The space which Mr. Sadler generally takes is a square mile. The population at the Cape of Good Hope is, according to him, one to the square mile. That of London is two hundred thousand to the square mile. The number of children at the Cape, Mr. Sadler informs us, is 5·48 to a marriage. In London, he states it at 2·35 to a marriage. Now how can that of which all the variations lie between 2·35 and 5·48 vary, either directly or inversely, as that which admits of all the variations between one and two hundred thousand? Mr. Sadler evidently does not know the meaning of the word proportion. A million is a larger quantity than ten. A hundred is a larger quantity than five. Mr. Sadler thinks, therefore, that there is no impropriety in saying that a hundred is to five as a million is to ten, or in the inverse ratio of ten to a million. He proposes to prove that the fecundity of marriages varies in inverse proportion to the density of the population. But all that he attempts to prove is that, while the population increases from one to a hundred and sixty on the square mile, the fecundity will diminish from 5·48 to 3·66; and that again, while the population increases from one hundred and sixty to two hundred Edition: current; Page: [14] thousand on the square mile, the fecundity will diminish from 3·66 to 2·35.

The proposition which Mr. Sadler enounces, without understanding the words which he uses, would indeed, if it could be proved, set us at ease as to the dangers of over-population. But it is, as we have shown, a proposition so grossly absurd that it is difficult for any man to keep his countenance while he repeats it. The utmost that Mr. Sadler has ever attempted to prove is this,—that the fecundity of the human race diminishes as population becomes more condensed,—but that the diminution of fecundity bears a very small ratio to the increase of population,—so that, while the population on a square mile is multiplied two hundred-thousand-fold, the fecundity decreases by little more than one-half.

Does this principle vindicate the honour of God? Does it hold out any new hope or comfort to man? Not at all. We pledge ourselves to show, with the utmost strictness of reasoning, from Mr. Sadler’s own principles, and from facts of the most notorious description, that every consequence which follows from the law of geometrical progression, laid down by Mr. Malthus, will follow from the law, miscalled a law of inverse variation, which has been laid down by Mr. Sadler.

London is the most thickly peopled spot of its size in the known world. Therefore the fecundity of the population of London must, according to Mr. Sadler, be less than the fecundity of human beings living on any other spot of equal size. Mr. Sadler tell us, that “the ratios of mortality are influenced by the different degrees in which the population is condensated; and that, other circumstances being similar, the relative number of deaths in a thinly-populated, or country district, is less than that which takes place in towns, and in towns of a moderate size less again than that which exists in large and populous cities.” Therefore the mortality in London must, according to him, be greater than in other places. But, though, according to Mr. Sadler, the fecundity is less in Edition: current; Page: [15] London than elsewhere, and though the mortality is greater there than elsewhere, we find that even in London the number of births greatly exceeds the number of deaths. During the ten years which ended with 1820, there were fifty thousand more baptisms than burials within the bills of mortality. It follows, therefore, that, even within London itself, an increase of the population is taking place by internal propagation.

Now, if the population of a place in which the fecundity is less and the mortality greater than in other places still goes on increasing by propagation, it follows that in other places the population will increase, and increase still faster. There is clearly nothing in Mr. Sadler’s boasted law of fecundity which will keep the population from multiplying till the whole earth is as thick with human beings as St. Giles’s parish. If Mr. Sadler denies this, he must hold that, in places less thickly peopled than London, marriages may be less fruitful than in London, which is directly contrary to his own principles; or that in places less thickly peopled than London, and similarly situated, people will die faster than in London, which is again directly contrary to his own principles. Now, if it follows, as it clearly does follow, from Mr. Sadler’s own doctrines, that the human race might be stowed together by three or four hundred to the acre, and might still, as far as the principle of propagation is concerned, go on increasing, what advantage, in a religious or moral point of view, has his theory over that of Mr. Malthus? The principle of Mr. Malthus, says Mr. Sadler, leads to consequences of the most frightful description. Be it so. But do not all these consequences spring equally from his own principle? Revealed religion condemns Mr. Malthus. Be it so. But Mr. Sadler must share in the reproach of heresy. The theory of Mr. Malthus represents the Deity as a Dionysius hanging the sword over the heads of his trembling slaves. Be it so. But under what rhetorical figure are we to represent the Deity of Mr. Sadler?

A man who wishes to serve the cause of religion ought to Edition: current; Page: [16] hesitate long before he stakes the truth of religion on the event of a controversy respecting facts in the physical world. For a time he may succeed in making a theory which he dislikes unpopular by persuading the public that it contradicts the Scriptures and is inconsistent with the attributes of the Deity. But, if at last an overwhelming force of evidence proves this maligned theory to be true, what is the effect of the arguments by which the objector has attempted to prove that it is irreconcilable with natural and revealed religion? Merely this, to make men infidels. Like the Israelites, in their battle with the Philistines, he has presumptuously and without warrant brought down the ark of God into the camp as a means of ensuring victory:—and the consequence of this profanation is that, when the battle is lost, the ark is taken.

In every age the Church has been cautioned against this fatal and impious rashness by its most illustrious members,—by the fervid Augustin, by the subtle Aquinas, by the all-accomplished Pascal. The warning has been given in vain. That close alliance which, under the disguise of the most deadly enmity, has always subsisted between fanaticism and atheism is still unbroken. At one time, the cry was,—“If you hold that the earth moves round the sun, you deny the truth of the Bible.” Popes, conclaves, and religious orders, rose up against the Copernican heresy. But, as Pascal said, they could not prevent the earth from moving, or themselves from moving along with it. One thing, however, they could do, and they did. They could teach numbers to consider the Bible as a collection of old women’s stories which the progress of civilisation and knowledge was refuting one by one. They had attempted to show that the Ptolemaic system was as much a part of Christianity as the resurrection of the dead. Was it strange, then, that, when the Ptolemaic system became an object of ridicule to every man of education in Catholic countries, the doctrine of the resurrection should be in peril? In the Edition: current; Page: [17] present generation, and in our own country, the prevailing system of geology has been, with equal folly, attacked on the ground that it is inconsistent with the Mosaic dates. And here we have Mr. Sadler, out of his especial zeal for religion, first proving that the doctrine of superfecundity is irreconcilable with the goodness of God, and then laying down principles, and stating facts, from which the doctrine of superfecundity necessarily follows. This blundering piety reminds us of the adventures of a certain missionary who went to convert the inhabitants of Madagascar. The good father had an audience of the king, and began to instruct his majesty in the history of the human race as given in the Scriptures. “Thus, sir,” said he, “was woman made out of the rib of man, and ever since that time a woman has had one rib more than a man.” “Surely, father, you must be mistaken there,” said the king. “Mistaken!” said the missionary. “It is an indisputable fact. My faith upon it! My life upon it!” The good man had heard the fact asserted by his nurse when he was a child,—had always considered it as a strong confirmation of the Scriptures, and fully believed it without having ever thought of verifying it. The king ordered a man and woman, the leanest that could be found, to be brought before him, and desired his spiritual instructor to count their ribs. The father counted over and over, upward and downward, and still found the same number in both. He then cleared his throat, stammered, stuttered, and began to assure the king that, though he had committed a little error in saying that a woman had more ribs than a man, he was quite right in saying that the first woman was made out of the rib of the first man. “How can I tell that?” said the king. “You come to me with a strange story, which you say is revealed to you from heaven. I have already made you confess that one half of it is a lie: and how can you have the face to expect that I shall believe the other half?”

We have shown that Mr. Sadler’s theory, if it be true, is as much a theory of superfecundity as that of Mr. Edition: current; Page: [18] Malthus. But it is not true. And from Mr. Sadler’s own tables we will prove that it is not true.

The fecundity of the human race in England Mr. Sadler rates as follows:—

“Where the inhabitants are found to be on the square mile—

From 50 to 100 (2 counties) the births to 100 marriages are 420
— 100 to 150 (9 counties) 396
— 150 to 200 (16 counties) 390
— 200 to 250 (4 counties) 388
— 250 to 300 (5 counties) 378
— 300 to 350 (3 counties) 353
— 500 to 600 (2 counties) 331
— 4000 and upwards (1 county) 246

Having given this table, he begins, as usual, to boast and triumph. “Were there not another document on the subject in existence,” says he, “the facts thus deduced from the census of England are sufficient to demonstrate the position, that the fecundity of human beings varies inversely as their numbers.” In no case would these facts demonstrate that the fecundity of human beings varies inversely as their numbers in the right sense of the words inverse variation. But certainly they would, “if there were no other document in existence,” appear to indicate something like what Mr. Sadler means by inverse variation. Unhappily for him, however, there are other documents in existence; and he has himself furnished us with them. We will extract another of his tables:—

TABLE LXIV.
Showing the Operation of the Law of Population in the different Hundreds of the County of Lancaster.
Hundreds. Population on each Square Mile. Square Miles. Population in 1821, exclusive of Towns of separate Jurisdiction. Marriages from 1811 to 1821. Baptisms from 1811 to 1821. Baptisms to 100 Marriages.
Lonsdale 96 441 42,486 3651 16,129 442
Almondness 267 228 60,930 3670 15,228 415
Leyland 354 126 44,583 2858 11,182 391
West Derby 409 377 154,040 24,182 86,407 357
Blackburn 513 286 146,608 10,814 31,463 291
Salford 869 373 322,592 40,143 114,941 286
Edition: current; Page: [19]

Mr. Sadler rejoices much over this table. The results, he says, have surprised himself; and, indeed, as we shall show, they might well have done so.

The result of his inquiries with respect to France he presents in the following table:—

“The legitimate births are, in those departments where there are to each inhabitant—

From 4 to 5 hects. (2 departs.) to every 1000 marriages 5130
3 to 4 (3 do.) 4372
2 to 3 (30 do.) 4250
1 to 2 (44 do.) 4234
·06 to 1 (5 do.) 4146
and ·06 (1 do.) 2557

Then comes the shout of exultation as regularly as the Gloria Patri at the end of a Psalm. “Is there any possibility of gainsaying the conclusions these facts force upon us; namely that the fecundity of marriages is regulated by the density of the population, and inversely to it?”

Certainly these tables, taken separately, look well for Mr. Sadler’s theory. He must be a bungling gamester who cannot win when he is suffered to pack the cards his own way. We must beg leave to shuffle them a little; and we will venture to promise our readers that some curious results will follow from the operation. In nine counties of England, says Mr. Sadler, in which the population is from 100 to 150 on the square mile, the births to 100 marriages are 396. He afterwards expresses some doubt as to the accuracy of the documents from which this estimate has been formed, and rates the number of births as high as 414. Let him take his choice. We will allow him every advantage.

In the table which we have quoted, numbered lxiv., he tells us that in Almondness, where the population is 267 to the square mile, there are 415 births to 100 marriages. The population of Almondness is twice as thick as the population of the nine counties referred to in the other table. Yet the number of births to a marriage is greater in Almondness than in those counties.

Once more, he tells us that in three counties, in which Edition: current; Page: [20] the population was from 300 to 350 on the square mile, the births to 100 marriages were 353. He afterwards rates them at 375. Again we say, let him take his choice. But from his table of the population of Lancashire it appears that, in the hundred of Leyland, where the population is 354 to the square mile, the number of births to 100 marriages is 391. Here again we have the marriages becoming more fruitful as the population becomes denser.

Let us now shuffle the censuses of England and France together. In two English counties which contain from fifty to 100 inhabitants on the square mile, the births to 100 marriages are, according to Mr. Sadler, 420. But in forty-four departments of France, in which there are from one to two hecatares to each inhabitant, that is to say, in which the population is from 125 to 250, or rather more, to the square mile, the number of births to 100 marriages is 423 and a fraction.

Again, in five departments of France in which there is less than one hecatare to each inhabitant, that is to say, in which the population is more than 250 to the square mile, the number of births to 100 marriages is 414 and a fraction. But, in the four counties of England in which the population is from 200 to 250 on the square mile, the number of births to 100 marriages is, according to one of Mr. Sadler’s tables, only 388, and by his very highest estimate no more than 402.

Mr. Sadler gives us a long table of all the towns of England and Ireland, which, he tells us, irrefragably demonstrates his principle. We assert, and will prove, that these tables are alone sufficient to upset his whole theory.

It is very true that in the great towns the number of births to a marriage appears to be smaller than in the less populous towns. But we learn some other facts from these tables which we should be glad to know how Mr. Sadler will explain. We find that the fecundity in towns of fewer than 3,000 inhabitants is actually much greater than the average fecundity of the kingdom, and that the fecundity in towns of between 3,000 and 4,000 inhabitants Edition: current; Page: [21] is at least as great as the average fecundity of the kingdom. The average fecundity of a marriage in towns of fewer than 3,000 inhabitants is about four; in towns of between 3,000 and 4,000 inhabitants it is 3·60. Now the average fecundity of England, when it contained only 160 inhabitants to a square mile, and when, therefore, according to the new law of population, the fecundity must have been greater than it now is, was only, according to Mr. Sadler, 3·66 to a marriage. To proceed,—the fecundity of a marriage in the English towns of between 4,000 and 5,000 inhabitants is stated at 3·56. But, when we turn to Mr. Sadler’s table of the counties, we find the fecundity of a marriage in Warwickshire and Staffordshire rated at only 3·48, and in Lancashire and Surrey at only 3·41.

These facts disprove Mr. Sadler’s principle; and the fact on which he lays so much stress — that the fecundity is less in the great towns than in the small towns — does not tend in any degree to prove his principle. There is not the least reason to believe that the population is more dense, on a given space, in London or Manchester than in a town of 4000 inhabitants. But it is quite certain that the population is more dense in a town of 4000 inhabitants than in Warwickshire or Lancashire. That the fecundity of Manchester is less than the fecundity of Sandwich or Guildford is a circumstance which has nothing whatever to do with Mr. Sadler’s theory. But that the fecundity of Sandwich is greater than the average fecundity of Kent, — that the fecundity of Guildford is greater than the average fecundity of Surrey, — as from his own tables appears to be the case, — these are facts utterly inconsistent with his theory.

We need not here examine why it is that the human race is less fruitful in great cities than in small towns or in the open country. The fact has long been notorious. We are inclined to attribute it to the same causes which tend to abridge human life in great cities, — to general sickliness and want of tone, produced by close air and sedentary Edition: current; Page: [22] employments. Thus far, and thus far only, we agree with Mr. Sadler, that, when population is crowded together in such masses that the general health and energy of the frame are impaired by the condensation, and by the habits attending on the condensation, then the fecundity of the race diminishes. But this is evidently a check of the same class with war, pestilence, and famine. It is a check for the operation of which Mr. Malthus has allowed.

That any condensation which does not affect the general health will affect fecundity, is not only not proved — it is disproved — by Mr. Sadler’s own tables.

Mr. Sadler passes on to Prussia, and sums up his information respecting that country as follows: —

Inhabitants on a Square Mile, German. Number of Provinces. Births to 100 Marriages, 1754. Births to 100 Marriages, 1784. Births to 100 Marriages, Busching.
Under 1000 2 434 472 503
1000 to 2000 4 414 455 454
2000 to 3000 6 384 424 426
3000 to 4000 2 365 408 394

After the table comes the boast as usual:

“Thus is the law of population deduced from the registers of Prussia also; and were the argument to pause here, it is conclusive. The results obtained from the registers of this and the preceding countries exhibiting, as they do most clearly, the principle of human increase, it is utterly impossible should have been the work of chance; on the contrary, the regularity with which the facts class themselves in conformity with that principle, and the striking analogy which the whole of them bear to each other, demonstrate equally the design of Nature, and the certainty of its accomplishment.”

We are sorry to disturb Mr. Sadler’s complacency. But, in our opinion, this table completely disproves his whole principle. If we read the columns perpendicularly, indeed, they seem to be in his favour. But how stands the case if we read horizontally? Does Mr. Sadler believe that, during the thirty years which elapsed between 1754 and Edition: current; Page: [23] 1784, the population of Prussia had been diminishing? No fact in history is better ascertained than that, during the long peace which followed the seven years’ war, it increased with great rapidity. Indeed, if the fecundity were what Mr. Sadler states it to have been, it must have increased with great rapidity. Yet, the ratio of births to marriages is greater in 1784 than in 1754, and that in every province. It is, therefore, perfectly clear that the fecundity does not diminish whenever the density of the population increases.

We will try another of Mr. Sadler’s tables:

TABLE LXXXI.
Showing the Estimated Prolificness of Marriages in England at the close of the Seventeenth Century.
Places. Number of Inhabitants. One Annual Marriage, to Number of Marriages. Children to one Marriage. Total Number of Births.
London 530,000 106 5000 20,000
Large Towns 870,000 128 6800 4·5 30,000
Small Towns and Country Places } 4,100,000 141 29,200 4·8 140,160
5,500,000 134 41,000 4·65 190,760

Standing by itself, this table, like most of the others, seems to support Mr. Sadler’s theory. But surely London, at the close of the seventeenth century, was far more thickly peopled than the kingdom of England now is. Yet the fecundity in London at the close of the seventeenth century was 4; and the average fecundity of the whole kingdom now is not more, according to Mr. Sadler, than 3½. Then, again, the large towns in 1700 were far more thickly peopled than Westmorland and the North Riding of Yorkshire now are. Yet the fecundity in those large towns was then 4·5. And Mr. Sadler tells us that it is now only 4·2 in Westmorland and the North Riding.

It is scarcely necessary to say any thing about the Edition: current; Page: [24] censuses of the Netherlands, as Mr. Sadler himself confesses that there is some difficulty in reconciling them with his theory, and helps out his awkward explanation by supposing, quite gratuitously, as it seems to us, that the official documents are inaccurate. The argument which he has drawn from the United States will detain us but for a very short time. He has not told us, — perhaps he had not the means of telling us, — what proportion the number of births in the different parts of that country bears to the number of marriages. He shows that in the thinly-peopled states the number of children bears a greater proportion to the number of grown-up people than in the old states; and this, he conceives, is a sufficient proof that the condensation of the population is unfavourable to fecundity. We deny the inference altogether. Nothing can be more obvious than the explanation of the phenomenon. The back settlements are for the most part peopled by emigration from the old states; and emigrants are almost always breeders. They are almost always vigorous people in the prime of life. Mr. Sadler himself, in another part of his book, in which he tries very unsuccessfully to show that the rapid multiplication of the people of America is principally owing to emigration from Europe, states this fact in the plainest manner:

“Nothing is more certain, than that emigration is almost universally supplied by ‘single persons in the beginning of mature life;’ nor, secondly, that such persons, as Dr. Franklin long ago asserted, ‘marry and raise families.’

“Nor is this all. It is not more true, that emigrants, generally speaking, consist of individuals in the prime of life, than that ‘they are the most active and vigorous’ of that age, as Dr. Seybert describes them to be. They are, as it respects the principle at issue, a select class, even compared with that of their own age generally considered. Their very object in leaving their native countries is to settle in life, a phrase that needs no explanation; and they do so. No equal number of human beings, therefore, have ever given so large or rapid an increase to a community as ‘settlers’ have invariably done.”

Edition: current; Page: [25]

It is perfectly clear that children are more numerous in the back settlements of America than in the maritime states, not because unoccupied land makes people prolific, but because the most prolific people go to the unoccupied land.

Mr. Sadler having, as he conceives, fully established his theory of population by statistical evidence, proceeds to prove, “that it is in unison, or rather required by the principles of physiology.” The difference between himself and his opponents he states as follows: —

“In pursuing this part of my subject, I must begin by reminding the reader of the difference between those who hold the superfecundity of mankind and myself, in regard to those principles which will form the basis of the present argument. They contend, that production precedes population; I, on the contrary, maintain that population precedes, and is indeed the cause of, production. They teach that man breeds up to the capital, or in proportion to the abundance of the food, he possesses; I assert, that he is comparatively sterile when he is wealthy, and that he breeds in proportion to his poverty; not meaning, however, by that poverty, a state of privation approaching to actual starvation, any more than, I suppose, they would contend, that extreme and culpable excess is the grand patron of population. In a word, they hold that a state of ease and affluence is the great promoter of prolificness: I maintain that a considerable degree of labour, and even privation, is a more efficient cause of an increased degree of human fecundity.”

To prove this point he quotes Aristotle, Hippocrates, Dr. Short, Dr. Gregory, Dr. Perceval, M. Villermi, Lord Bacon, and Rousseau. We will not dispute about it; for it seems quite clear to us that if he succeeds in establishing it he overturns his own theory. If men breed in proportion to their poverty, as he tells us here, — and at the same time breed in inverse proportion to their numbers, as he told us before,—it necessarily follows that the poverty of men must be in inverse proportion to their numbers. Inverse proportion, indeed, as we have shown, is not the phrase which expresses Mr. Sadler’s meaning. To speak Edition: current; Page: [26] more correctly, it follows, from his own positions, that, if one population be thinner than another, it will also be poorer. Is this the fact? Mr. Sadler tells us, in one of those tables which we have already quoted, that in the United States the population is four to a square mile, and the fecundity 5·22 to a marriage, and that in Russia the population is twenty-three to a square mile, and the fecundity 4·94 to a marriage. Is the North American labourer poorer than the Russian boor? If not, what becomes of Mr. Sadler’s argument?

The most decisive proof of Mr. Sadler’s theory, according to him, is that which he has kept for the last. It is derived from the registers of the English Peerage. The Peers, he says, and says truly, are the class with respect to whom we possess the most accurate statistical information.

“Touching their number, this has been accurately known and recorded ever since the order has existed in the country. For several centuries past, the addition to it of a single individual has been a matter of public interest and notoriety: this hereditary honour conferring not personal dignity merely, but important privileges, and being almost always identified with great wealth and influence. The records relating to it are kept with the most scrupulous attention, not only by heirs and expectants, but they are appealed to by more distant connections, as conferring distinction on all who can claim such affinity. Hence there are few disputes concerning successions to this rank, but such as go back to very remote periods. In later times, the marriages, births, and deaths, of the nobility, have not only been registered by and known to those personally interested, but have been published periodically, and, consequently, subject to perpetual correction and revision; while many of the most powerful motives which can influence the human mind conspire to preserve these records from the slightest falsification. Compared with these, therefore, all other registers, or reports, whether of sworn searchers or others, are incorrectness itself.”

Mr. Sadler goes on to tell us that the Peers are a marrying class, and that their general longevity proves them to be a healthy class. Still peerages often become extinct; — and from this fact he infers that they are a sterile class. Edition: current; Page: [27] So far, says he, from increasing in geometrical progression, they do not even keep up their numbers. “Nature interdicts their increase.”

“Thus,” says he, “in all ages of the world, and in every nation of it, have the highest ranks of the community been the most sterile, and the lowest the most prolific. As it respects our own country, from the lowest grade of society, the Irish peasant, to the highest, the British peer, this remains a conspicuous truth; and the regulation of the degree of fecundity conformably to this principle, through the intermediate gradations of society, constitutes one of the features of the system developed in these pages.”

We take the issue which Mr. Sadler has himself offered. We agree with him, that the registers of the English Peerage are of far higher authority than any other statistical documents. We are content that by those registers his principle should be judged. And we meet him by positively denying his facts. We assert that the English nobles are not only not a sterile, but an eminently prolific, part of the community. Mr. Sadler concludes that they are sterile, merely because peerages often become extinct. Is this the proper way of ascertaining the point? Is it thus that he avails himself of those registers on the accuracy and fulness of which he descants so largely? Surely his right course would have been to count the marriages, and the number of births in the Peerage. This he has not done; — but we have done it. And what is the result?

It appears from the last edition of Debrett’s Peerage, published in 1828, that there were at that time 287 peers of the United Kingdom, who had been married once or oftener. The whole number of marriages contracted by these 287 peers was 333. The number of children by these marriages was 1437, — more than five to a peer, — more than 4·3 to a marriage, — more, that is to say, than the average number in those counties of England in which, according to Mr. Sadler’s own statement, the fecundity is the greatest.

But this is not all. These marriages had not, in 1828, Edition: current; Page: [28] produced their full effect. Some of them had been very lately contracted. In a very large proportion of them there was every probability of additional issue. To allow for this probability, we may safely add one to the average which we have already obtained, and rate the fecundity of a noble marriage in England at 5·3; — higher than the fecundity which Mr. Sadler assigns to the people of the United States. Even if we do not make this allowance, the average fecundity of the marriages of peers is higher by one-fifth than the average fecundity of marriages throughout the kingdom. And this is the sterile class! This is the class which “nature has interdicted from increasing!” The evidence to which Mr. Sadler has himself appealed proves that his principle is false, — utterly false, — wildly and extravagantly false. It proves that a class, living during half of every year in the most crowded population in the world, breeds faster than those who live in the country; — that the class which enjoys the greatest degree of luxury and ease breeds faster than the class which undergoes labour and privation. To talk a little in Mr. Sadler’s style, we must own that we are ourselves surprised at the results which our examination of the peerage has brought out. We certainly should have thought that the habits of fashionable life, and long residence even in the most airy parts of so great a city as London, would have been more unfavourable to the fecundity of the higher orders than they appear to be.

Peerages, it is true, often become extinct. But it is quite clear, from what we have stated, that this is not because peeresses are barren. There is no difficulty in discovering what the causes really are. In the first place, most of the titles of our nobles are limited to heirs male; so that, though the average fecundity of a noble marriage is upwards of five, yet, for the purpose of keeping up a peerage, it cannot be reckoned at much more than two and a half. Secondly, though the peers are, as Mr. Sadler says, a marrying class, the younger sons of peers are decidedly Edition: current; Page: [29] not a marrying class; so that a peer, though he has at least as great a chance of having a son as his neighbours, has less chance than they of having a collateral heir.

We have now disposed, we think, of Mr. Sadler’s principle of population. Our readers must, by this time, be pretty well satisfied as to his qualifications for setting up theories of his own. We will, therefore, present them with a few instances of the skill and fairness which he shows when he undertakes to pull down the theories of other men. The doctrine of Mr. Malthus, that population, if not checked by want, by vice, by excessive mortality, or by the prudent self-denial of individuals, would increase in a geometric progression, is, in Mr. Sadler’s opinion, at once false and atrocious.

“It may at once be denied,” says he, “that human increase proceeds geometrically; and for this simple but decisive reason, that the existence of a geometrical ratio of increase in the works of nature, is neither true nor possible. It would fling into utter confusion all order, time, magnitude, and space.”

This is as curious a specimen of reasoning as any that has been offered to the world since the days when theories were founded on the principle that nature abhors a vacuum. We proceed a few pages farther, however; and we then find that geometric progression is unnatural only in those cases in which Mr. Malthus conceives that it exists; and that, in all cases in which Mr. Malthus denies the existence of a geometric ratio, nature changes sides, and adopts that ratio as the rule of increase.

Mr. Malthus holds that subsistence will increase only in an arithmetical ratio. “As far as nature has to do with the question,” says Mr. Sadler, “men might, for instance, plant twice the number of peas, and breed from a double number of the same animals, with equal prospect of their multiplication.” Now, if Mr. Sadler thinks that, as far as nature is concerned, four sheep will double as fast as two, and eight as fast as four, how can he deny that the geometrical Edition: current; Page: [30] ratio of increase does exist in the works of nature? Or has he a definition of his own for geometrical progression, as well as for inverse proportion?

Mr. Malthus, and those who agree with him, have generally referred to the United States, as a country in which the human race increases in a geometrical ratio, and have fixed on twenty-five years as the term in which the population of that country doubles itself. Mr. Sadler contends that it is physically impossible for a people to double in twenty-five years; nay, that thirty-five years is far too short a period,—that the Americans do not double by procreation in less than forty-seven years,—and that the rapid increase of their numbers is produced by emigration from Europe.

Emigration has certainly had some effect in increasing the population of the United States. But so great has the rate of that increase been that, after making full allowance for the effect of emigration, there will be a residue, attributable to procreation alone, amply sufficient to double the population in twenty-five years.

Mr. Sadler states the results of the four censuses as follows:—

“There were, of white inhabitants, in the whole of the United States in 1790, 3,093,111; in 1800, 4,309,656; in 1810, 5,862,093; and in 1820, 7,861,710. The increase, in the first term, being 39 per cent; that in the second, 36 per cent; and that in the third and last, 33 per cent. It is superfluous to say, that it is utterly impossible to deduce the geometric theory of human increase, whatever be the period of duplication, from such terms as these.”

Mr. Sadler is a bad arithmetician. The increase in the last term is not, as he states it, 33 per cent, but more than 34 per cent. Now, an increase of 32 per cent in ten years, is more than sufficient to double the population in twenty-five years. And there is, we think, very strong reason to believe that the white population of the United States does increase by 32 per cent every ten years.

Edition: current; Page: [31]

Our reason is this. There is in the United States a class of persons whose numbers are not increased by emigration,—the negro slaves. During the interval which elapsed between the census of 1810 and the census of 1820, the change in their numbers must have been produced by procreation, and by procreation alone. Their situation, though much happier than that of the wretched beings who cultivate the sugar plantations of Trinidad and Demerara, cannot be supposed to be more favourable to health and fecundity than that of free labourers. In 1810, the slave trade had been but recently abolished; and there were in consequence many more male than female slaves,—a circumstance, of course, very unfavourable to procreation. Slaves are perpetually passing into the class of freemen; but no freeman ever descends into servitude; so that the census will not exhibit the whole effect of the procreation which really takes place.

We find, by the census of 1810, that the number of slaves in the Union was then 1,191,000. In 1820, they had increased to 1,538,000. That is to say, in ten years, they had increased 29 per cent—within three per cent of that rate of increase which would double their numbers in twenty-five years. We may, we think, fairly calculate that, if the female slaves had been as numerous as the males, and if no manumissions had taken place, the census of the slave population would have exhibited an increase of 32 per cent in ten years.

If we are right in fixing on 32 per cent as the rate at which the white population of America increases by procreation in ten years, it will follow that, during the last ten years of the eighteenth century, nearly one-sixth of the increase was the effect of emigration; from 1800 to 1810, about one-ninth; and from 1810 to 1820, about one-seventeenth. This is what we should have expected; for it is clear that, unless the number of emigrants be constantly increasing, it must, as compared with the resident population, be relatively decreasing. The number Edition: current; Page: [32] of persons added to the population of the United States by emigration, between 1810 and 1820, would be nearly 120,000. From the data furnished by Mr. Sadler himself, we should be inclined to think that this would be a fair estimate.

“Dr. Seybert says, that the passengers to ten of the principal ports of the United States, in the year 1817, amounted to 22,235; of whom 11,977 were from Great Britain and Ireland; 4164 from Germany and Holland; 1245 from France; 58 from Italy; 2901 from the British possessions in North America; 1569 from the West Indies; and from all other countries, 321. These, however, we may conclude, with the editor of Styles’s Register, were far short of the number that arrived.”

We have not the honour of knowing either Dr. Seybert or the editor of Styles’s Register. We cannot, therefore, decide on their respective claims to our confidence so peremptorily as Mr. Sadler thinks fit to do. Nor can we agree to what Mr. Sadler very gravely assigns as a reason for disbelieving Dr. Seybert’s testimony. “Such accounts,” he says, “if not wilfully exaggerated, must always fall short of the truth.” It would be a curious question of casuistry to determine what a man ought to do in a case in which he cannot tell the truth except by being guilty of wilful exaggeration. We will, however, suppose, with Mr. Sadler, that Dr. Seybert, finding himself compelled to choose between two sins, preferred telling a falsehood to exaggerating; and that he has consequently underrated the number of emigrants. We will take it at double of the Doctor’s estimate, and suppose that, in 1817, 45,000 Europeans crossed to the United States. Now, it must be remembered that the year 1817 was a year of the severest and most general distress over all Europe,—a year of scarcity everywhere, and of cruel famine in some places. There can, therefore, be no doubt that the emigration of 1817 was very far above the average, probably more than three times that of an ordinary year. Till the year 1815, the war rendered it Edition: current; Page: [33] almost impossible to emigrate to the United States either from England or from the Continent. If we suppose the average emigration of the remaining years to have been 16,000, we shall probably not be much mistaken. In 1818 and 1819, the number was certainly much beyond that average; in 1815 and 1816, probably much below it. But, even if we were to suppose that, in every year from the peace to 1820, the number of emigrants had been as high as we have supposed it to be in 1817, the increase by procreation among the white inhabitants of the United States would still appear to be about 30 per cent. in ten years.

Mr. Sadler acknowledges that Cobbett exaggerates the number of emigrants when he states it at 150,000 a year. Yet even this estimate, absurdly great as it is, would not be sufficient to explain the increase of the population of the United States on Mr. Sadler’s principles. He is, he tells us, “convinced that doubling in 35 years is a far more rapid duplication than ever has taken place in that country from procreation only.” An increase of 20 per cent. in ten years, by procreation, would therefore be the very utmost that he would allow to be possible. We have already shown, by reference to the census of the slave population, that this doctrine is quite absurd. And, if we suppose it to be sound, we shall be driven to the conclusion that above eight hundred thousand people emigrated from Europe to the United States in a space of little more than five years. The whole increase of the white population from 1810 to 1820 was within a few hundreds of 2,000,000. If we are to attribute to procreation only 20 per cent. on the number returned by the census of 1810, we shall have about 830,000 persons to account for in some other way;—and to suppose that the emigrants who went to America between the peace of 1815 and the census of 1820, with the children who were born to them there, would make up that number, would be the height of absurdity.

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We could say much more; but we think it quite unnecessary at present. We have shown that Mr. Sadler is careless in the collection of facts,—that he is incapable of reasoning on facts when he has collected them,—that he does not understand the simplest terms of science,—that he has enounced a proposition of which he does not know the meaning,—that the proposition which he means to enounce, and which he tries to prove, leads directly to all those consequences which he represents as impious and immoral,—and that, from the very documents to which he has himself appealed, it may be demonstrated that his theory is false. We may, perhaps, resume the subject when his next volume appears. Meanwhile, we hope that he will delay its publication until he has learned a little arithmetic, and unlearned a great deal of eloquence.

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SADLER’S REFUTATION REFUTED. (January 1831.)

A Refutation of an Article in the Edinburgh Review (No. CII.) entitled,Sadler’s Law of Population, and Disproof of Human Superfecundity;containing also Additional Proofs of the Principle enunciated in that Treatise, founded on the Censuses of different Countries recently published. By Michael Thomas Sadler, M.P. 8vo. London: 1830.

“Before anything came out against my Essay, I was told I must prepare myself for a storm coming against it, it being resolved by some men that it was necessary that book of mine should, as it is phrased, be run down.”

John Locke.

We have, in violation of our usual practice, transcribed Mr. Sadler’s title-page from top to bottom, motto and all. The parallel implied between the Essay on the Human Understanding and the Essay on Superfecundity is exquisitely laughable. We can match it, however, with mottoes as ludicrous. We remember to have heard of a dramatic piece, entitled “News from Camperdown,” written soon after Lord Duncan’s victory, by a man once as much in his own good graces as Mr. Sadler is, and now as much forgotten as Mr. Sadler will soon be, Robert Heron. His piece was brought upon the stage, and damned, “as it is phrased,” in the second act; but the author, thinking that it had been unfairly and unjustly “run down,” published it, in order to put his critics to shame, with this motto from Swift: “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this mark—that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” We remember another anecdote, which may Edition: current; Page: [36] perhaps be acceptable to so zealous a churchman as Mr. Sadler. A certain Antinomian preacher, the oracle of a barn, in a county of which we do not think it proper to mention the name, finding that divinity was not by itself a sufficiently lucrative profession, resolved to combine with it that of dog-stealing. He was, by ill-fortune, detected in several offences of this description, and was in consequence brought before two justices, who, in virtue of the powers given them by an act of parliament, sentenced him to a whipping for each theft. The degrading punishment inflicted on the pastor naturally thinned the flock; and the poor man was in danger of wanting bread. He accordingly put forth a handbill, solemnly protesting his innocence, describing his sufferings, and appealing to the Christian charity of the public; and to his pathetic address he prefixed this most appropriate text: “Thrice was I beaten with rods.—St. Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians.” He did not perceive that, though St. Paul had been scourged, no number of whippings, however severe, will of themselves entitle a man to be considered as an apostle. Mr. Sadler seems to us to have fallen into a somewhat similar error. He should remember that, though Locke may have been laughed at, so has Sir Claudius Hunter; and that it takes something more than the laughter of all the world to make a Locke.

The body of this pamphlet by no means justifies the parallel so modestly insinuated on the title-page. Yet we must own that, though Mr. Sadler has not risen to the level of Locke, he has done what was almost as difficult, if not as honourable—he has fallen below his own. He is at best a bad writer. His arrangement is an elaborate confusion. His style has been constructed, with great care, in such a manner as to produce the least possible effect by means of the greatest possible number of words. Aspiring to the exalted character of a Christian philosopher, he can never preserve through a single paragraph either the calmness of a philosopher or the meekness of a Edition: current; Page: [37] Christian. His ill-nature would make a very little wit formidable. But, happily, his efforts to wound resemble those of a juggler’s snake. The bags of poison are full, but the fang is wanting. In this foolish pamphlet, all the unpleasant peculiarities of his style and temper are brought out in the strongest manner. He is from the beginning to the end in a paroxysm of rage, and would certainly do us some mischief if he knew how. We will give a single instance for the present. Others will present themselves as we proceed. We laughed at some doggerel verses which he cited, and which we, never having seen them before, suspected to be his own. We are now sure that, if the principle on which Solomon decided a famous case of filiation were correct, there can be no doubt as to the justice of our suspicion. Mr. Sadler, who, whatever elements of the poetical character he may lack, possesses the poetical irritability in an abundance which might have sufficed for Homer himself, resolved to retaliate on the person, who, as he supposed, had reviewed him. He has, accordingly, ransacked some collection of college verses, in the hope of finding, among the performances of his supposed antagonist, something as bad as his own. And we must in fairness admit that he has succeeded pretty well. We must admit that the gentleman in question sometimes put into his exercises, at seventeen, almost as great nonsense as Mr. Sadler is in the habit of putting into his books at sixty.

Mr. Sadler complains that we have devoted whole pages to mere abuse of him. We deny the charge. We have, indeed, characterised, in terms of just reprehension, that spirit which shows itself in every part of his prolix work. Those terms of reprehension we are by no means inclined to retract; and we conceive that we might have used much stronger expressions, without the least offence either to truth or to decorum. There is a limit prescribed to us by our sense of what is due to ourselves. But we think that no indulgence is due to Mr. Sadler. A writer Edition: current; Page: [38] who distinctly announces that he has not conformed to the candour of the age — who makes it his boast that he expresses himself throughout with the greatest plainness and freedom — and whose constant practice proves that by plainness and freedom he means coarseness and rancour—has no right to expect that others shall remember courtesies which he has forgotten, or shall respect one who has ceased to respect himself.

Mr. Sadler declares that he has never vilified Mr. Malthus personally, and has confined himself to attacking the doctrines which that gentleman maintains. We should wish to leave that point to the decision of all who have read Mr. Sadler’s book, or any twenty pages of it. To quote particular instances of a temper which penetrates and inspires the whole work, is to weaken our charge. Yet, that we may not be suspected of flinching, we will give two specimens, — the two first which occur to our recollection. “Whose minister is it that speaks thus?” says Mr. Sadler, after misrepresenting in a most extraordinary manner, though, we are willing to believe, unintentionally, one of the positions of Mr. Malthus. “Whose minister is it that speaks thus? That of the lover and avenger of little children?” Again, Mr. Malthus recommends, erroneously perhaps, but assuredly from humane motives, that alms, when given, should be given very sparingly. Mr. Sadler quotes the recommendation, and adds the following courteous comment:—“The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” We cannot think that a writer who indulges in these indecent and unjust attacks on professional and personal character has any right to complain of our sarcasms on his metaphors and rhymes.

We will now proceed to examine the reply which Mr. Sadler has thought fit to make to our arguments. He begins by attacking our remarks on the origin of evil. They are, says he, too profound for common apprehension; and he hopes that they are too profound for our own. Edition: current; Page: [39] That they seem profound to him we can well believe. Profundity, in its secondary as in its primary sense, is a relative term. When Grildrig was nearly drowned in the Brobdignagian cream-jug he doubtless thought it very deep. But to common apprehension our reasoning would, we are persuaded, appear perfectly simple.

The theory of Mr. Malthus, says Mr. Sadler, cannot be true, because it asserts the existence of a great and terrible evil, and is therefore inconsistent with the goodness of God. We answer thus. We know that there are in the world great and terrible evils. In spite of these evils, we believe in the goodness of God. Why may we not then continue to believe in his goodness, though another evil should be added to the list?

How does Mr. Sadler answer this? Merely by telling us that we are too wicked to be reasoned with. He completely shrinks from the question; a question, be it remembered, not raised by us—a question which we should have felt strong objections to raising unnecessarily—a question put forward by himself, as intimately connected with the subject of his two ponderous volumes. He attempts to carp at detached parts of our reasoning on the subject. With what success he carries on this guerilla war after declining a general action with the main body of our argument our readers shall see.

“The reviewer sends me to Paley, who is, I confess, rather more intelligible on the subject, and who, fortunately, has decided the very point in dispute. I will first give the words of the reviewer, who, when speaking of my general argument regarding the magnitude of the evils, moral and physical, implied in the theory I oppose, sums up his ideas thus: — ‘Mr. Sadler says, that it is not a light or transient evil, but a great and permanent evil. What then? The question of the origin of evil is a question of ay or no, — not a question of more or less.’ But what says Paley? His express rule is this, that ‘when we cannot resolve all appearances into benevolence of design, we make the few give place to the many, the little to the great; that we take our judgment from a large and decided Edition: current; Page: [40] preponderancy.’ Now in weighing these two authorities, directly at issue on this point, I think there will be little trouble in determining which we shall make ‘to give place;’ or, if we ‘look to a large and decided preponderancy’ of either talent, learning, or benevolence, from whom we shall ‘take our judgment.’ The effrontery, or, to speak more charitably, the ignorance of a reference to Paley on this subject, and in this instance is really marvellous.”

Now, does not Mr. Sadler see that the very words which he quotes from Paley contain in themselves a refutation of his whole argument? Paley says, indeed, as every man in his senses would say, that in a certain case, which he has specified, the more and the less come into question. But in what case? “When we cannot resolve all appearances into the benevolence of design.” It is better that there should be a little evil than a great deal of evil. This is self-evident. But it is also self-evident that no evil is better than a little evil. Why, then, is there any evil? It is a mystery which we cannot solve. It is a mystery which Paley, by the very words which Mr. Sadler has quoted, acknowledges himself unable to solve; and it is because he cannot solve that mystery that he proceeds to take into consideration the more and the less. Believing in the divine goodness, we must necessarily believe that the evils which exist are necessary to avert greater evils. But what those greater evils are we do not know. How the happiness of any part of the sentient creation would be in any respect diminished if, for example, children cut their teeth without pain, we cannot understand. The case is exactly the same with the principle of Mr. Malthus. If superfecundity exists, it exists, no doubt, because it is a less evil than some other evil which otherwise would exist. Can Mr. Sadler prove that this is an impossibility?

One single expression which Mr. Sadler employs on this subject is sufficient to show how utterly incompetent he is to discuss it. “On the Christian hypothesis,” says Edition: current; Page: [41] he, “no doubt exists as to the origin of evil.” He does not, we think, understand what is meant by the origin of evil. The Christian Scriptures profess to give no solution of that mystery. They relate facts; but they leave the metaphysical question undetermined. They tell us that man fell; but why he was not so constituted as to be incapable of falling, or why the Supreme Being has not mitigated the consequences of the Fall more than they actually have been mitigated, the Scriptures did not tell us, and, it may without presumption be said, could not tell us, unless we had been creatures different from what we are. There is something, either in the nature of our faculties or in the nature of the machinery employed by us for the purpose of reasoning, which condemns us, on this and similar subjects, to hopeless ignorance. Man can understand these high matters only by ceasing to be man, just as a fly can understand a lemma of Newton only by ceasing to be a fly. To make it an objection to the Christian system that it gives us no solution of these difficulties, is to make it an objection to the Christian system that it is a system formed for human beings. Of the puzzles of the Academy, there is not one which does not apply as strongly to Deism as to Christianity, and to Atheism as to Deism. There are difficulties in everything. Yet we are sure that something must be true.

If revelation speaks on the subject of the origin of evil it speaks only to discourage dogmatism and temerity. In the most ancient, the most beautiful, and the most profound of all works on the subject, the Book of Job, both the sufferer who complains of the divine government, and the injudicious advisers who attempt to defend it on wrong principles, are silenced by the voice of supreme wisdom, and reminded that the question is beyond the reach of the human intellect. St Paul silences the supposed objector, who strives to force him into controversy, in the same manner. The church has been, ever since the apostolic times, agitated by this question, and Edition: current; Page: [42] by a question which is inseparable from it, the question of fate and free-will. The greatest theologians and philosophers have acknowledged that these things were too high for them, and have contented themselves with hinting at what seemed to be the most probable solution. What says Johnson? “All our effort ends in belief that for the evils of life there is some good reason, and in confession that the reason cannot be found.” What says Paley? “Of the origin of evil no universal solution has been discovered. I mean no solution which reaches to all cases of complaint.—The consideration of general laws, although it may concern the question of the origin of evil very nearly, which I think it does, rests in views disproportionate to our faculties, and in a knowledge which we do not possess. It serves rather to account for the obscurity of the subject, than to supply us with distinct answers to our difficulties.” What says presumptuous ignorance? “No doubt whatever exists as to the origin of evil.” It is remarkable that Mr. Sadler does not tell us what his solution is. The world, we suspect, will lose little by his silence.

He falls on the reviewer again.

“Though I have shown,” says he, “and on authorities from which none can lightly differ, not only the cruelty and immorality which this system necessarily involves, but its most revolting feature, its gross partiality, he has wholly suppressed this, the most important part of my argument; as even the bare notice of it would have instantly exposed the sophistry to which he has had recourse. If, however, he would fairly meet the whole question, let him show me that ‘hydrophobia,’ which he gives as an example of the laws of God and nature, is a calamity to which the poor alone are liable; or that ‘malaria,’ which, with singular infelicity, he has chosen as an illustration of the fancied evils of population, is a respecter of persons.”

We said nothing about this argument, as Mr. Sadler calls it, merely because we did not think it worth while; and we are half ashamed to say anything about it now. But, since Mr. Sadler is so urgent for an answer, he shall Edition: current; Page: [43] have one. If there is evil, it must be either partial or universal. Which is the better of the two? Hydrophobia, says this great philosopher, is no argument against the divine goodness, because mad dogs bite rich and poor alike; but, if the rich were exempted, and only nine people suffered for ten who suffer now, hydrophobia would forthwith, simply because it would produce less evil than at present, become an argument against the divine goodness! To state such a proposition, is to refute it, And is not the malaria a respecter of persons? It infests Rome. Does it infest London? There are complaints peculiar to the tropical countries. There are others which are found only in mountainous districts; others which are confined to marshy regions; others again which run in particular families. Is not this partiality? Why is it more inconsistent with the divine goodness that poor men should suffer an evil from which rich men are exempt, than that a particular portion of the community should inherit gout, scrofula, insanity, and other maladies? And are there no miseries under which, in fact, the poor alone are suffering? Mr. Sadler himself acknowledges, in this very paragraph, that there are such; but he tells us that these calamities are the effects of misgovernment, and that this misgovernment is the effect of political economy. Be it so. But does he not see that he is only removing the difficulty one step farther? Why does Providence suffer men, whose minds are filled with false and pernicious notions, to have power in the state? For good ends, we doubt not, if the fact be so; but for ends inscrutable to us, who see only a small part of the vast scheme, and who see that small part only for a short period. Does Mr. Sadler doubt that the Supreme Being has power as absolute over the revolutions of political as over the organisation of natural bodies? Surely not: and, if not, we do not see that he vindicates the ways of Providence by attributing the distresses, which the poor, as he confesses, endure, to an error in legislation rather than to a law of Edition: current; Page: [44] physiology. Turn the question as we may, disguise it as we may, we shall find that it at last resolves itself into the same great enigma,—the origin of physical and moral evil: an enigma which the highest human intellects have given up in despair, but which Mr. Sadler thinks himself perfectly able to solve.

He next accuses us of having paused long on verbal criticism. We certainly did object to his improper use of the words, “inverse variation.” Mr. Sadler complains of this with his usual bitterness.

“Now what is the Reviewer’s quarrel with me on this occasion? That he does not understand the meaning of my terms? No. He acknowledges the contrary. That I have not fully explained the sense in which I have used them? No. An explanation, he knows, is immediately subjoined, though he has carefully suppressed it. That I have varied the sense in which I have applied them? No. I challenge him to show it. But he nevertheless goes on for many pages together in arguing against what he knows, and, in fact, acknowledges, I did not mean; and then turns round and argues again, though much more feebly, indeed, against what he says I did mean! Now, even had I been in error as to the use of a word, I appeal to the reader whether such an unworthy and disingenuous course would not, if generally pursued, make controversy on all subjects, however important, that into which, in such hands, it always degenerates — a dispute about words.”

The best way to avoid controversies about words is to use words in their proper senses. Mr. Sadler may think our objection captious; but how he can think it disingenuous we do not well understand. If we had represented him as meaning what we knew that he did not mean, we should have acted in a disgraceful manner. But we did not represent him, and he allows that we did not represent him, as meaning what he did not mean. We blamed him, and with perfect justice and propriety, for saying what he did not mean. Every man has in one sense a right to define his own terms; that is to say, if he chooses to call one two, and two seven, it would be Edition: current; Page: [45] absurd to charge him with false arithmetic for saying that seven is the double of one. But it would be perfectly fair to blame him for changing the established sense of words. The words, “inverse variation,” in matters not purely scientific, have often been used in the loose way in which Mr. Sadler has used them. But we shall be surprised if he can find a single instance of their having been so used in a matter of pure arithmetic.

We will illustrate our meaning thus. Lord Thurlow, in one of his speeches about Indian affairs, said that one Hastings was worth twenty Macartneys. He might, with equal propriety, have said ten Macartneys, or a hundred Macartneys. Nor would there have been the least inconsistency in his using all the three expressions in one speech. But would this be an excuse for a financier who, in a matter of account, should reason as if ten, twenty, and a hundred were the same number?

Mr. Sadler tells us that he purposely avoided the use of the word proportion in stating his principle. He seems, therefore, to allow that the word proportion would have been improper. Yet he did in fact employ it in explaining his principle, accompanied with an awkward explanation intended to signify that, though he said proportion, he meant something quite different from proportion. We should not have said so much on this subject, either in our former article, or at present, but that there is in all Mr. Sadler’s writings an air of scientific pedantry, which renders his errors fair game. We will now let the matter rest; and, instead of assailing Mr. Sadler with our verbal criticism, proceed to defend ourselves against his literal criticism.

“The Reviewer promised his readers that some curious results should follow from his shuffling. We will enable him to keep his word.

“ ‘In two English counties,’ says he, ‘which contain from 50 to 100 inhabitants on the square mile, the births to 100 marriages are, according to Mr. Sadler, 420; but in 44 departments Edition: current; Page: [46] of France, in which there are from one to two hecatares [hectares] to each inhabitant, that is to say, in which the population is from 125 to 250, or rather more, to the square mile, the number of births to one hundred marriages is 423 and a fraction.’

“The first curious result is, that our Reviewer is ignorant, not only of the name, but of the extent, of a French hectare; otherwise he is guilty of a practice which, even if transferred to the gambling-table, would, I presume, prevent him from being allowed ever to shuffle, even there, again. He was most ready to pronounce upon a mistake of one per cent in a calculation of mine, the difference in no wise affecting the argument in hand; but here I must inform him, that his error, whether wilfully or ignorantly put forth, involves his entire argument.

“The French hectare I had calculated to contain 10770867/100 English square feet, or 247265/100000 acres; Dr. Kelly takes it, on authority which he gives, at 107644143923/1000000 English square feet, or 2471169/1000000 acres. The last French Annuaires, however, state it, I perceive, as being equal to 2473614/1000000 acres. The difference is very trifling, and will not in the slightest degree cover our critic’s error. The first calculation gives about 25883/100 hectares to an English square mile; the second, 25873/100; the last, or French calculation, 25898/100. When, therefore, the Reviewer calculates the population of the departments of France thus: ‘from one to two hectares to each inhabitant, that is to say, in which the population is from 125 to 250, or rather more, to the square mile;’ his ‘that is to say’ is that which he ought not to have said—no rare case with him, as we shall show throughout.”

We must inform Mr. Sadler, in the first place, that we inserted the vowel which amuses him so much, not from ignorance or from carelessness, but advisedly, and in conformity with the practice of several respectable writers. He will find the word hecatare in Rees’s Cyclopædia. He will find it also in Dr. Young. We prefer the form which we have employed, because it is etymologically correct. Mr. Sadler seems not to know that a hecatare is so called, because it contains a hundred ares.

We were perfectly acquainted with the extent as well as with the name of a hecatare. Is it at all strange that Edition: current; Page: [47] we should use the words “250, or rather more,” in speaking of 258 and a fraction? Do not people constantly employ round numbers with still greater looseness, in translating foreign distances and foreign money? If indeed, as Mr. Sadler says, the difference which he chooses to call an error involved the entire argument, or any part of the argument, we should have been guilty of gross unfairness. But it is not so. The difference between 258 and 250, as even Mr. Sadler would see if he were not blind with fury, was a difference to his advantage. Our point was this. The fecundity of a dense population in certain departments of France is greater than that of a thinly scattered population in certain counties of England. The more dense, therefore, the population in those departments of France, the stronger was our case. By putting 250, instead of 258, we understated our case. Mr. Sadler’s correction of our orthography leads us to suspect that he knows very little of Greek; and his correction of our calculation quite satisfies us that he knows very little of logic.

But, to come to the gist of the controversy. Our argument, drawn from Mr. Sadler’s own Tables, remains absolutely untouched. He makes excuses indeed; for an excuse is the last thing that Mr. Sadler will ever want. There is something half laughable and half provoking in the facility with which he asserts and retracts, says and unsays, exactly as suits his argument. Sometimes the register of baptisms is imperfect, and sometimes the register of burials. Then again these registers become all at once exact almost to an unit. He brings forward a census of Prussia in proof of his theory. We show that it directly confutes his theory; and it forthwith becomes “notoriously and grossly defective.” The census of the Netherlands is not to be easily dealt with; and the census of the Netherlands is therefore pronounced inaccurate, In his book on the Law of Population, he tells us that “in the slave-holding States of America, the male Edition: current; Page: [48] slaves constitute a decided majority of that unfortunate class.” This fact we turned against him; and, forgetting that he had himself stated it, he tells us that “it is as erroneous as many other ideas which we entertain,” and that “he will venture to assert that the female slaves were, at the nubile age, as numerous as the males.” The increase of the negroes in the United States puzzles him; and he creates a vast slave trade to solve it. He confounds together things perfectly different; the slave-trade carried on under the American flag, and the slave-trade carried on for the supply of the American soil, — the slave-trade with Africa, and the internal slave-trade between the different States. He exaggerates a few occasional acts of smuggling into an immense and regular importation, and makes his escape as well as he can under cover of this hubbub of words. Documents are authentic and facts true precisely in proportion to the support which they afford to his theory. This is one way, undoubtedly, of making books: but we question much whether it be the way to make discoveries.

As to the inconsistencies which we pointed out between his theory and his own tables, he finds no difficulty in explaining them away or facing them out. In one case there would have been no contradiction if, instead of taking one of his tables, we had multiplied the number of three tables together, and taken the average. Another would never have existed if there had not been a great migration of people into Lancashire. Another is not to be got over by any device. But then it is very small, and of no consequence to the argument.

Here, indeed, he is perhaps right. The inconsistencies which we noticed were, in themselves, of little moment. We gave them as samples, — as mere hints, to caution those of our readers who might also happen to be readers of Mr. Sadler against being deceived by his packing. He complains of the word packing. We repeat it; and, since he has defied us to the proof, we will go fully into the question which, in our last article, we only glanced at, Edition: current; Page: [49] and prove, in such a manner as shall not leave even to Mr. Sadler any shadow of excuse, that his theory owes its speciousness to packing, and to packing alone.

That our readers may fully understand our reasoning, we will again state what Mr. Sadler’s proposition is. He asserts that, on a given space, the number of children to a marriage becomes less and less as the population becomes more and more numerous.

We will begin with the censuses of France given by Mr. Sadler. By joining the departments together in combinations which suit his purpose, he has contrived to produce three tables, which he presents as decisive proofs of his theory.

The first is as follows:—

“The legitimate births are, in those departments where there are to each inhabitant—

From 4 to 5 hects. (2 departs.) to every 1000 marriages 5130
3 to 4 (3 do.) 4372
2 to 3 (30 do.) 4250
1 to 2 (44 do.) 4234
·06 to 1 (5 do.) 4146
and ·06 (1 do.) 2657

The two other computations he has given in one table. We subjoin it.

Hect. to each Inhabitant. Number of Departments. Legit. Births to 100 Marriages. Legit. Births to 100 Mar. (1826).
4 to 5 2 497 397
3 to 4 3 439 389
2 to 3 30 424 379
1 to 2 44 420 375
under 1 5 415 372
and ·06 1 263 253

These tables, as we said in our former article, certainly look well for Mr. Sadler’s theory. “Do they?” says he. “Assuredly they do; and in admitting this, the Reviewer has admitted the theory to be proved.” We cannot absolutely agree to this. A theory is not proved, we Edition: current; Page: [50] must tell Mr. Sadler, merely because the evidence in its favour looks well at first sight. There is an old proverb, very homely in expression, but well deserving to be had in constant remembrance by all men, engaged either in action or in speculation—“One story is good till another is told!”

We affirm, then, that the results which these tables present, and which seem so favourable to Mr. Sadler’s theory, are produced by packing, and by packing alone.

In the first place, if we look at the departments singly, the whole is in disorder. About the department in which Paris is situated there is no dispute: Mr. Malthus distinctly admits that great cities prevent propagation. There remain eighty-four departments; and of these there is not, we believe, a single one in the place which, according to Mr. Sadler’s principle, it ought to occupy.

That which ought to be highest in fecundity is tenth in one table, fourteenth in another, and only thirty-first according to the third. That which ought to be third is twenty-second by the table, which places it highest. That which ought to be fourth is fortieth by the table, which places it highest. That which ought to be eighth is fiftieth or sixtieth. That which ought to be tenth from the top is at about the same distance from the bottom. On the other hand, that which, according to Mr. Sadler’s principle, ought to be last but two of all the eighty-four is third in two of the tables, and seventh in that which places it lowest; and that which ought to be last is, in one of Mr. Sadler’s tables, above that which ought to be first, in two of them, above that which ought to be third, and, in all of them, above that which ought to be fourth.

By dividing the departments in a particular manner, Mr. Sadler has produced results which he contemplates with great satisfaction. But, if we draw the lines a little higher up or a little lower down, we shall find that all his calculations are thrown into utter confusion; and that the phenomena, if they indicate any thing, indicate a law the very reverse of that which he has propounded.

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Let us take, for example, the thirty-two departments, as they stand in Mr. Sadler’s table, from Lozére to Meuse inclusive, and divide them into two sets of sixteen departments each. The set from Lozére and Loiret inclusive consists of those departments in which the space to each inhabitant is from 3·8 hecatares to 2·42. The set from Cantal to Meuse inclusive consists of those departments in which the space to each inhabitant is from 2·42 hecatares to 2·07. That is to say, in the former set the inhabitants are from 68 to 107 on the square mile, or thereabouts. In the latter they are from 107 to 125. Therefore, on Mr. Sadler’s principle, the fecundity ought to be smaller in the latter set than in the former. It is, however, greater, and that in every one of Mr. Sadler’s three tables.

Let us now go a little lower down, and take another set of sixteen departments—those which lie together in Mr. Sadler’s tables, from Hérault to Jura inclusive. Here the population is still thicker than in the second of those sets which we before compared. The fecundity, therefore, ought, on Mr. Sadler’s principle, to be less than in that set. But it is again greater, and that in all Mr. Sadler’s three tables. We have a regularly ascending series, where, if his theory had any truth in it, we ought to have a regularly descending series. We will give the results of our calculation.

The number of children to 1000 marriages is—

First Table. Second Table. Third Table.
In the sixteen departments where there are from 68 to 107 people on a square mile 4188 4226 3780
In the sixteen departments where there are from 107 to 125 people on a square mile 4374 4332 3855
In the sixteen departments where there are from 134 to 155 people on a square mile 4484 4416 3914
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We will give another instance, if possible still more decisive. We will take the three departments of France which ought, on Mr. Sadler’s principle, to be the lowest in fecundity of all the eighty-five, saving only that in which Paris stands; and we will compare them with the three departments in which the fecundity ought, according to him, to be greater than in any other department of France, two only excepted. We will compare Bas Rhin, Rhone, and Nord, with Lozére, Landes, and Indre. In Lozére, Landes, and Indre, the population is from 68 to 84 on the square mile, or nearly so. In Bas Rhin, Rhone, and Nord, it is from 300 to 417 on the square mile. There cannot be a more overwhelming answer to Mr. Sadler’s theory than the table which we subjoin:

The number of births to 1000 marriages is—

First Table. Second Table. Third Table.
In the three departments in which there are from 68 to 84 people on the square mile 4372 4390 3890
In the three departments in which there are from 300 to 417 people on the square mile 4457 4510 4060

These are strong cases. But we have a still stronger case. Take the whole of the third, fourth, and fifth divisions into which Mr. Sadler had portioned out the French departments. These three divisions make up almost the whole kingdom of France. They contain seventy-nine out of the eighty-five departments. Mr. Sadler has contrived to divide them in such a manner that, to a person who looks merely at his averages, the fecundity seems to diminish as the population thickens. We will separate them into two parts instead of three. We will draw the line between the department of Gironde and that of Hérault. On the one side are the thirty-two departments from Cher to Gironde inclusive. On the other side are the forty-six departments from Hérault to Nord inclusive. In all the departments of the former Edition: current; Page: [53] set, the population is under 132 on the square mile. In all the departments of the latter set, it is above 132 on the square mile. It is clear that, if there be one word of truth in Mr. Sadler’s theory, the fecundity in the latter of these divisions must be very decidedly smaller than in the former. Is it so? It is, on the contrary, greater in all the three tables. We give the result.

The number of births to 1000 marriages is—

First Table. Second Table. Third Table.
In the thirty-two departments in which there are from 86 to 132 people on the square mile 4210 4199 3760
In the forty-seven departments in which there are from 132 to 417 people on the square mile 4250 4224 3766

This fact is alone enough to decide the question. Yet it is only one of a crowd of similar facts. If the line between Mr. Sadler’s second and third division be drawn six departments lower down, the third and fourth divisions will, in all the tables, be above the second. If the line between the third and fourth divisions be drawn two departments lower down, the fourth division will be above the third in all the tables. If the line between the fourth and fifth division be drawn two departments lower down, the fifth will, in all the tables, be above the fourth, above the third, and even above the second. How then has Mr. Sadler obtained his results? By packing solely. By placing in one compartment a district no larger than the the Isle of Wight; in another, a district somewhat less than Yorkshire; in a third, a territory much larger than the island of Great Britain.

By the same artifice it is that he has obtained from the census of England those delusive averages which he brings forward with the utmost ostentation in proof of his principle. We will examine the facts relating to England, as we have examined those relating to France.

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If we look at the counties one by one, Mr. Sadler’s principle utterly fails. Hertfordshire with 251 on the square mile; Worcestershire with 258; and Kent with 282, exhibit a far greater fecundity than the East-Riding of York, which has 151 on the square mile; Monmouthshire, which has 145; or Northumberland, which has 108. The fecundity of Staffordshire, which has more than 300 on the square mile, is as high as the average fecundity of the counties which have from 150 to 200 on the square mile. But, instead of confining ourselves to particular instances, we will try masses.

Take the eight counties of England which stand together in Mr. Sadler’s list, from Cumberland to Dorset inclusive. In these the population is from 107 to 150 on the square mile. Compare with these the eight counties from Berks to Durham inclusive, in which the population is from 175 to 200 on the square mile. Is the fecundity in the latter counties smaller than in the former? On the contrary, the result stands thus:

The number of children to 100 marriages is—

In the eight counties of England, in which there are from 107 to 146 people on the square mile 388
In the eight counties of England, in which there are from 175 to 200 people on the square mile 402

Take the six districts from the East-Riding of York to the County of Norfolk inclusive. Here the population is from 150 to 170 on the square mile. To these oppose the six counties from Derby to Worcester inclusive. The population is from 200 to 260. Here again we find that a law, directly the reverse of that which Mr. Sadler has laid down, appears to regulate the fecundity of the inhabitants.

The number of children to 100 marriages is—

In the six counties in which there are from 150 to 170 people on the square mile 392
In the six counties in which there are from 200 to 260 people on the square mile 399
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But we will make another experiment on Mr. Sadler’s tables, if possible more decisive than any of those which we have hitherto made. We will take the four largest divisions into which he has distributed the English counties, and which follow each other in regular order. That our readers may fully comprehend the nature of that packing by which his theory is supported, we will set before them this part of his table.

counties. Population on a Square Mile. Population in 1821. Square Miles in each County. Number of Marriages from 1810 to 1820. Number of Baptisms from 1810 to 1820. Proportion of Bliths to 100 Marriages.
Lincoln 105 288,800 2748 20,892 87,620
Cumberland 107 159,300 1478 10,299 45,085
Northumberland 108 203,000 1871 12,997 45,871
Hereford 122 105,300 860 6,202 27,909
Rutland 127 18,900 149 1,286 5,125
Huntingdon 134 49,800 370 3,766 13,633
Cambridge 145 124,400 858 9,894 37,491
Monmouth 145 72,300 498 4,586 13,411
Dorset 146 147,400 1005 9,554 39,060
From 100 to 150. 79,476 315,205 396
York, East Riding 151 194,300 1280 15,313 55,606
Salop 156 210,300 1341 13,613 58,542
Sussex 162 237,700 1463 15,779 68,700
Northampton 163 165,800 1017 12,346 42,336
Wilts 164 226,600 1379 15,654 58,845
Norfolk 168 351,300 2092 25,752 102,259
Devon 173 447,900 2579 35,264 130,758
Southampton 177 289,000 1628 24,561 88,170
Berks 178 134,700 756 9,301 38,841
Suffolk 182 276,000 1512 19,885 76,327
Bedford 184 85,400 463 6,536 22,871
Buckingham 185 136,800 740 9,505 37,518
Oxford 186 139,800 752 9,131 39,633
Essex 193 295,300 1532 19,726 79,792
Cornwall 198 262,600 1327 17,363 74,611
Durham 199 211,900 1061 14,787 58,222
From 150 to 200. 264,516 1,033,039 390
counties. Population on a Square Mile. Population in 1821. Square Miles in each County. Number of Marriages from 1810 to 1820. Number of Baptisms from 1810 to 1820. Proportion of Births to 100 Marriages.
Derby 212 217,600 1026 14,226 58,804
Somerset 220 362,500 1642 24,356 95,802
Leicester 221 178,100 804 13,366 47,013
Nottingham 228 190,700 837 14,296 55,517
From 200 to 250. 66,244 257,136 388
Hertford 251 132,400 528 7,386 35,741
Worcester 258 188,200 729 13,178 53,838
Chester 262 275,500 1052 20,305 75,012
Gloucester 272 342,600 1256 28,884 90,671
Kent 282 434,600 1537 33,502 135,060
From 250 to 300. 103,255 390,322 378

These averages look well, undoubtedly, for Mr. Sadler’s theory. The numbers 396, 390, 388, 378, follow each other very speciously in a descending order. But let our readers divide these thirty-four counties into two equal sets of seventeen counties each, and try whether the principle will then hold good. We have made this calculation, and we present them with the following result.

The number of children to 100 marriages is—

In the seventeen counties of England in which there are from 100 to 177 people on the square mile 387
In the seventeen counties in which there are from 177 to 282 people on the square mile 389

The difference is small, but not smaller than differences which Mr. Sadler has brought forward as proofs of his theory. We say, that these English tables no more prove that fecundity increases with the population than that it diminishes with the population. The thirty-four counties which we have taken make up, at least, four-fifths of the kingdom: and we see that, through those thirty-four Edition: current; Page: [57] counties, the phenomena are directly opposed to Mr. Sadler’s principle. That in the capital, and in great manufacturing towns, marriages are less prolific than in the open country, we admit, and Mr. Malthus admits. But that any condensation of the population, short of that which injures all physical energies, will diminish the prolific powers of man, is, from these very tables of Mr. Sadler, completely disproved.

It is scarcely worth while to proceed with instances, after proofs so overwhelming as those which we have given. Yet we will show that Mr. Sadler has formed his averages on the census of Prussia by an artifice exactly similar to that which we have already exposed.

Demonstrating the Law of Population from the Censuses of Prussia, at two several Periods.
provinces. Inhabitants on a Square League. Births to each Marriage. 1756. Average. Births to each Marriage. 1784. Average.
West Prussia 832 }4·34 4·75 }4·72
Pomerania 928 4·3 } 4·69 }
East Prussia 1175 5·07 }4·14 5·10 }4·45
New Mark 1190 4·22 } 4·43 }
Mark of Brandenburg 1790 3·88 } 4·60 }
East Friesland 1909 3·39 } 3·66 }
Guelderland 2083 4·33 }3·84 3·74 }4·24
Silesia and Glatz 2314 } 4·84 }
Cleves 2375 3·80 } 4·03 }
Minden and Ravensburg } 2549 3·67 } 4·31 }
Magdeburg 2692 4·03 } 4·57 }
Neufchatel, &c. 2700 3·39 } 3·98 }
Halberstadt 3142 3·71 }3·65 4·48 }4·08
Ticklingburg and } Lingen 3461 3·59 } 3·69 }

Of the census of 1756 we will say nothing, as Mr. Sadler, finding himself hard pressed by the argument Edition: current; Page: [58] which we drew from it, now declares it to be grossly defective. We confine ourselves to the census of 1784: and we will draw our lines at points somewhat different from those at which Mr. Sadler has drawn his. Let the first compartment remain as it stands. Let East Prussia, which contains a much larger population than his last compartment, stand alone in the second division. Let the third consist of the New Mark, the Mark of Brandenburg, East Friesland and Guelderland, and the fourth of the remaining provinces. Our readers will find that, on this arrangement, the division which, on Mr. Sadler’s principle, ought to be second in fecundity stands higher than that which ought to be first; and that the division which ought to be fourth stands higher than that which ought to be third. We will give the result in one view.

The number of births to a marriage is —

In those provinces of Prussia where there are fewer than 1000 people on the square league 4·72
In the province in which there are 1175 people on the square league 5·10
In the provinces in which there are from 1190 to 2083 people on the square league 4·10
In the provinces in which there are from 2314 to 3461 people on the square league 4·27

We will go no farther with this examination. In fact, we have nothing more to examine. The tables which we have scrutinised constitute the whole strength of Mr. Sadler’s case; and we confidently leave it to our readers to say, whether we have not shown that the strength of his case is weakness.

Be it remembered too that we are reasoning on data furnished by Mr. Sadler himself. We have not made collections of facts to set against his, as we easily might have done. It is on his own showing, it is out of his own mouth, that his theory stands condemned.

That packing which we have exposed is not the only sort of packing which Mr. Sadler has practised. We Edition: current; Page: [59] mentioned in our review some facts relating to the towns of England, which appear from Mr. Sadler’s tables, and which it seems impossible to explain if his principles be sound. The average fecundity of a marriage in towns of fewer than 3000 inhabitants is greater than the average fecundity of the kingdom. The average fecundity in towns of from 4000 to 5000 inhabitants is greater than the average fecundity of Warwickshire, Lancashire, or Surrey. How is it, we asked, if Mr. Sadler’s principle be correct, that the fecundity of Guildford should be greater than the average fecundity of the county in which it stands?

Mr. Sadler, in reply, talks about “the absurdity of comparing the fecundity in the small towns alluded to with that in the counties of Warwick and Stafford, or in those of Lancaster and Surrey.” He proceeds thus—

“In Warwickshire, far above half the population is comprised in large towns, including, of course, the immense metropolis of one great branch of our manufactures, Birmingham. In the county of Stafford, besides the large and populous towns in its iron districts, situated so close together as almost to form, for considerable distances, a continuous street; there is, in its potteries, a great population, recently accumulated, not included, indeed, in the towns distinctly enumerated in the censuses, but vastly exceeding in its condensation that found in the places to which the Reviewer alludes. In Lancashire again, to which he also appeals, one-fourth of the entire population is made up of the inhabitants of two only of the towns of that county; far above half of it is contained in towns, compared with which those he refers to are villages; even the hamlets of the manufacturing parts of Lancashire are often far more populous than the places he mentions. But he presents us with a climax of absurdity in appealing lastly to the population of Surrey as quite rural compared with that of the twelve towns, having less than 5000 inhabitants in their respective jurisdictions, such as Saffron-Walden, Monmouth, &c., Now, in the last census, Surrey numbered 398,658 inhabitants, and, to say not a word about the other towns of the county, much above two hundred thousands of these are within the Bills of Mortality! ‘We should, therefore, Edition: current; Page: [60] be glad to know’ how it is utterly inconsistent with my principle that the fecundity of Guildford, which numbers about 3000 inhabitants, should be greater than the average fecundity of Surrey, made up, as the bulk of the population of Surrey is, of the inhabitants of some of the worst parts of the metropolis? Or why the fecundity of a given number of marriages in the eleven little rural towns he alludes to, being somewhat higher than that of an equal number, half taken for instance, from the heart of Birmingham or Manchester, and half from the populous districts by which they are surrounded, is inconsistent with my theory?

“Had the Reviewer’s object, in this instance, been to discover the truth, or had he known how to pursue it, it is perfectly clear, at first sight, that he would not have instituted a comparison between the prolificness which exists in the small towns he has alluded to, and that in certain districts, the population of which is made up, partly of rural inhabitants and partly of accumulations of people in immense masses, the prolificness of which, if he will allow me still the use of the phrase, is inversely as their magnitude; but he would have compared these small towns with the country places properly so called, and then again the different classes of towns with each other; this method would have led him to certain conclusions on the subject.”

Now, this reply shows that Mr. Sadler does not in the least understand the principle which he has himself laid down. What is that principle? It is this, that the fecundity of human beings on given spaces, varies inversely as their numbers. We know what he means by inverse variation. But we must suppose that he uses the words, “given spaces” in the proper sense. Given spaces are equal spaces. Is there any reason to believe, that in those parts of Surrey which lie within the bills of mortality there is any space, equal in area to the space on which Guildford stands, which is more thickly peopled than the space on which Guildford stands? We do not know that there is any such. We are sure that there are not many. Why, therefore, on Mr. Sadler’s principle, should the people of Guildford be more prolific than the people who live within the bills of mortality? And, if the people of Edition: current; Page: [61] Guildford ought, as on Mr. Sadler’s principle they unquestionably ought, to stand as low in the scale of fecundity as the people of Southwark itself, it follows, most clearly, that they ought to stand far lower than the average obtained by taking all the people of Surrey together.

The same remark applies to the case of Birmingham, and to all the other cases which Mr. Sadler mentions. Towns of 5000 inhabitants may be, and often are, as thickly peopled, “on a given space,” as Birmingham. They are, in other words, as thickly peopled as a portion of Birmingham, equal to them in area. If so, on Mr. Sadler’s principle, they ought to be as low in the scale of fecundity as Birmingham. But they are not so. On the contrary, they stand higher than the average obtained by taking the fecundity of Birmingham in combination with the fecundity of the rural districts of Warwickshire.

The plain fact is, that Mr. Sadler has confounded the population of a city with its population “on a given space,”—a mistake which, in a gentleman who assures us that mathematical science was one of his early and favourite studies, is somewhat curious. It is as absurd, on his principle, to say that the fecundity of London ought to be less than the fecundity of Edinburgh, because London has a greater population than Edinburgh, as to say that the fecundity of Russia ought to be greater than that of England, because Russia has a greater population than England. He cannot say that the spaces on which towns stand are too small to exemplify the truth of his principle. For he has himself brought forward the scale of fecundity in towns, as a proof of his principle. And, in the very passage which we quoted above, he tells us that, if we knew how to pursue truth, or wished to find it, we “should have compared these small towns with country places, and the different classes of towns with each other.” That is to say, we ought to compare together such unequal spaces as give results favourable to Edition: current; Page: [62] his theory, and never to compare such equal spaces as give results opposed to it. Does he mean anything by “a given space?” Or does he mean merely such a space as suits his argument? It is perfectly clear that, if he is allowed to take this course, he may prove anything. No fact can come amiss to him. Suppose, for example, that the fecundity of New York should prove to be smaller than the fecundity of Liverpool. “That,” says Mr. Sadler, “makes for my theory. For there are more people within two miles of the Broadway of New York, than within two miles of the Exchange of Liverpool.” Suppose, on the other hand, that the fecundity of New York should be greater than the fecundity of Liverpool. “This,” says Mr. Sadler again, “is an unanswerable proof of my theory. For there are many more people within forty miles of Liverpool than within forty miles of New York.” In order to obtain his numbers, he takes spaces in any combinations which may suit him. In order to obtain his averages, he takes numbers in any combinations which may suit him. And then he tells us that, because his tables, at the first glance, look well for his theory, his theory is irrefragably proved.

We will add a few words respecting the argument which we drew from the peerage. Mr. Sadler asserted that the Peers were a class condemned by nature to sterility. We denied this, and showed, from the last edition of Debrett, that the Peers of the United Kingdom have considerably more than the average number of children to a marriage. Mr. Sadler’s answer has amused us much. He denies the accuracy of our counting, and, by reckoning all the Scotch and Irish Peers as Peers of the United Kingdom, certainly makes very different numbers from those which we gave. A member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom might have been expected, we think, to know better what a Peer of the United Kingdom is.

By taking the Scotch and Irish Peers, Mr. Sadler has Edition: current; Page: [63] altered the average. But it is considerably higher than the average fecundity of England, and still, therefore, constitutes an unanswerable argument against his theory.

The shifts to which, in this difficulty, he has recourse, are exceedingly diverting. “The average fecundity of the marriages of Peers,” said we, “is higher by one-fifth than the average fecundity of marriages throughout the kingdom.”

“Where, or by whom did the Reviewer find it supposed,” answers Mr. Sadler, “that the registered baptisms expressed the full fecundity of the marriages of England?”

Assuredly, if the registers of England are so defective as to explain the difference which, on our calculation, exists between the fecundity of the peers and the fecundity of the people, no argument against Mr. Sadler’s theory can be drawn from that difference. But what becomes of all the other arguments which Mr. Sadler has founded on these very registers? Above all, what becomes of his comparison between the censuses of England and France? In the pamphlet before us, he dwells with great complacency on a coincidence which seems to him to support his theory, and which to us seems, of itself, sufficient to overthrow it.

“In my table of the population of France, in the forty-four departments in which there are from one to two hectares to each inhabitant, the fecundity of 100 marriages, calculated on the average of the results of the three computations relating to different periods given in my table, is 4067/10. In the twenty-two counties of England, in which there is from one to two hectars to each inhabitant, or from 129 to 259 on the square mile, — beginning, therefore, with Huntingdonshire, and ending with Worcestershire, —the whole number of marriages during ten years will be found to amount to 379,624, and the whole number of the births during the same term to 1,545,549 — or 4071/10 births to 100 marriages! A difference of one in one thousand only, compared with the French proportion!”

Does not Mr. Sadler see that, if the registers of England, Edition: current; Page: [64] which are notoriously very defective, give a result exactly corresponding almost to an unit with that obtained from the registers of France, which are notoriously very full and accurate, this proves the very reverse of what he employs it to prove? The correspondence of the registers proves that there is no correspondence in the facts. In order to raise the average fecundity of England even to the level of the average fecundity of the peers of the three kingdoms, which is 3·81 to a marriage, it is necessary to add nearly six per cent. to the number of births given in the English registers. But, if this addition be made, we shall have, in the counties of England, from Huntingdonshire to Worcestershire inclusive, 4·30 births to a marriage or thereabouts; and the boasted coincidence between the phenomena of propagation in France and England disappears at once. This is a curious specimen of Mr. Sadler’s proficiency in the art of making excuses. In the same pamphlet he reasons as if the same registers were accurate to one in a thousand, and as if they were wrong at the very least by one in eighteen.

He tries to show that we have not taken a fair criterion of the fecundity of the peers. We are not quite sure that we understand his reasoning on this subject. The order of his observations is more than usually confused, and the cloud of words more than usually thick. We will give the argument on which he seems to lay most stress in his own words:

“But I shall first notice a far more obvious and important blunder into which the Reviewer has fallen; or into which, I rather fear, he knowingly wishes to precipitate his readers, since I have distinctly pointed out what ought to have preserved him from it in the very chapter he is criticising and contradicting. It is this: — he has entirely omitted “counting” the sterile marriages of all those peerages which have become extinct during the very period his counting embraces. He counts, for instance, Earl Fitzwilliam, his marriages, and heir; but has he not omitted to enumerate the marriages of those branches of the same noble house, which have become extinct since that venerable Edition: current; Page: [65] individual possessed his title? He talks of my having appealed merely to the extinction of peerages in my argument; but, on his plan of computation, extinctions are perpetually and wholly lost sight of. In computing the average prolificness of the marriages of the nobles, he positively counts from a select class of them only, one from which the unprolific are constantly weeded, and regularly disappear; and he thus comes to the conclusion, that the peers are ‘an eminently prolific class!’ Just as though a farmer should compute the rate of increase, not from the quantity of seed sown, but from that part of it only which comes to perfection, entirely omitting all which had failed to spring up or come to maturity. Upon this principle the most scanty crop ever obtained, in which the husbandman should fail to receive ‘seed again,’ as the phrase is, might be so ‘counted’ as to appear ‘eminently prolific’ indeed.”

If we understand this passage rightly, it decisively proves that Mr. Sadler is incompetent to perform even the lowest offices of statistical research. What shadow of reason is there to believe that the peers who were alive in the year 1828 differed as to their prolificness from any other equally numerous set of peers taken at random? In what sense were the peers who were alive in 1828 analogous to that part of the seed which comes to perfection? Did we entirely omit all that failed? On the contrary, we counted the sterile as well as the fruitful marriages of all the peers of the United Kingdom living at one time. In what way were the peers who were alive in 1828 a select class? In what way were the sterile weeded from among them? Did every peer who had been married without having issue die in 1827? What shadow of reason is there to suppose that there was not the ordinary proportion of barren marriages among the marriages contracted by the noblemen whose names are in Debrett’s last edition? But we ought, says Mr. Sadler, to have counted all the sterile marriages of all the peers “whose titles had become extinct during the period which our counting embraced;” that is to say, since the earliest marriage contracted by any peer living Edition: current; Page: [66] in 1828. Was such a proposition ever heard of before? Surely we were bound to do no such thing, unless at the same time we had counted also the children born from all the fruitful marriages contracted by peers during the same period. Mr. Sadler would have us divide the number of children born to peers living in 1828, not by the number of marriages which those peers contracted, but by the number of marriages which those peers contracted added to a crowd of marriages selected, on account of their sterility, from among the noble marriages which have taken place during the last fifty years. Is this the way to obtain fair averages? We might as well require that all the noble marriages which during the last fifty years have produced ten children apiece should be added to those of the peers living in 1828. The proper way to ascertain whether a set of people be prolific or sterile is, not to take marriages selected from the mass either on account of their fruitfulness or on account of their sterility, but to take a collection of marriages which there is no reason to think either more or less fruitful than others. What reason is there to think that the marriages contracted by the peers who were alive in 1828 were more fruitful than those contracted by the peers who were alive in 1800 or in 1750?

We will add another passage from Mr. Sadler’s pamphlet on this subject. We attributed the extinction of peerages partly to the fact that those honours are for the most part limited to heirs male.

“This is a discovery indeed! Peeresses, ‘eminently prolific,’ do not, as Macbeth conjured his spouse, ‘bring forth men-children only;’ they actually produce daughters as well as sons!! Why, does not the Reviewer see, that so long as the rule of nature, which proportions the sexes so accurately to each other, continues to exist, a tendency to a diminution in one sex proves, as certainly as the demonstration of any mathematical problem, a tendency to a diminution in both; but to talk of ‘eminently prolific’ peeresses, and still maintain that the rapid extinction Edition: current; Page: [67] in peerages is owing to their not bearing male children exclusively, is arrant nonsense.”

Now, if there be any proposition on the face of the earth which we should not have expected to hear characterised as arrant nonsense, it is this,—that an honour limited to males alone is more likely to become extinct than an honour which, like the crown of England, descends indifferently to sons and daughters. We have heard, nay, we actually know families, in which, much as Mr. Sadler may marvel at it, there are daughters and no sons. Nay, we know many such families. We are as much inclined as Mr. Sadler to trace the benevolent and wise arrangements of Providence in the physical world, when once we are satisfied as to the facts on which we proceed. And we have always considered it as an arrangement deserving of the highest admiration, that, though in families the number of males and females differs widely, yet in great collections of human beings the disparity almost disappears. The chance undoubtedly is, that in a thousand marriages the number of daughters will not very much exceed the number of sons. But the chance also is, that several of those marriages will produce daughters, and daughters only. In every generation of the peerage there are several such cases. When a peer whose title is limited to male heirs dies, leaving only daughters, his peerage must expire, unless he have, not only a collateral heir, but a collateral heir descended through an uninterrupted line of males from the first possessor of the honour. If the deceased peer was the first nobleman of his family, then, by the supposition, his peerage will become extinct. If he was the second, it will become extinct, unless he leaves a brother or a brother’s son. If the second peer had a brother, the first peer must have had at least two sons; and this is more than the average number of sons to a marriage in England. When, therefore, it is considered how many peerages are in the first and second generation, it will not Edition: current; Page: [68] appear strange that extinctions should frequently take place. There are peerages which descend to females as well as males. But, in such cases, if a peer dies, leaving only daughters, the very fecundity of the marriage is a cause of the extinction of the peerage. If there were only one daughter, the honour would descend. If there are several, it falls into abeyance.

But it is needless to multiply words in a case so clear; and indeed it is needless to say anything more about Mr. Sadler’s book. We have, if we do not deceive ourselves, completely exposed the calculations on which his theory rests; and we do not think that we should either amuse our readers or serve the cause of science if we were to rebut in succession a series of futile charges brought in the most angry spirit against ourselves; ignorant imputations of ignorance, and unfair complaints of unfairness,—conveyed in long, dreary, declamations, so prolix that we cannot find space to quote them, and so confused that we cannot venture to abridge them.

There is much indeed in this foolish pamphlet to laugh at, from the motto in the first page down to some wisdom about cows in the last. One part of it indeed is solemn enough, we mean a certain jeu d’esprit of Mr. Sadler’s touching a tract of Dr. Arbuthnot’s. This is indeed “very tragical mirth,” as Peter Quince’s playbill has it; and we would not advise any person who reads for amusement to venture on it as long as he can procure a volume of the Statutes at Large. This, however, to do Mr. Sadler justice, is an exception. His witticisms, and his tables of figures, constitute the only parts of his work which can be perused with perfect gravity. His blunders are diverting, his excuses exquisitely comic. But his anger is the most grotesque exhibition that we ever saw. He foams at the mouth with the love of truth, and vindicates the Divine benevolence with a most edifying heartiness of hatred. On this subject we will give him one word of parting advice. If he raves in this way to ease his mind, or because Edition: current; Page: [69] he thinks that he does himself credit by it, or from a sense of religious duty, far be it from us to interfere. His peace, his reputation, and his religion are his own concern; and he, like the nobleman to whom his treatise is dedicated, has a right to do what he will with his own. But, if he has adopted his abusive style from a notion that it would hurt our feelings, we must inform him that he is altogether mistaken; and that he would do well in future to give us his arguments, if he has any, and to keep his anger for those who fear it.

Edition: current; Page: [70]

MIRABEAU. (July 1832.)

Souvenirs sur Mirabeau, et sur les deux Premières Assemblées Législatives. Par Etienne Dumont, de Genève: ouvrage posthume publié par M. J. L. Duval, Membre du Conseil Représentatif du Canton du Genève. 8vo. Paris: 1832.

This is a very amusing and a very instructive book: but, even if it were less amusing and less instructive, it would still be interesting as a relic of a wise and virtuous man. M. Dumont was one of those persons, the care of whose fame belongs in an especial manner to mankind. For he was one of those persons who have, for the sake of mankind, neglected the care of their own fame. In his walk through life there was no obtrusiveness, no pushing, no elbowing, none of the little arts which bring forward little men. With every right to the head of the board, he took the lowest room, and well deserved to be greeted with — Friend, go up higher. Though no man was more capable of achieving for himself a separate and independent renown, he attached himself to others; he laboured to raise their fame; he was content to receive as his share of the reward the mere overflowings which redounded from the full measure of their glory. Not that he was of a servile and idolatrous habit of mind: — not that he was one of the tribe of Boswells, — those literary Gibeonites, born to be hewers of wood and drawers of water to the higher intellectual castes. Possessed of talents and acquirements which made him great, he wished only to be useful. In the prime of manhood, at the very time of life at which ambitious men are most ambitious, he was Edition: current; Page: [71] not solicitous to proclaim that he furnished information, arguments, and eloquence to Mirabeau. In his later years he was perfectly willing that his renown should merge in that of Mr. Bentham.

The services which M. Dumont has rendered to society can be fully appreciated only by those who have studied Mr. Bentham’s works, both in their rude and in their finished state. The difference both for show and for use is as great as the difference between a lump of golden ore and a rouleau of sovereigns fresh from the mint. Of Mr. Bentham we would at all times speak with the reverence which is due to a great original thinker, and to a sincere and ardent friend of the human race. If a few weaknesses were mingled with his eminent virtues, — if a few errors insinuated themselves among the many valuable truths which he taught, — this is assuredly no time for noticing those weaknesses or those errors in an unkind or sarcastic spirit. A great man has gone from among us, full of years, of good works, and of deserved honours. In some of the highest departments in which the human intellect can exert itself he has not left his equal or his second behind him. From his contemporaries he has had, according to the usual lot, more or less than justice. He has had blind flatterers and blind detractors — flatterers who could see nothing but perfection in his style, detractors who could see nothing but nonsense in his matter. He will now have judges. Posterity will pronounce its calm and impartial decision; and that decision will, we firmly believe, place in the same rank with Galileo, and with Locke, the man who found jurisprudence a gibberish and left it a science. Never was there a literary partnership so fortunate as that of Mr. Bentham and M. Dumont. The raw material which Mr. Bentham furnished was most precious; but it was unmarketable. He was, assuredly, at once a great logician and a great rhetorician. But the effect of his logic was injured by a vicious arrangement, and the effect of his rhetoric by a vicious style. His Edition: current; Page: [72] mind was vigorous, comprehensive, subtle, fertile of arguments, fertile of illustrations. But he spoke in an unknown tongue; and, that the congregation might be edified, it was necessary that some brother having the gift of interpretation should expound the invaluable jargon. His oracles were of high import; but they were traced on leaves and flung loose to the wind. So negligent was he of the arts of selection, distribution, and compression, that to persons who formed their judgment of him from his works in their undigested state he seemed to be the least systematic of all philosophers. The truth is, that his opinions formed a system, which, whether sound or unsound, is more exact, more entire, and more consistent with itself than any other. Yet to superficial readers of his works in their original form, and indeed to all readers of those works who did not bring great industry and great acuteness to the study, he seemed to be a man of a quick and ingenious but ill-regulated mind, — who saw truth only by glimpses, — who threw out many striking hints, but who had never thought of combining his doctrines in one harmonious whole.

M. Dumont was admirably qualified to supply what was wanting in Mr. Bentham. In the qualities in which the French writers surpass those of all other nations, — neatness, clearness, precision, condensation, — he surpassed all French writers. If M. Dumont had never been born, Mr. Bentham would still have been a very great man. But he would have been great to himself alone. The fertility of his mind would have resembled the fertility of those vast American wildernesses in which blossoms and decays a rich but unprofitable vegetation, “wherewith the reaper filleth not his hand, neither he that bindeth up the sheaves his bosom.” It would have been with his discoveries as it has been with the “Century of Inventions.” His speculations on laws would have been of no more practical use than Lord Worcester’s speculations on steam-engines. Some generations hence, Edition: current; Page: [73] perhaps, when legislation had found its Watt, an antiquarian might have published to the world the curious fact, that, in the reign of George the Third, there had been a man called Bentham, who had given hints of many discoveries made since his time, and who had really, for his age, taken a most philosophical view of the principles of jurisprudence.

Many persons have attempted to interpret between this powerful mind and the public. But, in our opinion, M. Dumont alone has succeeded. It is remarkable that, in foreign countries, where Mr. Bentham’s works are known solely through the medium of the French version, his merit is almost universally acknowledged. Even those who are most decidedly opposed to his political opinions — the very chiefs of the Holy Alliance — have publicly testified their respect for him. In England, on the contrary, many persons who certainly entertained no prejudice against him on political grounds were long in the habit of mentioning him contemptuously. Indeed, what was said of Bacon’s Philosophy may be said of Bentham’s. It was in little repute among us, till judgments in its favour came from beyond sea, and convinced us, to our shame, that we had been abusing and laughing at one of the greatest men of the age.

M. Dumont might easily have found employments more gratifying to personal vanity than that of arranging works not his own. But he could have found no employment more useful or more truly honourable. The book before us, hastily written as it is, contains abundant proof, if proof were needed, that he did not become an editor because he wanted the talents which would have made him eminent as a writer.

Persons who hold democratical opinions, and who have been accustomed to consider M. Dumont as one of their party, have been surprised and mortified to learn that he speaks with very little respect of the French Revolution and of its authors. Some zealous Tories have Edition: current; Page: [74] naturally expressed great satisfaction at finding their doctrines, in some respects, confirmed by the testimony of an unwilling witness. The date of the work, we think, explains every thing. If it had been written ten years earlier, or twenty years later, it would have been very different from what it is. It was written, neither during the first excitement of the revolution, nor at that later period when the practical good produced by the Revolution had become manifest to the most prejudiced observers; but in those wretched times when the enthusiasm had abated, and the solid advantages were not yet fully seen. It was written in the year 1799,—a year in which the most sanguine friend of liberty might well feel some misgivings as to the effects of what the National Assembly had done. The evils which attend every great change had been severely felt. The benefit was still to come. The price—a heavy price—had been paid. The thing purchased had not yet been delivered. Europe was swarming with French exiles. The fleets and armies of the second coalition were victorious. Within France, the reign of terror was over; but the reign of law had not commenced. There had been, indeed, during three or four years, a written Constitution, by which rights were defined and checks provided. But these rights had been repeatedly violated; and those checks had proved utterly inefficient. The laws which had been framed to secure the distinct authority of the executive magistrates and of the legislative assemblies—the freedom of election—the freedom of debate—the freedom of the press—the personal freedom of citizens—were a dead letter. The ordinary mode in which the Republic was governed was by coups d’état. On one occasion, the legislative councils were placed under military restraint by the directors. Then, again, directors were deposed by the legislative councils. Elections were set aside by the executive authority. Ship-loads of writers and speakers were sent, without a legal trial, to die of fever in Guiana. France, Edition: current; Page: [75] in short, was in that state in which revolutions, effected by violence, almost always leave a nation. The habit of obedience had been lost. The spell of prescription had been broken. Those associations on which, far more than on any arguments about property and order, the authority of magistrates rests had completely passed away. The power of the government consisted merely in the physical force which it could bring to its support. Moral force it had none. It was itself a government sprung from a recent convulsion. Its own fundamental maxim was, that rebellion might be justifiable. Its own existence proved that rebellion might be successful. The people had been accustomed, during several years, to offer resistance to the constituted authorities on the slightest provocation, and to see the constituted authorities yield to that resistance. The whole political world was “without form and void”—an incessant whirl of hostile atoms, which, every moment, formed some new combination. The only man who could fix the agitated elements of society in a stable form was following a wild vision of glory and empire through the Syrian deserts. The time was not yet come, when

  • “Confusion heard his voice; and wild uproar
  • Stood ruled:”

when, out of the chaos into which the old society had been resolved, were to rise a new dynasty, a new peerage, a new church, and a new code.

The dying words of Madame Roland, “Oh Liberty! how many crimes are committed in thy name!” were at that time echoed by many of the most upright and benevolent of mankind. M. Guizot has, in one of his admirable pamphlets, happily and justly described M. Lainé as “an honest and liberal man, discouraged by the Revolution.” This description, at the time when M. Dumont’s Memoirs were written, would have applied to almost every honest and liberal man in Europe; and would, beyond all doubt, have applied to M. Dumont himself. To Edition: current; Page: [76] that fanatical worship of the all-wise and all-good people, which had been common a few years before, had succeeded an uneasy suspicion that the follies and vices of the people would frustrate all attempts to serve them. The wild and joyous exultation, with which the meeting of the States-General and the fall of the Bastile had been hailed, had passed away. In its place was dejection, and a gloomy distrust of specious appearances. The philosophers and philanthropists had reigned. And what had their reign produced? Philosophy had brought with it mummeries as absurd as any which had been practised by the most superstitious zealot of the darkest age. Philanthropy had brought with it crimes as horrible as the massacre of Saint Bartholomew. This was the emancipation of the human mind. These were the fruits of the great victory of reason over prejudice. France had rejected the faith of Pascal and Descartes as a nursery fable, that a courtezan might be her idol, and a madman her priest. She had asserted her freedom against Louis, that she might bow down before Robespierre. For a time men thought that all the boasted wisdom of the eighteenth century was folly; and that those hopes of great political and social ameliorations which had been cherished by Voltaire and Condorcet were utterly delusive.

Under the influence of these feelings, M. Dumont has gone so far as to say that the writings of Mr. Burke on the French Revolution, though disfigured by exaggeration, and though containing doctrines subversive of all public liberty, had been, on the whole, justified by events, and had probably saved Europe from great disasters. That such a man as the friend and fellow-labourer of Mr. Bentham should have expressed such an opinion is a circumstance which well deserves the consideration of uncharitable politicians. These Memoirs have not convinced us that the French Revolution was not a great blessing to mankind. But they have convinced us that very great indulgence is due to those who, while the Revolution was actually taking place, regarded it with Edition: current; Page: [77] unmixed aversion and horror. We can perceive where their error lay. We can perceive that the evil was temporary, and the good durable. But we cannot be sure that, if our lot had been cast in their times, we should not, like them, have been discouraged and disgusted—that we should not, like them, have seen, in that great victory of the French people, only insanity and crime.

It is curious to observe how some men are applauded, and others reviled, for merely being what all their neighbours are, —for merely going passively down the stream of events,—for merely representing the opinions and passions of a whole generation. The friends of popular government ordinarily speak with extreme severity of Mr. Pitt, and with respect and tenderness of Mr. Canning. Yet the whole difference, we suspect, consisted merely in this,—that Mr. Pitt died in 1806, and Mr. Canning in 1827. During the years which were common to the public life of both, Mr. Canning was assuredly not a more liberal statesman than his patron. The truth is that Mr. Pitt began his political life at the end of the American War, when the nation was suffering from the effects of corruption. He closed it in the midst of the calamities produced by the French Revolution, when the nation was still strongly impressed with the horrors of anarchy. He changed, undoubtedly. In his youth he had brought in reform bills. In his manhood he brought in gagging bills. But the change, though lamentable, was, in our opinion, perfectly natural, and might have been perfectly honest. He changed with the great body of his countrymen. Mr. Canning, on the other hand, entered into public life when Europe was in dread of the Jacobins. He closed his public life when Europe was suffering under the tyranny of the Holy Alliance. He, too, changed with the nation. As the crimes of the Jacobins had turned the master into something very like a Tory, the events which followed the Congress of Vienna turned the pupil into something very like a Whig.

So much are men the creatures of circumstances. We Edition: current; Page: [78] see that, if M. Dumont had died in 1799, he would have died, to use the new cant word, a decided “Conservative.” If Mr. Pitt had lived in 1832, it is our firm belief that he would have been a decided Reformer.

The judgment passed by M. Dumont in this work on the French Revolution must be taken with considerable allowances. It resembles a criticism on a play of which only the first act has been performed, or on a building from which the scaffolding has not yet been taken down. We have no doubt that, if the excellent author had revised these memoirs thirty years after the time at which they were written, he would have seen reason to omit a few passages, and to add many qualifications and explanations.

He would not probably have been inclined to retract the censures, just, though severe, which he has passed on the ignorance, the presumption, and the pedantry, of the National Assembly. But he would have admitted that, in spite of those faults, perhaps even by reason of those faults, that Assembly had conferred inestimable benefits on mankind. It is clear that, among the French of that day, political knowledge was absolutely in its infancy. It would indeed have been strange if it had attained maturity in the time of censors, of lettres-de-cachet, and of beds of justice. The electors did not know how to elect. The representatives did not know how to deliberate. M. Dumont taught the constituent body of Montreuil how to perform their functions, and found them apt to learn. He afterwards tried, in concert with Mirabeau, to instruct the National Assembly in that admirable system of Parliamentary tactics which has been long established in the English House of Commons, and which has made the House of Commons, in spite of all the defects in its composition, the best and fairest debating society in the world. But these accomplished legislators, though quite as ignorant as the mob of Montreuil, proved much less docile, and cried out that they did not want to go to Edition: current; Page: [79] school to the English. Their debates consisted of endless successions of trashy pamphlets, all beginning with something about the original compact of society, man in the hunting state, and other such foolery. They sometimes diversified and enlivened these long readings by a little rioting. They bawled; they hooted; they shook their fists. They kept no order among themselves. They were insulted with impunity by the crowd which filled their galleries. They gave long and solemn considerations to trifles. They hurried through the most important resolutions with fearful expedition. They wasted months in quibbling about the words of that false and childish Declaration of Rights on which they professed to found their new constitution, and which was at irreconcilable variance with every clause of that constitution. They annihilated in a single night privileges, many of which partook of the nature of property, and ought therefore to have been most delicately handled.

They are called the Constituent Assembly. Never was a name less appropriate. They were not constituent, but the very reverse of constituent. They constituted nothing that stood or that deserved to last. They had not, and they could not possibly have, the information or the habits of mind which are necessary for the framing of that most exquisite of all machines—a government. The metaphysical cant with which they prefaced their constitution has long been the scoff of all parties. Their constitution itself,—that constitution which they described as absolutely perfect, and to which they predicted immortality,—disappeared in a few months, and left no trace behind it. They were great only in the work of destruction.

The glory of the National Assembly is this, that they were in truth, what Mr. Burke called them in austere irony, the ablest architects of ruin that ever the world saw. They were utterly incompetent to perform any work which required a discriminating eye and a skilful Edition: current; Page: [80] hand. But the work which was then to be done was a work of devastation. They had to deal with abuses so horrible and so deeply rooted that the highest political wisdom could scarcely have produced greater good to mankind than was produced by their fierce and senseless temerity. Demolition is undoubtedly a vulgar task; the highest glory of the statesman is to construct. But there is a time for everything,—a time to set up, and a time to pull down. The talents of revolutionary leaders and those of the legislator have equally their use and their season. It is the natural, the almost universal, law, that the age of insurrections and proscriptions shall precede the age of good government, of temperate liberty, and liberal order.

And how should it be otherwise? It is not in swaddling-bands that we learn to walk. It is not in the dark that we learn to distinguish colours. It is not under eppression that we learn how to use freedom. The ordinary sophism by which misrule is defended is, when truly stated, this: — The people must continue in slavery, because slavery has generated in them all the vices of slaves. Because they are ignorant, they must remain under a power which has made and which keeps them ignorant. Because they have been made ferocious by misgovernment, they must be misgoverned for ever. If the system under which they live were so mild and liberal that under its operation they had become humane and enlightened, it would be safe to venture on a change. But, as this system has destroyed morality, and prevented the development of the intellect,—as it has turned men, who might under different training have formed a virtuous and happy community, into savage and stupid wild beasts,—therefore it ought to last for ever. The English Revolution, it is said, was truly a glorious Revolution. Practical evils were redressed; no excesses were committed; no sweeping confiscations took place; the authority of the laws was scarcely for a moment suspended; Edition: current; Page: [81] the fullest and freest discussion was tolerated in Parliament; the nation showed, by the calm and temperate manner in which it asserted its liberty, that it was fit to enjoy liberty. The French Revolution was, on the other hand, the most horrible event recorded in history, — all madness and wickedness, — absurdity in theory, and atrocity in practice. What folly and injustice in the revolutionary laws! What grotesque affectation in the revolutionary ceremonies! What fanaticism! What licentiousness! What cruelty! Anacharsis Clootz and Marat, — feasts of the Supreme Being, and marriages of the Loire — trees of liberty, and heads dancing on pikes — the whole forms a kind of infernal farce, made up of everything ridiculous, and everything frightful. This it is to give freedom to those who have neither wisdom nor virtue.

It is not only by bad men interested in the defence of abuses that arguments like these have been urged against all schemes of political improvement. Some of the highest and purest of human beings conceived such scorn and aversion for the follies and crimes of the French Revolution that they recanted, in the moment of triumph, those liberal opinions to which they had clung in defiance of persecution. And, if we inquire why it was that they began to doubt whether liberty were a blessing, we shall find that it was only because events had proved, in the clearest manner, that liberty is the parent of virtue and of order. They ceased to abhor tyranny merely because it had been signally shown that the effect of tyranny on the hearts and understandings of men is more demoralising and more stupifying than had ever been imagined by the most zealous friend of popular rights. The truth is, that a stronger argument against the old monarchy of France may be drawn from the noyades and the fusillades than from the Bastile and the Parc-aux-cerfs. We believe it to be a rule without an exception, that the violence of a revolution corresponds to the degree of Edition: current; Page: [82] misgovernment which has produced that revolution. Why was the French Revolution so bloody and destructive? Why was our revolution of 1641 comparatively mild? Why was our revolution of 1688 milder still? Why was the American Revolution, considered as an internal movement, the mildest of all? There is an obvious and complete solution of the problem. The English under James the First and Charles the First were less oppressed than the French under Louis the Fifteenth and Louis the Sixteenth. The English were less oppressed after the Restoration than before the great Rebellion. And America under George the Third was less oppressed than England under the Stuarts. The re-action was exactly proportioned to the pressure, — the vengeance to the provocation.

When Mr. Burke was reminded in his later years of the zeal which he had displayed in the cause of the Americans, he vindicated himself from the charge of inconsistency, by contrasting the wisdom and moderation of the Colonial insurgents of 1776 with the fanaticism and wickedness of the Jacobins of 1792. He was in fact bringing an argument a fortiori against himself. The circumstances on which he rested his vindication fully proved that the old government of France stood in far more need of a complete change than the old government of America. The difference between Washington and Robespierre, — the difference between Franklin and Barère, — the difference between the destruction of a few barrels of tea and the confiscation of thousands of square miles, — the difference between the tarring and feathering of a tax-gatherer and the massacres of September, — measure the difference between the government of America under the rule of England and the government of France under the rule of the Bourbons.

Louis the Sixteenth made great voluntary concessions to his people; and they sent him to the scaffold. Charles the Tenth violated the fundamental laws of the state, established a despotism, and butchered his subjects for not Edition: current; Page: [83] submitting quietly to that despotism. He failed in his wicked attempt. He was at the mercy of those whom he had injured. The pavements of Paris were still heaped up in barricades; — the hospitals were still full of the wounded; — the dead were still unburied; — a thousand families were in mourning; — a hundred thousand citizens were in arms. The crime was recent; — the life of the criminal was in the hands of the sufferers; — and they touched not one hair of his head. In the first revolution, victims were sent to death by scores for the most trifling acts proved by the lowest testimony, before the most partial tribunals. After the second revolution, those ministers who had signed the ordinances, — those ministers, whose guilt, as it was of the foulest kind, was proved by the clearest evidence, — were punished only with imprisonment. In the first revolution, property was attacked. In the second, it was held sacred. Both revolutions, it is true, left the public mind of France in an unsettled state. Both revolutions were followed by insurrectionary movements. But, after the first revolution, the insurgents were almost always stronger than the law; and, since the second revolution, the law has invariably been found stronger than the insurgents. There is, indeed, much in the present state of France which may well excite the uneasiness of those who desire to see her free, happy, powerful, and secure. Yet, if we compare the present state of France with the state in which she was forty years ago, how vast a change for the better has taken place! How little effect, for example, during the first revolution, would the sentence of a judicial body have produced on an armed and victorious party! If, after the 10th of August, or after the proscription of the Gironde, or after the 9th of Thermidor, or after the carnage of Vendémiaire, or after the arrests of Fructidor, any tribunal had decided against the conquerors in favour of the conquered, with what contempt, with what derision, would its award have been received! The Edition: current; Page: [84] judges would have lost their heads, or would have been sent to die in some unwholesome colony. The fate of the victim whom they had endeavoured to save would only have been made darker and more hopeless by their interference. We have lately seen a signal proof that, in France, the law is now stronger than the sword. We have seen a government, in the very moment of triumph and revenge, submitting itself to the authority of a court of law. A just and independent sentence has been pronounced—a sentence worthy of the ancient renown of that magistracy to which belong the noblest recollections of French history—which, in an age of persecutors, produced L’Hôpital,—which, in an age of courtiers, produced D’Aguesseau—which, in an age of wickedness and madness, exhibited to mankind a pattern of every virtue in the life and in the death of Malesherbes. The respectful manner in which that sentence has been received is alone sufficient to show how widely the French of this generation differ from their fathers. And how is the difference to be explained? The race, the soil, the climate, are the same. If those dull, honest Englishmen, who explain the events of 1793 and 1794 by saying that the French are naturally frivolous and cruel, were in the right, why is the guillotine now standing idle? Not surely for want of Carlists, of aristocrats, of people guilty of incivism, of people suspected of being suspicious characters. Is not the true explanation this, that the Frenchman of 1832 has been far better governed than the Frenchman of 1789,—that his soul has never been galled by the oppressive privileges of a separate caste,—that he has been in some degree accustomed to discuss political questions, and to perform political functions,—that he has lived for seventeen or eighteen years under institutions which, however defective, have yet been far superior to any institutions that had before existed in France?

As the second French Revolution has been far milder than the first, so that great change which has just Edition: current; Page: [85] been effected in England has been milder even than the second French Revolution,—milder than any revolution recorded in history. Some orators have described the reform of the House of Commons as a revolution. Others, have denied the propriety of the term. The question, though in seeming merely a question of definition, suggests much curious and interesting matter for reflection. If we look at the magnitude of the reform, it may well be called a revolution. If we look at the means by which it has been effected, it is merely an act of Parliament, regularly brought in, read, committed, and passed. In the whole history of England, there is no prouder circumstance than this,—that a change, which could not, in any other age, or in any other country, have been effected without physical violence, should here have been effected by the force of reason, and under the forms of law. The work of three civil wars has been accomplished by three sessions of Parliament. An ancient and deeply rooted system of abuses has been fiercely attacked and stubbornly defended. It has fallen; and not one sword has been drawn; not one estate has been confiscated; not one family has been forced to emigrate. The bank has kept its credit. The funds have kept their price. Every man has gone forth to his work and to his labour till the evening. During the fiercest excitement of the contest,—during the first fortnight of that immortal May,—there was not one moment at which any sanguinary act committed on the person of any of the most unpopular men in England would not have filled the country with horror and indignation.

And, now that the victory is won, has it been abused? An immense mass of power has been transferred from an oligarchy to the nation. Are the members of the vanquished oligarchy insecure? Does the nation seem disposed to play the tyrant? Are not those who, in any other state of society, would have been visited with the severest vengeance of the triumphant party,—would have Edition: current; Page: [86] been pining in dungeons, or flying to foreign countries,—still enjoying their possessions and their honours, still taking part as freely as ever in public affairs? Two years ago they were dominant. They are now vanquished. Yet the whole people would regard with horror any man who should dare to propose any vindictive measure. So common is this feeling,—so much is it a matter of course among us,—that many of our readers will scarcely understand what we see to admire in it.

To what are we to attribute the unparalleled moderation and humanity which the English people have displayed at this great conjuncture? The answer is plain. This moderation, this humanity, are the fruits of a hundred and fifty years of liberty. During many generations we have had legislative assemblies which, however defective their constitution might be, have always contained many members chosen by the people, and many others eager to obtain the approbation of the people;—assemblies in which perfect freedom of debate was allowed;—assemblies in which the smallest minority had a fair hearing;—assemblies in which abuses, even when they were not redressed, were at least exposed. For many generations we have had the trial by jury, the Habeas Corpus Act, the freedom of the press, the right of meeting to discuss public affairs, the right of petitioning the legislature. A vast portion of the population has long been accustomed to the exercise of political functions, and has been thoroughly seasoned to political excitement. In most other countries there is no middle course between absolute submission and open rebellion. In England there has always been for centuries a constitutional opposition. Thus our institutions had been so good that they had educated us into a capacity for better institutions. There is not a large town in the kingdom which does not contain better materials for a legislature than all France could furnish in 1789. There is not a spouting-club at any pot-house in London in which the rules of debate are Edition: current; Page: [87] not better understood, and more strictly observed, than in the Constituent Assembly. There is scarcely a Political Union which could not frame in half an hour a declaration of rights superior to that which occupied the collective wisdom of France for several months.

It would be impossible even to glance at all the causes of the French Revolution within the limits to which we must confine ourselves. One thing is clear. The government, the aristocracy, and the church, were rewarded after their works. They reaped that which they had sown. They found the nation such as they had made it. That the people had become possessed of irresistible power before they had attained the slightest knowledge of the art of government—that practical questions of vast moment were left to be solved by men to whom politics had been only matter of theory—that a legislature was composed of persons who were scarcely fit to compose a debating society—that the whole nation was ready to lend an ear to any flatterer who appealed to its cupidity, to its fears, or to its thirst for vengeance—all this was the effect of misrule, obstinately continued in defiance of solemn warnings, and of the visible signs of an approaching retribution.

Even while the monarchy seemed to be in its highest and most palmy state, the causes of that great destruction had already begun to operate. They may be distinctly traced even under the reign of Louis the Fourteenth. That reign is the time to which the Ultra-Royalists refer as the Golden Age of France. It was in truth one of those periods which shine with an unnatural and delusive splendour, and which are rapidly followed by gloom and decay.

Concerning Louis the Fourteenth himself, the world seems at last to have formed a correct judgment. He was not a great general; he was not a great statesman; but he was, in one sense of the words, a great king. Never was there so consummate a master of what our Edition: current; Page: [88] James the First would have called king-craft,—of all those arts which most advantageously display the merits of a prince, and most completely hide his defects. Though his internal administration was bad,—though the military triumphs which gave splendour to the early part of his reign were not achieved by himself,—though his later years were crowded with defeats and humiliations,—though he was so ignorant that he scarcely understood the Latin of his mass-book,—though he fell under the control of a cunning Jesuit and of a more cunning old woman,—he succeeded in passing himself off on his people as a being above humanity. And this is the more extraordinary, because he did not seclude himself from the public gaze like those Oriental despots whose faces are never seen, and whose very names it is a crime to pronounce lightly. It has been said that no man is a hero to his valet;—and all the world saw as much of Louis the Fourteenth as his valet could see. Five hundred people assembled to see him shave and put on his breeches in the morning. He then kneeled down at the side of his bed, and said his prayer, while the whole assembly awaited the end in solemn silence,—the ecclesiastics on their knees, and the laymen with their hats before their faces. He walked about his gardens with a train of two hundred courtiers at his heels. All Versailles came to see him dine and sup. He was put to bed at night in the midst of a crowd as great as that which had met to see him rise in the morning. He took his very emetics in state, and vomited majestically in the presence of all the grandes and petites entrées. Yet, though he constantly exposed himself to the public gaze in situations in which it is scarcely possible for any man to preserve much personal dignity, he to the last impressed those who surrounded him with the deepest awe and reverence. The illusion which he produced on his worshippers can be compared only to those illusions to which lovers are proverbially subject during the season of courtship. It Edition: current; Page: [89] was an illusion which affected even the senses. The contemporaries of Louis thought him tall. Voltaire, who might have seen him, and who had lived with some of the most distinguished members of his court, speaks repeatedly of his majestic stature. Yet it is as certain as any fact can be, that he was rather below than above the middle size. He had, it seems, a way of holding himself, a way of walking, a way of swelling his chest and rearing his head, which deceived the eyes of the multitude. Eighty years after his death, the royal cemetery was violated by the revolutionists; his coffin was opened; his body was dragged out; and it appeared that the prince, whose majestic figure had been so long and loudly extolled, was in truth a little man.* That fine expression of Juvenal is singularly applicable, both in its literal and in its metaphorical sense, to Louis the Fourteenth:

  • “Mors sola fatetur
  • Quantula sint hominum corpuscula.”

His person and his government have had the same fate. He had the art of making both appear grand and august, in spite of the clearest evidence that both were below the ordinary standard. Death and time have exposed both the deceptions. The body of the great king has been measured more justly than it was measured by the courtiers who were afraid to look above his shoe-tie. His public character has been scrutinized by men free from the hopes and fears of Boileau and Molière. In the grave, the most majestic of princes is only five feet eight. In history, the hero and the politician dwindles into a vain and feeble tyrant,—the slave of priests and women,—little in war,—little in government,—little in everything but the art of simulating greatness.

Edition: current; Page: [90]

He left to his infant successor a famished and miserable people, a beaten and humbled army, provinces turned into deserts by misgovernment and persecution, factions dividing the court, a schism raging in the church, an immense debt, an empty treasury, immeasurable palaces, an innumerable household, inestimable jewels and furniture. All the sap and nutriment of the state seemed to have been drawn to feed one bloated and unwholesome excrescence. The nation was withered. The court was morbidly flourishing. Yet it does not appear that the associations which attached the people to the monarchy had lost strength during his reign. He had neglected or sacrificed their dearest interests; but he had struck their imaginations. The very things which ought to have made him most unpopular,—the prodigies of luxury and magnificence with which his person was surrounded, while, beyond the inclosure of his parks, nothing was to be seen but starvation and despair,—seemed to increase the respectful attachment which his subjects felt for him. That governments exist only for the good of the people, appears to be the most obvious and simple of all truths. Yet history proves that it is one of the most recondite. We can scarcely wonder that it should be so seldom present to the minds of rulers, when we see how slowly, and through how much suffering, nations arrive at the knowledge of it.

There was indeed one Frenchman who had discovered those principles which it now seems impossible to miss,—that the many are not made for the use of one, — that the truly good government is not that which concentrates magnificence in a court, but that which diffuses happiness among a people, — that a king who gains victory after victory, and adds province to province, may deserve, not the admiration, but the abhorrence and contempt of mankind. These were the doctrines which Fénélon taught. Considered as an epic poem, Telemachus can scarcely be placed above Glover’s Leonidas or Wilkie’s Epigoniad. Edition: current; Page: [91] Considered as a treatise on politics and morals, it abounds with errors of detail; and the truths which it inculcates seem trite to a modern reader. But, if we compare the spirit in which it is written with the spirit which pervades the rest of the French literature of that age, we shall perceive that, though in appearance trite, it was in truth one of the most original works that have ever appeared. The fundamental principles of Fénélon’s political morality, the tests by which he judged of institutions and of men, were absolutely new to his countrymen. He had taught them indeed, with the happiest effect, to his royal pupil. But how incomprehensible they were to most people, we learn from Saint Simon. That amusing writer tells us, as a thing almost incredible, that the Duke of Burgundy declared it to be his opinion that kings existed for the good of the people, and not the people for the good of kings. Saint Simon is delighted with the benevolence of this saying; but startled by its novelty, and terrified by its boldness. Indeed he distinctly says that it was not safe to repeat the sentiment in the court of Louis. Saint Simon was, of all the members of that court, the least courtly. He was as nearly an oppositionist as any man of his time. His disposition was proud, bitter, and cynical. In religion he was a Jansenist; in politics, a less hearty royalist than most of his neighbours. His opinions and his temper had preserved him from the illusions which the demeanour of Louis produced on others. He neither loved nor respected the king. Yet even this man, — one of the most liberal men in France, — was struck dumb with astonishment at hearing the fundamental axiom of all government propounded,—an axiom which, in our time, nobody in England or France would dispute, — which the stoutest Tory takes for granted as much as the fiercest Radical, and concerning which the Carlist would agree with the most republican deputy of the “extreme left.” No person will do justice to Fénélon, who does not constantly keep in mind that Telemachus Edition: current; Page: [92] was written in an age and nation in which bold and independent thinkers stared to hear that twenty millions of human beings did not exist for the gratification of one. That work is commonly considered as a school-book, very fit for children, because its style is easy and its morality blameless, but unworthy of the attention of statesmen and philosophers. We can distinguish in it, if we are not greatly mistaken, the first faint dawn of a long and splendid day of intellectual light, — the dim promise of a great deliverance, — the undeveloped germ of the charter and of the code.

What mighty interests were staked on the life of the Duke of Burgundy! and how different an aspect might the history of France have borne if he had attained the age of his grandfather or of his son; — if he had been permitted to show how much could be done for humanity by the highest virtue in the highest fortune! There is scarcely anything in history more remarkable than the descriptions which remain to us of that extraordinary man. The fierce and impetuous temper which he showed in early youth, — the complete change which a judicious education produced in his character, — his fervid piety,—his large benevolence, — the strictness with which he judged himself, — the liberality with which he judged others, — the fortitude with which alone, in the whole court, he stood up against the commands of Louis, when a religious scruple was concerned, — the charity with which alone, in the whole court, he defended the profligate Orleans against calumniators, — his great projects for the good of the people, — his activity in business, — his taste for letters, — his strong domestic attachments,—even the ungraceful person and the shy and awkward manner which concealed from the eyes of the sneering courtiers of his grandfather so many rare endowments,—make his character the most interesting that is to be found in the annals of his house. He had resolved, if he came to the throne, to disperse that ostentatious court, Edition: current; Page: [93] which was supported at an expense ruinous to the nation, — to preserve peace, — to correct the abuses which were found in every part of the system of revenue, — to abolish or modify oppressive privileges, — to reform the administration of justice, — to revive the institution of the States General. If he had ruled over France during forty or fifty years, that great movement of the human mind, which no government could have arrested, which bad government only rendered more violent, would, we are inclined to think, have been conducted, by peaceable means, to a happy termination.

Disease and sorrow removed from the world that wisdom and virtue of which it was not worthy. During two generations France was ruled by men who, with all the vices of Louis the Fourteenth, had none of the art by which that magnificent prince passed off his vices for virtues. The people had now to see tyranny naked. That foul Duessa was stripped of her gorgeous ornaments. She had always been hideous; but a strange enchantment had made her seem fair and glorious in the eyes of her willing slaves. The spell was now broken; the deformity was made manifest; and the lovers, lately so happy and so proud, turned away loathing and horror-struck.

First came the Regency. The strictness, with which Louis had, towards the close of his life, exacted from those around him an outward attention to religious duties, produced an effect similar to that which the rigour of the Puritans had produced in England. It was the boast of Madame de Maintenon, in the time of her greatness, that devotion had become the fashion. A fashion indeed it was; and, like a fashion, it passed away. The austerity of the tyrant’s old age had injured the morality of the higher orders more than even the licentiousness of his youth. Not only had he not reformed their vices, but, by forcing them to be hypocrites, he had shaken their belief in virtue. They had found it so easy to perform the grimace of piety, that it was natural for them to consider all piety as Edition: current; Page: [94] grimace. The times were changed. Pensions, regiments, and abbeys, were no longer to be obtained by regular confession and severe penance; and the obsequious courtiers, who had kept Lent like monks of La Trappe, and who had turned up the whites of their eyes at the edifying parts of sermons preached before the king, aspired to the title of roué as ardently as they had aspired to that of dévot; and went, during Passion Week, to the revels of the Palais Royal as readily as they had formerly repaired to the sermons of Massillon.

The Regent was in many respects the fac-simile of our Charles the Second. Like Charles, he was a good-natured man, utterly destitute of sensibility. Like Charles, he had good natural talents, which a deplorable indolence rendered useless to the state. Like Charles, he thought all men corrupt and interested, and yet did not dislike them for being so. His opinion of human nature was Gulliver’s; but he did not regard human nature with Gulliver’s horror. He thought that he and his fellow-creatures were Yahoos; and he thought a Yahoo a very agreeable kind of animal. No princes were ever more social than Charles and Philip of Orleans; yet no princes ever had less capacity for friendship. The tempers of these clever cynics were so easy, and their minds so languid, that habit supplied in them the place of affection, and made them the tools of people for whom they cared not one straw. In love, both were mere sensualists without delicacy or tenderness. In politics, both were utterly careless of faith and of national honour. Charles shut up the Exchequer. Philip patronised the System. The councils of Charles were swayed by the gold of Barillon; the councils of Philip by the gold of Walpole. Charles for private objects made war on Holland, the natural ally of England. Philip for private objects made war on the Spanish branch of the house of Bourbon, the natural ally, indeed the creature, of France. Even in trifling circumstances the parallel might be carried on. Both these princes were Edition: current; Page: [95] fond of experimental philosophy, and passed in the laboratory much time which would have been more advantageously passed at the council-table. Both were more strongly attached to their female relatives than to any other human being; and in both cases it was suspected that this attachment was not perfectly innocent. In personal courage, and in all the virtues which are connected with personal courage, the Regent was indisputably superior to Charles. Indeed Charles but narrowly escaped the stain of cowardice. Philip was eminently brave, and, like most brave men, was generally open and sincere. Charles added dissimulation to his other vices.

The administration of the Regent was scarcely less pernicious, and infinitely more scandalous, than that of the deceased monarch. It was by magnificent public works, and by wars conducted on a gigantic scale, that Louis had brought distress on his people. The Regent aggravated that distress by frauds of which a lame duck on the stock-exchange would have been ashamed. France, even while suffering under the most severe calamities, had reverenced the conqueror. She despised the swindler.

When Orleans and the wretched Dubois had disappeared, the power passed to the Duke of Bourbon; a prince degraded in the public eye by the infamously lucrative part which he had taken in the juggles of the System, and by the humility with which he bore the caprices of a loose and imperious woman. It seemed to be decreed that every branch of the royal family should successively incur the abhorrence and contempt of the nation.

Between the fall of the Duke of Bourbon and the death of Fleury, a few years of frugal and moderate government intervened. Then recommenced the downward progress of the monarchy. Profligacy in the court, extravagance in the finances, schism in the church, faction in the Parliaments, unjust war terminated by ignominious peace,—all that indicates and all that produces the ruin of great empires, make up the history of that miserable period. Edition: current; Page: [96] Abroad, the French were beaten and humbled every where, by land and by sea, on the Elbe and on the Rhine, in Asia and in America. At home, they were turned over from vizier to vizier, and from sultana to sultana, till they had reached that point beneath which there was no lower abyss of infamy,—till the yoke of Maupeou had made them pine for Choiseul,—till Madame du Barri had taught them to regret Madame de Pompadour.

But, unpopular as the monarchy had become, the aristocracy was more unpopular still;—and not without reason. The tyranny of an individual is far more supportable than the tyranny of a caste. The old privileges were galling and hateful to the new wealth and the new knowledge. Every thing indicated the approach of no common revolution,—of a revolution destined to change, not merely the form of government, but the distribution of property and the whole social system,—of a revolution the effects of which were to be felt at every fireside in France,—of a new Jaquerie, in which the victory was to remain with Jaques bonhomme. In the van of the movement were the moneyed men and the men of letters,—the wounded pride of wealth, and the wounded pride of intellect. An immense multitude, made ignorant and cruel by oppression, was raging in the rear.

We greatly doubt whether any course which could have been pursued by Louis the Sixteenth could have averted a great convulsion. But we are sure that, if there was such a course, it was the course recommended by M. Turgot. The church and the aristocracy, with that blindness to danger, that incapacity of believing that any thing can be except what has been, which the long possession of power seldom fails to generate, mocked at the counsel which might have saved them. They would not have reform; and they had revolution. They would not pay a small contribution in place of the odious corvées; and they lived to see their castles demolished, and their lands sold to strangers. They would not Edition: current; Page: [97] endure Turgot; and they were forced to endure Robespierre.

Then the rulers of France, as if smitten with judicial blindness, plunged headlong into the American war. They thus committed at once two great errors. They encouraged the spirit of revolution. They augmented at the same time those public burdens, the pressure of which is generally the immediate cause of revolutions. The event of the war carried to the height the enthusiasm of speculative democrats. The financial difficulties produced by the war carried to the height the discontent of that larger body of people who cared little about theories, and much about taxes.

The meeting of the States-General was the signal for the explosion of all the hoarded passions of a century. In that assembly, there were undoubtedly very able men. But they had no practical knowledge of the art of government. All the great English revolutions have been conducted by practical statesmen. The French Revolution was conducted by mere speculators. Our constitution has never been so far behind the age as to have become an object of aversion to the people. The English revolutions have therefore been undertaken for the purpose of defending, correcting, and restoring,—never for the mere purpose of destroying. Our countrymen have always, even in times of the greatest excitement, spoken reverently of the form of government under which they lived, and attacked only what they regarded as its corruptions. In the very act of innovating they have constantly appealed to ancient preseription; they have seldom looked abroad for models; they have seldom troubled themselves with Utopian theories; they have not been anxious to prove that liberty is a natural right of men; they have been content to regard it as the lawful birthright of Englishmen. Their social contract is no fiction. It is still extant on the original parchment, sealed with wax which was affixed at Runnymede, and attested by the lordly names of the Edition: current; Page: [98] Marischals and Fitzherberts. No general arguments about the original equality of men, no fine stories out of Plutarch and Cornelius Nepos, have ever affected them so much as their own familiar words, — Magna Charta, — Habeas Corpus,—Trial by Jury,—Bill of Rights. This part of our national character has undoubtedly its disadvantages. An Englishman too often reasons on politics in the spirit rather of a lawyer than of a philosopher. There is too often something narrow, something exclusive, something Jewish, if we may use the word, in his love of freedom. He is disposed to consider popular rights as the special heritage of the chosen race to which he belongs. He is inclined rather to repel than to encourage the alien proselyte who aspires to a share of his privileges. Very different was the spirit of the Constituent Assembly. They had none of our narrowness; but they had none of our practical skill in the management of affairs. They did not understand how to regulate the order of their own debates; and they thought themselves able to legislate for the whole world. All the past was loathsome to them. All their agreeable associations were connected with the future. Hopes were to them all that recollections are to us. In the institutions of their country they found nothing to love or to admire. As far back as they could look, they saw only the tyranny of one class and the degradation of another,—Frank and Gaul, knight and villein, gentleman and roturier. They hated the monarchy, the church, the nobility. They cared nothing for the States or the Parliament. It was long the fashion to ascribe all the follies which they committed to the writings of the philosophers. We believe that it was misrule, and nothing but misrule, that put the sting into those writings. It is not true that the French abandoned experience for theories. They took up with theories because they had no experience of good government. It was because they had no charter that they ranted about the original contract. As soon as tolerable institutions were given to them, they Edition: current; Page: [99] began to look to those institutions. In 1830 their rallying cry was Vive la Charte. In 1789 they had nothing but theories round which to rally. They had seen social distinctions only in a bad form; and it was therefore natural that they should be deluded by sophisms about the equality of men. They had experienced so much evil from the sovereignty of kings that they might be excused for lending a ready ear to those who preached, in an exaggerated form, the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people.

The English, content with their own national recollections and names, have never sought for models in the institutions of Greece or Rome. The French, having nothing in their own history to which they could look back with pleasure, had recourse to the history of the great ancient commonwealths: they drew their notions of those commonwealths, not from contemporary writers, but from romances written by pedantic moralists long after the extinction of public liberty. They neglected Thucydides for Plutarch. Blind themselves, they took blind guides. They had no experience of freedom; and they took their opinions concerning it from men who had no more experience of it than themselves, and whose imaginations, inflamed by mystery and privation, exaggerated the unknown enjoyment; — from men who raved about patriotism without having ever had a country, and eulogised tyrannicide while crouching before tyrants. The maxim which the French legislators learned in this school was, that political liberty is an end, and not a means; that it is not merely valuable as the great safeguard of order, of property, and of morality, but that it is in itself a high and exquisite happiness to which order, property, and morality ought without one scruple to be sacrificed. The lessons which may be learned from ancient history are indeed most useful and important; but they were not likely to be learned by men who, in all their rhapsodies about the Athenian democracy, seemed Edition: current; Page: [100] utterly to forget that in that democracy there were ten slaves to one citizen; and who constantly decorated their invectives against the aristocrats with panegyrics on Brutus and Cato, — two aristocrats, fiercer, prouder, and more exclusive, than any that emigrated with the Count of Artois.

We have never met with so vivid and interesting a picture of the National Assembly as that which M. Dumont has set before us. His Mirabeau, in particular, is incomparable. All the former Mirabeaus were daubs in comparison. Some were merely painted from the imagination — others were gross caricatures: this is the very individual, neither god nor demon, but a man — a Frenchman, — a Frenchman of the eighteenth century, with great talents, with strong passions, depraved by bad education, surrounded by temptations of every kind, — made desperate at one time by disgrace, and then again intoxicated by fame. All his opposite and seemingly inconsistent qualities are in this representation so blended together as to make up a harmonious and natural whole. Till now, Mirabeau was to us, and, we believe, to most readers of history, not a man, but a string of antitheses. Henceforth he will be a real human being, a remarkable and eccentric being indeed, but perfectly conceivable.

He was fond, M. Dumont tells us, of giving odd compound nicknames. Thus, M. de Lafayette was Grandison-Cromwell; the King of Prussia was Alaric-Cottin; D’Espremenil was Crispin-Catiline. We think that Mirabeau himself might be described, after his own fashion, as a Wilkes-Chatham. He had Wilkes’s sensuality, Wilkes’s levity, Wilkes’s insensibility to shame. Like Wilkes, he had brought on himself the censure even of men of pleasure by the peculiar grossness of his immorality, and by the obscenity of his writings. Like Wilkes, he was heedless, not only of the laws of morality, but of the laws of honour. Yet he affected, like Wilkes, to unite the character of the demagogue to that of the fine gentleman. Edition: current; Page: [101] Like Wilkes, he conciliated, by his good-humour and his high spirits, the regard of many who despised his character. Like Wilkes, he was hideously ugly; like Wilkes, he made a jest of his own ugliness; and, like Wilkes, he was, in spite of his ugliness, very attentive to his dress, and very successful in affairs of gallantry.

Resembling Wilkes in the lower and grosser parts of his character, he had, in his higher qualities, some affinity to Chatham. His eloquence, as far as we can judge of it, bore no inconsiderable resemblance to that of the great English minister. He was not eminently successful in long set speeches. He was not, on the other hand, a close and ready debater. Sudden bursts, which seemed to be the effect of inspiration—short sentences which came like lightning, dazzling, burning, striking down every thing before them—sentences which, spoken at critical moments, decided the fate of great questions—sentences which at once became proverbs—sentences which everybody still knows by heart—in these chiefly lay the oratorical power both of Chatham and of Mirabeau. There have been far greater speakers, and far greater statesmen, than either of them; but we doubt whether any men have, in modern times, exercised such vast personal influence over stormy and divided assemblies. The power of both was as much moral as intellectual. In true dignity of character, in private and public virtue, it may seem absurd to institute any comparison between them; but they had the same haughtiness and vehemence of temper. In their language and manner there was a disdainful self-confidence, an imperiousness, a fierceness of passion, before which all common minds quailed. Even Murray and Charles Townshend, though intellectually not inferior to Chatham, were always cowed by him. Barnave, in the same manner, though the best debater in the National Assembly, flinched before the energy of Mirabeau. Men, except in bad novels, are not all good or all evil. It can scarcely be denied that the virtue of Lord Chatham was Edition: current; Page: [102] a little theatrical. On the other hand there was in Mirabeau, not indeed any thing deserving the name of virtue, but that imperfect substitute for virtue which is found in almost all superior minds,—a sensibility to the beautiful and the good, which sometimes amounted to sincere enthusiasm; and which, mingled with the desire of admiration, sometimes gave to his character a lustre resembling the lustre of true goodness,—as the “faded splendour wan” which lingered round the fallen arch-angel resembled the exceeding brightness of those spirits who had kept their first estate.

There are several other admirable portraits of eminent men in these Memoirs. That of Sieyes in particular, and that of Talleyrand, are masterpieces, full of life and expression. But nothing in the book has interested us more than the view which M. Dumont has presented to us, unostentatiously, and, we may say, unconsciously, of his own character. The sturdy rectitude, the large charity, the good-nature, the modesty, the independent spirit, the ardent philanthropy, the unaffected indifference to money and to fame, make up a character which, while it has nothing unnatural, seems to us to approach nearer to perfection than any of the Grandisons and Allworthys of fiction. The work is not indeed precisely such a work as we had anticipated—it is more lively, more picturesque, more amusing than we had promised ourselves; and it is, on the other hand, less profound and philosophic. But, if it is not, in all respects, such as might have been expected from the intellect of M. Dumont, it is assuredly such as might have been expected from his heart.

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BARÈRE. (April 1844.)

Mémoires de Bertrand Barère; publiés par MM. Hippolyte Carnot, Membre de la Chambre des Députés, et David d’Angers, Membre de l’Institut: précédés d’une Notice Historique par H. Carnot. 4 tomes. Paris: 1843.

This book has more than one title to our serious attention. It is an appeal, solemnly made to posterity by a man who played a conspicuous part in great events, and who represents himself as deeply aggrieved by the rash and malevolent censure of his contemporaries. To such an appeal we shall always give ready audience. We can perform no duty more useful to society, or more agreeable to our own feelings, than that of making, as far as our power extends, reparation to the slandered and persecuted benefactors of mankind. We therefore promptly took into our consideration this copious apology for the life of Bertrand Barère. We have made up our minds; and we now purpose to do him, by the blessing of God, full and signal justice.

It is to be observed that the appellant in this case does not come into court alone. He is attended to the bar of public opinion by two compurgators who occupy highly honourable stations. One of these is M. David of Angers, member of the Institute, an eminent sculptor, and, if we have been rightly informed, a favourite pupil, though not a kinsman, of the painter who bore the same name. The other, to whom we owe the biographical preface, is Edition: current; Page: [104] M. Hippolyte Carnot, member of the Chamber of Deputies, and son of the celebrated Director. In the judgment of M. David and of M. Hippolyte Carnot, Barère was a deserving and an ill-used man, a man who, though by no means faultless, must yet, when due allowance is made for the force of circumstances and the infirmity of human nature, be considered as on the whole entitled to our esteem. It will be for the public to determine, after a full hearing, whether the editors have, by thus connecting their names with that of Barère, raised his character or lowered their own.

We are not conscious that, when we opened this book, we were under the influence of any feeling likely to pervert our judgment. Undoubtedly we had long entertained a most unfavourable opinion of Barère; but to this opinion we were not tied by any passion or by any interest. Our dislike was a reasonable dislike, and might have been removed by reason. Indeed our expectation was, that these Memoirs would in some measure clear Barère’s fame. That he could vindicate himself from all the charges which had been brought against him, we knew to be impossible; and his editors admit that he has not done so. But we thought it highly probable that some grave accusations would be refuted, and that many offences to which he would have been forced to plead guilty would be greatly extenuated. We were not disposed to be severe. We were fully aware that temptations such as those to which the members of the Convention and of the Committee of Public Safety were exposed must try severely the strength of the firmest virtue. Indeed our inclination has always been to regard with an indulgence, which to some rigid moralists appears excessive, those faults into which gentle and noble spirits are sometimes hurried by the excitement of conflict, by the maddening influence of sympathy, and by ill-regulated zeal for a public cause.

With such feelings we read this book, and compared it Edition: current; Page: [105] with other accounts of the events in which Barère bore a part. It is now our duty to express the opinion to which this investigation has led us.

Our opinion then is this: that Barère approached nearer than any person mentioned in history or fiction, whether man or devil, to the idea of consummate and universal depravity. In him the qualities which are the proper objects of hatred, and the qualities which are the proper objects of contempt, preserve an exquisite and absolute harmony. In almost every particular sort of wickedness he has had rivals. His sensuality was immoderate; but this was a failing common to him with many great and amiable men. There have been many men as cowardly as he, some as cruel, a few as mean, a few as impudent. There may also have been as great liars, though we never met with them or read of them. But when we put every thing together, sensuality, poltroonery, baseness, effrontery, mendacity, barbarity, the result is something which in a novel we should condemn as caricature, and to which, we venture to say, no parallel can be found in history.

It would be grossly unjust, we acknowledge, to try a man situated as Barère was by a severe standard. Nor have we done so. We have formed our opinion of him by comparing him, not with politicians of stainless character, not with Chancellor D’Aguesseau, or General Washington, or Mr. Wilberforce, or Earl Grey, but with his own colleagues of the Mountain. That party included a considerable number of the worst men that ever lived; but we see in it nothing like Barère. Compared with him, Fouché seems honest; Billaud seems humane; Hébert seems to rise into dignity. Every other chief of a party, says M. Hippolyte Carnot, has found apologists: one set of men exalts the Girondists; another set justifies Danton; a third deifies Robespierre: but Barère has remained without a defender. We venture to suggest a very simple solution of this phenomenon. All the other Edition: current; Page: [106] chiefs of parties had some good qualities; and Barère had none. The genius, courage, patriotism, and humanity of the Girondist statesmen more than atoned for what was culpable in their conduct, and should have protected them from the insult of being compared with such a thing as Barère. Danton and Robespierre were indeed bad men; but in both of them some important parts of the mind remained sound. Danton was brave and resolute, fond of pleasure, of power, and of distinction, with vehement passions, with lax principles, but with some kind and manly feelings, capable of great crimes, but capable also of friendship and of compassion. He, therefore, naturally finds admirers among persons of bold and sanguine dispositions. Robespierre was a vain, envious, and suspicious man, with a hard heart, weak nerves, and a gloomy temper. But we cannot with truth deny that he was, in the vulgar sense of the word, disinterested, that his private life was correct, or that he was sincerely zealous for his own system of politics and morals. He, therefore, naturally finds admirers among honest but moody and bitter democrats. If no class has taken the reputation of Barère under its patronage, the reason is plain: Barère had not a single virtue, nor even the semblance of one.

It is true that he was not, as far as we are able to judge, originally of a savage disposition; but this circumstance seems to us only to aggravate his guilt. There are some unhappy men constitutionally prone to the darker passions, men all whose blood is gall, and to whom bitter words and harsh actions are as natural as snarling and biting to a ferocious dog. To come into the world with this wretched mental disease is a greater calamity than to be born blind or deaf. A man who, having such a temper, keeps it in subjection, and constrains himself to behave habitually with justice and humanity towards those who are in his power, seems to us worthy of the highest admiration. There have been instances of this self-command; and they are among the most signal Edition: current; Page: [107] triumphs of philosophy and religion. On the other hand, a man who, having been blessed by nature with a bland disposition, gradually brings himself to inflict misery on his fellow-creatures with indifference, with satisfaction, and at length with a hideous rapture, deserves to be regarded as a portent of wickedness; and such a man was Barère. The history of his downward progress is full of instruction. Weakness, cowardice, and fickleness were born with him; the best quality which he received from nature was a good temper. These, it is true, are not very promising materials; yet, out of materials as unpromising, high sentiments of piety and of honour have sometimes made martyrs and heroes. Rigid principles often do for feeble minds what stays do for feeble bodies. But Barère had no principles at all. His character was equally destitute of natural and of acquired strength. Neither in the commerce of life, nor in books, did we ever become acquainted with any mind so unstable, so utterly destitute of tone, so incapable of independent thought and earnest preference, so ready to take impressions and so ready to lose them. He resembled those creepers which must lean on something, and which, as soon as their prop is removed, fall down in utter helplessness. He could no more stand up, erect and selfsupported, in any cause, than the ivy can rear itself like the oak, or the wild vine shoot to heaven like the cedar of Lebanon. It is barely possible that, under good guidance and in favourable circumstances, such a man might have slipped through life without discredit. But the unseaworthy craft, which even in still water would have been in danger of going down from its own rottenness, was launched on a raging ocean, amidst a storm in which a whole armada of gallant ships was cast away. The weakest and most servile of human beings found himself on a sudden an actor in a Revolution which convulsed the whole civilised world. At first he fell under the influence of humane and moderate men, and talked Edition: current; Page: [108] the language of humanity and moderation. But he soon found himself surrounded by fierce and resolute spirits, scared by no danger and restrained by no scruple. He had to choose whether he would be their victim or their accomplice. His choice was soon made. He tasted blood, and felt no loathing: he tasted it again, and liked it well. Cruelty became with him, first a habit, then a passion, at last a madness. So complete and rapid was the degeneracy of his nature, that, within a very few months after the time when he had passed for a good-natured man, he had brought himself to look on the despair and misery of his fellow-creatures with a glee resembling that of the fiends whom Dante saw watching the pool of seething pitch in Malebolge. He had many associates in guilt; but he distinguished himself from them all by the Bacchanalian exultation which he seemed to feel in the work of death. He was drunk with innocent and noble blood, laughed and shouted as he butchered, and howled strange songs and reeled in strange dances amidst the carnage. Then came a sudden and violent turn of fortune. The miserable man was hurled down from the height of power to hopeless ruin and infamy. The shock sobered him at once. The fumes of his horrible intoxication passed away. But he was now so irrecoverably depraved that the discipline of adversity only drove him further into wickedness. Ferocious vices, of which he had never been suspected, had been developed in him by power. Another class of vices, less hateful perhaps, but more despicable, was now developed in him by poverty and disgrace. Having appalled the whole world by great crimes perpetrated under the pretence of zeal for liberty, he became the meanest of all the tools of despotism. It is not easy to settle the order of precedence among his vices; but we are inclined to think that his baseness was, on the whole, a rarer and more marvellous thing than his cruelty.

This is the view which we have long taken of Barère’s Edition: current; Page: [109] character; but, till we read these Memoirs, we held our opinion with the diffidence which becomes a judge who has only heard one side. The case seemed strong, and in parts unanswerable: yet we did not know what the accused party might have to say for himself; and, not being much inclined to take our fellow-creatures either for angels of light or for angels of darkness, we could not but feel some suspicion that his offences had been exaggerated. That suspicion is now at an end. The vindication is before us. It occupies four volumes. It was the work of forty years. It would be absurd to suppose that it does not refute every serious charge which admitted of refutation. How many serious charges, then, are here refuted? Not a single one. Most of the imputations which have been thrown on Barère he does not even notice. In such cases, of course, judgment must go against him by default. The fact is, that nothing can be more meagre and uninteresting than his account of the great public transactions in which he was engaged. He gives us hardly a word of new information respecting the proceedings of the Committee of Public Safety; and, by way of compensation, tells us long stories about things which happened before he emerged from obscurity, and after he had again sunk into it. Nor is this the worst. As soon as he ceases to write trifles, he begins to write lies; and such lies! A man who has never been within the tropics does not know what a thunderstorm means; a man who has never looked on Niagara has but a faint idea of a cataract; and he who has not read Barère’s Memoirs may be said not to know what it is to lie. Among the numerous classes which make up the great genus Mendacium, the Mendacium Vasconicum, or Gascon lie, has, during some centuries, been highly esteemed as peculiarly circumstantial and peculiarly impudent; and, among the Mendacia Vasconica, the Mendacium Barerianum is, without doubt, the finest species. It is indeed a superb variety, and quite throws into the shade some Edition: current; Page: [110] Mendacia which we were used to regard with admiration. The Mendacium Wraxallianum, for example, though by no means to be despised, will not sustain the comparison for a moment. Seriously, we think that M. Hippolyte Carnot is much to blame in this matter. We can hardly suppose him to be worse read than ourselves in the history of the Convention, a history which must interest him deeply, not only as a Frenchman, but also as a son. He must, therefore, be perfectly aware that many of the most important statements which these volumes contain are falsehoods, such as Corneille’s Dorante, or Molière’s Scapin, or Colin d’Harleville’s Monsieur de Crac would have been ashamed to utter. We are far, indeed, from holding M. Hippolyte Carnot answerable for Barère’s want of veracity; but M. Hippolyte Carnot has arranged these Memoirs, has introduced them to the world by a laudatory preface, has described them as documents of great historical value, and has illustrated them by notes. We cannot but think that, by acting thus, he contracted some obligations of which he does not seem to have been at all aware; and that he ought not to have suffered any monstrous fiction to go forth under the sanction of his name, without adding a line at the foot of the page for the purpose of cautioning the reader.

We will content ourselves at present with pointing out two instances of Barère’s wilful and deliberate mendacity; namely, his account of the death of Marie Antoinette, and his account of the death of the Girondists. His account of the death of Marie Antoinette is as follows:—“Robespierre in his turn proposed that the members of the Capet family should be banished, and that Marie Antoinette should be brought to trial before the Revolutionary Tribunal. He would have been better employed in concerting military measures which might have repaired our disasters in Belgium, and might have arrested the progress of the enemies of the Revolution in the west.”—(Vol. ii. p. 312.)

Now, it is notorious that Marie Antoinette was sent Edition: current; Page: [111] before the Revolutionary Tribunal, not at Robespierre’s instance, but in direct opposition to Robespierre’s wishes. We will cite a single authority, which is quite decisive. Bonaparte, who had no conceivable motive to disguise the truth, who had the best opportunities of knowing the truth, and who, after his marriage with the Archduchess, naturally felt an interest in the fate of his wife’s kinswoman, distinctly affirmed that Robespierre opposed the trying of the Queen.* Who, then, was the person who really did propose that the Capet family should be banished, and that Marie Antoinette should be tried? Full information will be found in the Moniteur. From that valuable record it appears that, on the first of August 1793, an orator, deputed by the Committee of Public Safety, addressed the Convention in a long and elaborate discourse. He asked, in passionate language, how it happened that the enemies of the republic still continued to hope for success. “Is it,” he cried, “because we have too long forgotten the crimes of the Austrian woman? Is it because we have shown so strange an indulgence to the race of our ancient tyrants? It is time that this unwise apathy should cease; it is time to extirpate from the soil of the Republic the last roots of royalty. As for the children of Louis the conspirator, they are hostages for the Republic. The charge of their maintenance shall be reduced to what is necessary for the food and keep of two individuals. The public treasure shall no longer be lavished on creatures who have too long been considered as privileged. But behind them lurks a woman who has been the cause of all the disasters of France, and whose share in every project adverse to the revolution has long been known. National justice claims its rights over her. It is to the tribunal appointed for the trial of conspirators that she ought to be sent. It is only by striking the Austrian woman that you can make Francis and George, Charles and William, Edition: current; Page: [112] sensible of the crimes which their ministers and their armies have committed.” The speaker concluded by moving that Marie Antoinette should be brought to judgment, and should, for that end, be forthwith transferred to the Conciergerie; and that all the members of the house of Capet, with the exception of those who were under the sword of the law, and of the two children of Louis, should be banished from the French territory. The motion was carried without debate.

Now, who was the person who made this speech and this motion? It was Barère himself. It is clear, then, that Barère attributed his own mean insolence and barbarity to one who, whatever his crimes may have been, was in this matter innocent. The only question remaining is, whether Barère was misled by his memory, or wrote a deliberate falsehood.

We are convinced that he wrote a deliberate falsehood. His memory is described by his editors as remarkably good, and must have been bad indeed if he could not remember such a fact as this. It is true that the number of murders in which he subsequently bore a part was so great that he might well confound one with another, that he might well forget what part of the daily hecatomb was consigned to death by himself, and what part by his colleagues. But two circumstances make it quite incredible that the share which he took in the death of Marie Antoinette should have escaped his recollection. She was one of his earliest victims. She was one of his most illustrious victims. The most hardened assassin remembers the first time that he shed blood; and the widow of Louis was no ordinary sufferer. If the question had been about some milliner, butchered for hiding in her garret her brother who had let drop a word against the Jacobin club—if the question had been about some old nun, dragged to death for having mumbled what were called fanatical words over her beads—Barère’s memory might well have deceived him. It would be as unreasonable to Edition: current; Page: [113] expect him to remember all the wretches whom he slew as all the pinches of snuff that he took. But, though Barère murdered many hundreds of human beings, he murdered only one Queen. That he, a small country lawyer, who, a few years before, would have thought himself honoured by a glance or a word from the daughter of so many Cæsars, should call her the Austrian woman, should send her from jail to jail, should deliver her over to the executioner, was surely a great event in his life. Whether he had reason to be proud of it or ashamed of it, is a question on which we may perhaps differ from his editors; but they will admit, we think, that he could not have forgotten it.

We, therefore, confidently charge Barère with having written a deliberate falsehood; and we have no hesitation in saying that we never, in the course of any historical researches that we have happened to make, fell in with a falsehood so audacious, except only the falsehood which we are about to expose.

Of the proceeding against the Girondists, Barère speaks with just severity. He calls it an atrocious injustice perpetrated against the legislators of the republic. He complains that distinguished deputies, who ought to have been readmitted to their seats in the Convention, were sent to the scaffold as conspirators. The day, he exclaims, was a day of mourning for France. It mutilated the national representation; it weakened the sacred principle, that the delegates of the people were inviolable. He protests that he had no share in the guilt. “I have had,” he says, “the patience to go through the Moniteur, extracting all the charges brought against deputies, and all the decrees for arresting and impeaching deputies. Nowhere will you find my name. I never brought a charge against any of my colleagues, or made a report against any, or drew up an impeachment against any.”*

Now, we affirm that this is a lie. We affirm that Edition: current; Page: [114] Barère himself took the lead in the proceedings of the Convention against the Girondists. We affirm that he, on the twenty-eighth of July 1793, proposed a decree for bringing nine Girondist deputies to trial, and for putting to death sixteen other Girondist deputies without any trial at all. We affirm that, when the accused deputies had been brought to trial, and when some apprehension arose that their eloquence might produce an effect even on the Revolutionary Tribunal, Barère did, on the 8th of Brumaire, second a motion for a decree authorising the tribunal to decide without hearing out the defence; and, for the truth of every one of these things so affirmed by us, we appeal to that very Moniteur to which Barère has dared to appeal.*

What M. Hippolyte Carnot, knowing, as he must know, that this book contains such falsehoods as those which we have exposed, can have meant, when he described it as a valuable addition to our stock of historical information, passes our comprehension. When a man is not ashamed to tell lies about events which took place before hundreds of witnesses, and which are recorded in well-known and accessible books, what credit can we give to his account of things done in corners? No historian who does not wish to be laughed at will ever cite the unsupported authority of Barère as sufficient to prove any fact whatever. The only thing, as far as we can see, on which these volumes throw any light, is the exceeding baseness of the author.

So much for the veracity of the Memoirs. In a literary point of view, they are beneath criticism. They are as shallow, flippant, and affected, as Barère’s oratory in the Convention. They are also, what his oratory in the Convention was not, utterly insipid. In fact, they are the mere dregs and rinsings of a bottle of which even the first froth was but of very questionable flavour.

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We will now try to present our readers with a sketch of this man’s life. We shall, of course, make very sparing use indeed of his own Memoirs; and never without distrust, except where they are confirmed by other evidence.

Bertrand Barère was born in the year 1755, at Tarbes in Gascony. His father was the proprietor of a small estate at Vieuzac, in the beautiful vale of Argelès. Bertrand always loved to be called Barère de Vieuzac, and flattered himself with the hope that, by the help of this feudal addition to his name, he might pass for a gentleman. He was educated for the bar at Toulouse, the seat of one of the most celebrated parliaments of the kingdom, practised as an advocate with considerable success, and wrote some small pieces, which he sent to the principal literary societies in the south of France. Among provincial towns, Toulouse seems to have been remarkably rich in indifferent versifiers and critics. It gloried especially in one venerable institution, called the Academy of the Floral Games. This body held every year a grand meeting, which was a subject of intense interest to the whole city, and at which flowers of gold and silver were given as prizes for odes, for idyls, and for something that was called eloquence. These bounties produced of course the ordinary effect of bounties, and turned people who might have been thriving attorneys and useful apothecaries into small wits and bad poets. Barère does not appear to have been so lucky as to obtain any of these precious flowers; but one of his performances was mentioned with honour. At Montauban he was more fortunate. The Academy of that town bestowed on him several prizes, one for a panegyric on Louis the Twelfth, in which the blessings of monarchy and the loyalty of the French nation were set forth; and another for a panegyric on poor Franc de Pompignan, in which, as may easily be supposed, the philosophy of the eighteenth century was sharply assailed. Then Barère found an old stone inscribed Edition: current; Page: [116] with three Latin words, and wrote a dissertation upon it, which procured him a seat in a learned Assembly, called the Toulouse Academy of Sciences, Inscriptions, and Polite Literature. At length the doors of the Academy of the Floral Games were opened to so much merit. Barère, in his thirty-third year, took his seat as one of that illustrious brotherhood, and made an inaugural oration which was greatly admired. He apologises for recounting these triumphs of his youthful genius. We own that we cannot blame him for dwelling long on the least disgraceful portion of his existence. To send in declamations for prizes offered by provincial academies is indeed no very useful or dignified employment for a bearded man; but it would have been well if Barère had always been so employed.

In 1785 he married a young lady of considerable fortune. Whether she was in other respects qualified to make a home happy, is a point respecting which we are imperfectly informed. In a little work, entitled Melancholy Pages, which was written in 1797, Barère avers that his marriage was one of mere convenience, that at the altar his heart was heavy with sorrowful forebodings, that he turned pale as he pronounced the solemn “Yes,” that unbidden tears rolled down his cheeks, that his mother shared his presentiment, and that the evil omen was accomplished. “My marriage,” he says, “was one of the most unhappy of marriages.” So romantic a tale, told by so noted a liar, did not command our belief. We were, therefore, not much surprised to discover that, in his Memoirs, he calls his wife a most amiable woman, and declares that, after he had been united to her six years, he found her as amiable as ever. He complains, indeed, that she was too much attached to royalty and to the old superstition; but he assures us that his respect for her virtues induced him to tolerate her prejudices. Now Barère, at the time of his marriage, was himself a Royalist and a Catholic. He had gained one prize by Edition: current; Page: [117] flattering the Throne, and another by defending the Church. It is hardly possible, therefore, that disputes about politics or religion should have embittered his domestic life till some time after he became a husband. Our own guess is, that his wife was, as he says, a virtuous and amiable woman, and that she did her best to make him happy during some years. It seems clear that, when circumstances developed the latent atrocity of his character, she could no longer endure him, refused to see him, and sent back his letters unopened. Then it was, we imagine, that he invented the fable about his distress on his wedding day.

In 1788 Barère paid his first visit to Paris, attended reviews, heard Laharpe at the Lycæum, and Condorcet at the Academy of Sciences, stared at the envoys of Tippoo Saib, saw the Royal Family dine at Versailles, and kept a journal in which he noted down adventures and speculations. Some parts of this journal are printed in the first volume of the work before us, and are certainly most characteristic. The worst vices of the writer had not yet shown themselves; but the weakness which was the parent of those vices appears in every line. His levity, his inconsistency, his servility, were already what they were to the last. All his opinions, all his feelings, spin round and round like a weathercock in a whirlwind. Nay, the very impressions which he receives through his senses are not the same two days together. He sees Louis the Sixteenth, and is so much blinded by loyalty as to find his Majesty handsome. “I fixed my eyes,” he says, “with a lively curiosity on his fine countenance, which I thought open and noble.” The next time that the king appears, all is altered. His Majesty’s eyes are without the smallest expression; he has a vulgar laugh which seems like idiocy, an ignoble figure, an awkward gait, and the look of a big boy ill brought up. It is the same with more important questions. Barère is for the parliaments on the Monday and against the parliaments Edition: current; Page: [118] on the Tuesday, for feudality in the morning and against feudality in the afternoon. One day he admires the English constitution: then he shudders to think that, in the struggles by which that constitution had been obtained, the barbarous islanders had murdered a king, and gives the preference to the constitution of Bearn. Bearn, he says, has a sublime constitution, a beautiful constitution. There the nobility and clergy meet in one house and the Commons in another. If the houses differ, the King has the casting vote. A few weeks later we find him raving against the principles of this sublime and beautiful constitution. To admit deputies of the nobility and clergy into the legislature is, he says, neither more nor less than to admit enemies of the nation into the legislature.

In this state of mind, without one settled purpose or opinion, the slave of the last word, royalist, aristocrat, democrat, according to the prevailing sentiment of the coffee-house or drawing-room into which he had just looked, did Barère enter into public life. The States-General had been summoned. Barère went down to his own province, was there elected one of the representatives of the Third Estate, and returned to Paris in May 1789.

A great crisis, often predicted, had at last arrived. In no country, we conceive, have intellectual freedom and political servitude existed together so long as in France, during the seventy or eighty years which preceded the last convocation of the Orders. Ancient abuses and new theories flourished in equal vigour side by side. The people, having no constitutional means of checking even the most flagitious misgovernment, were indemnified for oppression by being suffered to luxuriate in anarchical speculation, and to deny or ridicule every principle on which the institutions of the state reposed. Neither those who attribute the downfall of the old French institutions to the public grievances, nor those who attribute it to the doctrines of the philosophers, appear to us to have taken into their view more than one half of the subject. Edition: current; Page: [119] Grievances as heavy have often been endured without producing a revolution; doctrines as bold have often been propounded without producing a revolution. The question, whether the French nation was alienated from its old polity by the follies and vices of the Viziers and Sultanas who pillaged and disgraced it, or by the writings of Voltaire and Rousseau, seems to us as idle as the question whether it was fire or gunpowder that blew up the mills at Hounslow. Neither cause would have sufficed alone. Tyranny may last through ages where discussion is suppressed. Discussion may safely be left free by rulers who act on popular principles. But combine a press like that of London with a government like that of St. Petersburg; and the inevitable effect will be an explosion that will shake the world. So it was in France. Despotism and License, mingling in unblessed union, engendered that mighty Revolution in which the lineaments of both parents were strangely blended. The long gestation was accomplished; and Europe saw, with mixed hope and terror, that agonising travail and that portentous birth.

Among the crowd of legislators which at this conjuncture poured from all the provinces of France into Paris, Barère made no contemptible figure. The opinions which he for the moment professed were popular, yet not extreme. His character was fair; his personal advantages are said to have been considerable; and, from the portrait which is prefixed to these Memoirs, and which represents him as he appeared in the Convention, we should judge that his features must have been strikingly handsome, though we think that we can read in them cowardice and meanness very legibly written by the hand of God. His conversation was lively and easy; his manners remarkably good for a country lawyer. Women of rank and wit said that he was the only man who, on his first arrival from a remote province, had that indescribable air which it was supposed that Paris alone could give. His eloquence, indeed, was by no means so much Edition: current; Page: [120] admired in the capital as it had been by the ingenious academicians of Montauban and Toulouse. His style was thought very bad; and very bad, if a foreigner may venture to judge, it continued to the last. It would, however, be unjust to deny that he had some talents for speaking and writing. His rhetoric, though deformed by every imaginable fault of taste, from bombast down to buffoonery, was not wholly without force and vivacity. He had also one quality which, in active life, often gives fourth-rate men an advantage over first-rate men. Whatever he could do he could do without effort, at any moment, in any abundance, and on any side of any question. There was, indeed, a perfect harmony between his moral character and his intellectual character. His temper was that of a slave; his abilities were exactly those which qualified him to be a useful slave. Of thinking to purpose, he was utterly incapable; but he had wonderful readiness in arranging and expressing thoughts furnished by others.

In the National Assembly he had no opportunity of displaying the full extent either of his talents or of his vices. He was indeed eclipsed by much abler men. He went, as was his habit, with the stream, spoke occasionally with some success, and edited a journal called the Point du Jour, in which the debates of the Assembly were reported.

He at first ranked by no means among the violent reformers. He was not friendly to that new division of the French territory which was among the most important changes introduced by the Revolution, and was especially unwilling to see his native province dismembered. He was entrusted with the task of framing Reports on the Woods and Forests. Louis was exceedingly anxious about this matter; for his majesty was a keen sportsman, and would much rather have gone without the Veto, or the prerogative of making peace and war, than without his hunting and shooting. Gentlemen of the royal Edition: current; Page: [121] household were sent to Barère, in order to intercede for the deer and pheasants. Nor was this intercession unsuccessful. The reports were so drawn that Barère was afterwards accused of having dishonestly sacrificed the interests of the public to the tastes of the court. To one of these reports he had the inconceivable folly and bad taste to prefix a punning motto from Virgil, fit only for such essays as he had been in the habit of composing for the Floral Games —

“Si canimus sylvas, sylvæ sint Consule dignæ.”

This literary foppery was one of the few things in which he was consistent. Royalist or Girondist, Jacobin or Imperialist, he was always a Trissotin.

As the monarchical party became weaker and weaker, Barère gradually estranged himself more and more from it, and drew closer and closer to the republicans. It would seem that, during this transition, he was for a time closely connected with the family of Orleans. It is certain that he was entrusted with the guardianship of the celebrated Pamela, afterwards Lady Edward Fitzgerald; and it was asserted that he received during some years a pension of twelve thousand francs from the Palais Royal.

At the end of September 1791, the labours of the National Assembly terminated, and those of the first and last Legislative Assembly commenced.

It had been enacted that no member of the National Assembly should sit in the Legislative Assembly; a preposterous and mischievous regulation, to which the disasters which followed must in part be ascribed. In England, what would be thought of a Parliament which did not contain one single person who had ever sat in parliament before? Yet it may safely be affirmed that the number of Englishmen who, never having taken any share in public affairs, are yet well qualified, by knowledge and observation, to be members of the legislature is at Edition: current; Page: [122] least a hundred times as great as the number of Frenchmen who were so qualified in 1791. How, indeed, should it have been otherwise? In England, centuries of representative government have made all educated people in some measure statesmen. In France the National Assembly had probably been composed of as good materials as were then to be found. It had undoubtedly removed a vast mass of abuses; some of its members had read and thought much about theories of government; and others had shown great oratorical talents. But that kind of skill which is required for the constructing, launching, and steering of a polity was lamentably wanting; for it is a kind of skill to which practice contributes more than books. Books are indeed useful to the politician, as they are useful to the navigator and to the surgeon. But the real navigator is formed on the waves; the real surgeon is formed at bedsides; and the conflicts of free states are the real school of constitutional statesmen. The National Assembly had, however, now served an apprenticeship of two laborious and eventful years. It had, indeed, by no means finished its education; but it was no longer, as on the day when it met, altogether rude to political functions. Its later proceedings contain abundant proof that the members had profited by their experience. Beyond all doubt, there was not in France any equal number of persons possessing in an equal degree the qualities necessary for the judicious direction of public affairs; and, just at this moment, these legislators, misled by a childish wish to display their own disinterestedness, deserted the duties which they had half learned, and which nobody else had learned at all, and left their hall to a second crowd of novices, who had still to master the first rudiments of political business. When Barère wrote his Memoirs, the absurdity of this self-denying ordinance had been proved by events, and was, we believe, acknowledged by all parties. He accordingly, with his usual mendacity, speaks of it in terms implying that he had opposed it. Edition: current; Page: [123] There was, he tells us, no good citizen who did not regret this fatal vote. Nay, all wise men, he says, wished the National Assembly to continue its sittings as the first Legislative Assembly. But no attention was paid to the wishes of the enlightened friends of liberty; and the generous but fatal suicide was perpetrated. Now the fact is, that Barère, far from opposing this ill-advised measure, was one of those who most eagerly supported it; tha he described it from the tribune as wise and magnanimous; that he assigned, as his reasons for taking this view, some of those phrases in which orators of his class delight, and which, on all men who have the smallest insight into politics, produce an effect very similar to that of ipecacuanha. “Those,” he said, “who have framed a constitution for their country are, so to speak, out of the pale of that social state of which they are the authors; for creative power is not in the same sphere with that which it has created.”

M. Hippolyte Carnot has noticed this untruth, and attributes it to mere forgetfulness. We leave it to him to reconcile his very charitable supposition with what he elsewhere says of the remarkable excellence of Barère’s memory.

Many members of the National Assembly were indemnified for the sacrifice of legislative power, by appointments in various departments of the public service. Of these fortunate persons Barère was one. A high Court of Appeal had just been instituted. This court was to sit at Paris: but its jurisdiction was to extend over the whole realm; and the departments were to choose the judges. Barère was nominated by the department of the Upper Pyrenees, and took his seat in the Palace of Justice. He asserts, and our readers may, if they choose, believe, that it was about this time in contemplation to make him Minister of the Interior, and that, in order to avoid so grave a responsibility, he obtained permission to pay a visit to his native place. It is certain that he left Edition: current; Page: [124] Paris early in the year 1792, and passed some months in the south of France.

In the mean time, it became clear that the constitution of 1791 would not work. It was, indeed, not to be expected that a constitution new both in its principles and its details would at first work easily. Had the chief magistrate enjoyed the entire confidence of the people, had he performed his part with the utmost zeal, fidelity, and ability, had the representative body included all the wisest statesmen of France, the difficulties might still have been found insuperable. But, in fact, the experiment was made under every disadvantage. The King, very naturally, hated the constitution. In the Legislative Assembly were men of genius and men of good intentions, but not a single man of experience. Nevertheless, if France had been suffered to settle her own affairs without foreign interference, it is possible that the calamities which followed might have been averted. The King, who, with many good qualities, was sluggish and sensual, might have found compensation for his lost prerogatives in his immense civil list, in his palaces and hunting grounds, in soups, Perigord pies, and Champagne. The people, finding themselves secure in the enjoyment of the valuable reforms which the National Assembly had, in the midst of all its errors, effected, would not have been easily excited by demagogues to acts of atrocity; or, if acts of atrocity had been committed, those acts would probably have produced a speedy and violent reaction. Had tolerable quiet been preserved during a few years, the constitution of 1791 might perhaps have taken root, might have gradually acquired the strength which time alone can give, and might, with some modifications which were undoubtedly needed, have lasted down to the present time. The European coalition against the Revolution extinguished all hope of such a result. The deposition of Louis was, in our opinion, the necessary consequence of that coalition. The question was now no Edition: current; Page: [125] longer, whether the King should have an absolute Veto or a suspensive Veto, whether there should be one chamber or two chambers, whether the members of the representative body should be re-eligible or not; but whether France should belong to the French. The independence of the nation, the integrity of the territory, were at stake; and we must say plainly that we cordially approve of the conduct of those Frenchmen who, at that conjuncture, resolved, like our own Blake, to play the men for their country, under whatever form of government their country might fall.

It seems to us clear that the war with the Continental coalition was, on the side of France, at first a defensive war, and therefore a just war. It was not a war for small objects, or against despicable enemies. On the event were staked all the dearest interests of the French people. Foremost among the threatening powers appeared two great and martial monarchies, either of which, situated as France then was, might be regarded as a formidable assailant. It is evident that, under such circumstances, the French could not, without extreme imprudence, entrust the supreme administration of their affairs to any person whose attachment to the national cause admitted of doubt. Now, it is no reproach to the memory of Louis to say that he was not attached to the national cause. Had he been so, he would have been something more than man. He had held absolute power, not by usurpation, but by the accident of birth and by the ancient polity of the kingdom. That power he had, on the whole, used with lenity. He had meant well by his people. He had been willing to make to them, of his own mere motion, concessions such as scarcely any other sovereign has ever made except under duress. He had paid the penalty of faults not his own, of the haughtiness and ambition of some of his predecessors, of the dissoluteness and baseness of others. He had been vanquished, taken captive, led in triumph, put in ward. He had escaped; he Edition: current; Page: [126] had been caught; he had been dragged back like a run-away galley-slave to the oar. He was still a state prisoner. His quiet was broken by daily affronts and lampoons. Accustomed from the cradle to be treated with profound reverence, he was now forced to command his feelings, while men who, a few months before, had been hackney writers or country attorneys sat in his presence with covered heads, and addressed him in the easy tone of equality. Conscious of fair intentions, sensible of hard usage, he doubtless detested the Revolution; and, while charged with the conduct of the war against the confederates, pined in secret for the sight of the German eagles and the sound of the German drums. We do not blame him for this. But can we blame those who, being resolved to defend the work of the National Assembly against the interference of strangers, were not disposed to have him at their head in the fearful struggle which was approaching? We have nothing to say in defence or extenuation of the insolence, injustice, and cruelty with which, after the victory of the republicans, he and his family were treated. But this we say, that the French had only one alternative, to deprive him of the powers of first magistrate, or to ground their arms and submit patiently to foreign dictation. The events of the tenth of August sprang inevitably from the league of Pilnitz. The King’s palace was stormed; his guards were slaughtered. He was suspended from his regal functions; and the Legislative Assembly invited the nation to elect an extraordinary Convention, with the full powers which the conjuncture required. To this Convention the members of the National Assembly were eligible; and Barère was chosen by his own department.

The Convention met on the twenty-first of September 1792. The first proceedings were unanimous. Royalty was abolished by acclamation. No objections were made to this great change; and no reasons were assigned for it. For certainly we cannot honour with the name of reasons such apothegms, as that kings are in the moral world Edition: current; Page: [127] what monsters are in the physical world; and that the history of kings is the martyrology of nations. But, though the discussion was worthy only of a debating-club of schoolboys, the resolution to which the Convention came seems to have been that which sound policy dictated. In saying this, we do not mean to express an opinion that a republic is, either in the abstract the best form of government, or is, under ordinary circumstances, the form of government best suited to the French people. Our own opinion is, that the best governments which have ever existed in the world have been limited monarchies; and that France, in particular, has never enjoyed so much prosperity and freedom as under a limited monarchy. Nevertheless, we approve of the vote of the Convention which abolished kingly government. The interference of foreign powers had brought on a crisis which made extraordinary measures necessary. Hereditary monarchy may be, and we believe that it is, a very useful institution in a country like France. And masts are very useful parts of a ship. But, if the ship is on her beam-ends, it may be necessary to cut the masts away. When once she has righted, she may come safe into port under jury rigging, and there be completely repaired. But, in the mean time, she must be hacked with unsparing hand, lest that which, under ordinary circumstances, is an essential part of her fabric should, in her extreme distress, sink her to the bottom. Even so there are political emergencies in which it is necessary that governments should be mutilated of their fair proportions for a time, lest they be cast away for ever; and with such an emergency the Convention had to deal. The first object of a good Frenchman should have been to save France from the fate of Poland. The first requisite of a government was entire devotion to the national cause. That requisite was wanting in Louis; and such a want, at such a moment, could not be supplied by any public or private virtues. If the King were set aside, the abolition of kingship necessarily followed. In Edition: current; Page: [128] the state in which the public mind then was, it would have been idle to think of doing what our ancestors did in 1688, and what the French Chamber of Deputies did in 1830. Such an attempt would have failed amidst universal derision and execration. It would have disgusted all zealous men of all opinions; and there were then few men who were not zealous. Parties fatigued by long conflict, and instructed by the severe discipline of that school in which alone mankind will learn, are disposed to listen to the voice of a mediator. But when they are in their first heady youth, devoid of experience, fresh for exertion, flushed with hope, burning with animosity, they agree only in spurning out of their way the daysman who strives to take his stand between them and to lay his hand upon them both. Such was in 1792 the state of France. On one side was the great name of the heir of Hugh Capet, the thirty-third king of the third race; on the other side was the great name of the republic. There was no rallying point save these two. It was necessary to make a choice; and those, in our opinion, judged well who, waving for the moment all subordinate questions, preferred independence to subjugation, and the natal soil to the emigrant camp.

As to the abolition of royalty, and as to the vigorous prosecution of the war, the whole Convention seemed to be united as one man. But a deep and broad gulf separated the representative body into two great parties.

On one side were those statesmen who are called, from the name of the department which some of them represented, the Girondists, and, from the name of one of their most conspicuous leaders, the Brissotines. In activity and practical ability, Brissot and Gensonné were the most conspicuous among them. In parliamentary eloquence, no Frenchman of that time can be considered as equal to Vergniaud. In a foreign country, and after the lapse of half a century, some parts of his speeches are still read with mournful admiration. No man, we are inclined to Edition: current; Page: [129] believe, ever rose so rapidly to such a height of oratorical excellence. His whole public life lasted barely two years. This is a circumstance which distinguishes him from our own greatest speakers, Fox, Burke, Pitt, Sheridan, Windham, Canning. Which of these celebrated men would now be remembered as an orator, if he had died two years after he first took his seat in the House of Commons? Condorcet brought to the Girondist party a different kind of strength. The public regarded him with justice as an eminent mathematician, and, with less reason, as a great master of ethical and political science; the philosophers considered him as their chief, as the rightful heir, by intellectual descent and by solemn adoption, of their deceased sovereign D’Alembert. In the same ranks were found Gaudet, Isnard, Barbaroux, Buzot, Louvet, too well known as the author of a very ingenious and very licentious romance, and more honourably distinguished by the generosity with which he pleaded for the unfortunate, and by the intrepidity with which he defied the wicked and powerful. Two persons whose talents were not brilliant, but who enjoyed a high reputation for probity and public spirit, Pétion and Roland, lent the whole weight of their names to the Girondist connection. The wife of Roland brought to the deliberations of her husband’s friends masculine courage and force of thought, tempered by womanly grace and vivacity. Nor was the splendour of a great military reputation wanting to this celebrated party. Dumourier, then victorious over the foreign invaders, and at the height of popular favour, must be reckoned among the allies of the Gironde.

The errors of the Brissotines were undoubtedly neither few nor small; but, when we fairly compare their conduct with the conduct of any other party which acted or suffered during the French Revolution, we are forced to admit their superiority in every quality except that single quality which in such times prevails over every other, decision. They were zealous for the great social reform Edition: current; Page: [130] which had been effected by the National Assembly; and they were right. For, though that reform was, in some respects, carried too far, it was a blessing well worth even the fearful price which has been paid for it. They were resolved to maintain the independence of their country against foreign invaders; and they were right. For the heaviest of all yokes is the yoke of the stranger. They thought that, if Louis remained at their head, they could not carry on with the requisite energy the conflict against the European coalition. They therefore concurred in establishing a republican government; and here, again, they were right. For, in that struggle for life and death, it would have been madness to trust a hostile or even a half-hearted leader.

Thus far they went along with the revolutionary movement. At this point they stopped; and, in our judgment, they were right in stopping, as they had been right in moving. For great ends, and under extraordinary circumstances, they had concurred in measures which, together with much good, had necessarily produced much evil; which had unsettled the public mind; which had taken away from government the sanction of prescription; which had loosened the very foundations of property and law. They thought that it was now their duty to prop what it had recently been their duty to batter. They loved liberty, but liberty associated with order, with justice, with mercy, and with civilisation. They were republicans; but they were desirous to adorn their republic with all that had given grace and dignity to the fallen monarchy. They hoped that the humanity, the courtesy, the taste, which had done much in old times to mitigate the slavery of France, would now lend additional charms to her freedom. They saw with horror crimes, exceeding in atrocity those which had disgraced the infuriated religious factions of the sixteenth century, perpetrated in the name of reason and philanthropy. They demanded, with eloquent vehemence, that the authors of the lawless Edition: current; Page: [131] massacre, which, just before the meeting of the Convention, had been committed in the prisons of Paris, should be brought to condign punishment. They treated with just contempt the pleas which have been set up for that great crime. They admitted that the public danger was pressing; but they denied that it justified a violation of those principles of morality on which all society rests. The independence and honour of France were indeed to be vindicated, but to be vindicated by triumphs and not by murders.

Opposed to the Girondists was a party which, having been long execrated throughout the civilised world, has of late—such is the ebb and flow of opinion—found not only apologists, but even eulogists. We are not disposed to deny that some members of the Mountain were sincere and public-spirited men. But even the best of them, Carnot for example and Cambon, were far too unscrupulous as to the means which they employed for the purpose of attaining great ends. In the train of these enthusiasts followed a crowd, composed of all who, from sensual, sordid, or malignant motives, wished for a period of boundless license.

When the Convention met, the majority was with the Girondists, and Barère was with the majority. On the King’s trial, indeed, he quitted the party with which he ordinarily acted, voted with the Mountain, and spoke against the prisoner with a violence such as few members even of the Mountain showed.

The conduct of the leading Girondists on that occasion was little to their honour. Of cruelty, indeed, we fully acquit them; but it is impossible to acquit them of criminal irresolution and disingenuousness. They were far, indeed, from thirsting for the blood of Louis; on the contrary, they were most desirous to protect him. But they were afraid that, if they went straight forward to their object, the sincerity of their attachment to republican institutions would be suspected. They wished to Edition: current; Page: [132] save the King’s life, and yet to obtain all the credit of having been regicides. Accordingly, they traced out for themselves a crooked course, by which they hoped to attain both their objects. They first voted the King guilty. They then voted for referring the question respecting his fate to the whole body of the people. Defeated in this attempt to rescue him, they reluctantly, and with ill suppressed shame and concern, voted for the capital sentence. Then they made a last attempt in his favour, and voted for respiting the execution. These zigzag politics produced the effect which any man conversant with public affairs might have foreseen. The Girondists, instead of attaining both their ends, failed of both. The Mountain justly charged them with having attempted to save the King by underhand means. Their own consciences told them, with equal justice, that their hands had been dipped in the blood of the most inoffensive and most unfortunate of men. The direct path was here, as usual, the path not only of honour but of safety. The principle on which the Girondists stood as a party was, that the season for revolutionary violence was over, and that the reign of law and order ought now to commence. But the proceeding against the King was clearly revolutionary in its nature. It was not in conformity with the laws. The only plea for it was, that all ordinary rules of jurisprudence and morality were suspended by the extreme public danger. This was the very plea which the Mountain urged in defence of the massacre of September, and to which, when so urged, the Girondists refused to listen. They therefore, by voting for the death of the King, conceded to the Mountain the chief point at issue between the two parties. Had they given a manful vote against the capital sentence, the regicides would have been in a minority. It is probable that there would have been an immediate appeal to force. The Girondists might have been victorious. In the worst event, they would have fallen with unblemished honour. Thus much is Edition: current; Page: [133] certain, that their boldness and honesty could not possibly have produced a worse effect than was actually produced by their timidity and their stratagems.

Barère, as we have said, sided with the Mountain on this occasion. He voted against the appeal to the people and against the respite. His demeanour and his language also were widely different from those of the Girondists. Their hearts were heavy, and their deportment was that of men oppressed by sorrow. It was Vergniaud’s duty to proclaim the result of the roll-call. His face was pale, and he trembled with emotion, as in a low and broken voice he announced that Louis was condemned to death. Barère had not, it is true, yet attained to full perfection in the art of mingling jests and conceits with words of death; but he already gave promise of his future excellence in this high department of Jacobin oratory. He concluded his speech with a sentence worthy of his head and heart. “The tree of liberty,” he said, “as an ancient author remarks, flourishes when it is watered with the blood of all classes of tyrants.” M. Hippolyte Carnot has quoted this passage in order, as we suppose, to do honour to his hero. We wish that a note had been added to inform us from what ancient author Barère quoted. In the course of our own small reading among the Greek and Latin writers, we have not happened to fall in with trees of liberty and watering-pots full of blood; nor can we, such is our ignorance of classical antiquity, even imagine an Attic or Roman orator employing imagery of that sort. In plain words, when Barère talked about an ancient author, he was lying, as he generally was when he asserted any fact, great or small. Why he lied on this occasion we cannot guess, unless indeed it was to keep his hand in.

It is not improbable that, but for one circumstance, Barère would, like most of those with whom he ordinarily acted, have voted for the appeal to the people and for the respite. But, just before the commencement of the trial, Edition: current; Page: [134] papers had been discovered which proved that, while a member of the National Assembly, he had been in communication with the Court respecting his Reports on the Woods and Forests. He was acquitted of all criminality by the Convention; but the fiercer Republicans considered him as a tool of the fallen monarch; and this reproach was long repeated in the journal of Marat, and in the speeches at the Jacobin club. It was natural that a man like Barère should, under such circumstances, try to distinguish himself among the crowd of regicides by peculiar ferocity. It was because he had been a royalist that he was one of the foremost in shedding blood.

The King was no more. The leading Girondists had, by their conduct towards him, lowered their character in the eyes both of friends and foes. They still, however, maintained the contest against the Mountain, called for vengeance on the assassins of September, and protested against the anarchical and sanguinary doctrines of Marat. For a time they seemed likely to prevail. As publicists and orators they had no rivals in the Convention. They had with them, beyond all doubt, the great majority both of the deputies and of the French nation. These advantages, it should seem, ought to have decided the event of the struggle. But the opposite party had compensating advantages of a different kind. The chiefs of the Mountain, though not eminently distinguished by eloquence or knowledge, had great audacity, activity, and determination. The Convention and France were against them; but the mob of Paris, the clubs of Paris, and the municipal government of Paris, were on their side.

The policy of the Jacobins, in this situation, was to subject France to an aristocracy infinitely worse than that aristocracy which had emigrated with the Count of Artois—to an aristocracy not of birth, not of wealth, not of education, but of mere locality. They would not hear of privileged orders; but they wished to have a privileged city. That twenty-five millions of Frenchmen should be Edition: current; Page: [135] ruled by a hundred thousand gentlemen and clergymen was insufferable; but that twenty-five millions of Frenchmen should be ruled by a hundred thousand Parisians was as it should be. The qualification of a member of the new oligarchy was simply that he should live near the hall where the Convention met, and should be able to squeeze himself daily into the gallery during a debate, and now and then to attend with a pike for the purpose of blockading the doors. It was quite agreeable to the maxims of the Mountain that a score of draymen from Santerre’s brewery, or of devils from Hébert’s printing-house, should be permitted to drown the voices of men commissioned to speak the sense of such cities as Marseilles, Bordeaux, and Lyons; and that a rabble of half-naked porters from the Faubourg St. Antoine should have power to annul decrees for which the representatives of fifty or sixty departments had voted. It was necessary to find some pretext for so odious and absurd a tyranny. Such a pretext was found. To the old phrases of liberty and equality were added the sonorous watchwords, unity and indivisibility. A new crime was invented, and called by the name of federalism. The object of the Girondists, it was asserted, was to break up the great nation into little independent commonwealths, bound together only by a league like that which connects the Swiss cantons or the United States of America. The great obstacle in the way of this pernicious design was the influence of Paris. To strengthen the influence of Paris ought therefore to be the chief object of every patriot.

The accusation brought against the leaders of the Girondist party was a mere calumny. They were undoubtedly desirous to prevent the capital from domineering over the republic, and would gladly have seen the Convention removed for a time to some provincial town, or placed under the protection of a trusty guard, which might have overawed the Parisian mob; but there is not the slightest reason to suspect them of any design against Edition: current; Page: [136] the unity of the state. Barère, however, really was a federalist, and, we are inclined to believe, the only federalist in the Convention. As far as a man so unstable and servile can be said to have felt any preference for any form of government, he felt a preference for federal government. He was born under the Pyrenees; he was a Gascon of the Gascons, one of a people strongly distinguished by intellectual and moral character, by manners, by modes of speech, by accent, and by physiognomy, from the French of the Seine and of the Loire; and he had many of the peculiarities of the race to which he belonged. When he first left his own province he had attained his thirty-fourth year, and had acquired a high local reputation for eloquence and literature. He had then visited Paris for the first time. He had found himself in a new world. His feelings were those of a banished man. It is clear also that he had been by no means without his share of the small disappointments and humiliations so often experienced by men of letters who, elated by provincial applause, venture to display their powers before the fastidious critics of a capital. On the other hand, whenever he revisited the mountains among which he had been born, he found himself an object of general admiration. His dislike of Paris, and his partiality to his native district, were therefore as strong and durable as any sentiments of a mind like his could be. He long continued to maintain that the ascendency of one great city was the bane of France; that the superiority of taste and intelligence which it was the fashion to ascribe to the inhabitants of that city were wholly imaginary; and that the nation would never enjoy a really good government till the Alsatian people, the Breton people, the people of Bearn, the people of Provence, should have each an independent existence, and laws suited to its own tastes and habits. These communities he proposed to unite by a tie similar to that which binds together the grave Puritans of Connecticut and the dissolute Edition: current; Page: [137] slave-drivers of New Orleans. To Paris he was unwilling to grant even the rank which Washington holds in the United States. He thought it desirable that the congress of the French federation should have no fixed place of meeting, but should sit sometimes at Rouen, sometimes at Bordeaux, sometimes at his own Toulouse.

Animated by such feelings, he was, till the close of May 1793, a Girondist, if not an ultra-Girondist. He exclaimed against those impure and bloodthirsty men who wished to make the public danger a pretext for cruelty and rapine. “Peril,” he said, “could be no excuse for crime. It is when the wind blows hard, and the waves run high, that the anchor is most needed; it is when a revolution is raging, that the great laws of morality are most necessary to the safety of a state.” Of Marat he spoke with abhorrence and contempt; of the municipal authorities of Paris with just severity. He loudly complained that there were Frenchmen who paid to the Mountain that homage which was due to the Convention alone. When the establishment of the Revolutionary Tribunal was first proposed, he joined himself to Vergniaud and Buzot, who strongly objected to that odious measure. “It cannot be,” exclaimed Barère, “that men really attached to liberty will imitate the most frightful excesses of despotism!” He proved to the Convention, after his fashion, out of Sallust, that such arbitrary courts may indeed, for a time, be severe only on real criminals, but must inevitably degenerate into instruments of private cupidity and revenge. When, on the tenth of March, the worst part of the population of Paris made the first unsuccessful attempt to destroy the Girondists, Barère eagerly called for vigorous measures of repression and punishment. On the second of April, another attempt of the Jacobins of Paris to usurp supreme dominion over the republic was brought to the knowledge of the Convention; and again Barère spoke with warmth against the new tyranny which afflicted France, Edition: current; Page: [138] and declared that the people of the departments would never crouch beneath the tyranny of one ambitious city. He even proposed a resolution to the effect that the Convention would exert against the demagogues of the capital the same energy which had been exerted against the tyrant Louis. We are assured that, in private as in public, he at this time uniformly spoke with strong aversion of the Mountain.

His apparent zeal for the cause of humanity and order had its reward. Early in April came the tidings of Dumourier’s defection. This was a heavy blow to the Girondists. Dumourier was their general. His victories had thrown a lustre on the whole party; his army, it had been hoped, would, in the worst event, protect the deputies of the nation against the ragged pikemen of the garrets of Paris. He was now a deserter and an exile; and those who had lately placed their chief reliance on his support were compelled to join with their deadliest enemies in execrating his treason. At this perilous conjuncture, it was resolved to appoint a Committee of Public Safety, and to arm that committee with powers, small indeed when compared with those which it afterwards drew to itself, but still great and formidable. The moderate party, regarding Barère as a representative of their feelings and opinions, elected him a member. In his new situation he soon began to make himself useful. He brought to the deliberations of the Committee, not indeed the knowledge or the ability of a great statesman, but a tongue and a pen which, if others would only supply ideas, never paused for want of words. His mind was a mere organ of communication between other minds. It originated nothing; it retained nothing; but it transmitted everything. The post assigned to him by his colleagues was not really of the highest importance; but it was prominent, and drew the attention of all Europe. When a great measure was to be brought forward, when an account was to be rendered of an important event, he Edition: current; Page: [139] was generally the mouthpiece of the administration. He was therefore not unnaturally considered, by persons who lived at a distance from the seat of government, and above all by foreigners who, while the war raged, knew France only from journals, as the head of that administration of which, in truth, he was only the secretary and the spokesman. The author of the History of Europe, in our own Annual Registers, appears to have been completely under this delusion.

The conflict between the hostile parties was meanwhile fast approaching to a crisis. The temper of Paris grew daily fiercer and fiercer. Delegates appointed by thirty-five of the forty-eight wards of the city appeared at the bar of the Convention, and demanded that Vergniaud, Brissot, Guadet, Gensonné, Barbaroux, Buzot, Pétion, Louvet, and many other deputies, should be expelled. This demand was disapproved by at least three-fourths of the Assembly, and, when known in the departments, called forth a general cry of indignation. Bordeaux declared that it would stand by its representatives, and would, if necessary, defend them by the sword against the tyranny of Paris. Lyons and Marseilles were animated by a similar spirit. These manifestations of public opinion gave courage to the majority of the Convention. Thanks were voted to the people of Bordeaux for their patriotic declaration; and a commission consisting of twelve members was appointed for the purpose of investigating the conduct of the municipal authorities of Paris, and was empowered to place under arrest such persons as should appear to have been concerned in any plot against the authority of the Convention. This measure was adopted on the motion of Barère.

A few days of stormy excitement and profound anxiety followed; and then came the crash. On the thirty-first of May the mob of Paris rose; the palace of the Tuileries was besieged by a vast array of pikes; the majority of the deputies, after vain struggles and remonstrances, yielded Edition: current; Page: [140] to violence, and suffered the Mountain to carry a decree for the suspension and arrest of the deputies whom the wards of the capital had accused.

During this contest, Barère had been tossed backwards and forwards between the two raging factions. His feelings, languid and unsteady as they always were, drew him to the Girondists; but he was awed by the vigour and determination of the Mountain. At one moment he he held high and firm language, complained that the Convention was not free, and protested against the validity of any vote passed under coercion. At another moment he proposed to conciliate the Parisians by abolishing that commission of twelve which he had himself proposed only a few days before; and himself drew up a paper condemning the very measures which had been adopted at his own instance, and eulogising the public spirit of the insurgents. To do him justice, it was not without some symptoms of shame that he read this document from the tribune, where he had so often expressed very different sentiments. It is said that, at some passages, he was even seen to blush. It may have been so; he was still in his novitiate of infamy.

Some days later he proposed that hostages for the personal safety of the accused deputies should be sent to the departments, and offered to be himself one of those hostages. Nor do we in the least doubt that the offer was sincere. He would, we firmly believe, have thought himself far safer at Bordeaux or Marseilles than at Paris. His proposition, however, was not carried into effect; and he remained in the power of the victorious Mountain

This was the great crisis of his life. Hitherto he had done nothing inexpiable, nothing which marked him out as a much worse man than most of his colleagues in the Convention. His voice had generally been on the side of moderate measures. Had he bravely cast in his lot with the Girondists, and suffered with them, he would, like them, have had a not dishonourable place in history. Edition: current; Page: [141] Had he, like the great body of deputies who meant well, but who had not the courage to expose themselves to martyrdom, crouched quietly under the dominion of the triumphant minority, and suffered every motion of Robespierre and Billaud to pass unopposed, he would have incurred no peculiar ignominy. But it is probable that this course was not open to him. He had been too prominent among the adversaries of the Mountain to be admitted to quarter without making some atonement. It was necessary that, if he hoped to find pardon from his new lords, he should not be merely a silent and passive slave. What passed in private between him and them cannot be accurately related; but the result was soon apparent. The Committee of Public Safety was renewed. Several of the fiercest of the dominant faction, Couthon for example, and St. Just, were substituted for more moderate politicians; but Barère was suffered to retain his seat at the Board.

The indulgence with which he was treated excited the murmurs of some stern and ardent zealots. Marat, in the very last words that he wrote, words not published till the dagger of Charlotte Corday had avenged France and mankind, complained that a man who had no principles, who was always on the side of the strongest, who had been a royalist, and who was ready, in case of a turn of fortune, to be a royalist again, should be entrusted with an important share in the administration.* But the chiefs of the Mountain judged more correctly. They knew indeed, as well as Marat, that Barère was a man utterly without faith or steadiness; that, if he could be said to have any political leaning, his leaning was not towards them; that he felt for the Girondist party that faint and wavering sort of preference of which alone his nature was susceptible; and that, if he had been at liberty to make his choice, he would rather have murdered Edition: current; Page: [142] Robespierre and Danton than Vergniaud and Gensonné. But they justly appreciated that levity which made him incapable alike of earnest love and of earnest hatred, and that meanness which made it necessary to him to have a master. In truth, what the planters of Carolina and Louisiana say of black men with flat noses and woolly hair was strictly true of Barère. The curse of Canaan was upon him. He was born a slave. Baseness was an instinct in him. The impulse which drove him from a party in adversity to a party in prosperity was as irresistible as that which drives the cuckoo and the swallow towards the sun when the dark and cold months are approaching. The law which doomed him to be the humble attendant of stronger spirits resembled the law which binds the pilot-fish to the shark. “Ken ye,” said a shrewd Scotch lord, who was asked his opinion of James the First, “Ken ye a John Ape? If I have Jacko by the collar, I can make him bite you; but, if you have Jacko, you can make him bite me.” Just such a creature was Barère. In the hands of the Girondists he would have been eager to proscribe the Jacobins; he was just as ready, in the gripe of the Jacobins, to proscribe the Girondists. On the fidelity of such a man the heads of the Mountain could not, of course, reckon; but they valued their conquest as the very easy and not very delicate lover in Congreve’s lively song valued the conquest of a prostitute of a different kind. Barère was, like Chloe, false and common; but he was, like Chloe, constant while possessed; and they asked no more. They needed a service which he was perfectly competent to perform. Destitute as he was of all the talents both of an active and of a speculative statesman, he could with great facility draw up a report, or make a speech on any subject and on any side. If other people would furnish facts and thoughts, he could always furnish phrases; and this talent was absolutely at the command of his owners for the time being. Nor Edition: current; Page: [143] had he excited any angry passion among those to whom he had hitherto been opposed. They felt no more hatred to him than they felt to the horses which dragged the cannon of the Duke of Brunswick and of the Prince of Saxe-Coburg. The horses had only done according to their kind, and would, if they fell into the hands of the French, drag with equal vigour and equal docility the guns of the republic, and therefore ought not merely to be spared, but to be well fed and curried. So was it with Barère. He was of a nature so low, that it might be doubted whether he could properly be an object of the hostility of reasonable beings. He had not been an enemy; he was not now a friend. But he had been an annoyance; and he would now be a help.

But, though the heads of the Mountain pardoned this man, and admitted him into partnership with themselves, it was not without exacting pledges such as made it impossible for him, false and fickle as he was, ever again to find admission into the ranks which he had deserted. That was truly a terrible sacrament by which they admitted the apostate into their communion. They demanded of him that he should himself take the most prominent part in murdering his old friends. To refuse was as much as his life was worth. But what is life worth when it is only one long agony of remorse and shame? These, however, are feelings of which it is idle to talk, when we are considering the conduct of such a man as Barère. He undertook the task, mounted the tribune, and told the Convention that the time was come for taking the stern attitude of justice, and for striking at all conspirators without distinction. He then moved that Buzot, Barbaroux, Pétion, and thirteen other deputies, should be placed out of the pale of the law, or, in other words, beheaded without a trial; and that Vergniaud, Guadet, Gensonnè, and six others, should be impeached. The motion was carried without debate.

We have already seen with what effrontery Barère has Edition: current; Page: [144] denied, in these Memoirs, that he took any part against the Girondists. This denial, we think, was the only thing wanting to make his infamy complete. The most impudent of all lies was a fit companion for the foulest of all murders.

Barère, however, had not yet earned his pardon. The Jacobin party contained one gang which, even in that party, was pre-eminent in every mean and every savage vice, a gang so low-minded and so inhuman that, compared with them, Robespierre might be called magnanimous and merciful. Of these wretches Hébert was perhaps the best representative. His favourite amusement was to torment and insult the miserable remains of that great family which, having ruled France during eight hundred years, had now become an object of pity to the humblest artisan or peasant. The influence of this man, and of men like him, induced the Committee of Public Safety to determine that Marie Antoinette should be sent to the scaffold. Barère was again summoned to his duty. Only four days after he had proposed the decrees against the Girondist deputies he again mounted the tribune, in order to move that the Queen should be brought before the Revolutionary Tribunal. He was improving fast in the society of his new allies. When he asked for the heads of Vergniaud and Pétion he had spoken like a man who had some slight sense of his own guilt and degradation: he had said little; and that little had not been violent. The office of expatiating on the guilt of his old friends he had left to Saint Just. Very different was Barère’s second appearance in the character of an accuser. He now cried out for blood in the eager tones of the true and burning thirst, and raved against the Austrian woman with the virulence natural to a coward who finds himself at liberty to outrage that which he has feared and envied. We have already exposed the shameless mendacity with which, in these Memoirs, he attempts to throw the blame of his own guilt on the guiltless.

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On the day on which the fallen Queen was dragged, already more than half dead, to her doom Barère regaled Robespierre and some other Jacobins at a tavern. Robespierre’s acceptance of the invitation caused some surprise to those who knew how long and how bitterly it was his nature to hate. “Robespierre of the party!” muttered Saint Just. “Barère is the only man whom Robespierre has forgiven.” We have an account of this singular repast from one of the guests. Robespierre condemned the senseless brutality with which Hébert had conducted the proceedings against the Austrian woman, and, in talking on that subject, became so much excited that he broke his plate in the violence of his gesticulation. Barère exclaimed that the guillotine had cut a diplomatic knot which it might have been difficult to untie. In the intervals between the Beaune and the Champagne, between the ragout of thrushes and the partridge with truffles, he fervently preached his new political creed. “The vessel of the revolution,” he said, “can float into port only on waves of blood. We must begin with the members of the National Assembly and of the Legislative Assembly. That rubbish must be swept away.”

As he talked at table he talked in the Convention. His peculiar style of oratory was now formed. It was not altogether without ingenuity and liveliness. But in any other age or country it would have been thought unfit for the deliberations of a grave assembly, and still more unfit for state papers. It might, perhaps, succeed at a meeting of a Protestant Association in Exeter Hall, at a Repeal dinner in Ireland, after men had well drunk, or in an American oration on the fourth of July. No legislative body would now endure it. But in France, during the reign of the Convention, the old laws of composition were held in as much contempt as the old government or the old creed. Correct and noble diction belonged, like the etiquette of Versailles and the solemnities of Notre Dame, Edition: current; Page: [146] to an age which had passed away. Just as a swarm of ephemeral constitutions, democratic, directorial, and consular, sprang from the decay of the ancient monarchy; just as a swarm of new superstitions, the worship of the Goddess of Reason, and the fooleries of the Theo-philanthropists, sprang from the decay of the ancient Church; even so, out of the decay of the ancient French eloquence sprang new fashions of eloquence, for the understanding of which new grammars and dictionaries were necessary. The same innovating spirit which altered the common phrases of salutation, which turned hundreds of Johns and Peters into Scævolas and Aristogitons, and which expelled Sunday and Monday, January and February, Ladyday and Christmas, from the calendar, in order to substitute Decadi and Primidi, Nivose and Pluviose, Feasts of Opinion and Feasts of the Supreme Being, changed all the forms of official correspondence. For the calm, guarded, and sternly courteous language which governments had long been accustomed to employ, were substituted puns, interjections, Ossianic rants, rhetoric worthy only of a schoolboy, scurrility worthy only of a fishwife. Of the phraseology which was now thought to be peculiarly well suited to a report or a manifesto Barère had a greater command than any man of his time, and, during the short and sharp paroxysm of the revolutionary delirium, passed for a great orator. When the fit was over, he was considered as what he really was, a man of quick apprehension and fluent elocution, with no originality, with little information, and with a taste as bad as his heart. His Reports were popularly called Carmagnoles. A few months ago we should have had some difficulty in conveying to an English reader an exact notion of the state papers to which this appellation was given. Fortunately a noble and distinguished person, whom her Majesty’s Ministers have thought qualified to fill the most important post in the empire, has made our task easy. Whoever has read Lord Edition: current; Page: [147] Ellenborough’s proclamations is able to form a complete idea of a Carmagnole.

The effect which Barère’s discourses at one time produced is not to be wholly attributed to the perversion of the national taste. The occasions on which he rose were frequently such as would have secured to the worst speaker a favourable hearing. When any military advantage had been gained, he was generally deputed by the Committee of Public Safety to announce the good news. The hall resounded with applause as he mounted the tribune, holding the despatches in his hand. Deputies and strangers listened with delight while he told them that victory was the order of the day; that the guineas of Pitt had been vainly lavished to hire machines six feet high, carrying guns; that the flight of the English leopard deserved to be celebrated by Tyrtæus; and that the saltpetre dug out of the cellars of Paris had been turned into thunder, which would crush the Titan brethren, George and Francis.

Meanwhile the trial of the accused Girondists, who were under arrest in Paris, came on. They flattered themselves with a vain hope of escape. They placed some reliance on their innocence, and some reliance on their eloquence. They thought that shame would suffice to restrain any man, however violent and cruel, from publicly committing the flagrant iniquity of condemning them to death. The Revolutionary Tribunal was new to its functions. No member of the Convention had yet been executed; and it was probable that the boldest Jacobin would shrink from being the first to violate the sanctity which was supposed to belong to the representatives of the people.

The proceedings lasted some days. Gensonnè and Brissot defended themselves with great ability and presence of mind against the vile Hébert and Chaumette, who appeared as accusers. The eloquent voice of Vergniaud was heard for the last time. He pleaded his own cause Edition: current; Page: [148] and that of his friends, with such force of reason and elevation of sentiment that a murmur of pity and admiration rose from the audience. Nay, the court itself, not yet accustomed to riot in daily carnage, showed signs of emotion. The sitting was adjourned; and a rumour went forth that there would be an acquittal. The Jacobins met, breathing vengeance. Robespierre undertook to be their organ. He rose on the following day in the Convention, and proposed a decree of such atrocity that even among the acts of that year it can hardly be paralleled. By this decree the tribunal was empowered to cut short the defence of the prisoners, to pronounce the case clear, and to pass immediate judgment. One deputy made a faint opposition. Barère instantly sprang up to support Robespierre — Barère, the federalist; Barère, the author of that Commission of Twelve which was among the chief causes of the hatred borne by Paris to the Girondists; Barère, who in these Memoirs denies that he ever took any part against the Girondists; Barère, who has the effrontery to declare that he greatly loved and esteemed Vergniaud. The decree was passed; and the tribunal, without suffering the prisoners to conclude what they had to say, pronounced them guilty.

The following day was the saddest in the sad history of the Revolution. The sufferers were so innocent, so brave, so eloquent, so accomplished, so young. Some of them were graceful and handsome youths of six or seven and twenty. Vergniaud and Gensonné were little more than thirty. They had been only a few months engaged in public affairs. In a few months the fame of their genius had filled Europe; and they were to die for no crime but this, that they had wished to combine order, justice, and mercy with freedom. Their great fault was want of courage. We mean want of political courage — of that courage which is proof to clamour and obloquy, and which meets great emergencies by daring and decisive measures. Alas! they had but too good an opportunity Edition: current; Page: [149] of proving that they did not want courage to endure with manly cheerfulness the worst that could be inflicted by such tyrants as St. Just, and such slaves as Barère.

They were not the only victims of the noble cause. Madame Roland followed them to the scaffold with a spirit as heroic as their own. Her husband was in a safe hiding-place, but could not bear to survive her. His body was found on the high-road near Rouen. He had fallen on his sword. Condorcet swallowed opium. At Bordeaux the steel fell on the necks of the bold and quick-witted Guadet and of Barbaroux, the chief of those enthusiasts from the Rhone whose valour, in the great crisis of the tenth of August, had turned back the tide of battle from the Louvre to the Tuileries. In a field near the Garonne was found all that the wolves had left of Pétion, once honoured, greatly indeed beyond his deserts, as the model of republican virtue. We are far from regarding even the best of the Girondists with unmixed admiration; but history owes to them this honourable testimony, that, being free to choose whether they would be oppressors or victims, they deliberately and firmly resolved rather to suffer injustice than to inflict it.

And now began that strange period known by the name of the Reign of Terror. The Jacobins had prevailed. This was their hour, and the power of darkness. The Convention was subjugated and reduced to profound silence on the highest questions of state. The sovereignty passed to the Committee of Public Safety. To the edicts framed by that Committee the representative assembly did not venture to offer even the species of opposition which the ancient parliament had frequently offered to the mandates of the ancient kings. Six persons held the chief power in the small cabinet which now domineered over France — Robespierre, St. Just, Couthon, Collot, Billaud, and Barère.

To some of these men, and of those who adhered to Edition: current; Page: [150] them, it is due to say that the fanaticism which had emancipated them from the restraints of justice and compassion had emancipated them also from the dominion of vulgar cupidity and of vulgar fear; that, while hardly knowing where to find an assignat of a few francs to pay for a dinner, they expended with strict integrity the immense revenue which they collected by every art of rapine; and that they were ready, in support of their cause, to mount the scaffold with as much indifference as they showed when they signed the death-warrants of aristocrats and priests. But no great party can be composed of such materials as these. It is the inevitable law that such zealots as we have described shall collect around them a multitude of slaves, of cowards, and of libertines, whose savage tempers and licentious appetites, withheld only by the dread of law and magistracy from the worst excesses, are called into full activity by the hope of impunity. A faction which, from whatever motive, relaxes the great laws of morality is certain to be joined by the most immoral part of the community. This has been repeatedly proved in religious wars. The war of the Holy Sepulchre, the Albigensian war, the Huguenot war, the Thirty Years’ war, all originated in pious zeal. That zeal inflamed the champions of the church to such a point that they regarded all generosity to the vanquished as a sinful weakness. The infidel, the heretic, was to be run down like a mad dog. No outrage committed by the Catholic warrior on the miscreant enemy could deserve punishment. As soon as it was known that boundless license was thus given to barbarity and dissoluteness, thousands of wretches who cared nothing for the sacred cause, but who were eager to be exempted from the police of peaceful cities, and the discipline of well-governed camps, flocked to the standard of the faith. The men who had set up that standard were sincere, chaste, regardless of lucre, and, perhaps, where only themselves were concerned, not unforgiving; but round that standard Edition: current; Page: [151] were assembled such gangs of rogues, ravishers, plunderers, and ferocious bravoes, as were scarcely ever found under the flag of any state engaged in a mere temporal quarrel. In a very similar way was the Jacobin party composed. There was a small nucleus of enthusiasts; round that nucleus was gathered a vast mass of ignoble depravity; and in all that mass there was nothing so depraved and so ignoble as Barère.

Then came those days when the most barbarous of all codes was administered by the most barbarous of all tribunals; when no man could greet his neighbours, or say his prayers, or dress his hair, without danger of committing a capital crime; when spies lurked in every corner; when the guillotine was long and hard at work every morning; when the jails were filled as close as the hold of a slave-ship; when the gutters ran foaming with blood into the Seine; when it was death to be great-niece of a captain of the royal guards, or half-brother of a doctor of the Sorbonne, to express a doubt whether assignats would not fall, to hint that the English had been victorious in the action of the First of June, to have a copy of one of Burke’s pamphlets locked up in a desk, to laugh at a Jacobin for taking the name of Cassius or Timoleon, or to call the Fifth Sans-culottide by its old superstitious name of St. Matthew’s Day. While the daily waggon-loads of victims were carried to their doom through the streets of Paris, the Proconsuls whom the sovereign Committee had sent forth to the departments revelled in an extravagance of cruelty unknown even in the capital. The knife of the deadly machine rose and fell too slow for their work of slaughter. Long rows of captives were mowed down with grape shot. Holes were made in the bottom of crowded barges. Lyons was turned into a desert. At Arras even the cruel mercy of a speedy death was denied to the prisoners. All down the Loire, from Saumur to the sea, great flocks of crows and kites feasted on naked corpses, twined together in Edition: current; Page: [152] hideous embraces. No mercy was shown to sex or age. The number of young lads and of girls of seventeen who were murdered by that execrable government is to be reckoned by hundreds. Babies torn from the breast were tossed from pike to pike along the Jacobin ranks. One champion of liberty had his pockets well stuffed with ears. Another swaggered about with the finger of a little child in his hat. A few months had sufficed to degrade France below the level of New Zealand.

It is absurd to say that any amount of public danger can justify a system like this, we do not say on Christian principles, we do not say on the principles of a high morality, but even on principles of Machiavellian policy. It is true that great emergencies call for activity and vigilance; it is true that they justify severity which, in ordinary times, would deserve the name of cruelty. But indiscriminate severity can never, under any circumstances, be useful. It is plain that the whole efficacy of punishment depends on the care with which the guilty are distinguished. Punishment which strikes the guilty and the innocent promiscuously operates merely like a pestilence or a great convulsion of nature, and has no more tendency to prevent offences than the cholera, or an earthquake like that of Lisbon, would have. The energy for which the Jacobin administration is praised was merely the energy of the Malay who maddens himself with opium, draws his knife, and runs a-muck through the streets, slashing right and left at friends and foes. Such has never been the energy of truly great rulers; of Elizabeth, for example, of Oliver, or of Frederick. They were not, indeed, scrupulous. But, had they been less scrupulous than they were, the strength and amplitude of their minds would have preserved them from crimes such as those which the small men of the Committee of Public Safety took for daring strokes of policy. The great Queen who so long held her own against foreign and domestic enemies, against temporal and spiritual Edition: current; Page: [153] arms; the great Protector who governed with more than regal power, in despite both of royalists and republicans; the great King who, with a beaten army and an exhausted treasury, defended his little dominions to the last against the united efforts of Russia, Austria, and France; with what scorn would they have heard that it was impossible for them to strike a salutary terror into the disaffected without sending school-boys and school-girls to death by cart-loads and boat-loads!

The popular notion is, we believe, that the leading Terrorists were wicked men, but, at the same time, great men. We can see nothing great about them but their wickedness. That their policy was daringly original is a vulgar error. Their policy is as old as the oldest accounts which we have of human misgovernment. It seemed new in France and in the eighteenth century only because it had been long disused, for excellent reasons, by the enlightened part of mankind. But it has always prevailed, and still prevails, in savage and half savage nations, and is the chief cause which prevents such nations from making advances towards civilisation. Thousands of deys, of beys, of pachas, of rajahs, of nabobs, have shown themselves as great masters of statecraft as the members of the Committee of Public Safety. Djezzar, we imagine, was superior to any of them in their new line. In fact, there is not a petty tyrant in Asia or Africa so dull or so unlearned as not to be fully qualified for the business of Jacobin police and Jacobin finance. To behead people by scores without caring whether they are guilty or innocent; to wring money out of the rich by the help of jailers and executioners; to rob the public creditor, and to put him to death if he remonstrates; to take loaves by force out of the bakers’ shops; to clothe and mount soldiers by seizing on one man’s wool and linen, and on another man’s horses and saddles, without compensation; is of all modes of governing the simplest and most obvious. Of its morality we at present say Edition: current; Page: [154] nothing. But surely it requires no capacity beyond that of a barbarian or a child. By means like those which we have described, the Committee of Public Safety undoubtedly succeeded, for a short time, in enforcing profound submission, and in raising immense funds. But to enforce submission by butchery, and to raise funds by spoliation, is not statesmanship. The real statesman is he who, in troubled times, keeps down the turbulent without unnecessarily harassing the well-affected; and who, when great pecuniary resources are needed, provides for the public exigencies without violating the security of property and drying up the sources of future prosperity. Such a statesman, we are confident, might, in 1793, have preserved the independence of France without shedding a drop of innocent blood, without plundering a single warehouse. Unhappily, the Republic was subject to men who were mere demagogues and in no sense statesmen. They could declaim at a club. They could lead a rabble to mischief. But they had no skill to conduct the affairs of an empire. The want of skill they supplied for a time by atrocity and blind violence. For legislative ability, fiscal ability, military ability, diplomatic ability, they had one substitute, the guillotine. Indeed their exceeding ignorance, and the barrenness of their invention, are the best excuse for their murders and robberies. We really believe that they would not have cut so many throats, and picked so many pockets, if they had known how to govern in any other way.

That under their administration the war against the European Coalition was successfully conducted is true. But that war had been successfully conducted before their elevation, and continued to be successfully conducted after their fall. Terror was not the order of the day when Brussels opened its gates to Dumourier. Terror had ceased to be the order of the day when Piedmont and Lombardy were conquered by Bonaparte. The truth is, that France was saved, not by the Committee of Public Edition: current; Page: [155] Safety, but by the energy, patriotism, and valour of the French people. Those high qualities were victorious in spite of the incapacity of rulers whose administration was a tissue, not merely of crimes, but of blunders.

We have not time to tell how the leaders of the savage faction at length began to avenge mankind on each other; how the craven Hébert was dragged wailing and trembling to his doom; how the nobler Danton, moved by a late repentance, strove in vain to repair the evil which he had wrought, and half redeemed the great crime of September by manfully encountering death in the cause of mercy.

Our business is with Barère. In all those things he was not only consenting, but eagerly and joyously forward. Not merely was he one of the guilty administration. He was the man to whom was especially assigned the office of proposing and defending outrages on justice and humanity, and of furnishing to atrocious schemes an appropriate garb of atrocious rodomontade. Barère first proclaimed from the tribune of the Convention that terror must be the order of the day. It was by Barère that the Revolutionary Tribunal of Paris was provided with the aid of a public accuser worthy of such a court, the infamous Fouquier Tinville. It was Barère who, when one of the old members of the National Assembly had been absolved by the Revolutionary Tribunal, gave orders that a fresh jury should be summoned. “Acquit one of the National Assembly!” he cried. “The Tribunal is turning against the Revolution.” It is unnecessary to say that the prisoner’s head was soon in the basket. It was Barère who moved that the city of Lyons should be destroyed. “Let the plough,” he cried from the tribune, “pass over her. Let her name cease to exist. The rebels are conquered; but are they all exterminated? No weakness. No mercy. Let every one be smitten. Two words will suffice to tell the whole. Lyons made war on liberty; Lyons is no more.” When Toulon was Edition: current; Page: [156] taken Barère came forward to announce the event. “The conquest,” said the apostate Brissotine, “won by the Mountain over the Brissotines must be commemorated by a mark set on the place where Toulon once stood. The national thunder must crush the house of every trader in the town.” When Camille Desmoulins, long distinguished among the republicans by zeal and ability, dared to raise his eloquent voice against the Reign of Terror, and to point out the close analogy between the government which then oppressed France and the government of the worst of the Cæsars, Barère rose to complain of the weak compassion which tried to revive the hopes of the aristocracy. “Whoever,” he said, “is nobly born is a man to be suspected. Every priest, every frequenter of the old court, every lawyer, every banker, is a man to be suspected. Every person who grumbles at the course which the Revolution takes is a man to be suspected. There are whole castes already tried and condemned. There are callings which carry their doom with them. There are relations of blood which the law regards with an evil eye. Republicans of France!” yelled the renegade Girondist, the old enemy of the Mountain—“Republicans of France! the Brissotines led you by gentle means to slavery. The Mountain leads you by strong measures to freedom. Oh! who can count the evils which a false compassion may produce?” When the friends of Danton mustered courage to express a wish that the Convention would at least hear him in his own defence before it sent him to certain death, the voice of Barère was the loudest in opposition to their prayer. When the crimes of Lebon, one of the worst, if not the very worst, of the vicegerents of the Committee of Public Safety, had so maddened the people of the Department of the North that they resorted to the desperate expedient of imploring the protection of the Convention, Barère pleaded the cause of the accused tyrant, and threatened the petitioners with the utmost vengeance of the government. “These charges,” he said, Edition: current; Page: [157] “have been suggested by wily aristocrats. The man who crushes the enemies of the people, though he may be hurried by his zeal into some excesses, can never be a proper object of censure. The proceedings of Lebon may have been a little harsh as to form.” One of the small irregularities thus gently censured was this: Lebon kept a wretched man a quarter of an hour under the knife of the guillotine, in order to torment him, by reading to him, before he was despatched, a letter, the contents of which were supposed to be such as would aggravate even the bitterness of death. “But what,” proceeded Barère, “is not permitted to the hatred of a republican against aristocracy? How many generous sentiments atone for what may perhaps seem acrimonious in the prosecution of public enemies? Revolutionary measures are always to be spoken of with respect. Liberty is a virgin whose veil it is not lawful to lift.”

After this, it would be idle to dwell on facts which would indeed, of themselves, suffice to render a name infamous, but which make no perceptible addition to the great infamy of Barère. It would be idle, for example, to relate how he, a man of letters, a member of an Academy of Inscriptions, was foremost in that war against learning, art, and history which disgraced the Jacobin government; how he recommended a general conflagration of libraries; how he proclaimed that all records of events anterior to the Revolution ought to be destroyed; how he laid waste the Abbey of St. Denis, pulled down monuments consecrated by the veneration of ages, and scattered on the wind the dust of ancient kings. He was, in truth, seldom so well employed as when he turned for a moment from making war on the living to make war on the dead.

Equally idle would it be to dilate on his sensual excesses. That in Barère, as in the whole breed of Neros, Caligulas, and Domitians whom he resembled, voluptuousness was mingled with cruelty; that he withdrew, twice in every decade, from the work of blood to the smiling Edition: current; Page: [158] gardens of Clichy, and there forgot public cares in the madness of wine and in the arms of courtesans, has often been repeated. M. Hippolyte Carnot does not altogether deny the truth of these stories, but justly observes that Barère’s dissipation was not carried to such a point as to interfere with his industry. Nothing can be more true. Barère was by no means so much addicted to debauchery as to neglect the work of murder. It was his boast that, even during his hours of recreation, he cut out work for the Revolutionary Tribunal. To those who expressed a fear that his exertions would hurt his health, he gaily answered that he was less busy than they thought. “The guillotine,” he said, “does all; the guillotine governs.” For ourselves, we are much more disposed to look indulgently on the pleasures which he allowed to himself than on the pain which he inflicted on his neighbours.

  • “Atque utinam his potius nugis tota illa dedisset
  • Tempora sævitiæ, claras quibus abstulit urbi
  • Illustresque animas, impune ac vindice nullo.”

An immoderate appetite for sensual gratifications is undoubtedly a blemish on the fame of Henry the Fourth, of Lord Somers, of Mr. Fox. But the vices of honest men are the virtues of Barère.

And now Barère had become a really cruel man. It was from mere pusillanimity that he had perpetrated his first great crimes. But the whole history of our race proves that the taste for the misery of others is a taste which minds not naturally ferocious may too easily acquire, and which, when once acquired, is as strong as any of the propensities with which we are born. A very few months had sufficed to bring this man into a state of mind in which images of despair, wailing, and death had an exhilarating effect on him, and inspired him as wine and love inspire men of free and joyous natures. The cart creaking under its daily freight of victims, ancient men and lads, and fair young girls, the binding of the hands, the thrusting of the head out of the little national Edition: current; Page: [159] sash-window, the crash of the axe, the pool of blood beneath the scaffold, the heads rolling by scores in the panier — these things were to him what Lalage and a cask of Falernian were to Horace, what Rosette and a bottle of iced champagne are to De Béranger. As soon as he began to speak of slaughter his heart seemed to be enlarged, and his fancy to become unusually fertile of conceits and gasconades. Robespierre, St. Just, and Billaud, whose barbarity was the effect of earnest and gloomy hatred, were, in his view, men who made a toil of a pleasure. Cruelty was no such melancholy business, to be gone about with an austere brow and a whining tone; it was a recreation, fitly accompanied by singing and laughing. In truth, Robespierre and Barère might be well compared to the two renowned hangmen of Louis the Eleventh. They were alike insensible of pity, alike bent on havock. But, while they murdered, one of them frowned and canted, the other grinned and joked. For our own part, we prefer Jean qui pleure to Jean qui rit.

In the midst of the funeral gloom which overhung Paris, a gaiety stranger and more ghastly than the horrors of the prison and the scaffold distinguished the dwelling of Barère. Every morning a crowd of suitors assembled to implore his protection. He came forth in his rich dressing-gown, went round the antechamber, dispensed smiles and promises among the obsequious crowd, addressed himself with peculiar animation to every handsome woman who appeared in the circle, and complimented her in the florid style of Gascony on the bloom of her cheeks and the lustre of her eyes. When he had enjoyed the fear and anxiety of his suppliants he dismissed them, and flung all their memorials unread into the fire. This was the best way, he conceived, to prevent arrears of business from accumulating. Here he was only an imitator. Cardinal Dubois had been in the habit of clearing his table of papers in the same way. Nor was this the only point in which we could point out a resemblance Edition: current; Page: [160] between the worst statesman of the monarchy and the worst statesman of the republic.

Of Barère’s peculiar vein of pleasantry a notion may be formed from an anecdote which one of his intimate associates, a juror of the revolutionary tribunal, has related. A courtesan who bore a conspicuous part in the orgies of Clichy implored Barère to use his power against a head-dress which did not suit her style of face, and which a rival beauty was trying to bring into fashion. One of the magistrates of the capital was summoned and received the necessary orders. Aristocracy, Barère said, was again rearing its front. These new wigs were counter-revolutionary. He had reason to know that they were made out of the long fair hair of handsome aristocrats who had died by the national chopper. Every lady who adorned herself with the relics of criminals might justly be suspected of incivism. This ridiculous lie imposed on the authorities of Paris. Female citizens were solemnly warned against the obnoxious ringlets, and were left to choose between their head-dresses and their heads. Barère’s delight at the success of this facetious fiction was quite extravagant: he could not tell the story without going into such convulsions of laughter as made his hearers hope that he was about to choke. There was something peculiarly tickling and exhilarating to his mind in this grotesque combination of the frivolous with the horrible, of false locks and curling-irons with spouting arteries and reeking hatchets.

But, though Barère succeeded in earning the honourable nicknames of the Witling of Terror, and the Anacreon of the Guillotine, there was one place where it was long remembered to his disadvantage that he had, for a time, talked the language of humanity and moderation. That place was the Jacobin Club. Even after he had borne the chief part in the massacre of the Girondists, in the murder of the Queen, in the destruction of Lyons, he durst not show himself within that sacred precinct. At Edition: current; Page: [161] one meeting of the society, a member complained that the committee to which the supreme direction of affairs was entrusted, after all the changes which had been made, still contained one man who was not trustworthy. Robespierre, whose influence over the Jacobins was boundless, undertook the defence of his colleague, owned there was some ground for what had been said, but spoke highly of Barère’s industry and aptitude for business. This seasonable interposition silenced the accuser; but it was long before the neophyte could venture to appear at the club.

At length a masterpiece of wickedness, unique, we think, even among Barère’s great achievements, obtained his full pardon even from that rigid conclave. The insupportable tyranny of the Committee of Public Safety had at length brought the minds of men, and even of women, into a fierce and hard temper, which defied or welcomed death. The life which might be any morning taken away, in consequence of the whisper of a private enemy, seemed of little value. It was something to die after smiting one of the oppressors; it was something to bequeath to the surviving tyrants a terror not inferior to that which they had themselves inspired. Human nature, hunted and worried to the utmost, now turned furiously to bay. Fouquier Tinville was afraid to walk the streets; a pistol was snapped at Collot D’Herbois; a young girl, animated apparently by the spirit of Charlotte Corday, attempted to obtain an interview with Robespierre. Suspicions arose; she was searched; and two knives were found about her. She was questioned, and spoke of the Jacobin domination with resolute scorn and aversion. It is unnecessary to say that she was sent to the guillotine. Barère declared from the tribune that the cause of these attempts was evident. Pitt and his guineas had done the whole. The English Government had organised a vast system of murder, had armed the hand of Charlotte Corday, and had now, by similar means, attacked two of the most eminent friends of liberty in France. It is needless to Edition: current; Page: [162] say that these imputations were, not only false, but destitute of all show of truth. Nay, they were demonstrably absurd: for the assassins to whom Barère referred rushed on certain death, a sure proof that they were not hirelings. The whole wealth of England would not have bribed any sane person to do what Charlotte Corday did. But, when we consider her as an enthusiast, her conduct is perfectly natural. Even those French writers who are childish enough to believe that the English Government contrived the infernal machine and strangled the Emperor Paul have fully acquitted Mr. Pitt of all share in the death of Marat and in the attempt on Robespierre. Yet on calumnies so futile as those which we have mentioned did Barère ground a motion at which all Christendom stood aghast. He proposed a decree that no quarter should be given to any English or Hanoverian soldier.* His Carmagnole was worthy of the proposition with which it concluded. “That one Englishman should be spared, that for the slaves of George, for the human machines of York, the vocabulary of our armies should contain such a word as generosity, this is what the National Convention cannot endure. War to the death against every English soldier. If last year, at Dunkirk, quarter had been refused to them when they asked it on their knees, if our troops had exterminated them all, instead of suffering them to infest our fortresses by their presence, the English Edition: current; Page: [163] Government would not have renewed its attack on our frontiers this year. It is only the dead man who never comes back. What is this moral pestilence which has introduced into our armies false ideas of humanity? That the English were to be treated with indulgence was the philanthropic notion of the Brissotines; it was the patriotic practice of Dumourier. But humanity consists in exterminating our enemies. No mercy to the execrable Englishman. Such are the sentiments of the true Frenchman; for he knows that he belongs to a nation revolutionary as nature, powerful as freedom, ardent as the saltpetre which she has just torn from the entrails of the earth. Soldiers of liberty, when victory places Englishmen at your mercy, strike! None of them must return to the servile soil of Great Britain; none must pollute the free soil of France.”

The Convention, thoroughly tamed and silenced, acquiesced in Barère’s motion without debate. And now at last the doors of the Jacobin Club were thrown open to the disciple who had surpassed his masters. He was admitted a member by acclamation, and was soon selected to preside.

For a time he was not without hope that his decree would be carried into full effect. Intelligence arrived from the seat of war of a sharp contest between some French and English troops, in which the Republicans had the advantage, and in which no prisoners had been made. Such things happen occasionally in all wars. Barère, however, attributed the ferocity of this combat to his darling decree, and entertained the Convention with another Carmagnole.

“The Republicans,” he said, “saw a division in red uniform at a distance. The red-coats are attacked with the bayonet. Not one of them escapes the blows of the Republicans. All the red-coats have been killed. No mercy, no indulgence, has been shown towards the villains. Not an Englishman whom the Republicans could reach is now living. How many prisoners should Edition: current; Page: [164] you guess that we have made? One single prisoner is the result of this great day.”

And now this bad man’s craving for blood had become insatiable. The more he quaffed, the more he thirsted. He had begun with the English; but soon he came down with a proposition for new massacres. “All the troops,” he said, “of the coalesced tyrants in garrison at Condé, Valenciennes, Le Quesnoy, and Landrecies, ought to be put to the sword unless they surrender at discretion in twenty-four hours. The English, of course, will be admitted to no capitulation whatever. With the English we have no treaty but death. As to the rest, surrender at discretion in twenty-four hours, or death, these are our conditions. If the slaves resist, let them feel the edge of the sword.” And then he waxed facetious. “On these terms the Republic is willing to give them a lesson in the art of war.” At that jest, some hearers, worthy of such a speaker, set up a laugh. Then he became serious again. “Let the enemy perish,” he cried; “I have already said it from this tribune. It is only the dead man who never comes back. Kings will not conspire against us in the grave. Armies will not fight against us when they are annihilated. Let our war with them be a war of extermination. What pity is due to slaves whom the Emperor leads to war under the cane; whom the King of Prussia beats to the shambles with the flat of the sword; and whom the Duke of York makes drunk with rum and gin?” And at the rum and gin the Mountain and the galleries laughed again.

If Barère had been able to effect his purpose, it is difficult to estimate the extent of the calamity which he would have brought on the human race. No government, however averse to cruelty, could, in justice to its own subjects, have given quarter to enemies who gave none. Retaliation would have been, not merely justifiable, but a sacred duty. It would have been necessary for Howe and Nelson to make every French sailor whom they took walk the plank. England has no peculiar Edition: current; Page: [165] reason to dread the introduction of such a system. On the contrary, the operation of Barère’s new law of war would have been more unfavourable to his countrymen than to ours; for we believe that, from the beginning to the end of the war, there never was a time at which the number of French prisoners in England was not greater than the number of English prisoners in France; and so, we apprehend, it will be in all wars while England retains her maritime superiority. Had the murderous decree of the Convention been in force from 1794 to 1815, we are satisfied that, for every Englishman slain by the French, at least three Frenchmen would have been put to the sword by the English. It is, therefore, not as Englishmen, but as members of the great society of mankind, that we speak with indignation and horror of the change which Barère attempted to introduce. The mere slaughter would have been the smallest part of the evil. The butchering of a single unarmed man in cold blood, under an act of the legislature, would have produced more evil than the carnage of ten such fields as Albuera. Public law would have been subverted from the foundations; national enmities would have been inflamed to a degree of rage which happily it is not easy for us to conceive; cordial peace would have been impossible. The moral character of the European nations would have been rapidly and deeply corrupted; for in all countries those men whose calling is to put their lives in jeopardy for the defence of the public weal enjoy high consideration, and are considered as the best arbitrators on points of honour and manly bearing. With the standard of morality established in the military profession the general standard of morality must to a great extent sink or rise. It is, therefore, a fortunate circumstance that, during a long course of years, respect for the weak and clemency towards the vanquished have been considered as qualities not less essential to the accomplished soldier than personal courage. How long would this continue to be the case, Edition: current; Page: [166] if the slaying of prisoners were a part of the daily duty of the warrior? What man of kind and generous nature would, under such a system, willingly bear arms? Who, that was compelled to bear arms, would long continue kind and generous? And is it not certain that, if barbarity towards the helpless became the characteristic of military men, the taint must rapidly spread to civil and to domestic life, and must show itself in all the dealings of the strong with the weak, of husbands with wives, of employers with workmen, of creditors with debtors?

But, thank God, Barère’s decree was a mere dead letter. It was to be executed by men very different from those who, in the interior of France, were the instruments of the Committee of Public Safety, who prated at Jacobin Clubs, and ran to Fouquier Tinville with charges of incivism against women whom they could not seduce, and bankers from whom they could not extort money. The warriors who, under Hoche, had guarded the walls of Dunkirk, and who, under Kléber, had made good the defence of the wood of Monceaux, shrank with horror from an office more degrading than that of the hangman. “The Convention,” said an officer to his men, “has sent orders that all the English prisoners shall be shot.” “We will not shoot them,” answered a stout-hearted sergeant. “Send them to the Convention. If the deputies take pleasure in killing a prisoner, they may kill him themselves, and eat him too, like savages as they are.” This was the sentiment of the whole army. Bonaparte, who thoroughly understood war, who at Jaffa and elsewhere gave ample proof that he was not unwilling to strain the laws of war to their utmost rigour, and whose hatred of England amounted to a folly, always spoke of Barère’s decree with loathing, and boasted that the army had refused to obey the Convention.

Such disobedience on the part of any other class of citizens would have been instantly punished by wholesale massacre; but the Committee of Public Safety was aware that the discipline which had tamed the unwarlike population Edition: current; Page: [167] of the fields and cities might not answer in camps. To fling people by scores out of a boat, and, when they catch hold of it, to chop off their fingers with a hatchet, is undoubtedly a very agreeable pastime for a thoroughbred Jacobin, when the sufferers are, as at Nantes, old confessors, young girls, or women with child. But such sport might prove a little dangerous if tried upon grim ranks of grenadiers, marked with the scars of Hondschoote, and singed by the smoke of Fleurus.

Barère, however, found some consolation. If he could not succeed in murdering the English and the Hanoverians, he was amply indemnified by a new and vast slaughter of his own countrymen and countrywomen. If the defence which has been set up for the members of the Committee of Public Safety had been well founded, if it had been true that they governed with extreme severity only because the republic was in extreme peril, it is clear that the severity would have diminished as the peril diminished. But the fact is, that those cruelties for which the public danger is made a plea became more and more enormous as the danger became less and less, and reached the full height when there was no longer any danger at all. In the autumn of 1793, there was undoubtedly reason to apprehend that France might be unable to maintain the struggle against the European coalition. The enemy was triumphant on the frontiers. More than half the departments disowned the authority of the Convention. But at that time eight or ten necks a day were thought an ample allowance for the guillotine of the capital. In the summer of 1794, Bordeaux, Toulon, Caen, Lyons, Marseilles, had submitted to the ascendency of Paris. The French arms were victorious under the Pyrenees and on the Sambre. Brussels had fallen. Prussia had announced her intention of withdrawing from the contest. The Republic, no longer content with defending her own independence, was beginning to meditate conquest beyond the Alps and the Edition: current; Page: [168] Rhine. She was now more formidable to her neighbours than ever Louis the Fourteenth had been. And now the Revolutionary Tribunal of Paris was not content with forty, fifty, sixty heads in a morning. It was just after a series of victories, which destroyed the whole force of the single argument which has been urged in defence of the system of terror, that the Committee of Public Safety resolved to infuse into that system an energy hitherto unknown. It was proposed to reconstruct the Revolutionary Tribunal, and to collect in the space of two pages the whole revolutionary jurisprudence. Lists of twelve judges and fifty jurors were made out from among the fiercest Jacobins. The substantive law was simply this, that whatever the tribunal should think pernicious to the republic was a capital crime. The law of evidence was simply this, that whatever satisfied the jurors was sufficient proof. The law of procedure was of a piece with every thing else. There was to be an advocate against the prisoner, and no advocate for him. It was expressly declared that, if the jurors were in any manner convinced of the guilt of the prisoner, they might convict him without hearing a single witness. The only punishment which the court could inflict was death.

Robespierre proposed this decree. When he had read it, a murmur rose from the Convention. The fear which had long restrained the deputies from opposing the Committee was overcome by a stronger fear. Every man felt the knife at his throat. “The decree,” said one, “is of grave importance. I move that it be printed, and that the debate be adjourned. If such a measure were adopted without time for consideration, I would blow my brains out at once.” The motion for adjournment was seconded. Then Barère sprang up. “It is impossible,” he said, “that there can be any difference of opinion among us as to a law like this, a law so favourable in all respects to patriots; a law which insures the speedy punishment of conspirators. If there is to be an adjournment, I must Edition: current; Page: [169] insist that it shall not be for more than three days.” The opposition was overawed; the decree was passed; and, during the six weeks which followed, the havock was such as had never been known before.

And now the evil was beyond endurance. That timid majority which had for a time supported the Girondists, and which had, after their fall, contented itself with registering in silence the decrees of the Committee of Public Safety, at length drew courage from despair. Leaders of bold and firm character were not wanting, men such as Fouché and Tallien, who, having been long conspicuous among the chiefs of the Mountain, now found that their own lives, or lives still dearer to them than their own, were in extreme peril. Nor could it be longer kept secret that there was a schism in the despotic committee. On one side were Robespierre, St. Just, and Couthon; on the other, Collot and Billaud. Barère leaned towards these last, but only leaned towards them. As was ever his fashion when a great crisis was at hand, he fawned alternately on both parties, struck alternately at both, and held himself in readiness to chant the praises or to sign the death-warrant of either. In any event his Carmagnole was ready. The tree of liberty, the blood of traitors, the dagger of Brutus, the guineas of perfidious Albion, would do equally well for Billaud and for Robespierre.

The first attack which was made on Robespierre was indirect. An old woman named Catherine Théot, half maniac, half impostor, was protected by him, and exercised a strange influence over his mind; for he was naturally prone to superstition, and, having abjured the faith in which he had been brought up, was looking about for something to believe. Barère drew up a report against Catherine, which contained many facetious conceits, and ended, as might be expected, with a motion for sending her and some other wretched creatures of both sexes to the Revolutionary Tribunal, or, in other words, to death. Edition: current; Page: [170] This report, however, he did not dare to read to the Convention himself. Another member, less timid, was induced to father the cruel buffoonery; and the real author enjoyed in security the dismay and vexation of Robespierre.

Barère now thought that he had done enough on one side, and that it was time to make his peace with the other. On the seventh of Thermidor, he pronounced in the Convention a panegyric on Robespierre. “That representative of the people,” he said, “enjoys a reputation for patriotism, earned by five years of exertion, and by unalterable fidelity to the principles of independence and liberty.” On the eighth of Thermidor, it became clear that a decisive struggle was at hand. Robespierre struck the first blow. He mounted the tribune, and uttered a long invective on his opponents. It was moved that his discourse should be printed; and Barère spoke for the printing. The sense of the Convention soon appeared to be the other way; and Barère apologised for his former speech, and implored his colleagues to abstain from disputes which could be agreeable only to Pitt and York. On the next day, the ever-memorable ninth of Thermidor, came the real tug of war. Tallien, bravely taking his life in his hand, led the onset. Billaud followed; and then all that infinite hatred which had long been kept down by terror burst forth, and swept every barrier before it. When at length the voice of Robespierre, drowned by the president’s bell, and by shouts of “Down with the tyrant!” had died away in hoarse gasping, Barère rose. He began with timid and doubtful phrases, watched the effect of every word he uttered, and, when the feeling of the Assembly had been unequivocally manifested, declared against Robespierre. But it was not till the people out of doors, and especially the gunners of Paris, had espoused the cause of the Convention that Barère felt quite at ease. Then he sprange to the tribune, poured forth a Carmagnole about Pisistratus and Catiline, and concluded by moving Edition: current; Page: [171] that the heads of Robespierre and Robespierre’s accomplices should be cut off without a trial. The motion was carried. On the following morning the vanquished members of the Committee of Public Safety and their principal adherents suffered death. It was exactly one year since Barère had commenced his career of slaughter by moving the proscription of his old allies the Girondists. We greatly doubt whether any human being has ever succeeded in packing more wickedness into the space of three hundred and sixty-five days.

The ninth of Thermidor is one of the great epochs in the history of Europe. It is true that the three members of the Committee of Public Safety who triumphed were by no means better men than the three who fell. Indeed, we are inclined to think that of these six statesmen the least bad were Robespierre and Saint Just, whose cruelty was the effect of sincere fanaticism operating on narrow understandings and acrimonious tempers. The worst of the six was, beyond all doubt, Barère, who had no faith in any part of the system which he upheld by persecution; who, while he sent his fellow-creatures to death for being the third cousins of royalists, had not in the least made up his mind that a republic was better than a monarchy; who, while he slew his old friends for federalism, was himself far more a federalist than any of them; who had become a murderer merely for his safety, and who continued to be a murderer merely for his pleasure.

The tendency of the vulgar is to embody every thing. Some individual is selected, and often selected very injudiciously, as the representative of every great movement of the public mind, of every great revolution in human affairs; and on this individual are concentrated all the love and all the hatred, all the admiration and all the contempt, which he ought rightfully to share with a whole party, a whole sect, a whole nation, a whole generation. Perhaps no human being has suffered so much from this propensity of the multitude as Robespierre. He is regarded, Edition: current; Page: [172] not merely as what he was, an envious, malevolent zealot, but as the incarnation of Terror, as Jacobinism personified. The truth is, that it was not by him that the system of terror was carried to the last extreme. The most horrible days in the history of the revolutionary tribunal of Paris were those which immediately preceded the ninth of Thermidor. Robespierre had then ceased to attend the meetings of the sovereign Committee; and the direction of affairs was really in the hands of Billaud, of Collot, and of Barère.

It had never occurred to those three tyrants that, in overthrowing Robespierre, they were overthrowing that system of Terror to which they were more attached than he had ever been. Their object was to go on slaying even more mercilessly than before. But they had misunderstood the nature of the great crisis which had at last arrived. The yoke of the Committee was broken for ever. The Convention had regained its liberty, had tried its strength, had vanquished and punished its enemies. A great reaction had commenced. Twenty-four hours after Robespierre had ceased to live, it was moved and carried, amidst loud bursts of applause, that the sittings of the Revolutionary Tribunal should be suspended. Billaud was not at that moment present. He entered the hall soon after, learned with indignation what had passed, and moved that the vote should be rescinded. But loud cries of “No, no!” rose from those benches which had lately paid mute obedience to his commands. Barère came forward on the same day, and adjured the Convention not to relax the system of terror. “Beware, above all things,” he cried, “of that fatal moderation which talks of peace and of clemency. Let aristocracy know, that here she will find only enemies sternly bent on vengeance, and judges who have no pity.” But the day of the Carmagnoles was over: the restraint of fear had been relaxed; and the hatred with which the nation regarded the Jacobin dominion broke forth with ungovernable Edition: current; Page: [173] violence. Not more strongly did the tide of public opinion run against the old monarchy and aristocracy, at the time of the taking of the Bastile, than it now ran against the tyranny of the Mountain. From every dungeon the prisoners came forth, as they had gone in, by hundreds. The decree which forbade the soldiers of the republic to give quarter to the English was repealed by an unanimous vote, amidst loud acclamations; nor, passed as it was, disobeyed as it was, and rescinded as it was, can it be with justice considered as a blemish on the fame of the French nation. The Jacobin Club was refractory. It was suppressed without resistance. The surviving Girondist deputies, who had concealed themselves from the vengeance of their enemies in caverns and garrets, were readmitted to their seats in the Convention. No day passed without some signal reparation of injustice; no street in Paris was without some trace of the recent change. In the theatre, the bust of Marat was pulled down from its pedestal and broken in pieces, amidst the applause of the audience. His carcass was ejected from the Pantheon. The celebrated picture of his death, which had hung in the hall of the Convention, was removed. The savage inscriptions with which the walls of the city had been covered disappeared; and, in place of death and terror, humanity, the watchword of the new rulers, was every where to be seen. In the mean time, the gay spirit of France recently subdued by oppression, and now elated by the joy of a great deliverance, wantoned in a thousand forms. Art, taste, luxury, revived. Female beauty regained its empire—an empire strengthened by the remembrance of all the tender and all the sublime virtues which women, delicately bred and reputed frivolous, had displayed during the evil days. Refined manners, chivalrous sentiments, followed in the train of love. The dawn of the Arctic summer day after the Arctic winter night, the great unsealing of the waters, the awakening of animal and vegetable life, the sudden softening of the Edition: current; Page: [174] air, the sudden blooming of the flowers, the sudden bursting of old forests into verdure, is but a feeble type of that happiest and most genial of revolutions, the revolution of the ninth of Thermidor.

But, in the midst of the revival of all kind and generous sentiments, there was one portion of the community against which mercy itself seemed to cry out for vengeance. The chiefs of the late government and their tools were now never named but as the men of blood, the drinkers of blood, the cannibals. In some parts of France, where the creatures of the Mountain had acted with peculiar barbarity, the populace took the law into its own hands and meted out justice to the Jacobins with the true Jacobin measure; but at Paris the punishments were inflicted with order and decency, and were few when compared with the number, and lenient when compared with the enormity, of the crimes. Soon after the ninth of Thermidor, two of the vilest of mankind, Fouquier Tinville, whom Barère had placed at the Revolutionary Tribunal, and Lebon, whom Barère had defended in the Convention, were placed under arrest. A third miscreant soon shared their fate, Carrier, the tyrant of Nantes. The trials of these men brought to light horrors surpassing anything that Suetonius and Lampridius have related of the worst Cæsars. But it was impossible to punish subordinate agents who, bad as they were, had only acted in accordance with the spirit of the government which they served, and, at the same time, to grant impunity to the heads of the wicked administration. A cry was raised, both within and without the Convention, for justice on Collot, Billaud, and Barère.

Collot and Billaud, with all their vices, appear to have been men of resolute natures. They made no submission; but opposed to the hatred of mankind, at first a fierce resistance, and afterwards a dogged and sullen endurance. Barère, on the other hand, as soon as he began to understand the real nature of the revolution of Thermidor, Edition: current; Page: [175] attempted to abandon the Mountain, and to obtain admission among his old friends of the moderate party. He declared every where that he had never been in favour of severe measures; that he was a Girondist; that he had always condemned and lamented the manner in which the Brissotine deputies had been treated. He now preached mercy from that tribune from which he had recently preached extermination. “The time,” he said, “has come at which our clemency may be indulged without danger. We may now safely consider temporary imprisonment as an adequate punishment for political misdemeanours.” It was only a fortnight since, from the same place, he had declaimed against the moderation which dared even to talk of clemency; it was only a fortnight since he had ceased to send men and women to the guillotine of Paris, at the rate of three hundred a week. He now wished to make his peace with the moderate party at the expense of the Terrorists, as he had, a year before, made his peace with the Terrorists at the expense of the moderate party. But he was disappointed. He had left himself no retreat. His face, his voice, his rants, his jokes, had become hateful to the Convention. When he spoke he was interrupted by murmurs. Bitter reflections were daily cast on his cowardice and perfidy. On one occasion Carnot rose to give an account of a victory, and so far forgot the gravity of his character as to indulge in the sort of oratory which Barère had affected on similar occasions. He was interrupted by cries of “No more Carmagnoles!” “No more of Barère’s puns!”

At length, five months after the revolution of Thermidor, the Convention resolved that a committee of twenty-one members should be appointed to examine into the conduct of Billaud, Collot, and Barère. In some weeks the report was made. From that report we learn that a paper had been discovered, signed by Barère, and containing a proposition for adding the last improvement to the system of terror. France was to be divided into circuits; Edition: current; Page: [176] itinerant revolutionary tribunals, composed of trusty Jacobins, were to move from department to department; and the guillotine was to travel in their train.

Barère, in his defence, insisted that no speech or motion which he had made in the Convention could, without a violation of the freedom of debate, be treated as a crime. He was asked how he could resort to such a mode of defence, after putting to death so many deputies on account of opinions expressed in the Convention. He had nothing to say, but that it was much to be regretted that the sound principle had ever been violated.

He arrogated to himself a large share of the merit of the revolution in Thermidor. The men who had risked their lives to effect that revolution, and who knew that, if they had failed, Barère would, in all probability, have moved the decree for beheading them without a trial, and have drawn up a proclamation announcing their guilt and their punishment to all France, were by no means disposed to acquiesce in his claims. He was reminded that, only forty-eight hours before the decisive conflict, he had, in the tribune, been profuse of adulation to Robespierre. His answer to this reproach is worthy of himself. “It was necessary,” he said, “to dissemble. It was necessary to flatter Robespierre’s vanity, and, by panegyric, to impel him to the attack. This was the motive which induced me to load him with those praises of which you complain. Who ever blamed Brutus for dissembling with Tarquin?”

The accused triumvirs had only one chance of escaping punishment. There was severe distress at that moment among the working people of the capital. This distress the Jacobins attributed to the reaction of Thermidor, to the lenity with which the aristocrats were now treated, and to the measures which had been adopted against the chiefs of the late administration. Nothing is too absurd to be believed by a populace which has not breakfasted, and which does not know how it is to dine. The rabble Edition: current; Page: [177] of the Faubourg St. Antoine rose, menaced the deputies, and demanded with loud cries the liberation of the persecuted patriots. But the Convention was no longer such as it had been, when similar means were employed too successfully against the Girondists. Its spirit was roused. Its strength had been proved. Military means were at its command. The tumult was suppressed: and it was decreed that same evening that Collot, Billaud, and Barère should instantly be removed to a distant place of confinement.

The next day the order of the Convention was executed. The account which Barère has given of his journey is the most interesting and the most trustworthy part of these Memoirs. There is no witness so infamous that a court of justice will not take his word against himself; and even Barère may be believed when he tells us how much he was hated and despised.

The carriage in which he was to travel passed, surrounded by armed men, along the street of St. Honoré. A crowd soon gathered round it and increased every moment. On the long flight of steps before the church of St. Roch stood rows of eager spectators. It was with difficulty that the coach could make its way through those who hung upon it, hooting, cursing, and striving to burst the doors. Barère thought his life in danger, and was conducted at his own request to a public office, where he hoped that he might find shelter till the crowd should disperse. In the meantime, another discussion on his fate took place in the Convention. It was proposed to deal with him as he had dealt with better men, to put him out of the pale of the law, and to deliver him at once without any trial to the headsman. But the humanity which, since the ninth of Thermidor, had generally directed the public counsels restrained the deputies from taking this course.

It was now night; and the streets gradually became quiet. The clock struck twelve; and Barère, under a Edition: current; Page: [178] strong guard, again set forth on his journey. He was conducted over the river to the place where the Orleans road branches off from the southern boulevard. Two travelling carriages stood there. In one of them was Billaud, attended by two officers; in the other two more officers were waiting to receive Barère. Collot was already on the road.

At Orleans, a city which had suffered cruelly from the Jacobin tyranny, the three deputies were surrounded by a mob bent on tearing them to pieces. All the national guards of the neighbourhood were assembled; and this force was not greater then the emergency required; for the multitude pursued the carriages far on the road to Blois.

At Amboise the prisoners learned that Tours was ready to receive them. The stately bridge was occupied by a throng of people, who swore that the men under whose rule the Loire had been choked with corpses should have full personal experience of the nature of a noyade. In consequence of this news, the officers who had charge of the criminals made such arrangements that the carriages reached Tours at two in the morning, and drove straight to the post-house. Fresh horses were instantly ordered; and the travellers started again at full gallop. They had in truth not a moment to lose; for the alarm had been given; lights were seen in motion; and the yells of a great multitude, disappointed of its revenge, mingled with the sound of the departing wheels.

At Poitiers there was another narrow escape. As the prisoners quitted the post-house, they saw the whole population pouring in fury down the steep declivity on which the city is built. They passed near Niort, but could not venture to enter it. The inhabitants came forth with threatening aspect, and vehemently cried to the postillions to stop; but the postillions urged the horses to full speed, and soon left the town behind. Through such dangers the men of blood were brought in safety to Rochelle.

Oléron was the place of their destination, a dreary Edition: current; Page: [179] island beaten by the raging waves of the Bay of Biscay. The prisoners were confined in the castle; each had a single chamber, at the door of which a guard was placed; and each was allowed the ration of a single soldier. They were not allowed to communicate either with the garrison or with the population of the island; and soon after their arrival they were denied the indulgence of walking on the ramparts. The only place where they were suffered to take exercise was the esplanade where the troops were drilled.

They had not been long in this situation when news came that the Jacobins of Paris had made a last attempt to regain ascendency in the state, that the hall of the Convention had been forced by a furious crowd, that one of the deputies had been murdered and his head fixed on a pike, that the life of the President had been for a time in imminent danger, and that some members of the legislature had not been ashamed to join the rioters. But troops had arrived in time to prevent a massacre. The insurgents had been put to flight; the inhabitants of the disaffected quarters of the capital had been disarmed; the guilty deputies had suffered the just punishment of their treason; and the power of the Mountain was broken for ever. These events strengthened the aversion with which the system of Terror and the authors of that system were regarded. One member of the Convention had moved that the three prisoners of Oléron should be put to death; another, that they should be brought back to Paris, and tried by a council of war. These propositions were rejected. But something was conceded to the party which called for severity. A vessel which had been fitted out with great expedition at Rochefort touched at Oléron; and it was announced to Collot and Billaud that they must instantly go on board. They were forthwith conveyed to Guiana, where Collot soon drank himself to death with brandy. Billaud lived many years, shunning his fellow-creatures and shunned by Edition: current; Page: [180] them; and diverted his lonely hours by teaching parrots to talk. Why a distinction was made between Barère and his companions in guilt, neither he nor any other writer, as far as we know, has explained. It does not appear that the distinction was meant to be at all in his favour; for orders soon arrived from Paris, that he should be brought to trial for his crimes before the criminal court of the department of the Upper Charente. He was accordingly brought back to the continent, and confined during some months at Saintes, in an old convent which had lately been turned into a jail.

While he lingered here, the reaction which had followed the great crisis of Thermidor met with a temporary check. The friends of the house of Bourbon, presuming on the indulgence with which they had been treated after the fall of Robespierre, not only ventured to avow their opinions with little disguise, but at length took arms against the Convention, and were not put down till much blood had been shed in the streets of Paris. The vigilance of the public authorities was therefore now directed chiefly against the Royalists; and the rigour with which the Jacobins had lately been treated was somewhat relaxed. The Convention, indeed, again resolved that Barère should be sent to Guiana. But this decree was not carried into effect. The prisoner, probably with the connivance of some powerful persons, made his escape from Saintes and fled to Bordeaux, where he remained in concealment during some years. There seems to have been a kind of understanding between him and the government, that, as long as he hid himself, he should not be found, but that, if he obtruded himself on the public eye, he must take the consequences of his rashness.

While the constitution of 1795, with its Executive Directory, its Council of Elders, and its Council of Five Hundred, was in operation, he continued to live under the ban of the law. It was in vain that he solicited, even at moments when the politics of the Mountain seemed to Edition: current; Page: [181] be again in the ascendant, a remission of the sentence pronounced by the Convention. Even his fellow-regicides, even the authors of the slaughter of Vendémiaire and of the arrests of Fructidor, were ashamed of him.

About eighteen months after his escape from prison, his name was again brought before the world. In his own province he still retained some of his early popularity. He had, indeed, never been in that province since the downfall of the monarchy. The mountaineers of Gascony were far removed from the seat of government, and were but imperfectly informed of what passed there. They knew that their countryman had played an important part, and that he had on some occasions promoted their local interests; and they stood by him in his adversity and in his disgrace with a constancy which presents a singular contrast to his own abject fickleness. All France was amazed to learn that the department of the Upper Pyrenees had chosed the proscribed tyrant a member of the Council of Five Hundred. The council, which, like our House of Commons, was the judge of the election of its own members, refused to admit him. When his name was read from the roll, a cry of indignation rose from the benches. “Which of you,” exclaimed one of the members, “would sit by the side of such a monster?” “Not I, not I!” answered a crowd of voices. One deputy declared that he would vacate his seat if the hall were polluted by the presence of such a wretch. The election was declared null on the ground that the person elected was a criminal skulking from justice; and many severe reflections were thrown on the lenity which suffered him to be still at large.

He tried to make his peace with the Directory, by writing a bulky libel on England, entitled, The Liberty of the Seas. He seems to have confidently expected that this work would produce a great effect. He printed three thousand copies, and, in order to defray the expense of publication, sold one of his farms for the sum of ten Edition: current; Page: [182] thousand francs. The book came out; but nobody bought it, in consequence, if Barère is to be believed, of the villainy of Mr. Pitt, who bribed the Directory to order the Reviewers not to notice so formidable an attack on the maritime greatness of perfidious Albion.

Barère had been about three years at Bordeaux when he received intelligence that the mob of the town designed him the honour of a visit on the ninth of Thermidor, and would probably administer to him what he had, in his defence of his friend Lebon, described as substantial justice under forms a little harsh. It was necessary for him to disguise himself in clothes such as were worn by the carpenters of the dock. In this garb, with a bundle of wood shavings under his arm, he made his escape into the vineyards which surround the city, lurked during some days in a peasant’s hut, and, when the dreaded anniversary was over, stole back into the city. A few months later he was again in danger. He now thought that he should be nowhere so safe as in the neighbourhood of Paris. He quitted Bordeaux, hastened undetected through those towns where four years before his life had been in extreme danger, passed through the capital in the morning twilight, when none were in the streets except shop-boys taking down the shutters, and arrived safe at the pleasant village of St. Ouen on the Seine, Here he remained in seclusion during some months. In the mean time Bonaparte returned from Egypt, placed himself at the head of a coalition of discontented parties, covered his designs with the authority of the Elders, drove the Five Hundred out of their hall at the point of the bayonet, and became absolute monarch of France under the name of First Consul.

Barère assures us that these events almost broke his heart; that he could not bear to see France again subject to a master; and that, if the representatives had been worthy of that honourable name, they would have arrested the ambitious general who insulted them. These Edition: current; Page: [183] feelings, however, did not prevent him from soliciting the protection of the new government, and from sending to the First Consul a handsome copy of the essay on The Liberty of the Seas.

The policy of Bonaparte was to cover all the past with a general oblivion. He belonged half to the Revolution and half to the reaction. He was an upstart and a sovereign; and had therefore something in common with the Jacobin, and something in common with the Royalist. All, whether Jacobins or Royalists, who were disposed to support his government, were readily received — all, whether Jacobins or Royalists, who showed hostility to his government, were put down and punished. Men who had borne a part in the worst crimes of the Reign of Terror, and men who had fought in the army of Condé, were to be found close together, both in his antechambers and in his dungeons. He decorated Fouché and Maury with the same cross. He sent Aréna and Georges Cadoudal to the same scaffold. From a government acting on such principles Barère easily obtained the indulgence which the Directory had constantly refused to grant. The sentence passed by the Convention was remitted; and he was allowed to reside at Paris. His pardon, it is true, was not granted in the most honourable form; and he remained, during some time, under the special supervision of the police. He hastened, however, to pay his court at the Luxemburg palace, where Bonaparte then resided, and was honoured with a few dry and careless words by the master of France.

Here begins a new chapter of Barère’s history. What passed between him and the Consular government cannot, of course, be so accurately known to us as the speeches and reports which he made in the Convention. It is, however, not difficult, from notorious facts, and from the admissions scattered over these lying Memoirs, to form a tolerably accurate notion of what took place. Bonaparte wanted to buy Barère: Barère wanted to sell himself to Edition: current; Page: [184] Bonaparte. The only question was one of price; and there was an immense interval between what was offered and what was demanded.

Bonaparte, whose vehemence of will, fixedness of purpose, and reliance on his own genius were not only great but extravagant, looked with scorn on the most effeminate and dependent of human minds. He was quite capable of perpetrating crimes under the influence either of ambition or of revenge: but he had no touch of that accursed monomania, that craving for blood and tears, which raged in some of the Jacobin chiefs. To proscribe the Terrorists would have been wholly inconsistent with his policy; but, of all the classes of men whom his comprehensive system included, he liked them the least; and Barère was the worst of them. This wretch had been branded with infamy, first by the Convention, and then by the Council of Five Hundred. The inhabitants of four or five great cities had attempted to tear him limb from limb. Nor were his vices redeemed by eminent talents for administration or legislation. It would be unwise to place in any honourable or important post a man so wicked, so odious, and so little qualified to discharge high political duties. At the same time, there was a way in which it seemed likely that he might be of use to the government. The First Consul, as he afterwards acknowledged, greatly overrated Barère’s powers as a writer. The effect which the Reports of the Committee of Public Safety had produced by the camp fires of the Republican armies had been great. Napoleon himself, when a young soldier, had been delighted by those compositions, which had much in common with the rhapsodies of his favourite poet, Macpherson. The taste, indeed, of the great warrior and statesman was never very pure. His bulletins, his general orders, and his proclamations, are sometimes, it is true, masterpieces in their kind; but we too often detect, even in his best writing, traces of Fingal, and of the Carmagnoles. It is not strange, therefore, that he should have Edition: current; Page: [185] been desirous to secure the aid of Barère’s pen. Nor was this the only kind of assistance which the old member of the Committee of Public Safety might render to the Consular government. He was likely to find admission into the gloomy dens in which those Jacobins whose constancy was to be overcome by no reverse, or whose crimes admitted of no expiation, hid themselves from the curses of mankind. No enterprise was too bold or too atrocious for minds crazed by fanaticism, and familiar with misery and death. The government was anxious to have information of what passed in their secret councils; and no man was better qualified to furnish such information than Barère.

For these reasons the First Consul was disposed to employ Barère as a writer and as a spy. But Barère—was it possible that he would submit to such a degradation? Bad as he was, he had played a great part. He had belonged to that class of criminals who filled the world with the renown of their crimes; he had been one of a cabinet which had ruled France with absolute power, and made war on all Europe with signal success. Nay, he had been, though not the most powerful, yet, with the single exception of Robespierre, the most conspicuous member of that cabinet. His name had been a household word at Moscow and at Philadelphia, at Edinburgh and at Cadiz. The blood of the queen of France, the blood of the greatest orators and philosophers of France, was on his hands. He had spoken; and it had been decreed that the plough should pass over the great city of Lyons. He had spoken again; and it had been decreed that the streets of Toulon should be razed to the ground. When depravity is placed so high as his, the hatred which it inspires is mingled with awe. His place was with great tyrants, with Critias and Sylla, with Eccelino and Borgia; not with hireling scribblers and police runners.

  • “Virtue, I grant you, is an empty boast;
  • But shall the dignity of vice be lost?”

So sang Pope; and so felt Barère. When it was proposed Edition: current; Page: [186] to him to publish a journal in defence of the Consular government, rage and shame inspired him for the first and last time with something like courage. He had filled as large a space in the eyes of mankind as Mr. Pitt or General Washington; and he was coolly invited to descend at once to the level of Mr. Lewis Goldsmith. He saw, too, with agonies of envy, that a wide distinction was made between himself and the other statesmen of the Revolution who were summoned to the aid of the government. Those statesmen were required, indeed, to make large sacrifices of principle; but they were not called on to sacrifice what, in the opinion of the vulgar, constitutes personal dignity. They were made tribunes and legislators, ambassadors and counsellors of state, ministers, senators, and consuls. They might reasonably expect to rise with the rising fortunes of their master; and, in truth, many of them were destined to wear the badge of his Legion of Honour and of his order of the Iron Crown; to be arch-chancellors and arch-treasurers, counts, dukes, and princes. Barère, only six years before, had been far more powerful, far more widely renowned, than any of them; and now, while they were thought worthy to represent the majesty of France at foreign courts, while they received crowds of suitors in gilded ante-chambers, he was to pass his life in measuring paragraphs, and scolding correctors of the press. It was too much. Those lips which had never before been able to fashion themselves to a No, now murmured expostulation and refusal. “I could not”—these are his own words—“abase myself to such a point as to serve the First Consul merely in the capacity of a journalist, while so many insignificant, low, and servile people, such as the Treilhards, the Rœderers, the Lebruns, the Marets, and others whom it is superfluous to name, held the first place in this government of upstarts.”

This outbreak of spirit was of short duration. Napoleon was inexorable. It is said indeed that he was, for a Edition: current; Page: [187] moment, half inclined to admit Barère into the Council of State; but the members of that body remonstrated in the strongest terms, and declared that such a nomination would be a disgrace to them all. This plan was therefore relinquished. Thenceforth Barère’s only chance of obtaining the patronage of the government was to subdue his pride, to forget that there had been a time when, with three words, he might have had the heads of the three consuls, and to betake himself, humbly and industriously, to the task of composing lampoons on England and panegyrics on Bonaparte.

It has been often asserted, we know not on what grounds, that Barère was employed by the government not only as a writer, but as a censor of the writings of other men. This imputation he vehemently denies in his Memoirs; but our readers will probably agree with us in thinking that his denial leaves the question exactly where it was.

Thus much is certain, that he was not restrained from exercising the office of censor by any scruple of conscience or honour; for he did accept an office, compared with which that of censor, odious as it is, may be called an august and beneficent magistracy. He began to have what are delicately called relations with the police. We are not sure that we have formed, or that we can convey, an exact notion of the nature of Barère’s new calling. It is a calling unknown in our country. It has indeed often happened in England that a plot has been revealed to the government by one of the conspirators. The informer has sometimes been directed to carry it fair towards his accomplices, and to let the evil design come to full maturity. As soon as his work is done, he is generally snatched from the public gaze, and sent to some obscure village or to some remote colony. The use of spies, even to this extent, is in the highest degree unpopular in England; but a political spy by profession is a creature from which our island is as free as it is from Edition: current; Page: [188] wolves. In France the race is well known, and was never more numerous, more greedy, more cunning, or more savage, than under the government of Bonaparte.

Our idea of a gentleman in relations with the Consular and Imperial police may perhaps be incorrect. Such as it is, we will try to convey it to our readers. We image to ourselves a well-dressed person, with a soft voice and affable manners. His opinions are those of the society in which he finds himself, but a little stronger. He often complains, in the language of honest indignation, that what passes in private conversation finds its way strangely to the government, and cautions his associates to take care what they say when they are not sure of their company. As for himself, he owns that he is indiscreet. He can never refrain from speaking his mind; and that is the reason that he is not prefect of a department.

In a gallery of the Palais Royal he overhears two friends talking earnestly about the king and the Count of Artois. He follows them into a coffee-house, sits at the table next to them, calls for his half-dish and his small glass of cognac, takes up a journal, and seems occupied with the news. His neighbours go on talking without restraint, and in the style of persons warmly attached to the exiled family. They depart; and he follows them half round the boulevards till he fairly tracks them to their apartments, and learns their names from the porters. From that day every letter addressed to either of them is sent from the post-office to the police, and opened. Their correspondents become known to the government, and are carefully watched. Six or eight honest families, in different parts of France, find themselves at once under the frown of power without being able to guess what offence they have given. One person is dismissed from a public office; another learns with dismay that his promising son has been turned out of the Polytechnic school.

Next, the indefatigable servant of the state falls in with an old republican, who has not changed with the times, Edition: current; Page: [189] who regrets the red cap and the tree of liberty, who has not unlearned the Thee and Thou, and who still subscribes his letters with “Health and Fraternity.” Into the ears of this sturdy politician our friend pours forth a long series of complaints. What evil times! What a change since the days when the Mountain governed France! What is the First Consul but a king under a new name? What is this Legion of Honour but a new aristocracy? The old superstition is reviving with the old tyranny. There is a treaty with the Pope, and a provision for the clergy. Emigrant nobles are returning in crowds, and are better received at the Tuileries than the men of the 10th of August. This cannot last. What is life without liberty? What terrors has death to the true patriot? The old Jacobin catches fire, bestows and receives the fraternal hug, and hints that there will soon be great news, and that the breed of Harmodius and Brutus is not quite extinct. The next day he is close prisoner, and all his papers are in the hands of the government.

To this vocation, a vocation compared with which the life of a beggar, of a pickpocket, of a pimp, is honourable, did Barère now descend. It was his constant practice, as often as he enrolled himself in a new party, to pay his footing with the heads of old friends. He was at first a Royalist; and he made atonement by watering the tree of liberty with the blood of Louis. He was then a Girondist; and he made atonement by murdering Vergniaud and Gensonné. He fawned on Robespierre up to the eighth of Thermidor; and he made atonement by moving, on the ninth, that Robespierre should be beheaded without a trial. He was now enlisted in the service of the new monarchy; and he proceeded to atone for his republican heresies by sending republican throats to the guillotine.

Among his most intimate associates was a Gascon named Demerville, who had been employed in an office of high trust under the Committee of Public Safety. Edition: current; Page: [190] This man was fanatically attached to the Jacobin system of politics, and, in conjunction with other enthusiasts of the same class, formed a design against the First Consul. A hint of this design escaped him in conversation with Barère. Barère carried the intelligence to Lannes, who commanded the Consular Guards. Demerville was arrested, tried, and beheaded; and among the witnesses who appeared against him was his friend Barère.

The account which Barère has given of these transactions is studiously confused and grossly dishonest. We think, however, that we can discern, through much falsehood and much artful obscurity, some truths which he labours to conceal. It is clear to us that the government suspected him of what the Italians call a double treason. It was natural that such a suspicion should attach to him. He had, in times not very remote, zealously preached the Jacobin doctrine, that he who smites a tyrant deserves higher praise than he who saves a citizen. Was it possible that the member of the Committee of Public Safety, the king-killer, the queen-killer, could in earnest mean to deliver his old confederates, his bosom friends, to the executioner, solely because they had planned an act which, if there were any truth in his own Carmagnoles, was in the highest degree virtuous and glorious? Was it not more probable that he was really concerned in the plot, and that the information which he gave was merely intended to lull or to mislead the police? Accordingly, spies were set on the spy. He was ordered to quit Paris, and not to come within twenty leagues till he received further orders. Nay, he ran no small risk of being sent, with some of his old friends, to Madagascar.

He made his peace, however, with the government so far, that he was not only permitted, during some years, to live unmolested, but was employed in the lowest sort of political drudgery. In the summer of 1803, while he was preparing to visit the south of France, he received a letter which deserves to be inserted. It was from Edition: current; Page: [191] Duroc, who is well known to have enjoyed a large share of Napoleon’s confidence and favour.

“The First Consul, having been informed that Citizen Barère is about to set out for the country, desires that he will stay at Paris.

“Citizen Barère will every week draw up a report on the state of public opinion on the proceedings of the government, and generally on everything which, in his judgment, it will be interesting to the First Consul to learn.

“He may write with perfect freedom.

“He will deliver his reports under seal into General Duroc’s own hand, and General Duroc will deliver them to the First Consul. But it is absolutely necessary that nobody should suspect that this species of communication takes place; and, should any such suspicion get abroad, the First Consul will cease to receive the reports of Citizen Barère.

“It will also be proper that Citizen Barère should frequently insert in the journals articles tending to animate the public mind, particularly against the English.”

During some years Barère continued to discharge the functions assigned to him by his master. Secret reports, filled with the talk of coffee-houses, were carried by him every week to the Tuileries. His friends assure us that he took especial pains to do all the harm in his power to the returned emigrants. It was not his fault if Napoleon was not apprised of every murmur and every sarcasm which old marquesses who had lost their estates, and old clergymen who had lost their benefices, uttered against the imperial system. M. Hippolyte Carnot, we grieve to say, is so much blinded by party spirit that he seems to reckon this dirty wickedness among his hero’s titles to public esteem.

Barère was, at the same time, an indefatigable journalist and pamphleteer. He set up a paper directed against England, and called the Mémorial Antibritannique. He planned a work entitled, “France made great and illustrious by Napoleon.” When the Imperial government was established, the old regicide made himself conspicuous Edition: current; Page: [192] even among the crowd of flatterers by the peculiar fulsomeness of his adulation. He translated into French a contemptible volume of Italian verses, entitled, “The Poetic Crown, composed on the glorious accession of Napoleon the First, by the Shepherds of Arcadia.” He commenced a new series of Carmagnoles very different from those which had charmed the Mountain. The title of Emperor of the French, he said, was mean; Napoleon ought to be Emperor of Europe. King of Italy was too humble an appellation; Napoleon’s style ought to be King of Kings.

But Barère laboured to small purpose in both his vocations. Neither as a writer nor as a spy was he of much use. He complains bitterly that his paper did not sell. While the Journal des Débats, then flourishing under the able management of Geoffroy, had a circulation of at least twenty thousand copies, the Mémorial Antibritannique never, in its most prosperous times, had more than fifteen hundred subscribers; and these subscribers were, with scarcely an exception, persons residing far from Paris, probably Gascons, among whom the name of Barère had not yet lost its influence.

A writer who cannot find readers generally attributes the public neglect to any cause rather than to the true one; and Barère was no exception to the general rule. His old hatred to Paris revived in all its fury. That city, he says, has no sympathy with France. No Parisian cares to subscribe to a journal which dwells on the real wants and interests of the country. To a Parisian nothing is so ridiculous as patriotism. The higher classes of the capital have always been devoted to England. A corporal from London is better received among them than a French general. A journal, therefore, which attacks England has no chance of their support.

A much better explanation of the failure of the Mémorial was given by Bonaparte at St. Helena. “Barère,” said he to Barry O’Meara, “had the reputation of being Edition: current; Page: [193] a man of talent: but I did not find him so. I employed him to write; but he did not display ability. He used many flowers of rhetoric, but no solid argument; nothing but coglionerie wrapped up in high-sounding language.”

The truth is that, though Barère was a man of quick parts, and could do with ease what he could do at all, he had never been a good writer. In the day of his power he had been in the habit of haranguing an excitable audience on exciting topics. The faults of his style passed uncensured; for it was a time of literary as well as of civil lawlessness, and a patriot was licensed to violate the ordinary rules of composition as well as the ordinary rules of jurisprudence and of social morality. But there had now been a literary as well as a civil reaction. As there was again a throne and a court, a magistracy, a chivalry, and a hierarchy, so was there a revival of classical taste. Honour was again paid to the prose of Pascal and Massillon, and to the verse of Racine and La Fontaine. The oratory which had delighted the galleries of the Convention was not only as much out of date as the language of Villehardouin and Joinville, but was associated in the public mind with images of horror. All the peculiarities of the Anacreon of the guillotine, his words unknown to the Dictionary of the Academy, his conceits and his jokes, his Gascon idioms and his Gascon hyperboles, had become as odious as the cant of the Puritans was in England after the Restoration.

Bonaparte, who had never loved the men of the Reign of Terror, had now ceased to fear them. He was all-powerful and at the height of glory; they were weak and universally abhorred. He was a sovereign; and it is probable that he already meditated a matrimonial alliance with sovereigns. He was naturally unwilling, in his new position, to hold any intercourse with the worst class of Jacobins. Had Barère’s literary assistance been important to the government, personal aversion might have yielded Edition: current; Page: [194] to considerations of policy; but there was no motive for keeping terms with a worthless man who had also proved a worthless writer. Bonaparte, therefore, gave loose to his feelings. Barère was not gently dropped, not sent into an honourable retirement, but spurned and scourged away like a troublesome dog. He had been in the habit of sending six copies of his journal on fine paper daily to the Tuileries. Instead of receiving the thanks and praises which he expected, he was dryly told that the great man had ordered five copies to be sent back. Still he toiled on; still he cherished a hope that at last Napoleon would relent, and that at last some share in the honours of the state would reward so much assiduity and so much obsequiousness. He was bitterly undeceived. Under the Imperial constitution the electoral colleges of the departments did not possess the right of choosing senators or deputies, but merely that of presenting candidates. From among these candidates the Emperor named members of the senate, and the senate named members of the legislative body. The inhabitants of the Upper Pyrenees were still strangely partial to Barère. In the year 1805, they were disposed to present him as a candidate for the senate. On this Napoleon expressed the highest displeasure; and the president of the electoral college was directed to tell the voters, in plain terms, that such a choice would be disgraceful to the department. All thought of naming Barère a candidate for the senate was consequently dropped. But the people of Argelès ventured to name him a candidate for the legislative body. That body was altogether destitute of weight and dignity; it was not permitted to debate; its only function was to vote in silence for whatever the government proposed. It is not easy to understand how any man, who had sat in free and powerful deliberative assemblies, could condescend to bear a part in such a mummery. Barère, however, was desirous of a place even in this mock legislature; and a place even in this mock legislature was Edition: current; Page: [195] refused to him. In the whole senate he had not a single vote.

Such treatment was sufficient, it might have been thought, to move the most abject of mankind to resentment. Still, however, Barère cringed and fawned on. His Letters came weekly to the Tuileries till the year 1807. At length, while he was actually writing the two hundred and twenty-third of the series, a note was put into his hands. It was from Duroc, and was much more perspicuous than polite. Barère was requested to send no more of his Reports to the palace, as the Emperor was too busy to read them.

Contempt, says the Indian proverb, pierces even the shell of the tortoise; and the contempt of the Court was felt to the quick even by the callous heart of Barère. He had humbled himself to the dust; and he had humbled himself in vain. Having been eminent among the rulers of a great and victorious state, he had stooped to serve a master in the vilest capacities; and he had been told that, even in those capacities, he was not worthy of the pittance which had been disdainfully flung to him. He was now degraded below the level even of the hirelings whom the government employed in the most infamous offices. He stood idle in the market-place, not because he thought any office too infamous, but because none would hire him.

Yet he had reason to think himself fortunate; for, had all that is avowed in these Memoirs been known, he would have received very different tokens of the Imperial displeasure. We learn from himself that, while publishing daily columns of flattery on Bonaparte, and while carrying weekly budgets of calumny to the Tuileries, he was in close connection with the agents whom the Emperor Alexander, then by no means favourably disposed towards France, employed to watch all that passed at Paris; was permitted to read their secret despatches; was consulted by them as to the temper of the public mind and the character of Napoleon; and did his best to persuade them Edition: current; Page: [196] that the government was in a tottering condition, and that the new sovereign was not, as the world supposed, a great statesman and soldier. Next, Barère, still the flatterer and talebearer of the Imperial Court, connected himself in the same manner with the Spanish envoy. He owns that with that envoy he had relations which he took the greatest pains to conceal from his own government; that they met twice a day; and that their conversation chiefly turned on the vices of Napoleon, on his designs against Spain, and on the best mode of rendering those designs abortive. In truth, Barère’s baseness was unfathomable. In the lowest deeps of shame he found out lower deeps. It is bad to be a sycophant; it is bad to be a spy. But even among sycophants and spies there are degrees of meanness. The vilest sycophant is he who privily slanders the master on whom he fawns; the vilest spy is he who serves foreigners against the government of his native land.

From 1807 to 1814 Barère lived in obscurity, railing as bitterly as his craven cowardice would permit against the Imperial administration, and coming sometimes unpleasantly across the police. When the Bourbons returned, he, as might have been expected, became a royalist, and wrote a pamphlet setting forth the horrors of the system from which the Restoration had delivered France, and magnifying the wisdom and goodness which had dictated the charter. He who had voted for the death of Louis, he who had moved the decree for the trial of Marie Antoinette, he whose hatred of monarchy had led him to make war even upon the sepulchres of ancient monarchs, assures us, with great complacency, that “in this work monarchial principles and attachment to the House of Bourbon are nobly expressed.” By this apostasy he got nothing, not even any additional infamy; for his character was already too black to be blackened.

During the hundred days he again emerged for a very short time into public life; he was chosen by his native Edition: current; Page: [197] district a member of the Chamber of Representatives. But, though that assembly was composed in a great measure of men who regarded the excesses of the Jacobins with indulgence, he found himself an object of general aversion. When the President first informed the Chamber that M. Barère requested a hearing, a deep and indignant murmur ran round the benches. After the battle of Waterloo, Barère proposed that the Chamber should save France from the victorious enemy, by putting forth a proclamation about the pass of Thermopylæ and the Lacedæmonian custom of wearing flowers in times of extreme danger. Whether this composition, if it had then appeared, would have stopped the English and Prussian armies, is a question respecting which we are left to conjecture. The Chamber refused to adopt this last of the Carmagnoles.

The Emperor had abdicated. The Bourbons returned. The Chamber of Representatives, after burlesquing during a few weeks the proceedings of the National Convention, retired with the well-earned character of having been the silliest political assembly that had met in France. Those dreaming pedants and praters never for a moment comprehended their position. They could never understand that Europe must be either conciliated or vanquished; that Europe could be conciliated only by the restoration of Louis, and vanquished only by means of a dictatorial power entrusted to Napoleon. They would not hear of Louis; yet they would not hear of the only measures which could keep him out. They incurred the enmity of all foreign powers by putting Napoleon at their head; yet they shackled him, thwarted him, quarrelled with him about every trifle, abandoned him on the first reverse. They then opposed declamations and disquisitions to eight hundred thousand bayonets; played at making a constitution for their country, when it depended on the indulgence of the victor whether they should have a country; and were at last interrupted, in the midst of their babble about Edition: current; Page: [198] the rights of man and the sovereignty of the people, by the soldiers of Wellington and Blucher.

A new Chamber of Deputies was elected, so bitterly hostile to the Revolution that there was no small risk of a new Reign of Terror. It is just, however, to say that the king, his ministers, and his allies exerted themselves to restrain the violence of the fanatical royalists, and that the punishments inflicted, though in our opinion unjustiable, were few and lenient when compared with those which were demanded by M. de Labourdonnaye and M. Hyde de Neuville. We have always heard, and are inclined to believe, that the government was not disposed to treat even the regicides with severity. But on this point the feeling of the Chamber of Deputies was so strong that it was thought necessary to make some concession. It was enacted, therefore, that whoever, having voted in January 1793 for the death of Louis the Sixteenth, had in any manner given in an adhesion to the government of Bonaparte during the hundred days should be banished for life from France. Barère fell within this description. He had voted for the death of Louis; and he had sat in the Chamber of Representatives during the hundred days.

He accordingly retired to Belgium, and resided there, forgotten by all mankind, till the year 1830. After the revolution of July he was at liberty to return to France; and he fixed his residence in his native province. But he was soon involved in a succession of lawsuits with his nearest relations—“three fatal sisters and an ungrateful brother,” to use his own words. Who was in the right is a question about which we have no means of judging, and certainly shall not take Barère’s word. The Courts appear to have decided some points in his favour and some against him. The natural inference is, that there were faults on all sides. The result of this litigation was that the old man was reduced to extreme poverty, and was forced to sell his paternal house.

As far as we can judge from the few facts which remain Edition: current; Page: [199] to be mentioned, Barère continued Barère to the last. After his exile he turned Jacobin again, and, when he came back to France, joined the party of the extreme left in railing at Louis Philippe, and at all Louis Philippe’s ministers. M. Casimir Périer, M. De Broglie, M. Guizot, and M. Thiers, in particular, are honoured with his abuse; and the King himself is held up to execration as a hypocritical tyrant. Nevertheless, Barère had no scruple about accepting a charitable donation of a thousand francs a year from the privy purse of the sovereign whom he hated and reviled. This pension, together with some small sums occasionally doled out to him by the department of the Interior, on the ground that he was a distressed man of letters, and by the department of Justice, on the ground that he had formerly held a high judicial office, saved him from the necessity of begging his bread. Having survived all his colleagues of the renowned Committee of Public Safety, and almost all his colleagues of the Convention, he died in January 1841. He had attained his eighty-sixth year.

We have now laid before our readers what we believe to be a just account of this man’s life. Can it be necessary for us to add any thing for the purpose of assisting their judgment of his character? If we were writing about any of his colleagues in the Committee of Public Safety, about Carnot, about Robespierre, or St. Just, nay, even about Couthon, Collot, or Billaud, we might feel it necessary to go into a full examination of the arguments which have been employed to vindicate or to excuse the system of Terror. We could, we think, show that France was saved from her foreign enemies, not by the system of Terror, but in spite of it; and that the perils which were made the plea of the violent policy of the Mountain were to a great extent created by that very policy. We could, we think, also show that the evils produced by the Jacobin administration did not terminate when it fell; that it bequeathed a long series of calamities to France and to Europe; Edition: current; Page: [200] that public opinion, which had during two generations been constantly becoming more and more favourable to civil and religious freedom, underwent, during the days of Terror, a change of which the traces are still to be distinctly perceived. It was natural that there should be such a change, when men saw that those who called themselves the champions of popular rights had compressed into the space of twelve months more crimes than the Kings of France, Merovingian, Carlovingian, and Capetian, had perpetrated in twelve centuries. Freedom was regarded as a great delusion. Men were willing to submit to the government of hereditary princes, of fortunate soldiers, of nobles, of priests; to any government but that of philosophers and philanthropists. Hence the imperial despotism, with its enslaved press and its silent tribune, its dungeons stronger than the old Bastile, and its tribunals more obsequious than the old parliaments. Hence the restoration of the Bourbons and of the Jesuits, the Chamber of 1815 with its categories of proscription, the revival of the feudal spirit, the encroachments of the clergy, the persecution of the Protestants, the appearance of a new breed of De Montforts and Dominics in the full light of the nineteenth century. Hence the admission of France into the Holy Alliance, and the war waged by the old soldiers of the tricolor against the liberties of Spain. Hence, too, the apprehensions with which, even at the present day, the most temperate plans for widening the narrow basis of the French representation are regarded by those who are especially interested in the security of property and the maintenance of order. Half a century has not sufficed to obliterate the stain which one year of depravity and madness has left on the noblest of causes.

Nothing is more ridiculous than the manner in which writers like M. Hippolyte Carnot defend or excuse the Jacobin administration, while they declaim against the reaction which followed. That the reaction has produced and is still producing much evil, is perfectly true. But what Edition: current; Page: [201] produced the reaction? The spring flies up with a force proportioned to that with which it has been pressed down. The pendulum which is drawn far in one direction swings as far in the other. The joyous madness of intoxication in the evening is followed by languor and nausea on the morrow. And so, in politics, it is the sure law that every excess shall generate its opposite; nor does he deserve the name of a statesman who strikes a great blow without fully calculating the effect of the rebound. But such calculation was infinitely beyond the reach of the authors of the Reign of Terror. Violence, and more violence, blood, and more blood, made up their whole policy. In a few months these poor creatures succeeded in bringing about a reaction, of which none of them saw, and of which none of us may see, the close; and, having brought it about, they marvelled at it; they bewailed it; they execrated it; they ascribed it to everything but the real cause—their own immorality and their own profound incapacity for the conduct of great affairs.

These, however, are considerations to which, on the present occasion, it is hardly necessary for us to advert; for, be the defence which has been set up for the Jacobin policy good or bad, it is a defence which cannot avail Barère. From his own life, from his own pen, from his own mouth, we can prove that the part which he took in the work of blood is to be attributed, not even to sincere fanaticism, not even to misdirected and ill-regulated patriotism, but either to cowardice, or to delight in human misery. Will it be pretended that it was from public spirit that he murdered the Girondists? In these very Memoirs he tells us that he always regarded their death as the greatest calamity that could befall France. Will it be pretended that it was from public spirit that he raved for the head of the Austrian woman? In these very memoirs he tells us that the time spent in attacking her was ill spent, and ought to have been employed in concerting measures of national defence. Will Edition: current; Page: [202] it be pretended that he was induced by sincere and earnest abhorrence of kingly government to butcher the living and to outrage the dead; he who invited Napoleon to take the title of King of Kings, he who assures us that after the Restoration he expressed in noble language his attachment to monarchy, and to the house of Bourbon? Had he been less mean, something might have been said in extenuation of his cruelty. Had he been less cruel, something might have been said in extenuation of his meanness. But for him, regicide and court-spy, for him who patronised Lebon and betrayed Demerville, for him who wantoned alternately in gasconades of Jacobinism and gasconades of servility, what excuse has the largest charity to offer?

We cannot conclude without saying something about two parts of his character, which his biographer appears to consider as deserving of high admiration. Barère, it is admitted, was somewhat fickle; but in two things he was consistent, in his love of Christianity, and in his hatred to England. If this were so, we must say that England is much more beholden to him than Christianity.

It is possible that our inclinations may bias our judgment; but we think that we do not flatter ourselves when we say that Barère’s aversion to our country was a sentiment as deep and constant as his mind was capable of entertaining. The value of this compliment is indeed somewhat diminished by the circumstance that he knew very little about us. His ignorance of our institutions, manners, and history is the less excusable, because, according to his own account, he consorted much, during the peace of Amiens, with Englishmen of note, such as that eminent nobleman Lord Greaten, and that not less eminent philosopher Mr. Mackensie Cœfhis. In spite, however, of his connection with these well-known ornaments of our country, he was so ill-informed about us as to fancy that our government was always laying plans to torment him. If he was hooted at Saintes, probably by people whose relations he had murdered, it was because Edition: current; Page: [203] the cabinet of St. James’s had hired the mob. If nobody would read his bad books, it was because the cabinet of St. James’s had secured the Reviewers. His accounts of Mr. Fox, of Mr. Pitt, of the Duke of Wellington, of Mr. Canning, swarm with blunders surpassing even the ordinary blunders committed by Frenchmen who write about England. Mr. Fox and Mr. Pitt, he tells us, were ministers in two different reigns. Mr. Pitt’s sinking fund was instituted in order to enable England to pay subsidies to the powers allied against the French republic. The Duke of Wellington’s house in Hyde Park was built by the nation, which twice voted the sum of 200,000l. for the purpose. This, however, is exclusive of the cost of the frescoes, which were also paid for out of the public purse. Mr. Canning was the first Englishman whose death Europe had reason to lament; for the death of Lord Ward, a relation, we presume, of Lord Greaten and Mr. Cœfhis, had been an immense benefit to mankind.

Ignorant, however, as Barère was, he knew enough of us to hate us; and we persuade ourselves that, had he known us better, he would have hated us more. The nation which has combined, beyond all example and all hope, the blessings of liberty with those of order, might well be an object of aversion to one who had been false alike to the cause of order and to the cause of liberty. We have had amongst us intemperate zeal for popular rights; we have had amongst us also the intemperance of loyalty. But we have never been shocked by such a spectacle as the Barère of 1794, or as the Barère of 1804. Compared with him, our fiercest demagogues have been gentle; compared with him, our meanest courtiers have been manly. Mix together Thistlewood and Bubb Dodington; and you are still far from having Barère. The antipathy between him and us is such, that neither for the crimes of his earlier nor for those of his later life does our language, rich as it is, furnish us with adequate names. We have found it difficult to relate his Edition: current; Page: [204] history without having perpetual recourse to the French vocabulary of horror, and to the French vocabulary of baseness. It is not easy to give a notion of his conduct in the Convention, without using those emphatic terms, guillotinade, noyade, fusillade, mitraillade. It is not easy to give a notion of his conduct under the Consulate and the Empire without borrowing such words as mouchard and mouton.

We therefore like his invectives against us much better than any thing else that he has written; and dwell on them, not merely with complacency, but with a feeling akin to gratitude. It was but little that he could do to promote the honour of our country; but that little he did strenuously and constantly. Renegade, traitor, slave, coward, liar, slanderer, murderer, hack writer, police-spy—the one small service which he could render to England was to hate her: and such as he was may all who hate her be!

We cannot say that we contemplate with equal satisfaction that fervent and constant zeal for religion which, according to M. Hippolyte Carnot, distinguished Barère; for, as we think that whatever brings dishonour on religion is a serious evil, we had, we own, indulged a hope that Barère was an atheist. We now learn, however, that he was at no time even a sceptic, that he adhered to his faith through the whole Revolution, and that he has left several manuscript works on divinity. One of these is a pious treatise, entitled “Of Christianity, and of its Influence.” Another consists of meditations on the Psalms, which will doubtless greatly console and edify the Church.

This makes the character complete. Whatsoever things are false, whatsoever things are dishonest, whatsoever things are unjust, whatsoever things are impure, whatsoever things are hateful, whatsoever things are of evil report, if there be any vice, and if there be any infamy, all these things, we knew, were blended in Barère. But Edition: current; Page: [205] one thing was still wanting; and that M. Hippolyte Carnot has supplied. When to such an assemblage of qualities a high profession of piety is added, the effect becomes overpowering. We sink under the contemplation of such exquisite and manifold perfection; and feel, with deep humility, how presumptuous it was in us to think of composing the legend of this beatified athlete of the faith, St. Bertrand of the Carmagnoles.

Something more we had to say about him. But let him go. We did not seek him out, and will not keep him longer. If those who call themselves his friends had not forced him on our notice we should never have vouchsafed to him more than a passing word of scorn and abhorrence, such as we might fling at his brethren, Hébert and Fouquier Tinville, and Carrier and Lebon. We have no pleasure in seeing human nature thus degraded. We turn with disgust from the filthy and spiteful Yahoos of the fiction; and the filthiest and most spiteful Yahoo of the fiction was a noble creature when compared with the Barère of history. But what is no pleasure M. Hippolyte Carnot has made a duty. It is no light thing that a man in high and honourable public trust, a man who, from his connections and position, may not unnaturally be supposed to speak the sentiments of a large class of his countrymen, should come forward to demand approbation for a life black with every sort of wickedness, and unredeemed by a single virtue. This M. Hippolyte Carnot has done. By attempting to enshrine this Jacobin carrion, he has forced us to gibbet it; and we venture to say that, from the eminence of infamy on which we have placed it, he will not easily take it down.

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CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA.

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FRANCIS ATTERBURY. (December 1853.)

Francis Atterbury, a man who holds a conspicuous place in the political, ecclesiastical, and literary history of England, was born in the year 1662, at Middleton in Buckinghamshire, a parish of which his father was rector. Francis was educated at Westminster School, and carried thence to Christ Church a stock of learning which, though really scanty, he through life exhibited with such judicious ostentation that superficial observers believed his attainments to be immense. At Oxford, his parts, his taste, and his bold, contemptuous, and imperious spirit, soon made him conspicuous. Here he published, at twenty, his first work, a translation of the noble poem of Absalom and Achitophel into Latin verse. Neither the style nor the versification of the young scholar was that of the Augustan age. In English composition he succeeded much better. In 1687 he distinguished himself among many able men who wrote in defence of the Church of England, then persecuted by James II., and calumniated by apostates who had for lucre quitted her communion. Among these apostates none was more active or malignant than Obadiah Walker, who was master of University College, and who had set up there, under the royal patronage, a press for printing tracts against the established religion. In one of these tracts, written apparently by Walker himself, many aspersions were thrown on Martin Luther. Atterbury undertook to defend the great Saxon Reformer, and performed that task in a manner singularly characteristic. Whoever Edition: current; Page: [210] examines his reply to Walker will be struck by the contrast between the feebleness of those parts which are argumentative and defensive, and the vigour of those parts which are rhetorical and aggressive. The Papists were so much galled by the sarcasms and invectives of the young polemic that they raised a cry of treason, and accused him of having, by implication, called King James a Judas.

After the Revolution, Atterbury, though bred in the doctrines of non-resistance and passive obedience, readily swore fealty to the new government. In no long time he took holy orders. He occasionally preached in London with an eloquence which raised his reputation, and soon had the honour of being appointed one of the royal chaplains. But he ordinarily resided at Oxford, where he took an active part in academical business, directed the classical studies of the under-graduates of his college, and was the chief adviser and assistant of Dean Aldrich, a divine now chiefly remembered by his catches, but renowned among his contemporaries as a scholar, a Tory, and a high-churchman. It was the practice, not a very judicious practice, of Aldrich to employ the most promising youths of his college in editing Greek and Latin books. Among the studious and well-disposed lads who were, unfortunately for themselves, induced to become teachers of philology when they should have been content to be learners, was Charles Boyle, son of the Earl of Orrery, and nephew of Robert Boyle, the great experimental philosopher. The task assigned to Charles Boyle was to prepare a new edition of one of the most worthless books in existence. It was a fashion, among those Greeks and Romans who cultivated rhetoric as an art, to compose epistles and harangues in the names of eminent men. Some of these counterfeits are fabricated with such exquisite taste and skill that it is the highest achievement of criticism to distinguish them from originals. Others are so feebly and rudely executed that they can Edition: current; Page: [211] hardly impose on an intelligent school-boy. The best specimen which has come down to us is perhaps the oration for Marcellus, such an imitation of Tully’s eloquence as Tully would himself have read with wonder and delight. The worst specimen is perhaps a collection of letters purporting to have been written by that Phalaris who governed Agrigentum more than 500 years before the Christian era. The evidence, both internal and external, against the genuineness of these letters is overwhelming. When, in the fifteenth century, they emerged, in company with much that was far more valuable, from their obscurity, they were pronounced spurious by Politian, the greatest scholar of Italy, and by Erasmus, the greatest scholar on our side of the Alps. In truth, it would be as easy to persuade an educated Englishman that one of Johnson’s Ramblers was the work of William Wallace as to persuade a man like Erasmus that a pedantic exercise, composed in the trim and artificial Attic of the time of Julian, was a despatch written by a crafty and ferocious Dorian, who roasted people alive many years before there existed a volume of prose in the Greek language. But, though Christ-Church could boast of many good Latinists, of many good English writers, and of a greater number of clever and fashionable men of the world than belonged to any other academic body, there was not then in the college a single man capable of distinguishing between the infancy and the dotage of Greek literature. So superficial indeed was the learning of the rulers of this celebrated society that they were charmed by an essay which Sir William Temple published in praise of the ancient writers. It now seems strange that even the eminent public services, the deserved popularity, and the graceful style of Temple should have saved so silly a performance from universal contempt. Of the books which he most vehemently eulogised his eulogies proved that he knew nothing. In fact, he could not read a line of the language in which Edition: current; Page: [212] they were written. Among many other foolish things, he said that the letters of Phalaris were the oldest letters and also the best in the world. Whatever Temple wrote attracted notice. People who had never heard of the Epistles of Phalaris began to inquire about them. Aldrich, who knew very little Greek, took the word of Temple who knew none, and desired Boyle to prepare a new edition of these admirable compositions which, having long slept in obscurity, had become on a sudden objects of general interest.

The edition was prepared with the help of Atterbury, who was Boyle’s tutor, and of some other members of the college. It was an edition such as might be expected from people who would stoop to edite such a book. The notes were worthy of the text; the Latin version worthy of the Greek original. The volume would have been forgotten in a month, had not a misunderstanding about a manuscript arisen between the young editor and the greatest scholar that had appeared in Europe since the revival of letters, Richard Bentley. The manuscript was in Bentley’s keeping. Boyle wished it to be collated. A mischief-making bookseller informed him that Bentley had refused to lend it, which was false, and also that Bentley had spoken contemptuously of the letters attributed to Phalaris, and of the critics who were taken in by such counterfeits, which was perfectly true. Boyle, much provoked, paid, in his preface, a bitterly ironical compliment to Bentley’s courtesy. Bentley revenged himself by a short dissertation, in which he proved that the epistles were spurious, and the new edition of them worthless: but he treated Boyle personally with civility as a young gentleman of great hopes, whose love of learning was highly commendable, and who deserved to have had better instructors.

Few things in literary history are more extraordinary than the storm which this little dissertation raised. Bentley had treated Boyle with forbearance; but he had Edition: current; Page: [213] treated Christ-Church with contempt; and the Christ-Church-men, wherever dispersed, were as much attached to their college as a Scotchman to his country, or a Jesuit to his order. Their influence was great. They were dominant at Oxford, powerful in the Inns of Court and in the College of Physicians, conspicuous in Parliament and in the literary and fashionable circles of London. Their unanimous cry was, that the honour of the college must be vindicated, that the insolent Cambridge pedant must be put down. Poor Boyle was unequal to the task, and disinclined to it. It was, therefore, assigned to his tutor Atterbury.

The answer to Bentley, which bears the name of Boyle, but which was, in truth, no more the work of Boyle than the letters to which the controversy related were the work of Phalaris, is now read only by the curious, and will in all probability never be reprinted again. But it had its day of noisy popularity. It was to be found, not only in the studies of men of letters, but on the tables of the most brilliant drawing-rooms of Soho Square and Covent Garden. Even the beaus and coquettes of that age, the Wildairs and the Lady Lurewells, the Mirabells and the Millamants, congratulated each other on the way in which the gay young gentleman, whose erudition sate so easily upon him, and who wrote with so much pleasantry and good breeding about the Attic dialect and the anapæstic measure, Sicilian talents and Thericlean cups, had bantered the queer prig of a doctor. Nor was the applause of the multitude undeserved. The book is, indeed, Atterbury’s masterpiece, and gives a higher notion of his powers than any of those works to which he put his name. That he was altogether in the wrong on the main question, and on all the collateral questions springing out of it, that his knowledge of the language, the literature, and the history of Greece was not equal to what many freshmen now bring up every year to Cambridge and Oxford, and that some of his blunders seem rather Edition: current; Page: [214] to deserve a flogging than a refutation, is true; and therefore it is that his performance is, in the highest degree, interesting and valuable to a judicious reader. It is good by reason of its exceeding badness. It is the most extraordinary instance that exists of the art of making much show with little substance. There is no difficulty, says the steward of Molière’s miser, in giving a fine dinner with plenty of money: the really great cook is he who can set out a banquet with no money at all. That Bentley should have written excellently on ancient chronology and geography, on the development of the Greek language, and the origin of the Greek drama, is not strange. But that Atterbury should, during some years, have been thought to have treated these subjects much better than Bentley is strange indeed. It is true that the champion of Christ-Church had all the help which the most celebrated members of that society could give him. Smalridge contributed some very good wit; Friend and others some very bad archæology and philology. But the greater part of the volume was entirely Atterbury’s: what was not his own was revised and retouched by him; and the whole bears the mark of his mind, a mind inexhaustibly rich in all the resources of controversy, and familiar with all the artifices which make falsehood look like truth, and ignorance like knowledge. He had little gold; but he beat that little out to the very thinnest leaf, and spread it over so vast a surface that to those who judged by a glance, and who did not resort to balances and tests, the glittering heap of worthless matter which he produced seemed to be an inestimable treasure of massy bullion. Such arguments as he had he placed in the clearest light. Where he had no arguments, he resorted to personalities, sometimes serious, generally ludicrous, always clever and cutting. But, whether he was grave or merry, whether he reasoned or sneered, his style was always pure, polished, and easy.

Party spirit then ran high; yet, though Bentley ranked Edition: current; Page: [215] among Whigs, and Christ-Church was a stronghold of Toryism, Whigs joined with Tories in applauding Atterbury’s volume. Garth insulted Bentley, and extolled Boyle in lines which are now never quoted except to be laughed at. Swift, in his “Battle of the Books,” introduced with much pleasantry Boyle, clad in armour, the gift of all the gods, and directed by Apollo in the form of a human friend, for whose name a blank is left which may easily be filled up. The youth, so accoutred, and so assisted, gains an easy victory over his uncourteous and boastful antagonist. Bentley, meanwhile, was supported by the consciousness of an immeasurable superiority, and encouraged by the voices of the few who were really competent to judge the combat. “No man,” he said, justly and nobly, “was ever written down but by himself.” He spent two years in preparing a reply, which will never cease to be read and prized while the literature of ancient Greece is studied in any part of the world. This reply proved, not only that the letters ascribed to Phalaris were spurious, but that Atterbury, with all his wit, his eloquence, his skill in controversial fence, was the most audacious pretender that ever wrote about what he did not understand. But to Atterbury this exposure was matter of indifference. He was now engaged in a dispute about matters far more important and exciting than the laws of Zaleucus and the laws of Charondas. The rage of religious factions was extreme. High church and Low church divided the nation. The great majority of the clergy were on the high-church side; the majority of King William’s bishops were inclined to latitudinarianism. A dispute arose between the two parties touching the extent of the powers of the Lower House of Convocation. Atterbury thrust himself eagerly into the front rank of the high-churchmen. Those who take a comprehensive and impartial view of his whole career will not be disposed to give him credit for religious zeal. But it was his nature to be vehement and pugnacious in Edition: current; Page: [216] the cause of every fraternity of which he was a member. He had defended the genuineness of a spurious book simply because Christ-Church had put forth an edition of that book; he now stood up for the clergy against the civil power, simply because he was a clergyman, and for the priests against the episcopal order, simply because he was as yet only a priest. He asserted the pretensions of the class to which he belonged in several treatises written with much wit, ingenuity, audacity, and acrimony. In this, as in his first controversy, he was opposed to antagonists whose knowledge of the subject in dispute was far superior to his; but in this, as in his first controversy, he imposed on the multitude by bold assertion, by sarcasm, by declamation, and, above all, by his peculiar knack of exhibiting a little erudition in such a manner as to make it look like a great deal. Having passed himself off on the world as a greater master of classical learning than Bentley, he now passed himself off as a greater master of ecclesiastical learning than Wake or Gibson. By the great body of the clergy he was regarded as the ablest and most intrepid tribune that had ever defended their rights against the oligarchy of prelates. The Lower House of Convocation voted him thanks for his services; the University of Oxford created him a doctor of divinity; and soon after the accession of Anne, while the Tories still had the chief weight in the government, he was promoted to the deanery of Carlisle.

Soon after he had obtained this preferment, the Whig party rose to ascendency in the state. From that party he could expect no favour. Six years elapsed before a change of fortune took place. At length, in the year 1710, the prosecution of Sacheverell produced a formidable explosion of high-church fanaticism. At such a moment Atterbury could not fail to be conspicuous. His inordinate zeal for the body to which he belonged, his turbulent and aspiring temper, his rare talents for agitation and for controversy, were again signally displayed. He bore Edition: current; Page: [217] a chief part in framing that artful and eloquent speech which the accused divine pronounced at the bar of the Lords, and which presents a singular contrast to the absurd and scurrilous sermon which had very unwisely been honoured with impeachment. During the troubled and anxious months which followed the trial, Atterbury was among the most active of those pamphleteers who inflamed the nation against the Whig ministry and the Whig parliament. When the ministry had been changed and the parliament dissolved, rewards were showered upon him. The Lower House of Convocation elected him prolocutor. The Queen appointed him Dean of Christ-Church on the death of his old friend and patron Aldrich. The college would have preferred a gentler ruler. Nevertheless, the new head was received with every mark of honour. A congratulatory oration in Latin was addressed to him in the magnificent vestibule of the hall; and he in reply professed the warmest attachment to the venerable house in which he had been educated, and paid many gracious compliments to those over whom he was to preside. But it was not in his nature to be a mild or an equitable governor. He had left the chapter of Carlisle distracted by quarrels. He found Christ-Church at peace; but in three months his despotic and contentious temper did at Christ-Church what it had done at Carlisle. He was succeeded in both his deaneries by the humane and accomplished Smalridge, who gently complained of the state in which both had been left. “Atterbury goes before, and sets everything on fire. I come after him with a bucket of water.” It was said by Atterbury’s enemies that he was made a bishop because he was so bad a dean. Under his administration Christ-Church was in confusion, scandalous altercations took place, opprobrious words were exchanged; and there was reason to fear that the great Tory college would be ruined by the tyranny of the great Tory doctor. He was soon removed to the bishopric of Rochester, which was then always Edition: current; Page: [218] united with the deanery of Westminster. Still higher dignities seemed to be before him. For, though there were many able men on the episcopal bench, there was none who equalled or approached him in parliamentary talents. Had his party continued in power, it is not improbable that he would have been raised to the archbishopric of Canterbury. The more splendid his prospects, the more reason he had to dread the accession of a family which was well known to be partial to the Whigs. There is every reason to believe that he was one of those politicians who hoped that they might be able, during the life of Anne, to prepare matters in such a way that at her decease there might be little difficulty in setting aside the Act of Settlement and placing the Pretender on the throne. Her sudden death confounded the projects of these conspirators. Atterbury, who wanted no kind of courage, implored his confederates to proclaim James III., and offered to accompany the heralds in lawn sleeves. But he found even the bravest soldiers of his party irresolute, and exclaimed, not, it is said, without interjections which ill became the mouth of a father of the church, that the best of all causes and the most precious of all moments had been pusillanimously thrown away. He acquiesced in what he could not prevent, took the oaths to the House of Hanover, and at the coronation officiated with the outward show of zeal, and did his best to ingratiate himself with the royal family. But his servility was requited with cold contempt. No creature is so revengeful as a proud man who has humbled himself in vain. Atterbury became the most factious and pertinacious of all the opponents of the government. In the House of Lords his oratory, lucid, pointed, lively, and set off with every grace of pronunciation and of gesture, extorted the attention and admiration even of a hostile majority. Some of the most remarkable protests which appear in the journals of the peers were drawn up by him; and, in some of the bitterest of those pamphlets Edition: current; Page: [219] which called on the English to stand up for their country against the aliens who had come from beyond the seas to oppress and plunder her, critics easily detected his style. When the rebellion of 1715 broke out, he refused to sign the paper in which the bishops of the province of Canterbury declared their attachment to the Protestant succession. He busied himself in electioneering, especially at Westminster, where, as dean, he possessed great influence; and was, indeed, strongly suspected of having once set on a riotous mob to prevent his Whig fellow-citizens from polling.

After having been long in indirect communication with the exiled family, he, in 1717, began to correspond directly with the Pretender. The first letter of the correspondence is extant. In that letter Atterbury boasts of having, during many years past, neglected no opportunity of serving the Jacobite cause. “My daily prayer,” he says, “is that you may have success. May I live to see that day, and live no longer than I do what is in my power to forward it.” It is to be remembered that he who wrote thus was a man bound to set to the church of which he was overseer an example of strict probity; that he had repeatedly sworn allegiance to the House of Brunswick; that he had assisted in placing the crown on the head of George I.; and that he had abjured James III., “without equivocation or mental reservation, on the true faith of a Christian.”

It is agreeable to turn from his public to his private life. His turbulent spirit, wearied with faction and treason, now and then required repose, and found it in domestic endearments, and in the society of the most illustrious of the living and of the dead. Of his wife little is known: but between him and his daughter there was an affection singularly close and tender. The gentleness of his manners when he was in the company of a few friends was such as seemed hardly credible to those who knew him only by his writings and speeches. The charm of Edition: current; Page: [220] his “softer hour” has been commemorated by one of those friends in imperishable verse. Though Atterbury’s classical attainments were not great, his taste in English literature was excellent; and his admiration of genius was so strong that it overpowered even his political and religious antipathies. His fondness for Milton, the mortal enemy of the Stuarts and of the church, was such as to many Tories seemed a crime. On the sad night on which Addison was laid in the chapel of Henry VII., the Westminster boys remarked that Atterbury read the funeral service with a peculiar tenderness and solemnity. The favourite companions, however, of the great Tory prelate were, as might have been expected, men whose politics had at least a tinge of Toryism. He lived on friendly terms with Swift, Arbuthnot, and Gay. With Prior he had a close intimacy, which some misunderstanding about public affairs at last dissolved. Pope found in Atterbury, not only a warm admirer, but a most faithful, fearless, and judicious adviser. The poet was a frequent guest at the episcopal palace among the elms of Bromley, and entertained not the slightest suspicion that his host, now declining in years, confined to an easy chair by gout, and apparently devoted to literature, was deeply concerned in criminal and perilous designs against the government.

The spirit of the Jacobites had been cowed by the events of 1715. It revived in 1721. The failure of the South Sea project, the panic in the money market, the downfall of great commercial houses, the distress from which no part of the kingdom was exempt, had produced general discontent. It seemed not improbable that at such a moment an insurrection might be successful. An insurrection was planned. The streets of London were to be barricaded; the Tower and the Bank were to be surprised; King George, his family, and his chief captains and councillors, were to be arrested; and King James was to be proclaimed. The design became known to the Duke of Orleans, regent of France, who was on terms of Edition: current; Page: [221] friendship with the House of Hanover. He put the English government on its guard. Some of the chief malcontents were committed to prison; and among them was Atterbury. No bishop of the Church of England had been taken into custody since that memorable day when the applauses and prayers of all London had followed the seven bishops to the gate of the Tower. The Opposition entertained some hope that it might be possible to excite among the people an enthusiasm resembling that of their fathers, who rushed into the waters of the Thames to implore the blessing of Sancroft. Pictures of the heroic confessor in his cell were exhibited at the shop windows. Verses in his praise were sung about the streets. The restraints by which he was prevented from communicating with his accomplices were represented as cruelties worthy of the dungeons of the Inquisition. Strong appeals were made to the priesthood. Would they tamely permit so gross an insult to be offered to their cloth? Would they suffer the ablest, the most eloquent member of their profession, the man who had so often stood up for their rights against the civil power, to be treated like the vilest of mankind? There was considerable excitement; but it was allayed by a temperate and artful letter to the clergy, the work, in all probability, of Bishop Gibson, who stood high in the favour of Walpole, and shortly after became minister for ecclesiastical affairs.

Atterbury remained in close confinement during some months. He had carried on his correspondence with the exiled family so cautiously that the circumstantial proofs of his guilt, though sufficient to produce entire moral conviction, were not sufficient to justify legal conviction. He could be reached only by a bill of pains and penalties. Such a bill the Whig party, then decidedly predominant in both houses, was quite prepared to support. Many hot-headed members of that party were eager to follow the precedent which had been set in the case of Sir John Fenwick, and to pass an act for cutting off the bishop’s Edition: current; Page: [222] head. Cadogan, who commanded the army, a brave soldier, but a headstrong politician, is said to have exclaimed with great vehemence: “Fling him to the lions in the Tower.” But the wiser and more humane Walpole was always unwilling to shed blood; and his influence prevailed. When parliament met, the evidence against the bishop was laid before committees of both houses. Those committees reported that his guilt was proved. In the Commons a resolution, pronouncing him a traitor, was carried by nearly two to one. A bill was then introduced which provided that he should be deprived of his spiritual dignities, that he should be banished for life, and that no British subject should hold any intercourse with him except by the royal permission.

This bill passed the Commons with little difficulty. For the bishop, though invited to defend himself, chose to reserve his defence for the assembly of which he was a member. In the Lords the contest was sharp. The young Duke of Wharton, distinguished by his parts, his dissoluteness, and his versatility, spoke for Atterbury with great effect; and Atterbury’s own voice was heard for the last time by that unfriendly audience which had so often listened to him with mingled aversion and delight. He produced few witnesses; nor did those witnesses say much that could be of service to him. Among them was Pope. He was called to prove that, while he was an inmate of the palace at Bromley, the bishop’s time was completely occupied by literary and domestic matters, and that no leisure was left for plotting. But Pope, who was quite unaccustomed to speak in public, lost his head, and, as he afterwards owned, though he had only ten words to say, made two or three blunders.

The bill finally passed the Lords by eighty-three votes to forty-three. The bishops, with a single exception, were in the majority. Their conduct drew on them a sharp taunt from Lord Bathurst, a warm friend of Atterbury and a zealous Tory. “The wild Indians,” he said, Edition: current; Page: [223] “give no quarter, because they believe that they shall inherit the skill and prowess of every adversary whom they destroy. Perhaps the animosity of the right reverend prelates to their brother may be explained in the same way.”

Atterbury took leave of those whom he loved with a dignity and tenderness worthy of a better man. Three fine lines of his favourite poet were often in his mouth: —

  • “Some natural tears he dropped, but wiped them soon:
  • The world was all before him, where to chuse
  • His place of rest, and Providence his guide.”

At parting he presented Pope with a Bible, and said, with a disingenuousness of which no man who had studied the Bible to much purpose would have been guilty: “If ever you learn that I have any dealings with the Pretender, I give you leave to say that my punishment is just.” Pope at this time really believed the bishop to be an injured man. Arbuthnot seems to have been of the same opinion. Swift, a few months later, ridiculed with great bitterness, in the “Voyage to Laputa,” the evidence which had satisfied the two Houses of Parliament. Soon, however, the most partial friends of the banished prelate ceased to assert his innocence, and contented themselves with lamenting and excusing what they could not defend. After a short stay at Brussels, he had taken up his abode at Paris, and had become the leading man among the Jacobite refugees who were assembled there. He was invited to Rome by the Pretender, who then held his mock court under the immediate protection of the Pope. But Atterbury felt that a bishop of the Church of England would be strangely out of place at the Vatican, and declined the invitation. During some months, however, he might flatter himself that he stood high in the good graces of James. The correspondence between the master and the servant was constant. Atterbury’s merits were warmly acknowledged; his advice was respectfully received; and he was, as Bolingbroke had Edition: current; Page: [224] been before him, the prime minister of a king without a kingdom. But the new favourite found, as Bolingbroke had found before him, that it was quite as hard to keep the shadow of power under a vagrant and mendicant prince as to keep the reality of power at Westminster. Though James had neither territories nor revenues, neither army nor navy, there was more faction and more intrigue among his courtiers than among those of his successful rival. Atterbury soon perceived that his counsels were disregarded, if not distrusted. His proud spirit was deeply wounded. He quitted Paris, fixed his residence at Montpellier, gave up politics, and devoted himself entirely to letters. In the sixth year of his exile he had so severe an illness that his daughter, herself in very delicate health, determined to run all risks that she might see him once more. Having obtained a license from the English Government, she went by sea to Bordeaux, but landed there in such a state that she could travel only by boat or in a litter. Her father, in spite of his infirmities, set out from Montpellier to meet her; and she, with the impatience which is often the sign of approaching death, hastened towards him. Those who were about her in vain implored her to travel slowly. She said that every hour was precious, that she only wished to see her papa and to die. She met him at Toulouse, embraced him, received from his hand the sacred bread and wine, and thanked God that they had passed one day in each other’s society before they parted for ever. She died that night.

It was some time before even the strong mind of Atterbury recovered from this cruel blow. As soon as he was himself again he became eager for action and conflict; for grief, which disposes gentle natures to retirement, to inaction, and to meditation, only makes restless spirits more restless. The Pretender, dull and bigoted as he was, had found out that he had not acted wisely in parting with one who, though a heretic, was, in abilities Edition: current; Page: [225] and accomplishments, the foremost man of the Jacobite party. The bishop was courted back, and was without much difficulty induced to return to Paris and to become once more the phantom minister of a phantom monarchy. But his long and troubled life was drawing to a close. To the last, however, his intellect retained all its keenness and vigour. He learned, in the ninth year of his banishment, that he had been accused by Oldmixon, as dishonest and malignant a scribbler as any that has been saved from oblivion by the Dunciad, of having, in concert with other Christ-Church men, garbled Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion. The charge, as respected Atterbury, had not the slightest foundation: for he was not one of the editors of the History, and never saw it till it was printed. He published a short vindication of himself, which is a model in its kind, luminous, temperate, and dignified. A copy of this little work he sent to the Pretender, with a letter singularly eloquent and graceful. It was impossible, the old man said, that he should write anything on such a subject without being reminded of the resemblance between his own fate and that of Clarendon. They were the only two English subjects that had ever been banished from their country and debarred from all communication with their friends by act of parliament. But here the resemblance ended. One of the exiles had been so happy as to bear a chief part in the restoration of the Royal house. All that the other could now do was to die asserting the rights of that house to the last. A few weeks after this letter was written Atterbury died. He had just completed his seventieth year.

His body was brought to England, and laid, with great privacy, under the nave of Westminster Abbey. Only three mourners followed the coffin. No inscription marks the grave. That the epitaph with which Pope honoured the memory of his friend does not appear on the walls of the great national cemetery is no subject of regret: for nothing worse was ever written by Colley Cibber.

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Those who wish for more complete information about Atterbury may easily collect it from his sermons and his controversial writings, from the report of the parliamentary proceedings against him, which will be found in the State Trials, from the five volumes of his correspondence, edited by Mr. Nichols, and from the first volume of the Stuart papers, edited by Mr. Glover. A very indulgent but a very interesting account of the bishop’s political career will be found in Lord Mahon’s valuable History of England.

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JOHN BUNYAN. (May 1854.)

John Bunyan, the most popular religious writer in the English language, was born at Elstow, about a mile from Bedford, in the year 1628. He may be said to have been born a tinker. The tinkers then formed an hereditary caste, which was held in no high estimation. They were generally vagrants and pilferers, and were often confounded with the gipsies, whom in truth they nearly resembled. Bunyan’s father was more respectable than most of the tribe. He had a fixed residence, and was able to send his son to a village school where reading and writing were taught.

The years of John’s boyhood were those during which the puritan spirit was in the highest vigour all over England; and nowhere had that spirit more influence than in Bedfordshire. It is not wonderful, therefore, that a lad to whom nature had given a powerful imagination, and sensibility which amounted to a disease, should have been early haunted by religious terrors. Before he was ten, his sports were interrupted by fits of remorse and despair; and his sleep was disturbed by dreams of fiends trying to fly away with him. As he grew older, his mental conflicts became still more violent. The strong language in which he described them has strangely misled all his biographers except Mr. Southey. It has long been an ordinary practice with pious writers to cite Bunyan as an instance of the supernatural power of divine grace to rescue the human soul from the lowest depths of wickedness. He is called in one book the most notorious of profligates; in another, Edition: current; Page: [228] the brand plucked from the burning. He is designated in Mr. Ivimey’s History of the Baptists as the depraved Bunyan, the wicked tinker of Elstow. Mr. Ryland, a man once of great note among the Dissenters, breaks out into the following rhapsody:—“No man of common sense and common integrity can deny that Bunyan was a practical atheist, a worthless contemptible infidel, a vile rebel to God and goodness, a common profligate, a soul-despising, a soul-murdering, a soul-damning, thoughtless wretch as could exist on the face of the earth. Now be astonished, O heavens, to eternity! and wonder, O earth and hell! while time endures. Behold this very man become a miracle of mercy, a mirror of wisdom, goodness, holiness, truth, and love.” But whoever takes the trouble to examine the evidence will find that the good men who wrote this had been deceived by a phraseology which, as they had been hearing it and using it all their lives, they ought to have understood better. There cannot be a greater mistake than to infer, from the strong expressions in which a devout man bemoans his exceeding sinfulness, that he has led a worse life than his neighbours. Many excellent persons, whose moral character from boyhood to old age has been free from any stain discernible to their fellow creatures, have, in their autobiographies and diaries, applied to themselves, and doubtless with sincerity, epithets as severe as could be applied to Titus Oates or Mrs. Brownrigg. It is quite certain that Bunyan was, at eighteen, what, in any but the most austerely puritanical circles, would have been considered as a young man of singular gravity and innocence. Indeed, it may be remarked that he, like many other penitents who, in general terms, acknowledge themselves to have been the worst of mankind, fired up and stood vigorously on his defence, whenever any particular charge was brought against him by others. He declares, it is true, that he had let loose the reins on the neck of his lusts, that he had delighted in all transgressions against the divine law, and that he had Edition: current; Page: [229] been the ringleader of the youth of Elstow in all manner of vice. But, when those who wished him ill accused him of licentious amours, he called on God and the angels to attest his purity. No woman, he said, in heaven, earth, or hell, could charge him with having ever made any improper advances to her. Not only had he been strictly faithful to his wife; but he had, even before his marriage, been perfectly spotless. It does not appear from his own confessions, or from the railings of his enemies, that he ever was drunk in his life. One bad habit he contracted, that of using profane language; but he tells us that a single reproof cured him so effectually that he never offended again. The worst that can be laid to the charge of this poor youth, whom it has been the fashion to represent as the most desperate of reprobates, as a village Rochester, is that he had a great liking for some diversions, quite harmless in themselves, but condemned by the rigid precisians among whom he lived, and for whose opinion he had a great respect. The four chief sins of which he was guilty were dancing, ringing the bells of the parish church, playing at tipcat, and reading the History of Sir Bevis of Southampton. A rector of the school of Laud would have held such a young man up to the whole parish as a model. But Bunyan’s notions of good and evil had been learned in a very different school; and he was made miserable by the conflict between his tastes and his scruples.

When he was about seventeen, the ordinary course of his life was interrupted by an event which gave a lasting colour to his thoughts. He enlisted in the parliamentary army, and served during the decisive campaign of 1645. All that we know of his military career is that, at the siege of Leicester, one of his comrades, who had taken his post, was killed by a shot from the town. Bunyan ever after considered himself as having been saved from death by the special interference of Providence. It may be observed that his imagination was strongly impressed by Edition: current; Page: [230] the glimpse which he had caught of the pomp of war. To the last he loved to draw his illustrations of sacred things from camps and fortresses, from guns, drums, trumpets, flags of truce, and regiments arrayed, each under its own banner. His Greatheart, his Captain Boanerges, and his Captain Credence, are evidently portraits, of which the originals were among those martial saints who fought and expounded in Fairfax’s army.

In a few months Bunyan returned home and married. His wife had some pious relations, and brought him as her only portion some pious books. And now his mind, excitable by nature, very imperfectly disciplined by education, and exposed, without any protection, to the infectious virulence of the enthusiasm which was then epidemic in England, began to be fearfully disordered. In outward things he soon became a strict Pharisee. He was constant in attendance at prayers and sermons. His favourite amusements were one after another relinquished, though not without many painful struggles. In the middle of a game at tipcat he paused, and stood staring wildly upwards with his stick in his hand. He had heard a voice asking him whether he would leave his sins and go to heaven, or keep his sins and go to hell; and he had seen an awful countenance frowning on him from the sky. The odious vice of bell-ringing he renounced; but he still for a time ventured to go to the church tower and look on while others pulled the ropes. But soon the thought struck him that, if he persisted in such wickedness, the steeple would fall on his head; and he fled in terror from the accursed place. To give up dancing on the village green was still harder; and some months elapsed before he had the fortitude to part with this darling sin. When this last sacrifice had been made, he was, even when tried by the maxims of that austere time, faultless. All Elstow talked of him as an eminently pious youth. But his own mind was more unquiet than ever. Having nothing more to do in the way of visible reformation, yet Edition: current; Page: [231] finding in religion no pleasures to supply the place of the juvenile amusements which he had relinquished, he began to apprehend that he lay under some special malediction; and he was tormented by a succession of fantasies which seemed likely to drive him to suicide or to Bedlam.

At one time he took it into his head that all persons of Israelite blood would be saved, and tried to make out that he partook of that blood; but his hopes were speedily destroyed by his father, who seems to have had no ambition to be regarded as a Jew.

At another time Bunyan was disturbed by a strange dilemma: “If I have not faith, I am lost; if I have faith, I can work miracles.” He was tempted to cry to the puddles between Elstow and Bedford, “Be ye dry,” and to stake his eternal hopes on the event.

Then he took up a notion that the day of grace for Bedford and the neighbouring villages was past; that all who were to be saved in that part of England were already converted; and that he had begun to pray and strive some months too late.

Then he was harassed by doubts whether the Turks were not in the right, and the Christians in the wrong. Then he was troubled by a maniacal impulse which prompted him to pray to the trees, to a broomstick, to the parish bull. As yet, however, he was only entering the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Soon the darkness grew thicker. Hideous forms floated before him. Sounds of cursing and wailing were in his ears. His way ran through stench and fire, close to the mouth of the bottomless pit. He began to be haunted by a strange curiosity about the unpardonable sin, and by a morbid longing to commit it. But the most frightful of all the forms which his disease took was a propensity to utter blasphemy, and especially to renounce his share in the benefits of the redemption. Night and day, in bed, at table, at work, evil spirits, as he imagined, were repeating close to his ear the words, “Sell him, sell him.” He struck at the hobgoblins; he pushed Edition: current; Page: [232] them from him; but still they were ever at his side. He cried out in answer to them, hour after hour: “Never, never; not for thousands of worlds; not for thousands.” At length, worn out by this long agony, he suffered the fatal words to escape him, “Let him go, if he will.” Then his misery became more fearful than ever. He had done what could not be forgiven. He had forfeited his part of the great sacrifice. Like Esau, he had sold his birthright; and there was no longer any place for repentance. “None,” he afterwards wrote, “knows the terrors of those days but myself.” He has described his sufferings with singular energy, simplicity, and pathos. He envied the brutes; he envied the very stones in the street, and the tiles on the houses. The sun seemed to withhold its light and warmth from him. His body, though cast in a sturdy mould, and though still in the highest vigour of youth, trembled whole days together with the fear of death and judgment. He fancied that this trembling was the sign set on the worst reprobates, the sign which God had put on Cain. The unhappy man’s emotion destroyed his power of digestion. He had such pains that he expected to burst asunder like Judas, whom he regarded as his prototype.

Neither the books which Bunyan read, nor the advisers whom he consulted, were likely to do much good in a case like his. His small library had received a most unseasonable addition, the account of the lamentable end of Francis Spira. One ancient man of high repute for piety, whom the sufferer consulted, gave an opinion which might well have produced fatal consequences. “I am afraid,” said Bunyan, “that I have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost.” “Indeed,” said the old fanatic, “I am afraid that you have.”

At length the clouds broke; the light became clearer and clearer; and the enthusiast, who had imagined that he was branded with the mark of the first murderer, and destined to the end of the arch traitor, enjoyed peace and a Edition: current; Page: [233] cheerful confidence in the mercy of God. Years elapsed, however, before his nerves, which had been so perilously overstrained, recovered their tone. When he had joined a Baptist society at Bedford, and was for the first time admitted to partake of the Eucharist, it was with difficulty that he could refrain from imprecating destruction on his brethren while the cup was passing from hand to hand. After he had been some time a member of the congregation, he began to preach; and his sermons produced a powerful effect. He was indeed illiterate; but he spoke to illiterate men. The severe training through which he had passed had given him such an experimental knowledge of all the modes of religious melancholy as he could never have gathered from books; and his vigorous genius, animated by a fervent spirit of devotion, enabled him, not only to exercise a great influence over the vulgar, but even to extort the half contemptuous admiration of scholars. Yet it was long before he ceased to be tormented by an impulse which urged him to utter words of horrible impiety in the pulpit.

Counter-irritants are of as great use in moral as in physical diseases. It should seem that Bunyan was finally relieved from the internal sufferings which had embittered his life by sharp persecution from without. He had been five years a preacher, when the Restoration put it in the power of the Cavalier gentlemen and clergymen all over the country to oppress the Dissenters; and, of all the Dissenters whose history is known to us, he was perhaps the most hardly treated. In November 1660, he was flung into Bedford gaol; and there he remained, with some intervals of partial and precarious liberty, during twelve years. His persecutors tried to extort from him a promise that he would abstain from preaching; but he was convinced that he was divinely set apart and commissioned to be a teacher of righteousness; and he was fully determined to obey God rather than man. He was brought before several tribunals, laughed at, caressed, Edition: current; Page: [234] reviled, menaced, but in vain. He was facetiously told that he was quite right in thinking that he ought not to hide his gift; but that his real gift was skill in repairing old kettles. He was compared to Alexander the copper-smith. He was told that, if he would give up preaching, he should be instantly liberated. He was warned that, if he persisted in disobeying the law, he would be liable to banishment, and that, if he were found in England after a certain time, his neck would be stretched. His answer was, “If you let me out to-day, I will preach again to-morrow.” Year after year he lay patiently in a dungeon, compared with which the worst prison now to to be found in the island is a palace. His fortitude is the more extraordinary, because his domestic feelings were unusually strong. Indeed, he was considered by his stern brethren as somewhat too fond and indulgent a parent. He had several small children, and among them a daughter who was blind, and whom he loved with peculiar tenderness. He could not, he said, bear even to let the wind blow on her; and now she must suffer cold and hunger; she must beg; she must be beaen; “yet,” he added, “I must, I must do it.” While he lay in prison he could do nothing in the way of his old trade for the support of his family. He determined, therefore, to take up a new trade. He learned to make long tagged thread laces; and many thousands of these articles were furnished by him to the hawkers. While his hands were thus busied, he had other employment for his mind and his lips. He gave religious instruction to his fellow-captives, and formed from among them a little flock, of which he was himself the pastor. He studied indefatigably the few books which he possessed. His two chief companions were the Bible and Fox’s Book of Martyrs. His knowledge of the Bible was such that he might have been called a living concordance; and on the margin of his copy of the Book of Martyrs are still legible the ill spelt lines of doggrel in which he expressed his reverence Edition: current; Page: [235] for the brave sufferers, and his implacable enmity to the mystical Babylon.

At length he began to write; and, though it was some time before he discovered where his strength lay, his writings were not unsuccessful. They were coarse, indeed; but they showed a keen mother wit, a great command of the homely mother tongue, an intimate knowledge of the English Bible, and a vast and dearly bought spiritual experience. They therefore, when the corrector of the press had improved the syntax and the spelling, were well received by the humbler class of Dissenters.

Much of Bunyan’s time was spent in controversy. He wrote sharply against the Quakers, whom he seems always to have held in utter abhorrence. It is, however, a remarkable fact that he adopted one of their peculiar fashions: his practice was to write, not November or December, but eleventh month and twelfth month.

He wrote against the liturgy of the Church of England. No two things, according to him, had less affinity than the form of prayer and the spirit of prayer. Those, he said with much point, who have most of the spirit of prayer are all to be found in gaol; and those who have most zeal for the form of prayer are all to be found at the alehouse. The doctrinal articles, on the other hand, he warmly praised, and defended against some Arminian clergymen who had signed them. The most acrimonious of all his works is his answer to Edward Fowler, afterwards Bishop of Gloucester, an excellent man, but not free from the taint of Pelagianism.

Bunyan had also a dispute with some of the chiefs of the sect to which he belonged. He doubtless held with perfect sincerity the distinguishing tenet of that sect; but he did not consider that tenet as one of high importance, and willingly joined in communion with quiet Presbyterians and Independents. The sterner Baptists, therefore, loudly pronounced him a false brother. A controversy arose which long survived the original combatants. In Edition: current; Page: [236] our own time the cause which Bunyan had defended with rude logic and rhetoric against Kiffin and Danvers was pleaded by Robert Hall with an ingenuity and eloquence such as no polemical writer has ever surpassed.

During the years which immediately followed the Restoration, Bunyan’s confinement seems to have been strict. But, as the passions of 1660 cooled, as the hatred with which the Puritans had been regarded while their reign was recent gave place to pity, he was less and less harshly treated. The distress of his family, and his own patience, courage, and piety softened the hearts of his persecutors. Like his own Christian in the cage, he found protectors even among the crowd of Vanity Fair. The bishop of the diocese, Dr. Barlow, is said to have interceded for him. At length the prisoner was suffered to pass most of his time beyond the walls of the gaol, on condition, as it should seem, that he remained within the town of Bedford.

He owed his complete liberation to one of the worst acts of one of the worst governments that England has ever seen. In 1671 the Cabal was in power. Charles II. had concluded the treaty by which he bound himself to set up the Roman Catholic religion in England. The first step which he took towards that end was to annul, by an unconstitutional exercise of his prerogative, all the penal statutes against the Roman Catholics; and, in order to disguise his real design, he annulled at the same time the penal statutes against Protestant nonconformists. Bunyan was consequently set at large. In the first warmth of his gratitude he published a tract in which he compared Charles to that humane and generous Persian king who, though not himself blessed with the light of the true religion, favoured the chosen people, and permitted them, after years of captivity, to rebuild their beloved temple. To candid men, who consider how much Bunyan had suffered, and how little he could guess the secret designs of the court, the unsuspicious thankfulness Edition: current; Page: [237] with which he accepted the precious boon of freedom will not appear to require any apology.

Before he left his prison he had begun the book which has made his name immortal. The history of that book is remarkable. The author was, as he tells us, writing a treatise, in which he had occasion to speak of the stages of the Christian progress. He compared that progress, as many others had compared it, to a pilgrimage. Soon his quick wit discovered innumerable points of similarity which had escaped his predecessors. Images came crowding on his mind faster than he could put them into words, quagmires and pits, steep hills, dark and horrible glens, soft vales, sunny pastures, a gloomy castle of which the courtyard was strewn with the skulls and bones of murdered prisoners, a town all bustle and splendour, like London on the Lord Mayor’s Day, and the narrow path, straight as a rule could make it, running on up hill and down hill, through city and through wilderness, to the Black River and the Shining Gate. He had found out, as most people would have said, by accident, as he would doubtless have said, by the guidance of Providence, where his powers lay. He had no suspicion, indeed, that he was producing a masterpiece. He could not guess what place his allegory would occupy in English literature; for of English literature he knew nothing. Those who suppose him to have studied the Fairy Queen might easily be confuted, if this were the proper place for a detailed examination of the passages in which the two allegories have been thought to resemble each other. The only work of fiction, in all probability, with which he could compare his Pilgrim, was his old favourite, the legend of Sir Bevis of Southampton. He would have thought it a sin to borrow any time from the serious business of his life, from his expositions, his controversies, and his lace tags, for the purpose of amusing himself with what he considered merely as a trifle. It was only, he assures us, at spare moments that he returned to the House Beautiful, Edition: current; Page: [238] the Delectable Mountains, and the Enchanted Ground. He had no assistance. Nobody but himself saw a line till the whole was complete. He then consulted his pious friends. Some were pleased. Others were much scandalised. It was a vain story, a mere romance, about giants, and lions, and goblins, and warriors, sometimes fighting with monsters and sometimes regaled by fair ladies in stately palaces. The loose atheistical wits at Will’s might write such stuff to divert the painted Jezebels of the court: but did it become a minister of the gospel to copy the evil fashions of the world? There had been a time when the cant of such fools would have made Bunyan miserable. But that time was passed; and his mind was now in a firm and healthy state. He saw that, in employing fiction to make truth clear and goodness attractive, he was only following the example which every Christian ought to propose to himself; and he determined to print.

The Pilgrim’s Progress stole silently into the world. Not a single copy of the first edition is known to be in existence. The year of publication has not been ascertained. It is probable that, during some months, the little volume circulated only among poor and obscure sectaries. But soon the irresistible charm of a book which gratified the imagination of the reader with all the action and scenery of a fairy tale, which exercised his ingenuity by setting him to discover a multitude of curious analogies, which interested his feelings for human beings, frail like himself, and struggling with temptations from within and from without, which every moment drew a smile from him by some stroke of quaint yet simple pleasantry, and nevertheless left on his mind a sentiment of reverence for God and of sympathy for man, began to produce its effect. In puritanical circles, from which plays and novels were strictly excluded, that effect was such as no work of genius, though it were superior to the Iliad, to Don Quixote, or to Othello, can ever produce on a mind Edition: current; Page: [239] accustomed to indulge in literary luxury. In 1678 came forth a second edition with additions; and then the demand became immense. In the four following years the book was reprinted six times. The eighth edition, which contains the last improvements made by the author, was published in 1682, the ninth in 1684, the tenth in 1685. The help of the engraver had early been called in; and tens of thousands of children looked with terror and delight on execrable copper-plates, which represented Christian thrusting his sword into Apollyon, or writhing in the grasp of Giant Despair. In Scotland, and in some of the colonies, the Pilgrim was even more popular than in his native country. Bunyan has told us, with very pardonable vanity, that in New England his dream was the daily subject of the conversation of thousands, and was thought worthy to appear in the most superb binding. He had numerous admirers in Holland, and among the Huguenots of France. With the pleasures, however, he experienced some of the pains of eminence. Knavish booksellers put forth volumes of trash under his name; and envious scribblers maintained it to be impossible that the poor ignorant tinker should really be the author of the book which was called his.

He took the best way to confound both those who counterfeited him and those who slandered him. He continued to work the gold-field which he had discovered, and to draw from it new treasures, not indeed with quite such ease and in quite such abundance as when the precious soil was still virgin, but yet with success which left all competition far behind. In 1684 appeared the second part of the “Pilgrim’s Progress.” It was soon followed by the “Holy War,” which, if the “Pilgrim’s Progress” did not exist, would be the best allegory that ever was written.

Bunyan’s place in society was now very different from what it had been. There had been a time when many Dissenting ministers, who could talk Latin and read Greek, Edition: current; Page: [240] had affected to treat him with scorn. But his fame and influence now far exceeded theirs. He had so great an authority among the Baptists that he was popularly called Bishop Bunyan. His episcopal visitations were annual. From Bedford he rode every year to London, and preached there to large and attentive congregations. From London he went his circuit through the country, animating the zeal of his brethren, collecting and distributing alms, and making up quarrels. The magistrates seem in general to have given him little trouble. But there is reason to believe that, in the year 1685, he was in some danger of again occupying his old quarters in Bedford gaol. In that year the rash and wicked enterprise of Monmouth gave the Government a pretext for prosecuting the Nonconformists; and scarcely one eminent divine of the Presbyterian, Independent, or Baptist persuasion remained unmolested. Baxter was in prison: Howe was driven into exile: Henry was arrested. Two eminent Baptists, with whom Bunyan had been engaged in controversy, were in great peril and distress. Danvers was in danger of being hanged; and Kiffin’s grandsons were actually hanged. The tradition is that, during those evil days, Bunyan was forced to disguise himself as a waggoner, and that he preached to his congregation at Bedford in a smock-frock, with a cart-whip in his hand. But soon a great change took place. James the Second was at open war with the church, and found it necessary to court the Dissenters. Some of the creatures of the government tried to secure the aid of Bunyan. They probably knew that he had written in praise of the indulgence of 1672, and therefore hoped that he might be equally pleased with the indulgence of 1687. But fifteen years of thought, observation, and commerce with the world had made him wiser. Nor were the cases exactly parallel. Charles was a professed Protestant: James was a professed Papist. The object of Charles’s indulgence was disguised: the object of James’s indulgence was patent. Bunyan was Edition: current; Page: [241] not deceived. He exhorted his hearers to prepare themselves by fasting and prayer for the danger which menaced their civil and religious liberties, and refused even to speak to the courtier who came down to remodel the corporation of Bedford, and who, as was supposed, had it in charge to offer some municipal dignity to the Bishop of the Baptists.

Bunyan did not live to see the Revolution. In the summer of 1688 he undertook to plead the cause of a son with an angry father, and at length prevailed on the old man not to disinherit the young one. This good work cost the benevolent intercessor his life. He had to ride through heavy rain. He came drenched to his lodgings on Snow Hill, was seized with a violent fever, and died in a few days. He was buried in Bunhill Fields; and the spot where he lies is still regarded by the Nonconformists with a feeling which seems scarcely in harmony with the stern spirit of their theology. Many puritans, to whom the respect paid by Roman Catholics to the reliques and tombs of saints seemed childish or sinful, are said to have begged with their dying breath that their coffins might be placed as near as possible to the coffin of the author of the “Pilgrim’s Progress.”

The fame of Bunyan during his life, and during the century which followed his death, was indeed great, but was almost entirely confined to religious families of the middle and lower classes. Very seldom was he during that time mentioned with respect by any writer of great literary eminence. Young coupled his prose with the poetry of the wretched D’Urfey. In the Spiritual Quixote, the adventures of Christian are ranked with those of Jack the Giant-Killer and John Hickathrift. Cowper ventured to praise the great allegorist, but did not venture to name him. It is a significant circumstance that, till a recent period, all the numerous editions of the “Pilgrim’s Progress” were evidently meant for the cottage and the servants’ hall. The paper, the printing, Edition: current; Page: [242] the plates, were all of the meanest description. In general, when the educated minority and the common people differ about the merit of a book, the opinion of the educated minority finally prevails. The “Pilgrim’s Progress” is perhaps the only book about which, after the lapse of a hundred years, the educated minority has come over to the opinion of the common people.

The attempts which have been made to improve and to imitate this book are not to be numbered. It has been done into verse: it has been done into modern English. “The Pilgrimage of Tender Conscience,” the “Pilgrimage of Good Intent,” “The Pilgrimage of Seek Truth,” “The Pilgrimage of Theophilus,” “The Infant Pilgrim,” “The Hindoo Pilgrim,” are among the many feeble copies of the great original. But the peculiar glory of Bunyan is that those who most hated his doctrines have tried to borrow the help of his genius. A Catholic version of his parable may be seen with the head of the Virgin in the title page. On the other hand, those Antinomians for whom his Calvinism is not strong enough may study the pilgrimage of Hephzibah, in which nothing will be found which can be construed into an admission of free agency and universal redemption. But the most extraordinary of all the acts of Vandalism by which a fine work of art was ever defaced was committed so late as the year 1853. It was determined to transform the “Pilgrim’s Progress” into a Tractarian book. The task was not easy: for it was necessary to make the two sacraments the most prominent objects in the allegory; and of all Christian theologians, avowed Quakers excepted, Bunyan was the one in whose system the sacraments held the least prominent place. However, the Wicket Gate became a type of Baptism, and the House Beautiful of the Eucharist. The effect of this change is such as assuredly the ingenious person who made it never contemplated. For, as not a single pilgrim passes through the Wicket Gate in infancy, and as Faithful Edition: current; Page: [243] hurries past the House Beautiful without stopping, the lesson, which the fable in its altered shape teaches, is that none but adults ought to be baptized, and that the Eucharist may safely be neglected. Nobody would have discovered from the original “Pilgrim’s Progress” that the author was not a Pædobaptist. To turn his book into a book against Pædobaptism was an achievement reserved for an Anglo-Catholic divine. Such blunders must necessarily be committed by every man who mutilates parts of a great work, without taking a comprehensive view of the whole.

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OLIVER GOLDSMITH. (February 1856.)

Oliver Goldsmith, one of the most pleasing English writers of the eighteenth century. He was of a Protestant and Saxon family which had been long settled in Ireland, and which had, like most other Protestant and Saxon families, been, in troubled times, harassed and put in fear by the native population. His father, Charles Goldsmith, studied in the reign of Queen Anne at the diocesan school of Elphin, became attached to the daughter of the schoolmaster, married her, took orders, and settled at a place called Pallas in the county of Longford. There he with difficulty supported his wife and children on what he could earn, partly as a curate and partly as a farmer.

At Pallas Oliver Goldsmith was born in November 1728. That spot was then, for all practical purposes, almost as remote from the busy and splendid capital in which his later years were passed, as any clearing in Upper Canada or any sheep-walk in Australasia now is. Even at this day those enthusiasts who venture to make a pilgrimage to the birthplace of the poet are forced to perform the latter part of their journey on foot. The hamlet lies far from any high road, on a dreary plain which, in wet weather, is often a lake. The lanes would break any jaunting car to pieces; and there are ruts and sloughs through which the most strongly built wheels cannot be dragged.

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While Oliver was still a child, his father was presented to a living worth about 200l. a year, in the county of Westmeath. The family accordingly quitted their cottage in the wilderness for a spacious house on a frequented road, near the village of Lissoy. Here the boy was taught his letters by a maid-servant, and was sent in his seventh year to a village school kept by an old quartermaster on half-pay, who professed to teach nothing but reading, writing and arithmetic, but who had an inexhaustible fund of stories about ghosts, banshees and fairies, about the great Rapparee chiefs, Baldearg O’Donnell and galloping Hogan, and about the exploits of Peterborough and Stanhope, the surprise of Monjuich, and the glorious disaster of Brihuega. This man must have been of the Protestant religion; but he was of the aboriginal race, and not only spoke the Irish language, but could pour forth unpremeditated Irish verses. Oliver early became, and through life continued to be, a passionate admirer of the Irish music, and especially of the compositions of Carolan, some of the last notes of whose harp he heard. It ought to be added that Oliver, though by birth one of the Englishry, and though connected by numerous ties with the Established Church, never showed the least sign of that contemptuous antipathy with which, in his days, the ruling minority in Ireland too generally regarded the subject majority. So far indeed was he from sharing in the opinions and feelings of the caste to which he belonged, that he conceived an aversion to the Glorious and Immortal Memory, and, even when George the Third was on the throne, maintained that nothing but the restoration of the banished dynasty could save the country.

From the humble academy kept by the old soldier Goldsmith was removed in his ninth year. He went to several grammar-schools, and acquired some knowledge of the ancient languages. His life at this time seems to have been far from happy. He had, as appears from the Edition: current; Page: [246] admirable portrait of him at Knowle, features harsh even to ugliness. The small-pox had set its mark on him with more than usual severity. His stature was small, and his limbs ill put together. Among boys little tenderness is shown to personal defects; and the ridicule excited by poor Oliver’s appearance was heightened by a peculiar simplicity and a disposition to blunder which he retained to the last. He became the common butt of boys and masters, was pointed at as a fright in the play-ground, and flogged as a dunce in the school-room. When he had risen to eminence, those who had once derided him ransacked their memory for the events of his early years, and recited repartees and couplets which had dropped from him, and which, though little noticed at the time, were supposed, a quarter of a century later, to indicate the powers which produced the “Vicar of Wakefield” and the “Deserted Village.”

In his seventeenth year Oliver went up to Trinity College, Dublin, as a sizar. The sizars paid nothing for food and tuition, and very little for lodging; but they had to perform some menial services from which they have long been relieved. They swept the court: they carried up the dinner to the fellows’ table, and changed the plates and poured out the ale of the rulers of the society. Goldsmith was quartered, not alone, in a garret, on the window of which his name, scrawled by himself, is still read with interest.* From such garrets many men of less parts than his have made their way to the woolsack or to the episcopal bench. But Goldsmith, while he suffered all the humiliations, threw away all the advantages, of his situation. He neglected the studies of the place, stood low at the examinations, was turned down to the bottom of his class for playing the buffoon in the Edition: current; Page: [247] lecture room, was severely reprimanded for pumping on a constable, and was caned by a brutal tutor for giving a ball in the attic story of the college to some gay youths and damsels from the city.

While Oliver was leading at Dublin a life divided between squalid distress and squalid dissipation, his father died, leaving a mere pittance. The youth obtained his bachelor’s degree, and left the university. During some time the humble dwelling to which his widowed mother had retired was his home. He was now in his twenty-first year; it was necessary that he should do something; and his education seemed to have fitted him to do nothing but to dress himself in gaudy colours, of which he was as fond as a magpie, to take a hand at cards, to sing Irish airs, to play the flute, to angle in summer, and to tell ghost stories by the fire in winter. He tried five or six professions in turn without success. He applied for ordination; but, as he applied in scarlet clothes, he was speedily turned out of the episcopal palace. He then became tutor in an opulent family, but soon quitted his situation in consequence of a dispute about play. Then he determined to emigrate to America. His relations, with much satisfaction, saw him set out for Cork on a good horse, with thirty pounds in his pocket. But in six weeks he came back on a miserable hack, without a penny, and informed his mother that the ship in which he had taken his passage, having got a fair wind while he was at a party of pleasure, had sailed without him. Then he resolved to study the law. A generous kinsman advanced fifty pounds. With this sum Goldsmith went to Dublin, was enticed into a gaming house, and lost every shilling. He then thought of medicine. A small purse was made up; and in his twenty-fourth year he was sent to Edinburgh. At Edinburgh he passed eighteen months in nominal attendance on lectures, and picked up some superficial information about chemistry and natural history. Thence he went to Leyden, still Edition: current; Page: [248] pretending to study physic. He left that celebrated university, the third university at which he had resided, in his twenty-seventh year, without a degree, with the merest smattering of medical knowledge, and with no property but his clothes and his flute. His flute, however, proved a useful friend. He rambled on foot through Flanders, France, and Switzerland, playing tunes which everywhere set the peasantry dancing, and which often procured for him a supper and a bed. He wandered as far as Italy. His musical performances, indeed, were not to the taste of the Italians; but he contrived to live on the alms which he obtained at the gates of convents. It should, however, be observed that the stories which he told about this part of his life ought to be received with great caution; for strict veracity was never one of his virtues; and a man who is ordinarily inaccurate in narration is likely to be more than ordinarily inaccurate when he talks about his own travels. Goldsmith, indeed, was so regardless of truth as to assert in print that he was present at a most interesting conversation between Voltaire and Fontenelle, and that this conversation took place at Paris. Now it is certain that Voltaire never was within a hundred leagues of Paris during the whole time which Goldsmith passed on the Continent.

In 1756 the wanderer landed at Dover, without a shilling, without a friend, and without a calling. He had, indeed, if his own unsupported evidence may be trusted, obtained from the University of Padua a doctor’s degree; but this dignity proved utterly useless to him. In England his flute was not in request: there were no convents; and he was forced to have recourse to a series of desperate expedients. He turned strolling player; but his face and figure were ill suited to the boards even of the humblest theatre. He pounded drugs and ran about London with phials for charitable chemists. He joined a swarm of beggars, which made its nest in Axe Yard. He was for a time usher of a school, and felt the Edition: current; Page: [249] miseries and humiliations of this situation so keenly that he thought it a promotion to be permitted to earn his bread as a bookseller’s hack; but he soon found the new yoke more galling than the old one, and was glad to become an usher again. He obtained a medical appointment in the service of the East India Company; but the appointment was speedily revoked. Why it was revoked we are not told. The subject was one on which he never liked to talk. It is probable that he was incompetent to perform the duties of the place. Then he presented himself at Surgeons’ Hall for examination, as mate to a naval hospital. Even to so humble a post he was found unequal. By this time the schoolmaster whom he had served for a morsel of food and the third part of a bed was no more. Nothing remained but to return to the lowest drudgery of literature. Goldsmith took a garret in a miserable court, to which he had to climb from the brink of Fleet Ditch by a dizzy ladder of flagstones called Breakneck Steps. The court and the ascent have long disappeared; but old Londoners will remember both.* Here, at thirty, the unlucky adventurer sat down to toil like a galley slave.

In the succeeding six years he sent to the press some things which have survived and many which have perished. He produced articles for reviews, magazines, and newspapers; children’s books which, bound in gilt paper and adorned with hideous woodcuts, appeared in the window of the once far-famed shop at the corner of Saint Paul’s Churchyard; “An Inquiry into the State of Polite Learning in Europe,” which, though of little or no value, is still reprinted among his works; a “Life of Beau Nash,” which is not reprinted, though it well deserves to Edition: current; Page: [250] be so*; a superficial and incorrect, but very readable, “History of England,” in a series of letters purporting to be addressed by a nobleman to his son; and some very lively and amusing “Sketches of London Society,” in a series of letters purporting to be addressed by a Chinese traveller to his friends. All these works were anonymous; but some of them were well known to be Goldsmith’s; and he gradually rose in the estimation of the booksellers for whom he drudged. He was, indeed, emphatically a popular writer. For accurate research or grave disquisition he was not well qualified by nature or by education. He knew nothing accurately: his reading had been desultory; nor had he meditated deeply on what he had read. He had seen much of the world; but he had noticed and retained little more of what he had seen than some grotesque incidents and characters which had happened to strike his fancy. But, though his mind was very scantily stored with materials, he used what materials he had in such a way as to produce a wonderful effect. There have been many greater writers; but perhaps no writer was ever more uniformly agreeable. His style was always pure and easy, and, on proper occasions, pointed and energetic. His narratives were always amusing, his descriptions always picturesque, his humour rich and joyous, yet not without an occasional tinge of amiable sadness. About everything that he wrote, serious or sportive, there was a certain natural grace and decorum, hardly to be expected from a man a great part of whose life had been passed among thieves and beggars, street-walkers and merry andrews, in those squalid dens which are the reproach of great capitals.

As his name gradually became known, the circle of his acquaintance widened. He was introduced to Johnson, who was then considered as the first of living English Edition: current; Page: [251] writers; to Reynolds, the first of English painters; and to Burke, who had not yet entered parliament, but had distinguished himself greatly by his writings and by the eloquence of his conversation. With these eminent men Goldsmith became intimate. In 1763 he was one of the nine original members of that celebrated fraternity which has sometimes been called the Literary Club, but which has always disclaimed that epithet, and still glories in the simple name of The Club.

By this time Goldsmith had quitted his miserable dwelling at the top of Breakneck Steps, and had taken chambers in the more civilised region of the Inns of Court. But he was still often reduced to pitiable shifts. Towards the close of 1764 his rent was so long in arrear that his landlady one morning called in the help of a sheriff’s officer. The debtor, in great perplexity, despatched a messenger to Johnson; and Johnson, always friendly, though often surly, sent back the messenger with a guinea, and promised to follow speedily. He came, and found that Goldsmith had changed the guinea, and was railing at the landlady over a bottle of Madeira. Johnson put the cork into the bottle, and entreated his friend to consider calmly how money was to be procured. Goldsmith said that he had a novel ready for the press. Johnson glanced at the manuscript, saw that there were good things in it, took it to a bookseller, sold it for 60l., and soon returned with the money. The rent was paid; and the sheriff’s officer withdrew. According to one story, Goldsmith gave his landlady a sharp reprimand for her treatment of him; according to another, he insisted on her joining him in a bowl of punch. Both stories are probably true. The novel which was thus ushered into the world was the “Vicar of Wakefield.”

But, before the “Vicar of Wakefield” appeared in print, came the great crisis of Goldsmith’s literary life. In Christmas week, 1764, he published a poem, entitled the “Traveller.” It was the first work to which he had Edition: current; Page: [252] put his name; and it at once raised him to the rank of a legitimate English classic. The opinion of the most skilful critics was, that nothing finer had appeared in verse since the fourth book of the “Dunciad.” In one respect the “Traveller” differs from all Goldsmith’s other writings. In general his designs were bad, and his execution good. In the “Traveller,” the execution, though deserving of much praise, is far inferior to the design. No philosophical poem, ancient or modern, has a plan so noble, and at the same time so simple. An English wanderer, seated on a crag among the Alps, near the point where three great countries meet, looks down on the boundless prospect, reviews his long pilgrimage, recalls the varieties of scenery, of climate, of government, of religion, of national character, which he has observed, and comes to the conclusion, just or unjust, that our happiness depends little on political institutions, and much on the temper and regulation of our own minds.

While the fourth edition of the “Traveller” was on the counters of the booksellers, the “Vicar of Wakefield” appeared, and rapidly obtained a popularity which has lasted down to our own time, and which is likely to last as long as our language. The fable is indeed one of the worst that ever was constructed. It wants, not merely that probability which ought to be found in a tale of common English life, but that consistency which ought to be found even in the wildest fiction about witches, giants, and fairies. But the earlier chapters have all the sweetness of pastoral poetry, together with all the vivacity of comedy. Moses and his spectacles, the vicar and his monogamy, the sharper and his cosmogony, the squire proving from Aristotle that relatives are related, Olivia preparing herself for the arduous task of converting a rakish lover by studying the controversy between Robinson Crusoe and Friday, the great ladies with their scandal about Sir Tomkyn’s amours and Dr. Burdock’s verses, and Edition: current; Page: [253] Mr. Burchell with his “Fudge,” have caused as much harmless mirth as has ever been caused by matter packed into so small a number of pages. The latter part of the tale is unworthy of the beginning. As we approach the catastrophe, the absurdities lie thicker and thicker; and the gleams of pleasantry become rarer and rarer.

The success which had attended Goldsmith as a novelist emboldened him to try his fortune as a dramatist. He wrote the “Goodnatured Man,” a piece which had a worse fate than it deserved. Garrick refused to produce it at Drury Lane. It was acted at Covent Garden in 1768, but was coldly received. The author, however, cleared by his benefit nights, and by the sale of the copyright, no less than 500l., five times as much as he had made by the “Traveller” and the “Vicar of Wakefield” together. The plot of the “Goodnatured Man” is, like almost all Goldsmith’s plots, very ill constructed. But some passages are exquisitely ludicrous; much more ludicrous, indeed, than suited the taste of the town at that time. A canting, mawkish play, entitled “False Delicacy,” had just had an immense run. Sentimentality was all the mode. During some years, more tears were shed at comedies than at tragedies; and a pleasantry which moved the audience to anything more than a grave smile was reprobated as low. It is not strange, therefore, that the very best scene in the “Goodnatured Man,” that in which Miss Richland finds her lover attended by the bailiff and the bailiff’s follower in full court dresses, should have been mercilessly hissed, and should have been omitted after the first night.

In 1770 appeared the “Deserted Village.” In mere diction and versification this celebrated poem is fully equal, perhaps superior, to the “Traveller;” and it is generally preferred to the “Traveller” by that large class of readers who think, with Bayes in the “Rehearsal,” that the only use of a plan is to bring in fine things. More discerning judges, however, while they admire the beauty Edition: current; Page: [254] of the details, are shocked by one unpardonable fault which pervades the whole. The fault we mean is not that theory about wealth and luxury which has so often been censured by political economists. The theory is indeed false: but the poem, considered merely as a poem, is not necessarily the worse on that account. The finest poem in the Latin language, indeed the finest didactic poem in any language, was written in defence of the silliest and meanest of all systems of natural and moral philosophy. A poet may easily be pardoned for reasoning ill; but he cannot be pardoned for describing ill, for observing the world in which he lives so carelessly that his portraits bear no resemblance to the originals, for exhibiting as copies from real life monstrous combinations of things which never were and never could be found together. What would be thought of a painter who should mix August and January in one landscape, who should introduce a frozen river into a harvest scene? Would it be a sufficient defence of such a picture to say that every part was exquisitely coloured, that the green hedges, the apple-trees loaded with fruit, the waggons reeling under the yellow sheaves, and the sun-burned reapers wiping their foreheads, were very fine, and that the ice and the boys sliding were also very fine? To such a picture the “Deserted Village” bears a great resemblance. It is made up of incongruous parts. The village in its happy days is a true English village. The village in its decay is an Irish village. The felicity and the misery which Goldsmith has brought close together belong to two different countries, and to two different stages in the progress of society. He had assuredly never seen in his native island such a rural paradise, such a seat of plenty, content, and tranquillity, as his “Auburn.” He had assuredly never seen in England all the inhabitants of such a paradise turned out of their homes in one day and forced to emigrate in a body to America. The hamlet he had probably seen in Kent; the ejectment he had probably Edition: current; Page: [255] seen in Munster: but, by joining the two, he has produced something which never was and never will be seen in any part of the world.

In 1773 Goldsmith tried his chance at Covent Garden with a second play, “She Stoops to Conquer.” The manager was not without great difficulty induced to bring this piece out. The sentimental comedy still reigned; and Goldsmith’s comedies were not sentimental. The “Goodnatured Man” had been too funny to succeed; yet the mirth of the “Goodnatured Man” was sober when compared with the rich drollery of “She Stoops to Conquer,” which is, in truth, an incomparable farce in five acts. On this occasion, however, genius triumphed. Pit, boxes, and galleries, were in a constant roar of laughter. If any bigoted admirer of Kelly and Cumberland ventured to hiss or groan, he was speedily silenced by a general cry of “turn him out,” or “throw him over.” Two generations have since confirmed the verdict which was pronounced on that night.

While Goldsmith was writing the “Deserted Village” and “She Stoops to Conquer,” he was employed on works of a very different kind, works from which he derived little reputation but much profit. He compiled for the use of schools a “History of Rome,” by which he made 300l., a “History of England,” by which he made 600l., a “History of Greece,” for which he received 250l., a “Natural History,” for which the booksellers covenanted to pay him 800 guineas. These works he produced without any elaborate research, by merely selecting, abridging, and translating into his own clear, pure, and flowing language what he found in books well known to the world, but too bulky or too dry for boys and girls. He committed some strange blunders; for he knew nothing with accuracy. Thus in his “History of England” he tells us that Naseby is in Yorkshire; nor did he correct this mistake when the book was reprinted. He was very nearly hoaxed into putting into the “History of Greece” Edition: current; Page: [256] an account of a battle between Alexander the Great and Montezuma. In his “Animated Nature” he relates, with faith and with perfect gravity, all the most absurd lies which he could find in books of travels about gigantic Patagonians, monkeys that preach sermons, nightingales that repeat long conversations. “If he can tell a horse from a cow,” said Johnson, “that is the extent of his knowledge of zoology.” How little Goldsmith was qualified to write about the physical sciences is sufficiently proved by two anecdotes. He on one occasion denied that the sun is longer in the northern than in the southern signs. It was vain to cite the authority of Maupertuis. “Maupertuis!” he cried, “I understand those matters better than Maupertuis.” On another occasion he, in defiance of the evidence of his own senses, maintained obstinately, and even angrily, that he chewed his dinner by moving his upper jaw.

Yet, ignorant as Goldsmith was, few writers have done more to make the first steps in the laborious road to knowledge easy and pleasant. His compilations are widely distinguished from the compilations of ordinary bookmakers. He was a great, perhaps an unequalled, master of the arts of selection and condensation. In these respects his histories of Rome and of England, and still more his own abridgments of these histories, well deserve to be studied. In general nothing is less attractive than an epitome: but the epitomes of Goldsmith, even when most concise, are always amusing; and to read them is considered by intelligent children, not as a task, but as a pleasure.

Goldsmith might now be considered as a prosperous man. He had the means of living in comfort, and even in what to one who had so often slept in barns and on bulks must have been luxury. His fame was great and was constantly rising. He lived in what was intellectually far the best society of the kingdom, in a society in which no talent or accomplishment was wanting, and in which the art of conversation was cultivated with splendid success. Edition: current; Page: [257] There probably were never four talkers more admirable in four different ways than Johnson, Burke, Beauclerk, and Garrick; and Goldsmith was on terms of intimacy with all the four. He aspired to share in their colloquial renown; but never was ambition more unfortunate. It may seem strange that a man who wrote with so much perspicuity, vivacity, and grace, should have been, whenever he took a part in conversation, an empty, noisy, blundering rattle. But on this point the evidence is overwhelming. So extraordinary was the contrast between Goldsmith’s published works and the silly things which he said, that Horace Walpole described him as an inspired idiot. “Noll,” said Garrick, “wrote like an angel, and talked like poor Pol.” Chamier declared that it was a hard exercise of faith to believe that so foolish a chatterer could have really written the “Traveller.” Even Boswell could say, with contemptuous compassion, that he liked very well to hear honest Goldsmith run on. “Yes, sir,” said Johnson; “but he should not like to hear himself.” Minds differ as rivers differ. There are transparent and sparkling rivers from which it is delightful to drink as they flow; to such rivers the minds of such men as Burke and Johnson may be compared. But there are rivers of which the water when first drawn is turbid and noisome, but becomes pellucid as crystal, and delicious to the taste, if it be suffered to stand till it has deposited a sediment; and such a river is a type of the mind of Goldsmith. His first thoughts on every subject were confused even to absurdity; but they required only a little time to work themselves clear. When he wrote they had that time; and therefore his readers pronounced him a man of genius: but when he talked he talked nonsense, and made himself the laughing-stock of his hearers. He was painfully sensible of his inferiority in conversation; he felt every failure keenly; yet he had not sufficient judgment and self-command to hold his tongue. His animal spirits and vanity were always impelling him to try Edition: current; Page: [258] to do the one thing which he could not do. After every attempt he felt that he had exposed himself, and writhed with shame and vexation; yet the next moment he began again.

His associates seem to have regarded him with kindness, which, in spite of their admiration of his writings, was not unmixed with contempt. In truth, there was in his character much to love, but very little to respect. His heart was soft even to weakness: he was so generous that he quite forgot to be just; he forgave injuries so readily that he might be said to invite them; and was so liberal to beggars that he had nothing left for his tailor and his butcher. He was vain, sensual, frivolous, profuse, improvident. One vice of a darker shade was imputed to him, envy. But there is not the least reason to believe that this bad passion, though it sometimes made him wince and utter fretful exclamations, ever impelled him to injure by wicked arts the reputation of any of his rivals. The truth probably is, that he was not more envious, but merely less prudent, than his neighbours. His heart was on his lips. All those small jealousies, which are but too common among men of letters, but which a man of letters who is also a man of the world does his best to conceal, Goldsmith avowed with the simplicity of a child. When he was envious, instead of affecting indifference, instead of damning with faint praise, instead of doing injuries slily and in the dark, he told everybody that he was envious. “Do not, pray, do not talk of Johnson in such terms,” he said to Boswell; “you harrow up my very soul.” George Steevens and Cumberland were men far too cunning to say such a thing. They would have echoed the praises of the man whom they envied, and then have sent to the newspapers anonymous libels upon him. Both what was good and what was bad in Goldsmith’s character was to his associates a perfect security that he would never commit such villany. He was neither ill-natured enough, nor long-headed enough, to be guilty Edition: current; Page: [259] of any malicious act which required contrivance and disguise.

Goldsmith has sometimes been represented as a man of genius, cruelly treated by the world, and doomed to struggle with difficulties which at last broke his heart. But no representation can be more remote from the truth. He did, indeed, go through much sharp misery before he had done anything considerable in literature. But, after his name had appeared on the title-page of the “Traveller,” he had none but himself to blame for his distresses. His average income, during the last seven years of his life, certainly exceeded 400l. a year; and 400l. a year ranked, among the incomes of that day, at least as high as 800l. a year would rank at present. A single man living in the Temple with 400l. a year might then be called opulent. Not one in ten of the young gentlemen of good families who were studying the law there had so much. But all the wealth which Lord Clive had brought from Bengal, and Sir Lawrence Dundas from Germany, joined together, would not have sufficed for Goldsmith. He spent twice as much as he had. He wore fine clothes, gave dinners of several courses, paid court to venal beauties. He had also, it should be remembered, to the honour of his heart, though not of his head, a guinea, or five, or ten, according to the state of his purse, ready for any tale of distress, true or false. But it was not in dress or feasting, in promiscuous amours or promiscuous charities, that his chief expense lay. He had been from boyhood a gambler, and at once the most sanguine and the most unskilful of gamblers. For a time he put off the day of inevitable ruin by temporary expedients. He obtained advances from booksellers, by promising to execute works which he never began. But at length this source of supply failed. He owed more than 2000l.; and he saw no hope of extrication from his embarrassments. His spirits and health gave way. He was attacked by a nervous fever, which he thought himself competent to treat. It would have been Edition: current; Page: [260] happy for him if his medical skill had been appreciated as justly by himself as by others. Notwithstanding the degree which he pretended to have received at Padua, he could procure no patients. “I do not practise,” he once said; “I make it a rule to prescribe only for my friends.” “Pray, dear Doctor,” said Beauclerk, “alter your rule; and prescribe only for your enemies.” Goldsmith now, in spite of this excellent advice, prescribed for himself. The remedy aggravated the malady. The sick man was induced to call in real physicians; and they at one time imagined that they had cured the disease. Still his weakness and restlessness continued. He could get no sleep. He could take no food. “You are worse,” said one of his medical attendants, “than you should be from the degree of fever which you have. Is your mind at ease?” “No, it is not,” were the last recorded words of Oliver Goldsmith. He died on the third of April 1774, in his forty-sixth year. He was laid in the churchyard of the Temple; but the spot was not marked by any inscription, and is now forgotten. The coffin was followed by Burke and Reynolds. Both these great men were sincere mourners. Burke, when he heard of Goldsmith’s death, had burst into a flood of tears. Reynolds had been so much moved by the news that he had flung aside his brush and palette for the day.

A short time after Goldsmith’s death, a little poem appeared, which will, as long as our language lasts, associate the names of his two illustrious friends with his own. It has already been mentioned that he sometimes felt keenly the sarcasm which his wild blundering talk brought upon him. He was, not long before his last illness, provoked into retaliating. He wisely betook himself to his pen; and at that weapon he proved himself a match for all his assailants together. Within a small compass he drew with a singularly easy and vigorous pencil the characters of nine or ten of his intimate associates. Though this little work did not receive his last touches, it must Edition: current; Page: [261] always be regarded as a masterpiece. It is impossible, however, not to wish that four or five likenesses which have no interest for posterity were wanting to that noble gallery, and that their places were supplied by sketches of Johnson and Gibbon, as happy and vivid as the sketches of Burke and Garrick.

Some of Goldsmith’s friends and admirers honoured him with a cenotaph in Westminster Abbey. Nollekens was the sculptor; and Johnson wrote the inscription. It is much to be lamented that Johnson did not leave to posterity a more durable and a more valuable memorial of his friend. A life of Goldsmith would have been an inestimable addition to the Lives of the Poets. No man appreciated Goldsmith’s writings more justly than Johnson: no man was better acquainted with Goldsmith’s character and habits; and no man was more competent to delineate with truth and spirit the peculiarities of a mind in which great powers were found in company with great weaknesses. But the list of poets to whose works Johnson was requested by the booksellers to furnish prefaces ended with Lyttleton, who died in 1773. The line seems to have been drawn expressly for the purpose of excluding the person whose portrait would have most fitly closed the series. Goldsmith, however, has been fortunate in his biographers. Within a few years his life has been written by Mr. Prior, by Mr. Washington Irving, and by Mr. Forster. The diligence of Mr. Prior deserves great praise; the style of Mr. Washington Irving is always pleasing; but the highest place must, in justice, be assigned to the eminently interesting work of Mr. Forster.

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SAMUEL JOHNSON. (December 1856.)

Samuel Johnson, one of the most eminent English writers of the eighteenth century, was the son of Michael Johnson, who was, at the beginning of that century, a magistrate of Lichfield, and a bookseller of great note in the midland counties. Michael’s abilities and attainments seem to have been considerable. He was so well acquainted with the contents of the volumes which he exposed to sale, that the country rectors of Staffordshire and Worcestershire thought him an oracle on points of learning. Between him and the clergy, indeed, there was a strong religious and political sympathy. He was a zealous churchman, and, though he had qualified himself for municipal office by taking the oaths to the sovereigns in possession, was to the last a Jacobite in heart. At his house, a house which is still pointed out to every traveller who visits Lichfield, Samuel was born on the 18th of September 1709. In the child, the physical, intellectual, and moral peculiarities which afterwards distinguished the man were plainly discernible; great muscular strength accompanied by much awkwardness and many infirmities; great quickness of parts, with a morbid propensity to sloth and procrastination; a kind and generous heart, with a gloomy and irritable temper. He had inherited from his ancestors a scrofulous taint, which it was beyond the power of medicine to remove. His parents were weak enough to believe that the royal touch was a specific for this malady. In his third year he was taken up to London, inspected by the court surgeon, prayed over by the court chaplains, and stroked and presented with a piece of gold Edition: current; Page: [263] by Queen Anne. One of his earliest recollections was that of a stately lady in a diamond stomacher and a long black hood. Her hand was applied in vain. The boy’s features, which were originally noble and not irregular, were distorted by his malady. His cheeks were deeply scarred. He lost for a time the sight of one eye; and he saw but very imperfectly with the other. But the force of his mind overcame every impediment. Indolent as he was, he acquired knowledge with such ease and rapidity that at every school to which he was sent he was soon the best scholar. From sixteen to eighteen he resided at home, and was left to his own devices. He learned much at this time, though his studies were without guidance and without plan. He ransacked his father’s shelves, dipped into a multitude of books, read what was interesting, and passed over what was dull. An ordinary lad would have acquired little or no useful knowledge in such a way: but much that was dull to ordinary lads was interesting to Samuel. He read little Greek; for his proficiency in that language was not such that he could take much pleasure in the masters of Attic poetry and eloquence. But he had left school a good Latinist; and he soon acquired, in the large and miscellaneous library of which he now had the command, an extensive knowledge of Latin literature. That Augustan delicacy of taste which is the boast of the great public schools of England he never possessed. But he was early familiar with some classical writers who were quite unknown to the best scholars in the sixth form at Eton. He was peculiarly attracted by the works of the great restorers of learning. Once, while searching for some apples, he found a huge folio volume of Petrarch’s works. The name excited his curiosity; and he eagerly devoured hundreds of pages. Indeed, the diction and versification of his own Latin compositions show that he had paid at least as much attention to modern copies from the antique as to the original models.

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While he was thus irregularly educating himself, his family was sinking into hopeless poverty. Old Michael Johnson was much better qualified to pore upon books, and to talk about them, than to trade in them. His business declined; his debts increased; it was with difficulty that the daily expenses of his household were defrayed. It was out of his power to support his son at either university: but a wealthy neighbour offered assistance; and, in reliance on promises which proved to be of very little value, Samuel was entered at Pembroke College, Oxford. When the young scholar presented himself to the rulers of that society, they were amazed not more by his ungainly figure and eccentric manners than by the quantity of extensive and curious information which he had picked up during many months of desultory but not unprofitable study. On the first day of his residence he surprised his teachers by quoting Macrobius; and one of the most learned among them declared that he had never known a freshman of equal attainments.

At Oxford, Johnson resided during about three years. He was poor, even to raggedness; and his appearance excited a mirth and a pity which were equally intolerable to his haughty spirit. He was driven from the quadrangle of Christ Church by the sneering looks which the members of that aristocratical society cast at the holes in his shoes. Some charitable person placed a new pair at his door; but he spurned them away in a fury. Distress made him, not servile, but reckless and ungovernable. No opulent gentleman commoner, panting for one-and-twenty, could have treated the academical authorities with more gross disrespect. The needy scholar was generally to be seen under the gate of Pembroke, a gate now adorned with his effigy, haranguing a circle of lads, over whom, in spite of his tattered gown and dirty linen, his wit and audacity gave him an undisputed ascendency. In every mutiny against the discipline of the college he was the Edition: current; Page: [265] ringleader. Much was pardoned, however, to a youth so highly distinguished by abilities and acquirements. He had early made himself known by turning Pope’s Messiah into Latin verse. The style and rhythm, indeed, were not exactly Virgilian; but the translation found many admirers, and was read with pleasure by Pope himself.

The time drew near at which Johnson would, in the ordinary course of things, have become a Bachelor of Arts: but he was at the end of his resources. Those promises of support on which he had relied had not been kept. His family could do nothing for him. His debts to Oxford tradesmen were small indeed, yet larger than he could pay. In the autumn of 1731, he was under the necessity of quitting the university without a degree. In the following winter his father died. The old man left but a pittance; and of that pittance almost the whole was appropriated to the support of his widow. The property to which Samuel succeeded amounted to no more than twenty pounds.

His life, during the thirty years which followed, was one hard struggle with poverty. The misery of that struggle needed no aggravation, but was aggravated by the sufferings of an unsound body and an unsound mind. Before the young man left the university, his hereditary malady had broken forth in a singularly cruel form. He had become an incurable hypochondriac. He said long after that he had been mad all his life, or at least not perfectly sane; and, in truth, eccentricities less strange than his have often been thought grounds sufficient for absolving felons, and for setting aside wills. His grimaces, his gestures, his mutterings, sometimes diverted and sometimes terrified people who did not know him. At a dinner table he would, in a fit of absence, stoop down and twitch off a lady’s shoe. He would amaze a drawing room by suddenly ejaculating a clause of the Lord’s Prayer. He would conceive an unintelligible aversion to a particular Edition: current; Page: [266] alley, and perform a great circuit rather than see the hateful place. He would set his heart on touching every post in the streets through which he walked. If by any chance he missed a post, he would go back a hundred yards and repair the omission. Under the influence of his disease, his senses became morbidly torpid, and his imagination morbidly active. At one time he would stand poring on the town clock without being able to tell the hour. At another, he would distinctly hear his mother, who was many miles off, calling him by his name. But this was not the worst. A deep melancholy took possession of him, and gave a dark tinge to all his views of human nature and of human destiny. Such wretchedness as he endured has driven many men to shoot themselves or drown themselves. But he was under no temptation to commit suicide. He was sick of life; but he was afraid of death; and he shuddered at every sight or sound which reminded him of the inevitable hour. In religion he found but little comfort during his long and frequent fits of dejection; for his religion partook of his own character. The light from heaven shone on him indeed, but not in a direct line, or with its own pure splendour. The rays had to struggle through a disturbing medium; they reached him refracted, dulled and discoloured by the thick gloom which had settled on his soul; and, though they might be sufficiently clear to guide him, were too dim to cheer him.

With such infirmities of body and of mind, this celebrated man was left, at two-and-twenty, to fight his way through the world. He remained during about five years in the midland counties. At Lichfield, his birth-place and his early home, he had inherited some friends and acquired others. He was kindly noticed by Henry Hervey, a gay officer of noble family, who happened to be quartered there. Gilbert Walmesley, registrar of the ecclesiastical court of the diocese, a man of distinguished parts, learning, and knowledge of the world, did himself honour by Edition: current; Page: [267] patronising the young adventurer, whose repulsive person, unpolished manners and squalid garb moved many of the petty aristocracy of the neighbourhood to laughter or to disgust. At Lichfield, however, Johnson could find no way of earning a livelihood. He became usher of a grammar school in Leicestershire; he resided as a humble companion in the house of a country gentleman; but a life of dependence was insupportable to his haughty spirit. He repaired to Birmingham, and there earned a few guineas by literary drudgery. In that town he printed a translation, little noticed at the time, and long forgotten, of a Latin book about Abyssinia. He then put forth proposals for publishing by subscription the poems of Politian, with notes containing a history of modern Latin verse: but subscriptions did not come in; and the volume never appeared.

While leading this vagrant and miserable life, Johnson fell in love. The object of his passion was Mrs. Elizabeth Porter, a widow who had children as old as himself. To ordinary spectators, the lady appeared to be a short, fat, coarse woman, painted half an inch thick, dressed in gaudy colours, and fond of exhibiting provincial airs and graces which were not exactly those of the Queensberrys and Lepels. To Johnson, however, whose passions were strong, whose eyesight was too weak to distinguish ceruse from natural bloom, and who had seldom or never been in the same room with a woman of real fashion, his Titty, as he called her, was the most beautiful, graceful and accomplished of her sex. That his admiration was unfeigned cannot be doubted; for she was as poor as himself. She accepted, with a readiness which did her little honour, the addresses of a suitor who might have been her son. The marriage, however, in spite of occasional wranglings, proved happier than might have been expected. The lover continued to be under the illusions of the wedding-day till the lady died in her sixty-fourth year. On her monument he placed an inscription extolling the charms Edition: current; Page: [268] of her person and of her manners; and, when, long after her decease, he had occasion to mention her, he exclaimed, with a tenderness half ludicrous, half pathetic, “Pretty creature!”

His marriage made it necessary for him to exert himself more strenuously than he had hitherto done. He took a house in the neighbourhood of his native town, and advertised for pupils. But eighteen months passed away; and only three pupils came to his academy. Indeed, his appearance was so strange, and his temper so violent, that his schoolroom must have resembled an ogre’s den. Nor was the tawdry painted grandmother whom he called his Titty well qualified to make provision for the comfort of young gentlemen. David Garrick, who was one of the pupils, used, many years later, to throw the best company of London into convulsions of laughter by mimicking the endearments of this extraordinary pair.

At length Johnson, in the twenty-eighth year of his age, determined to seek his fortune in the capital as a literary adventurer. He set out with a few guineas, three acts of the tragedy of Irene in manuscript, and two or three letters of introduction from his friend Walmesley.

Never, since literature became a calling in England, had it been a less gainful calling han at the time when Johnson took up his residence in London. In the preceding generation a writer of eminent merit was sure to be munificently rewarded by the government. The least that he could expect was a pension or a sinecure place; and, if he showed any aptitude for politics, he might hope to be a member of parliament, a lord of the treasury, an ambassador, a secretary of state. It would be easy, on the other hand, to name several writers of the nineteenth century of whom the least successful has received forty thousand pounds from the booksellers. But Johnson entered on his vocation in the most dreary part of the Edition: current; Page: [269] dreary interval which separated two ages of prosperity. Literature had ceased to flourish under the patronage of the great, and had not begun to flourish under the patronage of the public. One man of letters, indeed, Pope, had acquired by his pen what was then considered as a handsome fortune, and lived on a footing of equality with nobles and ministers of state. But this was a solitary exception. Even an author whose reputation was established, and whose works were popular, such an author as Thomson, whose Seasons were in every library, such an author as Fielding, whose Pasquin had had a greater run than any drama since The Beggar’s Opera, was sometimes glad to obtain, by pawning his best coat, the means of dining on tripe at a cookshop underground, where he could wipe his hands, after his greasy meal, on the back of a Newfoundland dog. It is easy, therefore, to imagine what humiliations and privations must have awaited the novice who had still to earn a name. One of the publishers to whom Johnson applied for employment measured with a scornful eye that athletic though uncouth frame, and exclaimed, “You had better get a porter’s knot, and carry trunks.” Nor was the advice bad; for a porter was likely to be as plentifully fed, and as comfortably lodged, as a poet.

Some time appears to have elapsed before Johnson was able to form any literary connection from which he could expect more than bread for the day which was passing over him. He never forgot the generosity with which Hervey, who was now residing in London, relieved his wants during this time of trial. “Harry Hervey,” said the old philosopher many years later, “was a vicious man; but he was very kind to me. If you call a dog Hervey I shall love him.” At Hervey’s table Johnson sometimes enjoyed feasts which were made more agreeable by contrast. But in general he dined, and thought that he dined well, on sixpenny worth of meat, and a pennyworth of bread, at an alehouse near Drury Lane.

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The effect of the privations and sufferings which he endured at this time was discernible to the last in his temper and his deportment. His manners had never been courtly. They now became almost savage. Being frequently under the necessity of wearing shabby coats and dirty shirts, he became a confirmed sloven. Being often very hungry when he sat down to his meals, he contracted a habit of eating with ravenous greediness. Even to the end of his life, and even at the tables of the great, the sight of food affected him as it affects wild beasts and birds of prey. His taste in cookery, formed in subterranean ordinaries and alamode beefshops, was far from delicate. Whenever he was so fortunate as to have near him a hare that had been kept too long, or a meat pie made with rancid butter, he gorged himself with such violence that his veins swelled, and the moisture broke out on his forehead. The affronts which his poverty emboldened stupid and low-minded men to offer to him would have broken a mean spirit into sycophancy, but made him rude even to ferocity. Unhappily the insolence which, while it was defensive, was pardonable, and in some sense respectable, accompanied him into societies where he was treated with courtesy and kindness. He was repeatedly provoked into striking those who had taken liberties with him. All the sufferers, however, were wise enough to abstain from talking about their beatings, except Osborne, the most rapacious and brutal of booksellers, who proclaimed everywhere that he had been knocked down by the huge fellow whom he had hired to puff the Harleian Library.

About a year after Johnson had begun to reside in London, he was fortunate enough to obtain regular employment from Cave, an enterprising and intelligent bookseller, who was proprietor and editor of the “Gentleman’s Magazine.” That journal, just entering on the ninth year of its long existence, was the only periodical work in the kingdom which then had what would now be called a Edition: current; Page: [271] large circulation. It was, indeed, the chief source of parliamentary intelligence. It was not then safe, even during a recess, to publish an account of the proceedings of either House without some disguise. Cave, however, ventured to entertain his readers with what he called “Reports of the Debates of the Senate of Lilliput.” France was Blefuscu; London was Mildendo: pounds were sprugs: the Duke of Newcastle was the Nardac secretary of State: Lord Hardwicke was the Hurgo Hickrad; and William Pulteney was Wingul Pulnub. To write the speeches was, during several years, the business of Johnson. He was generally furnished with notes, meagre indeed, and inaccurate, of what had been said; but sometimes he had to find arguments and eloquence both for the ministry and for the opposition. He was himself a Tory, not from rational conviction—for his serious opinion was that one form of government was just as good or as bad as another—but from mere passion, such as inflamed the Capulets against the Montagues, or the Blues of the Roman circus against the Greens. In his infancy he had heard so much talk about the villanies of the Whigs, and the dangers of the Church, that he had become a furious partisan when he could scarcely speak. Before he was three he had insisted on being taken to hear Sacheverell preach at Lichfield Cathedral, and had listened to the sermon with as much respect, and probably with as much intelligence, as any Staffordshire squire in the congregation. The work which had been begun in the nursery had been completed by the university. Oxford, when Johnson resided there, was the most Jacobitical place in England; and Pembroke was one of the most Jacobitical colleges in Oxford. The prejudices which he brought up to London were scarcely less absurd than those of his own Tom Tempest. Charles II. and James II. were two of the best kings that ever reigned. Laud, a poor creature who never did, said, or wrote anything indicating more than the ordinary capacity of an old Edition: current; Page: [272] woman, was a prodigy of parts and learning over whose tomb Art and Genius still continued to weep. Hampden deserved no more honourable name than that of “the zealot of rebellion.” Even the ship money, condemned not less decidedly by Falkland and Clarendon than by the bitterest Roundheads, Johnson would not pronounce to have been an unconstitutional impost. Under a government, the mildest that had ever been known in the world—under a government which allowed to the people an unprecedented liberty of speech and action — he fancied that he was a slave; he assailed the ministry with obloquy which refuted itself, and regretted the lost freedom and happiness of those golden days in which a writer who had taken but one-tenth part of the license allowed to him would have been pilloried, mangled with the shears, whipped at the cart’s tail, and flung into a noisome dungeon to die. He hated dissenters and stock-jobbers, the excise and the army, septennial parliaments, and continental connections. He long had an aversion to the Scotch, an aversion of which he could not remember the commencement, but which, he owned, had probably originated in his abhorrence of the conduct of the nation during the Great Rebellion. It is easy to guess in what manner debates on great party questions were likely to be reported by a man whose judgment was so much disordered by party spirit. A show of fairness was indeed necessary to the prosperity of the Magazine. But Johnson long afterwards owned that, though he had saved appearances, he had taken care that the Whig dogs should not have the best of it; and, in fact, every passage which has lived, every passage which bears the marks of his higher faculties, is put into the mouth of some member of the opposition.

A few weeks after Johnson had entered on these obscure labours, he published a work which at once placed him high among the writers of his age. It is probable that what he had suffered during his first year in London had often reminded him of some parts of that noble poem in which Edition: current; Page: [273] Juvenal had described the misery and degradation of a needy man of letters, lodged among the pigeons’ nests in the tottering garrets which overhung the streets of Rome. Pope’s admirable imitations of Horace’s Satires and Epistles had recently appeared, were in every hand, and were by many readers thought superior to the originals. What Pope had done for Horace, Johnson aspired to do for Juvenal. The enterprise was bold, and yet judicious. For between Johnson and Juvenal there was much in common, much more certainly than between Pope and Horace.

Johnson’s London appeared without his name in May 1738. He received only ten guineas for this stately and vigorous poem: but the sale was rapid, and the success complete. A second edition was required within a week. Those small critics who are always desirous to lower established reputations ran about proclaiming that the anonymous satirist was superior to Pope in Pope’s own peculiar department of literature. It ought to be remembered, to the honour of Pope, that he joined heartily in the applause with which the appearance of a rival genius was welcomed. He made inquiries about the author of London. Such a man, he said, could not long be concealed. The name was soon discovered; and Pope, with great kindness, exerted himself to obtain an academical degree and the mastership of a grammar school for the poor young poet. The attempt failed; and Johnson remained a bookseller’s hack.

It does not appear that these two men, the most eminent writer of the generation which was going out, and the most eminent writer of the generation which was coming in, ever saw each other. They lived in very different circles, one surrounded by dukes and earls, the other by starving pamphleteers and indexmakers. Among Johnson’s associates at this time may be mentioned Boyse, who, when his shirts were pledged, scrawled Latin verses sitting up in bed with his arms through two holes in his blanket; who composed very respectable sacred poetry when he was sober; Edition: current; Page: [274] and who was at last run over by a hackney coach when he was drunk: Hoole, surnamed the metaphysical tailor, who, instead of attending to his measures, used to trace geometrical diagrams on the board where he sate cross-legged: and the penitent impostor, George Psalmanazar, who, after poring all day, in a humble lodging, on the folios of Jewish rabbis and Christian fathers, indulged himself at night with literary and theological conversation at an alehouse in the city. But the most remarkable of the persons with whom at this time Johnson consorted was Richard Savage, an earl’s son, a shoemaker’s apprentice, who had seen life in all its forms, who had feasted among blue ribands in Saint James’s Square, and had lain with fifty pounds’ weight of irons on his legs in the condemned ward of Newgate. This man had, after many vicissitudes of fortune, sunk at last into abject and hopeless poverty. His pen had failed him. His patrons had been taken away by death, or estranged by the riotous profusion with which he squandered their bounty, and the ungrateful insolence with which he rejected their advice. He now lived by begging. He dined on venison and champagne whenever he had been so fortunate as to borrow a guinea. If his questing had been unsuccessful, he appeased the rage of hunger with some scraps of broken meat, and lay down to rest under the Piazza of Covent Garden in warm weather, and, in cold weather, as near as he could get to the furnace of a glass house. Yet, in his misery, he was still an agreeable companion. He had an inexhaustible store of anecdotes about that gay and brilliant world from which he was now an outcast. He had observed the great men of both parties in hours of careless relaxation, had seen the leaders of opposition without the mask of patriotism, and had heard the prime minister roar with laughter and tell stories not over decent. During some months Savage lived in the closest familiarity with Johnson; and then the friends parted, not without tears. Johnson remained in London to drudge for Cave. Savage went to the West of England, Edition: current; Page: [275] lived there as he had lived everywhere, and, in 1743, died, penniless and heart-broken, in Bristol gaol.

Soon after his death, while the public curiosity was strongly excited about his extraordinary character, and his not less extraordinary adventures, a life of him appeared widely different from the catchpenny lives of eminent men which were then a staple article of manufacture in Grub Street. The style was indeed deficient in ease and variety; and the writer was evidently too partial to the Latin element of our language. But the little work, with all its faults, was a masterpiece. No finer specimen of literary biography existed in any language, living or dead; and a discerning critic might have confidently predicted that the author was destined to be the founder of a new school of English eloquence.

The Life of Savage was anonymous; but it was well known in literary circles that Johnson was the writer. During the three years which followed, he produced no important work; but he was not, and indeed could not be, idle. The fame of his abilities and learning continued to grow. Warburton pronounced him a man of parts and genius; and the praise of Warburton was then no light thing. Such was Johnson’s reputation that, in 1747, several eminent booksellers combined to employ him in the arduous work of preparing a Dictionary of the English Language, in two folio volumes. The sum which they agreed to pay him was only fifteen hundred guineas; and out of this sum he had to pay several poor men of letters who assisted him in the humbler parts of his task.

The prospectus of the Dictionary he addressed to the Earl of Chesterfield. Chesterfield had long been celebrated for the politeness of his manners, the brilliancy of his wit, and the delicacy of his taste. He was acknowledged to be the finest speaker in the House of Lords. He had recently governed Ireland, at a momentous conjuncture, with eminent firmness, wisdom, and humanity; and he had since become Secretary of State. He received Johnson’s homage Edition: current; Page: [276] with the most winning affability, and requited it with a few guineas, bestowed doubtless in a very graceful manner, but was by no means desirous to see all his carpets blackened with the London mud, and his soups and wines thrown to right and left over the gowns of fine ladies and the waistcoats of fine gentlemen, by an absent, awkward scholar, who gave strange starts and uttered strange growls, who dressed like a scarecrow, and ate like a cormorant. During some time Johnson continued to call on his patron, but, after being repeatedly told by the porter that his lordship was not at home, took the hint, and ceased to present himself at the inhospitable door.

Johnson had flattered himself that he should have completed his Dictionary by the end of 1750; but it was not till 1755 that he at length gave his huge volumes to the world. During the seven years which he passed in the drudgery of penning definitions and marking quotations for transcription, he sought for relaxation in literary labour of a more agreeable kind. In 1749 he published the Vanity of Human Wishes, an excellent imitation of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal. It is in truth not easy to say whether the palm belongs to the ancient or to the modern poet. The couplets in which the fall of Wolsey is described, though lofty and sonorous, are feeble when compared with the wonderful lines which bring before us all Rome in tumult on the day of the fall of Sejanus, the laurels on the doorposts, the white bull stalking towards the Capitol, the statues rolling down from their pedestals, the flatterers of the disgraced minister running to see him dragged with a hook through the streets, and to have a kick at his carcase before it is hurled into the Tiber. It must be owned too that in the concluding passage the Christian moralist has not made the most of his advantages, and has fallen decidedly short of the sublimity of his Pagan model. On the other hand, Juvenal’s Hannibal must yield to Johnson’s Charles; and Johnson’s vigorous and pathetic enumeration of the miseries of a Edition: current; Page: [277] literary life must be allowed to be superior to Juvenal’s lamentation over the fate of Demosthenes and Cicero.

For the copyright of the Vanity of Human Wishes Johnson received only fifteen guineas.

A few days after the publication of this poem, his tragedy, begun many years before, was brought on the stage. His pupil, David Garrick, had, in 1741, made his appearance on a humble stage in Goodman’s Fields, had at once risen to the first place among actors, and was now, after several years of almost uninterrupted success, manager of Drury Lane Theatre. The relation between him and his old preceptor was of a very singular kind. They repelled each other strongly, and yet attracted each other strongly. Nature had made them of very different clay; and circumstances had fully brought out the natural peculiarities of both. Sudden prosperity had turned Garrick’s head. Continued adversity had soured Johnson’s temper. Johnson saw with more envy than became so great a man the villa, the plate, the china, the Brussels carpet, which the little mimic had got by repeating, with grimaces and gesticulations, what wiser men had written; and the exquisitely sensitive vanity of Garrick was galled by the thought that, while all the rest of the world was applauding him, he could obtain from one morose cynic, whose opinion it was impossible to despise, scarcely any compliment not acidulated with scorn. Yet the two Lichfield men had so many early recollections in common, and sympathised with each other on so many points on which they sympathised with nobody else in the vast population of the capital, that, though the master was often provoked by the monkey-like impertinence of the pupil, and the pupil by the bearish rudeness of the master, they remained friends till they were parted by death. Garrick now brought Irene out, with alterations sufficient to displease the author, yet not sufficient to make the piece pleasing to the audience. The public, however, listened with Edition: current; Page: [278] little emotion, but with much civility, to five acts of monotonous declamation. After nine representations the play was withdrawn. It is, indeed, altogether unsuited to the stage, and, even when perused in the closet, will be found hardly worthy of the author. He had not the slightest notion of what blank verse should be. A change in the last syllable of every other line would make the versification of the Vanity of Human Wishes closely resemble the versification of Irene. The poet, however, cleared, by his benefit nights, and by the sale of the copyright of his tragedy, about three hundred pounds, then a great sum in his estimation.

About a year after the representation of Irene, he began to publish a series of short essays on morals, manners, and literature. This species of composition had been brought into fashion by the success of the Tatler, and by the still more brilliant success of the Spectator. A crowd of small writers had vainly attempted to rival Addison. The Lay Monastery, the Censor, the Freethinker, the Plain Dealer, the Champion, and other works of the same kind, had had their short day. None of them had obtained a permanent place in our literature; and they are now to be found only in the libraries of the curious. At length Johnson undertook the adventure in which so many aspirants had failed. In the thirty-sixth year after the appearance of the last number of the Spectator appeared the first number of the Rambler. From March 1750 to March 1752, this paper continued to come out every Tuesday and Saturday.

From the first the Rambler was enthusiastically admired by a few eminent men. Richardson, when only five numbers had appeared, pronounced it equal, if not superior, to the Spectator. Young and Hartley expressed their approbation not less warmly. Bubb Dodington, among whose many faults indifference to the claims of genius and learning cannot be reckoned, solicited the acquaintance of the writer. In consequence probably of the good offices of Dodington, who was then the confidential adviser of Edition: current; Page: [279] Prince Frederic, two of his Royal Highness’s gentlemen carried a gracious message to the printing office, and ordered seven copies for Leicester House. But these overtures seem to have been very coldly received. Johnson had had enough of the patronage of the great to last him all his life, and was not disposed to haunt any other door as he had haunted the door of Chesterfield.

By the public the Rambler was at first very coldly received. Though the price of a number was only twopence, the sale did not amount to five hundred. The profits were therefore very small. But as soon as the flying leaves were collected and reprinted they became popular. The author lived to see thirteen thousand copies spread over England alone. Separate editions were published for the Scotch and Irish markets. A large party pronounced the style perfect, so absolutely perfect that in some essays it would be impossible for the writer himself to alter a single word for the better. Another party, not less numerous, vehemently accused him of having corrupted the purity of the English tongue. The best critics admitted that his diction was too monotonous, too obviously artificial, and now and then turgid even to absurdity. But they did justice to the acuteness of his observations on morals and manners, to the constant precision and frequent brilliancy of his language, to the weighty and magnificent eloquence of many serious passages, and to the solemn yet pleasing humour of some of the lighter papers. On the question of precedence between Addison and Johnson, a question which, seventy years ago, was much disputed, posterity has pronounced a decision from which there is no appeal. Sir Roger, his chaplain and his butler, Will Wimble and Will Honeycomb, the Vision of Mirza, the Journal of the Retired Citizen, the Everlasting Club, the Dunmow Flitch, the Loves of Hilpah and Shalum, the Visit to the Exchange, and the Visit to the Abbey, are known to everybody. But many men and women, even of highly cultivated minds, are unacquainted Edition: current; Page: [280] with Squire Bluster and Mrs. Busy, Quisquilius and Venustulus, the Allegory of Wit and Learning, the Chronicle of the Revolutions of a Garret, and the sad fate of Aningait and Ajut.

The last Rambler was written in a sad and gloomy hour. Mrs. Johnson had been given over by the physicians. Three days later she died. She left her husband almost broken-hearted. Many people had been surprised to see a man of his genius and learning stooping to every drudgery, and denying himself almost every comfort, for the purpose of supplying a silly, affected old woman with superfluities, which she accepted with but little gratitude. But all his affection had been concentrated on her. He had neither brother nor sister, neither son nor daughter. To him she was beautiful as the Gunnings, and witty as Lady Mary. Her opinion of his writings was more important to him than the voice of the pit of Drury Lane Theatre or the judgment of the Monthly Review. The chief support which had sustained him through the most arduous labour of his life was the hope that she would enjoy the fame and the profit which he anticipated from his Dictionary. She was gone; and in that vast labyrinth of streets, peopled by eight hundred thousand human beings, he was alone. Yet it was necessary for him to set himself, as he expressed it, doggedly to work. After three more laborious years, the Dictionary was at length complete.

It had been generally supposed that this great work would be dedicated to the eloquent and accomplished nobleman to whom the prospectus had been addressed. He well knew the value of such a compliment; and therefore, when the day of publication drew near, he exerted himself to soothe, by a show of zealous and at the same time of delicate and judicious kindness, the pride which he had so cruelly wounded. Since the Ramblers had ceased to appear, the town had been entertained by a journal called The World, to which many men of high rank and fashion Edition: current; Page: [281] contributed. In two successive numbers of The World the Dictionary was, to use the modern phrase, puffed with wonderful skill. The writings of Johnson were warmly praised. It was proposed that he should be invested with the authority of a Dictator, nay, of a Pope, over our language, and that his decisions about the meaning and the spelling of words should be received as final. His two folios, it was said, would of course be bought by everybody who could afford to buy them. It was soon known that these papers were written by Chesterfield. But the just resentment of Johnson was not to be so appeased. In a letter written with singular energy and dignity of thought and language, he repelled the tardy advances of his patron. The Dictionary came forth without a dedication. In the preface the author truly declared that he owed nothing to the great, and described the difficulties with which he had been left to struggle so forcibly and pathetically that the ablest and most malevolent of all the enemies of his fame, Horne Tooke, never could read that passage without tears.

The public, on this occasion, did Johnson full justice, and something more than justice. The best lexicographer may well be content if his productions are received by the world with cold esteem. But Johnson’s Dictionary was hailed with an enthusiasm such as no similar work has ever excited. It was indeed the first dictionary which could be read with pleasure. The definitions show so much acuteness of thought and command of language, and the passages quoted from poets, divines and philosophers are so skilfully selected, that a leisure hour may always be very agreeably spent in turning over the pages. The faults of the book resolve themselves, for the most part, into one great fault. Johnson was a wretched etymologist. He knew little or nothing of any Teutonic language except English, which indeed, as he wrote it, was scarcely a Teutonic language; and thus he was absolutely at the mercy of Junius and Skinner.

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The Dictionary, though it raised Johnson’s fame, added nothing to his pecuniary means. The fifteen hundred guineas which the booksellers had agreed to pay him had been advanced and spent before the last sheets issued from the press. It is painful to relate that, twice in the course of the year which followed the publication of this great work, he was arrested and carried to spunging-houses, and that he was twice indebted for his liberty to his excellent friend Richardson. It was still necessary for the man who had been formally saluted by the highest authority as Dictator of the English language to supply his wants by constant toil. He abridged his Dictionary. He proposed to bring out an edition of Shakspeare by subscription; and many subscribers sent in their names, and laid down their money; but he soon found the task so little to his taste that he turned to more attractive employments. He contributed many papers to a new monthly journal, which was called the Literary Magazine. Few of these papers have much interest; but among them was the very best thing that he ever wrote, a masterpiece both of reasoning and of satirical pleasantry, the review of Jenyns’s Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Evil.

In the spring of 1758 Johnson put forth the first of a series of essays, entitled The Idler. During two years these essays continued to appear weekly. They were eagerly read, widely circulated, and, indeed, impudently pirated, while they were still in the original form, and had a large sale when collected into volumes. The Idler may be described as a second part of the Rambler, somewhat livelier and somewhat weaker than the first part.

While Johnson was busied with his Idlers, his mother, who had accomplished her ninetieth year, died at Lichfield. It was long since he had seen her; but he had not failed to contribute largely, out of his small means, to her comfort. In order to defray the charges of her Edition: current; Page: [283] funeral, and to pay some debts which she had left, he wrote a little book in a single week, and sent off the sheets to the press without reading them over. A hundred pounds were paid him for the copyright; and the purchasers had great cause to be pleased with their bargain; for the book was Rasselas.

The success of Rasselas was great, though such ladies as Miss Lydia Languish must have been grievously disappointed when they found that the new volume from the circulating library was little more than a dissertation on the author’s favourite theme, the Vanity of Human Wishes; that the Prince of Abyssinia was without a mistress, and the Princess without a lover; and that the story set the hero and the heroine down exactly where it had taken them up. The style was the subject of much eager controversy. The Monthly Review and the Critical Review took different sides. Many readers pronounced the writer a pompous pedant, who would never use a word of two syllables where it was possible to use a word of six, and who could not make a waiting woman relate her adventures without balancing every noun with another noun, and every epithet with another epithet. Another party, not less zealous, cited with delight numerous passages in which weighty meaning was expressed with accuracy and illustrated with splendour. And both the censure and the praise were merited.

About the plan of Rasselas little was said by the critics; and yet the faults of the plan might seem to invite severe criticism. Johnson has frequently blamed Shakspeare for neglecting the proprieties of time and place, and for ascribing to one age or nation the manners and opinions of another. Yet Shakspeare has not sinned in this way more grievously than Johnson. Rasselas and Imlac, Nekayah and Pekuah, are evidently meant to be Abyssinians of the eighteenth century: for the Europe which Imlac describes is the Europe of the eighteenth century; and the inmates of the Happy Valley talk familiarly of Edition: current; Page: [284] that law of gravitation which Newton discovered, and which was not fully received even at Cambridge till the eighteenth century. What a real company of Abyssinians would have been may be learned from Bruce’s Travels. But Johnson, not content with turning filthy savages, ignorant of their letters, and gorged with raw steaks cut from living cows, into philosophers as eloquent and enlightened as himself or his friend Burke, and into ladies as highly accomplished as Mrs. Lennox or Mrs. Sheridan, transferred the whole domestic system of England to Egypt. Into a land of harems, a land of polygamy, a land where women are married without ever being seen, he introduced the flirtations and jealousies of our ball-rooms. In a land where there is boundless liberty of divorce, wedlock is described as the indissoluble compact. “A youth and maiden meeting by chance, or brought together by artifice, exchange glances, reciprocate civilities, go home, and dream of each other. Such,” says Rasselas, “is the common process of marriage.” Such it may have been, and may still be, in London, but assuredly not at Cairo. A writer who was guilty of such improprieties had little right to blame the poet who made Hector quote Aristotle, and represented Julio Romano as flourishing in the days of the oracle of Delphi.

By such exertions as have been described, Johnson supported himself till the year 1762. In that year a great change in his circumstances took place. He had from a child been an enemy of the reigning dynasty. His Jacobite prejudices had been exhibited with little disguise both in his works and in his conversation. Even in his massy and elaborate Dictionary, he had, with a strange want to taste and judgment, inserted bitter and contumelious reflections on the Whig party. The excise, which was a favourite resource of Whig financiers, he had designated as a hateful tax. He had railed against the commissioners of excise in language so coarse that they Edition: current; Page: [285] had seriously thought of prosecuting him. He had with difficulty been prevented from holding up the Lord Privy Seal by name as an example of the meaning of the word “renegade.” A pension he had defined as pay given to a state hireling to betray his country; a pensioner as a slave of state hired by a stipend to obey a master. It seemed unlikely that the author of these definitions would himself be pensioned. But that was a time of wonders. George the Third had ascended the throne; and had, in the course of a few months, disgusted many of the old friends and conciliated many of the old enemies of his house. The city was becoming mutinous. Oxford was becoming loyal. Cavendishes and Bentincks were murmuring. Somersets and Wyndhams were hastening to kiss hands. The head of the treasury was now Lord Bute, who was a Tory, and could have no objection to Johnson’s Toryism. Bute wished to be thought a patron of men of letters; and Johnson was one of the most eminent and one of the most needy men of letters in Europe. A pension of three hundred a year was graciously offered, and with very little hesitation accepted.

This event produced a change in Johnson’s whole way of life. For the first time since his boyhood he no longer felt the daily goad urging him to the daily toil. He was at liberty, after thirty years of anxiety and drudgery, to indulge his constitutional indolence, to lie in bed till two in the afternoon, and to sit up talking till four in the morning, without fearing either the printer’s devil or the sheriff’s officer.

One laborious task indeed he had bound himself to perform. He had received large subscriptions for his promised edition of Shakspeare; he had lived on those subscriptions during some years; and he could not without disgrace omit to perform his part of the contract. His friends repeatedly exhorted him to make an effort; and he repeatedly resolved to do so. But, notwithstanding their exhortations and his resolutions, month followed Edition: current; Page: [286] month, year followed year, and nothing was done. He prayed fervently against his idleness; he determined, as often as he received the sacrament, that he would no longer doze away and trifle away his time; but the spell under which he lay resisted prayer and sacrament. His private notes at this time are made up of self-reproaches. “My indolence,” he wrote on Easter eve in 1764, “has sunk into grosser sluggishness. A kind of strange oblivion has overspread me, so that I know not what has become of the last year.” Easter 1765 came, and found him still in the same state, “My time,” he wrote, “has been unprofitably spent, and seems as a dream that has left nothing behind. My memory grows confused, and I know not how the days pass over me.” Happily for his honour, the charm which held him captive was at length broken by no gentle or friendly hand. He had been weak enough to pay serious attention to a story about a ghost which haunted a house in Cock Lane, and had actually gone himself, with some of his friends, at one in the morning, to St. John’s Church, Clerkenwell, in the hope of receiving a communication from the perturbed spirit. But the spirit, though adjured with all solemnity, remained obstinately silent; and it soon appeared that a naughty girl of eleven had been amusing herself by making fools of so many philosophers. Churchill, who, confident in his powers, drunk with popularity, and burning with party spirit, was looking for some man of established fame and Tory politics to insult, celebrated the Cock Lane Ghost in three cantos, nicknamed Johnson Pomposo, asked where the book was which had been so long promised and so liberally paid for, and directly accused the great moralist of cheating. This terrible word proved effectual; and in October 1765 appeared, after a delay of nine years, the new edition of Shakspeare.

This publication saved Johnson’s character for honesty, but added nothing to the fame of his abilities and learning. The preface, though it contains some good passages, is not Edition: current; Page: [287] in his best manner. The most valuable notes are those in which he had an opportunity of showing how attentively he had during many years observed human life and human nature. The best specimen is the note on the character of Polonius. Nothing so good is to be found even in Wilhelm Meister’s admirable examination of Hamlet. But here praise must end. It would be difficult to name a more slovenly, a more worthless, edition of any great classic. The reader may turn over play after play without finding one happy conjectural emendation, or one ingenious and satisfactory explanation of a passage which had baffled preceding commentators. Johnson had, in his Prospectus, told the world that he was peculiarly fitted for the task which he had undertaken, because he had, as a lexicographer, been under the necessity of taking a wider view of the English language than any of his predecessors. That his knowledge of our literature was extensive is indisputable. But, unfortunately, he had altogether neglected that very part of our literature with which it is especially desirable that an editor of Shakspeare should be conversant. It is dangerous to assert a negative. Yet little will be risked by the assertion, that in the two folio volumes of the English Dictionary there is not a single passage quoted from any dramatist of the Elizabethan age, except Shakspeare and Ben. Even from Ben the quotations are few. Johnson might easily, in a few months, have made himself well acquainted with every old play that was extant. But it never seems to have occurred to him that this was a necessary preparation for the work which he had undertaken. He would doubtless have admitted that it would be the height of absurdity in a man who was not familiar with the works of Æschylus and Euripides to publish an edition of Sophocles. Yet he ventured to publish an edition of Shakspeare, without having ever in his life, as far as can be discovered, read a single scene of Massinger, Ford, Decker, Webster, Marlow, Beaumont, or Fletcher. His detractors were noisy and scurrilous. Edition: current; Page: [288] Those who most loved and honoured him had little to say in praise of the manner in which he had discharged the duty of a commentator. He had, however, acquitted himself of a debt which had long lain heavy on his conscience; and he sank back into the repose from which the sting of satire had roused him. He long continued to live upon the fame which he had already won. He was honoured by the University of Oxford with a Doctor’s degree, by the Royal Academy with a professorship, and by the King with an interview, in which his Majesty most graciously expressed a hope that so excellent a writer would not cease to write. In the interval, however, between 1765 and 1775 Johnson published only two or three political tracts, the longest of which he could have produced in forty-eight hours, if he had worked as he worked on the Life of Savage and on Rasselas.

But, though his pen was now idle, his tongue was active. The influence exercised by his conversation, directly upon those with whom he lived, and indirectly on the whole literary world, was altogether without a parallel. His colloquial talents were indeed of the highest order. He had strong sense, quick discernment, wit, humour, immense knowledge of literature and of life, and an infinite store of curious anecdotes. As respected style, he spoke far better than he wrote. Every sentence which dropped from his lips was as correct in structure as the most nicely balanced period of the Rambler. But in his talk there were no pompous triads, and little more than a fair proportion of words in osity and ation. All was simplicity, ease, and vigour. He uttered his short, weighty, and pointed sentences with a power of voice, and a justness and energy of emphasis, of which the effect was rather increased than diminished by the rollings of his huge form, and by the asthmatic gaspings and puffings in which the peals of his eloquence generally ended. Nor did the laziness which made him unwilling to sit down to his desk prevent him from giving instruction or entertainment Edition: current; Page: [289] orally. To discuss questions of taste, of learning, of casuistry, in language so exact and so forcible that it might have been printed without the alteration of a word, was to him no exertion, but a pleasure. He loved, as he said, to fold his legs and have his talk out. He was ready to bestow the overflowings of his full mind on anybody who would start a subject, on a fellow-passenger in a stage coach, or on the person who sate at the same table with him in an eating house. But his conversation was nowhere so brilliant and striking as when he was surrounded by a few friends, whose abilities and knowledge enabled them, as he once expressed it, to send him back every ball that he threw. Some of these, in 1764, formed themselves into a club, which gradually became a formidable power in the commonwealth of letters. The verdicts pronounced by this conclave on new books were speedily known over all London, and were sufficient to sell off a whole edition in a day, or to condemn the sheets to the service of the trunk-maker and the pastry-cook. Nor shall we think this strange when we consider what great and various talents and acquirements met in the little fraternity. Goldsmith was the representative of poetry and light literature, Reynolds of the arts, Burke of political eloquence and political philosophy. There, too, were Gibbon, the greatest historian, and Jones, the greatest linguist, of the age. Garrick brought to the meetings his inexhaustible pleasantry, his incomparable mimicry, and his consummate knowledge of stage effect. Among the most constant attendants were two high-born and high-bred gentlemen, closely bound together by friendship, but of widely different characters and habits; Bennet Langton, distinguished by his skill in Greek literature, by the orthodoxy of his opinions, and by the sanctity of his life; and Topham Beauclerk, renowned for his amours, his knowledge of the gay world, his fastidious taste, and his sarcastic wit. To predominate over such a society was not easy. Yet even over such a Edition: current; Page: [290] society Johnson predominated. Burke might indeed have disputed the supremacy to which others were under the necessity of submitting. But Burke, though not generally a very patient listener, was content to take the second part when Johnson was present; and the club itself, consisting of so many eminent men, is to this day popularly designated as Johnson’s Club.

Among the members of this celebrated body was one to whom it has owed the greater part of its celebrity, yet who was regarded with little respect by his brethren, and had not without difficulty obtained a seat among them. This was James Boswell, a young Scotch lawyer, heir to an honourable name and a fair estate. That he was a coxcomb, and a bore, weak, vain, pushing, curious, garrulous, was obvious to all who were acquainted with him. That he could not reason, that he had no wit, no humour, no eloquence, is apparent from his writings. And yet his writings are read beyond the Mississippi, and under the Southern Cross, and are likely to be read as long as the English exists, either as a living or as a dead language. Nature had made him a slave and an idolater. His mind resembled those creepers which the botanists call parasites, and which can subsist only by clinging round the stems and imbibing the juices of stronger plants. He must have fastened himself on somebody. He might have fastened himself on Wilkes, and have become the fiercest patriot in the Bill of Rights Society. He might have fastened himself on Whitfield, and have become the loudest field preacher among the Calvinistic Methodists. In a happy hour he fastened himself on Johnson. The pair might seem ill matched. For Johnson had early been prejudiced against Boswell’s country. To a man of Johnson’s strong understanding and irritable temper, the silly egotism and adulation of Boswell must have been as teasing as the constant buzz of a fly. Johnson hated to be questioned; and Boswell was eternally catechising him on all kinds of subjects, and sometimes propounded Edition: current; Page: [291] such questions as “What would you do, sir, if you were locked up in a tower with a baby?” Johnson was a water-drinker; and Boswell was a wine-bibber, and indeed little better than a habitual sot. It was impossible that there should be perfect harmony between two such companions. Indeed, the great-man was sometimes provoked into fits of passion in which he said things which the small man, during a few hours, seriously resented. Every quarrel, however, was soon made up. During twenty years the disciple continued to worship the master: the master continued to scold the disciple, to sneer at him, and to love him. The two friends ordinarily resided at a great distance from each other. Boswell practised in the Parliament House of Edinburgh, and could pay only occasional visits to London. During those visits his chief business was to watch Johnson, to discover all Johnson’s habits, to turn the conversation to subjects about which Johnson was likely to say something remarkable, and to fill quarto note books with minutes of what Johnson had said. In this way were gathered the materials out of which was afterwards constructed the most interesting biographical work in the world.

Soon after the club began to exist, Johnson formed a connection less important indeed to his fame, but much more important to his happiness, than his connection with Boswell. Henry Thrale, one of the most opulent brewers in the kingdom, a man of sound and cultivated understanding, rigid principles, and liberal spirit, was married to one of those clever, kind-hearted, engaging, vain, pert young women, who are perpetually doing or saying what is not exactly right, but who, do or say what they may, are always agreeable. In 1765 the Thrales became acquainted with Johnson; and the acquaintance ripened fast into friendship. They were astonished and delighted by the brilliancy of his conversation. They were flattered by finding that a man so widely celebrated preferred their house to any other in London. Even the peculiarities which seemed to unfit him for civilised Edition: current; Page: [292] society, his gesticulations, his rollings, his puffings, his mutterings, the strange way in which he put on his clothes, the ravenous eagerness with which he devoured his dinner, his fits of melancholy, his fits of anger, his frequent rudeness, his occasional ferocity, increased the interest which his new associates took in him. For these things were the cruel marks left behind by a life which had been one long conflict with disease and with adversity. In a vulgar hack writer such oddities would have excited only disgust. But in a man of genius, learning, and virtue their effect was to add pity to admiration and esteem. Johnson soon had an apartment at the brewery in Southwark, and a still more pleasant apartment at the villa of his friends on Streatham Common. A large part of every year he passed in those abodes, abodes which must have seemed magnificent and luxurious indeed, when compared with the dens in which he had generally been lodged. But his chief pleasures were derived from what the astronomer of his Abyssinian tale called “the endearing elegance of female friendship.” Mrs. Thrale rallied him, soothed him, coaxed him, and, if she sometimes provoked him by her flippancy, made ample amends by listening to his reproofs with angelic sweetness of temper. When he was diseased in body and in mind, she was the most tender of nurses. No comfort that wealth could purchase, no contrivance that womanly ingenuity, set to work by womanly compassion, could devise, was wanting to his sick room. He requited her kindness by an affection pure as the affection of a father, yet delicately tinged with a gallantry, which, though awkward, must have been more flattering than the attentions of a crowd of the fools who gloried in the names, now obsolete, of Buck and Maccaroni. It should seem that a full half of Johnson’s life, during about sixteen years, was passed under the roof of the Thrales. He accompanied the family sometimes to Bath, and sometimes to Brighton, once to Wales, and once to Paris. But he had Edition: current; Page: [293] at the same time a house in one of the narrow and gloomy courts on the north of Fleet Street. In the garrets was his library, a large and miscellaneous collection of books, falling to pieces and begrimed with dust. On a lower floor he sometimes, but very rarely, regaled a friend with a plain dinner, a veal pie, or a leg of lamb and spinage, and a rice pudding. Nor was the dwelling uninhabited during his long absences. It was the home of the most extraordinary assemblage of inmates that ever was brought together. At the head of the establishment Johnson had placed an old lady named Williams, whose chief recommendations were her blindness and her poverty. But, in spite of her murmurs and reproaches, he gave an asylum to another lady who was as poor as herself, Mrs. Desmoulins, whose family he had known many years before in Staffordshire. Room was found for the daughter of Mrs. Desmoulins, and for another destitute damsel, who was generally addressed as Miss Carmichael, but whom her generous host called Polly. An old quack doctor named Levett, who bled and dosed coal-heavers and hackney coachmen, and received for fees crusts of bread, bits of bacon, glasses of gin, and sometimes a little copper, completed this strange menagerie. All these poor creatures were at constant war with each other, and with Johnson’s negro servant Frank. Sometimes, indeed, they transferred their hostilities from the servant to the master, complained that a better table was not kept for them, and railed or maundered till their benefactor was glad to make his escape to Streatham, or to the Mitre Tavern. And yet he, who was generally the haughtiest and most irritable of mankind, who was but too prompt to resent anything which looked like a slight on the part of a purseproud bookseller, or of a noble and powerful patron, bore patiently from mendicants, who, but for his bounty, must have gone to the workhouse, insults more provoking than those for which he had knocked down Osborne and bidden defiance to Chesterfield. Year after year Mrs. Williams Edition: current; Page: [294] and Mrs. Desmoulins, Polly and Levett, continued to torment him and to live upon him.

The course of life which has been described was interrupted in Johnson’s sixty-fourth year by an important event. He had early read an account of the Hebrides, and had been much interested by learning that there was so near him a land peopled by a race which was still as rude and simple as in the middle ages. A wish to become intimately acquainted with a state of society so utterly unlike all that he had ever seen frequently crossed his mind. But it is not probable that his curiosity would have overcome his habitual sluggishness, and his love of the smoke, the mud, and the cries of London, had not Boswell importuned him to attempt the adventure, and offered to be his squire. At length, in August 1773, Johnson crossed the Highland line, and plunged courageously into what was then considered, by most Englishmen, as a dreary and perilous wilderness. After wandering about two months through the Celtic region, sometimes in rude boats which did not protect him from the rain, and sometimes on small shaggy ponies which could hardly bear his weight, he returned to his old haunts with a mind full of new images and new theories. During the following year he employed himself in recording his adventures. About the beginning of 1775, his Journey to the Hebrides was published, and was, during some weeks, the chief subject of conversation in all circles in which any attention was paid to literature. The book is still read with pleasure. The narrative is entertaining; the speculations, whether sound or unsound, are always ingenious; and the style, though too stiff and pompous, is somewhat easier and more graceful than that of his early writings. His prejudice against the Scotch had at length become little more than matter of jest; and whatever remained of the old feeling had been effectually removed by the kind and respectful hospitality with which he had been received in every part of Scotland. Edition: current; Page: [295] It was, of course, not to be expected that an Oxonian Tory should praise the Presbyterian polity and ritual, or that an eye accustomed to the hedgerows and parks of England should not be struck by the bareness of Berwickshire and East Lothian. But even in censure Johnson’s tone is not unfriendly. The most enlightened Scotchmen, with Lord Mansfield at their head, were well pleased. But some foolish and ignorant Scotchmen were moved to anger by a little unpalatable truth which was mingled with much eulogy, and assailed him whom they chose to consider as the enemy of their country with libels much more dishonourable to their country than anything that he had ever said or written. They published paragraphs in the newspapers, articles in the magazines, sixpenny pamphlets, five shilling books. One scribbler abused Johnson for being blear-eyed; another for being a pensioner; a third informed the world that one of the Doctor’s uncles had been convicted of felony in Scotland, and had found that there was in that country one tree capable of supporting the weight of an Englishman. Macpherson, whose Fingal had been proved in the Journey to be an impudent forgery, threatened to take vengeance with a cane. The only effect of this threat was that Johnson reiterated the charge of forgery in the most contemptuous terms, and walked about, during some time, with a cudgel, which, if the impostor had not been too wise to encounter it, would assuredly have descended upon him, to borrow the sublime language of his own epic poem, “like a hammer on the red son of the furnace.”

Of other assailants Johnson took no notice whatever. He had early resolved never to be drawn into controversy; and he adhered to his resolution with a steadfastness which is the more extraordinary, because he was, both intellectually and morally, of the stuff of which controversialists are made. In conversation, he was a singularly eager, acute, and pertinacious disputant. When Edition: current; Page: [296] at a loss for good reasons, he had recourse to sophistry; and, when heated by altercation, he made unsparing use of sarcasm and invective. But, when he took his pen in his hand, his whole character seemed to be changed. A hundred bad writers misrepresented him and reviled him; but not one of the hundred could boast of having been thought by him worthy of a refutation, or even of a retort. The Kenricks, Campbells, MacNicols, and Hendersons, did their best to annoy him, in the hope that he would give them importance by answering them. But the reader will in vain search his works for any allusion to Kenrick or Campbell, to MacNicol or Henderson. One Scotchman, bent on vindicating the fame of Scotch learning, defied him to the combat in a detestable Latin hexameter.

“Maxime, si tu vis, cupio contendere tecum.”

But Johnson took no notice of the challenge. He had learned, both from his own observation and from literary history, in which he was deeply read, that the place of books in the public estimation is fixed, not by what is written about them, but by what is written in them; and that an author whose works are likely to live is very unwise if he stoops to wrangle with detractors whose works are certain to die. He always maintained that fame was a shuttlecock which could be kept up only by being beaten back, as well as beaten forward, and which would soon fall if there were only one battledore. No saying was oftener in his mouth than that fine apophthegm of Bentley, that no man was ever written down but by himself.

Unhappily, a few months after the appearance of the Journey to the Hebrides, Johnson did what none of his envious assailants could have done, and to a certain extent succeeded in writing himself down. The disputes between England and her American colonies had reached a point at which no amicable adjustment was possible. Edition: current; Page: [297] Civil war was evidently impending; and the ministers seem to have thought that the eloquence of Johnson might with advantage be employed to inflame the nation against the opposition here, and against the rebels beyond the Atlantic. He had already written two or three tracts in defence of the foreign and domestic policy of the government; and those tracts, though hardly worthy of him, were much superior to the crowd of pamphlets which lay on the counters of Almon and Stockdale. But his Taxation No Tyranny was a pitiable failure. The very title was a silly phrase, which can have been recommended to his choice by nothing but a jingling alliteration which he ought to have despised. The arguments were such as boys use in debating societies. The pleasantry was as awkward as the gambols of a hippopotamus. Even Boswell was forced to own that, in this unfortunate piece, he could detect no trace of his master’s powers. The general opinion was that the strong faculties which had produced the Dictionary and the Rambler were beginning to feel the effect of time and of disease, and that the old man would best consult his credit by writing no more.

But this was a great mistake. Johnson had failed, not because his mind was less vigorous than when he wrote Rasselas in the evenings of a week, but because he had foolishly chosen, or suffered others to choose for him, a subject such as he would at no time have been competent to treat. He was in no sense a statesman. He never willingly read or thought or talked about affairs of state. He loved biography, literary history, the history of manners; but political history was positively distasteful to him. The question at issue between the colonies and the mother country was a question about which he had really nothing to say. He failed, therefore, as the greatest men must fail when they attempt to do that for which they are unfit; as Burke would have failed if Burke had tried to write comedies like those of Sheridan; as Reynolds Edition: current; Page: [298] would have failed if Reynolds had tried to paint landscapes like those of Wilson. Happily, Johnson soon had an opportunity of proving most signally that his failure was not to be ascribed to intellectual decay.

On Easter Eve 1777, some persons, deputed by a meeting which consisted of forty of the first booksellers in London, called upon him. Though he had some scruples about doing business at that season, he received his visitors with much civility. They came to inform him that a new edition of the English poets, from Cowley downwards, was in contemplation, and to ask him to furnish short biographical prefaces. He readily undertook the task, a task for which he was pre-eminently qualified. His knowledge of the literary history of England since the Restoration was unrivalled. That knowledge he had derived partly from books, and partly from sources which had long been closed; from old Grub Street traditions; from the talk of forgotten poetasters and pamphleteers who had long been lying in parish vaults; from the recollections of such men as Gilbert Walmesley, who had conversed with the wits of Button; Cibber, who had mutilated the plays of two generations of dramatists; Orrery, who had been admitted to the society of Swift; and Savage, who had rendered services of no very honourable kind to Pope. The biographer therefore sate down to his task with a mind full of matter. He had at first intended to give only a paragraph to every minor poet, and only four or five pages to the greatest name. But the flood of anecdote and criticism overflowed the narrow channel. The work, which was originally meant to consist only of a few sheets, swelled into ten volumes, small volumes, it is true, and not closely printed. The first four appeared in 1779, the remaining six in 1781.

The Lives of the Poets are, on the whole, the best of Johnson’s works. The narratives are as entertaining as any novel. The remarks on life and on human nature are eminently shrewd and profound. The criticisms are Edition: current; Page: [299] often excellent, and, even when grossly and provokingly unjust, well deserve to be studied. For, however erroneous they may be, they are never silly. They are the judgments of a mind trammelled by prejudice and deficient in sensibility, but vigorous and acute. They therefore generally contain a portion of valuable truth which deserves to be separated from the alloy; and, at the very worst, they mean something, a praise to which much of what is called criticism in our time has no pretensions.

Savage’s Life Johnson reprinted nearly as it had appeared in 1744. Whoever, after reading that life, will turn to the other lives will be struck by the difference of style. Since Johnson had been at ease in his circumstances he had written little and had talked much. When, therefore, he, after the lapse of years, resumed his pen, the mannerism which he had contracted while he was in the constant habit of elaborate composition was less perceptible than formerly; and his diction frequently had a colloquial ease which it had formerly wanted. The improvement may be discerned by a skilful critic in the Journey to the Hebrides, and in the Lives of the Poets is so obvious that it cannot escape the notice of the most careless reader.

Among the lives the best are perhaps those of Cowley, Dryden, and Pope. The very worst is, beyond all doubt, that of Gray.

This great work at once became popular. There was, indeed, much just and much unjust censure: but even those who were loudest in blame were attracted by the book in spite of themselves. Malone computed the gains of the publishers at five or six thousand pounds. But the writer was very poorly remunerated. Intending at first to write very short prefaces, he had stipulated for only two hundred guineas. The booksellers, when they saw how far his performance had surpassed his promise, added only another hundred. Indeed, Johnson, though he did not despise, or affect to despise, money, and though his Edition: current; Page: [300] strong sense and long experience ought to have qualified him to protect his own interests, seems to have been singularly unskilful and unlucky in his literary bargains. He was generally reputed the first English writer of his time. Yet several writers of his time sold their copyrights for sums such as he never ventured to ask. To give a single instance, Robertson received four thousand five hundred pounds for the History of Charles V.; and it is no disrespect to the memory of Robertson to say that the History of Charles V. is both a less valuable and a less amusing book than the Lives of the Poets.

Johnson was now in his seventy-second year. The infirmities of age were coming fast upon him. That inevitable event of which he never thought without horror was brought near to him; and his whole life was darkened by the shadow of death. He had often to pay the cruel price of longevity. Every year he lost what could never be replaced. The strange dependents to whom he had given shelter, and to whom, in spite of their faults, he was strongly attached by habit, dropped off one by one; and, in the silence of his home, he regretted even the noise of their scolding matches. The kind and generous Thrale was no more; and it would have been well if his wife had been laid beside him. But she survived to be the laughing-stock of those who had envied her, and to draw from the eyes of the old man who had loved her beyond anything in the world tears far more bitter than he would have shed over her grave. With some estimable and many agreeable qualities, she was not made to be independent. The control of a mind more steadfast than her own was necessary to her respectability. While she was restrained by her husband, a man of sense and firmness, indulgent to her taste in trifles, but always the undisputed master of his house, her worst offences had been impertinent jokes, white lies, and short fits of pettishness ending in sunny good humour. But he was gone; and she was left an opulent widow of forty, with strong sensibility, Edition: current; Page: [301] volatile fancy, and slender judgment. She soon fell in love with a music-master from Brescia, in whom nobody but herself could discover anything to admire. Her pride, and perhaps some better feelings, struggled hard against this degrading passion. But the struggle irritated her nerves, soured her temper, and at length endangered her health. Conscious that her choice was one which Johnson could not approve, she became desirous to escape from his inspection. Her manner towards him changed. She was sometimes cold and sometimes petulant. She did not conceal her joy when he left Streatham; she never pressed him to return; and, if he came unbidden, she received him in a manner which convinced him that he was no longer a welcome guest. He took the very intelligible hints which she gave. He read, for the last time, a chapter of the Greek Testament in the library which had been formed by himself. In a solemn and tender prayer he commended the house and its inmates to the Divine protection, and, with emotions which choked his voice and convulsed his powerful frame, left for ever that beloved home for the gloomy and desolate house behind Fleet Street, where the few and evil days which still remained to him were to run out. Here, in June 1783, he had a paralytic stroke, from which, however, he recovered, and which does not appear to have at all impaired his intellectual faculties. But other maladies came thick upon him. His asthma tormented him day and night. Dropsical symptoms made their appearance. While sinking under a complication of diseases, he heard that the woman whose friendship had been the chief happiness of sixteen years of his life had married an Italian fiddler; that all London was crying shame upon her; and that the newspapers and magazines were filled with allusions to the Ephesian matron, and the two pictures in Hamlet. He vehemently said that he would try to forget her existence. He never uttered her name. Every memorial of her which met his eye he flung into Edition: current; Page: [302] the fire. She meanwhile fled from the laughter and hisses of her countrymen and countrywomen to a land where she was unknown, hastened across Mount Cenis, and learned, while passing a merry Christmas of concerts and lemonade parties at Milan, that the great man with whose name hers is inseparably associated had ceased to exist.

He had, in spite of much mental and much bodily affliction, clung vehemently to life. The feeling described in that fine but gloomy paper which closes the series of his Idlers seemed to grow stronger in him as his last hour drew near. He fancied that he should be able to draw his breath more easily in a southern climate, and would probably have set out for Rome and Naples, but for his fear of the expense of the journey. That expense, indeed, he had the means of defraying; for he had laid up about two thousand pounds, the fruit of labours which had made the fortune of several publishers. But he was unwilling to break in upon this hoard; and he seems to have wished even to keep its existence a secret. Some of his friends hoped that the government might be induced to increase his pension to six hundred pounds a year: but this hope was disappointed; and he resolved to stand one English winter more. That winter was his last. His legs grew weaker; his breath grew shorter; the fatal water gathered fast, in spite of incisions which he, courageous against pain, but timid against death, urged his surgeons to make deeper and deeper. Though the tender care which had mitigated his sufferings during months of sickness at Streatham was withdrawn, he was not left desolate. The ablest physicians and surgeons attended him, and refused to accept fees from him. Burke parted from him with deep emotion. Windham sate much in the sick-room, arranged the pillows, and sent his own servant to watch a night by the bed. Frances Burney, whom the old man had cherished with fatherly kindness, stood weeping at the door; while Langton, whose piety eminently qualified Edition: current; Page: [303] him to be an adviser and comforter at such a time, received the last pressure of his friend’s hand within. When at length the moment, dreaded through so many years, came close, the dark cloud passed away from Johnson’s mind. His temper became unusually patient and gentle; he ceased to think with terror of death, and of that which lies beyond death; and he spoke much of the mercy of God, and of the propitiation of Christ. In this serene frame of mind he died on the 13th of December, 1784. He was laid, a week later, in Westminster Abbey, among the eminent men of whom he had been the historian,—Cowley and Denham, Dryden and Congreve, Gay, Prior, and Addison.

Since his death the popularity of his works—the Lives of the Poets, and, perhaps, the Vanity of Human Wishes, excepted—has greatly diminished. His Dictionary has been altered by editors till it can scarcely be called his. An allusion to his Rambler or his Idler is not readily apprehended in literary circles. The fame even of Rasselas has grown somewhat dim. But, though the celebrity of the writings may have declined, the celebrity of the writer, strange to say, is as great as ever. Boswell’s book has done for him more than the best of his own books could do. The memory of other authors is kept alive by their works. But the memory of Johnson keeps many of his works alive. The old philosopher is still among us in the brown coat with the metal buttons and the shirt which ought to be at wash, blinking, puffing, rolling his head, drumming with his fingers, tearing his meat like a tiger, and swallowing his tea in oceans. No human being who has been more than seventy years in the grave is so well known to us. And it is but just to say that our intimate acquaintance with what he would himself have called the anfractuosities of his intellect and of his temper serves only to strengthen our conviction that he was both a great and a good man.

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WILLIAM PITT. (January 1859.)

William Pitt, the second son of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, and of Lady Hester Grenville, daughter of Hester, Countess Temple, was born on the 28th of May, 1759. The child inherited a name which, at the time of his birth, was the most illustrious in the civilised world, and was pronounced by every Englishman with pride, and by every enemy of England with mingled admiration and terror. During the first year of his life, every month had its illuminations and bonfires, and every wind brought some messenger charged with joyful tidings and hostile standards. In Westphalia the English infantry won a great battle which arrested the armies of Louis the Fifteenth in the midst of a career of conquest; Boscawen defeated one French fleet on the coast of Portugal; Hawke put to flight another in the Bay of Biscay; Johnson took Niagara; Amherst took Ticonderoga; Wolfe died by the most enviable of deaths under the walls of Quebec; Clive destroyed a Dutch armament in the Hooghly, and established the English supremacy in Bengal; Coote routed Lally at Wandewash, and established the English supremacy in the Carnatic. The nation, while loudly applauding the successful warriors, considered them all, on sea and on land, in Europe, in America, and in Asia, merely as instruments which received their direction from one superior mind. It was the great William Pitt, the great commoner, who had vanquished French marshals in Germany, and French admirals on the Atlantic; who had conquered for his country one great empire on the frozen shores of Ontario, Edition: current; Page: [305] and another under the tropical sun near the mouths of the Ganges. It was not in the nature of things that popularity such as he at this time enjoyed should be permanent. That popularity had lost its gloss before his children were old enough to understand that their father was a great man. He was at length placed in situations in which neither his talents for administration nor his talents for debate appeared to the best advantage. The energy and decision which had eminently fitted him for the direction of war were not needed in time of peace. The lofty and spirit-stirring eloquence which had made him supreme in the House of Commons often fell dead on the House of Lords. A cruel malady racked his joints, and left his joints only to fall on his nerves and on his brain. During the closing years of his life, he was odious to the court, and yet was not on cordial terms with the great body of the opposition. Chatham was only the ruin of Pitt, but an awful and majestic ruin, not to be contemplated by any man of sense and feeling without emotions resembling those which are excited by the remains of the Parthenon and of the Coliseum. In one respect the old statesman was eminently happy. Whatever might be the vicissitudes of his public life, he never failed to find peace and love by his own hearth. He loved all his children, and was loved by them; and, of all his children, the one of whom he was fondest and proudest was his second son.

The child’s genius and ambition displayed themselves with a rare and almost unnatural precocity. At seven, the interest which he took in grave subjects, the ardour with which he pursued his studies, and the sense and vivacity of his remarks on books and on events, amazed his parents and instructors. One of his sayings of this date was reported to his mother by his tutor. In August, 1766, when the world was agitated by the news that Mr. Pitt had become Earl of Chatham, little William exclaimed: “I am glad that I am not the eldest son. I want to speak Edition: current; Page: [306] in the House of Commons like papa.” A letter is extant in which Lady Chatham, a woman of considerable abilities, remarked to her lord, that their younger son at twelve had left far behind him his elder brother, who was fifteen. “The fineness,” she wrote, “of William’s mind makes him enjoy with the greatest pleasure what would be above the reach of any other creature of his small age.” At fourteen the lad was in intellect a man. Hayley, who met him at Lyme in the summer of 1773, was astonished, delighted, and somewhat overawed, by hearing wit and wisdom from so young a mouth. The poet, indeed, was afterwards sorry that his shyness had prevented him from submitting the plan of an extensive literary work, which he was then meditating, to the judgment of this extraordinary boy. The boy, indeed, had already written a tragedy, bad of course, but not worse than the tragedies of his friend. This piece is still preserved at Chevening, and is in some respects highly curious. There is no love. The whole plot is political; and it is remarkable that the interest, such as it is, turns on a contest about a regency. On one side is a faithful servant of the Crown, on the other an ambitious and unprincipled conspirator. At length the King, who had been missing, reappears, resumes his power, and rewards the faithful defender of his rights. A reader who should judge only by internal evidence would have no hesitation in pronouncing that the play was written by some Pittite poetaster at the time of the rejoicings for the recovery of George the Third in 1789.

The pleasure with which William’s parents observed the rapid development of his intellectual powers was alloyed by apprehensions about his health. He shot up alarmingly fast; he was often ill, and always weak; and it was feared that it would be impossible to rear a stripling so tall, so slender, and so feeble. Port wine was prescribed by his medical advisers: and it is said that he was, at fourteen, accustomed to take this agreeable physic Edition: current; Page: [307] in quantities which would, in our abstemious age, be thought much more than sufficient for any full-grown man. This regimen, though it would probably have killed ninety-nine boys out of a hundred, seems to have been well suited to the peculiarities of William’s constitution; for at fifteen he ceased to be molested by disease, and, though never a strong man, continued, during many years of labour and anxiety, of nights passed in debate and of summers passed in London, to be a tolerably healthy one. It was probably on account of the delicacy of his frame that he was not educated like other boys of the same rank. Almost all the eminent English statesmen and orators to whom he was afterwards opposed or allied, North, Fox, Shelburne, Windham, Grey, Wellesley, Grenville, Sheridan, Canning, went through the training of great public schools. Lord Chatham had himself been a distinguished Etonian; and it is seldom that a distinguished Etonian forgets his obligations to Eton. But William’s infirmities required a vigilance and tenderness such as could be found only at home. He was therefore bred under the paternal roof. His studies were superintended by a clergyman named Wilson; and those studies, though often interrupted by illness, were prosecuted with extraordinary success. Before the lad had completed his fifteenth year, his knowledge both of the ancient languages and of mathematics was such as very few men of eighteen then carried up to college. He was therefore sent, towards the close of the year 1773, to Pembroke Hall, in the university of Cambridge. So young a student required much more than the ordinary care which a college tutor bestows on undergraduates. The governor, to whom the direction of William’s academical life was confided, was a bachelor of arts named Pretyman, who had been senior wrangler in the preceding year, and who, though not a man of prepossessing appearance or brilliant parts, was eminently acute and laborious, a sound scholar, and an excellent geometrician. At Cambridge, Pretyman Edition: current; Page: [308] was, during more than two years, the inseparable companion, and indeed almost the only companion, of his pupil. A close and lasting friendship sprang up between the pair. The disciple was able, before he completed his twenty-eighth year, to make his preceptor Bishop of Lincoln and Dean of St. Paul’s; and the preceptor showed his gratitude by writing a life of the disciple, which enjoys the distinction of being the worst biographical work of its size in the world.

Pitt, till he graduated, had scarcely one acquaintance, attended chapel regularly morning and evening, dined every day in hall, and never went to a single evening party. At seventeen, he was admitted, after the bad fashion of those times, by right of birth, without any examination, to the degree of Master of Arts. But he continued during some years to reside at college, and to apply himself vigorously, under Pretyman’s direction, to the studies of the place, while mixing freely in the best academic society.

The stock of learning which Pitt laid in during this part of his life was certainly very extraordinary. In fact, it was all that he ever possessed; for he very early became too busy to have any spare time for books. The work in which he took the greatest delight was Newton’s Principia. His liking for mathematics, indeed, amounted to a passion, which, in the opinion of his instructors, themselves distinguished mathematicians, required to be checked rather than encouraged. The acuteness and readiness with which he solved problems was pronounced by one of the ablest of the moderators, who in those days presided over the disputations in the schools, and conducted the examinations of the Senate House, to be unrivalled in the university. Nor was the youth’s proficiency in classical learning less remarkable. In one respect, indeed, he appeared to disadvantage when compared with even second-rate and third-rate men from public schools. He had never, while under Wilson’s care, been Edition: current; Page: [309] in the habit of composing in the ancient languages; and he therefore never acquired that knack of versification which is sometimes possessed by clever boys whose knowledge of the language and literature of Greece and Rome is very superficial. It would have been utterly out of his power to produce such charming elegiac lines as those in which Wellesley bade farewell to Eton, or such Virgilian hexameters as those in which Canning described the pilgrimage to Mecca. But it may be doubted whether any scholar has ever, at twenty, had a more solid and profound knowledge of the two great tongues of the old civilised world. The facility with which he penetrated the meaning of the most intricate sentences in the Attic writers astonished veteran critics. He had set his heart on being intimately acquainted with all the extant poetry of Greece, and was not satisfied till he had mastered Lycophron’s Cassandra, the most obscure work in the whole range of ancient literature. This strange rhapsody, the difficulties of which have perplexed and repelled many excellent scholars, “he read,” says his preceptor, “with an ease at first sight, which, if I had not witnessed it, I should have thought beyond the compass of human intellect.”

To modern literature Pitt paid comparatively little attention. He knew no living language except French; and French he knew very imperfectly. With a few of the best English writers he was intimate, particularly with Shakspeare and Milton. The debate in Pandemonium was, as it well deserved to be, one of his favourite passages; and his early friends used to talk, long after his death, of the just emphasis and the melodious cadence with which they had heard him recite the incomparable speech of Belial. He had indeed been carefully trained from infancy in the art of managing his voice, a voice naturally clear and deep-toned. His father, whose oratory owed no small part of its effect to that art, had been a most skilful and judicious instructor. At a later period, the wits of Brookes’s, irritated by observing, night after Edition: current; Page: [310] night, how powerfully Pitt’s sonorous elocution fascinated the rows of country gentlemen, reproached him with having been “taught by his dad on a stool.”

His education, indeed, was well adapted to form a great parliamentary speaker. One argument often urged against those classical studies which occupy so large a part of the early life of every gentleman bred in the south of our island is, that they prevent him from acquiring a command of his mother tongue, and that it is not unusual to meet with a youth of excellent parts, who writes Ciceronian Latin prose and Horatian Latin Alcaics, but who would find it impossible to express his thoughts in pure, perspicuous, and forcible English. There may perhaps be some truth in this observation. But the classical studies of Pitt were carried on in a peculiar manner, and had the effect of enriching his English vocabulary, and of making him wonderfully expert in the art of constructing correct English sentences. His practice was to look over a page or two of a Greek or Latin author, to make himself master of the meaning, and then to read the passage straightforward into his own language. This practice, begun under his first teacher Wilson, was continued under Pretyman. It is not strange that a young man of great abilities, who had been exercised daily in this way during ten years, should have acquired an almost unrivalled power of putting his thoughts, without premeditation, into words well selected and well arranged.

Of all the remains of antiquity, the orations were those on which he bestowed the most minute examination. His favourite employment was to compare harangues on opposite sides of the same question, to analyse them, and to observe which of the arguments of the first speaker were refuted by the second, which were evaded, and which were left untouched. Nor was it only in books that he at this time studied the art of parliamentary fencing. When he was at home, he had frequent opportunities of hearing important debates at Westminster; Edition: current; Page: [311] and he heard them, not only with interest and enjoyment, but with a close scientific attention resembling that with which a diligent pupil at Guy’s Hospital watches every turn of the hand of a great surgeon through a difficult operation. On one of these occasions, Pitt, a youth whose abilities were as yet known only to his own family and to a small knot of college friends, was introduced on the steps of the throne in the House of Lords to Fox, who was his senior by eleven years, and who was already the greatest debater, and one of the greatest orators, that had appeared in England. Fox used afterwards to relate that, as the discussion proceeded, Pitt repeatedly turned to him, and said, “But surely, Mr. Fox, that might be met thus;” or, “Yes; but he lays himself open to this retort.” What the particular criticisms were Fox had forgotten; but he said that he was much struck at the time by the precocity of a lad who, through the whole sitting, seemed to be thinking only how all the speeches on both sides could be answered.

One of the young man’s visits to the House of Lords was a sad and memorable era in his life. He had not quite completed his nineteenth year, when, on the 7th of April, 1778, he attended his father to Westminster. A great debate was expected. It was known that France had recognised the independence of the United States. The Duke of Richmond was about to declare his opinion that all thought of subjugating those states ought to be relinquished. Chatham had always maintained that the resistance of the colonies to the mother country was justifiable. But he conceived, very erroneously, that on the day on which their independence should be acknowledged the greatness of England would be at an end. Though sinking under the weight of years and infirmities, he determined, in spite of the entreaties of his family, to be in his place. His son supported him to a seat. The excitement and exertion were too much for the old man. In the very act of addressing the peers, he fell back in convulsions. Edition: current; Page: [312] A few weeks later his corpse was borne, with gloomy pomp, from the Painted Chamber to the Abbey. The favourite child and namesake of the deceased statesman followed the coffin as chief mourner, and saw it deposited in the transept where his own was destined to lie.

His elder brother, now Earl of Chatham, had means sufficient, and barely sufficient, to support the dignity of the peerage. The other members of the family were poorly provided for. William had little more than three hundred a year. It was necessary for him to follow a profession. He had already begun to eat his terms. In the spring of 1780 he came of age. He then quitted Cambridge, was called to the bar, took chambers in Lincoln’s Inn, and joined the western circuit. In the autumn of that year a general election took place; and he offered himself as a candidate for the university; but he was at the bottom of the poll. It is said that the grave doctors, who then sate, robed in scarlet, on the benches of Golgotha, thought it great presumption in so young a man to solicit so high a distinction. He was, however, at the request of a hereditary friend, the Duke of Rutland, brought into Parliament by Sir James Lowther for the borough of Appleby.

The dangers of the country were at that time such as might well have disturbed even a constant mind. Army after army had been sent in vain against the rebellious colonists of North America. On pitched fields of battle the advantage had been with the disciplined troops of the mother country. But it was not on pitched fields of battle that the event of such a contest could be decided. An armed nation, with hunger and the Atlantic for auxiliaries, was not to be subjugated. Meanwhile the House of Bourbon, humbled to the dust a few years before by the genius and vigour of Chatham, had seized the opportunity of revenge. France and Spain were united against us, and had recently been joined by Holland. The command of the Mediterranean had been Edition: current; Page: [313] for a time lost. The British flag had been scarcely able to maintain itself in the British Channel. The northern powers professed neutrality; but their neutrality had a menacing aspect. In the East, Hyder had descended on the Carnatic, had destroyed the little army of Baillie, and had spread terror even to the ramparts of Fort Saint George. The discontents of Ireland threatened nothing less than civil war. In England the authority of the government had sunk to the lowest point. The King and the House of Commons were alike unpopular. The cry for parliamentary reform was scarcely less loud and vehement than in the autumn of 1830. Formidable associations, headed, not by ordinary demagogues, but by men of high rank, stainless character, and distinguished ability, demanded a revision of the representative system. The populace, emboldened by the impotence and irresolution of the government, had recently broken loose from all restraint, besieged the chambers of the legislature, hustled peers, hunted bishops, attacked the residences of ambassadors, opened prisons, burned and pulled down houses. London had presented during some days the aspect of a city taken by storm; and it had been necessary to form a camp among the trees of Saint James’s Park.

In spite of dangers and difficulties abroad and at home, George the Third, with a firmness which had little affinity with virtue or with wisdom, persisted in his determination to put down the American rebels by force of arms; and his ministers submitted their judgment to his. Some of them were probably actuated merely by selfish cupidity; but their chief, Lord North, a man of high honour, amiable temper, winning manners, lively wit, and excellent talents both for business and for debate, must be acquitted of all sordid motives. He remained at a post from which he had long wished and had repeatedly tried to escape, only because he had not sufficient fortitude to resist the entreaties and reproaches of the King, who silenced all Edition: current; Page: [314] arguments by passionately asking whether any gentleman, any man of spirit, could have the heart to desert a kind master in the hour of extremity.

The opposition consisted of two parties which had once been hostile to each other, and which had been very slowly, and, as it soon appeared, very imperfectly reconciled, but which at this conjuncture seemed to act together with cordiality. The larger of these parties consisted of the great body of the Whig aristocracy. Its head was Charles, Marquess of Rockingham, a man of sense and virtue, and in wealth and parliamentary interest equalled by very few of the English nobles, but afflicted with a nervous timidity which prevented him from taking a prominent part in debate. In the House of Commons, the adherents of Rockingham were led by Fox, whose dissipated habits and ruined fortunes were the talk of the whole town, but whose commanding genius, and whose sweet, generous, and affectionate disposition, extorted the admiration and love of those who most lamented the errors of his private life. Burke, superior to Fox in largeness of comprehension, in extent of knowledge, and in splendour of imagination, but less skilled in that kind of logic and in that kind of rhetoric which convince and persuade great assemblies, was willing to be the lieutenant of a young chief who might have been his son.

A smaller section of the opposition was composed of the old followers of Chatham. At their head was William, Earl of Shelburne, distinguished both as a statesman and as a lover of science and letters. With him were leagued Lord Camden, who had formerly held the Great Seal, and whose integrity, ability, and constitutional knowledge commanded the public respect; Barré, an eloquent and acrimonious declaimer; and Dunning, who had long held the first place at the English bar. It was to this party that Pitt was naturally attracted.

On the 26th of February 1781 he made his first speech, in favour of Burke’s plan of economical reform. Fox Edition: current; Page: [315] stood up at the same moment, but instantly gave way. The lofty yet animated deportment of the young member, his perfect self-possession, the readiness with which he replied to the orators who had preceded him, the silver tones of his voice, the perfect structure of his unpremeditated sentences, astonished and delighted his hearers. Burke, moved even to tears, exclaimed, “It is not a chip of the old block; it is the old block itself.” “Pitt will be one of the first men in Parliament,” said a member of the opposition to Fox. “He is so already,” answered Fox, in whose nature envy had no place. It is a curious fact, well remembered by some who were very recently living, that soon after this debate Pitt’s name was put up by Fox at Brookes’s.

On two subsequent occasions during that session Pitt addressed the House, and on both fully sustained the reputation which he had acquired on his first appearance. In the summer, after the prorogation, he again went the western circuit, held several briefs, and acquitted himself in such a manner that he was highly complimented by Buller from the bench, and by Dunning at the bar.

On the 27th of November the Parliament reassembled. Only forty-eight hours before had arrived tidings of the surrender of Cornwallis and his army; and it had consequently been necessary to rewrite the royal speech. Every man in the kingdom, except the King, was now convinced that it was mere madness to think of conquering the United States. In the debate on the report of the address, Pitt spoke with even more energy and brilliancy than on any former occasion. He was warmly applauded by his allies; but it was remarked that no person on his own side of the house was so loud in eulogy as Henry Dundas, the Lord Advocate of Scotland, who spoke from the ministerial ranks. That able and versatile politician distinctly foresaw the approaching downfall of the government with which he was connected, and was preparing to make his own escape from the ruin. From that night Edition: current; Page: [316] dates his connection with Pitt, a connection which soon became a close intimacy, and which lasted till it was dissolved by death.

About a fortnight later, Pitt spoke in the committee of supply on the army estimates. Symptoms of dissension had begun to appear on the Treasury bench. Lord George Germaine, the Secretary of State who was especially charged with the direction of the war in America, had held language not easily to be reconciled with declarations made by the First Lord of the Treasury. Pitt noticed the discrepancy with much force and keenness. Lord George and Lord North began to whisper together; and Welbore Ellis, an ancient placeman who had been drawing salary almost every quarter since the days of Henry Pelham, bent down between them to put in a word. Such interruptions sometimes discompose veteran speakers. Pitt stopped, and, looking at the group, said, with admirable readiness, “I shall wait till Nestor has composed the dispute between Agamemnon and Achilles.”

After several defeats, or victories hardly to be distinguished from defeats, the ministry resigned. The King, reluctantly and ungraciously, consented to accept Rockingham as first minister. Fox and Shelburne became Secretaries of State. Lord John Cavendish, one of the most upright and honourable of men, was made Chancellor of the Exchequer. Thurlow, whose abilities and force of character had made him the dictator of the House of Lords, continued to hold the great seal.

To Pitt was offered, through Shelburne, the Vice-Treasurership of Ireland, one of the easiest and most highly paid places in the gift of the Crown; but the offer was, without hesitation, declined. The young statesman had resolved to accept no post which did not entitle him to a seat in the cabinet: and, a few days later, he announced that resolution in the House of Commons. It must be remembered that the cabinet was then a much Edition: current; Page: [317] smaller and more select body than at present. We have seen cabinets of sixteen. In the time of our grandfathers a cabinet of ten or eleven was thought inconveniently large. Seven was an usual number. Even Burke, who had taken the lucrative office of paymaster, was not in the cabinet. Many therefore thought Pitt’s declaration indecent. He himself was sorry that he had made it. The words, he said in private, had escaped him in the heat of speaking; and he had no sooner uttered them than he would have given the world to recall them. They, however, did him no harm with the public. The second William Pitt, it was said, had shown that he had inherited the spirit, as well as the genius, of the first. In the son, as in the father, there might perhaps be too much pride; but there was nothing low or sordid. It might be called arrogance in a young barrister, living in chambers on three hundred a year, to refuse a salary of five thousand a year, merely because he did not choose to bind himself to speak or vote for plans which he had no share in framing; but surely such arrogance was not very far removed from virtue.

Pitt gave a general support to the administration of Rockingham, but omitted, in the meantime, no opportunity of courting that Ultra-Whig party which the persecution of Wilkes and the Middlesex election had called into existence, and which the disastrous events of the war, and the triumph of republican principles in America, had made formidable both in numbers and in temper. He supported a motion for shortening the duration of Parliaments. He made a motion for a committee to examine into the state of the representation, and, in the speech by which that motion was introduced, avowed himself the enemy of the close boroughs, the strongholds of that corruption to which he attributed all the calamities of the nation, and which, as he phrased it in one of those exact and sonorous sentences of which he had a boundless command, had grown with the growth of England and strengthened Edition: current; Page: [318] with her strength, but had not diminished with her diminution or decayed with her decay. On this occasion he was supported by Fox. The motion was lost by only twenty votes in a house of more than three hundred members. The reformers never again had so good a division till the year 1831.

The new administration was strong in abilities, and was more popular than any administration which had held office since the first year of George the Third, but was hated by the King, hesitatingly supported by the Parliament, and torn by internal dissensions. The Chancellor was disliked and distrusted by almost all his colleagues. The two Secretaries of State regarded each other with no friendly feeling. The line between their departments had not been traced with precision; and there were consequently jealousies, encroachments, and complaints. It was all that Rockingham could do to keep the peace in his cabinet; and, before the cabinet had existed three months, Rockingham died.

In an instant all was confusion. The adherents of the deceased statesman looked on the Duke of Portland as their chief. The King placed Shelburne at the head of the Treasury. Fox, Lord John Cavendish, and Burke, immediately resigned their offices; and the new prime minister was left to constitute a government out of very defective materials. His own parliamentary talents were great; but he could not be in the place where parliamentary talents were most needed. It was necessary to find some member of the House of Commons who could confront the great orators of the opposition; and Pitt alone had the eloquence and the courage which were required. He was offered the great place of Chancellor of the Exchequer; and he accepted it. He had scarcely completed his twenty-third year.

The Parliament was speedily prorogued. During the recess, a negotiation for peace which had been commenced under Rockingham was brought to a successful termination. Edition: current; Page: [319] England acknowledged the independence of her revolted colonies; and she ceded to her European enemies some places in the Mediterranean and in the Gulf of Mexico. But the terms which she obtained were quite as advantageous and honourable as the events of the war entitled her to expect, or as she was likely to obtain by persevering in a contest against immense odds. All her vital parts, all the real sources of her power, remained uninjured. She preserved even her dignity; for she ceded to the House of Bourbon only part of what she had won from that House in previous wars. She retained her Indian empire undiminished; and, in spite of the mightiest efforts of two great monarchies, her flag still waved on the rock of Gibraltar. There is not the slightest reason to believe that Fox, if he had remained in office, would have hesitated one moment about concluding a treaty on such conditions. Unhappily that great and most amiable man was, at this crisis, hurried by his passions into an error which made his genius and his virtues, during a long course of years, almost useless to his country.

He saw that the great body of the House of Commons was divided into three parties, his own, that of North, and that of Shelburne; that none of those three parties was large enough to stand alone; that, therefore, unless two of them united, there must be a miserably feeble administration, or, more probably, a rapid succession of miserably feeble administrations, and this at a time when a strong government was essential to the prosperity and respectability of the nation. It was then necessary and right that there should be a coalition. To every possible coalition there were objections. But, of all possible coalitions, that to which there were the fewest objections was undoubtedly a coalition between Shelburne and Fox. It would have been generally applauded by the followers of both. It might have been made without any sacrifice of public principle on the part of either. Unhappily, recent Edition: current; Page: [320] bickerings had left in the mind of Fox a profound dislike and distrust of Shelburne. Pitt attempted to mediate, and was authorised to invite Fox to return to the service of the Crown. “Is Lord Shelburne,” said Fox, “to remain prime minister?” Pitt answered in the affirmative. “It is impossible that I can act under him,” said Fox. “Then negotiation is at an end,” said Pitt; “for I cannot betray him.” Thus the two statesmen parted. They were never again in a private room together.

As Fox and his friends would not treat with Shelburne, nothing remained to them but to treat with North. That fatal coalition which is emphatically called “The Coalition” was formed. Not three quarters of a year had elapsed since Fox and Burke had threatened North with impeachment, and had described him, night after night, as the most arbitrary, the most corrupt, the most incapable of ministers. They now allied themselves with him for the purpose of driving from office a statesman with whom they cannot be said to have differed as to any important question. Nor had they even the prudence and the patience to wait for some occasion on which they might, without inconsistency, have combined with their old enemies in opposition to the government. That nothing might be wanting to the scandal, the great orators, who had, during seven years, thundered against the war, determined to join with the authors of that war in passing a vote of censure on the peace.

The Parliament met before Christmas 1782. But it was not till January 1783 that the preliminary treaties were signed. On the 17th of February they were taken into consideration by the House of Commons. There had been, during some days, floating rumours that Fox and North had coalesced; and the debate indicated but too clearly that those rumours were not unfounded. Pitt was suffering from indisposition: he did not rise till his own strength and that of his hearers were exhausted; and he was consequently less successful than on any former occasion. Edition: current; Page: [321] His admirers owned that his speech was feeble and petulant. He so far forgot himself as to advise Sheridan to confine himself to amusing theatrical audiences. This ignoble sarcasm gave Sheridan an opportunity of retorting with great felicity. “After what I have seen and heard to-night,” he said, “I really feel strongly tempted to venture on a competition with so great an artist as Ben Jonson, and to bring on the stage a second Angry Boy.” On a division, the address proposed by the supporters of the government was rejected by a majority of sixteen.

But Pitt was not a man to be disheartened by a single failure, or to be put down by the most lively repartee. When, a few days later, the opposition proposed a resolution directly censuring the treaties, he spoke with an eloquence, energy, and dignity, which raised his fame and popularity higher than ever. To the coalition of Fox and North he alluded in language which drew forth tumultuous applause from his followers. “If,” he said, “this ill-omened and unnatural marriage be not yet consummated, I know of a just and lawful impediment; and, in the name of the public weal, I forbid the banns.”

The ministers were again left in a minority; and Shelburne consequently tendered his resignation. It was accepted; but the King struggled long and hard before he submitted to the terms dictated by Fox, whose faults he detested, and whose high spirit and powerful intellect he detested still more. The first place at the board of Treasury was repeatedly offered to Pitt; but the offer, though tempting, was steadfastly declined. The young man, whose judgment was as precocious as his cloquence, saw that his time was coming, but was not come, and was deaf to royal importunities and reproaches. His Majesty, bitterly complaining of Pitt’s faintheartedness, tried to break the coalition. Every art of seduction was practised on North, but in vain. During several weeks the country remained without a government. It was not till all devices had failed, and till the aspect of the House of Commons Edition: current; Page: [322] became threatening, that the King gave way. The Duke of Portland was declared First Lord of the Treasury. Thurlow was dismissed. Fox and North became Secretaries of State, with power ostensibly equal. But Fox was the real prime minister.

The year was far advanced before the new arrangements were completed; and nothing very important was done during the remainder of the session. Pitt, now seated on the opposition bench, brought the question of parliamentary reform a second time under the consideration of the Commons. He proposed to add to the House at once a hundred county members and several members for metropolitan districts, and to enact that every borough of which an election committee should report that the majority of voters appeared to be corrupt should lose the franchise. The motion was rejected by 293 votes to 149.

After the prorogation, Pitt visited the Continent for the first and last time. His travelling companion was one of his most intimate friends, a young man of his own age, who had already distinguished himself in Parliament by an engaging natural eloquence, set off by the sweetest and most exquisitely modulated of human voices, and whose affectionate heart, caressing manners, and brilliant wit, made him the most delightful of companions, William Wilberforce. That was the time of Anglomania in France; and at Paris the son of the great Chatham was absolutely hunted by men of letters and women of fashion, and forced, much against his will, into political disputation. One remarkable saying which dropped from him during this tour has been preserved. A French gentleman expressed some surprise at the immense influence which Fox, a man of pleasure, ruined by the dice-box and the turf, exercised over the English nation. “You have not,” said Pitt, “been under the wand of the magician.”

In November 1783 the Parliament met again. The government had irresistible strength in the House of Commons, and seemed to be scarcely less strong in the House Edition: current; Page: [323] of Lords, but was, in truth, surrounded on every side by dangers. The King was impatiently waiting for the moment at which he could emancipate himself from a yoke which galled him so severely that he had more than once seriously thought of retiring to Hanover; and the King was scarcely more eager for a change than the nation. Fox and North had committed a fatal error. They ought to have known that coalitions between parties which have long been hostile can succeed only when the wish for coalition pervades the lower ranks of both. If the leaders unite before there is any disposition to union among the followers, the probability is that there will be a mutiny in both camps, and that the two revolted armies will make a truce with each other, in order to be revenged on those by whom they think that they have been betrayed. Thus it was in 1783. At the beginning of that eventful year, North had been the recognised head of the old Tory party, which, though for a moment prostrated by the disastrous issue of the American war, was still a great power in the state. To him the clergy, the universities, and that large body of country gentlemen whose rallying cry was “Church and King,” had long looked up with respect and confidence. Fox had, on the other hand, been the idol of the Whigs, and of the whole body of Protestant dissenters. The coalition at once alienated the most zealous Tories from North, and the most zealous Whigs from Fox. The University of Oxford, which had marked its approbation of North’s orthodoxy by electing him chancellor, the city of London, which had been during two and twenty years at war with the Court, were equally disgusted. Squires and rectors, who had inherited the principles of the cavaliers of the preceding century, could not forgive their old leader for combining with disloyal subjects in order to put a force on the sovereign. The members of the Bill of Rights Society and of the Reform Associations were enraged by learning that their favourite orator now called the great champion Edition: current; Page: [324] of tyranny and corruption his noble friend. Two great multitudes were at once left without any head, and both at once turned their eyes on Pitt. One party saw in him the only man who could rescue the King; the other saw in him the only man who could purify the Parliament. He was supported on one side by Archbishop Markham, the preacher of divine right, and by Jenkinson, the captain of the Prætorian band of the King’s friends; on the other side by Jebb and Priestley, Sawbridge and Cartwright, Jack Wilkes and Horne Tooke. On the benches of the House of Commons, however, the ranks of the ministerial majority were unbroken; and that any statesman would venture to brave such a majority was thought impossible. No prince of the Hanoverian line had ever, under any provocation, ventured to appeal from the representative body to the constituent body. The ministers, therefore, notwithstanding the sullen looks and muttered words of displeasure with which their suggestions were received in the closet, notwithstanding the roar of obloquy which was rising louder and louder every day from every corner of the island, thought themselves secure.

Such was their confidence in their strength that, as soon as the Parliament had met, they brought forward a singularly bold and original plan for the government of the British territories in India. What was proposed was that the whole authority, which till that time had been exercised over those territories by the East India Company, should be transferred to seven Commissioners who were to be named by Parliament, and were not to be removable at the pleasure of the Crown. Earl Fitzwilliam, the most intimate personal friend of Fox, was to be chairman of this board; and the eldest son of North was to be one of the members.

As soon as the outlines of the scheme were known, all the hatred which the coalition had excited burst forth with an astounding explosion. The question which ought undoubtedly to have been considered as paramount to Edition: current; Page: [325] every other was, whether the proposed change was likely to be beneficial or injurious to the thirty millions of people who were subject to the Company. But that question cannot be said to have been even seriously discussed. Burke, who, whether right or wrong in the conclusions to which he came, had at least the merit of looking at the subject in the right point of view, vainly reminded his hearers of that mighty population whose daily rice might depend on a vote of the British Parliament. He spoke, with even more than his wonted power of thought and language, about the desolation of Rohilcund, about the spoliation of Benares, about the evil policy which had suffered the tanks of the Carnatic to go to ruin; but he could scarcely obtain a hearing. The contending parties, to their shame it must be said, would listen to none but English topics. Out of doors the cry against the ministry was almost universal. Town and country were united. Corporations exclaimed against the violation of the charter of the greatest corporation in the realm. Tories and democrats joined in pronouncing the proposed board an unconstitutional body. It was to consist of Fox’s nominees. The effect of his bill was to give, not to the Crown, but to him personally, whether in office or in opposition, an enormous power, a patronage sufficient to counterbalance the patronage of the Treasury and of the Admiralty, and to decide the elections for fifty boroughs. He knew, it was said, that he was hateful alike to King and people; and he had devised a plan which would make him independent of both. Some nicknamed him Cromwell, and some Carlo Khan. Wilberforce, with his usual felicity of expression, and with very unusual bitterness of feeling, described the scheme as the genuine off-spring of the coalition, as marked with the features of both its parents, the corruption of one and the violence of the other. In spite of all opposition, however, the bill was supported in every stage by great majorities, was rapidly passed, and was sent up to the Lords. To the Edition: current; Page: [326] general astonishment, when the second reading was moved in the Upper House, the opposition proposed an adjournment, and carried it by eighty-seven votes to seventy-nine. The cause of this strange turn of fortune was soon known. Pitt’s cousin, Earl Temple, had been in the royal closet, and had there been authorised to let it be known that His Majesty would consider all who voted for the bill as his enemies. The ignominious commission was performed; and instantly a troop of Lords of the Bedchamber, of Bishops who wished to be translated, and of Scotch peers who wished to be re-elected, made haste to change sides. On a later day, the Lords rejected the bill. Fox and North were immediately directed to send their seals to the palace by their Under Secretaries; and Pitt was appointed First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The general opinion was, that there would be an immediate dissolution. But Pitt wisely determined to give the public feeling time to gather strength. On this point he differed from his kinsman Temple. The consequence was, that Temple, who had been appointed one of the Secretaries of State, resigned his office forty-eight hours after he had accepted it, and thus relieved the new government from a great load of unpopularity; for all men of sense and honour, however strong might be their dislike of the India Bill, disapproved of the manner in which that bill had been thrown out. Temple carried away with him the scandal which the best friends of the new government could not but lament. The fame of the young prime minister preserved its whiteness. He could declare with perfect truth that, if unconstitutional machinations had been employed, he had been no party to them.

He was, however, surrounded by difficulties and dangers. In the House of Lords, indeed, he had a majority; nor could any orator of the opposition in that assembly be considered as a match for Thurlow, who was now again Chancellor, or for Camden, who cordially supported the Edition: current; Page: [327] son of his old friend Chatham. But in the other House there was not a single eminent speaker among the official men who sate round Pitt. His most useful assistant was Dundas, who, though he had not eloquence, had sense, knowledge, readiness, and boldness. On the opposite benches was a powerful majority, led by Fox, who was supported by Burke, North, and Sheridan. The heart of the young minister, stout as it was, almost died within him. He could not once close his eyes on the night which followed Temple’s resignation. But, whatever his internal emotions might be, his language and deportment indicated nothing but unconquerable firmness and haughty confidence in his own powers. His contest against the House of Commons lasted from the 17th of December, 1783, to the 8th of March, 1784. In sixteen divisions the opposition triumphed. Again and again the King was requested to dismiss his ministers. But he was determined to go to Germany rather than yield. Pitt’s resolution never wavered. The cry of the nation in his favour became vehement and almost furious. Addresses assuring him of public support came up daily from every part of the kingdom. The freedom of the city of London was presented to him in a gold box. He went in state to receive this mark of distinction. He was sumptuously feasted in Grocers’ Hall; and the shopkeepers of the Strand and Fleet Street illuminated their houses in his honour. These things could not but produce an effect within the walls of Parliament. The ranks of the majority began to waver; a few passed over to the enemy; some skulked away; many were for capitulating while it was still possible to capitulate with the honours of war. Negotiations were opened with the view of forming an administration on a wide basis; but they had scarcely been opened when they were closed. The opposition demanded, as a preliminary article of the treaty, that Pitt should resign the Treasury; and with this demand Pitt steadfastly refused to comply. While Edition: current; Page: [328] the contest was raging, the Clerkship of the Pells, a sinecure place for life, worth three thousand a year, and tenable with a seat in the House of Commons, became vacant. The appointment was with the Chancellor of the Exchequer: nobody doubted that he would appoint himself; and nobody could have blamed him if he had done so: for such sinecure offices had always been defended on the ground that they enabled a few men of eminent abilities and small incomes to live without any profession, and to devote themselves to the service of the state. Pitt, in spite of the remonstrances of his friends, gave the Pells to his father’s old adherent, Colonel Barré, a man distinguished by talent and eloquence, but poor and afflicted with blindness. By this arrangement a pension which the Rockingham administration had granted to Barré was saved to the public. Never was there a happier stroke of policy. About treaties, wars, expeditions, tariffs, budgets, there will always be room for dispute. The policy which is applauded by half the nation may be condemned by the other half. But pecuniary disinterestedness everybody comprehends. It is a great thing for a man who has only three hundred a year to be able to show that he considers three thousand a year as mere dirt beneath his feet, when compared with the public interest and the public esteem. Pitt had his reward. No minister was ever more rancorously libelled; but, even when he was known to be overwhelmed with debt, when millions were passing through his hands, when the wealthiest magnates of the realm were soliciting him for marquisates and garters, his bitterest enemies did not dare to accuse him of touching unlawful gain.

At length the hard fought fight ended. A final remonstrance, drawn up by Burke with admirable skill, was carried on the 8th of March by a single vote in a full House. Had the experiment been repeated, the supporters of the coalition would probably have been in a minority. But the supplies had been voted; the Mutiny Edition: current; Page: [329] Bill had been passed; and the Parliament was dissolved.

The popular constituent bodies all over the country were in general enthusiastic on the side of the new government. A hundred and sixty of the supporters of the coalition lost their seats. The First Lord of the Treasury himself came in at the head of the poll for the University of Cambridge. His young friend, Wilberforce, was elected knight of the great shire of York, in opposition to the whole influence of the Fitzwilliams, Cavendishes, Dundases, and Saviles. In the midst of such triumphs Pitt completed his twenty-fifth year. He was now the greatest subject that England had seen during many generations. He domineered absolutely over the cabinet, and was the favourite at once of the Sovereign, of the Parliament, and of the nation. His father had never been so powerful, nor Walpole, nor Marlborough.

This narrative has now reached a point, beyond which a full history of the life of Pitt would be a history of England, or rather of the whole civilised world; and for such a history this is not the proper place. Here a very slight sketch must suffice; and in that sketch prominence will be given to such points as may enable a reader who is already acquainted with the general course of events to form a just notion of the character of the man on whom so much depended.

If we wish to arrive at a correct judgment of Pitt’s merits and defects, we must never forget that he belonged to a peculiar class of statesmen, and that he must be tried by a peculiar standard. It is not easy to compare him fairly with such men as Ximenes and Sully, Richelieu and Oxenstiern, John de Witt and Warren Hastings. The means by which those politicians governed great communities were of quite a different kind from those which Pitt was under the necessity of employing. Some talents, which they never had any opportunity of showing that they possessed, were developed in him to an Edition: current; Page: [330] extraordinary degree. In some qualities, on the other hand, to which they owe a large part of their fame, he was decidedly their inferior. They transacted business in their closets, or at boards where a few confidential councillors sate. It was his lot to be born in an age and in a country in which parliamentary government was completely established; his whole training from infancy was such as fitted him to bear a part in parliamentary government; and, from the prime of his manhood to his death, all the powers of his vigorous mind were almost constantly exerted in the work of parliamentary government. He accordingly became the greatest master of the whole art of parliamentary government that has ever existed, a greater than Montague or Walpole, a greater than his father Chatham or his rival Fox, a greater than either of his illustrious successors Canning and Peel.

Parliamentary government, like every other contrivance of man, has its advantages and its disadvantages. On the advantages there is no need to dilate. The history of England during the hundred and seventy years which have elapsed since the House of Commons became the most powerful body in the state, her immense and still growing prosperity, her freedom, her tranquillity, her greatness in arts, in sciences, and in arms, her maritime ascendency, the marvels of her public credit, her American, her African, her Australian, her Asiatic empires, sufficiently prove the excellence of her institutions. But those institutions, though excellent, are assuredly not perfect. Parliamentary government is government by speaking. In such a government, the power of speaking is the most highly prized of all the qualities which a politician can possess; and that power may exist, in the highest degree, without judgment, without fortitude, without skill in reading the characters of men or the signs of the times, without any knowledge of the principles of legislation or of political economy, and without any skill in diplomacy Edition: current; Page: [331] or in the administration of war. Nay, it may well happen that those very intellectual qualities which give a peculiar charm to the speeches of a public man may be incompatible with the qualities which would fit him to meet a pressing emergency with promptitude and firmness. It was thus with Charles Townshend. It was thus with Windham. It was a privilege to listen to those accomplished and ingenious orators. But in a perilous crisis they would have been found far inferior in all the qualities of rulers to such a man as Oliver Cromwell, who talked nonsense, or as William the Silent, who did not talk at all. When parliamentary government is established, a Charles Townshend or a Windham will almost always exercise much greater influence than such men as the great Protector of England, or as the founder of the Batavian commonwealth. In such a government, parliamentary talent, though quite distinct from the talents of a good executive or judicial officer, will be a chief qualification for executive and judicial office. From the Book of Dignities a curious list might be made out of Chancellors ignorant of the principles of equity, and First Lords of the Admiralty ignorant of the principles of navigation, of Colonial ministers who could not repeat the names of the Colonies, of Lords of the Treasury who did not know the difference between funded and unfunded debt, and of Secretaries of the India Board who did not know whether the Mahrattas were Mahometans or Hindoos. On these grounds, some persons, incapable of seeing more than one side of a question, have pronounced parliamentary government a positive evil, and have maintained that the administration would be greatly improved if the power, now exercised by a large assembly, were transferred to a single person. Men of sense will probably think the remedy very much worse than the disease, and will be of opinion that there would be small gain in exchanging Charles Townshend and Windham for the Prince of the Peace, or the poor slave and dog Steenie.

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Pitt was emphatically the man of parliamentary government, the type of his class, the minion, the child, the spoiled child, of the House of Commons. For the House of Commons he had a hereditary, an infantine love. Through his whole boyhood, the House of Commons was never out of his thoughts, or out of the thoughts of his instructors. Reciting at his father’s knee, reading Thucydides and Cicero into English, analysing the great Attic speeches on the Embassy and on the Crown, he was constantly in training for the conflicts of the House of Commons. He was a distinguished member of the House of Commons at twenty-one. The ability which he had displayed in the House of Commons made him the most powerful subject in Europe before he was twenty-five. It would have been happy for himself and for his country if his elevation had been deferred. Eight or ten years, during which he would have had leisure and opportunity for reading and reflection, for foreign travel, for social intercourse and free exchange of thought on equal terms with a great variety of companions, would have supplied what, without any fault on his part, was wanting to his powerful intellect. He had all the knowledge that he could be expected to have; that is to say, all the knowledge that a man can acquire while he is a student at Cambridge, and all the knowledge that a man can acquire when he is First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer. But the stock of general information which he brought from college, extraordinary for a boy, was far inferior to what Fox possessed, and beggarly when compared with the massy, the splendid, the various treasures laid up in the large mind of Burke. After Pitt became minister, he had no leisure to learn more than was necessary for the purposes of the day which was passing over him. What was necessary for those purposes such a man could learn with little difficulty. He was surrounded by experienced and able public servants. He could at any moment command their best assistance. Edition: current; Page: [333] From the stores which they produced his vigorous mind rapidly collected the materials for a good parliamentary case: and that was enough. Legislation and administration were with him secondary matters. To the work of framing statutes, of negotiating treaties, of organising fleets and armies, of sending forth expeditions, he gave only the leavings of his time and the dregs of his fine intellect. The strength and sap of his mind were all drawn in a different direction. It was when the House of Commons was to be convinced and persuaded that he put forth all his powers.

Of those powers we must form our estimate chiefly from tradition; for of all the eminent speakers of the last age Pitt has suffered most from the reporters. Even while he was still living, critics remarked that his eloquence could not be preserved, that he must be heard to be appreciated. They more than once applied to him the sentence in which Tacitus describes the fate of a senator whose rhetoric was admired in the Augustan age: “Haterii canorum illud et profluens cum ipso simul exstinctum est.” There is, however, abundant evidence that nature had bestowed on Pitt the talents of a great orator; and those talents had been developed in a very peculiar manner, first by his education, and secondly by the high official position to which he rose early, and in which he passed the greater part of his public life.

At his first appearance in Parliament he showed himself superior to all his contemporaries in command of language. He could pour forth a long succession of round and stately periods, without premeditation, without ever pausing for a word, without ever repeating a word, in a voice of silver clearness, and with a pronunciation so articulate that not a letter was slurred over. He had less amplitude of mind and less richness of imagination than Burke, less ingenuity than Windham, less wit than Sheridan, less perfect mastery of dialectical fence, and less of that highest sort of eloquence which consists of Edition: current; Page: [334] reason and passion fused together, than Fox. Yet the almost unanimous judgment of those who were in the habit of listening to that remarkable race of men placed Pitt, as a speaker, above Burke, above Windham, above Sheridan, and not below Fox. His declamation was copious, polished, and splendid. In power of sarcasm he was probably not surpassed by any speaker, ancient or modern; and of this formidable weapon he made merciless use. In two parts of the oratorical art which are of the highest value to a minister of state he was singularly expert. No man knew better how to be luminous or how to be obscure. When he wished to be understood, he never failed to make himself understood. He could with ease present to his audience, not perhaps an exact or profound, but a clear, popular, and plausible view of the most extensive and complicated subject. Nothing was out of place; nothing was forgotten; minute details, dates, sums of money, were all faithfully preserved in his memory. Even intricate questions of finance, when explained by him, seemed clear to the plainest man among his hearers. On the other hand, when he did not wish to be explicit, — and no man who is at the head of affairs always wishes to be explicit, — he had a marvellous power of saying nothing in language which left on his audience the impression that he had said a great deal. He was at once the only man who could open a budget without notes, and the only man who, as Windham said, could speak that most elaborately evasive and unmeaning of human compositions, a King’s speech, without premeditation.

The effect of oratory will always to a great extent depend on the character of the orator. There perhaps never were two speakers whose eloquence had more of what may be called the race, more of the flavour imparted by moral qualities, than Fox and Pitt. The speeches of Fox owe a great part of their charm to that warmth and softness of heart, that sympathy with human suffering, Edition: current; Page: [335] that admiration for everything great and beautiful, and that hatred of cruelty and injustice, which interest and delight us even in the most defective reports. No person, on the other hand, could hear Pitt without perceiving him to be a man of high, intrepid, and commanding spirit, proudly conscious of his own rectitude and of his own intellectual superiority, incapable of the low vices of fear and envy, but too prone to feel and to show disdain. Pride, indeed, pervaded the whole man, was written in the harsh, rigid lines of his face, was marked by the way in which he walked, in which he sate, in which he stood, and, above all, in which he bowed. Such pride, of course, inflicted many wounds. It may confidently be affirmed that there cannot be found, in all the ten thousand invectives written against Fox, a word indicating that his demeanour had ever made a single personal enemy. On the other hand, several men of note who had been partial to Pitt, and who to the last continued to approve his public conduct and to support his administration, Cumberland, for example, Boswell, and Matthias, were so much irritated by the contempt with which he treated them, that they complained in print of their wrongs. But his pride, though it made him bitterly disliked by individuals, inspired the great body of his followers in Parliament and throughout the country with respect and confidence. They took him at his own valuation. They saw that his self-esteem was not that of an upstart, who was drunk with good luck and with applause, and who, if fortune turned, would sink from arrogance into abject humility. It was that of the magnanimous man so finely described by Aristotle in the Ethics, of the man who thinks himself worthy of great things, being in truth worthy. It sprang from a consciousness of great powers and great virtues, and was never so conspicuously displayed as in the midst of difficulties and dangers which would have unnerved and bowed down any ordinary mind. It was closely connected, too, with an ambition which had Edition: current; Page: [336] no mixture of low cupidity. There was something noble in the cynical disdain with which the mighty minister scattered riches and titles to right and left among those who valued them, while he spurned them out of his own way. Poor himself, he was surrounded by friends on whom he had bestowed three thousand, six thousand, ten thousand a year. Plain Mister himself, he had made more lords than any three ministers that had preceded him. The garter, for which the first dukes in the kingdom were contending, was repeatedly offered to him, and offered in vain.

The correctness of his private life added much to the dignity of his public character. In the relations of son, brother, uncle, master, friend, his conduct was exemplary. In the small circle of his intimate associates, he was amiable, affectionate, even playful. They loved him sincerely; they regretted him long; and they would hardly admit that he who was so kind and gentle with them could be stern and haughty with others. He indulged, indeed, somewhat too freely in wine, which he had early been directed to take as a medicine, and which use had made a necessary of life to him. But it was very seldom that any indication of undue excess could be detected in his tones or gestures; and, in truth, two bottles of port were little more to him than two dishes of tea. He had, when he was first introduced into the clubs of Saint James’s Street, shown a strong taste for play; but he had the prudence and the resolution to stop before this taste had acquired the strength of habit. From the passion which generally exercises the most tyrannical dominion over the young he possessed an immunity, which is probably to be ascribed partly to his temperament and partly to his situation. His constitution was feeble; he was very shy; and he was very busy. The strictness of his morals furnished such buffoons as Peter Pindar and Captain Morris with an inexhaustible theme for merriment of no very delicate kind. But the great body of the middle class of Englishmen could Edition: current; Page: [337] not see the joke. They warmly praised the young statesman for commanding his passions, and for covering his frailties, if he had frailties, with decorous obscurity, and would have been very far indeed from thinking better of him if he had vindicated himself from the taunts of his enemies by taking under his protection a Nancy Parsons or a Marianne Clark.

No part of the immense popularity which Pitt long enjoyed is to be attributed to the eulogies of wits and poets. It might have been naturally expected that a man of genius, of learning, of taste, an orator whose diction was often compared to that of Tully, the representative, too, of a great university, would have taken a peculiar pleasure in befriending eminent writers, to whatever political party they might have belonged. The love of literature had induced Augustus to heap benefits on Pompeians, Somers to be the protector of nonjurors, Harley to make the fortunes of Whigs. But it could not move Pitt to show any favour even to Pittites. He was doubtless right in thinking that, in general, poetry, history and philosophy ought to be suffered, like calico and cutlery, to find their proper price in the market, and that to teach men of letters to look habitually to the state for their recompense is bad for the state and bad for letters. Assuredly nothing can be more absurd or mischievous than to waste the public money in bounties for the purpose of inducing people who ought to be weighing out grocery or measuring out drapery to write bad or middling books. But, though the sound rule is that authors should be left to be remunerated by their readers, there will, in every generation, be a few exceptions to this rule. To distinguish these special cases from the mass is an employment well worthy of the faculties of a great and accomplished ruler; and Pitt would assuredly have had little difficulty in finding such cases. While he was in power, the greatest philologist of the age, his own contemporary at Cambridge, was reduced to earn a livelihood Edition: current; Page: [338] by the lowest literary drudgery, and to spend in writing squibs for the Morning Chronicle years to which we might have owed an all but perfect text of the whole tragic and comic drama of Athens. The greatest historian of the age, forced by poverty to leave his country, completed his immortal work on the shores of Lake Leman. The political heterodoxy of Porson, and the religious heterodoxy of Gibbon, may perhaps be pleaded in defence of the minister by whom those eminent men were neglected. But there were other cases in which no such excuse could be set up. Scarcely had Pitt obtained possession of unbounded power when an aged writer of the highest eminence, who had made very little by his writings, and who was sinking into the grave under a load of infirmities and sorrows, wanted five or six hundred pounds to enable him, during the winter or two which might still remain to him, to draw his breath more easily in the soft climate of Italy. Not a farthing was to be obtained; and before Christmas the author of the English Dictionary and of the Lives of the Poets had gasped his last in the river fog and coal smoke of Fleet Street. A few months after the death of Johnson appeared the Task, incomparably the best poem that any Englishman then living had produced—a poem, too, which could hardly fail to excite in a well constituted mind a feeling of esteem and compassion for the poet, a man of genius and virtue, whose means were scanty, and whom the most cruel of all the calamities incident to humanity had made incapable of supporting himself by vigorous and sustained exertion. Nowhere had Chatham been praised with more enthusiasm, or in verse more worthy of the subject, than in the Task. The son of Chatham, however, contented himself with reading and admiring the book, and left the author to starve. The pension which, long after, enabled poor Cowper to close his melancholy life, unmolested by duns and bailiffs, was obtained for him by the strenuous kindness of Lord Spencer. What a contrast between the way in which Edition: current; Page: [339] Pitt acted towards Johnson and the way in which Lord Grey acted towards his political enemy Scott, when Scott, worn out by misfortune and disease, was advised to try the effect of the Italian air! What a contrast between the way in which Pitt acted towards Cowper and the way in which Burke, a poor man and out of place, acted towards Crabbe! Even Dundas, who made no pretensions to literary taste, and was content to be considered as a hard-headed and somewhat coarse man of business, was, when compared with his eloquent and classically educated friend, a Mæcenas or a Leo. Dundas made Burns an exciseman, with seventy pounds a year; and this was more than Pitt, during his long tenure of power, did for the encouragement of letters. Even those who may think that it is, in general, no part of the duty of a government to reward literary merit will hardly deny that a government, which has much lucrative church preferment in its gift, is bound, in distributing that preferment, not to overlook divines whose writings have rendered great service to the cause of religion. But it seems never to have occurred to Pitt that he lay under any such obligation. All the theological works of all the numerous bishops whom he made and translated are not, when put together, worth fifty pages of the Horæ Paulinæ, of the Natural Theology, or of the View of the Evidences of Christianity. But on Paley the all-powerful minister never bestowed the smallest benefice. Artists Pitt treated as contemptuously as writers. For painting he did simply nothing. Sculptors, who had been selected to execute monuments voted by Parliament, had to haunt the ante-chambers of the Treasury during many years before they could obtain a farthing from him. One of them, after vainly soliciting the minister for payment during fourteen years, had the courage to present a memorial to the King, and thus obtained tardy and ungracious justice. Architects it was absolutely necessary to employ; and the worst that could be found seem to have been employed. Not a single fine Edition: current; Page: [340] public building of any kind or in any style was erected during his long administration. It may be confidently affirmed that no ruler whose abilities and attainments would bear any comparison with his has ever shown such cold disdain for what is excellent in arts and letters.

His first administration lasted seventeen years. That long period is divided by a strongly marked line into two almost exactly equal parts. The first part ended and the second began in the autumn of 1792. Throughout both parts Pitt displayed in the highest degree the talents of a parliamentary leader. During the first part he was a fortunate and, in many respects, a skilful administrator. With the difficulties which he had to encounter during the second part he was altogether incapable of contending: but his eloquence and his perfect mastery of the tactics of the House of Commons concealed his incapacity from the multitude.

The eight years which followed the general election of 1784 were as tranquil and prosperous as any eight years in the whole history of England. Neighbouring nations which had lately been in arms against her, and which had flattered themselves that, in losing her American colonies, she had lost a chief source of her wealth and of her power, saw, with wonder and vexation, that she was more wealthy and more powerful than ever. Her trade increased. Her manufactures flourished. Her exchequer was full to overflowing. Very idle apprehensions were generally entertained, that the public debt, though much less than a third of the debt which we now bear with ease, would be found too heavy for the strength of the nation. Those apprehensions might not perhaps have been easily quieted by reason. But Pitt quieted them by a juggle. He succeeded in persuading first himself, and then the whole nation, his opponents included, that a new sinking fund, which, so far as it differed from former sinking funds, differed for the worse, would, by virtue of some mysterious power of propagation belonging to Edition: current; Page: [341] money, put into the pocket of the public creditor great sums not taken out of the pocket of the tax-payer. The country, terrified by a danger which was no danger, hailed with delight and boundless confidence a remedy which was no remedy. The minister was almost universally extolled as the greatest of financiers. Meanwhile both the branches of the House of Bourbon found that England was as formidable an antagonist as she had ever been. France had formed a plan for reducing Holland to vassalage. But England interposed; and France receded. Spain interrupted by violence the trade of our merchants with the regions near the Oregon. But England armed; and Spain receded. Within the island there was profound tranquillity. The King was, for the first time, popular. During the twenty-three years which had followed his accession he had not been loved by his subjects. His domestic virtues were acknowledged. But it was generally thought that the good qualities by which he was distinguished in private life were wanting to his political character. As a Sovereign, he was resentful, unforgiving, stubborn, cunning. Under his rule the country had sustained cruel disgraces and disasters; and every one of those disgraces and disasters was imputed to his strong antipathies, and to his perverse obstinacy in the wrong. One statesman after another complained that he had been induced by royal caresses, entreaties, and promises, to undertake the direction of affairs at a difficult conjuncture, and that, as soon as he had, not without sullying his fame and alienating his best friends, served the turn for which he was wanted, his ungrateful master began to intrigue against him, and to canvass against him. Grenville, Rockingham, Chatham, men of widely different characters, but all three upright and high-spirited, agreed in thinking that the Prince under whom they had successively held the highest place in the government was one of the most insincere of mankind. His confidence was reposed, they said, not in those known and responsible counsellors to whom he had Edition: current; Page: [342] delivered the seals of office, but in secret advisers who stole up the back stairs into his closet. In Parliament, his ministers, while defending themselves against the attacks of the opposition in front, were perpetually, at his instigation, assailed on the flank or in the rear by a vile band of mercenaries who called themselves his friends. These men constantly, while in possession of lucrative places in his service, spoke and voted against bills which he had authorised the First Lord of the Treasury or the Secretary of State to bring in. But from the day on which Pitt was placed at the head of affairs there was an end of secret influence. His haughty and aspiring spirit was not to be satisfied with the mere show of power. Any attempt to undermine him at Court, any mutinous movement among his followers in the House of Commons, was certain to be at once put down. He had only to tender his resignation; and he could dictate his own terms. For he, and he alone, stood between the King and the Coalition. He was therefore little less than Mayor of the Palace. The nation loudly applauded the King for having the wisdom to repose entire confidence in so excellent a minister. His Majesty’s private virtues now began to produce their full effect. He was generally regarded as the model of a respectable country gentleman, honest, good-natured, sober, religious. He rose early: he dined temperately: he was strictly faithful to his wife: he never missed church; and at church he never missed a response. His people heartily prayed that he might long reign over them; and they prayed the more heartily because his virtues were set off to the best advantage by the vices and follies of the Prince of Wales, who lived in close intimacy with the chiefs of the opposition.

How strong this feeling was in the public mind appeared signally on one great occasion. In the autumn of 1788 the King became insane. The opposition, eager for office, committed the great indiscretion of asserting that the heir apparent had, by the fundamental laws of England, a right Edition: current; Page: [343] to be Regent with the full powers of royalty. Pitt, on the other hand, maintained it to be the constitutional doctrine that, when a Sovereign is, by reason of infancy, disease, or absence, incapable of exercising the regal functions, it belongs to the estates of the realm to determine who shall be the vicegerent, and with what portion of the executive authority such vicegerent shall be entrusted. A long and violent contest followed, in which Pitt was supported by the great body of the people with as much enthusiasm as during the first months of his administration. Tories with one voice applauded him for defending the sick-bed of a virtuous and unhappy Sovereign against a disloyal faction and an undutiful son. Not a few Whigs applauded him for asserting the authority of Parliaments and the principles of the Revolution, in opposition to a doctrine which seemed to have too much affinity with the servile theory of indefeasible hereditary right. The middle class, always zealous on the side of decency and the domestic virtues, looked forward with dismay to a reign resembling that of Charles II. The palace, which had now been, during thirty years, the pattern of an English home, would be a public nuisance, a school of profligacy. To the good King’s repast of mutton and lemonade, despatched at three o’clock, would succeed midnight banquets, from which the guests would be carried home speechless. To the backgammon board at which the good King played for a little silver with his equerries, would succeed faro tables from which young patricians who had sate down rich would rise up beggars. The drawing-room, from which the frown of the Queen had repelled a whole generation of frail beauties, would now be again what it had been in the days of Barbara Palmer and Louisa de Querouaille. Nay, severely as the public reprobated the Prince’s many illicit attachments, his one virtuous attachment was reprobated more severely still. Even in grave and pious circles his Protestant mistresses gave less scandal than his Popish wife. That he must be Edition: current; Page: [344] Regent nobody ventured to deny. But he and his friends were so unpopular that Pitt could, with general approbation, propose to limit the powers of the Regent by restrictions to which it would have been impossible to subject a Prince beloved and trusted by the country. Some interested men, fully expecting a change of administration, went over to the opposition. But the majority, purified by these desertions, closed its ranks, and presented a more firm array than ever to the enemy. In every division Pitt was victorious. When at length, after a stormy interregnum of three months, it was announced, on the very eve of the inauguration of the Regent, that the King was himself again, the nation was wild with delight. On the evening of the day on which His Majesty resumed his functions, a spontaneous illumination, the most general that had ever been seen in England, brightened the whole vast space from Highgate to Tooting, and from Hammersmith to Greenwich. On the day on which he returned thanks in the cathedral of his capital, all the horses and carriages within a hundred miles of London were too few for the multitudes which flocked to see him pass through the streets. A second illumination followed, which was even superior to the first in magnificence. Pitt with difficulty escaped from the tumultuous kindness of an innumerable multitude which insisted on drawing his coach from Saint Paul’s Churchyard to Downing Street. This was the moment at which his fame and fortune may be said to have reached the zenith. His influence in the closet was as great as that of Carr or Villiers had been. His dominion over the Parliament was more absolute than that of Walpole or Pelham had been. He was at the same time as high in the favour of the populace as ever Wilkes or Sacheverell had been. Nothing did more to raise his character than his noble poverty. It was well known that, if he had been dismissed from office after more than five years of boundless power, he would hardly have carried out with him a sum sufficient Edition: current; Page: [345] to furnish the set of chambers in which, as he cheerfully declared, he meant to resume the practice of the law. His admirers, however, were by no means disposed to suffer him to depend on daily toil for his daily bread. The voluntary contributions which were awaiting his acceptance in the city of London alone would have sufficed to make him a rich man. But it may be doubted whether his haughty spirit would have stooped to accept a provision so honourably earned and so honourably bestowed.

To such a height of power and glory had this extraordinary man risen at twenty-nine years of age. And now the tide was on the turn. Only ten days after the triumphant procession to Saint Paul’s, the States-General of France, after an interval of a hundred and seventy-four years, met at Versailles.

The nature of the great Revolution which followed was long very imperfectly understood in this country. Burke saw much further than any of his contemporaries: but whatever his sagacity descried was refracted and discoloured by his passions and his imagination. More than three years elapsed before the principles of the English administration underwent any material change. Nothing could as yet be milder or more strictly constitutional than the minister’s domestic policy. Not a single act indicating an arbitrary temper or a jealousy of the people could be imputed to him. He had never applied to Parliament for any extraordinary powers. He had never used with harshness the ordinary powers entrusted by the constitution to the executive government. Not a single state prosecution which would even now be called oppressive had been instituted by him. Indeed, the only oppressive state prosecution instituted during the first eight years of his administration was that of Stockdale, which is to be attributed, not to the government, but to the chiefs of the opposition. In office, Pitt had redeemed the pledges which he had, at his entrance into public life, given to the supporters of parliamentary reform. He had, in Edition: current; Page: [346] 1785, brought forward a judicious plan for the improvement of the representative system, and had prevailed on the King, not only to refrain from talking against that plan, but to recommend it to the Houses in a speech from the throne.* This attempt failed; but there can be little doubt that, if the French Revolution had not produced a violent reaction of public feeling, Pitt would have performed, with little difficulty and no danger, that great work which, at a later period, Lord Grey could accomplish only by means which for a time loosened the very foundations of the commonwealth. When the atrocities of the slave trade were first brought under the consideration of Parliament, no abolitionist was more zealous than Pitt. When sickness prevented Wilberforce from appearing in public, his place was most efficiently supplied by his friend the minister. A humane bill, which mitigated the horrors of the middle passage, was, in 1788, carried by the eloquence and determined spirit of Pitt, in spite of the opposition of some of his own colleagues; and it ought always to be remembered to his honour that, in order to carry that bill, he kept the Houses sitting, in spite of many murmurs, long after the business of the government had been done, and the Appropriation Act passed. In 1791 he cordially concurred with Fox in maintaining the sound constitutional doctrine, that an impeachment is not terminated by a dissolution. In the course of the same year the two great rivals contended side by side in a far more important cause. They are fairly entitled to divide the high honour of having added to our statute-book the inestimable law which places the liberty of the press under the protection of juries. On one occasion, and one alone, Pitt, during the first half of his long administration, acted in a manner unworthy of Edition: current; Page: [347] an enlightened Whig. In the debate on the Test Act, he stooped to gratify the master whom he served, the university which he represented, and the great body of clergymen and country gentlemen on whose support he rested, by talking, with little heartiness, indeed, and with no asperity, the language of a Tory. With this single exception, his conduct from the end of 1783 to the middle of 1792 was that of an honest friend of civil and religious liberty.

Nor did anything, during that period, indicate that he loved war, or harboured any malevolent feeling against any neighbouring nation. Those French writers who have represented him as a Hannibal sworn in childhood by his father to bear eternal hatred to France, as having, by mysterious intrigues and lavish bribes, instigated the leading Jacobins to commit those excesses which dishonoured the Revolution, as having been the real author of the first coalition, know nothing of his character or of his history. So far was he from being a deadly enemy to France, that his laudable attempts to bring about a closer connection with that country by means of a wise and liberal treaty of commerce brought on him the severe censure of the opposition. He was told in the House of Commons that he was a degenerate son, and that his partiality for the hereditary foes of our island was enough to make his great father’s bones stir under the pavement of the Abbey.

And this man, whose name, if he had been so fortunate as to die in 1792, would now have been associated with peace, with freedom, with philanthropy, with temperate reform, with mild and constitutional administration, lived to associate his name with arbitrary government, with harsh laws harshly executed, with alien bills, with gagging bills, with suspensions of the Habeas Corpus Act, with cruel punishments inflicted on some political agitators, with unjustifiable prosecutions instituted against others, and with the most costly and most sanguinary wars of Edition: current; Page: [348] modern times. He lived to be held up to obloquy as the stern oppressor of England, and the indefatigable disturber of Europe. Poets, contrasting his earlier with his later years, likened him sometimes to the apostle who kissed in order to betray, and sometimes to the evil angels who kept not their first estate. A satirist of great genius introduced the fiends of Famine, Slaughter, and Fire, proclaiming that they had received their commission from One whose name was formed of four letters, and promising to give their employer ample proofs of gratitude. Famine would gnaw the multitude till they should rise up against him in madness. The demon of Slaughter would impel them to tear him from limb to limb. But Fire boasted that she alone could reward him as he deserved, and that she would cling round him to all eternity. By the French press and the French tribune every crime that disgraced and every calamity that afflicted France was ascribed to the monster Pitt and his guineas. While the Jacobins were dominant, it was he who had corrupted the Gironde, who had raised Lyons and Bordeaux against the Convention, who had suborned Paris to assassinate Lepelletier, and Cecilia Regnault to assassinate Robespierre. When the Thermidorian reaction came, all the atrocities of the Reign of Terror were imputed to him. Collot D’Herbois and Fouquier Tinville had been his pensioners. It was he who had hired the murderers of September, who had dictated the pamphlets of Marat and the Carmagnoles of Barère, who had paid Lebon to deluge Arras with blood, and Carrier to choke the Loire with corpses.

The truth is, that he liked neither war nor arbitrary government. He was a lover of peace and freedom, driven, by a stress against which it was hardly possible for any will or any intellect to struggle, out of the course to which his inclinations pointed, and for which his abilities and acquirements fitted him, and forced into a policy repugnant to his feelings and unsuited to his talents.

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The charge of apostasy is grossly unjust. A man ought no more to be called an apostate because his opinions alter with the opinions of the great body of his contemporaries than he ought to be called an oriental traveller because he is always going round from west to east with the globe and everything that is upon it. Between the spring of 1789 and the close of 1792, the public mind of England underwent a great change. If the change of Pitt’s sentiments attracted peculiar notice, it was not because he changed more than his neighbours; for in fact he changed less than most of them; but because his position was far more conspicuous than theirs, because he was, till Bonaparte appeared, the individual who filled the greatest space in the eyes of the inhabitants of the civilised world. During a short time the nation, and Pitt, as one of the nation, looked with interest and approbation on the French Revolution. But soon vast confiscations, the violent sweeping away of ancient institutions, the domination of clubs, the barbarities of mobs maddened by famine and hatred, produced a reaction here. The court, the nobility, the gentry, the clergy, the manufacturers, the merchants, in short, nineteen twentieths of those who had good roofs over their heads and good coats on their backs, became eager and intolerant Antijacobins. This feeling was at least as strong among the minister’s adversaries as among his supporters. Fox in vain attempted to restrain his followers. All his genius, all his vast personal influence, could not prevent them from rising up against him in general mutiny. Burke set the example of revolt; and Burke was in no long time joined by Portland, Spencer, Fitzwilliam, Loughborough, Carlisle, Malmesbury, Windham, Elliot. In the House of Commons, the followers of the great Whig statesman and orator diminished from about a hundred and sixty to fifty. In the House of Lords he had but ten or twelve adherents left. There can be no doubt that there would have been a similar mutiny on the ministerial benches if Pitt Edition: current; Page: [350] had obstinately resisted the general wish. Pressed at once by his master and by his colleagues, by old friends and by old opponents, he abandoned, slowly and reluctantly, the policy which was dear to his heart. He laboured hard to avert the European war. When the European war broke out, he still flattered himself that it would not be necessary for this country to take either side. In the spring of 1792 he congratulated the Parliament on the prospect of long and profound peace, and proved his sincerity by proposing large remissions of taxation. Down to the end of that year he continued to cherish the hope that England might be able to preserve neutrality. But the passions which raged on both sides of the Channel were not to be restrained. The republicans who ruled France were inflamed by a fanaticism resembling that of the Mussulmans who, with the Koran in one hand and the sword in the other, went forth, conquering and converting, eastward to the Bay of Bengal, and westward to the Pillars of Hercules. The higher and middle classes of England were animated by zeal not less fiery than that of the Crusaders who raised the cry of Deus vult at Clermont. The impulse which drove the two nations to a collision was not to be arrested by the abilities or by the authority of any single man. As Pitt was in front of his fellows, and towered high above them, he seemed to lead them. But in fact he was violently pushed on by them, and, had he held back but a little more than he did, would have been thrust out of their way or trampled under their feet.

He yielded to the current: and from that day his misfortunes began. The truth is that there were only two consistent courses before him. Since he did not choose to oppose himself, side by side with Fox, to the public feeling, he should have taken the advice of Burke, and should have availed himself of that feeling to the full extent. If it was impossible to preserve peace, he should have adopted the only policy which could lead to victory. Edition: current; Page: [351] He should have proclaimed a Holy War for religion, morality, property, order, public law, and should have thus opposed to the Jacobins an energy equal to their own. Unhappily he tried to find a middle path; and he found one which united all that was worst in both extremes. He went to war: but he would not understand the peculiar character of that war. He was obstinately blind to the plain fact, that he was contending against a state which was also a sect, and that the new quarrel between England and France was of quite a different kind from the old quarrels about colonies in America and fortresses in the Netherlands. He had to combat frantic enthusiasm, boundless ambition, restless activity, the wildest and most audacious spirit of innovation; and he acted as if he had to deal with the harlots and fops of the old Court of Versailles, with Madame de Pompadour and the Abbé de Bernis. It was pitiable to hear him, year after year, proving to an admiring audience that the wicked Republic was exhausted, that she could not hold out, that her credit was gone, and her assignats were not worth more than the paper of which they were made; as if credit was necessary to a government of which the principle was rapine, as if Alboin could not turn Italy into a desert till he had negotiated a loan at five per cent., as if the exchequer bills of Attila had been at par. It was impossible that a man who so completely mistook the nature of a contest could carry on that contest successfully. Great as Pitt’s abilities were, his military administration was that of a driveller. He was at the head of a nation engaged in a struggle for life and death, of a nation eminently distinguished by all the physical and all the moral qualities which make excellent soldiers. The resources at his command were unlimited. The Parliament was even more ready to grant him men and money than he was to ask for them. In such an emergency, and with such means, such a statesman as Richelieu, as Louvois, as Chatham, as Wellesley, would Edition: current; Page: [352] have created in a few months one of the finest armies in the world, and would soon have discovered and brought forward generals worthy to command such an army. Germany might have been saved by another Blenheim; Flanders recovered by another Ramilies; another Poitiers might have delivered the Royalist and Catholic provinces of France from a yoke which they abhorred, and might have spread terror even to the barriers of Paris. But the fact is, that, after eight years of war, after a vast destruction of life, after an expenditure of wealth far exceeding the expenditure of the American war, of the Seven Years’ War, of the war of the Austrian Succession, and of the war of the Spanish Succession, united, the English army, under Pitt, was the laughing-stock of all Europe. It could not boast of one single brilliant exploit. It had never shown itself on the Continent but to be beaten, chased, forced to reembark, or forced to capitulate. To take some sugar island in the West Indies, to scatter some mob of half-naked Irish peasants, such were the most splendid victories won by the British troops under Pitt’s auspices.

The English navy no mismanagement could ruin. But during a long period whatever mismanagement could do was done. The Earl of Chatham, without a single qualification for high public trust, was made, by fraternal partiality, First Lord of the Admiralty, and was kept in that great post during two years of a war in which the very existence of the state depended on the efficiency of the fleet. He continued to doze away and trifle away the time which ought to have been devoted to the public service, till the whole mercantile body, though generally disposed to support the government, complained bitterly that our flag gave no protection to our trade. Fortunately he was succeeded by George Earl Spencer, one of those chiefs of the Whig party who, in the great schism caused by the French Revolution, had followed Burke. Lord Spencer, though inferior to many of his colleagues as an Edition: current; Page: [353] orator, was decidedly the best administrator among them. To him it was owing that a long and gloomy succession of days of fasting, and, most emphatically, of humiliation, was interrupted, twice in the short space of eleven months, by days of thanksgiving for great victories.

It may seem paradoxical to say that the incapacity which Pitt showed in all that related to the conduct of the war is, in some sense, the most decisive proof that he was a man of very extraordinary abilities. Yet this is the simple truth. For assuredly one-tenth part of his errors and disasters would have been fatal to the power and influence of any minister who had not possessed, in the highest degree, the talents of a parliamentary leader. While his schemes were confounded, while his predictions were falsified, while the coalitions which he had laboured to form were falling to pieces, while the expeditions which he had sent forth at enormous cost were ending in rout and disgrace, while the enemy against whom he was feebly contending was subjugating Flanders and Brabant, the Electorate of Mentz, and the Electorate of Treves, Holland, Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, his authority over the House of Commons was constantly becoming more and more absolute. There was his empire. There were his victories, his Lodi and his Arcola, his Rivoli and his Marengo. If some great misfortune, a pitched battle lost by the allies, the annexation of a new department to the French Republic, a sanguinary insurrection in Ireland, a mutiny in the fleet, a panic in the city, a run on the bank, had spread dismay through the ranks of his majority, that dismay lasted only till he rose from the Treasury bench, drew up his haughty head, stretched his arm with commanding gesture, and poured forth, in deep and sonorous tones, the lofty language of inextinguishable hope and inflexible resolution. Thus, through a long and calamitous period, every disaster that happened without the walls of Parliament was regularly followed by a triumph within them. At length he had no longer an opposition to encounter. Edition: current; Page: [354] Of the great party which had contended against him during the first eight years of his administration more than one half now marched under his standard, with his old competitor the Duke of Portland at their head; and the rest had, after many vain struggles, quitted the field in despair. Fox had retired to the shades of St. Anne’s Hill, and had there found, in the society of friends whom no vicissitude could estrange from him, of a woman whom he tenderly loved, and of the illustrious dead of Athens, of Rome, and of Florence, ample compensation for all the misfortunes of his public life. Session followed session with scarcely a single division. In the eventful year 1799, the largest minority that could be mustered against the government was twenty-five.

In Pitt’s domestic policy there was at this time assuredly no want of vigour. While he offered to French Jacobinism a resistance so feeble that it only encouraged the evil which he wished to suppress, he put down English Jacobinism with a strong hand. The Habeas Corpus Act was repeatedly suspended. Public meetings were placed under severe restraints. The government obtained from Parliament power to send out of the country aliens who were suspected of evil designs; and that power was not suffered to be idle. Writers who propounded doctrines adverse to monarchy and aristocracy were proscribed and punished without mercy. It was hardly safe for a republican to avow his political creed over his beefsteak and his bottle of port at a chop-house. The old laws of Scotland against sedition, laws which were considered by Englishmen as barbarous, and which a succession of governments had suffered to rust, were now furbished up and sharpened anew. Men of cultivated minds and polished manners were, for offences which at Westminster would have been treated as mere misdemeanours, sent to herd with felons at Botany Bay. Some reformers, whose opinions were extravagant, and whose language was intemperate, but who had never dreamed of subverting the Edition: current; Page: [355] government by physical force, were indicted for high treason, and were saved from the gallows only by the righteous verdicts of juries. This severity was at the time loudly applauded by alarmists whom fear had made cruel, but will be seen in a very different light by posterity. The truth is, that the Englishmen who wished for a revolution were, even in number, not formidable, and, in every thing but number, a faction utterly contemptible, without arms, or funds, or plans, or organisation, or leader. There can be no doubt that Pitt, strong as he was in the support of the great body of the nation, might easily have repressed the turbulence of the discontented minority by firmly yet temperately enforcing the ordinary law. Whatever vigour he showed during this unfortunate part of his life was vigour out of place and season. He was all feebleness and languor in his conflict with the foreign enemy who was really to be dreaded, and reserved all his energy and resolution for the domestic enemy who might safely have been despised.

One part only of Pitt’s conduct during the last eight years of the eighteenth century deserves high praise. He was the first English minister who formed great designs for the benefit of Ireland. The manner in which the Roman Catholic population of that unfortunate country had been kept down during many generations seemed to him unjust and cruel; and it was scarcely possible for a man of his abilities not to perceive that, in a contest against the Jacobins, the Roman Catholics were his natural allies. Had he been able to do all that he wished, it is probable that a wise and liberal policy would have averted the rebellion of 1798. But the difficulties which he encountered were great, perhaps insurmountable; and the Roman Catholics were, rather by his misfortune than by his fault, thrown into the hands of the Jacobins. There was a third great rising of the Irishry against the Englishry, a rising not less formidable than the risings of 1641 and 1689. The Englishry remained victorious; and it was necessary for Pitt, Edition: current; Page: [356] as it had been necessary for Oliver Cromwell and William of Orange before him, to consider how the victory should be used. It is only just to his memory to say that he formed a scheme of policy, so grand and so simple, so righteous and so humane, that it would alone entitle him to a high place among statesmen. He determined to make Ireland one kingdom with England, and, at the same time, to relieve the Roman Catholic laity from civil disabilities, and to grant a public maintenance to the Roman Catholic clergy. Had he been able to carry these noble designs into effect, the Union would have been an Union indeed. It would have been inseparably associated in the minds of the great majority of Irishmen with civil and religious freedom; and the old Parliament in College Green would have been regretted only by a small knot of discarded jobbers and oppressors, and would have been remembered by the body of the nation with the loathing and contempt due to the most tyrannical and the most corrupt assembly that had ever sate in Europe. But Pitt could execute only one half of what he had projected. He succeeded in obtaining the consent of the Parliaments of both kingdoms to the Union; but that reconciliation of races and sects, without which the Union could exist only in name, was not accomplished. He was well aware that he was likely to find difficulties in the closet. But he flattered himself that, by cautious and dexterous management, those difficulties might be overcome. Unhappily, there were traitors and sycophants in high place who did not suffer him to take his own time and his own way, but prematurely disclosed his scheme to the King, and disclosed it in the manner most likely to irritate and alarm a weak and diseased mind. His Majesty absurdly imagined that his Coronation oath bound him to refuse his assent to any bill for relieving Roman Catholics from civil disabilities. To argue with him was impossible. Dundas tried to explain the matter, but was told to keep his Scotch metaphysics to himself. Pitt, and Pitt’s ablest colleagues, resigned their offices. It was necessary that the King should make a new arrangement. Edition: current; Page: [357] But by this time his anger and distress had brought back the malady which had, many years before, incapacitated him for the discharge of his functions. He actually assembled his family, read the Coronation oath to them, and told them that, if he broke it, the Crown would immediately pass to the House of Savoy. It was not until after an interregnum of several weeks that he regained the full use of his small faculties, and that a ministry after his own heart was at length formed.

The materials out of which he had to construct a government were neither solid nor splendid. To that party, weak in numbers, but strong in every kind of talent, which was hostile to the domestic and foreign policy of his late advisers, he could not have recourse. For that party, while it differed from his late advisers on every point on which they had been honoured with his approbation, cordially agreed with them as to the single matter which had brought on them his displeasure. All that was left to him was to call up the rear ranks of the old ministry to form the front rank of a new ministry. In an age pre-eminently fruitful of parliamentary talents, a cabinet was formed containing hardly a single man who, in parliamentary talents, could be considered as even of the second rate. The most important offices in the state were bestowed on decorous and laborious mediocrity. Henry Addington was at the head of the Treasury. He had been an early, indeed a hereditary, friend of Pitt, and had by Pitt’s influence been placed, while still a young man, in the chair of the House of Commons. He was universally admitted to have been the best speaker that had sate in that chair since the retirement of Onslow. But nature had not bestowed on him very vigorous faculties; and the highly respectable situation which he had long occupied with honour had rather unfitted than fitted him for the discharge of his new duties. His business had been to bear himself evenly between contending factions. He had taken no part in the war of words; and he had always been addressed with marked deference by the great Edition: current; Page: [358] orators who thundered against each other from his right and from his left. It was not strange that, when, for the first time, he had to encounter keen and vigorous antagonists, who dealt hard blows without the smallest ceremony, he should have been awkward and unready, or that the air of dignity and authority which he had acquired in his former post, and of which he had not divested himself, should have made his helplessness laughable and pitiable. Nevertheless, during many months, his power seemed to stand firm. He was a favourite with the King, whom he resembled in narrowness of mind, and to whom he was more obsequious than Pitt had ever been. The nation was put into high good humour by a peace with France. The enthusiasm with which the upper and middle classes had rushed into the war had spent itself. Jacobinism was no longer formidable. Everywhere there was a strong reaction against what was called the atheistical and anarchical philosophy of the eighteenth century. Bonaparte, now First Consul, was busied in constructing out of the ruins of old institutions a new ecclesiastical establishment and a new order of knighthood. That nothing less than the dominion of the whole civilised world would satisfy his selfish ambition was not yet suspected; nor did even wise men see any reason to doubt that he might be as safe a neighbour as any prince of the House of Bourbon had been. The treaty of Amiens was therefore hailed by the great body of the English people with extravagant joy. The popularity of the minister was for the moment immense. His want of parliamentary ability was, as yet, of little consequence: for he had scarcely any adversary to encounter. The old opposition, delighted by the peace, regarded him with favour. A new opposition had indeed been formed by some of the late ministers, and was led by Grenville in the House of Lords, and by Windham in the House of Commons. But the new opposition could scarcely muster ten votes, and was regarded with no favour by the country. On Pitt the ministers relied Edition: current; Page: [359] as on their firmest support. He had not, like some of his colleagues, retired in anger. He had expressed the greatest respect for the conscientious scruple which had taken possession of the royal mind; and he had promised his successors all the help in his power. In private his advice was at their service. In Parliament he took his seat on the bench behind them; and, in more than one debate, defended them with powers far superior to their own. The King perfectly understood the value of such assistance. On one occasion, at the palace, he took the old minister and the new minister aside. “If we three,” he said, “keep together, all will go well.”

But it was hardly possible, human nature being what it is, and, more especially, Pitt and Addington being what they were, that this union should be durable. Pitt, conscious of superior powers, imagined that the place which he had quitted was now occupied by a mere puppet which he had set up, which he was to govern while he suffered it to remain, and which he was to fling aside as soon as he wished to resume his old position. Nor was it long before he began to pine for the power which he had relinquished. He had been so early raised to supreme authority in the state, and had enjoyed that authority so long, that it had become necessary to him. In retirement his days passed heavily. He could not, like Fox, forget the pleasures and cares of ambition in the company of Euripides or Herodotus. Pride restrained him from intimating, even to his dearest friends, that he wished to be again minister. But he thought it strange, almost ungrateful, that his wish had not been divined, that it had not been anticipated, by one whom he regarded as his deputy.

Addington, on the other hand, was by no means inclined to descend from his high position. He was, indeed, under a delusion much resembling that of Abon Hassan in the Arabian tale. His brain was turned by his short and unreal Caliphate. He took his elevation quite seriously, attributed it to his own merit, and considered himself Edition: current; Page: [360] as one of the great triumvirate of English statesmen, as worthy to make a third with Pitt and Fox.

Such being the feelings of the late minister and of the present minister, a rupture was inevitable; and there was no want of persons bent on making that rupture speedy and violent. Some of these persons wounded Addington’s pride by representing him as a lacquey, sent to keep a place on the Treasury bench till his master should find it convenient to come. Others took every opportunity of praising him at Pitt’s expense. Pitt had waged a long, a bloody, a costly, an unsuccessful war. Addington had made peace. Pitt had supended the constitutional liberties of Englishmen. Under Addington those liberties were again enjoyed. Pitt had wasted the public resources. Addington was carefully nursing them. It was sometimes but too evident that these compliments were not unpleasing to Addington. Pitt became cold and reserved. During many months he remained at a distance from London. Meanwhile his most intimate friends, in spite of his declarations that he made no complaint, and that he had no wish for office, exerted themselves to effect a change of ministry. His favourite disciple, George Canning, young, ardent, ambitious, with great powers and great virtues, but with a temper too restless and a wit too satirical for his own happiness, was indefatigable. He spoke; he wrote; he intrigued; he tried to induce a large number of the supporters of the government to sign a round robin desiring a change; he made game of Addington and of Addington’s relations in a succession of lively pasquinades. The minister’s partisans retorted with equal acrimony, if not with equal vivacity. Pitt could keep out of the affray only by keeping out of politics altogether; and this it soon became impossible for him to do. Had Napoleon, content with the first place among the sovereigns of the Continent, and with a military reputation surpassing that of Marlborough or of Turenne, devoted himself to the noble task of making France happy by mild administration and wise legislation, our country Edition: current; Page: [361] might have long continued to tolerate a government of fair intentions and feeble abilities. Unhappily, the treaty of Amiens had scarcely been signed, when the restless ambition and the insupportable insolence of the First Consul convinced the great body of the English people that the peace, so eagerly welcomed, was only a precarious armistice. As it became clearer and clearer that a war for the dignity, the independence, the very existence of the nation was at hand, men looked with increasing uneasiness on the weak and languid cabinet which would have to contend against an enemy who united more than the power of Lewis the Great to more than the genius of Frederick the Great. It is true that Addington might easily have been a better war minister than Pitt, and could not possibly have been a worse. But Pitt had cast a spell on the public mind. The eloquence, the judgment, the calm and disdainful firmness, which he had, during many years, displayed in Parliament, deluded the world into the belief that he must be eminently qualified to superintend every department of politics; and they imagined, even after the miserable failures of Dunkirk, of Quiberon, and of the Helder, that he was the only statesman who could cope with Bonaparte. This feeling was nowhere stronger than among Addington’s own colleagues. The pressure put on him was so strong that he could not help yielding to it; yet, even in yielding, he showed how far he was from knowing his own place. His first proposition was, that some insignificant nobleman should be First Lord of the Treasury and nominal head of the administration, and that the real power should be divided between Pitt and himself, who were to be secretaries of state. Pitt, as might have been expected, refused even to discuss such a scheme, and talked of it with bitter mirth. “Which secretaryship was offered to you?” his friend Wilberforce asked. “Really,” said Pitt, “I had not the curiosity to inquire.” Addington was frightened into bidding higher. He offered to resign the Treasury to Pitt, on condition that there should be no extensive Edition: current; Page: [362] change in the government. But Pitt would listen to no such terms. Then came a dispute such as often arises after negotiations orally conducted, even when the negotiators are men of strict honour. Pitt gave one account of what had passed; Addington gave another: and, though the discrepancies were not such as necessarily implied any intentional violation of truth on either side, both were greatly exasperated.

Meanwhile the quarrel with the First Consul had come to a crisis. On the 16th of May, 1803, the King sent a message calling on the House of Commons to support him in withstanding the ambitious and encroaching policy of France; and, on the 22nd, the House took the message into consideration.

Pitt had now been living many months in retirement. There had been a general election since he had spoken in Parliament; and there were two hundred members who had never heard him. It was known that on this occasion he would be in his place; and curiosity was wound up to the highest point. Unfortunately, the short-hand writers were, in consequence of some mistake, shut out on that day from the gallery, so that the newspapers contained only a very meagre report of the proceedings. But several accounts of what passed are extant; and of those accounts the most interesting is contained in an unpublished letter, written by a very young member, John William Ward, afterwards Earl of Dudley. When Pitt rose, he was received with loud cheering. At every pause in his speech there was a burst of applause. The peroration is said to have been one of the most animated and magnificent ever heard in Parliament. “Pitt’s speech,” Fox wrote a few days later, “was admired very much, and very justly. I think it was the best he ever made in that style.” The debate was adjourned; and on the second night Fox replied in an oration which, as the most zealous Pittites were forced to acknowledge, left the palm of eloquence doubtful. Addington made a pitiable Edition: current; Page: [363] appearance between the two great rivals; and it was observed that Pitt, while exhorting the Commons to stand resolutely by the executive government against France, said not a word indicating esteem or friendship for the Prime Minister.

War was speedily declared. The First Consul threatened to invade England at the head of the conquerors of Belgium and Italy, and formed a great camp near the Straits of Dover. On the other side of those Straits the whole population of our island was ready to rise up as one man in defence of the soil. At this conjuncture, as at some other great conjunctures in our history, the conjuncture of 1660, for example, and the conjuncture of 1688, there was a general disposition among honest and patriotic men to forget old quarrels, and to regard as a friend every person who was ready, in the existing emergency, to do his part towards the saving of the state. A coalition of all the first men in the country would, at that moment, have been as popular as the coalition of 1783 had been unpopular. Alone in the kingdom the King looked with perfect complacency on a cabinet in which no man superior to himself in genius was to be found, and was so far from being willing to admit all his ablest subjects to office that he was bent on excluding them all.

A few months passed before the different parties which agreed in regarding the government with dislike and contempt came to an understanding with each other. But in the spring of 1804 it became evident that the weakest of ministries would have to defend itself against the strongest of oppositions, an opposition made up of three oppositions, each of which would, separately, have been formidable from ability, and which, when united, were also formidable from number. The party which had opposed the peace, headed by Grenville and Windham, and the party which had opposed the renewal of the war, headed by Fox, concurred in thinking that the men now in power were incapable of either making a Edition: current; Page: [364] good peace or waging a vigorous war. Pitt had, in 1802, spoken for peace against the party of Grenville, and had, in 1803, spoken for war against the party of Fox. But of the capacity of the cabinet, and especially of its chief, for the conduct of great affairs, he thought as meanly as either Fox or Grenville. Questions were easily found on which all the enemies of the government could act cordially together. The unfortunate First Lord of the Treasury, who had, during the earlier months of his administration, been supported by Pitt on one side, and by Fox on the other, now had to answer Pitt, and to be answered by Fox. Two sharp debates, followed by close divisions, made him weary of his post. It was known, too, that the Upper House was even more hostile to him than the Lower, that the Scotch representative peers wavered, that there were signs of mutiny among the bishops. In the cabinet itself there was discord, and, worse than discord, treachery. It was necessary to give way: the ministry was dissolved; and the task of forming a government was entrusted to Pitt.

Pitt was of opinion that there was now an opportunity, such as had never before offered itself, and such as might never offer itself again, of uniting in the public service, on honourable terms, all the eminent talents of the kingdom. The passions to which the French Revolution had given birth were extinct. The madness of the innovator and the madness of the alarmist had alike had their day. Jacobinism and Anti-Jacobinism had gone out of fashion together. The most liberal statesman did not think that season propitious for schemes of parliamentary reform; and the most conservative statesman could not pretend that there was any occasion for gagging bills and suspensions of the Habeas Corpus Act. The great struggle for independence and national honour occupied all minds; and those who were agreed as to the duty of maintaining that struggle with vigour might well postpone to a more convenient time all disputes about matters comparatively unimportant. Edition: current; Page: [365] Strongly impressed by these considerations, Pitt wished to form a ministry including all the first men in the country. The Treasury he reserved for himself; and to Fox he proposed to assign a share of power little inferior to his own.

The plan was excellent; but the king would not hear of it. Dull, obstinate, unforgiving, and, at that time, half mad, he positively refused to admit Fox into his service. Anybody else, even men who had gone as far as Fox, or further than Fox, in what his Majesty considered as Jacobinism, Sheridan, Grey, Erskine, should be graciously received; but Fox never. During several hours Pitt laboured in vain to reason down this senseless antipathy. That he was perfectly sincere there can be no doubt: but it was not enough to be sincere; he should have been resolute. Had he declared himself determined not to take office without Fox, the royal obstinacy would have given way, as it gave way, a few months later, when opposed to the immutable resolution of Lord Grenville. In an evil hour Pitt yielded. He flattered himself with the hope that, though he consented to forego the aid of his illustrious rival, there would still remain ample materials for the formation of an efficient ministry. That hope was cruelly disappointed. Fox entreated his friends to leave personal considerations out of the question, and declared that he would support, with the utmost cordiality, an efficient and patriotic ministry from which he should be himself excluded. Not only his friends, however, but Grenville, and Grenville’s adherents, answered, with one voice, that the question was not personal, that a great constitutional principle was at stake, and that they would not take office while a man eminently qualified to render service to the commonwealth was placed under a ban merely because he was disliked at Court. All that was left to Pitt was to construct a government out of the wreck of Addington’s feeble administration. The small circle of his personal retainers furnished him with a very Edition: current; Page: [366] few useful assistants, particularly Dundas, who had been created Viscount Melville, Lord Harrowby, and Canning.

Such was the inauspicious manner in which Pitt entered on his second administration. The whole history of that administration was of a piece with the commencement. Almost every month brought some new disaster or disgrace. To the war with France was soon added a war with Spain. The opponents of the minister were numerous, able, and active. His most useful coadjutors he soon lost. Sickness deprived him of the help of Lord Harrowby. It was discovered that Lord Melville had been guilty of highly culpable laxity in transactions relating to public money. He was censured by the House of Commons, driven from office, ejected from the Privy Council, and impeached of high crimes and misdemeanours. The blow fell heavy on Pitt. It gave him, he said in Parliament, a deep pang; and, as he uttered the word pang, his lip quivered, his voice shook, he paused, and his hearers thought that he was about to burst into tears. Such tears shed by Eldon would have moved nothing but laughter. Shed by the warm-hearted and open-hearted Fox, they would have moved sympathy, but would have caused no surprise. But a tear from Pitt would have been something portentous. He suppressed his emotion, however, and proceeded with his usual majestic self-possession.

His difficulties compelled him to resort to various expedients. At one time Addington was persuaded to accept office with a peerage; but he brought no additional strength to the government. Though he went through the form of reconciliation, it was impossible for him to forget the past. While he remained in place he was jealous and punctilious; and he soon retired again. At another time Pitt renewed his efforts to overcome his master’s aversion to Fox; and it was rumoured that the King’s obstinacy was gradually giving way. But, meanwhile, it was impossible for the minister to conceal from Edition: current; Page: [367] the public eye the decay of his health, and the constant anxiety which gnawed at his heart. His sleep was broken. His food ceased to nourish him. All who passed him in the Park, all who had interviews with him in Downing Street, saw misery written in his face. The peculiar look which he wore during the last months of his life was often pathetically described by Wilberforce, who used to call it the Austerlitz look.

Still the vigour of Pitt’s intellectual faculties, and the intrepid haughtiness of his spirit, remained unaltered. He had staked everything on a great venture. He had succeeded in forming another mighty coalition against the French ascendency. The united forces of Austria, Russia and England might, he hoped, oppose an insurmountable barrier to the ambition of the common enemy. But the genius and energy of Napoleon prevailed. While the English troops were preparing to embark for Germany, while the Russian troops were slowly coming up from Poland, he, with rapidity unprecedented in modern war, moved a hundred thousand men from the shores of the Ocean to the Black Forest, and compelled a great Austrian army to surrender at Ulm. To the first faint rumours of this calamity Pitt would give no credit. He was irritated by the alarms of those around him. “Do not believe a word of it,” he said: “it is all a fiction.” The next day he received a Dutch newspaper containing the capitulation. He knew no Dutch. It was Sunday; and the public offices were shut. He carried the paper to Lord Malmesbury, who had been minister in Holland; and Lord Malmesbury translated it. Pitt tried to bear up; but the shock was too great; and he went away with death in his face.

The news of the battle of Trafalgar arrived four days later, and seemed for a moment to revive him. Forty-eight hours after that most glorious and most mournful of victories had been announced to the country came the Lord Mayor’s day; and Pitt dined at Guildhall. His popularity had declined. But on this occasion the multitude, Edition: current; Page: [368] greatly excited by the recent tidings, welcomed him enthusiastically, took off his horses in Cheapside, and drew his carriage up King Street. When his health was drunk, he returned thanks in two or three of those stately sentences of which he had a boundless command. Several of those who heard him laid up his words in their hearts; for they were the last words that he ever uttered in public: “Let us hope that England, having saved herself by her energy, may save Europe by her example.”

This was but a momentary rally. Austerlitz soon completed what Ulm had begun. Early in December Pitt had retired to Bath, in the hope that he might there gather strength for the approaching session. While he was languishing there on his sofa arrived the news that a decisive battle had been fought and lost in Moravia, that the coalition was dissolved, that the Continent was at the feet of France. He sank down under the blow. Ten days later, he was so emaciated that his most intimate friends hardly knew him. He came up from Bath by slow journeys, and, on the 11th of January, 1806, reached his villa at Putney. Parliament was to meet on the 21st. On the 20th was to be the parliamentary dinner at the house of the First Lord of the Treasury in Downing Street; and the cards were already issued. But the days of the great minister were numbered. The only chance for his life, and that a very slight chance, was, that he should resign his office, and pass some months in profound repose. His colleagues paid him very short visits, and carefully avoided political conversation. But his spirit, long accustomed to dominion, could not, even in that extremity, relinquish hopes which everybody but himself perceived to be vain. On the day on which he was carried into his bedroom at Putney, the Marquess Wellesley, whom he had long loved, whom he had sent to govern India, and whose administration had been eminently able, energetic, and successful, arrived in London after an absence of eight years. The friends Edition: current; Page: [369] saw each other once more. There was an affectionate meeting, and a last parting. That it was a last parting Pitt did not seem to be aware. He fancied himself to be recovering, talked on various subjects cheerfully, and with an unclouded mind, and pronounced a warm and discerning eulogium on the Marquess’s brother Arthur. “I never,” he said, “met with any military man with whom it was so satisfactory to converse.” The excitement and exertion of this interview were too much for the sick man. He fainted away; and Lord Wellesley left the house, convinced that the close was fast approaching.

And now members of Parliament were fast coming up to London. The chiefs of the opposition met for the purpose of considering the course to be taken on the first day of the session. It was easy to guess what would be the language of the King’s speech, and of the address which would be moved in answer to that speech. An amendment condemning the policy of the government had been prepared, and was to have been proposed in the House of Commons by Lord Henry Petty, a young nobleman who had already won for himself that place in the esteem of his country which, after the lapse of more than half a century, he still retains. He was unwilling, however, to come forward as the accuser of one who was incapable of defending himself. Lord Grenville, who had been informed of Pitt’s state by Lord Wellesley, and had been deeply affected by it, earnestly recommended forbearance; and Fox, with characteristic generosity and good nature, gave his voice against attacking his now helpless rival. “Sunt lacrymæ rerum,” he said, “et mentem mortalia tangunt.” On the first day, therefore, there was no debate. It was rumoured that evening that Pitt was better. But on the following morning his physicians pronounced that there were no hopes. The commanding faculties of which he had been too proud were beginning to fail. His old tutor and friend, the Bishop of Lincoln, informed him of his danger, and gave such religious advice Edition: current; Page: [370] and consolation as a confused and obscured mind could receive. Stories were told of devout sentiments fervently uttered by the dying man. But these stories found no credit with anybody who knew him. Wilberforce pronounced it impossible that they could be true. “Pitt,” he added, “was a man who always said less than he thought on such topics.” It was asserted in many after-dinner speeches, Grub Street elegies, and academic prize poems and prize declamations, that the great minister died exclaiming, “Oh my country!” This is a fable; but it is true that the last words which he uttered, while he knew what he said, were broken exclamations about the alarming state of public affairs. He ceased to breathe on the morning of the 23rd of January, 1806, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the day on which he first took his seat in Parliament. He was in his forty-seventh year, and had been, during near nineteen years, First Lord of the Treasury, and undisputed chief of the administration. Since parliamentary government was established in England, no English statesman has held supreme power so long. Walpole, it is true, was First Lord of the Treasury during more than twenty years: but it was not till Walpole had been some time First Lord of the Treasury that he could be properly called Prime Minister.

It was moved in the House of Commons that Pitt should be honoured with a public funeral and a monument. The motion was opposed by Fox in a speech which deserves to be studied as a model of good taste and good feeling. The task was the most invidious that ever an orator undertook: but it was performed with a humanity and delicacy which were warmly acknowledged by the mourning friends of him who was gone. The motion was carried by 288 votes to 89.

The 22nd of February was fixed for the funeral. The corpse, having lain in state during two days in the Painted Chamber, was borne with great pomp to the northern transept of the Abbey. A splendid train of princes, Edition: current; Page: [371] nobles, bishops, and privy councillors followed. The grave of Pitt had been made near to the spot where his great father lay, near also to the spot where his great rival was soon to lie. The sadness of the assistants was beyond that of ordinary mourners. For he whom they were committing to the dust had died of sorrows and anxieties of which none of the survivors could be altogether without a share. Wilberforce, who carried the banner before the hearse, described the awful ceremony with deep feeling. As the coffin descended into the earth, he said, the eagle face of Chatham from above seemed to look down with consternation into the dark house which was receiving all that remained of so much power and glory.

All parties in the House of Commons readily concurred in voting forty thousand pounds to satisfy the demands of Pitt’s creditors. Some of his admirers seemed to consider the magnitude of his embarrassments as a circumstance highly honourable to him; but men of sense will probably be of a different opinion. It is far better, no doubt, that a great minister should carry his contempt of money to excess than that he should contaminate his hands with unlawful gain. But it is neither right nor becoming in a man to whom the public has given an income more than sufficient for his comfort and dignity to bequeath to that public a great debt, the effect of mere negligence and profusion. As First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Pitt never had less than six thousand a year, besides an excellent house. In 1792 he was forced by his royal master’s friendly importunity to accept for life the office of Warden of the Cinque Ports, with near four thousand a year more. He had neither wife nor child: he had no needy relations: he had no expensive tastes: he had no long election bills. Had he given but a quarter of an hour a week to the regulation of his household, he would have kept his expenditure within bounds. Or, if he could not spare even a quarter of an hour a week for that purpose, Edition: current; Page: [372] he had numerous friends, excellent men of business, who would have been proud to act as his stewards. One of those friends, the chief of a great commercial house in the city, made an attempt to put the establishment in Downing Street to rights; but in vain. He found that the waste of the servants’ hall was almost fabulous. The quantity of butcher’s meat charged in the bills was nine hundred-weight a week. The consumption of poultry, of fish, and of tea was in proportion. The character of Pitt would have stood higher if, with the disinterestedness of Pericles and of De Witt, he had united their dignified frugality.

The memory of Pitt has been assailed, times innumerable, often justly, often unjustly; but it has suffered much less from his assailants than from his eulogists. For, during many years, his name was the rallying cry of a class of men with whom, at one of those terrible conjunctures which confound all ordinary distinctions, he was accidentally and temporarily connected, but to whom, on almost all great questions of principle, he was diametrically opposed. The haters of parliamentary reform called themselves Pittites, not choosing to remember that Pitt made three motions for parliamentary reform, and that, though he thought that such a reform could not safely be made while the passions excited by the French revolution were raging, he never uttered a word indicating that he should not be prepared at a more convenient season to bring the question forward a fourth time. The toast of protestant ascendency was drunk on Pitt’s birthday by a set of Pittites who could not but be aware that Pitt had resigned his office because he could not carry Catholic emancipation. The defenders of the Test Act called themselves Pittites, though they could not be ignorant that Pitt had laid before George the Third unanswerable reasons for abolishing the Test Act. The enemies of free trade called themselves Pittites, though Pitt was far more deeply imbued with the doctrines of Adam Smith than either Fox or Grey. The very negro-drivers invoked the Edition: current; Page: [373] name of Pitt, whose eloquence was never more conspicuously displayed than when he spoke of the wrongs of the negro. This mythical Pitt, who resembles the genuine Pitt as little as the Charlemagne of Ariosto resembles the Charlemagne of Eginhard, has had his day. History will vindicate the real man from calumny disguised under the semblance of adulation, and will exhibit him as what he was, a minister of great talents, honest intentions, and liberal opinions, pre-eminently qualified, intellectually and morally, for the part of a parliamentary leader, and capable of administering, with prudence and moderation, the government of a prosperous and tranquil country, but unequal to surprising and terrible emergencies, and liable, in such emergencies, to err grievously, both on the side of weakness and on the side of violence.

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MISCELLANEOUS POEMS, INSCRIPTIONS, ETC.

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EPITAPH ON HENRY MARTYN. (1812.)

  • Here Martyn lies. In Manhood’s early bloom
  • The Christian Hero finds a Pagan tomb.
  • Religion, sorrowing o’er her favourite son,
  • Points to the glorious trophies that he won.
  • Eternal trophies! not with carnage red,
  • Not stained with tears by hapless captives shed,
  • But trophies of the Cross! for that dear name,
  • Through every form of danger, death, and shame,
  • Onward he journeyed to a happier shore,
  • Where danger, death, and shame assault no more.
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LINES TO THE MEMORY OF PITT. (1813.)

    • Oh Britain! dear Isle, when the annals of story
    • Shall tell of the deeds that thy children have done,
    • When the strains of each poet shall sing of their glory,
    • And the triumphs their skill and their valour have won;
    • When the olive and palm in thy chaplet are blended,
    • When thy arts, and thy fame, and thy commerce increase,
    • When thy arms through the uttermost coasts are extended,
    • And thy war is triumphant, and happy thy peace;
    • When the ocean, whose waves like a rampart flow round thee,
    • Conveying thy mandates to every shore,
    • And the empire of nature no longer can bound thee,
    • And the world be the scene of thy conquests no more:
    • Remember the man who in sorrow and danger,
    • When thy glory was set, and thy spirit was low,
    • When thy hopes were o’erturned by the arms of the stranger,
    • And thy banners displayed in the halls of the foe,
    • Stood forth in the tempest of doubt and disaster,
    • Unaided, and single, the danger to brave,
    • Asserted thy claims, and the rights of his master,
    • Preserved thee to conquer, and saved thee to save.
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A RADICAL WAR SONG. (1820.)

    • Awake, arise, the hour is come,
    • For rows and revolutions;
    • There’s no receipt like pike and drum
    • For crazy constitutions.
    • Close, close the shop! Break, break the loom,
    • Desert your hearths and furrows,
    • And throng in arms to seal the doom
    • Of England’s rotten boroughs.
    • We’ll stretch that tort’ring Castlereagh
    • On his own Dublin rack, sir;
    • We’ll drown the King in Eau de vie,
    • The Laureate in his sack, sir,
    • Old Eldon and his sordid hag
    • In molten gold we’ll smother,
    • And stifle in his own green bag
    • The Doctor and his brother.
    • In chains we’ll hang in fair Guildhall
    • The City’s famed Recorder,
    • And next on proud St. Stephen’s fall,
    • Though Wynne should squeak to order.
    • In vain our tyrants then shall try
    • To ’scape our martial law, sir;
    • In vain the trembling Speaker cry
    • That “Strangers must withdraw,” sir.
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    • Copley to hang offends no text;
    • A rat is not a man, sir:
    • With schedules and with tax bills next
    • We’ll bury pious Van, sir.
    • The slaves who loved the Income Tax,
    • We’ll crush by scores, like mites, sir,
    • And him, the wretch who freed the blacks,
    • And more enslaved the whites, sir.
    • The peer shall dangle from his gate,
    • The bishop from his steeple,
    • Till all recanting, own, the State
    • Means nothing but the People.
    • We’ll fix the church’s revenues
    • On Apostolic basis,
    • One coat, one scrip, one pair of shoes
    • Shall pay their strange grimaces.
    • We’ll strap the bar’s deluding train
    • In their own darling halter,
    • And with his big church bible brain
    • The parson at the altar.
    • Hail glorious hour, when fair Reform
    • Shall bless our longing nation,
    • And Hunt receive commands to form
    • A new administration.
    • Carlisle shall sit enthroned, where sat
    • Our Cranmer and our Secker;
    • And Watson show his snow-white hat
    • In England’s rich Exchequer.
    • The breast of Thistlewood shall wear
    • Our Wellesley’s star and sash, man;
    • And many a mausoleum fair
    • Shall rise to honest Cashman.
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    • Then, then beneath the nine-tailed cat
    • Shall they who used it writhe, sir;
    • And curates lean, and rectors fat,
    • Shall dig the ground they tithe, sir.
    • Down with your Bayleys, and your Bests,
    • Your Giffords, and your Gurneys:
    • We’ll clear the island of the pests,
    • Which mortals name attorneys.
    • Down with your sheriffs, and your mayors,
    • Your registrars, and proctors,
    • We’ll live without the lawyer’s cares,
    • And die without the doctor’s.
    • No discontented fair shall pout
    • To see her spouse so stupid;
    • We’ll tread the torch of Hymen out,
    • And live content with Cupid.
    • Then, when the high-born and the great
    • Are humbled to our level,
    • On all the wealth of Church and State,
    • Like aldermen, we’ll revel.
    • We’ll live when hushed the battle’s din,
    • In smoking and in cards, sir,
    • In drinking unexcised gin,
    • And wooing fair Poissardes, sir.
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THE BATTLE OF MONCONTOUR. (1824.)

    • Oh, weep for Moncontour! Oh! weep for the hour
    • When the children of darkness and evil had power,
    • When the horsemen of Valois triumphantly trod
    • On the bosoms that bled for their rights and their God.
    • Oh, weep for Moncontour! Oh! weep for the slain,
    • Who for faith and for freedom lay slaughtered in vain;
    • Oh, weep for the living, who linger to bear
    • The renegade’s shame, or the exile’s despair.
    • One look, one last look, to our cots and our towers,
    • To the rows of our vines, and the beds of our flowers,
    • To the church where the bones of our fathers decayed,
    • Where we fondly had deemed that our own would be laid.
    • Alas! we must leave thee, dear desolate home,
    • To the spearmen of Uri, the shavelings of Rome,
    • To the serpent of Florence, the vulture of Spain,
    • To the pride of Anjou, and the guile of Lorraine.
    • Farewell to thy fountains, farewell to thy shades,
    • To the song of thy youths, and the dance of thy maids,
    • To the breath of thy gardens, the hum of thy bees,
    • And the long waving line of the blue Pyrenees.
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    • Farewell, and for ever. The priest and the slave
    • May rule in the halls of the free and the brave.
    • Our hearths we abandon; our lands we resign;
    • But, Father, we kneel to no altar but thine.
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THE BATTLE OF NASEBY, BY OBADIAH BIND-THEIR-KINGS-IN-CHAINS-AND-THEIR-NOBLES-WITH-LINKS-OF-IRON, SERJEANT IN IRETON’S REGIMENT. (1824.)

    • Oh! wherefore come ye forth, in triumph from the North,
    • With your hands, and your feet, and your raiment all red?
    • And wherefore doth your rout send forth a joyous shout?
    • And whence be the grapes of the wine-press which ye tread?
    • Oh evil was the root, and bitter was the fruit,
    • And crimson was the juice of the vintage that we trod;
    • For we trampled on the throng of the haughty and the strong,
    • Who sate in the high places, and slew the saints of God.
    • It was about the noon of a glorious day of June,
    • That we saw their banners dance, and their cuirasses shine,
    • And the Man of Blood was there, with his long essenced hair,
    • And Astley, and Sir Marmaduke, and Rupert of the Rhine.
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    • Like a servant of the Lord, with his Bible and his sword,
    • The General rode along us to form us to the fight,
    • When a murmuring sound broke out, and swell’d into a shout,
    • Among the godless horsemen upon the tyrant’s right.
    • And hark! like the roar of the billows on the shore,
    • The cry of battle rises along their charging line!
    • For God! for the Cause! for the Church! for the Laws!
    • For Charles King of England, and Rupert of the Rhine!
    • The furious German comes, with his clarions and his drums,
    • His bravoes of Alsatia, and pages of Whitehall;
    • They are bursting on our flanks. Grasp your pikes, close your ranks;
    • For Rupert never comes but to conquer or to fall.
    • They are here! They rush on! We are broken! We are gone!
    • Our left is borne before them like stubble on the blast.
    • O Lord, put forth thy might! O Lord, defend the right!
    • Stand back to back, in God’s name, and fight it to the last.
    • Stout Skippon hath a wound; the centre hath given ground:
    • Hark! hark! — What means the trampling of horsemen on our rear?
    • Whose banner do I see, boys? ’Tis he, thank God, ’tis he, boys.
    • Bear up another minute: brave Oliver is here.
    • Their heads all stooping low, their points all in a row,
    • Like a whirlwind on the trees, like a deluge on the dykes,
    • Our cuirassiers have burst on the ranks of the Accurst,
    • And at a shock have scattered the forest of his pikes.
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    • Fast, fast, the gallants ride, in some safe nook to hide
    • Their coward heads, predestined to rot on Temple Bar:
    • And he — he turns, he flies: — shame on those cruel eyes
    • That bore to look on torture, and dare not look on war.
    • Ho! comrades, scour the plain; and, ere ye strip the slain,
    • First give another stab to make your search secure,
    • Then shake from sleeves and pockets their broad-pieces and lockets,
    • The tokens of the wanton, the plunder of the poor.
    • Fools! your doublets shone with gold, and your hearts were gay and bold,
    • When you kissed your lily hands to your lemans today;
    • And to-morrow shall the fox, from her chambers in the rocks,
    • Lead forth her tawny cubs to howl above the prey.
    • Where be your tongues that late mocked at heaven and hell and fate,
    • And the fingers that once were so busy with your blades,
    • Your perfum’d satin clothes, your catches and your oaths,
    • Your stage-plays and your sonnets, your diamonds and your spades?
    • Down, down, for ever down with the mitre and the crown,
    • With the Belial of the Court, and the Mammon of the Pope;
    • There is woe in Oxford Halls: there is wail in Durham’s Stalls:
    • The Jesuit smites his bosom: the Bishop rends his cope.
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    • And She of the seven hills shall mourn her children’s ills,
    • And tremble when she thinks on the edge of England’s, sword;
    • And the Kings of earth in fear shall shudder when they hear
    • What the hand of God hath wrought for the Houses and the Word.
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SERMON IN A CHURCHYARD. (1825.)

    • Let pious Damon take his seat,
    • With mincing step, and languid smile,
    • And scatter from his ’kerchief sweet,
    • Sabæan odours o’er the aisle;
    • And spread his little jewelled hand,
    • And smile round all the parish beauties,
    • And pat his curls, and smooth his band,
    • Meet prelude to his saintly duties.
    • Let the thronged audience press and stare,
    • Let stifled maidens ply the fan,
    • Admire his doctrines, and his hair,
    • And whisper “What a good young man!”
    • While he explains what seems most clear,
    • So clearly that it seems perplexed,
    • I’ll stay, and read my sermon here;
    • And skulls, and bones, shall be the text.
    • Art thou the jilted dupe of fame?
    • Dost thou with jealous anger pine
    • Whene’er she sounds some other name,
    • With fonder emphasis than thine?
    • To thee I preach; draw near; attend!
    • Look on these bones, thou fool, and see
    • Where all her scorns and favours end,
    • What Byron is, and thou must be.
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    • Dost thou revere, or praise, or trust
    • Some clod like those that here we spurn;
    • Some thing that sprang like thee from dust,
    • And shall like thee to dust return?
    • Dost thou rate statesmen, heroes, wits,
    • At one sear leaf, or wandering feather?
    • Behold the black, damp, narrow pits,
    • Where they and thou must lie together.
    • Dost thou beneath the smile or frown
    • Of some vain woman bend thy knee?
    • Here take thy stand, and trample down
    • Things that were once as fair as she.
    • Here rave of her ten thousand graces,
    • Bosom, and lip, and eye, and chin,
    • While, as in scorn, the fleshless faces
    • Of Hamiltons and Waldegraves grin.
    • Whate’er thy losses or thy gains,
    • Whate’er thy projects or thy fears,
    • Whate’er the joys, whate’er the pains,
    • That prompt thy baby smiles and tears;
    • Come to my school, and thou shalt learn,
    • In one short hour of placid thought,
    • A stoicism, more deep, more stern,
    • Than ever Zeno’s porch hath taught.
    • The plots and feats of those that press
    • To seize on titles, wealth, or power,
    • Shall seem to thee a game of chess,
    • Devised to pass a tedious hour.
    • What matters it to him who fights
    • For shows of unsubstantial good,
    • Whether his Kings, and Queens, and Knights,
    • Be things of flesh, or things of wood?
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    • We check, and take; exult, and fret;
    • Our plans extend, our passions rise,
    • Till in our ardour we forget
    • How worthless is the victor’s prize.
    • Soon fades the spell, soon comes the night:
    • Say will it not be then the same,
    • Whether we played the black or white,
    • Whether we lost or won the game?
    • Dost thou among these hillocks stray,
    • O’er some dear idol’s tomb to moan?
    • Know that thy foot is on the clay
    • Of hearts once wretched as thy own.
    • How many a father’s anxious schemes,
    • How many rapturous thoughts of lovers,
    • How many a mother’s cherished dreams,
    • The swelling turf before thee covers!
    • Here for the living, and the dead,
    • The weepers and the friends they weep,
    • Hath been ordained the same cold bed,
    • The same dark night, the same long sleep;
    • Why shouldest thou writhe, and sob, and rave
    • O’er those, with whom thou soon must be?
    • Death his own sting shall cure — the grave
    • Shall vanquish its own victory.
    • Here learn that all the griefs and joys,
    • Which now torment, which now beguile,
    • Are children’s hurts, and children’s toys,
    • Scarce worthy of one bitter smile.
    • Here learn that pulpit, throne, and press,
    • Sword, sceptre, lyre, alike are frail,
    • That science is a blind man’s guess,
    • And History a nurse’s tale.
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    • Here learn that glory and disgrace,
    • Wisdom and folly, pass away,
    • That mirth hath its appointed space,
    • That sorrow is but for a day;
    • That all we love, and all we hate,
    • That all we hope, and all we fear,
    • Each mood of mind, each turn of fate,
    • Must end in dust and silence here.
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TRANSLATION FROM A. V. ARNAULT
Fables: Livre v., Fable 16. (1826.)

  • Thou poor leaf, so sear and frail,
  • Sport of every wanton gale,
  • Whence, and whither, dost thou fly,
  • Through this bleak autumnal sky?
  • On a noble oak I grew,
  • Green, and broad, and fair to view;
  • But the Monarch of the shade
  • By the tempest low was laid.
  • From that time, I wander o’er
  • Wood, and valley, hill, and moor,
  • Wheresoe’er the wind is blowing,
  • Nothing caring, nothing knowing:
  • Thither go I, whither goes,
  • Glory’s laurel, Beauty’s rose.
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  • —De ta tige détachée,
  • Pauvre feuille desséchée
  • Où vas-tu?—Je n’en sais rien.
  • L’orage a frappé le chêne
  • Qui seul etait mon soutien.
  • De son inconstante haleine,
  • Le zéphyr ou l’aquilon
  • Depuis ce jour me promène
  • De la forêt à la plaine,
  • De la montagne au vallon.
  • Je vais où le vent me mène,
  • Sans me plaindre ou m’effrayer,
  • Je vais où va toute chose,
  • Où va la feuille de rose
  • Et la feuille de laurier.
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DIES IRÆ. (1826.)

  • On that great, that awful day,
  • This vain world shall pass away.
  • Thus the sibyl sang of old,
  • Thus hath Holy David told.
  • There shall be a deadly fear
  • When the Avenger shall appear,
  • And unveiled before his eye
  • All the works of man shall lie.
  • Hark! to the great trumpet’s tones
  • Pealing o’er the place of bones:
  • Hark! it waketh from their bed
  • All the nations of the dead, —
  • In a countless throng to meet,
  • At the eternal judgment seat.
  • Nature sickens with dismay,
  • Death may not retain his prey;
  • And before the Maker stand
  • All the creatures of his hand.
  • The great book shall be unfurled,
  • Whereby God shall judge the world:
  • What was distant shall be near,
  • What was hidden shall be clear.
  • To what shelter shall I fly?
  • To what guardian shall I cry?
  • Oh, in that destroying hour,
  • Source of goodness, Source of power,
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  • Show thou, of thine own free grace,
  • Help unto a helpless race.
  • Though I plead not at thy throne
  • Aught that I for thee have done,
  • Do not thou unmindful be,
  • Of what thou hast borne for me:
  • Of the wandering, of the scorn,
  • Of the scourge, and of the thorn.
  • Jesus, hast thou borne the pain,
  • And hath all been borne in vain?
  • Shall thy vengeance smite the head
  • For whose ransom thou hast bled?
  • Thou, whose dying blessing gave
  • Glory to a guilty slave:
  • Thou, who from the crew unclean
  • Dids’t release the Magdalene:
  • Shall not mercy vast and free,
  • Evermore be found in thee?
  • Father, turn on me thine eyes,
  • See my blushes, hear my cries;
  • Faint though be the cries I make,
  • Save me, for thy mercy’s sake,
  • From the worm, and from the fire,
  • From the torments of thine ire.
  • Fold me with the sheep that stand
  • Pure and safe at thy right hand.
  • Hear thy guilty child implore thee,
  • Rolling in the dust before thee.
  • Oh the horrors of that day!
  • When this frame of sinful clay,
  • Starting from its burial place,
  • Must behold thee face to face.
  • Hear and pity, hear and aid,
  • Spare the creatures thou hast made.
  • Mercy, mercy, save, forgive,
  • Oh, who shall look on thee and live?
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THE MARRIAGE OF TIRZAH AND AHIRAD. (1827.)
GENESIS VI. 3.

    • It is the dead of night:
    • Yet more than noonday light
    • Beams far and wide from many a gorgeous hall.
    • Unnumbered harps are tinkling,
    • Unnumbered lamps are twinkling,
    • In the great city of the fourfold wall.
    • By the brazen castle’s moat,
    • The sentry hums a livelier note.
    • The ship-boy chaunts a shriller lay
    • From the galleys in the bay.
    • Shout, and laugh, and hurrying feet
    • Sound from mart and square and street,
    • From the breezy laurel shades,
    • From the granite colonnades,
    • From the golden statue’s base,
    • From the stately market-place,
    • Where, upreared by captive hands,
    • The great Tower of Triumph stands,
    • All its pillars in a blaze
    • With the many-coloured rays,
    • Which lanthorns of ten thousand dyes
    • Shed on ten thousand panoplies.
    • But closest is the throng,
    • And loudest is the song,
    • In that sweet garden by the river’s side,
    • The abyss of myrtle bowers,
    • The wilderness of flowers,
    • Where Cain hath built the palace of his pride.
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    • Such palace ne’er shall be again
    • Among the dwindling race of men.
    • From all its threescore gates the light
    • Of gold and steel afar was thrown;
    • Two hundred cubits rose in height
    • The outer wall of polished stone.
    • On the top was ample space
    • For a gallant chariot race.
    • Near either parapet a bed
    • Of the richest mould was spread,
    • Where amidst flowers of every scent and hue
    • Rich orange trees, and palms, and giant cedars grew.
    • In the mansion’s public court
    • All is revel, song, and sport;
    • For there, till morn shall tint the east,
    • Menials and guards prolong the feast.
    • The boards with painted vessels shine;
    • The marble cisterns foam with wine.
    • A hundred dancing girls are there
    • With zoneless waists and streaming hair;
    • And countless eyes with ardour gaze,
    • And countless hands the measure beat,
    • As mix and part in amorous maze
    • Those floating arms and bounding feet.
    • But none of all the race of Cain,
    • Save those whom he hath deigned to grace
    • With yellow robe and sapphire chain,
    • May pass beyond that outer space.
    • For now within the painted hall
    • The Firstborn keeps high festival.
    • Before the glittering valves all night
    • Their post the chosen captains hold.
    • Above the portal’s stately height
    • The legend flames in lamps of gold:
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    • “In life united and in death
    • “May Tirzah and Ahirad be,
    • “The bravest he of all the sons of Seth,
    • “Of all the house of Cain the loveliest she.”
    • Through all the climates of the earth
    • This night is given to festal mirth.
    • The long continued war is ended.
    • The long divided lines are blended.
    • Ahirad’s bow shall now no more
    • Make fat the wolves with kindred gore.
    • The vultures shall expect in vain
    • Their banquet from the sword of Cain.
    • Without a guard the herds and flocks
    • Along the frontier moors and rocks
    • From eve to morn may roam;
    • Nor shriek, nor shout, nor reddened sky,
    • Shall warn the startled hind to fly
    • From his beloved home.
    • Nor to the pier shall burghers crowd
    • With straining necks and faces pale,
    • And think that in each flitting cloud
    • They see a hostile sail.
    • The peasant without fear shall guide
    • Down smooth canal or river wide
    • His painted bark of cane,
    • Fraught, for some proud bazaar’s arcades,
    • With chestnuts from his native shades,
    • And wine, and milk, and grain.
    • Search round the peopled globe to-night,
    • Explore each continent and isle,
    • There is no door without a light,
    • No face without a smile.
    • The noblest chiefs of either race,
    • From north and south, from west and east,
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    • Crowd to the painted hall to grace
    • The pomp of that atoning feast.
    • With widening eyes and labouring breath
    • Stand the fair-haired sons of Seth,
    • As bursts upon their dazzled sight
    • The endless avenue of light,
    • The bowers of tulip, rose, and palm,
    • The thousand cressets fed with balm,
    • The silken vests, the boards piled high
    • With amber, gold, and ivory,
    • The crystal founts whence sparkling flow
    • The richest wines o’er beds of snow,
    • The walls where blaze in living dyes
    • The king’s three hundred victories.
    • The heralds point the fitting seat
    • To every guest in order meet,
    • And place the highest in degree
    • Nearest th’ imperial canopy.
    • Beneath its broad and gorgeous fold,
    • With naked swords and shields of gold,
    • Stood the seven princes of the tribes of Nod.
    • Upon an ermine carpet lay
    • Two tiger cubs in furious play,
    • Beneath the emerald throne where sat the signed of God.
    • Over that ample forehead white
    • The thousandth year returneth.
    • Still, on its commanding height,
    • With a fierce and blood-red light,
    • The fiery token burneth.
    • Wheresoe’er that mystic star
    • Blazeth in the van of war,
    • Back recoil before its ray
    • Shield and banner, bow and spear,
    • Maddened horses break away
    • From the trembling charioteer.
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    • The fear of that stern king doth lie
    • On all that live beneath the sky;
    • All shrink before the mark of his despair,
    • The seal of that great curse which he alone can bear.
    • Blazing in pearls and diamonds’ sheen,
    • Tirzah, the young Ahirad’s bride,
    • Of humankind the destined queen,
    • Sits by her great forefather’s side.
    • The jetty curls, the forehead high,
    • The swanlike neck, the eagle face,
    • The glowing cheek, the rich dark eye,
    • Proclaim her of the elder race.
    • With flowing locks of auburn hue,
    • And features smooth, and eye of blue,
    • Timid in love as brave in arms,
    • The gentle heir of Seth askance
    • Snatches a bashful, ardent glance
    • At her majestic charms;
    • Blest when across that brow high musing flashes
    • A deeper tint of rose,
    • Thrice blest when from beneath the silken lashes
    • Of her proud eye she throws
    • The smile of blended fondness and disdain
    • Which marks the daughters of the house of Cain.
    • All hearts are light around the hall
    • Save his who is the lord of all.
    • The painted roofs, the attendant train,
    • The lights, the banquet, all are vain.
    • He sees them not. His fancy strays
    • To other scenes and other days.
    • A cot by a lone forest’s edge,
    • A fountain murmuring through the trees,
    • A garden with a wild flower hedge,
    • Whence sounds the music of the bees,
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    • A little flock of sheep at rest
    • Upon a mountain’s swarthy breast.
    • On his rude spade he seems to lean
    • Beside the well remembered stone,
    • Rejoicing o’er the promise green
    • Of the first harvest man hath sown.
    • He sees his mother’s tears;
    • His father’s voice he hears,
    • Kind as when first it praised his youthful skill.
    • And soon a seraph-child,
    • In boyish rapture wild,
    • With a light crook comes bounding from the hill,
    • Kisses his hands, and strokes his face,
    • And nestles close in his embrace.
    • In his adamantine eye
    • None might discern his agony;
    • But they who had grown hoary next his side,
    • And read his stern dark face with deepest skill,
    • Could trace strange meanings in that lip of pride,
    • Which for one moment quivered and was still.
    • No time for them to mark or him to feel
    • Those inward stings; for clarion, flute, and lyre,
    • And the rich voices of a countless quire,
    • Burst on the ear in one triumphant peal.
    • In breathless transport sits the admiring throng,
    • As sink and swell the notes of Jubal’s lofty song.
    • “Sound the timbrel, strike the lyre,
    • Wake the trumpet’s blast of fire,
    • Till the gilded arches ring.
    • Empire, victory, and fame,
    • Be ascribed unto the name
    • Of our father and our king.
    • Of the deeds which he hath done,
    • Of the spoils which he hath won,
    • Let his grateful children sing.
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    • “When the deadly fight was fought,
    • When the great revenge was wrought,
    • When on the slaughtered victims lay
    • The minion stiff and cold as they,
    • Doomed to exile, sealed with flame,
    • From the west the wanderer came.
    • Six score years and six he strayed
    • A hunter through the forest shade.
    • The lion’s shaggy jaws he tore,
    • To earth he smote the foaming boar,
    • He crushed the dragon’s fiery crest,
    • And scaled the condor’s dizzy nest;
    • Till hardy sons and daughters fair
    • Increased around his woodland lair.
    • Then his victorious bow unstrung
    • On the great bison’s horn he hung.
    • Giraffe and elk he left to hold
    • The wilderness of boughs in peace,
    • And trained his youth to pen the fold,
    • To press the cream, and weave the fleece.
    • As shrunk the streamlet in its bed,
    • As black and scant the herbage grew,
    • O’er endless plains his flocks he led
    • Still to new brooks and pastures new.
    • So strayed he till the white pavilions
    • Of his camp were told by millions,
    • Till his children’s households seven
    • Were numerous as the stars of heaven.
    • Then he bade us rove no more;
    • And in the place that pleased him best,
    • On the great river’s fertile shore,
    • He fixed the city of his rest.
    • He taught us then to bind the sheaves,
    • To strain the palm’s delicious milk,
    • And from the dark green mulberry leaves
    • To cull the filmy silk.
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    • Then first from straw-built mansions roamed
    • O’er flower-beds trim the skilful bees;
    • Then first the purple wine vats foamed
    • Around the laughing peasant’s knees;
    • And olive-yards, and orchards green,
    • O’er all the hills of Nod were seen.
    • “Of our father and our king
    • Let his grateful children sing.
    • From him our race its being draws,
    • His are our arts, and his our laws.
    • Like himself he bade us be,
    • Proud, and brave, and fierce, and free.
    • True, through every turn of fate,
    • In our friendship and our hate.
    • Calm to watch, yet prompt to dare;
    • Quick to feel, yet firm to bear;
    • Only timid, only weak,
    • Before sweet woman’s eye and cheek.
    • We will not serve, we will not know,
    • The God who is our father’s foe.
    • In our proud cities to his name
    • No temples rise, no altars flame.
    • Our flocks of sheep, our groves of spice,
    • To him afford no sacrifice.
    • Enough that once the House of Cain
    • Hath courted with oblation vain
    • The sullen power above.
    • Henceforth we bear the yoke no more;
    • The only gods whom we adore
    • Are glory, vengeance, love.
    • “Of our father and our king
    • Let his grateful children sing.
    • What eye of living thing may brook
    • On his blazing brow to look?
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    • What might of living thing may stand
    • Against the strength of his right hand?
    • First he led his armies forth
    • Against the Mammoths of the north,
    • What time they wasted in their pride
    • Pasture and vineyard far and wide.
    • Then the White River’s icy flood
    • Was thawed with fire and dyed with blood.
    • And heard for many a league the sound
    • Of the pine forests blazing round,
    • And the death-howl and trampling din
    • Of the gigantic herd within.
    • From the surging sea of flame
    • Forth the tortured monsters came;
    • As of breakers on the shore
    • Was their onset and their roar;
    • As the cedar-trees of God
    • Stood the stately ranks of Nod.
    • One long night and one short day
    • The sword was lifted up to slay.
    • Then marched the firstborn and his sons
    • O’er the white ashes of the wood,
    • And counted of that savage brood
    • Nine times nine thousand skeletons.
    • “On the snow with carnage red
    • The wood is piled, the skins are spread.
    • A thousand fires illume the sky;
    • Round each a hundred warriors lie.
    • But, long ere half the night was spent,
    • Forth thundered from the golden tent
    • The rousing voice of Cain.
    • A thousand trumps in answer rang,
    • And fast to arms the warriors sprang
    • O’er all the frozen plain.
    • A herald from the wealthy bay
    • Hath come with tidings of dismay.
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    • From the western ocean’s coast
    • Seth hath led a countless host,
    • And vows to slay with fire and sword
    • All who call not on the Lord.
    • His archers hold the mountain forts;
    • His light armed ships blockade the ports;
    • His horsemen tread the harvest down.
    • On twelve proud bridges he hath passed
    • The river dark with many a mast,
    • And pitched his mighty camp at last
    • Before the imperial town.
    • “On the south and on the west,
    • Closely was the city prest.
    • Before us lay the hostile powers.
    • The breach was wide between the towers.
    • Pulse and meal within were sold
    • For a double weight of gold.
    • Our mighty father had gone forth
    • Two hundred marches to the north.
    • Yet in that extreme of ill
    • We stoutly kept his city still;
    • And swore beneath his royal wall,
    • Like his true sons, to fight and fall.
    • “Hark, hark, to gong and horn,
    • Clarion, and fife, and drum,
    • The morn, the fortieth morn,
    • Fixed for the great assault is come.
    • Between the camp and city spreads
    • A waving sea of helmed heads.
    • From the royal car of Seth
    • Was hung the blood-red flag of death:
    • At sight of that thrice-hallowed sign
    • Wide flew at once each banner’s fold;
    • The captains clashed their arms of gold;
    • The war cry of Elohim rolled
    • Far down their endless line.
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    • On the northern hills afar
    • Pealed an answering note of war.
    • Soon the dust in whirlwinds driven,
    • Rushed across the northern heaven.
    • Beneath its shroud came thick and loud
    • The tramp as of a countless crowd;
    • And at intervals were seen
    • Lance and hauberk glancing sheen;
    • And at intervals were heard
    • Charger’s neigh and battle word.
    • “Oh what a rapturous cry
    • From all the city’s thousand spires arose,
    • With what a look the hollow eye
    • Of the lean watchman glared upon the foes,
    • With what a yell of joy the mother pressed
    • The moaning baby to her withered breast,
    • When through the swarthy cloud that veiled the plain
    • Burst on his children’s sight the flaming brow of Cain!”
    • There paused perforce that noble song;
    • For from all the joyous throng,
    • Burst forth a rapturous shout which drowned
    • Singer’s voice and trumpet’s sound.
    • Thrice that stormy clamour fell,
    • Thrice rose again with mightier swell.
    • The last and loudest roar of all
    • Had died along the painted wall.
    • The crowd was hushed; the minstrel train
    • Prepared to strike the chords again;
    • When on each ear distinctly smote
    • A low and wild and wailing note.
    • It moans again. In mute amaze
    • Menials, and guests, and harpers gaze.
    • They look above, beneath, around,
    • No shape doth own that mournful sound.
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    • It comes not from the tuneful quire;
    • It comes not from the feasting peers;
    • There is no tone of earthly lyre
    • So soft, so sad, so full of tears.
    • Then a strange horror came on all
    • Who sate at that high festival.
    • The far famed harp, the harp of gold,
    • Dropped from Jubal’s trembling hold.
    • Frantic with dismay the bride
    • Clung to her Ahirad’s side.
    • And the corpse-like hue of dread
    • Ahirad’s haughty face o’erspread.
    • Yet not even in that agony of awe
    • Did the young leader of the fair-haired race
    • From Tirzah’s shuddering grasp his hand withdraw
    • Or turn his eyes from Tirzah’s livid face.
    • The tigers to their lord retreat,
    • And crouch and whine beneath his feet.
    • Prone sink to earth the golden shielded seven.
    • All hearts are cowed save his alone
    • Who sits upon the emerald throne;
    • For he hath heard Elohim speak from heaven.
    • Still thunders in his ear the peal;
    • Still blazes on his front the seal:
    • And on the soul of the proud king
    • No terror of created thing
    • From sky, or earth, or hell, hath power
    • Since that unutterable hour.
    • He rose to speak, but paused, and listening stood,
    • Not daunted, but in sad and curious mood,
    • With knitted brow, and searching eye of fire.
    • A deathlike silence sank on all around,
    • And through the boundless space was heard no sound,
    • Save the soft tones of that mysterious lyre.
    • Broken, faint, and low,
    • At first the numbers flow.
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    • Louder, deeper, quicker, still
    • Into one fierce peal they swell,
    • And the echoing palace fill
    • With a strange funereal yell.
    • A voice comes forth. But what, or where?
    • On the earth, or in the air?
    • Like the midnight winds that blow
    • Round a lone cottage in the snow,
    • With howling swell and sighing fall,
    • It wails along the trophied hall.
    • In such a wild and dreary moan
    • The watches of the Seraphim
    • Poured out all night their plaintive hymn
    • Before the eternal throne.
    • Then, when from many a heavenly eye
    • Drops as of earthly pity fell
    • For her who had aspired too high,
    • For him who loved too well.
    • When, stunned by grief, the gentle pair
    • From the nuptial garden fair,
    • Linked in a sorrowful caress,
    • Strayed through the untrodden wilderness;
    • And close behind their footsteps came
    • The desolating sword of flame,
    • And drooped the cedared alley’s pride,
    • And fountains shrank, and roses died.
    • “Rejoice, oh Son of God, rejoice,”
    • Sang that melancholy voice,
    • “Rejoice, the maid is fair to see;
    • The bower is decked for her and thee;
    • The ivory lamps around it throw
    • A soft and pure and mellow glow.
    • Where’er the chastened lustre falls
    • On roof or cornice, floor or walls,
    • Woven of pink and rose appear
    • Such words as love delights to hear.
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    • The breath of myrrh, the lute’s soft sound,
    • Float through the moonlight galleries round.
    • O’er beds of violet and through groves of spice,
    • Lead thy proud bride into the nuptial bower;
    • For thou hast bought her with a fearful price,
    • And she hath dowered thee with a fearful dower.
    • The price is life. The dower is death.
    • Accursed loss! Accursed gain!
    • For her thou givest the blessedness of Seth,
    • And to thine arms she brings the curse of Cain.
    • Round the dark curtains of the fiery throne
    • Pauses awhile the voice of sacred song:
    • From all the angelic ranks goes forth a groan,
    • ‘How long, O Lord, how long?’
    • The still small voice makes answer, ‘Wait and see,
    • Oh sons of glory, what the end shall be.’
    • “But, in the outer darkness of the place
    • Where God hath shown his power without his grace,
    • Is laughter and the sound of glad acclaim,
    • Loud as when, on wings of fire,
    • Fulfilled of his malign desire,
    • From Paradise the conquering serpent came.
    • The giant ruler of the morning star
    • From off his fiery bed
    • Lifts high his stately head,
    • Which Michael’s sword hath marked with many a scar.
    • At his voice the pit of hell
    • Answers with a joyous yell,
    • And flings her dusky portals wide
    • For the bridegroom and the bride.
    • “But louder still shall be the din
    • In the halls of Death and Sin,
    • When the full measure runneth o’er,
    • When mercy can endure no more,
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    • When he who vainly proffers grace,
    • Comes in his fury to deface
    • The fair creation of his hand;
    • When from the heaven streams down amain
    • For forty days the sheeted rain;
    • And from his ancient barriers free,
    • With a deafening roar the sea
    • Comes foaming up the land.
    • Mother, cast thy babe aside:
    • Bridegroom, quit thy virgin bride:
    • Brother, pass thy brother by:
    • ’Tis for life, for life, ye fly.
    • Along the drear horizon raves
    • The swift advancing line of waves.
    • On: on: their frothy crests appear
    • Each moment nearer and more near.
    • Urge the dromedary’s speed;
    • Spur to death the reeling steed;
    • If perchance ye yet may gain
    • The mountains that o’erhang the plain.
    • “Oh thou haughty land of Nod,
    • Hear the sentence of thy God.
    • Thou hast said ‘Of all the hills
    • Whence, after autumn rains, the rills
    • In silver trickle down,
    • The fairest is that mountain white
    • Which intercepts the morning light
    • From Cain’s imperial town.
    • On its first and gentlest swell
    • Are pleasant halls where nobles dwell;
    • And marble porticoes are seen
    • Peeping through terraced gardens green.
    • Above are olives, palms, and vines;
    • And higher yet the dark-blue pines;
    • And highest on the summit shines
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    • The crest of everlasting ice.
    • Here let the God of Abel own
    • That human art hath wonders shown
    • Beyond his boasted paradise.’
    • “Therefore on that proud mountain’s crown
    • Thy few surviving sons and daughters
    • Shall see their latest sun go down
    • Upon a boundless waste of waters.
    • None salutes and none replies;
    • None heaves a groan or breathes a prayer;
    • They crouch on earth with tearless eyes,
    • And clenched hands, and bristling hair.
    • The rain pours on: no star illumes
    • The blackness of the roaring sky.
    • And each successive billow booms
    • Nigher still and still more nigh.
    • And now upon the howling blast
    • The wreaths of spray come thick and fast;
    • And a great billow by the tempest curled
    • Falls with a thundering crash; and all is o’er.
    • And what is left of all this glorious world?
    • A sky without a beam, a sea without a shore.
    • “Oh thou fair land, where from their starry home
    • Cherub and seraph oft delight to roam,
    • Thou city of the thousand towers,
    • Thou palace of the golden stairs,
    • Ye gardens of perennial flowers,
    • Ye moated gates, ye breezy squares;
    • Ye parks amidst whose branches high
    • Oft peers the squirrel’s sparkling eye;
    • Ye vineyards, in whose trellised shade
    • Pipes many a youth to many a maid;
    • Ye ports where rides the gallant ship;
    • Ye marts where wealthy burghers meet;
    • Ye dark green lanes which know the trip
    • Of woman’s conscious feet;
    • Edition: current; Page: [412]
    • Ye grassy meads where, when the day is done,
    • The shepherd pens his fold;
    • Ye purple moors on which the setting sun
    • Leaves a rich fringe of gold;
    • Ye wintry deserts where the larches grow;
    • Ye mountains on whose everlasting snow
    • No human foot hath trod;
    • Many a fathom shall ye sleep
    • Beneath the grey and endless deep,
    • In the great day of the revenge of God.”
Edition: current; Page: [413]

THE COUNTRY CLERGYMAN’S TRIP TO CAMBRIDGE.
An Election Ballad. (1827.)

    • As I sate down to breakfast in state,
    • At my living of Tithing-cum-Boring,
    • With Betty beside me to wait,
    • Came a rap that almost beat the door in.
    • I laid down my basin of tea,
    • And Betty ceased spreading the toast,
    • “As sure as a gun, sir,” said she,
    • “That must be the knock of the post.”
    • A letter — and free — bring it here —
    • I have no correspondent who franks.
    • No! Yes! Can it be? Why, my dear,
    • ’Tis our glorious, our Protestant Bankes.
    • “Dear sir, as I know you desire
    • That the Church should receive due protection,
    • I humbly presume to require
    • Your aid at the Cambridge election.
    • “It has lately been brought to my knowledge,
    • That the Ministers fully design
    • To suppress each cathedral and college,
    • And eject every learned divine.
    • To assist this detestable scheme
    • Three nuncios from Rome are come over;
    • They left Calais on Monday by steam,
    • And landed to dinner at Dover.
  • Edition: current; Page: [414]
    • “An army of grim Cordeliers,
    • Well furnished with relics and vermin,
    • Will follow, Lord Westmoreland fears,
    • To effect what their chiefs may determine.
    • Lollard’s bower, good authorities say,
    • Is again fitting up for a prison;
    • And a wood-merchant told me to-day
    • ’Tis a wonder how faggots have risen.
    • “The finance scheme of Canning contains
    • A new Easter-offering tax;
    • And he means to devote all the gains
    • To a bounty on thumb-screws and racks.
    • Your living, so neat and compact —
    • Pray, don’t let the news give you pain!—
    • Is promised, I know for a fact,
    • To an olive-faced Padre from Spain.”
    • I read, and I felt my heart bleed,
    • Sore wounded with horror and pity;
    • So I flew, with all possible speed,
    • To our Protestant champion’s committee.
    • True gentlemen, kind and well-bred!
    • No fleering! no distance! no scorn!
    • They asked after my wife who is dead,
    • And my children who never were born.
    • They then, like high-principled Tories,
    • Called our Sovereign unjust and unsteady,
    • And assailed him with scandalous stories,
    • Till the coach for the voters was ready.
    • That coach might be well called a casket
    • Of learning and brotherly love:
    • There were parsons in boot and in basket;
    • There were parsons below and above.
  • Edition: current; Page: [415]
    • There were Sneaker and Griper, a pair
    • Who stick to Lord Mulesby like leeches;
    • A smug chaplain of plausible air,
    • Who writes my Lord Goslingham’s speeches.
    • Dr. Buzz, who alone is a host,
    • Who, with arguments weighty as lead,
    • Proves six times a week in the Post
    • That flesh somehow differs from bread.
    • Dr. Nimrod, whose orthodox toes
    • Are seldom withdrawn from the stirrup;
    • Dr. Humdrum, whose eloquence flows,
    • Like droppings of sweet poppy syrup;
    • Dr. Rosygill puffing and fanning,
    • And wiping away perspiration;
    • Dr. Humbug, who proved Mr. Canning
    • The beast in St. John’s Revelation.
    • A layman can scarce form a notion
    • Of our wonderful talk on the road;
    • Of the learning, the wit, and devotion,
    • Which almost each syllable showed:
    • Why divided allegiance agrees
    • So ill with our free constitution;
    • How Catholics swear as they please,
    • In hope of the priest’s absolution;
    • How the Bishop of Norwich had bartered
    • His faith for a legate’s commission;
    • How Lyndhurst, afraid to be martyr’d,
    • Had stooped to a base coalition;
    • How Papists are cased from compassion
    • By bigotry, stronger than steel;
    • How burning would soon come in fashion,
    • And how very bad it must feel.
  • Edition: current; Page: [416]
    • We were all so much touched and excited
    • By a subject so direly sublime,
    • That the rules of politeness were slighted,
    • And we all of us talked at a time;
    • And in tones, which each moment grew louder,
    • Told how we should dress for the show,
    • And where we should fasten the powder,
    • And if we should bellow or no.
    • Thus from subject to subject we ran,
    • And the journey passed pleasantly o’er,
    • Till at last Dr. Humdrum began;
    • From that time I remember no more.
    • At Ware he commenced his prelection,
    • In the dullest of clerical drones;
    • And when next I regained recollection
    • We were rumbling o’er Trumpington stones.
Edition: current; Page: [417]

SONG. (1827.)

    • O stay, Madonna! stay;
    • ’Tis not the dawn of day
    • That marks the skies with yonder opal streak:
    • The stars in silence shine;
    • Then press thy lips to mine,
    • And rest upon my neck thy fervid cheek.
    • O sleep, Madonna! sleep;
    • Leave me to watch and weep
    • O’er the sad memory of departed joys,
    • O’er hope’s extinguished beam,
    • O’er fancy’s vanished dream,
    • O’er all that nature gives and man destroys.
    • O wake, Madonna! wake;
    • Even now the purple lake
    • Is dappled o’er with amber flakes of light;
    • A glow is on the hill;
    • And every trickling rill
    • In golden threads leaps down from yonder height.
    • O fly, Madonna! fly,
    • Lest day and envy spy
    • What only love and night may safely know:
    • Fly, and tread softly, dear!
    • Lest those who hate us hear
    • The sounds of thy light footsteps as they go.
Edition: current; Page: [418]

POLITICAL GEORGICS. (March 1828.)

“Quid faciat lætas segetes,” &c.

  • How cabinets are form’d, and how destroy’d,
  • How Tories are confirm’d, and Whigs decoy’d,
  • How in nice times a prudent man should vote,
  • At what conjuncture he should turn his coat,
  • The truths fallacious, and the candid lies,
  • And all the lore of sleek majorities,
  • I sing, great Premier. Oh, mysterious two,
  • Lords of our fate, the Doctor and the Jew,
  • If, by your care enriched, the aspiring clerk
  • Quits the close alley for the breezy park,
  • And Dolly’s chops and Reid’s entire resigns
  • For odorous fricassees and costly wines;
  • And you, great pair, through Windsor’s shades who rove,
  • The Faun and Dryad of the conscious grove;
  • All, all inspire me, for of all I sing,
  • Doctor and Jew, and M—s and K—g.
  • Thou, to the maudlin muse of Rydal dear;
  • Thou more than Neptune, Lowther, lend thine ear.
  • At Neptune’s voice the horse, with flowing mane
  • And pawing hoof, sprung from th’ obedient plain;
  • But at thy word the yawning earth, in fright,
  • Engulf’d the victor steed from mortal sight.
  • Haste from thy woods, mine Arbuthnot, with speed,
  • Rich woods, where lean Scotch cattle love to feed:
  • Edition: current; Page: [419]
  • Let Gaffer Gooch and Boodle’s patriot band,
  • Fat from the leanness of a plundered land,
  • True Cincinnati, quit their patent ploughs,
  • Their new steam-harrows, and their premium sows;
  • Let all in bulky majesty appear,
  • Roll the dull eye, and yawn th’ unmeaning cheer.
  • Ye veteran Swiss, of senatorial wars,
  • Who glory in your well-earned sticks and stars;
  • Ye diners-out from whom we guard our spoons;
  • Ye smug defaulters; ye obscene buffoons;
  • Come all, of every race and size and form,
  • Corruption’s children, brethren of the worm;
  • From those gigantic monsters who devour
  • The pay of half a squadron in an hour,
  • To those foul reptiles, doomed to night and scorn,
  • Of filth and stench equivocally born;
  • From royal tigers down to toads and lice;
  • From Bathursts, Clintons, Fanes, to H— and P—;
  • Thou last, by habit and by nature blest
  • With every gift which serves a courtier best,
  • The lap-dog spittle, the hyæna bile,
  • The maw of shark, the tear of crocodile,
  • Whate’er high station, undetermined yet,
  • Awaits thee in the longing Cabinet,—
  • Whether thou seat thee in the room of Peel,
  • Or from Lord Prig extort the Privy Seal,
  • Or our Field-marshal-Treasurer fix on thee,
  • A legal admiral, to rule the sea,
  • Or Chancery-suits, beneath thy well-known reign,
  • Turn to their nap of fifty years again;
  • (Already L—, prescient of his fate,
  • Yields half his woolsack to thy mightier weight;)
  • Oh! Eldon, in whatever sphere thou shine,
  • For opposition sure will ne’er be thine,
  • Though scowls apart the lonely pride of Grey,
  • Though Devonshire proudly flings his staff away,
  • Edition: current; Page: [420]
  • Though Lansdowne, trampling on his broken chain,
  • Shine forth the Lansdowne of our hearts again,
  • Assist me thou; for well I deem, I see
  • An abstract of my ample theme in thee.
  • Thou, as thy glorious self hath justly said,
  • From earliest youth, wast pettifogger bred,
  • And, raised to power by fortune’s fickle will,
  • Art head and heart a pettifogger still.
  • So, where once Fleet-ditch ran confessed, we view
  • A crowded mart and stately avenue;
  • But the black stream beneath runs on the same,
  • Still brawls in W—’s key,—still stinks like H—’s name.
Edition: current; Page: [421]

THE DELIVERANCE OF VIENNA.
Translated from Vincenzio da Filicaia.

(Published in the “Winter’s Wreath,” Liverpool, 1828.)

“Le corde d’oro elette,” &c.

    • The chords, the sacred chords of gold,
    • Strike, oh Muse, in measure bold;
    • And frame a sparkling wreath of joyous songs
    • For that great God to whom revenge belongs.
    • Who shall resist his might,
    • Who marshals for the fight
    • Earthquake and thunder, hurricane and flame?
    • He smote the haughty race
    • Of unbelieving Thrace,
    • And turned their rage to fear, their pride to shame.
    • He looked in wrath from high,
    • Upon their vast array;
    • And, in the twinkling of an eye,
    • Tambour, and trump, and battle-cry,
    • And steeds, and turbaned infantry,
    • Passed like a dream away.
    • Such power defends the mansions of the just:
    • But, like a city without walls,
    • The grandeur of the mortal falls
    • Who glories in his strength, and makes not God his trust.
    • The proud blasphemers thought all earth their own;
    • They deemed that soon the whirlwind of their ire
    • Would sweep down tower and palace, dome and spire,
    • The Christian altars and the Augustan throne.
    • Edition: current; Page: [422]
    • And soon, they cried, shall Austria bow
    • To the dust her lofty brow.
    • The princedoms of Almayne
    • Shall wear the Phrygian chain;
    • In humbler waves shall vassal Tiber roll;
    • And Rome, a slave forlorn,
    • Her laurelled tresses shorn,
    • Shall feel our iron in her inmost soul.
    • Who shall bid the torrent stay?
    • Who shall bar the lightning’s way?
    • Who arrest the advancing van
    • Of the fiery Ottoman?
    • As the curling smoke wreaths fly
    • When fresh breezes clear the sky,
    • Passed away each swelling boast
    • Of the misbelieving host.
    • From the Hebrus rolling far
    • Came the murky cloud of war,
    • And in shower and tempest dread
    • Burst on Austria’s fenceless head.
    • But not for vaunt or threat
    • Didst Thou, oh Lord, forget
    • The flock so dearly bought, and loved so well.
    • Even in the very hour
    • Of guilty pride and power
    • Full on the circumcised Thy vengeance fell.
    • Then the fields were heaped with dead,
    • Then the streams with gore were red,
    • And every bird of prey, and every beast,
    • From wood and cavern thronged to Thy great feast.
    • What terror seized the fiends obscene of Nile!
    • How wildly, in his place of doom beneath,
    • Arabia’s lying prophet gnashed his teeth,
    • And cursed his blighted hopes and wasted guile!
    • When, at the bidding of Thy sovereign might,
    • Edition: current; Page: [423]
    • Flew on their destined path
    • Thy messengers of wrath,
    • Riding on storms and wrapped in deepest night.
    • The Phthian mountains saw,
    • And quaked with mystic awe:
    • The proud Sultana of the Straights bowed down
    • Her jewelled neck and her embattled crown.
    • The miscreants, as they raised their eyes
    • Glaring defiance on Thy skies,
    • Saw adverse winds and clouds display
    • The terrors of their black array; —
    • Saw each portentous star
    • Whose fiery aspect turned of yore to flight
    • The iron chariots of the Canaanite
    • Gird its bright harness for a deadlier war.
    • Beneath Thy withering look
    • Their limbs with palsy shook;
    • Scattered on earth the crescent banners lay;
    • Trembled with panic fear
    • Sabre and targe and spear,
    • Through the proud armies of the rising day.
    • Faint was each heart, unnerved each hand;
    • And, if they strove to charge or stand,
    • Their efforts were as vain
    • As his who, scared in feverish sleep
    • By evil dreams, essays to leap,
    • Then backward falls again.
    • With a crash of wild dismay,
    • Their ten thousand ranks gave way;
    • Fast they broke, and fast they fled;
    • Trampled, mangled, dying, dead,
    • Horse and horseman mingled lay;
    • Till the mountains of the slain
    • Raised the valleys to the plain.
    • Be all the glory to Thy name divine!
    • The swords were our’s; the arm, O Lord, was Thine.
    • Edition: current; Page: [424]
    • Therefore to Thee, beneath whose footstool wait
    • The powers which erring man calls Chance and Fate,
    • To Thee who hast laid low
    • The pride of Europe’s foe,
    • And taught Byzantium’s sullen lords to fear,
    • I pour my spirit out
    • In a triumphant shout,
    • And call all ages and all lands to hear.
    • Thou who evermore endurest,
    • Loftiest, mightiest, wisest, purest,
    • Thou whose will destroys or saves,
    • Dread of tyrants, hope of slaves,
    • The wreath of glory is from Thee,
    • And the red sword of victory.
    • There where exulting Danube’s flood
    • Runs stained with Islam’s noblest blood
    • From that tremendous field,
    • There where in mosque the tyrants met,
    • And from the crier’s minaret
    • Unholy summons pealed,
    • Pure shrines and temples now shall be
    • Decked for a worship worthy Thee.
    • To Thee thy whole creation pays
    • With mystic sympathy its praise,
    • The air, the earth, the seas:
    • The day shines forth with livelier beam;
    • There is a smile upon the stream,
    • An anthem on the breeze.
    • Glory, they cry, to Him whose might
    • Hath turned the barbarous foe to flight,
    • Whose arm protects with power divine
    • The city of his favoured line.
    • The caves, the woods, the rocks, repeat the sound;
    • The everlasting hills roll the long echoes round.
    • But, if Thy rescued church may dare
    • Still to besiege Thy throne with prayer,
    • Edition: current; Page: [425]
    • Sheathe not, we implore Thee, Lord,
    • Sheathe not Thy victorious sword.
    • Still Panonia pines away,
    • Vassal of a double sway:
    • Still Thy servants groan in chains,
    • Still the race which hates Thee reigns:
    • Part the living from the dead:
    • Join the members to the head:
    • Snatch Thine own sheep from yon fell monster’s hold;
    • Let one kind shepherd rule one undivided fold.
    • He is the victor, only he
    • Who reaps the fruits of victory.
    • We conquered once in vain,
    • When foamed the Ionian waves with gore,
    • And heaped Lepanto’s stormy shore
    • With wrecks and Moslem slain.
    • Yet wretched Cyprus never broke
    • The Syrian tyrant’s iron yoke.
    • Shall the twice vanquished foe
    • Again repeat his blow?
    • Shall Europe’s sword be hung to rust in peace?
    • No—let the red-cross ranks
    • Of the triumphant Franks
    • Bear swift deliverance to the shrines of Greece
    • And in her inmost heart let Asia feel
    • The avenging plagues of Western fire and steel.
    • Oh God! for one short moment raise
    • The veil which hides those glorious days.
    • The flying foes I see Thee urge
    • Even to the river’s headlong verge.
    • Close on their rear the loud uproar
    • Of fierce pursuit from Ister’s shore
    • Comes pealing on the wind;
    • The Rab’s wild waters are before,
    • The Christian sword behind.
    • Edition: current; Page: [426]
    • Sons of perdition, speed your flight.
    • No earthly spear is in the rest;
    • No earthly champion leads to fight
    • The warriors of the West.
    • The Lord of Hosts asserts His old renown,
    • Scatters, and smites, and slays, and tramples down.
    • Fast, fast, beyond what mortal tongue can say,
    • Or mortal fancy dream,
    • He rushes on his prey:
    • Till, with the terrors of the wondrous theme
    • Bewildered and appalled, I cease to sing,
    • And close my dazzled eye, and rest my wearied wing.
Edition: current; Page: [427]

THE LAST BUCCANEER. (1839.)

    • The winds were yelling, the waves were swelling,
    • The sky was black and drear,
    • When the crew with eyes of flame brought the ship without a name
    • Alongside the last Buccaneer.
    • “Whence flies your sloop full sail before so fierce a gale,
    • When all others drive bare on the seas?
    • Say, come ye from the shore of the holy Salvador,
    • Or the gulf of the rich Caribbees?”
    • “From a shore no search hath found, from a gulf no line can sound,
    • Without rudder or needle we steer;
    • Above, below, our bark, dies the sea fowl and the shark,
    • As we fly by the last Buccaneer.
    • “To night there shall be heard on the rocks of Cape de Verde
    • A loud crash, and a louder roar;
    • And to-morrow shall the deep, with a heavy moaning, sweep
    • The corpses and wreck to the shore.”
  • Edition: current; Page: [428]
    • The stately ship of Clyde securely now may ride
    • In the breath of the citron shades;
    • And Severn’s towering mast securely now flies fast,
    • Through the sea of the balmy Trades.
    • From St. Jago’s wealthy port, from Havannah’s royal fort,
    • The seaman goes forth without fear;
    • For since that stormy night not a mortal hath had sight
    • Of the flag of the last Buccaneer.
Edition: current; Page: [429]

EPITAPH ON A JACOBITE. (1845.)

  • To my true king I offered free from stain
  • Courage and faith; vain faith, and courage vain.
  • For him, I threw lands, honours, wealth, away,
  • And one dear hope, that was more prized than they.
  • For him I languished in a foreign clime,
  • Grey-haired with sorrow in my manhood’s prime;
  • Heard on Lavernia Scargill’s whispering trees,
  • And pined by Arno for my lovelier Tees;
  • Beheld each night my home in fevered sleep,
  • Each morning started from the dream to weep;
  • Till God, who saw me tried too sorely, gave
  • The resting place I asked, an early grave.
  • Oh thou, whom chance leads to this nameless stone,
  • From that proud country which was once mine own,
  • By those white cliffs I never more must see,
  • By that dear language which I spake like thee,
  • Forget all feuds, and shed one English tear
  • O’er English dust. A broken heart lies here.
Edition: current; Page: [430]

LINES WRITTEN IN AUGUST, 1847.

    • The day of tumult, strife, defeat, was o’er;
    • Worn out with toil, and noise, and scorn, and spleen,
    • I slumbered, and in slumber saw once more
    • A room in an old mansion, long unseen.
    • That room, methought, was curtained from the light;
    • Yet through the curtains shone the moon’s cold ray
    • Full on a cradle, where, in linen white,
    • Sleeping life’s first soft sleep, an infant lay.
    • Pale flickered on the hearth the dying flame,
    • And all was silent in that ancient hall,
    • Save when by fits on the low night-wind came
    • The murmur of the distant waterfall.
    • And lo! the fairy queens who rule our birth
    • Drew nigh to speak the new born baby’s doom:
    • With noiseless step, which left no trace on earth,
    • From gloom they came, and vanished into gloom.
    • Not deigning on the boy a glance to cast
    • Swept careless by the gorgeous Queen of Gain;
    • More scornful still, the Queen of Fashion passed,
    • With mincing gait and sneer of cold disdain.
  • Edition: current; Page: [431]
    • The Queen of Power tossed high her jewelled head,
    • And o’er her shoulder threw a wrathful frown:
    • The Queen of Pleasure on the pillow shed
    • Scarce one stray rose-leaf from her fragrant crown.
    • Still Fay in long procession followed Fay;
    • And still the little couch remained unblest:
    • But, when those wayward sprites had passed away,
    • Came One, the last, the mightiest, and the best.
    • Oh glorious lady, with the eyes of light
    • And laurels clustering round thy lofty brow,
    • Who by the cradle’s side didst watch that night,
    • Warbling a sweet strange music, who wast thou?
    • “Yes, darling; let them go;” so ran the strain:
    • “Yes; let them go, gain, fashion, pleasure, power,
    • And all the busy elves to whose domain
    • Belongs the nether sphere, the fleeting hour.
    • “Without one envious sigh, one anxious scheme,
    • The nether sphere, the fleeting hour resign.
    • Mine is the world of thought, the world of dream,
    • Mine all the past, and all the future mine.
    • “Fortune, that lays in sport the mighty low,
    • Age, that to penance turns the joys of youth,
    • Shall leave untouched the gifts which I bestow,
    • The sense of beauty and the thirst of truth.
    • “Of the fair brotherhood who share my grace,
    • I, from thy natal day, pronounce thee free;
    • And, if for some I keep a nobler place,
    • I keep for none a happier than for thee.
  • Edition: current; Page: [432]
    • “There are who, while to vulgar eyes they seem
    • Of all my bounties largely to partake,
    • Of me as of some rival’s handmaid deem,
    • And court me but for gain’s, power’s, fashion’s sake.
    • “To such, though deep their lore, though wide their fame,
    • Shall my great mysteries be all unknown:
    • But thou, through good and evil, praise and blame,
    • Wilt not thou love me for myself alone?
    • “Yes; thou wilt love me with exceeding love;
    • And I will tenfold all that love repay,
    • Still smiling, though the tender may reprove,
    • Still faithful, though the trusted may betray.
    • “For aye mine emblem was, and aye shall be,
    • The ever-during plant whose bough I wear,
    • Brightest and greenest then, when every tree
    • That blossoms in the light of Time is bare.
    • “In the dark hour of shame, I deigned to stand
    • Before the frowning peers at Bacon’s side:
    • On a far shore I smoothed with tender hand,
    • Through months of pain, the sleepless bed of Hyde:
    • “I brought the wise and brave of ancient days
    • To cheer the cell where Raleigh pined alone:
    • I lighted Milton’s darkness with the blaze
    • Of the bright ranks that guard the eternal throne.
    • “And even so, my child, it is my pleasure
    • That thou not then alone shouldst feel me nigh,
    • When, in domestic bliss and studious leisure,
    • Thy weeks uncounted come, uncounted fly;
  • Edition: current; Page: [433]
    • “Not then alone, when myriads, closely pressed
    • Around thy car, the shout of triumph raise;
    • Nor when, in gilded drawing rooms, thy breast
    • Swells at the sweeter sound of woman’s praise.
    • “No: when on restless night dawns cheerless morrow,
    • When weary soul and wasting body pine,
    • Thine am I still, in danger, sickness, sorrow,
    • In conflict, obloquy, want, exile, thine;
    • “Thine, where on mountain waves the snowbirds scream,
    • Where more than Thule’s winter barbs the breeze,
    • Where scarce, through lowering clouds, one sickly gleam
    • Lights the drear May-day of Antarctic seas;
    • “Thine, when around thy litter’s track all day
    • White sandhills shall reflect the blinding glare;
    • Thine, when, through forests breathing death, thy way
    • All night shall wind by many a tiger’s lair;
    • “Thine most, when friends turn pale, when traitors fly,
    • When, hard beset, thy spirit, justly proud,
    • For truth, peace, freedom, mercy, dares defy
    • A sullen priesthood and a raving crowd.
    • “Amidst the din of all things fell and vile,
    • Hate’s yell, and envy’s hiss, and folly’s bray,
    • Remember me; and with an unforced smile
    • See riches, baubles, flatterers, pass away.
    • “Yes: they will pass away; nor deem it strange:
    • They come and go, as comes and goes the sea:
    • And let them come and go: thou, through all change,
    • Fix thy firm gaze on virtue and on me.”
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TRANSLATION FROM PLAUTUS. (1850.)

[The author passed a part of the summer and autumn of 1850 at Ventnor, in the Isle of Wight. He usually, when walking alone, had with him a book. On one occasion, as he was loitering in the landslip near Bonchurch, reading the Rudens of Plautus, it struck him that it might be an interesting experiment to attempt to produce something which might be supposed to resemble passages in the lost Greek drama of Diphilus, from which the Rudens appears to have been taken. He selected one passage in the Rudens, of which he then made the following version, which he afterwards copied out at the request of a friend to whom he had repeated it.]

  • Act. IV. Sc. vii.

  • Dæmones. O Gripe, Gripe, in ætate hominum plurimæ
  • Fiunt transennæ, ubi decipiuntur dolis;
  • Atque edepol in eas plerumque esca imponitur.
  • Quam si quis avidus pascit escam avariter,
  • Decipitur in transenna avaritia sua.
  • Ille, qui consulte, docte, atque astute cavet,
  • Diutine uti bene licet partum bene.
  • Mi istæc videtur præda prædatum irier:
  • Ut cum majore dote abeat, quam advenerit.
  • Egone ut, quod ad me adlatum esse alienum sciam,
  • Celem? Minime istuc faciet noster Dæmones.
  • Semper cavere hoc sapientes æquissimum est,
  • Ne conscii sint ipsi maleficiis suis.
  • Ego, mihi quum lusi, nil moror ullum lucrum.
  • Gripus. Spectavi ego pridem Comicos ad istum modum
  • Sapienter dicta dicere, atque iis plaudier,
  • Quum illos sapientis mores monstrabant poplo;
  • Sed quum inde suam quisque ibant diversi domum,
  • Nullus erat illo pacto, ut illi jusserant.
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    • ΔΑΙΜ. Ὦ Γρῖπε, Γρῖπε, πλεῖστα παγίδων σχήματα
    • ἴδοι τις ἂν πεπηγμέν’ ἐν θνητῶν βίῳ,
    • ϰαὶ πλεῖστ’ ἐπ’ αὐτοῖς δελέαθ’, ώ̃ν ἐπιθυμίᾳ
    • ὀρεγόμενός τις ἐν ϰαϰοῖς ἁλίσϰεται·
    • ὅστις δ’ ἀπιστεῖ ϰαὶ σοϕῶς ϕυλάττεται
    • ϰαλῶς ἀπολαύει τῶν ϰαλῶς πεπορισμένων.
    • ἅρπαγμα δ’ οὐχ ἅρπαγμ’ ὁ λάρναξ οὑτοσὶ,
    • ἀλλ’ αὐτὸς, οἶμαι, μᾶλλον ἁρπάξει τινά.
    • τόνδ’ ἄνδρα ϰλέπτειν τἀλλότρι’ — εὐϕήμει, τάλαν·
    • ταυτήν γε μὴ μαίνοιτο μανίαν Δαιμονῆς.
    • τόδε γὰρ ἀεὶ σοϕοῖσιν εὐλαβητέον,
    • μή τί ποθ’ ἑαυτῷ τις ἀδίϰημα συννοῇ·
    • ϰέρδη δ’ ἔμοιγε πάνθ’ ὅσοις εὐϕραίνομαι,
    • ϰέρδος δ’ ἀϰερδὲς ὃ τοὐμὸν ἀλγύνει ϰέαρ.
    • ΓΡΙΠ. ϰἀγὼ μὲν ἤδη ϰωμιϰῶν ἀϰήϰοα
    • σεμνῶς λεγόντων τοιάδε, τοὺς δὲ θεωμένους
    • ϰροτεῖν, ματαίοις ἡδομένους σοϕίσμασιν·
    • εἶθ’, ὡς ἀπῆλθ’ ἕϰαστος οἴϰαδ’, οὐδενὶ
    • οὐδὲν παρέμεινε τῶν ϰαλῶς εἰρημένων.
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PARAPHRASE OF A PASSAGE IN THE CHRONICLE OF THE MONK OF ST. GALL. (1856.)

[In the summer of 1856, the author travelled with a friend through Lombardy. As they were on the road between Novara and Milan, they were conversing on the subject of the legends relating to that country. The author remarked to his companion that Mr. Panizzi, in the Essay on the Romantic Narrative Poetry of the Italians, prefixed to his edition of Bojardo, had pointed out an instance of the conversion of ballad poetry into prose narrative which strongly confirmed the theory of Perizonius and Niebuhr, upon which “The Lays of Ancient Rome” are founded; and, after repeating an extract which Mr. Panizzi has given from the chronicle of “The Monk of St. Gall,” he proceeded to frame a metrical paraphrase. The note in Mr. Panizzi’s work (vol. i. p. 123, note b) is here copied verbatim.]

‘The monk says that Oger was with Desiderius, King of Lombardy, watching the advance of Charlemagne’s army. The king often asked Oger where was Charlemagne. Quando videris, inquit, segetem campis inhorrescere, ferreum Padum et Ticinum marinis fluctibus ferro nigrantibus muros civitatis inundantes, tunc est spes Caroli venientis. His nedum expletis primum ad occasum Circino vel Borea cœpit apparere, quasi nubes tenebrosa, quæ diem clarissimam horrentes convertit in umbras. Sed propiante Imperatore, ex armorum splendore, dies omni nocte tenebrosior oborta est inclusis. Tunc visus est ipse ferreus Carolus ferrea galea cristatus, ferreis manicis armillatus, &c. &c. His igitur, quæ ego balbus et edentulus, non ut debui circuitu tardiore diutius explicare tentavi, veridicus speculator Oggerus celerrimo visu contuitus dixit ad Desiderium: Ecce, habes quem tantopere perquisisti. Et hæc dicens, pene exanimis Edition: current; Page: [437] cecidit.—Monach. Sangal. de Reb. Bel. Caroli Magni. lib. ii. § xxvi. Is this not evidently taken from poetical effusions?”

  • PARAPHRASE.

    • To Oggier spake King Didier:
    • “When cometh Charlemagne?
    • We looked for him in harvest:
    • We looked for him in rain.
    • Crops are reaped; and floods are past;
    • And still he is not here.
    • Some token show, that we may know
    • That Charlemagne is near.”
    • Then to the King made answer
    • Oggier, the christened Dane:
    • “When stands the iron harvest,
    • Ripe on the Lombard plain,
    • That stiff harvest which is reaped
    • With sword of knight and peer,
    • Then by that sign ye may divine
    • That Charlemagne is near.
    • “When round the Lombard cities
    • The iron flood shall flow,
    • A swifter flood than Ticin,
    • A broader flood than Po,
    • Frothing white with many a plume,
    • Dark blue with many a spear,
    • Then by that sign ye may divine
    • That Charlemagne is near.”
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INSCRIPTION ON THE STATUE OF LORD WM. BENTINCK. AT CALCUTTA. (1835.)

To William Cavendish Bentinck, Who, during seven years, ruled India with eminent Prudence, Integrity, and Benevolence: Who, placed at the head of a great Empire, never laid aside The simplicity and moderation of a private citizen: Who infused into Oriental despotism the spirit of British Freedom: Who never forgot that the end of Government is The happiness of the Governed: Who abolished cruel rites: Who effaced humiliating distinctions: Who gave liberty to the expression of public opinion: Whose constant study it was, to elevate the intellectual And moral character of the Nations committed to his charge: This Monument Was erected by men, Who, differing in Race, in Manners, in Language, And in Religion, Cherish, with equal veneration and gratitude, The memory of his wise, upright, And paternal Administration.

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EPITAPH ON SIR BENJAMIN HEATH MALKIN.
At Calcutta. 1837.

This monument Is sacred to the memory Of Sir Benjamin Heath Malkin, Knight, One of the Judges of The Supreme Court of Judicature: A man eminently distinguished By his literary and scientific attainments, By his professional learning and ability, By the clearness and accuracy of his intellect, By diligence, by patience, by firmness, by love of truth, By public spirit, ardent and disinterested, Yet always under the guidance of discretion, By rigid uprightness, by unostentatious piety, By the serenity of his temper, And by the benevolence of his heart.

He was born on the 29th September, 1797. He died on the 21st October, 1837.

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EPITAPH ON LORD METCALFE. (1847.)

Near this stone is laid Charles Lord Metcalfe, A Statesman tried in many high offices And difficult conjunctures, And found equal to all. The three greatest Dependencies of the British Crown Were successively entrusted to his care. In India, his fortitude, his wisdom, His probity, and his moderation, Are held in honourable remembrance By men of many races, languages, and religions. In Jamaica, still convulsed by a social revolution, His prudence calmed the evil passions Which long suffering had engendered in one class And long domination in another. In Canada, not yet recovered from the calamities of civilwar, He reconciled contending factions To each other, and to the Mother Country. Costly monuments in Asiatic and American cities Attest the gratitude of the nations which he ruled. This tablet records the sorrow and the pride With which his memory is cherished by his family.

THE END.

london

printed by spottiswoode and co. new-street square

*

Even M. de Chateaubriand, to whom we should have thought all the Bourbons would have seemed at least six feet high, admits this fact. “C’est une erreur,” says he in his strange memoirs of the Duke of Berri, “de croire que Louis XIV. étoit d’une haute stature. Une cuirasse qui nous reste de lui, et les exhumations de St. Denys, n’ont laissé sur ce point aucun doute.”

*

O’Meara’s Voice from St. Helena, ii. 170.

Moniteur, 2nd, 7th, and 9th of August, 1793.

*

Vol. ii. 407.

*

Moniteur, 31st of July, 1793, and Nonidi, first Decade of Brumaire, in the year 2.

*

See the Publiciste of the 14th July, 1793. Marat was stabbed on the evening of the 13th.

*

M. Hippolyte Carnot does his best to excuse this decree. His abuse of England is merely laughable. England has managed to deal with enemies of a very different sort from either himself or his hero. One disgraceful blunder, however, we think it right to notice.

M. Hippolyte Carnot asserts that a motion similar to that of Barère was made in the English Parliament by the late Lord Fitzwilliam. This assertion is false. We defy M. Hippolyte Carnot to state the date and terms of the motion of which he speaks. We do not accuse him of intentional misrepresentation; but we confidently accuse him of extreme ignorance and temerity. Our readers will be amused to learn on what authority he has ventured to publish such a fable. He quotes, not the Journals of the Lords, not the Parliamentary Debates, but a ranting message of the Executive Directory to the Five Hundred, a message, too, the whole meaning of which he has utterly misunderstood.

*

The glass on which the name is written has, as we are informed by a writer in Notes and Queries (2nd S. ix. p. 91), been inclosed in a frame and deposited in the Manuscript Room of the College Library, where it is still to be seen.

*

A gentleman, who states that he has known the neighbourhood for thirty years, corrects this account, and informs the present publisher that the Breakneck Steps, thirty-two in number, divided into two flights, are still in existence, and that, according to tradition, Goldsmith’s house was not on the steps, but was the first house at the head of the court, on the left hand, going from the Old Bailey. See Notes and Queries (2nd S. ix. 280).

*

Mr. Black has pointed out that this is inaccurate: the life of Nash has been twice reprinted; once in Mr. Prior’s edition (vol. iii. p. 249), and once in Mr. Cunningham’s edition (vol. iv. p. 35).

*

The speech with which the King opened the session of 1785, concluded with an assurance that His Majesty would heartily concur in every measure which could tend to secure the true principles of the constitution. These words were at the time understood to refer to Pitt’s Reform Bill.