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Euvres de Condorcet completées sur les MSS. originaux : enrichies d'un grand
nombre de Lettres inedites de Voltaire, de Turgot, fc. : précedées de l'Eloge de Condorcet, par M. F. Arago : publices par A. Condorcet O'Connor, Lieutenant-Général, et M. F. Arago, Secretaire perpetuel de l'Academie des Sciences. 12 tomes 8vo. Paris, 1847-1849.
Of these twelve volumes the slenderest | plied the inedited materials of the collection, has 600 pages—the most corpulent reaches and it is, no doubt, published at their exto 823 Of that first and monster tome 180 pense. pages are given to a biographical preface by Bulky as it is—more bulky, in fact, than Arago ; 65 pages to letters between Con- the one of 1804, in twenty-one ordinary dorcet and Voltaire ; 170 to correspondence volumes—we miss here again several tracts with Turgot and others; the rest to academ- which made noise enough in their day, and ical discourses and other minor pieces con- of which we possess the original editions, sidered as illustrating important steps in Con- with the author's name to them. Several dorcet's personal career. The second and others, which M. Arago labels as now for the third volumes consist of his Eloges on first time printed, are also on our shelves as Academicians. There succeed three of “ Mé- yellow tea-paper pamphlets of the revolulanges de Littérature et de Philosophie;" one tionary period—and it is probable that of them wholly occupied with the Life of their text, as given from Condorcet’s MS., Voltaire and Notes on his works-another may be distinguished only by wanting his with the historical Essays composed after final correction—but that is a point which Condorcet's proscription. The remaining six we lack zeal to investigate. What is cervolumes are “ Economie-Politique et Poli- tainly new comprises almost all Condorcet's tique.” The arrangement and editorship are, letters to Voltaire-perhaps half of Voltaire's we presume, wholly M. Arago's. Condor to him—and the far greater part of the corcet's daughter and her husband, the well-respondence with Turgot. "The prefatory known General Arthur O'Connor, have sup- | narrative was printed a few years ago in the VOL. XXI. NO, I.
Journal des Sarans—but those quartos have, 1 yet to witness more fruits of the science of we suppose, very little circulation beyond | 1789. the learned brotherhood; and M. Arago has Though M. Arago spends several pages in now added an entertaining Epilogue, of explaining why he gives not an Eloge but a which more anon. On the whole, it seems Biographie, his bookseller's title-page speaks very improbable that the cost of these huge the truth, and his preliminary essay is in fact octavos will ever be repaid ; but the really much more of a Panegyric than a Life. He novel and popular materials entombed in the las, in truth, very little feeling for anything ponderous cenotaph will soon be reproduced connected with his hero except the mathein a couple of handy duodecimos—at Brus- matics and the politics; but of his studied sels, if Paris be not on the alert. At all contempt of mere practical information, we events, there can be no doubt as to what con- need give no other instance than that you cerns Voltaire.
read the Biographie on till within a few For M. de Condorcet we cannot affect the pages of its close, without once finding the enthusiasm which M. Arago proclaims. He man designated as a Marquis—and the cirseems to have been amiable--for his time and cumstance is then alluded to only because it country exemplary-in bis domestic rela
was necessary to exalt the merit of Condorcet tions ; he was a man of vigorous talents and in moving a resolution of the Legislative Asvery extensive accomplishments; but why sembly that all patents of nobility, heraldic M. Arago should speak of the nom glorieux pedigrees, and other similar records and docude Condorcel we are at a loss to comprehend. ments, should be collected and burnt by He was in no walk truly original-not in any the public executioner. sense of the word a genius--nor, as to mere If we may put any trust in earlier and less acquisition, had he studied any one subject worshipful biographers, Condorcet, down to or science so profoundly as to merit a place the dawn of the revolution, was rather noted among its first-rate masters. He was (to for the importance he attached to the advanparody Johnson's phrase) a man of letters tages of his birth. The family name was among the savants, a savant among the men Caritat. They were said to have been of of letters—the best possible Secretary and Italian origin, but had been classed for many Eloge-maker for the Academy-rix amplius. generations with the gentry of Dauphiny, The cleverest of the lighter pieces, viz., the and took their title from the little town and “ Lettres d'un Théologien,” are such close chateau of Condorcet. His father, however, copies of Voltaire's controversial tracts-of was a younger brother and captain of horse, his peculiar style of sarcasm and insolence and from him the philosopher appears to that, to the Patriarch's annoyance, they have inherited little or no fortune.* He was passed at the moment for his own. Condor- born at Ribemont, in Picardy, a. D. 1743. cet's Political Economy is, first and last, an The Captain died early, and he was left to elaborate expansion of Turgot—of his politi- the guardianship of his mother, whom Arago cal writings prior to 1788, we may say the describes as a devotee of the weakest credusame thing. His conduct from the com-lity, and his father's elder brother, the mencement of the revolution to the fall of Bishop of Lisieux, a prelate of considerable the Girondists seems to us very unworthy of distinction, and notable not least for his Arago's lofty eulogies. The history of his closing months brings out some striking * The utter laxity, under the later reigns at features of resolution and self-command; but least of the old régime, as to the assumption of all on the whole, his public career was that of an
titles below that of Duke, is so notorious that we uninteresting variety of the mischief-maker, may be contented with barely alluding to it. Whe
ther the Terre of Condorcet had ever been erected -a sort of frigid fanatic, who calmly inculcated formally into a Marquisat, we cannot say -- we only on the multitude lessons that they were sure know that no such Marquisate is to be found in the into carry out into atrocity, and who, though dex to Anselme, or any other old Nobiliaire we bave he might not have foreseen the extreme ap: how, if there was a real Marquisate, the son of a
been able to examine. We are equally uninformed plication of his own doctrines, was at least
younger brother came to be the titulaire. It is ready enough to exert all the resources of probable that the head of the family, being an Echis literary skill in apologizing for the prac- clesiastic, may have obtained leave to resign the cical results. When an Arago could extol secular honor to his cadet. Whenever M. Arago such a man in the face of the Academicians mentions that gentleman, he calls him merely Cap
tain Caritat—but this may be a bit of republican of 1845, as a model of philosophic and
affectation. With our own radical newspapers, the patriotic virtue, the Guizots who listened to Bishops of London and Exeter are rarely more than him might have suspected that they were Dr. Blom field and Dr. Philpotts.
Jesuitic connections, tenets, and zeal. The He had become so enamored of science that
him in the first class of mathematicians: ArWhen he had reached his twelfth summer, ago evidently does not. He had the advanthe episcopal uncle protested against the pet- tage of appearing at a season very favorable ticoats, and the gracility of his lower fabric for the exercise of ingenuity, when the Calwas for the first time revealed to common culus was in rapid development, and there eyes when he removed to the Jesuit seminary was something for any sharp eye to discover. at Rheims. The mother wished him to pre- These eras are the Californias of science : pare for a clerical career, but the Caritats a new source of wealth is opened which the strongly disapproved of this, and it was set first comers gather—and then follows a petled that he should follow the paternal pro- riod of severer toil and slender gains until a fession of arms, of which, as the Bishop ob- fresh and unwroughtregion is again disclosed. served, many of the most illustrious orna- Condorcet was an eager adventurer, but he ments, Condé, for instance, had been trained found grains rather than lumps, and above under the Company of Jesus. At this school, all, he did not persevere. His chief efforts Condorcet made rapid progress-in mathe- were directed to extending the scope of the matics especially—and being transferred in Calculus—to bring it to bear upon cases in 1758 to the College of Navarre at Paris, he which it had previously proved unmanageathere also carried off the highest prizes year ble. Unfortunately, however, bis most amafter year, and became decidedly the most bitious formula are precisely those of which distinguished of its alumni. One of his prize the value is most doubtful. He never atessays was read in the presence of D’Àlem- tempted to apply them himself, and we bebert, who prophesied that the youth would lieve they have not proved of the slightest by and bye be an honor to the Academy. I service to the world. It may, we think, be
asserted safely that science would have stood | implored Condorcet to find some substitute where it does if he had never lived. Skillful at the Academy, and undertake the care of analyst as he was, he discovered no the invalid during a winter of Italy. The principle-no great step can be ascribed to Secretary agreed to make this sacrifice, and him. We observe that considerable impor- the pair started : but their reception at Fertance is still attached by some English wri- ney was so delightful that week after week ters to his Essay on the application of the passed away there until it was thought too Calculus to judicial questions. He was not late for crossing the Alps, or the restoration the first who worked on that ground—and of D'Alembert seemed to authorize a return if he went much more into detail than the to Paris. This introduction to Voltaire detwo or three who had preceded him, he has termined the future career of Condorcet. in the sequel been very largely distanced, From that time, if he did not lay aside his especially in our own time, by Poisson. His abstract science, at least he gave up all notreatise is very ingenious, and we may say tion of forwarding its march, and contented amusing, but there is a radical flaw in all himself with noting and recording, in a style tentamina of the class—there are not, and of distinguished excellence, the trophies never can be, real data for the application of erected by steadier enthusiasts. Voltaire had the mathematical theory of probabilities to been much struck with his literary facility, judicial decisions, or to any other questions and inoculated him effectually with the pasin which allowance must be made for the in- sion for philosophical proselytism. In a word, calculable variety in the talents, attainments, he was now to be one of the most active and moral qualities of men. But we do not contributors to the Encyclopedie ; and Didepresume to dissert on a subject as to which rot, &c., became bis most intimate companthose who wish to pursue it can consult a ions at Paris, while his correspondence with scientific authority so high as M. Arago's. Ferney continued to the close of Voltaire's We merely repeat that at best he exhibited life to be close and confidential. The King of sagacity in a comparatively new application Prussia in due time honored him with many of the theory of probabilities. What imme- flattering communications. He was recogdiately concerns us here is, that when hardly nized throughout Europe as among the ablest beyond the limit of manhood, he had already agents of the Anti-Christian Conspiracy. established
a brilliant reputation. The Voltaire's letters seem, in England at Academy of Sciences soon chose him for | least, to be very little read in comparison their Assistant-Secretary. Having filled up with some other classes of bis writings; and with applause a large hiatus in the academi- we wonder this should be so-for not only cal Eloges, he not long afterward was elect- are they essential to the understanding of ed Perpetual Secretary—and in that capaci- his actual proceedings, but many of them
ty produced a very extensive series of simi- are hardly below any productions of his pen ·lar panegyrics, some of which may still have in the felicity of execution. When he is ad
a high degree of interest for a limited class dressing a friend—not a King, or Prince, or of readers. The emolument of his office great lady—we may almost always fancy was not much, but the position was consid- that we hear him talking at his own fireside. ered enviable—it gave him every opportuni- The ease and also the elegance are consumty of familiar intercourse with the lights of mate—they are on a par with the undisturbphilosophy, and through them an easy intro- cd self-esteem, the unwearied self-seeking, duction to the saloons and suppers of the in- the untameable vivacity and the insatiable fluential ladies who had embraced the doc- malignity of the man.
The letters to Contrines of the sect, and not a few of whom had dorcet, and especially the new ones (which condescended to form tender connections it is not difficult to account for Condorcet's among its Coryphæi.
suppression of during his lifetime), bring out Until 1770 he had continued to give his some peculiar traits---illustrating very satismore serious hours to bis mathematics ; factorily the profound self-control, without but—very unluckily as we believe for his ul- which no man cau maintain himself through timate fame—in the summer of that year his a series of years as the head of an energetic ambition received a new turn. D'Alembert party. Wnat Condorcet says (in a note to had fallen into a condition of nervous irrita- Turgot) of some of his pamphlets, is espebility which afflicted all his friends, and griev- cially true of his letters to the juniors of his ously alarmed his celebrated anie, Mademoi- sect: “these thing are not done pour la selle de l'Espinasse. She urged on him the gloire, but pour la cause—we must not cortemporary abandonment of his diagrams, and sider him as author, but as apostle ;" his
heart was in his pen—he never lost sight of probable confidants—but the burden is al
ways the same—“ Tolerate the whispers of M. Arago, whose conclusions as to the age! How often shall I have to tell you ail affairs of stars and their satellites few will that no one but a fool will publish such question, extols the good nature of Voltaire things unless he has 200,000 bayonets at bis as shown in these documents : we admire back ?" Each Encyclopedist was apt to forthe politeness, the good sense—the far-see- get that, though he corresponded familiarly ing impervertible adroitness of the ven- with Frederick, he was not a king of Pruserated chief. He had long before this time sia; and by and bye not one of them more commended the saying of a monarch who frequently exemplified this mistake than practiced what he preached-L'esprit des Condorcet-for that gentleman's saint-like hommes puissans consiste à répondre une poli-tranquillity of demeanor, though it might lesse à une impertinence ;—but this was not a indicate a naturally languid pulse, covered mere matter of manners. He was too wise copious elements of vital passion. The slow not to appreciate the importance of such a wheel could not resist the long attrition of resident at Paris as he had hit on in Mr. controversy, and when it once blazed, the Secretary Condorcet—a sharp, cool-headed flame was all the fiercer for its unseen nursman—thoroughly imbued with écrasez l'in- ing. “You mistake Condorcet," said D'A
—. fame, but certain, unless his own authorly lembert to one of the philosophical dames ; self-love were involved, to see more clearly “he is a volcano covered with snow.” than even an Argus at a distance could do, Among the inedited essays is one on the what would be the practical effect of any constitution of scientific bodies, which our specific publication at any specific time on secretary (still a young man) was good the mind of the Parisians.' In every one in enough to compose for the enlightenment stance, accordingly, when Condorcet suggests and direction of the Spanish government of a pause or an alteration, the great leader that day. Chiefly noticeable in our eyes as complies—and that with such apparent a specimen of French presumption, M. Arago
— frankness and simplicity of tone that we lauds it for profound wisdom and dexterous have no doubt many contemporary astrono- logic, especially in arguing against any inmers put the same interpretation that M. Ara- quiry about the religious tenets of memgo does now on these astutest of rescripts. bers. Here the biographer finds nothing On the other hand, as M. le Marquis became but cause for admiration in his hero's brave more and more deeply engaged in the war- contempt for the whole system of opinion as fare of the Encyclopedists, it was not seldom well as law beyond the Pyrenees. He conthe part of “le Vieux de la Montagne”—as descends, on the other hand, to allege conby a curious coincidence the founders of the sideration for the rooted prejudices of Spain future Mountain called him—to whisper cau- as a sufficient excuse for Condorcet in advotion from his remote citadel. When he him-cating the admission into the proposed new self in these latter days was resolved to issue Academy of a class of noble amateurs. “It anything that he knew and felt to be pregnant would have been merely absurd,” he says, with combustion, he never dreamt of Paris" to plan a Spanish institution from which he had agents enough in other quarters, and Dukes of Osuna and Medina-Celi were to be the anonymous or pseudonymous mischief hopelessly excluded.” M. Arago, while on was printed at London, Amsterdam, or Ham- this topic, reports a saying of Louis XIV., burgh, from a fifth or sixth copy in the hand which we are tempted to repeat :-“ Do you writing of some Dutch or English clerk — know why Racine and M. de Cavoye, whom thence by cautious steps smuggled into you see down there, like so well to be togethFrance-and then disavowed and denounced er ? Racine, with Cavoye, fancies himself a by himself, and for him by his numberless gentleman ; Cavoye, with Racine, fancies agents, with an intrepid assurance which down himself a genius.” to the last confounded and baffled all official Our readers would not much thank us for inquisitors, until, in each separate case, the entering into other points of Condorcet's scent had got cold. Therefore he sympathized programme, on which Arago enlarges with a not at all with any of these, his subalterns, zest and sometimes with a bitterness that when they, in their own proper matters, al. must have been prompted by feuds less relowed themselves a less guarded style of mote than those of D'Alembert and Buffon. movement. On one occasion Condorcet's The pure mathematicians were in those days imprudence extorts a whole series of really little disposed to acquiesce in the high prepassionate remonstrances to him and his tensions of zoologists, geologists, or any of