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M----'s, at Madame de R--'s, you meet all the literary men who belong to all the different political opinions. Indeed, wberever you go, be sure that the person particularly noticed, if not a remarkable officer-is a remarkable writer.
This is the case in France, where we are met on the one hand by the evidence of Dr. Bowring-on the other by the list of pensions, donations, and appointments, that I have submitted to the reader. This is the case in France, where the advancement of men of letters seems to go hand in hand with the advance and progress of manufactures. But in England where men of letters are least esteemed, and yet where industry ought to be most encouraged--what is the case in England and in the society of England ?
A literary Frenchman whom I met, not long ago, in Paris, said to me, that a good-natured young English nobleman, whom I will not name, had told him that dancers and singers, &c. were perfectly well received in English society, but no men of letters.
“ Est-il possible qu'on soit si barbare chez vous ?” said the French gentleman to me. I think the young nobleman, to whom the persons pursuing literature in England must be very much obliged, rather exaggerated. I do not think the door is actually bolted upon you the moment you are found out to write_but I think it is opened to you wilh a much more cautious air—and I am quite sure it would not be opened to you wholly and solely because you had written.
To be known as a writer is certainly to your prejudice. First-people presume you are not what they call a “gentleman," and the grandfather, who, if you were a banker, or a butcher, or of any other calling or profession, would be left quiet in his tomb, is evoked against you. If this exh
If this exhumation take place in vain, if a gentle genealogy be established, and the fact of your being, in vulgar parlance, “a gentleman," placed beyond denial, then your good blood is made the reservoir of all evil passions ; you are obligingly painted as the incarnation of envy, of malice, and all uncharitableness; your picture is drawn in some friendly magazine, twisted into contortions that would terrify all the witches of the Hebrides. You have got a horrid nose, red hair, and a heart blacker than all Valpy's, and Whittingham's, and Bentley's printing devils could paint it. At last, your banker's book is looked into, and it is found out, or presumed, that you are poor, or, if you are not poor, it is quite clear that you are penurious. You refused ten guineas to a dozen authors more forlorn that yourself, and did not give 1001., as you ought to have doné, to the Literary Fund.
How many gentlemen have refused, and how many gentlemen would refuse their purse to a poetical impostor, without being pelted with every species of abuse, as Horace Walpole was on that story of Chatterton, and simply because Horace Walpole, though a gentleman, and a moderately rich man, was also, unfortunately for him, an author! How many people does one meet quite as be-mummified and twice as illnatured and disagreeable as poor Mr. R., and who yet are neither called dead men nor such very odious and disagreeable men as every body, chuckling, calls Mr. R--, because—he is an author! A thousand husbands are as bad as Lord Byron ever was—and yet they are not cut, nor called diabolical, and satanic, as poor Lord Byron was cut and called, all this-because Lord Byron was an author. It is a most singular thing, but no sooner is a man pointed out in England as having wielded a pen with tolerable success, than every body spits upon him every
kind of venom. Some-many—of the reasons for this difference between France and England I have stated. They belong to history; they belong to the past; they belong to the fact that a monarchy governed in France, which sought to humble the aristocracy, while an aristocracy governed in England, which sought to abase the Commons. But there are three causes which more especially operate at the present time to maintain the distinction originated by former laws, and customs, and institutions.
First-The influence of women in France, and the higher cast of their thoughts and their pursuits. Secondly-The esprit de corps, which, in France, as connected with the natural vanity of the French, I have already noticed. And lastly, The state of property in France—the state of property, which enters more than people imagine into every relation of life, into every production of human intelligence, into every law passed for social happiness, and which, when we consider the
present state of France, it is most especially our duty to keep before us.
The greater frivolity of English women, and consequently the greater frivolity of English society, necessarily create a kind of fear and horror among that body for a being who, having been guilty of writing, is supposed, oftentimes very fallaciously, to have been guilty of thinking, and who is therefore considered what a sober man would be by a set of drunken associates, viz.-a bore and a critic. The esteem which every man sets upon himself in England—so different from the vanity which makes every man in France connect himself, wherever he can with all that is greater than himself-induces persons to view with jealousy, instead of with pride, any man who, employing no more pens, ink, and paper than he does, contrives to make a «greater reputation.
His first saying is, “ that man cannot be cleverer than I am.” Then, he says, " Why should he be more successful ?", Then he hates and abhors him because he is more successful ; and then he very naturally abuses him because he abhors him. No men in France hang more together than literary men ; no men defend their order with more tenacity. M. Thiers, as ministre, does not forget that he is homme de lettres. No men in England pull one another so much to pieces. When Mr. Brougham, when Mr. Macaulay, first appeared as politicians, all the papers, and all the newspaper writers, poured forth their ridicule and their abuse on these literary young men who presumed to make speeches. It was utterly impossible, shouted forth all these gentlemen,---employed themselves every day, by the by, in writing and deciding upon the politics of Europe, for any man who had also written to have any notion of these politics. It was indignation, it was scorn, it was vituperation, that these two gentlemen excited, just among those very persons who in France would have been most proud and most bappy to say :-“We are delighted at Mr. Brougham's or Mr. Macaulay's eloquence ; it shows the advantages of a cultivated taste; the position which literary men might and ought to aspireto,” secretly whispering to themselves, “and we, too, are literary men."
As for property and its division in France, that subject is one too vast for me here to do more than glance at. But it is easily
seen that, where fortunes are not of themselves sufficient to make great and important distinctions; where every person is more or less in the situation of the basket-maker and the nobleman among the savages, and chiefly dependent for what he receives on what he is able to do: it is easy to see that, where the pen easily procures an income which not three thousand persons possess from land, the profession of writing must hold a different rank from that which it occupies in a country where fortunes are sufficiently great to overbalance every other distinction.
There are many things to say in disparagement and in favour of this, which as I observed before, I should wish to say more amply and satisfactorily, if I have the opportunity, elsewherewhich I should wish to say-after having more fully explained the various effects for good and evil which the great division of property in France has produced-effects which I shall presently attempt to trace in some matters which many would suppose they could hardly reach.
But I cannot conclude this chapter without observing, that even in France people do not seem sufficiently aware of the end to which the influence of intelligence, and the insignificance of fortune, must necessarily lead them. They do not seem sufficiently aware of the necessity of recognizing, and more fully establishing, that aristocracy—for aristocracy in every country there must be --that aristocracy which time and taste have already recognized —an aristocracy which would be powerful because it is national -which would be safe, because it is peaceably created, and which, when peaceably created, and historically established in a nation, is the most rational, because the best calculated to combine change with conservation, and moderation with improvement.
Yet may we see a new Chamber of Peers taken from the category of the Academy and the Institut ; yet may we see the
* The Institut, even at present, opens to the French a double ambition and a double career. It is there that the national character is represented, and that the national distinctions blend and meet. M. Thiers seeks the title of academician with an ardour at least equal to that which has carried him so far in the Chamber of Deputies. The Duc de Raguse was as proud of the title of “Membre de l'Institut,” as of that of “Marechal de France.” In that society the statesman is brought into honourable connexion with the poet, the philosopher with the soldier. In that society the passionate man, the literary man, the active man, the studious man, are blended together ; a practical energy
concentration and the representation of the intelligence of the kingdom more fully acknowledged, as the proper mediator between the throne, which its political science would teach it to preserve, and the people, whom its natural affections would prevent it from betraying.
Literature.--Society in a transitory state.—Every epoch in civilization bears
its certain fruit. Afterwards, that society wears out, or must be invigorated by a new soil. -A new stratum for society produced in France a new era.
- The genius of this era first visible in the Army, now in Literature. What I intend to do in speaking of French literature.
The three influences most popular in society, and most connected with the character and the history of France, are, then —the influence of arms, the influence of women, and the influence of letters—and the government that is wise will not endeavour to destroy, but will endeavour so to mould and employ these influences as to invigorate and embellish the institutions --to improve and to elevate the social existence of the French. But there is another influence, an influence to which I have just been alluding-an influence of more modern 'growth-. twining itself in with the history, incorporating itself with the character of the nation-an influence which, while other influences descend from the past, is now creating a future—an influence which, as I have just been speaking of the influence of literature, I will trace through the labours of literature itself.
We, are not, as it seems to many, in the epoch of any peculiar revolution, but in an era of general transformation. All society is on the change. What period will see this movement cease ? God alone can say."
“ To what end is society directing itself ? Behind us ruins ; is given to speculation, a nobility to ambition. The warrior, the orator, ennoble their conceptions by science ; the historian, the professor, correct their theories by experience - the one learns to act with dignity, the other to think with truth.