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and animation of particular passages, must give pleasure even to readers who take no interest in the 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.
The Prince and the Discourses on Livy were written after the fall of the republican government. The former was dedicated to the young Lorenzo de Medici. This circumstance seems to have disgusted the contemporaries of the writer far more than the doctrines which have rendered the name of the work odious in later times. It was considered as an indication of political apostasy. The fact, however, seems to have been, that Machiavelli, despairing of the liberty of Florence, was inclined to support any government which might preserve her independence. The interval which separated a democracy and a despotism, Soderini and Lorenzo, 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, most part, from a single defect which appears shows how strongly the writer felt upon this to us to pervade his whole system. In his po subject. litical scheme the means had been more deeply considered than the ends. The great principle, that societies and laws exist only for the purpose of increasing the sum of private happiness, 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 luxury of the bath and the amusements of the theatre, on whom the greatness of their coun try conferred rank, and before whom the members of less prosperous communities trembled; 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
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.
It is, indeed, impossible to conceive a more healthful and vigorous constitution of the understanding than that which these works indicate. The qualities of the active and the contemplative statesman appear to have been blended, in the mind of the writer, into a rare and exquisite harmony. His skill in the detalis 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
impart to them that vivid and practical cha racter which so widely distinguishes them from the vague theories of most political philoso phers.
Every man who has seen the world knows that nothing is so useless as a general maxim. If it be very moral and very true, it may serve for a copy to a charity-boy. If, like those of Rochefoucauld, it be sparkling and whimsical, it may make an excellent motto for an essay. But few, indeed, of the many wise apophthegms which have been uttere, from the time of the Seven Sages of Greece to that of Poor Richard, have prevented a single fool ish action. We give the highest and the most peculiar praise to the precepts of Machiavelli, when we say that they may frequently be of 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.
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, among the Greeks, chiavelli errs only because his experience, acpatriotism 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.
Čauses similar to those which had influenced the disposition of the Greeks, operated powerfully on the less vigorous and daring character of the Italians. They, too, were members of small communities. Every man was deeply interested in the welfare of the society to which he belonged-a partaker in its wealth and its poverty, in its glory and its shame. In the age of Machiavelli this was peculiarly the case. Public events had produced an immense sum of money to private citizens. The northern invaders had brought want to their boards, infamy to their beds, fire to their roofs, and the knife to their throats. It was natural that a man who lived in times like these should overrate the importance of those measures by which a nation is rendered formidable 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 trath, 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. L-5
Propriety of thought and propriety of diction are commonly found together. Obscurity and affectation are the two greatest faults of style. Obscurity of expression generally spring: from confusion of ideas; and the same wish to dazzle, at any cost, which produces affectation in the manner of a writer, is likely to produce sophistry in his reasonings. The judicious and candid mind of Machiavelli shows itself in his luminous, manly, and polished language. The style of Montesquieu, on the other hand, indicates in every page a lively and ingenious, but an unsound mind. Every trick of expres sion, from the mysterious conciseness of an oracle to the flippancy of a Parisian coxcomb, is employed to disguise the fallacy of some positions, and the triteness of others. Absurdities 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 situation more painful than that of a great man, condemned 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 bit 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 extinguished, commerce decaying, national honour sullied, an enlightened and flourishing people given ever 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 outrage 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 corrupt ing 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 exaggeration of fictitious narrative is judiciouslicentiousness than their own degeneracy, and ly employed. Something is lost in accuracy; who were unable to conceive the strength of but much is gained in effect. The fainter lines those emotions which are concealed by the are neglected; but the great characteristic jests of the wretched, and by the follies of the features are imprinted on the mind forever. wise.
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 a careful and judicious account, from such a pen, of the illustrious Prince of Lucca, the most eminent of those Italian chiefs, who, like Pisistratus and Gelon, acquired a power felt rather than seen, and resting, not on law or on prescription, but on the public favour and on their great personal qualities. Such a work would exhibit to us the real nature of that species of sovereignty, so singular and so often misunderstood, which the Greeks denominated tyranny, and which modified in some degree by the feudal system, re-appeared in the commonwealths of Lombard 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,
Machiavelli lived long enough to see the commencement of the last struggle for Florentine liberty. Soon after his death, monarchy was finally established-not such a monarchy as that of which Cosmo had laid the foundations deep in the constitution and feelings of his countrymen, and which Lorenzo had embellished with the trophies of every science and every art; but a loathsome tyranny, proud and mean, cruel and feeble, bigoted and lascivious. The character of Machiavelli was hateful 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 illu minated all the dark places of policy, and to
Dante Paradise Caato xvji,
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, monument was erected to his memory, which is contemplated with reverence by all who can distinguish the virtues
Of Dryden, however, as of almost every man who has been distinguished eit 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
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 broken, 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!
[EDINBURGH REVIEW, 1828.]
the first place in the second rank of our poets -no mean station in 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.
THE public voice has assigned to Dryden | though there may be no person to whom our 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 admiration, to which the contemplation of great events gives birth, make an object where they do not find it. Thus, nations descend to the absurdities of Egyptian idolatry, and worship stocks and reptiles Sacheverells and Wilkeses. 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 Aquinas. 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 sciences 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. when intelligence was more general, and 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 t
The Poetical Works of JOHN DRYDEN. In two volumes University Edvion, London, 1826.
should have protected, a priesthood just religious enough to be intolerant, he might possibly, like every man of genius in France, have imbibed extravagant prejudices against monarchy and Christianity. The wit which blasted the sophisms of Escobar, the impassioned eloquence which defended the sisters of Port Royal, the intellectual hardihood which was not beaten down even by Papal authority, might have raised him to the Patriarchate of the Philosophical Church. It was long disputed whether the honour of inventing the method of Fluxions belonged to Newton or to Leibnitz. It is now generally allowed that these great men made the same discovery at the same time. Mathematical science, indeed, had then reached such a point, that if neither of them had ever existed, the principle must inevitably have occurred to some person within a few years. So in our own time the doctrine of rent now universally received by political economists, was propounded almost at the same moment, by two writers unconnected with each other. Preceding speculators had long been blundering round about it; and it could not possibly have been missed much longer by the most heedless inquirer. We are inclined to think that, with respect to every great addition which has been made to the stock of human knowledge, the case has been similar; that without Copernicus we should have been Copernicans, that without Columbus America would have been discovered, that without Locke we should have possessed a just theory of the origin of human ideas. Society indeed has its great men and its little men, as the earth has its mountains and its valleys. But the inequalities of intellect, like the inequalities of the surface of our globe, bear so small a proportion to the mass, that, in calculating its great revolutions, they may safely be neglected. The sun illuminates the hills, while it is still below the horizon; and truth is discovered by the highest minds a little before it becomes manifest to the multitude. This is the extent of their superiority. They are the first to catch and reflect a light, which, without their assist-ferences between men whom, if we are required ance, must, in a short time, be visible to those who lie far beneath them.
It is true that the man who is best able to take a machine to pieces, and who most clearly comprehends the manner in which all its wheels and springs conduce to its general ef fect, will be the man most competent to form another machine of similar power. In all the branches of physical and moral science which admit of perfect analysis, he who can resolve will be able to combine. But the analysis which criticism can effect of poetry is neces sarily imperfect. One element must forever elude its researches; and that is the very element by which poetry is poetry. In the description of nature, for example, a judicious reader will easily detect an incongruous image. But he will find it impossible to explain in what consists the art of a writer who, in a few words, brings some spot before him so vividly that he shall know it as if he had lived there from childhood; while another, employing the same materials, the same verdure, the same water, and the same flowers, committing no inaccuracy, introducing nothing which can be positively pronounced superfluous, omitting nothing which can be positively pronounced necessary, shall produce no more effect than an advertisement of a capital residence and a desirable pleasure-ground. To take another example, the great features of the character of Hotspur are obvious to the most superficial reader. We at once perceive that his courage is splendid, his thirst of glory intense, his animal spirits high, his temper careless, arbitrary, and petulant; that he indulges his own humour without caring whose feelings he may woundor whose enmity he may provoke, by his levity. Thus far criticism will go. But soemthing is still wanting. A man might have all those qualities, and every other quality which the most minute examiner can introduce into his catalogue of the virtues and faults of Hotspur, and yet he would not be Hotspur. Almost every thing that we have said of him applies equally to Falconbridge. Yet in the mouth of Falconbridge, most of his speeches would seem out of place. La real life, this perpetually occurs. We art sensible of wide dif
to describe them, we should describe in almost the same terms. If we were attempting to draw elaborate characters of them, we should scarce
The same remark will apply equally to the fine arts. The laws on which depend the pro-ly be able to point out any strong distinction; yet gress and decline of poetry, painting, and we approach them with feelings altogether dissculpture, operate with little less certainty than similar. We cannot conceive of them as using those which regulate the periodical returns of the expressions or gestures of each other. Let heat and cold, of fertility and barrenness. us suppose that a zoologist should attempt to Those who seem to lead the public taste, are, give an account of some animal, a porcupine in general, merely outrunning it in the direc-for instance, to people who had never seen it, tion which it is spontaneously pursuing. With- The porcupine, he might say, is of the genus out a just apprehension of the laws to which mammalia, and the order gliris. There are we have alluded, the merits and defects of whiskers on its face; it is two feet long; it Dryden can be but imperfectly understood. has four toes before, five behind, two foreteeth, We will, therefore, state what we conceive and eight grinders. Its body is covered with them to be hair and quills. And when all this had been The ages in which the masterpieces of ima- said, would any one of the auditors have gination nave been produced, have by no formed a just idea of a porcupine? Would means been those which taste has been any two of them have formed the same idea: most correct. It seems that the creative fa- There might exist innumerable races of aniculty and the critical faculty cannot exist toge-mals, possessing all the characteristics which ther in their highest perfection. The causes have been mentioned, yet altogether unlike to of this phenomenon it is not difficult to assign. each other. What the description of our natu