« AnteriorContinuar »
ace. We appeal from Dante the schoolman to Dante the poet. We allow and rejoice in all that wonderful combination which he was, and take his scholasticism into the account; but we claim him first of all as the poet inspired by love. We put in evidence the quality of his genius before the culture of his understanding.
To refuse the evidence of the books is to miss a capital characteristic of Dante's genius, the assimilation, namely, which distinguishes him, of the real with the ideal. To this point we quote Mr. Norton, and leave it with his admirable statement.
“ With Dante, external impressions and internal experiences sights, actions, thoughts, emotions, sufferings -- were all fused into poetry as they passed through his soul. Practical and imaginative life were with him one and indissoluble. Not only was the life of imagination as real to him as the life of fact, but the life of fact was clothed upon by that of imagination ; so that, on the one hand, daily events and common circumstances became a part of his spiritual experience in a far more intimate sense than is the case with other men, while, on the other, his fancies and his visions assumed the absoluteness and the literal existence of positive external facts. The remotest flights of his imagination never carry him where his sight becomes dim. His journey through the spiritual world was no less real to him than his journeys between Florence and Rome, or his wanderings between Verona and Ravenna. So absolute is his imagination, that his reader is forced to believe that the poet beheld with his mortal eyes the invisible scenes which he describes."
As we close the book, Mr. Norton's description of the Beatrice of the Vita Nuova meets our eye. We cannot do better than to end this paper with quoting it. For in the charm of its style, in the justness of its thought, and the tenderness of its sentiment, it fitly represents the Essay on which we have put a high estimate, but not too bigh for its rare worth. It fitly places before us the woman Dante loved, and, loving her, sang her praise, first in the “New Life," and then in the “Divine Comedy," in the noble fashion which exalts her, but more exalts him.
" She is no allegorized piece of humanity, no impersonation of attributes, but an actual woman, — beautiful, modest, gentle, with compan
ions only less beautiful than herself, — the most delightful figure in the midst of the picturesque life of Florence. She is ever smiling and weeping, walking with stately maiden decorum in the street, praying at the church, merry at festivals, mourning at funerals; and her smiles and tears, her gentleness, her reserve, all the sweet qualities of her life, and the peace of her death, are told of with such tenderness and refinement, such pathetic melancholy, such delicate purity, and such passionate vehemence, that she remains, and will always remain, the loveliest and most womanly woman of the Middle Ages, — at once absolutely real and truly ideal.”
Art. IV. – ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE.
1. Democracy in America. By ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE. Trans
lated by HENRY REEVE, Esq. Edited, with Notes, the Translation revised and in great Part rewritten, and the Additions made to the recent Paris Editions now first translated, by Francis Bowen, Alford Professor of Moral Philosophy in Harvard University. Cambridge: Sever and Francis. 1862. 2 vols.
Small 8vo. pp. xxiï. and 559, xiv. and 499. 2. Memoir, Letters, and Remains of ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE, Au
thor of Democracy in America. Translated from the French by the Translator of Napoleon's Correspondence with King Joseph. With large Additions. Boston: Ticknor and Fields. 1862. 2
vols. 16mo. pp. 430, 442. 6. En mein It is a somewhat remarkable circumstance, that the best work on America which has ever been published was written, after a brief residence in this country, by a young Frenchman who had had no special training in political science, and who was not thirty years of age when the first two volumes of his book were given to the world. Yet it is conceded by all that no other foreigner has entered so thoroughly into the spirit of our institutions, or discerned so clearly the dangers to which they are exposed and the inherent strength by which they are upheld, or has so candidly stated the results of his inquiries. If De Tocqueville had done nothing else, he would have ranked among the most distinguished authors of the
century; but this is only one among many incontestable claims to a high place in the literary and political history of France, which his friends might urge. His unstained private life, his disinterested patriotism, his large familiarity with the theory and practice of governments, the sobriety of his judg.ment, and the liberality of his principles, are among the grounds of that respect in which his memory is everywhere held, and would at any time insure a welcome for a new and revised edition of his greatest work. Such an edition, however, is especially welcome now, when our country is engaged in the fierce struggle into which she has been plunged by the reckless ambition of a few disappointed politicians; and it is fortunate that the preparation of such an edition has been undertaken by a person so competent as Professor Bowen. His peculiar qualifications for such a task — a thorough and accurate acquaintance with our civil history, a just appreciation of the fundamental principles of the American system, a ripe and various culture, and a clear and vigorous style — are too well known to require from us now more than a simple acknowledgment of them; and it is enough to say that his edition will form a needed part even of those libraries which contain the work in the original French. He has bestowed much labor on the thorough revision of Mr. Reeve's translation, which was utterly unworthy of the original, being deficient in freedom, elegance, and correctness; he has translated for the first time, and added to the volumes, an impressive and eloquent Advertisement prefixed by De Tocqueville to the twelfth edition, published in 1850, a luminous and admirable essay on “Democracy in Switzerland,” read before the Academy of the Moral and Political Sciences in 1847, and a still more remarkable speech delivered in the Chamber of Deputies in January, 1848, predicting the Revolution which just one month afterward subverted the French monarchy, and prepared the way for the imperial despotism of Napoleon III. ; and he has also added a brief and satisfactory Biographical Notice of De Tocqueville, beside illustrating the text by numerous short and well-considered notes, designed merely to correct the author's mistakes, or to furnish more recent evidence on the topic under discussion. When we add that the
volumes have been printed at the University Press, Cambridge, with even more than the usual beauty and correctness of typography which are seen in every book bearing that imprint, we can say nothing further to show that this edition is in every particular worthy of the great reputation of De Tocqueville, and an honorable proof of the esteem in which his book is held on this side of the Atlantic.
It is not, perhaps, essential to the right understanding of De Tocqueville's design in this work, that the reader should be familiar with the personal history of its author ; but no one who desires to estimate correctly the influences of birth and education in the midst of which his mind was formed, the patriotic purpose by which the book was inspired, and which gave to every part its peculiar form and color, and to observe the effect of the momentous events of the last ten years of his life on his opinions and feelings, can safely neglect the information on these points contained in the other two volumes named at the commencement of this article. They are based on the work published in Paris by Gustave de Beaumont, and are enriched by copious citations from Mr. N. W. Senior's journal, containing the record of several long and interesting conversations with De Tocqueville on political questions, a letter to the Times newspaper relative to the coup d'état of Louis Napoleon, and some other instructive papers not in the original volumes. The Memoir by De Beaumont covers about a hundred pages, and is provokingly meagre; but the Letters, which fill a considerable part of the first volume and the whole of the second, are of the utmost interest and worth to the student of De Tocqueville's writings, though they are necessarily printed with numerous omissions on account of the rigid censorship of the press now existing in France; and for the same reason most of the political letters have been withheld from publication. Beside the Memoir and correspondence, a few unpublished writings of De Tocqueville are also included in the work. Of these the most noticeable are a somewhat remarkable journal of a Tour in Sicily, written in 1827, but of which a part only is now printed, an account of a Fortnight in the Wilderness of Northern and Central Michigan, and two chapters from an unfinished work
on France before the Consulate, which was designed to follow the Ancien Régime. From each of these pieces the reader may draw some new light as to the character of De Tocqueville's mind.
As Mr. Bowen has very justly observed, the influences of birth and early education“ undoubtedly colored his sentiments and opinions throughout life.” His family, which belonged to the ancient aristocracy of France, had been settled for several generations in Normandy, where they possessed an estate about fifteen miles from Cherbourg, and had at various periods rendered important services to the monarchy; his mother's grandfather was Malesherbes, the eloquent advocate of Louis XVI.; and his own father was thrown into prison during the Revolution, from which he was only liberated on the fall of Robespierre. To both of his parents he was passionately attached, and, as his early education was conducted under their immediate notice, these family recollections must have strongly impressed his susceptible imagination, and have helped to waken that “ kind of religious terror” under which, he tells his readers, the “Democracy in America " was written. The teaching and example of those whom he loved best could scarcely fail to make him a friend of the Church and of the established order in the state, while his subsequent observation and reflection showed to him that the ultimate triumph of democracy was certain, and that many of the strongest partisans of liberty were among the fiercest enemies of religion. In the Introduction to his great work he writes: “The religionists are the enemies of liberty, and the friends of liberty attack religion; the high-minded and the noble advocate bondage, and the meanest and most servile preach inde pendence ; honest and enlightened citizens are opposed to all progress, whilst men without patriotism and without principle put themselves forward as the apostles of civilization and intelligence.” The same thought constantly reappears in his correspondence. How to solve the problem here suggested how to reconcile the interests of religion and liberty, and to guide democracy in its onward progress — became from a very early period one of his chief objects in life; and not only was the importance of this problem impressed on him by all