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It is now very nearly four years ago,—at that memorable time when the great Bourbon dynasty went once more into exile—that I first contemplated a work on France. Not altogether a work such as many which have appeared, skimming lightly over the surface of things, and pretending merely to be the result of a six weeks' residence at Paris—but a work which, in describing the present, would connect it with the past-which, in speaking of what is daily and accidental, would separate it from what ages have sanctioned, and distant ages are likely to see ;- a work, which in showing the effect which time, and laws, and accident produce upon the character of a people, would also show the manner in which the character of a people traverses times, enters into laws, dominates over accident. I thought such a work might be useful in England: because it might at once teach us where we could or could not imitate our neighbours; and at the same time convince us that a wise imitation does not coosist in copying the laws or the customs of another nation, but in adapting those laws and customs that we wish to imitate to our own dispositions.
I thought such a work might be useful; I thought too such a work might be interesting; and that in order to make it useful and interesting, it would be necessary to make it amusing. The English writer of the present century is placed in many respects in the same situation as the French writer of the last. I do not say that he has the same instruction to give, but he has in the same manner to render instruction popular : and this I trust will be my excuse for having sometimes adopted a lighter tone, and introduced lighter matter into the following volumes than the gravity and importance of their subject might seem to require.
Thus, it is some time since I first conceived the project of this work--but I had not long proceeded to collect materials for my undertaking before I abandoned the pursuit. Carried
along in the active rush of passing events-called upon to consider, and to take a humble part in, advancing a great revolution, far greater than many of its originators supposed-a revolution therefore before which it was wise to pause ere you began it—as it is wise to complete it now that it is commenced -a member of two reforming parliaments, and one reformed parliament-obliged to give eight or nine hours at the very least to daily attendance in the House of Commons—where the public affairs of the week, like the fabled islands of the Mediterranean, for ever flit before you, and for ever vanish at your approach—I soon resigned an idea *. which I had only imperfectly formed, or rather reserved it for some moment of golden leisure—such as we never cease to hope will one day arrive to us. In a visit, however, that I paid to Paris last year, I recurred to a design so long meditated, and pursued with some diligence my former researches. As far as the materials with which those researches furnished me are concerned, I feel almost convinced that I obtained what in the hands of most writers must have imparted entertainment and informationbut no one can be more sensible than I am, that I have not profited as I ought to have done by this advantage. The greater part of these pages was written during the heat and fever of a London existence; many of them, begun before the ordinary pursuits of the day were commenced , have been finished on returning home, after a late parliamentary division; and thus, independently of those faults into which my inability would have involuntarily led 'me, there are others for which I am deeply sensible that I have to request the consideration of the reader, and the indulgence of the critic,
It is also true that I have been not able to comprize within the compass of two volumes all that I have written. I have here shown something of the character, something of the habits, something of the history-of the state of parties, of the predominapt influences, and the literature of France-but many great questions which relate to the government and industry of the
There was also, let me add, another difficulty thrown in my way by the late publication (“ England and the English”) of a neat and dear relation, in whose literary success no one more deeply sympathizes than nyself. For as the nature of our several works in some degree assimilated, so where I dir sered from bing I might appear--to censure, and where I agreed with him-:9 imitate. This feeling damped at first my inclination to an enterprise, which afterwards his own kind wishes and my secret predilections induced me to
hazard ; with the hope, indeed, that I might steer through the obstacles I have x"referred to, as well as those even still greater, which I had also to encounter.
country-to the state of the daily press, to the state of property (now only glanced at)-much that must govern the foreign and domestic prospects of the French, I have been obliged to defer to the volumes by which those I am now publishing will be succeeded. Still, I venture to hope that the curious and good-natured 'reader will find even in the following pages sufficient to repay him.
I have endeavoured to paint France-France as France is— not only France serious, but France gay. I have endeavoured to paint France in her studies, in her crimes, in her pleasures; whether the latter might be found in the guinguette and the ball-room, or the former might be tracked from the ball-room to thc prison. In political as in domestic life, happiness depends as well on little things as on great things. And so saith the Scripture most sublimely of the wisest of men-" his heart was as the sands of the sea ;
;" “one of the largest bodies,” observes Bacon, “ consisting of the smallest proportions."
In passing from one subject to another, I have written with a feeling which I have long entertained, viz., that ideas are most naturally introduced into the minds of others, in the form and order in which they most naturally introduce themselves into our own minds;-in endeavouring to cut and to square, and to press and to clip, our thoughts into exact forms and proportions, we most frequently injure every part of a work on the false idea of improving the whole, and make our book on the plan which presided over that royal palace, where all the pictures of Italy were systematically mutilated to the form and size of an apartment.
The plan I have adopted, then, is not without its method; bat, however in some respects I might deem it desirable, I have not attempted to throw the colouring of one particular idea over the whole of my work, or to connect every effect that I have observed with one particular causé. Iødeed I confess, for my own part, that when I pursue speculations of this kind, I advance on my way with considerable hesitation and doubt. I confess that I am one of those who believe there to be so many chains, visible and invisible, in the connexion of human affairs-50 much mystery and intricacy in the government of human actions-that oftentimes I hesitate involuntarily even at the moments when I feel most inclined to be presumptuous.
The plague breaks out at Florence; all the pious virgins, the religious matrons, and even the sacred sisters devoted to seclu
sion and God, give themselves up, in a species of voluptuous delirium, to the wildest excesses of prostitution and debauch. The same pestilence visits Aix, and the oldest courtezans of the place rush in a pious frenzy to the hospitals, and devote themselves to the certain death which seizes those who attend upon the sick. Yet a religious education does not lead necessarily to debauch-nor are brothels the best seminaries of charity and christian zeal.
What happened once may never happen again. Yet that which forms no ground for a theory, is often interesting as a fact.
I will now allude to one difficulty I have laboured under in this work—a difficulty which I particularly feel, and which if I had been writing of England I should have been spared. In speaking of our own country, we speak in a spirit which induces us to believe that we may take any liberty we think proper with our friends.
We are at home, and we have the privilege of relationship. But it is different in a foreign land. Received as a stranger, but received with kindness and hospitality, the seal of courtesy is placed upon our lips, and we ought to shrink with disgust from being, or seeming, guilty of ingratitude. If then I could suspect myself of any of that national hostility which might induce me to find unnecessary fault with my hosts—if I disliked the French because they wear wooden shoes, or if I despised them because they do not live upon roast beef and plumb-pudding-if I felt that kind of antipathy or rather jealousy towards them which I have remarked among some of my countrymen-if I thought all their women had the features of Calmucks, and all their men the principles of Count Fathom-if I deemed the New Road infinitely superior to the Boulevards, and the Louyre a hovel by the side of St. James's palace,-if I believed all this, and even believed it conscientiously, I should hesitate long, after the kindness I have experienced, before I stated my opinions. But France to me is a country in which repose many my
affections. I visited it young-its scenes and its people are connect. ed with some of my earliest, and therefore with some of my dearest, recollections. I never touch its soil, but the green memory of fresher and happier times rises up around me. Some of those whom I have most valued-some of those whom I have most loved, link me with the land of which į write, and infuse into my thoughts a colour which is assuredly not the hue of jealously or aversion. I ask myself, then,