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THE

IRISH

QUARTERLY REVIEW.

No. XXXIII.—APRIL, 1859.

Art. 1.-SCENES FROM THE REVOLUTION. Histoire de la Société Française pendant la Révolution,

par Edmond et Jules de Goncourt. E. Dentu : Paris,

1854. For a long period of time, Paris not satisfied with discharging to the rest of France such healthy functions as the heart does to the human frame, had taken on itself the duties of the brain and stomach, and, by so doing, had sensibly impaired the wellbeing of the entire body politic. It became morally what London is at this day physically--an overgrown, unhealthy organ of the social system. After a period of domestic broil and disturbance, a young king mounted the throne. He did not look on youtli, health, strength, and beauty as the gifts of a gracious Providence: he condescended to receive them as mere tributes to his station and individual merits, and shewed his gratitude by abusing every privilege conferred on him by exalted position or bountiful nature. His subjects, for whose temporal and eternal welfare he received his high trust, were only looked on as objects or instruments to give him pleasure ; and, if he could have had his will, the ministers of the Most High would be obliged to adapt the eternal laws of religion and morals to the standard of his inclinations and practices. Forgetting that a similar relation exists between a temporal and spiritual ruler as prevails between mere human polity and religion, he would have been well pleased to see the bishops of bis kingdom looking on him not merely as their secular, but, in a great measure, as their spiritual chief.

He certainly did not aspire to the bad eminence won by Henry VIII. of NO. XXXIII., VOL. IX.

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England, but his desires to meddle with the temporalities of the church, and appropriate to the behoof of his mistresses and favorites, what was intended for the bodily relief of the indigent, and for provision against their spiritual wants, were full as eager and earnest as tliose entertained by either our Second or Eighth Henry.

Well, he repented, and his latter years were spent in works of piely and penitence; but as nothing is more certain than the punishment, either temporal or eternal, that waits on evil deeds, his last days were embittered by the almost utter extinction of his family before his very eyes, and by bis inability to appoint a better guardian to his infant successor than an avowed infidel and debauchee. Whatever good his example and influence might have wrought in his latter years, was soon neutralised by the unbounded license which vice and irreligion enjoyed in the Regency, unchecked, as may well be supposed, by such moralists as Dubois and De Tencin.

The death of the Regent, awful but suitable in circumstance to his life,* introduced the amiable but easily-influenced Louis XV. to power, and what an atmosphere of moral pestilence gathered, and brooded, and hung thick and dark round his throne and city, according as his reign lengthened! It may well be supposed how powerless for good must be the influence of those ecclesiastics, who thronged the halls of such a ruler waiting for preferment or seeking favor. He was not a monarch likely to resign whatever influence over the clergy was bequeathed to him from his predecessors ; and those who would not bend the knee to Baal, but assert the cause of pure religion, the worthy successors of St. Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier, found themselves assailed in front by the so-called philosophers and their worthy disciples of the college of the

Cheering instances occur in the family of Philippe of Orleans and his successor, of the ever watchful care of Providence to limit the empire of evil in the world. The son of Louis XV., though thrown among the most depraved society, remained uncontaminated ; Princess Louisa led the life of a saint, and however the Duchess of Berri and her sisters might err in conduct, they still owned the influence of conscience, and the call of religion. What a heaven. inspired courage was evinced by the priest, who kept watch and ward at the Duchess's door to prevent the profanation of the last sacraments, which she eagerly desired to receive, but without separating from her paramour.

Parc aux Cerfs, while their flank was turned by the misguided Port Royalists. How was it possible that preachers and champions of pure Catholic faith and morals, could be other than an eye-sore, a thorn in the side, and an impediment in a city and court where Belial and Asmodeus were privy counsellors. The Jesuits were driven into exile, the Encyclopedists sung their filthy songs of triumph, and the Jansenists joined in chorus, little weening the extent of the mischief they had helped forward against the cause of Christianity. It need not be feared that good and zealous preachers and performers of the Word would be wanting to their duty in this miserable state of things, but it would be as vain to look for healthy Christian life where Louis XV., Madame du Barry, Le Duc de Richelieu, Frederic of Prussia, Diderot, and Voltaire, occupied the chairs of Moral Philosophy, as to expect endurance of animal life in a volume of hot, dirty-hued smoke belching from the suminit of a factory chimney.

A French gentleman or nobleman of that time, with character tinged by ambition or love of dissipation, could no more exist away from the court, than could the owner of a sick and encumbered Irish estate of some years past, stay at home and nurse it. The effect of gambling, debauchery, and ostentation, on the dispositions of these profligate gentry, and on their paternal chateaux, fields and forests, may be easily imagined. That the Bourgeoisie of Paris could escape the evil influence of their court patrons would be rather too much to expect ; and poor Jacques Bonhomme in his fields was not on a bed of roses,-in fact, his bare existence was a standing miracle. Still the courtiers (representing, as must be borne in mind, the whole nobility) wrung from their unfortunate dependants the means of paying their gambling debts, or making suitable presents to Mme. La Souricière or La Marquise de Gurt-apens, or blew out their brains, or were killed in duels.

The king did not fear imprisonment for debt in his own person; he hoped that things would hold together during his natural life, and when king and courtiers were not too lazy to raise their voices in unison, they chanted the refrain

When we've eaten, and drunk

Life's wine to the lees,
Let the deluge come down

As soon as it please.

As may be supposed, the national finances were in a deplorable state, from the heavy expenses incurred by the Grand Monarque in carrying on his wars, from the rapacity and dishonesty of the farmers of the public revenues, and the general bankruptcy that followed Law's gigantic scheme.* With these leithere be taken into account the prodigality of the nobility, and a dreadful scarcity of provisions, an evil which, under a vigorous and sagacious government, might be speedily abated, and the wonder would be great if a disruption of society did 1101 take place.

The literature of the time fostered human pride, bade people neither hope for future happiness nor dread future punishment, exhorted them to seize on all the human enjoyment of the da", for to-iporrow was not theirs ; so, Christian hope, humility, patience, and resignation being banished, how could the spirits or men endure the tenfold ills and trials of a disordered, wretched, and anomalous state of society, without resorting to selfish and violent, but apparently effective means to escape the present misery.

The poor monarch was badly adapted to restrain the unquiet and violent spirits whom it was his hard appointed task to endeavor to guide. Himself, his well meaning queen, bis sainted sister, bis innocent children, and his devoted and loyal followers, endured the punishment which his predecessors so well merited, but which was reserved for an unoffending generation. So close is the community of interest in the great hunan family that none can do evil without bringing others to share in the punishment drawn down by their crimes.

Till history and tradition cease, deep sympathy will be felt for the sufferings of Louis XVI., his family, and the loyal Christian hearts that clung to them; but their short hour of suffering has long past : they are, as we may reasonably and piously hope, secured in the possession of unchangeable bliss ; and, compared with the last hours of Louis XV. or the Regent, who would not prefer their departures, awful and trying as they undoubtedly were, but still cheered and sustained by the Christian's Faith and Hope?

* Law's memory is loaded with obloquy, some part of which is really unmerited. The original plan was judicious and feasible ; but push the best laid scheme to extremity, and let it be obnoxious to the meddling of thousands of greedy and unprincipled adventurers, and look for the result !

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Our readers may take comfort, if they already dread the recital of a tragedy of blood and horror with Marat, Rubespierre, Henriot, and Fouquier Tinville for the characters, and the Place de Guillotine for the stage. Our authors do not give a cold blooded narrative of the atrocities of the terrible time; they present outlines of the social, rather unsocial aspects of the period, sketch the awkward changes in the feelings and circumstances of those suddenly invested with the powers of doing mischief, and take as much interest in the bizarre or ludicrous as in the tragic or horrible aspect of the shifting occurrences that followed so closely on each other's heels. They possess a good quality in common with many French and German historians of our times,—a quality which our British Livys and Thucydides should earnestly pray to acquire,—an air of impartiality, and truth-telling, and honest research, either genuiue or very well feigned. Williain III. in their hands would meet with censure : he would get credit for indomitable courage, perseverance, and conquest over bodily infirmities; but they would scarcely attribute to him the capacious intellect or magnanimity of Julius Cæsar, nor the patriotism and domestic virtues of John Sobieski.

Our authors, before entering on the subject of their work, give a glance at Parisian society as it hastened to its ruin in the reigns of the Louises XV. and XVI.

There are, in the succession of ages, societies which disarm the severity of history by the agreeability of their vices and the graces of their decadence. Of these declines, so miserable, but so beautiful on the surface, the eighteenth century presents the example and model. Every thing smiled on French society, and never did society so completely forget the object of life in its mode of living, and in its intimate knowledge of the art of living. A courteous contention went on among people of fashion as to who should possess in perfection the art of pleasing and of attaching their own circles. There reigned at meals, suppers, play, collations, balls, and other amusements, a particular conversation and charm of words which cannot be described;—nothings which took figure and shape, sprung, perhaps from a sweet air of music, dialogues kept up in badinage, successes arising from nonsense, pleasant sallies, liberties attempted in jest, tendencies to double meanings, good jokes going the round of the fans, compliments, railleries, whispered returns to the praises or the attacks. All was brilliant, all amiable, all French, keen good sense, sharp wit, no shock, no explosion ; the people of high life were numbered, every one knew the rest, the world of fashion formed one family. Louis XIV. was dead; the Academy asserted that Louis XV. bad succeeded; no great idea came to enlarge mens' minds, but all sorts of pleasant little things supplied furniture for their heads.

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