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LE VICOMTE DE CHATEAUBRIAND.
(Translated from the French of J. B. M. LEMOINE, for the PAMPHLETEER exclusively.)
BY SIR JOHN PHILIPPART.
THE writings of the Vicomte de Chateaubriand have been published in every language, even in modern Greek and in no country have they been more read or admired than in Great Britain. It therefore is as unnecessary to offer an excuse for the following translation being presented to the public, as for exposing those cowards who anonymously calumniate individuals as free from reproach as their antagonists are loaded with iniquity.
In September, 1816, M. de Chateaubriand published his work "De la Monarchie, selon la Charte." It was seized by an order of the minister of police, and three days after the official journal announced that the Vicomte de Chateaubriand "Ayant, dans un écrit imprimé, élevé des doutes sur notre volonté personnelle, manifestée par notre ordonnance du 5 Septémbre, present mois, nous avons ordonné et ordonnons ce que suit: Le Vicomte de Chateaubriand cessera, dès ce jour, d'être compté au nombre de nos ministres d'état." Thus Louis the XVIII., in the language of the Marquis de Chabannes, "exiled M. de Chateaubriand, dismissed him, and left him destitute for having exposed the perfidy of his ministers, and having published the truth." The delusion under which the king has acted will become every day more apparent, and the restoration to his councils of one of the most faithful of his subjects may not be very distant. In the mean time the Vicomte has been attacked by sycophants and slanderers of every description, and their libels have caused the publication of this tract. I shall conclude this notice with the remarks made to me by the Vicomte when, in May last, he put the tract into my hands. "La révolution a fait naitre parmi nous des haines, que le temps seul peut éteindre; tout ce qu'on écrit aujourd'hui en France sur les hommes vivans, n'est le plus souvent qu'un tissu de calomnies. Malheureusement, Monsieur, vos journaux sont devenus les echos de nos passions; et nos libellistes parviennent à faire circuler leurs mensonges jusques dans vos feuilles publiques. Dernièrement encore je lisois dans une de vos gazettes, un article tiré des pretendus Memoires du Duc de Rovigo, et cet article qui me concerne, est un conte aussi absurde qu'atroce. J'ai le malheur ou le bonheur d'attirer sur moi la haine de ceux qui ont renversé l'autel et le trone; j'ai donc nécessairement contre moi, outre les ennemis littéraires, une foule d'ennemis politiques et religieux. Mon opposition comme Pair de France, au système suivi par le gouvernement, a encore augmenté le nombre de ces ennemis: d'où il résulte que ce qu'on écrit aujourd'hui sur mon comte, conserve à peine quelque trace de vérité. Ce morceau a du moins le mérite de l'exactitude quant aux faits." JOHN PHILIPPART.
17 July, 1818.
THE Viscount de Chateaubriand has received a blow from the highest authority in the state. A host of libellers, conformably with custom, and in the exercise of a laudable generosity of temper, hasten, on this occasion, to point their invective against a man, whom they conclude, a little too prematurely perhaps, to be abandoned by destiny. We shall not, God forbid we should! quote, or undertake to expose all the unblushing and incredible stories with which their publications are filled. Yet as the Viscount will not, it is to be hoped, descend so far as to answer, or even read them, it becomes the duty of every honest Frenchman, to make answer for him. We shall advert only to the principal points; and reply to them with arguments which we consider incontrovertible,
The first charge brought against this nobleman by the revolu tionary junta, has reference to his first work, printed in London, eighteen years ago, under the title "Essai sur les Révolutions," &c.
To be obliged to recur, perpetually, to the early efforts of extreme youth, is an evident proof that nothing of a serious nature can be established. Many persons of respectability are to be found, who would have been glad to be guilty of the crime of writing a work, which contains, amongst other valuable matter, remarks even upon RELIGION. In this, as in a germ, the hope of all those fruits is comprehended, with which at a future period we were to be indulged, by one of the most distinguished ornaments of his country. But from the rude performance of a student, can any conclusion be drawn against the character of a man, whose mind has been matured by age, misfortune, and a knowledge of the world? What right, too, can any one have, to condemn an essay, upon which the author himself has previously
commented in terms, it must be acknowledged, of unmerited severity? Has it ever been objected to the author of L'Esprit des Loix (Montesquieu) that he wrote les Lettres Persanes? With a view to remove the impression which calumnies often repeated, though frequently refuted, might excite, it will be necessary merely to transcribe the following passage, from the preface to the Génie du Christianisme.
"The adversaries of the Christian faith have not usually attempted to raise suspicions of the sincerity of its defenders. This kind of stratagem is well understood, and practised in order the more effectually to defeat the purposes of religion. I can scarcely hope therefore to escape, as I am myself conscious of having once been betrayed into error.
"My religious principles were not always uniformly the same. Though I perceived the necessity of religion, and was an admirer of Christianity, I yet continued ignorant, in a great degree, of the truth and proportion of its system. Under a quick sense of the abuses of some institutions, and the crimes and follies of ticular individuals, I employed declamation without argument, and had recourse to sophistry. In extenuation of such conduct, I might be allowed to plead youth, the contagious spirit of the times, and nature of the societies I frequented, but I prefer rather self-condemnation. I cannot defend what is in itself indefensible. I shall here simply relate the means made use of by Providence to recal me to a sense of my duty.
"My mother, at the age of seventy-two, was thrown into a dungeon, where, having witnessed the death of several of her children, she expired at last on a litter of straw, to which her misfortunes had reduced her. Her last moments were deeply embittered by the recollection of my errors; and she intreated my sister to conjure me to return to that religion in which I had been educated. She communicated to me the dying wish of a parent: but when the letter reached me beyond the seas, my sister herself was no more. She too had fallen a victim to the severities she endured in prison. Thus two voices issued from the tomb and death became the interpreter of death. I felt deeply affected. I do not yield to superstition. Conviction flowed from my heart. I wept and believed!"
Happy may he be considered who confesses his faults with so noble an air; with so much simplicity and candor! Is it not then singular that persons should censure the conduct of this nobleman because he accompanied Cardinal Fesch to Rome? Every thing that has been advanced in the libels, amounts on this sub. ject to a tissue of absurdity and falsehood. But if the writer be dis