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BLACKWOOD'S

EDINBURGH MAGAZINE.

No XVIII.

SEPTEMBER 1818.

VOL. III.

ON

OBSERVATIONS

MADAME DE The lamentations of her devoted STAEL'S POSTHUMOUS WORK.* friends and worshippers arose loudly

from every region of Europe ; por in The long dreaded but at last very truth can those who have studied the sudden death of Madame de Stael, has remarkable works of her genius be recently taken one of its brightest or- supposed to find much difficulty in naments from the literature of Eu- lending, at the least, a very large share rope, and the idol and centre of at- of sympathy to their affliction. We tachment from a circle of personal know of no author whose personal friends and admirers, wide beyond all character may be guessed from his example since the days of Ferney. writings more safely than that of Mas Her birth, her family connexions, her dame de Stael from her Life of her residence, and the objects of her liter. Father, her book De l'Allemagne, and ary labours, had rendered this extra- her Corinne.

“ Femina pectore, vir ordinary woman almost equally the ingenio," she displays everywhere in denizen of France, Switzerland, Italy, her works, and in her own person she Germany, and Sweden. Even

we,

embodied, a most rare and graceful the most jealous of all nations, had re- amalgamation of many of tħe best laxed our rules in her favour. Many qualities of both the sexes,—the of her greatest works were first pub- warmth, the tenderness, the submislished in England, and she was uni- sive veneration of woman,--adorna versally regarded among us with a ing, not weakening, a depth, energy, feeling of partiality, which, laying and refinement of intellect, such as every other reason out of the question, have been possessed by few men of might not insufficiently be accounted any age, certainly surpassed by none for by the uniform and intelligent of ours. Uniting within herself so zeal, with which she was accustomed many sources of attraction ; bearing to hold up to the admiration and imi- firmly but meekly the highest hone tation of foreigners the severe beauty ours of genius ; adorning and deof our institutions, the consequent lighting every society with her wit, firmness, dignity, and generosity of grace, and elegance; the most pious the English character, as well as the of daughters; the most tender of movaried strength and splendour of that thers; the most faithful of friends; literature which has been one of the the most generous of patrons ; is it noblest effects, and which is still one strange that she should have excited of the most powerful supports of that in all that approached her a mingled character and those institutions. feeling, made up in different propora

tions, no doubt, but still the same in

its elements—a mingled feeling of Considerations sur les Principaux Evenemens de la Revolution Françoise. Ou love, wonder, and reverence Her vrage Posthume de Mad. La Baronne De faults, for faults she had, were unoba Staël , Publié par M. Le Duc de Broglie

et trusive ; and they who were best able M. Le Baron A. De Staël. 3 vol. 8vo. to comprehend her, never suspected Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, London. 1818. that they touched her heart. She was VOL. III.

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worshipped and loved by all ; but by first of all her writings, her Essay on few, very few, was she understood. the character of Rousseau, shews how Thé expression of one of her heroines early she had seized the full scope was suggested, we doubt not, by her and tendency of those fervent declaknowledge of herself ; " il est des mations which first incited, not the choses qui ne s'expliquent pas; et je light and the sarcastic, but the medisuis peut-etre une de ces choses la.” tative and enthusiastic spirits of the

A Treatise on the Life and Writ- world to a crusade of Change.* Her ings of Madame de Stael has already celebrated Defense de Marie Antoibeen promised to the world by her nette, which appeared a few years afillustrious friend William Augustus terwards, is filled with the expressions Schlegel, whose kindred genius and of a wise and thoughtful generosity, attainments, and long domestic inti- and—where could higher praise be macy with the family of Copet, may found ?-is worthy of being read and certainly well entitle us to expect from admired, even by those who are famihim a most interesting as well as mas- liar with the still more energetic masterly specimen of biography and critic terpiece of Burke. The same may be cism. During the expectation of a said of her “ Reflexions sur la paix work such as this is likely to prove, adressees a M. Pitt et aux Francais," there would be presumption, as well which were published in the year as idleness, in any elaborate investiga- 1795. Neither is the bent of her tion which we might institute, either spirit, the main and centre point of all into the personal or the literary his- her thoughts, less distinguishable even tory of its subject. In the mean time, in those of her works which are not however, we cannot deny ourselves the professedly or formally political. In pleasure of devoting a few pages to Delphine, the agitation of generous the consideration of her posthumous souls deprived of the star and compass work on the French Revolution-a of principle and religion, and abanperformance less finished indeed in its doned to the mingling winds and style, but containing, we imagine, more waves of scepticism and passion, is true wisdom than any of its predeces- depicted with a power which can nesors--composed during the intervals ver be undervalued but by the obtuse, of disease, -in great part under the and a purpose which has never been near expectation of death,--and forming, indeed, a legacy worthy of being * In this work, which is not much read bequeathed by Madame de Stael, and in our country, but which, when regarded of being received with the admiration as the first effort of a female author of twenof England, and the gratitude of ty, must always be worthy of much atten. France.

tion, we find the character of Jean Jacques This book, by whomsoever it might pourtrayed at least as well as it has ever have been written, must always have since been by more mature critics. “ Rousbeen a most valuable present to the qu'on ner emarquoit point, quand on le voy

says she, “ devoit avoir une figure world ;- for it embodies, we think, oit passer, mais qu'on ne pouvoit jamais more good observation and practical oublier quand on l'avoit regardé parler ; de sense, in regard to the events of the petits yeux qui n'avoient pas un caractère à revolutionary period, than we have eux, mais recevoient successivement celui elsewhere met with. But it is doubly des divers mouvemens de son âme. Il porinteresting, and doubly instructive toit presque toujours, la tête baissée ; mais withal, when considered as the last

ce n'étoit point la flatterie ni la crainte qui work of this remarkable person, the l'avoit courbée ; la méditation et la mélan. whole of whose feelings and thoughts fleur que son propre poids ou les orages ont

colie l'avoient fait pencher comme une had been developed or tinged by the inclinée. Ses traits étoient communs ; mais incidents of that strange time--whose quand il parloit, ils étinceloient tous. Son life and genius bear vividly the stamp esprit étoit lent, et son âme ardente: à of that unequalled convulsion, which force de penser, il se passionnoit ; il n'avoit has run first like a fever, and then like pas de mouvemens subits du moins en apa palsy, through the whole moral and parence, mais tous ses sentimens s'accroisintellectual circulation of her country: gination étoit la première de ses facultés,

soient par la réflexion. Je crois que l'imaInto whichsoever of the works of et qu'elle absorboit même toutes les autres. Madame de Stael we may look, we Il rêvoit plutôt qu'il n'existoit, et les événeshall be at no loss to detect the traces mens de sa vie se passoient dans sa tête, of this great presiding influence. The plutôt qu'au-dehors de lui, &c.”

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misrepresented but by the cold, the calmly, she never for a moment swerve heartless, or the hypocritical. In the ed from the conviction, that no revoDe l'Allemagne, but above all in the lution could be conducted well, or be Corinne, (perhaps the most original expected to end well, in the hands of work, either of poetry or of prose, a set of men devoid of firmness of which has appeared in our time) a principle and depth of knowledge, like

1 depth of feeling and reflection, and a the demagogues of France-babblers, strength of glowing and tender elo- who talked of virtue, while they hated quence, such as have scarcely ever been it, conjoined in the person of any writer “ And honour, which they did not underbesides herself, are poured out to ex

stand." press the sorrow with which she had She was of the same opinion which witnessed, in her own country, the Burke expressed concerning not the deadening influence of the philosophy first speculative, but the first acof persiflage, and the ardent zeal with tive movers of the Revolution.* She which she contemplated the effects of

*“ The legislators who framed the antient the old and more generous habitudes republicks knew that their business was too of religious and poetical enthusiasm arduous to be accomplished with no better upon the souls and characters of men. apparatus than the metaphysicks of an unOther romances are read, because they der graduate, and the mathematicks and please the comparatively trivial facul- arithmetick of an exciseman. They had to ties, by portraitures of comparatively do with men, and they were obliged to study trivial feelings; but, with the excep

human nature. They had to do with citi. tion of a few of the fine solemn pass- effects of those habits which are communi

zens, and they were obliged to study the ages in Don Quixote, and some things cated by the circumstances of civil life. in the works of the author of the They were sensible that the operation of Tales of my Landlord, we recollect of this second nature on the first produced a nothing in that department of litera- new combination ; and thence arose many ture which touches the nobler and diversities amongst men, according to their more mysterious parts of the spirit birth, their education, their professions, the so powerfully as the representation of periods of their lives, their residence in filial piety, and of the sentiments of towns or in the country, their several ways Christianity in Corinne.

of acquiring and of fixing property, and acIn each and all of these works, there all which rendered them as it were so many

cording to the quality of the property itself, prevails a tone of thought and passion different species of animals. From hence which cannot be supposed to have ex- they thought themselves obliged to dispose isted at any period other than a revo- their citizens into such classes, and to place lutionary one. It is evident from them in such situations in the state as their every page, that the author lived a- peculiar habits might qualify them to fill, mong men whose intellects had been and to allot to them such appropriated priall unhinged by some extraordinary

vileges as might secure to them what their concussion, whose feelings, opinions, might furnish to each description such force

specifick occasions required, and which principles, had all been taken out of

as might protect it in the conflict caused by their order, and jumbled together, to the diversity of interests, that must exist, use a vulgar simile, like the stones and must contend, in all complex society upon a necklace, by the cutting of the for the legislator would have been ashamed, string. From the earlier of her writings, that the coarse husbandman should weli it must be admitted, there appears rea

know how to assort and to use his sheep, son to conclude, that she herself had horses, and oxen, and should have enough been drawn, for a season, within the lize

them all into animals, without provide

of common sense not to abstract and equacircle of the mental anarchy around ing for each kind an appropriate food, care, her. She soon escaped from the evil, and employment ; whilst he, the economist, and in so doing, she parted not with disposer, and shepherd of his own kindred, the good which was to be learned from subliming himself into an airy metaphysithe doctrines of the times. The origi- cian, was resolved to know nothing of his nal principle of the French Revolution flocks but as men in general. It is for this she always continued to defend, and

reason that Montesquieu observed very justwho, excepting_perhaps a Spanish ly, that in their classification of the citizens, monk, or an old French emigrant, will the great legislators of antiquity made the

greatest display of their powers, and even now have the boldness utterly to con- soared above themselves. It is here that demn it? But from the moment she your modern legislators have gone deep into began to consider things maturely and the negative series, and sunk even below

expected not that the poverty of subjected the steps, as it were, by Plebeian heads and hearts could be which her first ebullient and gene covered long or effectually with the rous hatred of despotism came slowly ~ all atoning name” of liberty. She and modestly to be subdued into a had some idea what virtue and vir- temperate and wise love of that authotuous liberty are, and could not en- rity which is according to the laws. dure to see these sacred names taken These things are still too near to us to into the polluting mouths of those be very dispassionately or very leisure. whose love of change sprung only from ly contemplated. But what a rich their meanness and their envy. present to posterity! with what gra

There may be some little danger of titude will the studious and reflective our speaking too much from our parti- of after times peruse these portraits of alities, but we imagine that the per- one of the greatest and most illustripetual admiration of England ex- ous spirits which ours has produced, pressed in this work, is not, after all, presenting her in every variety of better adapted for pleasing us, than colouring and attitude, and affording, for instructing our neighbours. The as it were, a perpetual index and comimpression which had been made upon mentary to the more formal chronicles her imagination by the character and which may come into their hands. effects of our public institutions, had Madame de Stael might, without arros already, as we have hinted above, been gance, have concluded her work in the abundantly testified in her Corinne. language of the greatest genius that But in the Considerations, she has ever wrote history.

". The strict fideproved that her love was not blind ; lity of my narrative may render it less that the most masculine part of her amusing than it might have been. nature had been consulted in its for- But they who read in order that they mation; and that the zeal with which may know the past, and be wise as to

; she

every where preached up the imi- the future, when similar events, as is tation of England, was not that of a the nature of human affairs, may hapmere wild enthusiast, but of a con- pen to recur, will not on that account vinced and rational believer. In truth, despise it. I have been ambitious to the whole scope of the book is to shew, form a possession for eternity, rather in the course of an unaffected narra. than an amusing tale for the ears of tive, the progress of her own thoughts my contemporaries.”

-the nature of the successive impres- We cannot find opportunity within sions to which, in the midst of con- the limits of such a work as this, tinual observation, her mind became either to give a complete analysis of

the book, or to supply that defect by their own nothing. As the first sort of legislators attended to the different kinds of its pages. We shall

, however, venture

means of very copious extracts from citizens, and combined them into one commonwealth, the others, the metaphysical and upon transcribing a few of the most alchemistical legislators, have taken the di interesting and graphical passages, and rect contrary course. They have attempted shall begin with the description of the to confound all sorts of citizens, as well as Baroness's feelings on the first openthey could, into one homogeneous mass; ing of the States General, on the 6th and then they divided this their amalgama of May 1789. into a number of incoherent republicks. “ I shall never forget the hour that I saw They reduce men to loose counters, merely the twelve hundred deputies of France pass for the sake of simple telling, and not to in procession to church to hear mass, the figures whose power is to arise from their day before the opening of the assembly. It place in the table. The elements of their

was a very imposing sight, and very new to own metaphysicks might have taught them the French ; all the inhabitants of Versailles, better lessons. The troll of their categori- and many persons attracted by curiosity from cal table might have informed them that Paris, collected to see it. This new kind of there was something else in the intellectual authority in the state, of which neither the world besides substance and quantity. They might learn from the catechism of metaphysicks that there were eight heads more, * in

pen μυθωδες αυτων ασερπισερον φαινεισαι. every complex deliberation, which they have Οσοι δε βελησονται των γενομενων το σαφες never thought of, though these, of all the

σκοπειν, και των μελλοντων ποτε αιθις, κατά ten, are the subject on which the skill of

το ανθρωπινον, τοιέτων και παραπλησιων εσεσman can operate any thing at all."

θαι, ωφελιμα κρινειν αυσα αρκαντως εξει. * Qualitas, Relatio, Actio, Passio, Ubi, Quando,

κτημα δε ες αει μαλλον η ες το παραχρημα Situs, Habitus,

aywrioua axsev duyxuitås. Thucyd. lib. I.

Το

;

nature nor the strength was as yet known, come but by wisdom or power. If, thereAstonished the greater part of those who had fore, public opinion had by this time under. not reflected on the rights of nations. mined power, what was to be accomplished

“ The higher clergy had lost a portion of without wisdom ? its influence with the

public, because a num- “ I was placed at a window near Madame ber of prelates had been irregular in their de Montmorin, the wife of the Minister of moral conduct, and a still greater number Foreign Affairs, and I confess I gave myemployed themselves only in political affairs. self up to the liveliest hope on seeing nation. The people are strict in regard to the clergy, al representatives for the first time in France. as in regard to women; they require from Madame de Montmorin, a woman nowise both a close observance of their duties. Mi- distinguished for capacity, said to me, in a litary fame, which is the foundation of re- decided tone, and in a way which made putation to the noblesse, as piety is to the an impression upon me, You do wrong clergy, could now only appear in the past. to rejoice ; this will be the source of A long peace had deprived those noblemen great misfortunes to France and to us.' who would have most desired it of the op. This unfortunate woman perished on the portunity of rivalling their ancestors; and scaffold along with one of her sons; anthe men of the first rank in France were other son drowned himself; her husband nothing more than illustres obscurs. The was massacred on the 2d of September ; noblesse of the second rank had been equally her eldest daughter died in the hospital of deprived of opportunities of distinction, as a prison ; and her youngest daughter, Ma. the nature of the government left no open- dame de Beaumont, an intelligent and gening to men of family but the military pro- erous creature, sunk under the pressure of fession. The noblesse of recent origin were grief before the age of thirty. The family seen in great numbers in the ranks of the of Niobe was not doomed to a more cruel aristocracy; but the plume and sword did fate than of this unhappy mother; one not become them; and people asked why would have said that she had a presenti. they took their station with the first class in ment of it. the country, merely because they had ob- “ The opening of the States General took tained an exemption from their share of the place the next day; a large hall had been taxes ; for in fact their political rights were hastily erected in the avenue of Versailles, confined to this unjust privilege.

to receive deputies. A number of specta. “ The nobility having fallen from its tors were admitted to witness the ceremony. splendour by its courtier habits, by its inter- A platform floor was raised to receive the mixture with those of recent creation, and King's throne, the Queen's chair of state, by a long peace ; the clergy possessing no and seats for the rest of the royal family. longer that superiority of information which “ The Chancellor, M. de Barentin, took had marked it in days of barbarism, the im- his seat on the stage of this species of theatre; portance of the deputies of the Tiers Etat the three orders were, if I may so express had augmented from all these considerations. myself, in the pit, the clergy and noblesse Their imposing numbers, their confident to the right and left, the deputies of the looks, their black cloaks and dresses, fixed Tiers Etat in front. They had previously the attention of the spectators. Literary declared that they would not kneel on the men, merchants, and a great number of entrance of the King, according to an anlawyers, formed the chief part of this order. cient usage still practised on the last meet. Some of the nobles had got themselves e ing of the States General. Had the delected deputies of the Tiers Etat, and of puties of the Tiers Etat put themselves on these the most conspicuous was the Comte their knees in 1789, the public at large, de Mirabeau. The opinion entertained of not excepting the proudest aristocrats, would his talents was remarkably increased by the have termed the action ridiculous, that is, dread excited by his immorality; yet it was wholly inconsistent with the opinions of the that very immorality that lessened the influ- age. ence which his surprising abilities ought to “ When Mirabeau appeared, a low murhave obtained for him. The eye that was mur was heard throughout the assembly, once fixed on his countenance was not like. He understood its meaning ; but stepping ly to be soon withdrawn: his immense head along the hall to his seat with a lofty air, of hair distinguished him from amongst the he seemed as if he were preparing to prorest, and suggested the idea that, like Sam- duce sufficient trouble in the country to son, his strength depended on it: his coun- confound the distinctions of esteem as well tenance derived expression even from its all others. M. Necker was received with ugliness; and his whole person conveyed bursts of applause the moment he entered ; the idea of irregular power, but still such his popularity was then at its height; and power as we should expect to find in a tri- the King might have derived the greatest bune of the people.

advantage from it, by remaining stedfast in “ His name was as yet the only celebrated the system of which he had adopted the one among the six hundred deputies of the fundamental principles. Tiers Etat; but there were a number of “ When the King came to seat himself honourable men, and not a few that were to on his throne in the

midst of this assembly, be dreaded. The spirit of faction began to I felt for the first time, a sensation of fear. hover over France, and was not to be over- I observed that the Queen was much agi.

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