صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

maintains that the interior of an English head may not unaptly be likened to one of Murray's Handbooks, which contains many facts and few ideas. But any passing indignation that may be roused by this comparison will abate on finding what sort of ideas he prefers to facts. After finding fault with John Stirling's letter (published by Carlyle) from the West Indies, describing a hurricane, for being a pure statement of facts, he says that the impression produced is the same if we consider in turn the journals, the reviews, and the oratory of the two nations. The special correspondent of an English journal is a sort of photographer that forwards proofs taken on the spot, and these are published unaltered.'. A French editor would deem himself bound to lighten them, to fling in some clever touches, 'to sum up the whole in a clear idea, embodied in a telling phrase.'

There is a French translation of. Eothen’in which M. Taine's theory is carried out. The translator, thinking his author deficient in enterprise or “slow,' has interwoven an affair of gallantry of his own invention, as if it formed part of the original work. This is what M. Taine would call supplying the deficiency of ideas. This deficiency (he says) is particularly remarkable in our English writers on classical antiquity. They are thoroughly versed in Greek, and they have made Greek verses from the time of leaving school :

• But, they are devoid of ideas, they know the dry bones (matériel) of antiquity, but are unable to feel its spirit; they do not picture to themselves its civilisation as a whole, the special characteristic of a southern and polytheistic spirit, the sentiments of an athlete, of a dialectician, of an artist. Look, for example, at Mr. Gladstone's extraordinary commentaries on Homer. Nor has Mr. Grote, in his great “ History of Greece," done anything more than write the history of constitutions and political debates.'

These are singularly ill-chosen illustrations. Mr.

Gladstone abounds in ideas : he revels in myths and theories : he is of speculation all compact. One of the finest and most distinctive features of Mr. Grote's History is his appreciation of the spirit of antiquity, and the strictly historical portion is surely not confined to constitutions and political debates. Can M. Taine have read either Mr. Gladstone or Mr. Grote ?

We strongly suspect that this is one of several instances (his criticism on English Painting is another) in which he has framed his conclusions by the à priori mode of reasoning, or by the rule of conditions and dependencies. But we part from him in perfect good humour, and (what is more) on the best possible terms with ourselves. We English are the least sensitive and consequently the most provoking nation upon earth. Populus me sibilat, at mihi plaudo. Although an exasperated public, in both hemispheres, may be crying shame on us for our selfish indifference or neutrality when thrones and presidential chairs are rocking and toppling, or half a continent is laid waste, we point complacently to our accumulated wealth, our boundless resources, our unshaken credit, our laws, our liberty, our flag on which the sun never sets, our timehonoured monarchy hedged round with time-honoured institutions, like the proud keep of Windsor with its triple belt of kindred and coëval towers. We listen with equal equanimity to reflections on our social habits or personal qualities, especially when the estimate is favourable upon the whole. So long as courage, firmness, energy, industry, fidelity, constancy, elevation of mind, and warmth of heart are conceded to us, M. Taine may expatiate as he thinks fit on the dulness of our Sundays, the humidity of our climate, our unidea'd fondness for facts, our unsentimental regard for duty, the clumsy boots of our women, or the portentous consumption of mutton and strong drinks by our men.

i We refer M. Taine to (amongst others) ch. xvi. “Grecian Myths ;' ch. xvii. · The Grecian Mythical compared with that of Modern Europe ;' ch. lxvii. “The Drama, Rhetoric, and Dialectics : the Sophists;' ch. lxviii. • Socrates.'




Histoire de Napoléon Iet. Par P. Lanfrey. Tome Premier

et Tome Deuxième Paris 1867. Tome Troisième, 1868. Tome Quatrième, 1870."

M. LANFREY'S · History of Napoleon ’is a book which, even in its unfinished state, cannot fail to inspire the highest respect for the author and the deepest interest in the trains of reflection which it suggests. Independently of its merits as a succinct, original, lucid and severely accurate summary of events, it vividly reproduces and helps to solve problems of incalculable importance to society. Is greatness hopelessly incompatible with goodness ? Must the brightest of mankind be invariably the meanest ? "The feather that adorns the royal bird supports his flight. Strip him of his

1 M. Lanfrey is at present French Minister Plenipotentiary for Switzerland. In a letter dated Berne, October 21, 1873, he writes to me: 'Je dois vous avouer en toute franchise que je ne me suis guère occupé de mon Histoire depuis deux ans. Ce n'est pas que la vie diplomatique me prenne beaucoup de temps. Mais au milieu des circonstances si critiques que traverse mon pays depuis 1870, les préoccupations du présent et de l'avenir ont fait tort aux études rétrospectives ; et j'avoue que je me suis senti peu de goût pour décrire les batailles du premier empire en présence des batailles beaucoup plus actuelles que nous avions à livrer chaque jour. Je préfère avoir laissé la tâche inachevée plutôt que de l'avoir terminée l'esprit distrait par de plus graves soucis. Nous avons maintenant des jours plus tranquilles, et je compte la reprendre avant peu, si toutefois la nouvelle restauration nous donne tous les loisirs qu'elle nous promet.' There is a touch of irony in this last sentence; for (without reference to his personal predilections) he did not expect the Restoration, if effected, to succeed.

plumage, and you fix him to the earth.' Is the plumage of soaring ambition made up of deceit, dissimulation, vain-glory, and false pretences ? Should we fix it to the earth by stripping off its feathers, or by weighting it with honour, probity, and truth?

Fielding leaves it to be inferred, if he does not actually maintain, that the only essential difference between Jonathan Wild and the conquerors who are popularly called “the great,' lay in the scale of their respective exploits, in the narrowness or boundlessness of the field on which the common faculty for mischief and lust of rapine was displayed. Nor, if Jonathan had not committed the mistake of getting hanged, is it by any means clear to our minds that he would have failed to command a considerable amount of admiration from the modern school of hero-worshippers, whose sole criterion of merit is success. With them, the means or instruments are little or nothing: the results everything. In their eyes, it is comparatively immaterial whether the coveted celebrity, elevation, or aggrandisement is attained, by appealing to the noblest or the basest feelings, by the unbought suffrages of the wise and good, or by flattering and corrupting the foolish and the bad

* Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo.' Let the aspirant only climb or creep to the highest. pinnacle, let him become the enslaver of his country or one of the arbiters of the world's destiny, and he receives full absolution for the past. He has done no wrong : he can do none. Let him, on the other hand, be checked, like Washington, by patriotism or public virtue, and he is relegated at once to the second or third rank of greatness ; if, indeed, he is admitted to be in any sense great. Cæsar, Cromwell, and Napoleon are the three self-raised men, the three architects of their own fortunes, who have filled the largest space in history. Neither of these was ever troubled by a

« السابقةمتابعة »