תמונות בעמוד

• She was a little woman whose figure had lost all lightness and all elegance. The features of her face, too rounded and too obtuse, also preserved no pure lines of ideal beauty. But her eyes had a light, her fair hair a tint, her mouth an attraction, all her physiognomy an intelligence and a grace of expression which made you remember if they no longer made you admire. Her soft manner of speaking, her easy manner, her reassuring familiarity, raised at once those who approached her to her level. You did not know whether she descended to yours or elevated you to hers, there was so much nature in her bearing.'

In Paul Louis Courier's Works' is a note of a Conversation chez la Comtesse D'Albany in 1812. The subject is the relative superiority of the warrior and the artist; the interlocutors being the Countess, Fabre, and Courier. The controversy is supported with great spirit, but internal evidence justifies a suspicion that much of the conversation is imaginary. Still it proves the estimate formed by the reporter of their respective powers. In this year, 1812, began her acquaintance with Ugo Foscolo, which soon ripened into warm friendship, and would have formed a conspicuous epoch in her biography had it not been thrown into the shade by the more glorious memory of Alfieri. It was notwithstanding more to her lasting honour in one respect. The highly beneficial influence which she exercised, for the second time, over an eccentric genius, was acquired without any unbecoming sacrifice on her part, and the tone and tendency of her correspondence with him may be cited in confirmation of Byron's axiom :

• No friend like to a woman man discovers,

So that they have not been, nor may be, lovers.' No feminine weakness obliging her to humour his self-love, her advice is uniformly sound:

You are too much occupied with what is said, and with what is written in the journals. If you make good books, no one will make them bad. Have not people taken it into their heads to write against Racine, who cannot be dethroned ? He is more solidly established than the kings of the earth.'

All who knew her are agreed that her conversational powers were of the highest order; and her admirers claim for her the credit of having done more than any woman of her time to centralise and generalise the art and literature of the most enlightened nations, and confer a cosmopolitan character on European thought. It was to the change operated in great measure through her instrumentality that Sismondi alludes when writing to her from Geneva shortly before her death : *Your Florentines are beginning to return the visits we formerly paid them; without doubt the mass still slumbers and lives from day to day, society lacks interest, but there is notwithstanding a perceptible progress in men's minds; this mingling of nations, this reciprocal sympathy with which they mutually watch each other, will end by introducing amongst all what is good, by destroying in all what is bad, so far at least as enlightenment can triumph in the long run over petty passions and petty interests.'

The importance attached to her salon is sufficiently established by the flattering persecution it entailed upon her. In May 1809, she received an imperial order to repair to Paris without delay. She came accompanied by Fabre, and at her first audience with the Emperor was thus addressed: 'I know your 'influence over the society of Florence. I know also that you 'employ it in a sense adverse to my policy; you are an ob

stacle to my projects of fusion between the Tuscans and the * French. This is why I have summoned you to Paris, where you will have full leisure to satisfy your taste for the fine 'arts. She was not allowed to return to Florence till November 1810.

She died there on the 29th January, 1824. By her will, after leaving, as remembrances, some object or other to each of her relatives and principal friends, — a service of china to one, a cameo to a second, a portrait to a third, and so on, — she constitutes Fabre her universal legatee, as fully and completely as she had been constituted the universal legatee of Alfieri. The result was that all the books, manuscripts, statues, paintings, medals, curiosities, and rarities of all sorts, that had been collected by Charles Edward and Alfieri, became the property of the French painter. After raising a monument to the Countess, he resolved to return to his native country, and after presenting the poet's manuscripts to the city of Florence, he obtained leave from the Grand Duke to carry off the rest of his treasures, the whole of which he subsequently made over to his native city of Montpellier. The municipality caused a building to be constructed for their reception, and that of the donor, who resided in it till his death in 1837. He is described as cold, discreet, disdainful, tormented by the gout, angry at the revolution of July, and though always respectful towards the Countess, avoiding all mention of her name. Such was the foundation of the Musée Fabre, from which the most valuable of the materials for M. de Reumont's work and M. Saint René Taillandier's articles have been derived.

We are not aware that we can add any reflection that will not spontaneously occur to the majority of readers. The Countess's life, with all its crosses and alternations of fortune, is deficient in romantic interest, as well as in moral weight; for her character was essentially prosaic; she preferred the real to the ideal; and we nowhere find that she sacrificed for a passion, or a sentiment, any one solid comfort or advantage that she could command or retain. If she had been endowed with much fancy or imagination, delicacy or sensibility, the notion (carried out by her last will) of making the French painter the personal representative of the royal husband and the poet-lover, would have been rejected with a shudder if suggested to her. Yet she had as much heart and soul as many women who have filled a larger space in history. She was the connecting link of half a century of celebrities. She inspired Alfieri; she controlled Foscolo; she thwarted Napoleon; she gave Italian thought a standing-point; she strengthened it by a rich infusion of foreign elements, and she mingled minds on an admitted footing of equality with the very first spirits of her day.

ART. VII. — History of Civilization in England. By HENRY

THOMAS BUCKLE. Volume the Second. London: 1861. It must be confessed that Mr. Buckle is not a writer who

gains upon us by a further acquaintance with his work. His first volume, published nearly five years ago, excited, and in some degree gratified, the curiosity of the public by a lively and perspicuous style, by a considerable display of reading, by great hardihood of dogmatical speculation, and by a lofty design to create the science of history.' It was received with a degree of interest due rather to the apparent courage and ability of the writer, whose name then first appeared in English literature, than to the results at which he had actually arrived. Many errors of detail were pointed out,-a thing not to be wondered at in a disquisition which affected to embrace every section of human knowledge, and to accomplish for the history of man something equivalent or at all events analogous to what has been effected by other inquirers for the different 'branches of physical science.' (Vol. i. p. 6.) Doubts were expressed by ourselves and by other critics as to the possibility of establishing the scientific conclusions promised by Mr. Buckle on what he terms the great average of human affairs.' Above all we saw reason to distrust the soundness of his fundamental principles, and we clearly perceived that human life is of far too short a span to embrace the preliminary facts or to reach the result contemplated in so gigantic a plan. Indeed, Mr. Buckle has himself arrived, on this point, at our own conclusion.

It is, indeed, too true, that such a work requires, not only several minds, but also the successive experience of several generations. Once, I own, I thought otherwise. Once, when I first caught sight of the whole field of knowledge, and seemed, however dimly, to discern its various parts and the relation they bore to each other, I was so entranced with its surpassing beauty, that the judgment was beguiled, and I deemed myself able, not only to cover the surface, but also to master the details. Little did I know how the horizon enlarges as well as recedes, and how vainly we grasp at the fleeting forms, which melt away and elude us in the distance. Of all that I had hoped to do, I now find but too surely how small a part I shall accomplish. In those early aspirations, there was much that was fanciful; perhaps there was much that was foolish. Perhaps, too, they contained a moral defect, and savoured of an arrogance which belongs to a strength that refuses to recognise its own weakness.' (Vol. ii. pp. 327, 328.)

In the space of five years small indeed is the progress made. The General Introduction contained in the first volume is followed in the second by two disquisitions on Spain and Scotland—subjects which have been selected as appropriate illustrations of Mr. Buckle's historical theories, but which bring us not one step nearer to his ultimate object. Indeed, as Mr. Buckle's scheme embraces the totality of human affairs,' nothing human is foreign to his task, and however copious his resources may be, it is certain that the portion he leaves untouched must incalculably exceed in amount that which he relates.

It is not our intention, on the present occasion, to resume or to prolong the discussion in which we engaged at the time of the publication of his first volume. But further consideration has satisfied us that if we erred in the estimate we then formed of Mr. Buckle's abilities, we erred on the side of indulgence. The truths which he announced to mankind as the discoveries of genius, are in reality mere fanciful conceits when they are not plagiarisms from the French Encyclopædists of the last century; and if his book retain hereafter any place at all in the literature of this country, it will be remembered chiefly for its misapplied ingenuity and its logical perversity. Claiming to be itself a history of scientific method, and of the process by which civilisation has been evolved by the mind of man in different countries, it is totally deficient in methodical arrangement. No rigorous chain of philosophical reasoning can any: where be discovered; and if any such plan exists in the mind of the author, it is entirely lost in the profusion of desultory incidents and extracts with which he has embroidered his pages. His original pretensions to lead us to the science of history turn out to be wholly unfounded; for in science Mr. Buckle is without that comprehensive grasp which reduces the intricate skein of causes and events to a single thread; and in history he analyses more than he combines, enlarging to excess on occurrences which fall in with his preconceived notions, and rejecting or passing over in silence events of at least equal importance, which are at variance with them. We shall say nothing more of the absurdity (to use no harsher term) of the attempt to explain the order of the world by reducing the moral government of Providence to a system of averages based on the laws of iron necessity, or of the design to trace the growth of modern civilisation irrespective of, or rather in opposition to, the influence of Christianity. The first of these doctrines is so far from having any novelty to boast of, that it is identical with the theme of the immortal poem of Lucretius; for, like the great Epicurean, Mr. Buckle is of opinion that, after all, reli

« הקודםהמשך »