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their own country without any anxiety to publish the history of the vanquished. They surrendered neither their opinions por their feelings. Xenophon in the centre of Athens did not conceal his admiratiou for the Lacedæmonians. Tacitus did not conceal or compromise his detestation of yrants. Every one professed to be what he really was, and it was for the reader to judge of the credibility of the historian, and the confideoce he should repose in him. To bistory, as in every thing else, we have talent only io depicting our owo impressions.
* We will not reproach Voltaire in particular with the faults which belong to the whole school of modern historians. But if we allow the style of composition which they have adopted, still considering history as a series of impartial researches destined to furnish the memory and exercise the reason, Voltaire is exposed to much criticism. The little of depth there is in his thoughts, his imperfect knowledge of characters, the tendency of his siyle to please, rather than to invite reflection, bave been the subjects of frequent strictures, and we may add to theni some still more serious. Voltaire in the reign of Louis XIV. sav nothing but the brilliancy of his victories, of literature and the arts.
He never thought of examining the character of the goveroment and of the administration of the king; the influence which it has had on the character of the nation; and the consequences which thence resulted. He has not remarked that perhaps no epoch of the history of France was more important by the change effected in the manners, the social relations, and the ancient spirit of the constitution. It is to the brilliant colouring of Voltaire that we are to ascribe the unbounded admiration of the reign of Louis XIV. IIe has made us forget that a king has other duties than to acquire glory for his empire." P. 31–33.
To these remarks, in the justice of which we perfectly concur, we must take the liberty of adding one or two further observations. The Age of Louis XIV.. has the misfortune to belong neither to the ancient nor the modern style of history. It is not, like the first, impassioned and picturesque; or, at least, it is so only in a very inferior degree. It is not, like the second, grave, candid, and reflective. The besoin de succés, (in English, the horror of being tiresome, which haunted Voltaire through life, furnishes, we think, the real key to the deficiencies of this work. It was this which made him adopt a light and rapid style, brilliant undoubtedly, and attractive, but ill suited to the dignity of his undertaking. It was this which made him so fearful of prolixity, that he has not allowed space to develop with suflicient fulness the events of so long and so busy a reign. It was this which tempted bim to fill a third part of his second volume with trifling anecdotes, which might suit the Memoires de St. Simon, but which ought not to have found a place in a serious and comprehensive history. It was this which led him in his account of Jansenism and Quietism to treat with entire levity disputes which are allied to the highest and the deepest feelings of the human heart, and which agitated
some of the most forcible, most devoted, and most virtuous spirits that have ornamented our nature. To be sure, dulness is a very heavy crime, more especially among Frenchmen: but as Mr. Burke observes of obstinacy, that though one of the most unpopular of vices, it is connected with almost all the masculine virtues; so may it be said of tediousness; for though never forgotten or forgiven, it is unquestionably allied to some of the first qualities which a writer can possess; to accuracy, order, gravity, reflection. It is a sort of high treason in literature ; and as none are so little in danger of falling into that great political offence as men absolutely destitute of all noble and patriotic sentiments, so in letters none are so clear of the kindred crime as those whose writings are uniformly slight and superficial. However, notwithstanding all this, such is the power of manner, and so happy is the style both in narrative and expression, of the Age of Louis XIV. that it will probably at all times be read more eagerly and more universally than any other piece of history in the French language. We are afraid, indeed, after all this criticism, of being understood to say that its merits are small. This we by no means think ; but in our estimation they are considerably below both its celebrity and its pretensions.
The essay on the manners of nations has been, perhaps, the most highly admired of all Voltaire's historical pieces by the graver and more judicious of his readers. Our author pays it some higle compliments ; but he observes that it is open to much of the criticisin offered upon the work last noticed, and, he adds, “ It merit, besides, a still graver censure; we there meet with little traces of that sectarian spirit adopted by Voltaire in the latter part of his life. His hatred to religion frequently betrays him into* bad faith and bad taste."
Beside the works and classes of works already noticed, Voltaire was the author of a vast mass of miscellaneous productions, which it is impossible to reduce under any regular heads. “I have not been in Paris (said he) these twenty years, but I have kept four presses constantly at work during the whole of that time." He wrote various articles for the Encyclopædia ; he published a variety of little Romans, such as Candide, Zadig, La Princesse de Babylon, &c. &c.; and he scribbled an innumerable number of pamphlets, some acknowledged, some anonymous, which were chiefly directed against his personal or literary enemies, a class of men which bis extreme violence and ridiculous irritability daily multiplied. His contributions to the Encyclopædia are chiefly composed of smart sallies or grave attacks on revealed religion ; and his Romans contain much exquisite raillery against foolish political institutions and opinions, together with some very merry
Mauvaise foi-in blant English, falsehood. Vol. IV. New Series. 21
impeachments of the general economy of Providence in the natural and moral government of mankind. Of religion in all its branches, Voltaire was profoundly and contemptibly ignorant. We are fully persuaded that he never reflected seriously for one half hour on a single phenomenon in the dispensations of God. He had dipped into the bible, but he had never read it ; and his misrepresentations are so gross and silly as to seem hardly worthy of refutation. Had a work such as the Réponse de quelques Juifs à M. Voltaire appeared against any other system in philosophy, the poor philosopher would have been discredited forever. In politics Voltaire was not wrong headed, but he was somewhat superficial, and so rash, irregular, and petulant, that his writings could scarcely have been tolerated under any government, or nseful to any people. Many of them also contain passages which are highly offensive to good morals. With a considerable proportion of his smaller pieces we have no acquaintance. Those which we have formerly read are generally remarkable for the exquisite pleasantry with which they expose many prevailing absurdities, and they are usually sullied with some passages of abominable impurity or profaneness.
These strictures are slight and imperfect, but they may serve to introduce the more comprehensive and penetrating observations which we are about to extract: the truth and impartiality of which are not less remarkable than the sagacity which they indicate.
“ It remains for us to speak of the spirit which he carried into philosophy: that is to say, of his opinions in relation to religion, morals, and politics. He has been accused of a formal design to overturn these three bases of the honour and the happiness of mankind. But whoever should attempt to find in Voltaire a system of philosophy, connected principles, a centre of opinions, would be greatly embarrassed. Nothing is less conformable to the serious idea which one forms of a philosopher than the kind of understanding and talents which belonged to Voltaire; perhaps it could only be in the eighteenth century that one could have thought of calling such a man by the name of philosopher. That he had the design of pleasing his own age, of exercising an influence over it, of revenging himself against his enemies, of forming a party to praise and defend him—all this is perfectly credible. He lived at a time when manners were lost, at least in the superior classes of society; and he did not respect morals. Envy and hatred employed against him the arms of religion when it was no longer respected by its owo defenders; he considered it only as the means of persecution. His country had a government without force, without consideration, and which did nothing to obtain them; he had the spirit of independence and opposition. Such were the real sources of his opinions. We can conceive how he acquired them without, on that account, excusing them. He proclaimed them continually without thinking of the effects which they might produce. However, he was far from showing in his errors the invariable confidence and extreme presumption of some writers of the same age.
“He himself, in one of bis romances, has given us a just idea of his philosophy. Babouc charged to examine the manners and institutions of Persepolis, discovers all its faults with great quickness, laughs at all its absurdities, attacks every thing with the most licentious liberty. But when in the end he thinks that the ruin of Persepolis may be the consequence of his definitive judgment, he finds advantages in every thing, and refuses to overțurn the city. This was Voltaire. He wished to have the liberty of criticising carelesly, and would laugh at any thing; but a revolution was quite out of his thoughts: he had too just an understanding, too great a contempt of vulgarity and the popuJace, to form such a wish. Unhappily, when a nation has got to philosopbising, like Babouc, it knows not how, like him, to stop and weigh its decision; it is only by a deplorable experience that it discovers, when too late, that it ought not to have destroyed Persepolis." P. 55–57.
We believe these observations to be true; and are persuaded that Voltaire, had he lived, would have resisted with all his power the revolutionary torrent which his writings, during half a century, had contributed to swell, and would practically have renounced those very opinions for which altars were erected to his memory in the Champ de Mars. Even before his death he lamented, with as much bitterness as perhaps he was capable of feeling, the mad and horrible excesses to which Diderot and others among the philosophers had advanced in their outrages upon religion and morals. He did not deliberately intend to overturn the foundations of either; but he had wantonly insulted both; and the same righteous law which has permitted us in some measure to command futurity by the wise employment of present opportunities, has established also a limit, beyond which recollection is vain, and the consequences of guilt irrevocable:
Sua cuique exorsa laborem
Having necessarily said a good deal in dispraise of Voltaire, it is but just to notice some particulars in which he merits approbation. Like other human beings, his character was mixed: with great vices he was not wholly destitute of good qualities; and there are several actions of his life which well deserve to be applauded. He appears to have been naturally humane, though his passions too frequently clouded his benevolence: he was often liberal; and he pleaded the causes of some unfortunate and in
jured families with much perseverance, generosity, and feeling. Ile was the first who powerfully recommended inoculation in France. He was among the first who endeavoured to dispel the national prejudices, and directed the eyes of his countrymen to the political institutions, the science, and the literature of England. He justly appreciated the soundness of the Newtonian philosophy, at a time when it had made bnt little progress on the continent; and though his encomiums of Mr. Locke are exaggerated, and indicate very little deptb in metaphysics, his clear sense enabled him to perceive that the process of investigation adopted by that great master was far more just and natural than that of his predecessors. In his sentiments respecting the political establishments and opinions of his own country he was often substantially right, though the language in which he presented them was generally dangerous and unbecoming: and he had the courage to laugh at the project of a territorial tax, though all the wise heads of the economists pronounced the expedient infallible.
For the miserable and devoted fury with which Voltaire assailed christianity we are neither willing nor able to attempt the slightest apology. It disgraced his life, it debased his writings, and it will cast the deepest shade over his memory
forever, Next to Voltaire in celebrity, and at least his equal in genius and learning, stands the President Montesquieu ; a name less idolized perhaps in France, but much more generally respected in other countries. The author of the Tableau bas furnished many striking reflections on his character and writings. After noticing his first work Les Lettres Persannes, so remarkable for their vivacity and acuteness, so abominable for their profaneness and libertinism, he proceeds thus :
“Subsequent to the publication of this work, every thing contributed to modify the character of Montesquieu; to give bim more of reserve in his opinions, and especially in his manner of announcing them. He was not a mere writer. His whole life was not cousecrated to literary successes; he held a situation full of gravity; it was neces. sary that he should respect the examples which his fathers had left him, and that he should merit the esteem of the class in which he was placed, and among whom knowledge only contributed to the growth of virtue. The President Montesquieu had not that sort of independence which men of letters so much covet, and which is injurious, perhaps, both to their talents and their characters. He was restrained by the ties of family, and by the duties of the corporation to which he beJopged. He did not live out of the range of business; he did not inhabit that theoretic world in which writers find nothing fixed and positive to bring them back to reason and truth when they begin to wander. Montesquieu, therefore, attached bimself to the laws of his country, to the character of his fellow citizens, and to the forms of their goveri.