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THE WORKS OF HANNAH MORE.
minated the age of Louis XIV. Nay, in that
with the talents of others, but laboured right
Observations on the age of Louis XIV. and on
Ir in the present work we frequently cite
But it is not enough for writers, who wish to promote the best interests of the great, to expose vices, they should also consider it as part of their duty to strip off the mask from false virtues, especially those to which the highly born and the highly flattered are peculiarly liable. To those who are captivated with the shining annals of the ambitious and the magnificent; who are struck with the glories with which the brows of the bold and the prosperous are encircled; such calm, unobtrusive qualities as justice, charity, temperance, meekness, and purity, will make but a mean figure; or, at best, will be I considered only as the virtues of the vulgar, not as the attributes of kings. While in the portrait of the conqueror, ambition, sensuality, oppression, luxury, and pride, painted in the least offensive colours, and blended with the bright tints of personal bravery, gayety, and profuse liberality, will lead the sanguine and the young to doubt whether the former class of qualities, can be very mischievous, which is so blended and lost in the latter, especially when they find that hardly any abatement is made by the historian for the one, while the other is held up to admiration.
There is no family in which the showy qualities have more blinded the reader, and sometimes the writer also, to their vices, than the princes of the house of Medici. The profligate Alexanrence, is declared by one of his historians, Sander, the first usurper of the dukedom of Flodoval, to be a person of excellent conduct; and treme licentiousness, yet he says, he won the though the writer himself acknowledges his exFlorentines by his obliging manners:' those Florentines whom he not only robbed of their freedom, but dishonoured in the persons of their wives and daughters; his unbounded profligacy Another writer, speaking of the house of Medici not even respecting the sanctity of convents! But whatever other countries may do, England collectively, says, their having restored knowat least is able to look back with triumph to ledge and elegance will, in time, obliterate their ages anterior to that which is exclusively deno-faults. Their usurpation, tyranny, pride, perfidy,
vindictive cruelty, parricides, and incest, will be remembered no more. Future ages will forget their atrocious crimes in fond admiration!* Ought historians to teach such lessons to princes? Ought they to be told that knowledge and elegance' cannot be bought too dear, though purchased by such atrocious crimes ?-The illustrious house of Medici seems to have revived in every point of resemblance, the Athenian character. With one or two honourable exceptions, it exhibits the same union of moral corruption, with mental taste; the same genius for the arts, and the same neglect of the virtues; the same polish and the same profligacy; the same passion for learning, and the same appetite for pleasure; the same interchange of spectacles and assassinations; the same preference of the beauty of a statue to the life of a citizen.
So false are the estimates which have ever been made of human conduct; so seldom has praise been justly bestowed in this life; so many wrong actions not only escape censure, but are accounted reputable, that it furnishes one strong argument for a future retribution. This injustice of human judgment led even the pagan Plato, in the person of Socrates, to assign, in an ingenious fiction, a reason why a judgment after death was appointed. He accounts for the necessity of this, by observing, that in a preceding period each person had been judged in his lifetime and by living judges. The consequence was, that false judgments were continually passed. The reason of these unjust decisions, he observes, is, that men being judged in the body, the blemishes and defects of their minds are overlooked, in consideration of their beauty, their high rank, or their riches; and being also surrounded by a multitude who are always ready to extol their virtues, the judges of course are biassed; and being themselves also in a body, their own minds also are darkened. It was therefore determined, that men should not be called to their trial till after death, when they | shall appear before the judge, himself a pure ethereal spirit, stripped of that body and those ornamental appendages which had misled earthly judges. The spirit of this fable is as applicable to the age of Louis XIV. as it was to that of Alexander, in which it was written.
tion exhaust, and adulation subject; but the delights of beneficence will be always new and refreshing. And there is no quality in which a prince has it more in his power to exhibit a feint resemblance of that great being, whose representative he is, than in the capacity and the love of this communicative goodness.
But, it is the perfection of the Christian vir. tues, that they never intrench on each other. It is a trite remark, yet a remark that requires to be repeated, that liberality loses the very name of virtue, when it is practised at the expense of justice, or even of prudence. It must be allowed, that of all the species of liberality, there is not one more truly royal than that which fosters genius and rewards letters. But the motive of the patron, and the resources from which his bounty is drawn, must determine on the merit of the action. Leo X. has been extolled by all his historians as a prodigy of generosity; a quality, indeed, which eminently distinguished his whole family but the admiration excited by reading the numberless instances of his munificent spirit that in remunerating men of talents, will receive a great drawback, by reflecting, he drew a large part of the resources necessary for his liberality from the scandalous sale of indul gences. This included not only selling the good works of the saints, (of which the church had always an inexhaustible chest on hand,) over and above such as were necessary to their own salvation. To any affluent sinner who was rich enough to pay for them; not only a full pardon for sins past and present of the living offender, but for all that were to come, however great their number or enormous their nature.*
The splendid pontiff earned an immortal fame in the grateful pages of those scholars who tasted of his bounty, while by this operation of fraud upon folly, the credulous multitude were drained of their money, the ignorant tempted to the boldest impiety, the vicious to the most unbounded profligacy, and the measure of the iniquities of the church of Rome was filled up.
But Louis XIV. carried this honourable generosity to an extent unknown before. He bestowed presents and pensions on no less than sixty men of the most eminent talents and learning in different countries of Europe. One is sorry to be compelled, by truth, to detract from the splendour of such liberality, by two remarks. In the first place, it is notorious, that the bounty originated from his having learned that cardinal Richelieu had sent large presents to many learned foreigners, who had written panegyrics on him. Who can help suspecting, that the king, less patient or less prudent than the cardinal, was eager to pay beforehand for his own anticipated panegyrics? Secondly, who can help regretting, that the large sums thus liberally be. stowed, had not been partly subtracted from the expense of his own boundless self-gratifications, which were at the same time carried on with a
Liberality is a truly loyal virtue, a virtue too, which has its own immediate reward in the delight which accompanies its exercise. All wealth is in order to diffusion. If novelty be, as has been said, the great charm of life, there is no way of enjoying it so perfectly as by perpetual acts of beneficence. The great become insensible to the pleasure of their own affluence, from having been long used to it: but, in the distribution of riches, there is always something fresh and reviving; and the opulent add to their own stock of happiness all that their bounty bestows on others. It is pity, therefore, on the mere score of voluptuousness, that neither Vitellius nor Eliogabalus, nor any of the other imperial gourmands, was ever so fortunate as to find out *This munificent pope, not contented with supplying this multiplied luxury of eating with many his relations by setting them up in the same lucrative his own wants by this spiritual traffic, provided also for mouths at once.'-Homage must satiate, intem-commerce. His sister Magdalen's portion was derived perance will cloy, splendor will fatigue, dissipa*Noble's memoirs of the illustrious house of Medici. † See Guardian, No. 27.
from the large sphere assigned her for carrying on this merchandize; her warehouse was in Saxony. More distant relations had smaller shops in different provinces, i for the sale of this popular commodity.
invite our readers to their perusal; and, indeed, a criticism on his philosophical and innumerable miscellaneous writings, pestilential as their general principle is, would be foreign from the present purpose, as there is little danger that the royal pupil should ever be brought within the sphere of their contamination. I shall therefore confine myself to a very few observations on his character of the monarch, in the work under consideration; a work which is still most
profusion without example? For Louis was contented with bringing into action a sentiment which Nero even ventured to put into words, that there was no other use of treasure but to squander it. Who can forget that this money had been extorted from the people, by every impost and exaction which Colbert, his indefatiga. ble minister, himself a patron of genius, could devise? How ineffectually does the historian and eulogist of the king labour to vindicate him on this very ground of profusion, from the im-likely to be read, and which, notwithstanding puted charge of avarice, by strangely asserting, that a king of France, who possesses no income distinct from the revenues of the state, and who only distributes the public money, cannot be accused of covetousness! an apology almost as bad as the imputed crime. For, where is the merit of any liberality which not only subtracts nothing from the gratification of the giver, but which is exercised at the positive expense of the public comfort ?*
Colbert has been even preferred to Sully, for his zeal in diminishing peculation and public abuses. But though Colbert was a very able minister, yet there was a wide difference between his motives of action and those of Sully, and between their application of the public money. But, even the profuseness of the extortioner Fouquet, in squandering the revenues of the state as freely as if they had been his own private property, is converted by Voltaire into a proof of the greatness of his soul, because his depredations were spent in acts of munificence and liberality; as if the best possible application of money could atone for injustice or oppression in the acquisi. tion of it!
its faults, perhaps, best deserves a perusal-His age of Louis the fourteenth.
In summing up the king's character, he calls his unbounded profligacy in the variety of his mistresses, and the ruinous prodigality with which they were supported, by the cool term of weakness. Voltaire again does not blush to compliment a sovereign, whose life was one long tissue of criminal attachments, with having uniformly observed the strictest rules of decency and decorum towards his wife.' His rancour against the Jansenists; his unjust ambi tion and arbitrary temper; his wars, which Voltaire himself allows to have been undertaken without reason;' his cruel ravaging of the Palatinate with fire and sword, and its wretched inhabitants driven from shelter to woods and dens, and caves of the earth; his bloody persecution of the protestants; these he calls by the gentle name of littleness; not forgetting, in the true modern spirit of moral calculation, to place in one scale his admired qualities of whatsoever class, his beauty, valour, taste, generosity, and magnificence; and to throw into the other, his crimes and vices, which being assumed to be In how different a mould was the soul of Gus-only littlenesses and weaknesses, it is no wonder tavus Adolphus cast! and how much more cor- if he glories in the preponderance of his virtues rect were the views of that great king as to the in the balance. true grounds of liberality! As brave a warrior as Charles XII. without his brutal ferocity; as liberal as Louis, without his prodigality; as zealous a patron of letters as Henry VIII. without his vanity!-He was, indeed, so warm a friend to learning, that he erected schools, and founded universities, in the very uproar of war. -These he endowed, not by employing his ministers to levy taxes on the distressed people, not by exhausting the resources of the state, meritorious as was the object to be established; but by converting to these noble institutions, almost all his own patrimonial lands of the house of Vasa.
Against the principles of Voltaire, it is now scarcely necessary to caution the young reader: His disgrace has become almost as signal as his offences; his crimes seem to have procured for his works their just reprobation. To enter on a particular censure of them, might be only to
By thus reducing a mass of mischief into al most impalpable frailties, and opposing to them with enthusiastic rapture, qualities of no real solidity, he holds out a picture of royalty too alluring to the unformed judgment of young and ardent readers, to whom it ought to be explained, that this tinsel is not gold, that les bienseances are not virtues, and that graces of manner are a poor substitute for integrity of heart and rectitude of conduct.
By the avowal of the same author, it was in the very lap of pleasure, when all was one unbroken scene of joy, when life was one perpetual course of festive delight, masked balls, pageants, and spectacles, that the Palatinate was twice laid in ashes, the extermination of the Protest. ants decreed, and the destruction of Holland planned.-The latter, not by the sudden ardour of a victorious soldiery, but by a cool deliberate mandate, in a letter under the king's own hand.
Voltaire has expressed his astonishment that these decrees, which he himself allows to have been cruel and merciless,' should proceed from the bosom of a court distinguished for softness of manners, and sunk in voluptuous indulgences. We might rather wonder at any such expres
*The person who now holds the reins of government in a neighbouring nation, is said successfully to have adopted similar measures. He early made it his studious care to buy up the good report of authors and men of talents, knowing mankind well enough to be assured, that this was the sure and immediate road to that fame for which he pants. Near spectators instantly detect the fallacy; but strangers, as he foresaw, would mission of astonishment in so ingenious a writer,
take the adulation of these bribed witnesses for the ge
neral opinion; the assertion of the declaimer for the sentiment of the public. Accordingly the sycophantry of the journalist has been represented as the voice of the people.
were we not well assured, that no acuteness of genius can give that deep insight into the human heart, which our religion alone teaches, in teaching us the corruption of our nature; much
less can it inspire the infidel with that quick. In considering the character of Louis XIV. in
ness of moral taste, which enables the true disciples of Christianity, to appreciate, as if by a natural instinct, human characters.
It is indeed obvious to all who have sound views of religion, and a true knowledge of mankind, that this cruelty, so far from being inconsistent with, actually sprung from that very spirit of voluptuousness, which, by concentrating all feeling into self, totally hardens the heart to the happiness of others.-Who does not know that a soul dissolved in sensual pleasure, is naturally dead to all compassion, and all kindness, which has not fame, or interest, or self-gratifi. cation, for its object? Who are they of whom the prophet declares, that they are not moved by the affliction of their brethren ?'-It is they 'who lie in beds of ivory, that chant to the sound of the viol, that drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with ointments.' Selfishness was the leading charge brought by the apostle against the enemies of religion. It stands foremost in that catalogue of sins assigned by him as the mark of the apostate times, that men should be lovers of their ownselves.
the foregoing chapter, we are led by the imposing appellation of THE GREAT, which has been conferred on this monarch, to inquire how far a passion for shows and pageants; a taste for magnificence and the polite arts; a fondness for war, the theatre of which he contrived to make a scene of the most luxurious accommodation; together with a profuse and undistinguishing liberality, entitled Louis to that appellation, which would seem to imply the possession of all the heroic qualities, of which he appears to have been utterly destitute.
We are aware that the really heroic virtues are growing into general disesteem.-The age of chivalry is gone! said a great genius of our own time; one who laboured, though with less effect, to raise the spirit of true chivalry, as much as Cervantes had done to lay the false. 'The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone !'*
minant a principle, especially among the rich and luxurious, that it gives the mind an uneasy sensation to look up to models of exalted and disinterested virtue. Habits of indulgence cloud the spiritual faculties, and darken those organs of mental vision which should contemplate truth with, unobstructed distinctness. Thus, in characters which do not possess one truly heroic virtue, superficial qualities are blindly adopted as substitutes for real grandeur of mind.
Selfishness is scarcely more opposite to true religion than true gallantry. Men are not fond of establishing a standard so much above ordiBut even without this divine teaching, Vol-nary practice. Selfishness is become so predotaire might have been informed by general history, of which he was not only an universal reader, but an universal writer, of the natural connection between despotism and licentiousness. The annals of all nations bear their concurrent testimony to this glaring truth. It would be endless to enumerate exemplifications of it from the melancholy catalogue of Roman emperors. Nero, who claims among the monarchs of the earth the execrable precedency in cruelty, was scarcely less pre-eminent in volup- But, in pursuing our inquiry into the claims tuousness. Tiberius was as detestable for pro- of those princes who have acquired the title of fligacy at Caprea, as infamous for tyranny at THE GREAT, many difficulties occur. It requires Rome. In the history of the Mohammedan not only clearness of sight, but niceness of posikings, barbarity and self-indulgence generally tion to enable us to determine.-Perhaps the bear a pretty exact proportion to each other. fifty years which the church of Rome wisely Sensuality and tyranny equally marked the cha- ordained should elapse, before she allows inquiracter of our eighth Henry. Shall we then won-ries to be made into the characters of her inder, if, under Lewis, feasts at Versailles, which eclipsed all former splendour, and decorations at Trianon and Marli, which exhausted art and beggars invention, were the accompaniments to the flight, despair, and execution of the Hugonots? So exactly did luxury keep pace with intolerance, and voluptuousness with cruelty.
Even many of the generally admired quali ties of Louis, which assumed the air of more solid virtues, were not sterling. His resolution and spirit of perseverance were nothing better than that obstinacy and self-sufficiency, which were the common attributes of ordinary characters. Yet, this pride and stubbornness were extolled in the measure they were persisted in, and in proportion to the evils of which they were the cause: and his parasites never failed to elevate these defects to the dignity of fortitude, and the praise of firmness.
Farther observations on Louis XIV. An examination of the claims of those princes who have obtained the appellation of "the great."
tended saints, previous to their canonization, pass away to an opposite purpose in the case of ambitious princes; and the same period which is required to make a saint would probably unmake a hero, and thus annul the posthumous possession of that claim, which many living kings have put in for the title of the great.
From all that we are able to collect of the annals of so obscure a period, it must be allowed, that the emperor Charlemagne appears to have had higher claims to this appellation, than many on whom we have been accustomed to bestow it. But, while this illustrious conqueror gallantly defeated the renowned pagan prince and his Saxons; while he overthrew their temples, destroyed their priests, and abolished their wor
*We cannot pass over the brilliant passages of Mr. Burke, of which this is a part, without hazarding a censure on the sentiment which closes it. He winds up the paragraph by asserting, that under the old system, 'vice itself lost half its evil by losing all its grossness. Surely one of the great dangers of vice is its attractiveness. Now, is not grossness rather repulsive than attractive? So thought the Spartans, when they exposed their drunken slaves to the eyes of their children. Had Mr. Burke said, that those who add grossness to it make it
more odious, it would have been just. Not so, when he declares that its absence mitigates the evil
ship; while he made kings in one country, and, laws in another; while he seems to have governed with justice, as well his hereditary realms as those which he obtained by the sword; while, in a subsequent engagement with the same pagan prince, he not only obtained fresh conquests, but achieved the nobler victory of bringing his captive to embrace Christianity, and to become its zealous defender; while he vigorously executed, in time of peace, those laws which he enacted even in the tumult of war; and while he was the great restorer and patron of letters, though he could not write his name; and while as Alfred is the boast of the English for having been the founder of their constitution by some of his laws, so the French ascribe to Charlemagne the glory of having suggested, by those learned conferences which he commanded to be held in his presence, the first idea of their academies of sciences and letters; while he seemed to possess the true notion of royal magnificence, by employing it chiefly as a political instrument; and though, for his various merits, the ancient Romans would have deified him, and the French historians seem to have done little less :-yet, this destroyer of paganism, this restorer of learning, this founder of cities, laws, schools, colleges, and churches, by the unprovoked murder of near five thousand Saxons, for no other crime but their allegiance to their own legitimate prince, must ever stand excluded, by the Christian censor, from a complete and unqualified right to the appellation of the great; a title to which the pretensions of our Alfred, seem to have been, of all princes, the least questionable.
in the cabinet, no ambassador to a foreign court, no governor of a province, whose abilities were inadequate to the trust reposed in him.' Yet, the grandeur of Charles, consisted entirely in the capacity of his mind, without any consonant qualities of the heart. And it was the misfortune of this renowned politician and warrior to fail of the character of true greatness alike when he pursued, and when he renounced human glory; to err, both when he sought happiness in the turmoil of war and politics, and when he at last looked for it, in the quiet shelter of religious retreat. In the latter, his object was indeed far more pure; but his pursuit was almost equally mistaken. In the bustling scenes of life, he was sullen, cruel, insidious, malignant; the terror of mankind by his ambition, the scourge of protestantism by his intoler. ance. In his solitude he was the tormentor of himself, by unhappily mistaking superstitious observances for repentance, and uncommanded austerities for religion.
Who can figure to himself a more truly pitiable state, than that of a capacious mind, which, after a long possession of the plenitude of power, and an unbounded field for the indulgence of ambition, begins to discover the vanity of its loftiest aims, and actually resolves to renounce its pursuits, but without substituting in its stead any nobler object, without replacing the discarded attachment with any better pursuit, or any higher hope? To abandon what may almost be called the empire of this world, without a well-grounded expectation of happiness in the world to come! To renounce the full-blown honours of earthly glory, without any reasonable hope of that glory which fadeth not away; this perhaps is, of all human conditions, that which excites the deepest commiseration in the bosom of a Christian!
Nor can we dismiss the character of Charlemagne, without producing him as a fresh instance of the political mischief arising from the private vices of princes. The licentiousness of this monarch's conduct, proved an irreparable injury to the state, the number of natural children which he left behind him, being the occa-pondency and misery experienced by great, but sion of long contentions respecting the division of the empire,
In not a few respects the emperor Charles V. possesses a considerable claim to the name of great, while yet there is an invincible flaw in his title. So eminent in the field as to have equalled the most skilful, and to have vanquished the most successful generals of his age.So able in the cabinet, that he formed plans with as much wisdom, deliberation, and foresight, as he afterwards executed them with promptitude and vigour; and constantly manifesting a pru. dence which secured his superiority over his pleasure-loving contemporaries, the unguarded Francis, and the jovial Henry. But his principal claim to greatness arises from that species of wisdom, which his admirable historian allows him to have possessed in the highest degree; that science, which of all others, is the most important in a monarch, the exact know. ledge of mankind, and the great art of adapting their talents to the departments which he allotted them. So that he employed,' continues Robertson, 'no general in the field, no minister
See the extraordinary account of Charlemagne's
There are few things which more strikingly evince the value of true religion than the des
perverted minds, when after a long and successful course of ambition, they are thus brought to a deep feeling of its emptiness. Alexander weeping for more worlds! Dioclesian weary of that imperial power, which had been exercised in acts of tyranny and persecution; abdicating his throne, and retiring to labour in a little garden at Salona forgetting that solitude requires innocence to make it pleasant, and piety to make it profitable! And though the retreat was voluntary, and though he deceived himself in the first moments of novelty, by de claring that he found more pleasure in culti vating cabbages, than in governing Rome; yet, he soon gave the lie to this boast, by terminat. ing his life in a way more congenial to the manner in which it had been spent, by poison, or madness, or, as some assert, by both!-The emperor Charles, after having, for a long series of years, alarmed and agitated Europe by his restless ambition, yet, just when its objects were accomplished, flying to a gloomy retreat, devoting himself to severe austerities, and useless self-discipline, and mournfully acting the weak, but solemn farce of his own living funeral!
splendid reception of the ambassadors from the emperor these great, but misguided princes, Charles How does the reflecting mind regret that
of the East.