« НазадПродовжити »
up in it.
lay down as a test of obsoleteness. _In practical politics we see daily illustrations of this spirit. The small boroughs, for instance, are what is called a practical anomaly. The representation of various interests is a principle of the Constitution. Do the Radical Reformers show the slightest inclination to respect the principle while devising remedies for the anomaly? On the contrary, men tell us openly that no practical anomaly can any longer be defended in England by reference to a mere principle; and they openly brag of their empiricism. The inequalities of income in the Church are perhaps another practical anomaly. But the existence of a territorial hierarchy represents another great principle, which has the possibility of this anomaly wrapped
Are we to remove the anomaly at the risk of destroying the principle ?—to cut off an excrescence that disfigures us at the risk of bleeding to death? Yes, certainly, say the Radicals. One great reason of this fatal tendency in modern times is doubtless this: that to grasp and appreciate principles of this description is a process of the intellect, and can only be achieved by minds of some logical discipline; whereas it is open to the meanest capacity to see the particular disproportion of numbers to representatives in the one case, and of income to work in the other. To reach the higher law requires, in the first place, some intellectual tension; and in the second place a belief in such laws. De Quincey, whose long study of metaphysics made him well acquainted both with the Platonic ideas and the Baconian laws,' so admirably harmonized by Coleridge, seems also to have had faith in the Platonic theory of knowledge, which consisted in the apprehension of these ideas. Coleridge's political writings have constant reference to Platonism. His views on · Church and State’are everywhere coloured by this philosophy. After giving us his idea of the State as a body representing three principles, i.e. the principle of permanence (the landed aristocracy), the principle of progress (commerce), and the principle of intelligence (the learned professions), he also gives us his idea of the Church as it 'exists at present, which starts from the highest a priori standing ground. His great objection to Roman Catholic Émancipation is that it may some day lead to the recognition of Irish Romanism as the Irish Church: a clear deviation from the idea of the Catholic Church. And this is precisely the view of the most orthodox, learned, and enlightened Anglicans. Whereas your chance neighbour in an omnibus or at a dinner party can only look at the coarse argument of numbers, and think that the present Irish Church must be the intruder, and not the disciples of the Church of Rome, Coleridge and the High Vol. 110.- No. 219.
Churchmen deduce their conclusion from the pre-existent idea of a universal Church. Our friend in question gathers his from a posterior fact by which his own mental vision is bounded. So again, in the much-vexed controversy of Charles the First and his Parliament, both Coleridge and De Quincey took the side of the latter. But why? Not that they thought Charles was deliberately violating the laws as they existed in his reign, but because he was deviating from the idea' of the British Constitution.
To the ordinary arguments, whether of Conservatism or Whiggery,
neither Coleridge nor De Quincev attached much weight. Vested interests,' the bursting of the floodgates,' and such like, were in their eyes phrases to scare children. The strenuous exercise of the pure reason landed them in a certain political theory. How it was to be carried out defended was the business of statesmen to inquire. Certain eternal principles of human society they believed to be deducible from the constitution of nature. These pre-existent ideas are only understood by the more educated and thoughtful few. They can never be practically carried out in a state of abstract perfection. But we are to keep our eyes fixed upon this ideal : this should be the fountain from which we draw the conception of all legislative improvements; and if we attempt to remedy particular and casual evils, in neglect of this standard, it is more than probable that our medicines will turn out poisons, and the result death.
Underneath all these views lay the profound conviction that in Government and society there is something more than meets the eye.' The vulgar abuse of institutions was, in De Quincey's judgment, very like Johnson's refutation of Berkeley. The real verities which lie at the back of, and are often obscured by, phænomena, are neither understood nor respected by the Radical. He is a slave to the senses, and his powers of reasoning are limited in proportion. He is, in fact, the savage of civilization, to whom the venerable decencies of the social fabric are troublesome fetters, and the grand truths of political philosophy unintelligible jargon.
Such, as near as we can conjecture, was the political creed of Thomas De Quincey. It is not stated in his writings in so many words; but it exhales from them. He forms one of a very small class who bring to the consideration of material questions the habit of subtle thought which is acquired in the schools. The practical efficiency of such a creed is probably slight; but its value as adding dignity to a contest which is ever too apt to sink down into a scramble for ephemeral advantages cannot be exag
gerated. To the petty incidents of party warfare and the ignoble tactics of selfish ambition it imparts all the interest of that mightier conflict which has been waging since the world began: the conflict between truth and falsehood; between the empiric and the philosopher. It is well that we should be sometimes led to meditate on the transcendental side of all politics. The tendency of the present age is to lead us in the opposite direction. There can be no fear that what men call · scholastic subtleties' should ever regain an undue ascendency over our minds. That we should become gradually disabled from rising to general views, and cease to attach much importance to principles, is a far less improbable contingency. Against such dangers as these we find our best antidote in such writers as De Quincey. His inability to judge practical questions; his erroneous estimates of particular men and particular events; are no drawback to his value as a searcher after abstract truth. And to all who in these modern days do still feel a yearning after some spiritual and idealistic confirmation of hereditary beliefs; who would fain have some deeper foundation for their attachment to ancient institutions than either a dumb tradition or the slight excess of all but evenlybalanced evidence, we can most heartily commend the entire works of this author. Though they do not give him what he seeks in express terms, they will teach him where to find it for himself.
A great master of English composition; a critic of uncommon delicacy; an honest and unflinching investigator of received opinions; a philosophic inquirer, second only to his first and sole hero: De Quincey has departed from us full of years, and left no successor to his rank. The exquisite finish of his style, with the scholastic rigour of his logic, form a combination which centuries may never reproduce, but which every generation should study as one of the marvels of English literature.
Art. II.—1. Les Moines d'Occident depuis Saint Benoît jusqu'à
Saint Bernard. Par le Comte de Montalembert, l'un des
Quarante de l'Académie Française. Tt. i.-ii. Paris, 1860. 2. The Monks of the West, from St. Benedict to St. Bernard.
Authorized Translation. Vols. i.-ii. Edinburgh and London, 1861. T is somewhat more than a quarter of a century since M. de
Montalembert, in the fervour of youthful enthusiasm, produced his Life of St. Elizabeth of Hungary'—the prototype of a host of romantico-religious biographies which have appeared in
France, and which have their parallels among ourselves in such productions as the Lives of the English Saints,' edited by Dr. Newman, and the Life of St. Thomas Becket,' by Mr. Morris, Canon of Northampton.' The work now before us was begun soon after the publication of the Life of St. Elizabeth ;' but the prosecution of it was interrupted by the author's entrance on that political career in which his eloquence made him one of the most conspicuous members of Louis Philippe's parliament, and in which, while there was not a little that might be regarded as indiscreet, extravagant, or grievously mistaken, no one could have failed to discern throughout a high and honourable mind, sincere conviction, undaunted courage, and disinterested zeal. The composition was resumed, he tells us, in consequence of some words spoken in honour of the monastic orders by Pius IX. amidst the enthusiasm which followed on his election, when the author seems to have dreamed that a new reign of the Roman Church, and of liberty through the Roman Church, was inaugurated ; and it is now dedicated to the same Pope at a time when all around him is gloomy-when, after years of reactionary policy, after having been long obliged to rely on foreign arms for protection from the people of his own city, he finds himself stripped of the greater part of his territory, and helplessly at the mercy of princes who style themselves his children, and while, unlike the terrible Gregories and Innocents of older days, he does not venture to launch against them anything more awful than feeble and querulous protestations. But, sadly changed as is the Pope's condition, Count Montalembert's consistent devotion to him is something more than the mere show of constancy to a name : if there was a common cause between the author and his patron in 1847, there was also in 1860 a special ground of community in the feeling with which each must regard the man to whom M. de Montalembert is compelled to look as his despotic sovereign, and the Pope as his dangerous protector.
M. de Montalembert had at first intended to write only a life of St. Bernard; but the undertaking has grown in his hands. As Bernard's career in the twelfth century would not have been possible but for the labours of Gregory VII, in the eleventh, a life of Gregory seemed to be necessary as the prelude to the life of Bernard. But the seventh Gregory (or Hildebrand) had only carried out a work which was begun five centuries earlier by St. Gregory the Great; and Gregory the Great, in his monasticism, was a follower of St. Benedict of Nursia : nay, Benedict himself, the great monastic legislator of the West, did not appear until monachism had for nearly three centuries existed in the East; so that the story must go back to Gregory the Great, to Benedict,
and, far beyond, to Antony and Paul, the hermits of the Egyptian desert. * We confess that we cannot quite follow this reasoning. No doubt a biographer of St. Bernard ought to be acquainted with the earlier history of monachism, and with very much more of earlier history; and we are far from complaining that, through M. de Montalembert's idea of his duty as a biographer, we may reckon on much pleasant reading in addition to what a mere life of St. Bernard might have seemed to promise. But it is a somewhat alarming doctrine that the biography of a man eminent in any way must include lives of all his eminent predecessors in the same line; that the biographer of Napoleon the First, for example, must hold himself bound to begin with Nimrod and Sesostris; the biographer of George Stephenson with Tubal-Cain ; and the biographer of Gifford or Jeffrey with the patriarch Photius, of Constantinople, who is, we believe, the earliest of known reviewers.
M. de Montalembert has undoubtedly read his authorities well, although his pages do not give us the idea of any very excessive labour, and although his protestations as to the amount of time and pains bestowed on things which make little showŤ are only such as might be made by every man who has been engaged in any sort of literary inquiry. In the work of a Frenchman, we take the quotation of Greek writers through Latin translations as a matter of course, I and, if M. de Montalembert sometimes quotes a secondary authority in a matter for which suck an authority is really sufficient, we honour him for his superiority to that pedantry of small critics which will never allow a writer to cite anything less imposing than the most recondite volumes in the British Museum or the Bibliothèque Impériale.
The book may be best described as a popular account of the subject, although executed with a love and a labour which
* Introd. Pp.
+ Ibid., p. cclxxvi. There is another French peculiarity in quotation,—that of culling out such words of the original authorities as are supposed to be important or characteristic, and stringing them together incoherently in the notes. As an example the following note from vol. ii. p. 311 may serve:- Sæculari pompa se comitante
.. Fanum quod a Francis colebatur diabolico machinamento Franci et universa multitudo cum gladiis et fustibus . . . Regina ... equam quem sedebat inantea non movit. This is, as we have said, the usual style of French quotation, and we do not specially blame M. de Montalembert for following the custom of his countrymen. But it certainly seems intended to combine superfluity with deficiency, and to be as utterly useless as possible.
$ The true view of this matter is, we think, given by Mr. Hallam :--The utility, for the most part, of perusing original and contemporary authors, consists less in ascertaining mere facts than in acquiring that insight into the spirit and temper of their times, which it is utterly impracticable for any compiler to impart.'Middle Ages, i. 219, ed. 1841.