« PreviousContinue »
sadness of Jerusalem, from which no smoke ascends, and in which no sound is to be heard; the solitude of the surrounding mountains, where not a living creature is to be seen; the disorder of those tombs, ruined, ransacked, and half-exposed to view, would almost induce one to believe that the last trump had been heard, and that the dead were about to rise in the valley of Jehoshaphat."-II.34-35. Chateaubriand, after visiting with the devotion of a pilgrim the Holy Sepulchre, and all the scenes of our Saviour's suffering, spent a day in examining the scenes of the Crusaders' triumphs, and comparing the descriptions in Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered with the places where the events which they record actually occurred. He found them in general so extremely exact, that it was difficult to avoid the conviction that the poet had been on the spot. He even fancied he discovered the scene of the Flight of Erminia, and the inimitable combat and death of Clorinda. From the Holy Land, he sailed to Egypt; and we have the following graphic picture of the approach to that cradle of art and civilisation.
"On the 20th Oct. at five in the morning, I perceived on the green and ruffled surface of the water a line of foam, and beyond it a pale and still ocean. The captain clapped me on the shoulder, and said in French, Nilo;' and soon we entered and glided through those celebrated waters. A few palm-trees and a minaret announce the situation of Rosetta, but the town itself is invisible. These shores resemble those of the coast of Florida; they are totally different from those of Italy or Greece, every thing recalls the tropical regions.
"At ten o'clock we at length discovered, beneath the palm-trees, a line of sand which extended westward to the promontory of Aboukir, before which we were obliged to pass before arriving opposite to Alexandria. At five in the evening, the shore suddenly changed its aspect. The palm-trees seemed planted in lines along the shore, like the elms along the roads in France. Nature seems to take a pleasure in thus recalling the ideas of civilisation in a country where that civilisation first arose, and barbarity has now resumed its sway. It was eleven o'clock when we cast anchor before the city, and as it was some time before we
could get ashore, I had full leisure to follow out the contemplation which the scene awakened.
"I saw on my right several vessels, and the castle, which stands on the site of the Tower of Pharos. On my left, the horizon seemed shut in by sand-hills, ruins, and obelisks; immediately in front, extended a long wall, with a few houses appearing above it; not a light was to be seen on shore, and not a sound came from the city. This nevertheless was Alexandria, the rival of Memphis and Thebes, which once contained three millions of inhabitants, which was the sanctuary of the Muses, and the abode of science amidst a benighted world. Here were heard the orgies of Antony and Cleopatra, and here was Cæsar received with more than regal splendour by the Queen of the East. But in vain I listened. A fatal talisman had plunged the people into a hopeless calm: that talisman is the despotism which extinguishes every joy, which stifles even the cry of suffering. And what sound could arise in a city of which at least a third is abandoned; another third of which is surrounded only by the tombs of its former inhabitants; and of which the third, which still survives between those dead extremities, is a species of breathing trunk destitute of the force even to shake off its chains in the middle between ruins and the tomb?" -II. 163.
It is to be regretted that Chateaubriand did not visit Upper Egypt. His ardent and learned mind would have found ample room for eloquent declamation, amidst the gigantic ruins of Luxor, and the Sphynx avenues of Thebes. The inundations of the Nile, however, prevented him from seeing even the Pyramids nearer than Grand Cairo ; and when on the verge of that interesting region, he was compelled unwillingly to retrace his steps to the French shores. After a tempestuous voyage, along the coast of Lybia, he cast anchor off the ruins of Carthage; and thus describes his feelings on surveying those venerable remains.
"From the summit of Byrsa, the eye embraces the ruins of Carthage, which are more considerable than are generally imagined; they resemble those of Sparta, having nothing well preserved, but embracing a considerable space. I saw them in the
middle of February: the olives, the fig-trees, were already bursting into leaf: large bushes of angelica and acanthus formed tufts of verdure, amidst the remains of marble of every colour. In the distance, I cast my eyes over the Isthmus, the double sea, the distant isles, a cerulean sea, a smiling plain, and azure mountains. I saw forests, and vessels, and aqueducts; moorish villages, and Mahometan hermitages; glittering mina rets, and the white buildings of Tunis. Surrounded with the most touching recollections, I thought alternately of Dido, Sophonisba, and the noble wife of Asdrubal; I contemplated the vast plains where the legions of Annibal, Scipio, and Cæsar, were buried: My eyes sought for the site of Utica. Alas! The remains of the palace of Tiberius still remain in the island of Capri, and you search in vain at Utica for the house of Cato. Finally, the terrible Vandals, the rapid Moors, passed before my recollection, which terminated at last on Saint Louis expiring on that inhospitable shore. May the story of the death of that prince terminate this itinerary; fortunate to re-enter, as it were, into my country by the ancient monument of his virtues, and to close at the sepulchre of that King of holy memory my long pilgrimage, to the tombs of illustrious men. .”—II. 257—258.
"As long as his strength permitted, the dying monarch gave instructions to his son Philip; and when his voice failed him, he wrote with a faltering hand these precepts, which no Frenchman, worthy of the name, will ever be able to read without emotion. My son, the first thing which I enjoin you is to love God with all your heart; for without that no man can be saved. Beware of violating his laws; rather endure the worst torments, than sin against his commandments. Should he send you adversity,receive adversity, receive it with humility, and bless the hand which chastens you; and believe that you have well deserved it, and that it will turn to your weal. Should he try you with prosperity, thank him with humility of heart, and be not elated by his goodness. Do justice to every one, as well the poor as the rich. Be liberal, free, and courteous, to your servants, and
cause them to love as well as fear you. Should any controversy or tumult arise, sift it to the bottom, whether the result be favourable or unfavourable to your interests. Take care, in an especial manner, that your subjects live in peace and tranquillity under your reign. Respect and preserve their privileges, such as they have received them from their ancestors, and preserve them with care and love. And now, I give you every blessing which a father can bestow on his child; praying the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that they may defend you from all adversities; and that we may again, after this mortal life is ended, be united before God, and adore his Majesty for ever !'". II. 264.
"The style of Chateaubriand,” says Napoleon, " is not that of Racine, it is that of a prophet; he has received from nature the sacred flame; it breathes in all his works."* of no common man-being a political opponent-that Napoleon would have said these words. Chateaubriand had done nothing to gain favour with the French Emperor; on the contrary, he irritated him by throwing up his employment and leaving his country upon the assassination of the Duke d'Enghien. In truth, nothing is more remarkable amidst the selfishness of political apostasy in France, than the uniform consistence and disinterestedness of this great man's opinions. His principles, indeed, were not all the same at 50 as at 25; we should be glad to know whose are, excepting those who are so obtuse as to derive no light from the extension of knowledge and the acquisitions of experience? Change is so far from being despicable, that it is highly honourable in itself, and when it proceeds from the natural modification of the mind, from the progress of years, or the lessons of more extended experience. It becomes contemptible only when it arises on the suggestions of interest, or the desires of ambition. Now, Chateaubriand's changes of opinion have all been in opposition to his interest; and he has suffered at different periods of his life from his resistance to the mandates of authority, and his rejection of the calls of ambition. In early life, he was exiled
* Memoirs of Napoleon, IV. 342.
from France, and shared in all the hardships of the emigrants, from his attachment to Royalist principles. At the earnest request of Napoleon, he accepted office under the Imperial Government, but he relinquished it, and again became an exile upon the murder of the Duke d'Enghien. The influence of his writings was so powerful in favour of the Bourbons, at the period of the Restoration, that Louis XVIII. truly said, they were worth more than an army. He followed the dethroned Monarch to Ghent, and contributed much, by his powerful genius, to consolidate the feeble elements of his power, after the fall of Napoleon. Called to the helm of affairs in 1824, he laboured to accommodate the temper of the monarchy to the increasing spirit of freedom in the country, and fell into disgrace with the Court, and was distrusted by the Royal Family, because he strove to introduce those
popular modifications into the administration of affairs, which might have prevented the revolution of July; and finally, he has resisted all the efforts of the Citizen-King to engage his great talents in defence of the throne of the Barricades. True to his principles, he has exiled himself from France, to preserve his independence; and consecrated in a foreign land his illustrious name, to the defence of the child of misfortune. Chateaubriand is not only an eloquent and beautiful writer, he is also a profound scholar, and an enlightened thinker. His knowledge of history and classical literature is equalled only by his intimate acquaintance with the early annals of the church, and the fathers of the Catholic faith; while in his speeches delivered in the Chamber of Peers since the restoration, will be found not only the most eloquent but the most complete and satisfactory dissertations on the political state of France during that period, which is anywhere to be met with. It is a singular circumstance, that an author of such great and varied acquire ments, who is universally allowed by all parties in France to be their greatest living writer, should be hardly known except by name to the great body of readers in this country. His greatest work, that on which his fame will rest with posterity, is the "Genius of Christianity," of which we shall soon give some account to
our readers. The next is the "Martyrs," a romance, in which he has introduced an exemplification of the principles of Christianity, in the early sufferings of the primitive church, and enriched the narrative by the splendid description of the scenery in Egypt, Greece, and Palestine, which he had visited during his pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and all the stores of learning which a life spent in classical and ecclesiastical lore could accumulate. The last of his considerable publications is the "Etudes Historiques," a work eminently characteristic of that superiority in historical composition, which we have allowed to the French modern writers over their contemporaries in this country; and which, we fear, another generation, instructed when too late by the blood and the tears of a Revolution, will be alone able fully to appreciate. Its object is to trace the influence of Christianity from its first spread in the Roman empire to the rise of civilisation in the Western world; a field in which he goes over the ground trod by Gibbon, and demonstrates the unbounded benefits derived from religion in all the institutions of modern times. In this noble undertaking he has been aided, with a still more philosophical mind, though inferior fire and eloquence, by Guizot; a writer, who, equally with his illustrious rival, is unknown, save by report, in this country; but from whose joint labours is to be dated the spring of a pure and philosophical system of religious enquiry in France, and the commencement of that revival of manly devotion, in which the antidote, and the only antidote, to the fanaticism of infidelity is to be found. It certainly affords some countenance to the general opinion on the continent, that we are an age behind them in political thought, to find, that while the master spirits of France, taught by the sufferings, and emerging from the flames of a Revolution, are recurring to the system of Christianity, as the only secure basis of the social order, we are beginning to adopt the superficial infidelity which has brought these disasters upon their country; and that while Chateaubriand and Guizot are following out the principles of Robertson and Butler, we are reverting to the declamations of Raynal and Voltaire.
THE MINISTRY AND THEIR SUPPORTERS.
THE Government have just announced, through their favourite evening journal, that they consider themselves to have scrambled out of the Slough of Despond, which, it was on all hands admitted, they had blundered into. Three or four days have elapsed without any fresh exposure, and upon the strength of this, they set up their claims to a little longer enjoyment of official power, dignity, and emolument. This is certainly an amusing piece of confidence in the face of the settled opinion of every man of sense, that it is only by an extraordinary position of circumstances, that the patience of the country admits of their stay, and that such a set of unaccountably rash, imbecile, and negligent men, never held the reins of government in this country.
It is really difficult to convey by words an adequate notion of the general contempt into which the present conductors of government affairs have fallen, or of the danger arising from this general feeling, at a time when the popular mania is so much against government of any kind, and when more than ever the superintendence of persons having the character of wise, vigilant, and determined men, is required to keep the popular machine from breaking in pieces by the violence of its own action. It is not merely that the policy of the Government is bad, but the conduct of its members is so foolish, so contradictory, so childish almost, that even the weakest creatures feel themselves of consequence compared with them. Their continual blunders, too, in the plainest matters of business, furnish arguments which the cunning partisans of democracy are not slow to take advantage of, in demonstrating to the lower orders the ignorance of those who rule them in high places. Those who govern Great Britain, must be real men of business, if they look to be potent in any thing save to destroy. Such Ministers as we have now, may succeed in pulling down, but to build up again must be left to the hands of men of a different stamp. Whether these are to be found among the rough disciples of Republicanism, or the cautious and
energetic supporters of the Monarchy and the Constitution as it is, a little time will now discover.
"There is," says Lord Bacon, great difference between a cunning man and a wise man, not only in point of honesty, but in point of abili ty. There be that can pack the cards, and yet cannot play well; so there are some that are good in canvasses and factions, that are otherwise weak men. Again, it is one thing to understand persons, and another thing to understand matters; for many are perfect in men's humours, that are not greatly capable of the real part of business." Here is a good description of the Whig party in general, but particularly of the present Government, which in" the real part of business," has shewn itself so unfit, that it produces, instead of satisfaction, alternate lamentation and derision. It requires the most ample allowance for this distinction so ably shewn by Lord Bacon between cunning and wisdom, as well as the fullest consideration for the difference between playing the game, and criticising the moves of other players, to account for the extraordinary and foolish errors into which our Ministers have fallen, notwithstanding the character which some of them possessed for ability when out of office. It was reasonable to expect that Lord Grey would attempt to act upon wrong principles, but who could have supposed that he would have shewn himself in every measure very rash, and almost very stupid? Who could have imagined that he would have attempted a measure of Parliamentary Reform, in which the Aristocracy are vitally interested, without having discovered with some degree of accuracy how far the Aristocracy would consent, and whether he would not at the eleventh hour find himself baffled? Who could imagine that he would assert confidently in the House, and in answer to the Duke of Wellington too, that there was a surplus of half a million in the revenue, when it was to be proved afterwards from documents in his own office at the very time, that when he spoke the revenue was largely exceeded by the expendi ture? Who could have believed that
he would make a declaration respecting Irish Tithes so displeasing to those by whose sufferance he holds office, that he would be compelled to get another Minister to explain away what he said—to retract, and to apologise? Yet Lord Grey has done all these things. Who would have supposed that the only effort of legislation, to be acknowledged as peculiarly Lord Brougham's own, would be the most egregiously bungling experiment in the art of creating patronage that ever was known -a measure never spoken of in the profession to which his Lordship belongs, except with contemptuous ridicule? Yet such is the fate of his measure respecting Bankruptcy.
Who would have imagined that Lord Plunkett should have such a story to tell of himself, as that he demanded fees from Irish magistrates which he had no right to demand, and should acknowledge to have taken part in the rankest job concerning his own secretary, that ever disgraced Ireland, the land of jobbing? No one ever thought Lord Althorp very bright; but who would have imagined that he would have to come down to the House to confess a financial miscalculation to the amount of twelve hundred thousand pounds, and admit a blunder in a common arithmetical sum, to the amount of three hundred and fifty thousand pounds? Who would suppose that Lord Palmerston, with all his known indolence, would have been guilty of the follies and neglects which have placed us in our present condition with Portugal, with Holland, and with the Northern Powers, who hold back from the treaty to which, through the craft of Talleyrand, and our Minister's incaution, we are bound? Who would have deemed it possible that the whole Ministry could have been so indescribably absurd as they proved themselves in the Russian Dutch loan affair-a piece of folly without parallel, and without the shadow of an excuse? But with all these damning blots upon their character as Ministers, how do they remain in power?That may be briefly explained. First, the power of any government is ex-officio considerable, and commands, directly or indirectly, a great many votes. Secondly, a large majority of the House of Commons
are so bound by pledges extorted by the mobs of last May, to vote for the Reform Bill, and Ministers shelter themselves behind the Reform Bill in every extremity. They cry out, "If you vote against us in any serious matter, we shall denounce you as enemies to our Reform Bill." This cry alone, and even this but very barely, saved them on the Russian Dutch loan division. Thirdly, the partisans of democracy, who scarcely conceal their desire for a complete revolution in church and state, use their best efforts to keep the present Ministers in their places, because they see that they could not have more efficient, though perhaps unconscious tools. Lastly, the Ministers are determined not to quit until they are absolutely turned out, which is not so very easy a thing to manage. Ministers generally yield when they are beaten in Parliament, but these Ministers have been repeatedly beaten, and have not yielded.
It is not only melancholy, but intensely mortifying, to behold the interests and the honour of a great nation falling to the ground, as ours but too palpably are, in the hands of such Ministers and such supporters. There were something glorious even in falling before the efforts of able men; but it is miserable that the Monarchy of England should be frittered away by fools. The fate that came upon Charles and his kingdoms, was the work of men fit to make or unmake an empire; but it is enough to break the heart, to see the pitiful quacks, the jabberers of nonsense and impiety, the nauseous fops, and mindless puppies, who are now dragging this nation down into destruction. Gulliver made prisoner by an army of Lilliputians while he slept, is an apt similitude for Great Britain in its present hands. The Revolutionists may be as grashoppers for multitude, but among them there is not one man worthy to tie the shoes of a Reformer of the olden time. Is it not pitiful to behold the towers of the constitution of Great Britain falling, not amid the shout of battle, with valiant men dying in their defence,-not by lightning or tempest.-not by torrent or earthquake-but that multitudes of filthy vermin are burrowing under their walls, and undermining their foundations?
The present Ministry of Great