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casion, as the “Ménage de Molière," follows, or an ode in honour of the great French dramatist is recited, and the evening concludes with the ceremony, sacred in the place where it is performed, “ the Crowning of the Statue of Molière,” amidst the shouts and the tears, the religious joy and veneration, with which the populace of Paris hail a triumph of the arts.
One of the influences most powerful in France, and most visible in every society of France, is, undoubtedly, the influence of letters. “I begin my political life,” said M. V. Hugo, when his tragedy of " Le Roi s'amuse” was prohibited ;-and in a country where the public take so deep and lively an interest in literature, the prohibition of a tragedy is, in fact, the commencement of a political life. At the very moment that I am writing, the words yet ring in my ear which I heard one of the most distinguished members address the other evening to the Chamber of Deputies.—“And 1-) who am speaking to you, Messieurs, when people talk to you of an aristocracy and the influence of an aristocracy, what am I? What am I, whom you think worthy of your attention; who take my place on yonder bench, by the side of men who have gained battles ;* by the side of men bearing the noblest naines + in France ? What am I, Messieurs, but an humble man of letters, whom a little talent, kindly noticed, introduced amongst you?"
There are countries, the monarchs of which show an enlightened sense of the dignity with which men of learning and science decorate their dominions--there are countries in which you will find ambassadors and ministers as eminent for their literary attainments as for their high political station; but in no country do literature and science open so free, and honourable, and independent a career as in that France, which M. Thiers addressed from the national tribune, in the few touching words that I have just cited.
“ Overturn the monarchy:--give me the liberty of the press, and I will restore it in six months," # was the noble expression of an author confident in his talent, confident in the genius of his countrymen, and only wrong in the folly of his cause. A great writer in France is a great power. The baron of feudal times sallied forth against his neighbour, or his sovereign, with his armed retainers at his heels; and in those days of violence the goodness of the right depended on the goodness of the sword. The courtier in France, who succeeded the baron, abandoned the glaive and the gauntlet—for the Graces—and trusted to an appropriate smile and a well-turned compliment for the success of his career. But mark yonder pale young man; feeble in his person, slovenly in his dress—holding bis pen with a trembling hand, doubled up over his paper! That young man has come from some mean abode, from some distant province, where, amidst penury and insignificance, with his eyes now fixed on the
* Looking at Marshall Soult. + Looking at the Duc de Broglie. # M. de Châteaubriand.
page of history, now on the heading of a newspaper, he has long indulged his reveries of immortality and his hopes of power.* In him see the baron and the courtier of the day—he attacks the monarch or the minister, but it is not with the falchion and the lance. He glides into the cabinet and the boudoir, not in a powdered wig and an embroidered waistcoat, but bound in vellum. He does not measure his force or his address with your's, but his intelligence;—he is the
person to admire ; he is the person to fear; he is the person, in France, which he is nowhere else.
He is the person in France that he cannot be in America, for there is no superstition for the arts in America ; the vanity of wealth, the natural consequence of a nation depending wholly on its industry and its commerce, predominates over the diviner thoughts and more graceful occupations of letters. He is the person in France that he cannot be in Germanyfor in Germany, a von before your name is a matter of social necessity; to be “ well born,” or to be “ nobly born,” or to be "right-nobly born," is a matter submitted to historical rules, and the superscription of a letter demands the profoundest study, the most accurate knowledge, the nicest distinctions. He is the person in France that he cannot be in England
Mirabeau, consulted by the Queen of France ; and the Institut admitted to the Council of Napoléon :-these are the pictures present to the young man, who in some remote village, surrounded by poverty, and born a little above the plough, pursues with indefatigable perseverance studies, which he sees every day conducting his fellows to the highest situations in letters and the state, and which, if sometimes a cause of misery to himself, are still a source of energy, and strength, and prosperity, to his country,
for, in England, politics is the only passion of the men, fashion the only idol of the women--for, in England, to be a blockhead is far more pardonable than to live in a bad street-for, in England, to have voted against the house and window-tax would win you more favour than to have written the profoundest work on legislation.
Observe ! Messrs. Cousin and Villemain and Royer Collard are made peers, because they are very learned and eloquent professors. M. Delamartine is elected a representative of the French people on account of his poems-M. Arago on account of his mathematical acquisitions—M. Thiers on account of his talent as a journalist and an historian.—This takes place in France—and what takes place in England ?
THE CLOSE OF THE POLL AT A LATE CONTEST.
The most distinguished man of science at this moment in England appears upon the hustings as candidate for a great metropolitan district—he professes liberal but moderate opinions, such as a life of reflection usually engenders. How is he received? Do the people feel grateful and flattered by the philosopher's appearing amongst thein' as a solicitor for popu- . lar honours? Do they esteem his search after their favour as almost the highest compliment that could be paid to popular rights? Are they sensible to the circumstance, that the individual who appears before them and says — “ I prefer the pursuit which you can give me-l prefer the honours that you can confer upon me—I prefer the life that is to be passed in combating for your rights and your rewards—to the pursuits which have made me known throughout Europe ; to the honours which would be showered upon me by every learned corporation; to the life that in calm and quiet would lead me to an immortal reputation.”—Are they even aware that the person who says, or might say all this, is raising to the highest possible pitch the character and the career of a free state ? Are they proud, and conscious of the fact, that the man who
offers to sacrifice his energies to their cause has, at the very moment he does so, the eyes of the learned and the wise directed from every corner of Europe on his labours ?
No, they see nothing of this; they feel nothing of this. Mr. Duncombe's abilities and principles fully justify, in my opinion, the choice of his electors--I do not speak of M. Duncombe then,—but, mark! the unknown Tory, the violent and eloquent demagogue, every kind of man, is preferred to the man of science—and the person who, perhaps, more than any other without exception in this country, would, if he went to Paris or even to Berlin, or Petersburg, or Vienna, be courted and honoured by all who themselves received honour and courtship, hardly obtains one half of the votes of any other description of person in the popular borough of Finsbury !*
" I know there are some men of little minds ready at once to say-a man of science is not fitting to be a politician. No view is so narrow, so contrary to truth, to history, and to experience. In the three greatest politicians and generals of past times—Alexander, Julius Cæsar, and Napoléon Bonapartetheir love of letters and their knowledge of science are at least as conspicuous as their other attainments. The greatest orators and politicians that England has ever produced-Hampden, Shaftesbury, Bolingbroke, Pulteney, the Pitts, Fox, Sheridan, Windham, Canning, Burke, and let me add, Lord Brougham, and Sir Robert Peel, and Lord John Russell, and Sir John Hobhouse-have all been men of letters, and of business; sincerely and deeply attached to academical as to political pursuits; and finding time, as all men of active and clear minds do find time, for elevating and enlarging their views, for cultivating and improving their judgment and their fancy, as well as for handling and grappling with state affairs. “As for matter of policy and government,” says. Bacon, “ that learning should rather hurt than enable thereunto is a thing very improbable; we see it is accounted an error to commit a natural body to empiric physicians, who commonly have a few pleasing receipts, whereupon they are confident and advantageous, but know neither the causes of diseases, nor the complexions of patients, nor peril of accidents, nor the true method of cures: we see it is a like error to rely upon advocates and lawyers, who are only men of practice, and not grounded in their books, who are many times easily surprised when matter falleth out besides their experience, to the prejudice of the causes they handle : so, by like reason, it cannot be but a matter of doubtful consequence, if states be managed by empiric statesmen, not well mingled with men grounded in learning. But contrarywise, it is almost without instance contradictory that ever any government was disastrous that was in the hands of learned governors. For however it hath been ordinary with politic men to extenuate and disable learned men by the names of pedants, yet in the records of time it appeareth in many particulars that the governments of princes in minority (notwithstanding the infinite disadvantage of that kind of state) bave nevertheless excelled the government of princes of mature age, even for the reason which they seek to
I dwell the more upon this, because the most crude conclusions are drawn frequently from what are falsely seen as analogous facts. In the discussion on the Reform Bill, it was frequently argued that if the people of England had the free choice of their representatives, they would be sure to choose men of science and literature, because the people in France did--and this passed for excellent reasoning! Nay, if any one had possessed sufficient information for this, he might have pushed the argument still further, and proved pretty plausibly, that what happened in France would happen in a far greater degree in England. For instance, there rises a member of the House of Commons !" Sir, the honourable gentleman says, that if the people of England had the choice of their representatives, men of science and letters would be excluded from this assembly. Was ever any thing so absurd ? I beg gentlemen not to be drawn away by idle theories and vague declamations, I beg them to pay attention to facts. I beg them to see what happens from the people choosing their representatives in one country, and then draw their conclusions as to what would happen in another. When we are talking of England, let us look to France. Io France, it is undeniable that men of letters and science are actually hunted out of their retreats, in order to be honoured with popular favours. Who does not remember M. Royer Collard, that learned professor, a man of no violent opinions, being chosen by eight different colleges ? Well, sir, but are we less likely to choose men of letters and science than the people of France ? Let us, I say again, look to facts.
In France, there is not more than one person in
traduce, which is, that by that occasion the state hath been in the hands of pedants. Nay, let a man look into the government of the Bishops of Rome, as by name, into the Government of Pius Quintus and Sextus Quintus, in our times, who were both, at their entrance, esteemed but as pedantical friars, and he shall find that such Popes do greater things, and proceed upon truer principles of state, than those who have ascended to the papacy from an education and breeding in affairs of state and courts of princes. Neither can the experience of one man's life furnish examples and precedents for the events of one man's life: for as it happeneth sometimes that the grandchild, or other descendant, resembleth the ancestor more than the son, so many times occurrences of present times may sort better with ancient examples than with those of the latter or immediate times: and lastly, the wit of one man can no more countervail learning than one man's means can hold way with a common purse,"—and so he continues proving the activity of learned men in public affairs.--See Bacon's Advancement of Learning.