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follow inevitably that a large part of their readers were sceptics also. For they became illustrious, precisely because they were the faithful interpreters of the thoughts and feelings which had already been born, or were struggling into life, in the minds of their contemporaries. Their popular acceptance and their fame were earned by that fidelity. They would have inculcated Pyrrhonism in vain, and would have been unrewarded by the laurel in any land, of which the prevailing tendencies were not already Pyrrhonic. They gave to those tendencies a strength and a decision, which would have been unattainable without their aid; but though they fostered, they did not create them. 'That scepticism has long been among the natural characteristics of Frenchmen, I infer, not merely from the general tone of so much of their literature, but also from that peculiarity of it which French critics make their boast. It bears, as they very truly say, constant witness to the national passion for abstract ideas. That passion, indeed, animates not their books only, but their discourses in the senate, in the pulpit, and at the bar. It takes possession of their clubs, and even of their private society. No aspirant after wit or wisdom in France can make good his pretensions, unless he knows how to scale the transcendental peaks of philosophy. To this species of the sublime they are ever ready to sacrifice even the beautiful. The fine mental sense of Greece (where the love of beauty was a national and universal instinct) would have rejected, with unutterable scorn, those supersensuous embellishments with which Frenchmen, especially in our own times, rejoice to adorn their poetry, their history, and their rhetoric. For in truth, such ornaments are as cheap and vulgar as they are unbecoming. Any man of common intelligence may be easily trained to any legerdemain of the understanding to the making of abstractions, for example, as easily as to the making of jokes, or the making of verses. The production of apophthegms is a hard task to him, and to him only, who allows himself to utter no words, without both a definite meaning and a profound conviction of the truth of what he says. The throes and labours of a long life preceded the birth of each of the sayings for which as many of the sages of Greece bave been immortalized. But the writer of the newspaper which lies on your breakfast table at Paris is never without his pearls of superlative wisdom to scatter over his account of yesterday's review or opera.
'Whence then is this national habit of quitting the solid earth for the hazy clouds? It is nothing else than the love of that 'provisional doubt' in which these aeronauts find their pleasure and their glory. By the aid of these metaphysical juggleries of words, they sublimate, darken, and dissolve all doctrines, even without the express and formal contradiction of any. They live in a region of half-meanings, or of no meaning,-in a state of contented, though perhaps unconscious scepticism. Wedded to no political opinions, but dallying with all, they pass, in a few brief years, through all the phases in which political society has ever exhibited itself amongst men, though
never lacking 'pure ideas' with which to polish periods, and to darken counsel, about each.
The France of the last sixty years has, indeed, been in a state of chronic and unnatural distortion. But her intellectual habits were not, and could not have been, essentially different when the hill and gardens of Ste. Geneviève were thronged with the disciples of Abélard, or when the booksellers' shops were besieged by purchasers of the Gargantua, or when the ladies of Versailles were writing Cartesian letters. The enthusiastic popularity of their sceptical teachers has, from age to age, been at once the effect and the cause of that state of the national mind, of which we may read the results in every page of their national history. That history everywhere depicts a people gallant, gay, ingenious, versatile, and ardent beyond all rivalry and all example. But it also sets before us a race more destitute than any other of profound and immutable convictions, and, therefore, less capable than any other of a steady progress in the great practical science of constitutional government,-a people who are, at one time, the sport of any demagogue who can veil his selfish ambition under the cant of pure ideas;' and, at another time, the victims of any despot who may be strong enough to trample both the ideologists and their verbal science under his feet. To have induced, or cherished, this mental temperament is, I believe, the well-founded reproach of the 'Pyrrhonic succession' in France.'-pp. 271-275.
But if Sir James has his cautions for those who believe too little, so has he for those who believe too much—or with so little of modest self-distrust as to be disposed to take upon them the airs of the infallible:
The Mystic and Quietist literature of France was pre-eminently devout both in its tone and in its design; but it propagated those views to which may be ascribed the massacre of the Albigenses and of the Huguenots. It contributed more powerfully than any other teaching to annihilate, in the minds of men, that modest self-distrust, by which the uplifted arm may be arrested before it falls in vengeance on those who dissent from our opinions. It fostered what I have before called the pride of belief-the pride of him who, believing that his own soul is a mirror reflecting the eternal verities of the Divine intellect, considers it impious to doubt his own infallibility. The stories of the Albigensian crusade, and of the wars of religion, are, indeed, so revolting, that the reader of them is reconciled to his own nature only by the remembrance that crimes so unparalleled had their basis rather in the illusions of the human heart than in its malignity. Those crimes, however, have not been without their penalties. The royal exterminators of the heretics were elevated by their destruction to an absolute and despotic power over every class and variety of their subjects. Those literary teachers, whose mysticism scattered the too prolific seeds of those persecutions, were therefore, in effect, the most fatal of all enemies to the growth of constitutional liberty in France.
Nor is it possible to exempt the great author of the Institution Chrétienne, and the 'Ergoists,' who acknowledged in him their intellectual progenitor, from their share of the responsibility for the failure of sound principles of government amongst the French people. His book furnished the premises of which his Presbyterian scheme of Church government in France was the practical consequence. As we formerly saw, it was a polity founded on principles as purely democratic as were proclaimed in the States-General, either by Marcel or by Mirabeau. Calvin was one of the 'grands organisateurs' of France; and, in common with almost the whole of that class of French statesmen, he placed himself much more under the guidance of logic than of those other habits, or powers of the human mind, to which less ambitious statesmen render, not indeed an exclusive, but a willing, homage. He reasoned with inexorable precision, and as he reasoned so he acted. To compare things utterly dissimilar in every other respect, his Institution Chrétienne, and the Ecclesiastical Economy to which it gave birth, tallied with the revolutionary declaration of the 'rights of man,' and the constitutional act which followed it. In either case the logic was invulnerable, and in each the scheme was impracticable. In either case the design was to advance the cause of freedom, and in each the result was to render that cause utterly hopeless.
'In his study at Geneva, Calvin seems to have forgotten the real condition of the people, and of the government of his native land. Perhaps he believed that his disciples would be strong enough to obtain the mastery of that government. If so, it was an entire and a fatal mistake. He established an ecclesiastical democracy in a land in which political freedom had not so much as a nominal existence, and in which the vast majority were the willing subjects of a spiritual despotism. No man could reason more closely, and no man could divine the future more unskilfully. No vision of such a monarch as Richelieu presented itself to his foresight. He did not foresee that, by asserting the independence of the Presbyterian Church, he was raising up against it a mortal enemy in the first great statesman who might be strong enough to assert the supremacy of the Crown over all the other institutions of France. He fell into the error so habitual to almost all French reformers, of sacrificing the practical to the theoretical, and of squandering all which might have been secured, in the vain hope of at once grasping everything which could be desired. I therefore place him and his followers amongst those whose writings contributed to the growth of absolute power in France; because he, and they in obedience to his lessons, presented to the French kings, and especially to Richelieu, the greatest of them all, an antagonist which at once provoked and justified their hostility.'-pp. 278-280.
This witness is true; so may men err through the mysticism. which owns no logic; and so may they err through logic, when divorced from a due regard to the practical. From the period when the French monarchy became consolidated and ascendant,
SUBSERVIENCY OF LITERATURE TO ABSOLUTISM.
its great policy, as will be supposed, was to discountenance all political discussion. Singularly destitute, accordingly, of works of that nature, is the literature of France, from the age of Francis I. to the close of the reign of Louis XIV. How it was managed, not only to prevent the great authors of France from touching on political speculations, but to degrade them to the level of worshippers before the absolutist power of the throne, is thus explained:
'As Francis, and Charles, and Leo, and Julius, and Lorenzo had assigned science, and poetry, and painting, and architecture, and sculpture, as their appropriate provinces, to those great master-spirits of Italy, to whom they forbade the culture of political philosophy, so Louis, when he interdicted to the gigantic intellects of his times and country all intervention in the affairs of the commonwealth, summoned them to the conquest of all the other realms of thought in which they might acquire renown, either for him, for France, or for themselves. The theatres, the academies, the pulpits, and the monasteries of his kingdom rivalled each other in their zealous obedience to that royal command, and obeyed it with a success from which no competent and equitable judge can withhold his highest admiration. At this day, when all the illusions of the name of Louis are exhausted, and in this country, where his Augustan age has seldom been regarded with much enthusiasm, who can seriously address himself to the perusal of his great tragedians, Corneille and Racine-or of his great comedians, Molière and Régnard-or of his great poets, Boileau and La Fontaine -or of his great wits, La Rochefaucauld and La Bruyêre-or of his great philosophers, Des Cartes and Pascal-or of his great divines, Bossuet and Arnauld-or of his great scholars, Mabillon and Montfaucon or of his great preachers, Bourdaloue and Massillon-and not confess that no other monarch was ever surrounded by an assemblage of men of genius so admirable for the extent, the variety, and the perfection of their powers.
'And yet the fact that such an assemblage were clustered into a group, of which so great a king was the centre, implies that there must have been soine characteristic quality uniting them all to each other and to him, and distinguishing them all from the nobles of every other literary commonwealth which has existed amongst men. What, then, was that quality, and what its influence upon them?
'Louis lived with his courtiers, not as a despot among his slaves, but as the most accomplished of gentlemen among his associates. This social equality was, however, always guarded from abuse by the most punctilious observance, on their side, of the reverence due to his pre-eminent rank. In that enchanted circle men appeared at least to obey, not from a hard necessity, but from a willing heart. The bondage in which they really lived was ennobled by that conventional code of honour which dictated and enforced it. They prostrated
themselves before their fellow-man with no sense of self-abasement, and the chivalrous homage with which they gratified him, was considered as imparting dignity to themselves.
'Louis acknowledged and repaid this tribute of courtesy, by a condescension still more refined, and by attentions yet more delicate than their own. The harshness of power was so ingeniously veiled, every shade of approbation was so nicely marked, and every gradation of favour so finely discriminated, that the tact of good society that acquired sense, which reveals to us the impression we make on those with whom we associate-became the indispensable condition of existence at Versailles and Marly. The inmates of those palaces lived under a law peculiar to themselves; a law most effective for its purposes, though the recompence it awarded to those who pleased their common master was but his smile, and though the penalty it imposed on those who displeased him was but his frown.'-pp. 286-288.
The manner in which patronage of this nature gave its impress to the whole style of authorship in those times, is most felicitously given in the paragraphs which follow.
'The men of letters, to whom a place was assigned in the court of Louis, were nearly all plebeians, but were rescued by the king from the social degradations to which their rank might otherwise have exposed them. The graces and the elegance which they witnessed in his circle, were not only adopted in their own personal address and manners, but were transferred into their writings. To please, and to rise by pleasing, became the great ends of literary, as they were of fashionable, existence. Men of genius sought to please in the republic of letters, as they had learned to please among the aristocratic companions of their princes. They ascended to literary power by the arts which, in that age, conducted the nobles of the land to power in the state. They aimed at creating a profound interest by their writings, without ever provoking a painful excitement. Their books were redolent of the same graceful ease, by which they had themselves been charmed in the intercourse of the privileged classes. They exhibited, as authors, the same gaiety of spirit which they had seen diffusing, through that elevated circle, the transient sense of equality, so indispensable to all true social enjoyment. Having learnt, in the brilliant companies which thronged the royal salons, how mighty is the force of ridicule, they assumed, in their literary character, all the weapons, offensive and defensive, by which the assaults of that great aristocratic power may be either pointed or repelled. Diligent students of the conventional code of manners, they became familiar with all the signals beneath which it commands the polished few to rally, and with all the penalties which it denounces against the unpolished many, who are heedless or unconscious of that rallying cry. Minds born to grapple with the loftiest contemplations were thus too often engaged with the most trivial. They were but too apt to study the superficial aspect of society, to the disregard of its inward state and of its outward tendencies. They investigated the specific man more than the generic man,