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information, their want of order, their irrelevancies, their diffuse and inaccurate style, their shallow speculations, and the modern frippery with which they have often disfigured the grand and grave thoughts of our ancestors. It is pleasant to feel ourselves in a clear atmosphere; to know that we are in the company of men who will not deceive us, and who, if they are nothing else, are at least frank and kind-hearted. Our eulogy may be considered as a little hyperbolical ; probably it is so; for we are ourselves conscious of a defect in the faculty of discrimination; we shall however leave the reader to correct it for himself. In the mean time we may refer, by way of a few illustrations of what we have said, to the articles on witchcraft, on Las Casas, on the memoir-writers of the time of Charles II., on the poems of Quarles and Southwell, on Archbishop Laud, (a paper which deserves to be noticed as a model of genuine liberality,) and above all to a critique on the inimitable fiction of Peter Wilkins ; a paper to which we cannot give higher praise, than that it is almost sufficient to redeem the name of critic from contempt.
The subject is an extensive one; but we have already broken our promise of brevity, and shall therefore conclude with a tribute of deserved praise to the individual to whom the original conception of the work, as well as its entire organization, is due; who, in spite of discouragement and difficulties, without pecuniary support, unaided by local or party reputation, by the patronage of the great, or the favour of literary coteries, has undertaken, and conducted to
fixed and lasting reputation, a work which rested its sole claims to success on the good taste and patriotic feeling of the public. It is seldom that the basis of any literary reputation has been so honourably laid, founded on such laudable exertions, and so totally independent of all unworthy arts.
HONORÉ-GABRIEL Riquetti de Mirabeau was born at Bignon, near the town of Nemours, on the 9th of March, 1749. His father was Philippe, or, according to others, Victor Riquetti, Marquis de Mirabeau ; his mother Louise Riquet de Caraman, grand-daughter of Riquet, the constructor of the canal of Languedoc.
He lived forty-two years, in which period he underwent every species of persecution, was accused of every sort of crime, thrown into prison seventeen times by virtue of as many lettres-de-câchet, procured chiefly by his own father, tried, condemned, exiled, executed in effigy. He tasted the sweetness and the bitterness of every individual stream which flows from the fountain of human
passion ; he gave the immediate impulsion to a mighty revolution ; he created and directed the dominant opinions of twentyfive millions of men for two years together, by the single magic of intellectual superiority; he was hated, and feared, and courted by antagonist factions ; he triumphed over every obstacle, and avenged himself of every enemy; he died an exhausted debauchee, a professed Atheist, amidst the tears and groans of thousands, in the bosom of an immense popularity; and representative France bore him the first to his tomb within that splendid monument, which she had raised in gratitude to the lovers of their country !
France has not equalled England in poetry, science, or philosophy; but in nothing has she come so far short of this island as in political knowledge and in political virtue. In contact with Hampden and Lord Chatham, Mirabeau is nothing; the moral grandeur of their characters is not even understood by Frenchmen. Indeed we have no right to make the comparison, or at least to draw conclusions from it unfavourable to either party. The efforts of scientific men of different countries may
be estimated because there exists a common rule by which to measure them ; but political science, if not in its fundamental principles, yet certainly in the process of superstructure and in the details of administration, is a thing confined by bounds of time and place, and receives its colour and habit, its form and pressure, from national facts and from national circumstances. Every thing therefore that is not within the direct reach and agency of an immutable principle may be affected by external relations ; a line of administrative policy may be as right in one country as it would be wrong in another; and political forces may be equally powerful as applied to different objects, although very disproportionate if actually brought into mutual collision. Statesmen are in one point of view actors on a more extended stage; they may gain an equal ascendency over their respective audiences, although they may approach at unequal distances some common standard of abstract perfection, if such were to be found : Garrick and Talma have no doubt different claims to the merit of strict excellence, yet are they each of them incontestably the Roscius of his country. No man ever mastered the reason and the passion of all classes of people with such certainty and such steadiness as Mirabeau ; he led a mob or an assembly by different means, but with equal facility ; he wielded the democracy with one hand, and could and would, if time had been given him, have wielded the aristocracy with the other; he hit his countrymen between wind and water; he was for a season the intellectual Dictator of France.
A man gifted with great natural talents, possessed practically of almost every kind of knowledge, stimulated by a passionate temper and an ambitious spirit, was, during the twenty years immediately preceding the meeting of the States-General, driven, as it were, by moral necessity to add himself to the mighty and still increasing multitude of those who afterwards effected the Revolution. By a fatality exactly parallel to that observable in the times of Charles I., the vices of the French government had become more and more outrageous in proportion as the nation grew more enlightened in detecting and more sensitive in resenting their consequences. The march of public opinion from the Regency had been regular; from the accession of Louis XVI. it had been rapid: the American war gave it a tone of republicanism, and the notorious embarrassment in the finances opened a theatre for its operation. Approaches were made through the doors of the treasury; the executive system was reconnoitred and invested ; its real weakness was discovered to bear an inverse relation to its apparent omnipotence; the probable resistance was such as to excite enthusiasm and to enhance the glory of success; the conquest itself was certain, and the spoils both for individuals and for the nation beyond calculation immense. Mirabeau participated in these speculations to the fullest extent; he had lived in England, read the English history, and studied the English constitution ; he was profuse and wanted wealth ; he was ambitious and coveted power; he was vain and panted after renown. But Mirabeau had also injuries to revenge; the most golden years of his life he had wasted away in prisons, a victim sometimes to his own crimes, but more frequently to the unnatural persecution of a peevish father : he had meditated deeply on the iniquity of a system which authorized such tyranny, and he had inflicted two severe blows upon it by the publication of his Essai sur le Despotisme, and his work Sur les Lettres-deCâchet. He lived to destroy both the one and the other. It cannot be doubted but that much of his political conduct at the close of his career was the result of the indignant animosity, which the gloomy walls of a dungeon had cherished in his youthful breast; and M. Bodin is harsh but substantially correct, when he says, that Mirabeau was “ enthousiaste de la liberté, puisqu'il avait du genie; ambitieux, parcequ'il était corrompu ; ennemi implacable de l'arbitraire, parcequ'il avait été à la Bastille.”
But it was not alone in denouncing the depravities of a decrepit and profligate government that Mirabeau employed his powerful pen, and endeavoured to animate the solitude of a prison. The future leader of the National Assembly was the most successful of lovers and the most accomplished of correspondents; the Lettres à Sophie are dated from the donjon of Vincennes. They are eloquent, lascivious, sophistical, without the finished elegance of Rousseau, but more vigorous and more true to the workings of unregenerate nature. It is a matter of some interest to see the style of decency which had become ordinary in the intercouse of French society; it is true, Madame de Monnier was now the mistress of Mirabeau ; yet it is difficult to understand how a man of rank could write letters which are actually obscene, to a beautiful and intellectual woman of the same quality, who asks him questions about natural religion, and Young's Night Thoughts. Some of these epistles are of the stamp of those in the Liaisons Dangereuses. Others contain in the midst of the most deliberate efforts of a corrupting sophistry, remarks which show that their author had probed the weaknesses and the subtleties of the human heart to their lowest depth.
“ L'amour et l'amitié," says he, 66 s'excluent l'un l'autre.' Again, “ Il est des pertes auxquelles on ne doit pas s'accoutumer ; et lorsqu'on ne peut plus faire tout le bonheur de ce qu'on aime, on en doit faire le malheur : disons la vérité même, on le veut; et ce sentiment délicat, quoiqu'on en puisse dire, est dans la nature d'un tendre amour. Il est vrai, il est très-vrai, très-exact, que dans une grande passion, on aime sa maîtresse ou son amant plus que soi-même, mais non pas plus que leur amour ; on peut tout sacrifier-que dis-je ? on désire tout sacrifier, excepté la tendresse de l'objet aimé !" The following passage is in every sense, both bad and good, worthy of Rousseau. The Marchioness had expressed some scruples as to the nature of her connexion with Mirabeau ; there was double adultery in the case, and she felt uneasy at the possible judgment of the world upon the morality of her conduct. Her lover reassures her thus : “L'amour, s'il n'est extrême, est honteux et coupable. L'honneur proscrit tout plaisir qui n'est point appelé par la passion, comme une honteuse lubricité; mais jamais le sentiment n'est lascif, et la femme la plus chaste peut être très-voluptueuse, si elle aime. Je l'ai dit mille fois : jouir n'est pas corrompre. () ma charmante amie ! la vertu ressemble aussi peu à ce qu'on nomme ordinairement ainsi, qu'au vice même; la véritable vertu ne dépend point du caprice des mortels, des illusions fanatiques, des diverses spéculations des moralistes, des dogmes, des rites, des temps, des lieux, des sexes ; elle consiste dans un cour droit, sensible, sincère, et dans l'exercice de toutes ses facultés. L'honneur prescrit à une femme de n'avoir qu'une amant, de se respecter en lui, d'être fidèle à ses sermens, incapable de légèreté, et même en ce sens d'inconstance. L'honneur proscrit tout plaisir auquel l'amour ne préside pas ; mais lorsque la sensibilité aiguise les sens, pourquoi réprouverions-nous les mouvemens impérieux de la nature ? les sensations sont-elles moins son ouvrage que les sentimens ?”
At least therefore the advocate of such a theory of honourable love was faithful, devoted, in earnest_hear his profession :-“ Jamais parjure ne souilla ma bouche; jamais l'idée de te tromper ne déshonora mon âme. Tout ce que je t'ai dit de mon amour, tout ce que je t'en ai caché, tout ce que tu en as senti, tout ce que tu en as deviné, est également vrai, profond, inalterable, éternel ; il survivra à mes forces, à mes désirs, et les délires de mon imagination ne sont que ton moindre triomphe. Crois-tu que ce soit une femme ordinaire qui ait remporté sur moi une pareille victoire ?”. Poor Sophie ? she believed, and where is the woman who would not have believed, the sincerity of such language; she thought no perfidy of a man for whom she had thrown away her honour, her fortune, her rank, her liberty, and regretted not the sacrifice. Yet Sophie was deceived; her lover was not true; the wife of the governor of the château, and a French princess, who subsequently met with a bloody end in the tempests of the Revolution, shared his heart at this very time; he wrote similar letters to each of them, made similar protestations of ardent attachment, and probably was equally believed by them. But time was still heavy on his hands, and he dived deeper for further entertainment; besides, he wanted money to purchase the commonest necessaries of life; his stockings had no feet; his coat was in rags, and he had but one pair of breeches. He compiled an encyclopedia of obscenity; in it he recorded every species of development of lust; he described every modification of practical impurity, which the brutal propensities and perverted imaginations of man have invented, and he published this book under the title of Erotica-Biblion- as if love had aught in common with such nameless abominations ! as if love, the manifestation of every energy, the enkindling of every virtue, the consummation of human being, could breathe the same air, could co-exist in the same space with that foul spirit which hardens the heart, which narrows the intellect, which debases the conscience !
Ergone tam nihil est Hymnenæi pura voluptas,
Commixtæque animæ, et sincerum nectar Amoris ! * In December, 1780, Mirabeau recovered his liberty, and went to reside with his father. Sophie was still a prisoner, with no hope of release but in the courage and dexterity of her lover. He did not fail her; he procured an impression of the keys of the convent: false ones were made and conveyed to the unwilling nun: the hour was fixed for her
and he was stationed near the walls of the building to ensure her safety afterwards ; but in vain; the plan was discovered, the abbess warned, Sophie arrested in the act of flight, and Mirabeau himself had scarcely time to secure himself by a precipitate retreat.
He now tried another mode, and it was that in which he was most calculated to succeed. He was under sentence of death for contumacy, as the ravisher of Madame de Monnier. He went to Pontarlier
* One of Mirabeau's friends wrote to him thus:-“ La nécessité ne doit point obliger un homme á se manquer de respect à lui-même, et ce n'est pas du poison qu'il faut vendre pour avoir du pain."