« PreviousContinue »
his account of the religious and moral state of France at this present moment, an account which we are sorry to assert, is far too true. The distinction which he draws between the temper of the French and Euglish, in their moral feelings, is at once just and original. We have never before seen the characteristic features of the two nations brought so closely into comparison, nor so accurately and successfully displayed.
“ To return to the religious and moral state of France. It is remarkable that the dissolution of religious principle, the confusion of the Sabbath with the ordinary days of the week, the reduction of marriage to a state of decent and legal concubinage, from which parties can free themselves at pleasure, have, while thus sapping the foundations of the social affections, as well as of religious faith, introduced more vices than crimes, much profligacy, but less atrocity than might have been expected. A Frenchman, to whom you talk of the general decay of morality in his country, will readily and with truth reply to you, that if every species of turpitude be more common in France, delicts of that sort against which the law directs its thunder, are much more frequent in Bri. tain. Murders, robberies, daring thests, such as frequently occur in the English papers, are little known in those of Paris. The amusements and habits of the lower orders are, on all occasions of ordinary occurrence, more quiet, peaceable, and orderly, than · those of the lower English. There are no quarrels in the street, intoxication is rarely practised even by the lowest of the people, and when assembled for the purpose of public amusement, they * observe a good-humoured politeness to each other and to strangers, for which certainly our countrymen are not remarkable. To look at the thousands of rabble whom I have seen streaming through *the magnificent 'apartments at Versailles without laying a finger upon a painting or an article of furniture, and afterwards crowding the gardens without encroaching upon any spot where they could do damage; to observe this, and recollect what would be the conduct of an English mob in similar circumstances, compels me to acknowledge, that the French appear, upon such occasions, beyond comparison the more polished, sensible, and civilized people. But release both parties from the restraints imposed by the usual state of society, and suppose them influenced by some powerful incentive to passion and violence, and remark how much the contrast will be altered. The English populace will huzza, swear, threaten, break window's, and throw stones at the Life Guards engaged in dispersing them; but if a soldier should fall from his horse, the rabble, after enjoying a laugh at his expence, would lend a hand to lift him to his saddle again. A French mob would tear him limb from limb, and parade the fragments in triumph upon their pikes. In the same manner, the Englishman under arms retains the same frank, rough loyalty of character, without the alert intelligence and appearance of polished gallantry which a French soldier often exhibits to strangers. But it would be an outrage to our countrymen to compare the conduct of the two armies when pursuing a defeated enemy, or entering a country as invaders, when every evil passion is awake, and full licence is granted to satiate them.
“ The cause of so extraordinary a contrast may, I think, be expressed in very few words. The French act from feeling, and the British from principle. In moments, therefore, when the passions are at rest, the Frenchman will often appear, and be in reality, the more amiable of the two. He is generally possessed of intelligence and the power of reflection, both of which are great promoters of that limited sort of honesty which keeps the windy side of the law. He piques himself upon some understanding and perception of the fine arts, by which he is told his country is distinguished, and he avoids the rudeness and violence which con. stitute a barbarian. He is, besides, habitually an observer of the forms and decencies of society, and his ample means of indulging licentious passions without transgressing. The Frenchman is further, by nature and constitution, a happy and contented mortal, content with little, and attached to luxuries of the more simple kind; and a mind so constituted is usually disposed to extend its cheerfulness to others. The Englishman is, in some degree, the reverse of all this. His intelligence seldom goes beyond the art to which he is trained, and which he most frequently practises with mechanical dexterity only ; and therefore he is not by habit, unless when nature has been especially bountiful, much of a reasoning animal. As for pretending to admire or understand the fine arts, or their productions, he would consider such an effort of taste as the most ridiculous affectation, and therefore readily treats with contempt and disrespect what he would upon system be ashamed to understand. Vice and crime are equally forbidden by the Englishman's system of religious morals ; if he becomes stained with gross immorality, he is generally ready to rush into legal dilect, since, being divested of the curb of conscience, and destroyed in his own esteem, he becomes, like a horse without a bridle, ready to run upon any course which chance or the phrenzy of the moment may dictate. And this may show why, though the number of vicious persons be greater in France than in England in an enormous ratio, yet the proportion of legal criminals is certainly smaller. As to general temper and habits, the Englishman, less favoured in climate and less gay by constitution, accustomed to be a grumbler by his birth-right, very often disdains to be pleased himself, and is not very anxious to please others. His freedom, too, gives him a right, when casually mixed with his betters, to push, to crowd, to be a little riotous and very noisy, and to insult his neighbours on slight provocation, merely to keep his privileges in exercise. But then he is also taught to respect the law, which he invokes as his own protection; to weigh and decide upon what is just and unjust, foul and fair ; to respect the
religion religion in which he has been trained, and to remember its restraints, even in the moment of general licence. It might indeed be wished that some of the lighter and more amiable qualities of the French could be infused into our populace. But what an in. finitely greater service would the sovereign render to France, who should give new sensibility to those moral feelings which have too long lain torpid in the breasts of her inhabitants !" P. 407.'
Of the remainder of the volume, containing reflections on the manners, the amusements, and the politics of Paris, we can speak in terms of equal approbation, and we can fairly recommend it to our readers as a most amusing and instructive detail both of observations and of facts. Of all the various visits and tours with which the world has been inundated, this, as far as it goes, is decidedly the best. We only wish that the author had seen more and penetrated farther, as we should then have seen, what we seldom wish to see on these subjects, a larger and more substantial volume.
Art. XIV. The Siege of Corinth. A Poem. Parisina, • A Poem. 8vo. pp. 89.5s.6d. Murray. 1816. .
THE private histories and domestic feuds of living authors, are subjects so entirely beyond our jurisdiction, that not even our · chivalry in the cause of injured innocence, nor our detestation of 'oppressive brutality, shall provoke us to enter upon their discus. sion. The voice of public indignation has been raised in a manner almost unprecedented, against the noble author of the Poems before us, but with how much justice it is not our province to decide. If the charges preferred against him be false, it is for avother arm to expose and to punish the slander; if they be true, it is for the same public which gave bim the reputation which he now enjoys, to withdraw it in a manner the most exemplary. Upon one principle alone we think it our duty to make a firm and decided stand ; that no talent, however cominanding, no reputation, however splendid, shall protect a delinquent against the first great laws of national morality. We should view with just resentment a coterie either of poetical or political adherents, marshalling their forces not to vindicate the innocence, but to protect the guilt of some idol whom they had set up, and wor. shipped from feelings, more perhaps of fear than of love. There is, however, and, we trust, there will long continue to be, that sturdy justice in the British people, which will shame the palliations of reciprocal Aattery, and silence the batteries of clamor
ous licentiousness. The noble Lord has thought it worthy of hiinself to circulate, privately, a pair of poems in his defence, Mbich, from the numberless copies since published, would fairly become the objects of criticism. The first appears to be a schoolboy's lamentation over the loss of a mistress, with all the common place prettinesses which such an occasion might have, suggested; the second is a lampoon, more conspicuous for its bitterness than its spirit, upon some old governante. Upon these we shall only remark, that if the truth of the first is to be mea. sured by the manliness of the second, neither his Lordship's character nor his cause will have been much advanced by their publication. .
Leaving, however, the review of these effusions to those who may find themselves interested in so extraordinary a matter ; we shall hasten to those Poems which are more immediately the objects of our consideration, and involve the character of his Lord. ship as an author and not as a man.
The first of these is the Siege of Corinth. The historical event which gave rise to the Poem is as follows. The army of the Turks, in 1715, under the prime Vizier, designing to force a passage into ihe heart of the Morea, and to lay siege to Napoli di Romania, thought it advisable first to possess themselves of Corinth. The garrison being weakened after many attacks, the governor thought it advisable to open a negociation for a capitu. lation. While this was pending, a magazine in the Turkish camp accidentally blew up and killed six or seven hundred men. This so enraged the Turks that they broke off the negociation, and, after a furious storming, took the place and put the garrison, Minotti, and the governor to the sword.
By a poetical addition and alteration, the siege is conducted by Alp, a Venetian renegade, who, while a Christian, had won the heart of Francesca, the daughter of Minotti, now living within the walls of the city which he was preparing to storm. As he wapdess on the night preceding the attack, a vision, in the form of this lady, appears before him, who warus him of his fate if he persists in his apostacy. Alp, however, persists in his design.
The city is stormed, but Alp, in the career of victory, is arrested . by Mipotti, from whom he learns that at the very time when the vision appeared to him Francesca died. During his recontre with the father Alp is killed by a chance shot. Minotti tinding it impossible to check the progress of the enemy, tires the train, and Christians, Turks, defenders and assailants, perists in one com. mon ruin.
Of the Poem itself it is rather dangerous to give an opinion. From our knowledge of the satirical propensities of the noble Lord, we should almost imagine that he was desirous of passing
a banter upon the public taste, and of trying how much absurdity, under the coser of bis Lordship's name, it would gravely tolerate and admire. We are persuaded that nothing short of some sech bumorous design, would induce the noble Lord to print suck lines as the following.
“ Than yon tower-capt Acropolis
Which seemed the tery douds to kiss."
There shrinks po ebb in that tideless sea
Heedless if she come or go." His Lordship's burlesque upon the utter intelligibility of certain modern poets is admirably expressed in the following lines.
« Oat upon time! it will leave no more
O'er that which hath been, and oʻer that which must be." That" ten slow words oft creep in one dull line," Pope in his Dunciad has forewamed us; it is for the genius of his Lord'ship to harness eleren laine stragglers to his car, and to produce a series of words so utterly disjointed as those, which form the last line of the preceding extract. Had we any doubt of the burlesque intended in the Poem before us, the following passage would remove our doubts.
" And be saw the lean dogs beneath the wall