Page images

not as a humiliating contrast, but as able. Tibbs, and Bobadil, even wheit a fair occasion for reverting to that detected, have more of our admiraone day's state. It seemed an tion than contempt. But for a man “ equipage eteru” from which no to put the cheat upon himself; to power of fate or fortune, once mount- play the Bobadil at home; and, ed, had power thereafter to dislodge steeped in poverty up to the lips, to him.

fancy himself all the while chin-deep There is some merit in putting à in riches, is a strain of constitutional handsome face upon indigent circum- philosophy, and a mastery over forstances. To bully and swagger tune, which was reserved for my old away the sense of them before stran- friend Captain Jackson. gers, may not be always discommend



[ocr errors]


M. BENJAMIN CONSTANT-DE LA RELIGION.* This book of M. Benjamin Con- and moral life of the high classes of stant's is by no means a remarkable French society. And let no one in itself; it belongs, on the con- think for a moment that any discustrary, to a large class of works com- sion of the state of the moral haposed by men of the world, of some bits of the French is a matter of talent, and some address; but with- trifling import: the extent of its inout any profound views, or any fluence must be obvious to any one power of strict and logical deduction. who has mixed in a foreign circle ; It is, moreover, tiresome, ill-written, and even at home, where it might and wants unctionthat inward grace be less expected to exert any sway,

that spiritual anointing, which its power is well known. Paris is distinguishes the writings, for in- the capital of the Continent of Eustance, of the Ex-minister, M. de rope. All the upper ranks at PetersChateaubriand. When in a difficult burgh, as at Vienna, desire not only and abstruse discussion, a man bids to speak its language, but to adopt adieu to reasoning, and appeals to its opinions, and to believe in its the sens intime of mankind for a reso- belief. An Austrian Prince regards lution of the problem, he ought to a French Duchess much more write with unction, or not at all; he his compatriot, than he does a noble should write like Chateaubriand, who Canoness of Paderborn. has found out the art of touching and Now the work of M. Benjamin pleasing, while supporting lies and Constant is nothing more nor less absurdities of the most extravagant than the Gospel of the New Relikind, and which it is plain to see gion, which, at this moment, certain he does not himself believe a word Duchesses, and other ladies of the of. Constant, on the other hand, first rank, and of the highest fashion, succeeds exceedingly well in assum- and at the same time, perhaps, the ing the air of sincerity ; but, with cleverest of their class, are attemptall his talent, and with all his good ing to get up in Paris. qualities, he has a sterile imagina- It may not be uninteresting to cast tion—is deficient in the proper de- a hasty glance over the history of gree of sensibility, and of course the morals of the high ranks of has failed most completely in this at- France for the last forty years. It tempt in the art and 'mystery of is only known through the faithless glozing:

medium of the hypocritical romances However, had the merits of M. of Madame de Genlis, or else by the Constant's book been either much striking remarks on manners which greater or much less, we certainly Madame de Staël has scattered over should not have introduced it to the her Delphine, Corinne, and other notice of our readers, but for a rea- orks, vhi though full of sagason quite independent of its execu- city and truth, are too often wrapped tion. This work is curious, as making up in a gaudy and exaggerated style. a singular epoch in the history of And even these observations, and all French civilization-in the manners the pictures of French manners, in

• De la Religion, considérée dans sa Source, ses Formes, et ses Developements, par M. Benjamin Constant, vol. i. Paris, 1824. (Three other volumes are expected.)

? Je

the writings of Mesdames de Genlis, early education, forte, sensible and de Staël, d'Epinay, Campan, &c. re- judicious, and exceedingly opposed present a period which existed about to that absurd and ridiculous system 1789, before the Revolution. The in vogue in the Abbaye de BelleRevolution has changed every thing Chasse, and the other boardingin France; and yet we, as well as all schools a-lu-mode at the close of the the rest of Europe, persist in blind- old monarchy. (See in the Memoirs of ing ourselves to the alteration, and Madame Campan, a description of do not observe, or do not record, the the education which was given to the influence which it has had on the opi- Mesdames de France, the daughters nions, the manners, and the moral of Louis XV, in one of these places.) habits of society, in that country. By virtue of the great events and Europe sees always this society as the violent convulsions which preit existed when the latest news was ceded and followed the epoch of In published about it; which is, in fact, terreur, all the girls of rank, and of forty years ago.

the first society, had passed through The old monarchy of Louis XV a sufficiently rational and a very bequeathed to the French the cor- severe course of instruction,-when rupt manners of which Lauzun Napoleon, in 1804, brought prudery and Madame d'Epinay have left us into fashion, and by his influence abpictures, so faithful and so true, and solutely mounted her on the moral at the same time, now and then, so throne of France. Whatever had disgusting. With Louis XVI fell the been the previous habits of the Emmonarchy~it was replaced by the press Josephine with whatever erreign of terror; and those women rors scandal has charged her daughwho had made such faithless wives, ter-in-law, and the sisters of Napoand dissipated mothers, knew how leon, this great man, desirous of proto die with heroism. Among the curing consideration for his nascent thousands of women of the highest court, declared, with his will of ironi, ranks, and of the first society, who that it should be moral—and it was passed from the bosom of luxury, and moral. The girls who were twelve pleasure of the most refined, and cer- years of age in 1804 have consetainly not of a guiltless kind, to the quently been brought up under the scaffold, there was but one female, domination of this unavoidable lawMadame du Barry, the old mistress that no young wife shall ever appear, of Louis XV, who did not die, like a any-where without being accompamartyr and a heroine. So far is it nied by her busland. true, thanks to the national vanity in The austere manners of the new France, that courage is common to reign were the exact contrary of the both sexes and to all classes in that usages in vogue before the Revolucountry.

tion. A hundred monuments of the The women born under Louis XV, ancient monarchy prove the asserand who survived the terror, re- tion, which out of France appears paired again to society when secu- not a little extraordinary, and is rity returned, after the 18th Brumaire scarcely believed. Call to mind the (November, 1799), the commence- Philosophe Mariè, and the Prejugé ment of the reign of Buonaparte. a-la-mode, comedies of Destouches; These females, without doubt, re- and still at this day, or at least the tained the moral habits of their other day, when Louis XVIII reyouth-this youth, indeed, had gone ceived the ladies of his Court, they pre-but the fine delicate tact, which sented themselves in a manner now distinguished their time, quickly per- become strange in Paris, without their ceived the change, and felt the pro- husbands, and in the grand dress of priety of a decorum, which, under the the ancient court, which exposes the reign of the debonnair Louis XVI, neck in a manner grown unusual in and in the saloon of Madame la France. The saloon of the King is the Duchesse de Polignac, * would have only place in the country where such been thought excessively vulgar and a spectacle is to be found. For the last ridiculous.

twenty years a young married woAll the superior women born in man has never been seen in any France since 1788 have received an drawing-room in Paris, without your

# See the Memoirs de Bézenval.

being very sure to discover her gular, that virtue should descend husband in some corner or other, downwards from the throne ; it is playing at : ecarté. This eternal not common in any country, and constant presence of the husband is in France it was a thing unheard of. no doubt extremely laudable and From the time of. Francis 1, the very moral, but it has given a death- French kings have been invariably blow to the art of conversation. That the impudent corrupters of morals, which used formerly to be called and have scarcely bequeathed any l'amabilité française exists no longer thing in the way of virtue, except the in France. In the presence of the names of their mistresses. Before husband the wife loses her indepen- Francis I, there was nothing that dence; he is the established authority; could properly be called a court ; the and although he may be inclined to residence of the king being nothing wear his honours meekly, yet his real more than the head quarters of a power imposes restraint, and checks general exceedingly occupied in that abandonment of the spirit, out making war. So that, however astoof which spring the pleasantries, nishing it may appear, the first mothe delicate allusions, the jeux narch who set about reforming the d'esprit extremely innocent in them- morals of France was no other than selves, but such as will not flourish General Buonaparte, who found his in the presence of the authority as by interest in it, as the despotic founder law established. In wit, satire, gaiety, of a new dynasty. The Bourbons in short, in the comedy of society, in 1814 brought back the reign of the there is invariably something of the priests and mistresses. Nothing can spirit of opposition. Some play upon be more like the reign of Louis XV, established authority; they are in their than the reign of Madame du Cayla. very nature rebellious. To say no- There is not probably a young girl of thing of the gêne with which the eter- eighteen in Paris who is not perfectly nal presence of the same person must familiar with the name of that lady, cramp the genius-Who can tell a and who, prior to the death of Louis, story, or relate an anecdote, in the did not know her functions, and who hearing of a witness who you are moreover did not envy her; for this aware is at the time detecting the or- place carries with it a million of apnaments with which, for the sake of pointments. effect, you think it necessary to en- Fortunately, however, the Bourbons' liven your narration ? who can insert have no influence on public opinion. in the course of conversation, with The late king was old, very infirm, the proper impromptu air, the good never rode on horseback, and was in things which you have taken the day short incapable of cutting a brilliant to collect, under the observation of figure, otherwise the case might have one who has perhaps shared your la- been different. His government apbour. The thing is impossible. When pear to have said to each class, Turn the husband enters at the door, the out four of the most stupid fools art of conversation must necessarily

among you; and when, the order disappear at the window.

was obeyed, to have appointed the However, to return: from 1804 to said imbeciles to the head of each 1814, the best society of France class; and this not only in political was excessively austere and exces- departments, but in every branch, sively dull, compared with the good whether military, scientific, legal, or old times; but then to make up for medical. Perhaps, as we have said, it in some measure, under Napoleon, this system would meet with little virtue was all the fashion, morals opposition, could we only make the were in perfection, mothers dis king, for the time being, a brilliant charged the serious duties imposed young man, showing himself to the upon them by nature with the most people on horseback; whereas old scrupulous fidelity, and fathers Louis XVIII was lame, infirm, dreamed upon the dowries they should half dead—a prey to a thousand disgive their daughters, upon how little eases—but then he was an author, they could live, and in what manner and published Voyages à Coblentz. they could best manage their fortunes; This went a long way. However, in short, every lady was her own it would not entirely do; for the purse, and every gentleman his own first time, in France, the moral examsteward. It may appear rather sin- ple of the court has no material in

fluence on the general manners of the the establishment of a new sect! - My people. A few

duchesses, to be sure, salon shall become celebrated through have tried to square their virtue and all Paris. I shall take the lead of their morals bythe tradition of the court something; at least, on parlera de of Louis XVI, but public opinion has moi.A gospel and a creed were only left them stranded. They are talked wanting. It does not take much to about, it istrue; their names are quoted turn a French head. But, how es--but no longer as models of elegance tablish a new religion in Paris, withor bon ton. The crowd of young wo- out being covered with ridicule? that men who have since entered on the ridicule which twenty-five years world presented a barrier to the disc ago quenched the theophilanthropy soluteness of the interior court of the of La Reveillere-Lépaux. A happy late King and the Duchess de Berri, thought suggests itself; our friend which it was very difficult to over- Benjamin Constant is just going to throw, in spite of the brilliant draw- publish his history of the religious ing-rooms to which the advocates of sentiment-he shall be the St. Paul the old system could appeal—and of the new church. His politics are in spite of the dulness which reigns on the wane: he will be enchanted in these said drawing-rooms at this to head a new school. He shall first present moment. In the most splen- prove to the world that the sentiment did saloons of Paris the women are religieux must have a forme, that is, most frequently abandoned to their a form of worship; then, with that own society and congregate in a cor- address and dexterity which we ner, while the men sit apart discuss- well know enables him to say all, ing politics with each other, or play- and make all understand, without ingat ecarte. Nothing is more getting laughed at, he shall show common than to see in the best so- the vices of all the existing forms; ciety of France eight or ten hand- then, when he shall have clearly some well-dressed young women convinced his readers that all the sitting sadly in a heap, and now and known forms are bad, he must stop ; then exchanging a cold monosyllable, then, at this moment I will open my and never for an instant attracting salon ; but all must be done gently the attention of a man. So low are and cautiously. Benjamin shall pubthe mighty fallen, that unless evi- lish this work volume by volume ; dence the most irresistible, and even tread slowly, but surely; and like physical evidence be resisted, we St. Paul the first in his Epistles to may pronounce that the favourite the Corinthians, take measure of abode of that dæmon Ennui, which their spiritual wants. If Madame de all Frenchmen are said to hate above Staël had not been surprised by the all things, is to be found dans la haute sudden death which deprived the société de France.

world, one may almost say, in the A large society of these poor neg- flower of her age, of a woman the lected women, who have talents, most extraordinary that was ever hearts, and habitual belief, for they produced ; she who carried French all learnt their catechism under conversation, and the brilliant art of Buonaparte, is a fine materiel for a improvisation on every subject that new sect. They have imaginations, fell out, to the highest degree of and they have the passions and feelings perfection, would have declared of twenty-five, that period so greedy herself the chief of the new reliof emotion – which the prudery of gion. Being unable to dazzle by the existing manners controls, and her beauty, and now no longer ca. subdues, but at the expense of con- pable of shining by that amiability siderable weariness and disgust. which supplied its place; disgustMoreover, since 1820, the triumph of ed at the want of that birth inthe priests, the knavery of the Jesuits dispensable for making a distinof Montrouge and St. Acheul, who guished appearance at the Court of in a secret manner govern France, à Bourbon,-Madame de Staël, at and a thousand petty sanctified rogue- the moment of her death, was on the ries and vexations, have disgusted point of opening a rival salon in opthe more generous souls with Papism. position to the Court. The standard The priests have absolutely put the of this salon would have unfolded ladies of fashion out of love with their to the astonished eyes of all Europe catechism. Behold the moment for the word religion. The tricks of

Jesuits for the last few years would upon the Pyrennees, and all France have rendered the success of such a would rise for me." What then is salon more probable. For the last this charm, which would have led the twenty-five or thirty years, Madame French to slaughter for an insolent de Staël had demanded of Benjamin despot, because he could count a Constant, at that time her friend, a king or two among his ancestors ? work on religion. This is the book, This singular sentiment is very easy the first volume of which M. Benjamin to explain, although the grave GerConstant has just given to the world. mans find it exceedingly mysterious; Scandal says, that during this long it is the effect of the imagination, space of thirty years, M. Benjamin the which is a piece of the organizaConstant has changed three times tion of the man, just as is his eye or his opinions on this important subject. his hand. All men who are proWhen he commenced his work at perly made have imaginations. At the Berlin, at that time being exalted by end of every deluge, of every earththe German illumination, the cha- quake, or, even after a simple burst racter of Jesus Christ filled the work of thunder, this imagination has refrom one end to the other. Nay, we vealed to all people the existence believe, that a special revelation of of the Gods. This is what M. Conthe person of the Redeemer was stant calls the sentiment religieux. promised to the true believer. At Sixty years before the discoveries present, it is with infinite difficulty of Franklin, and the age of conductors, that we can discover his name with- a tempest, accompanied by a consiin the four corners of the book. In derable disengagement of electricity, all probability, the work would never and with a good many strokes of have appeared at all, had not the pretty loud thunder, roused in the occasion, of which we have spoken greatest part of the European world above, created a new necessity for it. the idea of the infinite and terrible It is the text book, or it was in- power of God. At present, we see notended to be, of the witty, handsome, thing more in thunder than an ordinary seducing, young duchesses, who wish phenomenon, which we can explain to have something to do; and pour with perfect ease.

On this subject, se desennuyer are about to open a M. Benjamin Constant says, Les drawing-room, where their guests croyances de tous les peuples se refumay converse on serious subjects, gient au delà de la circonférence de and take measures for the establish- leur connaissance. All this part of ment of the new faith. It was thus the book of M. Benjamin Constant is that Madame Guyon, the friend of borrowed from M. le Marquis de la Fénelon, arrived at a name under Place. This great man, in his MeLouis XIV. It is true, that was a canique Celeste, has developed the fine time for raising a new sect, for truth which we have just glanced then persecution was in vogue. The at with a strength and clearness of new religion will only be persecuted logic, which, to us, is far preferable by ridicule.

to the pretty sentimental phrases of M. Constant is, perhaps, the man M. Constant. Perhaps it is for this in France who possesses in the reason that M. Constant has forgotgreatest perfection the very difficult ten to mention the name of La Place. art of placing his opinions beyond We must, however, not forget that the reach of ridicule. M. Con- the apparent end of M. Constant is to stant gives us the history of all re- give the history of the sentiment reliligions; but, in order to treat this gieux, independent of the forms with tremendously long subject in four which men have invested it. Constant volumes, it was necessary not to explains cleverly enough the origin of write exactly the history of all re- these forms; that is to say, the oriligions, but the history of the re- gin of external worship. It is a wellligious sentiment, which is discussed known fact, that the more a sentiin this work. Now, what is this re- ment is sincere and violent in any ligious sentiment ? After the loss of human being, the more intolerant the battle of Waterloo, Napoleon, dis- this being is of those men who do cussing at the Palais de l'Elysée the not feel as he does. The mere sight different courses which were open of a man who doubts of that which to him, exclaimed, “ Ah! if I were he believes, shakes more or less the only my grandson, I would retire steadfastness of his own beliel, and


« PreviousContinue »