Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

her life bears testimony to the opinions she activity, properly so called, occupying all has professed, and pays a tribute to virtue. our duration, the greater part of it is perMadame Guizot, by dint of experience and haps consumed in objectless emotions, barmeditation, was enabled to refer all her feel. ren sensibilities, and vague reveries. A ings, and to render all her resolutions thousand things pass within us, which subordinate, to the general ideas that go-prove and develope us, and make known to verned her mind; she had found herself as ourselves what no others can know. The it were in the likeness of her judgment. It world sees and conjectures but a small part is then to speak of her as she would her- of our real existence; what is manifest is self perhaps have wished; it is to imitate , but one feature of the picture, and we live her, to unite the relation of her life to the much more than is apparent. This inheprinciples she so much valued, to look for a rent and superabundant activity to which moral end in the observations it suggests, circumstances and often external power are to make the remembrance of her senti- wanting, those insatiable desires, that never ments and actions tend to the furtherance failing sensibility, that constant renewing of truth. After all, the most distinguished of the mind, which more than any

sensible beings only reproduce with greater effect, object presents the emblem of perpetual and in a higher degree, the essential condi- motion, all this riches of man which he tions and the general laws of humanity. cannot use, which he knows not how to use;

It is daily said that life is short; it ap- in short, this superfluity of his nature, pears that it neither answers to our powers, clearly attest that he is superior to his con to our wants, nor our desires, and that our dition, and that he is reserved for a higher nature overtops our destiny; and yet, when destiny than that of earth: embroidered death arrives, when a human being disap- robes, mysterious tokens found in the crapears, one is often astonished at the few dle of a deserted child. traces which his steps have left. Whatever But this interior life which nothing can place he may hold in our regret, that which interrupt, nothing limit, does not betray he leaves void in this world is incredibly itself; it remains the secret of each indivismall; and, viewed as the past, the events dual. Man only appears for about a mowhich have occupied his days hardly appear ment to his fellow creatures ; at all other to satisfy the duration of his existence. times he steals away from their view, and Those who are no more used, however, also reveals himself only to his God. Perhaps to deplore the brevity of human life ; they this is saying too much ; this internal solifelt themselves pressed within narrow limits, tude is not invariably his lot. and were uneasy in this career which they Undoubtedly many more have passed could not entirely fill up; and now their through the crowd, bave borne even all the actions seem too trifling for an existence ties of family and society, without ever which they thought too short for them; having been drawn out or fully disclosed ; even the friendship which regrets them but there are also some minds which hold finds that their remembrance holds much communion with each other, and pour out more room in the heart than their life does their thoughts with little less reserve than in the memory. May it not be that there to their Maker; sympathy disperses the are always in the soul a multitude of wants cloud which separates them; love lifts the and faculties, of feelings and ideas, which veil which covers their hearts, and thus the nothing here below calls forth? May it minds of men are sometimes made known, not be that none can take advantage of his but only to those who love them. whole nature, and that those who have It is for this reason that no account of been most prodigal of action, emotion, and those of whom death has deprived them, thought, still carry to the grave an unap- can give satisfaction to their friends! plied treasure of energy, of feeling, and of They know more of them than could possiintellect? Such is the perpetual contrast bly be related, more than they could thembetween our nature and our destiny. There selves repeat; what would be most inteis in us something infinite which this world resting to them would perhaps be the narcannot satisfy, and which cannot influence ration of that part of their life which bethis world; therefore it is that we are at longs not to history; they would wish to once superior to the world, and restrained read over all that they have known, all they by it; therefore it is that we can neither have imagined, and that words could equal put up the whole canvas of our life, nor dis- the vastness of their desire. But this wish play all our material. In fact, so far from is vain; the more distinguished a person

has been, the less is it possible to do him marked partiality for her daughter, and justice by description; he would perhaps lavished on her all the cares which a weak himself have failed, had he endeavored to and sickly childhood required. From her give an account of his heart, and to reveal, earliest years she manifested a lively senwithout restraint, what can never be justly sibility, a perfect integrity, and, when her known or faithfully described. These con- education commenced, an extreme facility siderations have powerfully influenced me in learning. Her mind, however, still apwhenever I attempted to recall the circum- peared inactive, tractable, and thoughtful; stances of Madame Guizot's life; it is not, she gave herself up to the employments in fact, those circumstances which are inte- of her age, without taking interest in resting, it is herself. She is the soul of them; her lessons neither wearied her nor the drama; and it is her especially, whom gave her pleasure. She went through her having known, we would wish to make duties because she liked order, and it was known. Yet how shall we ever accomplish more easy to obey than to resist. When, it? How penetrate, into those secrets of between ten and fourteen years of

age, the the mind at once infinite and delicate, into quickness of her understanding struck the that interior world which conscience itself attention of her masters, and excited the cannot survey, and entirely elucidate?) hopes of her family, she still continued to The difficulty is insurmountable; it dis- carry but little spirit or taste into her courages, it depresses, and it is with reluc studies. She sometimes composed fables tance that I write this account which will and little dramas, as many children do who not satisfy either memory or truth. never afterwards excel. These essays,

We must then renounce the idea of destitute of originality and invention, were showing what Madame Guizot was in the only remarkable for singular correctness, opinion of her friends; indeed we scarcely and here and there some happy strokes of know how to add anything to that which feeling; but there was nothing that indithe attentive and intelligent readers of her cated either that energy or that indepenworks must already have formed of her. dence which were one day to rank high in We can only join our testimony to their i the qualities of her disposition and her conjectures, and assure them that she pos- i mind. Thoughtful and silent, she seemed sessed all that might be expected from her to be waiting for that external cause which writings ; and still we must add that, ex- was to give her the impulse that she wantcept by those who knew and loved her, she, ed. It is seldom that the stimulating could not be justly appreciated.

1

power of circumstances can be dispensed Elizabeth Charlotte Pauline de Meulan with in the development of the mind, more was born at Paris, on the 2d November, especially that of a female, of even the most 1773. She was the eldest daughter of distinguished talents. Called by nature Charles Jacques Louis de Meulan, Re- to hold, in a certain degree, a position of ceiver-General of Paris, and of Marguerite dependence, and her own instinctive moJeanne de St. Chamans.

desty keeping her talents in the shade, a Her parents had all the feelings and woman's mind is never fully known, even tastes which distinguished good society at to herself, till some powerful cause arises, the end of the last century. They took which, touching the key-stone of her heart, advantage of their large fortune and posi- calls forth the latent powers of her mind, tion in the world, to open their house to a and shows her what she is. She quietly brilliant and literary society, and made awaits a voice to say, “ Arise and walk." conversation its only occupation and its As Mademoiselle de Meulan began to primary amusement. This liberality of advance from childhood, she felt a vague mind, then 80 common in the Parisian necessity of finding some employment for world, gave them some leaning towards her faculties, though she was conscious of the new opinions, which they adopted with her inability of bringing them herself into confidence, but not with zeal; and amongst play. She has described this feeling in a the distinguished men of the time they letter dated 1822.

"At that preferred those of the moderate party. It period (1787), I was exactly at the age was one of those families of which M. when I began to take some interest in life, Neckar was the minister; that is to say, when, after a childhood to which no one who prepared the way for the revolution knew how to give the impetus that I had without either desiring or foreseeing it. not strength to find in myself, I began to

Madame de Meulan showed an early and feel the energy of existence. I was coming

1

She says,

out of the clouds, and awoke as on a fine to the vexations occasioned by a total day in spring. This is the remembrance overthrow of fortune or position. that I have of that age.”

In 1794, a general law exiled her family She was nearly sixteen when the revolu- from Paris.' Retired into profound solition broke out. She lived in the midst of tude in the country, she found some repose, every opinion, but held none of them. It and was able to reflect with more freedom was not long before discontent and disturb- upon the strong or painful emotions which ance were spread around her, and, though so many causes had excited in her. Thus she judged of the events of this time with she became accustomed to unite solitary severity, yet she enjoyed the liberty, the meditation with penetrating emotion, and excitement it occasioned. She always sometimes to place them in opposition to preserved a very lively recollection of the each other. Cruelly forced to feel, she society of that period, and of the two sit- learned to think. It was in her distant retreat tings of the National Assembly, at which of Passy that she became, as it were, intishe had been present. From that time mately acquainted with herself. She could a strong leaning towards equality took almost remember the day when, occupied possession of her mind; therefore it was in drawing, the idea first struck her, that not through the changes introduced into she might have some genius. This discothe social system that the revolution very gave her great joy; she seemed from wounded her; the violence and in- that time to feel less alone in the justice, the readiness to sacrifice right to world, and to have a certainty of never power, the taste for licentiousness and dis- being destitute: she had just discovered order,-in short, all the evils unhappily a friend. Genius is perhaps one of the inseparable from civil strife, struck her so few benefits that can be possessed without forcibly, that she retained through life a mixture; joined to virtue it leaves no rekind of resentment against the revolution, gret after it. for having caused her so much suffering. From the time she became conscious of Such was the impression it left on her, that her abilities, her energy redoubled, and her she was not able to speak of it with calm- interest in life increased. A great moral ness thirty years afterwards; and it requir- force, which was productive of extreme ed all the influence of her reason to ap-mental and bodily activity, became the preciate that period with the impartiality predominating feature of her character, and due to history. She herself distrusted her her chief resource against misfortune and own remembrances, and, with a candor by vexation. By a happy privilege of nature, no means common, did not make them the the development of her mind, the taste rule of her judgment.

she had acquired for meditation, for the To public misfortunes, there were soon study of herself, and for her inquiries after to be added private ones to her. The truth, did not in any degree lessen her defortune of her family had gone, the health votedness to the positive duties of life; on of her father became impaired, and he died the contrary, she became more vigorous, in 1790, leaving his family in poverty and more decided, more stirring, if I may so affliction. Her mother, suddenly taken speak, in the interest of those whom she from a state of ease and opulence, strug-considered as confided to her charge. She gled painfully against the difficulties of a acquired an ever increasing influence in the situation so new and so severe; her friends, direction of the family affairs, and took dispersed or persecuted, could give her upon herself all the labors und difficulties neither advice nor assistance.

attending them. She learned to struggle In despair about the future prospects of against every obstacle, and from that time her three brothers, and a sister whom she she conceived the fondness, the admiration passionately loved, sympathy, devotedness, which she ever afterwards preserved, for and grief, absorbed all the faculties of her persevering activity, in contending with the mind. Becoming more and more a stran- difficulties of life. Confiding in her youth ger to public events, of which she only and strength, she accustomed herself never heard by report, she used all the power and to be disheartened, never to give up as long influence she possessed in consoling and as a single resource remained ; and became encouraging her family, in suggesting the firmly fixed in the opinion, that the only courageous part, so difficult to practise by endurance which does not proceed from those who have long been accustomed to weakness, is that which does not yield till prosperity, but which alone can put an end resistance has been exhausted." It is this

a

black one.

luckless onset. His voice, repeatedly raised, was great battle of intellect going on everyas often drowned in an outcry of aversion and where around him, and aspiring with all disgust.”

his might after what distinction and honor It is plain, from the whole tone and there God and Nature had qualified him

to win. bearing of his first pamphlet, that, when it

Although he did not after this drop his was written and published, Chalmers had study of the

mathematics, he published no notion that any distinction he might attain to in the world would ever be derived nothing more having any reference to that from or connected with his clerical charac

subject. His next work was a volume of ter. He insists, almost in so many words, and four hundred pages, entitled, An In

political economy, an octavo of between three upon his profession being considered as a mere accident, or, at any rate, as a circum

quiry into the Ectent and Stability of

National Resources. stance of no more real importance than the

It was published,

with his color of his coat.

name, One of the most remark- This work, too, never having been re

at Edinburgh in 1808. able passages of the pamphlet is an illustra- printed, is little known. It is, however, tion—too long to be here quoted—ridiculing Playfair's objection to clerical professors of

as well as the pamphlet on the Leslie case,

most characteristic performance, and mathematics, by an account of a razor which was found to have lost all its shaving vir- very curious to look into at the present tues on its yellow haft being changed for a whose life has all been passed in the Thirty

day on · various accounts. If any reader, In other places, one would Years' Peace, would obtain a lively imalmost say that he speaks of his being a clergyman as a misfortune, indignantly depression of the very different tone of public precating and protesting against the cruelty repair to this volume of Chalmers’s. The

sentiment in the last generation, let him he cannot help.. “ The day is yet to come," leading principle of the work is, that taxhe exclaims, as when the world will see that ation, to whatever extent it may be carried, there is the same injustice in attaching ig- transfer what the author calls the dispos

is no real evil ;. its only effect being to nominy to a clergyman on the score of his able population of the country from the profession, as in persecuting an African for

service of individuals to that his color, or a Mussulman for his religion.”| Government, and the depression, or even

of the Clergymen, he goes on to contend, are not the ruin and extinction, of any manufacture accountable for being clergymen; “the choice of their profession often depends on of public mischief whatever, and no lasting

or branch of trade, bringing with it no sort the most accidental circumstances,

-a whim of infancy, or the capricious destination of beyond the deprivation of some useless,

suffering or inconvenience to anybody, parents. But his sense of injury breaks out with the most passionate expression in perhaps pernicious, luxury. But the spirit the concluding paragraph :

in which this principle is urged and applied

is warlike to a pitch which we now contem“ The author of the foregoing observations

plate with amazement. keeps back his name from the public, as a thing it is, it all breathes a high, gallant, and

Yet, extravagant and almost comical as mind seems so enlightened by well-founded as- generous spirit. His suspicion of, and sociations, it will, probably, be enough to know antipathy to, the trading spirit was an that the author is a clergyman,-a member of the innate feeling or principle with Chalmers ; stigmatized caste,-one of those puny antagonists at this time it was evidently as strong and wiih whom it would be degrading to enter into the fierce as it ever was in any feudal baron of lists of controversy,—one of those ill-fated beings the middle ages : but, although he may whom the malignant touch of ordination has condemned to a life of ignorance and obscurity,- have afterwards corrected something of its a being who must bid adieu, it seems, to every vehemence, we doubt if it ever underwent flattering anticipation, and drivel out the remainder much essential modification. Even after of his days in insignificance.”

he went to Glasgow, and there, in the

honored and influential position which he The writer of these sarcastic and bitter held in the midst of a great and wealthy words, we may be assured, was determined commercial community, had an opportunity that no hic niger est—no black coat or black of contemplating commerce and its results gown that tailoring ever fashioned-should on the largest scale and in the most favorable keep him back from taking part in the light, it may be seen, from his sermons and

.

Of course,

other writings, that all the magnificence his stupid or dishonest detractors, he and all the liberal expenditure with which boldly sang,he found himself surrounded, did not

“Thy most dreaded instrument, destroy his earliest convictions of the

In working out a pure intent, radically debasing tendencies of traffic, Is man array'd for mutual slaughter; and of the danger which there is of its

Yea, Carnage is thy daughter.' tainting whatever it touches. He could not shut his eyes to this natural and neces

Or, as the same voice, as melodious and sary effect of a habit of mind which looks organ-toned as ever, has, even while we at everything, primarily and principally, write, again proclaimed the truth on the with a view to the pecuniary gain to be same theme,made of it. Nor can we believe that

"War is mercy, glory, fame, bis original martial ardor, his imaginative

Waged in Freedom's holy cause ; sympathy, at least, with the pride, pomp,

Freedom such as man may claim and circumstance, of glorious war," ever

Under God's restraining laws.

Such is Albion's fame and glory; wholly died within him.

Let rescued Europe tell the story !". every man in his senses prefers a state of peace to a state of war.

But Chalmers, Chalmers's military ardor, however, when with bis manly understanding and robust it was at its height, did not allow him to nature, was not likely to fall, until he had rest satisfied with merely writing warlike fallen into his dotage, into that sickliest books. He was so far smitten by the scarand silliest of crazes, which regards war, let fever which then prevailed, as to enrol when it does come, as wholly either a crime himself in a volunteer corps. Whether he or an evil. He may not have gone quite served as a private and carried a musket, as the length of his illustrious countryman, many others of his station did, or acted as Buchanan, who, in the preface to his an officer, we'are not sure ; we rather think tragedy of Jepthes, addressed to the he had a commission. A rapid transition Count de Brissac (Charles de Cossé), thus from his clerical to his military character, expresses himself :-“ Neque enim inter rei with which he once astounded the people militaris et literarum studium ea est, of another parish in Fife, was long rememquam plerique falso putant, discordia ; sed bered in the place where it was performed, summa potius concordia, et occulta quædam a village some fifteen or sixteen miles disnatura conspiratio." But that he could tant from Kilmany. Chalmers had an old have ever become blind or insensible to college friend living in this neighborhood, the high energies, moral as well as intellec- a preacher, or unbeneficed clergyman, attual,-aye, and the sublime virtues,-tached, like himself, to mathematical and which war often calls forth, and to the astronomical studies, whom he used occaheight to which, more almost than any- sionally to visit. One day, having, probathing else can do, it sometimes elevates bly, left home in haste, and with the inman in all respects above his ordinary tention of returning immediately, he made self, we hold to be impossible. He his appearance at his friend's house in his never could have so far forgotten what volunteer's uniform; but, as it was near he had himself experienced in other days, the end of the week, he was easily prevailthe honest and lofty enthusiasm of his own ed upon to remain, and preach in the parish youth and early manhood. He could not church on Sunday. This he did accordinghave turned so deaf an ear to the testimony ly, attired in a black coat, with which his of all history, which declares that it is war friend had supplied him. Finding the borwhich has produced, in every age and coun- rowed habiliment, however, not quite so try, not only the noblest examples of indi- comfortable as if it had been made to meavidual daring, endurance, and self-sacrifice, sure--for, in truth, his friend and himself but the brightest and steadiest flame of had by no means been cast corporeally in public spirit and patriotism in the universal the same mould, and the poor coat must people. Rather to the last, we feel as- have undergone a very unwonted and somesured, he would have responded heart and what perilous tension in its embrace of soul, to the adoring and thanksgiving Chalmers's breadth of back that day-a9 words of the great poet of the last gene- soon as he had descended from the pulpit ration and of the present, when, raising his he did not hesitate to resume his owu atvoice high above the screams and yells of tire; and the rustics could with difficulty

« VorigeDoorgaan »