페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

maker of skeletons, could not have existed in the earlier and brighter period. They are the offspring of exaggeration—strange evidences of the wild and almost despairing attempt to keep on a level with himself. This extreme strain and effort to prolong the prodigality of work is at the same time, no doubt, one of the reasons why he never attains in any solitary instance to the vigor and originality of his beginning. It might have been supposed that the very narrowing of the sphere would intensify the individual conceptions; but Dickens would not consent to narrow his sphere, and did not give his powers fair-play. Thus the tide of his genius fell, as the tide of life falls. That elaboration which experience and study make natural to the mature mind, struck at the very roots of his success, for his success had never been due to art. It had been the spontaneity, the ease and freedom, the mirrored life, versatile and rich and evermoving as life itself, though seldom more profound than the surface picture which a glass reflects and brightens, which had been his grand charm. The " thoughts which sometimes lie too deep for tears;" the "richer coloring" given by the deep glance of those eyes "which have kept watch o'er man's mortality," did not lie within his range. Therefore, as he grew older, he waned, and his power went from his hands.

For this reason, and many other reasons already indicated, it appears to us that Dickens's place and fame in the future are likely to shrink much from their present proportions. When all its adventitious helps are gone, and he comes to be judged simply on his merits, the importance of his position will be greatly lessened. Perhaps he may even be the victim of an unjust revulsion from all the false emotion and claptrap sentiment surrounded by which it has been his unfortunate fate to leave the world. He has had so much false reputation, that it is but too possible his true reputation may suffer temporary eclipse by one of those revenges which time brings about so surely. Unjust depreciation, however, is as much to be avoided as the false glory which so many injudicious applauses have raised about his name. He was not, as he is said to be, a writer of the highest moral tendency, because the company he introduces to us, far predilection, is not by any means New Series.—Vol. XIV., No. 3.

good company; and the virtue which he makes a point of recommending is very poor and mawkish in its pretended excellence. But, at the same time, he never introduces one scene, and scarcely a thought, which trangresses the severest laws of modesty; and this, though negative, is praise of the very highest description. His weight is always thrown into the scale of goodness; nor does he ever lend a grace of sentiment to vice, or even attempt to excuse the inexcusable. Had he indulged in the propensities of the "Guy Livingston" type of novelists, it is impossible to calculate the harm he might have done, or the floods of debasing influences he might have poured forth upon the world. But in this point even Mrs. Gamp is as blameless as Mrs. Grundy—nay, infinitely more innocent; for Mrs. Grundy's social heroine is seldom anything so respectable as the mother of six.

Mr. Dickens's claims as a humorist, in the highest sense of the word, are limited chiefly by the absence of that fine sense of moral excellence, apart from all conventionalities, which is like an ear for music, an unexplainable gift, which no amount of genius or understanding can confer upon a man if nature has withheld it. The want is by times scarcely apparent; and once, at least, he overcomes it altogether with a bound, as Wordsworth is said for one wonderful moment to have gained the sense of smell of which nature had deprived him; but, as a rule, this absence of the highest order of perceptions limits his capacity for producing the highest kind of work. He cannot get above himself. By times he has glimpses of a purer air, and strives and strains to get into that better atmosphere—but the strain does but tighten the halter about his neck, beyond the length of which he cannot go. The period in which he is most natural is the " Pickwick" period, in which his high spirits and sense of power carry him quite out of range of sympathy, and he laughs at everybody indiscriminately with a good-humored and easy fulness of laughter which disarms all our censures, and yet is essentially cynical, though so unlike the ordinary conception of that word. But after "Pickwick," when the first fulness of fancy had been sobered by practical knowledge of the difficulties and dangers of actual production, Dickens's virtue 18

develops .with a suddenness and loftiness which is very remarkable. It is as if he had surveyed his mimic world, found out in it the deficiency we have remarked, and had vowed to himself that he would be moral, and would be sympathetic, and that this deficiency should be seen no more. If such was his1 resolution, he carried it out nobly, there can be no doubt; but yet his morals, like all his higher sentiments, are artificial; they are even polemical, standing on their defence, calling heaven and earth to witness how genuine they are. This want of spontaneous moral feeling takes, at the same time, the point out of his satire. He is shocked conventionally by social evil, but his heart is not wrung, nor his sense of harmony outraged. He is never bitter; sometimes he lashes himself into a rage, getting it up with grinding of teeth and gathering of brows ; but the gall which is in that man's own soul who is hurt and stung and made to bleed by wrong is never visible in Dickens. He shoots fiery darts at an abuse, because his attention has been directed to it as something which ought to be assailed, a fit object for his artillery; he does not fall upon it with sharp disdain and loathing, as a thing ruinous and pernicious within. It is the absence of this warm moral sentiment which limits him both as satirist and humorist, giving him admission but to the threshold of the highest circle. In both these branches of art his old rival, Thackeray, takes place infinitely above him, notwithstanding that the common verdict of the world in their day set down Thackeray as a cynic and sceptic, with no belief in virtue, and held up Dickens as a kind of apostle of human goodness. In this point, as in many others, distance clears away the mists, and makes objects which were confused and indistinct when close at hand, clear and apparent to the further view.

Yet with all his limitations and de

ficiencies the genius of Dickens was one of which England has reason to be prou<l When he held the mirror up to nature, he never showed, it is true, anything heroic, or of the highest strain of virtue and nobleness : but he showed such a picture of the teeming animated world as few men have been able to do—he expounded and cleared to us some unseen corners of the soul, so as to make them great in the perfectness of the revelation; and here and there he cleared away the rubbish from some genial sunshiny spots where the flowers can grow. We may apply to him, without doubt, the surest test to which the Maker can be subject; were all his books swept by some intellectual catastrophe out of the world, there would still exist in the world some score at least of people, with all whose ways and sayings we are more intimately acquainted than with those of our brothers and sisters, who would owe to him their being. While we live, and while our children live, Sam Weller and Dick Swiveller, Mr Pecksniff and Mrs. Gamp, the Micawbers and the Squeerses, can never die. They are not lofty personages, perhaps, nor can they do us much good now that they are here. But here they are, and nothing can destroy them. They are more real than we are ourselves, and will outlive and outlast us as they have outlived their creator. This is the one proof of genius which no criric, not the most carping or dissatisfied, can gainsay. Would there had been among them even one soul of higher pretension to give dignity to the group! but such as they are, they are indestructible and beyond the power of decay. These are Dickens's evidences of the reality of his vocation, and they are such as even the devil's advocate could not assail. Va;n would be the hand and futile the attempt of the critic who strove to shut upon a spirit thus attended the doors of the temple of fame.

lilackwood's Magazine

A HISTORY OF THE COMMUNE OF PARIS.

BY A RESIDENT.

The causes which brought about the revolution of the 18th March, and which enabled the Commune to remain master of Paris during sixty-six days, were of two

distinct kinds; they were partly moral, partly material. Socialism, stimulated by the teaching of the Internationale, prepared the outbreak; the military orgaaization and accumulation of arms and stores which resulted from the Prussian siege; supplied means of action, without which that outbreak would probably have failed. The so-called Socialist party, which was composed of various and even hostile elements—of the relics of the insurgents of June, 1848, of the agitators of 1851 who had returned from exile, of workmen who would not work, and, latterly, of the active agents of the Internationale— began to show its head once more during the later years of the Empire; several of its members, whose names have recently become well known—Delescluze, Vermorel, Jules Valles, Cluseret, and others —were then arrested. The moment was not favorable for action, but the movement continued in the dark ; and it silently attained a strength and a development which enabled its leaders to seize the first opportunity that offered itself for an insurrection. The Internationale, which dates from the London Universal Exhibition of 1862, did-not manifest at its origin the tendencies which it has gradually avowed; and it is only during the last three years that it has actively joined the revolutionary party in Paris. Its first object, copied from the English trades' union, was, to a certain extent, legitimate and respectable: it was to prevent needless competition between workmen, to regulate the conditions qf strikes, and to generalize their action in Europe, and to seek all practicable and legal means of improving the condition of the laboring classes, especially in their relations towards their employers. But at the meeting held at St Martin's Hall, on 28th September, 1864, the character of the association received a different definition: its intention of attaining political results was- then indicated unmistakably, though with some vagueness; and it was distinctly confirmed at the Lausanne conference in 1866. The French branch of the society was attacked by the Government, for the second time, in 1868, on the charge of illegal meetings. It was on that occasion that Prance first heard the names of Assi, Varlin, Malon, Johannard, Pindy, Combault, Arrial, Langevin, Theisz, Frankel, and Duval,—all workmen, all members of the Internationale, and all of whom afterwards sat in the Commune of Paris.

By d :grees the Internationale, growing in power, in numbers, and in money,

ventured to throw off the mask which it had assumed at' its origin. It continued to pursue the economical questions which had appeared at first to be its sole end and object; but it began to publicly advocate the suppression of religion, of marriage, and of property, and to show itself in its real character of an institution which intends to revolutionize the world. M. Jules Favre describes it, in his letter of the 6th June, 1871, to the French diplomatic agents, to be a " society of war and hatred; its base is atheism and Communism; its object, the destruction of capital, and the annihilation of those who possess it; its means of action, the brute force of the majority, which will crush all who resist it." This definition cannot be considered to be exaggerated, for it is in rigorous conformity with the statement published in 1869 by the directing committee of the Internationale in London, which tells us that " the alliance declares itself atheist; it demands the abolition of religion, the substitution of science for faith, of human justice for divine justice, the suppression of marriage." Elsewhere they say, "We call for the direct legislation of the people by the people, the abolition of inheritance, the constitution of land as collective property."

These are the principles which, for several years, even before the Internationale intervened, have been secretly but widely circulated in Paris, amongst eager listeners agitated by a vague longing for material satisfactions by undefined aspirations after an amelioration of their condition. Latterly, these feelings, perfectly honest and natural in themselves, have avowedly taken the form of a wish to possess without earning, to use without acquiring, to enjoy without laboring. A bitter jealousy of every one above them, an unreasoning instinctive hatred of " the rich," an unpardoning animosity against religion because it teaches the uncomplaining acceptance of poverty and trial, were the natural consequences of these disorderly desires ; the lust for jouissances became an absorbing passion amongst a considerable part of the lower classes, including also a good many intelligent and relatively well-educated workmen. The chiefs of the Parisian groups, though they quarrelled amongst themselves, agreed in fostering this diseased state of mind, and led their deluded adherents tq believe that the satisfaction of their aspirations would result from the establishment of Communism by force.

So long as the Empire lasted, an explosion was scarcely possible; the Government was strong and absolute, apparently at least; and a rising would have seemed to present small chances of success. But the very day after the proclamation of the Republic of the 4th September, "committees of vigilance" were established by the Reds in the faubourgs; public meetings were held, clubs were instituted, sections of the Internationale weie founded in all the quarters of Paris, and every night the most violent speeches were made to excited audiences, promising "the triumph of the workmen," "the ruin of the bourgeois," and the suppression of " infamous capital." The word "Commune" made its first real appearance at these meetings.

On the 31st October, when the news of the fall ofMetz reached Paris, the leaders of some of the branches of the party imagined that the reaction against the Government which that news provoked would offer them the opportunity for which they were waiting; so, regardless of all other considerations than their own ambition, forgetting that Paris was defending itself against 200,000 Germans, they attacked the Hdtel de Ville, crying " Vive la Commine!" Several ministers were arrested by them; but the attempt was premature and incomplete,—the population would not follow, several rival chiefs would not unite; and next day order was restored, the Government committing the incredible folly of immediately releasing all its prisoners.

On the 22d January another similar attempt was made; but though the details differed, the result was the same—the insurrection was once more beaten.

The capitulation of Paris produced an entire change in the temper and even in the composition of the population. An immense number of persons, belonging mainly to the middle and upper classes, went away to join their absent families, or for 1 est after the siege. Those that remained were humiliated, discontented and weary: the common bond of national defence which had held them together for five months was suddenly broken; no cohesion, no energy remained. But if the Conservatives were exhausted

and indifferent, the Communists were as resolute as ever; and this time they appear to have sunk their animosities, and to have united for their common object.

The elections of the 8th February, when they may be said to have carried two-thirds of the candidates, supplied clear evidence of their unity and strength and of the weakness and disorder of their opponents. The Government was powerless and discredited ; and it is probable that the presence of the Prussians in the forts alone prevented the insurrection from breaking out at once. All remained tolerably quiet until the end of February: there was uncertainty in the air, and much doubt about the future ; but those feelings were but natural after a national disaster, and it cannot be said that any one really foresaw or even feared the events which have happened since.

On the afternoon of the 26th February, a party of National Guards of the 183d battalion seized twenty-seven cannon in the artillery-park at the Place VVagram, and dragged them away with their own hands to the Place des Vosges, in the Faubourg St. Antoine. That was the first public act of the promoters of the Commune; its real history dates from that day. During the 24th and 25th, manifestations had taken place at the Bastille in honor of the anniversary of the Revolution of 1848: the Guards of the Belleville, Menilmortant, La Chapelle, and Montrouge battalions sent deputations to the column, laid wreaths of immortelles upon its pediment, and tied a red flag (the first that was seen) to the hand of the gilt statue which surmounts it. The movement was, however, supposed to be an overflow of idle rage provoked by the imminence of the entry of the Prussians into Paris, rather than a commencement of revolution. The murder of the sergent de ville who was thrown into the river was attributed to a diseased fury; and during the eight days which intervened between the 26th of February and the 6th of March, the police reports made to the headquarters of General Vinoy, who commanded in Paris, pel sistently described the rioting as being "patriotic, not political." This view of the matter was confirmed by the march to the Arc de Triomphe, on the night of the 26th, of some 15,000 National Guards, -who declared that they would forcibly oppose the entrance of the Prussians, who, fortu

[ocr errors][merged small]

nately for these volunteers, did not come in till the ist of March, instead of appearing on the morning of 2 7th February, as was expected. Any attempt to suppress these acts would certainly have been impolitic in the state of excitement into which the entire population had been thrown by the news that the Germans were really to occupy the Champs Elys£es, especially as the whole movement was attributed to a purely anti-Prussian feeling. The cannon taken from the different parks were said to be simply put in safety out of German reach; and, furthermore, even if there had been any recognized reason to interfere, General Vinoy possessed no means of effective action, for he had only 12,000 men under his command; and it was suspected, as was afterwards too well proved, that many of them were affiliated to the Belleville party, and would not serve against the people. For these various reasons no attempt was made to crush the movement; it was left to itself, in the hope that it was unimportant, that it implied no renewal of die risings of 31st October and 2 2d January, and that it would die out after the departure of the Prussians. General Vinoy contented himself with issuing a proclamation to the National Guard, complaining that the rappel had been beaten without his orders, and confiding the keeping of the city to the wellintentioned battalions.

The Prussians came and went; the Bellevillists, as they were then called, left them alone ; but after their departure matters continued exactly as they were before. Instead of giving back the cannon, " the people on the hill" went on seizing others wherever they could find them; and it began to be suspected that the patriotic excuse of saving them from the common enemy concealed some less reasonable intention. Forty guns and six mitrailleuses were in position on Montmartre, all turned towards Paris; they were defended by a barricade and by numerous sentries: what did all that mean? Still the general notion was that it would blow over without a difficulty; and the necessary symptoms of coming trouble—the resignation, as deputies of Paris, of Rochefort, Pane, Malon, Tridon, and Felix Pyat, the pillage of ammunition in the government stores, the public revelation of the existence of a Central Committee of the National Guard at Mont

7

to

martre, and the rumors which begin circulate in the provinces that a revolution was on the point of breaking out in Paris— were not regarded as being really serious. The Government, however, grew uneasy a man of energy, General d'Aurelles de Paladines, was appointed commander-in-chief of the National Guard ; and his first act, on the 9th March, was to publish a declaration that he would " repress with energy everything that might disturb the tranquillity of the city." But at a meeting which took place on the same day between him and some fifty commanders of battalions of the north-eastern arrondissements, several of the latter claimed the nomination by election of all the officers of the National Guard; and at the same moment the pickets in charge of the stolen cannon absolutely refused either to give them up or cease their watch over them, as they were ordered to do by General d'Aurelles. These were distinct evidences of the action of the mysterious Central Committee, and of the mastery which it had acquired over a large number of battalions.

Meanwhile the Goverment had taken all the measures in its power to reinforce the garrison, which was carried in a few days up to 30,000 men; but even this fact, significant as it was, did not rouse the people of Paris to any sense of danger; they were too worn-out and too ill-tempered to think of anything but their personal woes. Yet it became more evident from day to day that an absolute power, in opposition to the Government, was organizing at Montmartre; the guards themselves began to speak out openly about it, declaring that they obeyed their Committee and not the Government, and that they never would give up the cannon—whose number had risen to 417—untill every Prussian was out of France, and until the Republic was definitely founded to their satisfaction. In addition to these abstract conditions, they also required that their pay of thirty sous a-day should be secured to them until employment could be successively provided for them all, and that General d'Aurelles should be immediately replaced by a chief chosen by themselves. The two latter points were distinctly stated in a letter addressed to the Minister of the Interior on the 9th of March by M. Courtez, delegate of the Central Committee.

« 이전계속 »