« EelmineJätka »
from the standpoint of his spiritualistic and Christian beliefs, but with great sincerity and profound respect for his opponents; moreover, he aims not so much at the demonstration of this or that personal theory as at proving that the negative and anti-religious solutions are nothing less than established; and that the positive conquests of modern science are not in contradiction to Christian beliefs. Whatever views may be held as to the ground of the discussion, it would be difficult to find a better statement of the question than is contained in the book of M. de Pressense.
The approach of the New Year is always heralded by the appearance of a number of costly books, illustrated with ever-growing taste and magnificence. It is deserving of notice that the intrinsic value of these publications likewise increases year by year, and that the giftbooks of the season are becoming a real source of public instruction. On the one hand we have a series of books of history and geography, richly illustrated, such as M. Duruy's beautiful "Histoire des Romains" (Hachette), extending to the reign of Hadrian; the "Geographie Universelle," by Elisee Reclus (Hachette), the present volume of which, with its 700 pages devoted to India, ought to have a special interest for English readers; M. Gaffarel's book on " L'Algerie" (Didot). On the other hand, works on the history of art have made a great stride, and have attained exceptional importance. "L'Histoire de l'Art Antique," by MM. Perrot and Chipiez (Hachette), which already takes in Egypt and Assyria, is a positive history of civilization. M. E. Plon has produced a masterly work on "Benvenuto Cellini," profusely and exquisitely illustrated, in which all" the works attributed to Benvenuto are submitted to the closest critical investigation. The publisher who has done most for the progress of art publications is M. Quantin. Under the title of "Monuments de l'Art Antique," he has published for M. Rayet a series of reproductions of the most characteristic works of ancient sculpture, to which excellent commentaries are attached. A collection entitled "Bibliotheque de l'Enseiguement des Beaux Arts" is to comprise a series of short studies bythe most competent writers on the leading points of the history of art, noteworthy amongst which are M. Collignon's " Manuel d'Archeologie Grecque," and M. Miintz's work on" La Tapisserie." M. Miintz, who is a real authority on such matters, and at the same time a man of original research and an art historian of great taste and learning, has undertaken the editing of a very fine collection, "La Bibliotheque Internationale de l'Art," now in course of publication by Souam (Remington, London), in which M. Lalame has just brought out a beautiful series of unpublished drawings by Jean Cousin : "lie Livre de Fortune," which he had the good fortune to discover in the Bibliotheque de l'lnstitut.
These are the satisfactory aspects of contemporary intellectual life in France, which must make up to us for much that is frivolous; such, for instance, as the enthusiasm with which the gay world hailed the opening of the Eden Theatre, the most colossal and luxurious place of amusement that has ever been seen, which will be to many, like the Eden of old, a place of perdition.
P.S.—Scarcely had the above been written, when a tragi-comic incident threw sudden disorder into French politics. Prince Napoleon, making an unfair use of the license of the Carnival, caused a solemn, but at the same time grotesque, manifesto to be posted on the walls of Paris, in which he declared himself dissatisfied with the Republic, and offered himself for the love and admiration of the French people. Instead of treating this insult with the contempt it deserves, the Government has committed the grievous mistake of arresting the Prince; and the infatuated Chamber listened, without protest, to M. Floquet's proposal for the exile of all the members of the old reigning families. It is to be hoped that this agitation will subside, and that people will return to their better senses. To arrest Prince Napoleon when newspapers and club-orators are daily allowed to preach assassination, is the height of absurdity. Importance has thus been given to a challenge at which people should have merely shrugged their shoulders. This nervousness, this sudden panic at a ridiculous phantom, is the most disastrous symptom for the future of the Republic that has shown itself for the last twelve years. It evinces strange moral disorder in the Republican party.
MUCH has been said about M. Gambetta, too much perhaps; for the absence of all sense of proportion and perspective, peculiat' to our time, has seldom betrayed itself with less disguise than on the mournful occasion of his untimely death; seldom also, be it added, has an illusion of the kind been more natural. Here indeed -we have no calm, deliberate comparison between the living and the dead, as when a young Frenchman—a friend of M. Crarabctta's, by the way—thought fit not long ago to discern an Addison lined with a Sterne in a third-rate Parisian feuilletonist. A man who might not have seemed great by the side of a Pitt or a Canning, but who towered high above his puny contemporaries, the head of a numerous political party, which finds itself suddenly disorganized by his decease, the centre-point of a wide circle ot personal friends who were wont to look upon him as the inspiring breath of their lives, disappears all at once. Is it much to be wondered at that friends, partisans, nay even a considerable portion of the public at large, should have yielded to the temptation of magnifying the relative importance of one who was all in all to them? The floods of retrospective admiration are beginning even now to subside; public, if not private, sympathy is already giving way to a soberer appreciation; nor did the pompous ceremony with which the French Government has honoured the "man of the people" exhibit any signs of that heartfelt grief which burst forth with irrepressible violence at the funeral of Mirabeau—for even Mirabeau has not been allowed to escape comparison with the tribune of the nineteenth century. May we be permitted to examine with the historian's eye the career and the individuality of him whose place has thus unexpectedly bepome vacant, without incurring the historian's obligation to relate all the well-known events of M. Gambetta's public life?
Of his public life; for the private life of a politician does not belong to the historian, or belongs to him only as far as it may have had any influence upon his public life. Of M. Gambetta it may be said, that his good nature, which won him so many personal friends, proved of no mean assistance to him in his public career : every one felt that his vehement attacks upon his political adversaries were not the expression of personal enmity, as every one felt how unable he was to say no to a partisan. His sympathetic disposition and powerful temperament attracted and subdued even many who did not come into closer contact with him, causing them to take a lenient view of much that, to English eyes, might have appeared a laxity of morals. So also his incontestable personal integrity served to extenuate his excessive indulgence with regard to much that was going on in his surroundings.
From the very outset M. Gambetta's career bore the impress of an indomitable, revolutionary temperament, which gave the tone to his intellect, to his eloquence, to his conduct. It never allowed him to study the questions he had to deal with calmly; it inspired him with that dislike to particulars, that partiality for generalities, by which not only his speeches, but also the small number of official despatches it fell to his lot to dictate, are characterized. His singularly open and quick intelligence recoiled from anything that required slow, patient effort, and led him to believe he had grasped an object as soon as he had understood its general bearing. Besides, words, highsounding, happily cadenced words, often did him good service in lieu of ideas, nor did he, throughout the whole of his career, even feel the want of anything less shallow than the political creed of 1792. He was in truth well aware that words convey not only ideas but feelings likewise; so he was wont to inebriate himself no less than his listeners by means of passionate words. In the whole of that famous speech of November, 1868, in which he pleaded the cause of a public demonstration against the 2nd of December, we fail to discover a single argument or even an appeal to any positive law; it is a continuous storm of invective, occasionally marred by breaches of good taste, or pompous evocations of Cato and Thraseas, but at times also rising to a truly Archilochian vigour, and admirably calculated to make the defenders of legality wince under the sting of its shafts. Nor ought it to be forgotten, when we incline to censure such violent and unjust attacks as these against existing law, that France lias never ceased to be in a chronic state of revolution for the last hundred years, even at times when a dynasty or a republic appeared most firmly rooted. The frequent use and abuse of the bar in France for political purposes, an "irreconcilable" opposition to the fundamental law of the country, nay, a revolution of the 4th of September, which overthrew the regular Government in presence of a conquering enemy, ought therefore hardly to be judged with the same severity with which it would be treated in England ; and, in fact, M. Gambetta never incurred any blame from his countrymen for adopting so clamorous a mode of obtaining notoriety. He succeeded, moreover, completely, and five months later was elected Deputy in opposition to M. Thiers, who did not number half his young adversary's votes. Nevertheless, if such theatrical debuts have their advantages, among which we may rank foremost that of leading rapidly to success, they have also their disadvantages; they leave no time for quiet preparation. A year had scarcely gone by when M. Gambetta found himself a member of the Government; a little later he was even at its head. And what were the intellectual qualifications he brought to so responsible a position? An indifferent classical and legal education, scanty acquaintance with business either public or private, and consequently a very imperfect and altogether insufficient knowledge of men—a thing not to be acquired by social intercourse only. The tradition of 1792 was to stand in place of all this. The war of extermination, in fact, of which M. Gambetta became the soul, was nothing more than the performance of the programme of 1792. Perhaps, had he but perused Camille Rousset's book on the Volunteers of 1792, he might have thought twice before he drove the raw recruits from the provinces into a hopeless struggle; but it was so much less trouble to cling to illusive legend than to consult matter-of-fact history. In his opinion it was a general call to arms that saved France in 1792, and it was by a general call to arms that she was again to be saved in 1870. He had a far easier task before him than Carnot; for he found a wellorganized country where no reforms were requisite either in the administration or in the army. He had only to pull the wires of official machinery, and in a few days, by means of prefects, sub-prefects, and mayors, the whole of France's carefully registered youth was on foot, bound for the various military depots, just as in an ordinary annual recruitment. The process was even an easier one in this case, inasmuch as no exceptions were made, and examination therefore became superfluous. His desire was likewise to " organize victory" after the pattern of his great predecessor; in this, however, he signally failed. The fact that not one of the Generals ventured to disobey the dictator's orders, though all murmured sotto voce, foreseeing that their poor young soldiers were doomed to certain defeat, shows how