Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

freedom, it was expedient, for the consolation of its partisans, to spare it a natural death. This touching compassion made some one compare Chamfort to Agnelet, killing M. Guillaume's sheep, for fear the poor things should die else, de peur qu'ils mouriont.*

The Academy found within her own rauks more than one less disloyal, less unnatural son, to vindicate her name against so virulent an accuser. The “ elegant pen" of Suard traced a “ calm and temperate refutation” of Chamfort's splenetic diatribe. He remarked that in this laboured satire was to be found nothing but what had been said before by Fréron, Palissot, Linguet, “ and other illustrious enemies of philosophy.”. He especially set himself to combat Chamfort's assertion, that such an institution must needs be, by the very nature of it, at enmity with the régime of liberty. Morellet, who had joined the Academy in 1785, took up arms in its defence, with far more spirit and effect than Suard. He spared no sarcasms on the “ ungrateful deserter.” He enumerated with sanglante irony the pensions Chamfort had received from despotism, and his empressement in the saloons of that aristocracy which he now attacked with an acharnement of hate, and a corresponding courage, fit to disgust the worst enemies of aristocrats. He put Chamfort in a state of embarrassment by reminding him of his assiduity at the Academical sittings for ten years running, and commenting on his selecting the moment in which he saw the Academy threatened, to lift up his heel against her. If the tree must come down which has afforded

you

shade and shelter, at least leave to others the mournful work of striking the first blow. And again, recriminating on Chamfort for accusing the Academy of having always been chary of giving light to the world, Morellet, “ justly indignant,” went on to say, that while a large number of his (Chamfort's) colleagues had written in defence of the liberty of the press, liberty of conscience, free trade, and whatever else was a people's cause, “M. Chamfort, author of a few Academical discourses, and little theatrical pieces, which are anything but moral, and some wanton tales, and a weak and forgotten tragedy, loftily reprehends his colleagues for having travestied, disfigured, and concealed truths which he never employed himself in teaching and spreading abroad.” But this personality in polemics would not have been enough; it was necessary to refute less indirectly the reproaches cast upon the Academy. Accordingly, this champion of the Forty now advanced to struggle against his antagonist hand to hand, and foot to foot, following him up throughout all the windings and turnings of his argument. Himself of the philosophe party, bimself a free-thinker of the eighteenth century type, and bound by no kind of sympathy to the ancien régime, Morellet did honour to himself and his cause on this occasion by the spirit with which he withdrew from those who heaped “ cowardly insults on whatever greatness was then falling to pieces." He had the courage to recal the beneficence exercised by the wealthy and ennobled classes during the disastrous years 1786 and 1788; and as Chamfort had tried to disarm beforehand the partisans of the Academy, by setting them down as enemies of the Revolution, Morellet bravely avowed-after first denying himself to be one of these enemies—that he was "terrified by the anarchy” into which France had fallen ; and that

* Mesnard, Hist. de l'Acad. Fr. 159 899.

he held in horror “the injustices and atrocities with which so noble a cause had been sullied.”

However, the difficulty was, as the historian of the doomed Academy observes, not to be and prove themselves in the right against Chamfort, but to make themselves heard. Eloquence and wit could hardly be wanting in such a body; but there was one greater want, liberty. Morellet had distributed fifty copies of his apology amongst his friends. His bookseller scarcely dared dispose of a few copies under the rose; he was in dread of the Jacobins, friends of Chamfort; and before long, alarmed at the probability of “ domiciliary visitations,” this discreet tradesman made away with the obnoxious sheets. It was too late to bear up against the passions of mobocracy. A polite, decorous institution, with its refined atmosphere, and its forty fauteuils, was out of time and place in revolutionary Paris. Almost from the first outbreak of the Revolution, the existence of the Academy had been little more than nominal. Its literary labours were at a stand-still; its vacancies were no longer filled

up.

Intestine divisions weakened it within. Such advocates and abettors of the Revolution as La Harpe, Condorcet, Chamfort, Bailly, Lemierre, Sedaine, and Ducis, were not to be silenced by their quieter conservative confrères. True, the ardour of these reformers abated sensibly as the Revolution gained ground, when moderation succumbed before ultraism, and the sans-culottes had it all their own way. Scared at the sound themselves had made, by the echo of it, and the reverberations of that echo, resounding from the dark places of the land and the habitations of cruelty, the progress party among the Academicians soon found themselves reunited with their behindhand brethren, by a common abhorrence of the new tyranny. Bailly, in July, 1791, broke with the Revolution; the Atrées en sabots horrified Ducis; nor was Chamfort sparing of bitter sneers against a “fraternity" which he rightly denominated that of Cain and Abel. Condorcet separated from the men of blood ; La Harpe, after long persevering in his violent opinions, at last grew indignant at such hideous cruelties. By degrees the members of the Academy were dispersed hither and thither. Cardinal de Bernis, the Duc d'Harcourt, and others, had been detained beyond France from the commencement of the troubles. Maury, Boufflers, and others, had taken refuge abroad towards the close of 1791, when the Constituent Assembly broke up. D’Aguesseau was denounced before the Legislative Assembly in 1792, and kept himself concealed in his château de Fresne. The same year, Marmontel went off to seek an asylum in the environs of Evreux, and soon afterwards in a poor chaumière near Gaillon. * Morellet undertook, in Marmontel's absence, the direction of the Academy, and courageously discharged the functions of secretary to the last. In August, 1793, three days before the Convention formally suppressed the Academies, this “intrepid Morellet”+ happily bethought him of having the greater part of the registers conveyed to his house - especially taking care for the MS. of the future edition of the Dictionary. The Convention commissioners required him to deliver up the copy of the Dictionary, which Morellet did with a heavy heart—for he regarded le Dictionnaire de l'Académie as almost his own personal work. They did not, however,

* Mesnard, 169 89.

† Nisard, 267 sq.

demand from him-and he was careful not to offer--the registers, procèsverbaux, patents for establishing the company, &c. He had previously secured the portraits, which he packed up in one of the tribunes of the hall of assembly, pocketing the key: nor was he a day too soon; for already advantage was being taken of a July decree, that abolished all insignia of royalty, and all coats of arms indicative of nobility, by rushing in hot haste to mutilate the wainscotings of the Louvre, and tear away the fleur-de-lis tapestries, and deface the paintings by Lebrun and Rigaud which adorned the hall of the Academy of Inscriptions. “The Académie Française too had its portraits, sixty in number. These were just about being consigned to the same ruin, as well as the medals, some busts, the registers, and the vouchers. Morellet, at this crisis, did not lose his self-possession,”* but, as we have seen, stowed away the valuables under lock and key, till better days should dawn, and the reign of terror and barbarism wear itself out.

The last meeting of the moribund Academy was held on the 5th of August, 1793. It was then resolved by Morellet, the last director (and, sadly misnamed, perpetual secretary), by Vicq-d’Azyr, the last chancellor, and by Ducis, Bréquigny, and La Harpe,--the poor fractional remainder of a sum of Forty,—that their sittings should be adjourned to an uncertain future, uncertain and most unpromising. On the 8th (Nisard makes it the 28th), the decree of suppression went forth against all the Academies. Article I. in the projet de décret of the Convention was thus worded: “ Toutes les Académies et Sociétés littéraires, patentées par la nation, sont supprimées." The suppression was decreed in accordance with a report presented by Grégoire, in the name of the Committee of Public Instruction. Four days later, the Convention decided, on the motion of Lacroix, that seals should be placed on the apartments of the different Academies. Towards the end of the month, commissioners were appointed to remove them, and the presence of Morellet was required. The commissioners-Dorat-Cubière and the grammarian Domerguet-treated le respectable directeur with no great ceremony, and talked of the defunct Academy with supreme contempt. Domergue the grammarian, shrewdly suspected of some professional jealousy! (he and Morellet being “two of a trade”), and his fellow-commissioner, who was an absurd poet," and had again and again been a defeated competitor for Academical prizes,—this couplet of worthies, Arcades ambo, assured Morellet that the Dictionary was an ill-made book, and that it would be necessary to expunge from it all that breathed opposition to the republican spirit. Next summer the Convention decreed the confiscation of the Academy's “goods"-a natural sequel to the decree of suppression. How the Forty fauteuils found once again, in calmer times

, and under happier auspices, a local habitation and a name and yet

Through what variety of untried being,

Through what new scenes and changes they must pass, before they stood on the old footing, and were recognised by the old title,—it comports not with our limits now to tell.

Mesnard, 171.

† Nisard, 267.

Mesnard, 172.

JAPAN AND THE JAPANESE.

EXETER HALL has reason for rejoicing; the men of Manchester will rub their hands gleefully as they reckon up their possible profits, for has not a new country been opened up to the blessings of Western civilisation and calicoes? The benighted Japanese will no longer be suffered to adhere to their exploded system of protection, but must accept at our hands a commercial exchange, from which they will, of course, derive all the benefit. Missionaries will be sent out by ship-loads, and, before now, crafty bookwrights are engaged in throwing a flood of light upon the new country. Although so many jokes have passed current about travellers having written the account of their journey without once quitting the sound of Bow-bells, we can easily conceive this being done about Japan, and the book profiting hugely thereby. As an essentially stationary country, the manners and customs of the nation have not changed since the time that Kämpfer and Thunberg visited them, and the reports they give bear very, great resemblance to the statements recently published in the Times with reference to Lord Elgin's visit to Jeddo. Suppose, then, with the help of these luminaries, we try to impart some information to our readers about this little-known and certainly interesting country? We are bound to take time by the forelock, as we anticipate, prior to the next issue of our magazine, that our readers will be subjected to an embarras de choix, so large is the number of books already being prepared on the subject.

The earliest mention we find of Japan (properly Jih-pun, or Sun-source Country) is in the travels of Marco Polo, who resided for seventeen years at the court of Kublai-Khan, ruler of the most extensive empire the world has ever yet seen. He tells us marvels of the wealth of the country, but the king would not allow it to be exported, so that no ships visited the

So greatly celebrated were the riches of Zipangu, that KublaiKhan entertained a desire to conquer it, but the expedition was driven back with a heavy loss. The first Europeans, however, who visited Japan were the Portuguese, in 1542, for we find the following passage in Hackluyt's translation of Galvano's Travels :

In the year of our Lord, 1542, one Diego de Freitas, being in the realm of Siam and in the city of Dodra, as captain of a ship, there fled from him three Portuguese in a junco. Directing their course to the city of Liampo, standing in 30 deg. odd of latitude, there fell upon their stern such a storm that it set them off the land, and in a few days they saw an island towards the east, standing in 32 deg., which they do name Japan, which seemeth to be the island Zipangu, whereof Paulus Venetus maketh mention, and of the riches thereof. And this island of Japan has gold, silver, and other precious stores.

The notorious Mendez Pinto, however, eventually laid claim to being the first visitor to Japan, and his statements are confirmed by letters written from Macao, and published at Rome in 1566 His accounts are, however, such a mixture of truth and falsehood, that little reliance can be placed upon them. On his return to Goa, after the second voyage to Japan, Pinto brought with him a Japanese, who was baptised by Xavier, general-superior of the Jesuits in India, and who received the

name of Paulo de Santa Fede. Accompanied by this convert, Xavier proceeded to Japan and began the work of christianising the natives. The greatest obstacle the missionaries experienced was in the jealousy of the rulers, who confined them to isolated towns, and would not allow them to traverse the country on their holy labours. Still the good work proceeded with considerable success

, and, eventually, some of the converted kings sent ambassadors to Europe as bearers of their submission to the Pope. They were kindly entertained by the kings of Portugal and Spain, and eventually reached Rome in 1585. They received extraordinary honours from Gregory XIII. and his successor Sixtus V.; they were dubbed Knights of the Golden Spurs, and sent home with handsome presents and briefs addressed to their princes. During their absence, however, great changes had taken place in Japan. Faxiba, a favourite general, had succeeded in subduing all his opponents, and had constituted himself sovereign lord of Japan. His first step, after the consolidation of his empire, was to banish the missionaries and destroy their churches. At this inauspicious moment the ambassadors returned home with Father Valignani, who had been appointed envoy to the kings of Japan. It was a long time ere the emperor would consent to receive the father, and then only on condition that nothing was said about religion. He accepted the presents very graciously, and matters appeared brighter for the Jesuits, when the emperor hit on the idea of ordering the Spanish governor of the Philippines to acknowledge him as sovereign. From this step came a network of intrigue, which ended by the ruin of both parties. Worst of all, the mercantile envy of the Spaniards was increased by the bitter hatred in which the Franciscans and Dominicans held the Jesuits. The former contrived to land at Nagasaki, where they built a church, against which the Jesuits protested, and the native governor pulled it down, which led eventually to a furious paper war in Europe between the two

Affairs reached a climax, however, in Japan with the wreck of a Spanish galleon on the coast. The pilot, when led before the emperor, began expatiating on the power of the King of Spain, and said that he began by sending missionaries into foreign countries, who, when they had converted a part of the inhabitants, were followed by troops, who easily subdued the country by the help of the converts. This was enough to arouse the emperor's fury, and he began decimating the Christians. Fortunately for them the emperor died in 1598, just as he was meditating fresh tortures, and, for a season, the missionaries were left in peace. But their supremacy was destined to be attacked by even a more dangerous foe, in the shape of the Dutch. The Dutch East India Company fitted out an expedition in 1598 to go in search of Japan, and on board one of the vessels was an English pilot, William Adams, the first of our countrymen who landed in Japan, and remained there several

years. The Charles, on which Adams served, was driven by stress of weather to anchor off the coast of Ximo, when the ship was soon seized by the natives, and Adams and one of the sailors were taken to Osaka to be presented to the emperor. Here he found himself “in a wonderful costly house, gilded by gold in abundance," and was treated with great kindness, the emperor being very inquisitive as to the reason of his coming. After a time, during which Adams's life was in imminent danger from the intrigues of the Jesuits, the emperor took him into his service as ship

sects.

« ПредишнаНапред »