Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

ciate of Nivernois and the maligner of because no man of liberal opinions Rousseau.

| could live in that cloaca maxima of the In 1767, after a sojourn of sixteen monarchy, without the risk of being months, Jean Jacques quitted England. stifled by pestilent libellers, in the pay He had then no intention of going back of the Court; but with comparative to France, proposing a return to Venice, safety, especially as the welcome of the whose beauty still haunted his mind people was loud and cordial. His among the dearest memories of youth. Considerations on the Government of But Mirabeau, then appealing to the Poland,” were soon afterwards pubreason of France against the corrup- lished; and this eloquent analysis was tions of her oppressors, solicited him followed by the “ Dialogues," in which, to remain on her soil, for a great work with a freshness of thought and a power was at hand for the friends of freedom; of logic that seemed to grow more redunand though Rousseau refused to adopt dant with his increasing years, he pleads the economical theories of the orator, an apology for the various episodes of he was persuaded to instal himself in his life. Then came the “Reveries,” the Chateau de Tryes, under the protec- which are incomplete. They are clastion of the Prince de Conti. His repose sical in the language of France. The there, however, was not of long duration. last of them is consecrated to the sad Stewards and servants, the moment be memory of Madame de Warens. It is arrived, punctiliously insulted him, and a warm, pathetic picture of days which he left the place, where spies were he still counted happy, for he chiefly planted in every corner, and proceeded remembered them with regret because to herbalise about Lyons, Grenoble, they could return no more. Who that Chamberry, and, finally, Monguin, pauses over the musical periods of these where, in 1768, he was married to records in memory of a guilty but only Therese. This woman throws a shadow half-repented passage in the vicissiover his fame. She was long with him tudes of Rousseau's career, will refuso before she became his wife, and then he to pity him for his misfortunes, if he connived at her dishonour. She bore must despise him for the moral imbehim children, and these he abandoned cility which was their primal cause. among the outcasts of the Foundling Let it be repeated, that he was faithless Hospital, because, he said, with dan to himself. It cannot be denied that gerous sophistry, they should not be the falsehood of almost all he met was nurtured in that hatred of their father, more contemptible, though it need not with which his female relatives would have been so dangerous. This suggests surely seek to inspire them. There was the inquiry into that subject which has a selfishness in this idea, which takes divided so strongly the critics of Rousnothing from the flagitious character of seau. Was he mad when he supposed the action which it suggested. Here, that the world was in a conspiracy for twelve months, he stayed, pursued against him? Or, rather, was this fixed by fear, remorse, and unavailing sorrow, idea of his mind a proof of his insanity? for he had no true friends; he had It may have brooded over his intellect so many irreconcileable enemies; he could continually and so heavily that what not repose with an honourable consci- was at first a reasonable conviction ence on the past; he could not look with became a monomania; I think it did. eyes of confidence or hope to the future. But I do not think that there was any, He had wasted himself; he had spurned proof of a disorganized brain in his his own feelings; he had to repent the belief that mankind were leagued against imbecility of his own resolves and the him. He could only judge of mankind, treachery of others. And this, perhaps, in this respect, by that portion of it was a reflection rendered more bitter by which came in contact with him. And the thought that he had found it easy when, or where, did he live without perto be magnanimous; that there were secution? In Geneva, the blows of a noble acts recorded of him; and that cruel master; at Annecy, the hypocrisy among all his foes, there was none who of a bigoted priest; at Turin, the duneed have terrified him had he never plicity of a whole college of fanatics; been a foe to himself.

at Charmettes, the dishonour of EleoAt length a lull in the ferocity of the nore; at Montmorency, the hostility of ruling faction permitted him to return his old friends; in Paris, the ferocity of to Paris. Not without danger, indeed, the Government; in Berne, the savage

fury of the citizens; in Motier, the went out to observe the rising of the curses of the Church and the violence sun, and came back to take coffee with of the mob ; in St. Pierre, the inhuman his wife. At the moment when she was cruelty of his enemies; in England, leaving the room, to occupy herself with the forgery of Horace Walpole, the per- the cares of the ménage, he requested fidy of David Hume, and the calumnies her to pay a man who had been working of the whole press ; in France, the in- for him, and, because he was an honest dustrious, incessant, and unmitigated fellow, to deduct nothing from the bill. malignity of an immense troop, com- When she returned, she found him exposed of those who knew him, echoed by tended on a large couch, apparently in those who knew him not, and loudest grievous suffering. "What is the matfrom those who had professed their ter with you, my friend ?" she said. "I amity for him ;-all this, I say, to a vain, feel a great pain," he answered. The irritable, tender character like Rous-rese, to avoid alarming him, pretended seau, might well appear to indicate the to be going on some errand, and sent existence of a universal conspiracy for for the people at the chateau. Some of his destruction.

them came, but Rousseau desired to be It is true, on the other hand, that he left alone with his wife. could claim for himself little reverence, When the door. had been shut, he and might have recalled acts of trea- asked her to sit down by him. “Well, chery equally base with those of the I have," she said, placing herself close maligners who pursued him. But these to the couch. “How are you now?" were the repented acts of his earlier "My suffering is very little," he anlife. He sought by his “ Confessions" swered. “I pray open the window, that to make some atonement for them; and I may once more look out upon the whatever the value to morals of reve- green earth.” “Mon bon ami," she relations such as he made, it is certain turned, "why do you say that?" "I that the memory of these crimes con- have always prayed to God," said Rousstituted the bitterest affliction of his seau, “that I may die without a malady maturer age. Besides, when men ima- and without a physician. You can close gine society to be in league against them, my eyes, and then my wishes are all they do not inquire whether they have fulfilled.” After this, he asked her to provoked its hostility, nor have we, in pardon him for any wrongs he might a question of fact, to press the retort | have done her; assured her that without upon them. However, though Rous- her consent his friends would never mako seau might not have been insane, because any use of the papers he had confided he thought the world made him an Ish- to their hands; and recommended that maelite among the children of Israel, a formal medical inquiry should take his brain certainly became affected place into the mode and cause of his end. towards the close of his life. This was Meanwhile the last agony came on; attributable, I think, to a cause which his chest was, as it were, pierced by an may not here be discussed, as well as to indescribable physical anguish, his head the united influence of remorse and racked by pains, which blinded him as he sorrow preying upon his mind.

| lay trembling in the sufferings of death. In the beginning of the year 1778, this His wife, fond of him, though she had marvellous being, after a life of trouble, contributed little to his prosperity in only varied by a few brief summer-dawns life, felt an unutterable misery in the of peace, retired to Ermonville. Madame sight of his affliction. Rousseau stifled Rousseau was ill, and the salubrity of the expression of his own sufferings to that place seemed likely to restore her offer a balm to hers. “Ah, then, my health.

sweet friend," he said, “ how can you On Friday, the 1st of July, be walked love me, if you weep over my happiness? in the afternoon, as usual, with a young Behold, now the pure purpose of heaven. friend. It was very hot weather, and, A gateway opens for me, and God waits contrary to his general habits, he paused within." With these words he fell with several times for repose. Soon after, he his head downwards, and was motioncomplained of pains in his body, but less. Therese sought to lift him up, these were soothed by the time that he but he was heavy and insensible. She returned to the chateau, and he sat shrieked; the door was burst open, down in comfort to supper Next morn-friends came in, and the wife, covered ing he rose, according to his custom, / with blood which was flowing from the forehead of the dying man, helped to far more that is profoundly philosophical. place him again on the couch. She put Its theory is that man is born good, and her bands within his, he clasped them is corrupted by civilization. In the firmly; the warmth of affection was lin- “ Savoyard Profession,” and the “ Letgering in them still, and then, leaning ters from the Mountain," there is the his face forward towards her bosom, hệ fatal infidelity displayed, but never made died.

loathsome by those horrible phrases It was long believed, and there are with which Voltaire sometimes degraded many who still credit the story, that his pen. It is, however, in the “NouRousseau put poison into his coffee, or velle Heloise," that we find the secret of shot himself with a pistol. The evi- the immense popularity of Rousseau in dence on both sides is voluminous, and France. Its passion, its tenderness, its minute. I cannot analyze it now; but dreamy grace, its emotion, its rich paintI think his death was not by suicide ; ing of the action of love, its sweet dicand it is, perhaps, unjust to disbelieve tion, and the softness and beauty of Therese, his wife, when, before God and Julie, render it one of the most brilliant man, she declares that Rousseau died and seductive visions of romance that in her arms, of a natural malady. With ever the fancy conceived. The “Con. this the principal testimonies concur. trat Social” is of quite another order,

After Rousseau's death a great coinage and is filled with political wisdom, the of libels took place, which continued maxims of which are gradually permelong to circulate, as if the offences he ating through the mass of the intellidid commit were not sufficient to degrade gent people of France. There, indeed. his memory. From the ink-pot of a the justice and the honour accorded to scribe, skulking under the anonymous men, and to works such as Rousseau's, in the Drapeau Blanc, to the lips of and the “Contrat Social" is far greater Napoleon himself, all the sources of than in England. “They manage these falsehood were opened to pour out vitu- things better in France," says Mr. St. peration upon the philosopher of Geneva. John in his delightful “Isis," "where But France, in the fervour of her re- Corneille, and Racine, Montesquieu, volution, did justice to his name. He Voltaire, and Jean Jacques Rousseau, was decreed a statue, and his statue was monopolize a far larger amount of the decreed a crown. Therese was accorded feeling and admiration of the country a pension from the State; and the nation, than all the kings since Pepin. Turenne, by reading and applauding the works of Condé, Vendome, and Catinat, are faRousseau, gave him, in this honouring miliar only to the historical student, voice, the most splendid tribute that but the author of the Contrat Social' their gratitude could bestow, or thathis lives in the very heart of the people; genius could receive:

his fame constantly expanding with The proof and echo of all human fame, I

their expanding intelligence. Who, A people's loud acclaim.

therefore, would not rather have been Rousseau was first buried in the Isle

Jean Jacques Rousseau than Sesostris, of Poplars, at Ermonville. There on

or Rameses, or whatever else the learned his empty tomb may still be read the

please to call him ?” inscription, which was at once his motto

The character of this man, exhibited

co in the actions of his life, is a strange and bis epitaph:

study for the theorist on human nature. Vitam impendere vero.

His was an irregular, convulsive eareer; But in October, 1794, his remains were his was a vast, but wild and mystic removed, to be deposited in the vaults genius; his was a fate partly the most of the Pantheon, where they now lie happy, and partly the most miserable near those of Voltaire. On the stone that can be imagined. He had vices, is inscribed :

and the most secret of his vices he him

self made known; but he possessed also Ici repose l'homme de la nature et de la verité.

virtues, not unworthy of an heroic age. Of the works of Rousseau no critical Simple and frugal, his intellectual amdescription can now be attempted. The bition aspired out of sight of the meaner “ Essay on Inequality” is a brilliant appetites of man. While his works picture of a state of society which never were enriching the libraries of Europe, could have existed. There is much that he drank water at one repast that he is equally visionary in the “Emile," but might be able to have a little unmingled wine with another. Ardent and irascible The genius of Rousseau, however, is by nature, he was neither jealous of his that which has made his apotheosis. friends nor vindictive to his enemies. It was rare, commanding, enormous. Voltaire wronged him and never made | It grasped and penetrated the most amends, but he did justice to Voltaire. portentous problems of philosophy; it “He could hate him," says a French inspired and excited a whole people ; it biographer, “without insulting him." made itself felt through Europe; and it His health was usually equal, though left a response to the inquiries of every weak, and while abhorring the idea of future age. So vast was its range ; so a physician, he often imagined himself varied were the objects of its compreill. The toil of the pen was irksome to hension; so luminous was the atmosone who loved so much to be breathing phere it created for itself, that the profreedom on the mountains, to be pulling foundest minds, and minds the most flowers in the vales, to be musing poeti- humble, found in its works something cally in the woods. Spots that were to remember and to admire. There beautiful he never ceased to remember, never was a writer more eloquent in his and hours that were happy his fancy pleas for the liberty of man; there never dwelt on, as though they were to him was one more dangerous to the false a fountain of perpetual joy. Yet he and corrupted system which, by the also lingered over every melancholy aid of a confederate imposture, loaded souvenir, until the tone of his mind was the people of France. Daring always, sad, and he complained continually of and sometimes reckless, Rousseau feared the solitude of desolation.

no opinions; but formed his own, and Politically, Rousseau was the oracle expressed them whatever they were. of hope to an abased and harassed land; Especially did he aim at refuting the religiously, he was the foe, the dignified old lies which knit together the gradaand respectful foe, but still the foe, of tions of French society, instead of harChristianity; morally, he was his own monizing them by a beautiful assimilavictim, and a problem to all other men. tion into a proportioned and perfect Intellectually, he was the most splendid whole. Full of enthusiasm and of elogenius of the century. The writing of quence, he coloured his declamation the “ Confessions” can never be too with the most brilliant fancies; and much regretted. Pity it is that Rous. wrought his reasoning into the most seau did not bury with himself the re- persuasive forms. A familiar pathos, a cord of crimes that otherwise need never melancholy at once passionate and egohave been revealed. The lesson they tistical, a sympathy with nature apconvey is not worth the harm that one proaching to Pagan adoration, enriched page of the grosser parts must cause in those fluent effusions of lyrical prose the incautious reader's mind. Purified which were then a marvel and are now of these wretched episodes, they might a glory to the literature of France. No have remained a romantic and historical feeling mind ever dwelt without emotreasure of the times in which their author tion on those passionate fragments lived, but, as it is, the truth cannot be which embalm the griefs he endured, concealed that their influence is viti- and the deep agony of sorrow and reating on the morality, literature, and morse which perpetually came like the sentiments of the country. They are, phantom of Nemesis to darken his solinevertheless, for candour and simplicity, tude and to break his sleep. His elosuperior to all other writings of the quence was at once poured forth, as if kind. The Confessions of Montaigne from inspiration, and polished with an are neither so fresh, so faithful, nor so l art the most delicate and pure. The interesting. Those of Chateaubriand pomp of Bossuet's diction, the glossy have all the egotism, without the genius bloom, if we may so speak, of Racine's, which gives a grace even to egotism the glittering staccatoes of style by itself. Evelyn's are equally honest, which some of the livelier writers of though they have nothing disgraceful that country played with the resources to reveal, but they are bald and feeble; 1 of their mother tongue, are wanting in while Pepys, with all his frankness, all the works of Rousseau; but for the his vanity, and all his cunning, was easy, full, pure expression of elevated nothing but a truckling impostor, parti- and beautiful ideas; the embodiment of cipating in the grossness of a vulgar the feelings in their own best language age,

which is that of pastoral simplicity; the shadowing forth of philosophy in clear despise some of his acts, while we pity and majestic eloquence, he remains un- his unbappiness, let us remember that rivalled among the ornaments of letters while he lived he suffered misery enough in a distinguished age. He was great, to atone for the offences of a man far and he was partly good, and if we must I worse than he.

FELICIA HEMANS.

AMONG the many lady writers of the ! a rustic seat she had chosen amid the present century, few have higher claims houghs of an old apple tree. She was upon our gratitude and regard than a rapid reader, and her fine memory FELICIA HEMANs. The hearts and“homes easily retained whole pages of poetry of merry England” have often been after having only once read them over. charmed by the music of her plaintive Her juvenile studies were superintended melodies, sublimated by their lofty moral by her mother-a noble-minded woman tone, ennobled and refined by their of high intelligence, and sweet simpligentle teachings of faith, and of love; city of character, and of a calm cheerful and their holy aspirations after all that temperament-in every way admirably is beautiful and trie. The poetry of adapted for the guidance of a spirit so Mrs. Hemans may not possess the in- bright and beautiful, so exquisitely sentellectuality, the massive power, the deep sitive as that of the young Felicia. And earnestness, the beauty, which distin- in after years when the wreath of fame guish that of Mrs. Barrett Browning; | encircled the fair brows of the poetess, nevertheless it is full of sweetness and she turned from the world's praises to gentleness, and of a soft, subdued en- the soft glance of those beloved eyes, thusiasm, breathing, moreover, through- and felt that her best reward still lay in out such a trusting and affectionate the glad, approving smile of the dear spirit, that it must ever find a welcome face that on her childhood shone." and a rest in all true, loving hearts. When about eleven years of age, she

Felicia Dorothea Browne was the spent a winter in London with her daughter of an eminent merchant of parents; and the following year repeated Liverpool. She was the fifth of seven the visit--and this was the last time of children, and born on the 25th of Sep- her sojourn in the great metropolis. tember, 1793. While she was still very The contrast between the confinement young, her father suffered a reverse of of a town life, and the bright, happy fortune, and consequently left Liverpool freedom of the country, was by no means with his family, to reside in Wales. pleasing to her. She longed most earHere, in the deep seclusion of a romantic nestly to return to her romantic home country, in a fine old mansion at among the mountains of Wales; and Gwrych, in Denbighshire, Felicia Browne again to join in the merry sports of her spent many happy years of childhood. younger brothers and sisters. We can The wild far-distant murmurs of the well imagine how distasteful the noise " solemn sea," with its teachings of the and hurry of London life, the crowded grand and the infinite, the soft, unde- streets, the cloudy atmosphere, would finable whisperings of the free, green prove to the fair child of the bill and woodland, the song of birds, the fall of the forest; how she would miss the sweet waters, the changeful skies, and all the music of nature, the rich melody of endless variety of mountain scenery, early birds, the mountain echoes, the woodinspired her with an intense love and land murmurs; but most of all the sincerest reverence for nature, that silent, fresh, pure air, and the clear, bright, but ever true, and noble educator of open skies. Many things, however, she the poet's soul. She was early distin- saw during these London visits, which guished by mental precocity. At six ever remained most vividly impressed years of age Shakspere was the com- upon her remembrance. Collections of panion of her solitude; and many a art were objects of her especial interest. pleasant hour she passed in sweet com- On entering a hall of sculptures she munion with the lofty spirits of old, in exclaimed, “Oh, hush!-don't speak;"

« НазадПродовжити »