Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

napping is transportation for life; so you know what you've got to look to.

“But,” exclaimed Rachel, suddenly looking up, “my lady has no right to the boy as long as his mother lives!”

“ What claim have you to him?” retorted Mr. Yates. " And how do you know his mother is alive? Suppose I was to tell you

that she's been dead and buried these three years ! Don't you take it into your head that my lady acts without warrant. If

you do, you'll get the worst of it, as sure as my name's Matthew Yates.'

Rachel looked in the man's face and shuddered. Her instinctive fear of him was now explained: she recollected who he was ; she remembered to whose hands Edith had been consigned.

“ Ah,” said Mr. Yates, “ I thought it was time to jog your memory. I'm not one as does things by halves. Let's have no more fuss, but bring the boy to me to-morrow morning. That's where I'm staying. I give you all day to think over the matter. Only bear this in mind. A word from me to the prefect of police sends you and your husband to quod : you understand what that means ! And

you lose the boy into the bargain.” With these words he rose, threw his hotel card on the table

, and left the room with as much indifference as he had shown on entering it.

Rachel was dismayed, stunned, by the events of the last few minutes. She thought less of her own or of her husband's fate than of that of the darling of her heart. A little while ago and she had speculated on the hope of moving Mrs. Scrope to acknowledge Walter. Now he was actually claimed by her, and she trembled to think of giving him back.

But it was the nature of the demand that roused her fears. If Mrs. Scrope meant well towards her grandson would she have made choice of such a man as this Yates for her messenger?

How should she act, how temporise to turn aside the blow?

Only one course suggested itself, but before that could be taken she must consult her husband.

VOL. XLIII.

2 P

New-Book Notes by Monkshood,

MICHELET'S HISTORY OF FRANCE IN THE

SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.*

In the first five chapters of his new volume, M. Michelet treats successively of the Thirty Years' War; the situation of Richelieu in 1629 --in which critical year the Cardinal's policy underwent a change ;-the doings of the Imperialists in Italy, and the sack of Mantua ; the opposition Richelieu had to encounter from the two Queens (Marie of Medicis and Anne of Austria); and the victory with which his astute Eminence concluded the so-called Day of the Dupes. The sixth chapter then opens with a query. “There you have eighty pages to narrate the history of three years. And what is it that I have narrated ? Absolutely nothing." Nothing can come of nothing, as King Lear once said to his favourite daughter, and as ex-King Lear again said to his favoured fool. So that "absolutely nothing,” in this absolute sense, is not, after all, M. Michelet's meaning. Rien du tout, he says. But then he proceeds to "explain.” This nothing is something. Ce rien est quelque chose. For it is, in fact, the essence, the characteristic, the fond, of the time. Greatness of endeavour, and serious strivings, and complex combination, and the elaborate display of a huge political and diplomatic machine, clogged by the merest trifle, and requiring incessant readjustment, and crying and groaning with the travail of producing the very smallest effect-roilà what the five chapters are occupied with describing. Those unfortunate “ machinists,” Sully and Richelieu, attain nothing beyond petty ephemeral results, with all the imposing power of their sound wisdom and strong will.

What, indeed, remains, at this epoch, of Sully and his labours, of the good designs of Henri Quatre ? What is become of Richelieu's plans for turning Sully's economics to account? How has the Financial Reform movement prospered ? and how stand matters in the home department, the war-office, and that of foreign affairs in general ? We find that it cost Richelieu more labour to take “ those two little places, Pignerol and Saluces,” than it cost Louis XII. and Francis I. to conquer Lombardy at large. The unique and actual result, really obtained, was this—the positive amortissement of one great vital force, by means of which France had hitherto been terrible to Spain—that force being the Protestant party, the Protestant marine.

The distinguishing mark of the age is impotence, incapacity, “impuissance.” Every one feels clearly that something is dying out ; no one, what is coming into life. To ring out the old may be easy ; but who shall ring in the new ?

There are times in a nation's history when the most determined antagonist of dictatorship as a principle, of despotism in the abstract, is forced to accept a dictator, however reluctantly, to range himself on the

* Histoire de France au dix-septième Siècle: Richelieu et la Fronde. Par J. Michelet. Paris: Chamerot. 1858.

side of a despot, as the least of two or more evils. And M. Michelet, when he has to recount the conspiracy of Cinq-Mars and De Thou, in 1642, describes them as blind to the fact that, but for the “ violent dictatorship" of Cardinal Richelieu, France would have been irretrievably lost—that she would have been swallowed up by Wallenstein and the “ brigands” who aped his movements-blind, moreover, to the fact, that Richelieu, though himself unfortunate as a war-minister, yet fostered a war-spirit in France which promised great things to come, and in due time performed the promise, under a Condé and a Turenne.

What sort of judgment, then, does the historian finally pass on the great Cardinal ?

"Que ses actes le jugent,” he says. We are cautioned against amusing ourselves with those portraits in which, for the sake of concentrating the grands traits, abstraction is made of the numerous and complex details wherein the true life, the inner individuality, really exists. Still less should we take up with those vague comparisons which darken the subject they attempt to illustrate. Richelieu bears but a faint resemblance to Louis XI., although the resemblance has been so much insisted on; while as regards his likeness to the last king of France whom men call the Convention—it is, in Michelet's system of historical parallels, a thing undiscoverable, imperceptible, undemonstrable quite.

Richelieu is allowed to have had a genius for system and centralisation - though “Jess so than has been said”—for the main feat he wrought in this direction (viz. the creation of Intendants) was the result of a pressing necessity, on the morrow of the invasion, and not the accomplishment of a premeditated idea. His premeditations and his performances seldom agreed. What he did when the time came was rarely in accord with what he designed beforehand. But then the visible greatness of his mind and will, the immensity of his labours, the “sinister dignity" of his haughty attitude, served to veil what was tortuous in his policy, and brought him safe out of endless miseries, the fruit of his fatal contradictions. The foremost man of a bad age, we are reminded, can scarcely help being bad himself, to some extent. In Richelieu were seen not a few ugly traits, extravagances, inconsistencies, the anomaly of a priestly cavalier, the absurdity of a Sorbonne pedant and pitiful rhymester ; nay more, certain libertine escapades, not uncommon among prelates of the day, but more than commonly shocking in so terribly serious a man.

There was the acrimony of the priest in him. As a politician, he had the rage of the gamester who plays with reckless resolve to gain at all hazards—who stakes his life on a single card, and the life of others as well. Was Richelieu, however, really cruel? There is nothing to show it, Michelet affirms. “The forty condemned ones who perished under him within twenty years, were mal jugés no doubt (as was the custom then, by commissions), but were none the less guilty, and were for the most part traitors who betrayed us to the foreigner.” Granted then that Richelieu seldom pardoned. Had he pardoned, it must have been at the expense of France. But this relentless man was not incapable of human feelings ; this implacable ruler was not devoid of attachments and endearments. His love was strong, says Michelet, for those he loved at all : he never forgot a kindness done him; a better friend never lived. Even in the case of those for whom he had no liking, he sometimes tried to discipline his feelings by a sense of right. As an author, he was

miserably jealous of Corneille ; and as a politician, it was from Corneille he received, in the hour of his reverses, the unkindest cut of all—for such to him must have been the sight of Spain glorified by the Cid. Indeed all the pieces Corneille wrote had the look of an indirect declaration of war against the all-potent Minister. Yet the Minister pensioned Corneille, and even received him, despite his antagonism and surly ways. One day the Cardinal saw his Norman “rival” enter with a very dumpish air, downcast and dreamy-looking exceedingly. “ Vous travaillez, Corneille ?” naturally inquired the Cardinal. “ Alas! I am beyond all that, monseigneur. I am in love.” And the great Peter (we will not call him Peters, though his countrymen do call our greatest poet Williams) explained to his Eminence that the “ young person” he loved was of such exalted station that all hope of Peter's getting her was preposterous. And what, pray, might this station be ? who and what was the transcendent, unapproachable she? - Well, she was the daughter of a lieutenant-general. . . . Oh, of a military family ?—No, not at all military -of a lieutenant-general of finance, in the town of Andely.

Whether Richelieu laughed, or whistled, or coughed off his amusement, we are not told. But we are told that he exclaimed, “ Is that all ?” and a very natural exclamation too, after Maître Pierre's portentous preliminary This interview occurred just at the time of Cinna being produced on the stage-that Cinna, ou la Clémence d'Auguste, which sous cet homme inclément [Richelieu), parut une sanglante satire”—but the Cardinal would not be ungenerous with his visitor; he would play Augustus, and assume the virtue, even if he had it not, of clemency; he would even strain a point, and see if the bonhomme before him and the financial) lieutenant-general's daughter might not, after all, make a match of it. His Eminence wrote to the lieutenant-general (des finances) to come to Paris forthwith. That exalted personage was agitated by such a message, and obeyed it in a state of mind painfully bewildered, distracted by a thousand conjectural fears and conflicting apprehensions. In an awful fright he made his way to the Minister, and presented himself with abject submission, dreading if not prepared for the worst. But it ended in Richelieu's making him ashamed of himself for hesitating about an alliance between his

daughter and the great Corneille. So the marriage took place, and Corneille owed his wife to the man he believed to be his enemy, and whom, by poetical licence, he treated as such.

M. Michelet does not omit any illustration of this sort that may tell in the Cardinal's favour. But not the less does he place in full light the harsher, sterner features of the Cardinal's character-nor forego recording with ample emphasis the chicanery, and dissimulation, and intricate resources of espionage to which recourse was had by one equally crafty, vigilant, and determined. His familiar, Father Joseph, makes frequent appearances on the stage--none of them to any particular advantage. Le Père Joseph, as the famous Du Tremblay is called, was the leading man in the Minister's list of spies, or agents for foreign affairs, a list comprising large numbers of mendicant friars, missionaries, Franciscans, Capuchins, &c., who wandered to and fro, hither and thither, always with a motive and a “mission,” not always of the most upright or straightforward kind. Joseph was a Capuchin who had

[ocr errors]

grown old in diplomacy; a very dangerous man, who was long in Richelieu's service, and was all but the ruin of him before they parted. He had a taste, a talent for “the police ;” to him the whole body of spies rendered an account; and his brother being governor of the Bastille, Joseph had all the State prisoners under his thumb. Without allowing the exaggerated part his biographers assign him in Richelieu's destiny, our author holds it to be certain that Joseph had contributed to the Cardinal's elevation, and that he was long in possession of great influence under him. The Capuchin's outward semblance of poverty and austerity imposed on the simplicity of Louis XIII., who even confided to him, at times, his own “ little personal affairs.” And Richelieu, whose morals were frequently attacked, knew how to turn to advantage “ this monastic colour of a government of Capuchins,” both before Catholic Europe at large, and particularly with the King himself.

In and after the year 1625, Joseph was Richelieu's auxiliary—virtually his right-hand man-living in his palace, and even in the same apartment with him. In 1631, he became his Vice, Deputy, the Sub-Minister in fact; and had four Capuchins as chiefs of the four divisions of his department.

Michelet here remarks that the curiosity of the thing is, that this politician—the sous-ministre—had had for his primary vocation the idea of a poetical Eastern crusade, which he indeed accomplished in verse, under the odd title of the Turciade. The crusade itself was to have been achieved by a new order of chivalry, which was to conquer Germany on its onward march. All this chivalry, however, ended in a simple mission of Capuchin spies, directed by Father Joseph towards the East, and distributed by him throughout all lands that held in enmity the House of Austria. “By a whimsical alliance of contradictory tendencies, there yet remained somewhat of the poet, the chimerical dreamer, in the man of police. Father Joseph had great confidence in a crackbrained genius, the Dominican of Calabria, Campanella, who, being confined for seven-and-twenty years in the Spanish prisons at Naples, there wrote his

City of the Sun,' a scheme of ecclesiastical communism. Campanella, liberated in May, 1626, but never free from danger or from Spanish pursuit, was revered in France as Spain's capital foe, and as the oracle of a new polity, more daringly Machiavellian than Machiavelli himself. He also meddled with astrology. When Richelieu was on the point of getting Monsieur (Gaston, of Orleans] married to Mademoiselle de Montpensier (whence originated the great fortune of the house of Orleans), he hesitated, as the thought struck him that such a colossal property might cast the very throne into the shade, and be the means of dividing France. Father Joseph, we are told, obtained leave to consult Campanella, who was then at Rome. And the reply of the oracle was : Non gustabit imperium in æternum.So that Father Joseph was the means of appeasing ministerial scruples, by procuring an oracular guarantee that Monsieur should never have a taste of sovereign power ; and thereby figured as a match-maker extraordinary—a more amiable employment than too commonly occupied his distinguished talents.

But with all his talents--so pliant, supple, and ambidextrous—the Capuchin was not all the Cardinal could wish. They were at cross purposes now and then, and each was fond of having his own way.

6

« PreviousContinue »