« PreviousContinue »
supplied, but there is something individual in the character or constitution of one mind, which never can be transferred to another."
The Court, perceiving the decline of Necker's popularity, began to attach less importance to his counsels; and this again re-acting upon the popular party, they no longer dreaded his influence. On the publication of the Red Book, Necker became the apologist of those who were implicated in the disclosure, although it was wholly unconnected with his Administration, and only exposed that of his adversary and predecessor, M. de Calonne. When the Convention passed the decree for abolishing titles of nobility, Necker not only advised the King to refuse his sanction, but even published a remonstrance against the edict at the moment when the enthusiasm for equality was omnipotent in France.
Necker's house having been menaced with destruction, Madame Necker became apprehensive for his safety; and as he had no longer a hope of being useful, he resolved to withdraw from the scene. He took his departure on the 8th of September 1790, having previously prepared a memorial on the depreciation of assignats, in which he announced, says Madame de Staël, the financial changes which afterwards took place: but he left his two millions in the Royal treasury, although he possessed a bond from the King which would have authorised him to reclaim them at pleasure; and although, as Minister of Finance, he possessed more facility than any other person for enforcing restitution.
"This last excess of generosity," says Madame de Staël, "has not escaped censure, and might almost be considered as a blameable imprudence, but for the reflection that my father wished to leave to his country a pledge of his Administration, and not to detach his fate from the destiny of France. It should also be observed, that although he had no other expectation than that his interest should be paid in paper money, it was repugnant to his character to admit the suspicion, that the principal of a debt so sacredly pledged, should be violated in the most perilous season of political agitation."
On his return to Switzerland, through Basle, Necker was stopped at Arcy sur Aube, and menaced with destruction at Vesoul, in consequence of the popular suspicion which libellous publications had excited against him. At length, however, he reached in safety his retreat at Copet. Thus retired Necker, as Turgot had done before him, with none of the stings of evil and baffled ambition rankling in his soul, but with the fond and benevolent hopes which he perhaps once entertained, of being able to save France, we should rather say, perhaps, the French monarchy, utterly and cruelly defeated.
In the foregoing rapid and imperfect sketch we have not drawn a parallel, but merely pointed out the, in some points, existing parallel between the state of France then, and that of England now. But here let that parallel cease. England, as she was once distinguished above all the contemporary nations of the modern world for political wisdom, will evince that wisdom now, by forbearing to render complete the analogy to which we have pointed. She will be wise in time; under the auspices of a Great Man who has, in a late event, evinced a firmness which the vacillating but honest Frenchman would not have displayed, she has approached a revolution-only to secure her
objects without one. With the pure intentions of Necker, Lord Grey has displayed that energy which makes pure intentions triumphant. Necker wished to save France, and Lord Grey has placed England in that position in which she can save herself. Yet to the man who thinks well of human nature, though sorrowing over human events, there is joy in the contemplation of two such statesmen as Necker and Turgot. Where, on the long and dark catalogue of her blood-stained statesmen, can France point to a name that, for purity of morals, for a union of all the virtues, of all the charities that adorn and hallow private life, can vie with theirs? absolutism produce one if they can. Let the champions of make his acquaintance. We shall be truly proud to The difficulty of producing such appears almost to justify the remark of Madame de Staël :
"What names stand opposed to each other in this cause? Louis XI. must be opposed to Henry IV.; Louis XIII. to Louis XII.; Richelieu to De l'Hôpital; Cardinal Dubois to M. de Malesherbes; and if we were to quote all the names preserved in history, we might assert, at a venture, that, with few exceptions, wherever we meet with an upright heart, or an enlightened mind, no matter in what rank of society, we shall there find a friend to liberty; while unlimited power has hardly ever been defended by a man of talent, and still less by a man of virtue."*
TO A GREEK GIRL WITH A LYRE.
As one who turneth from the face
Of his mother pale with tears,
I turn from thy familiar grace,
Thy spell is on my soul; I know,
Thou gentle Lyre, each charmed tone;
With thy soft voice to soothe my woe
Sweet Poesy! sometimes I curse
Thine arms my bosom folded round
The weary eyes of Grief have found
But take it, Lady, for
Will never more repine
From this sweet Lyre's voice to part,
So it be soothed by thine!
* French Revolution, i. 147.
THE COURT OF EGYPT. A SKETCH.
Two or three miles from Cairo, approached by an avenue of sycamores, is Shubra, a favourite residence of the Pasha of Egypt. The palace, on the banks of the Nile, is not remarkable for its size or splendour, but the gardens are extensive and beautiful, and adorned by a Kiosk, which is one of the most elegant and fanciful creations I can remember.
Emerging from fragrant bowers of orange trees, you suddenly perceive before you, tall and glittering gates rising from a noble range of marble steps. These you ascend, and entering, find yourself in a large quadrangular colonnade of white marble. It surrounds a small lake, studded by three or four gaudy barques fastened to the land by silken cords. The colonnade terminates towards the water by a very noble marble balustrade, the top of which is covered with groups of various kinds of fish in high relief. At each angle of the colonnade, the balustrade gives way to a flight of steps which are guarded by crocodiles of immense size, admirably sculptured and all in white marble. On the farther side, the colonnade opens into a great number of very brilliant banqueting-rooms, which you enter by withdrawing curtains of scarlet cloth, a colour vividly contrasting with the white shining marble of which the whole Kiosk is formed. It is a favourite diversion of the Pasha himself to row some favourite Circassians in one of the barques and to overset his precious freight in the midst of the lake. As his Highness piques himself upon wearing a caftan of calico, and a juba or exterior robe of coarse cloth, a ducking has not for him the same terrors it would offer to a less eccentric Osmanlee. The fair Circassians shrieking with their streaming hair and dripping finery, the Nubian eunuchs rushing to their aid, plunging into the water from the balustrade, or dashing down the marble steps, all this forms an agreeable relaxation after the labours of the Divan,
All the splendour of the Arabian Nights is realized in the Court of Egypt. The guard of Nubian eunuchs with their black glossy countenances, clothed in scarlet and gold, waving their glittering Damascus sabres, and gently bounding on their snow-white steeds, is, perhaps, the most picturesque corps in the world. The numerous Harem, the crowds of civil functionaries and military and naval officers in their embroidered Nizam uniforms, the vast number of pages and pipe-bearers, and other inferior but richly attired attendants, the splendid military music, for which Mehemet Ali has an absolute passion, the beautiful Arabian horses and high-bred dromedaries, altogether form a blending of splendour and luxury which easily recall the golden days of Bagdad and its romantic Caliph.
Yet this Court is never seen to greater advantage than in the delicious summer palace in the gardens of Shubra. During the festival of the Bairam, the Pasha generally holds his state in this enchanted spot, nor is it easy to forget that strange and brilliant scene. The banqueting-rooms were all open and illuminated, the colonnade full of guests in gorgeous groups, some standing and conversing, some
seated on small Persian carpets smoking pipes beyond all price, and some young grandees lounging in their crimson shawls and scarlet vests over the white balustrade, and flinging their glowing shadow over the moonlit water: from every quarter bursts of melody, and each moment the river breeze brought gusts of perfume on its odorous wings.
THE CREATION OF MAN.
BEFORE the creation of man ('tis a fable
Dame Care took a walk by the side of a river,
Till weary she sat herself down for a time;
The tide would have soon wash'd away the frail image,
The quarrel was this :-having made such a creature,
At length Jove proposed to refer it to Saturn:
Should be call'd (what a monstrous absurdity!)-MAN.
The ownership then was as stiffly disputed:
Dame Care wish'd for ever to make him her drudge;
"Man's but man," (said the father of Gods) "not immortal,
But his soul shall be Jove's when it enters his portal,
To this wise decree both the parties consented:
THE SUICIDE OF ST. VALLERY.
It was in a little village on the coast of Normandy, the village of St. Vallery, famous as the spot whence William the Bastard set sail for England, that I became acquainted, about a year ago, with an old man, who shared the solitude of that desolate spot with me. As we were the only dwellers in a small inn, and the only strollers along the wild sands, which are left dry, at low sea, across the whole of the bay or gulf in which St. Vallery stands, we became necessarily acquainted; nor, indeed, did the old gentleman shun the communion I sought to hold with him. His only attendant was a lame and aged man, who spoke French with a foreign accent, and bore, as the damsel of the auberge did not fail to din into my ears, the Russian name of Arnoff. There was that in the manners and carriage of the stately old man which bespoke a position in society above that which one might look for in a lonely sojourner in the solitary summer residence which, I confess, from motives of economy alone, I might perhaps say study, I had chosen. But even had his appearance been other than it was, his conversation, when it turned on matters of the world, would have convinced me that he had held no insignificant place there. He had travelled much-I might almost say everywhere-and it was on the subject of his voyages that I most relished his discourse. But his favourite themes were those of an abstract and philosophic nature, and some of our most animated discussions took place over a volume (which he found among my books) of my favourite Vico.
By degrees we got intimate, and as he darkly glanced at different passages of his past life, I frequently expressed, as broadly as I dared, the desire to become acquainted with it. He promised me that, one day ere I left St. Vallery, I should learn its history; and so, of a surety, the following narrative, hastily transcribed, was put into my hands one morning by Monsieur Arnoff.
"Of a wild and savage humour, fond of the silence of our vast forests of the solitude of our white wastes of snow-loathing confinement, and study which brought confinement, my parents, who would have broken me to the bit as a colt of our Cossack tribes, became my unrelenting persecutors. There was no cruelty tyranny can inflict, which, under the name of affection, I did not suffer; but my spirit was not to be tamed by blows, and the passions under which I had suffered correction settled at last into a deep aversion for the object to which it had been so fruitlessly applied. This feeling I returned with interest. One gentle being there was, however, for whose love, if Nature had given me no right to it, I would have suffered much. But the time came when I dreaded to approach, to smile on, to speak to this fair creature. She was my soul's enemy, and to her I seemed more savage than to the rest-she then shunned and shrank from me like all others. Still girt on all sides by an impenetrable, unnatural coldness, I was like one of those mountains covered with snow, whose entrails are travailed with unceasing fires. My bosom was a volcano, my youth a long delirium-a terrible conflict over my senses and my conscience: the latter triumphed, and I quitted the home of my fathers to wander over a stranger world.