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it. But why balance invidiously the respective merits of these illustrious men, each of them in his way original, and without a rival, and who, from the circumstances of their education, and the form of their productions, do not properly come into comparison ? In fact, when Gray declares that Milton was not inferior to Shakspeare, he probably meant that they were both first-rate minds, moving in different spheres, and not susceptible of being weigbed in the same balance. This is doubtless a correct view of the subject, but were we compelled to sacrifice the works of one or the other, we should consent, with comparatively little reluctance, to relinquish those of Milton.
The revival of eloquence and moral philosophy is another of the great merits of the English school of literature. Bacon and Jeremy Taylor stood at that lofty, and to most minds inaccessible height of intellectual erinence, where philosophy and poetry are seen to flow together from their common spring in the heart; and they combine the essential qualities of both. Locke took his departure from a somewhat different point. He made no account of feeling, and set but little value on what he considered the deceptive coloring of eloquence and poetry; but explored with singular clearness of view the field of intellect, which he thought worth attention. His philosophy, however, remained imperfect, and in order to produce its proper beneficial effects, required to be completed by some equally powerful mind. Instead of this, it was destined to become, in the hands of his foreign disciples, a code of immorality and falsehood, and in its practical results to unsettle, for a time the peace of Europe and the world.
Such was the brilliant state of the English school of learning and art, during the reigns of Elizabeth and James. Although the drama was discouraged in the following period of confusion and civil war, the spirit of poetry survived, and flourished in the person of Milton; and from the great display of talent, which took place after the accession of Charles, it is probable that the standard of taste would have risen still higher than it stood before, without any corresponding decline of genius, had the mind of the country continued to pursue its former independent and original course. But at this critical moment, it met the fate which befel the ruined archangel in bis tedious flight through chaos, having been struck by a side-wind, whosetempestuous rebuff' drove it ten thousand fathoms wide of its former glorious path, and gave it, for at least a century, a new and false direction. This side-wind was no other than the influence of the French school of poetry, then at its highest point of splendor and perfection. Charles II. and the train of attendants who accompanied him on his return, had been educated in this school, and had no taste for any other. Their personal and political relations with France, kept up a strict and continual intercourse between the two courts : and that of Charles was in every respect fashioned on the model established by his illustrious contemporary. Language, manners, morals, taste, politics, religion,—every thing was French. Learning and art could not fail to be affected by this revolution ; and Dryden, one of the most powerful, but not least pliant of the masters of English literature, was but too well fitted by his talent and character to set the new fashion. Milton, still alive and in the fullness of his power, was forgotten, and the Paradise Lost dropped still-born from the press. The true English drama was despised as barbarous, and nothing would answer but tragedies in rhyme, on the model of Corneille and Racine. It is painful to reflect, that Glorious John,' as Dryden has by courtesy been lately called, should have prostituted a first-rate talent to the sole purpose of supplying the vicious taste of the court with these miserable wares: and after forty years of constant literary labor, have left no monuments, excepting a few short occasional pieces, really worthy of his genius. Pope followed in the same taste, but with better success, and though writing in another language, is one of the principal ornaments of the French school of poetry. But this exotic style never took deep root or flourished much in the English soil, and after the time of Pope pretty soon decayed, and came to nothing. Meantime, the true native school had also ceased to be productive, and there intervened a temporary poverty of real poetical and literary talent, greater, perhaps, than had been known since the time of Chaucer. The general movement of intellect, that came on soon after throughout all Christendom, and the expansion of the political influence and national glory of England that followed, awoke the slumbering genius of the country, and within our day another native school of learning has sprung up with a most luxuriant display of original vigor, and, having taken in the main a right direction, promises to pursue a long and successful career on both sides of the Atlantic.
Thus the brief review of English learning, into which we have now entered, brings us back to the French school, which we had already reached by the way of Madrid. It is not from any prejudice against the French style of poetry, that we have been led to represent its influence on the state of English learning as unfavorable. Pride, indeed, as well as principle, ought to induce us to do full justice to the merit of a foreign school, which possessed power enough to arrest the progress of the English mind, at one of its most active periods, and change its direction for a century. Great let me call him, for he conquered me.' We ought, for the honor of our fathers, to presume that the strange gods, which could draw them from their natural allegiance to Shakspeare and Milton, were not without some well-founded claims to real divinity ; higher, perhaps, than the public of the present day is in general ready to admit. The character and real value of the principal writers of the French school may, probably, engage our attention in a future article.
ART. VIII.—Memoirs of Brissot.
et de la Convention Nationale, sur ses Contemporains et
· BÉNISSONS L'AMÉRIQUE,' exclaimed Madame Roland, in 1788, while looking forward to the great events of the next year, with that virtuous hope, and those raised expectations, which were so miserably disappointed,-attendons et voyons, bénissons l'Amérique.* In whatever temper,--however lightly this emphatic expression may have been uttered, it comes full of meaning to our ear. It addresses us as the first successful propagators of those opinions, which, like leaven, are stirring the sluggish mass around us. It commands us to consider with lenity and compassion the errors and excesses of those, who are following our footsteps, under far less advanta
geous circumstances. It bids us, from this observatory of freedom, to look out upon the troubled waters, on which the ironbound oak of England, torn from its moorings, is swaying to and fro,—to hearken to the sound of strife, which reaches us across the Atlantic,—and reflect, that we are responsible for much of the evil, as well as much of the good which this contest is producing, -that our success has emboldened the patriots of every age and every nation; and that upon our moderation and our virtue it depends, whether, through every coming century, America shall be blessed as the first to establish and to teach rational liberty, or cursed as the propagator of false and impracticable dogmas, which have shaken the foundation of every civil and religious establishment
In this country, there would be comparatively no difficulty in bringing the spirit of an impartial philosophy to bear upon the historical analysis of the events of the French Revolution, were they not intimately connected with some of the stormiest passages of our own annals. The great contest of opinion, which has not yet altogether ceased, renders it scarcely possible even to allude to the events of our constitutional history, without calling forth from their recesses those angry feelings, which are but slowly yielding to other and more recent causes of excitement.
We would hope, however, that the few remarks now to be made upon the character of one of the most prominent men of the French Revolution, will not furnish any such cause of offence. When his career closed, our internal contest can hardly be said to have begun; moreover, the ancient watchwords of party are gradually falling into disuse, and we are discovering, though not as rapidly as might be wished, the full force of perhaps the most generous sentiment which ever fell from the lips of a successful statesman in the first flush of victory :--- we are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.'*
The memoirs, of which the title is placed at the head of this paper, form one of the most recent additions to the long list of auto-biographies connected with the Revolution. The number of these productions, most of them written too at times of great danger, in prison or in lurking places, when blood was flowing like water, and the life of no man was safe for twentyfour hours, is strongly illustrative of that feature of the French
* Jefferson's Inaugural Address.
character, which seizes upon and solaces itself with whatever the present holds out, neither disquieted by reminiscences, nor troubled by fears.
What value should we not attach to the complete memoirs of any one of the eminent men of our early history, written while the strife was going on, and giving vividly the private narratives belonging to it? It is surprising to find how little we know of what may be called the domestic history of the old Congress. The amplitude of the French materials, on the contrary, is as wonderful as our deficiency. Not to speak of the memoir writers of the time of Napoleon, they have accounts of their early revolutionary period, written by representatives of nearly all the different factions that stood opposed to each other. There are the memoirs of Ferrières and Bésenval, nobles, of Mounier a royalist, of Bailly the constitutionalist, of Rabaut St. Etienne, Louvet, Barbaroux, and now of Brissot, Girondists,- lastly, of Camille Desmoulins the Dantonist. Most of these, with a host of others, have been published collectively within the last ten years, under the title of Mémoires relatifs à la Révolution Française, forming a series, without which, we need scarcely say, it is impossible rightly to understand that most interesting period to which they relate. No compendium can supply their place. Even Mignet's work, perhaps the most to be relied upon, is rendered insufficient by his Tacituslike brevity, while the Epitome of Scott, destined we fear for some time to fill the place of one less partial, has most of the defects and few of the virtues of an abridgment. It is even more wanting in clearness than in fullness.*
If these memoirs, containing undoubtedly, amidst a mass of prejudices and contradictions, the most authentic materials of the history of that period, were better known, we should be more ready to admit that the deluded agents and sufferers in the Revolution were men, and had hearts and souls like ourselves, that while error, too great and too fatal, spread its mists around nearly all of them, cold and calculating vice was confined to but a few.
* It seems almost like ingratitude in one of the present generation, which individually and collectively has received so much delight from the pen of this illustrious man, to cavil at any thing that comes from him; but is it captious or unfounded to say, that his mind was embosomed in the rich shades, and among the gorgeous pageants of an earlier age,--that it did not keep pace with the rapid changes of our day?