Imágenes de páginas

amiable and accomplished young man, whose early death Machiavelli feelingly deplores. After partaking of an elegant entertainment, they retire from the heat into the most shady recesses of the garden. Fabrizio is struck by the sight of some uncommon plants. His host informs him that, though rare in modern days, they are frequently mentioned by the classical authors, and that his grandfather, like many other Italians, amused himself with practising the ancient methods of gardening. Fabrizio expresses his regret that those who, in later times, affected the manners of the old Romans, should select for imitation their most trifling pursuits. This leads to a conversation on the decline of military discipline, and on the best means of restoring it. The institution of the Florentine militia is ably defended; and several improvements are suggested in the details.

habits were pacific, he studied with intense assiduity the theory of war. He made himself master of all its details. The Florentine government entered into his views. A council of war was appointed. Levies were decreed. The indefatigable minister flew from place to place in order to superintend the execution of his design. The times were, in some respects, favourable to the experiment. The system of military tactics had undergone a great revolution. The cavalry was no longer considered as forming the strength of an army. The hours which a citizen could spare from his ordinary employments, though by no means sufficient to familiarize him with the exercise of a man-atarms, might render him a useful foot-soldier. The dread of a foreign yoke, of plunder, massacre, and conflagration, might have conquered that repugnance to military pursuits, which both the industry and the idleness of great towns commonly generate. For a time the The Swiss and the Spaniards were, at that scheme promised well. The new troops ac- time, regarded as the best soldiers in Europe. quitted themselves respectably in the field. The Swiss battalion consisted of pikemen, and Machiavelli looked with parental rapture on bore a close resemblance to the Greek phalanx. the success of his plan; and began to hope The Spaniards, like the soldiers of Rome, were that the arms of Italy might once more be for- armed with the sword and the shield. The midable to the barbarians of the Tagus and the victories of Flaminius and Æmilius over the Rhine. But the tide of misfortune came on Macedonian kings seem to prove the superi before the barriers which should have with-ority of the weapons used by the legions. stood it were prepared. For a time, indeed, Florence might be considered as peculiarly fortunate. Famine and sword and pestilence had devastated the fertile plains and stately cities of the Po. All the curses denounced of old against Tyre seemed to have fallen on Venice. Her merchants already stood afar off, lamenting for their great city. The time seemed near when the sea-weed should overgrow her silent Rialto, and the fisherman wash his nets in her deserted arsenal. Naples had been four times conquered and reconquered, by tyrants equally indifferent to its welfare, and equally greedy for its spoils. Florence, as yet, had only to endure degradation and extortion, to submit to the mandate of foreign powers, to buy over and over again, at an enormous price, what was already justly her own, to return thanks for being wronged, and to ask pardon for being in the right. She was at length deprived of the blessings even of this infamous and servile repose. Her military and political institutions were swept away together. The Medici returned, in the train of foreign invaders, from their long exile. The policy of Machiavelli was abandoned; and his public services were requited with poverty, imprisonment, and torture.

The same experiments had been recently tried with the same result at the battle of Ravenna, one of those tremendous days into which human folly and wickedness compress the whole devastation of a famine or a plague. In that memorable conflict, the infantry of Arragon, the old companions of Gonsalvo, deserted by all their allies, hewed a passage through the thickest of the imperial pikes, and effected an unbroken retreat, in the face of the gendarmerie of De Foix, and the renowned artillery of Este. Fabrizio, or rather Machiavelli, proposes to combine the two systems, to arm the foremost lines with the pike, for the purpose of repulsing cavalry, and those in the rear with the sword, as being a weapon better adapted for every purpose. Throughout the work, the author expresses the highest admira tion of the military science of the ancient Romans, and the greatest contempt for the maxims which had been in vogue ainongst the Italian commanders of the preceding genera tion. He prefers infantry to cavalry; and for tified camps to fortified towns. He is inclined to substitute rapid movements, and decisive engagements, for the languid and dilatory operations of his countrymen. He attaches very little importance to the invention of gun. The fallen statesman still clung to his pro- powder. Indeed he seems to think that it ject with unabated ardour. With the view of ought scarcely to produce any change in the vindicating it from some popular objections, mode of arming or of disposing troops. The and of refuting some prevailing errors on the general testimony of historians, it must be subject of military science, he wrote his seven allowed, seems to prove, that the ill-construct books on the Art of War. This excellent worked and ill-served artillery of those times, is in the form of a dialogue. The opinions of the writer are put into the mouth of Fabrizio Colonna, a powerful nobleman of the Ecclesiastical State, and an officer of distinguished merit in the service of the King of Spain. He visits Florence on his way from Lombardy to his own domains. He is invited to meet some friends at the house of Cosimo Rucellui, an

though useful in a siege, was of little value on the field of battle.

Of the tactics of Machiavelli we will not venture to give an opinion; but we are cer tain that his book is most able and interesting As a commentary on the history of his times it is invaluable. The ingenuity, the grace, and the perspicuity of the style, and the eloquence

and animation of particular passages, must give pleasure even to readers who take no interest in the subject.

impart to them that vivid and practical character which so widely distinguishes them from the vague theories of most political philosophers.

The Prince and the Discourses on Livy were written after the fall of the republican govern- Every man who has seen the world knows ment. The former was dedicated to the young that nothing is so useless as a general maxim. Lorenzo de Medici. This circumstance seems │If it be very moral and very true, it may serve to have disgusted the contemporaries of the for a copy to a charity-boy. If, like those of writer far more than the doctrines which have Rochefoucauld, it be sparkling and whimsirendered the name of the work odious in later cal, it may make an excellent motto for an times. It was considered as an indication of essay. But few, indeed, of the many wise political apostasy. The fact, however, seems apophthegms which have been uttered, from to have been, that Machiavelli, despairing of the time of the Seven Sages of Greece to tha the liberty of Florence, was inclined to support of Poor Richard, have prevented a single fool any government which might preserve her ish action. We give the highest and the mosĮ independence. The interval which separated a peculiar praise to the precepts of Machiavelli, democracy and a despotism, Soderini and Lo-when we say that they may frequently be of renzo, seemed to vanish when compared with the difference between the former and the present state of Italy; between the security, the opulence, and the repose which it had enjoyed under its native rulers, and the misery in which it had been plunged since the fatal year in There are errors in these works. But they which the first foreign tyrant had descended are errors which a writer situated like Machia from the Alps. The noble and pathetic ex-velli could scarcely avoid. They arise, for the hortation with which the Prince concludes, shows how strongly the writer felt upon this subject.

The Prince traces the progress of an ambitious man, the Discourses the progress of an ambitious people. The same principles on which in the former work the elevation of an individual are explained, are applied in the latter to the longer duration and more complex interests of society. To a modern statesman the form of the Discourses may appear to be puerile. In truth, Livy is not a historian on whom much reliance can be placed, even in cases where he must have possessed considerable means of information. And his first Decade, to which Machiavelli has confined himself, is scarcely entitled to more credit than our chronicle of British kings who reigned before the Roman invasion. But his commentator is indebted to him for little more than a few texts, which he might as easily have extracted from the Vulgate or the Decameron. The whole train of thought is original.

real use in regulating the conduct, not so much because they are more just or more profound than those which might be culled from other authors, as because they can be more readily applied to the problems of real life.

most part, from a single defect which appears to us to pervade his whole system. In his po litical scheme the means had been more deep. ly considered than the ends. The great principle, that societies and laws exist only for the purpose of increasing the sum of private hap piness, is not recognised with sufficient clearness. The good of the body, distinct from the good of the members, and sometimes hardly compatible with it, seems to be the object which he proposes to himself. Of all political fallacies, this has had the widest and the most mischievous operation. The state of society in the little commonwealths of Greece, the close connection and mutual dependence of the citizens, and the severity of the laws of war, tended to encourage an opinion which, under such circumstances, could hardly be called erroneous. The interests of every individual were inseparably bound up with those of the state. An invasion destroyed his cornfields and vineyards, drove him from his home, and compelled him to encounter all the hardships of a military life. A peace restored him to security and comfort. A victory doubled the number of his slaves. A defeat perhaps made him a slave himself. When Pericles, in the Peloponnesian war, told the Athenians that if their country triumphed their private losses would speedily be repaired, but that if their arms failed of success, every individual amongst them would probably be ruined, he spoke no more than the truth. He spoke to men whom the tribute of vanquished cities supplied with food and clothing, with the luxuIt is, indeed, impossible to conceive a more ry of the bath and the amusements of the healthful and vigorous constitution of the un- theatre, on whom the greatness of their counderstanding than that which these works indi- try conferred rank, and before whom the memcate. The qualities of the active and the con-bers of less prosperous communities trembled; templative statesman appear to have been blended, in the mind of the writer, into a rare and exquisite harmony. His skill in the detais of business had not been acquired at the expense of his general powers. It had not rendered his mind less comprehensive, but it had served to correct his speculations, and to

On the peculiar immorality which has rendered the Prince unpopular, and which is almost equally discernible in the Discourses, we have already given our opinion at length. We have attempted to show that it belonged rather to the age than to the man; that it was a partial taint, and by no means implied general depravity. We cannot, however, deny that it is a great blemish, and that it considerably diminishes the pleasure which, in other respects, those works must afford to every intelligent mind.

and to men who, in case of a change in the public fortunes, would at least be deprived of every comfort and every distinction which they enjoyed. To be butchered on the smoking ruins of their city, to be dragged in chains to

Thucydides, il. 62

a slave-market, to see one child torn from them constructed theories as rapidly and as slightly to dig in the quarries of Sicily, and another to as card-houses-no sooner projected than comguard the harems of Persepolis; those were pleted-no sooner completed than blown away the frequent and probable consequences of na--no sooner blown away than forgotten. Mational calamities. Hence, àmong the Greeks, chiavelli errs only because his experience, ac patriotism became a governing principle, or quired in a very peculiar state of society, could rather an ungovernable passion. Both their not always enable him to calculate the effect legislators and their philosophers took it for of institutions differing from those of which he granted that, in providing for the strength and had observed the operation. Montesquieu errs greatness of the state, they sufficiently provid- because he has a fine thing to say and is reed for the happiness of the people. The writ- solved to say it. If the phenomena which lie ers of the Roman empire lived under despots before him will not suit his purpose, all history into whose dominion a hundred nations were must be ransacked. If nothing established by melted down, and whose gardens would have authentic testimony can be raked or chipped covered the little commonwealths of Phlius to suit his Procrustean hypothesis, he puts up and Platea. Yet they continued to employ the with some monstrous fable about Siam, or same language, and to cant about the duty of Bantam, or Japan, told by writers compared sacrificing every thing to a country to which with whom Lucian and Gulliver were verathey owed nothing. cious-liars by a double right, as travellers and as Jesuits.

Causes similar to those which had influenced the disposition of the Greeks, operated Propriety of thought and propriety of diction powerfully on the less vigorous and daring are commonly found together. Obscurity and character of the Italians. They, too, were affectation are the two greatest faults of style. members of small communities. Every man Obscurity of expression generally spring: from was deeply interested in the welfare of the so- confusion of ideas; and the same wish to dazciety to which he belonged-a partaker in its zle, at any cost, which produces affectation in wealth and its poverty, in its glory and its the manner of a writer, is likely to produce shame. In the age of Machiavelli this was pe- sophistry in his reasonings. The judicious culiarly the case. Public events had produced and candid mind of Machiavelli shows itself an immense sum of money to private citizens. in his luminous. manly, and polished language. The northern invaders had brought want to The style of Montesquieu, on the other hand, their boards, infamy to their beds, fire to their indicates in every page a lively and ingenious, roofs, and the knife to their throats. It was but an unsound mind. Every trick of expres natural that a man who lived in times like sion, from the mysterious conciseness of an these should overrate the importance of those oracle to the flippancy of a Parisian coxcomb, measures by which a nation is rendered formi-is employed to disguise the fallacy of some dable to its neighbours, and undervalue those which make it prosperous within itself.

Nothing is more remarkable in the political treatises of Machiavelli than the fairness of mind which they indicate. It appears where the author is in the wrong almost as strongly as where he is in the right. He never advances a false opinion because it is new or splendid, because he can clothe it in a happy phrase or defend it by an ingenious sophism. His errors are at once explained by a reference to the circumstances in which he was placed. They evidently were not sought out; they lay in his way and could scarcely be avoided. Such mistakes must necessarily be committed by early speculators in every science.

In this respect it is amusing to compare the Prince and the Discourses with the Spirit of Laws. Montesquieu enjoys, perhaps, a wider celebrity than any political writer of modern Europe. Something he doubtless owes to his merit, but much more to his fortune. He had the good luck of a valentine. He caught the eye of the French nation at the moment when it was waking from the long sleep of political and religious bigotry, and in consequence he became a favourite. The English at that time considered a Frenchman who talked about constitutional checks and fundamental laws, as a prodigy not less astonishing than the learned pig or the musical infant. Specious but shallow, studious of effect, indifferent to truth, eager to build a system, but careless of collecting those materials out of which alone a sound and durable system can be built, he VOL. I.-5

positions, and the triteness of others. Absurdi. ties are brightened into epigrams; truisms are darkened into enigmas. It is with difficulty that the strongest eye can sustain the glare with which some parts are illuminated, or penetrate the shade in which others are concealed.

The political works of Machiavelli derive a peculiar interest from the mournful earnestness which he manifests, whenever he touches on topics connected with the calamities of his native land. It is difficult to conceive any situa tion more painful than that of a great man, con. demned to watch the lingering agony of an exhausted country, to tend it during the alternate fits of stupefaction and raving which precede its dissolution, to see the symptoms of vitality dissappear one by one, till nothing is left but coldness, darkness, and corruption. To this joyless and thankless duty was Machiavelli called. In the energetic language of the prophet, he was "mad for the sight of his eyes which he saw,"-disunion in the council, effeminacy in the camp, liberty merce decaying, national honour sullied, an enlightened and flourishing people given over to the ferocity of ignorant savages. Though his opinions had not escaped the contagion of that political immorality which was comm among his countrymen, his natural disposition seems to have been rather stern and impetu ous than pliant and artful. When the misery and degradation of Florence, and the foul out rage which he had himself sustained roused his mind, the smooth craft of his profession and

his nation is exchanged for the honest bitterness of scorn and anger. He speaks like one sick of the calamitous times and abject people among whom his lot is cast. He pines for the strength and glory of ancient Rome, for the fasces of Brutus and the sword of Scipio, the gravity of the curule chair, and the, bloody pomp of the triumphal sacrifice. He seems to be transported back to the days, when eight hundred thousand Italian warriors sprung to arms at the rumour of a Gallic invasion. He breathes all the spirit of those intrepid and haughty patricians, who forgot the dearest ties of nature in the claims of public duty, who looked with disdain on the elephants and on the gold of Pyrrhus, and listened with unaltered composure to the tremendous tidings of Cannæ. Like an ancient temple deformed by the barbarous architecture of a later age, his character acquires an interest from the very circumstances which debase it. The original proportions are rendered more striking, by the contrast which they present to the mean and incongruous additions.

of Piero, and of Lorenzo, are, however, treated with a freedom and impartiality equally honourable to the writer and to the patron. The miseries and humiliations of dependence, the bread which is more bitter than every other food, the stairs which are more painful than every other assent, had not broken the spirit of Machiavelli. The most corrupting post in a corrupting profession had not depraved the generous heart of Clement.

The history does not appear to be the fruit of much industry or research. It is unquestionably inaccurate. But it is elegant, lively, and picturesque, beyond any other in the Italian language. The reader, we believe, carries away from it a more vivid and a more faithful impression of the national character and manners, than from more correct accounts. The truth is, that the book belongs rather to ancient than to modern literature. It is in the style, not of Davila and Clarendon, but of Herodotus and Tacitus; and the classical histories may almost be called romances founded in fact. The relation is, no doubt, in all its principal The influence of the sentiments which we points, strictly true. But the numerous little have described was not apparent in his writ- incidents which heighten the interest, the words, ings alone. His enthusiasm, barred from the the gestures, the looks, are evidently furnishcareer which it would have selected for itself, ed by the imagination of the author. The fashseems to have found a vent in desperate levity. ion of later times is different. A more exact He enjoyed a vindictive pleasure in outraging narrative is given by the writer. It may be the opinions of a society which he despised. doubted whether more exact notions are conHe became careless of those decencies which veyed to the reader. The best portraits are were expected from a man so highly distin- those in which there is a slight mixture of cariguished in the literary and political world. The cature; and we are not aware, that the best sarcastic bitterness of his conversation disgust-histories are not those in which a little of the ed those who were more inclined to accuse his licentiousness than their own degeneracy, and who were unable to conceive the strength of those emotions which are concealed by the jests of the wretched, and by the follies of the wise.

exaggeration of fictitious narrative is judiciously employed. Something is lost in accuracy; but much is gained in effect. The fainter lines are neglected; but the great characteristic features are imprinted on the mind forever.

The history terminates with the death of Lorenzo de Medici. Machiavelli had, it seems, intended to continue it to a later period. But his death prevented the execution of his design; and the melancholy task of recording the desolation and shame of Italy devolved on Guicciardini.

The historical works of Machiavelli still remain to be considered. The life of Castruccio Castracani will occupy us for a very short time, and would scarcely have demanded our notice, had it not attracted a much greater share of public attention than it deserves. Few books, indeed, could be more interesting than Machiavelli lived long enough to see the coma careful and judicious account, from such a mencement of the last struggle for Florentine pen, of the illustrious Prince of Lucca, the most liberty. Soon after his death, monarchy was eminent of those Italian chiefs, who, like Pisis- finally established-not such a monarchy as tratus and Gelon, acquired a power felt rather that of which Cosmo had laid the foundations than seen, and resting, not on law or on pre- deep in the constitution and feelings of his scription, but on the public favour and on their countrymen, and which Lorenzo had embelgreat personal qualities. Such a work would lished with the trophies of every science and exhibit to us the real nature of that species of every art; but a loathsome tyranny, proud sovereignty, so singular and so often misunder- and mean, cruel and feeble, bigote and lascistood, which the Greeks denominated tyranny,vious. The character of Machiavelli was hateand which modified in some degree by the feudal system, re-appeared in the commonwealths of Lombardy and Tuscany. But this little composition of Machiavelli is in no sense a history. It has no pretensions to fidelity. It is a trifle, and not a very successful trifle. It is scarcely more authentic than the novel of Belphegor, and is very much duller.

The last great work of this illustrious man was the history of his native city. It was written by the command of the Pope, who, as chief of the house of Medici, was at that time sovereign of Florence. The characters of Cosmo,

ful to the new masters of Italy; and those parts of his theory, which were in strict accordance with their own daily practice, afforded a pretext for blackening his memory. His works were misrepresented by the learned, miscon strued by the ignorant, censured by the church, abused, with all the rancour of simu lated virtue, by the minions of a base despotism, and the priests of a baser superstition. The name of the man whose genius had illuminated all the dark places of policy, and to

* Dante Paradiso, Canto xvii.


whose patriotic wisdom an oppressed people had owed their last chance of emancipation and revenge, passed into a proverb of infamy

For more than two hundred years his bones lay undistinguished. At length, an English nobleman paid the last honours to the greatest statesman of Florence. In the Church of Santa Croce, a monument was erected to his memory, which is contemplated with reverence by all who can distinguish the virtues


of a great mind through the corruptions of a
degenerate age; and which will be approached
with still deeper homage, when, the object to
which his public life was devoted shall be
attained, when the foreign yoke shall be bro-
ken, when a second Proccita shall avenge the
wrongs of Naples, when a happier Rienzi shall
restore the good estate of Rome, when the
streets of Florence and Bologna shall again
resound with their ancient-war cry-Popolo;
popolo; muoiano i tiranni!



THE public voice has assigned to Dryden | though there may be no person to whom our the first place in the second rank of our poets -no mean station in a table of intellectual precedency so rich in illustrious names. It is allowed that, even of the few who were his superiors in genius, none has exercised a more extensive or permanent influence on the national habits of thought and expression. His life was commensurate with the period during which a great revolution in the public taste was effected; and in that revolution he played the part of Cromwell. By unscrupulously taking the lead in its wildest excesses, he obtained the absolute guidance of it. By trampling on laws, he acquired the authority of a legislator. By signalizing himself as the most daring and irreverent of rebels, he raised himself to the dignity of a recognised prince. He commenced his career by the most frantic outrages. He terminated it in the repose of established sovereignty-the author of a new code, the root of a new dynasty.

Of Dryden, however, as of almost every man who has been distinguished either in the literary or in the political world, it may be said that the course which he pursued, and the effect which he produced, depended less on his personal qualities than on the circumstances in which he was placed. Those who have read history with discrimination know the fallacy of those panegyrics and invectives, which represent individuals as effecting great moral and intellectual revolutions, subverting established systems, and imprinting a new character on their age. The difference between one man and another is by no means so great as the superstitious crowd supposes. But the same feelings which, in ancient Rome, produced the apotheosis of a popular emperor, and, in modern Rome, the canonization of a devout prelate, lead men to cherish an illusion which furnishes them with something to adore. By a law of association, from the operation of which even minds the most strictly regulated by reason are not wholly exempt, misery disposes us to hatred, and happiness to love, al

• The Poetical Works of JOHN DRYDEN. In two volumes University Eduion, London, 1826.

misery or our happiness can be ascribed.
The peevishness of an invalid vents itself
even on those who alleviate his pain. The
good-humour of a man elated by success often
displays itself towards enemies. In the same
manner, the feelings of pleasure and admira-
tion, to which the contemplation of great events
gives birth, make an object where they do not
find it. Thus, nations descend to the absurdi-
ties of Egyptian idolatry, and worship stocks
Sacheverells and Wilkeses.
and reptiles
They even fall prostrate before a deity to
which they have themselves given the form
which commands their veneration, and which,
unless fashioned by them, would have remained
a shapeless block. They persuade themselves
that they are the creatures of what they have
themselves created. For, in fact, it is the age
that forms the man, not the man that forms
the age. Great minds do indeed react on the
society which has made them what they are;
but they only pay with interest what they have
received. We extol Bacon, and sneer at Aqui-
But if their situations had been changed,
Bacon might have been the Angelical Doctor,
the most subtle Aristotelian of the schools;
the Dominican might have led forth the sci-
ences from their house of bondage. If Luther
had been born in the tenth century, he would
have effected no reformation. If he had never
been born at all, it is evident that the sixteenth
century could not have elapsed without a great
schism in the church. Voltaire, in the days
of Lewis the Fourteenth, would probably have
been, like most of the literary men of that
time, a zealous Jansenist, eminent among the
defenders of efficacious grace, a bitter assail
ant of the lax morality of the Jesuits and the
unreasonable decisions of the Sorbonne. If
Pascal had entered on his literary career,
more general, and
when intelligence was
abuses at the same time more flagrant, when
the church was polluted by the Iscariot Dubois,
the court disgraced by the orgies of Canillac.
and the nation sacrificed to the juggles of
Law; if he had lived to see a dynasty of har-
lots, an empty treasury and a crowded harem,
an army formidable only to those whom it

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