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Prince de Ligne, in a discourse which you have doubtless read, seems to me to have described it in one word by saying that it was the speech of a gamin.
I am, however, ungrateful to criticise it, for I own that it amused me extremely, and that I thought that Morny especially was drawn from life; but I think that if I had the honour of being Her Britannic Majesty's Prime Minister, I should not have laughed so heartily. How could so clever a man be guilty of such eccentricities? In my
last letter to our excellent friend Mrs. Grote, I ventured to say that there was one person who wrote even worse than I did, and that it was you. Your last letter has filled me with remorse, for I could actually read it, and even without trouble. I beg, therefore, to make an amende honorable, and envy you your power of advancing towards perfection.
I still think of paying a little visit to England in June. Adieu, dear Senior. Do not be angry with me for not writing on politics. Indeed I could tell you nothing, for I know nothing, and besides, just now politics are not to be treated by Frenchmen, in letters.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
Tocqueville, March 8, 1857. I still write to you, my dear Senior, from hence. We cannot tear ourselves away from the charms of our retreat, or from a thousand little employments. We shall scarcely reach Paris, therefore, before you. You will
therefore, yourself bring me the remainder of your curious journal. What I have already seen makes me most anxious to read the rest. I have never read anything which gave me more valuable information on Egypt and Oriental politics in general. As soon as I possibly can, I look forward to continuing its perusal.
The papers tell us that your Ministry has been beaten on the Chinese War. It seems to me to have been an ill-chosen battle-field. The war was, perhaps, somewhat wantonly begun, and very roughly managed ; but the fault lay with distant and subordinate agents. Now that it has begun, no Cabinet can avoid carrying it on vigorously. The existing Ministry will do as well for this as any other. As there is no line of policy to be changed, the upsetting is merely to put in the people who are now out.
If the Ministry falls, the man least to be pitied will be our friend Lewis. He will go out after having obtained a brilliant triumph on his own ground, and he will enjoy the good fortune, rare to public men, of quitting power greater than he was when he took it, and with the enviable reputation of owing his greatness, not merely to his talents, but also to the respect and the confidence which he has universally inspired.
All this delights me; for I feel towards him, and towards all his family, a true friendship.
To return to China.
It seems to me that the relations between that country and Europe are changed, and dangerously changed.
Till now, Europe has had to deal only with a Chinese
government—the most wretched of governments. Now you will find opposed to you a people ; and a people, however miserable and corrupt, is invincible on its own territory, if it be supported and impelled by common and violent passions.
Yet I should be sorry to die before I have seen China open to the eyes as well as to the arms of Europe.
Do you believe in a dissolution ? If so, when ?
A thousand regards to Mrs. Grote, to the great historian, to the Reeves, and generally to all who are kind enough to remember my existence.
I delight in the prospect of meeting you in Paris; yet I fear that you will find it dull. All that I hear from the great town shows me that never, at least during the last two hundred years, has intellectual life been less active.
If there be talent in the official circles, it is not the talent of conversation, and among those who formerly possessed that talent, there is so much torpidity, such want of interest on public affairs, such ignorance as to what is passing, and so little wish to hear about it, that no one, I am told, knows what to talk about or to take interest in. Your conversation, however, is so agreeable and stimulating that it is capable of reanimating the dead. Come and try to work this miracle. A thousand remembrances.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
Dulness of Paris.
Paris, Hôtel Bedford, April 9, 1857.–We reached this place last night.
The Tocquevilles are in our hotel. I went to them in the evening.
Tocqueville asked me how long I intended to remain. Four weeks,' I answered. 'I do not think,' he replied, “ that you will be able to
Paris has become so dull that no one will voluntarily spend a month here. The change which five years have produced is marvellous.
"We have lost our interest not only in public affairs, but in all serious matters.'
• You will return then to the social habits of Louis Quinze,' I said. You were as despotically governed then as you are now; and yet the salons of Madame Geoffrin were amusing.'
We may do so in time,' he answered, but that time is to come. At present we talk of nothing but the Bourse. The conversation of our salons resembles more that of the time of Law, than that of the time of Marmontel.'
I spent the evening at Lamartine's. There were few people there, and the conversation was certainly dull enough to justify Tocqueville's fears.
April 10.—Tocqueville drank tea with us.
We talked of the Empress, and of the possibility of her being Regent of France.
“That supposes,” I said, 'first, that Celui-ci holds his power until his death ; and, secondly, that his son will succeed him.'
I expect both events,' answered Tocqueville. It is impossible to deny that Louis Napoleon has shown great dexterity and tact. His system of government is detestable if we suppose the welfare of France to be his object; but skilful if its aim be merely the preservation of his own power.
Such being his purpose, he has committed no great faults. Wonderful, almost incredible, as his elevation is, it has not intoxicated him.'
It has not intoxicated him,' I answered, because he was prepared for it—he always expected it.'
“He could scarcely,' replied Tocqueville, ‘have really and soberly expected it until 1848.
Boulogne and Strasbourg were the struggles of a desperate man, who staked merely a life of poverty, obscurity, and exile. Even if either of them had succeeded, the success could not have been permanent. A surprise, if it had thrown him upon the throne, could not have kept him there. Even after 1848, though the Bourbons were discredited, we should not have tolerated a Bonaparte if we had not lost all our self-possession in our terror of the Rouges. That terror created him, that terror supports him; and habit, and the dread of the bloodshed and distress, and the unknown chances of a revolution, will, I think, maintain him during his life.
“The same feelings will give the succession to his