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1854.]

Tocqueville's Independence of Society.

59

wife's general powers (nervous system inclusive), partly the extreme aversion he felt for public affairs and the topics of the day connected with politics; all these considerations had determined him upon withdrawing himself from society for a certain space, and that to a considerable distance from all his friends and relations. A physician, also of widely extended fame (Dr. Brittonneau), happening to reside close to where they have lodged themselves, formed an additional link in the chain of motives for settling themselves at Tours. M. de Tocqueville had some misgivings at first as to whether, after passing twenty years in active public life, and in the frequent society of men who occupied the most distinguished position in the political world, as well as of others not less eminent in that of letters; whether, he said, the monotony and stillness of his new mode of life would not be too much for his spirits and render his mind indolent and depressed. But,' said he, I have been agreeably reassured. I have come to regard society as a thing which I can perfectly well do without. I desire nothing better than to occupy myself, as I have been doing, with the composition of a work which I am in hopes will travel over somewhat other than beaten ground. I have found many materials for my purpose in this spot, and the pursuit has got hold of me to a degree which renders intellectual labour a source of pleasure; and I prosecute it steadily, unless when my health is out of order; which, happily, does not occur so frequently since the last three or four months. My wife's company serves to encourage me in my work, and to cheer me in every respect, since an entire sympathy subsists between us, as you know; we seem to require no addition, and our lives revolve in the most inflexible routine possible. I rise at half-past five, and work seriously till half-past nine ; then dress for déjeuner at ten. I commonly walk half-an-hour afterwards, and then set to on some other study-usually of late in the German language-till two P.M., when I go out again and walk for two hours, if weather allows. In the evenings I read to amuse myself, often reading aloud to Madame de Tocqueville, and go to bed at ten P.M. regularly every night.'

Sometimes,' said De Tocqueville, 'I reflect on the difference which may be discerned between the amount of what a man can effect by even the most strenuous and well-directed efforts, whether as a public servant or as a leading man in political life, and what a writer of impressive books has it in his power to effect. It is true that a man of talent and courage may acquire a creditable position, may exercise great influence over other individuals engaged in the same career, and may enjoy a certain measure of triumphant success in cases where he can put out his strength. At the same time it strikes me that the best of these exaggerates immensely the amount of good which he has been able to effect. I look back upon prodigiously vivid passages in various public men's lives, in this century, with a melancholy reflection of how little influence their magnificent efforts have really exercised over the march of human affairs. A man is apt to believe he has done great things when

1854.]

Influence of Writers.

61

his hearers and contemporaries are strongly affected, either by a powerful speech, or an animated, address, or an act of opportune courage, or the like. But, if we investigate the positive amount of what the individual has effected in the way of bettering or advancing the general interests of mankind, by personal exertion on the public stage, I regret to say I can find hardly an instance of more than a transient, though beneficial, flash of excitement produced on the public mind. I do not here speak of men invested with great power-princes, prime ministers, popes, generals and the like. Of course they produce lasting traces of their power, whether it be for good or evil ; and, indeed, individuals have on their side considerable power to work mischief, though not often to work good. I begin to think that a man not invested with a considerable amount of political power can do but little good by slaving at the oar of independent political action. Now, on the contrary, what a vast effect a writer can produce, when he possesses the requisite knowledge and endowments ! In his cabinet, his thoughts collected, his ideas well arranged, he may hope to imprint indelible traces on the line of human progress. What orator, what brilliant patriot at the tribune, could ever effect the extensive fermentation in a whole nation's sentiments achieved by Voltaire and Jean Jacques ?

"I have certainly seen reason to change some of my views on social facts, as well as some reasonings founded on imperfect observation. But the fond of my opinions can never undergo a change-certain irrevocable maxims and propositions must constitute the basis of thinking minds. How such changes can come about as I have lived to see in some men's states of opinion is to me incomprehensible. Lafayette was foolish enough to give his support to certain conspiracies-certainly to that of Béfort's, in Alsace. What folly ! to seek to upset a despotism by the agency of the soldiery, in the nineteenth century!'

H. GROTE.

CONVERSATIONS WITH MR. SENIOR.

St. Cyr, Tuesday, February 21, 1854._On the 20th I left Paris for Le Trésorier, a country-house in the village of St. Cyr, near Tours, which the Tocquevilles have been inhabiting for some months. It stands in a large enclosure of about fifteen acres, of which about ten are orchard and vineyard, and the remainder are occupied by the house, stables, and a large garden. The house has a great deal of accommodation, and they pay for it, imperfectly furnished, 3,000 francs a year, and keep up the garden, which costs about 500 francs more, being one man at one and a-half francs a day.

This is considered dear; but the sheltered position of the house, looking south, and protected by a hill to the north-east, induced the Tocquevilles to pay for it about 1,000 francs more than its market value.

My conversations with M. de Tocqueville during this visit were written out after my return from Paris and sent to him. He returned them with the remarks which I have inserted. --N. W. SENIOR.

1854.]

Mr. Senior's Journals.

63

I will throw together the conversations of February 22 and 23. They began by my giving to him a general account of the opinions of my friends in Paris.

'I believe,' said Tocqueville, 'that I should have found out many of your interlocutors without your naming them. I am sure that I should Thiers, Duvergier, Broglie, and Rivet; perhaps Faucher-certainly Cousin. I translate into French what you make them say, and hear them speak. I recognise Dumon and Lavergne, but I should not have discovered them. The conversation of neither of them has the marked, peculiar flavour that distinguishes that of the others. You must recollect, however, that some of your friends knew, and most of the others must have suspected, that you were taking notes. Thiers speaks evidently for the purpose of being reported. To be sure that shows what are the opinions that men wish to be supposed to entertain, and they often betray what they think that they conceal. Still it must be admitted that you had not always the natural man. 'I am sorry,' he added, 'that you have not penetrated more into the salons of the Legitimists. You have never got further than a Fusionist. The Legitimists are not the Russians that Thiers describes them. Still less do they desire to see Henri V. restored by foreign intervention. They and their cause have suffered too bitterly for having committed that crime, or that fault, for them to be capable of repeating it. They are anti-national so far as not to rejoice in any victories obtained by France under this man's guidance. But I cannot believe that they would

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