Imágenes de páginas

sparing hand It was natural that he should De angry with them, and especially angry with Addison. But what above all seems to have disturbed Sir Richard was the elevation of Tickell, who, at thirty, was made by Addison under-secretary of state; while the editor of the Tatler and Spectator, the author of the Crisis, the member for Stockbridge who had At first, both the anonymous opponents ob. been persecuted for firm adherence to the served the laws of propriety. But at length Steele house of Hanover, was, at near fifty, forced, so far forgot himself as to throw an odious impuafter many solicitations and complaints, to tation on the morals of the chiefs of the adminiscontent himself with a share in the patent of tration. Addison replied with severity; but, in Drury-lane theatre. Steele himself says, in our opinion, with less severity than was due to his celebrated letter to Congreve, that Addison, so grave an offence against morality and deco. by his preference of Tickell, "incurred the rum; nor did he, in his just anger, forget for a warmest resentment of other gentlemen;" and moment the laws of good taste and good breedevery thing seems to indicate that, of those re-ing. One calumny which has been often resentful gentlemen Steele was himself one. peated, and never yet contradicted, it is our duty to expose. It is asserted in the Biogra phia Britannica, that Addison designated Steele as "little Dicky." This assertion was repeated by Johnson, who had never seen the Old Whig, and was therefore excusable. It has also been repeated by Miss Aikin, who has seen the Old Whig, and for whom, therefore, there is less excuse. Now, it is true that the words "little Dicky" occur in the Old Whig, and that Steele's name was Richard. It is equally true that the words "little Isaac" occur in the Duenna, and that Newton's name was Isaac. But we confidently affirm that Addison's little Dicky had no more to do with Steele, than Sheridan's little Isaac with Newton. If we apply the words "little Dicky" to Steele, we deprive a very lively and ingenious passage, not only of all its wit, but of all its meaning. Little Dicky was evidently the nickname of some comic actor who played the usurer Gomez, then a most popular part, in Dryden's Spanish Friar.t

Addison reasoned well and Steele ill; and that consequently Addison brought out a false con. clusion, while Steele blundered upon the truth. In style, in wit, and in politeness, Addison maintained his superiority, though the Old Whig is by no means one of his happiest per formances.*

While poor Sir Richard was brooding over what he considered as Addison's unkindness, a new cause of quarrel arose. The whig party, already divided against itself, was rent by a new schism. The celebrated bill for limiting the number of peers had been brought in. The proud Duke of Somerset, first in rank of all nobles whose religion permitted them to sit in Parliament, was the ostensible author of the measure. But it was supported, and, in truth, devised by the prime minister.

We are satisfied that the bill was most pernicious; and we fear that the motives which induced Sunderland to frame it were not honourable to him. But we cannot deny that it was supported by many of the best and wisest men of that age. Nor was this strange. The royal prerogative had, within the me mory of the generation then in the vigour of life, been so grossly abused, that it was still regarded with a jealousy which, when the peculiar situation of the house of Brunswick is considered, may perhaps be called immoderate. The prerogative of creating peers had, in the opinion of the whigs, been grossly abused by Queen Anne's last ministry; and even the tories admitted that her majesty, in swamping, as it has since been called, the Upper House, had done what only an extreme case could justify. The theory of the English constitution, according to many high authorities, was, that three independent powers, the monarchy, the nobility, and the commons, ought constantly to act as checks on each other. If this theory were sound, it seemed to follow that to put one of these powers under the absolute control of the other two, was absurd. But if the number of peers were unlimited, it could not be denied that the Upper House was under the absolute control to us. the crown and the commons, and was indebted only to their moderation for any power which it might be

suffered to retain.

Steele took part with the opposition; Addison with the ministers. Steele, in a paper called the "Plebeian," vehemently attacked the bill. Sunderland called for help on Addison, and Addison obeyed the call. called the "Old Whig," he answered, and indeed refuted, Steele's arguments. It seems to us, that the premises of both the controversialists were unsound; that, on those premises,

The merited reproof which Steele had received, though softened by some kind and courteous expressions, galled him bitterly. He replied with little force and great acrimony; but no rejoinder appeared. Addison was fast hastening to his grave; and had, as we may well suppose, little disposition to prosecute a quarrel with an old friend. His complaint had terminated in dropsy. He bore up long and manfully. But at length he abandoned all hope,

* Miss Aikin says that these pieces, never having been reprinted, are now of extreme rarity. This is a mistake. They have been reprinted, and may be obtained without the smallest difficulty. The copy now lying before us

bears the date of 1789.

We will transcribe the whole paragraph How it can ever have been misunderstood is unintelligible

"But our author's chief concern is for the poor House of Commons, whom he represents as naked and defence less. when the crown, by losing this prerogative, would

be less able to protect them against the power of a House of Lords. Who forbears laughing when the Spanish Friar

represents little Dicky, under the person of Gomez, insulting the Colonel that was able to fright him out of his wits with a single frown? This Gomez, says he, flew upon him like a dragon, got him down, the Devil being strong in him, and gave him bastinado on bastinado, and buffet on which the Colonel, In a paper suffered with a most Christian patience. The improbability of the fact never fails to raise mirth in the audience; and one may venture to answer for a British Hou of Commons, if we may guess from its conduct hitherto,

that it will scarce be either so tame or so weak as oui author supposes."

himself to die.

dismissed his physicians, and calmly prepared | snares of vice; who had made h's cup rur over with worldly blessings; who had doubled the value of those blessings, by bestowing a thankful heart to enjoy them, and dear friends to partake them; who had rebuked the waves of the Ligurian gulf, had purified the autumnal air of the Campagna, and had restrained the avalanches of Mont Cenis. Of the Psalms, his favourite was that which represents the Ruler of all things under the endearing image of a shepherd, whose crook guides the flock safe, through gloomy and desolate glens, to mea dows well watered and rich with herbage. Oa that goodness to which he ascribed all the hap piness of his life, he relied in the hour of death with the love which casteth out fear. He died on the 17th of June, 1719. He had just entered on his forty-eighth year.

His body lay in state in the Jerusalem Cham ber, and was borne thence to the Abbey at dead of night. The choir sang a funeral hym Bishop Atterbury, one of those tories who had loved and honoured the most accomplished of the whigs, met the corpse, and led the proces sion by torch-light, round the shrine of Saint Edward and the graves of the Plantagenets, t the chapel of Henry the Seventh. On the north side of that chapel, in the vault of the house of Albemarle, the coffin of Addison lies next to the coffin of Montagu. Yet a few months—and the same mourners passed again along the same aisle. The same sad anthem was again chan ed. The same vault was again opened; and the coffin of Craggs was placed close to the coffin of Addison.

His works he intrusted to the care of Tickell; and dedicated them a very few days before his death to Craggs, in a letter written with the sweet and graceful eloquence of a Saturday's Spectator. In this, his last composition, he alluded to his approaching end in words so manly, so cheerful, and so tender, that it is difficult to read them without tears. At the same time he earnestly recommended the interests of Tickell to the care of Craggs.

Within a few hours of the time at which this dedication was written, Addison sent to beg Gay, who was then living by his wits about town, to come to Hoiland House. Gay went and was received with great kindness. To his amazement his forgiveness was implored by the dying man. Poor Gay, the most goodnatured and simple of mankind, could not imagine what he had to forgive. There was, however, some wrong, the remembrance of which weighed on Addison's mind, and which he declared himself anxious to repair. He was in a state of extreme exhaustion; and the parting was doubtless a friendly one on both sides. Gay supposed that some plan to serve him had been in agitation at court, and had been frustrated by Addison's influence. Nor is this improbable. Gay had paid assiduous court to the royal family. But in the queen's days he had been the eulogist of Bolingbroke, and was still connected with many tories. It is not strange that Addison, while heated by conflict, should have thought himself justified in obstructing the preferment of one whom he might regard as a political enemy. Neither is it strange that, when reviewing his whole life, and earnestly scrutinizing all his motives, he should think that he had acted an unkind and ungenerous part, in using his power against a distressed man of letters, who was as harmless and as helpless as a child.

One inference may be drawn from this anecdote. It appears that Addison, on his deathbed, called himself to a strict account; and was not at ease till he had asked pardon for an injury which it was not even suspected that he had committed-for an injury which would have caused disquiet only to a very tender conscience. Is it not then reasonable to infer that, if he had really been guilty of forming a base conspiracy against the fame and fortunes of a rival, he would have expressed some remorse for so serious a crime? But it is unnecessary to multiply arguments and evidence for the defence, when there is neither argument

nor evidence for the accusation.

The last moments of Addison were perfectly serene. His interview with his son-in-law is universally known. "See," he said, "how a Christian can die!" The piety of Addison was, in truth, of a singularly cheerful characcer. The feeling which predominates in all his devotional writings, is gratitude. God was to him the all-wise and all-powerful friend, who had watched over his cradle with more than maternal tenderness; who had listened to his cries before they could form themselves in prayer; who had preserved his youth from the

Many tributes were paid to the memory of Addison. But one alone is now remembered Tickell bewailed his friend in an elegy which would do honour to the greatest name in our literature; and which unites the energy and magnificence of Dryden to the tenderness and purity of Cowper. This fine poem was pre fxed to a superb edition of Addison's works, which was published in 1721, by subscription. The names of the subscribers proved how widely his fame had been spread. That his countrymen should be eager to possess his writings, even in a costly form, is not wonder ful. But it is wonderful that, though English literature was then little studied on the Continent, Spanish grandees, Italian prelates, mar shals of France, should be found in the list. Among the most remarkable names are those of the Queen of Sweden, of Prince Eugene, of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, of the Dukes of Parma, Modena, and Guastalla, of the Doge of Genoa, of the Regent Orleans, and of Cardinal Dubois. We ought to add, that this edition, though eminently beautiful, is in some impor• tant points defective: nor, indeed, do we ret possess a complete collection of Addison's writings.

It is strange that neither his opulent and noble widow, nor any of his powerful and at tached friends, should have thought of placing even a simple tablet, inscribed with his name, on the walls of the Abbey. It was not till three generations had laughed and wept over his pages that the omission was supplied by the public veneration. At length, in our own

master of pure English eloquence, to the consummate painter of life and manners. It was due, above all, to the great satirist, who alone knew how to use ridicule without abusing it, who, without inflicting a wound, effected a great social reform, and who reconciled wit and virtue, after a long and disastrous separa. tion, during which wit had been led astray by profligacy, and virtue by fanaticism.

time, his image, skilfully graven, appeared in Poet's Corner. It represents him, as we can conceive him, clad in his dressing-gown, and freed from his wig, stepping from his parlour at Chelsea into his trim little garden, with the account of the Everlasting Club, or the Loves of Hilpa and Shalum, just finished for the next day's Spectator, in his hand. Such a mark of national respect was due to the unsullied statesman, to the accomplished scholar, to the



THIS book has more than one title to our | aware that temptations such as those to which rerious attention. It is an appeal, solemnly the members of the Convention and of the made to posterity by a man who played a con- committee of public safety were exposed, must spicuous part in great events, and who repre- try severely the strength of the firmest virtue sents himself as deeply aggrieved by the rash Indeed, our inclination has always been to and malevolent censure of his contemporaries. regard with an indulgence, which to some rigid To such an appeal we shall always give ready moralists appears excessive, those faults into audience. We can perform no duty more use- which gentle and noble spirits are sometimes ful to society, or more agreeable to our own hurried by the excitement of conflict, by the feelings, than that of making, as far as our maddening influence of sympathy, and by ill. power extends, reparation to the slandered and regulated zeal for a public cause. persecuted benefactors to mankind. We therefore promptly took into our consideration this copious apology for the life of Bertrand Barère. We have made up our minds; and we now propose to do him, by the blessing of God, full and signal justice.

With such feelings we read this book, and compared it with other ccounts of the events in which Barère bore a part. It is now our duty to express the opinion to which this investigation has led us.

Our opinion then is this, that Barère ap It is to be observed that the appellant in this proached nearer than any person mentioned case does not come into court alone. He is in history or fiction, whether man or devil, to attended to the bar of public opinion by two the idea of consummate and universal deprav compurgators who occupy highly honourable ity. In him the qualities which are the proper stations. One of these is M. David of Angers, objects of hatred, and the qualities which are the member of the Institute, an eminent sculptor, proper objects of contempt, preserve an exqui and, if we have been rightly informed, a favour-site and absolute harmony. In almost every ite pupil, though not kinsman, of the painter particular sort of wickedness he has had rivals. who bore the same name. The other, to whom His sensuality was immoderate; but this was a we owe the biographical preface, is M. Hippo- failing common to him with many great and yte Carnot, member of the Chamber of Depu- amiable men. There have been many men as ties, and son of the celebrated Director. In the cowardly as he, some as cruel, a few as mean, judgment of M. David, and of M. Hippolyte a few as impudent. There may also have been Carnot, Barère was a deserving and an ill-used as great liars, though we never met with them man, a man who, though by no means faultless, or read of them. But when we put every must yet, when due allowance is made for the thing together, sensuality, poltroonery, baseness, force of circumstances and the infirmity of effrontery, mendacity, barbarity, the result is human nature, he considered as on the whole something which in a novel we should conentitled to our esteem. It will be for the public demn as caricature, and to which we venture to determine, after a full hearing, whether the to say, no parallel can be found in history. editors have, by thus connecting their names with that of Barère, raised his character or lowered their own.

It would be grossly unjust, we acknowledge, to try a man situated as Barère was by a severe standard. Nor have we done so. We have formed our opinion of him by comparing him, not with politicians of stainless character, not with Chancellor D'Aguesseau, or General Wash ington, or Mr. Wilberforce, or Earl Gray, but with his own colleagues of the Mountain. That party included a considerable number of the worst men that ever lived; but we see in it nothing like Barère. Compared with him, Fouché seems honest; Billaud seems humane; Hébert seems to rise into dignity. Every other chief of a party, says M. Hippolyte Carnot, has found apologists; one set of men exalts the Girondists; another set justifies Danton; a third deifies Robespierre; but Barère remains without a defender. We venture to suggest a very simple solution of this phenomenon. All the other chiefs of parties had some good qualities, and Barère had none. The genius, courage, patriotism, and humanity of the Giron dist statesmen, more than atoned for what was culpable in their conduct, and should have protected them from the insult of being compared with such a thing as Barère. Danton

We are not conscious that, when we opened this book, we were under the influence of any feeling likely to pervert our judgment. Undoubtedly we had long entertained a most unfavourable opinion of Barère; but to this opinion we were not tied by any passion or by any interest. Our dislike was a reasonable dislike, and might have been removed by reason. Indeed, our expectation was, that these Memoirs would in some measure clear Barère's fame. That he could vindicate himself from all the charges which had been brought against him, we knew to be impossible: and his editors admit that he has not done so. But we thought it highly probable that some grave accusations would be refuted, and that many offences to which he would have been forced to plead guilty would be greatly extenuated. We were not disposed to be severe. We were fully

*Mémoires de Bertrand Berère; publiés par MM. HIPPOLYTE CARNOT, Membre de la Chambre des Députés, et DAVID d'Angers, Membre de l'Institut: précédés d'une Notice Historique par H. CARNOT. Tomes. Paris: 1843.


like the cedar of Lebanon. It is barely possible that, under good guidance and in favourable circumstances, such a man might have slipped through life without discredit. But the unseaworthy craft, which even in still water would have been in danger of going down from its own rottenness, was launched on a raging ocean, amidst a storm in which a whole armada of gallant ships were cast away. The weakest and most servile of human beings found himself on a sudden an actor in a Revolution which convulsed the whole civilized world. At first he fell under the influence of humane and moderate men, and talked the language of humanity and moderation. But he soon found himself surrounded by fierce and resolute spirits, scared by no danger and restrained by no scruple. He had to choose whether he would be their victim or their accomplice. His choice was soon made. He tasted blood, and felt no loathing: he tasted it again, and liked it well. Cruelty became with him, first a habit, then a passion, at last a madness. So complete and It is true that he was not, as far as we are rapid was the degeneracy of his nature, that able to judge, originally of a savage disposi- within a very few months after the time when tion; but this circumstance seems to us only he passed for a good-natured man, he had to aggravate his guilt. There are some un- brought himself to look on the despair and happy men constitutionally prone to the darker misery of his fellow-creatures with a glee passions, men all whose blood is gall, and to resembling that of the fiends whom Dante saw whom bitter words and harsh actions are as watching the pool of seething pitch in Malenatural as snarling and biting to a ferocious bolge. He had many associates in guilt; but dog. To come into the world with this wretched he distinguished himself from them all by the mental disease is a greater calamity than to be Bacchanalian exultation which he seemed to born blind or deaf. A man who, having such feel in the work of death. He was drunk with a temper, keeps it in subjection, and constrains innocent and noble blood, laughed and shouted himself to behave habitually with justice and as he butchered, and howled strange songs and humanity towards those who are in his power, reeled in strange dances amidst the carnage. seems to us worthy of the highest admiration. Then came a sudden and violent turn of fortune. There have been instances of this self-com- The miserable man was hurled down from the mand; and they are among the most signal height of power to hopeless ruin and infamy. triumphs of philosophy and religion. On the The shock sobered him at once. The fumes other hand, a man who, having been blessed of his horrible intoxication passed away. But by nature with a bland disposition, gradually he was now so irrecoverably depraved, that the brings himself to inflict misery on his fellow- discipline of adversity only drove him further creatures with indifference, with satisfaction, into wickedness. Ferocious vices, of which he and at length with a hideous rapture, deserves had never been suspected, had been developed to be regarded as a portent of wickedness; and in him by power. Another class of vices, less such a man was Barère. The history of his hateful, perhaps, but more despicable, was now downward progress is full of instruction. Weak-developed in him by poverty and disgrace. ness, cowardice, and fickleness were born with Having appalled the whole world by great him; the best quality which he received from crimes perpetrated under the pretence of zeal nature was a good temper. These, it is true, for liberty, he became the meanest of all the are not very promising materials; yet out of tools of despotism. It is not easy to settle the materials as unpromising, high sentiments of order of precedence among his vices; but we piety and of honour have sometimes made are inclined to think that his baseness was, on martyrs and heroes. Rigid principles often do the whole, a rarer and more marvellous thing for feeble minds what stays do for feeble bodies. than his cruelty. But Barère had no principles at all. His character was equally destitute of natural and of acquired strength. Neither in the commerce of life, nor in books, did we ever become acquainted with any mind so unstable, so utterly destitute of tone, so incapable of independent thought and earnest preference, so ready to take impressions and so ready to lose them. He resembled those creepers which must lean on something, and which as soon as their prop is removed, fall down in utter helplessness. He could no more stand up, erect and self-support-aggerated. That suspicion is now at an end. ed, in any cause, than the ivy can rear itself The vindication is before us. It occupies iour uke the oak, or the wild vine shoot to heaven volumes. It was the work of torty years.

This is the view which we have long taken of Barère's character; but, till we read these Memoirs, we held our opinion with the diffi dence which becomes a judge who has heard only one side. The case seemed strong, and in parts unanswerable; yet we did not know what the accused party might have to say for him self; and, not being much inclined to take our fellow-creatures either for angels of light or for angels of darkness, we could not but feei some suspicion that his offences had been ex

VOL. V-79

3 G

and Robespierre were, indeed, bad men; but in both of then some important parts of the mind remained sound. Danton was brave and resolute, fond of pleasure, 'of power, and of distinction, with vehement passions, with lax principles, but with some kind and manly feelings, capable of great crimes, but capable also friendship and of compassion. He, therefore, naturally finds admirers among persons of bold and sanguine dispositions. Robes pierre was a vain, envious, and suspicious man, with a hard heart, weak nerves, and a gloomy temper. But we cannot with truth deny that he was, in the vulgar sense of the word, disinterested, that his private life was correct, or that he was sincerely zealous for his own system of politics and morals. He therefore naturally finds admirers among honest but moody and bitter democrats. If no class has taken the reputation of Barère under its patronage, the reason is plain: Barère had not a single virtue, nor even the semblance of one.

« AnteriorContinuar »