1902, Jan. 4

Harvard University,
Dept. of Education Library




10, 1924



selector 1/23/80


THE following Lectures were delivered by M. Guizot, in the years 1828, 1829, and 1830, at the Old Sorbonne, now the seat of the Faculté des Lettres, of Paris, on alternate days with MM. Cousin and Villemain, a triad of lecturers whose brilliant exhibitions, the crowds which thronged their lecture rooms, and the stir they excited in the active and aspiring minds so numerous among the French youth, the future Listorian will commemorate as among the remarkable appearances of that important era.

The first portion of these Lectures, those comprising the General History of Civilization in Europe, have already appeared amongst us; the Lectures on the History of Civilization in France are now for the first time introduced to English readers; a circumstance, from their high value, well calculated to surprise those who are not acquainted with the utter want of system in our adoption of the great productions of the continent; a want of system which has hitherto kept the English public in well-nigh total ignorance of the best works, of the best continental writers, and which it is one of the leading purposes of the EUROPEAN LIBRARY to obviate. Of these Lectures, it is most justly observed by the Edinburgh Review: there is a consistency, a coherence, a comprehensiveness, and, what the Germans would term,

many-sidedness, in the manner of M. Guizot's fulfilment of his task, that manifests him one to whom the whole subject is familiar; that exhibits a full possession of the facts which have any important bearing upon his conclusions; and a deliberateness, a matureness, an entire absence of haste or crudity, in his explanations of historical phenomena, which give evidence of a general scheme so well wrought out and digested beforehand, that the labours of research and of thought necessary for the whole work seem to have been performed before any part was committed to paper." The same writer laments that a knowledge of M. Guizot's writings is even now not a common possession in this country. It will be rendered such by the pages of the EUROPEAN LIBRARY.


The European Library in which this work first appeared was for the most part merged in BOHN's STANDARD LIBRARY.



On the 8th of April, 1794, three days after the bloody victory of Robespierre over Danton, Camille Desmoulins, and the men of the Committee of Clemency, the scaffold was prepared at Nîmes for a distinguished advocate, who was also suspected of resistance to the will of the terrible triumvirate, and desolation had seated itself at the fireside of one of the worthiest families of the country. A woman, all tears, was beseeching God for strength to support a fearful blow; for the executioner at that moment was rendering her a widow, and her two children orphans. The eldest of these, scarcely seven years old, already wore upon his contemplative countenance the stamp of precocious intellect. Misfortune is a species of hothouse; one grows rapidly within its influence. This child, who had no childhood, was François Pierre Guillaume Guizot. Born a Protestant, on the 4th of October, 1787, under the sway of a legislation which refused to recognise the legal union of his parents and denied him a name and social rank, young Guizot saw the Revolution, with the same blow, restore him definitively to his rightful place in God's world, and make him pay for the benefit by the blood of his father. If we designed to write anything more than a biography, perhaps we might find in this concurrence of circumstances the first germ of that antipathy which the statesman afterwards manifested, almost equally for absolute monarchies and for democratic governments.

After the fatal catastrophe just related, Madame Guizot

1 Chiefly from the Galerie des Contemporains Illustres, 3rd edition. Paris, 1840.

left a city which was filled with such bitter recollections, and went to seek at Geneva consolation in the bosom of her family, and a solid education for her children. Young Guizot, placed at the gymnasium of Geneva, devoted his whole soul to study. His first and only playthings were books; and at the end of four years, the advanced scholar was able to read in their respective languages the works of Thucydides and Demosthenes, of Cicero and Tacitus, of Dante and Alfieri, of Schiller and Goethe, of Gibbon and Shakespere. His last two years at college were especially consecrated to historical and philosophical studies. Philosophy, in particular, had powerful attractions for him. His mind, endowed by nature with an especial degree of logical strength, was quite at home, was peculiarly enabled to unfold and open in the little Genevese republic, which has preserved something of the learned and inflexible physiognomy of its patron, John Calvin.

Having completed his collegiate studies with brilliant success, in 1805, M. Guizot proceeded to Paris to prepare himself for the bar. It is well known that the law schools had disappeared amid the revolutionary whirlwind. Several private establishments had been formed to supply the deficiency; but M. Guizot, not caring for an imperfect knowledge of the profession, resolved upon mastering it in solitude. At once poor and proud, austere and ambitious, the young man found himself cast into a world of intrigue, frivolity, and licentiousness. The period between the Directory and the Empire was a multiform, uncertain, dim epoch, like all periods of transition. Violently agitated by the revolutionary blast, the social current had not yet entirely resumed its course. Many of the ideas which had been hurled to the ground were again erect, but pale, enfeebled, tottering, and, as it were, stunned by the terrible blow which had prostrated them. Some superior minds were endeavouring to direct into a new path the society which was rising from its ruins; but the mass, long debarred from material enjoyments, only sought full use of the days of repose which they feared to see too soon ended. Hence that character of general over-excitement, that dissoluteness of morals which well nigh brought back the times of the Regency.

The serious and rigid nature of the Genevese scholar

« VorigeDoorgaan »