and animation of particular passages, must| impart to them that vivid and practical cha give pleasure even to readers who take no in- racter which so widely distinguishes them fronc, terest in the subject.

the vague theories of most political philoso The Prince and the Discourses on Livy were phers. written after the fall of the republican govern- Every man who has seen the world knows ment. The former was dedicated to the young that nothing is so useless as a general maxim. Lorenzo de Medici. This circumstance seems If it be very moral and very true, it may serve to have disgusted the contemporaries of the for a copy to a charity-boy. If, like those of writer far more than the doctrines which have Rochefoucauld, it be sparkling and whimsirendered the name of the work odious in later cal, it may make an excellent motto for an times. It was considered as an indication of essay. But few, indeed, of the many wise political apostasy. The fact, however, seems apophthegms which have been uttered, from to have been, that Machiavelli, despairing of the time of the Seven Sages of Greece to that the liberty of Florence, was inclined to support of Poor Richard, have prevented a single fool any government which might preserve herish action. We give the highest and the most independence. The interval which separated a peculiar praise to the precepts of Machiavelli, democracy and a despotism, Soderini and Lo- when we say that they may frequently be of renzo, seemed to vanish when compared with real use in regulating the conduct, not so much the difference between the former and the pre- because they are more just or more profound sent state of Italy; between the security, the than those which might be culled from other opulence, and the repose which it had enjoyed authors, as because they can be niore readily under its native rulers, and the misery in which applied to the problems of real life. it had been plunged since the fatal year in There are errors in these works. But they which the first foreign tyrant had descended are errors which a writer situated like Machia. from the Alps. The noble and pathetic ex- velli could scarcely avoid. They arise, for the hortation with which the Prince concludes, most part, from a single defect which appears shows how strongly the writer felt upon this to us to pervade his whole system. In his posubject.

litical scheme the means had been more deepThe Prince traces the progress of an ambi- ly considered than the ends. The great printious man, the Discourses the progress of an ciple, that societies and laws exist only for the ambitious people. The same principles on purpose of increasing the sum of private hap. which in the former work the elevation of an piness, is not recognised with sufficient clearindividual are explained, are applied in the ness. The good of the body, distinct from the latter to the longer duration and more complex good of the members, and sometimes hardly interests of society. To a modern statesman compatible with it, seems to be the object the form of the Discourses may appear to be which he proposes to himself. Of all politipuerile. In truth, Livy is not a historian on cal fallacies, this has had the widest and the whom much reliance can be placed, even in most mischievous operation. The state of socases where he must have possessed consider ciety in the little commonwealths of Greece, able means of information. And his first De the close connection and mutual dependence cade, to which Machiavelli has confined him- of the citizens, and the severity of the laws of self, is scarcely entitled to more credit than war, tended to encourage an opinion which, our chronicle of British kings who reigned be under such circumstances, could hardly be fore the Roman invasion. But his commenta-called erroneous. The interests of every intor is indebted to him for little more than a dividual were inseparably bound up with those few texts, which he might as easily have ex- of the state. An invasion destroyed his corntracted from the Vulgate or the Decameron. fields and vineyards, drove him from his home, The whole irain of thought is original. and compelled him to encounter all the hard

On the peculiar immorality which has ren- ships of a military life. A peace restored him dered the Prince unpopular, and which is al- to security and comfort. A victory doubled most equally discernible in the Discourses, we the number of his slaves. A defeai perhaps have already given our opinion at length. We made him a slave himself. When Pericles, in have attempted to show that it belonged rather the Peloponnesian war, told the Athenians that to the age than to the man; that it was a par- if their country triumphed their private losses tial taint, and by no means implied general would speedily be repaired, but that if their depravity. We cannot, however, deny that it arms failed of success, every individual is a great blemish, and that it considerably amongst them would probably be ruined," he diminishes the pleasure which, in other re- spoke no more than the truth. He spoke to spects, those works must afford to every in- men whom the tribute of vanquished cities telligent mind.

supplied with food and clothing, with the luxu It is, indeed, impossible to conceive a more ry of the bath and the amusements of the healthful and vigorous constitution of the un- theatre, on whom the greatness of their counderstanding than that which these works indi-try conferred rank, and before whom the memcate. The qualities of the active and the con-bers of less prosperous communities trembled; templative statesman appear to have been and to men who, in case of a change in the blended, in the mind of the writer, into a rare public fortunes, would at least be deprived of and exquisite harmony. His skill in the de- every comfort and every distinction which they talis of business had not been acquired at the enjoyed. To be butchered on the smoking expense of his general powers. It had not ruins of their city, w be dragged in chains to rendered his mind less comprehensive, but it had served to currect his speculations, and to

* Thucydides, il. 62

a slave-market, to see one child torn from them ! constructed theories as rapidly and as slightly to dig in the quarries of Sicily, and another to as card-houses-no sooner projected than comguard the harems of Persepolis; those were pleted—no sooner completed than blown away the frequent and probable consequences of na -no sooner blown away than forgotten. Mational calamities. Hence, among the Greeks, chiavelli errs only because his experience, acpatriotism became a governing principle, or quired in a very peculiar state of society, could rather an ungovernable passion. Both their not always enable him to calculate the effect legislators and their philosophers took it for of institutions differing from those of which he granted that, in providing for the strength and hąd observed the operation. Montesquieu errs greatness of the state, they sufficiently provid- because he has a fine thing to say and is reed for the happiness of the people. The writ- solved to say it. If the phenomena which lie ers of the Roman empire lived under despots before him will not suit his purpose, all history into whose dominion a hundred nations were must be ransacked. If nothing established by melted down, and whose gardens would have authentic testimony can be raked or chipped covered the little commonwealths of Phlius to suit his Procrustean hypothesis, he puts up and Platæa. Yet they continued to employ the with some monstrous fable about Siam, or same language, and to cant about the duty of Bantam, or Japan, told by writers compared sacrificing every thing to a country to which with whom Lucian and Gulliver were verathey owed nothing.

cious-liars by a double right, as travellers Causes similar to those which had influ- and as Jesuits. enced the disposition of the Greeks, operated Propriety of thought and propriety of diction powerfully on the less vigorous and daring are commonly found together. Obscurity and. character of the Italians. They, too, were affectation are the two greatest faults of style. members of small communities. Every man Obscurity of expression generally spring: from was deeply interested in the welfare of the so- confusion of ideas; and the same wish 10 dazciety to which he belonged--a partaker in its zle, at any cost, which produces affectation in wealth and its poverty, in its glory and its the manner of a writer, is likely to produce shame. In the age of Machiavelli this was pe- sophistry in his reasonings. The judicious culiarly the case. Public events had produced and candid mind of Machiavelli shows itself an immense sum of money to private citizens. in his luminous, manly, and polished language. The northern invaders had brought want to The style of Montesquieu, on the other hand, their boards, infamy to their beds, fire to their indicaies in every page a lively and ingenious, roofs, and the knife to their throats. It was but an unsound mind. Every trick of expresnatural that a man who lived in times like sion, from the mysterious conciseness of an these should overrate the importance of those oracle to the flippancy of a Parisian coxcomb, measures by which a nation is rendered formi- is employed to disguise the fallacy of some dable to its neighbours, and undervalue those positions, and the triteness of others. Absurdi. which make it prosperous within itself. ties are brightened into epigrams; truisms are

Nothing is raore remarkable in the political darkened into enigmas. " It is with difficulty treatises of Machiavelli than the fairness of that the strongest eye can sustain the glare mind which they indicate. It appears where with which some parts are illuminated, or the author is in the wrong almost as strongly penetrate the shade in which others are conas where he is in the right. He never ad- cealed. vances a false opinion because it is new or The political works of Machiavelli derive a splendid, because he can clothe it in a happy peculiar interest from the mournful earnestness phrase or defend it by an ingenious sophism. which he manifests, whenever he touches on His errors are at once explained by a reference topics connected with the calamities of his nato the circumstances in which he was placed. tive land. It is difficult to conceive any situa. They evidently were not sought out; they lay tion more painful than that of a great man, conin his way and could scarcely be avoided. demned to watch the lingering agony of an ex. Such mistakes must necessarily be committed hausted country, to tend it during the alternate by early speculators in every science. fits of stupefaction and raving which precede

In this respect it is amusing to compare the its dissolution, to see the symptoms of vitality Prince and the Discourses with the Spirit of dissappear one by one, till nothing is left but Laws. Montesquieu enjoys, perhaps, a wider coldness, darkness, and corruption. To this celebrity than any political writer of modern joyless and thankless duty was Machia velli Europe. Something he doubtless owes to his called. In the energetic language of the promerit, but much more to his fortune. He had phet, he was “mad for the sight of nis eyes the good luck of a valentine. He caught the which he saw,"– disunion in the council, effe, eye of the French nation at the moment when minacy in the camp, liberty extinguished, como it was waking from the long sleep of political merce decaying, national honour sullied, an and religious bigotry, and in consequence he enlightened and flourishing people given (ver became a favourite. The English at that time to the ferocity of ignorant savages. T'hongh considered a Frenchman who talked about his opinions had not escaped the contagion of constitutional checks and fundamental laws, that political immorality which was comm in as a prodigy not less astonishing than the among his countrymen, his natural dispositiou learneå pig or the musical infant. Specious seems to have been rather stern and impetn. but shallow, studious of effect, indifferent to ous than pliant and artful. When the misery truth, eager to build a system, but careless of and degradation of Florence, and the foul out. collecting those materials out of which alone rage which he had himself sustained roused a sound and durable system can be built, he his mind, the smooth craft of his profession and

his nation is exchanged for the honest bitter- of Piero, and of Lorenzo, are, however, treated ness of scorn and anger. He speaks like one with a freedom and impartiality equally honour sick of the calamitous times and abject people able to the writer and to the patron. The miseamong whom his lot is cast. He pines for the ries and humiliations of dependence, the bread strength and glory of ancient Rome, for the which is more bitter than every other food, the fasces of Brutus and the sword of Scipio, the stairs which are more painful than every other gravity of the curule chair, and the blcody pomp assent,* had not broken the spirit of Machiof the triumphal sacrifice. He seems to be avelli. The most corrupting post in a corrupt transported back to the days, when eight hun- ing profession had not depraved the generous dred thousand Italian warriors sprung to arms heart of Clement. at the rumour of a Gallic invasion. He breathes The history does not appear to be the fruit all the spirit of those intrepid and haughty pa- of much industry or research. It is unques. tricians, who forgot the dearest ties of nature tionably inaccurate. But it is elegant, lively, in the claims of public duty, who looked with and picturesque, beyond any other in the Ita. disdain on the elephants and on the gold of lian language. The reader, we believe, carries Pyrrhus, and listened with unaltered compo- away from it a more vivid and a more faithful sure to the tremendous tidings of Cannæ. Like impression of the national character and man. an ancient temple deformed by the barbarous ners, than from more correct accounts. The architecture of a later age, his character ac-truth is, that the book belongs rather to ancient quires an interest from the very circumstances than to modern literature. It is in the style, which debase it. The original proportions are not of Davila and Clarendon, but of Herodotus rendered more striking, by the contrast which and Tacitus; and the classical histories may they present to the mean and incongruous addio almost be called romances founded in faci. tions.

The relation is, no doubt, in all its principal The intluence of the sentiinents which we points, strictly true. But the numerous liitle have described was not apparent in his writ. incidents which heighten the interest, the words, ings alone. His enthusiasm, barred from the the gestures, the looks, are evidently furnishcareer which it would have selected for itself, ed by the imagination of the author. The fash. seems to have found a vent in desperate levity. ion of later times is differenl. A more exact He enjoyed a vindictive pleasure in outraging narrative is given by the writer. It may be the opinions of a society which he despised. doubted whether more exact notions are conHe became careless of those decencies which veyed to the reader. The best portraits are were expected from a man so highly distin- those in which there is a slight mixture of cariguished in the literary and political world. The cature ; and we are not aware, that the best sarcastic bitterness of his conversation disgusi- histories are not those in which a little of the ed those who were more inclined to accuse his exaggeration of fictitious narrative is judicious licentiousness than their own degeneracy, and ly employed. Something is lost in accuracy; who were unable to conceive the strength of but much is gained in effect. The fainter lines those emotions which are concealed by the are neglected; but the great characteristic jests of the wretched, and by the follies of the features are imprinted on the mind forever. wise.

The history terminates with the death of Law The historical works of Machiavelli still re- renzo de Medici. Machiavelli had, it seems, main to be considered. The life of Castruccio intended to continue it to a later period. But Castracani will occupy us for a very short his death prevented the execution of his de. time, and would scarcely have demanded our sign; and the melancholy task of recording notice, had it not attracted a much greater the desolation and shame of Italy devolved on share of public attention than it deserves. Few Guicciardini. books, indeed, could be more interesting than Machiavelli lived long enough to see the cona careful and judicious account, from such a mencement of the last struggle for Florentine pen, of the illustrious Prince of Lucca, the most liberty. Soon after his death, raonarchy was eminent of those Italian chiefs, who, like Pisis finally established-not such a monarchy as tratus and Gelon, acquired a power felt rather that of which Cosmo had laid the foundations than seer, and resting, not on law or on pre- deep in the constitution and feelings of his scription, but on the public favour and on their countrymen, and which Lorenzo had embelgreat personal qualities. Such a work would lished with the trophies of every science and exhibit to us the real nature of that species of every art; but a loathsomc tyranny, proud sovereignty, so singular and so often misunder and mean, cruel and feeble, bigote and lascistood, which the Greeks denominated tyranny, vious. The character of Machiavelli was hateand which modified in some degree by the feu- ful to the new masters of Italy; and those parts dal system, re-appeared in the commonwealth of his theory, which were in strict accordance of Lombard" and Tuscany. But this littie with their own daily practice, affordel a precomposition of Machiavelli is in no sense a text for blackening his memory. His works history. It has no pretensions to fidelity. It is were misrepresented by the learned, miscona trifle, and not a very successful trifle. It is strued by the ignorant, censured by the scarcely more authentic than the novel of Bel- chureh, abused, with all the rancour of simu. pnegor, and is very much duller.

lated virtue, by the minions of a base despoto The last great work of this illustrious man ism, and the priests of a baser superstition, was the history of his native city. It was writ. The name of the man whose genius had illuten by the command of the Pope, who, as chief minated all the dark places of policy, and to of the house of Medici, was at that time sovereign of Florence. The characters of Cosmo,

• Dante Paradiso Canto svij.

whose patriotic wisdom an oppressed people of a great mind through the corruptions of a had owed their last chance of emancipation degenerate age; and which will be approached and revenge, passed into a proverb of in- with still deeper homage, when the object to famy

which his public life was devoted shall be For more than two hundred years his bones attained, when the foreign yoke shall be bro. lay undistinguished. At length, an English ken, when a second Proccità shall avenge the nobleman paid the last honours to the greatest wrongs of Naples, when a happier Rienzi shak statesman of Florence. In the Church of restore the good estate of Rome, when the Santa Croce, a monument was erected to his streets of Florence and Bologna shall again memory, which is contemplated with reve- resound with their ancient-war cry--Popolo ; rence by all who can distinguish the virtues I popolo; muoiano i tiranni!


[EDINBURGH Review, 1828.)

[ocr errors]

Tas public voice has assigned to Dryden though there may be no person to whom our the first place in the second rank of our poets misery or our happiness can be ascribed. -no mean station in a table of intellectual The peevishness of an invalid vents itself precedency so rich in illustrious names. It is even on those who alleviate his pain. The allowed that, even of the few who were his good-humour of a man elated by success often superiors in genius, none has exercised a displays itself towards enemies. In the same more extensive or permanent influence on the manner, the foelings of pleasure and admiranational habits of thought and expression. tion, to which the contemplation of great events His life was commensurate with the period gives birth, make an object where they do not during which a great revolution in the public find it. Thus, nations descend to the absurditaste was effected; and in that revolution he ties of Egyptian idolatry, and worship stocks played the part of Cromwell. By unscrupu- and reptiles Sacheverells and Wilkeses. lously taking the lead in its wildest excesses, They even fall prostrate before a deity to he obtained the absolute guidance of it. By which they have themselves given the form trampling on laws, he acquired the authority which commands their veneration, and which, of a legislator. By signalizing himself as the unless fashioned by them, would have remained most daring and irreverent of rebels, he raised a shapeless block. They persuade themselves bimself to the dignity of a recognised prince. that they are the creatures of what they have He commenced his career by the most frantic themselves created. For, in fact, it is the age outrages. He terminated it in the repose of that forms the man, not the man that forms established sovereignty-the author of a new the age. Great minds do indeed react on the code, the root of a new dynasty.

society which has made them what they are ; of Dryden, however, as of almost every but they only pay with interest what they have man who has been distinguished either in the received. We extol Bacon, and sneer at Aquiliterary or in the political world, it may be nas. But if their situations had been changed, said that the course which he pursued, and the Bacon might have been the Angelical Doctor, effect which he produced, depended less on his the most subtle Aristotelian of the schools; personal qualities than on the circumstances the Dominican might have led forth the sciin which he was placed. Those who have ences from their house of bondage. If Leiher read history with discrimination know the fal had been born in the tenth century, he woald lacy of those panegyrics and invectives, which have effected no reformation. If he had never represent individuals as effecting great moral been born at all, it is evident that the sixteenth and intellectual revolutions, subvening esta century could not have elapsed without a great blished systems, and imprinting a new cha- schism in the church. Voltaire, in the days racter on their age. The difference between of Lewis the Fourteenth, would probably have one man and another is by no means so great been, like most of the literary men of that as the superstitious crowd supposes. But the time, a zealous Jansenist, eminent among the same feelings which, in 'ancient Rome, pro- defenders of efficacious grace, a bitter assail duced the apotheosis of a popular emperor, ant of the lax morality of the Jesuits and the and, in modern Rome, the canonization of a unreasonable decisions of the Sorbonne. If devout prelate, lead men to cherish an illusion Pascal bad entered on his literary career, which furnishes them with something to adore. when intelligence was more general, and By a law of association, from the operation of abuses at the same time more flagrant, when which even minds the most strictly regulated the church was polluted by the Iscariot Dubois, by reason are not wholly exempt, misery dis- the court disgraced by the orgies of Vanillac, poses us to hatred, and happiness to love, al- and the nation sacrificed to the juggles of

Law; if he had lived to see a dynasty of har. • The Poetical Works of JONN DRYDEN. In two vo

lots, an empty treasury and a crowded harem, tanes Vuiversity Edvion, London, 1820.

an army formidable only to those wnom is should have protected, a priesthood just reli- | It is true that the man who is best able to gions enough to be intolerant, he might possi- take a machine to pieces, and who most clear bly, like every man of genius in France, have ly comprehends the manner in which all its imbibed extravagant prejudices against mo- wheels and springs conduce to its general efnarchy and Christianity. The wit which fect, will be the man most competent to form blasted the sophisms of Escobar, the impas- another machine of similar power. In all the sioned eloquence which defended the sisters branches of physical and moral science which of Port Royal, the intellectual hardihood which admit of perfect analysis, he who can resolve was not beaten down even by Papal autho- will be able to combine. But the analysis rity, might have raised him to the Patriarchate which criticism can effect of poetry is neces. of the Philosophical Church. It was long dis- sarily imperfect. One element must forever puted whether the honour of inventing the elude its researches; and that is the very elemethod of Fluxions belonged to Newton or to ment by which poetry is poetry. In the deLeibnitz. It is now generally allowed that scription of nature, for example, a judicious these great men made the same discovery at reader will easily detect an incongruous imthe same time. Mathematical science, indeed, age. But he will find it impossible to explain had then reached such a point, that if neither in what consists the art of a writer who, in a of them had ever existed, the principle must few words, brings some spot before him so inevitably have occurred to some person within vividly that he shall know it as if he had lived a few years. So in our own time the doctrine there from childhood; while another, employof rent now universally received by political ing the same materials, the same verdure, the economists, was propounded almost at the same water, and the same flowers, committing same moment, by two writers unconnected no inaccuracy, introducing nothing which can with each other. Preceding speculators had be positively pronounced superfluous, omitting long been blundering round about it; and it nothing which can be positively pronounced could not possibly have been missed much necessary, shall produce no more effect than longer by the most heedless inquirer. We an advertisement of a capital residence and a are inclined to think that, with respect to every desirable pleasure-ground. 'To take another great addition which has been made to the example, the great features of the character of stock of human knowledge, the case has been Hotspur are obvious to the most superficial similar; that without Copernicus we should reader. We at once perceive that his courage have been Copernicans, that without Colum- is splendid, his thirst of glory intense, his anibus America would have been discovered, mal spirits high, his temper careless, arbitrary, that without Locke we should have possessed and petulanı; that he indulges his own humour a just theory of the origin of human ideas. without caring whose feelings he may woundSociety indeed has its great men and its or whose enmity he may provoke, by his levilittle men, as the earth has its mountains ty. Thus far criticism will go. But soem. and its valleys. But the inequalities of in- thing is still wanting. A man might have all tellect, like the inequalities of the surface those qualities, and every other quality which of our globe, bear so small a proportion to the most minute examiner can introduce into the mass, that, in calculating its great revo- his catalogue of the virtues and faults of Hot Futions, they may safely be neglected. The spur, and yet he would not be hotspur. AI sun illuminates the hills, while it is still below most every thing that we have said of him ap the horizon; and truth is discovered by the plies equally to Falconbridge. Yet in the highest minds a little before it becomes mani- mouth of Falconbridge, most of his speeches fest to the multitude. This is the extent of would seem out of place. la real life, this per. their superiority. They are the first to catch petually occurs. We ars, sensible of wide dir. and reflect a light, which, without their assist- ferences between men whcm, if we are required ance, must, in a short time, be visible to those to describe them, we should describe in almost who lie far beneath them.

the same terms. If we were attempting to draw The same remark will apply equally to the elaborate characters of them, we should scarcefine arts. The laws on which depend the pro- ly be able to point out any strong distinction; yet gress and decline of poetry, painting, and we approach them with feelings altogether dissculpture, operate with little less certainty than similar. We cannot conceive of them as using those which regulate the periodical returns of the expressions or gestures of each other. Let heat and cold, of fertility and barrenness. us suppose that a zoologist should attempt to Those who seem to lead the public taste, are, give an account of some animal, a porcupine in general, merely outrunning it in the direc- for instance, to people who had never seen it. tion which it is spontaneously pursuing. With The porcupine, he might say, is of the genus out a just apprehension of the laws to which mammalia, and the order gliris. There are we have alluded, the merits and defects of whiskers on its face; it is two feet long; it Dryden can be but imperfectly understood. has four toes before, five behind, two foreteeth, We will, therefore, state what we conceive and eight grinders. Its body is covered with them to be

hair and quills. And when all this had been The ages in which the masterpieces of ima- said, would any one of the auditors have gination have been produced, have by no formed a just idea of a porcupine? Would means been those in which taste has been any two of them have formed the same idea! most correct. It seems that the creative fa- There might exist innumerable races of ani. culty and the critical faculty cannot exist toge- mals, possessing all the characteristics whick. ther in their highest perfection. The causes have been mentioned, yet altogether unlike to of this phenomenon it is not difficult to assign. Teach other. What the description of our nati

« VorigeDoorgaan »