Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

against bias studiously attempted to be given, he can nò where learn so fully what Richelieu was, as in the tedious pages of the protestant Le Vasseur, the bitter enemy of the Cardinal.

Scarcely ever has any mortal lived who at some moments has not been found off his guard; a remark which applies even to the unbending and vigilant minister of Louis the Just. The Cardinal's adversary saw his opportunity, and availed him. self of it; and Richelieu felt the disgrace so sensibly, that his firmness had nearly given way. It has been said that he was even meditating a voluntary descent from that elevation on which he appeared to such advantage, and which it cost him so much to reach : but the Pêre Joseph, as is conjectured, roused him to a conduct worthy of his fame. By the advice of that capuchin, he shewed himself openly in the streets of Paris, flattered the people, rallied them on their fears, and spoke as a man prepared for the crisis, and confident of success. This affected security dispelled the apprehensions of the Parisians, the face of things immediately changed, the enrollments filled rapidly, and an army respectable in point of numbers soon turned out : but the error of the enemy did more for Richelieu than either his own address or his measures; since, had the Spaniard duly improved his advantages, the capital must have been brought to imminent peril, and the Cardinal have been disgraced. This surprize of Richelieu is a lesson to all ministers never to rest too confident of security, but to be always prepared for critical emergencies.

When Louis XIII. heard that the Cardinal was no more, he merely observed, “ Behold a great statesman dead.

« 'This short funeral oration,' says the present author, ' embraces all that can be said of him, as it respects his administration. He first adjusted a balance of power in Europe, in which the house of Austria had in anterior times possessed too great a preponderance. He reduced the French protestants to a situation in which they could no longer render themselves formidable. These were the two chefs d'euvre of his administration : but they cost France a multitude of lives He humbled the great, whom he drew from their castles, in which they were surrounded with a power and influence which had been frequently employed to disturb the state, and transmuted them into mere courtiers. He is accused of having reduced the authority of the high noblesse more from personal interest than from a regard to the good of the people, and with having laid snares for those whom he purposed to ruin ; an imputation by no means improbable. There is one kind of praise due to him with which no censure blends, viz. that of improving and advancing the marine, the discipline of the army, foreign commerce, and many other ad. ministrative branches. He protected letters, and neglected nothing

that

that could give lustre to the nation : but it is difficult to believe, that he really in his heart wished to render the people happy, when we consider how he loaded them with burdens, and when we call to our recollection those acts of authority which often excited the murmurs of the clergy, of the magistracy, and of other orders of the state. His ministry was indeed brilliant, but it was oppressive.

• His imperious conduct towards the rest of the world, and even towards his sovereigns, was the effect of that decisive, peremptory, and inflexible cast of character, which in him extended even to obstinacy. Persuaded of his own capacity and superior talents, he made pretensiuns to all sorts of reputation. He wrote a book of theological controversy, employed himself on dramatic poetry, and was a self-created judge of authors; the most celebrated of whom incurred his jealousy and disgrace, when they were not so complaisant as seasonably to yield to him. His confidence in his own powers satisfied him not only that he did all well, but that nothing was well which was not done by him. Consequently he appeared in cha. racters the most foreign to his profession, such as in commanding armies in person, instituting criminal prosecutions, ordering the accused to be brought before him, and interrogating them him. self. In truth, few persons possessed so completely as he did a turn for detail united with grand views, and a koowlege of the means proper to ensure their success. This is to be collected from his dis. patches, from his instructions to ambassadors, and above all from his letters to the king. Their style is lofty, pure, and sententious ; they display singular address in the mode of introducing what it was his aim to have favourably received, and in anticipating and obviating objections: so that whether he spoke or wrote he was sure to succeed in having his ideas adopted by his master.'

The Père Joseph so naturally presents himself by the side of the great Cardinal, that we are tempted to submit to our readers another specimen of M. ANQUETIL's pencil.--He rejects the stories which ascribe the death of the capuchin to the jealousy of the first minister; he thinks that their friends ship never suffered any interruption, and he quotes the exclamation of Richelieu on hearing of his death: “ J'ai perdu mon bras droit :*

4 The Pêre Joseph was an indefatigable man. In managing enterprizes, he had all the activity, virsatility, and perseverance which were necessary to make them succeed. He had rendered himself fami. liar with difficulties and fatigues, in missions with regard to reforms in the houses belonging to his order : labours to which his early life had been devoted. In this occupation, he acquired the habit of paying no regard to the views, tastes, and inclinations of men, and öf using compulsion when persuasion would not suffice. He pene. țrated into the interior of cabinets by boldly setting himself for

[ocr errors]

* “ I have lost my right arm.”

wards,

wards, by taking a part in every thing, and by furnishing expedients for all sorts of affairs. His sober and rigid lise, his strict compliance with the painful duties of his order, and bis care never to share the luxuries and conveniences of the world, except in cases of pressing necessity, secured to him the esteem of the great. He treated them with no kind of ceremony if they refused to comply with his wishes, and spoke to them with the boldness of a man who braves events, and who has nothing to lose. Obdurate, absolute, and habituated to the strictest observance, he was severe in his treatment of others. He discovered no tenderness, except to the congregation of Nuns of Calvary which he had founded; and here the breath of scan: dal never imputed his sedulous attentions to any unlawful motive. The courtiers found it strange that he distributed favours without retaining any for himself, or his family : the pious, who knew that he sent missionaries to preach the Gospel, little suspected that he set armies in motion to deluge Europe with blood; they were aware that he composed rules for his cloistered brethren, but they little thought that he formed treaties of alliance with heretics. But those who know the world are not ignorant that some heads are capable of the most opposite pursuits. Richelieu had no doubt of the fact; and he represented the singular monk, even when dying, as taking a more lively interest in the success of his political operations, than in the exhortations which were addressed to him as a man on the point of dissolution.'

The severity of the Cardinal has been sometimes laid at the door of the austere capuchin: but it was not perceived that his eminence became more mild when death had deprived him of his able coadjutor. On the contrary, the Cardinal appeared less relenting, and the persecution of the family of Epernon fol, lowed closely on this event.

Of the domestic intrigues in which the Cardinal was concerned, and by which he was affected, few works give a better idea than that before us ; while to supply the exposition of the deep and successful policy, which stamps the character of the statesman, does not seem to be so much in the line of M. AnQUETIL. In detailing the miserable intrigues of the Fronde, the author is very happy; the figure made by Mazarin is also described with considerable precision and ability, and the real claims of that skilful statesman are appreciated with much accuracy.

This pleasing and instructive narrator, as if fatigued by his arduous undertaking, falls very much short of his ordinary excellence in his relations of the last three reigns. The splendid era of Louis XIV. does not rouse him : he is tame, very summary in his accounts, and in several particulars incorrect, especially in matters which refer to Great Britain. Due allow. ance being made for these defects, we regard the work, which is now completed, as an extremely desirable and useful compendium; the most commodious that can be put into the hands of young people, and which will be found to answer the purpose of the generality of foreigners. It does not affect the value of the volumes in this respect, that they are very much taken from Villy and Villaret, and their continuators.

Art. IV. OEuvres Philosophiques, Historiques, & Litteraires, soc.

The Philosophical, Historical, and Literary Works of D'ALEMBERT, 12 Vols. 8vo. Paris. Imported by De Boffe, Lon.

don. Price 5l. 85. In the ordinary sense of the term philosophy, our neighbours,

in clude physics. The present publication contains none of the mathematical and astronomical performances of the celebrated academician whose name it bears, the word philosophical referring only to his metaphysical and moral worke. The French press, having now few original productions to employ it, is obliged to direct its activity to the antient stores of which it may with reason boast; and among these, it certainly could select none more acceptable to inen of culture and taste, than the volumes which now lie before us. The merits of this wellknown philosopher, in the abstruse sciences, have very frequently come under our notice: but the present collection embraces a different class of labours, to some parts of which only have we before had occasion to advert. These lay claim to the merit of great finish, and are eminently distinguished by clearness of conception and neatness of language, though the composition may have some redundancies, which probably would not have encumbered it if the writer had devoted himself wholly to letters; and the same cause may account for the want of fluency with which his style is chargeable.

Having, on a former occasion, noticed very much at large the able and elaborate eulogium pronounced on the philosopher by Condorcet *, we shall now confine ourselves to traits of him omitted in that account, and which are supplied by the various details that are collected together in the first of these volumes.

In the memoirs composed by himself, he informs us that on taking his second degree in arts, he commenced a course of law studies, and was admitted an advocate. His attention, however, during this period, was given to the mathematics. He had the assistance of an instructor, who, if he was not

• See Rer. Vol. Ixxvi. p. 238.

profound,

profound, had clear and distinct notions as far as his knowlege extended ; and this person was the only master whom D'ALEMBERT ever confulted. The taste of the pupil for mathematics grew more and more confirmed; and the time of the law-novje ciate was wholly absorbed by this pursuit. Without adequate instruction, without books, and without a friend to advise and to solve difficulties, as has been remarked by his eulogist, he had recourse to the public libraries, and derived his information from the hurried reading of which they admitted. He thus gained fome advances, and even made what he considered as discoveries, but which he afterward, not without a mixture of mortification and satisfaction, found in other books. His friends, however, being desirous of his advancement in the world, persuaded him to discontinue his mathematical studies, in order to adopt some other which would be more profitable. With this view, and as being less foreign from his natural bias, but not from any predilection for the profession, he began to study medicine. In order to follow, without distraction, his new pursuit, he proposed entirely to abandon the mathematics, and consigned to a friend his few books on that subject : but the books gradually and imperceptibly found their way back to the owner; and at the end of a year, he renounced medicine altogether, and gave himself up decidedly to his predominant taste. So completely was he devoted to his favourite science, that for years he wholly neglected the belles lettres, and did not resume them till some years after his admission into the Academy, and about the time at which he began to write in the Encyclopedie. The preface to that work is here described as “the quintessence of the mathematical, philosophical, and literary acquisitions made by him in a course of twenty years of study.'

Frederick the Great was the first royal patron of the philosopher; and a trait, which is very honorable to that prince, is preserved in a letter from him to D'ALEMBERT, respecting the destruction of the order of Jesuits. “ Though encouraged, (says Frederick,)“ by the examples of other princes, I shall not banish the Jesuits because they are unfortunate ; I shall do them no harm, being very sure that I shall prevent them from injuring me; and I do not oppress them, because I know how to keep them within the line of their duty." This able and magnanimous ruler was above dreading any mischiefs from toleration.

The portrait which D'ALEMBERT drew of his own character, at the request of a lady, shews a fair and candid mind, and has all the appearance of extreme correctness. Speaking of himself in the third person, he remarks:

« AnteriorContinuar »