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delicacy of the grey-hound. Adam Smith long ago pointed out the distinction between those who serve and those who amuse mankind ; and the difference, it is to be feared, exists not merely between the philosopher and the opera-dancer, but between the instructors of men in every department of thought, and those whose genius is devoted rather to the pleasing of the eye, the melting of the feelings, or the kindling of the imagination. Yet this observation is only generally, not universally, true ; and Sir Joshua Reynolds remains a memorable proof that it is possible for an artist to unite the highest genius and most imaginative power of mind to the wisdom of a philosopher, the liberality of a gentleman, the benevolence of a Christian, and the simplicity of a child. We are not at all surprised at the intoxication which seizes the literary men and artists whose genius procures for them the favor or admiration of women. Everybody knows it is the most fascinating and transporting flattery which the mind of man can receive. But we confess we are surprised, and that too not a little, at the want of sense which so frequently makes men even of the highest abilities mar the influence of their own genius, and detract from the well-earned celebrity of their own productions, by the indiscreet display of this vanity, which the applause they have met with has produced in their minds. These gentlemen are charmed with the incense they have received, and of course desirous to augment it, and extend the circle from which it is to be drawn. Well, that is their object: let us consider what means they take to gain it. These consist too often in the most undisguised display of vanity in their conduct, manner, and conversation. Is this the way likely to augment the admiration which they enjoy so much, and are so solicitous to extend? Are they not clear-sighted enough to see that, holding this to be their aim, considering female admiration as the object of their aspirations, they cannot in any way so effectually mar their desires as by permitting the vanity, which the portion of it they have already received has produced, to appear in their manner or conversation 1 Are they so little versed in the female heart, as not to know that as self-love acts, if not in a stronger at least in a more conspicuous way in them than in the other sex, so there is nothing which repels them so effectually as any display of that vanity in men which they are all conscious of in themselves, and nothing attracts them so powerfully as that selfforgetfulness, which, estimable in all, is in a peculiar manner graceful and admirable when it is met with in those whom none others can forget 1 Such a quality is not properly modesty—that is the retiring disposition of those who have not yet won distinction. No man who has done so is ignorant of it, as no woman of beauty is insensible to her charms. It is more nearly allied to good sense, and its invariable concomitant—a due regard for the feelings of others. It not unfrequently exists, in the highest degree, in those who have the strongest inward consciousness of the services
they have rendered to mankind. No man was more unassuming than Kepler, but he wrote in reference to his great discoveries, and the neglect they at first met with, “I may well be a century without a reader, since God Almighty has been six thousand years without such an observer as me.” Yet is this universally felt to have been no unworthy effusion of vanity, but a noble expression of great services rendered by one of his most gifted creatures to the glory of the Almighty. Such men as Kepler are proud, but not vain, and proud men do not bring their feelings so prominently or frequently forward as vain ones; for pride rests on the consciousness of superiority, and needs no external support; vanity arises from a secret sense of weakness, and thirsts for a perpetual solace from the applause of others. It is in the French writers that this inordinate weakness of literary men is most conspicuous, and in them it exists to such an extent as, on this side of the Channel, to be altogether ridiculous. Every Frenchman thinks his life worth recording. It was long ago said that the number of unpublished memoirs which exist in France, on the war of the League, would, if put together, form a large library. If those relating to the war of the Revolution were accumulated, we have no doubt they would fill the Bibliothèque du Roi. The number already published exceeds almost the dimensions of any private collection of books. The composition and style of these memoirs is for the most part as curious, and characteristic of French character, as their number is descriptive of their ruling passion. In the age of the religious wars, every writer of memoirs seems to have placed himself in the first rank, Henry IV. in the second ; in that of the Revolution, the greater part of the autobiographies scarcely disguise the opinion, that, if the first place may be reluctantly conceded to Napoleon Bonaparte, the second must, beyond all question, be assigned to themselves. The Abbé de Pradt expressed the feeling almost every one entertained of himself in France, not the sentiment of an individual man, when he said, “There was one who overturned Napoleon, and that man was me.” Most persons in this country will exclaim, that this statement is overcharged, and that it is incredible that vanity should so generally pervade the writers of a whole nation. If they will take the trouble to read Lamartine's Confidences and Raphael, containing the events of his youth, or his Histoire de la Révolution de 1848, recently published, they will find ample confirmation of these remarks; nor are they less conspicuously illustrated by the more elaborate Mémoires d’Outre Tombe of Chateaubriand, the name of which is prefixed to this essay. One thing is very remarkable, and forcibly illustrates the marked difference, in this respect, between the character of the French and the English nation. In France all memoirs assume the form of autobiographies: and so general is the thirst for that species of composition that, where a man of any note has not compiled his own life, his papers are put into the hands of some skilful bookmaker, who speedily dresses them up in the form of an attractive autobiography. This was done with the papers of Brisset, Robespierre, Marshal Ney, Fouché, and a great many others, all of which appeared with the name of their authors, and richly stored with these private papers, though it was morally certain that they could not by possibility have written their own lives. In England nothing of the kind is attempted. Scarcely any of the eminent men in the last age have left their own memoirs ; and the papers of the most remarkable of them have been published without any attempt at biography. Thus we have the Wellington Papers, the Marlborough Papers, the Nelson Papers, the Castlereagh Papers, published without any autobiography, and only a slight sketch, though in all these cases very ably done, of the author's life by their editor. The lives of the other eminent men of the last age have been given by others, not themselves; as that of Pitt, by Tomline and Gifford; that of Fox, by Trotter; that of Sheridan, by Moore; that of Lord Eldon, by Twiss ; that of Lord Sidmouth, by Pellew. There is more here than an accidental diversity; there is a difference arising from a difference of national character. The Englishmen devoted their lives to the public service, and bestowed not a thought on its illustration by themselves; the French mainly thought of themselves when acting in the public service, and considered
it mainly as a means of elevation and self-lauda
tion to themselves. In justice to the literary men of France, however, it must be stated that, of late years at least, they have been exposed to an amount of temptation, and of food for their self-love, much exceeding anything previously seen among men, and which may go far to account for the extraordinary vanity which they have everywhere evinced. In England literary distinction is neither the only nor the greatest passport to celebrity. Aristocratic influences remain, and still possess, the deepest hold of the public mind; statesmen exist, whose daily speeches in Parliament render their names as household words. Fashion exercises an extraordinary and almost inexplicable sway, especially over the fairest part of creation. How celebrated soever an author may be, he will in London soon be brought to his proper level, and a right appreciation of his situation. He will see himself at once eclipsed by an old nobleman, whose name is fraught with historic glory; by a young marquis, who is an object of solicitude to the mothers and daughters in the room ; by a parliamentary orator, who is beginning to acquire distinction in the senate house. We hold this state of things to be eminently favorable to the right character of literary men; for it saves them from trials before which, it is all but certain, both their good sense and their virtue would succumb. But in Paris this salutary check upon individual vanity and presumption is almost entirely awanting. The territorial aristocracy is confiscated and destroyed; titles of honor are abolished; historic names are almost
forgotten in the ceaseless whirl of present events; parliamentary orators are in general unpopular, for they are for the most part on the side of power. Nothing remains but the government of mind. The intellectual aristocracy is all in all. It makes and unmakes kings alternately; produces and stops revolutions; at one time calls a new race to the throne, at another consigns them with disgrace to foreign lands. Cabinets are formed out of the editors of newspapers, intermingled with a few bankers, whom the public convulsions have not yet rendered insolvent; prime ministers are to be found only among successful authors. Thiers, the editor of the National and the historian of the Revolution; Guizot, the profound professor of history; Villemain, the eloquent annalist of French literature; Lamartine, the popular traveller, poet, and historian, have been the alternate prime ministers of France since the Revolution of 1830. Even the great name of Napo– leon cannot save his nephew from the irksomeness of bending to the same necessity. He named Thiers his prime minister at the time of the Boulogne misadventure, he is caressing him now in the salons of the Elysée Bourbon. Successful authors thus in France are surrounded with a halo, and exposed to influences, of which in this country we cannot form a conception. They unite in their persons the fame of Mr. Fox and the lustre of Sir Walter Scott; often the political power of Mr. Pitt with the celebrity of Lord Byron. Whether such a concentration is favorable either to their present utility or lasting fame, and whether the best school to train authors to be the instructors of the world is to be found in that which exposes them to the combined influence of its greatest temptations, are questions on which it is not necessary now to enter, but on which posterity will probably have no difficulty in coming to a conclusion. But while we fully admit that these extraordinary circumstances, unparalleled in the past history of the world, go far to extenuate the blame which must be thrown on the French writers for their extraordinary vanity, they will not entirely exculpate them. Ordinary men may well be carried away by such adventitious and flattering marks of their power; but we cannot accept such an excuse from the first men of the age—men of the clearest intellect, and the greatest acquisitions— whose genius is to charm, whose wisdom is to instruct the world through every succeeding age. If the teachers of men are not to be above the sollies and weaknesses which are general and ridiculous in those of inferior capacity, where are we to look for such an exemption It is a poor excuse for the overweening vanity of a Byron, a Goethe, or a Lamartine, or a Chateaubriand, that a similar weakness is to be sound in a Madame Grisi or a Mademoiselle Cerito, in the first cantatrice or most admired ballerina of the day. We all know that the professors of these charming arts are too often intoxicated by the applause which they meet with ; we excuse or overlook this weakness from respect due to their genius and their sex. But we know, at the same time, that there are some exceptions to the general frailty; and in one enchanting performer, our admiration for talents of the very highest order is enhanced by respect for the simplicity of character and generosity of disposition with which they are accompanied. We might desiderate in the men who aspire to direct the thoughts of the world, and have received from nature talents equal to the task, the unaffected singleness of heart, and sterling good sense, which we admire, not less than her admirable powers, in Mademoiselle Jenny Lind. The faults, or rather frailties, we have alluded to, are in an especial manner conspicuous in two of the most remarkable writers of France of the present century—Lamartine and Chateaubriand. There is some excuse for the vanity of these illustrious men. They have both acquired an enduring fame—their names are known all over the world, and will continue to be so while the French language is spoken on the earth; and they have both, by their literary talents, been elevated to positions far beyond the rank in society to which they were born, and which might well make an ordinary head reel from the giddy precipices with which it is surrounded. Chateaubriand powerfully aided in crushing Napoleon in 1814, when Europe in arms surrounded Paris; with still more honorable constancy he resisted him in 1804, when, in the plenitude of his power he executed the Duke d'Enghien. He became ambassador to London for the restoration—minister of foreign affairs, and representative of France at the Congress of Verona. He it was who projected and carried into execution the French invasion of the Peninsula in 1823, the only successful expedition of the restoration. Lamartine's career, if briefer, has been still more dazzling. He aided largely in the movement which overthrew Louis Philippe ; by the force of his genius he obtained the mastery of the movement, “struggled with democracy when it was strongest, and ruled it when it was wildest;” and had the glory, by his single courage and energy, of saving the character of the revolution from bloodshed, and coercing the red republicans in the very tumult of their victory. He has since fallen from power, less from any known delinquencies imputed to him, than from the inherent fickleness of the French people, and the impossibility of their submitting, for any length of time, to the lead of a single individual. The autobiography of two such men cannot be other than interesting and instructive in the highest degree ; and if we see in them much which we in England cannot altogether understand, and which we are accustomed to stigmatize with the emphatic epithet “French,” there is much also in them which candor must respect, and an equitable spirit admire. The great thing which characterizes these memoirs, and is sufficient to redeem a multitude of vanities and frailties, is the elevated and chivalrous spirit in which they are composed. In this respect they are a relic, we fear, of the olden time; a remnant of those ancient days which Mr.
Burke has so eloquently described in his portrait of Marie Antoinette. That is the spirit which pervades the breasts of these illustrious men ; and therefore it is that we respect them, and forgive or forget many weaknesses which would otherwise be insupportable in their autobiographies. It is a spirit, however, more akin to a former era than the present; to the age which produced the crusades, more than that which gave birth to railways; to the days of Godfrey of Bouillon, rather than those which raised a monument to Mr. Hudson. We are by no means convinced, however, that it is not the more likely to be enduring in the future ages of the world; at least we are sure it will be so, if the sanguine anticipations everywhere formed, by the apostles of the movement of the future improvement of the species, are destined in any degree to be realized. Although, however, the hearts of Chateaubriand and Lamartine are stamped with the impress of chivalry, and the principal charm of their writings is owing to its generous spirit, yet we should err greatly if we imagined that they have not shared in the influences of the age in which they lived, and become largely imbued with the more popular and equalizing notions which have sprung up in Europe during the last century. They could not have attained the political power which they have both wielded if they had not done so ; for no man, be his genius what it may, will ever acquire a practical lead among men unless his opinions coincide in the main with those of the majority by whom he is surrounded. Chateaubriand's earliest work, written in London in 1793 —the Essai Historique—is, in truth, rather of a republican and sceptical tendency; and it was not till he had travelled in America, and inhaled a nobler spirit amid the solitudes of nature, that the better parts of his nature regained their ascendency, and his fame was established on an imperishable foundation by the publication of Atala et René, and the Génie du Christianisme. Throughout his whole career, the influence of his early liberal principles remained conspicuous: albeit a royalist, he was the steady supporter of the freedom of the press and the extension of the elective suffrage; and he kept aloof from the government of Louis Philippe less from aversion to the semirevolutionary spirit in which it was cradled, than from an honorable fidelity to misfortune, and horror at the selfish corrupt multitude by which it was soon surrounded. Lamartine's republican principles are universally known : albeit descended of a noble family, and largely imbued with feudal feelings, he aided in the revolt which overturned the throne of Louis Philippe in February, 1848, and acquired lasting renown by the courage with which he combated the sanguinary spirit of the red republicans, when minister of foreign affairs. Both are chivalrous in heart and feeling, rather than opinions; and they thus exhibit curious and instructive instances of the fusions of the moving principle of the olden time with the ideas of the present, and of the manner in which the true spirit of nobility, forgetfulness of self, can accommodate itself to the varying circumstances of society, and float, from its buoyant tendency, on the surface of the most fetid stream of subsequent selfishness. In two works recently published by Lamartine, Les Confidences and Raphael, certain passages in his autobiography are given. The first recounts the reminiscences of his infancy and childhood ; the second, a love-story in his twentieth year. Both are distinguished by the peculiarities, in respect of excellences and defects, which appear in his other writings. On the one hand we have an ardent imagination, great beauty of language, a generous heart—the true spirit of poetry—and uncommon pictorial powers. On the other, an almost entire ignorance of human nature, extraordinary vanity, and that susceptibility of mind which is more nearly allied to the feminine than the masculine character. Not but that Lamartine possesses great energy and courage : his conduct, during the revolution of 1848, demonstrates that he possesses these qualities in a very high degree; but that the ardor of his feelings leads him to act and think like women, from their impulse rather than the sober dictates of reason. He is a devout optimist, and firm believer in the innocence of human nature, and indefinite perfectibility of mankind, under the influence of republican institutions. Like all other fanatics, he is wholly inaccessible to the force of reason, and altogether beyond the reach of facts, how strong or convincing soever. Accordingly, he remains to this hour entirely convinced of the perfectibility of mankind, although he has recounted, with equal truth and force, that it was almost entirely owing to his own courage and energy that the revolution was prevented, in its very outset, from degenerating into bloodshed and massacre ; and a thorough believer in the ultimate sway of pacific institutions, although he owns that, despite all his zeal and eloquence, the whole provisional government, with himself at its head, would on the 16th April have been guillotined or thrown into the Seine, but for the determination and fidelity of three battalions of the Garde Mobile, whom Changarnier volunteered to arrange in all the windows and avenues of the Hôtel de Ville, when assailed by a column of thirty thousand furious revolutionists. Chateaubriand is more a man of the world than Lamartine. He has passed through a life of greater vicissitudes, and been much more frequently brought into contact with men in all ranks and gradations of society. He is not less chivalrous than Lamartine, but more practical : his style is less pictorial but more statesmanlike. The French of all shades of political opinion agree in placing him at the head of the writers of the last age. This high position, however, is owing rather to the detached passages than the general tenor of his writings, for their average style is hardly equal to such an encomium. He is not less vain than Lamartine, and still more egotistical—a defect which, as already noticed,
he shares with nearly all the writers of autobiography in France, but which appears peculiarly extraordinary and lamentable in a man of such talents and acquirements. His life abounded with strange and romantic adventures, and its vicissitudes would have furnished a rich field for biography even to a writer of less imaginative powers. He was born on the 4th September, 1768—the same year with Napoleon—at an old melancholy chateau on the coast of Brittany, washed by the waves of the Atlantic ocean. His mother, like those of almost all other eminent men recorded in history, was a very remarkable woman, gifted with a prodigious memory and an ardent imagination—qualities which she transmitted in a very high degree to her son. His family was very ancient, going back to the year 1000; but, till illustrated by François René, who has rendered it immortal, the Chateaubriands lived in unobtrusive privacy on their paternal acres. After receiving the rudiments of education at home, he was sent at the age of seventeen into the army ; but the revolution having soon aster broken out, and his regiment revolted, he quitted the service and came to Paris, where he witnessed the horrors of the storming of the Tuileries on the 10th of August, and the massacre in the prisons on 2d September. Many of his nearest relations—in particular his sister-in-law, Madame de Chateaubriand, and sister, Madame Rozambo—were executed along with Malesherbes, shortly before the fall of Robespierre. Obliged now to fly to England, he lived for some years in London in extreme poverty, supporting himself by his pen. It was there he wrote his earliest and least creditable work, the Essai Historique. Tired of such an obscure and monotonous life, however, he set out for America, with the Quixotic design of discovering by land journey the north-west passage. He failed in that attempt, for which, indeed, he had no adequate means; but he dined with Washington, and in the solitudes of the far West imbibed many of the noblest ideas, and found the subjects of several of the finest descriptions, which have since adorned his works. Finding that there was nothing to be done in the way of discovery in America, he returned to England. Afterwards he went to Paris, and there composed his greatest works, Atala et René and the Génie du Christianisme, which soon acquired a colossal reputation, and raised the author to the highest pinnacle of literary fame. Napoleon, whose piercing eye discerned talent wherever it was to be found, now selected him for the public service in the diplomatic line. He gives the following interesting account of the first and only interview he had with that extraordinary man, in the saloon of his brother Lucien:—
I was in the gallery when Napoleon entered; his appearance struck me with an agreeable surprise. I had never previously seen him but at a distance. His smile was sweet and encouraging ; his eye beautiful, especially from the way in which it was overshadowed by the eyebrows. He had no charlatanism in his looks, nothing affected or theatrical in his manner. The Génie du Christianisme, which at that time was making a great deal of noise, had produced its effect on Napoleon. A vivid imagination animated his cold policy; he would not have been what he was if the Muse had not been there ; reason in him worked out the ideas of a poet. All great men are composed of two natures—for they must be at once capable of inspiration and action— the one conceives, the other executes. Bonaparte saw me, and knew me I know not how. When he moved towards me, it was not known whom he sought. The crowd opened ; every one hoped the first consul would stop to converse with him ; his air showed that he was irritated at these mistakes. I retired behind those around me; Bonaparte suddenly raised his voice, and called out, “Monsieur de Chateaubriand.” I then remained alone in front; for the crowd instantly retired, and re-formed in a circle around us. Bonaparte addressed me with simplicity, without questions, preamble, or compliments. He began speaking about Egypt and the Arabs, as if I had been his intimate friend, and he had only resumed a conversation already commenced betwixt us. “I was always struck,” said he, “when I saw the scheiks fall on their knees in the desert, turn towards the east, and touch the sand with their foreheads. What is that unknown thing which they adore in the east !” Speedily then passing to another idea, he said, “ Christianity the Idealogues wished to reduce it to a system of astronomy Suppose it were so. do they suppose they would render Christianity little? Were Christianity only an allegory of the movement of the spheres, the geometry of the stars, the esprits forts would have little to say: despite themselves, they have left sufficient grandeur to l'Infame.” Bonaparte immediately withdrew. Like Job in the night, I felt as if a spirit had passed before me; the hairs of my flesh stood up. }. not know its countenance; but I heard its voice like a little whisper. My days have been an uninterrupted succession of visions. Hell and heaven continually have opened under my feet, or over my head, without my having had time to sound their depths, or withstand their dazzling. I have met once, and once only, on the shores of the two worlds, the man of the last age, and the man of the new—Washington and Napoleon—I conversed a few moments with each—both sent me back to solitude—the first by a kind wish, the second by an execrable crime. I remarked that, in moving through the crowd, Bonaparte cast on me looks more steady and penetrating than he had done before he addressed me. I followed him with my eyes.
gauntlet to Napoleon, on occasion of the murder of the Duke d'Enghien:—
Two days before the fatal 20th March, I dressed myself, before taking leave of Bonaparte, on my way to the Valais, to which I had received a diplomatic mission ; I had not seen him since the time when he had spoken to me at the Tuileries. The gallery where the reception was going on was full; he was accompanied by Murat and his aide-de-camp. When he approached me, I was struck with an alteration in his countenance ; his cheeks were fallen in, of a livid hue ; his eyes stern ; his color pale; his air sombre and terrible. The attraction which had formerly drawn me towards him was at an end; instead of awaiting, I fled his approach. He cast a look towards me, as if he sought to recognize me, moved a few steps towards me, turned, and disappeared. Returned to the Hôtel de France, I said to several of my friends," Something strange, which I do not know, must have happened ; Bonaparte could not have changed to such a degree unless he had been ill.” Two days after, at eleven in the forenoon, I heard a man cry in the streets— “Sentence of the military commission convoked at Vincennes, which has condemned to the pain of DEAth Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon, born 2d August, 1772, at Chantilly.” That cry fell on me like a clap of thunder; it changed my life as it changed that of Napoleon. I returned home, and said to Madame de Chateaubriand—“The Duke d'Enghien has just been shot.” I sat down to a table and began to write my resignation—Madame de Chateaubriand made no opposition; she had a great deal of courage. She was fully aware of my danger; the trial of Moreau and Georges Cadoudel was going on ; the lion had tasted blood; it was not the moment to irritate him.—(Vol. iv. 228–229.)
After this honorable step, which happily passed without leading to Chateaubriand’s being shot, he travelled to the East, where he visited Greece, Constantinople, the Holy Land, and Egypt, and collected the materials which have formed two of his most celebrated works, L’Itinéraire à Jerusalem, and Les Martyrs. He returned to France, but did not appear in public life till the allies conquered Paris in 1814, where he composed with extraordinary rapidity his famous pamphlet entitled Bonaparte and the Bourbons, which had so powerful an effect in bringing about the Restoration. The royalists were now in power, and Chateaubriand was too important a man to be overlooked. In 1821 he was sent as ambassador to London, the scene of his former penury and suffering ; in 1823 he was made minister of foreign affairs, and in that capacity projected, and successfully carried through, the expedition to Spain which reseated Ferdinand on the throne of his ancestors; and he was afterwards the plenipotentiary of France at the congress of Verona, in 1824. He was too liberal a man to be employed by the administration of Charles X., but he exhibited an honorable constancy to misfortune on occasion of the revolution of 1830. He was offered the portfolio of foreign affairs if he would abstain from opposition; but he refused the proposal, made a last noble and eloquent speech in favor of his dethroned sovereign in the Chamber of Peers, and, withdrawing into privacy, lived in retirement, engaged in literary