That the Empress herself should come to meet her at the outside of the door of her bed-chamber. And, 3dly, That she should be allowed an arm-chair during the interview. Whole days were spent in the discussion of this proposition; and at last the two first articles were agreed to; but all that she could make of the last was, that she should have a very large chair, without arms; and the Empress a very small one, with them!- Her account of the interview we add in her own words.

“ Je vis cette Princesse le jour suivant. J'avoue qu'à sa place j'aurois imaginé toutes les étiquettes et les cérémonies du monde pour m'empêcher de paroître. L'Impératrice est d'une taille au-dessous de la petite, et si puissante qu'elle semble une boule ; elle est laide au possible, sans air et sans grace. Son esprit répond à sa figure; elle est bigotte à l'excès, et passe les nuits et les jours dans son oratoire : les vieilles et les laides sont ordinairement le partage du bon Dieu! Elle me reçut en tremblant et d'un air si décontenancé qu'elle ne put me dire un mot. Nous nous assîmes. Après avoir gardé quelque temps le silence, je commençai la conversation en français. Elle me repondit, dans son jargon autrichien, qu'elle n'entendoit pas bien cette langue, et qu'elle me prioit de lui parler en allemand. Cet entretien ne fut pas long. Le dialecte autrichien et le bas-saxon sont si différens, qu'à moins d'y être accoutumé on ne se comprend point. C'est aussi ce qui nous arriva. Nous aurions préparé à rire à un tiers par les coqà-l'âne que nous faisions, n'entendant que par-ci par-là un mot, qui nous faisoit deviner le reste. Cette princesse étoit si fort esclave de son étiquette qu'elle auroit cru faire un crime de lèse-grandeur en m’entretenant dans une langue étrangère; car elle savoit le français ! L'Empereur devoit se trouver à cette visite; mais il étoit tombé si malade qu'on craignoit même pour ses jours." —p. 345, 346.

After this she comes home in very bad humour; and the Memoirs break off abruptly with her detection of an intrigue between her husband and her favourite attendant, and her dissatisfaction with the dull formality of the court of Stutgard. We hope the sequel will soon find its way to the public.

Some readers may think we have dwelt too long on such a tissue of impertinencies; and others may think an apology requisite for the tone of levity in which we have spoken of so many atrocities. The truth is, that we think this book of no trifling importance; and that we could not be serious upon the subject of it without being both sad and angry. Before concluding, however,



we shall add one word in seriousness — to avoid the misconstructions to which we might otherwise be liable.

We are decidedly of opinion, that Monarchy, and Hereditary Monarchy, is by far the best form of government that human wisdom has yet devised for the administration of considerable nations; and that it will always continue to be the most perfect which human virtue will admit of. We are not readily to be suspected, therefore, of any wish to produce a distaste or contempt for this form of government; and beg leave to say, that though the facts we have now collected are certainly such as to give no favourable impression of the private manners or personal dispositions of absolute sovereigns, we conceive that good, rather than evil, is likely to result from their dissemination. This we hold, in the first place, on the strength of the general maxim, that all truth must be ultimately salutary, and all deception pernicious. But we think we can see a little how this maxim applies to the particular case before us.

In the first place, then, we think it of service to the cause of royalty, in an age of violent passions and rash experiments, to show that most of the vices and defects which such times are apt to bring to light in particular sovereigns, are owing, not so much to any particular unworthiness or unfitness in the individual, as to the natural operation of the circumstances in which he is placed ; and are such, in short, as those circumstances have always generated in a certain degree in those who have been exposed to them. Such considerations, it appears to us, when taken along with the strong and irresistible arguments for monarchical government in general, are well calculated to allay that great impatience and dangerous resentment with which nations in turbulent times are apt to consider the faults of their sovereigns; and to unite with a steady attachment and entire respect for the office, a very great degree of indulgence for the

personal defects of the individual who may happen to fill it. Monarchs, upon this view of things, are to be considered as persons who are placed, for the public good, in situations where, not only their comfort, but their moral



qualities, are liable to be greatly impaired; and who are poorly paid in empty splendour, and anxious


for the sacrifice of their affections, and of the many engaging qualities which might have blossomed in a lower region. If we look with indulgence upon the roughness of sailors, the pedantry of schoolmasters, and the frivolousness of beauties, we should learn to regard, with something of the same feelings, the selfishness and the cunning of kings.

In the second place, we presume to think that the general adoption of these opinions as to the personal defects that are likely to result from the possession of sovereign power, may be of use to the sovereigns themselves, from whom the knowledge of their prevalence cannot be very long concealed. Such knowledge, it is evident, will naturally stimulate the better sort of them to counteract the causes which tend to their personal degradation; and enable them more generally to surmount their pernicious operation, by such efforts and reflections, as have every now and then rescued some powerful spirits from their dominion, under all the disadvantages of the delusions with which they were surrounded.

Finally, if the general prevalence of these sentiments as to the private manners and dispositions of sovereigns should have the effect of rendering the bulk of their subjects less prone to blind admiration, and what may be called personal attachment to them, we do not imagine that any great harm will be done. The less the public knows or cares about the private wishes of their monarch, and the more his individual will is actually consubstantiated with the deliberate sanctions of his responsible counsellors, the more perfectly will the practice of government correspond with its admitted theory; the more wisely will affairs be administered for the public, and the more harmoniously and securely both for the sovereign and the people. An adventurous warrior may indeed derive signal advantages from the personal devotedness and enthusiastic attachment of his followers ; but in the civil office of monarchy, as it exists in mo


dern times, the only safe attachment is to the office, and to the measures which it sanctions. The personal popularity of princes, in so far as we know, has never done any thing but harm: and indeed it seems abundantly evident, that whatever is done merely for the personal gratification of the reigning monarch, that would not have been done at any rate on grounds of public expediency, must be an injury to the community, and a sacrifice of duty to an unreturned affection; and whatever is forborne out of regard to his pleasure, which the interest of the country would otherwise have required, is in like manner an act of base and unworthy adulation. We do not speak, it will be understood, of trifles or things of little moment; but of such public acts of the government as involve the honour or the interest of the nation.

[blocks in formation]

History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher COLUMBUS.

By WASHINGTON IRVING. 4 vols. 8vo. London : 1828.

This, on the whole, is an excellent book; and we venture to anticipate that it will be an enduring one. Neither do we hazard this prediction lightly, or without a full consciousness of all that it implies. We are perfectly aware that there are but few modern works that are likely to verify it; and that it probably could not be extended with safety to so many as one in a hundred even of those which we praise. For we mean, not merely that the book will be familiarly known and referred to some twenty or thirty years hence, and will pass in solid binding into every considerable collection; but that it will supersede all former works on the same subject, and never be itself superseded. The first stage of triumph, indeed, over past or existing competitors, may often be predicted securely of works of no very extraordinary merit; which, treating of a progressive science, merely embody, with some small additions, a judicious digest of all that was forinerly known; and are for the time the best works on the subject, merely because they are the last. But the second stage of literary beatitude, in which an author not only eclipses all existing rivals, but obtains an immunity from the effects of all future competition, certainly is not to be so cheaply won; and can seldom, indeed, be secured to any one, unless the intrinsic merit of his production is assisted by the concurrence of some such circumstances as we think now hold out the promise of this felicity to the biographer of Columbus.

Though the event to which his work relates is one which can never sink into insignificance or oblivion, but, on the contrary, will probably excite more interest with

[blocks in formation]
« ForrigeFortsett »