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torical, as the events of which he was a witness or an agent. Of the most illustrious of his acquaintance and intimate of his friends he has left excellent portraits, and highly characteristic personal anecdotes. Indeed, the manner in which descriptions of nature and adventurous incident are blended, in his memoirs, with those of renowned or attractive individuals, make them resemble a long picture-gallery, where the features of the great and loved beam from the wall amid beautiful or wild landscapes, domestic groups,
, and memorable scenes from history. Beginning with the members of his own family, he delineates the persons, traits of character, and manner, of Moreau and Mirabeau, Laharpe and his literary coterie, Napoleon and Washington, Canning, Neckar, Talleyrand, the Duckess de Berri, Charles X., Lafayette, the French emigrants in London, the aborigines in America, his Irish hostess, with her passion for cats, at Hempstead, Charlotte, his beloved English pupil, Madame Bacciocchi, Madame de Coulin, Madame Dudevant,- in a word, all his political, literary, and personal acquaintances. The distinct outline and graceful coloring of these portraits bespeak the artist; but we owe the effective style in which they are conceived to the relation in which the limner stood to the originals; the heat-lightning of his love or indignation often gives us veritable glimpses more impressive than a detailed but less vivid revelation could yield; thus his two interviews with Bonaparte and Washington, the manner in which Malesherbes infected him with that enthusiasm of discovery which sent him across the ocean in search of a north-west passage,
and Madame de Stael's favorite appellation, “My dear Francis," bring each individual directly before us. Byron was a schoolboy at Harrow when Chateaubriand, the impoverished exile, caught sight of his curly head as he wandered by the seminary in his peregrinations round London; and De Tocqueville, the able expositor of our institutions, he knew as the intelligent child of a friend at whose country-house he visited. Compare the hunting party of Louis XIV., which he attended as a young noble of the realm, with the morning call upon Washington at Philadelphia, and we have the last glimmer of feudal royalty in the Old World, with the first dawn of republican simplicity in the New. The business-like manner in which his marriage was contracted
is in violent contrast with the romantic earnestness of his reminiscences of sentiment; and his veneration for the ties of family and rank strangely combined with a zest for the primitive in human nature. The instinct of glory led him to cherish enthusiasm for greatness, that of blood for races, and that of poetry for the original, the fresh, and the intrepid. Hence, he sympathized with genius, of whatever clime — with exiled princes and Indian chiefs; and, while wisdom, tenderness, and valor, so attached him that he dwells almost passionately upon those eras marked by satisfactory intercourse with others, ever and'anon misfortune, pride, and a sense of the unattained, draw him back to self and the glow of companionship, and love fades into the “pale cast of thought.” He survived the most renowned of his contemporaries and the most endeared of his friends. Yet few men have been more sincerely loved than Chateaubriand, and few have mingled intimately with the intellectual leaders of any epoch, and won a greater share of admiration with less compromise of self-respect; for he was quite as remarkable for the independence of his character as for the strength of his attachments.
One of his most pleasing traits was an ardent love of nature. To gratify this on a broad scale, he cheerfully undertook long and hazardous voyages, and delighted to expose his whole being to the influence of earth, sea, and firmament, with the abandon of the poet and the observant spirit of the philosopher. His sensibility in this regard is evident in the force and beauty of his impressions. His mind caught and reproduced the inspiration of the universe, and his affections linked themselves readily with objects hallowed by association. Thus he speaks of Madame de Beaumont's cypress, the poplar beside his window in the rue de Mirousel, the nightingales at the restaurant he frequented, and the doves whose brooding note accompanied his studies, with a degree of feeling rarely coëxistent with such rude experience of the world. “Je me sentais," he says, “ vivre et végéter avec la nature dans
” une espèce de pantheisme.” He possessed the genuine instinct of travel, and the migratory impulse of birds. It is remarkable that a disposition like this, characteristic of the naturalist and poet, should be so developed in a man whose name is identified with a long political career. The conventionalities of life, however, and "tracasseries politiques," were ungenial to him. He describes the two sides of his character very justly when he says: “Dans l'existence intérieure et théorique, je suis l'homme de tous les songes; dans l'existence extérieure et pratique l'homme des réalités. Aventureux et ordonné, passionné et méthodique." He was indeed a poetical cosmopolite — one of the most perfect examples of that style of character known to modern times. In his candid self-revelations, the primeval instincts of the natural, and the complex relations of the civilized human being are successively brought into view; for the rapture with which he first greets the virgin forest of the New World is soon followed by an instant resolution to join the army of his king, of whose flight he was informed by an old newspaper, accidentally picked up in the cabin of a backwoodsman; and if, as we accompany his musing steps along the banks of the Jordan, it seems as if one of the heroes of Tasso's epic had revived in the person of a French paladin, the associations of a later and less chivalric era are soon excited by the proces verbal that condemned his brother to the guillotine — printed in another page of his memoirs as a sad but authentic link in his family history. Listen to him as he thinks aloud in the Colosseum at moonlight, and you would infer that he was a bard unallied to the realities of the present a dreamer whose life was in the past; but the idea is dispelled, almost when conceived, by an enthusiastic description that succeeds of one of those Parisian réunions or political climaxes in which he took so active a share.
His reminiscences of travel have a sweetness and vitality, like the dexterously preserved flowers of an herbal, as if he transmitted us the very hues and sensations of the regions he traversed with. so keen a sympathy — the marine odor and crumbling architecture of Venice, the religious atmosphere of Rome, the fresh verdure and exuberant nature of the western hemisphere, the Petrarchan charms of southern France, the Moorish tints of Spain, the substantial glory of England, the grandeur of mountains relieved against the transparent and frosty air of Switzerland, the extremes of metropolitan and the simple graces of rural life — these, and all other sensitive and moral experiences of the traveller, Chateaubriand, as it were, imbibed as the aliment of his mind, and
reproduced as memorials of his life. Like Byron, he became part of what he loved; and the intensity of his own consciousness rendered nature, art, and society, or rather their traits and essential spirit, his own. In the aboriginal wigwam and the Arabian tent; at Memphis, Carthago, and Jerusalem; at Golgotha and Hempstead, Granada and Rome; at the banquet of the monarch, on the sick-bed of the hospital, in the prison and the boudoir; when dragged triumphantly in his carriage by the applauding law-students from the Bibliotheque Genevieve to his domicile, and when left, propped against a wall, a wounded fugitive in Guernsey — he rose above the material and the temporary, caught
the true significance, bravely met the exigency, and felt the ideal as well as the human interest of the scene and occasion.
It is this spirit of humanity, this poetical tone of mind — the lofty thought, the genuine feeling, in short, with which he encountered vicissitudes and contemplated beauty, and not the mere outward facts of his career — that gives a permanent and ineffable charm to his name. A halo of sentiment encircles his brow, not less evident when bowed in adversity than when crowned with honor. lIe demonstrates the truth of the brave old poet's creed, that the mind of man is his true king lom. His self-respect never falters amid the most discouraging circumstances; he redeems misfortune of its worst anguish by the strength of his love or his religion. The scope of his view wins him from the limited and the personal; the ardor of his emotions compensates for the coldness of fortune; he is ever aware of the vast privilege of the rational being to look before and after; memories either glorious or tender, and visions of faith, shed a consoling light both upon the clouds of outward sorrow and inward melancholy; always a poet, a philosopher, a lover, and a Christian, Chateaubriand the man is “nobler than bis mood,” however sad, baffled, or absorbed, it may
be. This dignity, this sense of the lofty, the comprehensive, and the beautiful, seldom deserts him. It gives tone, elevation, spirit, and interest, to each phase of his life, and makes its record poetic and suggestive.
The political career of Chateaubriand has been the subject of that diversity of opinion which seems inevitably to attend this portion of all illustrious lives. A rigid, narrow course in regard to party, it would be irrational to expect and illiberal to desire in a man of such broad insight and generous instincts. His imaginative tendency and chivalric tone also unfitted him to be either consistently subservient to a dogma or invariably true to a faction. The nobility and sentiment of the man, however, shed their light upon the politician. The character and spirit of his statesmanship, though at times too ideal in theory, were individual, and often indicative of the highest moral courage. He broke away from the life of a court, in his youth, with the intrepidity of the most zealous republican; when Mirabeau clapped him fondly on the shoulder, he thought his hand the claw of Satan; and while he soujht, in voluntary exile, immunity from the horrors of the Revolution, he was loyal to his order when the time came to resist the fanaticism of the Jacobins — fought in its ranks, and shared the privations of emigration. It has been well said that he was “a monarchist from conviction, a Bourbonist from honor, and a republican by nature; " "le republicaine le plus dévoué à la monarchie ;” and, incompatible as such principles may seem with each other, he suffered and toiled in behalf of all of them. He solicited a mission of discovery at the age of twenty to escape from the ungenial social and political atmosphere of France, as well as to gratify an adventurous taste. He dedicated his great work to the First Consul, and accepted from him the embassy to Rome, with a sincere faith in his patriotism; and bravely dared his anger, by instantly resigning another office the moment he heard of the Duke d’Enghien's execution. It was his boast that only after the “success of his ideas” was he dismissed from the political arena. In 1830 he stood alone among
the urged them to protest in favor of the banished king; and yet, for the sake of tranquillity, acceded to the request of his opponents not to utter his intended speech against the new government. He also declined their offer of a portfolio, saying: “I only demand liberty of conscience, and the right to go and die whereever I can find freedom and repose.” Thus, while Chateaubriand failed entirely to please both parties, he was yet eminently true to himself, and won respect from each. He declared of Bonaparte: Il était animé contre moi de toute sa forfaiture, comme je l'étais contre lui de toute ma loyauté.” The episode of the