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who was a plebeian, and could not claim the distinction of the axe and the block, was executed on the cross, with his head downwards to increase the pain and the indignity. Do you think the Roman emperor took notice of the names of these men, when he signed their death warrant? And yet, as they poured truth into the common mind, what series of kings, what lines of emperors can compare with them, in their influence on the destinies of mankind, in their powerful aid in promoting the progress of the human race?
Yes, reforms in society are only effected through the masses of the people.
III. And such action does take place. Human life has gone forward ; the mind of the race has been quickened and edified. New truths have been constantly developed, and, becoming the common property of the human family, they have improved its condition and ensured its progress.
This progress is advanced by every sect, precisely because each sect, to obtain vitality, does of necessity embody a truth. The irresistible tendency of the human race is to advancement. Absolute power has never succeeded in suppressing a single truth. idea once generated may find its admission into every living breast and live there. Like God it becomes immortal and omnipresent. The tendency of the species is upward, irresistibly upward. The individual is often lost; Providence never disowns the race. The individual is often corrupt; Humanity is redeemed. No principle, once promulgated, has ever been forgotten. No " timely tramp” of a despot's foot ever trod out one idea. The world cannot retrograde; the dark ages cannot return. Dynasties perish; cities are buried; nations have been victims to error, or martyrs for right; Humanity has always been on the advance; its soul has always been gaining maturity and power.
Yes, truth is immortal ; it cannot be destroyed; it is invincible, it cannot long be resisted. Not every
great principle has yet been generated; but when once developed, it lives without end, in the safe custody of the race. States may pass away ; every just principle of legislation which has been once established will endure without end. The ark has mouldered ; the tabernacle disappeared; the Urim and the Thummim lost their lustre; but God, who revealed himself on Sinai, is still the God of the living. Jerusalem has fallen, and the very foundations of the temple have been subverted; but Christian truth still lives in the hearts of millions. Do you think that infidelity is spreading ? And are you terrified by a handful of skeptics? When did the Gospel of all truth, that redeems, and blesses, and sanctifies the world, live in the hearts of so many millions, as at this moment ? The forms under which it is produced may decay; for they, like all that is the work of man's hands, are subject to the changes and chances of mortal being; but the spirit of truth is incorruptible; it may be developed, illustrated, and applied; it never can die; it never can decline.
No truth can perish; no truth can pass away. Succeeding generations transmit to each other the undying flame. Thus the progress of the race is firm and sure.
Wherever moral truth has started into being, Humanity claims and guards the bequest. Each generation gathers together the imperishable children of the past, and increases them by new sons of light, alike radiant with immortality.
Art. II. - The French Revolution. A History. By
THOMAS CARLYLE. Boston: Charles C. Little &
“What induced Thomas Carlyle to select such a subject as the French Revolution,” we have heard asked by those, who, having read only the “ Sartor,” think him a poetical mystic.“ Did he write for bread, or from sympathy with that social movement ?” To those who know him it is plain enough, that our good friend, however pinched by want, could not let out his mind to do job-work. His Pegasus would break down at the plough. Carlyle's heart is always, must always be, in what he does.
He selected this subject then, because to him there came a voice out of the Chaos,
But farther, to any one, who will review his literary course, the explanation will be clear enough of his interest in that ruin and recreation of a social world. The gradual progress of his studies through Voltaire and Diderot led him to the observation of this unparalleled phenomenon. But his taste, his instinct guided him also. Like his master Goethe, he has been always hunting for a “bit of Nature.” Whether he is writing of Burns or Richter, of Novalis or Elliott, of the Spirit of the Age or its Characteristics, or finally of Mirabeau, he everywhere shows the same longing after the genuine product of Nature. Hypocrisy however self-deceived and respectable is his horror, and is greeted with nothing more civil than an anathema maranatha.” This is his “fixed idea,” his creed; and he clings to it with an unquestioning bigotry. Yes! bigotry; — for noble as the creed is, it is yet a creed ; and, though he might deny it, a “formula ; and his range of sympathy, his candor of judgment, and even truth of moral sentiment are narrowed by this notion. In consequence he is prejudiced. He trusts to his first impressions. He casts his eye on a man with cutting penetration, and is satisfied that he knows him. He takes him by the arm, and by the feeling of the iron or flabby muscle judges instantly of his vigor. Truly he seldom seems much deceived by this instinctive love of Nature. Shams vanish before his glance, as gauze would in the fire.
Yet even this love of Nature seems to us a kind of Cant after all. But we check ourselves; we do not like to say
even thus much in the way of fault-finding with one of the truest, honestest of critics and of men.
Our student of Nature had already picked up rare specimens here and there as he found them; and now at last he has arrived at this grand volcanic outbreak, and sits down amid mighty heaps of most indisputable genuineness, to learn what is in man.
And truly he is nowise repelled by stench of sulphur and dreads not burns. But there was another reason for the study of the French Revolution. Carlyle loves man, loves the men he lives among. He is not indifferent to the temper of his own age, and thinking it, in its philosophy and professed maxims, a peculiarly mechanical, self-conscious, and artificial one, he cannot but obey the inward behest to sound his prophecy in men's ears, whether his fate be Cassandra's or not. He doubtless feels as if a sick generation needed a sanative; and what better than the pure crystal of natural feeling? His text is certainly a healthy one, and his homilies have a freshness, as if he had dipped with a leaf from the bubbling spring. In a word, our author' probably anticipates, as many others do, that the matchless British constitution may be rent asunder by some larger growth of the social germ; and meanwhile, he may think it would be well for us not to hinder but to aid, as we can, the process.
Carlyle, we feel sure, has dropped all conventional spectacles, and opened his eyes to the true characteristic of our times, — which is, that the “ better sort” are being elbowed more and more for room by the “poorer sort," as they step forward to gather a share of the manna on life's wilderness. Perhaps he thinks it high time, that they who are clad in decencies and good manners should busy themselves in teaching their brother "sans-culottes” to wear suitable garments. We believe then that our author was led to a study and history of the French Revolution, because he saw it illustrating in such characters of fire the irrepressible instinct of all men to assert and exercise their natural rights ;
and the absolute neces
sity which there is, therefore, that man's essential equality with man should be recognised.
Mr. Carlyle has evidently done his work like a man. He appears to have read most voraciously, and sifted most scrupulously. And when one thinks of the multifarious mass which he must have digested in the process of composition, we cannot but equally admire his sagacity, and respect his faithfulness. Add the consideration, that the first volume, when fully prepared, was by an unfortunate accident destroyed; and that the author, without copy or plan, was thus forced to tread over when jaded the path he had climbed in the first flush of untried adventure; and that yet with this additional labor he has been occupied only some two years and more upon the book, and our estimate of his ability, his genius, his energy, cannot but be great.
And now what has he produced ? A history? Thiers, Mignet, Guizot forbid! We for ourselves call this French Revolution an Epic Poem; or, rather say the root, trunk, and branches of such a poem, not yet fully clothed with rhythm and melody indeed, but still hanging out its tassels and budding on the sprays. And here, by the way, may it not be asked whether Carlyle is not emphatically the English poet of our epoch? Is he not Shelley and Wordsworth combined, and greater than either ? Thus far indeed we have seen this luminary in a critical phase chiefly. But it is not because he has read, in the life of the men he has apotheosized, true poems, incarnations of that ideal he worshipped ? It seems to us an accident, that prose and criticism, not odes and positive life, have been his vein. Had he but form and tune what a poet was there! This book we say is a poem, the most remarkable of our time. It is not like a written book; it is rather like the running soliloquy of some wonderfully living and life-giving mind, as it reads a
good formula” of history; - a sort of resurrection of the dry bones of fact at the word of the prophet. Marvellous indeed! It seems as if, in some camera