Зображення сторінки

that he overrated the intensity of his feeling at that proud moment of his triumph ? Prosperity deadens enthusiasm, and too often blinds the conscience. Louis Philippe, no doubt, took his oath in sincerity, and fell a sacrifice afterwards to his great good fortune.

The reader who shall have gathered from the necessarily hurried narrative which has been placed before him the conviction that, from the days of Louis XIV. down to the time of Louis Philippe I., one perpetual struggle existed between a king who aimed at despotism and a people who desired only the subversion of constituted authority, will have received a false impression of the actual case, which he will do well to rectify. It has been asserted also that the secret of France's troubles from the commencement of the present century until this very hour consists in the fact that the rulers of the people, by denying the majority ordinary justice, placed the whole state at the mercy of a minority, who craved not justice but universal anarchy. “The furious," such reasoners say, "might at any time have been disarmed, had monarchs been honest enough to strengthen the hands of the moderate. Louis Philippe knew this, for he said as much when Charles X. opposed himself to the equitable demands of his parliament;" but while we cannot shut our eyes to the fatal consequences of this error as regards the destinies of the House of Orleans, we may remark that nothing would be more unsound, either historically or philosophically, than to confound the outward circumstances of a revolution with the far deeper moral causes which must inevitably have produced it.



To a superficial observer the age and infirmities of the King -- the recent death of his sister—the hesitation and doubt produced by divided counsels at a moment when the energy and decision of a single man might have stayed the torrent for years, may sufficiently account for the sudden abdication and the inglorious retreat. Had Louis Philippe (it may be said) been ten years younger-had the Prince de Joinville been there-had Marshal Bugeaud been allowed to have his way, would the revolution of February have occurred at all? Very possibly not. But so it is with all great events, whether in the fortunes of empires or of men.

The inscrutable decrees of Providence, which regulate the affairs of nations and individuals by the same laws, oftentimes fulfil themselves by means of instruments apparently quite unequal to the importance of the occasion. Men pave the way to their own destruction by a long course of recklessness or vice; rulers let opportunities pass by, or lose the affections of their subjects by selfishness and intrigue; but when at length the downfall of either comes, it often appears to have so little connexion with what has preceded as to look like the result of a mere oversight or chance. We shall not attempt the task of inquiring by what chain of events or by what series of political errors Louis Philippe managed to destroy the work of thirty years. The true causes of revolutions often lie hidden in those depths of human nature which few politicians take the trouble to explore, but which may nevertheless contain within themselves elements of disorganisation which no human foresight could have been able to control. To have failed in a contest with such antagonists may prove the monarch to have been incompetent, but may not prove that he deserved his fate. The punishment which overtook the ex-King of the French may be the punishment of an earlier and a worse ambition than that which contrived the fortifications of Paris, or the Spanish marriages. We do not know that the French nation would have fared better under a more liberal monarch than Louis Philippe proved himself, or that, with their present institutions, they are fit for monarchy at all. We should envy no ruler the task of attempting to engraft a shoot of true liberty and manly independence upon that stunted growth of the first revolution which has taken such deep root in the soil of France. How a monarchy is to exist without a middle class to support it, and how a middle class is to be created without giving the people right to dispose of their property as they please, are problems which remain to be solved, but which, we may be sure, contain the secret of the social evils of France.

Octobcı 23, 1849.




We call the French Revolution a Drama, giving to the term its simplest and most obvious definition. It is difficult to contemplate all the features of that unexpected and extraordinary event, and not to regard it as a dramatic masterpiece performed by the choicest artists to be found in Europe. Our friends across the Channel are without competitors in the histrionic line. They are born actors. French human nature is nature elevated and adorned by art. You see it everywhere—in the open streets, in the House of Parliament, in judicial halls, in the smallest boy, in the oldest graybeard, from the gamin to the Prime Minister. Life in Paris is anything but the jog-trot vegetating business of life in London. Here we push our way from the cradle to the grave, troubling our heads with no man's business—not courting observation, not striving for effect. There life is a romantic representation of existence, gratuitously offered for the edification or amusement of the world at large. Hence the unapproachable excellence of French vaudevilles, which are but so many daguerreotypes of national manners; and hence also the insipidity of French tragedy, which, scorning to be natural, and striving to be classical, neither satisfies the judgment nor grapples with the heart. Midway, however,


between vaudeville and tragedy modern ingenuity has contrived a species of composition much more suited to the feverish times in which we live than either of the other two. They who have read Dumas and seen Lemaitre know the style. Grand interminable pieces, neither truthfully severe nor painfully familiar; each act a tableau, each scene a romance : the dramatis persona made up of the loftiest and the lowliestKings and Queens mingling with beggars and cutthroats, the vilest jostling against the most heroic, deformity playing the foil to beauty, vice to inno

Now we are in a palace, now in a hovel; now the great tumble down, and now the humble are uplifted ; now you quiver at a hair-breadth escape, now the dance animates or the


your much astonished spirit; from first to last. great effects, picturesque situations, unlooked for rencontres -endless excitement !

Such a pièce historique is the Revolution of 1848 ; a play with entirely new scenes and decorations, and performed, we may truly say, by the whole strength of the company. No work of fiction coming from the pen of the prolific Dumas, opposed as the brilliant and seductive production may seem to probability and nature, reads half so like a tale of purest fiction as the performance of which we speak. Incongruous as are the scenes, characters, and incidents which that dashing writer brings into his framework, the incongruity looks perfectly symmetrical, by the side of the desperately conflicting and wonderfully opposite events that crowd into the drama under consideration. Dumas is the prince of inventors, but in the height of his audacity he has stopped short of

« НазадПродовжити »