« AnteriorContinuar »
to their vassals. The bond of religion and the dread of law, the awe of superiors and the authority of parents were laid low, and every passion prowled without restraint. Marriage was no longer necessary; and those who did go through the ceremony observed but slightly its injunctions. The most unbridled license prevailed in classes who, before, had no more pretensions to unchastity, than to a.coach and six; and the wives of artizans became as faithless as duchesses had ever dared to be. In these ranks of society, we jament to say, depravity is at this moment incredibly profound and common; and we shall conclude the subject by a picture, which, were it not authentic, official, issuing from a ministerial portfolio, we should not dare to present. Fabulous as it may appear, it is nevertheless a part of the annual report of the minister of the home department, on the state of the city of Paris.
1817 The returns for this year were mislaid by accident.
From this table it appears that, from the year 1815 to the year 1824, both inclusively—and deducting 1817—the number of children born in Paris was 225, 259, of whom 82,426 were illegitimate; that is to say, that, during the last ten years, thirty-six per cent. or more than one-third of the new annual population of Paris was born out of wedlock. The returns of the children deserted by their parents dated only from 1818, and include but seven years. : During that period 180,189 children were born, of whom 54,554 were illegitimate, and 49,503-an almost equal number—were deserted by their parents ; that is to say, that during this period 1% of the new annual population born in Paris were illegitimate; and 1 o, or more than one-fourth, were deserted by their parents. So much then for the city which the French consider to be more moral than London, or, at least, to be more refinedly vicious. But, moreover, they hold Paris to be the seat of luxury, of elegance, of pleasure, of civilization, of intellect, of the arts, &c. &c. &c. We shall now add a table of the births and deaths, and of the places where these occurred, in order to show the advantages which all these things procure to the said city.
The returns for this year were mislaid by accident.
From this it appears that, during the last ten years—1817 omitted— 10 per cent. of the children born in Paris came into the world in the hospitals, and 37 per cent. of the deaths occurred in the same abodes of wretchedness. It might from this be in
ferred, ferred, that hospitals are very numerous and very excellent in Paris. They are not so, and private charities contribute little to their support. When the filth and poverty of the Salpétrière and of the Bicêtre, the two principal receptacles for the starving, are considered, it must be confessed that the luxury of Paris is a sad succedaneum for happiness. Such a picture of depravity, and of its sure attendant misery, could not be found in any other Christian capital; yet, in none, is so much gilding so beautifully performed. It must be recollected too that this picture is not drawn by spleen or envy; nor, on the other hand, by persons who, fearing to retain any national prejudice, overstep the modesty of truth, and become illiberal from excess of liberality. It is the ingenuous report of a prefect to a minister, and from him to the public, neither of whom saw the least harm in it, or they would not have published it.
To bid adieu to Madame la Comtesse de Genlis-We never met with such a work before. It is not full of such disgraceful vice and meanness as the Confessions of Rousseau, but it is as much disordered by vanity as they are by susceptibility; and we kuow not whether we have been more amused or disgusted by the perusal. We should be much puzzled to decide in what class of literature to place this performance; whether it belongs to fact or to fancy. The authoress is too much versed in the composition of historical romance to give it up at once; and these eight volumes certainly partake of the mongrel qualities of that hybrid walk, in so much that she is allowed never to have indulged her imagination more than on the present occasion. Some persons, however, have been bolder than we wish to be; and, on account of the part which her harp plays toward her self-adulation, and a little too by reason of the inscription which La Harpe the critic-who, by the bye, without possessing a word of Eng. lish, pronounced Racine to be a greater master of human nature than Shakspeare-placed upon her bust, have called these eight tomes le roman de la harpe. In the mean time we cannot but thank Madame de Genlis for giving us, in the midst of much fiction, of many reticences and einbellishments, of no little filth, and some indelicacies, which we could not, even in a foreign language, hint at, an image of the manners and morals (moeurs) of her contemporary Parisians, which we must most heartily recommend to the perusal and proper study of our countrymen.
ART. VII.--Memoir of the Life and Character of the Right
Hon. Edmund Burke ; with Specimens of his Poetry and Let+ ters; and an Estimate of his Genius and Talents, compared with those of his great Contemporaries. By James Prior, Esq. Second Edition ; enlarged to two volumes by a variety of Original Letters, Anecdotes, Papers, and other Additional Matter. London. 1826. Svo. THE CHE life of Burke is in truth the history of the period in
'which he flourished; and that, whether we consider it in a literary or in a political point of view, is unquestionably one of the most memorable in the whole course of English annals. His limited fortune, and still more strongly his taste, impelled him to devote the earlier portion of his years to the labours of literature: and in these he ere long attained a distinction so high and conspicuous, as to render in his case the adopted pursuit of political fame more than commonly adventurous. But his very first exertions established him here also in the public opinion, and he quickly rose to be the Parliamentary Leader of the principal division of the Opposition-an eminence which, able as were his competitors, he maintained without a rival for ten busy years. During that time, and indeed to the close of his public life, his fame is connected with every interest of his country, whether in domestic or in foreign policy. On the com parative eloquence of his great contemporaries, as on their comparative fitness to govern the country, there must prevail decided and lasting divisions of opinion; but to Burke, by the admission of all, and to Burke alone, it was given to plant on his age the stamp and the character of his own genius; it was his alone to divert the attention of men from the contemplation of events, in themselves of surpassing interest, to the discussion of his opinions, to the applause or the censure of his writings and his eloquence. It was also his lot not merely to bequeath to posterity the tradition or the record of eloquence; but, unassisted by any continued possession of power, by rauk, by wealth or by connexions, to leave on the free institutions of England, and on the frame of society itself, the deep and lasting impress of his labour and his wisdom. It is little to say that his life deserves to be treated as a theme of lofty and general interest; to preserve a fair and correct estimate of his principles and his services is a sacred debt of national justice, as well as of national policy. Every step which we are taking at the present day in the career of national improvement, while it confirms the sagacity of his forecast, should revive the sense of his merits, and add to the lustre of his just reputation. This mighty name may, by the malice of party, or by the neglect of friends, be for a time obscured, but neither in the annals of English literature, nor of the English constitution, can it be permanently effaced or effectually degraded.
With regard to the period itself comprehended in the life of Mr. Burke-to describe it worthily as a whole, or even to survey in their splendid succession the events which crowd and dignify it, would require powers not inferior to those of Burke himself, when his opinions and his passions had been tempered by age and by some repose from the tumults of political conflict. This task may yet be reserved, in our own times, for one of the most accomplished of his antagonists; and to a contest with that great mind, the survivor may be in part indebted for the capacity of completing it with success and with honour. The progress of the national liberty, the conflicts between the several orders of the state, the then truly important and animated contests of partythese are but a small part of the topics in domestic history, of which the selection alone must be embarrassing to the pourtrayer of that period. Those of its external history are not inferior in rank or in interest. The loss of a magnificent empire in America, and the gradual acquisition of another yet more magnificent in Asia; the revolutions of Poland and of France, with the wars and negociations to which they gave birth—these are events which seem to raise the dignity of history itself, and which cannot sink into obscurity because they are not chronicled-carent quia vate sacro: Their results are still progressive; their influence is indelibly impressed on the condition of nations-on the general fortunes of mankind.
While topics like these give splendour and interest to the work of the writer, they confirm our sense of his numerous difficulties. If his essay be not degraded by an unfair or illiberal spirit, if it does not display any signal defects of knowledge or of taste, we feel a sincere disposition to accept it with gratitude; and to abstain from the censure of imperfections, of which the nature of such an enterprize is at once the cause and the apology. A period, so productive of all the materials of history, and in which the faculties of individuals were roused into such strong and continued action, could not fail to inspire men with qualities proportioned to the gigantic interests that surrounded them; to produce beings capable of reflecting back upon their times some portion of the lustre which their times conferred on them. It would not, indeed, be an easy task to fix on any æra of English history, at which every branch of active or of contemplative life has been so abundantly filled with characters above the level of ordinary capacities, and fairly entitled to a prominent and permanent station in our political and literary records. And that writers, in