페이지 이미지

twaddling within the walls of the House; that noisy demagogues sunk into the most insignificant of back-bench-men; that it was very difficult to catch the Speaker's eye at the right moment, and still more puzzling to make out what the deuce the last speaker had been talking about, though his speech seemed clear and comprehensible enough when read in the newspapers the next day, with all the "hems," and "ahs," and "I beg pardons," and the ten thousand repetitions hiding the point, as effectually as the scabbard does the swordblade, left out by the ingenuity and intuitive perception of the reporter. How few men would have the reputation of good speakers were it not for the tact of the stenographers!

tinguish myself once before it is gone. It may help me to another seat before long, and at all events the House shall know whom and what they have lost by my defeat." And so saying, Beagles determined to compose a regular Demosthenic speech, and to deliver it somehow or other. What subject should he select? There was little time to be lost-to-day was Wednesday: he had the evening to himself: tomorrow was Thursday-What were the Orders of the Day?

There was the "Sugar Question," and the "Sewer Question."

Beagles selected the former. He seized his pen, and set about the composition of his oration. He treated his subject methodically. He began with the history of sugar; he went on with the process of its manufacture; he touched on slavery in connection with it; on the slave-trade; on North America; on the West Indies; the East Indies, and the Mauritius; on the consumption of sugar; on the wholesomeness of sugar; on the refining of sugar-in fact on every place, every race, everything and every event connected nearly or remotely with sugar. Then he branched off from facts into declamation, or, as he called it, the higher flights of oratory. He talked about the wisdom of our ancestors, the common sense of the English people, the august assembly he was addressing, &c. He invoked the goddess of justice in classical terms; he

All this was very distressing to Beagles; but still more annoying and alarming was the fact of a very strong petition being presented against his return, on the ground" implored" the House in parliamentary of the grossest bribery and corruption. terms; he appealed to the great British The ominous way in which this petition nation in clap-trap terms; and he wound progressed-the mass of ugly evidence up with a wonderful peroration in which which was accumulating-the doubtful Britannia and the House of Commons, the shake of the head with which Mr. Puffy suffering colonies, the landed interest, the Cheetham answered him when he trem- rights of the people, his duty to his conblingly asked him what he thought of it, stituents, his conscientious motives, and convinced him that the worst was im- the "welfare and greatness of our impending. mense and glorious empire" were jumbled together in a grand and dazzling final tableau that would infallibly electrify the House, and overwhelm him with a roar— of applause, of course.

Beagles studied every subject brought before the House. All the day long that he was not attending committees, he was "cramming" himself with Hansard and Blue-books, M'Culloch, Adam Smith, Jeremy Bentham, and the Statutes at large. He made notes of all he read, and then he wrote speeches on the question; but alas! the House always "divided" and settled the matter before poor Beagles had had the slightest opportunity of displaying the learning he had amas massed, or the oratory he possessed-or of practically ascertaining how completely he had forgotten both.

"You should have made up your mind to guarantee against this misfortune, my good sir," said the borough-trafficker.

"Could n't I now ?" began Beagles. "Too late, sir, too late," replied Cheetham-and Beagles felt that his doom was sealed.

Had Beagles been wise, he would, perhaps, have resigned; but Beagles was not wise. So he came to an entirely different resolution.

"If,” said he to himself, "I must lose my seat, be it so: but I will at least dis

Having completed the composition of his speech, the next thing was to learn it by heart. Beagles maintained that every good speech was prepared beforehand, and he referred to the oft-repeated assertion of the orations of Demosthenes smelling of the lamp. The difficulty was to learn the statistical parts of his oration. So by way of aid he made a kind of ab

stract of its contents-with copious notes, │ and the headings of each new sentence. And so with immense labor (for he began at ten at night, and did not finish till five in the morning) he learned his speech by heart, and delivered it in front of his cheval-glass with great effect.

The momentous evening arrived. The Sugar Question came on, and Beagles sat in a state of great inward excitement, watching for an opportunity of springing on to his legs to catch the Speaker's eye, and, meanwhile, repeating his speech over to himself so that he might not forget it. It was particularly unpleasant to feel so nervous that night: he really wished that his hands would not tremble so much, and that his legs would not feel so weak. Once or twice, when addressed by a neighbor, he found it very difficult to get a "Yes," or "No," out: these little words seemed to stick in his throat, and, at last, burst out in a tremulous style-like the handwriting of a gentleman who drinks brandy and water for breakfast. Very unlucky all this on the very night he was going to make his début as an orator.

At least six times did poor Beagles jump up after other members had sat down, endeavoring to catch the Speaker's eye. But some one had always caught it already, and was beginning his address, and so Beagles had to shrink back again into his seat. At length he was horrified by hearing loud cries of "divide," during the speech of an eloquent Irish gentleman who was expatiating on the wrongs of Ireland, apropos of the Sugar Question. But an Irish orator is not easily put down or abashed-still less easily is he kept to the subject in hand. And so the honorable member thundered away in a violent ear-piercing Cork brogue, on everything but sugar, till he had given vent to all the national indignation with which he always came down to the House full primed. At last he sat down, Beagles sprang up, and so did six more back-benchers; but a perfect hail-storm of "divides" met them; the Speaker caught nobody's eye, but put the question away trotted the opposing parties into the opposing lobbies, and poor Beagles's oration was stifled in the moment of its birth!

"Why didn't I select the Sewer question?" thought Beagles, as he took his seat again after the division. "What a pity!"


Suddenly an idea struck him. Could he turn his speech on the "Sugar" question into one on the "Sewer" question? It was quite clear that the historical, statistical, and geographical parts of it were useless; but might not the declamatory, the more oratorical and imaginative parts, do as well for the one question as the other? After a little thought Beagles decided that they would-and we are convinced that he was right; for we are strongly disposed to think that if our readers will take any of the big speeches, ending with " great cheering," or the right honorable gentleman resumed his seat amid loud and long-continued cheering," and so forth, on the great "fieldnights," he will find that the concluding parts of them are generally very wide of the particular question under debate; wondrously poetical and patriotic, and all that sort of thing-but really as much adapted to an oration on " things in general" as on anything in particular-as much suited to sewers as sugar. And so Beagles dressed his speech a little, pruned it, and inserted a paragraph about drainage in general, and then returned to the House, determined to make his speech in spite of every obstacle in the world.

He was rather grieved to observe that there was a very thin House when he returned to it. His audience would be limited then-but still the reporters would be there. A prosy gentleman who seemed to know as much about sewers as any ratcatcher in London, was working away at the subject in a most business-like manner. He evidently intended a long dose; and so hungry member after hungry member retired, and the audience became more and more scant. He came to a conclusion at last, and Beagles was on his legs in an instant; more than that, he was the only member on his legs; he did catch the Speaker's eye, and he began.

"Mr. Speaker! The eloquent address you have just listened to," (a laugh, and the honourable member referred to looks indignant, suspecting a “quiz,” as he was never accused of eloquence before,) “on the great and momentous question affecting our home and colonial interests," (another laugh and a surprised look from the Speaker-Beagles was getting into “Sugar.") "I say, sir, the eloquent-"

An honorable member jumped up and said, "I move that the House be counted."

Next day-ay, a bitter day it was for Beagles!-the Bumbletown committee made their report, and their report was :"That Algernon Beagles, Esq., was not duly elected a member for the said borough of Bumbletown," &c. Then followed some awkward allegations about treating, bribery, and gross corruption, personation, and every other peccadillo

The House was counted-there were losing himself in searching it; but conthirty-eight members present-the Speaker verting and deluding an entire people. declared it adjourned, and Beagles went Baruel points him out as a bewildered home in a rage; was a disappointed ora- dreamer, a criminal with redeeming qualitor, an unhappy and inconsolable man! ties, one of the most dangerous that ever lived, because his sophisms were so persuasive; but not one of the worst, because none could approach in audacity the powerful but repulsive genius of Voltaire. The French drink in his doctrines, and venerate his ashes in the Pantheon; the Germans reject his theories as too aerial to be in unison with theirs; the English read his "Confessions," admire his sentimental reveries, neglect his political works, and vituperate or ridicule his name. In this manner the discussion has gone on through more than half a century, and new apologists or detractors appear at intervals to assist in elucidating or obscuring the truth.

known to elections.

[ocr errors]

Mr. Beagles no longer writes M. P. to his name. He is minus about three thousand pounds by his brief parliamentary career, and he is cured of his ambition to shine as an orator.



MONG the men' who, during the eighteenth century, aided in the terrific revolution of opinion in France, Rousseau was the most extraordinary. His moral character, his religious theories, even his political principles, were problems which he bequeathed to posterity. Unlike all other human beings, as he was, he only perplexed the world more hopelessly by endeavoring to describe himself. Before his "Confessions" were published, there was a cloud about him; but when these appeared, though part of the old mystery was dispelled, a new one, far more impenetrable, was created. Accordingly, many as the writers are who have investigated the idiosyncrasies of Rousseau, not one has secured the concurrence of mankind with his views. There is still confusion; there are still contradictory ideas. To some the Genevese sophist is even now an inspired idiot; to others an impostor, mad with vanity;-a philosopher to the remnants of the Academy, a maniac to the relics of the Sorbonne. A whole cabinet of literature is divided, therefore, between the apologists, the panegyrists, the detract-pression. The groundwork, therefore, of ors, the libelers, and the temperate critics his disposition was the agitation of the of Rousseau. Burke paints him as a wild feelings, and the pleasing of the senses. conspirator, with a rainbow fancy, a pen From this state he passed into a new stage bewitching by its eloquence, and a mind of intellectual existence. He threw aside plunged into delirium by the study of tales, and read history-the narratives of fantasies. Lord John Russell com- the heroic age, the lives of illustrious memorates him as the false oracle of Romans and Greeks, the epic of ancient Geneva pursuing an ideal of social virtue, liberty, which inspired him with the free,

The only misfortune, according to Chateaubriand, which is greater than that of giving birth to another, is that of being born yourself. This affectation he probably derived from Rousseau, who describes the day of his birth as the most unfortunate of his life. So, perhaps, it was, though not in the sense he intended; for his mother died on that day, leaving him, on the 28th of June, 1712, half an orphan, to the care of his father, a humble watchmaker of Geneva. His education, with its results, justifies the fears of those who dread the influence on their children's minds of an unchecked habit of reading romances. Before he learned one maxim of virtue; before he was on his guard against a single temptation; before a solitary moral feeling, or one religious perception had been introduced into his breast, he was accustomed to pour over exciting fictions, wild stories, appealing to the most dangerous passions of his nature. The emotions which thus became early familiar to him, the ideas he acquired of life, the brooding dreams in which he indulged, all tended to form a character originally susceptible to any powerful im

republican spirit he afterward communicated to the whole race speaking a language in common with him. He also derived from early teaching a taste for music, exemplified in his latter years by many beautiful compositions. When sent to school he learned, not quickly, but well, though all the while his imagination was far more active than his reasoning faculties. He felt far more and far deeper than he thought. It was this which was at once a sign and a cause of those habits of mind which rendered him so miserable to himself, and so unintelligible to others.

The moral education of Rousseau, though he is not willing to reveal the truth, was of a very equivocal character. At home, the code of French romances instilled into him his first and very false ideas of honor; at school, he was initiated into the practice of concealment, of disobedience, and of falsehood; under his father's roof, again, he was a licensed idler, and then, when apprenticed to an engraver, the cruelty and selfishness of his master, interpreted by the dangerous sophistry of youth, formed a justification for positive offences as well as neglect of duty. His pleas to himself are singularly characteristic of his state of mind. He was watched at his work, therefore he cunningly eluded it. He was not permitted to share in all the delicacies of the table, therefore he stole what would compensate for the things thus withheld. By such a process his mind became hardened against virtuous impressions. He grew selfish, sensual, and greedy.

The cruelty of his master at length caused him to run away. He escaped to Compignon, met with the Curé, who persuaded him to apostatize from the Reformers' faith, and was by him directed to the mansion of Madame de Warens, at Annecy. That woman, at his first sight of her, appears to have exercised an extraordinary influence upon him. He could little have foreseen then that he was to become her lover, the master of her heart, the depositary of her secrets; nor she that he would be her jealous tyrant, that he would expose to the world all the acts of her life, that he would reveal every scandalous episode of their intercourse, and fix her name for ever, as a less vulgar Theodora, among the female characters disreputable in history. She then, however, by the aid of some ecclesiastics, sent him to Turin

to be instructed in the Catholic religion, which he soon afterward embraced, though confessing it was the act of a bandit to yield up his creed for the sake of easier means of life. In two months he left the college, with twenty francs as the purchase money of his apostasy, and entered the service of the Comtesse de Vercellis. In her house occurred that famous incident which fixes a deep moral stain on the early life of Rousseau. There was a piece of ribin, rose-colored, with silver flowers, old and faded, but handsome, nevertheless. He desired to possess it. He was dishonest, and he stole it. That, however, was not all. There was in the house a poor country maid, an innocent, pretty girl, never known to have committed an unworthy action. When the ribin was inquired for, it was found in the possession of Rousseau, who was base enough to accuse this girl of having stolen and given it to him. He was confronted with her, but persisted in the charge; and she implored him, with tears, as she had never wronged him, not so bitterly to wrong her, and when he continued his assertions, said,—“Well, Rousseau, I would not be in your place." She was dismissed, ruined, and was never more heard of. All the atonement he ever made for this crime was to reveal it in his "Confessions." It appears frivolous to search by any subtile analysis of his character for an explanation of this event. A theft and a lie were committed by him, without scruple; the only singular fact being that, afterward, without any necessity, he made them known to the world.

It is only just, however, to remember that he was then but a youth, and that this was his last offence of a similar character. His morals, however, considered from another point of view, were impure and disgraceful. Not to touch upon his earlier confessions, it is enough to know that while he was exacting the most scrupulous fidelity from Léonore de Warens, he was intriguing with other women; that his connection with Madame D'Houdetot was far from reputable; that he only married Therese de Lavasseur when he was approaching old age; and that when she had become his wife, he absolutely connived at her infringements of the first moral law. There is no apology for these episodes of his life, unless that be virtue in a man of genius which in a common man is vicea theory not only dangerous in itself, but

so absurd that it cannot for a single instant and directing many of his inquiries to be defended.

religion. She, however, was not the faithful friend he had believed her to be, and though he was lax to excess in his own conduct, her desertion grieved him bitterly. However, his energy soon directed him to the capital, and thence, in the position of secretary, to Venice, where his taste for Italian music was cultivated, and he conceived the design of his first opera. Returning to France, he commenced that splendid literary career which speedily gave him universal fame; but his works offended the crown, the Church, the powerful ranks of society, and he was, in consequence, compelled to fly from Paris to Geneva, and thence to a rural seclusion in the dominions of the King of Prussia. Even there he could not remain in quietness. The clergy, by the aid of the populace, drove him from point to point until he sought refuge in England.

The explanation of Rousseau's other faults, however, is to be found in his excessive vanity. He sighed for admiration, especially the admiration of women. But there was this peculiarity in his conceit: he did not desire the applause of all alike, but only of such as he could himself conceive an attachment for. He would, without regret, be indifferent to those who were indifferent to him. An amusing incident in illustration of this occurred when he was valet in the service of Count Gouvon, in Turin. There was in the house Mademoiselle de Breiel, a young lady of extreme beauty, but proud and cold to all beneath her. From her Rousseau sought, and long in vain, to win a single look of regard. At length, one day a dinner-party took place, and Jean Jacques waited at table. The conversation turned on the etymology of some idiomatic French phrase. Various were the learned theories set forth, but the real explanation baffled them all, for a scholar of no ordinary acquirements was needed to solve the point. Rousseau was observed to smile as he heard diplomatists and ecclesiastics by turns taking up the dispute and abandoning it in despair. His master noticed this, and asked him if he had anything to observe. Then quietly, but confidently, he decomposed the sentence under analysis into its original parts, traced each word back to its origin, and made the whole so luminous that no possibility of misunderstanding it could remain. Every one gazed in astonishment upon him. But Jean Jacques cared not a whit for their applause, for he was furtively looking to see whether Mademoiselle de Breiel took any notice of him, and when he saw that she too was smiling, his whole frame trembled with mixed emotions, partly of pride, but partly also with a tenderness . toward her which he hardly dared to confess even to himself.

From Turin, Rousseau returned to Annecy, and there, or at Charmette, lived for a long while with Madame de Warens. His intercourse with her, with the exception of some interruptions, caused by an excursion in Switzerland and a visit to Paris, was constant. With her he studied Locke, Malebranche, Montaigne, Descartes, and other authors, training his mind up to the comprehension of political theories,

This leads to the consideration of one of the most conspicuous characteristics of Rousseau's mind, and one which exerted a powerful influence on his works. His monomania was, to believe that all the world persecuted him. Some have affirmed and some have denied this, while others again declare that he was justified in the idea. We will admit that he was pursued by malignity to every place he visited, but had he been a good man, had he not persecuted himself, he need not have felt the persecutions of the world. In youth he destroyed his constitution by excesses; he made every misfortune worse by his manner of enduring it. When he was humiliated by being forbidden to eat his master's asparagus or apples, he degraded himself infinitely more by stealing them.

When he was reduced to the condition of a valet, he went a thousand degrees lower, and became a thief. When Madame de Warens deserted him, he was unable to console himself with the reflection that he had acted with fidelity toward her. When he was an outcast from society, he made his children aliens from their father. When his wife wronged him, he was an accomplice in her offences. And, finally, when he summed up the record of his life, he blackened his own fame, destroyed the fame of others, and left a confession which is of value as a lesson, but, in our opinion, has been far more prolific of evil than of good.

« 이전계속 »