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lity, and with more than the vivacity and interest of the historian. It is true that he may have some faults in his own conduct to palliate, and that his work may show the traces of prejudices, too deep for the lapse of time to remove; but we must be content to put up with these abatements, for the sake of the advantages with which this sort of writing is attended. For ourselves, we had rather read his apology, if his character should need any, in his own words, where modesty obliges him to some little reserve, than in the memoir of a friend written after his death. Nobody looks for any thing like impartiality, hardly for any thing like moderate praise, in the biography of a distinguished individual drawn up soon after his decease. It is generally written by some friend, who makes it a point of interest or of duty to exal this memory: it professes to be a narrative; it is only an eulogy-an eulogy in which the topics of panegyric are exhausted. On the other hand, if we wait till the judgments of men concerning him have grown cool enough to form or admit a just estimate of his character, of what value is any account of his life that can be written? It becomes only the meager chronicle of events which might as well have happened to any body else; most of what was peculiar and interesting, minute traits which distinguished his character from that of other men, and instructive incidents which made his bistory valuable are forgotten. It is not, to be sure, every man who in the decline of life can give such an account of his past history as Franklin has done, whose work is one of the most popular and attractive in our language. One reason is, that there are few who possess his captivating manner of telling a story; and another, that few have been, in so eminent a degree
was, the architects of their own greatness. In all ages, men have looked with an eager and delighted curiosity upon the adventures of those whose superior wariness and sagacity seem to give them a sort of control over fortune, and the power of turning her sports in their own favour. Every man, however, possessing a mind of more than ordinary strength or cultivation, who has seen much of human life, will have many interesting and instructive matters to record which have made a part of his experience, or fallen within his observation. The life of the mere scholar is said to be barren of incident, and his biographers complain of the scantiness and dullness of their materials; yet, observe how interesting the history of that life becomes when related by himself. The memoirs of Gibbon are a more pleasing, as well as a better written work than his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The Life of Richard Cumberland is read with pleasure, by numbers
who never thought of looking at his novels, plays or epics; and Butler's Reminiscences are found on the shelves of every modern library. English literature, however, is not rich in works of this kind; that of France is peculiarly so. The natural communicativeness, some would perhaps say, the natural egotism, of the French character, comes in aid of the narrative propensity of old age, and an infinite number of these biographical sketches are produced, forming one of the largest, and not the least valuable branch of French literature. Nor are they composed by men of letters only. As almost every person of any note in France is an author, either in a great or a small way, so far at least as to have produced his apologue or his epigram, nobody feels any reserve about writing his own memoirs; and accordingly we have them from persons of all classes and in all stations, from generals and statesmen down to courtiers and chambermaids.
The book now before us, belongs to this fertile department of French literature. It is not written with the usual liveliness of French memoirs, and, like those of most persons who have figured as warriors and politicians, is a mixture of history and biography. The good Count's talent for historical writing is none of the most perfect. In giving an account of any political measure, he cannot restrain his impatience to set before the reader its final consequences. This he does by leaping at once over all the intermediate events, and then returning to his starting place, and relating them afterwards. This method occasions some repetitions, and, as the author uses few dates, no little confusion in parts of the narrative. The whole work, however, bears the impress of good sense and good temper, and is evidently written by a man of liberal views and unprejudiced feelings. It presents an interesting view of the state of manners during the early part of the reign of Louis XVI., and some tole. rable speculations on the causes which prepared the French nation for the revolution. The history given of the part ta ken in the war of the American revolution, and of the policy of the French cabinet at that period, though not well related, is not without its value ; while the account of the author's person al adventures in that war must be read with pleasure by every citizen of this country. The volume concludes with the recognition of the American independence, and the peace between Great Britain and France in 1783, when the author was about thirty years of age.
Count Segur was born in 1753, and was the son of that Marquis de Segur, who was seven years minister of war under Louis XVI., and who introduced certain reforms into the eco. Vol. I.
nomy and organization of the armies of France; in particular, that of no longer obliging the soldiers to lie three in a bedman improvement so important in the eyes of the Count, that he takes occasion to mention it several times in the course of the work. At his entrance into life, the Count belonged to a set of young noblemen who surrounded the king, and who, having imbibed some tincture of the philosophical doctrines professed by the literary men of that day, showed their contempt for the ancient order of things, by applauding republican scenes on the stage and harangues in favour of liberty pronounced in the academies. It was a favourite amusement of these young men, in which they were joined by the princes, the brothers of the king, to tease and perplex the old courtiers by breaches of the solemn etiquette which had been established in former reigns, by innovations upon the stately costume of the court, by the freedom with which they spoke of reforms, and the levity with which they animadverted upon the clergy and magistracy.
As they grew older, this generation of the French nobility fell upon different methods of showing their zeal for the cause of liberty. One class signalized their admiration of the free principles of the English constitution by imitating English fashions and adopting English vices, by laying out extensive gardens in the English manner and betting deeply at horse
Others, of a graver and more reflecting disposition, paid their court to the philosophers, and debated the death of Cesar. None of them foresaw, in the doctrines they were encouraging, the seeds of that revolution which not long after brought the overthrow of the throne and the aristocracy, which led many of the nobility to the block, and sent many into exile, and stripped all of their hereditary privileges and fortunes.
Count Segur entered early into the army. At the age of sixteen he was appointed a sub-lieutenant in a regiment of cavalry; iwo years after he was promoted to the rank of cap. tain, and in 1776, at the request of the Duke of Orleans, he was made a second colonel in the regiment of dragoons of Orleans. Soon after this appointment he made an excursion to the waters of Spa, which were then much in vogue, and greatly frequented. Here were assembled the natives of every country in Europe, living together in a liberty of which Europe offered no other example; every one following the customs of his own country, and expressing his opinions with the utmost freedom. It was here that Count Segur heard, for the first time, of those events which terminated in the independence of the United States. The news of the first blow struck by the Americans in defence of their liberties flew like lightning over Europe. Amidst the multitude of strangers casually collected at Spa from various countries, there was but one opi
nion and one feeling on the subject, and this was in favour of the Americans. On his return, the Count found the public mind at Paris agitated with the same feelings. He draws a curious picture of the gradual decline which he observed of the respect paid to rank and titles, and the superiority which genius was beginning to assume over noble birth. The courtiers came to solicit the friendship of men of letters, and an equality of manners took place, which made the great charm of Parisian society, and drew to that city strangers from every country.
About this time the American deputies, Silas Deane and Arthur Lee, arrived in Paris
“ The celebrated Benjamin Franklin was soon after added to their number. It would be difficult to describe the eagerness and the delight with which these men, the agents of a people in a state of insurrection against their monarch, were received in France, in the bosom of an ancient monarchy.
Nothing could be more striking than the contrast between the luxury of our capital, the elegance of our fashions, the magnificence of Versailles, the still brilliant remains of the monarchical pride of Louis XIV., and the polished and superb dignity of our nobility, on the one hand; and, on the other hand, the almost rustic apparel, the plain but firm demeanour, the free and direct language of the envoys, whose antique simplicity of dress and appearance seemed to have introduced within our walls, in the midst of the effeminate and servile refinement of the 18th century, some sages contemporary with Plato, or republicans of the
age of Cato and of Fabius.
“ This unexpected apparition produced upon us a greater effect, in consequence of its novelty, and of its occurring precisely at the period when literature and philosophy had circulated amongst us an universal desire for forms, a disposition to encourage innovations, and the seeds of an ardent attachment to liberty.”—pp. 81, 82.
Three young Frenchmen, distinguished by their rank at court, the Marquis de la Fayette, the Viscount de Noailles, and Count Segur, offered their services to the American commissioners. The first, at the age of nineteen, was master of his
person and fortune, and easily found means to elude the measures that were used to detain him. The two latter were dependant upon their parents; the Court issued a formal order, commanding them to abandon their intention of proceeding to America, and they were obliged to remain. Count Segur consoled himself as well as he could under the disappointment. He married Mademoiselle d'Aguesseau, mingled in the brilliant circles of Paris, and discussed the various, and, in some instances, strange topics of philosophy and national policy, which employed the ingenuity and eloquence of the Encyclopedists and their disciples.
“Such, indeed, was the eccentricity of that age, that, at the very moment when incredulity was in fashion, and all the ties of society were regarded as so many chains; when philosophy treated all ancient religions
and all old customs as so many prejudices, a large portion of these young and new sages were inflarned, some with a rage for the illuminés, or for the doctrines of Swedenborg, and Saint Martin, respecting the possible communication between men and celestial spirits; while many others, ranging themselves round the apparatus of Mesmer, confided in the universal efficacy of magnetism, were persuaded of the infallibility of the oracles of soinnainbulism, and never, for a moment, suspected the connection subsisting between this magical apparatus, of which they were become so enamoured, and the miraculous toinb of Paris, which they had so often turned into ridicule.”-p. 113.
“ A word in praise of D'Alembert, and Diderot, was better received than the most signal mark of favour bestowed by a prince. Gallantry, ambition, and philosophy, were all intermixed and confounded together. Prelates left their dioceses to intrigue for places, while our Abbés composed verses and amatory talcs.
" The republican doctrines of Brutus began to be applauded at court; eren monarchis appeared about to embrace the cause of a rebellious people against their king; util, at length, independence became the theme of camps, democracy was discussed at noblemen's tables, philosophy at balls, and morality in our boudoirs. What may most reasonably be regrertec, perhaps, belonging to an epoch like this, that will never occur again, was the avowed toleration of all opinions in the midst of conflicting systems, tastes, and wishes, and a moderation in the feelings of society, which formed its great charm."-p. 114.
“ It was, indeed, at the hotei de la Rochefoucauld, at the mansions of D'Alembert, and ot' Madame Geoffrin, that the most distinguished litetary and philosophical characiers assembled. There that spirit of liberty was to be found, which, while it enlightened the world, was destined to change its aspect, and, unhappily, also, to shake the old foundations of society, in seeking to substitute new.
“In the assemblies held at la Maréchale de Luxembourg's, de la Valliere's, and at ihe hotel de Choiseul, were to be seen all the most remarkable characters, whose accomplished manners, whose rank, or whose gallantry, had been conspicuous in the reign of Louis XV. At the house of Madame du Deffant there was always a number of distinguished foreigners, attracted by the curiosity of knowi'g more of the ancient and nodern character of a nation, which in their own countries, they, in their dulness, slandered and accused of frivolity, a nation, nevertheless, that has been, at all times, is, and will continue to be, the object of their jea lousy."--p. 116.
Count Segur represents the French ministry as strongly in clined to comply with the wishes of the nation, who were clamorous for a war with Great Britain, in aid of the American provinces. They were restrained, however, by the strict probity of Louis, who considered himself as under a moral obligation of remaining neutral, while there was no cause of complaint against England, sufficient to justify hostilities. The ministry, wavering between the will of the prince and that of the people, were led to commit one of the greatest political errors—they received the American envoys savourably, though secretly, encouraged the people to assist the provinces with arms and ammunition, and at the same time directed their am