Page images
PDF
EPUB

order of the documents and been mor

progress to his subjects, anxious for his

that, if so many of the people had not been taught to read and write, France and Europe would not have been thus cruelly distracted. Without espousing the opinion of either party, we would say to the former, that, if they whose interest it was to oppose the revolution in France had been more enlightened, and better stocked with arguments and means to detect the supposed fallacy of the doctrines advanced by their adversaries, the higher orders of that country might have made a happier stand against their assailants. To the latter we may say, that, if a greater proportion of the population had been educated and instructed, so many could not have been impelled to acts of barbarism and injustice, by the sophistry of ill-minded incendiaries..

The age of Louis XIV. was that from which the state of knowledge in France, such as it was at the period when the Kevolution broke out, may fairly be said to have taken its tone, That Monarch, more anxious for his own glory than the happiness of his subjects, viewed, with the same feelings, their progress in arms as in the arts, in science and in literature. He used his whole influence to impel them to climb to the splendid heights of knowledge, without having trodden any of the paths which usually lead to it; but the multitude remained nearly as it was before, having caught nothing of the 6 mens divinior? from those who distinguished themselves, but a vague and idle sentiment of admiration, rather than of appreciation. This, however, was all that a despot could desire at home; and it was sufficient to dazzle the world into a belief that his nation was-what he would not for his diadem it had been in reality-the most enlightened of Europe. The light there was, was collected in detached orbs, and not at all diffused throughout the system. There was but little of it certainly among the courtiers and nobility ;-but it was not from its possessors that they suffered in an after age; and we would just ask the modern partisans of French ignorance this question:

Among those who burned and demolished the mansions of the rich, in every province of France; who massacred unarmed prisoners, in every town; dragged half- dead bodies through the streets of Paris; fixed the heads of the innocent on the ends of pikes; devoured the flesh, and licked up the blood of their feļlow-creatures; who daily shrieked applause at the foot of the reeking guillotine,--how many were there who could read and write ? how many among the Pastoureaux, the Cabochiens, the Bourguignons, the Armagnacs, in former times? how many among the defaulters of the Jacquerie ? What was the state of instruction among the nobility, when, in the reign of Charles VI, Luxambourgh, Harcourt, La Fosseuse, L'Isle-Adam, de Bar, Cheve reuse, Chatellux, stood up to their ankles in blood, acting a dreadful prelude to the murders of 1792 ? It was not the diffusion of learning, it was its rarity, which favoured both the Revolution and its crimes. It was the superiority which knowledge gives to the few who possess it, to lead or to mislead the ignorant, from which all the good and all the bad proceeded; and, if instruction had been more general, each party would have less reason to lament. · From the facts stated in the work before us, and from other facts equally notorious, we really should not readily infer that knowledge had even yet attained to any dangerous excess in France. The Comte Lasteyrie informs us, 'qu'il y a, en France, • des hommes qui jouissent de quatre à cinq mille livres de rente, « qui n'ont jamais appris à lire:' And in order that the reader may appreciate this fact to its full extent, he should be informed that, in point of real value, those 5000 liv., or about 2001. per annum, are equal, in the country of France, to nearly 400l. in England; and, in the rank, and consideration, and preponder. ance which, as mere money (for birth is reckoned upon another footing) they procure to the possessor, :may very fairly be computed at 6001.:--- Such is the state of property, and the ratio of private fortunes, in the two countries. Now, can any one say, in England, that among his acquaintance there is a single proprietor of 6001. per annum who cannot read, unless he won it in the lottery, or by some other lucky chance ?

There was a time when ignorance was held to be a mark of greatness; and the lord of many vassals disdained orthography and callography. Although the Sovereigns of France established academies, and fomented scientific discoveries (for these the world beheld), they did little towards eradicating this prejudice among their courtiers (for that was a domestic concern). To write a fair and legible hand, was derogatory to nobility; and to spell right was pedantic. The populace followed the easy example of the great; and the time is not yet beyond the me mory of the living, when every sign-post contained proofs of their success. We have ourselves been struck with the difference which the great towns of France, compared to Geneva, offered in this respect; and have often reinarked, how few examples of such popular ignorance occurred in the classic capital of Helvetian literature. The language of conversation, that for which the uses of polished society created a constant demand in Paris, was not thus neglected; and one of the commonest occurrences was a flow of elegant expressions, squared and polished by the inexorable rule of fashion, from the tongue of a person who could not have committed to paper a single

or by hen ignorancassals discotti

phrase with accuracy, or maintained an argument upon any subject, independent of the little nothings of the beau monde. The revolution indeed, by cutting deeply into that species of society, and forcing reflection to encroach a little upon garrulity, has brought the spoken and the written languages of France somewhat nearer to one level. Still, however, the vestiges of former ignorance are not effaced ; and this one emblem of feodality has escaped the general ravage. Neither are all modern monuments exempt from it. At this present hour, two streets in Paris, the brilliant capital of European refinement, exemplify the fact; and as the Police, that is to say, the Government, is a party concerned in the transaction, we quote it with greater confidence. On the north-west corner of the Rue des Bons Enfans, the name is thus written-Rue des Bons En Fans. On the south-east corner of the Rue de Varennes, the name stands thus, Rue de Va reine. The former of these mistakes has been exposed to view for very many years; the latter is of recent date.

Knowledge of every species is more confined to one class in France, than in England; and constitutes as it were un état, a profession, which is little mingled with the rest of the nation. Persons who figure in the foremost ranks of society, seldom posy sess more than that light and easy kind of anecdotic literature, and biographical history which, when made up into squibs and cartridges, and levelled with the address which they so emi. nently possess, make a considerable flash in drawing-room oratory. But it is rare that, in the circles of good company, scientific or literary conversation ever takes its turn. Indeed, with the exception of a very limited society in Paris only, knowledge is but little respected throughout France. But, in Britain, science is an introduction into the highest circles of fashion; and the most eminent men, in every department, may meet with their equals in profoundness, among persons of the most exalted rank. Let a philosopher travel where he may in this Island, to the towns, to the country, to our manufactories, to the seats of our great proprietors, of our no blemen, he never will get beyond the pale of rational information; and will be able to indulge in literary or scientific conversation, as long as he continues within the wide circle, which corresponds to British ideas of the society of gentlemen. In France, a yawning chasm separates the boundaries of ignorance and knowledge; and that chasm is filled by levity and jargon. Between the savant and the ignorant there is no intermediate pr connecting link in their society.

Such a state of knowledge and instruction, in the two coun. tries, is not an effect of chance, or yet of calculation; but an event which has a higher cause, and a more imperishable foundation than either. It is a result of the strongest of all social impulses; of national character; of that which has created governments, and laws, and constitutions; has rendered permanent, institutions which human weakness had pronounced to be ephemeral, and overthrown what it had deemed eternal. That in which the French ever have delighted, in all subjects and upon all occasions, is a meteor, a blaze; which, by its overpowering splendor, dazzles those who are near it, and, by its far spread glare, astonishes those who are at a distance. In England, we prefer the uniform and steady light which comforts the eye, and guides the understanding; which illumines all, and dazzles none; and which is no less vivid at the extremities, thanı mild and genial at the centre.

What the effects of general education may be upon the two countries, in a century hence, we cannot pretend to say. Universal instruction, like universal ignorance, tends to equalize men and nations. Yet there is an education prior to reading and writing,-given, if not by Nature herself, at least by means beyond the controul of Art, and which, in the great generality of cases, is more powerful than all that men can institute. A strong difference has marked the British and the French characters for centuries; and the progress of intellect has hitherto rather confirmed than modified that difference. It is probable that the same qualities of mind and heart will exist, as long as their first causes continue to operate; and that each nation will derive from this new instrument of rational perfectibility, from this long expected supplement to the art of printing, and a free press,-advantages not less distinct and peculiar than those which they have already received from other sources of improve ment.

QUARTERLY LIST OF NEW PUBLICATIONS,

From January to April, 1820.

AGRICULTURE. An Essay on the Uses of Salt for Agricultural Purposes, with instructions for its employment as a Manure, and in the Feeding of Cattle, &c. By Cuthbert William Johnson.

An Essay on the Management of Hedges and Hedge-row Timber. By F. Blakie. 2s.

"On the Economy of Farmn-yard Manure, and other rural subjects. By F. Blakie. 2s. 'A New System of Cultivation. By Mr Beatson. 8vo. 9s. bds.

An Inquiry into the Causes of the progressive Depreciation of Agricultural Labour in Modern Times ; with suggestions for its Remedy. By J. Barton. 8vo. 4s. The Farmer's Magazine, No. 82. 3s.

ANTIQUITIES, ARCHITECTURE, AND FINE ARTS. Portraits of the British Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper. Royal 8vo. 12s. 4to. 16s. Proofs on India paper, 4to. 24s.

Elgin Marbles. By J. Lawrence. 31. 3s.

An Extraordinary fine Likeness of our late Venerable Sovereign. By J. Agar. 7s.6d.

A Progressive Drawing Book, in water colours, of select Rural Cottage Scenery, illustrated in a series of subjects, from an Outline to a finished Drawing, with a descriptive scale of all the Tints used throughout each Drawing. By J. Hassell. No. I. 5s. each No.

A Sketch Book. By Mr Crayon. 8vo. 12s.

Hakewill and Turner's Views in Italy, No. 9. royal 4to. 12s. 6d. large paper 18s. India proof, ll. 10s.

The Architectural Antiquities of Normandy, in a series of one hundred etchings; with historical and descriptive notices. By T. S. Cotman. Part I. (containing 25 plates) royal folio. 31. 3s.

Views in the French Capital and its vicinity. By Captain Batty. 4to. 12s.

Illustrations of Ivanhoe, a romance ; by the Author of Waverley, &c. Engraved by Charles Heath, from drawings by R. Westall, R. A. Prints 8vo. 16s. Proofs 4to. 11. 5s.

Italian Scenery. By F. E. Batty. 8vo. 61. 6s.

Picturesque Views of the celebrated Antiquities of Pola, in Istria ; consisting of fourteen highly finished Engravings ; from Drawings þy T. Allason, Architect. Folio, 31. 15s.

Views at Hastings, and its Vicinity ; from splendid Drawings by T. M. W. Turner, R. A. Part I. folio, 31.

« PreviousContinue »