Изображения страниц

creed. They neglect the progress of the hu. man mind subsequent to its adoption, and when, as in the present case, it has burst forth into action, they regard it as a transient madness, worthy only of pity or derision. They mistake it for a mountain torrent that will pass away with the storm that gave it birth. They know not that it is the stream of human opinion in omne volubilis ævum, which the accession of every day will swell, which is destined to sweep into the same oblivion the resistance of learned sophistry, and of powerful oppression.

But there still remained ample matter of astonishment in the Philippic of Mr. Burke. He might deplore the sanguinary excesses—he might deride the visionary policy that seemed to him to tarnish the lustre of the Revolution, but it was hard to have supposed that he should have exhausted against it every epithet of contumely and opprobrium that language


can furnish to indignation ; that the rage

of his declamation should not for one moment have been suspended ; that his heart should not betray one faint glow of triumph, at the splendid and glorious delivery of so great a people. All was invective—the authors, and admirers of the Revolution-every man who did not execrate it, even his own most enlightened and accomplished friends, were devoted to odium and ignominy.

This speech did not stoop to argument—the whole was dogmatical and authoritative; the cause seemed decided without discussion ; the anathema fulminated before trial. But the ground of the opinions of this famous speech, which, if we may believe a foreign journalist, will form an epoch in the history of the eccentricities of the human mind, was impatiently expected in a work soon after announced. The name of the author, the importance of the subject, and the singularity of his opinions,


A 2

all contributed to inflame the public curiosity, which though it languished in a subsequent delay, has been revived by the appearance, and will be rewarded by the perusal of the work.

It is certainly in every respect a performance,

of which to form a correct estimate, would prove one of the most arduous efforts of critical skill. “ We scarcely can praise it, " or blame it too much.” Argument every where dextrous and specious, sometimes grave and profound, cloathed in the most rich and various imagery, and aided by the most pathetic and picturesque description, speaks the opulence and the powers of that mind, of which age has neither dimmed the discernment nor enfeebled the fancy, neither repressed the ardor, nor narrowed the rulent encomiums on urbanity, and inflammatory harangues against violence ; homilies of moral and religious mysticism, better adapted

range. Vi


to the amufement than to the conviction of ari incredulous age, though they may rouse the languor of attention, can never be dignified by the approbation of the understanding.

Of the Senate and people of France, his language is such as might have been expected to a country which his fancy has peopled only with plots, assassinations, and másfacres, and all the brood of dire chimeras which are the offspring of a prolific imagination, goaded by an ardent and deluded fenfibility. The glimpses of benevolence, which irradiate this gloom of invective, arise only from generous illusion, from misguided and misplaced compassionhis eloquence is not at leisure to deplore the fate of beggared artizans, and famished

peafànts, the victims of suspended industry, and languishing commerce. The sensibility which feems scared by the homely miseries of the vulgar, is attracted only by the splendid forrows of royalty, and agonizes at the flenA


derest pang

that affails the heart of sottishness or prostitution, if they are placed by fortune on a throne.

To the English friends of French freedom, his language is contemptuous, illiberal, and fcurrilous. In one of the ebbings of his fervor, he is disposed not to dispute " their good in66 tentions.” But he abounds in intemperate fallies, in ungenerous insinuations, which wisdom ought to have checked, as ebullitions of passion, which genius ought to have disdained, as weapons of controversy.

The arrangement of his work is as fingular as the matter. · Availing himself of all the privileges of epistolary effusion, in their utmost latitude and laxity, he interrupts, dismisses, and resumes argument at pleasure. His subject is as extensive as political science

-his allusions and excursions reach almost every region of human knowledge. It must


« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »