we do interfere, we do more harm than good.’
We talked of the manner in which the _loi de surete publique_ has been carried out. And I mentioned 600 as the number of those who had suffered under it, as acknowledged to me by Blanchard in the beginning of March.
‘It is much greater now,’ said Lanjuinais. ‘Berryer on his return from Italy, a week ago, slept in Marseilles. He was informed that more than 900 persons had passed through Marseilles, _deportes_ under the new law to Algeria. They were of all classes: artisans and labourers mixed with men of the higher and middle classes. To these must be added those transported to Cayenne, who were sent by way of Havre. As for the number _expulses_ and _internes_ there are no data.’
‘In the Department of Var, a man was found guilty in 1848 of joining in one of the revolutionary movements of that time. His complete innocence was soon proved; he was released, and has lived quietly on his little estate ever since. He was arrested under the new law and ordered to be _deporte_ to Algeria. His friends, in fact all his neighbours, remonstrated, and sent to Paris the proof that the original conviction was a mistake. “Qu’il aille tout de meme,” was Espinasse’s answer.
‘In Calvados the Prefet, finding no one whom he could conscientiously arrest, took hold of one of the most respectable men in the department. “If,” he said, “I had arrested a man against whom there was plausible ground for suspicion, he might have been transported. This man _must_ be released.”‘
‘Has he been released?’ I asked.
‘I have not heard,’ was the answer. ‘In all probability he has been.’
‘In my department,’ said Tocqueville, ‘the _sous-prefet_, ordered by the Prefet to arrest somebody in the arrondissement, was in the same perplexity as the Prefet of Calvados. “I can find no fit person,” he said to me. I believe that he reported the difficulty to the Prefet, and that the vacancy was supplied from some other arrondissement.
‘What makes this frightful,’ he added, ‘is that we now know that deportation is merely a slow death. Scarcely any of the victims of 1851 and 1852 are living.’
‘I foretold that,’ I said, ‘at the time, as you will find if you look at my article on Lamartine, published in the “Edinburgh Review.”‘
[Footnote 1: See _Journals in France and Italy_.–ED.]
_April_ 20.–We talked of the political influence in France of the _hommes de lettres_.
‘It began,’ said Tocqueville, ‘with the Restoration. Until that time we had sometimes, though very rarely, statesmen who became writers, but never writers who became statesmen,’
‘You had _hommes de lettres_,’ I said, ‘in the early Revolutionary Assemblies–Mirabeau for instance.’
‘Mirabeau,’ he answered, ‘is your best example, for Mirabeau, until he became a statesman, lived by his pen. Still I should scarcely call a man of his high birth and great expectations _un homme de lettres_. That appellation seems to belong to a man who owes his position in early life to literature. Such a man is Thiers, or Guizot, as opposed to such men as Gladstone, Lord John Russell, or Montalembert.’
_Wednesday, April_ 21.–I dined with D. and met, among several others, Admiral Matthieu the Imperial Hydrographer, and a general whose name I did not catch. I talked to the general about the army.
‘We are increasing it,’ he said, ‘but not very materially. We are rather giving ourselves the means of a future rapid increase, than making an immediate augmentation. We are raising the number of men from 354,000 to 392,400, in round numbers to 400,000; but the principal increase is in the _cadres_, the officers attached to each battalion. We have increased them by more than one third. So that if a war should break out we can instantly–that is to say in three months, increase our army to 600,000 or even 700,000 men. Soldiers are never wanting in France, the difficulty always is to find officers.’
‘I hear,’ I said, ‘that you are making great improvements in your artillery.’
‘We are,’ he answered. ‘We are applying to it the principle of the Minie musket, and we are improving the material. We hope to make our guns as capable of resisting rapid and continued firing as well and as long as the English and the Swedish guns, which are the best in Europe, can do. And we find that we can throw a ball on the Minie principle with equal precision twice as far. This will double the force of all our batteries.’
‘Are _you_,’ he asked me, ‘among those who have taken shares in the Russian railways?’
‘No,’ I said. ‘They are the last that I wish to encourage.’
‘Englishmen or Frenchmen,’ he answered, ‘who help Russia to make railways, put me in mind of the Dutch who sold powder to their besiegers.
‘The thinness of her population–that is, the vast space over which it is scattered–alone prevents Russia from being the mistress of Europe. If her 64,000,000 were as concentrated as our 34,000,000 are, she would be irresistible. She loses always far more men in marching than in fighting.’
‘The events of the war,’ I said, ‘lead me to believe that the goodness of the Russian soldier is exaggerated. They were always beaten, often by inferior numbers.’
‘In the first place,’ he answered, ‘those who were beaten at Sebastopol were not the best Russian soldiers. They were short small men, generally drawn from the neighbouring provinces. The Russian Imperial Guards and the Russian Army in Poland are far superior to any that we encountered in the Crimea. In the second place, they were ill commanded. The improvements of weapons, of science and of discipline, have raised the privates of all the great military nations to about the same level. Success now depends on numbers and on generalship. With railways Russia will be able to bring quickly a preponderating force to any point on her frontier. Her officers are already good, and for money she can import the best generals; indeed, I do not see why she should not breed them. Russia is civilised enough to produce men of the highest military qualities.’
I asked Admiral Matthieu about the naval preparations of France.
‘The “Moniteur,”‘ I said, ‘denies that you are making any.’
‘The “Moniteur,”‘ he answered, ‘does not tell the truth. We are augmenting largely, both the number and the efficacy of our fleet.
‘Four years ago, at the beginning of the Russian war, we resolved to build a steam fleet of 150 steam ships of different sizes for fighting, and 74 steam ships for the transfer service, and to carry fuel and stores. Though we set about this in the beginning, as we thought, of a long war, we have not allowed the peace to interrupt it. We are devoting to it sixty-five millions a year (2,600,000_l_.) of which from fifteen to seventeen millions are employed every year in building new ships, and from forty to forty-two in adding steam power to the old ones. We hope to finish this great work in fourteen years.’
‘What,’ I asked, ‘is the amount of your present fleet of steamers?’
‘We have thirty-three screws,’ he answered, ‘fifty-seven paddles, and sixty-two sailing vessels in commission, and seventy-three, mostly steamers, _en reserve_, as you would say, in ordinary.’
‘Manned by how many men?’ I asked.
‘By twenty-five thousand sailors,’ he answered, ‘and eleven thousand marines. But our _inscription maritime_ would give us in a few months or less one hundred thousand more. Since the times of Louis XVI. the French Navy has never been so formidable, positively or relatively.’
‘How,’ I asked, ‘has your “Napoleon” succeeded?’
‘Admirably,’ he answered. ‘I have not seen the “Wellington,” but she is a much finer ship than the Agamemnon. Her speed is wonderful. A month ago she left Toulon at seven in the morning, and reached Ajaccio by four in the evening. But the great improvement is in our men. Napoleon knew nothing and cared nothing about sailors. He took no care about their training, and often wasted them in land operations, for which landsmen would have done as well.
‘In 1814 he left Toulon absolutely unguarded, and sent all the sailors to join Augereau. You might have walked into it.
‘In 1810 or 1811 I was on board a French corvette which fought an action with an English vessel, the “Lively.” We passed three times under her stern, and raked her each time. We ought to have cleared her decks. Not a shot touched her. The other day at Cherbourg I saw a broadside fired at a floating mark three cables off, the usual distance at which ships engage. Ten balls hit it, and we could see that all the others passed near enough to shake it by their wind.
‘A ship of eighty guns has now forty _canonniers_ and forty _maitres de pieces_. All practical artillerymen, and even the able seamen, can point a gun. Nelson’s manoeuvre of breaking the line could not be used against a French fleet, such as a French fleet is now. The leading ships would be destroyed one after another, by the concentrated fire. Formerly our officers dreaded a maritime war. They knew that defeat awaited them, possibly death. Now they are confident, and eager to try their hands.’
In the evening L. took me into a corner, and we had a long conversation.
He had been reading my ‘Athens Journal.’
‘What struck me,’ he said, ‘in every page of it, was the resemblance of King Otho to Louis Napoleon.’
‘I see the resemblance,’ I answered, ‘but it is the resemblance of a dwarf to a giant.’
‘No,’ he replied. ‘Of a man five feet seven inches high to one five feet eleven inches. There are not more than four inches between them. There is the same cunning, the same coldness, the same vindictiveness, the same silence, the same perseverance, the same unscrupulousness, the same selfishness, the same anxiety to appear to do everything that is done, and above all, the same determination to destroy, or to seduce by corruption or by violence, every man and every institution favourable to liberty, independence, or self-government. In one respect Otho had the more difficult task. He found himself, in 1843, subject to a Constitution carefully framed under the advice of England for the express purpose of controlling him. He did not attempt to get rid of it by a _coup d’etat_, or even to alter it, but cunningly and skilfully perverted it into an instrument of despotism. Louis Napoleon destroyed the Constitution which he found, and made a new one, copied from that which had been gradually elaborated by his uncle, which as a restraint is intentionally powerless and fraudulent.
‘A man,’ he continued, ‘may acquire influence either by possessing in a higher degree the qualities which belong to his country and to his time, or by possessing those in which they are deficient.
‘Wellington is an example of this first sort. His excellences were those of an Englishman carried almost to perfection.
‘Louis Napoleon belongs to the second. If his merits had been impetuous courage, rapidity of ideas, quickness of decision, frankness, versatility and resource, he would have been surrounded by his equals or his superiors. He predominated over those with whom he came in contact because he differed from them. Because he was calm, slow, reserved, silent, and persevering. Because he is a Dutchman, not a Frenchman.’
‘He seems,’ I said, ‘to have lost his calmness.’
‘Yes,’ answered L. ‘But under what a shock! And observe that though the greatest risk was encountered by _him_, the terror was greatest among his _entourage_. I do not believe that if he had been left to himself he would have lost his prudence or his self-possession. He did not for the first day. Passions are contagious. Everyone who approached him was agitated by terror and anger. His intrepidity and self-reliance, great as they are, were disturbed by the hubbub all round him. His great defects are three. First, his habit of self-contemplation. He belongs to the men whom the Germans call subjective, whose eye is always turned inwardly; who think only of themselves, of their own character, and of their own fortunes. Secondly, his jealousy of able men. He wishes to be what you called him, a giant, and as Nature has not made him positively tall, he tries to be comparatively so, by surrounding himself with dwarfs. His third defect is the disproportion of his wishes to his means. His desires are enormous. No power, no wealth, no expenditure would satisfy them. Even if he had his uncle’s genius and his uncle’s indefatigability, he would sink, as his uncle did, under the exorbitance of his attempts. As he is not a man of genius, or even a man of remarkable ability, as he is ignorant, uninventive and idle, you will see him flounder and fall from one failure to another.
‘During the three years that Drouyn de L’Huys was his minister he was intent on home affairs–on his marriage, on the Louvre, on the artillery, on his _bonnes fortunes_, and on the new delights of unbounded expenditure. He left foreign affairs altogether to his minister. When Drouyn de L’Huys left him, the road before him was plain–he had only to carry on the war. But when the war was over, the road ended; neither he nor Walewski nor any of his _entourage_ know anything of the country in which they are travelling. You see them wandering at hazard. Sometimes trying to find their way to Russia, sometimes to England. Making a treaty with Austria, then attempting to injure her, and failing; attempting to injure Turkey, and failing; bullying Naples, and failing; threatening Switzerland, threatening Belgium, and at last demanding from England an Alien Bill, which they ought to know to be incompatible with the laws and hateful to the feelings of the people.
‘He is not satisfied with seeing the country prosperous and respected abroad. He wants to dazzle. His policy, domestic and foreign, is a policy of vanity and ostentation–motives which mislead everyone both in private and in public life.
‘His great moral merits are kindness and sympathy. He is a faithful attached friend, and wishes to serve all who come near him.
‘His greatest moral fault is his ignorance of the difference between right and wrong; perhaps his natural insensibility to it, his want of the organs by which that difference is perceived–a defect which he inherits from his uncle.’
‘The uncle,’ I said, ‘had at least one moral sense–he could understand the difference between pecuniary honesty and dishonesty, a difference which this man seems not to see, or not to value.’
‘I agree with you,’ said L. ‘He cannot value it, or he would not look complacently on the peculation which surrounds him. Every six months some magnificent hotel rises in the Champs Elysees, built by a man who had nothing, and has been a minister for a year or two.’
On my return I found Tocqueville with the ladies. I gave him an outline of what L. had said.
‘No one,’ he said, ‘knows Louis Napoleon better than L.’
‘My opportunities of judging him have been much fewer, but as far as they have gone, they lead to the same conclusions. L. perhaps has not dwelt enough on his indolence. Probably as he grows older, and the effects of his early habits tell on him, it increases. I am told that it is difficult to make him attend to business, that he prolongs audiences apparently to kill time.
‘One of the few of my acquaintances who go near him, was detained by him for an hour to answer questions about the members of the _Corps legislatif_. Louis Napoleon inquired about their families, their fortunes, their previous histories. Nothing about their personal qualities. These are things that do not interest him. He supposes that men differ only in externals. “That the _fond_ is the same in everyone.”‘
_April 26_.–Tocqueville spent the evening with us.
We talked of Novels.
‘I read none,’ he said, ‘that end ill. Why should one voluntarily subject oneself to painful emotions? To emotions created by an imaginary cause and therefore impelling you to no action. I like vivid emotions, but I seek them in real life, in society, in travelling, in business, but above all in political business. There is no happiness comparable to political success, when your own excitement is justified by the magnitude of the questions at issue, and is doubled and redoubled by the sympathy of your supporters. Having enjoyed that, I am ashamed of being excited by the visionary sorrows of heroes and heroines.
‘I had a friend,’ he continued, ‘a Benedictine, who is now ninety-seven. He was, therefore, about thirteen when Louis XVI. began to reign. He is a man of talents and knowledge, has always lived in the world, has attended to all that he has seen and heard, and is still unimpaired in mind, and so strong in body that when I leave him he goes down to embrace me, after the fashion of the eighteenth century, at the bottom of his staircase.’
‘And what effect,’ I asked, ‘has the contemplation of seventy years of revolution produced in him? Does he look back, like Talleyrand, to the _ancien regime_ as a golden age?’
‘He admits,’ said Tocqueville, ‘the material superiority of our own age, but he believes that, intellectually and morally, we are far inferior to our grandfathers. And I agree with him. Those seventy years of revolution have destroyed our courage, our hopefulness, our self-reliance, our public spirit, and, as respects by far the majority of the higher classes, our passions, except the vulgarest and most selfish ones–vanity and covetousness. Even ambition seems extinct. The men who seek power, seek it not for itself, not as the means of doing good to their country, but as a means of getting money and flatterers.
‘It is remarkable,’ he continued, ‘that women whose influence is generally greatest under despotisms, have none now. They have lost it, partly in consequence of the gross vulgarity of our dominant passions, and partly from their own nullity. They are like London houses, all built and furnished on exactly the same model, and that a most uninteresting one. Whether a girl is bred up at home or in a convent, she has the same masters, gets a smattering of the same accomplishments, reads the same dull books, and contributes to society the same little contingent of superficial information.
‘When a young lady comes out I know beforehand how her mother and her aunts will describe her. “Elle a les gouts simples. Elle est pieuse. Elle aime la campagne. Elle aime la lecture. Elle n’aime pas le bal. Elle n’aime pas le monde, elle y ira seulement pour plaire a sa mere.” I try sometimes to escape from these generalities, but there is nothing behind them.’
‘And how long,’ I asked, ‘does this simple, pious, retiring character last?’
‘Till the orange flowers of her wedding chaplet are withered,’ he answered. ‘In three months she goes to the _messe d’une heure_.’
‘What is the “messe d’une heure?”‘ I asked.
‘A priest,’ he answered, ‘must celebrate Mass fasting; and in strictness ought to do so before noon. But to accommodate fashionable ladies who cannot rise by noon, priests are found who will starve all the morning, and say Mass in the afternoon. It is an irregular proceeding, though winked at by the ecclesiastical authorities. Still to attend it is rather discreditable; it is a middle term between the highly meritorious practice of going to early Mass, and the scandalous one of never going at all.’
‘What was the education,’ I asked, ‘of women under the _ancien regime_?’
‘The convent,’ he answered.
‘It must have been better,’ I said, ‘than the present education, since the women of that time were superior to ours.’
‘It was so far better,’ he answered, ‘that it did no harm. A girl at that time was taught nothing. She came from the convent a sheet of white paper. _Now_ her mind is a paper scribbled over with trash. The women of that time were thrown into a world far superior to ours, and with the sagacity, curiosity, and flexibility of French women, caught knowledge and tact and expression from the men.
‘I knew well,’ he continued, ‘Madame Recamier. Few traces of her former beauty then remained, but we were all her lovers and her slaves. The talent, labour, and skill which she wasted in her _salon_, would have gained and governed an empire. She was virtuous, if it be virtuous to persuade every one of a dozen men that you wish to favour him, though some circumstance always occurs to prevent your doing so. Every friend thought himself preferred. She governed us by little distinctions, by letting one man come five minutes before the others, or stay five minutes after. Just as Louis XIV. raised one courtier to the seventh heaven by giving him the _bougeoir_, and another by leaning on his arm, or taking his shirt from him.
‘She said little, but knew what each man’s _fort_ was, and placed from time to time a _mot_ which led him to it. If anything were peculiarly well said, her face brightened. You saw that her attention was always active and always intelligent.
‘And yet I doubt whether she really enjoyed conversation. _Tenir salon_ was to her a game, which she played well, and almost always successfully, but she must sometimes have been exhausted by the effort. Her _salon_ was perhaps pleasanter to us than it was to herself.
‘One of the last,’ he continued, ‘of that class of potentates was the Duchesse de Dino. Her early married life was active and brilliant, but not intellectually. It was not till about forty, when she had exhausted other excitements, that she took to _bel esprit._ But she performed her part as if she had been bred to it.’
This was our last conversation. I left Paris the next day, and we never met again.
Tocqueville, June 30, 1858.
I must complain, a little of your silence, my dear Senior. I hear that before you left Paris you suffered a great deal from your throat. Is it true, or have you recovered?
I have not either much to boast of on the score of health since we parted. The illness which I had in Paris became still worse, and when I got a little better in that way I had a violent bronchial attack. I even began to spit blood, which had not happened to me for many years, and I am still almost reduced to silence. Still I am beginning to mend, and I hope, please God, to be able to _speak_ to my friends when they visit me.
You are aware that I wished to induce my wife to accompany me to the South; but the length of the journey, the difficulties of transport, the heat, and indeed the state of my health, were reasons which she brought forward with so much force that we have remained here, and shall not leave till the end of September. We still hope that you and Miss Senior will join us the first week in that month. We shall be very happy to have you both with us. This is no compliment … I hope soon to be able to enjoy more frequent communication with my English friends. A steamboat is about to run from Cherbourg to the coast of England. We shall then be able to visit each other as neighbours (_voisiner_).
Between ourselves, I do not think that the events in England during the last six months are of a nature to raise the reputation of Parliamentary Government in the rest of the world. _A bientot!_
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
Kensington, July 5, 1858.
My dear Tocqueville,–If I had written to you three days ago, I should have talked of the pleasure which my daughter and I expected from our visit to Tocqueville. But our plans are changed. Edward Ellice is going to pay a last visit to America, and has begged me to accompany him. He is a great proprietor in both America and Canada–knows everybody in both countries, and is besides a most able and interesting companion. So I have accepted the proposal, and start on the 30th of this month for Boston. We shall return in the beginning of November.
I am _very_ sorry to lose the visit to Normandy, but I trust that it is only deferred.
We are grieved to hear that neither you nor Madame de Tocqueville are as well as your friends could wish you to be.
My _grippe_, after lasting for three months, has gradually subsided, and I look to the voyage to America as a cure for all remains of it.
I have most punctually carried your remembrances to all the persons honoured by being inscribed on your card.
Though I have often seen Gladstone, it has always been among many other persons, and he has been so full of talk, that I have never been able to allude to your subject. I mentioned it to Mrs. Gladstone on Saturday last: she said that there was not a person in all France whom her husband so much admired and venerated as you–therefore, if there was any appearance of neglect, it could have arisen only from hurry or mistake. I shall see him again on Thursday, when we are going all together to a rehearsal of Ristori’s, and I will talk to him: we shall there be quiet.
Things here are in a very odd state. The Government is supported by the Tories because it calls itself Tory, and by the Whigs and Radicals because it obeys them. On such terms it may last for an indefinite time.
Kindest regards from us all to you both.
9 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington, August 2, 1858.
My dear Tocqueville,–I ought, as you know, to be on the Atlantic by this time; but I was attacked, ten days ago, with lumbar neuralgia, which they are trying, literally, to rub away. If I am quite well on the 13th, I shall go on the 14th to America.
I was attacked at Sir John Boileau’s, where I spent some days with the Guizots, Mrs. Austin, and Stanley and Lord John Russell.
Guizot is in excellent spirits, and, what is rare in an ex-premier, dwells more on the present and the future than on the past. Mrs. Austin is placid and discursive.
Lord John seems to me well pleased with the present state of affairs–which he thinks, I believe with reason, will bring him back to power. He thinks that Malmesbury and Disraeli are doing well, and praises much the subordinates of the Government. Considering that no one believes Lord Derby to be wise, or Disraeli to be either wise or honest, it is marvellous that they get on as well as they do. The man who has risen most is Lord Stanley, and, as he has the inestimable advantage of youth, I believe him to be predestined to influence our fortunes long.
The world, I think, is gradually coming over to an opinion, which, when I maintained it thirty years ago, was treated as a ridiculous paradox–that India is and always has been a great misfortune to us; and, that if it were possible to get quit of it, we should be richer and stronger.
But it is clear that we are to keep it, at least for my life.
Kindest regards from us all to you and Madame de Tocqueville.
Tocqueville, August 21, 1858.
My dear Senior,–I hear indirectly that you are extremely ill. Your letter told me only that you were suffering from neuralgia which you hoped to be rid of in a few days, but Mrs. Grote informs me that the malady continues and has even assumed a more serious character.
If you could write or dictate a few lines to me, you would please me much.
I am inconsolable for the failure of your American journey. I expected the most curious results from it I hoped that your journal would enable me once more to understand the present state of a country which has so changed since I saw it that I feel that I now know nothing of it. What a blessing, however, that you had not started! What would have become of you if the painful attack from which you are suffering had seized you 2,000 miles away from home, and in the midst of that agitated society where no one has time to be ill or to think of those who are ill? It must be owned that Fortune has favoured you by sending you this illness just at the moment of your departure instead of ten days later.
I have been much interested by your visit to Sir John Boileau. You saw there M. Guizot in one of his best lights. The energy with which he stands up under the pressure of age and of ill-fortune, and is not only resigned in his new situation, but as vigorous, as animated, and as cheerful as ever, shows a character admirably tempered and a pride which nothing will bend.
I do not so well understand the cheerfulness of Lord John Russell. For the spectacle now exhibited by England, in which a party finds no difficulty in maintaining itself in power by carrying into practice ideas which it has always opposed, and by relying for support on its natural enemies, is not of a nature to raise the reputation of your institutions, or of your public men. I should have a great deal more to say to you on this and other subjects if I were not afraid of tiring you. I leave off, therefore, by assuring you that we are longing to hear of your recovery. Remembrances, &c.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
Cannes, December 12, 1858.
I wish, my dear friend, to reassure you myself on the false reports which have been spread regarding my health. Far from finding myself worse than when we arrived, I am already much better.
I am just now an invalid who takes his daily walks of two hours in the mountains after eating an excellent breakfast. I am not, however, well. If I were I should not long remain a citizen of Cannes.
I have almost renounced the use of speech, and consequently the society of human beings; which is all the more sad as my wife, my sole companion, is herself very unwell, not dangerously, but enough to make me anxious. When I say my sole companion, I am wrong, for my eldest brother has had the kindness to shut himself up with us for a month.
Adieu, dear Senior. A thousand kind remembrances from us to all your party.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
Cannes, March 15, 1859.
You say, my dear Senior, in the letter which I have just received, that I like to hear from my friends, not to write to them. It is true that I delight in the letters of my friends, especially of my English friends; but it is a calumny to say that I do not like to answer them. It is true that I am in your debt: one great cause is, that a man who lives at Cannes knows nothing of what is passing. My solitary confinement, which is bad enough in every way, makes me a bad correspondent, by depressing my spirits and rendering every exertion painful.
Mrs. Grote, in a very kind and interesting letter, which I received from her yesterday, says, that Lord Brougham, on his late arrival in London, gave a lamentable description of my health. If he confined himself to January, he was right. It is impossible to exaggerate my sufferings during that month. But, since that time, all has changed, as if from day to night, or rather from night to day. To talk now of what I was in January is like making a speech about the Spanish marriages.
I am grieved to find that you have suffered so much this year from bronchitis. I fear that your larynx can scarcely endure an English winter. But it is very hard to be obliged to expatriate oneself every year. I fear, however, that such must be my fate for some winters to come, and the pain with which I anticipate it makes me sympathise more acutely with you.
We know not, as yet, whether we are to have peace or war. Whichever it be, a mortal blow has struck the popularity of Louis Napoleon. What maintained him was the belief that he was the protector of our material interests: interests to which we now sacrifice all others. The events of the last month show, with the utmost vividness, that these very interests may be endangered by the arbitrary and irrational will of a despot. The feelings, therefore, which were his real support are now bitterly hostile to him.
I feel, in short, that a considerable change in our Government is approaching.
Even our poor _Corps legislatif_, a week ago, refused to take into consideration the Budget, until it was informed whether it were to be a war budget or a peace budget. Great was the fury of those who represented the Government. They exclaimed that the Chamber misapprehended its jurisdiction, and that it had nothing to do with political questions. The Chamber, however, or rather its committee on the Budget, held its ground, and extorted from the Government some explanations.
Adieu, my dear Senior. Say everything that is kind to the Grotes, the Reeves, the Lewises–in short, to all our common friends, and believe in the sincerity of my friendship.
A. DE TOCQUEVILLE.
[This was M. de Tocqueville’s last letter to Mr. Senior. He died on the 16th of April.–ED.]
Hotel Westminster, Rue de la Paix, April 25, 1859.
My dear Madame de Tocqueville,–I was in the country, and it was only last Friday, as I was passing through London on my way to Paris, that I heard of the irreparable loss that we, indeed that France and Europe, have suffered.
It cannot alleviate your distress to be told how universal and deep is the sympathy with it–quite as much in England as in France.
It has thrown a gloom over society, not only over that portion which had the happiness and the honour of intimacy with M.A. de Tocqueville, but even of his acquaintances, and of those too whose acquaintance was only with his works.
I have, as you know, been for about a year, the depositary of a large packet confided to me by M. de Tocqueville last spring. About six months ago he begged me to return it to him, in Paris, when I had a safe opportunity. No such opportunity offered itself, so that the packet remains in my library awaiting your orders.
Since I began this letter I have been informed by M. de Corcelle that you are likely to be soon in Paris. I shall not venture to send it by the post, lest it should cross you on the road.
I shall anxiously inquire as to your arrival, in the hope that you will allow one who most sincerely loved and admired your husband, morally and intellectually, to see you as soon as you feel yourself equal to it.
Believe me, my dear Madame de Tocqueville, with the truest sympathy, yours most truly,
NASSAU W. SENIOR.
[Mr. Senior continued an active correspondence with Madame de Tocqueville, and we saw her whenever we were in Paris. Our long-promised visit to Tocqueville took place in 1861.–ED.]
_Tocqueville, Sunday, August_ 11, 1861.–We left Paris on Saturday evening, got to Valognes by the Cherbourg railway by six the next morning, and were furnished there with a good carriage and horses, which took us, and our servants and luggage, in three hours to Tocqueville.
Valognes has been immortalised by Le Sage in Turcaret. It is a town of about 6,000 inhabitants, built of granite, and therefore little altered from what it was 200 years ago. Over many of the doors are the armorial bearings of the provincial nobility who made it a small winter capital: the practice is not wholly extinct. I asked who was the inhabitant of an imposing old house. ‘M. de Neridoze,’ answered our landlady, ‘d’une tres-haute noblesse.’ I went over one in which Madame de Tocqueville thinks of passing the winter. It is of two stories. The ground floor given up to kitchen, laundry, and damp-looking servants’ rooms; the first floor in this form:–
Bedroom. Drawing-room. Dining-room. Hall. Bedroom.
The longer side looks into the street, the shorter, which is to be Madame de Tocqueville’s bedroom, into a small garden.
_August_ 11.–At Tocqueville we find M. and Madame de Beaumont, their second son–a charming boy of ten years old, and Ampere.
It is eleven years since I was here. Nothing has been done to the interior of the house. This is about the plan of ground floor.
Drawing-room. Billiard-room. Dining-room. Hall.
The first floor corresponds to the ground floor, except that on the western sides a passage runs, into which the library, which is over the drawing-room, and the bedrooms open. The second consists of garrets. My room is on the first floor of the eastern tower, with deep windows looking south and east. The room dedicated by Tocqueville to Ampere is above me. Creepers in great luxuriance cover the walls up to the first floor windows. The little park consists of from thirty to forty acres, well wooded and traversed by an avenue in this form, leading from the road to the front of the house.
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To the west the ground rises to a wild common commanding the sea, the lighthouses of Gatteville, Barfleur, La Hogue, and a green plain covered with woods and hedgerow trees, and studded with church towers and spires of the picturesque forms of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. It has no grand features, except the sea and the rocky coast of the Cherbourg peninsula, but it is full of variety and beauty. I can understand Tocqueville’s delight in the house and in the country. The weather is perfect; the thermometer in my bedroom, the walls of which are about six feet thick, is 71 deg., in the sun it is 80 deg.; but there is a strong breeze.
_August 12th._–Madame de Beaumont, my daughter, and Ampere drove, and Beaumont and I walked, to the coast about three miles and a half off. Our road ran through the gay wooded plain which I have described.
We talked of Italian affairs.
‘Up to the annexation of Tuscany,’ said Beaumont, ‘I fully approve of all that has been done. Parma, Modena, and Tuscany were eager to join Piedmont. During the anxious interval of six months, while the decision of Louis Napoleon was doubtful, the conduct of the Tuscans was above all praise. Perhaps the general wish of the people of Romagna justified the Piedmontese in seizing it. Though there the difficult question as to the expediency of stripping the Pope of his temporal power rises.
‘Perhaps, too, the facility with which Sicily submitted was a justification. But I cannot pardon the seizure of Naples. It is clear to me that if the Neapolitans had been left to themselves they would have driven out the Garibaldians. Garibaldi himself felt this: nothing but a conviction of its necessity would have induced him to call for the assistance of the Piedmontese. I do not believe that in defiance of all international law-indeed in defiance of all international morality–Cavour would have given that assistance if the public opinion of Piedmont had allowed him to refuse it. And what is the consequence? A civil war which is laying waste the country. The Piedmontese call their adversaries brigands. There are without doubt among them men whose motive is plunder, but the great majority are in arms in defence of the independence of their country. They are no more brigands now than they were when they resisted King Joseph. The Piedmontese are as much foreigners to them as the French were: as much hated and as lawfully resisted. They may be conquered, they probably will be conquered. An ignorant corrupt population, inhabiting a small country, unsupported by its higher classes–its fleet, its fortresses, and all the machinery of its government, in the hands of its enemies–cannot permanently resist; but the war will be atrocious, and the more cruel on the part of Piedmont because it is unjust.’
‘You admit,’ I said, ‘that the higher classes side with Piedmont?’
‘I admit that,’ he answered; ‘but you must recollect how few they are in number, and how small is the influence which they exercise. In general, I detest universal suffrage, I detest democracy and everything belonging to it, but if it were possible to obtain honestly and truly the opinion of the people, I would ask it and obey it. I believe that it would be better to allow the Neapolitans, ignorant and debased as they are, to choose their own sovereign and their own form of government, than to let them be forced by years of violence to become the unwilling subjects of Piedmont.’
‘Do you believe,’ I said, ‘that it is possible to obtain through universal suffrage the honest and true opinion of a people?’
‘Not,’ he answered, ‘if the Government interferes. I believe that in Savoy not one person in fifty was in favour of annexation to France. But this is an extreme case.
‘The Bourbons are deservedly hated and despised by the Neapolitans, the Piedmontese are not despised, but are hated still more intensely. There is no native royal stock. The people are obviously unfit for a Republic. It would be as well, I think, to let them select a King as to impose one on them. The King whom Piedmont, without a shadow of right, is imposing on them is the one whom they most detest.’
‘If I go to Rome,’ I asked, ‘in the winter, whom shall I find there?’
‘I think,’ he answered, ‘that it will be the Piedmontese. The present state of things is full of personal danger to Louis Napoleon. As his policy is purely selfish, he will, at any sacrifice, put an end to it. That sacrifice may be the unity of Catholicism. The Pope, no longer a sovereign, will be under the influence of the Government in whose territory he resides, and the other Catholic Powers may follow the example of Greece and of Russia, and create each an independent Spiritual Government. It would be a new excitement for _Celui-ci_ to make himself Head of the Church.’
‘Assassinations,’ I said, ‘even when successful have seldom produced important and permanent effects, but Orsini’s failure has influenced and is influencing the destinies of Europe.’
‘If I were an Italian liberal,’ said Beaumont, ‘I would erect a statue to him. The policy and almost the disposition of Louis Napoleon have been changed by the _attentat_. He has become as timid as he once was intrepid. He began by courting the Pope and the clergy. He despised the French assassins, who were few in number and unconnected, and who had proved their unskilfulness on Louis Philippe; but Orsini showed him that he had to elect between the Pope and the Austrians on one side, and the Carbonari on the other. He has chosen the alliance of the Carbonari. He has made himself their tool, and will continue to do so.
‘They are the only enemies whom he fears, at least for the present.
‘France is absolutely passive. The uneducated masses from whom he holds his power are utterly indifferent to liberty, and he has too much sense to irritate them by wanton oppression. They do not know that he is degrading the French character, they do not even feel that he is wasting the capital of France, they do not know that he is adding twenty millions every year to the national debt. They think of his loans merely as investments, and the more profligately extravagant are the terms and the amount, the better they like them.’
‘Ten years ago,’ I said, ‘the cry that I heard was, “Ca ne durera pas.”‘
‘That was my opinion,’ he answered; ‘indeed, it was the opinion of everybody. I thought the Duc de Broglie desponding when he gave it three years. We none of us believed that the love of liberty was dead in France.’
‘It is not,’ I said, ‘dead, for among the higher classes it still lives, and among the lower it never existed.’
‘Perhaps,’ he answered, ‘our great mistakes were that we miscalculated the courage of the educated classes, and the degree in which universal suffrage would throw power into the hands of the uneducated. Not a human being in my commune reads a newspaper or indeed reads anything: yet it contains 300 electors. In the towns there is some knowledge and some political feeling, but for political purposes they are carefully swamped by being joined to uneducated agricultural districts.
‘Still I think I might enter the _Corps legislatif_ for our capital Le Mans. Perhaps at a general election twenty liberals might come in. But what good could they do? The opposition in the last session strengthened Louis Napoleon. It gave him the prestige of liberality and success.’
‘You think him, then,’ I said, ‘safe for the rest of his life?’
‘Nothing,’ he answered, ‘is safe in France, and the thing most unsafe is a Government. Our caprices are as violent as they are sudden. They resemble those of a half-tamed beast of prey, which licks its keeper’s hand to-day, and may tear him to-morrow. But if his life be not so long as to enable the fruits of his follies to show themselves in their natural consequences–unsuccessful war, or defeated diplomacy, or bankruptcy, or heavily increased taxation–he may die in the Tuileries.
‘But I infer from his conduct that he thinks an insurrection against his tyranny possible, and that he is preparing to meet it by a popular war– that is to say, by a war with England.
‘I found my opinion not so much on the enormous maritime preparations, as on the long-continued systematic attempts to raise against England our old national enmity. All the provincial papers are in the hands of the Government. The constantly recurring topic of every one of them is, the perfidy and the malignity of England. She is described as opposing all our diplomacy, as resisting all our aggrandisement, as snarling and growling at our acquisition of Savoy, as threatening us if we accept Sardinia, as trying to drive the Pope from Rome because we protect him, as trying to separate the Danubian provinces because we wish to unite them, as preventing the Suez Canal because we proposed it–in short, on every occasion and in every part of the world as putting herself in our way. To these complaints, which are not without foundation, are added others of which our ignorant people do not see the absurdity. They are told that the enormous conscription, and the great naval expenditure, are rendered necessary by the aggressive armaments of England. That you are preparing to lay waste all our coasts, to burn our arsenals, to subsidise against us a new Coalition, and perhaps lead its armies again to Paris.
‘The Emperor’s moderation, his love of England, and his love of peace, are said to be the only obstacles to, a violent rupture. But they are prepared for these obstacles at length giving way. “The Emperor,” they are told, “is getting tired of his insolent, and hostile, and quarrelsome allies. He is getting tired of a peace which is more expensive than a war. Some day the cup will flow over. ‘Il en finira avec eux,’ will dictate a peace in London, will free the oppressed Irish nationality, will make England pay the expense of the war, and then having conquered the only enemy that France can fear, will let her enjoy, for the first time, real peace, a reduced conscription, and low taxation.”
‘Such is the language of all the provincial papers and of all the provincial authorities, and it has its effect. There never was a time when a war with England would be so popular. He does not wish for one, he knows that it would be extremely dangerous, but he is accustomed to play for great stakes, and if submitting to any loss of his popularity, or to any limitation of his power is the alternative, he will run the risk. He keeps it, as his last card, in reserve, to be played only in extremity, but to be ready when that extremity has arrived.’
_Tuesday, August_ 13.–We drove to La Prenelle, a church at the point of a high table-land running from Tocqueville towards the bay of La Hogue, and commanding nearly all the Cherbourg peninsula. On three sides of us was the sea, separated from us by a wooded, well-inhabited plain, whose churches rose among the trees, and containing the towns and lofty lighthouses of Gatteville, Barfleur, Vast, and La Hogue. We sat on the point from whence James II. saw the battle of La Hogue, and admired the courage of his English rebels.
Ampere has spent much of his life in Rome, and is engaged on a work in which its history is to be illustrated by its monuments.
We talked of the Roman people.
‘Nothing,’ said Ampere, ‘can be more degraded than the higher classes. With the exception of Antonelli, who is charming, full of knowledge, intelligence, and grace, and of the Duke of Sermoneta, who is almost equally distinguished, there is scarcely a noble of my acquaintance who has any merits, moral or intellectual.
‘They are surrounded by the finest ancient and modern art, and care nothing for it. The eminent men of every country visit Rome–the Romans avoid them for they have nothing to talk to them about.
‘Politics are of course unsafe, literature they have none. They never read. A cardinal told me something which I doubted, and I asked him where he had found it. “In certi libri,” he answered.
‘Another, who has a fine old library, begged me to use it. “You will do the room good,” he said. “No one has been there for years.” Even scandal and gossip must be avoided under an Ecclesiastical Government.
‘They never ride, they never shoot, they never visit their estates, they give no parties; if it were not for the theatre and for their lawsuits they would sink into vegetable life.’
‘Sermoneta,’ I said, ‘told me that many of his lawsuits were hereditary, and would probably descend to his son.’
‘If Sermoneta,’ said Ampere, ‘with his positive intelligence and his comparative vigour, cannot get through them, what is to be expected from others? They have, however, one merit, one point of contact with the rest of the world–their hatred of their Government. They seem to perceive, not clearly, for they perceive nothing clearly, but they dimly see, that the want of liberty is a still greater misfortune to the higher classes than to the lower.
‘But the people are a fine race. Well led they will make excellent soldiers. They have the cruelty of their ancestors, perhaps I ought to say of their predecessors, but they have also their courage.’
‘They showed,’ said Beaumont, ‘courage in the defence of Rome, but courage behind walls is the commonest of all courages. No training could make the Spaniards stand against us in the open field, but they were heroes in Saragossa. The caprices of courage and cowardice are innumerable. The French have no moral courage, they cannot stand ridicule, they cannot encounter disapprobation, they bow before oppression; a French soldier condemned by a court-martial cries for mercy like a child. The same man in battle appears indifferent to death. The Spaniard runs away without shame, but submits to death when it is inevitable without terror. None of the prisoners taken on either side in the Spanish civil war asked for pardon.’
‘Indifference to life,’ I said, ‘and indifference to danger have little in common. General Fenelon told me that in Algeria he had more than once to preside at an execution. No Arab showed any fear. Once there were two men, one of whom was to be flogged, the other to be shot. A mistake was made and they were going to shoot the wrong man. It was found out in time, but neither of the men seemed to care about it; yet they would probably have run away in battle. The Chinese are not brave, but you can hire a man to be beheaded in your place.’
‘So,’ said Ampere, ‘you could always hire a substitute in our most murderous wars, when in the course of a year a regiment was killed twice over. It was hiring a man, not indeed to be beheaded, but to be shot for you.’
‘The destructiveness,’ said Beaumont, ‘of a war is only gradually known. It is found out soonest in the villages when the deaths of the conscripts are heard of, or are suspected from their never returning; but in the towns, from which the substitutes chiefly come, it may be long undiscovered. Nothing is known but what is officially published, and the Government lies with an audacity which seems always to succeed. If it stated the loss of men in a battle at one half of the real number, people would fancy that it ought to be doubled, and so come near to the truth; but it avows only one-tenth or only one-twentieth, and then the amount of falsehood is underestimated.’
‘Marshal Randon,’ I said, ‘told me that the whole loss in the Italian campaign was under 7,000 men.’
‘That is a good instance,’ said Beaumont. ‘It certainly was 50,000, perhaps 70,000. But I am guilty of a _delit_ in saying so, and you will be guilty of a _delit_ if you repeat what I have said. I remember the case of a man in a barber’s shop in Tours, to whom the barber said that the harvest was bad. He repeated the information, and was punished by fine and imprisonment for having spread _des nouvelles alarmantes_. Truth is no excuse; in fact it is an aggravation, for the truer the news the more alarming.’
‘In time of peace,’ I asked, ‘what proportion of the conscripts return after their six years of service?’
‘About three-quarters,’ answered Beaumont.
‘Then,’ I said, ‘as you take 100,000 conscripts every year even in peace, you lose 25,000 of your best young men every year?’
‘Certainly,’ said Beaumont.
‘And are the 75,000 who return improved or deteriorated?’ I asked.
‘Improved,’ said Ampere; ‘they are _degourdis_, they are educated, they submit to authority, they know how to shift for themselves.’
‘Deteriorated,’ said Beaumont. ‘A garrison life destroys the habits of steady industry, it impairs skill. The returned conscript is more vicious and less honest than the peasant who has not left his village.’
‘And what was the loss,’ I asked, ‘in the late war?’
‘At least twice as great,’ said Beaumont, ‘as it is in peace. Half of those who were taken perished. The country would not have borne the prolongation of the Crimean War.’
‘These wars,’ I said, ‘were short and successful. A war with England can scarcely be short, and yet you think that he plans one?’
‘I think,’ said Beaumont, ‘that he plans one, but only in the event of his encountering any serious difficulty at home. You must not infer from the magnitude of his naval expenditure that he expects one.
‘You look at the expense of those preparations, and suppose that so great a sacrifice would not be made in order to meet an improbable emergency. But expense is no sacrifice to him. He likes it. He has the morbid taste for it which some tyrants have had for blood, which his uncle had for war. Then he is incapable of counting. When he lived at Arenenburg he used to give every old soldier who visited him an order on Viellard his treasurer for money. In general the chest was empty. Viellard used to remonstrate but without effect. The day perhaps after his orders had been dishonoured he gave new ones.’
‘Is it true,’ I asked, ‘that the civil list is a couple of years’ income in debt?’
I know nothing about it,’ said Beaumont; ‘in fact, nobody knows anything about anything, but it is highly probable. Everybody who asks for anything gets it, everybody is allowed to waste, everybody is allowed to rob, every folly of the Empress is complied with. Fould raised objections, and was dismissed.
‘She is said to have a room full of revolutionary relics: there is the bust of Marie Antoinette, the nose broken at one of the sacks of the Tuileries. There is a picture of Simon beating Louis XVII. Her poor child has been frightened by it, and she is always dwelling on the dangers of her position.’
‘So,’ I said, ‘did Queen Adelaide–William IV.’s Queen. From the passing of the Reform Bill she fully expected to die on the scaffold.’
‘There is more reason,’ he answered, ‘for the Empress’s fears.’
‘Not,’ I said, ‘if she fears the scaffold. Judicial murder, at least in that form, is out of fashion. Cayenne and Lambressa are your guillotines, and the Empress is safe from them.’
‘But there are other modes of violent death,’ he answered; ‘from one of which she escaped almost by miracle.’
‘How did she behave,’ I asked, ‘at the _attentat?_’
‘Little is known,’ he answered, ‘except that the Emperor said to her, as he led her upstairs to her box: “Allons, il faut faire notre metier.”‘
‘Then she is disturbed by religious fears. The little prince has been taught to say to his father every morning: “Papa, ne faites pas de mal a mon parrain.” The Pope was his godfather.’
‘If the Emperor dies, the real power will pass into the hands of Prince Napoleon. And very dangerous hands they will be. He has more talent than the Emperor, and longer views. Louis Napoleon is a revolutionist from selfishness. Prince Napoleon is selfish enough, but he has also passion. He detests everything that is venerable, everything that is established or legal.
‘There is little value now for property or for law, though the Government professes to respect them. What, will it be when the Government professes to hate them?’
_Wednesday, August_ 14.–We talked at breakfast of Rome.
‘Is there,’ said Beaumont to Ampere, ‘still an Inquisition at Rome?’
‘There is,’ said Ampere, ‘but it is torpid. It punishes bad priests, but does little else.’
‘If a Roman,’ I asked, ‘were an avowed infidel, would it take notice of him?’
‘Probably not,’ said Ampere, ‘but his _cure_ might–not for his infidelity, but for his avowing it. The _cure_ who has always the powers of a _commissaire de police,_ might put him in prison if he went into a _cafe_ and publicly denied the Immaculate Conception, or if he neglected going to church or to confession: but the Inquisition no longer cares about opinions.’
‘Is there much infidelity,’ I asked, ‘in Rome?’
‘Much,’ said Ampere, ‘among the laity. The clergy do not actively disbelieve. They go through their functions without ever seriously inquiring whether what they have to teach be true or false. No persons were more annoyed by the Mortara business than the clergy, with the exception of Antonelli. He hates and fears the man who set it on foot, the Archbishop of Bologna, and therefore was glad to see him expose himself, and lose all hope of the Secretaryship, but he took care to prevent the recurrence of such a scandal. He revived an old law prohibiting Jews from keeping Christian nurses. But he could scarcely order restitution. According to the Church it would have been giving the child to the Devil, and, what is worse, robbing God of him. The Pope’s piety is selfish. His great object is his own salvation. He would not endanger that, to confer any benefit upon, or to avert any evil from Rome; or indeed from the whole world. This makes him difficult to negotiate with. If anything is proposed to him which his confessor affirms to be dangerous to his soul, he listens to no arguments. As for Mortara himself, he is a poor creature. A friend of mine went to see him in his convent. All that he could get from him was:
‘”Sono venuti i Carabinieri.”
‘”And what did they do to you?”
‘”M’ hanno portato qui.”
‘”M’ hanno dato pasticci; erano molto buoni.”
‘What is most teasing,’ continued Ampere, ‘in the Roman Government is not so much its active oppression as its torpidity. It hates to act. An Englishman had with great difficulty obtained permission to light Rome with gas. He went to the Government in December, and told them that everything was ready, and that the gas would be lighted on the 1st of January.
‘”Could you not,” they answered, “put it off till April?”
‘”But it is in winter,” he replied; “that it is wanted. Every thing is ready. Why should we wait?”
‘”It is a new thing,” they replied; “people will be frightened. It may have consequences. At least put it off till March.”
‘”But they will be as much frightened in March,” he replied.
‘”If it must be done,” they said, “as a kindness to His Holiness and to us put it off till February.”
‘There is, however, one sort of oppression which even we should find it difficult to tolerate.
‘A Monsignore has a young friend without money, but an excellent Catholic and an excellent politician, a fervid believer in the Immaculate Conception and in the excellence of the Papal Government. He wishes to reward such admirable opinions: but the Pope has little to give. Monsignore looks out for some young heiress, sends for her father, describes his pious and loyal _protege_, and proposes marriage. Her father objects–says that his daughter cannot afford to marry a poor man, or that she does not wish to marry at all–or that he or she has some other preference.
‘Monsignore insists. He assures the father that what he is proposing is most favourable to the salvation of his daughter, that he suggests it principally for the benefit of her soul, and that the father’s objections are inspired by the Evil One. The father breaks off the conversation and goes home. He finds that his daughter has disappeared. He returns furious to Monsignore, is received with the utmost politeness and is informed that his daughter is perfectly safe under the protection of a cardinal who himself did her the honour of fetching her in his gilded coach. “You have only,” the Monsignore says, “to be reasonable, and she shall be returned to you.”
‘The father flies to the cardinal.
‘The same politeness and the same answer.
‘”Do not oppose,” he is told, “the will of the Pope, who, in this matter, seeks only your daughter’s happiness here and hereafter. She is now with me. If you will give up your sinful obstinacy she shall be restored to you to-day. If not, it will be our duty to place her in a convent, where she will be taken the utmost care of, but she will not leave it except to marry the person whom His Holiness thinks most fitted to promote the welfare of her soul.”
‘I have known several cases in which this attempt has been made. With such timid slaves as the Roman nobility it always succeeds.’
[Footnote 1: The Jewish child who was taken away from his parents and converted.–ED.]
_Thursday, August_ 15.–This is the fete of St. Louis–the great fete of Tocqueville. Madame de Tocqueville and Madame de Beaumont spent much of the morning in church.
Beaumont and his son walked to the coast to bathe. Minnie, Ampere, and I strolled among the deep shady lanes of the plateau above the castle. Throughout Normandy the fields are small and are divided by mounds planted with trees. The farmhouses, and even the cottages, are built of primitive rock, granite, or old red sandstone. At a distance, peeping out of the trees that surround them, they look pretty, but they, have more than the usual French untidiness. The outhouses are roofless, the farmyards are full of pools and dung heaps, which often extend into the road; and the byroads themselves are quagmires when they do not consist of pointed stones. I was struck by the paucity of the children and the absence of new houses. The population of Normandy is diminishing.
We conversed on the subject of Italy.
‘If we are in Rome next winter,’ I asked, ‘shall we find the French there?’
‘I think not,’ said Ampere; ‘I think that you will find only the Piedmontese.
‘Every day that Louis Napoleon holds Rome is a day of danger to him, a danger slight perhaps now, but serious if the occupation be prolonged. The Anti-papal party, and it includes almost all that are liberal and all that are energetic, are willing to give him time, but not an indefinite time. They are quiet only because they trust him. He is a magician who has sold himself to the Devil. The Devil is patient, but he will not be cheated. The Carbonari will support Louis Napoleon as long as he is doing their work, and will allow him to do it in his own way and to take his own time, as long as they believe he is doing it. But woe to him if they believe that he is deceiving them. I suspect that they are becoming impatient, and I suspect too, that he is becoming impatient. This quarrel between Merode and Goyon is significative. I do not believe that Goyon used the words imputed to him. We shall probably keep Civita Vecchia, but we shall give up Rome to the Piedmontese.’
‘And will the Pope,’ I asked, ‘remain?’
‘Not this Pope,’ said Ampere, ‘but his successor. Nor do I see the great evil of the absence of the Pope from Rome. Popes have often been absent before, sometimes for long periods.’
‘Most of my French friends,’ I said, ‘are opposed to Italian Unity as mischievous to France.’
‘I do not believe,’ he answered, ‘in the submission of Naples to this Piedmontese dynasty, but I shall be delighted to see all Italy north of the Neapolitan territory united.
‘I do not think that we have anything to fear from the kingdom of Italy. It is as likely to be our friend as to be our enemy. But the Neapolitans, even if left to themselves, would not willingly give up their independence, and _Celui-ci_ is trying to prevent their doing so.’
‘What do _they_ wish,’ I asked, ‘and what does _he_ wish?’
‘I believe,’ he answered, ‘that _their_ wishes are only negative.
‘They do not wish to recall the Bourbons, and they are resolved not to keep the Piedmontese. _His_ wish I believe to be to put his cousin there. Prince Napoleon himself refused Tuscany. It is too small, but he would like Naples, and Louis Napoleon would be glad to get rid of him. What would England say?’
‘If we believed,’ I said, ‘in the duration of a Bonaparte dynasty in France, we should, of course, object to the creation of one in Naples. But if, as we think it probable, the Bonapartists have to quit France, I do not see few we should be injured by their occupying the throne of Naples.
‘I should object to them if I were a Neapolitan. All their instincts are despotic, democratic, and revolutionary. But even they are better than the late king was. What chance have the Murats?’
‘None,’ said Ampere. ‘They have spoiled their game, if they had a game, by their precipitation. The Emperor has disavowed them, the Neapolitans do not care for them. The Prince de Leuchtenberg, grandson of Eugene Beauharnais, has been talked of. He is well connected, related to many of the reigning families of the Continent, and is said to be intelligent and well educated.’
‘If Naples,’ I said, ‘is to be detached from the kingdom of Italy, Sicily ought to be detached from Naples. There is quite as much mutual antipathy.’
‘Would you like to take it?’ he asked.
‘Heaven forbid!’ I answered. ‘It would be another Corfu on a larger scale. The better we governed them, the more they would hate us. The only chance for them is to have a king of their own.’
_August_ 15.–In the evening Ampere read to us a comedy called ‘Beatrix,’ by a writer of some reputation, and a member of the Institut.
It was very bad, full of exaggerated sentiments, forced situations, and the cant of philanthropic despotism.
An actress visits the court of a German grand duke. He is absent. His mother, the duchess, receives her as an equal. The second son falls in love with her at first sight and wishes to marry her. She is inclined to consent, when another duchy falls in, the elder duke resigns to his brother, he becomes king, presses their marriage, his mother does not oppose, and thereupon Beatrix makes a speech, orders her horses, and drives off to act somewhere else.
Ampere reads admirably, but no excellence of reading could make such absurdities endurable. It was written for Ristori, who acted Beatrix in French with success.
_Friday, August_ 16.–We talked at breakfast of 1793.
‘It is difficult,’ said Madame de Beaumont, ‘to believe that the French of that day were our ancestors.’
‘They resembled you,’ I said, ‘only in two things: in military courage, and in political cowardice.’
‘They had,’ she replied, ‘perhaps more passive courage than we have. My great-great-grandmother, my great-grandmother, and my great-aunt, were guillotined on the same day. My great-great-grandmother was ninety years old. When interrogated, she begged them to speak loud, as she was deaf. ‘Ecrivez,’ said Fouquier Tinville, ‘que la citoyenne Noailles a conspire sourdement contre la Republique.’ They were dragged to the Place de la Republique in the same _tombereau_, and sat waiting their turn on the same bench.
‘My great-aunt was young and beautiful. The executioner, while fastening her to the plank, had a rose in his mouth. The Abbe de Noailles, who was below the scaffold, disguised, to give them, at the risk of his life, a sign of benediction, was asked how they looked.
‘”Comme si,’ he said, ‘elles allaient a la messe.”‘
‘The habit,’ said Ampere, ‘of seeing people die produces indifference even to one’s own death. You see that among soldiers. You see it in epidemics. But this indifference, or, to use a more proper word, this resignation, helped to prolong the Reign of Terror. If the victims had resisted, if, like Madame du Barry, they had struggled with the executioner, it would have excited horror.’
‘The cries of even a pig,’ said Madame de Beaumont, ‘make it disagreeable to kill it.’
‘Sanson,’ I said, ‘long survived the Revolution; he made a fortune and lived in retirement at Versailles. A lady was run away with between Versailles and Paris. An elderly man, at considerable risk, stopped her horse. She was very grateful, but could not get from him his name. At last she traced him, and found that it was Sanson.’
‘Sanson,’ said Beaumont, ‘may have been an honest man. Whenever a place of _bourreau_ is vacant, there are thirty or forty candidates, and they always produce certificates of their extraordinary kindness and humanity. It seems to be the post most coveted by men eminent for their benevolence.’
‘How many have you?’ I asked.
‘Eighty-six,’ he answered. ‘One for each department.’
‘And how many executions?’
‘About one hundred a year in all France.’
‘And what is the salary?’
‘Perhaps a couple of thousand francs a year.’
‘Really,’ said Ampere, ‘it is one of the best parts of the patronage of the Minister of the Interior. _M. le Bourreau_ gets more than a thousand francs for each operation.’
‘We pay by the piece,’ I said, ‘and find one operator enough for all England.’
‘A friend of mine,’ said Beaumont, had a remarkably good Swiss servant. His education was far above his station, and we could not find what had been his birth or his canton.
‘Suddenly he became agitated and melancholy, and at last told my friend that he must leave him, and why. His father was the hereditary _bourreau_ of a Swiss canton. To the office was attached an estate, to be forfeited if the office were refused. He had resolved to take neither, and, to avoid being solicited, had left his country and changed his name. But his family had traced him, had informed him of his father’s death, and had implored him to accept the succession. He was the only son, and his mother and sisters would be ruined, if he allowed it to pass to the next in order of inheritance, a distant cousin. He had not been able to persist in his refusal.’
‘The husband of an acquaintance of mine,’ said Madame de Beaumont, ‘used to disappear for two or three hours every day. He would not tell her for what purpose. At last she found out that he was employed in the _chambre noire_, the department of the police by which letters passing through the post are opened. The duties were well paid, and she could not persuade him to give them up. They were on uneasy terms, when an accident threw a list of all the names of the _employes_ in the _chambre noire_, into the hands of an opposition editor, who published them in his newspaper.
‘She then separated from him.’
‘If the Post-office,’ I said, ‘were not a Government monopoly, if everyone had a right to send his letters in the way that he liked best, there would be some excuse. But the State compels you, under severe penalties, to use its couriers, undertaking, not tacitly but expressly, to respect the secrecy of your correspondence, and then systematically violates it.’
‘I should have said,’ answered Ampere, ‘not expressly but tacitly.’
‘No,’ I replied; ‘expressly. Guizot, when Minister for Foreign Affairs, proclaimed from the tribune, that in France the secrecy of correspondence was, under all circumstances, inviolable. This has never been officially contradicted.
‘The English Post-office enters into no such engagements. Any letters may be legally opened, under an order from a Secretary of State.’
‘Are prisoners in England,’ asked Beaumont, ‘allowed to correspond with their friends?’
‘I believe,’ I answered, ‘that their letters pass through the Governor’s hands, and that he opens them, or not, at his discretion.’
‘Among the tortures,’ said Ampere, ‘which Continental despots delight to inflict on their state prisoners the privation of correspondence is one.’
‘In ordinary life,’ I said, ‘the educated endure inaction worse than the ignorant. A coachman sits for hours on his box without feeling _ennui_. If his master had to sit quiet all that time, inside the carriage, he would tear his hair from impatience.
‘But the educated seem to tolerate the inactivity of imprisonment better than their inferiors. We find that our ordinary malefactors cannot endure solitary imprisonment for more than a year–seldom indeed so long. The Italian prisoners whom I have known, Zucchi, Borsieri, Poerio, Gonfalonieri, and Pellico, endured imprisonment lasting from ten to seventeen years without much injury to mind or body.’
‘The spirit of Pellico,’ said Madame de Beaumont, ‘was broken. When released, he gave himself up to devotion and works of charity. Perhaps the humility, resignation, and submission of his book made it still more mischievous to the Austrian Government. The reader’s indignation against those who could so trample on so unresisting a victim becomes fierce.’
‘If the Austrians,’ I said, ‘had been wise, they would have shot instead of imprisoning them. Their deaths would have been forgotten–their imprisonment has contributed much to the general odium which is destroying the Austrian Empire.’
‘It would have been wiser,’ said Beaumont, ‘but it would have been more merciful, and therefore it was not done. But you talk of all these men as solitarily imprisoned. Some of them had companions.’
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but they complained that one permanent companion was worse than solitude. Gonfalonieri said, that one could not be in the same room, with the same man, a year without hating him.
‘One of the Neapolitan prisoners was chained for some time to a brigand. Afterwards the brigand was replaced by a gentleman. He complained bitterly of the change.
‘The brigand,’ said Minnie, ‘was his slave, the gentleman had a will of his own.’
‘How did M. de La Fayette,' I asked Madame de Beaumont, ‘bear his five years’ imprisonment at Olmutz?’
‘His health,’ said Madame de Beaumont, ‘was good, but the miseries of his country and the sufferings of his wife made him very unhappy. When my grandmother came to him, it was two days before she had strength to tell him that all his and her family had perished. I was once at Olmutz, and saw the one room which they had inhabited. It was damp and dark. She asked to be allowed to leave it for a time for better medical treatment and change of air. It was granted only on the condition that she should never return. She refused. The rheumatic attacks which the state of the prison had produced, continued and increased: she was hopelessly ill when they were released–and died soon afterwards. The sense of wrong aggravated their sufferings, for their imprisonment was a gross and wanton violation of all law, international and municipal. My grandfather was not an Austrian subject; he had committed no offence against Austria. She seized him simply because he was a liberal, because his principles had made him the enemy of tyranny in America and in France; and because his birth and talents and reputation gave him influence. It was one of the brutal stupid acts of individual cruelty which characterise the Austrian despotism, and have done more to ruin it than a wider oppression–such a one, for instance, as ours, more mischievous, but more intelligent,–would have done.’
‘Freedom,’ said Ampere, ‘was offered to him on the mere condition of his not serving in the French army. At that time the Jacobins would have guillotined him, the Royalists would have forced duel after duel on him till they had killed him. It seemed impossible that he should ever be able to draw his sword for France. In fact he never _was_ able. America offered him an asylum, honours, land, everything that could console an exile. But he refused to give up the chance, remote as it was, of being useful to his country, and remained a prisoner till he was delivered by Napoleon.’
‘He firmly believed,’ said Madame de Beaumont, ‘that if the Royal Family would have taken refuge with his army in 1791 he could have saved them, and probably the Monarchy. His army was then in his hands, a few months after the Jacobins had corrupted it.’
‘Two men,’ said Ampere, ‘Mirabeau and La Fayette, could have saved the Monarchy, and were anxious to do so. But neither the King nor the Queen would trust them.
‘Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette are among the historical personages who have most influenced the destinies of the world. His dulness, torpidity and indecision, and her frivolity, narrow-minded prejudices and suspiciousness, are among the causes of our present calamities. They are among the causes of a state of things which has inflicted on us, and threatens to inflict on all Europe, the worst of all Governments–democratic despotism. A Government in which two wills only prevail–that of the ignorant, envious, ambitious, aggressive multitude, and that of the despot who, whatever be his natural disposition, is soon turned, by the intoxication of flattery and of universal power, into a capricious, fantastic, selfish participator in the worst passions of the worst portion of his subjects.’
‘Such a Government,’ I said, ‘may be called an anti-aristocracy. It excludes from power all those who are fit to exercise it.’
‘The consequence,’ said Beaumont, ‘is, that the qualities which fit men for power not being demanded, are not supplied. Our young men have no political knowledge or public spirit. Those who have a taste for the sciences cultivated in the military schools enter the army. The rest learn nothing.’
‘What do they do?’ I asked.
‘How they pass their time,’ said Madame de Beaumont, ‘is a puzzle to me. They do not read, they do not go into society–I believe that they smoke and play at dominos, and ride and bet at steeple-chases.
‘Those who are on home service in the army are not much better. The time not spent in the routine of their profession is sluggishly and viciously wasted. Algeria has been a God-send to us. There our young men have real duties to perform, and real dangers to provide against and to encounter. My son, who left St. Cyr only eighteen months ago, is stationed at Thebessa, 300 miles in the interior. He belongs to a _bureau arabe_, consisting of a captain, a lieutenant, and himself, and about forty spahis. He has to act as a judge, as an engineer, to settle the frontier between the province of Constantine and Tunis–in short, to be one of a small ruling aristocracy. This is the school which has furnished, and is furnishing, our best generals and administrators.’
We talked of the interior of French families.
‘The ties of relationship,’ I said, ‘seem to be stronger with you than they are with us. Cousinship with you is a strong bond, with us it is a weak one.’
‘The habit of living together,’ said Beaumont, ‘has perhaps much to do with the strength of our feelings of consanguinity. Our life is patriarchal. Grandfather, father, and grandson are often under the same roof. At the Grange thirty of the family were sometimes assembled at dinner. With you, the sons go off, form separate establishments, see little of their parents, still less of their cousins, and become comparatively indifferent to them.’
‘I remember,’ I said, ‘the case of an heir apparent of seventy; his father was ninety-five. One day the young man was very grumpy. They tried to find out what was the matter with him; at last he broke out, “Everybody’s father dies except mine.”‘
‘An acquaintance of mine,’ said Beaumont, ‘not a son, but a son-in-law, complained equally of the pertinacious longevity of his father-in-law. “Je n’ai pas cru,” he said, “en me mariant, que j’epousais la fille du Pere Eternel.” Your primogeniture,’ he continued, ‘must be a great source of unfilial feelings. The eldest son of one of your great families is in the position of the heir apparent to a throne. His father’s death is to give him suddenly rank, power, and wealth; and we know that royal heirs apparent are seldom affectionate sons. With us the fortunes are much smaller, they are equally divided, and the rank that descends to the son is nothing.’
‘What regulates,’ I asked, ‘the descent of titles?’
‘It is ill regulated,’ said Beaumont ‘Titles are now of such little value that scarcely anyone troubles himself to lay down rules about them.
‘In general, however, it is said, that all the sons of dukes and of marquises are counts. The sons of counts in some families all take the title of Count. There are, perhaps, thirty Beaumonts. Some call themselves marquises, some counts, some barons. I am, I believe, the only one of the family who has assumed no title. Alexis de Tocqueville took none, but his elder brother, during his father’s life, called himself vicomte and his younger brother baron. Probably Alexis ought then to have called himself chevalier, and, on his father’s death, baron. But, I repeat, the matter is too unimportant to be subject to any settled rules. Ancient descent is, with us, of great value, of far more than it is with you, but titles are worth nothing.’
[Footnote 1: This incident is described in a little book published last year, the _Memoirs of Madame de Montaign_.–ED.]
[Footnote 2: M. de La Fayette was Madame de Beaumont’s grandfather.–ED.]
[Footnote 3: The chateau of M. de La Fayette.–ED.]
_Saturday, August_ 17.–We drove to the coast and ascended the lighthouse of Gatteville, 85 metres, or about 280 feet high. It stands in the middle of a coast fringed with frightful reefs, just enough under water to create no breakers, and a flat plain a couple of miles wide behind, so that the coast is not seen till you come close to it. In spite of many lighthouses and buoys, wrecks are frequent. A mysterious one occurred last February: the lighthouse watchman showed us the spot–a reef just below the lighthouse about two hundred yards from the shore.
It was at noon–there was a heavy sea, but not a gale. He saw a large ship steer full on the reef. She struck, fell over on one side till her yards were in the water, righted herself, fell over on the other, parted in the middle, and broke up. It did not take five minutes, but during those five minutes there was the appearance of a violent struggle on board, and several shots were fired. From the papers which were washed ashore it appeared that she was from New York, bound for Havre, with a large cargo and eighty-seven passengers, principally returning emigrants. No passenger escaped, and only two of the crew: one was an Italian speaking no French, from whom they could get nothing; the other was an Englishman from Cardiff, speaking French, but almost obstinately uncommunicative. He said that he was below when the ship struck, that the captain had locked the passengers in the cabin, and that he knew nothing of the causes which had led the ship to go out of her course to run on this rock.
The captain may have been drunk or mad. Or there may have been a mutiny on board, and those who got possession of the ship may have driven her on the coast, supposing that they could beach her, and ignorant of the interposed reefs, which, as I have said, are not betrayed by breakers.
Our informant accounted for the loss of all, except two persons, by the heavy sea, the sharp reefs, and the blows received by those who tried to swim from the floating cargo. The two who escaped were much bruised.
A man and woman were found tied to one another and tied to a spar. They seemed to have been killed by blows received from the rocks or from the floating wreck.
In the evening Ampere read to us the ‘Bourgeois Gentilhomme.’ His reading is equal to any acting. It kept us all, for the first two acts, which are the most comic, in one constant roar of laughter.
‘The modern _nouveau riche,_ said Beaumont, ‘has little resemblance to M. Jourdain. He talks of his horses and his carriages, builds a great hotel, and buys pictures. I have a neighbour of this kind; he drives four-in-hand over the bad roads of La Sarthe, visits with one carriage one day, and another the next. His jockey stands behind his cabriolet in top-boots, and his coachman wears a grand fur coat in summer. His own clothes are always new, sometimes in the most accurate type of a groom, sometimes in that of a dandy. His talk is of steeple-chases.’
‘And does he get on?’ I asked.
‘Not in the least,’ answered Beaumont. ‘In England a _nouveau riche_ can get into Parliament, or help somebody else to get in, and political power levels all distinctions. Here, wealth gives no power: nothing, indeed, but office gives power. The only great men in the provinces are the _prefet_, the _sous-prefet_, and the _maire_. The only great man in Paris is a minister or a general. Wealth, therefore, unless accompanied by the social talents, which those who have made their fortunes have seldom had the leisure or the opportunity to acquire, leads to nothing. The women, too, of the _parvenus_ always drag them down. They seem to acquire the _tournure_ of society less easily than the men. Bastide, when Minister, did pretty well, but his wife used to sign her invitations “Femme Bastide.”
‘Society,’ he continued, ‘under the Republic was animated. We had great interests to discuss, and strong feelings to express, but perhaps the excitement was too great. People seemed to be almost ashamed to amuse or to be amused when the welfare of France, her glory or her degradation, her freedom or her slavery, were, as the event has proved, at stake.’
‘I suppose,’ I said to Ampere, ‘that nothing has ever been better than the _salon_ of Madame Recamier?’
‘We must distinguish,’ said Ampere. ‘As great painters have many manners, so Madame Recamier had many _salons_. When I first knew her, in 1820, her habitual dinner-party consisted of her father, her husband, Ballanche, and myself. Both her father, M. Bernard, and her husband were agreeable men. Ballanche was charming.’
‘You believe,’ I said, ‘that Bernard was her father?’ ‘Certainly I do,’ he replied. ‘The suspicion that Recamier might be was founded chiefly on the strangeness of their conjugal relations. To this, I oppose her apparent love for M. Bernard, and I explain Recamier’s conduct by his tastes. They were coarse, though he was a man of good manners. He never spent his evenings at home. He went where he could find more license.
‘Perhaps the most agreeable period was at that time of Chateaubriand’s reign when he had ceased to exact a _tete-a-tete_, and Ballanche and I were admitted at four o’clock. The most illustrious of the _partie carree_ was Chateaubriand, the most amusing Ballanche. My merit was that I was the youngest. Later in the evening Madame Mohl, Miss Clarke as she then was, was a great resource. She is a charming mixture of French vivacity and English originality, but I think that the French element predominates. Chateaubriand, always subject to _ennui_, delighted in her. He has adopted in his books some of the words which she coined. Her French is as original as the character of her mind, very good, but more of the last than of the present century.’
‘Was Chateaubriand himself,’ I said, ‘agreeable?’
‘Delightful,’ said Ampere; ‘tres-entrain, tres-facile a vivre, beaucoup d’imagination et de connaissances.’
‘Facile a vivre?’ I said. ‘I thought that his vanity had been _difficile et exigeante?_’
‘As a public man,’ said Ampere, ‘yes; and to a certain degree in general society. But in intimate society, when he was no longer “posing,” he was charming. The charm, however, was rather intellectual than moral.
‘I remember his reading to us a part of his memoirs, in which he describes his early attachment to an English girl, his separation from her, and their meeting many years after when she asked his protection for her son. Miss Clarke was absorbed by the story. She wanted to know what became of the young man, what Chateaubriand had been able to do for him. Chateaubriand could answer only in generals: that he had done all that he could, that he had spoken to the Minister, and that he had no doubt that the young man got what he wanted. But it was evident that even if he had really attempted to do anything for the son of his old love, he had totally forgotten the result. I do not think that he was pleased at Miss Clarke’s attention and sympathy being diverted from himself. Later still in Madame Recamier’s life, when she had become blind, and Chateaubriand deaf, and Ballanche very infirm, the evenings were sad. I had to try to amuse persons who had become almost unamusable.’
‘How did Madame de Chateaubriand,’ I asked, ‘take the devotion of her husband to Madame Recamier?’
‘Philosophically,’ answered Ampere. ‘He would not have spent with her the hours that he passed at the Abbaye au bois. She was glad, probably, to know that they were not more dangerously employed.’
‘Could I read Chateaubriand?’ I asked.
‘I doubt it,’ said Ampere. ‘His taste is not English.’
‘I _have_ read,’ I said, ‘and liked, his narrative of the manner in which he forced on the Spanish war of 1822. I thought it well written.’
‘It is, perhaps,’ said Ampere, ‘the best thing which he has written, as the intervention to restore Ferdinand, which he effected in spite of almost everybody, was perhaps the most important passage in his political life.
‘There is something revolting in an interference to crush the liberties of a foreign nation. But the expedition tended to maintain the Bourbons on the French throne, and, according to Chateaubriand’s ideas, it was more important to support the principle of legitimacy than that of liberty. He expected, too, sillily enough, that Ferdinand would give a Constitution. It is certain, that, bad as the effects of that expedition were, Chateaubriand was always proud of it.’
‘What has Ballanche written?’ I asked.
‘A dozen volumes,’ he answered. ‘Poetry, metaphysics, on all sorts of subjects, with pages of remarkable vigour and _finesse_, containing some of the best writing in the language, but too unequal and too desultory to be worth going through.’
‘How wonderfully extensive,’ I said, ‘is French literature! Here is a voluminous author, some of whose writings, you say, are among the best in the French language, yet his name, at least as an author, is scarcely known. He shines only by reflected light, and will live only because he attached himself to a remarkable man and to a remarkable woman.’
‘French literature,’ said Ampere, ‘is extensive, but yet inferior to yours. If I were forced to select a single literature and to read nothing else, I would take the English. In one of the most important departments, the only one which cannot be re-produced by translation–poetry–you beat us hollow. We are great only in the drama, and even there you are perhaps our superiors. We have no short poems comparable to the “Allegro” or to the “Penseroso,” or to the “Country Churchyard.”‘
‘Tocqueville,’ I said, ‘told me that he did not think that he could now read Lamartine.’
‘Tocqueville,’ said Ampere, ‘could taste, like every man of genius, the very finest poetry, but he was not a lover of poetry. He could not read a hundred bad lines and think himself repaid by finding mixed with them ten good ones.’
‘Ingres,’ said Beaumont, ‘perhaps our greatest living painter, is one of the clever cultivated men who do not read. Somebody put the “Misanthrope” into his hands, “It is wonderfully clever,” he said, when he returned it; “how odd it is that it should be so totally unknown.”‘
‘Let us read it to-night,’ I said.
‘By all means,’ said Madame de Tocqueville; ‘though we know it by heart it will be new when read by M. Ampere.’ Accordingly Ampere read it to us after dinner.
‘The tradition of the stage,’ he said, ‘is that Celimene was Moliere’s wife.’
‘She is made too young,’ said Minnie. ‘A girl of twenty has not her wit, or her knowledge of the world.’
‘The change of a word,’ said Ampere, ‘in two or three places would alter that. The feeblest characters are as usual the good ones. Philinte and Eliante.
‘Alceste is a grand mixture, perhaps the only one on the French stage, of the comic and the tragic; for in many of the scenes he rises far above comedy. His love is real impetuous passion. Talma delighted in playing him.’
‘The desert,’ I said, ‘into which he retires, was, I suppose, a distant country-house. Just such a place as Tocqueville.’
‘As Tocqueville,’ said Beaumont, ‘fifty years ago, without roads, ten days’ journey from Paris, and depending for society on Valognes.’
‘As Tocqueville,’ said Madame de Tocqueville, ‘when my mother-in-law first married. She spent in it a month and could never be induced to see it again.’
‘Whom,’ I asked, ‘did Celimene marry?’
‘Of course,’ said Ampere, ‘Alceste. Probably five years afterwards. By that time he must have got tired of his desert and she of her coquetry.’
‘We know,’ I said, ‘that Moliere was always in love with his wife, notwithstanding her _legerete_. What makes me think the tradition that Celimene was Mademoiselle Moliere true, is that Moliere was certainly in love with Celimene. She is made as engaging as possible, and her worst faults do not rise above foibles. Her satire is good-natured. Arsinoe is her foil, introduced to show what real evil-speaking is.’
‘All the women,’ said Ampere, ‘are in love with Alceste, and they care about no one else. Celimene’s satire of the others is scarcely good-natured. It is clear, at least, that they did not think so.’
‘If Celimene,’ said Minnie, ‘became Madame Alceste, he probably made her life a burthen with his jealousy.’
‘Of course he was jealous,’ said Madame de Beaumont, ‘for he was violently in love. There can scarcely be violent love without jealousy.’
‘At least,’ said Madame de Tocqueville, ’till people are married.
‘If a lover is cool enough to be without jealousy, he ought to pretend it.’
[Footnote 1: Under the _ancien regime_ even the married actresses were called Mademoiselle.–ED.]
_Sunday, August_ 18.–After breakfast when the ladies were gone to church, I talked over with Ampere and Beaumont Tocqueville’s political career.
‘Why,’ I asked, ‘did he refuse the support of M. Mole in 1835? Why would he never take office under Louis Philippe? Why did he associate himself with the Gauche whom he despised, and oppose the Droit with whom he sympathised? Is the answer given by M. Guizot to a friend of mine who asked a nearly similar question, “Parce qu’il voulait etre ou je suis,” the true one?’
‘The answers to your first question,’ said Beaumont, ‘are two. In 1835 Tocqueville was young and inexperienced. Like most young politicians, he thought that he ought to be an independent member, and to vote, on every occasion, according to his conscience, untrammelled by party connections. He afterwards found his mistake.
‘And, secondly, if he had chosen to submit to a leader, it would not have been Mole.
‘Mole represented a principle to which Guizot was then vehemently opposed, though he was afterwards its incarnation–the subservience of the Ministry and of the Parliament to the King. In that house of 450 members, there were 220 placemen; 200 were the slaves of the King. They received from him their orders; from time to time, in obedience to those orders, they even opposed his Ministers.
‘This, however, seldom occurred, for the King contrived always to have a devoted majority in his Cabinet.
‘It was this that drove the Duc de Broglie from the Government and prevented his ever resuming office.
‘”I could not bear,” he said to me, “to hear Sebastiani repeat, in every council and on every occasion, ‘Ce que le Roi vient de dire est parfaitement juste.'” The only Ministers that ventured to have an opinion of their own were those of the 12th of May 1839, of which Dufaure, Villemain, and Passy were members, and that of the 1st of March 1840, of which Thiers was the leader; and Tocqueville supported them both.
‘When Guizot, who had maintained the principle of Ministerial and Parliamentary, in opposition to that of Monarchical Governments, with unequalled eloquence, vigour, and I may add violence, suddenly turned round and became the most servile member of the King’s servile majority, Tocqueville fell back into opposition.
‘In general it is difficult to act with an opposition systematically and, at the same time, honestly. For the measures proposed by a Government are, for the most part, good. But, during the latter part of Louis Philippe’s reign, it was easy, for the Government proposed merely to do nothing–either abroad or at home. I do not complain of the essence of M. Guizot’s foreign policy, though there was a want of dignity in its forms.
‘There was nothing useful to be done, and, under such circumstances, all action would have been mischievous.
‘But at home _every_ thing was to be done. Our code required to be amended, our commerce and our industry, and our agriculture required to be freed, our municipal and commercial institutions were to be created, our taxation was to be revised, and, above all, our parliamentary system–under which, out of 36,000,000 of French, only 200,000 had votes, under which the Deputies bought a majority of the 200,000 electors, and the King bought a majority of the 450 deputies–required absolute reconstruction.
‘Louis Philippe would allow nothing to be done. If he could have prevented it we should not have had a railroad. He would not allow the most important of all, that to Marseilles, to be finished. He would not allow our monstrous centralisation, or our monstrous protective system, to be touched. The owners of forests were permitted to deprive us of cheap fuel, the owners of forges of cheap iron, the owners of factories of cheap clothing.
‘In some of this stupid inaction Guizot supported him conscientiously, for, like Thiers, he is ignorant of the first principles of political economy, but he knows too much the philosophy of Government not to have felt, on every other point, that the King was wrong.
‘If he supposed that Tocqueville wished to be in his place, on the conditions on which he held office, he was utterly mistaken.
‘Tocqueville was ambitious; he wished for power. So did I. We would gladly have been real Ministers, but nothing would have tempted us to be the slaves of the _pensee immuable_, or to sit in a Cabinet in which we were constantly out-voted, or to defend, as Guizot had to do in the Chamber, conduct which we had disapproved in the Council.
‘You ask why Tocqueville joined the Gauche whom he despised, against the Droit with whom he sympathised?
‘He voted with the Gauche only where he thought their votes right. Where he thought them wrong, as, for instance, in all that respected Algeria, he left them. They would have abandoned the country, and, when that