« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
his eye of its fire, and given his person an unhealthy corpulence. He wore the dress in which the spectators recollected to have seen him habitually dressed in the convention; but the coat, too small for his swollen limbs, had burst in the seams, and completed the picture of physical as well as political decay. Neither eloquence nor innocence could avail with judges who regarded the whole public life of the accused as one crime. But the government took care to allow no room for either pity or justice. A decree closed the proceedings, without permitting the prisoners to make their defence. They were declared guilty, and sentenced to death.
the wolves had half devoured, and which the clothes and papers discovered with them showed to be the remains of Buzot and Petion. M. de Lamartine has omitted the date of their death, not the least painful circumstance connected with it. That date was in July, 1794, only about three weeks before the fall of Robespierre. Had they contrived to baffle their pursuers for that brief period, they would have been saved.
We have thus followed M. de Lamartine through his narrative; endeavoring to convey to our readers the story, as he tells it, of the period of the revolution which coincides with that of the existence of the party which forms the ostensible subject of his work. This important epoch occupies altogether six of the eight volumes of M. de Lamartine's history: we regret that the length of our review of it precludes us following
The famous supper which the prisoners took together that night is minutely described; and M. de Lamartine has apparently converted this part of his history into a romance, for the purpose of clothing in his own eloquent language the senti-him through the remaining two, which continue ments said to have been expressed on that occasion. Then follows the well-known story of the death of the Girondins, as they went to the scaffold, and successively ascended it, singing the "Marseillaise" in chorus, till the knife had extinguished the last voice that raised the hymn of liberty.
The at once heroic and truly womanly death of Madame Roland followed in a few days. The news of her death reached Roland in Normandy, and was the signal for his own fate. He left the retreat in which he had found safety, and laying himself down by the roadside put an end to himself. Condorcet was concealed by some generous friends in Paris until the following April. There, with his illusions unabated, he composed his work on the "Perfectibility of the Human Race." A bright sunny day proved too irresistible a temptation to the captive; he quitted his hiding-place, sallied out into the suburbs, and enjoyed once more the air, and sunshine, and fields. His appearance gave rise to suspicions; he was arrested, and found next morning dead, with the phial of poison which he had swallowed still by his side.
the narrative to the fall of Robespierre, and are, perhaps, the most interesting part of the work. The different scenes of the Reign of Terror are successfully delineated with wonderful power. The mass of bloodshed and misery-the batches of from 60 to as many as 150 victims that each day fed the guillotine at Paris-the courageous resistance of Lyons, and the atrocious butcheries which followed its subjugation the cruelties of Lebon at Arras, and the yet more appalling atrocities perpetrated by Carrier at Nantes, are placed vividly before our eyes. Sometimes our attention is directed to the characteristic particulars that distinguished the death of the more remarkable individuals. Now it is Barnave who passes along dejected amid the pity of the people, of whom he was once the idol; now Biron, rising from his wine and oysters to die gayly amid the applauses of the mob; now the wretched Du Barri, screaming "La vie! La vie! pour tous mes repentirs ;" now Bailly perishing with undaunted soul in defiance of the outrages and blows of vindictive ruffians; now the venerable Malesherbes laying down his life with not unseemly gayety'; now the A detailed account is given of the escape of saintly sister of the king exercising her charity Guadet, Salles, Louvet, Barbaroux, Buzot, and towards her fellow-sufferers in her last moments. Petion, after the rout of the Girondin forces in We sicken at the prodigality with which the life Normandy. Having, amid fearful perils and suf- of whole classes is taken away at once. One day ferings, reached Brest, they got a passage to the the cortége bears along twenty-seven merchants neighborhood of Bordeaux, where the friends of of Sedan; on another, the sixty farmers-general Gaudet provided them with shelter. Eight months of the revenue; and on another, forty-five magiswere passed by them, at first in an under-ground trates of Paris, together with thirty-three mem vault, and subsequently in the house of a cour-bers of the parliament of Toulouse. One morn ageous lady. The search for them being then ing a long line of carts conveys all the nuns. renewed, they separated. Guadet and Salles young and old, of the Abbey of Montmartre. On were taken in the house of the former's father, carried to Bordeaux, and executed. Louvet was saved by his boldness in taking refuge in Paris itself. The others lingered about their former asylum for some weeks, and then endeavored to make their way to the Pyrenees. Some peasants The most harrowing tale of all is, the destrucin a field heard the sound of a pistol, and found tion of the whole family of the beautiful Madame the half-dead body of the once handsome Barba- de Sainte-Amaranthe. In the last days of terror, roux. A few days after, in a forest at a little this family was sacrificed by the colleagues of distance, were found some mangled limbs, which Robespierre, in order to wound him by their de
VOL. XVI. 20
another are seen a group of girls, of whom the eldest was not above eighteen. They had all been brought up from their native town of Verdun to die for having danced at a ball given to the Prussians.
trial, as so much straining after theatrical effect. This is a grievous injustice to the most gallant and skilful fight for life made during the revolution. Danton differed from the other victims of the Reign of Terror in this that, even when within the grasp of the revolutionary tribunal, his deeply-rooted influence with the mob gave him a chance of escape and victory. He had something else to do than merely to fall with dignity. He harangued, he bore down his judges by his
struction. They were involved in a pretended plot with Cecile Renault, who was accused of attempting to murder him. Eight carts bore to the scaffold sixty-two prisoners, all clad in the red shirt that denoted the crime of murder. Of this number were the porter of the house where L'Admiral had stabbed Collot d'Herbois, and the porter's wife; the crime alleged against them being that they were "both guilty of not having broken out into sufficient joy when the assassin was arrested." The last of this group was M. de Sar-loud voice and imperious gestures, with a view of tines, who had to wait three quarters of an hour on the scaffold, and see all whom he loved on earth butchered before his eyes.
exciting a movement in his favor. He was on the point of succeeding. A single friend to direct the actions of the sympathizing populace a little less energy than that exhibited by the Committee of Public Safety-would, by our author's own account, have turned the scale in his favor.
As we have said, however, Robespierre is the
A very touching narrative is given of the long sufferings of a man, whose name will excite no feelings of sympathy-Egalité, once Duke of Orleans. M. de Lamartine has taken some pains to defend this unhappy prince against the accusa-hero of the work. His conduct and motives at tions with which his memory is loaded. It has been his hard fate to be taken for the hidden contriver of all those popular movements, which the imagination of the vulgar loves to attribute to some mysterious plotter. The more light that history throws on the events of the revolution, the more are all of them accounted for by obvious and sufficient causes; and the more insignificant does the part of the Duke of Orleans appear. He was the victim of constant disfavor and suspicion; and much of his hostility to the royal family is to be ascribed rather to their fault than his. His chief, if not only, crime was, the base rather than cruel vote which he gave for the king's death, in the vain hope of saving his own life.
every stage are developed with the greatest pains. The least details of his personal appearance, his dress, his daily habits, have been collected with extraordinary care. The ogre of the revolution is brought before us in all the simplicity of his private life. We enter into his garret at the joiner Duplay's, and do homage to that honest poverty which, once a necessity, continued to be his choice after the fortunes of France were at his disposal: we follow him from the stormy debates of the Jacobins or the fearful labors of the Committee of Public Safety to his modest supper with his host's family, when he talked with them of the events of the day, or read aloud from Rousseau or Racine. His only other relaxation was his walk on the Champs Elysées, with no companion but his mastiff, Brount. A singular anecdote is told of the Duc de Occasionally, when an opportunity was afforded Chartres, now the King of the French, which for a day's holiday, or when some great oratorical can hardly have been published without the war- effort required unusual thought, he would wander ranty of that high personage. Some business forth to the haunts of Rousseau, and pass whole having brought him from Dumouriez's army to hours of reverie amid the woods of Meudon, or Paris soon after the massacres of September, Ermenonville. Even he, too, had his hopes of Danton sent for him, and informed him that he had domestic happiness in a quiet future, when, after heard that he ventured in conversation to speak the completion of the revolution, he might be united too freely on that subject. He told him he was to Eleonore Duplay, and pass the obscure remaintoo young to judge of such matters, and added: |der of his life on his few paternal acres in the "For the future be silent. Return to the army; neighborhood of Arras. do your duty; but do not unnecessarily expose your life. You have many years before you. France is not suited for a republic; it has the habits, the wants, and the weaknesses of a monarchy. After our storms, it will be brought back to that by its vices or its necessities. You will be king! Adieu, young man. Remember the prediction of Danton."
It is impossible to rise from the perusal of M. de Lamartine's book without a somewhat changed opinion of Robespierre. There is no vindication of his acts. No attempt is made to mitigate our horror at the crimes of which he is reputed guilty ; none to justify massacres on the plea of public necessity or righteous zeal. M. de Lamartine's aim is to analyze the motives that actuated Robes
The fall of Danton is clearly detailed and ex-pierre, as well as determine what was really his plained. Throughout the whole course of the history he stands out as (what M. de Lamartine calls him) the great statesman of the revolution. He is the one who, in spite of his coarse manners, his profligacy, and even his terrible crimes, most powerfully excites our interest. M. de Lamartine, however, bears hard upon him in respect of his death. He treats all his memorable sayings and doings, during the period of his imprisonment and
share in the atrocities which were perpetrated in his name. Perhaps he does this with some partiality. He has conceived an ideal framework of Robespierre's character, and fills it up by attributing to him particular acts or intentions of clemency, for which he has often little and sometimes no warranty. Still, on the whole, his explanation of this strange character is satisfactory. Historical truth, and a knowledge of human nature, gain
by reducing the distorted and exaggerated traits | tee of Public Safety, and was at direct variance of the monster into the features of a man actuated with the "Comité de Sûreté Générale," and had by the ordinary passions of humanity, gifted with no communication with the public accuser-the many noble and even amiable qualities, and plunged two authorities by whom the trials and executions into eternal infamy by common human weaknesses, were, in fact, entirely regulated; that he denounced tried in fearful times by most extraordinary emer- Tallien, Collot, Carrier, and especially Fouché, gencies. for their abominable cruelties, which he described as persecutions of the patriots." We are the more perplexed to explain how it was that, with despotic power in his hands, he permitted the horrors which he himself regarded as both mischievous and disgraceful.
In order completely to understand M. de Lamartine's estimate of Robespierre, it would be necessary to read his book; but the following passage at the close of the fifth volume, seems to us to give the best summary of the author's views on a character which most of his readers will hitherto The explanation seems to be, that he did not in have seen painted only in the darkest colors :- truth possess the power which opinion ascribed to "There was something of these three elements him. He could not in reality direct the governin the soul of the convention; a purpose which was ment of which he was at the head. To undertrue and practically attainable; chimeras, which stand his position we must examine the powers vanished at the attempt to apply them; fits of rage, and defects of his mind. He was a logical and which sought to extort by torture the realization of systematic thinker, whose system led him into a an order of things not as yet in the nature of man. Holy hopes, vain Utopias, atrocious means-such dreamy enthusiasm. His leading qualification for were the elements that composed the social politics public life was a singular power of public speakof this assembly, placed between two civilizations ing. In close, clear logic, in dexterous debating, to exterminate the one, and herald in the other. he surpassed every speaker of his day; while in Robespierre personified these tendencies more than lofty eloquence, some of his speeches were hardly any of his colleagues. His plans, religious in their surpassed by the greatest of his rivals. But, like purpose, chimerical in their details, became sangui- the Girondins, he could do no more than prove his nary when they came in collision with practical impossibility. A frenzy of benevolence seized the Utopian; this frenzy of benevolence has the same effects as the frenzy of mischief. Robespierre held to his chimeras as to truths. Had he been more enlightened, he would have been more patient. His anger arose from his delusions. He wished to be the constructor of a social regeneration; society resisted; he took the sword and thought it was permitted to man to make himself the executioner of God. He communicated this spirit, half through fanaticism, half through terror, to the Jacobins, to the people, to the convention. Hence this contrast of an assembly resting one hand on the revolutionary tribunal and the instrument of death, and with the other writing a constitution which recalled the pastoral republics of Plato or Telemachus,' and breathed in every page, God, the people, justice, and humanity. Never was so much blood shed on truth. The task of history is to wash out these stains, and not to reject social justice because a deluge of blood has been spilled over the doctrines of liberty, of charity, and of reason."
point and make his speech.
With the details of public affairs he was utterly unable to grapple. Thoroughly unpractical, he depended on othersfirst on Danton, afterwards on his colleagues in the Committee of Public Safety-to determine by what steps their purposes should be carried into effect. Without being justly subject to the reputation of cowardice he was timid in action, or rather averse to act at all. Had the great movements of the revolution waited for him to produce them, they would never have taken place. He shrank from assailing the monarchy after the adoption of the constitution of 1791, and had no desire to see a He kept aloof from republic substituted for it. the 10th of August, and the 31st of May. So, when at the head of the government, he had little share in the actual organization of the heroic efforts that saved France. In all cases he left action to others. It was his good fortune that public opinion tended the same way as his, so that the result The sincere fanaticism of Robespierre was the of its movement, in spite of his inaction, always mainspring of his virtues, his greatness, and his furthered his purposes. His voyage prospered crimes. One high, steady purpose, pursued at longer than that of most of his rivals, not from his every risk, inspired his integrity, his perseverance, own good sailing, but because his course happened and his cruelty. He was at the head of a govern- to lie with the breeze. His ambition was of a ment assailed by enemies on every side; and he patient kind. He loved the applause of his heardeemed it his duty to uphold that government by ers; he took the power which came gradually to striking terror into his adversaries, and disarming him; but he would not precipitate events by graspopposition. Like all fanatics, he hated his oppo- ing it. In his last days the prospect of a dictatornents because he thought that the enemies of his ship did not tempt him. Even the necessities of righteous cause must be bad men. Still there was self-defence could not induce him, on the 9th Therin the acts which he sanctioned a prodigality and midor, to ensure a favorable issue to the last brutality of cruelty needless for his purpose, fatal movement in his favor, by putting himself at its to his own views of policy, revolting to the sensi- head. His disposition was to look even then to tiveness and refinement of his character. We any but violent means for safety and success; and know that such was his own feeling, that he wished he easily made up his mind to silent acquiescence to stay the system of terror; that, during the worst in the fate of which a gloomy foreboding had long period of it, he absented himself from the Commit-hung over him.
Such a man was, from his sincerity, his incor- | therefore, will in all probability exercise so extenruptible character, his great parliamentary powers, sive an influence on the popular views which will the natural head of a republican government, but be generally entertained of it. not its real director and master. There can be That influence, no question, will be very much little doubt that he wished to restrain the excesses diminished by the want, in M. de Lamartine, of of his colleagues; but he literally knew not how other qualities which are required to complete the to set about it. He had not the virtue which was character of a historian. His work is wanting, exhibited in the conduct and the favorite device of not merely in accuracy and research, but in the Vergniaud-" Potius mori quam fœdari." He indications of large, calm, and solid thought. would not peril himself and his cause by inflexibly While we think that the author does more than rejecting the use of atrocious means. He took the any preceding historian towards giving a reasonasystem of terror as part of the necessities of the ble explanation of the events of the revolution, and revolution; and closed his eyes and ears to its while we generally agree in the justice of M. de excesses just as he closed his shutters in the Rue Lamartine's conclusions and sympathize with his St. Honoré, while the carts went by to the guil- feelings; we feel that he does not express those lotine. When, at last, events required the cessa- conclusions in the tone of a philosopher, who has tion of that system-when he had achieved the deeply meditated and thoroughly mastered his subfirst of his dreams, proclaimed the "Etre Suprême," ject. His narrative exhibits constant marks of reëstablished religion as the basis of his republic exaggeration. The subject, undoubtedly, has a when he was hoping to lay the foundation of a tendency to produce this fault. All the moral peaceful order of things, he faltered before his phenomena of the revolution were on a great better purposes, cast vainly about for the materials scale, the vicissitudes unusually rapid, the results and instruments of action, and allowed himself to vast and overwhelming, the character of men so be surprised and butchered by the most vulgar and tried by circumstances as to develop extraordinary sanguinary ruffians of the revolution. He paid the manifestations of intellect, of virtue, and of wickpenalty of his weakness by his death, and in leav-edness. But we cannot understand what heighting his name loaded with execration, for guilt ening or transforming powers the revolution could in which he had participated unwillingly, as well have possessed over female beauty: when we find, as for crimes which his own fanaticism had therefore, that hardly a woman appears on the prompted. scene, or is even mentioned as the wife or daughIn thus attempting to make our readers ac-ter of some distinguished man, but her beauty is quainted with the general effect and character of represented as having been perfectly wonderful, we M. de Lamartine's work, we have not ventured to give any extracts from those more striking parts of his narrative, which best exhibit the brilliancy and clearness of his descriptive style. The real merit of these large pictures cannot be estimated from particular portions of them; and as they are the parts of the original work of which the effect depends the most on the author's mastery of language, they are precisely those to which it is least possible for a translation to do justice. The pictorial power of the narrative constitutes the distinguishing merit of his history. M. de Lamar-bers are in question. There is throughout too tine has shown that he possesses in an eminent degree one, at least, of the first qualifications of a great historian, namely, the gift of stamping on the reader's mind a living impression both of great transactions and of the men that bore a part in them. Far be it from us to derogate from the merits of those who, by extensive research and We should be happy to think that what we correct analysis, ascertain the facts of history and have taken for indications of a want of sound and explain the connection of events. It is only by a sober thought, may be only the consequence of the long series of such inquiries and speculations that excessive rapidity with which the "History of the the materials of history are duly matured and Girondins" has been written. It betokens, howbrought together. But they are not the histories ever, little wisdom in an author, who writes for from which mankind takes its impressions of the fame and not for bread, to have composed a great past. He who would give the world its historical work on a great subject without giving himself beliefs, must bring to the task the gifts of the poet sufficient time for thought. Let us hope that M. as well as of the philosopher; must be able to de Lamartine will avoid this most deplorable fault depict incidents as in an epic, and make each char- in the History of the Constituent Assembly," acter appear and act with dramatic distinctness and which he promises us. A gestation of nine years effect. No historian of the revolution has done is more essential to a history than even to a poem. this so strikingly as M. de Lamartine; and none, We know not whether M. de Lamartine has in him
cannot but suspect that other pictures may be equally overcharged. The story of the daughters of M. Fernig, who served as soldiers in Dumouriez's army, bearing the fatigues, exposed to the perils, and sharing in the glories of the brilliant campaigns of Valmy and Jemappe, is romantic enough in its simplest outline: M. de Lamartine makes it absolutely ridiculous by investing the young ladies with the physical strength and prowess of Paladins. The same tendency to exaggeration is exhibited in every matter in which num
great a disposition to heighten the effect of the narrative by adopting the largest estimates hazarded by cotemporary writers; and our belief in the melancholy realities of the revolution is shaken rather than confirmed, by somewhat incredible torrents of blood and heaps of carcasses.
From Blackwood's Magazine.
the capacity of being a great historian, but he has in the so-called "complete editions" of his works so many of the highest qualifications, that there -whose strain of graceful levity and exaggerated will be few literary mistakes more deeply to be gallantry indicated a talent distinct from that to regretted than that he should be found to have which he owes a fame now daily diminishing; and sacrificed his chance of usefulness with posterity prepared the few whose notice they attracted for a to the vanity of astonishing his contemporaries by transition from 6rave didactics and inflated declamathe celerity of his execution and the brightness of tion to lively badinage and debonair narrative. The his colors. masses knew little about the matter, and cared less. Latin verses, complimentary discourses, and funeral orations, dating from a century and a half back, and relating to persons and events great and brilliant, it is true, but now seen dim and distant SIZES.* through the long vista of years, are not the class MANY of our readers, unacquainted with his of literature to compel much attention in this pracwritings, will remember the name of the gentle tical and progressive age. As a constructor of prelate and renowned rhetorician who delivered the French prose, Fléchier is unquestionably entitled funeral oration of the great Turenne, accomplish- to honorable mention. If his claims to originality ing the mournful but glorious task with such elo- of genius were small, he at least was an elegant quence and grace that the composition constitutes rhetorician and a delicate and polished writer, to his chief claim to the admiration of posterity. We whom the French language is under obligations. should say, perhaps, that it did constitute his prin- As a man of letters, he formed an important link cipal hold upon the world's memory, previously to between the school of Louis XIII. and that of the the year 1844, date of exhumation of a work likely Grand Monarque; he was one of the first to apto command readers longer than his Oraisons Fu-preciate grace of diction, and to attempt the elevanébres, or, than any other portion of the ten serious tion and correction of a spurious style. His florid volumes published under the incorrect title of eloquence, however, not unfrequently wearies by Euvres Completes. We can imagine the aston- its stilted pomposity, and, save by a few scholars ishment of an erudite book-worm, suddenly en- and literati, his works are rather respected than countering, when winding his way through dusty liked, more often praised than read. He wrote for folios and antique black letter, a sprightly and gal- the century, not for all time. And his books, if lant narrative, sparkling with graceful sallies and still occasionally referred to, each day drew nearer with anecdotes and allusions à la Grammont; and to oblivion, when the publication of the Mémoires finding himself compelled, by evidence internal and sur les Grands-Jours tenus à Clermont came opcollateral, to accept the mundane manuscript as the portunely to refresh his fading bays. The lease work of a grave and pious father of the church. of celebrity secured by ten studied and ponderous A courtly chronicle, in tone fringing on the frivo- tomes, exhaling strong odor of midnight oil, had lous, and often more remarkable for piquancy of nearly expired, when it was renewed by a single subject than for strict propriety of tone, suddenly volume, written with flowing pen and careless dragged from the cobwebbed obscurity of an ancient grace, but overlooked and underrated for nearly escritoire and put abroad as the production of a two centuries. South, a Tillotson, or a Blair, would astound the Although scarcely essential to a just appreciapublic, and find many to doubt its authenticity. tion of the book before us, we shall cursorily sketch In bringing forward the earliest work of the amia- the career of Esprit Fléchier, esteemed one of the ble Bishop of Nismes, the librarian of the town of ablest of French pulpit orators one of the most Clermont had no such scepticism to contend against. kind-hearted and virtuous of French prelates. Moreover, he had arguments and proofs at hand Born in 1632, in the county of Avignon, he early sufficient to confound and convince the most incred- assumed the sacerdotal garb, and obtained occupaulous. True, there was vast difference in tone and tion as teacher of rhetoric. At the age of eightsubject between the literary pastime of the abbé, and-twenty, business resulting from the death of a and the results of the grave studies and oratorical relation having taken him to Paris, he conceived talents of the reverend churchman and renowned an affection for that capital and remained there. preacher; but affinities of style were detectible by the skilful, and, in addition to this, there had crept out, at sundry periods of the present century, certain letters of Fléchiert-letters not to be found
Having no fortune of his own, he was fain to earn a modest subsistence by teaching the catechism to parish children. Already, when professing rhetoric at Narbonne, he had given indication of the oratorical talents that were subsequently to procure * Mémoires de Fléchier sur les Grands-Jours tenus à him the highest dignities of the church, the favor Clermont, en 1665-66: publiés par B. Gonod, Biblio- of a great king, and the enthusiastic admiration
thécaire de la Ville de Clermont. Paris, 1844.
+These letters were addressed to a young Norman of a Sévigné. At Paris he busied himself with Lady, Mademoiselle Anne de Lavigne, who wrote sonnets the composition of Latin verses, for which he had in the Scudéry style, and with whom Fléchier kept up a gallant and high-flown correspondence in mingled prose a remarkable talent, and celebrated in graceful and verse. As far as can be ascertained the liason was hexameters the successes and virtues of ministers, an innocent one; it is quite certain that it caused no scandal at the time. Most of the letters bear date three or princes and kings. The peace concluded with four years subsequently to the Grands-Jours. Spain by Mazarine, the future prospects of the