« ZurückWeiter »
sion of which, toward the end of the eighteenth century, went far to destroy the industry and commerce of the left bank of the river, to the profit of the right. An Armenian named Pascal afterward established a café, which was much in vogue, called the Manouri, upon the Quai de l'Ecole; and in 1689, a Sicilian, Procopio, opened the Café Procope in the present Rue de l'Ancienne Comédie, which was for long the favor ite place of reunion for the savans and beaux-esprits of the period.
Opposite this establishment, was the Théâtre de la Comédie Française, which was inaugurated in 1689 by Racine's well-known tragedy of Phedre. Until 1770, "the actors of the king" performed on its boards, at which epoch they removed to the theatre within the Tuileries. At this time, the opera became a fashionable amusement, and assumed its present form. Voltaire has described it in the following lines:
Il faut se rendre à ce palais magique, Ou les beaux vers la danse et la musique, L'art de charmer les yeux par les couleurs, L'art plus heureux, de séduire les cœurs, De cent plaisirs fait un plaisir unique. But the café and the opera remind us that we are leaving Paris in old times for the Paris of the present, and that we are close upon that blood-written page, the Revolution, which divides the chroniIcles of the former from those of the latter. These notes must not be brought to a conclusion without the acknowledgment that from M. Malte-Brun's laborious compilation, La France Illustrée, they derive whatever archæological interest they possess.
The Saturday Review. SENTIMENT AND PHILANTHROPY. THE real zest with which men and women follow every tale of human vicissitude that is presented to them does not ever seem to flag as the world gets older. Gossip itself, except that sort of gossip which is only malice in disguise, is but a form which our interest in all human history assumes. Descend as it may to minute or frivolous details, at the bottom we may recognize in it the same nervous, restless, inveterate desire to watch the tragedy or comedy of life,
wherever we get a chance of seeing it played out. Human action and passion fascinate us as often as we come across them. We are never weary of the most ordinary narrative of fortune and misfortune, and can sit by and follow it out into all its minute and commonplace details. The dullest dog among us perhaps does not lead so stupid an existence that it cannot be put in what would seem to his next-door neighbor a picturesque light, and converted into a drama for the lookers-on. The genius of great sentimentalists consists in their extreme susceptibility to this kind of human sympathy, which is, however, common to us all. They go through the world overwhelmed by the scenic effect of the various stories of life that meet them at every turn, and seem forever saying to themselves that this is what life comes to with its many little pleasures and pains. But the feeling which sentimental genius possesses in this exaggerated and morbid form exists more or less in all of us. The British public itself is full of sentimental capacity. That it indulges its honest emotion by fits and starts, that it is capable of all sorts of absurdities, that it will shed tears with Sterne over an injured donkey to-day, and be blind to the sufferings of a starving province to-morrow, that it is by turns maudlin and heartless, chivalrous and insensible, heroic and calculating, is true. But, whatever its faults and inconsistencies, the British public is sentimental. Every now and then it smacks of bread and butter, like one of Lord Byron's school-girls, and is as ludicrously romantic. And, at all events, it always appears to pay a profound attention to every story of life. Whenever it is impassive, we may be quite sure that the reason is that the facts of the case have not yet been presented to it in the digestible shape of an anecdote or a picture. It will read with comparative equanimity the intelligence that fifteen or twenty thousand soldiers have been left dead upon a field of battle. But take the case of a single widow of a single soldier of the fifteen thousand, dress up for the columns of the Times the narrative of her bereavement and her poverty, and add that she has been turned away from some workhouse door in the metropolis by a beadle or a por
ter, and before a day is over all England is in a quiver with emotion. The truth is that, though the imagination of the majority of mankind is torpid and slow to be awakened, the age itself in which we live is, as we have said, keenly alive to the interest of all human incident.
The tendency to sympathize with the fortunes of any individual member of our species is, natural enough. Homo sum, says the old adage, nihil humani a me alienum puto. This disposition fluctuates, however, in intensity from one time to another; and is dependent in every age on the state of the imagination of the age itself. If we look at the literature of the present day we shall not be surprised to find that it is characterized by a remarkable increase of the suscepti bility of which we have spoken. The literature and the imagination of any particular generation are usually affected by the same sort of influences. The literature of a country indeed represents the condition of the popular imagination far more than it represents the condition of national manners. The one distinguishing feature of the literature of the nineteenth century has been the wonderful growth of the novel. The novel may be almost said to constitute the staple literary food of three-quarters of our contemporaries. We are so dependent on the institution that it seems difficult to understand how people got on before it was invented. The ancient world of Greece and Rome had its drama; Rome, in addition to the drama, had its public shows; but plays and gladiators could not be to a nation what the stream of endless romance, that is forever issuing from a modern publisher, is to ourselves. It would be idle to ignore the fact that the three-volume novel must produce a great effect on the sentimental tendencies and the human sympathies of those who are accustomed to devote so many idle hours by the score to the perusal. The history of the drama here affords us a capital illustration. The rise of tragedy and comedy, as every student of history knows, synchronized with great changes in the popular imagination of the countries which gave birth to them. Great and sudden international earthquakes, great reforms in internal politics, great questions of insoluble difficulty in philosophy and religion, all came together at
the same time. The object of the drama was to present the problem and the puzzle of human life and human actors from a many-sided point of view; and as the drama took root, those other things which connoted the same mental progress and mental ferment as the drama, took root with it. What happened to the drama long ago is happening in our days to the novel. Human sympathy may be said to be the centre round which all novels revolve. They appeal unceasingly to this part of our nature, and in the vast majority of cases to no other part at all. And their tendency is to foment and exaggerate the sensitiveness to which they appeal. By dint of descending into trivial details, and harping on little things, they end by making a thousand incidents of the most ordinary and puny kind appear picturesque. Under their influence readers become positively maudlin. They are never tired of hearing about trivialities, and peruse the description of a breakfast-table, a drawing-room, or a ball with as much avidity as if it were the history of a nation, or the narrative of a battle-field. It is scarcely to be supposed that persons who are so curious about the minutiae of human life in a romance are totally indifferent to it when they have laid down their book and taken up their newspaper. The growth of novels, like the growth of the drama, implies a corresponding alteration in our imagination. We are more and more inclined to sentimentalize, to be interested in the little movements of our species; and to think everything artistic, effective, and picturesque which happens in the lives of other people.
The exact value of the minute sympathies which we are so often calling into play may possibly be doubted. There is something a little sickly and mawkish about them at the best. Genuine sentiment ought, in theory, to be in keeping with the circumstances of the case, and the same may be said of a genuine interest in human life. To squander it lavishly on occasions when a small outlay would be amply sufficient is a proof rather of instability and weakness than of kindly and wholesome sensibility. Our human sympathies ought not indeed to be expended on this or that exceptional case, but on mankind. If we trusted only to our imagination, we
should be perpetually exhausting them to very little purpose. For in matters of sympathy, still more in matters of charity, the imagination is a very unreliable guide. It is under the control neither of our common-sense nor of our moral instincts. It fastens as often as not on unworthy objects; it idealizes what should not be idealized, and draws pic tures that have no counterpart in reality. People who are at the mercy of an oracle so fallible and so unsound are forever going wrong. And most of those whom the world calls sentimental are prone to fall into the error of allowing their imagination to supply them with subjects for sympathy and interest. If it selects worthy as often as it selects unworthy materials, it is as much as can be said for it. Nothing is more common than to find that the exact reverse has been the case. Suddenly some morning the whole country gets up to breakfast, and finds on its breakfast-table the narrative of an accident which thrills it through and through with pity and sympathy and indignation. The exhibition of pity is of course a kindly one, and so far praiseworthy, but it is undeniable that the pity and sympathy and indignation are not unfrequently out of all proportion to the facts. We shall usually find, if we take the trouble to watch, that events of a far more pitiable kind are passing at the very same time unnoticed before our eyes. Perhaps there was scarcely anybody in England that did not experience a sensation of pain at hearing that the late Emperor of Mexico had been put to death. Yet, in themselves, weekly returns of cholera at Rome, of yellow fever at the Mauritius, or of famine in India, are far more melancholy stories. After all, the Emperor Maximilian lived the life of a gallant soldier. If he has died at last in the shade, he had some thirty or forty years of sunshine such as fall to the lot of few of us. He had tasted of the sweets of fortune, even though at last he learnt that there might be a bitter at the bottom of her cup. A great majority of sensible human beings would gladly take his death to have had his life. Sad as the history is of his wife's health, and of his own decease at a distance from his friends, it is not half so sad as a hundred thousand histories of
want and pain and hunger that go untold and unwritten every day around us. The reason is, that our imagination, which is easily stirred, has seized on the details of princely vicissitude, of which Maximilian's later life has been full, and cannot be persuaded to let them go. Chance, and chance alone, has willed that on millions of incidents as touching our imagination should be inert. That it is accident, and not reason, which makes the difference is plain when we consider that there is not a single col umn of the Times newspaper which might not lawfully furnish us with as much food for sad reflection as the col umn which recorded the last hours and last wishes of the Emperor. A single obituary taken out of the daily list of funerals and deaths might, if we knew but all, be the key to a far more distressing tale. Every day men die; and every day widows and orphans are plunged into poverty and into despair. Hearts are broken every hour by wholesale, and hopes blighted; every hour scores of men enter on a course of crime, and scores of women abandon themselves to irreparable ruin. These are the things that constitute the real misery of life, but these are not the things which strike us most. Somehow or other we find ourselves forgetting the universal chorus of suffering in the world, and fixing our eyes and bestowing all our interest on some mere item in the account to which our own fancy has given undue prominence. In sentimentality such as thisand, after all, the sort we have been describing is 'the common form-there is little that is not exaggerated and bad. As a fact, the most useful philanthropists, the most charitable men and women, with all their warmth of heart, are not usually imaginative. It is fortunate for the world that they are not. If their philanthropy were the result of an imag inative temperament, it would be, as a rule, both fitfully and uselessly employed. It is not easy in these times of universal circulating libraries and omnivorous literary tastes to guess what people do or do not read. If we might venture to conjecture, we should be inclined to think that philanthropists of the best and most valuable kind are not novelreaders. The respective tones of mind are almost incompatible. The philan
thropic temperament is broad and genial, giving its sympathies to the world at large. The temperament of the novelreader is narrower, more egotistical, and intense, disposed to lavish unnatural and disproportionate sympathy on the first object that takes hold of it.
The public at large not unfrequently confuse between the two dispositions, and mistake sentiment for philanthropy. No doubt it is possible to make a purely sentimental person take an interest in something wide and great. All that is required is to present it to his mind in a startling or affecting or picturesque way. Narcissa's nature, tolerably mild, is occasionally moved by the idea of the poor of Spitalfields almost as much as by the heart-rending account of the execution of the brother of an Emperor. But this is only when some rude assault has been made upon her imagination in the pulpit or in her daily newspaper. Every now and then a pestilence or a fire or a famine touches the heart of some young gentleman or lady almost as nearly as the last novel of Mr. Trollope, or some fine and delicate piece of writing in Mr. Thackeray. If in such moments they bestow some of their superabundant goods to feed the poor or to clothe the naked, the world calls them philanthropical. In reality they are nothing of the sort. They are at most sentimentalists. The passion is not the less hysterical and passing, not the less dependent on the caprices of their imagination, because the object chances for the nonce to be a worthy one. The sooner in life a man learns that it is possible to be sentimental without charity, and charitable without sentiment, the better it will be both for himself and for his species.
The British Quarterly.
HISTORY OF AGRICULTURE AND PRICES IN ENGLAND.*
In this age of self-assertion, it is not common to find any one claiming for himself less than he is entitled to. But we really have an instance of this unusual virtue in the work now before us. Pro
*A History of Agriculture and Prices in Eng land. By JAMES E. THOROLD ROGERS, M.A., Professor of Political Economy in the University of Oxford. Vols. I, and II. Oxford: 1866.
fessor Rogers has been too modest in the title to his book. He calls it merely "A History of Agriculture and Prices in England;" and we opened its pages with no expectation of finding anything more in them than tables of the value of farming stock, and columns of statistics. But the volumes embrace a far wider range. They contain many chapters of far more general interest. Not only are the details of domestic life given with a minuteness which reminds one of the painstaking elaboration of the pages of a mediæval missal, but the broader features of general history are also touched on with spirit and power. The bearings of the social questions of the day on the policy of the period are traced out with intelligence and fidelity, and we feel that we are put in possession of fresh resources for unravelling some of the most knotty questions in the History of England.
"It is my purpose," says Professor Rogers, "in the work before me, to attempt a History of Agriculture in England, and to supply a record of prices, especially of corn and labor, from the time at which the earliest consecutive annals begin, down to the close of the eighteenth century." We trust that this admirable plan may be fully carried out, and that so desirable a work may meet with the full success which it deserves. The date at which the inquiry commences is accidental, being due to the circumstance that Professor Rogers has found continuous information only from the year 1259 onwards. "In all cases," the author continues, "the record quoted is contemporaneous with the transactions which it narrates, and with but one or two exceptions, the facts are hitherto unpublished." This is the more remarkable, considering the vast amount of republications of early literature by the Societies specially devoted to such objects, and how busy antiquarian research has been for many years: considering also the continued resolute endeavors made to reconstruct, sometimes on paper, sometimes even in solid masonry, the castles, the manor-houses, and the monasteries of the "olden time." Professor Rogers most truly observes how greatly a knowledge of the economical history of medieval England would aɛsist the student of general history. Yet
this information has hitherto been but
scantily given; the fact that this deficiency has remained so long unsupplied, is one instance the more of the manner in which, in our study of the past, the picturesque has been preferred to the practical. The spell of the wizard of Abbotsford still exerts its influence over us. We refuse to believe that the ages that are gone by had a common work-aday side as well as what we consider a romantic one. In our inmost hearts we really almost believe that in the days of chivalry the gay knights, ever gallant, ever young, were perpetually roaming over the land in quest of adventure, and for the succor of lovely damsels in distress. We may indeed bear with a few variations of the melody; we may listen to the lay for a few moments, when, instead of feats of knightly prowess and gallant deeds, the sweetness and the sufferings of the "ladye faire" supply the theme; but who has the faintest feeling for the peasant and the churl? The scantiness of the notices of these subjects scattered among the volumes of Hume, and even of the more painstaking Henry, are the sufficient answer. Like the gods as described by Tennyson, our writers have but a deaf ear for
"A doleful song
Steaming up, a lamentation and an ancient tale of wrong,
Like a tale of little meaning, though the words are strong;
Chanted from an ill-used race of men that cleave the soil,
Sow the seed, and reap the harvest with enduring toil,
Storing yearly little dues of wheat, and wine, and oil;
Till they perish and they suffer."
The historian, whose words grow warm, and whose brilliant page burns as with light when he recounts the brave deeds of the baron, and the meek piety of the saint, turns away his face, and passes on the other side at the mere suggestion of the life of the "villain." Our histories are filled with the record of the battle and the Parliamentary contest, and we would be the last to underrate their importance in our annals. But we wish space could also be found for the instruction involved in the records of the domestic life of the people. From them may be extracted a knowledge of the causes which impart vigor to the national existence. Dazzled by the
lighting flash of the conqueror, bowed a before the splendor of the throne, we forget to search the foundations of the strength which rendered victory easy the armies of the general, of the pros perity which imparted the brilliancy to the reign of the monarch. We forget, in our rough summary of events, that each unit in the national existence has his own wants, his own sufferings; we forget that on the care, or the want of it, with which these necessities are sup plied or not, the sufferings assuaged or neglected, depends the momentous fact that these units are either compacted into a firm mass of a united nation, or divided from each other with the incoherency of a heap of sand. Yet in these points, in happiness or the absence of it among the mass of the people, lie the elements of our strength or our weakness. And we, who may have before us a store of trials and difficulties, as hard to be surmounted as any our nation has ever known, who have before us the ever-present task of endeavoring to reconcile the continually-widening differances between the various classes in our Commonwealth, may well reflect on the sober warnings of the past, and see how these questions were arranged among our own race in times not so very remote from our own.
The introductory chapter of Professor Rogers's work, commences with a short summary of domestic history in the reign of Henry III. The writer remarks:
"That, during this long reign, the mass of the English people passed from the condition of serfs, perhaps even slaves, into that of freemen, subject in some cases to a small moneyrent for their holdings, and in others to labour-rents, servile indeed in character, but fixed and invariable, will be plain to those who compare the court rolls of the last half of the thirteenth century with the evidence which Madox has collected as to the state of the poorer classes in the days of John. The change however, is insensible, and the progress so gradual as not to be traceable, except by comparing states of society at different epochs.
"Whatever were the faults of the administration in the reign of Henry III., his reign, fifty-six years in duration, was far more pacific than that of any monarch from the Conquest to the close of the fifteenth centu
He had no Scotch war; the chronic hostility of the Welsh appears to have mani