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Art. XXI. RETROSPECT OF FRENCH LITERATURE,
continued from page 239. W HEN entering on the last of those epochs under which we proposed
to take a retrospective view of French literature, a reflection on the intimate relation and mutual dependance of literature and civilization, naturally and forcibly oceurs to the mind. A nation that is wholly unlettered, is necessarily, in a great measure, uncivilized : and the progress which any nation makes in civilization, may usually be computed with accuracy, by the number, the variety, and the merits, of its publications in any given period. It is, indeed, to the promulgation of the Gospel, that Europe is principally indebted, for its present superiority over other divisions of the world: but it is to be considered, that Christianity not only lays the foundation of social order, by the purity of its principles and the efficacy of its motives, but effectually promotes the progress of literature to a certain degree; affords scope for its most useful application to an unlimited extent; and supplies the only restrictions, whereby it may be preserved froin subverting its own interests, and becoming a fatal poison, instead of a salutary medium of instruction and delight. Authors who attack evangelical religion, whether by open assault, by secret sap, or by treacherous collusion, are compassing the ruin both of civilization and literature; although they may design to promote their advancement. The declension of either, has scarcely in any instance been so striking, as in France, since the commencement of the late revolution : yet the writings which brought that cotivulsion to its crisis, were apparently intended to promote the illamination and perfection of mankind. Ignorant of religion, and prejudiced against it, the French philosophers regarded Christianity as inimical to social improvement; and were not aware, that in attempting to subvert the Gospel, they were fighting against the cause of eternal truth. Similar must ever be the result, when human reason exalts itself against divine revelation. Happily for us, the disastrous triumphs of infidelity in France, have tended to check, rather than to accelerate, its progress in England: but we cannot regard our literary or our civil prosperity as secure, till learning and eloquence become the zealous allies of Christianity. Indifference to its interests, and inconsistency with its principles, though less rapid in their operation, will be as ruinous, in their cousequences, as the most resolute and persevering attack on its evidences or its doctrines.
Civil discord has, in all countries, and all ages, been fatal to literature. It engrosses the attention, and enflames the passions, too powerfully to admit of the study and composition of treatises foreign to the spot, and the moment of contention. Hence, during the progress of the revolution iri France, the press teemed only with political publications, and those on contemporary history. Of these, we proceed to give a more full and connected account than we have yet seen in print. We are conscious, however, that this might be made more complete, and would be improved by a correctly systematical arrangement: but we think it may be niore interesting to our readers, if communicated just as we received it, a few months since, from a correspondent in Paris; whose language we literally translate, as it exhibits a view in which the subject is regarded by no small proportion of the inhabitants of France at the. present conjuncture.
It would be difficult,' says the writer, 'to characterize all the works which have been composed with the intention of ascertaining and pointing out the genuine causes of the French Revolution, of elucidating its pernicious progress, and describing its monstrous result. Could the historians of this grand political phenomenon, who hastened to describe its various explosions, and their dreadful effects, suppose themselves capable of writing with the impartiality of faithful history; or even expect, though witnesses of the facts which they related, to obtain implicit credit? Succeeding generations will hardly believe recitals so extraordinary as to bear the stamp of improbability: and it is only when time has dissipated the influence of parties, and the effervescence of passions, that we may hope some upbiassed writer will search out the truth amidst the voluminous materials in which it is buried, and will model the history of this tremendous convulsion into a monument of instruction for posterity.
Among those who have written on the wonderful events which closed the 18th century, M. Bertrand de Moleville, author of The History of the French Revolution, should be particularly distinguished. The circumstances in which he was placed, and the posts which he filled, claim from his readers a considerable measure of confidence; especially as he appears, on a perusal of his work, to have been sedulously on his guard against the partiality which might be imputed to him. This narrative, and notes, abound with private anecdotes, which could only be communicated by an actor in the scene, and by one who possessed the confidence of Louis XVI, Those volumes of his work which have been published, will certainly be a treasure to any writer, who may hereafter undertake an impartial history of this convulsed period.
M. Necker has written two volumes on the Revolution, in which he has endeavoured to trace its origin, and real causes. He ascribes it . to the change of public opinion which was effected by a bold investigation of the most important subjects of political economy, in works that displayed considerable talent; to the excess of taxes; the total derangement of the finances; and a consequent dissatisfaction with the Government and its measures : but, above all, to the philosophizing spirit which celebrated writers Jaboured to propagate; to the subversion of every basis of moral duty and religious sentiment; and the banishment of veneration for any object on earth or in heaven.. The inroads which were thus made insensibly on the public mind, he regards as the real preparatives for that misery in which France has since been involved. It is hardly to be supposed, ihat M. Necker could be wholly unbiassed, especially on topics in which he was personally concerned: but his general views, and the solid reflections which he deduces from facts, indicate the correctness of his judgement, as well as his experience in composition.
'Prudhomme's General history of the crimes committed during the revolution, and particularly under the reign of the Convention, is a denunciation to posterity of the most sanguinary outrages, and of the barbarians by whom they were committed. The author had been a zealous revolutionist; and in a periodical work, entitled “ Revolutions of Paris and Brabant,'' had propagated those principles of liberty and equality which produced the crimes that he enumerates. After having been intimately connected with persons who were principal actors in this scene of horror, indignation at their enormities transformed him to their accuser. By a lively picture of their conduct, he has exposed thein to the abhorrence of: their contemporaries, and of ages yet to come.
M. de Montjoye, in undertaking to write a history of the Revolution, proposed to divest himself of all interest in the events to be described, and of all connexion with his contemporaries ; treating of facts as if they had occurred a century before he wrote. “ It is not,” said he, “ for the present age, that I write : I consider it as already remote: I write solely for posterity.” To maintain so strict an impartiality, must in every situation be difficult; and perhaps in none more than in that of the writer now in view. It is not, however, known whether he would have adhered to his engagement. His work has been suspended : and the two volumes of it which have been published, reach only to the royal Session of 23 June, 1789.
Such events as persons who were not eye-witnesses might learn from the public. journals, have been collected, in numerous volumes, by Fantin de Sodoarts. They form a tedious compilation, expressed in trite language; destitute both of colouring and of interest.
• Two friends combined their babours, to describe the progress of our revolutionary mania; and they have persisted, since it ceased, in multiplying volun.es on the subject. They relate every thing, but seem to have understood nothing.
Beaulieu's Historical Essays on the causes and effects of the Revolution,' with his Notes on certain events and institutions, include private details which had been either forgotten or neglected by other historians, The author with sufficient rapidity, conducts his readers to the 18th Brumaire; when the tyrants of France vanished, only to render conspicuous the completion of her miseries.
* M. Bonvielle published in 1796 an Essay on the condition of France ; in which he analyses those political errors, which succeeded to the notions : that had been formed, of regenerating the state. To these, be opposes clear, precise, and incontrovertible ideas of social order ; and afterwards reviews the more striking events by which the descent from order to con." fusion was marked.
Montjoye's Histories of the conspiracies of Orleans and of Robespierre, deserves to be distinguished, as works which exhibit the minds of these two criminals in their geruine depravity. Some trifling inaccuracies do , not affect the general truth of the facts related. .
Particular epochs of this revolution, that were but too prominent, have been described by writers of various parties. That of the tenth of August is recorded by Peltier. He traces perspicuously the circumstances which led to that dreadful event, and the massacres which attended it. The subversion of royalty by the most perfidious counsel, is clearly demonstrated by him. A horrible picture is drawn of the crimes that were authorised and perpetrated by a frantic legislature. The author speaks only of what he saw; but he speaks with prejudice and aggravation.
M. Danican has reported the hostilities of the convention against the sections of Paris, on the 13th Vendemiare (5 October); when the members of that regicide assembly aimed to force, on the Parisians, two thirds of their own number, in forming the Legislative bodies appointed by the new constitution.
• Louvet, an incorrigible revolutionist, the adversary and accuser of Robespierre before the Convention, of which he was a member, published an account of his own proscription in 1793, and of the dangers which he encountered in evading prosecution. His narrative proves that he had
i not renounced his anarchical opinions; and it is better adapted to entertain, by the hair-breadth escapes of himself and his companions in distress, than to interest the reader in their behalf.
In the course of this grand political subversion many private memoirs were written by persons who had been principal actors during the first years of the revolution. Such are those of Mad. Roland, M. de Bouillé, Dumouriez, Custine, &c. The inexperience, vanity, and cowardice, of the last mentioned general, are displayed in a very remarkable manner.
France was deluged, for ten years, with innumerable pamphlets on the subject; most of which have already sunk into oblivion. Some, notwithstanding, deserve to be mentioned: as, Considerations on the nature of the French Revolution, by Mallet du Pan; a letter in reply to the preceding, by M. Necker; another letter, on the State of France, by M. D' Entraigues ; Summary views of the means of peace, by M. de Montlausier; and all the writings of M. de Lally Tolendal.
. Abbé Raynal, who had diffused, through his philosophical works, energetic declamations on liberty and equality, solemnly retracted his errors, on witnessing the evils to which he was conscious of having contributed ; and from the centre of his retirement, published a pamphlet, On assassinations and political rovleries; otherwise called Proscriptions and Confiscations, His performance is distinguished by a strength of ideas, and an energy of style, that could not have been expected from the advanced age of the author, if regret and indignation had not impelled his hand. In sixty pages, he has comprised, not an ephemeral produce tion, but a permanent work : and his reflections are applicable to every age and society, which may be attacked by a disorder as violent as that by which France has unhappily been agitated.'
The Revolutionary Memorial of Bosselin, a deputy in the Convention, was written to signalize the leaders of that unprincipled assembly, and to consign them to the execration of our descendants. He may be trusted, because he was a witness, without being a partaker, of their deeds. He distributes them into two parties, philosophers, and thieves; the former of whom aimed to overturn every thing, the latter to embezzle every thing. This memorial, which is contained in four volumes, is very curious and scarce.
After the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, Rabaud de St. Etienne, who was a member of it, published a Summary account of the important events in which had taken a distinguished part. He has omitted particulars which could not have been impartially elucidated, or dispassionately described. His work is a faithful and rapid view of the emotions which were produced prior to the revolution, and during its first years; M. la Cretelle junior has followed Rabaud's plan,ju recording the most remarkable occurrences under the Legislative assembly, and the Convention. He exhibits traits of virtuous attachment, and still more of military glory, mingled with paroxysms of fury, calamities, and internal tyranny. The object of the compiler has been to preserva, fidelity and perspicuity.'
(To be concluded in our next Number.)
ART. XXV. SELECT LITERARY INFORMATION.
New Work, on the Architectural and Shortly will appear under the autho- Picturesque Scenery of Great Britain, rity and patronage of the East India It will be completed in fifteen numbers, Company, a Journey through the coun- of four Plates each, with Descriptions in tries of Mysore, Cannara, and Malabar, English and French. All the engravings performed by Francis Buchanan, M. D. will be executed by himself, and from of the Bengal Medical Establishment, his well-known taste in the graphic art, under the orders of the Most Noble the will doubtless confer credit on the Eng. Marquis Wellesley, late Governor-Gene-. lish School ral of India ; for the express purpose of The following Works are expected to ap. investigating the State of Agriculture,
pear shortly. Arts and Commerce, the Religion, Man- The First Volume of a Continuation ners and Customs, Natural and Civil of Mr. Donovan's History of British History, and Antiquities of the Domi- Insects. nions of the Rajab of Mysore, and the An Edition of Gifford's Translation of countries acquired by the Hon. East In-'Juvenal, in 8vo. with the Addition of dia Company, in the late and former the Sixteenth Satire. wars, from Tippoo Sultan. It will form The Second Volume of Mr, Cary's three quarto volumes, and be illustrated Translation of Dante. by a map and other engravings.
An Edition of the late Mrs. Carter's A new and splendid edition of Pope's Poems, with original Pieces, and Me. Honer's Iliad, in 6 vols. 8vo. highly or- moirs of her Life. By her nephew Mr, pamented with engravings, after designs Montague Pennington. by some of our most eminent artists, is Letters from a Mother to her Daughnearly ready for publication. It will be ter, on Religious and Moral Subjects. followed by his translation of the Odys. By M. S. sey, on the same plan.
Letters on Mythology, addressed to a Dr. Beaufort has in the press, Travels Lady: including Sketches of the most through the various provinces of Ire- remarkable customs of ancient Nations ; land; containing a complete and com- descriptions of celebrated Temples, &c, preliensive view of the present state of By R. Morgan. that part of the British Empire, Political, Chirononua ; or, a Treatise on RhetoEconomical, Statistical, Agricultural, and rical Delivery: comprehending many Commercial. It will make two quarto Precepts, both ancient and modern, for volumes, and include several maps and the proper Regulation of the Voice, the ornamental engravings.
Countenance, and Gesture; to be illusThe Illustrations of Lambeth Palace, trated by above 150 Figures. By the by a serious of twenty select Views and Rev. Gilbert Austin, A. M. of WoodPortraits, is now completed, and has been vile, near Dublin. announced for publication by Messrs. A New Edition, considerably im. BRAYLEY and HERBERT, who in com- proved, of a World without Souls. pliance with the wishes of many of their M r. Thomas Peat, portrait-painter, Subscribers have also printed a History proposes to publish by Subscription, a of the Palace,' to accompany the Views. Treatise on Colours and colouring, con, This may be had separately, as it formed taining a detail of the Analysis of Co. no part of the original design, and way lours in general, explaining the Defects not announced in the Prospectus.
of some, and essential Parts of others; Mr. THOMAS Fisher of the East India with Directions for Preparation, &c. House, has signified an intention to pub, both in vil and water. lish an Engraving of a Second Roman The Poems of Thomas Romney RoPavement, lately discovered in the city; binson, an interesting Boy, who resides from a drawing by himself. The accu- at Belfast, and has just completed his racy of a former Engraving of the beau- twelfth Year, will shortly appear in i titul Pavement found in Leadenhall vol. 8vo. Street, published from a drawing by this Dr. Arnold, of Leicester, is preparing gentleman, evinces his perfect comper for Publication, a new and enlarged tency to the undertaking.
Edition of his work on Insanity. MIDDINAN, the pupil of Woollei, Earl Nelson has given Notice, that has recently issued ą Prospectus of a he has selected a gentleman of high res