Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

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 his 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 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 yours, 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.

* M. de Châteaubriand.

* Mirabeau, consulted by the Queen of France; and the Institut admitted to the Council of Napoleon :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.

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 Germany-for in Germany a von' before your name is a matter of social necessity; for in Germany, 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—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.

.

[ocr errors]

Observe! Messrs. Cousin and Villemain and Royer Collard are made peers, because they are very learned and eloquent professors. M. Lamartine 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.
Duncombe

2,497
Pownall

1,839 Wakley

677 BABBAGE

383 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 them as a solicitor for popular 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 - I 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 very moment he does

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 Mr. 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

the

So, the

« VorigeDoorgaan »