« VorigeDoorgaan »
three who can read and write. But in England and Wales, taken upon an average, we find out of 14,000,000, nearly 7,000,000, that is nearly one in every two, who receive education. Is it not likely, is it not certain, that the most educated people will set the highest value on the acquisitions of knowledge? (Hear, hear!) Is not this clear, is not this incontrovertible? (Hear, hear, hear!) Sir, I say, that that which happens in France will happen in a greater degree in England, and that the honourable gentleman is as wrong in his conclusions as he was violent in announcing them.” (Loud cheers.) “ Those were very sensible remarks.” “ Yes, yes, he gave it him well,” say two old Whig gentlemen, on the third of the treasury benches. Yet never was there such stuff, such miserable twopenny halfpenny twaddle! Never was man more completely wrong than the orator whom we will paint triumphing, if you please, in his success—never was man so wrong. And why? For the best and shortest and simplest and most incontrovertible of all reasons—because he was wrong; because the people of England, though there are more of them who read and write than there are of the people of France, have not, and will not, and cannot have, for long years to come, that love for letters and the arts, that respect for men of science and letters, which the French have, and which the French had—when, in calligraphy and orthography, they were many times more ignorant than they are at present.
It is folly to talk of reading and writing being alone sufficient to prevent crime. It is folly to imagine that reading and writing will necessarily open men's minds, in an extraordinary degree, to the perception of the elegant and to a sense of the beautiful and the sublime. It will do this to a certain degree; but people do not perceive that there will be other and preexistent causes, which will influence the tastes, and the feelings, and the judgment, which writing and reading are calculated to produce—and that history, and society, and conquest, and even geographical position, all exercise as great an influence upon the knowledge derived from writing and reading as the mere knowledge of writing and reading exercises upon the mind itself. They do not see this ; neither do they see that writing and reading form but a small part of the education of the man who also sees, and bears, and acts. No, nor do they even re
cognize that the natural perceptions of some men, and of some races of men, are quicker, and keener, and more acute, than others—more likely to be acted upon by what pleases the senses than by what excites the mind-more likely to be affected by the beautiful than by the useful, by the showy than by the solid. That there are two countries, in each of which a certain number of the people read and write—proves what? That in these two countries this certain number do write and read. It proves this—it proves nothing more than this—unless you can show that in every other respect the people in the two countries are alike. If the French have an ardent passion for literature, a vast respect for men of letters, it is from a long series of facts, from a long train of events, as well as from a peculiar disposition with which these events and these facts naturally coincide. Here is a passion, here is a respect, which an increase of education, a spread of knowledge, will tend to increase and spread; because to that education and to that knowledge an impulse has been already given-because the feelings originally existed in a small circle, which are therefore naturally extended, as that small circle extends, into a large one.
When Louis the Fourteenth said to Racine, “ What man do you think the greatest glory to my reign ?” and Racine answered, “ Molière"—there was no free press, no national education, none of those vast and noisy engines at work, by which we produce from the minds of the masses what is called public opinion.
Now, I said somewhere in the beginning of this book, that in a vain nation sentiments and habits descend from the higher classes to the lower, as in a voluptuous nation they ascend from the lower to the higher. It was the policy of Richelieu and Louis XIV.-it was the taste of the Regent, and the embroidered philosophy of the court of Louis XV., that gave to certain classes that love for the arts and that esteem for their professors, which the destruction of privileges, the division of property, all the circumstances which melted the court and the monarchy into the nation, blended with the great mass of the nation also.
It is to kings and to courts that the French people originally owe the predilection which many of you, my countrymen, imagine to be naturally and necessarily the feeling of the multitude -it is from the education of the garden, of the gallery, and the theatre, that those tastes have in a great measure been derived, which many of you would attribute wholly to the school. It is, moreover, as the camp succeeded to the court—from war and from conquest—from the variety and the history which connect the chefs-d'auvre of Raphael and Michael Angelo with the victories of Italy and Napoléon,* that a sentiment is felt for the picture-gallery and the statue-room, which many of you attribute to the improvements and the refinements of peace. And it is again owing to the quick and vivid perceptions, to the enthusiastic and admiring character of the French themselves, that so strong an impulse has been given to the natural effect of the causes I have described. Some of
still think in your hearts, perhaps, that it is only to the press, to the Chamber, to the long number of republican laws and free constitutions, which have succeeded with so much rapidity in France, that a mere man of letters became allof a sudden so proud a title. It is just the reverse—it was not because there was liberty, but because there was despotism; it was not because there was a free press, but because there was no free
it was not because there was a popular assembly, but because there was no popular assembly—that literary men, as the only organs of enlightened opinion, became, towards the later days of the old régime, a second estate in the realm, and possessing extraordinary power, obtained an hereditary respect. +
* During the campaigns of Bonaparte, in addition to that knowledge which the view of other countries and the necessary study of other customs must have produced with the soldiers abroad-war contributed to the education of the peasant lest at home, and the conscript who wrote to his family an account of his exploits stimulated the most ignorant of his village to acquire a knowledge necessary to give the key to so interesting a correspondence. And, in the same manner, from the successes of military despotism, the daily press acquired an interest, an influence, and a power, which at a later period it used against that despotism itself.
t I need hardly say that, in stating what have been the causes of a feeling in France which I would wish to see introduced into England, I by no means think the same causes necessary to introduce it into one country that did originally introduce it into the other. On the contrary-we must look at the feeling by itself-ask whether it be good or bad, advantageous or disadvantageous to a State—and, if we decide in favour of its advantage, turn our thoughts to the consideration—not of what grafted it on the French character, but of what might graft it on ours.
Such nonsense is it to embrace all advantages in one system, and to exclude them from another; so necessary is it in looking at the present to refer to the past; so sure are we to be wrong if we think one effect is always produced by one cause; or believe that the same events wbich confirm and extend a power have, as a matter of course, planted or produced it.
The authority of letters, now extending and maintaining liberty in France, originated in despotism--and the class carried by the revolution of July into office was encouraged under the ministry of Napoléon, and created by the policy of Richelieu. If you wish, as I wish, my readers, to encourage the arts, to raise in public estimation the character of men of letters in England, it is not by resigning yourselves to the belief that, because you find the one cultivated and the other respected where the people have power, the people having power will alone do this. Neither is it by imagining that ordinary education, which would be sufficient to spread and to increase a love for science and the arts where it already exists, is sufficient to generate that affection where it does not exist. Neither must you think that what has been produced by certain causes in one country requires the same causes to produce it in yours. If
you wish to introduce a love of the arts, and to elevate literary men in England, you must study the genius, the character, and the history of the English people. You must introduce the passion you wish to create, in the manner in which it can best blend with the dispositions that you already find. If you wish to wake the attention of a cold and apathetic people to the arts, you must multiply statues and forms of beauty in your public walks—you must let your galleries and your collections stand with doors wide open to the public.* If y you
* There is no doubt that the circumstance of the best collections belonging, not to the State, but to individuals, and depending for their exhibition rather on 'private courtesy than on public advantage-has kept that taste among the higher classes, where it is only a personal accomplishment-from the lower, where it is a source of national prosperity. Instead of endeavouring to counteract this evil, the State seems to favour and to encourage it, and, at the door of galleries, called “public,” you are impertinently, for it is “impertinently,” requested to pay for your admission. Nor is this all. Whenever the question is agitated of how much you ought to do to encourage national taste, it is always discussed on the principle of how little you need do. Instead of seeing that, if we wish to rival France, we must do more than France, it is
wish to inspire a manufacturing people with any just idea of the value of sculpture and of painting, you must not simply institute schools of painting and sculpture, but schools that shall connect painting and sculpture with manufactures. If you wish among an aristocratical people to raise the situation of men of science and men of letters, you must not merely institute universities and societies, which shall keep men of letters and science apart from the rest of their fellow-citizens ; you must confer such honours and distinctions upon literary and scientific labours as are obtained in the army, or at the bar, and not forbid the highest genius in literature to aspire to the same position and the same rank in society that even wealth and court favour are sufficient to give.
I do not, for my own part, see only evil in that species of aristocracy which has long existed in England. I may elsewhere have occasion to observe why I think the modified continuance of such an aristocracy still desirable. But if it continue, it will be by the enlargement and extension of that principle on which it has hitherto maintained itself—it will be by taking into its body all those who are formidable as its rivals. It will be by not considering itself apart from any set of men, who confer public benefit or enjoy popular favour. Had I to choose between the two, I should certainly prefer the aristocracy of birth and of land, to that which has bought its titles yesterday at the Stock Exchange. But the time is approaching when neither the one nor the other will be able to stand alone. The time is approaching when an hereditary aristocracy must receive support from an aristocracy that is not hereditary-and the alliance which it formerly made with talent in the House of Commons be renewed under nobler and purer auspices in another assembly. But it is not here that I would pursue this subject.
And, now let me give a striking instance of the value and of the pervading nature of that literary influence which extends
thought a most triumphant argument if we can show, that in any one instance, as in the opening of the Museum, for example, we do as much as France. Nor are we at all sensible, that a taste important to the French, who are not a commercial and manufacturing people, would be of far more importance to the English, who are devoted to commerce and manufactures.