Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

1849.]

highest degree; and if we see in them much | which we in England cannot altogether understand, and which we are accustomed to stigmatize with the emphatic epithet "French," there is much also in them which candor must respect, and an equitable spirit admire.

The great thing which characterizes these memoirs, and is sufficient to redeem a multitude of vanities and frailties, is the elevated and chivalrous spirit in which they are composed. In this respect they are a relic, we fear, of the olden time; a remnant of those ancient days which Mr. Burke has so eloquently described in his portrait of Maria Antoinette. That is the spirit which pervades the breasts of these illustrious men; and therefore it is that we respect them, and forgive or forget many weaknesses which would otherwise be insupportable in their autobiographies. It is a spirit, however, more akin to a former era than the present; to the age which produced the crusades, more than that which gave birth to railways; to the days of Godfrey of Bouillon, rather than those which raised a monument to Mr Hudson. We are by no means convinced, however, that it is not the more likely to be enduring in the future ages of the world; at least we are sure it will be so, if the sanguine anticipations everywhere formed, by the apostles of the movement of the future improvement of the species, are destined in gree to be realized.

any

de

Although, however, the hearts of Chateaubriand and Lamartine are stamped with the impress of chivalry, and the principal charm of their writings is owing to its generous spirit, yet we should err greatly if we imagined that they have not shared in the influences of the age in which they lived, and become largely imbued with the more popular and equalizing notions which have sprung up in Europe during the last century. They could not have attained the political power which they have both wielded if they had not done so; for no man, be his genius what it may, will ever acquire a practical lead among men unless his opinions coincide in the main with those of the majority by whom he is surrounded. Chateaubriand's earliest work, written in London in 1793-the Essai Historique is, in truth, rather of a republican and skeptical tendency; and it was not till he had traveled in America, and inhaled a nobler spirit amid the solitudes of nature, that the better parts of his nature regained their ascendency, and his fame was established on an imperishable foundation by the

publication of Atala et René, and the Génie
du Christianisme. Throughout his whole
career, the influence of his early liberal prin-
ciples remained conspicuous; albeit a royal-
ist, he was the steady supporter of the free-
dom of the press and the extension of
the elective suffrage; and he kept aloof
from the government of Louis Philippe less
from aversion to the semi-revolutionary
spirit in which it was cradled, than from an
honorable fidelity to misfortune and horror
at the selfish, corrupt multitude by which it
was soon surrounded. Lamartine's republi-
can principles are universally known: albeit
descended of a noble family, and largely im-
bued with feudal feelings, he aided in the
revolt which overturned the throne of Louis
Philippe in February, 1848, and acquired
lasting renown by the courage with which
he combated the sanguinary spirit of the
Red Republicans, when minister of foreign
Both are chivalrous in heart and
affairs.
feeling, rather than opinions; and they thus
exhibit curious and instructive instances of
and
the fusions of the moving principle of the
olden time with the ideas of the present,
of the manner in which the true spirit of
nobility, forgetfulness of self, can accommodate
itself to the varying circumstances of society,
and float, from its buoyant tendency, on the
surface of the most fetid stream of subsequent
selfishness.

In two works recently published by La-
martine, Les Confidences and Raphael, cer-
tain passages in his autobiography are given.
The first recounts the reminiscences of his
infancy and childhood; the second, a love-
story in his twentieth year. Both are dis-
tinguished by the peculiarities, in respect of
excellences and defects, which appear in his
other writings. On the one hand we have an
ardent imagination, great beauty of language,
a generous heart-the true spirit of poetry
and uncommon pictorial powers. On the
other, an almost entire ignorance of human
nature, extraordinary vanity, and that suscep-
tibility of mind which is more nearly allied
to the feminine than the masculine character.
Not but that Lamartine possesses great ener-
gy and courage: his conduct, during the
revolution of 1848, demonstrates that he
possesses these qualities in a very high de-
gree; but that the ardor of his feelings leads
him to act and think like women, from their
impulse rather than the sober dictates of
reason.

He is a devout optimist, and firm believer in the innocence of human nature, and indefinite perfectibility of mankind, under the influence of republican institutions

Like all other fanatics, he is wholly inaccessible to the force of reason, and altogether beyond the reach of facts, how strong or convincing soever, Accordingly, he remains to this hour entirely convinced of the perfectibility of mankind, although he has recounted, with equal truth and force, that it was almost entirely owing to his own courage and energy that the revolution was prevented, in its very outset, from degenerating into bloodshed and massacre; and a thorough believer in the ultimate sway of pacific institutions, although he owns that, despite all his zeal and eloquence, the whole provisional government, with himself at its head, would on the 16th April have been guillotined or thown into the Seine, but for the determination and fidelity of three battalions of the Garde Mobile, whom Changarnier volunteered to arrange in all the windows and avenues of the Hotel de Ville, when assailed by a column of thirty thousand furious revolutionists.

Chateaubriand is more a man of the world than Lamartine. He has passed through a life of greater vicissitudes, and been much more frequently brought into contact with men in all ranks and gradations of society. He is not less chivalrous than Lamartine, but more practical; his style is less pictorial, but more statesmanlike. The French of all shades of political opinion agree in placing him at the head of the writers of the last age. This high position, however, is owing rather to the detached passages than the general tenor of his writings, for their average style is hardly equal to such an encomium. He is not less vain than Lamartine, and still more egotistical, a defect which, as already noticed, he shares with nearly all the writers of autobiography in France, but which appears peculiarly extraordinary and lamentable in a man of such talents and acquirements. His life abounded with strange and romantic adventures, and its vicissitudes would have furnished a rich field for biography even to a writer of less imaginative powers.

He was born on the 4th September, 1768the same year with Napoleon-at an old melancholy chateau on the coast of Brittany, washed by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. His mother, like those of almost all other eminent men recorded in history, was a very remarkable woman, gifted with a prodigious memory and an ardent imaginatiom-qualities which she transmitted in a very high degree to her son. His family was very ancient, going back to the year 1000, but, till illustrated by Francois Rene, who has rendered it immortal, the Chateaubriands lived in

|

unobtrusive privacy on their paternal acres. After receiving the rudiments of education at home, he was sent at the age of seventeen into the army; but the Revolution having soon after broken out, and his regiment revolted, he quitted the service and came to Paris, where he witnessed the horrors of the storming of the Tuileries on the 10th of August, and the massacre in the prisons on 2d September. Many of his nearest relations-in particular his sister-in-law, Madame de Chateaubriand, and sister, Madame Rozambowere executed along with Malesherbes, shortly before the fall of Robespierre. Obliged now to fly to England, he lived for some years in London in extreme poverty, supporting himself by is pen. It was there he wrote his earliest and least creditable work, the Essai Historique. Tired of such an obscure and monotonous life, however, he set out for America, with the Quixotic design of discovering by land journey the North-west passage. He failed in that attempt, for which, indeed, he had no adequate means; but he dined with Washington, and in the solitudes of the Far West imbibed many of the noblest ideas, and found the subjects of several of the finest descriptions, which have since adorned his works. Finding that there was nothing to be done in the way of discovery in America, he returned to England. Afterward he went to Paris, and there composed his greatest works, Atala et Rene and the Génie du Christianisme, which soon acquired a colossal reputation, and raised the author to the highest pinnacle of literary fame.

Napoleon, whose piercing eye discerned talent wherever it was to be found, now selected him for the public service in the diplomatic line. He gives the following interesting account of the first and only interview he had with that extraordinary man, in the saloon of his brother Lucien :

"I was in the gallery when Napoleon entered; his appearance struck me with an agreeable surdistance. His smile was sweet and encouraging; prise. I had never previously seen him but at a his eye beautiful, especially from the way in which it was overshadowed by the eyebrows. He had no charlatanism in his looks, nothing affected or theatrical in his manner. The Génie du Christianisme, which at that time was making a great deal of noise, had produced its effect on Napoleon. A vivid imagination animated his cold policy; he would not have been what he was, if the muse had not been there; Reason, in him, worked out the ideas of a poet. men are composed of two natures-for they

All great

must be at once capable of inspiration and ac- | untarnished by the weaknesses which so tion-the one conceives, the other executes. "Buonaparte saw me, and knew me I know not how. When he moved toward me, it was

[ocr errors]

not known whom he sought. The crowd opened, every one hoped the First Consul would stop to converse with him; his air showed that he was irritated at these mistakes. I retired behind those around me. Buonaparte suddenly raised his voice, and called out, Monsieur de Chateaubriand!' I then remained alone, in front; for the crowd instantly retired, and re-formed, in a circle, around us. Buonaparte addressed me with simplicity, without questions, preamble, or compliments. He began speaking about Egypt and the Arabs, as if I had been his intimate friend, and he had only resumed a conversation already commenced betwixt us. 'I was always struck,' said he, when I saw the Scheiks fall on their knees in the desert, turn toward the east, and touch the sand with their foreheads. What is that unknown thing which they adore in the east? Speedily, then, passing to another idea, he said, Christianity! the Idealogues wished to reduce it to a system of astronomy! Suppose it were so; do they suppose they would render Christianity little? Were Christianity only an allegory of the movement of the spheres, the geometry of the stars, the esprits forts would have little to say; despite themselves, they have left sufficient grandeur to l'Infame.'*

[ocr errors]

6

Buonaparte immediately withdrew. Like Job in the night, I felt as if a spirit had passed before me; the hairs of my flesh stood up. I did not know its countenance; but I heard its voice like a little whisper.

"My days have been an uninterrupted succession of visions. Hell and heaven continually have opened under my feet, or over my head, without my having had time to sound their depths or withstand their dazzling. I have met once, and once only, on the shores of the two worlds, the man of the last age, and the man of the new-Washington and Napoleon-I conversed a few moments with each-both sent me back to solitude--the first by a kind wish, the second by an execrable crime.

"I remarked, that, in moving through the crowd, Buonaparte cast on me looks more steady and penetrating than he had done before he addressed me. I followed him with my eyes.

Who is that great man who cares not For conflagrations?"-(Vol. iv. 118-121.) This passage conveys a just idea of Chateaubriand's Memoirs: his elevation of mind, his ardent imagination, his deplorable vanity. In justice to so eminent a man, however, we transcribe a passage in which the nobleness of his character appears in its true lustre,

*Alluding to the name l'Infame, given by the King of Prussia, D'Alembert, and Diderot, in their correspondences, to the Christian religion. + Dante.

We allude to his courageous throwing down often disfigure the character of men of genius. the gauntlet to Napoleon, on occasion of the murder of the Duke d'Enghien:

6

"Two days before the fatal 20th March, I dressed myself, before taking leave of Buonaparte, on my way to the Valais, to which I had received a diplomatic mission; I had not seen him since the time when he had spoken to me at the Tuileries. The gallery where the reception was going on was full; he was accompanied by Murat and his aid-de-camp. When he approached me, I was struck with an alteration in his countenance; his cheeks were fallen in, of a livid hue; his eyes stern; his color pale; his air sombre and terrible. The attraction which had formerly drawn me toward him was at an end; instead of awaiting, I fled his approach. He cast a look toward me, as if he sought to recognize me, moved a few steps toward me, turned, and disappeared. Returned to the Hotel de France, I said to several of my friends, Something strange, which I do not know, must have happened: Buonaparte could not have changed to such a degree unless he had been ill.' Two days after, at eleven in the forenoon, I heard a man cry in the streets- Sentence of the military commission convoked at Vincennes, which has condemned to the pain of DEATH Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon, born 2d August, 1772, at Chantilly.' That cry fell on me like a clap of thunder; it changed my life as it changed that of Napoleon. I returned home, and said to Madame de Chateaubriand, The Duke d'Enghien has just been shot.' I sat down to a table, and began to write my resignation-Madame de Chateaubriand made no opposition: she had a great deal of courage. She was fully aware of my danger: the trial of Moreau and Georges Cadoudal was going on; the lion had tasted blood; it was not the moment to irritate him."-(Vol. iv., 228-229.)

After this honorable step, which happily passed without leading to Chateaubriand's being shot, he traveled to the East, where he visited Greece, Constantinople, the Holy Land, and Egypt, and collected the materials which have formed two of his most celebrated works, L'Itinéraire à Jerusalem, and Les Martyrs. He returned to France, but did not appear in public life till the Allies conquered Paris, in 1814, where he composed, phlet entitled Buonaparte and the Bourbons, with extraordinary rapidity, his famous pamwhich had so powerful an effect in bringing about the Restoration. The royalists were now in power, and Chateaubriand was too important a man to be overlooked. In 1821 he was sent as ambassador to London, the scene of his former penury and suffering; in 1823 he was made Minister of Foreign Af

fairs, and, in that capacity, projected, and successfully carried through, the expedition to Spain which reseated Ferdinand on the throne of his ancestors; and he was afterward the plenipotentiary of France at the Congress of Verona, in 1824. He was too liberal a man to be employed by the administration of Charles X., but he exhibited an honorable constancy to misfortune on occasion of the revolution of 1830. He was offered the portfolio of Foreign Affairs, if he would abstain from opposition; but he refused the proposal, made a last noble and eloquent speech in favor of his dethroned sovereign, in the Chamber of Peers; and, withdrawing into privacy, lived in retirement, engaged in literary pursuits, and in the composition or revising of his numerous publications, till his death, which occurred in June, 1848.

Such a life, of such a man, cannot be other than interesting, for it unites the greatest possible range and variety of events

with the reflections of a mind of great power, ardent imagination, and extensive erudition. His autobiography, or Mémoires d'Outre Tombe, as it is called, was accordingly looked for, with great interest, which has not been sensibly diminished by the revolution of 1848, which has brought a new set of political actors on the stage. Four volumes only have hitherto been published, but the rest may speedily be looked for, now that the military government of Prince Louis Napoleon has terminated that of anarchy in France. The three first volumes certainly disappointed us; chiefly from the perpetual and offensive vanity which they exhibited, and the number of details, many of them of a puerile or trifling character, which they contained. The fourth volume, however, from which the preceding extracts have been taken, exhibits Chateaubriand, in many places, in his original vigor; and, if the succeeding ones are of the same stamp, we propose to return to them.

From the Literary Gazette.

COME, KISS ME AND BE FRIENDS.

I.

LISETTE, put off that angry look, I cannot bear to see

A cloud upon that face whereon sweet smiles were wont to be;
A careless word, a thoughtless jest, in reckless humor spoken-
And oft, alas! the brightest links in friendship's chain are broken.
And is it thus that we must part? No; I will make amends,
For mine, I own, is all the blame-Come, kiss me and be friends!

II.

Oh! think how many changing years have come and pass'd away,
Since first we met, since first we loved, two baby-girls at play;
And how, as life's career advanced, by youth's gay scenes surrounded,
From sport to sport with lightsome steps and lighter hearts we bounded.
And do I love thee less to-day No; I will make amends,

And thou! thou wilt not say me nay-Come, kiss me and be friends!

III.

The world is but a dreary place-a dreary place wherein

A blighted heart will little find that's worth its pains to win;
No future joy, nor new-formed tie, however bright their seeming,
Shall ever wholly sweep away the memory's bitter dreaming.
The Past! it is a magic word-its magic never ends

Its thraldom o'er the human heart-Come, kiss me and be friends!

IV.

How fair a sight is it to see (when summer days draw nigh)
The gladsome sunbeam chase away the dark cloud from the sky;
But fairer far than this-than aught-that with its charm beguiles us,
Is that sweet smile of hearts estranged-the smile that reconciles us.
And thou, Lisette, art smiling now, and here our quarrel ends;
I read forgiveness on thy brow-Come, kiss me-we are friends!

From Chambers' Edinburgh Journal.

RECOLLECTIONS OF A POLICE-OFFICER.

THE GAMING-HOUSE.

A LITTLE more than a year after the period, when adverse circumstances-chiefly the result of my own reckless follies-compelled me to enter the ranks of the metropolitan police, as the sole means left me of procuring food and raiment, the attention of one of the principal chiefs of the force was attracted toward me by the ingenuity and boldness which I was supposed to have manifested in hitting upon and unraveling a clue which ultimately led to the detection and punishment of the perpetrators of an artisticallycontrived fraud upon an eminent tradesman of the west end of London. The chief sent for me; and after a somewhat lengthened conversation, not only expressed approbation of my conduct in the particular matter under discussion, but hinted that he might shortly need my services in other affairs requiring intelligence and resolution.

life was a random and unfounded one, as I had seldom visited London in my prosperous days, and still more rarely mingled in its society. My wife, however, to whom I of course related the substance of the conversation, reminded me that he had once been at Doncaster during the races; and suggested that he might possibly have seen and noticed me there. This was a sufficiently probable explanation of the hint; but whether the correct one or not, I cannot decide, as he never afterward alluded to the subject, and I had not the slightest wish to renew it.

Three days elapsed before I received the expected summons. On waiting on him, I was agreeably startled to find that I was to be at once employed on a mission which the most sagacious and experienced of detectiveofficers would have felt honored to undertake.

"I think I have met you before," he remarked, with a meaning smile on dismissing me, "when you occupied a different position from your present one? Do not alarm your-ming up his instructions. self: I have no wish to pry unnecessarily into other men's secrets. Waters is a name common enough in all ranks of society, and I may, you know"-here the cold smile deepened in ironical expression-"be mistaken. At all events, the testimony of the gentleman whose recommendation obtained you admission to the force-I have looked into the matter since I heard of your behavior in the late business-is a sufficient guarantee that nothing more serious than imprudence and folly can be laid to your charge. I have neither right nor inclination to inquire further. To-morrow, in all probability, I shall send for you."

"Here is a written description of the persons of this gang of blacklegs, swindlers, and forgers," concluded the commissioner, sum"It will be your

I came to the conclusion, as I walked homeward, that the chief's intimation of having previously met me in another sphere of

object to discover their private haunts, and secure legal evidence of their nefarious practices. We have been hitherto baffled, principally, I think, through the too hasty zeal of the officers employed: you must especially avoid that error. They are practiced scoundrels; and it will require considerable patience, as well as acumen, to unkennel and bring them to justice. One of their more recent victims is young Mr. Merton, son, by a former marriage, of the Dowager Lady Everton.* Her ladyship has applied to us for assistance in extricating him from the toils in which he is meshed. You will call

* The names mentioned in this narrative are, for obvious reasons, fictitious.

« AnteriorContinuar »