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It is now very nearly four years ago—when the old dynasty went once more into exile—that I first thought of writing 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 time, 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 consist 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 renuer 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.
It is some time ago, then, since I first conceived the project of this book-but I had not long proceeded to collect the 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 an 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 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 literary leisure,* such as we always hope will one day arrive to us. In a visit, however, that I paid to Paris last year, I recurred to my former thoughts, and pursued with some diligence my former researches. As far as the materials with which those researches furnished me are concern
erned, I feel almost convinced that I obtained sufficient to give entertainment and information to these volumes. But no one
* There was, let me add, another difficulty thrown in my way by the late publication of a near and dear relation, in whose literary success no one more deeply sympathizes than myself. This publication, being also in part a political one, made me feel that where our opinions differed I might be accused of intending to convey a censure, where our sentiments agreed I might, with equal justice, be accused of aiming at an imitation.
But the different nature of our works will, I think, clear me from the last charge; while the respect which I bear to that relation's ability, and the very sincere affection I have for himself, will also, I trust, deliver me from the other.
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 were 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, independent of those faults which my inability would have involuntarily led me into, 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.
Still, in spite of these faults of commission and omission, I venture to hope that this publication is not wholly void of interest, and that the curious and goodnatured reader may find in it wherewithal to repay his labour.
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. I have not forsaken the guinguette for the ball-room, and I have not been without the idea of connecting the ball-room with the 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
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 desultorily, and for this reason :—it has always appeared to me, 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 certain set 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 Queen Christina's palace, where all the
chef-d'euvres of Italy were systematically mutilated to the form and size of an apartment.
I have written, then, desultorily, and hardly checked my disposition to do so. Nor, however in some respects I might deem it desirable, have I attempted to throw the colouring of one particular idea over the whole of my work, nor to connect every effect that I have observed with one particular cause. Indeed 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 connection of human affairs-so 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 seclusion and God, give themselves up in a species of voluptuous delirium 'to the wildest excesses of prostitution and debauch. tilence visits Aix, and the oldest courtesans of the place rush in pious phrensy 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 might never happen again. It forms no ground for a theory; it is 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
The same pes
kindness and hospitality--the seal of courtesy is placed upon our lips, and we shrink with becoming 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 plum-puddingif I felt that kind of antipathy to 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 Regent-street infinitely superior to the Boulevards, and the Louvre 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 of my affections. I visited it young--its scenes and its people are connected with some of my earliest, and therefore with some of my dearest, recollections. I never touch its soil but the green memory of olden 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 I write, and infuse into my thoughts a colour which is assuredly not the hue of jealousy or aversion. I ask myself, then, whether the opinions of a friend, even if they are delivered with impartiality—of a friend who, seeing with foreign eyes, gazes as it were through a magnifying glass on all around him, and discerns at once both beauties and blemishes which are imperceptible to persons who, under the influence of long habit and custom, regard without observing-I ask myself whether the opinions of such a friend, even if they do not always contain praise, ought to be considered as any derogation from that amity which he is bound to feel, and
very distant from forswearing. It is said of Hercules (a great reverer of the gods) that when he saw the statue of Adonis in the temple of Venus, he ex