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absurd, trivial, or superficial which puts on a businesslike appearance:
The philosophers of the eighteenth century, material as they were, were not quite so material as we have become. Every argument now used must appeal to the senses; no doctrine is worth a farthing that does not march boldly forth, supported by figures. The orator, the philosopher, and even the novelist address themselves “to facts.” Facts, no doubt, are the necessary basis of general truths--but figures are not always facts; figures, impossible to contradict, are very frequently contradicted in politics as in science, by the mere absurdities they prove. For instance, by a subsidy granted to Philip de Valois (1328), it would appear that there were at that time eight millions of hearths, or families, in the countries which at present compose France; eight millions of families, at the moderate calculation of four persons to a family, would give thirty-two millions of inhabitants, the whole population of France at the present time.
Voltaire cites this absurdity; in similar absurdities history abounds.
But M, Guerry's. volume, as well from the ability of that gentleman as from the conscientious scruples with which all his inquiries are conducted, is the most valuable work of this description which exists, or which we can hope for many years to see, respecting the country on which I am writing.
Let me then return to the investigation I set out with, viz. “ how far what he says of the crimes, concurs with what I have said of the pleasures, of the French.”
Do we find no connection between the gallantry which formed the subject of a former chapter and the contents of this chapter ? See we nothing to remark in the rapes of young men upon adults, in the rapes
* How often do we find a manufacture or a country in that singular condition which poor Pope so happily described when, turning from his doctor to his friend, he said, “Alas! my dear sir, I'm dying every day of the most favourable symptoms."
of old men upon children, in the female poisonings attendant upon adultery, in the immense population perishing in the enfans trouvés ? Is there no connection between the vanity I formerly spoke of and the hatred and the vengeance which dictate so many crimes, and the disgust for life which leads to so many suicides? Is there no connection between the gay, and unthinking, and frivolous disposition which presides over the follies of the French, and the carelessness and recklessness of human life which swells the calendar of their guilt, and opens so remarkable, so terrible a chapter in the history of human nature ? This inquiry I do not venture to pursue : my object is, not to establish doctrines, but to awake attention. And now, having hastily and feebly, but not, I trust, inaccurately, sketched some of the principal features of French character, such as it appears before me, may I hope to lead my reader back to some of the later passages in French history, from which we must not wholly divide the present, to some of those many rapidly succeeding changes, out of which a new people, different but not separate from the old people, have grown up ? for this I am anxious to do, holding it impossible to speculate with any security on the future of a nation of which we have not studied the past.
END OF BOOK I.
“Men will never see far into posterity who do not sometimes look backward to their ancestors.”
BURKE. “Je veux parler de la condition matérielle de la société, des changemens matériels introduits dans la manière d'être et de vivre des hommes, par un fait nouveau, par une révolution, par un nouvel état social."
GUIzOT. G 3
It is at Versailles that you can best understand the old régime--The
monarchy overturned by the first revolution, the monarchy of Louis XIV.-Faults that he committed-Character of his successors – The alchymist and the cook- Necessity of maintaining the court nobility in public opinion by war-Impossibility of doing 50-Many circumstances hastened what Louis XV. foresawColbert, Law, Voltaire-Review of the revolution and the old régime-Definition of the old “régime"—What Louis XVI. might have done- The court formed by the old nobility-The monarch impoverished, and obliged to satisfy the former adherents of that nobility-The destruction of the great aristocracy burthened the monarch with the vices of the gentry—The wrath of the people delivered the nation into the hands of the mob—The good which came out of evil.
RELIEVE yon palace from the century with which its royal dome is overcharged-light up those vast apartments, gorgeous in paintings and goldopen wide those stately and solemn doors,-crowd with a gay throng of courtiers that wide flight of marble steps, down which a daughter of the house of Hapsbourg, a queen of France, half naked, was once seen to fly—Give for a moment, give its ancient splendour to the palace where you are still haunted by the memory of Louis XIV. It is at Versailles, as you gaze on those stiff and stately gardens, on that large and spacious court, on those immense buildings, still decorated with their title inscribed in letters of gold, “ Les écuries du Roi"it is at Versailles, as you stand between the five roads which quit the royal gates for Spain, Italy, Paris, Germany, and England—it is at Versailles that you understand the genius of the ancient “régime," such as it existed in the head of its founder.