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No. 1454. - April 20, 1872.
CONTENTS. 1. VOLTAIRE, . .
: Blackwood's Magazine, . . 131 2. Orr THE SKELLIGS. By Jean Ingelow. Part VI.. Saint Pauls, . . . . 146 3. A VOYAGE TO THE SUN, . . .
Cornhill Magazine, . . 154 4. AMERICAN JUDGES. By James Bryce, . . Macmillan's Magazine, . . 163 6. MICHAEL FARADAY, . . . .
Golden Hours, . .
. 6. Tue Maid or SKER. Part XV., . . . Blackwood's Magazine, . . 173 7. M. JANVIER DE LA Morte, . . . Spectator, . . . . 184 8. Mazzini, . . . . . . . . Spectator, . . . . . 186 9. TapPY'CHICK's, . . . . . Spectator, . . . . . 187 10. The USES OF TATTOOING. . . . . Suturday Review, . . . 191
Novalis. By Geo. MacDonald, . 192
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“Let no man be called happy ere his death.”
How shall we rate him who draws dying breath
And having thus topp'd highest reach of hope,
Worse still — the bearer of those arms to see –
hurled 7 | Still red with blood of Rome's Republic slain
Such the first thought of most a thought that
But not more shallow they that laugh to scorn
The greater still his right to such a grave,
To whom Life, taking much, so little gave
But exile, poverty, and long farewell
And sunny hearts, in northern cold to dwell,
Slowly to gather strength but to be foiled;
Only to fail in fight, or, treason-coiled,
To keep the sparks of hope and faith alight
To learn faith can turn false, and friendship
And — bitterer than the bitterest of these
And standing high-crown'd in the Capitol,
Hailed as the Saviours of Italy,
To see the Austrian yield each guarded hold,
Watch Italy's rent robe, fold after fold,
Yet raise no voice to bid the foe depart :
With strangers’ bitter bread to stay his heart;
Though feeling faith, soul, spirit still the same
And when Italian ground once more he prest
Open at length his prison doors he found :
Victor EMANUEL in Rome sits crowned,
0 mockery of human lots and lives'
None, e'en for this, saw wavering of his trust,
To seal that pact, glorious, if less fulfilled
His seed of faith, by fact's worst frost un-killed,
Was sown, and seeming, though but seeming,
• Campo Santo, the ancient and famous burial; Till, haply, when the fields laugh, harvest-red,
place of iisa, filled with earth from Jerusalem, and decorated by the greatest painters and sculptors of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
Men shall own his the seed that yields so well
From Blackwood's Magazine. learning and some eloquence, is not hisVOLTAIRE. |torical but critical, and demands an acMr. Morley's book • upon the great quaintance at once with the man and his French philosopher, just published, will works which we fear only scholars possess. no doubt bring the name and character of Approaching the subject from no scholarly Voltaire freshly before many readers, who point of view, and without any desire to have only the vague general knowledge of enter into the miserable maze of clever him which readers are apt to have of a argument by which Voltaire “se sentit writer whose works have fallen into that appelé à détruire, les prejugés de toutes oblivion of greatness which is scarcely less espèces," we shall endeavour to throw a
complete than the oblivion of littleness, and whose personal mould is no longer attractive to, or representative of the age. His is one of the names which “everybody" knows; and everybody knows something about him. Certain facts in his history, certain things he has produced, are part of the general foundation of knowledge which comes to us, we do not well know how, from the fathers and grandfathers to whom the quaint and old-fashioned distance of last century bore a personal intere t. We know something of Voltaire's tragedies, something of Candide and Dr. Pangloss, something of his histories, and a great deal about his connection with the Great Frederic, and the miserable quarrels and spite of that philosophic circle. We know too that he holds a place in French literature of very high importance, and even in something more than French literature. In France herself, spiritual and moral, there is still a kind of galvanic life in the strange figure, half buffoon, half philosopher, which probably takes its chief value from the fact that in itself it was the most perfectly representative figure of his age. The man Voltaire died nearly a hundred years ago, but still Voltairism is spoken of as if it were a fit antagonist of Christianity on the other side of the Channel, and his influence represents at once to his enemies and his friends a power immensely greater than any name of his century — nay, than all the names of his century put together
|little light upon the character and position of this remarkable personage, for a real and searching examination of his work and influence in history would require an amount of space and labour which we cannot pretend to give. Mr. Morley makes very high claims for his hero: “When the right sense of historical proportion is more fully developed in men's minds,” he says, “the name of Voltaire will stand for as much as the names of the great classic movements in the European advance, like the Revival of learning or the Reformation.” This is making more than a man of the great representative figure of the seventeenth century. We should have thought that to place him on an equality with Luther would have been distinction enough, but Mr. Morley seems to require more than this. And indeed, Luther does not occupy anywhere the same living position which the name of Voltaire occupies in men's mouth's, at least on the other side of the Channel. It is a difficult position for an individual with so many imperfections on his head. His system was not a lofty one, whatever its success may have been, and in his own person he was very far from blameless. It is not an apostolic figure, nor a celestial work, which can be presented to us, even by the warmest of partisans, but still it is one which has filled a large place in the eyes of the world and whic' in many ways is extremely curious. Everybody whose opinion has been
worth recording for the last hundred years
– have left among ourselves. No inquiry has given some deliverance on this subject; could be more curious and interesting than and, as Mr. Morley tells us, these judgthe question how this all came about. ments have been about as diverse as there The reader, however, will not be able to have been lips to utter them. He is himmake this out from “Voltaire, by John self very deeply impressed with the imporMorley,” which, though a work of much tance of Voltaire's work. Yet he does not disguise, but rather, if we may say so, takes a kind of serious pleasure in record
• Voltaire. By John Morley. London, 1872.
ing the many animadversions which have attended his hero's name.
“Voltairism may stand for the name of the Renaissance of the eighteenth century, for that name takes in all the serious haltings and shortcomings of this strange movement, as well as its terrible fire, swiftness, sincerity, and strength. The rays from Voltaire's burning and far shining spirit no sooner struck upon the genius of the time, seated dark and dead like the black stone of Memnon's statue, than the clang of the breaking chord was heard through Europe, and men awoke in new day and more spacious air. The sentimentalist has proclaimed him a mere mocker. To the critics of the schools ever ready with compendious label, he is the revolutionary destructive. To each alike of the countless orthodox sects, his name is the symbol for the prevailing of the gates of hell. Erudition figures him as shallow and a trifler : culture condemns him for pushing his hatred of spiritual falsehood much too seriously : Christian charity feels constrained to unmask a demon from the depths of the pit. The plain men of the earth, who are apt to measure the merits of a philosopher by the strength of his sympathy with existing sources of comfort, would generally approve the saying of Dr. Johnson, that he would sooner sign a sentence for Rousseau's transportation than that of any felon who had gone from the Old Bailey for many years, and that the difference between him and Voltaire was so slight that ‘it would be difficult to settle the proportions of iniquity between them.” Those of all schools and professions who have the temperament which mistakes strong expressions for strong judginent, and violent phrase for grounded conviction, have been stimulated by antipnthy against Voltaire to a degree that, in any of them with latent turns for humour, must now and then have stirred a kind of reacting sympathy. The rank vocabulary of malice and hate, noisomo fringe of the history of opinion, has received many of its most fulminant terms from critics of Voltaire, along with some from Woltaire himself, who unwisely did not refuse to follow an adversary's bad example.
“Yet Voltaire was the very eye of modern illumination.”
Thus applauded on one side and assailed on the other, worshipped, abused, flattered, and menaced, with an extravagance and intensity of feeling unknown to common men, the character of Voltaire can be no ordinary one. He was a poet, a historian, a philosopher, and a critic. In every sin
gle branch of his pursuits he has been, even in his own country, surpassed ; yet no individual of all his rivals holds anything like such a position in the world and the age. Few people read his works nowadays, but still fewer ignore his reputation. The mass of volumes which compose his pedestal are overrun with moss and closed with the ivies and clinging tendrils of the past, but the figure above them, with all its defects and meannesses — heaven knows, as poor a figure of a man as ever was mounted on that eminence — holds its place still, though the general mind does not quite know why. François Marie Arouet, calling himself, for some reason or other, which none of his biographers seem quite able to make out, Voltaire, was born in February 1694, in Paris. His father was well off, and of respectable condition, holding an employment in the public service; and he was educated, as a child in his circumstances brought up by parents who meant him to rise in the world naturally would be, at a college taught by the Jesuits. Even at this early age the child must have shown a a freedom from national prejudices and spiritual necessities greater than ordinary. for one of the reverend fathers prophesied of him that he would yet be the Coryphee du Déisme in France. He was launched into the world at an early age, and under the most “heureuses circonstances,” as his biographer, Condorcet, assures us, under the special patronage of several of those brilliant and delightful abbés — churchmen whose only ecclesiastical habit was their soutane, and who did not pretend to the smallest shred either of faith or morals — who abound in all the memoirs of the period. One of the protectors of his youth was the famous Ninon, who left him a legacy to buy books, and approved greatly of the lad. With such instructors his mind developed rapidly. The tide had turned, by that time, of the Grand Monarque's splendour and popularity. That false but gorgeous culmination of success and magnificence was over, and the terrible chaos which followed began to rise darkly — not yet apparent — with all its tragic disorders yet undeveloped, the dim beginnings of something new preparing for the deathstruggle with the old world, which no one as yet foresaw... The Court was under the sway of Madan e de Maintenon, and had become fictitiously good and religious as it had once been fictitiously joyous and popular; and Paris and its society, which was not growing old like Louis, went, as was not unnatural, into violent opposition, and “out of disgust for the severities of Versailles, carried freedom and pleasure to the extent of licence.” Nothing could be more gay, more brilliant, more attractive than that cleverest and wickedest climax of good company; and young Voltaire, whose petites epigrammes seem to date back to a very early period in his existence, was the true child of his time, at once its best representative and its crowning production. That was not the age of revolution. Nearly a century had to come and go ere the grim practical seriousness of the national soul, driven frantic by misery, had to take up the coarser work, and make all the persiflage and all the witticisms into a tremendous reality, at which the gayest society ceased to laugh. In the mean time petites epigrammes were what the world lived for, and other things equally petites. It was the age of petites maisons, petits soupers, and many more charming indulgences—opposed to all of which stood a black-cowled frowning Church, of which in their secret souls most people were a little afraid, which set its face against everything – opinions, epigrams, pleasant little vices, all that Paris held most dear. The Church was not, let us allow, attractive at that period. It was one of her dark days, when the flesh had gained upon her largely, and when her faithful regiments who stood firm had grown morose, and even cruel, at sight of the temptations around, which other people yielded to, which they had themselves the virtue to resist, but not the virtue to hate. Half-a-dozen gay abbés, leading lives a trifle wickeder and more luxurious than those of their lay companions, naturally produced at least one gloomy priest, who being but a man of his time like them, was exasperated and acerbated by his own goodness, and only too glad, when he had the chance, to shut the gates, not of heaven only, but even of the
grave, upon the scoffer who defied him. The two opposite sides acted upon each other as they always do. Lawless wit and mockery on one hand, produced – what could they else?—fierce, hysterical, and often foolish zeal on the other. The wicked world had so much the best of it in every way, to all appearance, that it is hard to blame a depressed and languid Church, partaking but too much of the spiritual deadness of the time, for having had recourse — God, or perhaps rather the devils, knew how — to those wild outbursts of miracle which it is so impossible to understand, and which, while powerless and meaningless for any good, give the adversary always a double occasion to blaspheme. The only alternative known by Voltaire to his own giddy, merry, agreeable, and unprincipled society was this austere, disagreeable, pleasure-condemning, miracle-producing Church. It was understood that this gloomy apparition was seated at the portals which led out of life, and that in mockery or in terror it was well to conciliate and make terms with her, as soon as these portals were approached; but up to that disagreeable moment, which no one cared to look forward to, Superstition, which was her name, was the fairest and the foremost object for all the gibes and pleasantries of an audacious society — the cause of inextinguishable laughter, when not of indignation. Except this visible and not pleasant embodiment of the Church, he and his contemporaries seem to have had no idea of anything representing a higher life than their own. This is their distinguishing peculiarity among the ages. Other generations have disputed and opposed as hotly and more effectually the sway of Rome — have stigmatized and abused, and even satirized and laughed at her; but these generations were always more or less officered and inspired by men with a creed which they believed to be more pure, and a higher ideal of life than that which they assailed. The age of Voltaire was embarrassed with no such idealism. If the Church was never less attractive than in that unhappy age, the world was never more distinct. It did not even profess that code of primitive morality, natural