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word that can be called fine, or pedantic, has that except 3001. which he got for Gulliver, he a prodigious variety of good set phrases al. never made a farthing by any of his writings. ways at his command, and displays a sort of Pope understood his trade better,-and not homely richness, like the plenty of an old only made knowing bargains for his own English dinner, or the wardrobe of a wealthy works, but occasionally borrowed his friends' burgess. This taste for the plain and sub- pieces, and pocketed the price of the whole. stantial was fatal to his poetry, which subsists This was notoriously the case with three not on such elements; but was in the highest volumes of Miscellanies, of which the greater degree favourable to the effect of his humour, part were from the pen
of Swift. very much of which depends on the imposing In humour and in irony, and in the talent of gravity with which it is delivered, and on the debasing and defiling what he hated, we join various turns and heightenings it may receive with all the world in thinking the Dean of St. from a rapidly shifting and always appropriate Patrick's without a rival. His humour, though expression. Almost all his works, after The sufficiently marked and peculiar, is not to be Tale of a Tub, seem to have been written easily defined. The nearest description we very fast, and with very little minute care of can give of it, would make it consist in ex. the diction. For his own ease, therefore, it pressing sentiments the most absurd and is probable they were all pitched on a low ridiculous—the most shocking and atrocious key, and set about on the ordinary tone of a -or sometimes the most energetic and origifamiliar letter or conversation; as that from nal—in a sort of composed, calm, and unconwhich there was a little hazard of falling, scious way, as if they were plain, undeniable, even in moments of negligence, and from comm
monplace truths, which no person could which any rise that could be effected, must dispute, or expect to gain credit by announcing always be easy and conspicuous. A man -and in maintaining them, always in the 'fully possessed of his subject, indeed, and gravest and most familiar language, with a
confident of his cause, may almost always consistency which somewhat palliates their write with vigour and effect, if he can get extravagance, and a kind of perverted ingeover the temptation of writing finely, and nuity, which seems to give pledge for their really confine himself to the strong and clear sincerity. The secret, in short, seems to conexposition of the matter he has to bring for- sist in employing the language of humble ward. Half of the affectation and offensive good sense, and simple undoubting conviction, pretension we meet with in authors, arises to express, in their honest nakedness, sentifrom a want of matter,--and the other half, ments which it is usually thought necessary from a paltry ambition of being eloquent and to disguise under a thousand pretences or ingenious out of place. Swift had complete truths which are usually introduced with a confidence in himself; and had too much real thousand apologies. The basis of the art is business on his hands, to be at leisure to in the personating a character of great simplicity trigue for the fame of a fine writer ;-in con- and openness, for whom the conventional or sequence of which, his writings are more ad- artificial distinctions of society are supposed mired by the judicious than if he had bestowed to have no existence; and making use of this all his attention on their style. He was so character as an instrument to strip vice and much a man of business, indeed, and so much folly of their disguises, and expose guilt in all accustomed to consider his writings merely as its deformity, and truth in all its terrors. Inmeans for the attainment of a practical end- dependent of the moral or satire, of which whether that end was the strengthening of a they may thus be the vehicle, a great part of party, or the wounding a foe-that he not only the entertainment to be derived from works disdained the reputation of a composer of of humour, arises from the contrast between pretty sentences, but seems to have been the grave, unsuspecting indifference of the thoroughly indifferent to all sorts of literary character personated, and the ordinary feel. fame. He enjoyed the notoriety and influence ings of the world on the subjects which he which he had procured by his writings; but discusses. This contrast it is easy to heighten, it was the glory of having carried his point, by all sorts of imputed absurdities: in which and not of having written well, that he valued case, the humour degenerates into mere farce As soon as his publications had served their and buffoonery. Swift has yielded a little to turn, they seem to have been entirely forgot this temptation in The Tale of a Tub; but ten by their author ;-and, desirous as he was scarcely at all in Gulliver, or any of his later of being richer, he appears to have thought writings in the same stylé. Of his talent for as littl
of making money as immortality by reviling, we have already said at least enough, means of them. He mentions somewhere, in some of the preceding pages.
(Ianuary, 1810.) Correspondance inédite de MADAME DU DEFFAND, avec D'Alembert, Montesquieu, le Président
Henault, La Duchesse du Maine, Mesdames de Choiseul, De Staal, 8c. gc. 3 tomes, 12mo. Paris : 1809.
Lettres de MADEMOISELLE DE LESPINASSE, écrites depuis l'Année 1773 jusqu'à l'Année 1776, &c.
3 tomes, 12mo. Paris: 1809.
The popular works of La Harpe and Mar- Where the letters that are now given to the montel have made the names at least of these world have been secreted for the last thirty ladies pretty well known in this country; and years, or by whom they are at last publishwe have been induced to place their corres- ed, we are not informed in either of the works pondence under one article, both because their before us. That they are authentic, we conhistory is in some measure connected, and ceive, is demonstrated by internal evidence; because, though extremely unlike each other, though, if more of them are extant, the selecthey both form a decided contrast to our own tion that has been made appears to us to be a national character, and, taken together, go far little capricious. The correspondence of to exhaust what was peculiar in that of France. Madame du Deffand reaches from the year
Most of our readers probably remember 1738 to 1764;—that of Mademoiselle de Leswhat La Harpe and Marmontel have said of pinasse extends only from 1773 to 1776. The these two distinguished women; and, at all iwo works, therefore, relate to different peerents, it is not necessary for our purpose to riods; and, being entirely of different characgive more than a very superficial account of ters, seem naturally to call for a separate them. Madame du Deffand was left a widow consideration. We begin with the corresponwith a moderate fortune, and a great reputa- dence of Madame du Deffand, both out of tion for wit, about 1750; and soon after gave respect to her seniority, and because the vaup her hotel, and retired to apartments in the riety which it exhibits seems to afford room corrent de St. Joseph, where she continued to for more observation. receive, almost every evening, whatever was As this lady's house was for fifty years the most distinguished in Paris for rank, talent, resort of every thing brilliant in Paris, it is or accomplishment. Having become almost natural to suppose, that she herself must have blind in a few years thereafter, she found she possessed no ordinary attraction-and to feel required the attendance of some intelligent an eager curiosity to be introduced even to young woman, who might read and write for that shadow of her conversation which we her, and assist in doing the honours of her may expect to meet with in her correspondcorersazioni. For this purpose she cast her ence. Though the greater part of the letters eyes on Mademoiselle Lespinasse, the illegiti- are addressed to her by various correspondmate daughter of a man of rank, who had ents, yet the few which she does write are been boarded in the same convent, and was strongly marked with the traces of her pecufor some time delighted with her election. liar character and talent; and the whole taken By and bye, however, she found that her together give a very lively idea of the strucyoung companion began to engross more of ture and occupations of the best French sothe notice of her visitors than she thought ciety, in the days of its greatest splendour, suitable; and parted from her with violent, Laying out of view the greater constitutional ungenerous, and implacable displeasure. gaiety of our neighbours, it appears to us, that Mademoiselle de Lespinasse, however, carried this society was distinguished from any that with her the admiration of the greater part of has ever existed in England, by three circumher patroness circle; and having obtained a stances chiefly:-in the first place, by the small pension from government, opened her exclusion of all low-bred persons; secondly, own doors to a society not less brilliant than by the superior intelligence and cultivation of that into which she had been initiated under the women; and, finally, by the want of politiMadame du Defland. The fatigue, however, cal avocations, and the absence of political which she had undergone in reading the old antipathies. marchioness asleep, had irreparably injured By the first of these circumstances, the old her health, which was still more impaired by Parisian society was rendered considerably the agitations of her own inflammable and more refined, and infinitely more easy and ambitious spirit; and she died, before she had natural. The general and peremptory proobtained middle age, about 1776,--leaving on scription of the bourgeois, excluded, no doubt, the minds of almost all the eminent men in a good deal of vulgarity and coarseness; but France, an impression of talent, and of ardour it had a still better effect in excluding those of imagination, which seems to have been feelings of mutual jealousy and contempt, and considered as without example. Madame du that conflict of family pride and consequential Deffand continued to preside in her circle till opulence, which can only be prevented from a period of extreme old age; and died in disturbing a more promiscuous assembly, by 1780, in full possession of her faculties. means of universal and systematic reserve.
Where all are noble, all are equal;—there is had nothing but society to attend to; whereas, no room for ostentation or pretension of any in the latter, almost all who are cons:derable sort;
; -every one is in his place every where; for ranks or for talents, are continually en. and the same manners being familiar to the grossed with politics. They have no leisure, whole society from their childhood, manners therefore, for society, in the first place: in the cease in a great measure to be an object of second place, if they do enter it ai all, they are attention. Nobody apprehends any imputa. apt to regard it as a scene rather of relaxation tion of vulgarity; and noboily values himself than exertion ; and, finally, they waiurally on being free from it. The little peculiarities acquire those habits of thinking and of taiko by which individuals are distinguished, are ing, which are better adapted to carry on ascribed, not to ignorance or awkwardness, business and debaie, than io enliven people but to caprice merely; or to peculiarity of dis- assembled for amusement. In England, men position; and not being checked by contempt of condition have still to perform the high or derision, are indulged, for the most part, as duties of citizens and statesmen, and can only caprice or disposition may dictate; and thus rise to eminence by dedicating their days and the very highest society is brought back, and nights to the study of business and attairsby the same causes, to much of the freedom to the arts of influencing those, with whom, and simplicity of the lowest.
and by whom, they are 10 act—and to the In England, we have never had this ar- actual management of those strenuous conrangement. The great wealth of the mercan- tentions by which the government of a tree tile classes, and the privilege which every state is perpetually embarrassed and preman here possesses of aspiring to every situa- served. in France, on the contrary, under tion, has always prevented any such complete the old monarchy, men of the first rank had separation of the high and the low-born, even no political functions to discharge-no control in ordinary society, and made all large assem- to exercise over the government and no rights blages of people to a certain degree promis- to assert, either for themselves or their felloa cuous. Great wealth, or great talents, being subjects. They were either leit, therefore, sufficient to raise a man to power and emi- to solace their idleness with the frivolous ennence, are necessarily received as a sufficient chantments of polished society, or, if they had passport into private company; and fill it, on any object of public ambition, were driven to the large scale, with such motley and dis- pursue it by the mediation of those favourites cordant characters, as visibly to endanger or mistresses who were most likely to be won either its ease or its tranquillity. The pride by the charms of an elegant address, or the of purse, and of rank, and of manners, mutu- assiduities of a skilful Halterer. ally provoke each other; and vanities which It is to this lamentable inferiority in the were undiscovered while they were univer- government and constitution of their country, sal, soon become visible in the light of oppo- that the French are indebted for the superisite vanities. With us, therefore, society, ority of their polite assemblies. Their saloors when it passes beyond select clubs and asso- are better filled than ours, because they hare no ciations, is apt either to be distracted with senate to fill out of their population ; and their little jealousies and divisions, or finally to conversation is more sprightly, and their sosettle into constraint, insipidity, and reserve. ciety more animated than ours because there People meeting from all the extremes of life, is no other outlet for the talent and ingenuity are afraid of being misconstrued, and despair of the nation but society and conversation. of being understood. Conversation is left to Our parties of pleasure, on the other hand, are a few professed talkers; and all the rest are mostly left to beardless youths and superansatisfied to hold their tongues, and despise nuated idlers—not because our men want each other in their hearts.
talents or taste to adorn them, but because The superior cultivation of French Women, their ambition, and their sense of public duty, however, was productive of still more sub- have dedicated them to a higher service. stantial advantages. Ever since Europe be- When we lose our constitution—when the came civilised, the females of that country houses of parliament are shut up, our aseemhave stood more on an intellectual level with blies, we have no doubt, will be far more ani. the men than in any other,—and have taken mated and rational. It would be easy to have their share in the politics and literature, and splendid gardens and parterres if we would public controversies of the day, far more only give up our com fields and our pastures: largely than in any other nation with which nor should we want for magnificent fountains we are acquainted. For more than two cen- and ornamental canals, if we were contented turies, they have been the umpires of polite to drain the whole surrounding country of the letters, and the depositaries and the agents of rills that maintain its fertility and beauty. those intrigues by which the functions of gov But, while it is impossible to deny that the ernment are usually forwarded or impeded. French enjoyed, in the agreeable constitution They could talk, therefore, of every thing that of their higher suciety, no slight compensation men could wish to talk about; and general for the want of a free government, it is curious conversation, consequently, assumed a tone, and not unsatisfactory, to be able to trace the both less frivolous and less uniform, than it operation of this same compensating principle has ever attained in our country.
through all the departments we have alluded The grand source, however, of the differ. to. It is obviously to our free government, ence between the good society of France and and to nothing else, that we owe that mixture of England, is, that, in the former counry, men of ranks and of characters, which certainly
renders our large society less amiable, and I looked upon as having renounced both the
gay less unconstrained, than that of the old French and busy world; and the consequence is, that mobility. Men, possessed of wealth and po- the gay are extremely frivolous, and the aclitical power, must be associated with by all tive rash and superficial; while the man of with whom they choose to associate, and to genius is admired by posterity, and finishes whom their friendship or support is material. his days rather dismally, without knowing or A trader who has bought his borough but yes- caring for any other denomination of men, terday, will not give his influence to any set than authors, booksellers and critics. of noblemen or ministers, who will not receive This distinction 100, we think, arises out of him and his family into their society, and the difference of government, or out of some agree to treat them as their equals. The same of its more immediate consequences. Our principle extends downwards by impercepti- politicians are too busy to mix with men of ble gradations ;—and the whole community is study; and our idlers are too weak and too mingled in private life, it must be owned with frivolous. The studious, therefore, are driven some little discomfort, by the ultimate action in a great measure to herd with each other, of the same principles which combine them, and to form a little world of their own, in to their incalculable benefit, in public. which all their peculiarities are aggravated,
Even the backwardness or the ignorance of their vanity encouraged, and their awkwardour women may be referred to the same no- ness confirmed. In Paris, where talent and ble origin. Women have no legal or direct idleness met together, a society grew up, both political functions in any country in the uni- more inviting and more accessible to men of verse. In the arbitrary governments of Eu- thought and erudition. What they commurope, however, they exert a personal influence nicated to this society rendered it more intelover those in power and authority, which ligent and respectable; and what they learned raises them into consequence, familiarizes from it, made them much more reasonable, them in some degree with business and affairs, amiable, and happy. They learned, in short, and leads them to study the character and the the true value of knowledge and of wisdom, dispositions of the most eminent persons of by seeing exactly how much they could contheir day. In free states, again, where the tribute to the government or the embellishpersonal inclination of any individual can go ment of life; and discovered, that there were but a little way, and where every thing must sources both of pride and of happiness, far be canvassed and sanctioned by its legitimate more important and abundant than thinking, censors, this influence is very inconsiderable; writing, or reading. and women are excluded almost entirely from It is curious, accordingly, to trace in the any concem in those affairs, with which the volumes before us, the more intimate and leading spirits of the country are necessarily private life of some of those distinguished occupied. They come, therefore, almost un- men, whom we find it difficult to represent to avoidably, to be considered as of a lower order ourselves under any other aspect, than that of intellect, and to act, and to be treated, upon of the authors of their learned publications. that apprehension. The chief cause of their D'Alembert, Montesquieu, Henault
, and sevinferiority, however, arises from the circum- eral others, all appear in those letters in their stances that have been already stated. Most true and habitual character, of cheerful and of the men of talent in upper life are engaged careless men of the world—whose thoughts in pursuits from which women are necessarily ran mostly on the little exertions and amuseexcluded, and have no leisure to join in those ments of their daily society; who valued even pursuits which might occupy them in com- their greatest works chiefly as the means of mon. Being thus abandoned in a good degree amusing their leisure, or of entitling them to to the society of the frivolous of our sex, it is the admiration of their acquaintances; and impossible that they should not be frivolous occupied themselves about posterity far less in their turn. In old France, on the contrary, than posterity will be occupied about them. the men of talents in upper life had little to It will probably scandalize a good part of our do but to please and be pleased with the wo- men of learning and science (though we think men; and they naturally came to acquire that it will be consolatory to some) to be told, that knowledge and those accomplishments which there is great reason for suspecting that the fitted them for such society,
most profound of those authors looked upon The last distinction between good French learning chiefly as a sort of tranquil and inand good English society, arises from the dif- nocent amusement; to which it was very well ferent position which was occupied in each to have recourse when more lively occupaby the men of letters. In France, certainly, tions were not at hand, but which it was wise they mingled much more extensively with the and meritorious, at all times, to postpone to políte world.-incalculably to the benefit both pleasant parties, and the natural play, either of that world, and of themselves. In England, of the imagination or of the affections. It apour great scholars and authors have commonly pears, accordingly, not only that they talked lived in their studies, or in the society of a easily and familiarly of all their works to their few learned friends or dependants; and their female friends, but that they gave themselves life has been so generally gloomy, laborious very little anxiety either about their sale, or and inelegant, that literature and intellectual their notoriety out of the sphere of their own eminence have lost some of their honours, and acquaintances, and made and invited all sorts much of their attraction. With us, when a of jokes upon them with unfeigned gaiety and man takes to authorship, he is commonly indifference. The lives of our learned men
would be much happier, and their learning simplicity and openness of his character-his much more useful and amiable, if they could perpetual gentleness and gaiety in societybe persuaded to see things in the same light. The unostentatious independence of his sentiIt is more than time, however, to introduce ments and conduct—his natural and cheerful the reader to the characters in the volumes superiority to all feelings of worldly ambition, before iis.
jealousy, or envy—and that air of perpetual Madame du Deffand's correspondence con- youth and unassuming kindness, which made sists of letters from Montesquieu, D'Alem- him so delightful and so happy in the society bert, Henault, D'Argens, Formont, Bernstorff
, of women,—are traits which we scarcely ex. Scheffer, &c. among the men,--and Mesdames pect to find in combination with those splendid de Staal, de Choiseul, &c. among the women. qualifications; and compose altogether a charHer own letters, as we have already intimat- acter of which we should have been tempted ed, form but a very inconsiderable part of to question the reality, were we not fortunate the collection ;-and, as these distinguished enough to be familiar with its counterpart in names naturally excite, in persons out of Paris, one living individual.* more interest than that of any witty mar- It is not possible, perhaps, to give a better chioness whatsoever, we shall begin with idea of the character of D'Alembert, than some specimens of the intimate and private merely to state the fact, and the reason of his style of those eminent individuals, who are having refused to go to Berlin, to preside over already so well known for the value and the the academy founded there by Frederic. In beauty of their public instructions.
answer to a most flattering and urgent appliOf these, the oldest and the most popularly cation from that sovereign, he writes thus to known, was Montesquieu,-an author who M. D'Argens.t frequently appears profound when he is only • La situation où je suis seroit peut-être, mon. paradoxical, and seems to have studied with sieur, un motif suffisant pour bien d'autres, de regreat success the art of hiding a desultory and noncer à leur pays. Ma fortune est au-dessous du fantastical style of reasoning in imposing médiocre; 1700 liv. de rente font tout mon revenu: aphorisms, and epigrams of considerable ef- entièrement indépendant et maître de mes volontés, fect. It is impossible to read the Esprit des gouvernement comme tant de gens le sont de la
je n'ai point de famille qui s'y oppose ; oublié du Loix, without feeling that it is the work of an Providence, persécuté même autant qu'on peut indolent and very ingenious person, who had l’être quand on évite de donner trop d'avantages fits of thoughtfulness and ambition; and had sur soi à la méchanceté des hommes ; je n'ai aucune meditated the different points which it com
part aux récompenses qui pleuvent ici sur les gens prehends at long intervals, and then connect- Malgré tout cela, monsieur, la tranquillité dont je
de lettres, avec plus de profusion que de lumières. ed them as he best could, by insinuations, jouis est si parfaite et si douce, que je ne puis me metaphors, and vague verbal distinctions. résoudre à lui faire courir le moindre risque.'' There is but little of him in this collection; Supérieur à la mauvaise fortune, les épreuves de but what there is, is extremely characteristic. toute espèce que j'ai essuyées dans ce genre, m'ont D'Alembert had proposed that he should write endurci à l'indigence et au malheur, et ne m'ont the articles Democracy and Despotism, for the blent. A force de privations, je me suis accoutumé Encyclopédie; to which proposal he answers sans effort à me contenter du plus étroit nécessaire, with much naïveté, as follows:
et je serois même en état de partager mon peu de for.
tune avec d'honnêtes gens plus pauvres que moi. J'ai “Quant à mon introduction dans l'Encyclopé- commencé, comme les autres hommes, par désirer die, c'est un beau palais où je serais bien glorieux les places et les richesses, j'ai fini par y renoncer ab. de mettre les pieds ; mais pour les deux articles solament; et de jour en jour je m'en trouve mieux. Démocratie et Despotisme, je ne voudrais pas pren. La vie retirée ei assez obscure que je mène est dre ceux-la ; j'ai tiré, sur ces articles, de mon cer- parfaitement conforme à mon caractère, à mon veau tout ce qui y était. L'esprit que j'ai est un amour extrême pour l'indépendance, et peut-être moule; on n'en tire jamais que les mêmes portraits: même à un peu d'éloignement que les événemens ainsi je ne vous dirais que ce que j'ai dit, et peut. de ma vie m'ont inspiré pour les hommes. La reêtre plus mal que je ne l'ai dit. Ainsi, și vous traite ou le régime que me prescrivent mon éiat et voulez de moi, laissez à mon esprit le choix de quel. mon goût m'ont procuré la santé la plus parfaite et ques articles ; et si vous voulez ce choix, ce fera la plus égale-c'est-à-dire, le premier bien d'un chez madame du Deffand avec du marasquin. Le philosophe ; enfin j'ai le bonheur de jouir d'un petit père Castel dit qu'il ne peut pas se corriger, parce nombre d'amis, dont le commerce et la confiance qu'en corrigeant son ouvrage, il en fait un autre; et font la consolation et le charme de ma vie. Jugez moi je ne puis pas me corriger, parce que je chante maintenant vous-même, monsieur, s'il m'est possj. toujours la même chose. Il me vient dans l'esprit ble de renoncer à ces avantages, et de changer un que je pourrais prendre peut-être l'article Goût, et bonheur sûr pour une situation toujours incertaire, je prouverai bien que difficile est propriè communia quelque brillante qu'elle puisse êire. Je ne donne dicere."'-Vol. i. pp. 30, 31.
nullement des boniés du roi, et de tout ce qu'il peut There is likewise another very pleasing letter to M. de Henault, and a gay copy of verses reader, if I explain that the person here alluded 10
* It cannot now offend the modesty of any living to Madame de Mirepoix;—but we hasten on
was my excellent and amiable friend, the late Proto a personage still more engaging. Of all fessor Playfair. the men of genius that ever existed, D'Alem- + This learned person writes in a very affected bert perhaps is the most amiable and truly and précieuse style. He ends one of his letters to respectable. The great extent and variety of D'Alembert with the following eloquent expres. his learning, his vast attainments and dis- sion :-"Ma santé s'effoiblit tous les jours de plus coveries in the mathematical sciences, and the en plus; et je me dispose à aller faire bientot mes beauty and eloquence of his literary composi- terai dans ce monde je serai le plus zélé de vos adtions, are known to all the world : But the mirateurs.'