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One of the chief attractions of the publication consists in its numerous lithographic embellishments, which are, in general, uncommonly well executed. We would mention, in particular, the heads of Queen Henrietta Maria, Charles I. as seated at his trial, Oliver Cromwell, and the Earl of Strafford, as very successful specimens of the art. The fac-similes of letters and other writings, with which it presents us, are not, however, we suspect, to be always implicitly relied upon, appearing as they do to have been taken by persons ignorant of the language they were copying, and not, therefore, conveying in every case what we may call the expression of the original hand-writing, even when they seem to represent the lines of which it is composed, with a tolerable fidelity. The volume, indeed, which in regard to both its embellishments and its typography, is a Parisian production, betrays its foreign origin throughout, by so many inaccuracies, arising evidently from that circumstance, as to detract very considerably from the value of the reprints for which its meritorious compiler has in other respects entitled himself to so much of our gratitude.
ART. III.-A Comparative View of the Social Life of England and France, from the Restoration of Charles II. to the French Revolution. By the Editor of Madame Du Deffand's Letters. 8vo. pp. 462. London: Longman. 1828.
IT would be difficult to find, in the whole range of subjects on which intellectual ingenuity can be employed, a more interesting one than that introduced by the work before us. The state of society is another expression for the happiness or misery, the morality or vice, of myriads of individuals. It comprehends the characters of thousands in the general idea of humanity, and their interests in that of an entire, undivided commonwealth. The explanation of its meaning, in all its various bearings, carries the mind into a vast field of inquiry; and the full understanding of it, is an introduction to the most important branches of moral and political science. The want of just views upon the different causes which affect the social system, is the most fruitful source of all the errors and follies into which the powerful and influential members of the community fall, when legislating for its various classes. Education is hence perverted in its most necessary operations; wealth is estimated according to a false moral arithmetic, and the force of the community employed on objects which are either unattainable, or if attainable, answer none of the important ends of social life. Let the real causes be studied which, from time to time, agitate to its foundations the fabric of society; let it be discovered to what we are to attribute the existing state of manners in a kingdom; the spirit of learning which imbues all its people with a certain liveliness and inquisitiveness of character; the contrary one of sensuality, which characterises a nation by its
unprogressive, but steady, overwhelming force; or the speculative boldness, and irritability of a commercial people; let the causes which successively give birth to these characteristic qualities of different nations, and different periods, be carefully traced, and data will be discovered for the most comprehensive and the most important propositions in the science of social government.
The difficulties of this study are many and various, and there are not many minds either endowed with sufficient patience, or possessing the logical acuteness which it requires. Though society be an aggregate of individuals, it is not by the means through which we acquire a knowledge of individual character, that its state, or fluctuations, can be discovered. The mineralogist may break a fragment from a large mineral mass, and confidently presume and examine it as a specimen of the whole. Whatever he learns of the fragment, he knows of the mass; and the results of his examination will be as sure as if he had the rock before him from which the specimen was broken. And if mankind, under the general terms which are made use of to designate large assemblies, were as uniformly the same in the properties of their constitution, the same use might be made of individuals in the study of society, as of specimens in the study of mineralogy. But this is not the case, and we are inclined to believe that the imperfect views which are taken of society, result from a radical mistake in the manner of conducting the inquiry. The greater number of reasoners on the subject form their opinions of society from the condition of a few individuals, whereas the general state of society should be learnt, its average prosperity and morality, to give us a probable notion of the condition of individuals, both known
There are but a very few men in every nation, whose opinions are strictly their own; and it is these few deep thinkers only, whose minds are not entirely dependent for support on those with whom they are associated. The rest are moulded by their relative position, cut by impulses received entirely from without, and are only intent upon internal objects. They receive impressions from every thing which passes before them, and if the impression be sufficiently strong, it is reflected upon other minds equally susceptible, and subjected to circumstance. It hence results, that not merely what is termed public opinion, but the idea of good, the notions of comfort and enjoyment, the standard of morality and honor are in each man's mind composed of notions which he would, in all probability, never have possessed, had he been left to the independent conclusions of his reason. That this would have been the case, we have good reason to suppose, from seeing that the few who think much, seldom or never place their desires on the objects which the great mass of mankind pursue; and that they as seldom conform to their habits and customs. That which is termed eccentricity, is the mere result of the mind's acting
according to its own conclusions. Fashion is the result of the mind's passive conformity to others, influenced by accidental
There is, therefore, a character belonging to society, which is as distinct as possible from that of the individuals composing it, and which is not to be defined by the same terms, or examined by the same rules. The former has infinitely less relation to the latter than it seems to have. It is usually supposed to be derived from it, to be, in fact, a vast accumulation of personal opinion, under all their various forms and combinations. But the character of society, and even that of a nation, is not derived from the people, but given to the people. It is not formed by their association, but consists of qualities added to it after its formation. It is the uniform colouring of an heterogeneous mass, or the varnishing of a picture, giving the same tone of shade, or brightness, to all its parts. From this national character, as at a common fountain, the individuals composing the society take those habits of thinking, those likings for particular modes of living, which give the appearance of a brotherhood, or one large family, to a nation. Did the state of society, or the national character, arise from the assemblage of a multitude of persons of various ages, habits, and dispositions, there could be none of this uniformity, for no bond but that of a common destiny, and that felt continually pressing and tightening, could insure it. But held together by this, being influenced and affected by the same general causes of prosperity or evil, the whole mass or assemblage of men is impressed with the same character, and made a community by the similarity of habits, as well as fears and hopes.
But while it is thus the colouring of the mass, and not of individuals, in which national character consists, the subject by no means loses any of its interest, as it respects the consideration of individual happiness or virtue. It is the general state and character of the people among which a man is born, that make his first chances of a good or evil condition. It is in incomparably the greater number of individuals the entire ground-work of their mental and moral constitution, for in nothing is the passiveness of the human intellect more evinced, than in its susception of these general impressions. But there is, in the investigation of this subject throughout, an essential distinction to be made, which cannot too constantly be borne in mind. National character is never to be confounded with the particular state of society at different periods. The former of these is of a fixed and permanent nature, being only gradually and slowly formed; and changing or receiving new modifications, only from the action of very powerful causes. The other is continually varying, yielding to the slightest impulse of circumstance, changing with every change of political system, modified by the genius of a few individuals, and becoming good or bad according to the occurrence of unforeseen
events. An Englishman, in the time of Cromwell, was the same in his national characteristics as an Englishman in the reign of Elizabeth, or in that of the second Charles. But manners and the state of society were as different as possible in those periods, the former being as it were the fixed centre of a continually moving circle.
The comparison which is instituted in the comparative view of the social life of England and France, between the state of manners in the one and the other country, during a certain period, presents us with many curious illustrations of this interesting subject. The period chosen by our author, is perhaps the most interesting that could have been fixed on, in the annals of the two countries, comprehending a view of the one nation as its manners settled after a great revolution, and of the other as it gradually approached the great catastrophe of its history. The writer expresses in his preface, some surprise that the countries, being so contiguous, should have so long been distinguished by the greatest dissimilarity of manners. We can see not the slightest cause for such a remark, had there been a much wider difference than we believe to have existed in the manners of the two people. At many times there is no doubt they have made great approaches to similarity, and the only real difference between them consisted in the radical and enduring qualities of a national character. But no difference has for many hundred years past existed between the state of society in England and France, so great as that in the social condition of the internal parts of the United Kingdom. The examination, consequently, of this subject becomes a much nicer and more difficult one than we think is apprehended. It is easy to say much on the difference of French and English fashions, but we imagine it is in the more evanescent, in the less palpable and more subtle differences of sentiment, that the same classes of people in the two nations have been most distinguished, or rather in regard to which it is more interesting to consider them. Thus in the time of Charles the Second, and in the corresponding reign of Louis XIV., there were some gross differences of manners, which are at once visible and known to every reader of history; but little profit can be derived from the knowledge; while by the examination of the less evident distinctions which then prevailed in the sentiments of the principal characters which figured on the two great stages, we have a wide field for interesting observation. The most convenient passage which occurs for our notice, in our author's observations on this period, is the following:
Except within the circle of Whitehall, no habitual intercourse of society seems to have taken place in London, even among those whom similarity of taste or disposition might have made agreeable to each other. Persons formally visited and received visits from their own family and connections only. No women frequented the court, or formed any part of its society, except those attached to the household of the royal family, or whose parents
or connections were employed by them; indeed, the Court and Country soon began to form two separate parties, which had very little in common
with each other. The differences observable in their manners, and habits of life, were most decided in every thing that related to female society. There can hardly be a stronger proof that women have never obtained any considerable influence on the national manners of England, than that even during the first popularity of a reign distinguished for its gallantry and devotion to women, the sex in general seem to have gained little or nothing on the score of social enjoyment. The mistresses of Charles acquired none of the consideration which he lost in their society: their venality made them despicable even to those who profited by it, and their example harmless to the rest of their sex. Lord Clarendon had forbidden his wife from visiting Lady Castlemain immediately after the Restoration, although her father Lord Grandison had been his friend. Pique, at this neglect, was supposed to have made her active among his enemies at the time of his dismissal from office.
Many families of high rank and opulent fortunes continued living exclusively in the country; satisfied with the advantages of their restored possessions, and with the amusements that their hounds, their horses, and their neighbours, afforded. To such persons, London exhibited few inducements to draw them from their dignified residences in the country; and the metropolis and its society could derive little brilliancy from their occasional presence.
All the old comedies are filled with the complaints of women against the dullness of their lives. Mrs. Hutchinson says, "her husband's design was to draw her into his owne country, but he would not set upon it too roughly, and, therefore, lett her rest awhile, when he had drawne her ten miles nearer it (to Richmond), out of the city, where she had her birth and education, and where all her rela ions were most conversant, and which she could not resolve to quitt, for altogether, to betake herself to the north, which was a formidable name among the London ladies."
'On the other hand, a journey to London was considered in times subsequent to those of which we are now speaking, as often involving in ruin, as well as ridicule, a country gentleman's family. The characters and the adventures of the Wrongheads, as first written by Sir John Vanburgh, in 1673, exhibit probably no very exaggerated picture. The pert conceit of Miss Jenny, and the low pursuits of Squire Richard, were to be found in many a mansion-house, in the distant counties, to the very end of the 18th century; and it may be doubted if the Lady Wrongheads, who believed that by imitating the vices of their superiors they assimilated themselves to their graces, are yet quite extinct.
The respectable part of the sex in general, even those of the highest rank, were unknown out of the circle of their own families and relations; where they were occupied entirely with the concerns of their household, the management of their affairs, and the establishment of their daughters. This last object was, indeed, pursued by very different means from those which have been deemed expedient by the no less attached mothers of later days. The marriages of the young nobility were then contracted much in the same manner that they continued to be, long after, in France. The proposal was first made, and agreed to by the parents, before the parties had any opportunities of becoming acquainted, or making themselves