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VOLTAIRE AND FREDERICK.
seems to have been clear and radiant, open to all celestial influences, faith, hope, reverence, gradually died away; "star after star went out, and all was nig"ht:" his settled conviction being that there is more evil than good in the world, and that, if God indeed made it, he has entirely forgotten it.
Among the many portraits of celebrated men, German and not German, executed for us in the Life of Frederick, there occurs, near the end of the work, one of Pitt, Earl of Chatham, which has a peculiar interest, as affording Mr. Carlyle an opportunity of expressing his final views upon English history since the time of Cromwell, and upon the British system of constitutional government, l'itt was at the head of affairs for four vears before his brain gave way, and Mr. Carlyle avers that this four years' kingship was the only one England has had "since the constitutional system set in." Oliver Cromwell was indeed a king after Mr. Carlyle's own heart, but "he died, and there was nothing for it but to hang his body on the gallows." Dutch William "to us proved to be nothing." While Sarah Jennings ruled Queen Anne, and Marlborough commanded the English army, there were "some gleams of kinghood for us." Then came "noodleism and somnambulism," till Pitt arose. His reign was brief, and since its close there has been "never again one rescmblinc; him — nor, indeed, can ever be." That Pitt should have believed in British constitutionalism is an amazement to Mr. Carlyle. "Stranger theory of society, completely believed in by a clear, sharp, and altogether human head, incapable of falsity, was seldom heard of in this world." The point of its strangeness lies in its recognition of a king, who, nevertheless, is tied up "with constitutional straps, so that he cannot stir hand or foot for fear of accidents." No man like Pitt will "ever again apply in Parliament for a career. 'Your voices, your most sweet voices; ye melodious torrents of Gadarene swine, galloping rapidly down steep places—I for one know whither!'"
These melancholy words are a condensation of that political philosophy of despair which Mr. Carlyle definitively adopted in the Latter-day Pamphlets. In kings, curbed by no representative Parliament, lies, ho stubbornly insists, the only hope of peoples; these, being but Gadarene swine, cannot even know and choose them. How the kings are to be got at he does not say, giving us no glimpse of hope that somewhere, among high Alpine crags, there is an eyrie of royal birds, from which, as from the old castle of the Hohenzollerns, may one day descend a ruler fit to govern England. The era of order and authority has gone; the era of anarchy and dissolution has come. I am unable to extract any articulate theory of the prospects of modern society from Mr. Carlyle's later writings, except that which John Sterling saw dimly looming in Sartor Resartus, namely, that a series of recurrent catastrophes, deluging the world with blood, will at last destroy in all men the faith that nations can be representatively and freely governed, and will compel them to fall back upon some form of feudal despotism. It is strange and lamentable that Mr. Carlyle should find nothing worth mention in modern English history, except a few brief periods when England spent blood and money in Continental wars; nor can I imagine why, even if we accept this view, it should be less kingly for modern Englishmen to check the encroaching despotism of Napoleon under Wellington, than it was for their fathers to check that of Louis XIV. under Marlborough. Still more difficult is it for me to conceive why it should be in the nature of things impossible, even if war is granted to be a nation's only noble work, for a self-governing nation to understand the necessity of having, especially in time of war, a strong executive. Swine do not wish to be well governed, but rational men do. After what has been effected by consuls of Rome, bv marshals of Republican France, by generals of Republican America, and by commanders of constitutional England, it is really too late to maintain that work as vigorous as the work POLITICS OF DESPAIR.
of despots cannot be done by the servants of a free nation. Another question is, why the England which listened to, accepted, obeyed, exulted in I'itt, should have subsequently become incapable of recognizing heroic men, and even unworthy of being " asked kindly " by them for the authority to do great things in her name. But it is unnecessary to go further into these questions.
The Life of Frederick was Mr. Carlyle's last great book. His volume upon the Early Kings of Norway, though interesting from its Carlylian mannerism, and though wonderful as the work of a man nearly fourscore years of age, is not equal in power to his earlier writings; and his Niagara brochure, a protest against the latest extension of the franchise in England, is but the last and most extravagant of the Latter-day Pamphlets.
From the books of his afternoon and evening I turn, for manlier and stabler truth, to the books of his prime. His magnificent exposition of the uses of great men, his spirit-stirring exhortation to us to recognize and respect them, to select them for our governors and loyally to obey them, cannot, if we are wise, be neutralized for us even by his own astounding doctrine of despair that we, the many, are forever incapable of discerning those gifted few who arc our natural governors. And if we exhaust the lessons of his books we have still the lesson of his life to fall back upon; a life instinct with true epical grandeur; a life upon which even calumny and slander have never cast a tarnishing breath; a life based upon realities.