Abbildungen der Seite

We think it more than probable that i champagne. Madame de Grafigny, who Voltaire referred to Madame du Chatelet's, was allowed during her visit to remain for him mortifying, and to herself fatal, after the bon homme, alias the cocher--alias affair with St. Lambert. To allude to the husband--had withdrawn--says these mere conjugal infidelity as a faiblesse in readings sent her to her chamber • as mad the lamented esprit fort, would have been as a young man.' Lord Brougham's critiextremely unpolite in Voltaire writing to cism on the chef-d'æuvre of this innocent Madame du Deffand.

seclusion, is in these words :A note at p. 98 seems also notable:

'It is painful and humiliating to human 'It was the fate of many writings left genius to confees, what yet is without any by Voltaire at Cirey to be burnt by ile base doubt true, that this is of all his poetical fanaticism or low jealousy of the Marquis's works, the most perfect, showing most wit, brother, after Madanie du Chatelet's death.'

most spirit, most of the resources of a great What in the Condorcet dialect was

poet, though of course the nature of the subcalled fanaticism, may have led to the jeet forbids, all attempts at either the pathetic

or the sublime; but in brilliant imagery-in destruction of some valuable MSS. of. Mé- picturesque description-in point and epigram langes Historiques.' We think it probable, -in boundless fertility of lancy-in variety of also, that the Marquis du Chatelei's broth- striking and vigorous satire-all clothed in er considered it his duty to obliterate, verse as natural as Swift's, and far inore as far as he could, the records and monu- however naturally raised by the moral faults

varied as well as harmonious-no prejudice, ments of a connection disgraceful to the of the work, can prevent us from regarding it head of his house to the name of his as the great masterpiece of his poetical genius. noble family. But we should like to know Here of course the panegyric must close, and whether this low, base, jealous burning it must give way to indignation at such a perof papers is thought by Lord Brougham to version of such divine talents. The indecencountenance the notion that Voltaire's inti- cy, often amounting to absolute obscenity, macy with the lady of Cirey was regarded which pervades nearly the whole composition,

cannot be excused on the plea that it is only a as one of pure friendship by the contempo- witty licentiousness, instead of one which exrary society of France.*

cites the passions; still less can it be palliated At Cirey, Voltaire divided his mornings by citing bad precedents, least of all by referbetween studying Newton under the tutor- ring, to such writers as Ariosto, who more ship of his charming hostess, and the com- rarely violates the laws of decorum; whereas position of the Pucelle, in which also she is Voltaire is ready to commit this offence at supposed to have given him great assistance. every moment, and seems ever to take the She was in her 24th year when the affair self to licentious allusions. But this is not all.

view of each subject that most easily lends itbegan, he in his 336th. The amiable Mar- The “Pucelle” is one continued sneer quis (who was in embarrassed circum- | all that men do hold, and all that they ought stances) had allowed Voltaire to add a to hold, sacred, from the highest to the least wing to his ancient and naked château. important subjects, in a moral view—from On the ground floor of this wing the the greatest to the most indifferent, even in Platonic man of letters had his apartment and its professors-viriue, especially the vir

a critical view. Religion and its ministers -three or four rooms en suite splendidly tues of a prudential cast-ihe feelings of furnished. He had also decorated

an humanity-ihe sense of beauty-the rules of upper apartment for the lady—all one poetical composition-the very walks of literblaze of luxury. Into these bowers of ature in which Voltaire had nost striven bliss the Marquis, when he happened to be to excel-are all made ihe constant subjects of at home, was admitted twice a day--half sneering contempt, or of' ribald laughter; somean hour at noon for breakfast, and at sup- ly by the broad grins of mere gross buffoonery.

times by wit, sometimes by humor, not rareper--till he had eaten bis fill--when he it is a sad thing to reflect that the three masimmediately retired, and the reading and terpieces of three such men as Voltaire, polishing of the new stanzas of the Pucelle Rousseau, Byron, should all be the most commenced with due accompaniment of immoral of their compositions.'


* Let any reader turn to our articles on Ma- We must also, in justification of some of dame de Grafigny (Quart. Rev., vol. xxiii.), on

extract the paraGrimm's Memoirs (Quart. Rev., vols. ix and şi.), and on Miss Berry's Life and Correspon- graph which immediately follows this eloJence of Madame du Deffand (Quart. Rev. vol. quent description of the 'Pucelle d'Orv.).

our previous remarka


[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

But here it would be unjust to forget that the rical treatise was ever given to the world same genius which underwent this unworthy more full of solid and useful instruction. prostitution, was also enlisted by its versatile That there should have crept into the execupossessor in the service of virtue and of moral tion of so vast a design, perhaps the most truth. There may be some doubt if his moral magnificent that ever was conceived, errors of essays, the “Discours sur l'Homme,” may not detail, is of no consequence whatever to its be placed at the head of his serious poetry-general usesulness, any more than the peity none whatever that it is a performance of the inequalities on the surface of a mirror are suihighest merit. As the subject is didactic, his ficient to destroy its reflecting, and, if concave, talents, turned towards grave reasoning and its magnifying power; because we read the moral painting, adapted rather to satisfy the book not for iis minute details, but for its understanding than to touch the heart, and ad- general views, and are not injured by these dressing themselves more to the learned and laults any more than the astronomer is by the polite than to the bulk of mankind, occupied irregularities of the speculum which might here their appointed province, and had their impede the course of an insect, as these inacfull scope. Pope's moral essays gave the first curacies might the study of one who was hint of ihese beautiful compositions ; but there groping for details when he should have been is nothing borrowed in them from that great looking for great principles. But whoever has moral poet, and there is no inferiority in the studied history as it ought to be studied, will execution of the plan. A strict regard to confess his obligations to this work, holding modesty, with the exception of a line or two, himself indebted to it for the lamp by which reigns throughout, and the object is to incul- the annals of the world are to be viewed.'-pp. cate the purest principles of humanity, of 104, 105. Lolerance, and of virtue. None but a Romanist bigot could ever have discovered the lurk- When Lord Brougham remarks that a ing attack upon religion in the noble verses Treatise on the Philosophy of History is against substituting vain ceremonies for good prefixed, but the whole book might justly works, and attempting to honor the Deity by be designated by that name,' some hasty ascetic abstinence from the enjoyments which he has kindly provided for our happiness.

reader may be apt to understand him Nay, the first panegyric on the ministry of as meaning to say—not that the Treatise is Christ is to be found mingled with the same improperly designated, but that the whole just reprehensions of those who pervert and book might be so designated with equal degrade his doctrines (Disc. vii.).'—p. 48. justice as the Introduction; for the 'Trea

tise' of Lord Brougham is, in Voltaire, the We protest once more against being · Introduction to the 'Essai sur les Meurs.' trifled with in this manner. We ask if it But Lord Brougham can have no such be possible that Lord Broughain can really meaning: for this Treatise, bearing the expect any man to read with a grave face impudent title of Philosophie de l'Hisabout the finest panegyric on the ministry toire,' is neither more nor less than a conof Christ from the author of the 'Pucelle densed summary of infidelity, drawn up in d'Orléans and the Dictionnaire Philoso- the first instance, for Madame du Chatelet's phique'—the man whose motto was ' Ecra- edification, in which the history of the Bible sez l'infame?'

is scoffed at, chapter after chapter, page after We own we were not less startled by page, precisely in the grave historical style some sentences in the account of Voltaire's of the Dictionnaire Philosophique.' There ' Essai sur les Mæurs:'

is no devise of anti-Christian insolence and "This work has thus become the true his- malice which does not lend its bitterness tory of human society, indeed of the human to this as well as to the other consommé of

To this work was prefixed a Voltairism. His Lordship, by the way, treatise on the Philosophy of History;" but barely alludes to the existence of the the whole book might justly be designated by famous Dictionnaire.' that name. . The execution is marked

In the 'Essai’ itself, without doubt we by the peculiar selicity of the author; .. but it is also to be remarked that in the two have a most piquant and picturesque re. : great qualities of the historian he eminently view of the events of many centuries, such as excels-his diligence and his impartiality. could not have been penned without a great

Voltaire, in no part of his work, dis- deal of preliminary reading, as well as most guises his peculiar opinions, but in none can briliant abilities; but surely Lord Brougham he fairly be charged with making his repre- is the only Christian critic-nay, the only sentation of the facts bend to them. To take an example of the former, it would not be philosophical critic of this time-who easy to find a more accurate account of the would have dreamt of praising the work Council of Trent than in the 172nd chapter. on the score of solid useful instruction'

We may safely affirm that no histo-/' the lamp by which the annals of the world

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

are to be viewed.' The lamp is a dark We have perhaps dwelt too long on this lantern, and the only side of it that is glass subject; but our error, if error it be, has is colored glass. The whole book is in proceeded from our sense of the importthe spirit of the Introduction. The originance attached to Lord Brougham's name of Christianity—the spread of it-every and authority—from our deep regret that feature in its subsequent annals and influ- by writing currente calamo, and as we have ence—all is seen through this one narrow doubt without having recently read and false mediurn. Is this all pervading many of the works he is writing about, he assumption a mere 'error of detail, —to be should expose himself to the danger of bedetected only by gropers for trifles—no ing considered, for a moment, as not fully more interfering with the general value of alive to the wicked injustice of the whole the 'true history of the human race' than of Voltaire's · Philosophy of History,' and the value of Lord Rosse's monster-mirror is of the leading doctrine and sentiment of affected by the trivial “irregularity' that his · Essai sur les Meurs des Nations.' might impede the course of an insect? We are sure he meant to exclude both from Lord Brougham desires us to admire the his eulogy; but his language seems to us impartial chapter on the Council of Trent. to require a stern revision. What he says Dominican dogma and Franciscan dog- in his Appendix of Condorcet’s ‘unbalancma, Spanish party and Italian party, were ed eulogy' will not save the text. much the same to him : why should he Much of the criticism embraced in this have troubled his head to misrepresent one · Life,' more especially that of Voltaire's side more than the other ? But can any plays and romances, is so masterly that the man deny that in this accurate account author should spare no pains in bringing it is implied throughout that the Church of the whole piece up to the same high mark. Christ is an institution founded on impos- We confess that we think he rather exagture?

gerates the merit of the tragedian, though Lord Brougham calls on us to admire we will except the case of the .Zaïre;' but more especially his impartiality in regard Voltaire's method in the romans was never to Leo X., Luther, and Calvin :

perhaps so happily characterized as in this 'Full justice is rendered to the character essay. He plays 'Candide' at the head of and the accomplishments of Leo, as well as all his works—in genius the most perfect :' to his coarse and repulsive antagonists; and with all the natural prejudice against a tyran

. It is indeed a most extraordinary performnical Pontiff, a fiery zealot, and a gloomy reliance; and while it has such a charm that its gious persecutor, we find him praising the at-repeated perusal never wearies, we are left in tractive parts of the Pope's character, the ami- doubt whether most to admire the plain sound able qualities of the apostle's, and the rigid sense, above all cant, of some parts, or the rich disinterestedness of the intolerant reformer's, l'ancy of others; the singular felicity of the deas warmly as if the former had never domin- sign for the purposes it is intended to serve, eered in the Vatican, and the latter had not or the natural yet striking graces of the exeoutraged, the one all taste and decorum by cution. The lightness of the touch with which his language, the other all humanity by his all the effects are produced-the constant icruelıy.'-p. 104.

aMuence of the most playful wit—the humor, What wonder that Voltaire should sym- overdone-the truth and accuracy of each

wherever it is wanted, abundant, and never pathize on one side with Leo—the patron of blow that falls, always on the head of the right literature and the arts—the voluptuary, nail—the quickness and yet the ease of the the infidel Pope-whose 'gravest occupa- transitions—the lucid clearness of the lantions never interfered with the delicacy of guage, pure, simple, entirely natural—the perhis pleasures ? What wonder that he fect conciseness of diction as well as brevity should have some sympathy, on the other of composition, so that there is not a line, or hand, even with Luther and Calvin, seeing ous; and a point, a single phrase, sometimes

even a word, that seems ever to be superfluthat, though they had the folly to be Chris- a single word, produces the whole effect intians, they yet set the first examples of suc- tended: these are qualities that we shall in cessful rebellion against the sacerdotal pow- vain look for in any other work of the same er ? What wonder, at any rate, that the description, perhaps in any other work of fancleverest of men should avoid the monstrous cy. That there is a caricature throughout no folly of attempting to represent, without any and the doctrines ridiculed are themselves a

one denies; but the design is to caricature, admixture of truth, three as well understood

gross and intolerable exaggeration. That characters as could have been selected from there occur here and there irreverent expresthe whole history of mankind ?

sions is equally true; but that there is any. Vol. VI.-No I.


[ocr errors]



pp. 108, 109.



thing irreligious in the ridicule of a doctrine 'Anciennement et jusqu'à la fin du règne de which is in itself directly at variance with all Louis XIV. il y avoit des rapports plus fréreligion, at least with all the hopes of a future quents qu'il n'y en a eu depuis entre le Roi et state, the most valuable portion of every reli- ses sujets de toutes les classes: les motifs gious system, may most confidently be denied.'j d'exclusion se multiplièrent ensuite. Dans un

récit des fêtes données à la cour lors de la na

issance du premier fils de Louis XIV. il est dit : In point of conception, and not less of " A la table tenue par le Roi étaient Mad. la execution, 'Candide seems to us the first Lieutenante Civile et Mad. la Présidente Tamof all Voltaire's prose writings. Its lan-bonneau.” Ce fait auroit paru extraordinaire guage, among other merits, is more easy, sous le règne de son successeur.'— Mélanges, has fewer marks of the endeavor to be 1817, p. 248.

In 1760, Louis XV. made a rule that no brilliant, than we see in any other of the

one should be presented who could not prove romances—or in any but the very earliest nobility as far back as 1400. The Maréchal of the historical works. Whether it is in Duc d'Etrées found he could not present his genius' the first of all Voltaire's perform- niece, yet for one hundred years that family ances, may be more doubtful. The ques- had been in the highest positions of the state tion, however, lies only between it and the and court. Louis made an exception in his • Pucelle.'

favor; but, as he observed, “ l'exception même Connected with Voltaire's name

étoit une humiliation."ibid. p. 251. several subjects on which we could have We must conclude our remarks on this wished to say something, but we really Essay with another complaint of Lord have not rooin. The great share that per- Brougham's rashness. He tells us that sonal vanity had in every movement of the Voltaire was annoyed with sleeplessness, man is one; but here we can only observe and he took opium in too considerable that, pitiable as his vanity was, it is impos- doses. Condorcet says that a servant missible now to look back and see what things took one of the doses, and that the mistake sometimes wounded it and envenomed the was the immediate cause of his death.' marking genius of the century, without a Now Condorcet has not a syllable about a melancholy thought for the short-sighted servant mistaking one of the doses.' He folly of the ruling powers who owed their ul- would have been happy to say that, if he timate ruin mainly to Voltaire. Nothing an- durst; but his words are these :-(Volgered him more than the exclusiveness of the taire) prit de l'opium à plusieurs reprises, French court, as contrasted with the hom- let se tromba sur les doses, vraisemblablement age which he commanded from the greatest hans l'espèce d'ivresse que les premières of foreign monarchs.

Hear, under this avaient produite.'--Vie de Voltaire, p. 155. head, Madame du Hausset, first lady of the Voltaire is followed by Rousseau—and bed-chamber to Queen Pompadour - this no doubt much easier subject is treat

"Le Roi (Louis XV.) étoit fatté qu'il y eût ed, we think, with far greater success. sous son siècle un Voltaire: mais il le craig. The character is brought out in a rapid but noit et ne l'estimoit pas. Il ne put s'empêcher clear and pithy analysis of his history—and de dire: " Je lui ai donné une charge de gen- of his works, which, in spite of great natulilhomme ordinaire et des pensions. C'est ne ral genius, have already paid in large meapas ma faute s'il a fait des sottises et s'il a la prétension d'être chambellan, d'avior une croix, sure the usual penaltiesof affected sentimenet de souper avec un roi. C'est ne pas la tality, and a taste as vulgarly false as his mode en France"-et puis il compta sur ses vices were grossly and meanly odious. doigts,—“Maupertuis, 'Fontenelle, Voltaire, We transcribe the general estimate of the Montesquieu”—“Votre majesté oublie," dit | Nouvelle Iléloise : on, “D'Alembert et l'Abbé Prévot "_". не bien," dit le Roi, “depuis vingt-cinq ans tout "To deny the great merit of this work would cela auroit diné ou soupé avec moi !!! Jour-be absurd; the degree in which it has been nal de Mad. du Hausset, p. 359.

overrated, owing chiefly to its immorality, and

in part also to its vices of taste, not unnaluSuch was the chat at the supper-table of rally leads to its depreciation when the critic the Pompadour ; who, to be candid, was soberly and calmly exercises his stern and unfor the admitting of Voltaire, and, by way of grateful office. But the conception of the smoothing all difficulties, suggested that he piece is, for its simplicity and nature, happy,

with the exception which may be taken espemight easily take orders, and then get a

cially to the unnatural situations of the lovers Cardinal's hat.

on meeting alter Julie's marriage, to the exThe editor of this curious Memoir says, travagant as well as dull deathbed scene, and in reference to its anecdote :

to the episode, the adventures of the English

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

lord. The descriptions of natural scenery are of the narrative which the fulness of the huadmirable—far superior to the moral painting; miliating confessions at every step attests, and for Rousseau's laste in landscape was excel- then, and chiefly, by the magical diction,-a lent, while with his moral tasie, bis perverted diction so idiomatical and yel so classical- so sentiments, so wide from truth and nature, al- full of nature and yet so refined by art- so exways interfered. The passions are vividly quisitely graphic without any effort, and so painted, and as by one who had felt their force, accommodated to its subject without any baseThough they are not touched with a delicate ness,—that there hardly exists such another pencil

. The feelings are ill rendered, parily example of the miracles which composition can because they are mixed with the perverted perform. The subject is not only wearisome sentiments of the ill-regulated and even dis- from its sameness, but, from the absurdities of eased mind in which they are hatched into lile, the author's conduct, and opinions, and feelpartly because they are given in the diction of ings, it is revolting; yet on we go, enchained rhetoric, and not of nature. The love which and incapable of leaving it, how often soever he plumes himself on exhibiting beyond all we may feel irritated and all but enraged. his predecessors-nay, as if he first had por. The subject is not only wearisome generally, trayed, and almost alone had felt it—is a mix- revolting frequently, but it is oftentimes low, ture of the sensual and the declamatory, with vulgar, grovelling, fived to turn us away from something of the grossness of the one, much the contemplation with aversion, even with disof the other's exaygeration. As this is the gust; yet the diction of the great magician is main object of the book, therefore, the book our master; he can impart elegance to the must be allowed to be a failure. It charmed most ordinary and mean things, in his descripmany ; it enchanted both the Bishops War- tion of them; he can elevate the lowest, even burton and Hurd, as we see in their published the most nasty ideas, into dignity by the witchcorrespondence; it still holds a high place ery of his language. We stand aghast after among the works which prudent mothers pausing, when we can take breath, and can withhold from their daughters, and which see over what filthy ground we have been led, many daughters contrive to enjoy in secret; but we feel the extraordinary power of the it makes a deep impression on hearts as yet hand that has led us along. It is one of Holittle acquainted with real passion, and heads mer’s great praises, that he ennobles the most inexperienced in the social relations.'-pp. low and homely details of the most vulgar life, 161-163.

as when he brings Ulysses into the swine

herd's company, and paints the domestic econHere, we venture to say, Lord Broug- omy of that unadorned and ignoble peasant. ham might as well have stopped. He goes No doubt the diction is sweet in which he on to justify his censures by a minute ex- warbles those ordinary strains; yet the sub

is amination of some of the most lauded pas-ject, how humble soever


pure unsophistica. ied nature, with no taint of the far more insuf

the most sages, but these are also


ferable pollution derived from vice. Not so indecent ones.

Rousseau's subject: he sings of vices, and of The criticism of the Confessions' is a vices the most revolting and the most basemasterpiece. We regret that we can only of vices which song never before came near to take one paragraph of it.

elevate; and he sings of the ludicrous and the • There is no work in the French language sive, yet he sings without impurity, and con

offensive as well as the hateful and the repulof which the style is more racy, and indeed trives to entrance us in admiration. No trimore classically pure. But its diction is idio, umph so great was ever won by diction. The matical as well as pure. As if he had lived work in this respect siands alone; it is reasonlong enough away from Geneva to lose not able to wish that it may have no imitators.'only all the provincialisms of that place, but also to lose all its pedantry and precision, he pp. 181-183. writes both with the accuracy and elegance Though Lord Brougham seems to us to of a Frenchman, and with the freedom of wit have taken a very inadequate measure of and of genius, even of humor and drollery= Voltaire's vanity, he handles Rousseau's to yes, even of humor and drollery; for the piciure of the vulgar young man who supplanted him with Madame de Warens shows no mean His vanity was, perhaps, greater than ever power of caricature; and the sketches of his had dominion over a highly gifted mind. own ludicrous situations, as at the concert he That this was the point, as not unfrequently gave in the Professor's house at Lausanne, happens, upon which the insanity turned show the impartiality with which he could ex- which clouded some of his later years, is cerert this power at his own proper cost and tain ; but no less certainly may we perceive charge. The subject is often tiresome; it is its malignant influence through the whole of almost always his own sufferings, and genius, his course. He lahored under a great deluand feelings; always, of course, but of that no sion upon this subject; for he actually concomplaint can be justly made, of his own ad-ceived that he had less vanity than any other ventures; yet we are carried irresistibly along person that ever existed ; and he has given first of all by the manifest truth and sincerity, expression to this notion. The ground of the

a wish.

« ZurückWeiter »