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MISCELLANEOUS ESSAYS

CHATEAUBRIAND

[BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE, MARCH 1832 ]

CHATEAUBRIAND is universally allowed by the French, of all parties, to be their first writer. His merits, however, are but little understood in this country. He is known as once a minister of Louis XVIII., and ambassador of that monarch in London; as the writer of many celebrated political pamphlets; and the victim, since the Revolution of 1830, of his noble and ill-requited devotion to the unfortunate family

. Few are aware that he is, without one single exception, the most eloquent writer of the present age ; that, independent of politics, he has produced many works on morals, religion, and history, destined for lasting endurance; that his writings combine the strongest love of rational freedom with the warmest inspiration of Christian devotion ; that he is, as it were, the link between the feudal and the rerolutionary ages-retaining from the former its

generous and elevated feeling, and inhaling from the latter its acute and fearless investigation. The last pilgrim, with devout feelings, to the Holy Sepulchre, he was the first supporter of constitutional freedom in France ; discarding thus from former times their bigoted fury, and from modern, their infidel spirit ; blending all that was noble in the ardour of the Crusades, with all that is generous in the enthusiasm of freedom.

It is the glory of the Conservative Party throughout the world—and by this party we mean all who are desirous in

VOL. III.

А

every country to uphold the religion, the institutions, and the liberties of their fathers—that the two greatest writers of the age have devoted their talents to the support of their principles. Sir Walter Scott and Chateaubriand are beyond all question, and by the consent of both nations, at the head of the literature of France and England since the Revolution; and they will both leave names at which the latest posterity will feel proud, when the multitudes who have sought to rival them on the revolutionary side are buried in the waves of forgotten time. It is no small triumph to the cause of order in these trying days, that these mighty spirits, destined to instruct and bless mankind through every succeeding age, should have proved so true to the principles of virtue; and the patriot may well rejoice that generations yet unborn, while they approach their immortal shrines, or share in the enjoyments derived from the legacies they have bequeathed to mankind, will inhale only a holy spirit, and derive from the pleasures of imagination nothing but additional inducements to the performance of duty.

Both these great men are now under an eclipse, too likely, in one at least, to terminate in earthly extinction. The first lies on the bed, if not of material, at least, it is to be feared, of intellectual death ; and the second, arrested by the military despotism which he so long strove to avert from his country, has lately awaited in the solitude of a prison the fate destined for him by revolutionary violence. * But

“Stone walls do not a prison make,

Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take

That for an hermitage."

It is in such moments of gloom and depression, when the fortune of the world seems most adverse, when the ties of mortality are about to be dissolved, or the career of virtue is on the point of being terminated, that the immortal superiority of genius and virtue most strongly appear. In vain is the Scottish bard extended on the bed of sickness, and the French patriot confined to the gloom of a dungeon ; their works remain to perpetuate their lasting sway over the minds of men ; and while their mortal frames are sinking

Sir Walter Scott, at this period, was on his deathbed, and Chateaubriand imprisoned by order of Louis Philippe.

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