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The procedure of the highest genius doubtless is scarcely a procedure the view of the whole story comes at once upon its imagination like the delicate end and the distinct beginning of some long vista. But all minds do not possess the highest mode of conception; and among lower modes, it is doubtless better to possess the vigorous fancy which creates each separate scene in succession as it goes, than the pedantic intellect which designs every thing long before it is wanted. There is a play in unconscious creation which no voluntary elaboration and preconceived fitting of distinct ideas can ever hope to produce. If the whole cannot be created by one bounding effort, it is better that each part should be created separately and in detail.
The style of Scott would deserve the highest praise if M. Thiers could establish his theory of narrative language. He maintains that an historian's language approaches perfection in proportion as it aptly communicates what is meant to be narrated without drawing any attention to itself. Scott's style fulfils this condition. Nobody rises from his works without a most vivid idea of what is related, and no one is able to quote a single phrase in which it has been narrated. We are inclined, however, to differ from the great French historian, and to oppose to him a theory derived from a very different writer. Coleridge used to maintain that all good poetry was untranslatable into words of the same language without injury to the sense the meaning was, in his view, to be so inseparably intertwined even with the shades of the language, that the change of a single expression would make a difference in the accompanying feeling, if not in the bare signification: consequently, all good poetry must be remembered exactly,-to change a word is to modify the essence. Rigidly this theory can only be applied to a few kinds of poetry, or special passages in which the imagination is exerting itself to the utmost, and collecting from the whole range of associated language the very expressions which it requires. The highest excitation of feeling is necessary to this peculiar felicity of choice. In calmer moments the mind has either a less choice, or less acuteness of selective power. Accordingly, in prose it would be absurd to expect any such nicety. Still, on great occasions in imaginative fiction, there should be passages in which the words seem to cleave to the matter. The excitement is as great as in poetry. The words should become part of the sense. They should attract our attention, as this is necessary to impress them on the memory; but they should not in so doing distract attention from the meaning conveyed. On the contrary, it is their inseparability from their meaning which gives them their charm and their power. In truth, Scott's language, like his sense, was such as became a bold sagacious man of the world.
He used the first sufficient words which came uppermost, and seems hardly to have been sensible, even in the works of others, of that exquisite accuracy and inexplicable appropriateness of which we have been speaking.
To analyse in detail the faults and merits of even a few of the greatest of the Waverley Novels would be impossible in the space at our command on the present occasion. We have only attempted a general account of a few main characteristics. Every critic must, however, regret to have to leave topics so tempting to remark as many of Scott's stories, and a yet greater number of his characters.
ART. IX.-LOUIS NAPOLEON AT HOME AND ABROAD. La Presse, 20e Ferrier. Paris.
Count Walewski's Despatch, Jan. 20th. Parliamentary Paper. In the lives of most men, and especially of those who navigate the troubled waters of political ambition, there occur critical conjunctures at once conclusive as to their real character, and decisive of their future course. Many actions will bear two interpretations; and, according as we read them in a charitable or a censorious spirit, may be held to indicate either a virtue, or the vice which is its closest analogue and counterfeit. Deeds of unquestionable severity may be either stern justice or savage cruelty; mild and gentle proceedings may proclaim either culpable weakness or wise leniency; and only by the light of after events can we determine in which category to place them. Acts of lawless despotism may have been forced on a reluctant ruler by the terrible necessities of an abnormal time, or they may be the congenial resources of an arbitrary and self-seeking temper; and it is by the conduct pursued when the exceptional crisis has given place to ordinary life that we can judge which interpretation must be put upon the past. Again: the day comes in every questionable career, when the man who has long coquetted with two mistresses must decide which he will cleave to and which he will abandon; when the upward or the downward course must be taken consciously, avowedly, and for ever; when it is no longer possible to hold the language appropriate to one set of doctrines, and at the same time to pursue the line of action obviously dictated by another; when by some step which cannot be retraced, by some deed which cannot be undone, we break with an uncertain past, and are committed to an inevitable future; and when the fearful fiat goes forth,
"He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; he that is filthy, let him be filthy still." For, however terrible may be the tenet, in political life at least there is a great truth at the bottom of the fatalistic creed ;-there is a period at which free-will, and the power of recovery, and the hope of redemption, altogether die away; when one false or wicked proceeding entails another by a cogent and irresistible law of sequence; and where the guilt consists less in each successive crime than in the one first offence which made these crimes inevitable.
Such a critical and revealing point in his career, as it seems to us, was the 14th of January to Louis Napoleon. Six years ago he had seized the supreme power by an act of undeniable perfidy and violence. Those who, like ourselves, watched the politics of France merely as spectators, did not approve of the coup-d'état, did not even pardon or condone it; but, as it were, postponed the matter for future judgment, when subsequent circumstances should have made clear both the motives that dictated it and the use that was made of it. We remembered that the Republic which he overthrew had been forced upon a notoriously unwilling nation by a section of the Parisian mob and the Parisian politicians; that the immense numerical majority of the people had afterwards sanctioned the deed, and rewarded the doer; and that from the decision of this popular tribunal, however we may repudiate its jurisdiction, no Frenchman who had assisted in establishing universal suffrage as the basis of the constitution, could with any decency appeal; that the later proceedings of the suppressed Assembly had not been such as to make us sanguine of its success, or admirers of its wisdom or its vigour, or desirous of its continuance; and that, beyond all question, there were elements of frightful convulsion and confusion then fermenting in the social mass in France that made thousands, who were neither timid nor dishonest, long for the shelter of a sole instead of a divided authority, and welcome the temporary enthronement of a power above and beyond the law. It was felt, moreover, that not only the ideas of liberty, but the wish for it, among our neighbours bore a character wholly different from ours,-that they always invested the government with functions and with forces which we should deem highly dangerous, and that it was far from improbable that what they really wanted, and what would really suit them, was, not self-government, but a governor of their own choice; and that if this were so, Louis Napoleon might be the precise ruler that they needed. It was quite possible too, and by no means unlikely, that a man who had suffered so much, who had written so sagaciously, and who had studied so closely the merits of British institutions, might be
better able than another to unite the repressive energies which were imperative with the temperate freedom which was so desirable. His language was promising and solemn; he maintained the forms of liberal institutions, into which at any time freer life might be infused, and to which freer scope might be gradually given; the old tribunals remained; the liberty of the press was indeed restricted, but few doubted the necessity of this restriction at so critical a time; and it was not suppressed, nor subjected to a preliminary censorship. In a word, the whole scheme of government was so contrived, that a just, generous, and beneficent ruler might employ it for the best of purposes, and so as to produce in time the best of practical results. Every thing depended on the spirit in which it should be administered: and that spirit remained to be decided. The system established was capable of either being tightened into the completest despotism, or expanded and relaxed into the fullest and safest constitutionalism, according as the will of the ruler might determine, or the power of the people might compel.
In like manner, it rested with Louis Napoleon to decide whether the Empire should be war or peace. He might use his position to carry out the vain dreams of his brooding and enthusiastic youth, and involve Europe, his country, and himself in conflicts which would convulse the first, exhaust the second, and destroy the last. Or he might, sobered and satisfied by his long-sought elevation, apply himself to soothe and repress the uneasy and unprincipled ambition of a portion of his army and of the more turbulent and reckless spirits among his immediate supporters, and turn his genius and his efforts to develop the material resources of France, and enrich her by commerce, industry, and peace. We were willing to hope the best from his administration, both in home and foreign matters.
At first he used his power in domestic concerns with considerable moderation; and people, in consideration of the res dura et regni novitas, were willing to forgive much repressive severity. But though till lately nothing was done so decided as to throw off all decent pretensions of civic freedom and the general weal, yet it soon became obvious that the tendency of his measures on the whole was not towards liberty or the encouragement of constitutional action. The more eminent men, who had been temporarily exiled, returned to Paris. Louis Napoleon endeavoured, but in vain, to induce some of them to join his government. Society went on much as before; plots ceased, or became insignificant; a son was born; and hostile politicians generally acquiesced in the inevitable, and postponed all hopes of change till some unforeseen occurrence should alter
the aspect of affairs. It was universally accepted as a probability that the Bonaparte dynasty would now last his life. Still there was no movement on his part towards relaxing government action, or permitting a freer expression of popular will or dissentient views. Plain speaking in the Chambers was more and more frowned upon; opposition was increasingly unwelcome; interference with elections grew more and more shameless,, peremptory, and avowed; municipal and local privileges were every where suppressed; the press continued to receive repeated "warnings;" public men and literary professors who wrote in any periodicals but those slavishly devoted to the government were cautioned, menaced, or destitués. Altogether, it was too plain that the movement was not towards greater political freedom, but towards less.
In fact, it could not easily be otherwise. Never was it more obvious than in the recent career of Louis Napoleon how difficult it is for power ill gained to be well used. The violent seizure of the supreme power offended so many patriots, disappointed so many legitimate ambitions, inflicted so many unpardonable injuries, and outraged so many just and loyal sensibilities, that it created for the Emperor a host of foes who could (or whom it was naturally supposed could) only be kept down by a continuance and extension of measures similarly violent in character. And the same act, by rendering it impossible for any statesman of established reputation and trained experience in high office decently to give in their adherence and their support to a government which originated in so unjustifiable a proceeding, necessarily forced Louis Napoleon to seek his ministers among unscrupulous partisans, who had neither official knowledge, nor political sagacity, nor damageable character, and who in consequence could not only render him little real assistance, but were always getting him into scrapes.
In relation to foreign policy, his course has on the whole been scarcely more reassuring. We will not speak now of the various tentative proposals, which, as is well known to the initiated, he put forth in different quarters early in his career, indicative of an inclination to ape his predecessor, the first Napoleon. These might have been merely the yet undissipated fumes of youthful ambition, and were soon cast aside for more practical ideas. But he cultivated and petted the army in a manner which gave well-grounded uneasiness; and it is notorious that many foolish and mischievous projects floated through his brain. From the first, though with dangerous intervals of illicit fancy and desire, he felt the immense importance both to his character and his position of the English alliance; and as far as diplomatic intercourse with us is concerned, he has been