« IndietroContinua »
dogmatises a little on subjects with useful opponent of the metaphysics of which his acquaintance waz but par. religion - an observer favourable to tial ; but an accomplished judge has scepticism-and by them he was as admitted the general grandeur, sim. much lauded as Bonnet of Geneva was plicity, and nobleness of the outline decried, though their doctrines have in traced by D'Alembert, and afterwards fact many points of connexion. He suc. imitated, corrected, and surpassed by ceeded in a great measure, in France, himself.*
to the great reputation which Voltaire The turning of the tide in philoso- had created for Locke, as the founder phy, from materialism towards ideal- of a new and liberal philosophy.". km, becomes first visible in Condillac, Amidst all this parade of intellecin bis Essai sur l' Origine des Connais. tual and philosophical analysis, and sances Humaines.
“ The philosophy this predominance of an absolute ma. of Condillac affects to lay aside systems, terialism, what was the condition of and to rest upon observation and rea- poetry ? “ So wan, so woe-begone, so soning. It speaks a language precise spiritless," that it scarcely deserved and without imagery, but agreeable the name ; for all genuine poetical by its justness. It marks a resting. belief and inspiration were for the placea schism in the eighteenth cen- time at an end, swept away by the tury. Condillac first brought mate current of a universal scepticism and Jialism into serious doubt. He inves. selfishness. A feeble attempt at de tigates, examines, distinguishes, when scriptive poetry, in the manner of the age was accustomed to dogmatise. Thomson, was made in the Seasons He perceives the double nature of man of St Lambert: a work, the popu. in that which Diderot, Helvetius, and larity of which, though extensive, was Holbach explained by the simple fer. but of short duration, and which was mentation of matter, or the play of or- afterwards thrown completely into the gans. Like them he sets out from the shade by the more finished perform. action of the senses; but in his course ances, in the same department, of be becomes an idealist, and this inter. Delitte. “ The elegance of St Lama preter of sensation has even, it may be bert," says Villemain, “is not the ele. said, erred upon the side of over-spiri- gance of a fine and classic diction, it tualism, in attributing to the mind the has but the appearance of it, without power of creating the forms and col. the soul and life. The words are pure ours which it perceives.”
--the turn of the language harmonious. " Yet as men, and even philosophers, Sometimes we find nobleness are often satisfied with appearances, where passion ; often coldness-never Condillac has very often been judged eloquence. Comparing him with of by the first words of his doctrine; it is Thomson, he observes, “ Thomson has thus that he has been styled an odious not the grandeur and precision of antiphilosopher by that vehement spiritu. quity, but his heart overflows at the alist M. de Maistre, and denounced sight of the country. He abounds in true in our own
day as the father of sen- images - in simple emotions. He sualism. The character and conse possesses that poetry of the domestic quences of his philosophy, however, hearth, in which the English bave al. had from the first been sufficiently waysexcelled, and he has blended it with obvious to the materialists; and the all the beauties of nature which for him difference between him and them had are only shadows of the Creator's early become apparent. Diderot, in hand. Religious, and a painter, hoor praising him publicly for some articles could he fail to be a poet? Yet he wrote he had communicated to the Encyclopé. during the same age with St Lambert, die, took offence at certain passages, and but a few years before him, in a and characterised him as a schoolman country even more philosophic than and an idealist. It was even partly for France. Whence this difference bethe purpose of combating his views, tween the two poems ? It does not arise that he entered upon his own physio- solely from the inequality of their ta. logical explanations of thought. To lents. But the English poet, from the many others less clear-sighted than Dia midst of the luxury and the philosophy derot, Condillac no doubt appeared a' of the capital, seeksthe country, travers
• Stewart's Preliminary Dissertation to the Encyclopædia,
singit in poverty and on foot, to breathe quence, warmth, and imagination to the the purer atmosphere of Old English descriptions of natural history, in the morality. Though he dedicates his animated pages of Buffon. It is doubts work to a great lady, his feelings are ful whether Buffon is entitled to the with the people-a people rich and character of a man of genius, and still proud of a free country. Like them, more to the magnificent eulogy which his imagination is nourished by the he lived to see inscribed on his statue, imagery of the Bible. Like thein, he “ Majestati naturæ par ingenium”loves its pastures, its forests, and its his own conception of genius, which fields. Thence springs his glowing he described as une longue patience, manner ; thence, under a gloomy sky, seems rather to indicate a
man of and in a period of cold philosophy, is strong conception, united to resohis poetry so full of freshness and lution and perseverance of character;. colour."
and to the union of these qualis, Two other names of this period ties, the laborious and yet striking awaken attention and sympathy, per- compositions of Buffon owe their ori. haps as much by their misfortunes as gin. “ Some descriptions,” says Villetheir genius_Malfilâtre and Gilbert. main, “ have been extracted from The first had a conception of poetry bis great work, which it is usual which rose far above the languid eles to admire in an insulated form. This gance of St Lambert or Colardeau. is doing Buffon injustice; the great His fragments translated from Virgil, inerit of his works on animal life lies, though sketches, mutilated and some. on the whole, in the way in which tratimes incorrect, seem a revival, as Vil- dition, observation, narrative, andcritilemain says, of the happy boldness of cism, are united and blended. The Racine. He is at least the first of the too pompous elegance of some of his French poets since Racine, who indi. commencements, only makes way for cates something of a genuine lyrical the precision of details, and the clear talent; while, in perusing his imper- simplicity of narrative ; and it is there, fect compositions, we must remember in particular, that his excellence as a that want and misfortune clouded his writer consists. talents, that “sharp misery had worn • The true or conjectural painting him to the bone,” and consigned him of the habits of animals—the descripto the grave at the age of thirty-four, tion of the places which they inhabit ere he had time to labour for eternity. this contrast, this blending of ani. La faim mit au tombeau Malfilâtre ig- most vivid colours to the historian.
mate and inanimate nature, present the
Pliny has sometimes caught them in said Gilbert, a poet of a different their greatest diversities—as he de. stamp, but resembling Malfilâtre in scribes the lion or the nightingale, he the early and melancholy termination is by turns energetic or brilliant, with of his career, which closed in suicide, the same striking effect. Buffon is committed during an accès of madness more equal, more elevated, more pure. in the hospital. With a mind ardent Pliny belonged to that school of imaand impetuous, with many traits of gination rather than taste, which, in genius, and a sullen energy of express Tacitus, produced one incomparable sion which resembles Juvenal; with a painter, but which is elsewhere stampstyle unequal, unformed, but always ed with the impress of declamation pregnant with ideas--still full of the and subtility. Pliny frequently throws faults of youth, but full also of the the veil of a far-fetched style over promise of a powerful manhood—his fables or notions in themselves false. fate, like that of Chatterton, excites Buffon, enlightened by modern science, deep sympathy and regret for the early is severe and precise even in his most blight of a genius which promised to ornate descriptions. His diction, more revive, in some degree, the sinking irreproachable than that of Rousseau, spirit of poetry in a worn-out and is free from that affectation which helplessly prosaic period.
mingles with the style(so truly French) It is somewhat singular, indeed, to of Montesquieu. By another and still find that the spirit of poetry, no longer rarer privilege, during forty years no able to animate into life an exhausted decline, no falling off, is visible in his frame, passes in some shape into that mind—if we except some needless cir. of science, and communicates elo- cumlocutions, some pompous phrases,
every thing in his writings appears enclosed a bit of ground, thought proequally youthful and matured, vigor- per to say · This is mine,' and found ous and polished.”
people simple enough to believe him, He was a slow composer-patiently was the true founder of civil society. meditating his fine passages-labori. How many crimes, wars, murders, ously reducing his matter into shape miseries, and horrors, would not the -striving in solitude to give his ideas human race have been spared, if some all the neatness, precision, and ele- one, tearing up the stakes, or filling up gance of expression of which they the ditch with which he had enclosed were susceptible. To the very last it, had called out to his fellows: he used to say,
“ I am learning Beware of listening to that impostor; every day the art of writing.” “ In you are undone if you forget that my later works there is infinitely these fruits belong to all, and the earth greater perfection than in my first.” to none!"" Well might Voltaire, who And this estimate, Villemain adds, seems to have had the profoundest conis correct, at least in regard to the tempt for the practical judgment or Epoque de la Nature, which he wrote good sense of Rousseau, remark in reat the age of 70, and which he had gard to this passage, “ What is this recopied eighteen times.
species of philosophy, which dictates The most distinguished name which opinions which common sense repudialternately adorns and disgraces this ates from China to Canada ? Is it not period of French literature, is that of that of a beggar, who wishes to see the Rousseau—a being whose singular, rich robbed by the poor, in order the and in many respects antithetical better to establish" fraternal union qualities, were at once the production among mankind ?” of his age, and yet contradictory to the A candid but somewhat too favoure main current of its opinions. In his able a criticism on the Emile and the very first writings we perceive a spirit Confessions follows. We can make of democratic vehemencema hatred of room, however, only for the concluthe refinements and distinctions of so- ding remarks on Rousseau, in which ciety—an earnestness, an appearance Villemain compares the influence exof conviction, which mark a vast ad. ercised by Voltaire and Rousseau vancement in the progress of popular respectively on Freneh literature. opinions, since Montesquieu advanced "On the 30th March 1778, Voltaire, the opinion that honour was the prin- leaving the Old Louvre and the Acaciple and foundation of monarchy. demy, crossed the Carousel, amidst the “ They display the irritation of a man applauses of an immense crowd, on his of superior abilities who has been long way to the Theatre Français to witkept beyond the pale of society; we ness the sixth representation of Irene. perceive in them the recollections of Dressed in the ancient mode, with his the miserable apprenticeship of his large powdered peruke and long lace youth—his flight without bread or a sleeves, he wore also a magnificent home_his forced conversion-his em- cloak of sable fur-a present from that ployments of valet, seminariste, musi- guilty Empress to whom he has lent an cian, copyist, secretary, and lastly of undue celebrity. An uncommon fire clerk, at Paris, without ever advancing sparkled in his eyes; he poured out an further than merely sustaining life by unceasing flow of wit and ingenious hard labour."
remark. Irene, or rather Voltaire, Though Rousseau, however, was in excited a tumult of enthusiasm such as earnest, so far as a feeling of aversion had once greeted the Cid. to the distinctions of rank and the re- ple applauded in the street; the men finements of society was concerned, of the court filled the pit; well-dressed it is extremely difficult to believe him women in the boxes joined in the deserious in some of his paradoxical opin- monstrations of applause : and when, ions—such as his eulogy of the savage, after the close of the piece, the bust of state ; as to which Voltaire, with dry the poet was carried upon the stage, a irony, remarked, in thanking him for new delirium ensued. Voltaire was his
essay .“. That it was so seductively more intoxicated than a young author written, that it really tempted a man at his first successful play, and exa to walk on all fours after reading it.” claimed with feeling, Would you have Still more preposterous is his denun me die of pleasure!' Two months ciation of the idea of property. “ The after this apotheosis, on the 30th May first person,” says he, “who, having 1778, Voltaire had ceased to exist."
YOL, XLVI, NO. CCLXXXY.
Within a week after this brilliant basis of opinion in France, and is doa close of his career, the rivalof Voltaire, if minant even over those by whom his he had one, Rousseau, who had scarcely name is rejected. completed his 66th year, terminated, Rousseau has exercised a less duraon the 3d of June, an existence, the ble influence over men's minds. Ex. burden of which he was suspected of cept during those times of social crisis, having voluntarily thrown off. These when his doctrines were commented on two spectacles thus brought together, by inflamed passions, he has remained seemed emblematical of what was in the class of speculative writers, and wanting in the philosophy of these of writers who are eloquent without two great writers. The one, passion, the power of persuasion. Though he ately fond of eclat, of the world, and has bequeathed a legacy of express the theatre, even to extreme old age, sions to our political writers, and even had hastened his death by declaring of forms to our institutions, his theothe verses of his last tragedy more ries have lost their absolute hold over feeble even than Irene. The other, the mind: after having convulsed the solitary, savage, with his reason dis. political world, he continued to retain ordered, with a genius still full of an influence only over a literary school, vigour, perhaps committed suicide, which, however, it is true, exercises in or died consumed by anxiety with turn some influence on society. But out a cause, and pride that knew no at the commencement of the Revolubounds.
tion, his double influence inspired by Thus disappeared the two most influ turns St Pierre and Mirabeau_the ential personages of the 18th century ;
man of contemplation and the tribune or rather their death displayed more of the people-- the elegant painter clearly the influence of their opinions, of nature, and the impetuous orator and the strength of the impression armed with genius and indignation. which they left behind them. We can And soon after, amidst the social chaos not admit, in this respect, the terms which followed, it animated the wanof the parallel, such as they have been dering studies of a youthful French laid down. We are no believers in the officer (Chateaubriand), thrown first providential contrast which Bernardin amidst the savages of Louisiana, then de St Pierre supposes, and which back from the desert into the
of makes him see in Voltaire and Rous- civil war, and thence into the melan. seau, the embodied representations of choly isolation of a great foreign city ; the evil and the good genius of the it nourished, with mingled sorrow and time. For each of them in turn has hope, this fugitive then unknown, and had his share in this double part, and sustained him by the example of what this share, more or less equally distri- genius can do against obscurity and buted, is found in all the history of our misfortune. present society.
The influence of Rousseau is not The action of these two men less decidedly marked in the works of on the opinion of society, however, the great English poet of our age. was in some respects as different as But while strengthening, in Byron, the nature of their genius. Voltaire that hatred against society which is had more influence on common opin never the judgment pronounced by ion; Rousseau on characters and the virtuous or the wise, it contracts talents. Voltaire had no pupils of any in him a still more fatal alliance with originality ; he trained up no men of scepticism. Hence that poetry, mesuperior ability ; he had no disciples lancholy and yet sensual, bitter with. but France, of which he was the organ, out being serious, borrowing the rich. and Europe, which he dazzled with the est colours from the spectacle of nature, ideas of France. By that sceptical kindling into enthusiasm at the physiirony, and that zeal for humanity, cal beauties of the world, but never independence, and political well-being, carrying into them that moral emotion which he found or excited in his time, which should constitute their greathe has, more than any one else, pre ness and their life. The genius of pared the spirit of our own, and the Rousseau has not had a less share in singular contrast of our ideas and our the production of the poetical egotism
His admirable judgment of the painter of Childe Harold and which one passion only had distorted Lara, than that of Voltaire has had upon the most important point of the on the philosophical education of the social problem, still constitutes the painter of Don Juan.
THE VAUDEVILLE ! Having shown our number, the box, with the proud bearing of one who keeper smiles (we soon see why), and feels his own importance, gives the bidding us follow, stops in front of a sign, and the first broadside strikes long receding box, which she opens the receding curtain ! stealthily, and in a twinkling we find A pause; crash the second! A sea ourselves keyed in with a double row of cond silence, and then—why then? male and femaleoccupants. It is a party without any apparent motive, a frisky evidently unprepared for our recep- transition from adagio to jig, followed tion : accordingly, tawny and black by a love dialogue between flute and moustache are seen to rise vindictively clarionet. By degrees, and still you at our blameless intrusion ; and even know not why, other instruments have the ladies, whose eyes are yet red with something to say in the conversation, the pathos of a double adultery and an which waxes general, not to say disincidental parricide, on which the cur- putatious. The smothered note of a tain fell a minute ago, scan our altitude lethargic bassoon, heard fitfully, makes reproachfully. We had got into the you, indeed, for the moment, fear a urong box indeed; but it is too late new storm ; but he lies down again, to retreat, for the next piece is com. till a sudden swell of all the instru. mencing, and the orchestra is no ments chafes him into the decided longer empty ; already are some of growl of a chained mastiff ;-in short, the
purveyors of noise in their places, each by turns wishes to make an umpire and at work. What a pandemonium of the public, and solicit a private of sounds to drive one mad, is an hearing, but luckily the wind instruorchestra getting itself into tune! ments must pause to take breath, and There they go !--scrape, scrape ; the fiddles are left in undisputed postweedle, tweedle ; grumble, grumble; session. Bravo, fiddles !-and now for tootle, tootle! Such a diapason of dis. those long and majestic sweeps of percord as only one other place on earth suasive horse-hair, riding in triumph can be found to match, that place, over the back of the purring cat-gut! reader, being the long ward of sick Soothed by the lengthened melody, you dogs in the hospital of Alfort. I won would gladly close your eyes in subder when those two brown bassoons mission if not in satisfaction ; but this will understand each other! Look at the Composer, the Maestro, wills not. those fellows, cheek by cheek, spitting Your thought is dislocated by the alternately into the side holes of hol- animating waltz; the eye can no longer low cylinders, which distil water at discern the rapid evolutions of flying their nether end ! Here a thorough fingers, nor the ear the sounds; when bass, grumbling minor discords into fairly dazzled, deafened, and done up, subjection ; there a clarionet modu- three more crashes, with their conlates something between wind and cats clusive bangs, fortunately announce gut; there an incorrigible melodist sits the overture at an end, and up goes teaching his horn its horn-book, while the curtain. We glance from our half a score of fiddlers, barnacled and play-bill, which says Mariage de without barnacles, are twisting and Raison," to the boards. A coqueta screwing, lowering or tightening the tishly dressed young lady sits em elastic fibre. All this dreadful note broidering; as soon as the curtain of preparation finds an end at last, and has cleared the plane of the last tier the leader of the band, who is to of boxes, she puts down her work, “ride in the whirlwind and direct the dove-tails her fingers, deposits the storm," stands erect ! Hush! he double phalanges of her white hands points his chin at the central stage on her apron, and begins to tell you lamp, and after a hawk-like glance to of her youth, her inexperience, and her his myrmidons, right and left, and innocence (topics on which they are