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sciences into Russia; it has even re-animated Italy, which was languishing; and Europe is indebted for its politeness and spirit of society to the court of Louis XIV.
Before this time, the Italians called all the people on this side the Alps by the name of Barbarians. It must be owned that the French, in some degree, deserved this reproachful epithet. Our forefathers joined the romantic gallantry of the Moors with the Gothic rudeness. They had hardly any of the agreeable arts amongst them; which is a proof that the useful arts were likewise neglected: for, when once the things of use are carried to perfection, the transition is quickly made to the elegant and the agreeable; and it is not at all astonishing, that painting, sculpture, poetry, eloquence, and philosophy, should be in a manner unknown to a nation, who, though possessed of harbours on the western ocean and the Mediterranean sea, were without ships; and who, though fond of luxury to an excess, were hardly provided with the most common manufactures.
The Jews, the Genoese, the Venetians, the Portuguese, the Flemish, the Dutch, and the English, carried on, in their turns, the trade of France, which was ignorant even of the first principles of commerce. Louis XIII. at his accession to the crown, had not a single ship; the city of Paris contained not quite four hundred thousand men, and had not above four fine public edifices; the other cities of the kingdom resembled those pitiful villages which we see on the other side of the Loire. The nobility, who were all stationed in the country, in dungeons, surrounded with deep
ditches, oppressed the peasant who cultivated the land. The high roads were almost impassable ; the towns were destitute of police: and the government had hardly any credit among foreign nations,
We must acknowledge, that, ever since the decline of the Carlovingian family, France had languished more or less in this infirm state, merely for want of the benefit of a good administration.
For a state to be powerful, the people must either enjoy a liberty founded on the laws, or the royal authority must be fixed beyond all opposition, In France, the people were slaves till the reign of Philip Augustus : the noblemen were tyrants till Lewis XI.; and the kings, always employed in maintaining the authority against their vassals, had neither leisure to think about the happiness of their subjects, nor the power of making them happy.
Lewis XI. did a great deal for the regal power, but nothing for the happiness or glory of the nation. Francis I. gave birth to trade, navigation, and all the arts; but he was too unfortunate to make them take root in the nation during his time, so that they all perished with him. Henry the Great was on the point of raising France from the calamities and barbarisms in which she had been plunged by thirty years of discord, when he was assassinated in his capital, in the midst of a people whom he had begun to make happy. The cardinal de Richelieu, busied in humbling the house of Austria, the Calvinists, and the grandees, did not enjoy a power sufficiently undisturbed to reform the nation; but he had at least the honour of be" ginning this happy work.
Thas, for the space of nine hundred years, our genius had been almost always restrained under a Gothic government, in the midst of divisions and civil wars; destitute of any laws or fixed customs; changing every second century a language which still continued rude and unformed. The nobles were without discipline, and strangers to every thing but war and idleness : the clergy lived in disorder and ignorance; and the common people without industry, and stupified in their wretched
The French had no share either in the great discoveries, or admirable inventions of other na. tions : they have no title to the discoveries of printing, gunpowder, glasses, telescopes, the sector, compass, the air-pump, or the true system of the universe: they were making tournaments, while the Portuguese and Spaniards were discovering and conquering new countries from the east to the west of the known world. Charles V. had already scattered the treasures of Mexico over Europe, before the subjects of Francis I. had discovered the uncultivated country of Canada; but, by the little which the French did in the beginning of the sixteenth century, we may see what they are capable of when properly condacted.
HISTORY OF THE LIMITS AND EXTENT OF THE
MIDDLE AGE. When the magnitude of the Roman empire grew enormous, and there were two imperial cities, Rome and Constantinople, then that happened which was natural; out of one empire it became two, distinguished by the different names of the Western, and the Eastern.
The Western empire soon sunk. So early as in the fifth century, Rome, once the mistress of nations, beheld herself at the feet of a Gothic sovereign. The Eastern empire lasted many centuries longer, and, though often impaired by external enemies, and weakened as often by internal factions, yet still it retained traces of its ancient splendour, resembling, in the language of Virgil, some fair but faded flower : Cui neque fulgor adhuc, necdum, sua forma recessit. VIRG.
At length, after various plunges and various escapes, it was totally annihilated in the fifteenth century by the victorious arms of Mahomet the Great.
The interval between the fall of these two empires (the Western or Latin in the fifth century, the Eastern or Grecian in the fifteenth) making a space of near a thousand years, constitutes what we call the middle age.
Dominion passed during this interval into the hands of rude, illiterate men: men who conquered more by multitude than by military skill; and who, having little or no taste either for sciences or arts, naturally despised those things from which they had reaped no advantage.
This was the age of monkery and legends ; of Leonine verses, (that is, of bad Latin put into rhime ;) of projects, to decide truth by ploughshares and battoons; of crusades, to conquer infidels, and extirpate heretics; of princes deposed, not as Cresus was by Cyrus, but by one who had no armies, and who did not even wear a sword.
Different portions of this age have been distinguished by different descriptions: such as Sæculum Monotheleticum, Sæculum Eiconoclasti. cum, Sæculum Obscurum, Sæculum Ferreum, Sæculem Hildibrandinum, &c.; strange names it must be confessed, some more obvious, others less so, yet none tending to furnish us with any high or promising ideas.
And yet we must acknowledge, for the honour of humanity and of its great and divine Author, who never forsakes it, that some sparks of intellect were at all times visible, through the whole of this dark and dreary period. It is here we must look for the taste and literature of the times.
The few who were nlightened, when arts and sciences were thus obscured, may be said to have happily maintained the continuity of knowledge ; to have been (if I may use the expression) like the twilight of a summer's night; that auspicious gleam between the setting and the rising sun, which, though it cannot retain the lustre of the day, helps at least to save us from the totality of darkness.