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more practical and utilitarian. The social rise of the commons, who now required and could afford to pay a class of writers on subjects of exact knowledge, tended to derogate from the polish and correctness of the French literature, which was maintained by men who despised the hard and practical knowledge of nature, like Lord Chesterfield, who wrote to his son, “ Your reading should be chiefly historical; I do not mean of remote, dark, fabulous history, still less of jimcrack natural history of fossils, minerals, plants, &c., but I mean the useful political and constitutional history of Europe for the three last centuries and a half."* On subjects of material knowledge it is seldom possible to write with classic loftiness, nor is it sought to do so. A writer on science depends little on his style, for his successor is sure to eclipse him by right of his scientific advance, and the only enduring result of his achievement will be the fame of having advanced science from the point at which he found it. Thus the first cultivators of a science are left far behind by any new devotee, although his personal merits may be greatly inferior to theirs. But in the fine arts, among which literature may for this purpose be classed, there is not the same progress as in science and the mechanical arts. The first artists in the fine arts have often been the greatest, and the first authors are not necessarily surpassed by their successors ; for to the literary man his style is all in all I : he lives in perpetual pursuit of the beau-ideal. Other men may have his thoughts, and better thoughts than his, but unless they can manage to put more of the venustum

* Letter ccvi.

† Leonardo da Vinci was, as every one knows, a great painter, but he likewise anticipated many of the discoveries of Galileo, Kepler, Castelli, and the modern geologists and inductive philosophers (see p. 137). Now as the man of science he is surpassed and forgotten; as the artist he lives in the full plenitude of his ancient power.

† “Le style c'est l'homme même."-Buffon, Euvres, ed. Paris, 1824, i. 160.

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into their expression of the same thoughts there is little chance of their driving him out of the temple of fame. There must be good muscles to the piece, but it is in the grace of the attitude and the drapery that each artist manifests his individuality. For in the belles-lettres the point of emulation is excellence of expression, understanding by that term the arrangement of the ideas, the taste displayed in the method of handling the topics, and the harmony of the language to the subject. These are peculiar to each author. He who performs well this part of his task not only obtains fame among the refined patrons of his own day, but may count on the homage of a late posterity; ay, of that posterity which while it crushes the efforts of those who might be great artists in its own day, cannot emancipate itself from the fascination of the intellectual heroes of former age. Shakspeare, Fielding, Pope, Bolingbroke, Swift, though they could not live among Americans, are the

great and sceptred sovereigns who rule them from their urns.” Thus it is a fact of universal truth, that later writers may steal the matter, may adopt the discoveries, and transport the knowledge of a former writer into their own works, but they cannot steal his style, and in that inalienability of style genius grounds its visions of an immortality on earth.

As the democratic element rose in France, as men of thought emancipated themselves in part from the patronage of the court and the noblesse, as positive and exact knowledge, which only began to be thought of about the year 1718 *, gradually claimed more attention and study, so the literary elegance of France declined. This was partly due to a neglect of the classic authors of Greece, of Rome, and of their own nation ; for the scientific turn of mind tends to the disparagement of antiquity. In physical science the later discoverer is always the best; the older are seldom consulted, except to furnish histories of science, and to


* Martin, Hist. de Franc. xvii. 616.

provide the curious with that record of errors which, as a great critic • has remarked, often shortens the road to truth. A feeling thus is generated, that men have got out of antiquity all that is worth having from it; and the mind that throws aside every desire but that of knowing what is, contracts insensibly a contempt for knowing what has been said by earlier inquirers. This is fair and useful enough in the sciences in which there is a natural progress, in which Truth is the daughter of Time, as Crabbe says; but it is the misfortune of a strong national

; addiction to progressive pursuits that this contempt of antiquity is carried into matters where, in despising the past, we are often despising the superior.

In 1750, D'Alembert + observed this spirit spreading in France. As it led to an advance in science he commended it; as it derogated from the study of the ancient belleslettres he deplored it; and in his own eloquent and acute manner he traced how, at that time, France had come to produce more principles for facilitating a right judgment on things, a larger circle of thoughtful men, and yet

fewer good works. And he said, that as the age of Demetrius succeeded immediately that of Demosthenes, the age of Lucan and Seneca that of Cicero and Virgil ; so the age in which he wrote had, by similar steps, succeeded and afforded a similar contrast to that of Louis XIV.

And if this material turn of mind in the end destroyed the belles-lettres of France, much more has it, and will it, exercise a destructive influence over the literature of other countries : for as good sometimes comes out of evil, the undue retention of the aristocratic power produced a salutary effect on the scientific literature of France, for their men of mathematics were likewise men of letters. In the leisure and freedom of the Academy, they worked out their harsh problems, and discovered their dry laws

* Sir J. Reynolds, Discourses, i. 24. † D'Alembert, Euvres, i. 285, 291.

of nature ; but the refined and fastidious patrons whom they, with happier fortune than men of science in general, addressed at the assemblies of that Academy, forbad them to despise the culture of those authors who had excelled in grace of expression. To that influence of a refined aristocracy over men of science it was owing that Buffon, D'Alembert, and the great men who clustered round them, gifted alike with a brilliant imagination and a penetrating power of analysis, sought to express their new ideas in the old classic language of their country; and the tone thus given to French science remained even to our day, for Arago has not long departed.

Sparta had no native literature. It had social inequality ; but the strict institutions and the exclusive feelings of the higher race, however much they might have enjoyed literary compositions, prevented them from permitting any member of the subject race to rise to a social equality with them through his literary efforts. The inducement which social inequality usually affords to the author was there withheld. The great composer of their war songs--Tyrtæus - was an Athenian; and the only literature which appears to have circulated in Sparta was that brought by the wandering poets and philosophers of other parts of Greece, who generally took Sparta in their tour.* It would seem also that the Spartans cared principally, if not entirely, for that kind of literature which is most harmonious to a military aristocracy,--war-songs, and the praises of warlike ancestors ; nor is there reason to suppose that there was among them sufficient refinement to raise a native literature, even if their treatment of the subject race had permitted authors to spring from it.

Norway has no literature. There is no social inequality, and nothing is to be gained by intellectual labour. In countries not only without an aristocracy, but remarkable for their objection to such an institution, and where utility, the principle of commercial republics, is dominant, poets, elegant historians, and all those races of authors, drawn out of the Homeric root, are considered idle ; and “ knowledge for the people,” which we all know needs small literary ornament, is thought, or at least is treated, as the only worthy object of encouragement. Systematic accumulation of facts is what readers in such countries desire. On the other hand, refined nobilities regard poets and authors as ministers to their elegant luxury; while the respect which they cannot but feel for genius accords to authors a higher position than is attained by other caterers to the tastes of patrician virtuosi.

* Müller's Literature of Ancient Greece, pp. 110, 275. † Laing's Norway, p. 383.

But is science the legitimate offspring of democracies? The great democracy of our days shows no irresistible adaptation for the theoretical observation of natural phe

M. de Tocqueville explains the absence of science by the want of that leisure which is necessary for meditation*, and says that there is no place less fitted for meditation that the interior of a democratic society. Although it is I think indisputable that in constitutional or quasi-constitutional countries the useful sciences are connected with the democratic element, and advance in proportion as it rises, it yet seems, from the instances of America, Holland, Carthage, and Venice, that commercial countries living under a pure democracy, or plutocracy, however much devoted to the practice of mechanical arts and the use of machines discovered by scientific men of other countries, are themselves far from favourable to the development of theoretical science; and the true view seems to be that high theoretical science is best advanced by men of humble origin, in times when the democracy of a state is beginning to wrestle to some effect with the old elements of aristocracy and monarchy.


* Dem. en Am. iii. 81.

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