delicacy of the grey-hound. Adam Smith long they have rendered to mankind.

No man was

ago pointed out the distinction between those who more unassuming than Kepler, but he wrote in refserve and those who amuse mankind; and the erence to his great discoveries, and the neglect difference, it is to be feared, exists not merely be- they at first met with, "I may well be a century tween the philosopher and the opera-dancer, but without a reader, since God Almighty has been six between the instructors of men in every depart- thousand years without such an observer as me." ment of thought, and those whose genius is Yet is this universally felt to have been no undevoted rather to the pleasing of the eye, the melt-worthy effusion of vanity, but a noble expression ing of the feelings, or the kindling of the imagina- of great services rendered by one of his most tion. Yet this observation is only generally, not gifted creatures to the glory of the Almighty. universally, true; and Sir Joshua Reynolds re- Such men as Kepler are proud, but not vain, and mains a memorable proof that it is possible for an proud men do not bring their feelings so promartist to unite the highest genius and most imaginently or frequently forward as vain ones; for inative power of mind to the wisdom of a philosopher, the liberality of a gentleman, the benevolence of a Christian, and the simplicity of a child.

pride rests on the consciousness of superiority, and needs no external support; vanity arises from a secret sense of weakness, and thirsts for a perpetual solace from the applause of others.


We are not at all surprised at the intoxication It is in the French writers that this inordinate which seizes the literary men and artists whose weakness of literary men is most conspicuous, and genius procures for them the favor or admiration in them it exists to such an extent as, on this side of women. Everybody knows it is the most fas- of the Channel, to be altogether ridiculous. cinating and transporting flattery which the mind ery Frenchman thinks his life worth recording. It of man can receive. But we confess we are sur- was long ago said that the number of unpublished prised, and that too not a little, at the want of sense memoirs which exist in France, on the war of the which so frequently makes men even of the highest League, would, if put together, form a large abilities mar the influence of their own genius, and library. If those relating to the war of the Revdetract from the well-earned celebrity of their own olution were accumulated, we have no doubt they productions, by the indiscreet display of this van- would fill the Bibliothèque du Roi. The number ity, which the applause they have met with has already published exceeds almost the dimensions produced in their minds. These gentlemen are of any private collection of books. The compocharmed with the incense they have received, and sition and style of these memoirs is for the most of course desirous to augment it, and extend the part as curious, and characteristic of French charcircle from which it is to be drawn. Well, that acter, as their number is descriptive of their ruling is their object let us consider what means they passion. In the age of the religious wars, every take to gain it. These consist too often in the writer of memoirs seems to have placed himself most undisguised display of vanity in their con- in the first rank, Henry IV. in the second; in duct, manner, and conversation. Is this the way that of the Revolution, the greater part of the aulikely to augment the admiration which they en- tobiographies scarcely disguise the opinion, that, joy so much, and are so solicitous to extend? Are if the first place may be reluctantly conceded to they not clear-sighted enough to see that, holding Napoleon Bonaparte, the second must, beyond all this to be their aim, considering female admira- question, be assigned to themselves. The Abbé tion as the object of their aspirations, they cannot de Pradt expressed the feeling almost every one in any way so effectually mar their desires as by entertained of himself in France, not the sentipermitting the vanity, which the portion of it they ment of an individual man, when he said, “There have already received has produced, to appear in was one who overturned Napoleon, and that man their manner or conversation? Are they so little was me.' Most persons in this country will exversed in the female heart, as not to know that as claim, that this statement is overcharged, and that self-love acts, if not in a stronger at least in a it is incredible that vanity should so generally permore conspicuous way in them than in the other vade the writers of a whole nation. If they will sex, so there is nothing which repels them so take the trouble to read Lamartine's Confidences effectually as any display of that vanity in men and Raphael, containing the events of his youth, which they are all conscious of in themselves, and or his Histoire de la Révolution de 1848, recently nothing attracts them so powerfully as that self-published, they will find ample confirmation of forgetfulness, which, estimable in all, is in a peculiar manner graceful and admirable when it is met with in those whom none others can forget? Such a quality is not properly modesty that is the retiring disposition of those who have not yet One thing is very remarkable, and forcibly won distinction. No man who has done so is ig- illustrates the marked difference, in this respect, norant of it, as no woman of beauty is insensible between the character of the French and the Engto her charms. It is more nearly allied to good lish nation. In France all memoirs assume the sense, and its invariable concomitant—a due regard form of autobiographies: and so general is the for the feelings of others. It not unfrequently thirst for that species of composition that, where a exists, in the highest degree, in those who have man of any note has not compiled his own life, the strongest inward consciousness of the services his papers are put into the hands of some skilful

[ocr errors]

these remarks; nor are they less conspicuously illustrated by the more elaborate Mémoires d'Outre Tombe of Chateaubriand, the name of which is prefixed to this essay.

forgotten in the ceaseless whirl of present events; parliamentary orators are in general unpopular, for they are for the most part on the side of power. Nothing remains but the government of mind. The intellectual aristocracy is all in all.

bookmaker, who speedily dresses them up in the form of an attractive autobiography. This was done with the papers of Brisset, Robespierre, Marshal Ney, Fouché, and a great many others, all of which appeared with the name of their authors, and richly stored with these private papers, It makes and unmakes kings alternately; prothough it was morally certain that they could not duces and stops revolutions; at one time calls a by possibility have written their own lives. In new race to the throne, at another consigns them England nothing of the kind is attempted. Scarce- with disgrace to foreign lands. Cabinets are ly any of the eminent men in the last age have formed out of the editors of newspapers, interminleft their own memoirs; and the papers of the gled with a few bankers, whom the public convulmost remarkable of them have been published sions have not yet rendered insolvent; prime minwithout any attempt at biography. Thus we have isters are to be found only among successful the Wellington Papers, the Marlborough Papers, authors. Thiers, the editor of the National and the Nelson Papers, the Castlereagh Papers, pub- the historian of the Revolution; Guizot, the prolished without any autobiography, and only a found professor of history; Villemain, the eloquent slight sketch, though in all these cases very ably annalist of French literature; Lamartine, the popdone, of the author's life by their editor. The lives ular traveller, poet, and historian, have been the of the other eminent men of the last age have been alternate prime ministers of France since the Revgiven by others, not themselves; as that of Pitt, olution of 1830. Even the great name of Napoby Tomline and Gifford; that of Fox, by Trot-leon cannot save his nephew from the irksomeness ter; that of Sheridan, by Moore; that of Lord of bending to the same necessity. He named Thiers Eldon, by Twiss; that of Lord Sidmouth, by his prime minister at the time of the Boulogne Pellew. There is more here than an accidental misadventure, he is caressing him now in the salons diversity; there is a difference arising from a dif- of the Elysée Bourbon. Successful authors thus ference of national character. The Englishmen in France are surrounded with a halo, and exposed devoted their lives to the public service, and be- to influences, of which in this country we cannot stowed not a thought on its illustration by them- form a conception. They unite in their persons selves; the French mainly thought of themselves the fame of Mr. Fox and the lustre of Sir Walter when acting in the public service, and considered Scott; often the political power of Mr. Pitt with it mainly as a means of elevation and self-lauda- the celebrity of Lord Byron. Whether such a tion to themselves. concentration is favorable either to their present utility or lasting fame, and whether the best school to train authors to be the instructors of the world is to be found in that which exposes them to the combined influence of its greatest temptations, are questions on which it is not necessary now to enter, but on which posterity will probably have no difficulty in coming to a conclusion.

In justice to the literary men of France, however, it must be stated that, of late years at least, they have been exposed to an amount of temptation, and of food for their self-love, much exceeding anything previously seen among men, and which may go far to account for the extraordinary vanity which they have everywhere evinced. In England literary distinction is neither the only nor But while we fully admit that these extraordithe greatest passport to celebrity. Aristocratic nary circumstances, unparalleled in the past history influences remain, and still possess, the deepest of the world, go far to extenuate the blame which hold of the public mind; statesmen exist, whose must be thrown on the French writers for their daily speeches in Parliament render their names as extraordinary vanity, they will not entirely exculhousehold words. Fashion exercises an extraor-pate them. Ordinary men may well be carried dinary and almost inexplicable sway, especially away by such adventitious and flattering marks of over the fairest part of creation. How celebrated soever an author may be, he will in London soon be brought to his proper level, and a right appreciation of his situation. He will see himself at once eclipsed by an old nobleman, whose name is fraught with historic glory; by a young marquis, who is an object of solicitude to the mothers and daughters in the room; by a parliamentary orator, who is beginning to acquire distinction in the senate house. We hold this state of things to be eminently favorable to the right character of literary men; for it saves them from trials before which, it is all but certain, both their good sense and their virtue would succumb. But in Paris this salutary check upon individual vanity and presumption is almost entirely awanting. The territorial aristocracy is confiscated and destroyed; titles of honor are abolished; historic names are almost

their power; but we cannot accept such an excuse from the first men of the age-men of the clearest intellect, and the greatest acquisitionswhose genius is to charm, whose wisdom is to instruct the world through every succeeding age. If the teachers of men are not to be above the follies and weaknesses which are general and ridiculous in those of inferior capacity, where are we to look for such an exemption? It is a poor excuse for the overweening vanity of a Byron, a Goëthe, or a Lamartine, or a Chateaubriand, that a similar weakness is to be found in a Madame Grisi or a Mademoiselle Cerito, in the first cantatrice or most admired ballerina of the day. We all know that the professors of these charming arts are too often intoxicated by the applause which they meet with; we excuse or overlook this weakness from respect due to their genius and their


But we know, at the same time, that there are some exceptions to the general frailty; and in one enchanting performer, our admiration for talents of the very highest order is enhanced by respect for the simplicity of character and generosity of disposition with which they are accompanied. We might desiderate in the men who aspire to direct the thoughts of the world, and have received from nature talents equal to the task, the unaffected singleness of heart, and sterling good sense, which we admire, not less than her admirable powers, in Mademoiselle Jenny Lind.

Burke has so eloquently described in his portrait of Marie Antoinette. That is the spirit which pervades the breasts of these illustrious men ; and therefore it is that we respect them, and forgive or forget many weaknesses which would otherwise be insupportable in their autobiographies. It is a spirit, however, more akin to a former era than the present; to the age which produced the crusades, more than that which gave birth to railways; to the days of Godfrey of Bouillon, rather than those which raised a monument to Mr. Hudson. We are by no means convinced, however, that it is not the more likely to be enduring in the future ages of the world; at least we are sure it will be so, if the sanguine anticipations everywhere formed, by the apostles of the movement of the future improvement of the species, are destined in any degree to be realized.

Although, however, the hearts of Chateaubriand and Lamartine are stamped with the impress of chivalry, and the principal charm of their writings is owing to its generous spirit, yet we should err greatly if we imagined that they have not shared in the influences of the age in which they lived, and become largely imbued with the more popular and equalizing notions which have sprung up in Europe during the last century. They could not have attained the political power which they have both wielded if they had not done so ; for no man, be his genius what it may, will ever acquire a practical lead among men unless his opinions coincide in the main with those of the majority by whom he is surrounded. Chateaubriand's earliest work, written in London in 1793

The faults, or rather frailties, we have alluded to, are in an especial manner conspicuous in two of the most remarkable writers of France of the present century-Lamartine and Chateaubriand. There is some excuse for the vanity of these illustrious men. They have both acquired an enduring fame-their names are known all over the world, and will continue to be so while the French language is spoken on the earth; and they have both, by their literary talents, been elevated to positions far beyond the rank in society to which they were born, and which might well make an ordinary head reel from the giddy precipices with which it is surrounded. Chateaubriand powerfully aided in crushing Napoleon in 1814, when Europe in arms surrounded Paris; with still more honorable constancy he resisted him in 1804, when, in the plenitude of his power he executed the Duke d'Enghien. He became ambassador to London for the restoration-minister of foreign affairs, and representative of France at the Congress of Verona. He it was who projected and carried into execution the French invasion of the Peninsula in 1823, the Essai Historique-is, in truth, rather of a the only successful expedition of the restoration. Lamartine's career, if briefer, has been still more dazzling. He aided largely in the movement which overthrew Louis Philippe; by the force of his genius he obtained the mastery of the movement, "struggled with democracy when it was strongest, and ruled it when it was wildest ;" and had the glory, by his single courage and energy, of saving the character of the revolution from bloodshed, and coercing the red republicans in the very tumult of their victory. He has since fallen from power, less from any known delinquencies imputed to him, than from the inherent fickleness of the French people, and the impossibility of their submitting, for any length of time, to the lead of a single individual. The autobiography of two such men cannot be other than interesting and instructive in the highest degree; and if we see in them much which we in England cannot altogether understand, and which we are accustomed to stigmatize with the emphatic epithet "French," there is much also in them which candor must respect, and an equitable spirit admire.

The great thing which characterizes these memoirs, and is sufficient to redeem a multitude of vanities and frailties, is the elevated and chivalrous spirit in which they are composed. In this respect they are a relic, we fear, of the olden time; a remnant of those ancient days which Mr.

republican and sceptical tendency; and it was not till he had travelled in America, and inhaled a nobler spirit amid the solitudes of nature, that the better parts of his nature regained their ascendency, and his fame was established on an imperishable foundation by the publication of Atala et René, and the Génie du Christianisme. Throughout his whole career, the influence of his early liberal principles remained conspicuous: albeit a royalist, he was the steady supporter of the freedom of the press and the extension of the elective suffrage; and he kept aloof from the government of Louis Philippe less from aversion to the semirevolutionary spirit in which it was cradled, than from an honorable fidelity to misfortune, and horror at the selfish corrupt multitude by which it was soon surrounded. Lamartine's republican principles are universally known albeit descended of a noble family, and largely imbued with feudal feelings, he aided in the revolt which overturned the throne of Louis Philippe in February, 1848, and acquired lasting renown by the courage with which he combated the sanguinary spirit of the red republicans, when minister of foreign affairs. Both are chivalrous in heart and feeling, rather than opinions; and they thus exhibit curious and instructive instances of the fusions of the moving principle of the olden time with the ideas of the present, and of the manner in which the

true spirit of nobility, forgetfulness of self, can | he shares with nearly all the writers of autobiogaccommodate itself to the varying circumstances raphy in France, but which appears peculiarly

of society, and float, from its buoyant tendency, on the surface of the most fetid stream of subsequent selfishness.

extraordinary and lamentable in a man of such talents and acquirements. His life abounded with strange and romantic adventures, and its vicissitudes would have furnished a rich field for biography even to a writer of less imaginative powers.

In two works recently published by Lamartine, Les Confidences and Raphael, certain passages in his autobiography are given. The first recounts He was born on the 4th September, 1768-the the reminiscences of his infancy and childhood; same year with Napoleon-at an old melancholy the second, a love-story in his twentieth year. chateau on the coast of Brittany, washed by the Both are distinguished by the peculiarities, in re- waves of the Atlantic ocean. His mother, like spect of excellences and defects, which appear in those of almost all other eminent men recorded in his other writings. On the one hand we have an history, was a very remarkable woman, gifted ardent imagination, great beauty of language, a with a prodigious memory and an ardent imaginagenerous heart-the true spirit of poetry-and tion-qualities which she transmitted in a very uncommon pictorial powers. On the other, an high degree to her son. His family was very almost entire ignorance of human nature, extraor- ancient, going back to the year 1000; but, till dinary vanity, and that susceptibility of mind illustrated by François René, who has rendered which is more nearly allied to the feminine than it immortal, the Chateaubriands lived in unobtruthe masculine character. Not but that Lamartine sive privacy on their paternal acres. After repossesses great energy and courage his conduct, ceiving the rudiments of education at home, he during the revolution of 1848, demonstrates that was sent at the age of seventeen into the army; he possesses these qualities in a very high degree; but the revolution having soon after broken out, but that the ardor of his feelings leads him to act and his regiment revolted, he quitted the service and think like women, from their impulse rather and came to Paris, where he witnessed the horthan the sober dictates of reason. He is a devout rors of the storming of the Tuileries on the 10th optimist, and firm believer in the innocence of hu- of August, and the massacre in the prisons on 2d man nature, and indefinite perfectibility of man- September. Many of his nearest relations-in kind, under the influence of republican institutions. particular his sister-in-law, Madame de ChateauLike all other fanatics, he is wholly inaccessible briand, and sister, Madame Rozambo—were exeto the force of reason, and altogether beyond the cuted along with Malesherbes, shortly before the reach of facts, how strong or convincing soever. fall of Robespierre. Obliged now to fly to EngAccordingly, he remains to this hour entirely con- land, he lived for some years in London in exvinced of the perfectibility of mankind, although treme poverty, supporting himself by his pen. It he has recounted, with equal truth and force, that was there he wrote his earliest and least creditait was almost entirely owing to his own courage ble work, the Essai Historique. Tired of such and energy that the revolution was prevented, in an obscure and monotonous life, however, he set its very outset, from degenerating into bloodshed out for America, with the Quixotic design of disand massacre; and a thorough believer in the covering by land journey the north-west passage. ultimate sway of pacific institutions, although he He failed in that attempt, for which, indeed, he owns that, despite all his zeal and eloquence, the had no adequate means; but he dined with Washwhole provisional government, with himself at its ington, and in the solitudes of the far West imhead, would on the 16th April have been guillo- bibed many of the noblest ideas, and found the tined or thrown into the Seine, but for the deter- subjects of several of the finest descriptions, which mination and fidelity of three battalions of the have since adorned his works. Finding that there Garde Mobile, whom Changarnier volunteered to was nothing to be done in the way of discovery in arrange in all the windows and avenues of the America, he returned to England. Afterwards Hôtel de Ville, when assailed by a column of he went to Paris, and there composed his greatest thirty thousand furious revolutionists. works, Atala et René and the Génie du Christianisme, which soon acquired a colossal reputation, and raised the author to the highest pinnacle of literary fame.

Napoleon, whose piercing eye discerned talent wherever it was to be found, now selected him for the public service in the diplomatic line. He gives the following interesting account of the first and only interview he had with that extraordinary man, in the saloon of his brother Lucien :

Chateaubriand is more a man of the world than Lamartine. He has passed through a life of greater vicissitudes, and been much more frequently brought into contact with men in all ranks and gradations of society. He is not less chivalrous than Lamartine, but more practical; his style is less pictorial but more statesmanlike. The French of all shades of political opinion agree in placing him at the head of the writers of the last age. This high position, however, is owing rather to the detached passages than the I was in the gallery when Napoleon entered; his general tenor of his writings, for their average I had never previously seen him but at a distance. appearance struck me with an agreeable surprise. style is hardly equal to such an encomium. He His smile was sweet and encouraging; his eye is not less vain than Lamartine, and still more beautiful, especially from the way in which it was egotistical-a defect which, as already noticed, overshadowed by the eyebrows. He had no char

[ocr errors]

latanism in his looks, nothing affected or theatrical | gauntlet to Napoleon, on occasion of the murder in his manner. The Génie du Christianisme, which of the Duke d'Enghien at that time was making a great deal of noise, had produced its effect on Napoleon. A vivid imagination animated his cold policy; he would not have been what he was if the Muse had not been there; reason in him worked out the ideas of a poet. All great men are composed of two natures-for they must be at once capable of inspiration and actionthe one conceives, the other executes.

Two days before the fatal 20th March, I dressed myself, before taking leave of Bonaparte, on my way to the Valais, to which I had received a diplomatic mission; I had not seen him since the time when he had spoken to me at the Tuileries. The gallery where the reception was going on was full; he was accompanied by Murat and his aide-de-camp. Bonaparte saw me, and knew me I know not When he approached me, I was struck with an how. When he moved towards me, it was not alteration in his countenance; his cheeks were known whom he sought. The crowd opened; fallen in, of a livid hue; his eyes stern; his color every one hoped the first consul would stop to con- pale; his air sombre and terrible. The attraction verse with him; his air showed that he was irri- which had formerly drawn me towards him was at tated at these mistakes. I retired behind those an end; instead of awaiting, I fled his approach. around me; Bonaparte suddenly raised his voice, He cast a look towards me, as if he sought to recand called out, "Monsieur de Chateaubriand." I ognize me, moved a few steps towards me, turned, then remained alone in front; for the crowd instantly and disappeared. Returned to the Hôtel de France, retired, and re-formed in a circle around us. Bona- I said to several of my friends," Something strange, parte addressed me with simplicity, without ques- which I do not know, must have happened; Bonations, preamble, or compliments. He began speak- parte could not have changed to such a degree ing about Egypt and the Arabs, as if I had been unless he had been ill." Two days after, at eleven his intimate friend, and he had only resumed a con- in the forenoon, I heard a man cry in the streetsversation already commenced betwixt us. "I was "Sentence of the military commission convoked at always struck," said he, "when I saw the scheiks Vincennes, which has condemned to the pain of fall on their knees in the desert, turn towards the DEATH Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon, born 2d east, and touch the sand with their foreheads. August, 1772, at Chantilly." That cry fell on me What is that unknown thing which they adore in like a clap of thunder; it changed my life as it the east?" Speedily then passing to another idea, changed that of Napoleon. I returned home, and he said, "Christianity! the Idealogues wished to said to Madame de Chateaubriand-"“The Duke reduce it to a system of astronomy! Suppose it d'Enghien has just been shot." I sat down to a were so. do they suppose they would render Chris- table and began to write my resignation-Madame tianity little? Were Christianity only an allegory de Chateaubriand made no opposition; she had a of the movement of the spheres, the geometry of great deal of courage. She was fully aware of my the stars, the esprits forts would have little to say; danger; the trial of Moreau and Georges Cadoudel despite themselves, they have left sufficient gran- was going on; the lion had tasted blood; it was not deur to l'Infame." the moment to irritate him.-(Vol. iv. 228–229.)

Bonaparte immediately withdrew. Like Job in the night, I felt as if a spirit had passed before me; the hairs of my flesh stood up. I did not know its countenance; but I heard its voice like a little whisper.

My days have been an uninterrupted succession of visions. Hell and heaven continually have opened under my feet, or over my head, without my having had time to sound their depths, or withstand their dazzling. I have met once, and once only, on the shores of the two worlds, the man of the last age, and the man of the new- -Washington and Napoleon-I conversed a few moments with each-both sent me back to solitude-the first by a kind wish, the second by an execrable crime.

I remarked that, in moving through the crowd, Bonaparte cast on me looks more steady and penetrating than he had done before he addressed me. I followed him with my eyes.

After this honorable step, which happily passed without leading to Chateaubriand's being shot, he travelled to the East, where he visited Greece, Constantinople, the Holy Land, and Egypt, and collected the materials which have formed two of his most celebrated works, L'Itinéraire à Jerusalem, and Les Martyrs. He returned to France, but did not appear in public life till the allies conquered Paris in 1814, where he composed with extraordinary rapidity his famous pamphlet entitled Bonaparte and the Bourbons, which had so powerful an effect in bringing about the Restoration. The royalists were now in power, and Chateaubriand was too important a man to be overlooked. In 1821 he was sent as ambassador to London, the scene of his former penury and suffering; in 1823 he was made minister of foreign affairs, and in that capacity projected, and successfully carried through, the expedition to Spain which reseated Ferdinand on the This passage conveys a just idea of Chateaubri- throne of his ancestors; and he was afterwards the and's Memoirs; his elevation of mind, his ardent plenipotentiary of France at the congress of Verona, imagination, his deplorable vanity. In justice to so in 1824. He was too liberal a man to be employed eminent a man, however, we transcribe a passage in by the administration of Charles X., but he exhibited which the nobleness of his character appears in its an honorable constancy to misfortune on occasion of true lustre, untarnished by the weaknesses which the revolution of 1830. He was offered the portfolio so often disfigure the character of men of genius. of foreign affairs if he would abstain from opposiWe allude to his courageous throwing down the tion; but he refused the proposal, made a last noble * Alluding to the name l'In fame, given by the King of and eloquent speech in favor of his dethroned sovPrussia, D'Alembert, and Diderot, in their correspond-ereign in the Chamber of Peers, and, withdrawing ences, to the Christian religion. + Dante.

Who is that great man who cares not
For conflagrations? †

(Vol. iv. 118-121.)

into privacy, lived in retirement, engaged in literary

« VorigeDoorgaan »