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the world had been feeling and saying before. They knew how to appropriate for ever to themselves a combination of thoughts and feelings, which, except in the combination, have not a trace of novelty, nor the slightest claim to be regarded as original. In shorter terms, they knew how to write heart-language.
A large proportion of the material of which the poetry of David, Æschylus, Homer, and Shakspeare is composed, if presented for use to many of our greatest writers in its unwrought and unfashioned state, would infallibly be rejected as common-place, and unworthy of all regard. Our poets must now be philosophers; as Burke has taught all our prose writers and most of our prosaic speakers to be, at least in effort and desire. Hence it is that so large a part of the poetry which is now published is received as worthy of all admiration, but not of much love-is praised in society, and laid aside in solitude—is rewarded by an undisputed celebrity, but not by any heartfelt homage -is heard as the discourse of a superior, but not as the voice of a brother.
The diligent students and cultivated admirers of poetry will assign to the author of · Edwin the Fair' a rank second to none of the competitors for the laurel in his own generation. They will celebrate the rich and complex harmony of his metre, the masculine force of his understanding, the wide range of his survey of life and manners, and the profusion with which he can afford to lavish his intellectual resources. The mere lovers of his art will complain, that in the consciousness of his own mental wealth, he forgets the prevailing poverty ; that he levies too severe a tribute of attention, and exacts from a thoughtless world meditations more deep, and abstractions more prolonged, than they are able or willing to command. Right or wrong, it is but as the solace of the cares, and as an escape from the lassitude of life, that most men surrender their minds to the fascination of poetry; and they are not disposed to obey the summons to arduous thinking, though proceeding from a stage resplendent with picturesque forms, and resounding with the most varied harmonies. They will admit that the author of · Edwin the Fair' can both judge as a philosopher, and feel as a poet; but will wish that his poetry had been less philosophical, or his philosophy less poetical. It is a wish which will be seconded by those who revere his wisdom, and delight in his genius ; and who, therefore, regret to anticipate that his labours will hardly be rewarded by an early or an extensive popularity.
ART. IV.- Souvenirs de M. Berryer. 2 vols. 8vo. Paris, 1839.
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AUTOBIOGRAPHIES may be divided into two classes ; those n which interest principally as a history of the mind of the writer, and those which derive their chief value from the events which they relate, or the persons whom they describe. The first class require the union of several rare conditions. Few men know their own history. Few men know the fluctuating nature of their own character ;-how much it has varied from ten years to ten years, or even from year to year; or what qualities it would exbibit in untried circumstances, or even on the recurrence of similar events. Few men attempt to distinguish between the original predispositions and the accidental influences which, sometimes controlling and sometimes aggravating one another, together formed at any particular epoch their character for the time being. Still fewer attempt to estimate the relative force of each ; and fewer still would succeed in such an attempt. The conversations, the books, the examples, the pains and the pleasures which constitute our education, exert an influence quite disproportioned to their apparent importance at the time when they occurred. Such influences operate long after their causes have been forgotten. The effects of early education are confounded with natural predisposition, and tendencies implanted by nature are attributed to events which were merely the occasions on which they burst forth. The bulk of men think of their minds as they think of their bodies : they enjoy their strength and regret their weakness, they dwell with pleasure on the points in which they are superior to others, and with pain on those in which they are inferior; but they cannot account for the one or for the other.
They know no more of the causes of their talents or of their morals, than they do of their beauty or their vigour.
Again, among the few who have the power to relate their mental history, few indeed have the wish. Most men dread the imputation of egotism or vanity. Most men, too, are aware that a full narrative of their feelings, wishes, and habits, must frequently excite the disapprobation of a reader. • Each mind,' says Foster, has an interior apartment of its own, into which none • but itself and the Divinity can enter. In this retired place the
passions mingle and fluctuate in unknown agitations. There, • all the fantastic, and all the tragic shapes of imagination have a haunt where they can neither be invaded nor descried. There,
the surrounding human beings, while quite unconscious of it, 6 are made the subjects of deliberate thought, and many of the designs respecting them revolved in silence. There, projects, convictions, vows, are confusedly scattered, and the records of past life are laid. There, in solitary state, sits conscience, surrounded by her own thunders, which sometimes sleep, and sometimes roar, while the world does not know."*
Men are unwilling to reveal, even posthumously, the secret which a whole life has been employed in concealing. Even those who could bear to excite disapprobation would be afraid of ridicule, and perfect frankness is certain to be absurd. We do not believe that a really unreserved autobiography has ever been written. Rousseau's appears to approach most nearly to one. Almost every chapter tends to make the writer hateful, contemptible, or ridiculous. And yet we now know that even the Confessions' are not to be depended upon. We now know that much has been concealed, and that much has been positively invented.
Under these circumstances, autobiographies of the first class are almost as rare as epic poems; but those of the second class-those which amuse or instruct as pictures of the events and the people among whom the writer lived---are among the most abundant products of modern literature.
It is remarkable, however, that while soldiers, statesmen, diplomatists, men of letters, actors, artists, courtiers-in short, almost all classes who have something to tell, and who have been accustomed to notoriety-have been anxious to relate their own story to the public, one body of active men, though ready enough to talk of others, have been almost uniformly silent as to themselves. With the exception of the beautiful fragments by Sir Samuel Romilly, and they belong rather to the former class
of autobiographies, and of the work the title of which we have • prefixed to this article, we scarcely recollect an instance in which
a Lawyer, either British or foreign, has thought fit to be his own biographer. And yet there are scarcely any persons the result of whose experience would be more instructive; since there are none who obtain so close or so undisturbed a view of human nature. In courts, in public assemblies, in business, in society, men are masked, and they generally believe that their success depends on their disguise. But few men think that any thing is to be gained by deceiving their lawyer. He is not their rival, but their instrument. His skill is to extricate them from difficulties where they know neither the amount of the danger nor the means of escape. He is to be the tool of their avarice or of their revenge. They generally know that, in order to enable him to execute their purposes, they must stand naked before him; and
* Foster's Essays, p. 41.
even when they are absurd enough to attempt concealment, his experience will almost uniformly detect it.
These remarks, however, do not apply to the bar of England or of Scotland. The professional rule which excludes counsel from the real client, except in the presence of the client's solicitor, deprives our barristers of almost all these peculiar opportunities of observation. But on the Continent, not only does no such rule exist, but the counsel appear to perform almost all the duties which with us are confined to the solicitors. We shall find M. Berryer receiving his clients, calling on them, travelling with them, obtaining evidence, in short, acting almost always in the double capacity of counsel and attorney. This circumstance adds greatly to the interest of his memoirs, and appears also to have added greatly to the interest of his professional life. His clients, instead of being mere names to be forgotten as soon as the suit should terminate, become his friends and associates. Unhappily, indeed, the miserable period through which he lived made such intimacies often a source of pain. They naturally included the men most eminent in commerce, manufactures, and banking ; and those were precisely the persons whom the anarchists thought fit to suspect at a time when suspicion was death.
But without further anticipation, we proceed to give a general view of M. Berryer's memoirs. They belong to the second class of autobiographies - those in which the interest is fixed, not on the author, but on the objects which surround him. M. Berryer's professional life endured sixty-four years, from 1774 to 1838; the most remarkable period in the history of France, perhaps in the history of the world. It extended through the delusive calm of the unreformed royalty, the brief attempt at constitutional monarchy under the Constituent Assembly, the anarchy under the Legislative Assembly and the Convention, the tyranny of the Directory, the restorative interval of the Consulate, the glories and despotism of the Empire, the impotent reaction of the Restoration, and the intrigues and corruption of the kingdom of the French. The other institutions of the country were still more unstable than the government. M. Berryer found the Roman Catholic religion established with vast wealth and exclusive domination. It is now one among several sects acknowledged and salaried by the state. During the interval its priests have been despoiled, transported, and massacred ; every form of worship has been abolished; and it depended on one man whether France should be Protestant or Catholic. All the laws regulating the nature, the enjoyment, the exchange, and the devolution of real and personal property—the laws of marriage, of divorce, of legitimacy, of adoption, and of inheri. tance—the franchises and privileges of individuals, and of bodies politic-in short, all the rights of persons and of things, while M. Berryer was engaged in enforcing them, were altered, abolished, restored, and amended, by a legislation so transitory as really to deserve to be called, as he has called it, ephemeral. The criminal law was equally fluctuating. New crimes, new modes of trial, new rules of evidence, new tribunals, and new punishments, were invented, repealed, renewed, and modified, as it suited the convenience of a party, a faction, or an individual. A similar fate befell the law of procedure. Within two years from the meeting of the first National Assembly, not a court in which M. Berryer had practised during the first fifteen years of his professional life, was in existence. Soon afterwards, the order of which he was a member was abolished, and the law ceased to be a profession. For some years again there was no standard of value. To use, or even to possess metallic money, was a capital crime, and the only legal tender, the assignat, sank to about one four-hundredth part of its nominal value. The seller of a commodity was no longer allowed to fix its price. The price was to be determined by a committee, with reference to the ability of purchasers, whether the dealer could afford to sell at that price or not. To discontinue, or even to diminish any accustomed trade, was to incur the crime of being 'suspected;' and to be suspected was to be imprisoned; to be imprisoned was at one period to be massacred, and at another to be guillotined.
The picture of a society subjected to such influences would be most valuable, and no one had better opportunity of drawing it than M. Berryer. He had for materials not only his own experience, but that of his clients, and of clients taken from every class of society.
His recollections, as might be expected from a writer of his advanced age, seem to be more vivid as they recede towards the past. His first consultation in the dressing-room of the Duchess of Mazarin, where the aristocratic beauty, surrounded by her maids, and going through the details of her complicated toilette, listened to the conference between the timid junior and Gerbier, the leader of the bar; his first pleading in the Grand Chamber of the Parliament of Paris, its vaulted roof dimly illuminated at a seven o'clock sitting on a winter's morning, and the profound silence of the court, which awed him until he fainted; his first negotiation in the moated chateau of a feudal magistrate, while his client was concealed in the avenue ;-all these scenes are dwelt upon with a minuteness of detail, and brilliancy of colouring, which gradually disappear as he approaches the modern part of his narrative. Of this, however, we do not complain. Equality is not picturesque :