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may parody his words thus, " Whigs cannot breathe in France.” Britain has long been their element; but France demands either colder or hotter spirits. And because the French Whigs, the Girondins, were lukewarm, they were vomited out of its voicano mouth. That balancing of opinions, that avoidance of all extremes, that reverence for the past modified by respect for the present, by the exercise of which party differences have been so frequently reconciled in this country, seem mere trifling or impertinence to the torrid revolutionary hearts in France, or even to those extreme royalist natures in her, of whom we may say that the "ground burns frore, and frost performs the effect of fire." And such a French Whig was Vergniaud : possessed of an impetuous and ardent nature, a fiery eloquence, and an impulsive intellect, all running in the narrow channel of his party. In Britain he would have been counted a “ Whig, and something more.” In France, he was reckoned a “Revolutionist, and something less;" in other words, a weak Revolutionist—the most fatal and miserable of all forms of weakness. A timid flash of lightning, a remorseful wave in an angry ocean, a drivelling coward among a gang of desperadoes, a lame avd limping wolf among the herd descending from the Apennines upon the snow-surrounded village—such are but figures for the idea of one who pauses, halts, stammers, and makes play, amid the stern, earnest, and rushing realities of a revolution.
The Girondins were, we suspect, as a party, a set of fantastic fribbles, filled with a small fallacious thought, and without the unity or the force to impose even a shred of it upon the world. In the fine image of Grattan, " after the storm and tempest were over, they were the children of the village come forth to paddle in the streamlets." Barbaroux seems a brilliant coxcomb. Brissot was an unarmed and incapable ruffian, “who," said the dying Danton, " would have guillotined me as Robespierre will do.” Condorcet was a clear-headed, coldhearted, atheistic schemer. Roland was an able and honest prig. Louvet was a compound of sentiment and smut. The only three redeeming characters among the party were Madame Rowland, Charlotte Corday, and Vergniaud ; and yet, sorry saints, in the British sense, any of these make, after all being nothing else than an elegant intriguante, with a brule heart and a fine intellect within her, a beautiful maniac, and an orator among a thousand, without the gift of common energy or common sense.
"They sought,” says Carlyle, “a republic of the virtues, and they found only one of the strengths.” Danton thought otherwise, when he said, “ they are alī Brothers-Cain.” His robust nature and Cyclopean eyesight made him recoil from the gingerbread imitation of the Romans, the factitious virtues, the elegant platitudes of language, and the affected refinements of the saloons of the Girondins. He smelt blood, with his large distended nostril, amid all their apocryphal finery. Had they succeeded, they might have gilded the guillotine, or substituted some more classical apparatus of death; but no other cement than blood could they or would they have found for their power at that crisis. At this they aimed; but while the Jacobines fought with bare rapiers, the Girondius fought with buttoned foils; while the one part; threw away the scabbard, the other threw away the sword.
Vergniaud lives on account of the traditionary fame of his eloquence; his eloquence itself can hardly be said to be alive. The extracts which remain are, on the whole, diffuse and feeble. Even his famous prophecy, Ezekiel-like, of the fall of thrones, is tame in the perusal. What a contrast between his sonorous and linked harangues, and the single volcanic embers issuing from the mouth of Mirabeau or Danton, or even the nasal “I pronounce for doom,” which constituted the general oratory of Robespierre! Vergniaud neither attained to the inspired monosyllables of the one, nor to the infernal croakings of the other. His specches were, indeed, as powerful as mellifluous. It was a cataract of honey which poured from his lips. Their effect for the time was irresistible: like the songs in Pandemonium, they, for a season, “ suspended hell, and took with ravishment the thronging audience;' but it was only for a season. When the orator ceased to be seen and heard, his words ceased to be felt. Hence he was only able to pronounce the funeral oration of his party, not to give it any living or permanent place in the history of his country. He had the tongue, and perhaps the brain, but he wanted the profound heart and the strong hand to be the deliverer of France.
He broke at last, as breaks a wave of ocean—the most beautiful and eloquent of the deep, starred with spray, diffuse in volume-upon a jagged rock, which silently receives, repels, and extinguishes the bright invader. The echoes of his eloquence still linger, like ghosts amid the halls of history, but his name has long since faded into partial insignificance, and, in comparison with his manlier and stronger foes, has not even the sound which that of Eschines now bears beside that of Demosthenes. He fell, and, being the weaker, he could not but have fallen in the death-and-life struggle.
The account of his and the other Girondists' last night in prison is pronounced by Carlyle “not edifying." And yet, as with all last scenes, noble elements are mingled with it.They sing“ tumultuous songs;" they frame strange satiric dialogues between the devil and his living representatives; they discourse gravely about the happiness of the peoples; they talk, too, in wild and whirling words, of the immortality of the soul, and the scenes so near, beyond the guillotine and the grave. Vergniaud, like Hannibal, had secreted poison, but, as it is not enough for his friends as well as himself, "therefore, “to the dogs—he'll none of it.” His eloquence, too, bursts out, like an expiring flame, into glorious bravuras. If not edifying, surely this was one of the most interesting of scenes. Who can or dare reproduce it to us in words? Where now the North capable of this “ Noctes ?” We think Carlyle himself might, twenty years ago, have given it us, in a rough and rapid manner. As it is, “ for ever undescribed let it remain."
It was intensely French. They never die like the wolf described by Macaulay
“ Which dies in silence biting hard,
Among the dying hounds.'
They must go out either in splendor or in stench, but both must be palpable and ostentatious. A Vergniaud, quiet, serene, meditative, lost in contemplation of the realities before him, or even saying quietly, like Thistlewood to Ings, “We shall soon know the great secret,” is an incongruous conception. He must speak and sing, laugh and speculate, upon the
brink of the abyss. Might not, by the way, a panoramic view of national deathbeds, and how they are met and spread, tell us something about national character, and about things more important far?
Having been compelled, shortly but severely, to express our notion of Vergniaud and his abortive party, we are not, at the same time, disposed to part with either in anger. They did their best; they did their no work in an elegant and artistic manner; and now, like the Gracchi of ancient Rome, they are honorable, more for what they were reputed to be, than for what they effected. Let the hymn of the “ Marseillaise," which the Girondists sung at the foot of the scaffold, in ghastly gradation, waxing feebler and fainter, till it died away in one dying throat, be their everlasting remembrancer and requiem !
* Such an act of music! Conceive it well! The yet living chant there—the chorus so rapidly wearing weak! Samson's axe is rapid ; one head per minute, or little less. The chorus is worn out. Farewell, for evermore, ye Girondins ! Te Deum ! Fauchet has become silent; Valaze's dead head is lopped ; the sickle of the guillotine has reaped the Girondins all away—the eloquent, the young, the beautiful, and brave! O Death, what feast is toward in thy ghastly halls ?”
“Such,” says Carlyle, “was the end of Girondism. They arose to regenerate France, these men, and have accomplished this. Alas, whatever quarrel we had with them, bas not their cruel fate abolished it? Pity only survives. So many excellent souls of heroes sent down to Hades—they themselves given as a prey to dogs and all manner of birds! But here, too, the will of the Supreme Power was accomplished. As Vergniaud said, 'The Revolution, like Saturn, is devouring its own children.'»
NO. IV.—NAPOLEON. A very interesting book were a history of the histories of Napoleon—a criticism on the criticisms written about him— a sketch of his sketchers ! He, who at one period of his life had the monarchs and ambassadors of Europe waiting in his antechamber, has enjoyed since a levee, larger still, of the authors, orators, and poets of the world. Who has not tried his hand at painting the marvellous mannikin of Corsica—fortune's favorite and football-nature's pride and shameFrance's glory and ruin—who was arrested and flung back, when he was just vaulting into the saddle of universal dominion? What eminent author has not written either on the pros and cons of this prodigy of modern men ? To name only a few : Horsley has tried on him the broad and heavy edge of his invective_Hall has assailed him with his more refined and polished indignation-Foster has held up his iron rugged hands in wonder at him-Byron has bent before him his proud knee, and become the laureate of his exile-Hazlitt has fought his cause with as much zeal and courage as if he had belonged to his old guard—Coleridge has woven his metaphysic mazes about and about him—Wordsworth has sung of him, in grave, solemn, and deprecatory verse-Southey has, both in prose and rhyme, directed against him his dignified resentmentScott has pictured him in Don Roderick, and written nine volumes on his history-Brougham, Jeffrey, and Lockhart, have united in fascinated admiration, or fine-spun analysis of his genius-Charles Philips has set his character in his most brilliant antithesis, and surrounded his picture with his most sounding commonplaces—Croly has dashed off his life with his usual energy and speed—Wilson has let out his admiration in many a glorious gush of eloquence--the late B. Symmons has written on him some strains the world must not let die (his “Napoleon Sleeping” is in the highest style of art, and on Napoleon, or aught that was his, he could not choose but write nobly)—Channing, in the name of the freedom of the western world, has impeached him before high Heaven Emerson has anatomised him, with keenest lancet, and calmly