Page images

have been conceded to private companies, which should be exercised only under the direct authority of the state, or under regulations enforced by effective superintendence and control.

"But, on the other hand, the public interest would require that they should be bound by such conditions, and held subject to such well-considered regulations and effective control, as shall secure to the country at large the full benefit and accommodation of this admirable system.

"The practice hitherto followed in England has been almost the very reverse of that which we here recommend. No preliminary steps are taken on behalf of the public, to ascertain whether the proposed railroad be well adapted to its specific object, or calculated to form a part of a more general system. The best and the worst devised schemes are entertained alike, being equally exposed to opposition, and left equally unprotected against the difficulties which interested parties may raise up against them." "Should the parties succeed in obtaining a favorable report, they are usually empowered to proceed, and to hold the work, as any other description of private property, subject to little or no external regulation or control. Hence are they enabled to establish a monopoly, in the most extensive sense, and to keep the intercourse of the country entirely at their command. The rate of speed, the choice of hours for departing, the number of journeys in the day, rest at their discretion; and as they have the unlimited right of fixing the charges for the conveyance both of passengers and goods, they then have an opportunity of repaying themselves, not only for the legitimate costs of constructing and maintaining the railway, but for all the heavy expenditure incurred, either through their own extravagance, or in consequence of the various impositions practised upon them. Thus, every item of unnecessary expense falls eventually upon the public.

"Sanguine anticipations have been formed of the advantages, already enumerated, of rapidity, facility, frequency, and economy, which this mode of communication is unquestionably calculated to afford. But it will depend greatly upon the will of the railway companies, as at present constituted, to what extent such expectations shall be realised. With respect to the first of those advantages, that of rapidity, it is known that as the speed increases, the expenses increase in so high a proportion, that it may be apprehended there will be a strong temptation to bring down the velocity to a rate not much exceeding the best public conveyances which the railway will have superseded. Next, as to facility of communication, the existence of separate companies along the same line, without a provision to regulate and enforce their co-operation, may be productive of the greatest inconvenience; and it is already exemplified in the most important line in the kingdom— that from London to Liverpool. It is a matter of notoriety, that a junction of the two lines, near Birmingham, might readily have been effected, and by that means the inconvenience and delay of transferring goods and passengers avoided. It has been avowed by certain companies, that it is their intention not to run their carriages on a Sunday. If they exercise such a power, it will be tantamount to locking the turnpike-gates on common roads; for, although most Acts allow individuals to run their own carriages, VOL. VII.-No XIV.

2 T

and even their own locomotives on railways, this privilege is only allowed subject to the approval and regulations of the company. Scarcely, under any circumstances, does it appear to us that an individual could take advantage of such permission; but it is evident, that while accompanied by the condition we have named, it becomes wholly inoperative, as a remedy for any inconvenient regulation which a company may think it right to enforce. Lastly, as to economy; it may, without fear of contradiction, be stated, that the practice hitherto followed leads necessarily to the highest possible rates of charge. The expenses, which are generally excessive, of obtaining the sanction of Parliament; the exorbitant payments frequently extorted as compensation, or to buy off a vexatious opposition; the superfluous and wasteful profusion often displayed in the construction of the work itself, all concur to demand a large return from the public; which the proprietors, as carriers, being unrestricted as to the rates of charge, will not fail to enforce. And they will the less scruple to do so, because competition, the usual remedy against a disregard of the public accommodation, would be ruinous, and can, in such cases, be rarely resorted to.

"We ventured, in our first report, to point out the probable consequences of confiding such unrestricted powers to private and irresponsible individuals; as regards the conveyance of the mails, these have already begun to manifest themselves; but they are trifling when compared with the serious evils, which, we fear, must inevitably result from such improvident concessions. We believe that railway travelling will continue to maintain a superiority over that which it has superseded; but there is reason to fear that it will be far below what the country might have derived under better regulations; when this is perceived and understood, the satisfaction which is now felt, will give way to discontent and complaint, and retrospective legislation will supply but a partial and imperfect remedy.

"It might be well to look to the proceedings of other countries, in reference to this important matter. In France the main lines have been laid out under the immediate direction of the government, and the conditions made known, on which private companies will be empowered to construct and work them. America, as might be expected, from its separate and independent jurisdictions, has proceeded less systematically; but the several States have, in general, become shareholders to a large amount, and have thus acquired great influence in the direction of the railways undertaken within their respective limits.

"In England alone, the main lines of communication have been committed to the direction of individuals, almost unconditionally, and without control. We believe this has arisen, in a great measure, from the suddenness with which this invention burst upon the country, and the imperfect view which has as yet been taken of its extraordinary power, as well as of the extent to which the public interests are involved in its just application and management."-pp. 96, 97.

The same questions, then, which the French legislature is called upon to decide, may arise in the British parliament on the subject of Irish Railways; and the House of Commons

may have to inquire, whether the government ought to undertake the works on its own account or to encourage the formation of companies, by loans, privileges, or guarantee? whether the execution ought to be conducted by government officers or private engineers? whether (at least the question has arisen in France, though it hardly could in Ireland) the army may be employed on public works with advantage? and how far the government can exercise, on behalf of the public, a salutary control over the undertakings of private enterprise. These are novel questions in a matter of no small difficulty; and the experiments of our French neighbours may, we hope, prove of some use in their solution.


The Congress of Verona: comprising a portion of Memoirs of his own Times. By M. DE CHATEAUBRIAND. 2 vols. 8vo. : London, 1838.

Congrès de Vérone. Guerre d'Espagne. Négociations: Colonies Espagnoles, par M. DE CHATEAUBRIAND. Paris, 1838.


2 tom.

IF any of our readers should take the trouble to compare the extracts which in the course of our observations on the new work of M. de Chateaubriand we shall have occasion to make, with the corresponding passages in the translation, they will perceive that we have, in many instances, departed from the text of the English version; and we think it right to explain the motives which have induced us to adopt that course. The writings of the author of the Génie du Christianisme are too well known in this country to require from us any exposition of the peculiarities of what we cannot but consider his very defective style; we look upon M. de Chateaubriand as the most eminent example of that extremely bad taste, too prevalent among the writers of the modern French school, which appears to prohibit the expression of any idea, however common-place or insignificant, in a simple intelligible manner. For this reason we are bound to make, and we do make, considerable allowances for his translator, as the task

of rendering his "prose run mad" into readable English will never, even in the most competent hands, be an easy one; but there are qualifications the want of which is not to be excused in any one who ventures to publish translations of historical works; and it will not be thought an unreasonable pretension if we say that we would absolutely require in the translator of works of that class some acquaintance, at the least, with geography and with history; some familiarity with the idiom of the foreign language, and capacity to understand the meaning of the original, whenever, as sometimes happens even to M. de Chateaubriand, the author may chance to express himself in no very affected or mysterious phraseology. With these truly moderate qualifications we regret to say that the author of the present translation does not appear to be provided; and, as we do not like to make charges of this kind without producing authorities, we shall postpone for awhile our observations upon the work, in order to show, by a casual selection from the first hundred and fifty pages, the grounds upon which we have been compelled to adopt our conviction of the incapacity of the translator.

At page 24 we find in an account of the constitution of the Cortes these words, "The King was declared in"violable; the Catholic religion the only religion of the "state; and the constitution could not be altered except with "the concurrence of three successive legislators." This is nonsense; but the word in the original is législatures; and thus the meaning, we should think, is sufficiently obvious. In the next page we have the following specimen of the fidelity of the translation; the simple words "La constitution de Cadix mécontenta tout le monde" are rendered "the constitution of Cadiz did not satisfy every one, though all submitted, &c." A little further on we are informed that Riego, after attending a banquet, "repaired to the theatre, where he was re"ceived with acclamations. The audience rose and com"menced singing 'the Tragala.' He was dismissed from the

army and the Lorenzini club was closed." It was not the audience but Riego himself who sang the Tragala: "il est reçu avec des acclamations, il se lève et entonne la Tragala ;" here is not a word about audience, and it would not have been quite so reasonable, in those days of popular agitation, to

have dismissed the General because the audience of a theatre chose to sing the revolutionary stanzas.

At page 46 we find an account of one of the king's chaplains being sentenced to ten years of the galleys for some offence against the new order of things; but this punishment being deemed too lenient by the populace they condemned the priest to death, and carried their sentence into execution by striking him on the head with a hammer. In relating this event M. de Chateaubriand observes that the populace are apt to imagine that sovereignty consists in the exercise of mere force, "La plèbe qui prend la souveraineté pour la force des bras," and this very simple phrase the translator has tortured into a statement, that the populace, on that particular occasion, "held sovereign sway by the force of arms."

"On one side were the royal troops and on the other the "militia and troops of the line, encamped face to face with "true canicular ardour, swords drawn and matches lighted," (translation page 62); "à l'ardeur de la canicule," in the heat of the dog-days, are the words of the original. "Strabo does not even record the name of Pompey," p. 64; "Strabon estropie (mutilates) en l'écrivant jusqu'au nom de Pompée." These blunders would be sufficient to prove our case; but there are others of so amusing a kind that we cannot resist the temptation of exposing a few of them.

The translator has chosen to represent a certain M. Cugnet de Montarlot as no less a personage than the author of the famous proclamations of the Emperor Napoleon to his troops. "Riego, who held a command in Aragon, connected himself "with a French officer, named Cugnet de Montarlot, who had "been prosecuted in France. He had been a lieutenant-ge"neral in the service of Napoleon, and was the author of the "famous proclamations of the emperor to his troops." The author never intended to represent this gentleman in any such light; his words are "et redacteur, en qualité de lieutenantgénéral de Napoleon, de proclamations à nos soldats ;" de, the indefinite article, and not des, the definite one; author of some proclamations to our soldiers, that is of proclamations to the French soldiers then invading Spain, issued with a view to seduce them from their allegiance to the Bourbons. We cannot imagine how any body could have fallen into this ludicrous

« PreviousContinue »