Page images
PDF
EPUB

attentions to M. Say. It is doubtless, as Milton says, "of greatest concernment to have a vigilant eye how bookes demesne themselves as well as men. For bookes are not absolutely dead things, but doe contain a potencie of life in them, to be as active as that soule was, whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve, as in a violl, the

I wrest efficacie and extraction of the living intellect that bred them." In the case of a writer like M. Say, all this applies forcibly, not only from the intrinsic reason of the thing, but because of the influence which a justly great name like his may be supposed to exert over those who read, not merely that their fancies may be tickled with light reading, but that they may receive an excitement to deep thought from the speculations of a solid understanding like his, conveyed in an attractive yet unpretending form. Before the appearance of his beautiful and profound System of Political Economy had made him famous all over Europe, he was known to the literati of France by a small work, entitled, Olbia, or an Essay on the Ways of improving the Manners of a Nation. It however had more interest as the initiatory thesis of an ingenious, speculative, and highly informed mind, than from any thing actually done in it. M. Say was then (in the eighth year of the republic) a member of the notorious Trilmnate; and that tract may be considered as his mite to the reform which was at that time the chief end held in view by almost all the speculative spirits in France. He was latterly known, rather disadvantageous^, among ourselves, as the author of a pamphlet On England and the English, which dealt mainly with our mistakes and embarassments. In that tract, his objections against our moral and political systems have been flippantly, but rather closely, summed up by Mr B obhouse. "His complaint or pity was chiefly directed towards us, because we had given a pension to the family of Nelson, an admiral killed in battle; because there were no workmen des <nrres to be seen in our coffeehouses; because the studies at Oxford were *» peu Gothiaucs, and books were getting so dear that few could read; because there were no people in Great Britain idle by profession ; and, lastly, because we drank bad port."

We have looked over this little volume, to see that there be " no offence in't." It is something in the style of Bruyere and Rochefoucauld, but consists rather of remarks on tastes, manners, and opinions, than of aphoristns tending to a system of human action, like Rochefoucauld,—or sketches of a period, and a place, and a brilliant circle of ambition, wit, and devotion, like Bruyere. Bruyere had lived much about a court, and was therefore very minute and circumstantial in his delineations of character. He knew auricular confession, and had caught from it the spirit of a prying power and a too indulgent allowance. Hewascaustic and fault-finding, even to personality, in his discriminations. Rochefoucauld had neither patience for those who were to understand him, nor interest enough in mankind, generally, to waste many words on them. He was therefore condensed, enigmatical, severe, and not unfrequcntly even mystical. M. Say is a man of science and of the world, full of the light of modern ideas, and much accustomed to see things that had been considered as most stable turn round on their axes and assume new complexions. But, for all that, he has more of the inestimable quality of mural admiration than either of his predecessors. His observation may possibly not have been so keen as theirs; but it has been better—for society is better: and if he be not so witty as they, nor have such an exclusive power over his materials, there is, beyond all doubt, a great appearance of good faith about him. His sense is not only excellent, but it is practical. It is not ascetic. It does not smell of the cloister. It is in the manner of one who cannot help sporting ideas, because he is so intellectual that he cannot be without them. If they do not produce their effect simply, he is quite convinced that no singularity of enunciation could make them more valuable to him, or more useful to others.

Whether, after having experienced more than Grecian suffering from the great evils with which these times abound, there be something of relief in the very title of a little book, we cannot possibly determine just now. But it is clear, at any rate, that there is a great temptation to like, as well as to say, wise, and witty, and agreeable things, in the aphorisinatic shape. even though, for the sake of shortness, they are so divested of breadth and explanation as to expose them to be mistaken for truisms. This enigmatical way of giving shape to an adventurous thought or a smart observation, possesses attractions for those who love the agreeable mystification which there is in venting a moral truth by way of antithesis. The exertion and the pleasure too consist in couching it in such terms as cost just so much trouble in the apprehension as to make it pass at least for wisdom, under the guise of a painfully and well-chosen contrast. There is fully more pleasure and almost as much utility, in hunting for the thought in this way, and adjusting its relations in that glancing and rapid mannei which it incites, as there is in the possession. One great beauty, too, is, that the thought is expressed, and the idea hit off", without any after trouble of trimming or garnishing. The mode speaks to our fancy; the thing makes a frank demand on our judgment; and, though it may sometimes ask too much, yet we are under no pain in denying it; and, having set it down as either incomprehensible or ineffective, may pass on to the next. But M. Say's views must be seen.

"The author who is a man of the world and a good fellow is rarely known to posterity. Does he want knowledge, or mind, or talent? No, certainly; but the centre of his combinations is the taste of liis circle, which he wants to please. Observe, that it is the same thing where the author is a man of merit, and his private society remarkable for genius and information. Private interests, attachments and opinions of the moment, are what each of its members has constantly an eye to, and to which he cannot help attaching more importance than they are deserving of. The world goes round; the present generation disappears; other interests, new connexions, succeed to the former...-- —See what an immense advantage the retired author possesses! He has not received a glance merely momentary: he has observed in morals, and described in physics, those natural relations which never change, but always interest. • q • • •

"Observe the mathematician: he never makes a bad calculation, nor ever forms a just idea. He always pushes his ideas to their rigorous consequences, from a false principle. He calculates fairly upon erroneous observations. Geometry only yields matter for calculation; and the qualities of the observer are by no means the same as those of the calculator. To arrive at truth,

the main point is, to see things independently of calculation; not such as we wish them, but such as they really are,—in morals as in physics. Calculate afterwards, or reason upon it, if that pleases you. You may again deceive yourself, but you will not begin by deceiving.

• • • • ■

"Moral philosophers seem to believe that selfishness and interest direct action more than self-conceit or vanity. I believe, on the contrary, that vanity has more influence, generally speaking, than selfishness. It is enough to observe in how many instances men act, through vanity, in a manner opposite to their interests; from the child, vexed by contradiction until he refuses his victuals, to the sovereign prince, made to enact so many follies by dint of flattery, who sacrifices a country (I mean the groundwork of his power) to avenge an insult in the gazette.

• * • « *

"A translator, to understand the language which he explains, ought to feel its delicacy and beauties. How can he give an equivalent for a beauty which he does not perceive? He ought to write well in his own language, that he may be able even to read. He ought also to have a flexible turn for taking forms analogous to those of his model, and to know when it is necessary to replace expressions, ideas, images, by others conformable to the genius of his language, and which shall excite in the minds of his readers sentiments similar to those which the original author has raised in his.—After all this, are you surprised that good translations are so rare?

• • • • , •

"The cause of several revolutions has sprung from the finances, commencing with that of the United States, which is dated from the duty on tea. So will others come again. Well, what do you conclude? Shew us a way of preventing them! The way is simple,—it is evident,—but I don't mean to point it out. Why so ? For there is nothing so foolish as to give to all the world a piece of advice which »J«ij v. ill follow. What then tf Take it; one word will do the business. What We Cannot Produce*

WITHOUT TROUBLE, DO NOT LET US

Spend On Folly. Add some accessories to that. Change the scene whenever you please; give names to the personages; propose the intrigues; and, the winding up will be always the same.

• • • • •

"In order to persuade in conversation, it

• " If any one asks from me an explication of the words produce and consume, I shall be obliged to refer to a small definition, in two volumes, under the title of a Treatise on Political Economy ; or, a simple JZxpotition of the Manner in which Riches are

PRODUCED, DISTRIBUTED, and CONSUMED."

is not necessary to effect a co-ordination of ideas,—to establish a connected and graduated system,—which is the highest effort of written eloquence. Pay more attention to the persons you address than to the subject. Draw your argument from the opinions of the person spoken to, even allowing it to be done by sophisms. The persuasion to be effected is only a mode of perceiving. Conversation requires this artifice, in as much as we have to do with contracted minds, — with personal feelings,—with prejudices. In writing it is otherwise. You must express yourself in the best language you can get. You must be clear and candid too, for you have the impartial public for a judge, and posterity, which is vet more impartial. • q • « •

"Men are made of the same stuff,—but their nature manifests itself in different ways. The vanity of the savage consists in shewing his figure, and in having his body well daubed with uneraseablc spots,—with fine plumes on his head. The vanity of the Italian is manifested in wearing, if he is able, laces on the same parts. The vanity of the Englishman and the Turk lies in not compromising their national dignity,—in wrapping themselves up in defiance and gravity,—and, above all, in never permitting you to believe that you can be of use to them, or instruct or amuse them. They speak, as well as think, ill of foreigners; and that which is valued by foreigners, is always inferior to that which is found among themselves,—disdainful silence, large strides, and a supercilious inattention to what is passing under their eyes. The vanity of the French is not so exclusive. Without seeking to humiliate others, they love to display the advantages they have, and sometimes even those which they have not; and if convicted of boasting, they laugh among the first, provided you do not affect to humble them. Render justice to their bravery, and all will be forgiven.

• a • a •

"An Indian meeting with a Bramin, asked him, * what is it that supports the world V Ignorant fame ! rchcre do you from 1 it it an elephant ! The arroof philosophy have left you in uncertainty; and I tctl you truth at once.—And the other thanked him, as if he had received a benefit."

These may suffice as specimens of the spirit and execution of this Little Book. Any person who may take it up will find much to amuse and interest, and nothing to fatigue or disgust him. Those who are of a reflecting and speculative turn can get, in some of its remarks on life, manners, aud literature, enough to excite them to very serious thought. M. Say belongs to a class of men for whom we have great esteem, and whose im

merous virtues, as well as

faculties, we wish we could adequately display. We beg leave to say a few words on what seem to be the distinctive points of their character as men of letters and sentiment.

They are all cool-headed men, with little imagination, and no great quickness of apprehension,—but so clear in the ideas which they receive, that they never lose sight of them- if they think them worth retaining,—nor mistake one of their relations when they come to apply them. They are uniformly attached to knowledge, and submit to such labour in its pursuit as to appear to like it in most instances merely for its own sake. They would study on, if it were for nothing else than the gratification of a vigorous and enduring propensity to mental exercise, which acts with a springiness and effect, that read hard lessons to the imaginative men of fine taste and quick feelings, who have in youth cultivated their moral affections more than their intellectual faculties. They are eminently calculated to excel in the accurate sciences. They are more actuated, in their exertions and inquiries, by ideas of utility, than by that undefined ambition, which, although it be often of the unproductive kind, lingers, with the last remains of their scholastic enthusiasm, about men of a literary turn, even to a pretty late period of life. In short, every thing that they say, or think, or do, bears about it evident marks of " appropriate probity, appropriate intellectual aptitude, and appropriate active talent."

They are greatly more improveable than men of fancy and feeling,—aud without seeming to be elated, or conscious of any internal excitement,— make progresses in taste, as well as on the boundless road of mere knowledge, which would astonish any one who observes narrowly and compares attentively.

Such is the influence of a well balanced self-possession, even on the mere forms of expression, that they sometimes snatch, by chance as it were, "a grace beyond the reach of art." The charm of unexpectedness thus produced, when we join to it the full and easy sequence of their ideas, enables them, as they already are the heartiest of writers, to become, on occasions, without appearing even to attempt it; the most pleasing also. They are far from being enemies to pleasantry. They rather seem to relish jokes with a zest, which would be astonishing, if one did not recollect that the cause of this probably is, that their habits of close application leave the mind in such a state as to be more open to any thing smart or ridiculous, which comes easily and rapidly across it. Their pleasantry however has little of the manner of the world about it. They have more humour than wit. As their humorous sallies partake rather of the nature of recreations than of exertions, they are but little fastidious about the channel. Minds which have been braced up by vigorous habits of exertion, have also a greater spring and force in their merriment than minds of mere sensibility or refinement. The authors of whom we speak are not likely to be nice of risking, in their convivial eloquence, a few jesccniue* freedoms and lax figures of conception. They never apparently give way to that vain and delusive stinginess and sensitive caution which, after a few years of confident hopings and unreserved trustings, men of feeling and fancy are forced to adopt in self-defence. They have always suffered less from ridicule, too, than these men,— and live, therefore, less habitually under the fear of that grinding scourge. They can also afford to be more candid then vehement and fanciful men. They have not expected more from the world than the world can at any time give,—and have thus, perhaps, fewer generous errors to regret than the others. But, at all events, their doctrine of utility has taught them to economise the exertions of intercourse: and directness of purpose is held with them to infer directness of means. Their vigour is not wasted by the fires of eloquence; nor is their attention distracted by a nice regard to the more delicately poised beauties of expression. While it is a peculiar feature of their character that they always know how far, and for how much, they can draw on their knowledge, they gain an additional power and vantage-ground, by being enabled to adjust their means and their faculties. Their powers are

• " Fesccnnina per hunc invecta liccmia

morem Versibus altcmis opprobria rustics fuit, Liuertasque recurrently accepts per annos l.usit amjbiliter." Hunt. Kf. ad August,

thus set free, and they can do a great deal more in the way of judgment than men with wayward imaginations and fancies, which are too often coming thick on them, with tcazing distrusts of their capacities, and perplexing estimates of occasions. Their works are not composed with that eager haste which characterizes men of sanguine temperaments. Their opinions are not expressed with that ardency, or warmth, or provoking amour propre, which attaches to the opinions of men of more sensitive natures. They know very well that opinions which are to last are not personal but general. Of course, they would never think of propagating belief by fire and sword. But they go farther than this, and a step farther than many of the best hearts can go; for they never attempt to cram down a sentiment or a dogma, by a bustling vigour, in the circle of their immediate influence. They do not love the spectacle of a muscular man, strongly agitated with the fervour of belief, enforcing or maintaining it to the inconvenience of the nervous systems which are nearest to him. All this is, because the empire of judgment is complete in them.

Thus we find the beautiful, the universal, though humbling principle of compensation asserted through all the various chances that make up the sum of moral existence, and modify the action of physical causes. The man of fancy is checked in his fine bursts of conception by shortcomings of judgment. The cool-headed thinker is rewarded for his comparative passiveness of existence, by fullness of conviction, and the delights of completeness and simplicity of view.

From all this, it must not be inferred that the men of whom we have been speaking are destitute of the finer affections, or wanting in that indescribable kindliness of nature, for which, in English, there is no other word than the emphatic and expressive monosyllable—heart. On the contrary, those of them that we know have had natures admirably turned to friendship. If they were not cold as friends, neither were they cold as patriots. We have uniformly found among them that settled love of civil liberty, which the best minds are most apt to venerate as the result of conviction, and to love as the product of taste. This too, was the more valuable, as it seemed to flow from a deliberate induction of solid thought,—not from any dreams of perfectibility, but from the belief that, taking human nature as it is, under all the checks and disadvantages which prevent it from getting fair play, it can never be respectable, except where civil liberty is well understood.

But we must have a summing-up with the author, of whom it is our more immediate business to speak personally.

M. Say is as correct and learned as a German compiler; and while he has that force and precision which distinguish the thinkers of our own country, with as much directness and honesty of intention as the best of them, he has yet a portion of the gayety and gracefulness of his illustrious countrymen, who wrote during the old monarchy, before a republic and the struggles of military ambition had, with the occasional sacrifice of these qualities, given force, vehemence, and restlessness, to the tone of French literature. There certainly must be something in the opinion so current among the continental literati, that the French is, above all other languages, the one most suited for elegant criticism and subjects of the belles lettres. And this little volume is another reason with us, for a deference to established opinions, which, in matters of taste at least, we are but little disposed to concede to them.

METRICAL VERSIONS OF THE rSAI.MS.

The Psalmody has always formed an essential part of the sacred service in the Protestant Church. In the following paper, we mean neither to enter upon the peculiar nature of these Lyric Hymns—to discuss the various methods in which this portion of devotional worship is performed—or to enumerate the almost innumerable attempts, in Protestant countries, to furnish appropriate translations for the different churches. All that we intend, is to give a summary and collected view of what can now be ascertained respecting the Psalmody, in so far as its history relates to Scotland ;—of its first introduction at the Information:—and Mine uccount of the versions that have since been in use. Before this can be done, however, it is necessary to consider its primary introductiou into the

Reformed Church of Geneva, and its adoption by that of England; as well as to make a slight mention of the versions that were first appointed for their use. Scotland received the form and substance of her entire service from the one; and to the other she stands indebted for the version which long constituted the basis of this delightful portion of divine worship.

The singular fact has often been remarked, of the Protestants owing the use of the Psalmody to a body of men from whom they least might have expected such an obligation. Clement Marot is usually styled the Prince of the Poets of France, or, to use other words (the commencement of the epitaph which was on his tomb), " Icy gist des Francois le Virgile et l'Homore." He certainly deserves to rank high in the class of Ancient French Poets, and is the oldest of them whose works can be read with pleasure. After a long residence in the Court of France, where his life had been spent in the greatest profligacy, he commenced R translation of the Psalms into French verse. This was towards the close of 153G, and in 1339 he published thirty (not the first thirty, as they stand in the regular order, as has been said, but merely thirty in point of number) of the Psalms, which he dedicated to Francis I., bearing the sanction of the Sorbonne, that they contained nothing contrary to sound doctrine. The reception they met with was favourable in the highest degree,—they eclipsed the brilliancy of his madrigals and sonnets,—and repeated editions were called for; while they were sung in public and in private with the most rapturous delight." They certainly received at that time an undue share of praise and admiration. From his own testimony it appears he was encouraged to complete the versification of the whole, by the king himself.

Puis que voulcz, que ie poursuivrc 6 sire, L'oeuvre Royal du l'saulticr commence, ts c

• Hawkins's History of Music, vol. 3.; and Warton's History of English Poetry, vol. 3.—Hawkins, in particular, gives a remarkable account of the enthusiasm which they excited in the French court. The king, and each of his courtiers, chose one, which they delighted to sing as their favourite air. Before this, they had been a daptcd to suitable, melodies.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »