« 이전계속 »
motives very distinct in character, from this lofty and refined spirit of philanthropy.
Whoever has resided in France since the accession of Bonaparte to the supreme power, or is in the habit of perusing the French Gazettes, must know it to be among the favourite objects of this extraordinary man, to connect his name with every public institution and transaction of his empire, and to secure its diffusive immortality, if we may be allowed the phrase, by every possible device. For this purpose, the epithet Napoleon is attached even to the most trivial objects of a public nature;—the letter N. stamped in large capital on every public edifice;—the image of the monarch affixed to the coin of the empire, and multiplied indefinitely, in medals, on canvass, in the tapestry of the Gobelins, and by every durable mode of illustration. The policy which aims at this species of celebrity, would naturally prompt him to exact, what the Institute so obsequiously tender in the present work;—" the homage of the sciences, of letters and of the arts;" and in no form more imposing could it be obtained, than in that of a tribute like the one under consideration. Imbued with this idea, which was undoubtedly that of Bonaparte, M. Dacier, the perpetual secretary of the class, exclaims in the introductory discourse, "if Alexander or Augustus had caused the general state of knowledge under their reign to be thus ascertained and exhibited by a body of savans, how much would not this important and noble picture have added to their glory!"
It is understood to belong to the personal gratifications of Bonaparte, as well as to his ambitious policy, to convert the learned of the empire, and particularly the Institute, into officious panegyrists of his character and government; to habituate them to the most tractable and prostitute servility; to break and dastardize the elevated and republican spirit, which a devotion to moral studies rarely fails to engender. The motives for this plan derived from the temper of the individual, and the circumstances under which he reigns, are too obvious to need exposition. Nothing could more efficaciously promote his views on this head, as well as every part of his scheme for employing the agency of science and letters in corroborating his dominion, and embellishing his name, than this general history, wherein the prosperity of all branches of knowledge is industriously traced to his munificent patronage, and the grossest adulation prodigally poured forth, in the name and with the sanction of the Institute, themselves, as it were, the representatives and depositaries of the science and erudition of the whole empire. Our readers may judge of the pliability of these gentlemen, and of the spirit in which this work was conceived, by some few passages, which we extract, as faint specimens, from the Introductory discourse. Mr. Levesque, the president of the committee draughted to prepare the report, expresses himself thus—
"It is to you, sire, that modern history owes her resurrec"tion, and scarcely has she recovered her voice, when she M shows herself worthy of being heard, and capable of pro"claiming, under your auspices, the soundest maxims of mo"rality; already, exercising her powers upon less memorable "themes, she is preparing herself to celebrate one day in a "suitable strain, the most illustrious of reigns, and the great"est of nations. Sire, the class has put forth one prayer, which "it is their most ardent wish to see admitted, and which their "president is charged to lay at the foot of the throne. It is, "that these days for ever memorable, in which your majesty "deigns to receive the homage of the sciences, of literature "and the arts, and to require an account of their situation and "progress, may be immortalized by a medal, and recorded in "medallic history."
M. Dacier the perpetual secretary, in speaking of this act of condescension, knows no bounds to the admiration and gratitude of the Institute. "This vast and magnificent conception," says he, " was, sire, reserved for the genius of your majesty; for that all-powerful genius which hovers over the whole earth, and rules it by pre-emmence of thought, as it might rule it by arms."—
The following are specimens of the modest and ingenious compliments tendered by the secretary to his gracious sovereign. "Ancient Ichnography animated by one look from you, is about to replace before our eyes, the images too long neglected, of those great men of antiquity, who are your progenitors in glory, and whose sublime and immortal inheritance
you have conquered and improved." "Our cotempora
ries ought to be in a state of mind more favourable for writing history than their predecessors; they have seen so many great revolutions, so many great calamities, so many great creations, such great conceptions, such great actions, —so great a man—that every thing which is not truly great, will appear small to them.—From all that they have seen of greatness, they must without doubt have learned to see greatly."—Such is the grandiose tone of the introduction. It is somewhat amusing to contrast the length of this discourse, which consists of twenty pages, as well as the laboured obsequiousness of its language, with the brevity, and rigidity of the emperor's reply. " Messrs. the president, secretary and deputies of the third class of the Institute," answers his Imperial Majesty," I take a great interest in the prosperity of the sciences, and a particular one in the success of your labour. You may always count upon the effects of my protection!"
We have yet to speak, of what we conceive to have been the principal inducement, to the preparation of the Report. The object evidently was, to represent the French empire as the emporium of knowledge and taste;—as the circle within which the human faculties display their highest beauty, and their utmost productive vigor, under the genial auspices of the most enlightened, discriminating, and munificent of patrons. The attention and admiration of his subjects, and of the nations of the continent, were to be attracted to France, as the favourite and appropriate seat of all the muses, while England should be made to present but few claims to notice or consideration, and thus be overlooked and forgotten in the general estimate. In this way, not only was the glory of France to be advantageously consulted, but her rival thrown into the shade. The literary curiosity of the continent was to be confined at home; and the principles and models of the English school were to be excluded from it, or to be restricted to very limited circulation, by the repression—through a partial basso-relievo exhibition of their merits—of all desire to investigate them.
The Edinburgh Reviewers speaking of the reports in the aggregate, acknowledge indeed, that more room is occupied by French improvements and discoveries, than by any other; but this, they add, "may be in reality a just allotment; or it may in part be an effect of that perspective, which in intellectual as in visible objects, represents the nearest as the largest, so as sometimes to deceive the justest eye and the most impartial judgment." Had the report of the third class been attentively read, most undoubtedly it would have been excepted from this observation, which in fact is far from being accurate with respect to the others. In this report—on the moral sciences—England cuts a very sorry figure, and prefers fewer titles to respect not merely than France, but than Germany, Italy or Holland; an allotment which no man whose researches enable him to form a comparison, can possibly admit to be just, or ascribe merely to national prejudice, or perverted optics in the Institute. No where is any thing like the .semblance of justice done to her indisputable pre-eminence in this respect, but in that part of the work, which speaks of the progress and condi
Vol. III. B
tion of speculative philosophy, to which we shall advert more particularly hereafter.
In acknowledging the merit of the British in a few branches, wherein it is beyond the limits of any degree of prejudice or impudence to contest their superiority, the authors of the report are careful to add such qualifications and equivalents, as to show but too clearly, the reluctance with which they yield, in any one instance, to the necessity of exhibiting their rivals to advantage. This will be fully exemplified in the course of our remarks on the several sections of the work, but it may not be amiss to cite here, in support of our position, an example or two from which, moreover, pretty certain conclusions may be at once deduced, as to the feelings and views of the writers. In speaking of Persian literature, they make the following acknowledgment. "Almost all that has been done for this literature has been the work of the English, who have enjoyed more means, and have been instigated by stronger motives of interest, in prosecuting the study of the language." They add, after detailing the researches of the French savant in the same branch—" We know very well that these labours cannot enter in comparison with those of the British; but they prove at least that the latter would find rivals among us, if we, like them, were seconded by circumstances, and if the government would deign to encourage our efforts." Immediately after, in commencing their notice of Chinese literature, they express themselves thus: "To talk of China is, as it were, to return to our own literary domain; for, the same reputation and superiority which our neighbours have acquired in Indian literature, we also may claim in a literature not less fruitful, and of still more certain antiquity. Without recalling here the immense labours of our missionaries, and the learned researches of the French Academicians, Fourmont and de Guignes, we should at least mention the memoirs concerning the history, the sciences and the arts of the Chinese, by the missionaries of Pekin, in fifteen volumes, 4to, of which the three last have appeared since 1789. Those who are acquainted with this collection, which is much more highly appreciated and much more in demand among foreign nations, than among Frenchmen, consider it as worthy of being placed by the side of the Asiatic researches."
Again, after claiming for France a decided pre-eminence, in the department of history over all other nations, and making an enumeration of their principal historians, accompanied by a slight acknowledgment of the defects of each, they hold the following disinterested and libera/ language. "Let us not ourselves depreciate the merit of our own historians. No writer can combine in the same degree every species of excellence. We must recognize indeed great beauties, and a high degree of merit in the two Scotch historians, Hume and Robertson, and an extensive erudition, with too much philosophical parade, however, in their countryman Gibbon; but, have we not historians whom we may oppose to them, by adverting to the particulars in which each of them has excelled, and especially to that clearness of narrative and propriety of method which so eminently characterize the good French writers?"
"What secures the victory to is the suffrage of all enlightened nations, and we do not fear or hesitate to repeat what was once written by a man of letters, who has passed the greater part of his life out of France, and chiefly in Germany. "Th« labours of the Scotch and English in this department are," says he, "known particularly in France, but those of the French, throughout all Europe."—We must observe, moreover, that no people has ever been able to boast of a great number of excellent historians. The Greeks had their Herodotus, Thucydides and Zenophon; the Romans their Sallust, Livy and Tacitus. The ancients inform us that the other historians whose works are lost, were far inferior to these," &c.
The reader might well ask, by what rule of congruity, such invidious comparisons as the foregoing, were introduced into a work, which purports to be a mere history of the progress of the moral sciences, since the year 1789; or why the Institute, in deciding with such egregious modesty and impartiality, in favour of their own pretensions, do not deign to give the name of the "man of letters" whose sagacious observation they adopt as their own; in order that we might have at least some stronger ground of reliance, on his authority in this case, than the mere circumstance, of his having spent a part of his life "out of France, and principally in Germany." Nothing in fact can be—we will not say more undignified—but more ridiculously puerile, than the language which they employ on this subject; nothing more awkwardly managed, and yet more significantly expressive of their object and feelings. Notwithstanding the peremptory assertion of this learned body, it remains, we think, yet to be proved, that all enlightened nations have awarded to the French the palm of history; or, that" the E nglish and Scotch historians are particularly known in France," conformably to the suggestion of the anonymous ** man of letters."—The mistake which the authors of the report commit in a subsequent page, when they speak of Gibbon, as celebrated