« AnteriorContinuar »
These remarks are designed to support the relation of Captain Mahony, and the conjectures of Sir William Jones, concerning Buddha and his doctrines.
Art. VII. Lettres inédites de MIRABEAU, &c.; i.e. Unpublished
Letters of MIRABEAU ; Memorials, and i'xtracts from Memorials, written in 1781, 1782, and 1783, in the Course of his Suit at Pontarlier, to reverse a Sentence which had been passed on him, and of another at Provence, for a separation between him and his Wife; the Whole forming a Continuation of the Letters written from the Dungeon of Vincennes, from 1777 to 1750, inclusively. Published by J. F. Vitry, formerly employed in the Office of Foreign Affairs. 8vo. pp. 490. Paris. 1806. Imported by De Boffe. T
in public opinion which once was filled by the person whose name this tiile page announces, his singular ad. ventures, his extraordinary talents, and his astonishing political displays, strongly excite attention to all that his pen had at any time traced. The volume now offered to us is stated to form the completion of all that has been yet discovered of his works; and it refers to a period. of his life which was the most agitated, and does not seem to have been the least interesting
M Vitry professes to have ransacked all the repositories of the law, and the offices of government, in order to arrive at the exquisite pieces of eloquence which he has now given to the public; and which, as he justly observes, in respect to address and energy, are worthy of the best days of antiquity. In these, the writer appears the same person who, in the Constituent Assembly, astonished Europe with his genius; and we are of opinion with the editor, that some of the legal addresses are in no respect inferior to the most splendid of his state harangues; that we meet in them with discussions which are as luminous as they are profound, and which have as much force as precision; that they are distinguished by the clearest, reasoning ; that they bespeak a courage which nothing is able to subdue or shake ; and that they proceed from views not less solia chan comprehensive.' It is to be observed, however, that the memorials have been printed before ; though we are here assured that the public was never fairly in possession of them, because pains had been taken on their first issuing from the press to make them disappear; and the editor is of opinion that his copy is the sole one now remaining.
Besides the letters, the reader will here find the first of Mi. RAPEAU's memorials which he composed in the prison of Pon
tarlier. The whole of it is inserted, because, besides its point and neatness, it furnishes the most exact and detailed account of events preceding his arrest, and of his flight with Madame Mounier to Holland. The volume includes also interesting sketches from the second of these memoirs, and the whole of the third diatribe vented against the deputy of the king's ado vocare, and which the best judges, on its first appearance, named the Philippic of Comte Mirabeau. I he orator himself most highly eftimated this grand effort of his genius; exclaim. ing in reference to it, “ if that does not display eloquence un. paralleled in these barbarous ages, I know net what this fascinating and rare gift of heaven means." To these we are to add his correspondence after his departure from Pontarlier, and during his residence in Provence with the Marquis de Marignane, his father-in-law, and with his wife ; and his argument before the tribunal of Aix. The editor highly commends this last performance, as a model of eloquence, yet replete with moderation; as displaying the utmost penetration and the most masterly reasoning. We have also remarkable fragments, selected from observations on his memorials contained in the scarce work before mentioned: extracts from his memorial before the Grand Counci!; and his opinion in 1784 on the indissolubility of marriage, and the distinction between it and separation, which concludes the book. We have omitted to specify what forms by no means the least interesting of the contents of these pages; namely, his conversation with the keeper of the seals, relative to the suppression of the last memorial by the order of that magistrate : a conversation which attained much celebrity at the moment, and which will remain a curi. ous monument of the firmness with which MIR ABLAU resisted, even at that period, the oppressions and vexations of ministerial authority.
As the editor remarks, the letters are the most remote from being laboured compositions; and in his eyes, this negligence has value and attraction, since they are full (he asserts) of characteristic traits. With the writer's countrymen, they may have an interest which is not felt by strangers : but we see among them many which, we think, might have been omitted, without greatly diminishing the interest of the volume: though it must be granted that scarcely one of them is devoid of some expressions that are strongly indicative of the vigour of mind which distinguished the writer.
We select the following letter, to shew that this most ambitious and (we suspect that we may add) unprincipled man was not destitute of amiable private feelings. It is an inStresting domestic picture, which presents reflections that dis
play play a sympathising heart, and it is addressed to the editor of this volume, with whom he appears to have been on the most intimate terms:
Again, my dear Vitry, I write to you only a few words, that you may not be uneasy about me. My poor niece is at death's door. A malignant fever has in five days reduced her to this extremity. I cannot comprehend how a young creature, whose rosy complexion announces blood so pure, who is besides gentle, abstemious, and a stranger to every passion, could have beeu liable to the attack of so virulent a malady. At this rate, we who are so prodigal of life ought to die every eight days. The poor mother is pregnant, and is overwhelmed with grief; indeed we all love this charming child ; and you may guess our affliction. I obtain no sleep, my health requires tranquillity, but this event deprives me of all hope of it.
• Figure to yourself what will be the dismal nature of our situation, if we are deprived of her; in the country, face to face with grief, and cut off from every resource! I have often regarded death as one of the wiscst provisions of nature: but it is thus to be viewed only when it strikes ourselves, and not our connections. Adieu, ay friend, love me as I love you ; and take especial care of your precious infant.'
The succeeding remarks of this acute observer, contained in a letter to the same friend, are perhaps generally well-founded, though they were not verified in the particular instance which the writer had in view :
• I will apprize you, my dear friend, and you alone, that it is possible that I may very shortly set out for Provence, in order to finish the great and important affair * which I have happily managed, and which will put me in possesion of sixty thousand livres per annum. A great step has been taken, and women do not retreat, un. less it be when they have to deal with fools. If these charming and timid creatures are slow in advancing, they never retrograde unless they suspect ingratitude. On the contrary, when they perceive in us a lively sense of their favourable regard, they are so affected by our power over them, so influenced by the emotions which they excite in us, that they are no longer able to do aught else than to add kindness to kindness.
friend; for it will be said that it is to a fine woman that I am writing ; I shall act against my principles if I waste in discussion the time which I ought to employ in exertion. Man is not born to pass his vigorous hours in talking, this is the right of old age. Be a Nestor when you can no longer be an Achilles, a Dio. med, or an Ulysses ; there will remain but too much time for acting the part of the king of Pylos.'
Writing also to the same friend, be draws a sketch of himself, and furnishes proofs of the ardent cast of his mind :
• Adieu, my
• His reconciliation with Madame de Mirabeau.
• My sensibility makes me desirous of pleasing : but we can only please those whom we resemble, and hence it is that I do not please all. I endeavour to have only estimable friends, and I find it agreeable to assimilate myself to them in little matters, which do not relate to great duties and great plans. This has occasioned my facility to be calumniated; it is not so great as has been supposed : but, were it so, this quality is not without its use ; for Voltaire has said, he who has not the spirit belonging to his time of life feels all its evils ; and the same may be said of the spirit of situation : he who cannot seize it will suffer in every thing, and succeed in nothing. But why does one feel oneself a man, if it be not in order to succeed every where and in every thing, from the people up to kings, from frivo, lities up to the transcendant sciences, from petty domestic objects to the command of armies, and the administration of empires? We ought not to say of any thing, that is below us, nor feel any thing as being above us. Nothing is impossible to the man who is able to will wită constancy and firmness. Is it fitting ? Then it shall be. This is the only law
Referring to the accusation preferred against him before the tribunals, charging him with the abduction of Madame de Mounier, and of which he was finally acquitted; we meet with passages not unworthy of that eloquence which, at a later .per riod, thundered so awfully from the tribune of the National Assembly :
• Such, then, is the suit which, for five years, has involved two families in affliction, who tremble to this day on account of my teme. rity! Such is the process which deprived me for five years of my civil existence: which has separated me from a loved, tender, and judulgeot wife ; which deprived me of the last embraces of my dying son, which prevented my pressing his agonizing lips, and who perbaps might still have lived, had I retained the care of him! Such is this suit, which occasions a young and unfortunate woman, distin, guished by sensibüity, beneficence, and the promise of every virtue, to waste her best days within the walls of prisons ! Such is the suit which planted a dagger in the breast of her affectionate mother ; which has armed three families against each other, and poisoned society with hatred and scandal! Such was the process which was de. cided in two hours, while two days were consumed in the deliberation on my provisional enlargement ! Yes: it was pronounced in two hours, by four judges, (the others declining to give judgment) that the head of a man of quality should fall at the executioner's feet; and that a young woman, so interesting, so gentle, and so loved, that her fate would have excited compassion among tygers,-that this female, belonging to a respectable family, and adorned with the highest dignities of the magistracy, should be cut off from among the living! All this was decided in two hours!'
On another occasion, he describes himself as more playful than spiteful, as more spiteful than wicked, as an impatient, high-spirited, irascible animal, but tender, affectionate, and on the whole a very good man.
· Treated as I have been, suppose that I have committed a great fault, and where is the General, capable of the happiest combinations, who has not made some false movements ? Frederic was chargeable with a score of them, Cesar with eight or ten, four of which he has con. fessed, and Turenne with two. When we have commitied faults, only the greatest activity, mental and bodily, can repair them: I am not wanting in this quality, which has been given to men in order to repair their follies: but all have it not. Confide in me. I shall extricate myself from this difficulty.'
'The strong pencil of MIRABEAU discovers itself in the following passages :
• What shall I gain by eternal hatred ? All my opponents were more futile than corrupt, except the prevaricator, the deputy king's advocate Sombarde. On him alone I make war as a man and as a cie tizen. With regard to the others, I absolve them as far as it lies with me. God forbid that I should resen.ble those who, being slaves to their passions, raise outcries against the vices of others as if they were jealous of them ; and who censure nothing so severely as acts which they themselves are constantly imitating. What is so honour. able as an indulgent allowance, on the part of those who stand in no need of it from others ? Alas; I am far from being of the latter num. ber. The extravagances and vices of my youth have cost me much; and they have cost much to others. For this mischief I cannot, as in the case of those which are personal to me, forgive myself. In fine, inexorable to myself, indulgent to others, as to those who can only be indulgent to themselves, I shall never forget the fine sentiment of an antient who was regarded as the living image of virtue He who hates vices, hates men. Alas! what do we gain by hating men! In order to live among them, must we not practise forbearance ? Have they not, aster all, more of good than of bad? Let us not exaggerate; if we paint the dangers which surround us, let us not conceal our multiplied pleasures. We talk of our misfortunes, and forget our felicities. We behold, it is said, more of vice and suf. fering than of virtue and enjoyment: but this is not true, for the world endures, and societies subsist : if there were more of evil than of good, we should be all annihilated.
• The partialities of tribunals, their refusal to render justice, their studied delays, are an evil; the errors of judges, and the imperfec. tions of jurisprudence, are an evil, and a very serious one.' Our laws, so multiplied, so various, so confused, so contradictory, so little understood by the body of the people; the Roman law, which governs us in part; our customary law, in some respects so fine, in others so absurd, and frequently so favourable to oppression; and above all our criminal laws, so formidable to liberty, and so much more important than the civil laws as the reputation and lives of citizens are more impor. tant than their property ; these laws, so far from being perfect, do dot even approach perfection. Crimes are not exactly defined in them;