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CHARACTER OF BONAPARTE.
(From a London Paper.)
[We do not give this extract either as a model of correct composition, or as sub
scribing to the truth of all the opinions advanced in it. It is a fine spirited sketch, in the true taste of Irish eloquence, (we mean that of Grattan and Curran,) constantly straining at effect, frequently rising to great elevation and splendour, but sometimes alike sacrificing good taste and good sense to a trifling prettiness or empty rant. It is to be lamented that the author's flattering auguries of future good to mankind have not all been fulfilled, Spain has not yet risen to the blessings of a free constitution, nor religion rejoiced over the last ruins of the inquisition ; yet we must not despair; the progress of human happiness and virtue may be delayed for a time, but their march, though sometimes slow, is sure.
Fond impious man! think'st thou yon sanguine cloud,
He is fallen! We may now pause before that splendid prodigy which towered among us like some ancient ruin whose frown terrified the glance its magnificence attracted. Grand, gloomy, and peculiar, he sat upon the throne, a sceptred hermit, wrapt in the solitude of his awful originality. A mind bold, independent, and decisive; a will despotic in its dictates; an energy that distanced expedition, and a conscience pliable to every touch of interest, marked the outline of this extraordinary character; the most extraordinary, perhaps, that, in the annals of this world, ever rose, or reigned, or fell. Flung into life, in the midst of a revolution that quickened every energy of a people that acknowledged no superior, he commenced his course, a stranger by birth, and a scholar by charity! With no friend but his sword, and no fortune but his talents, he rushed into the lists where rank, and wealth, and genius, had arrayed themselves, and competition fled from hiin as from the chance of destiny. He knew no motive but interest; he acknowledged no criterion but success; he worshipped no God but ambition, and with a stern devotion knelt at the shrine of his idolatry. Subsidiary to this, there was no creed that he did not profess; there was no opinion he did not promulgate. In the hope of a dynasty, he upheld the crescent; for the sake of a divorce, he bowed before the cross; the orphan of St. Louis, he became the adopted child of the republic; and with a parricidal ingratitude, on the ruins of the throne and the tribune, he reared the tower of his despotism! A professed catholic, he imprisoned the pope ; a pretended patriot, he impoverished the country; and in the name of
VOL. IV. New Series. 65
Brutus, * he grasped without remorse, and wore without shame, the diadem of the Cæsars !
Through this pantomime of his policy fortune played the clown to his caprices. "At his touch crowns crumbled, beggars reigned, systems vanished, the wildest theories took the colour of his whim, and all that was venerable, and all that was novel, changed places with the rapidity of a drama. Even apparent defeat assumed the operations of victory ; bis flight from Egypt confirmed destiny; ruin itself only elevated him to empire.
But if his fortune was great, bis genius was transcendent; decision flashed upon his councils, and it was the same to decide and to perform. To inferior intellects his combinations appeared perfectly impossible, his plans perfectly impracticable; but, in his hand, simplicity marked their development, and success vindicated their adoption. His person, partook the character of his mind ; if the one never yielded in the cabinet, the other never bent in the field. Nature had no obstacles that he did not surmount ; space no opposition that he did not spurn; and whether amid Alpine rocks, Arabian sands, or polar spows, he seemed proof against peril, and seemed empowered with ubiquity! The whole continent of Europe treinbled at beholding the audacity of his designs and the miracle of their execution. Scepticism bowed to the prodigies of his performance; romance assumed the air of history; nor was there aught too incredible for belief, or too fanciful for expectation, when the world saw a subaltern of Corsica waving his imperial flag over her most ancient capitals. All the visions of antiquity became commonplaces in her contemplation. Kings were his people; nations were his outposts; and he disposed of courts, and camps, and churches, and cabinets, as if they were the titular dignitaries of the chessboard.
Amid all these changes he stood immutable as adamant. It mattered little whether in the field or drawing room; with the mob or the levee; wearing the jacobin bonnet, or the iron crown; banishing a Braganza, or espousing a Lorraine ; dictating peace on a raft to the Czar of Russia, or contemplating defeat at the gal lows of Leipsic; he was still the same military despot.
Cradled in the camp, he was to the last hour the darling of the army. Of all his soldiers, not one forsook him till affection was useless, and their first stipulation was the safety of their favourite. They knew well that if he was lavish of them, he was prodigal of himself; and that if he exposed them to peril, he repaid them with plunder. For the soldier he subsidized every people ; to the people he made even pride pay tribute.
In his hypocritical cant after liberty, in the commencement of the revolution, he assumed the name of Bratas : Proh Pudor.
The victorious veteran glittered with his gains ; and the capitol, gorgeous with the spoils of art, became the miniature metropolis of the world. In this wonderful combination, his affectation of literature must not be omitted. The jailer of the press, he affected the patronage of letters ; the proscriber of books, he encouraged philosophy; the persecutor of authors, and the murderer of printers, he yet pretended to the protection of learning ! the assassin of Palm, the silencer of De Staël, and the denouncer of Kotzebue, he was the friend of David, the benefactor of De Lille; and sent his academical prize to the philosopher of Eng. land. *
Such a medley of contradictions, and, at the same time, such an individual consistency, were never united in the same character. A royalist, a republican, and an emperor; a mahometan, a catholic, and a patron of the synagogue; a subaltern and a sovereign; a traitor and a tyrant; a christian and an infidel; he was, through all his vicissitudes, the same stern, impatient, inflexible original; the same mysterious, incomprehensible self; the man without a model, and without a shadow.
His fall, like his life, baffled all speculation. In short, his whole history was like a dream to the world, and no man can tell how or why he was awakened from the reverie. Such is a faint and feeble picture of Napoleon Bonaparte, the first (and it is to be boped the last) emperor of the French.
That he has done much evil there is little doubt; that he has been the origin of much good there is just as little. Through his means, intentional or not, Spain, Portugal, and France, have arisen to the blessings of a free constitution; superstition has found her grave in the ruins of the inquisition; and the feudal system, with its whole train of satellites, has fled forever. Kings may learn from him that their safest study, as well as their noblest, is the interest of the people. The people are taught by him, that there is no despotism so stupendous against which they have not a resource; and to those who would rise on the ruins of both, he is a living lesson, that if ambition can raise him from the lowest station, it can prostrate them from the highest.
Porson's Character of Gibbon's History. An impartial judge, I think, must allow, that Mr. Gibbon's History is one of the ablest performances of its kind that has ever appeared. His industry is indefatigable; his accuracy scrupu
Sir Humphrey Davy was transmitted the first prize of the academy of arts and sciences.
lous; his reading, which, indeed, is sometimes ostentatiously displayed, immense; his attention always awake; his memory retentive; bis style emphatic and expressive; his periods harmoni
His retiections are often just and profound; he pleads eloquently for the rights of mankind, and the duty of toleration; por does his humanity ever slumber, unless when women are ravished, or the christians persecuted.
Mr. Gibbou shoxs, it is true, so strong a dislike to Christianity, as visibiy disqualifies him for that society, of which he has created Alumianus Marcellinus president. I confess that I see nothing wrong in Mr. Gibbon's attack on Christianity. It proceeded, I doubt not, froin the purest and most virtuous motive. We can only blame bin for carrying on the attack in an insidious manner, and with improper weapons. He often makes, when he cannot readily find, an occasion to insult our religion ; which he hates so cordilly, that he might seem to revenge some personal injury. Such is his eagerness in the cause, that he stoops to the most despicable pun, or to the most awkward perversion of language, for the pleasure of turning the Scripture into ribaldry, or of calling Jesus an impostor.
Though his style is, in general, correct and elegant, he sometimes draws out the thread of his verbosity finer than the staple of his argument. In endeavouring to avoid vulgar terms, he too frequently dignifies trifles, and clothes common thoughts in a splendid dress, that would be rich enough for the noblest ideas. In short, we are too often reminded of that great man, Mr. Prig, the auctioneer, whose manner was so inimitably fine, that he had as much to say upon a ribbon as a Raphael.
Sometimes, in his anxiety to vary his phrase, he becomes obscure; and, instead of calling his personages by their names, defines them by their birth, alliance, office, or other circumstances of their history. Thus an honest gentleman is often described by a circumlocution, lest the same word should be twice repeated in the same page. Sometimes epithets are added, which the tenour of the sentence renders unnecessary. Sometimes, in his attempts at elegance, he loses sight of English, and sometimes of sense.
A less pardonable fault is that rage for indecency which pervades the whole work, but especially the last volumes. And, to the honour of his consistency, this is the same man who is so prudish that he dares not call Belisarius a cuckold, because it is too bad a word for a decent historian to use. If the history were anonymous, I should guess that these disgraceful obscenities were written by some debauchee, who, having from age, or accident, or excess, survived the practice of lust, still indulged himself in the Juxury of speculation; and exposed the impotent imbecility, after he had lost the vigour, of the passions.
Original.- For the Analectic Magazine.
(Holland has often defended herself against those charges of literary dulness with
which the wits of France and England have assailed her, by proudly repeating the names of her three illustrious sons, Grotius, Erasmus, and Boerhaave. But it is a fact much less generally known, and not a little singular, that the most classical, the gayest, the most tender, and the most spirited of the modern Latin poets was a Dutchman. Johannes Secundus, an orator, a seulptor, and a poet of great excellence, was born at the Hague in 1511, and died at Utrecht in the twentyfourth year of his age. His minor poems, though sometimes a little trespassing on the stricter rules of prosody, are among the most pleasing productions of modern Latinity. They have the grace of Catullus, without his revolting impurity. One of these gay and elegant sports of fancy is founded on that beautiful passage in the first Æneid, in which Virgil describes the boy Ascanius, lulled to sleep by Venus, in the groves of Idalia.
At Venus, Ascanio placidam per membra quietem
Secundus' elegant expansion of this idea has been thus prettily imitated by an anonymous American poet :]
When Venus to Ida young Tülus brought,
That none might the tender illusion destroy,
How oft was she tempted the boy to embrace