Imagens das páginas

and desperate resistance to the end was at once the safer and the more honourable course.

It was our intention, in commencing this notice, to have continued our review of Austrian persons and influences to the great alliance with Russia and Prussia, in the autumn of 1813, which determined the fate of Napoleon. But the length to which the preceding remarks have extended will readily excuse us with the reader. Besides it is but too plain, that in point of moral interest, the share of Austria in the great revolutionary wars ceases with the peace of Vienna; in 1813, all the poetry of which harsh war is capable blazes out in Prussia. The peace of Vienna, accompanied as it was with the resignation of Count Stadion, and the ungenerous butchery (can we call it any thing better?) of good Andrew Hofer at Mantua, was a lowering of the national flag, a prostration of every generous association in the Austrian mind, along with which poetry, in any shape, could not possibly exist. The startling event which immediately followed the delivering up of a daughter of the house of Austria under the abused name of marriage to the hated oppressor and sworn foe of her family for the sake of wedging together for a few short years so slippery a thing as a forced peace-this act of unworthy and unnecessary political prostitution, added shame to loss. The union of the revolutionary emperor with the hereditary princess, as it was selfish and superficial in its motives, so in its issues it put both parties (as base actions by the just judgment of God are wont to do) in a false position. Napoleon from that moment lost all that was grand and heroic in his European attitude; it was as the enemy, not as the friend, much less as the son-in-law of the house of Austria that he stood sublime. The position of Austria by the same event was more than false; it was humiliating; it rendered dissimulation and half-measures necessary; it necessitated the whole of Prince Metternich's equivocal system in 1813, 'das ganze doppelsinnige System,' which he had so much ado to explain to the Marquis of Londonderry at that time. The future public conduct of Austria, therefore, from 1809 to the conclusion of the peace of Paris in 1814, may well be treated by the historian who has a due regard to the highest, that is, the moral interests of humanity, as merely subsidiary to the great Northern rising in the spring of 1813, of which Breslau was the gathering place. To the history of this rising, both in its essentially Prussian soul, and its outer limbs, and flourishes at Vienna and elsewhere, the Lebensbilder' supply a variety of interesting facts. and views to which it is impossible even to allude in this place. Suffice it to say, in one word, that they are of such a nature, that no thorough historian of that truly epic time can with safety


Hormayr's Reminiscences of the Wars in Germany.


overlook them. To bring these Prussian documents before our historical readers, possibly another opportunity may soon occur; meanwhile we may conclude by repeating that the grand and radical interest of the Lebensbilder' is, and must remain, for many reasons, Austrian. A free-mouthed, stout-hearted Tyrolese baron, standing up and speaking truth unceremoniously of high persons and secret things in the bureaucratic conclave of despotic Vienna, is truly no common witness. It is by help of such, and such only, that history is anywhere to be redeemed from the danger with which it is perpetually threatened from so many professed friends as well as declared enemies, the danger of becoming what Napoleon systematically made it in his bulletins -a conventional fable-a fable convenue. Nevertheless, despite of Moniteurs' in France, and Beobachters' in Austria, political murder will out where it has been committed; the murderer may plant his throne where the bleeding body lies buried; but the blood-hounds will track the spot. Titled counts and princes may combine at Frankfort to rob Germany of that dear-bought liberty which was sworn to her at Vienna; but Stein will still have his worshippers in Berlin, and the history of Austria will continue to receive its most important illustrations from a Schneller and a Hormayr.


ART. II.-La Science Nouvelle; par VICO, Traduite par l'Auteur de l'Essai sur la Formation du Dogme Catholique. Avec une Introduction sur Vico et ses Œuvres. (The new Science; by VICO. Translated by the Author of the Essay on the Formation of Catholic Doctrine. With an Introduction on Vico and his Works.) Paris. 1844.

VICO, the Neapolitan jurist and philosopher, son of a little Neapolitan bookseller, born in one Neapolitan garret, in the year 1668, and dying in another garret of the same city, in the year 1734, with a European reputation, but with scant food, was a sufficiently remarkable man; and more than sufficiently unknown is he in our country to render some account of him and his writings not uninteresting to our readers. We must, however, hasten to warn them that we have no intention of entering on so large a field of investigation on this occasion. Our present purpose is not so much to introduce to them the sagacious though strangely crotchety old philosopher himself, as to present to them, in conjunction with his name, his new interpreter, advocate, and pro


Vico was a remarkable man. His new translator is a remarkable woman. But very remarkable indeed is the union of two such personages in the same title-page!


We presume that it is hardly necessary to inform our reader, that "the author of the Essay on the Formation of Catholic Doctrine," as she chooses to designate herself in the title-page of the present publication, in preference to putting there her name and title, is no other than the Princess Belgiojoso!-the beautiful, the talented, the musical, the admired, the celebrated Belgiojoso! When she published a little while ago her Dogme Catholique,' in four volumes 8vo., Paris was fairly tickled into utter forgetfulness of all ordinary bienséance, and burst out into a universal guffaw. Her own circle of more immediate intimates, indeed, had long since known that the study of the fathers of the Church frequently formed her recreation in the hours snatched from the more important and more fatiguing duties of accompanying Listz on the piano, or hearing and replying to the gossip of the well-mixed artistic, literary, and fashionable crowd that frequent her salons. They knew-the favoured few who shared her higher and more intimate counsels-that the huge tomes of St. Augustin and St. Jerome might be seen marring with strange incongruity the exquisite elegance of the ladies' own muslindraped and silver-fitted chamber. They knew that when the Ladye had gone to her secret bower, seraphic' doctors, and 'irrefragable' doctors, were the companions of her midnight hours. They knew it; and not unfrequently paid the price of their privileged knowledge in being made the sharers of her severer as well as of her softer hours, not much to their contentment-' if modern tales tell true, nor wrong those learned men.'

But the more esoteric world of Paris were struck with unbounded astonishment at the appearance of the Ladye's' four volumes of divinity;-astonished, and truth to tell but little edified. Then looked at each other, and burst out laughing. And Lerminier wrote a most smashing and exceedingly ungallant review of the work in the Revue des deux Mondes.' We then thought that the learned professor was somewhat too hard upon the fair divine. We thought indeed that the tone of his criticism betrayed so much bitterness and apparently masculine jealousy, as to justify the lady in assuming that she was not too feeble a competitor in the literary race, but, on the contrary, one too formidable to please the professor. There was in M. Lerminier's critique too evident a wish to restrict the sphere of female duties and employments to the suckle-fools-and-chronicle-small-beer system, to please us. Works of imagination are, at the very utmost, all that the learned professor would allow ladies to meddle with in the



world of letters. We differ from him more widely, and on more important grounds, as they seem to us, than we can now stay to point out.

Not that we would be understood by any means to offer ourselves as champions in defence of the four volumes on the formation of Catholic doctrine. Far from it. We think that the princess might have chosen her subject, and employed her labour better, and have more accurately measured her own powers than she has done either upon the occasion of her former work, or that of her present publication. Nevertheless, we would by no means join M. Lerminier in crying, 'Back! woman, to your distaff and your needle; or, if you must scribble, in Heaven's name write novels, or verses, and that sort of stuff! One point to be borne in mind in this matter is, that if learned professors were to succeed in thrusting back from the paths of higher literature, many an elegantminded and accomplished woman of the social class to which the Princess Belgiojoso belongs, it would not be back to their needle, or any such occupation, that they would retire, but to quite other pursuits, and far less compatible with the great domestic duties, which are a mother's most peculiar and highest sphere of action.

No! No! tempora mutantur; good sir professor. And you would do well to hail with us, and give all welcome to every endeavour of female intelligence to emancipate itself from the thraldom of frivolities in which custom and prejudice has so long held it. As for this translation of old Vico's obscure and crabbed theories, we confess that we deem it fully equal in value to the product of an equal number of hours employed in the most assiduous carpetwork or muslin-stitching.


To speak seriously, however—' quamvis ridentem dicere verum, quid vetat?'-we do think that the princess might have done better than meddle with the old Neapolitan jurist at all. We think that some passages of his 'New Science' are utterly unintelligible. We think that a greater number have been misunderstood, or not understood at all, by his new translator; and, worst of all, that a far larger portion of the work is, at the present day, by no means worth understanding. The labour of rendering the Scienza Novella' into French, though it has evidently been with the princess a labour of love, was the rather one of supererogation, for that a hand, far more capable of grappling with the great difficulties of the task, had already given to the French public all that is, at the present day, at all worth having of Vico. This hand, sufficiently strong to grasp, and sufficiently judicious to winnow the mass of Vico's materials, was that of Michelet. And no one, who knows anything of his especial qualifications, and of the nature of the task, will fail to appreciate his peculiar fitness for undertaking

it. The Princess Belgiojoso herself writes thus of what Michelet has done for Vico, in her introduction to the volume before us. M. Ballanche, she says, was the first to call attention, in France, to the theories of the Neapolitan philosopher. And thence forward she goes on to say—

The name of Vico was frequently heard; and an illustrious historian, M. Michelet, undertook to render certain of his works popular. Perhaps the fatiguing style of Vico disgusted him; perhaps he deemed that the thoughts of the Italian philosopher could not but gain in flowing from a more elegant pen; perhaps the vivacity of his genius could with difficulty conform itself to the ponderously didactic manner of Vico. At all events, M. Michelet has not chosen to give either an exact translation, or even an accurate analysis of Vico. His work makes known Vico's principal ideas; but many are omitted; and the developments, which he has suppressed, he has not replaced.'

Now to us, judging from the princess's own translation, and from her account of her author's works in her introduction, it seems that M. Michelet has done exactly what was required. He has made known to modern readers Vico's principal ideas. A very brief examination of the 120 pages of the princess's introduction will suffice both to show the reader that many of these leadingideas well deserved to be preserved, and duly attributed to their rightful author; and, at the same time, to prove to him that a perfect translation of Vico's work could hardly be deemed an acquisition to the literature of the nineteenth century.

It was Vico's lot to fall on evil days; on days peculiarly evil for a spirit of the tone and calibre of his. It was a dead time—that last quarter of the 17th, and first half of the 18th centuries! A time of intellectual tram-road going, and of parrot-learnt learning. A time when dull pedantry plodded on its laborious road, contentedly guiding its course by the dim farthing-candle twinkle of precedent; and men found that to wink with both their eyes was easier than to think.' The days of building up had ceased. The edifice was built. The days of pulling down were at hand, but had not yet begun. In the midst of these dull times, when to question aught that was established was a crime; when 'why' was deemed the most dangerous word in the vocabulary, and all men were content to walk in their various paths like pack-horses in a string, with their noses tied to the tails of their predecessors, young Vico, the poor bookseller's son, showing evidence of bright parts, and great powers of application, was destined to the career of an advocate. Of all the pedants of that routine-worshipping day, none travelled in more hopelessly deep time-worn ruts than the civilians and canonists. Poor Vico kicked desperately when har

« AnteriorContinuar »