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render Christianity little ? Were Christianity only an allegory of the more. ment of the spheres, the geometry of the stars, the esprits forts would have little to say: despite themselves, they have left sufficient grandeur to l'Infame.'
Buonaparte immediately withdrew. Like Job in the night, I felt as if a spirit had passed before me; the hairs of my head stood up. I did not know its countenance; but I heard its voice like a little whisper.
“My days have been an uninterrupted succession of visions. Hell and heaven continually have opened under my feet, or over my head, without my having had time to sound their depths, or withstand their dazzling. I have met once, and once only, on the shores of the two worlds, the man of the last age, and the man of the new-Washington and Napoleon–I conversed a few moments with each—both sent me back to solitude—the first by a kind wish, the second by an execrable crime.
" I remarked that, in moving through the crowd, Buonaparte cast on me looks more steady and penetrating than he had done before he addressed me. I followed him with my eyes.
'Who is that great man who cares not
For conflagrations."' +-Vol. iv. 118-121. This passage conveys a just idea of Chateaubriand's Memoirs : his elevation of mind, his ardent imagination, his deplorable vanity. In justice to so eminent a man, however, we transcribe a passage in which the nobleness of his character appears in its true lustre, untarnished by the weaknesses which so often disfigure the character of men of genius. We allude to his courageous throwing down the gauntlet to Napoleon, on occasion of the murder of the Duke d'Enghien :
" Two days before the fatal 20th March, I dressed myself before taking leave of Buonaparte, on my way to the Valais, to which I had received a diplomatic mission; I had not seen him since the time when he had spoken to me at the Tuileries. The gallery where the reception was going on was full; he was accompanied by Murat and his aide-de-camp. When he approached me, I was struck with an alteration in his countenance : his cheeks were fallen in, of a livid hue ; his eyes stern ; his colour pale; his air sombre and terrible. The attraction which had formerly drawn me towards him was at an end : instead of awaiting, I fled bis approach. He cast a look towards me, as if he sought to recognise me, moved a few steps towards me, turned, and disappeared. Returned to the Hôtel de France, I said to several of my friends, "Something strange, which I do not know, must have happened : Buonaparte could not have changed to such a degree unless he had been ill.' Two days after, at eleven in the forenoon, I heard a man cry in the streets, Sentence of the military commission convoked at Vincennes, which has condemned to the pain of DEATH Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon, born 2d August 1772, at Chantilly.' That cry fell on me like a clap of thunder: it changed my life as it changed that of Napoleon. I returned home, and said to Madame de Chateaubriand—“ The Duke d'Enghien has just been shot.' I sat down to a table and began to write my resignation-Madame de Chateaubriand made no opposition : she had a great deal of courage. She
Alluding to the name l'Infame, given by the King of Prussia, d'Alembert, and Diderot, in their correspondences, to the Christian religion.
was fully aware of my danger : the trial of Moreau and Georges Cadoudal was going on: the lion had tasted blood : it was not the moment to irritate him."-Vol. iv. 228-229.
After this honourable step, which happily passed without leading to Chateaubriand's being shot, he travelled to the East, where he visited Greece, Constantinople, the Holy Land, and Egypt, and collected the materials which have formed two of his most celebrated works, L'Itinéraire à Jerusalem, and Les Martyres. He returned to France, but did not appear in public life till the Allies conquered Paris in 1814, when he composed with extraordinary rapidity his famous pamphlet entitled Buonaparte and the Bourbons, which had so powerful an effect in bringing about the Restoration. The Royalists were now in power, and Chateaubriand was too important a man to be overlooked. In 1821 he was sent as ambassador to London, the scene of his former penury and suffering ; in 1823 he was made Minister of Foreign Affairs, and in that capacity projected, and successfully carried through, the expedition to Spain which reseated Ferdinand on the throne of his ancestors ; and he was afterwards the plenipotentiary of France at the Congress of Verona in 1824. He was too liberal a man to be employed by the Administration of Charles X., but he exhibited an honourable constancy to misfortune on occasion of the Revolution of 1830. He was offered the portfolio of Foreign Affairs, if he would abstain from opposition ; but he refused the proposal, made a last noble and eloquent speech in favour of his dethroned sovereign in the Chamber of Peers, resigned all bis pensions and appointments, took his leave of the treacherous Senate, and, withdrawing into privacy, lived in retirement, engaged in literary pursuits, and in the composition or revising of his numerous publications, till bis death, which occurred in June 1848.
Such a life of such a man cannot be other than interesting, for it unites the greatest possible range and variety of events with the reflections of a mind of great power, ardent imagination, and extensive erudition. His autobiography, or Mémoires d'Outre Tombe, as it is called, was accordingly looked for with great interest, which has not been sensibly diminished by the revolution of 1848, which has brought a new set of political actors on the stage. Four volumes only have hitherto been published, but the rest may speedily be looked for, now that the military government of Prince Louis Napoleon has terminated that of anarchy in France, and permitted literary works, though in sorely diminished numbers, to reappear amongst them. The three first volumes certainly disappointed us: chiefly from the perpetual and offensive vanity which they exhibited, and the number of details, many of them of a puerile or trifling character, which they contained. The fourth volume, however, from which the preceding extracts have been taken, exhibits Chateaubriand, in many places, in his original vigour; and not less the noble and disinterested acts with which his public life terminated.
[ FOREIGN AND COLONIAL REVIEW, APRIL 1844 ]
It is a common and very just observation, that modern historical works are not so interesting as those which have been bequeathed to us by antiquity. Even at this distance of time, after two thousand years have elapsed since they were written, the great histories of Greece and Rome still form the most attractive subject of study to all ages. The young find in their heart-stirring legends and romantic incidents, keen and intense delight; the middle-aged discover in their reflections and maxims the best guide in the ever-changing, but yet ever the same, course of human events ; the aged recur to them with still greater pleasure, as embodying at once the visions of their youth and the experience of their maturer years.
It is not going too far to assert, that in their own style they are altogether inimitable, and that, like the Greek statues, future ages, ever imitating, will never be able to rival them.
This remarkable and generally admitted perfection is not to be ascribed, however, to any superior genius in the ancient to the modern writers. History was a different art in Greece and Rome from what it now is. Antiquity had no romances—their histories, based in early times on their ballads and traditions, supplied their place. Narrative with them was simple in event, and single in interest it related in general the progress of a single city or commonwealth ; upon that the whole light of the artist required to be thrown: the remainder naturally was placed in shade, or slightly illuminated only where it came in contact with the favoured object. With the exception of Herodotus, who, though the oldest historian in existence, was led by
the vigour of his mind, his discursive habits, and extensive travelling, to give, as it were, a picture of the whole world then known these ancient histories are all the annals of individual towns or little republics. Xenophon, Thucydides, Sallust, Livy, Diodorus Siculus, Dionysius Halicarnassensis, are all more or less of this character. The mighty genius of Tacitus alone seems to have embraced the design of giving a picture of the vast empire of Rome; and even in his hands history was still distinguished by its old character—the Forum was still the object of reverential interest -the Palatine Mount embraced the theatre of almost all the revolutions which he has so admirably portrayed; and his immortal work is less a picture of the Roman world under the Cæsars, than a delineation of the revolutions of the palace which shook their empire, and the convulsive throes by which they were attended throughout its various provinces.
In modern times, a far more difficult task awaits the historian, and wholly different qualities are required in him who undertakes to perform it. The superior age of the world—the eighteen hundred years which have elapsed since the Augustan age of Roman literature—the discovery of new nations, quarters of the globe, and hemispheres, since Livy concluded in one hundred and forty books the majestic annals of Roman victories—the close connexion of nations among each other, which have interlaced their story like the limbs of ancient wrestlers—the new sciences which have grown up and come to bear upon human events, with the growth of mankind and the expansion of knowledge and the prodigious perplexity of transactions, military, political, and moral, which require to be unravelled and brought in a clear form before the mind of the reader-have rendered the task of the historian now as laborious, complicated, and confused, as in former times it was simple, clear, and undivided. Unity of effect—that precious and important object in all the Fine Arts—has been rendered always difficult, sometimes impossible. The story is so complicated, the transactions so various, the interests so diverse, that nothing but the most consummate skill, and incessant attention on the part of the historian to the leading objects of his narrative, can prevent the mind of the reader from being