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any year, which, to use the words of Junius, 'the gravest of chaplains would not be able to read without laughing.'
Our limits compel us to state briefly, that the other great departments of the revenue of Bengal, the richest by far of the Company's possessions, are managed by the Board of Customs, salt and opium, fixed in Calcutta ; by the instrumentality, in the two latter branches, of agents, members of the civil service, stationed at the principal places of manufacture or store. We cannot discuss, at the close of a long article, the principles of the great monopolies of salt and opium. As monopolies they are, of course, essentially vicious; that of salt operating as a poll-tax, almost absolutely irrespective of the means, and consequently of the obligations to the state, of the person paying it; that of opium mixing up the Christian rulers of India, in a minner the most discreditable, with the demoralizing traffic by which British merchants poison the minds and bodies of the Chinese and Malays. It is clear to us that the government should abandon all concern in the mannfacture of this druy, and content itself with levying such an export duty at the port of shipment as would not afford too tempting a premium to the smuggler. There would be loss of revenue in this, no doubt; but there would be great gain of character. Were it not for the unfortunate permanent settlement of the land revenue, which so many extol as the perfection both of justice and of financial wisdom, (as if there could have been no middle course between annual assessments at rackrents, and the limitation for ever of the supply to be derived from the best possible source of national expenditure,) both these monopolies, objectionable from different but equally cogent reasons, might be altogether abandonedl; and the transit duties at Madras might, at the same time, be abolished, and all the ports of India be declared absolutely free. Let those who know any thing of the condition of India, and of the effects of a bad system of taxation in any land, weigh these advantages against those which the community derive from the immunities enjoyed by the Zemindars in the permanently settled provinces ; for no one pretends that any other class, even of those directly connected with the soil, is a whit the better off in consequence of the limitation of the public demand. Bitter cause have the people of India to rue Lord Cornwallis' mistaken benevolence, which, whilst it shackles the hands of the government, fixes, hopelessly, unequal and mischievous taxes upon the shoulders of the people.
ART. VI.-Madame de Sévigné and her Contemporaries.
Two vols. 8vo. London : 1842.
TIADAME DE SÉVIGNÉ, in her combined and inseparable chaV racter as writer and woman, enjoys the singular and delightful reputation of having united, beyond all others of her class, the rare with the familiar, and the lively with the correct.
The moment her name is mentioned, we think of the mother who loved her daughter; of the most charming of letter-writers; of the ornament of an age of license, who incuried none of its ill-repute ; of the female who has become one of the classics of her language, without effort and without intention.
The sight of a name so attractive, in the title-page of the volumes before us, has made us renew an intercourse, never entirely broken, with her own. We have lived over again with her and her friends from her first letter to her last, including the new matter in the latest Paris editions. We have seen her writing in her cabinet, dancing at court, being the life of the company in her parlour, nursing her old uncle the Abbé; bantering Mademoiselle du Plessis ; lecturing and then jesting with her son; devouring the romances of Calprenede, and responding to the wit of Pascal and La Fontaine ; walking in her own green alleys by moonlight, enchanting cardinals, politicians, pbilosophers, beauties, poets, devotees, haymakers ; ready to
die with laughter' fifty times a-day; and idolizing her daughter for ever.
It is somewhat extraordinary, that of all the admirers of a woman so interesting, not one has yet been found in these islands to give any reasonably good account of her--any regular and comprehensive information respecting her life and writings. The notices in the biographical dictionaries are meagre to the last degree; and sketches' of greater pretension have seldom consisted of more than loose and brief memorandums, picked out of others, their predecessors. The name which report has assigned to the compiler of the volumes before us, induced us to entertain sanguine hopes that something more satisfactory was about to be done for the queen of letter-writing ; and undoubtedly the portrait which has been given of her, is, on the whole, the best hitherto to be met with. But still it is a limited, hasty, and unfinished portrait, forming but one in a gallery of others; many of which have little to do with her, and some, scarcely any connexion even with her times. Now, in a work entitled “Madame
de Sévigné and her Contemporaries,' we had a right to expect a picture with the foreground occupied by herself and her friends, and the rest of the group at greater or less distances, in proportion to their reference to the main figure; something analogous to an interesting French print, which exhibits Molière reading one of his plays to an assembly of wits, at the house of Ninon de l'Enclos. "The great comic writer is on his legs—the prominent object-acting as well as reading his play, in a lively and salient attitude, full of French expression ; near him sits the lady of the house, as the gatherer together of the party; and round both, in characteristic postures, but all listening to the reader, sit Rochefoucauld, La Fontaine, Corneille, and one or two more. But in a picture of Madame de Sévigné, and those whom an association of ideas would draw round her, what have we to do with Cardinal Richelieu, and Père Joseph, and Buisrobert ? What with the man in the Iron Mask,' with Lord Herbert of Cherbury, the Earls of Holland and Ossory, the Dukes of Buckingham, Shrewsbury, and St Simon, and others who flourished before and after her day? There is, it is true, a sprinkling of extracts from Madame de Sévigné's letters through the greater part of the volumes ; but even these naturally fail us in many of the sketches, and of whole letters we have but two or three; whereas, what the public looked for, was a regular and satisfactory account both of her writings and her life, a selection of specimens of her letters, and some talk about her friends; in short, about all of whom she talks herself; not excepting Ninon, of whom there is here scarcely a word; and assuredly not omitting such a friend as Corbinelli, whose name we do not remember seeing in the book. There is very little even about her son the Marquis, and not a syllable respecting her startling 'contemporaries,' Brinvilliers and La Voisin ; while, on the other hand, we have a long account of the King and Queen of Spain, and a history of the very foreign transactions of Stradella the musician. It is much as if, in the print above mentioned, Molière and his friends had been thrust into the background, and the chief part of the composition given up to a view of the courts of France and England. We need not dwell upon the contradictions between the advertisement and the introduction' respecting the chief authorities consulted; or such as those in the opinions expressed about Louis the Fourteenth, who is at one time represented as the greatest monarch that had appeared in France • previous to the times of Napoleon and Louis-Philippe,' and at another as a man whose talents were • below mediocrity. The work, in a word, is one of the jobbing, book-making expedients of the day, with a dishonest title-page; and yet there are ketches and passages in it so good, and indicative of a power to
do so much better, that we speak of it thus with regret. It should have been called by some other name. At present it reminds us too much of the famous ode on Doctor Pococke, in which there was something about one Pococke' towards the middle of the composition.
Proceeding to sketch out, from our own acquaintance with her, what we conceive to be a better mode of supplying some account of Madame de Sévigné and her writings, we shall, in the order of time, speak of her ancestors and other kindred, her friends and her daily habits, and give a few specimens of the best of her letters; and we shall do all this with as hearty a relish of her genius as the warmest of her admirers, without thinking it necessary to blind ourselves to any weaknesses that may have accompanied it. With all her good-nature, the charmo ing woman' had a sharp eye to a defect herself; and we have too great a respect for the truth that was in her, not to let her honestly suffer in its behalf, whenever that first cause of all that is great and good demands it.
Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, Baroness de Chantal and Bourbilly, afterwards Marchioness de Sévigné, was born, in all probability, in Burgundy, in the old ancestral château of Bourbilly, between Semur and Epoisses, on the 5th of February 1627. Her father, Celse Benigne de Rabutin, Baron as above mentioned, was of the elder branch of his name, and cousin to the famous Count Bussy-Rabutin ; her mother, Marie de Coulanges, daughter of a secretary-of-state, was also of a family whose name afterwards became celebrated for wit; and her paternal grandmother, Jeanne Françoise Fremyot, afterwards known by the title of the Blessed Mother of Chantal, was a saint. The nuns of the Order of the Visitation, which she founded by the help of Saint Francis de Sales, beatified her, with the subsequent approbation of Benedict XIV.; and she was canonized by Clement XIV. (Ganganelli) in 1767. There was a relationship between the families of Rabutin and De Sales ;-names which it would be still stranger than it is to see in conjunction, had not the good St Francis been the liveliest and most tolerant of his class. We notice these matters, because it is interesting to discover links between people of celebrity ; and because it would be but a sorry philosophy which should deny the probable effects produced in the minds and dispositions of a distinguished race by intermixtures of blood and associations of ideas. Madame de Sévigné's father, for instance, gave a rough foretaste of her wit and sincerity, by a raillery amounting to the brusque, sometimes to the insolent. · He wrote the following congratulatory epistle to a minister of finance, whom the King (Louis XIII.) had transformed into a marshal :
"My Lord, • Birth; black beard; intimacy.
CHANTAL Meaning that his new fortune had been owing to his quality, to his position near the royal person, and to his having a black beard like his master. Both the Chantals and the Fremyots, a race remarkable for their integrity, had been amongst the warmest adherents of Henry IV.; and, indeed, the whole united stock may be said to have been distinguished equally for worth, spirit, and ability, till it took a twist of intrigue and worldliness in the solitary instance of the scapegrace Bussy. We may discern, in the wit and integrity of Madame de Sévigné-in her natural piety, in her cordial partizanship, and at the same time in that tact for universality which distinguished her in spite of it--a portion of what was best in all her kindred, not excepting a spice of the satire, but without the malignity, of her supercilious cousin. She was truly the flower of the family tree; and laughed at the top of it with a brilliancy as well as a softness, compared with which Bussy was but a thorn.
The little heiress was only a few months old when the Baron de Chantal died, bravely fighting against the English in their descent on the Isle of Rbé. It was one of the figments of Gregorio Leti, that he received his death-wound from the hand of Cromwell. The Baron's widow survived her husband only five years; and it seems to have been expected that the devout grandmother, Madame de Chantal tlie elder, would have been anxious to take the orphan under her care. But whether it was that the mother had chosen to keep the child too exclusively under her own, or that the future saint was too much occupied in the concerns of the other world and the formation of religious houses, (of which she founded no less than eighty-seven ;) the old lady contented herself with recommending her to the consideration of an Archbishop, and left her in the hands of her maternal relations. They did their part nobly by her. She was brought up with her fellow-wit and correspondent, PhilippeEmmanuel de Coulanges; and her uncle Christophe, Abbé de Livry, became her second father, in the strictest and most enduring sense of the word. He took care that she should acquire graces at court, as well as encouragements to learning from his friends; saw her married, and helped to settle her children ; extricated her affairs from disorder, and taught her to surpass him