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Esprit des Lois, published in 1748. His profession had led him to examine the subject of law with great minuteness; and he appears, from an early period, to have aimed at discovering some system which might serve to connect the isolated facts of a science, the extent and confusion of which increased with his knowledge of it. Hitherto, writers on jurisprudence had limited their views to the codes of particular states, or to metaphysical discussions concerning the abstract rectitude of those codes. Dut the object of Montesquieu was different, and much more comprehensive. Embracing the various, and apparently capricious systems of law as they regard commerce, religion, or civil rights, in every country which travellers or historians make known to us, he endeavours to elicit regularity from this chaos, and to derive

Montesquieu.

the intention of each legislator, or at least the

utility of his law, from some circumstances in

the natural or political situation of those to

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whom it is addressed. The attempt, if not entirely successful, was arduous and vast : it was likewise altogether new. The reading alone which it presupposes, would have deterred a man

of common ardour; especially if, like the author,

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almost totally deprived of sight, he had been compelled to employ the eyes of others. But

although the Esprit des Lois cannot be regarded as a full and correct solution, it is at least a splendid theory; and the labour of twenty years devoted to produce it, the enthusiasm required for sustaining such an effort, were by no means misapplied. The abundance of curious, and generally authentic information, with which the work is sprinkled, renders it instructive even to a superficial reader; while the vigorous and original ideas to be found in every page of it, by an attentive one, never fail to delight and astonish where they convince, and to improve even where the truth of them seems doubtful. The brilliant hints, correct or otherwise, which the author scatters round him with a liberal hand, have excited or assisted the speculations of others in almost every department of political economy; and Montesquieu is deservedly mentioned as a principal founder of that important science. The merits of his work are farther enhanced by his style, which, though emphatic and perspicuous, rather than polished, abounds in elegant sarcasm, in vivid and happy turns of expression, which remind us of his countryman Montaigne. “Among the defects of the Esprit des Lois, may be numbered its want of method, partly apparent, partly real. The transitions are universally abrupt; the brevity sometimes degenerates into obscurity, and the smartness into affectation. Though the author's tone is always decided and positive, his statements and speculations are occasionally uncertain or erroneous: in particular, the effects attributed to climate (some of which may have been borrowed from Bodin's Methodus Historia), are greatly exaggerated. But whatever blemishes the work may have, it is entitled to the high praise of steadily supporting the cause of justice and humanity, without departing from the moderation and reserve proper in combating established prejudices. “The private character of Montesquieu appears to have been such as the perusal of his works might lead us to anticipate. l’ossessing that calm independence which secured him respect, he possessed also that mildness and benignity of character which displayed itself in a cheerful temper, and obtained him universal love. He was distinguished by the readiness which he always manifested to use his influence with the government in behalf of persecuted men of letters; and strict frugality frequently enabled him, without impairing the property of his family, to mitigate the wants of the indigent. “A multitude of anecdotes attest the extent of his colloquial powers. The number of nations |

and celebrated men whom he had seen, the vigour of his mind, its boundless fertility in original and lively ideas, rendered his conversation at once instructive and fascinating. It was curt, like his style, without bitterness or satire, yet full of attic salt, to which his Gascon accent, perhaps, added new charms. The frequent absence of mind, for which he was remarkable, never occurred in a serious or interesting discussion: it was not affected; and he constantly awoke from it by some brilliant sally fitted to revive the conversation. Though living with the great, and formed to delight the most polished circles, he could yet derive information and pleasure from the simplest objects, and felt at all times happy to exchange the splendid bustle of Paris for books and repose at La Brede. It must have been a striking spectacle to see this teacher of philosophers, seated beneath an oak in his pleasure-grounds, and in order to relax his mind from the studies which he never carried to excess, conversing gaily with a crowd of peasants in their own patois, adopting their views, investigating their genius, supremely happy if his influence could terminate their disputes, or solace their troubles.”

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu is thus characterised:—

“Lady Mary's principal merit is to be sought Ilady Mary for in her letters. Those written Wortloy during the embassy were loudly ap* plauded at first, and they have since maintained a conspicuous place in this still scanty department of English literature. The official character of Mr. Wortley procured her admittance to whatever was splendid or attractive in every country which they visited. She seems to have been contented with herself, and therefore willing to be pleased with others; and her cheerful sprightly imagination, the elegance, the ease, and airiness of her style, are deservedly admired. Succeeding and more minute observers have confirmed the accuracy of her graphic descriptions. Her other letters are of a similar stamp. The continual gaiety, the pungent wit, with which she details the passing follies of a court but too successfully imitating that of Louis XV., render her letters extremely amusing. In those written from her retirement at Lover, we discern the same shrewdness of observation, with a little more carelessness of expression.”

Here is a passage from the article on “Newfoundland,” interesting as containing o the earliest trace of Carlyle's later style:

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