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ing near him, and where the circumstance of being a stranger is far from commanding that respect and attention it once did, and still does out of Paris : somewhat of a more sullen and selfish turn very generally prevails, where people are not called upon by the rules of good company to make an effort to the contrary, and it may be traced, I think, in the nature of all those improvements which are conspicuous in Paris; they are generally such as a man may enjoy by himself, and all that can invite to a life of celibacy is extremely multiplied, and more seducing than ever: it happens, however, that a very different effect, to appearance, has sprung from the same cause-with all the additional incentives to selfish enjoyment; there is certainly an appearance of domestic happintess, which was not so conspicuous formerly ; a man now leads his wife into a room, and ventures to speak to her, and even sometimes to sit by her side without rendering himself ridiculous.
I never heard a single person speak of the revolution, which is now considered as over, but in terms of reprehension; even the emperor, if we are to believe Monsieur Carayon Nisas, one of the grossest flatterers among the tribunes, has been heard to wish, that it had never taken place; nor is there any restraint to the style of invective and ridicule with which the first promoters of it are mentioned. Laharpe, whose work is one of the few which do much honour to French literature, of those that have been published for the last twelve or fifteen years, speaks of Brissot and of the first republicans, and of their madness in provoking the resentment of all Europe, in order to exalt the imagination, and work upon the passions of the French people, in terms that surprised me extremely, terms very remote indeed from the language of those who are considered as the friends of the French in America. “ They invented phantoms, says he, to alarm the pride and wound the feelings of the nation."
A conference at Pilnitz which had no other object but to protect the sovereigns who were more immediately in danger from the political crusade of France, was artfully converted into a conspiracy, and particulars of the pretended agreement for the division of the republic were published as if derived from the most authentic information. Posterity will speak with contempt of this imaginary treaty of Pilnitz, of this stupid falsehood, which was so long made an instru ment to impose upon the credulity of mankind; and history will bear witness that no power had either the will, or thought it their interest to attack us, and that those who for our sins, and to the misfortunes of mankind, were at the head of the government, were afraid of no: thing so much as of the nation's being left to its own reflections.
The revolution, which has been favourable to talents of some descriptions, has been fatal to many branches of literature, the distinguished professors of which have perished together with those systems in church and state which they had so long promoted the distinction of. Their affected zeal for the poor and oppressed, their satires against the religious establishment of the country, and against religion itself, their ridicule so lavishly expended upon counts and princes, and all that was great and noble; all these which were so many claims upon the public consideration in times of popular commotion could not save them. They have either fallen victims to the comprehensive cruelty of Robespierre, or having fled to foreign countries, are now called upon to repay with flattery the permission of being allowed to return home.
It was perceivable at a very early date from the debates of the national assembly, that the distinguished orators who had sunk before their enemies left behind them no rivals for talents at least, or for general information. And the subsequent debates which have been published very often contain allusions to Roman and Grecian history, which are founded in ignorance and mistake. They sometimes tell us of those democrats, Cato and Brutus, who, in the quarrels of their country were certainly on the aristocratic side ; and a great deal has been more than once said of the scaffold of Cataline, whom every schoolboy knows to have died in a very different manner; and I could mention some gross errors in geography. There has appeared of late, however, a more candid and liberal historian in Lacritelle than one would suppose the present time admitted of; the Abbè de Lisle has distinguished himself by a translation of Milton, and by another of Virgil ; and the author of the Studies of Nature, and of Paul and Virginia is still alive. Lacepule too remains ; but the successor of Buffon is lost in the chancellor of the legion of honour. There are chymists, botanists, astronomers, natural historians, and above all, civil and military engineers; but there is no prospect of another literary generation, like that of the last years of the monarchy, for there are no similar means of education ; the colleges and academies of those times have disappeared; the central schools which might have diffused some knowledge among the people at large, have each of them been converted into a lycæum, the internal constitution of which is entirely military. What Alexander did with the thirty thousand youths whom he selected, as Plutarch tells us, in his way through a part of his conquests, Bonaparte seems desirous of effecting with the whole rising generation of the French nation. Boys who are taught very little Latin, who have a great deal of mathematics, and only now and then of geography, and arithmetic; who learn nothing of religion, history, or moral philosophy, and acquire no modern language but their own ; who are divided into companies, have their officers, wear a uniform, assemble by beat of drum, and go through the manual exercise as regularly as in a garrison; who live coarsely, and without any attention being paid to their morals in private, who are punished for offences against the discipline of the school by imprisonment within the bare walls, and upon the naked floor of a dungeon ; such boys, I say, will scarcely be fit for any thing but a military life. Ninety-eight hundreths of the nation meanwhile remain ignorant of the arts of reading and writing, and as their youth seems only calculated to furnish soldiers, who are to be officered from some lycæum, the whole nation rapidly assumes the appearance of a great military establishment. How such a force, under the absolute control and skilful direction of an ambitious, unfeeling, vindictive mind, may be next directed, must be a subject of serious apprehension. One might almost compare him to those supernatural powers that Milton speaks of ;
of which the least could wield Those elements, and arm him with the force of all their regions.
Power, says Johnson, which only the control of Omnipotence restrains from laying creation waste, and filling the vast extent of space with ruin and confusion. It is a fortunate circumstance that the ocean flows between him and us, as an ingenious member of congress once observed, and who ended with a prayer in which all America would, I believe join, if necessary, that it might long continue to do so-for it is certain that this great conqueror does not love us our republican prosperity, our liberty of the press, and something inveterately English in our laws and customs are offensive to him, and I should not be surprised if, when he shall have settled the affairs of the continent in Europe, he were to make the same proposal to England in the execution of some hostile design against us, which one of the rival kings does in Shakspeare at the seige of Angiers. He once thought so little of the resistance to be expected at St. Domingo, that the army after halting there for a few weeks, were to proceed to Louisiana, and thence he was to assail Canada in another war with England, intending, as he declared, to render the Americans very useful in the prosecution of his designs, and resolved, if they gave him the least trouble, to throw the United States into the sea ; and what will surprise you in a person of his sort, this declaration was made at a public levee. The national institute has taken the place of the four acadamies, which existed formerly, and may no doubt in time promote a taste for literature in society ; but as yet the diffusion of such knowledge as I could appreciate has been very slight indeed. I have been asked by a very well-dressed well-behaved man whether the United States were upon an island, and whether it was necessary in coming thence to pass through England in order to get to France. Numbers who are little better informed confounded us with the people of the West Indies, and some I really believe with those of the East, and they are generally in total ignorance of our government. A stranger in search of information on the arts and sciences would receive a degree of instruction in Paris which our country is very far indeed from producing; but he would be struck with the superior knowledge on questions of law, and government, and perhaps of geography among the people of America, where a person who occupies but a humble station in life is occasionally called upon to fill some of its most important functions.
There was something in the conduct of the commissioners sent to France by Mr. Adams in the time of the directory, and in the spirit and firmness of the president himself, supported by the zealous and unanimous declaration of the people, that raised for a time our national character, extremely; it has since, however, subsided, and we are blamed for our undecisive pusillanimous conduct. We manifest an inclination to injure, it is said, and are yet afraid to strike we are full of whining and lamentation towards the greater powers, whilst with regard to Spain, which may be considered as in its decreptitude, we act the part of the ass's colt towards the dying lion. A great many anecdotes too are remembered of our fraudulent sales of land, of families prevailed upon to quit Paris in the hope of plenty upon easy terms in some happier region, who have afterwards found themselves exposed to all the bitterness of want in unwholesome climates, or fallen victims to the inveterate hostility of the native Indians. We are, in short, with the far greater part of the French nation but what the Chinese call a race of second chop Englishmen.
Among the few persons of great literary reputation whom I had an opportunity of seeing in Paris, was the celebrated Miss Williams, whom Boswell speaks so handsomely of in his life of Johnson, and afterwards abuses in a note. She has very evident remains of beauty, is polite, and receives her company on particular evenings in a spacious room, which is very fancifully decorated. The walls are entirely covered with various authors in all languages, but this lettered uniformity is broken by pilasters at regular distances, on a projection from which are very handsome lamps, and at the foot of each is a flourishing cedar in an ornamental vase. Some circumstance or other, perhaps the reading of theoretical books on government, whose boards were stamped with daggers and caps of liberty, like those which Mr. Hollis sent over to Europe, gave this lady a very decided partiality in favour of the French nation at the commencement of the revolution, nor did she cease to praise and to palliate their conduct, and to promote, what she termed their most sacred cause, till the last important change proved too much for all her ingenuity, and even for all her partiality. She is now satisfied to be silent, and speaks of that golden dream of liberty which for a time amused the imaginations of her friends the Girondists, like a person rendered prudent by experience, but with what seemed to me, to be marks of very deep regret. Her last work is a collection of letters written by some of the late royal family during their confinement in the temples, and chiefly by the king, to whose mental arguments she does justice, while she accuses him of dissimulation, and indirectly makes him the author of all the horrors that ensued. I have heard Mr. Necker say, that these letters were not, and could not be genuine; but presuming, that they are genuine, or at least that Miss Williams thinks so, I cannot conceive how she could bring herself to publish them, and with notes and observations expressive of so much acrimony. The distress of a respectable and much-lamented individual is thus once more uselessly exposed to public view; his sighs and his groans are numbered ; his intentions mistated, and his expressions perverted into a malignant note, which it is intended shall diminish the sympathy of the reader, whose attention is dragged along through scenes which begin in doubt and discouragement, and end in desolation and despair : all the nonsense too which has been alledged of the queen by her enemies, and believed by the ignorant alone, is alluded to in this publication as true; and yet if Miss Williams could but know, what the malevolence of Paris accuses herself of, the circumstances to which it attributes her safety during the revolution, and the motives to which it, falsely as I am convinced, ascribes her present residence, she might be more careful how she insulted the memory of an unfortunate family.
In addition to the acquaintances which our letters procured us in Paris, we had the advantage of being frequently at the house of general Armstrong, whose kindness and hospitality I can never forget; and we lived in some degree of intimacy with the family of Mr. Bowdoin of Boston, who is appointed to the court of Madrid, but is detained in Paris, by some circumstance of public business. An American ambassador derives satisfaction, it is to be hoped, from filling an exalted station in a foreign country, and from a consciousness of the service that he renders, for his situation is in many respects an unpleasant one. He is frequently called upon to transact business which his former pursuits in life have not probably prepared him for, and he is obliged to live at an expense which, from the scantiness of the provision made by law, must encroach upon his private fortune.