Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

finest in the country, though yet inferior in many points to the well-managed farms of the Van Diemen's Land Company. As a general description of this flourishing island we may well quote

the words of our author :

'In Van Diemen's Land the agricultural districts are superior in appearance to those of New South Wales. The details of farms and farming are better understood and defined; and the practical results are such, that no country reminds the traveller so much of the old one as Van Diemen's Land. There the tasteful and comfortable mansions and cottages, surrounded by pleasure-grounds, gardens, and orchards,the neat villages and prominently placed churches, forming, as it were, the centres of cultivated plains, divided and subdivided by hedge-rows, and through which an admirably constructed road winds across the island, are all objects which forcibly carry back the mind to similar scenes of rural beauty in England and Scotland.'

[ocr errors]

Here we must close our examination of this valuable work. Whether read in this country or not, we can venture to guarantee to it an assured place, present and perspective, in the libraries of Australia. M. Strzelecki apologizes in the preface for his style, as foreign and unidiomatic. In this we wholly differ with him. His language throughout is clear and vigorous, and, as our extracts will have shown, possesses the English idiom in a degree very remarkable for a foreigner. We shall be exceedingly glad to meet the same style again in any future volume which his Journals may offer to the public.

[ocr errors]

ART. VIII-1. Histoire de la Révolution Française. Par A. Thiers et F. Bodin. Svo. Paris. Vols. 1 and 2, 1823; vols. 3 and 4, 1824; vols. 5 and 6, 1825; vols. 7, 8, 9, 10, 1827. 2. Histoire de la Révolution de France.

8vo. 2d ed. Paris, 1828.

Par A. Thiers. 10 vols.

3. Histoire du Consulat et de l'Empire. Par A. Thiers, Ancien Président du Conseil des Ministres, Membre de la Chambre des Députés, et de l'Académie Française. Vols. 1, 2, 3, 4. 8vo. Paris, 1845.

E believe that we shall be able-we are sure that there are WE superabundant materials-to demolish utterly and irretrievably M. Thiers' credit as an historian. Whatever of praise may be due to lively talents and great art, exclusively and without exception or scruple employed to misrepresent and falsify en gros et en détail every subject he touches, we will not deny him: but we most deliberately and conscientiously believe, and shall, we trust, produce sufficient evidence to convince our readers, that in

the

the fourteen octavo volumes of his Histories now before us there is not one single page-hardly one line-of sincere and unadulterated truth.

We may seem to owe an apology to our readers for not having sooner undertaken this task-but we have both reason and precedent for our silence. We find that our most popular Parisian contemporary-calling itself, we know not why, Revue des Deux Mondes-prefaces an article of the current year on M. Thiers' historical works, written by M. Sainte-Beuve, of the Académie Française, an avowed friend and panegyrist of M. Thiers, with the confession of a similar neglect. When he whom a party among our neighbours affect to call a great historian, and still greater minister, and who is, in a peculiar degree, 'the child and champion of the Revolution, has been apparently so overlooked by his own critical coterie, the inattention of London reviewers might pass for venial. But in truth there has been no neglect of M. Thiers' work on either side of the Channel. It attracted early and considerable notice by its lively style, and a certain air of originality and pretence of candour which he had the tact and talent to assume; but in spite of this varnish, the peculiar circumstances and patronage under which it made its appearance, and the spirit in which it was written, gave it the character-not of a serious and conscientious history-but of a bookseller's speculation on the state of political parties in France. No one, in fact, looked upon it in any other light than as a branch of the general conspiracy then at work against the elder Bourbons-a paradoxical apology for the old Revolution, and a covert provocation to a new one; and this was, we are satisfied, its chief motive— though there was of course something of literary ambition and something more of pecuniary speculation mixed up with it. It appeared, too, with a very ambiguous aspect-the first livraison of two volumes bore the joint names of A. Thiers and Felix Bodin-Bodin being a young littérateur employed by the booksellers in manufacturing a series of historical abridgments, who was willing to introduce his still younger and more obscure friend Thiers into this species of manufacture. The account given by M. Quévrard, in his elaborate History of French Bibliography, is as follows:

'The two first volumes were written in common with M. Bodin, but M. Thiers having subsequently retouched them, the name of M. Bodin was omitted from the title-pages of the later editions. We are assured by a well-informed authority that this work was originally composed on a much smaller scale, and was comprised at first in four small volumes in eighteens, which were to have formed part of the series of Historical Abridgments published by Le Cointe and Durey. But these book

sellers,

sellers, thinking that a better thing might be made of the book, cancelled the four volumes in 18mo. as waste paper, and it reappeared with large additions, in an 8vo. shape, as the History of the Revolution.'Quévrard, tit. Thiers.

M. Sainte-Beuve, in the article which we have just alluded to, gives an account of the origin of the work, and of the merit of the first livraison, still less flattering:

'The idea was Bodin's-who urged it upon Thiers, and seeing him working so well at it, resigned his co-operation with a good grace. Bodin was a man of some information, but of little power of mind-but he had acquired in that quart d'heure of 1823 a considerable reputation, so that his name was, in a case of need (au besoin), a species of authority and even patronage. This auxiliary name therefore was thus associated with that of M. Thiers in the first volumes, but disappeared from the third. In these two first volumes it is evident that the young historian was only a tyro, and had not yet attained either method or originality. Like most historians, after a study more or less adequate of the facts, after inquiries soon and easily satisfied, and having said at once "mon siége est fait," he gets out of the scrape by his style-by the dramatic interest of the narrative, and by some brilliant portraits. The publication of these two volumes over, M. Thiers felt (and he himself confesses it with that candour which is one of the charms of superior minds) that he had almost everything to learn on the subject he had undertaken, and that a cursory perusal and a lively arrangement of materials and memoirs already published—was not history-such as he was capable of conceiving it.'-p. 223.

[ocr errors]

This certainly looks like candour, but at best would only be candour à la Thiers, which, as our readers will learn by and bye, is never more than an elusive apology for faults too gross to be either concealed or defended: we, however, strongly suspect that the errors which M. Sainte-Beuve thus indicates and M. Thiers confesses, are not the faults that we should complain of, but, on the contrary, some few approaches which his youth and inexperience made to truth and impartiality-for we find that M. Thiers' subsequent corrections of his first edition seem altogether directed towards ridding his book of such discordant and uncongenial qualities.

[ocr errors]

M. Thiers is now in the course of publishing a continuation of this work, under the title of the History of the Consulate and Empire,' of which four volumes have appeared, and which, with less of the occasional merits of his first publication, exhibits in so strong a degree the same spirit of unscrupulous partiality, of indefatigable misrepresentations and audacious untruth, that we feel it to be our duty to delay no longer our exposure of this complicated system of deception.

In the case of productions thus undertaken and carried on-not

VOL. LXXVI. NO. CLII.

2 N

as

as serious history, but as a pecuniary and political speculation, and to serve accidental and personal purposes-the writer's individual circumstances are so intimately blended with the character of the work, that both M. Thiers' admirers and adversaries think it necessary to preface their reviews of his book with a sketch of his life. We, in following this example, shall avoid as much as possible any mere personality, and shall only observe on those circumstances which appear to have influenced his soi-disant historical labours.

Louis Adolphe Thiers was born at Marseilles on the 16th of April, 1797, of very poor parents-his father being, we are told, a working locksmith. This topic has been handled invidiously by his detractors, and eulogistically by his admirers, to an extent which we cannot, in either sense, adopt. In revolutionary times sudden, and even brilliant, successes are not always the proof of merit they are sometimes the very reverse, and not unfrequently the result of accident; and however honourable it may be to the individual to have raised himself to eminence from a very low origin, it rarely happens that he can emancipate himself altogether from the low feelings and habits in which he was brought up. Of this Buonaparte himself was to the last a remarkable example: notwithstanding his education in the military, and therefore noble, school of Brienne, he never, even in the highest of his elevation, could get rid of the narrow and jealous instincts of his early humility; and though a conqueror and an emperor, he never was, in the English acceptation of that term, a gentleman. So M. Thiers -advocate, journalist, historian, minister, nay, prime ministerhas always been and always will be essentially un peu gamin; and we think that we can trace throughout his career a want of that consistency, decorum, and mesure, as the French call it-that discipline of mind, manners, and principles, which can rarely be learned under the precarious and reckless habits of low life. Whatever favourable training the young mind receives in such a case may be generally traced to maternal care; so in this case, we are told that the mother of M. Thiers, though fallen into extreme poverty, was of a decent bourgeois family, related, it is said, though distantly, to the two poets Chenier-Joseph, the Jacobin Tyrtæus, and André, his victim brother. By her connexions she was enabled to obtain for her boy an imperial bourse, or, in more general language, gratuitous education in the public school of Marseilles so that it must be admitted that M. Thiers may naturally remember with gratitude the Imperial régime. Here

* He very early dropped the Louis, as savouring, we presume, too much of royalism; and as Louis Philippe Egalité had done before him. This petty subterfuge was already characteristic of the man.

his progress is said to have been satisfactory from the first, and towards the conclusion of the course brilliant, though of the details no more is told than that he was a tolerable Latinist,* and that he studied geometry with that taste for the military profession with which Buonaparte inoculated the rising generation; but in 1814-15 the military despot fell, and Thiers, like thousands of other embryo heroes, had to look out for another profession; and his narrow circumstances, as well perhaps as his instinctive literary taste, naturally led him to that which is in France of the easiest access-the bar. We cannot now forbear to smile at the idea of M. Thiers en militaire; but we recollect that the Historian of the Decline and Fall' professes to have learned something from his services in the Hampshire militiaand from the superabundant diligence with which the historian of the French Revolution loves to dwell on the details of the war, it is evident that he fancies that he had a vocation in that direction, and he dreams, perhaps, that if the peace had not imposed upon him the inferior necessity of being only prime minister, he might, himself, have been another First Consul.

[ocr errors]

In 1815 he removed to Aix, the seat of the chief tribunal of the department and of the schools of law, where he seems to have looked into codes and digests no more than was just necessary to pass a slight and almost nominal examination, while his real occupation was writing literary essays and getting up political mutinies against the existing government—a road that generally leads to the Tarpeian rock, but in his singular case carried him in triumph to the Capitol.

'M. Thiers, whose ardent and ambitious spirit seems to have had the presentiment of a brilliant futurity, already played in the law schools the part of the leader of a party: he harangued, ranted, and roared against the restored government-invoked the recollections of the Republic and the Empire became an object of suspicion to his professors-of alarm to the police-and of enthusiasm to his fellow-students.'-Galerie des Contemporains Illustres, No. 2.

At Aix he formed what our classical neighbours call a Pylades and Orestes friendship with Mignet, a young man whose circumstances were very similar to his own-cultivating, like him, small literature, and propagating ultra-liberalism under the guise of

* We have some doubt as to his classical attainments. Of the bonnet rouge' of the Jacobins, he says, 'a new kind of ornament, borrowed from the Phrygians, and which had become the emblem of Liberty' (i. 261). It was not new, nor borrowed from the Phrygians (see Prudhomme, No. 141). The woollen cap was the common coiffure of the working classes; and a cap had not now become, but had always been, the emblem of the deified Liberty of antiquity. Again, in all the editions that we have seen of his History, we find the egregious blunder of confounding Eschines the rival of Demosthenes, with Eschylus the tragic poet (ix. 401); which blunder is repeated in the English translation (v. 185). 2N2

studying

« AnteriorContinuar »