« PreviousContinue »
have gone far astray into the world of æsthetical dreams; and even the clear-sighted Goethe stumbled on the strange fancy that they were better suited to the closet than the stage. But Dr. Ulrici has combined and surpassed all these several errors. If books penetrate to the Elysian fields, how infinite must be Shakspeare's astonishment at discovering in his own scenes so many designs, meanings, and theories, unsuspected by himself, and at variance with the genius and philosophy of his own times ! Wild
as the notion is, broached a few years since in New York, that Bacon and Raleigh wrote the greater portion of his dramas, while Shakspeare did little more for them than adapt them to the stage, it is not more extravagant than some of Ulrici's hypotheses.—Hast any philosophy in thee, shepherd ?' and the shepherd confesses to having in him very practical philosophy indeed. “Hast any philosophy in thee, Shakspeare ?' but without awaiting an answer, Dr. Ulrici furnishes him with a stock of that commodity which it would have puzzled the poet himself to deal with. Three men are grievously needed again on earth : Sydney Smith to deal with the orations that honourable members deliver when the House is not sitting ; Molière to make mesmerism as amusing as he once rendered the practice of medicine; and Lessing to combat with such Shakspearian critics as Ulrici, or Dr. Rötscher, who in his ‘Abhandlungen zur Philosophie der Kunst,' shows how German metaphysics are taught in ‘Hamlet' and · Othello.'
But these vagaries of our Teutonic kinsmen, and the more sound and solid instruction to be derived from the editions of Shakspeare by Messrs. Knight, Collier, and Dyce, must be examined by us on some future occasion. In the preceding pages we have attempted to trace historically the treatment of Shakspeare in his own land by the commentators of the eighteenth century, his reception by the public in his own time and in succeeding ages, and the influence directly or indirectly exerted by him on the European mind. The performance of his plays from the days of Burbage, when the words alone of Shakspeare recommended him, to those of the Kembles, Macready, Phelps, and Charles Kean, when the sister arts have been called in to illustrate his words, would demand a separate notice. On the present unsettled controversy about the genuineness or spuriousness of his MS. corrector, we have not touched. Adhuc sub judice lis est ;' and when it is solved we may be led to examine more closely the authorities and the condition of the present eclectic text of his writings.
GUIZOT'S MEMOIRS. *
heighten a reputation that was already one of the best established in Europe. The solid authenticity of a history, which is written by one of those who have acted it, is a merit which we are constrained to undervalue as a present test of its charms, in a literary point of view. Fifty years hence our sons will speak with a greater certainty than this generation can bring to the study of times which we have just outlived. Some years ago the government of Louis Philippe was only remembered as the great failure in which the prospects of constitutional liberty had been shipwrecked; now we look back on it with respect as on the last days in which thought has been free and the sword sheathed by the righteous self-restraint of a great nation. Either view is of course partial and incorrect; but while the motives to either exist, the policy of M. Guizot's party cannot fail to be misjudged for good or evil, and the most natural criticisms upon it can only be offered doubtfully as conjectures. These reasons do not apply to our estimation of these Memoirs as a biography. They are written in a manly and simple style, without self-seeking or pompous humility, with an upright endeavour to do justice to friend and enemy. The Spartan pedantry of style, which has always debarred M. Guizot the aid of rhetoric, becomes an absolute virtue in a work which is meant to be truthful and passionless as the voice of time itself.
The great defect of the Memoirs is one for which all who have read M. Guizot's lectures will be prepared. Such high powers of criticism and argument have probably never before been united to a frigid imagination. Excellent when he comes to treat of institutions, of laws, or of things, M. Guizot has always failed to understand or paint a man.
He can argue of human frailty and folly as a cipher in a complicated formula, which society represents to him, but he cannot appreciate a position and motives which could never naturally be his own. His kings, heroes, and people are all like the notched and jagged segments of the historical puzzle which the author has
Memoirs of My Own Time. By M. Guizot. Vols. I. and II. 8vo. London. Bentley. VOL. II. No. III.
* c. Pearson
cleverly put together; the veriest child perceives that they are not alive. Of course this deficiency does not affect M. Guizot's capacity for registering the facts which he has observed. If he tells us that Louis Philippe was a well-meaning man, of moderate abilities, excessive in language, without intentional insincerity, we feel that all these are points which the writer was able to estimate. The panegyric of M. Casimir Périer is another instance of clever workmanship, where the details of an illustrious life have been grouped together effectively and well. But the Memoirs want the completeness and unity which a history ought to possess. Every one who reads them will feel that they are written by an able and well-meaning man-even more-by an accredited leader of the foremost party in the State ; but they do not do justice to the ideas which M. Guizot himself aspired to represent. The triumph of a great principle is degraded into the lucky tricks of a government of expedients.
Nothing seems simpler to English ideas, than the theory of a constitution by which king and people may be secured in the enjoyment of definite rights. Our own history has been a succession of compacts, in each of which the same contracting parties have debated the same territory with fluctuating success. Even under the Commonwealth, there was still an Established Church, and the nobles and gentry had not lost their hold on the country. But the charter of 1815 in France was a reconstitution of the elements which the nation had discarded, and which it thought incompatible with organization, with unity, and with social freedom. The mere questions of indemnity to the noblesse, and of fresh powers and safeguards to the Church, were a virtual proposal to return to the system for which the most virtuous Bourbon had laid his head on the block. M. de Tocqueville has shown abundantly that administrative centralization and subdivision of properties existed in France under Louis XV., and owed nothing, except a formal recognition to the Convention and the Directory. France, therefore, had rebelled, not against a king for whom every one had a kind of contemptuous liking, nor against a system of government which the Revolution only elaborated, but in order to clear the soil of two institutions, which had become rotten and unweildy. Napoleon, while he restored them in name, took care to keep them in his hands as appliances of government. His Dukes of Rovigo and Dalmatia were only Préfêts with European titles ; his Gallican Church was a preaching police: it was safer that the people should pray than think. This system was possible under military rule and with the remembrance of Austerlitz. But the Bourbons could not adopt Napoleonism. They had to accept the old historic titles, to recognize the Church as a reality, and to keep peace under the double dread of an European league, and of conquests which would only stir up rivals in their generals. It was a mistake from the first to have given them a Chamber of Peers; the fiction did not deceive France, and it seriously embarrassed the Court. A king ought not to be hardly judged, if he attempts to translate his royal fictions into realities. Charles X. did so, and his laws have at least the merit of thoroughness; if they could have had thirty years' trial they would have restored the semblance at least of the Monarchy. The permission to create entails would have reconstructed a landed aristocracy: younger children were to find shelter in the religious houses, which the new legislation permitted; and the press was to be debarred circulation by a Stamp Act, and restrained the expression of thought by penal laws. It is no exaggeration to say that these enactments were quite as alien from the temper and state of France as an attempt to restore feudalism and the Star Chamber would be among ourselves. Under Louis XVI., while every officer was noble and in the interest of the Crown, the army had not been able to save the monarchy; under Charles X., out of twenty thousand commissioned officers, not five hundred in all were of noble birth, and not a thousand had twenty-four pounds a year, besides their pay. Avec cela,' M. de Caux might well say, faites de l'ancien régime.'
These facts are too often forgotten by those who estimate the chances of constitutional government in France. Such as it is it has only been tried once, for until 1830 the organization of the State contradicted all the provisions of the Charter. Nevertheless, the thinking part of the nation was beginning to understand its ideal, and to profit by the knowledge of its former mistakes.
It seemed for a moment to hang in the scales whether France should be a monarchy under a Bourbon, or a republic under Lafayette. But the Cromwell-Grandison,' as Napoleon called him, of France, was partly distrustful of his powers, and partly disinterested; so that the Crown fell easily to the Prince who had long been watching the fortunes of his family, 'resolved to be neither conspirator nor victim. Probably, at this time, there was no other choice possible for the nation. The pure republican party has never been strong, except by its scarcely disguised wish for war, and a generation was still alive in Europe that had not forgotten the lessons of the old empire. M. Guizot gives at length the text of a curious paper which was
put one day into his hands by a young and distinguished republican. Amongst other demands it intended to effect a republican government under royal forms: one or two will show the spirit of the party. That the restoration, the men, and the facts of the Restoration be condemned.' That march to the Rhine be made ; that the frontier be extended to it, and the national movement continued there by war; that it be supported by what has provoked it. Besides, all this will be only taking the initiative; by it the army will be rallied, recruited, kept in hand, associated to the Revolution. Europe will thus be addressed, warned, carried away.'
The danger of foreign war was not, however, the worst prospect upon which the new reign opened. The operatives of the great towns had already become a distinct power in the State, organized in their clubs, intelligent and excitable, and opposed by an antagonism of interest to a representative assembly, which only represented wealth. To these men the Charter was nothing more than a treaty of partition, in which the spoils of the nation at large were divided between a worn-out dynasty and unpopular classes. 'Anything rather than the Bourbons, was the general sentiment; and this sentiment was the more dangerous, because in the absence of any definite object of preference it indicated the profound dislike with which existing institutions were regarded for their own sake.
Under these disheartening circumstances, strengthened only by the accession of a few terror-struck Legitimists, the new monarchy was called upon to reorganize the nation. M. Guizot thinks that it acted wisely in terminating the crisis as soon as possible, and wrongly in modifying the Charter upon which legitimacy had made shipwreck of its pretensions. The question is hardly one of any great importance: the chief change, that in the constitution of the Upper House, had virtually been made already, as the chiefs of the reactionary party were certain not to qualify for power under the reign of an usurper. But had they done so, it is difficult to see how any government would have been possible; the Peers would have had the power and the will to thwart every measure of the Orleanist cabinets. Curiously enough, M. Guizot, while he advocated the conservation of the old system, lent himself to a complete change of administrations. In the space of a month, he tells us, he himself, as Minister of the Interior, had changed 76 out of 86 prefects; 196 out of 277 sub-prefects; 53 out of 86 general secretaries; 127 out of 315 counsellors of prefecture; and in anticipation of the law which was to regenerate the municipal administration, 393 changes had been already pronounced in