Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

tion of the Government from other forms pán gives something very like a lecture. of revolutionary activity ; to raise the The common people, he explains, pay spirit of the people, and thereby render by far the greater part of the taxation, it more fit to accept revolutionary ideas; and at the same time do all the work : to obtain pecuniary means for the activ- they plough the fields, build the houses ity of the society; and to liberate those and churches, work in the mills and facwho have been imprisoned. The ten tories, and in return for all this they are dency of the bands should always be systematically robbed and beaten. And “purely socialistico-revolutionary" - what is done with all the money that is whatever that may mean. In time of revo- taken from them? First of all, the Tsar lution the members should give to all gets nine millions of roubles-enough to movements every assistance in their feed half a province-and with that sum power, and impress upon them "a social- he amuses himself, has hunting-parties istico-revolutionary character.” The and feasts, eats, drinks, makes merry, central administration and the local and lives in stone houses. He gave libranches should form connections with berty, it is true, to the peasant, but we publishers, and take steps to secure a reg- know what the emancipation really was. gular supply of prohibited books from The best land was taken away and the abroad. Such are a few characteristic taxes were increased, lest the muzhik extracts from a document that might should get fat and lazy. The Tsar is fairly be called a treatise on revolution- himself the richest landed proprietor and ology.

manufacturer in the country. He not As a specimen of the revolutionary only robs us as much as he pleases, but pamphlets above mentioned, I may give he has sold into slavery (by forming a here a brief account of one which is well national debt) our children and grandknown to the political police, and figures children. He takes our sons as solaiers, largely at all the political trials. It is shuts them up in barracks, so that they entitled Khitraya Mekhanika (cunning should not see their brother peasants, machinery), and gives a graphic picture and hardens their hearts, so that they of the ideas and method of the propa- become wild beasts ready to tear their ganda. The mise en scène is extremely own parents. The nobles and traders simple. Two peasants, Stepán and An- likewise rob the poor peasant. In short, drei, meet in a gin-shop and begin to all the upper classes have invented a drink together. Stepán is described as cunning bit of machinery by which the good and kindly when he has to do with peasant is made to pay for all their pleamen of his own class, but very sharp- sures and luxuries. But the people will tongued when speaking with a foreinan one day arise and break this machinery or director. Always ready with an to pieces. When that day arrives, they answer, he can on occasion even silence must break every part of it, for if one an official. He has travelled all over the bit escapes destruction all the other parts country, has associated with all manner will immediately grow up again. All of people, sees everything most clearly, the force is on the side of the peasants, and is, in short, a very remarkable man. if they only knew how to use it. Knowl. One of his best qualities is that he is edge they will get in time. They will always ready to enlighten others, and then destroy the machine, and perceive he soon finds an opportunity of display- that the only real remedy for all social ing his powers. When Andrei, a peas- evils is fraternity. People should live ant of the ordinary type, proposes that like brothers, having no mine and thine, they should drink another glass of but all things in common. When we vodka, he replies that the Tsar, together have created fraternity, there will be with the nobles and traders, bars the no riches and no thieves, but right and way to his throat. As his companion righteousness without end. In concludoes not comprehend this metaphorical sion, Stepán addresses a word to "the language, he explains that if there were torturers :" When the people shall rise, no Tsars, nobles, or traders, he could the Tsar will send troops against us, and get five glasses of vodka for the sum the nobles and capitalists will stake their which he now pays for one glass. This last rouble on the result. If they do not naturally suggests wider topics, and Ste- succeed, let them expect no quarter

as

a

from us. They may conquer us once or Jarded with Russified-French words, twice, but we shall at last get our own, showing plainly the source of his inspirafor there is no power that can with- tion. Such men do a grievous wrong stand the whole people. Then we shall to the man whom they call their teacher, cleanse the country of our persecutors, and whom they profess to revere ; for and establish a brotherhood in which the authorities, though disposed to clethere hall be no mine and thine, but all mency, think that they cannot safely libwill work for the common weal. We erate one whose name is used will construct no cunning machinery, watchword by unscrupulous political but will pluck up evil by the roots and fanatics. This is, no doubt, a grave establish eternal justice.

consideration, but I think that more imIt would be interesting to trace the portance is attached to it than it deconnection between these secret revolu- serves. Surely, at the present moment, tionary societies and the great intellect when so much is said about justice and ual movement which took place in the humanitarianism, the Government might educated classes after the Crimean War, do a graceful and politic act by liberatand produced the beneficent reforms of ing a man who unquestionably did good the present reign. Want of space pre- service in the cause of serf-emancipation, vents me from entering on that investi. who systematically discountenanced all gation. All I can say for the present on foolish political demonstrations, and this subject is, that these societies are who has more than expiated, during fifthe illegitimate and monstrous progeny teen years, any youthful indiscretions of that movement. Many of the agita- he may have committed. tors claim to be disciples of Tchernish- A few words in conclusion regarding efski-a man who held the most influen- the real importance of these secret societial position in Russian periodical litera- ties. Do they constitute a real danger ture during the time of the Emancipa- for the state ? Any one who knows tion, and who was afterwards exiled to Russia well will not hesitate, I believe, Siberia, where he is still living-but I to answer this question in the negative. venture to think that he could not recog. Even some of the agitators have come nise them as such, and I am quite cer- to perceive the folly of their conduct. tain that he could have no sympathy Here is the literal translation of a letter with those specimens of the class whom written by a member of the secret socieI have seen. If we except a novel ty above described. I preserve, as very which he wrote while in solitary confine characteristic of the movement in genment, and which cannot fairly be consid- eral, the pedantic, pseudo-scientific style ered an exposition of his real views in in which the document is written. Rehis serious moments, we find everywhere ferring to the impetuous, inconsiderate in his writings a large amount of common conduct of one of the female members sense and moderation. In the conversa- of the society, the writer says :tion of the few agitators whom I have met I have always found the reverse-a

“I explain her conduct by her complete strange farrago of pedantry, childishness, direction without thinking of consequences,

subjection to the desire of acting in a certain and political fanaticism. Not long ago and by the want of critical power or perhaps I was favored with a visit from one of by the desire not to consider the thing critithese gentlemen. During several hours cally; we ought at last to look into the past I listened attentively to his tirades, and and learn from experience. It is time for us

to give up running our heads against a stone endeavored, immediately after his depar- wall. She wishes to act in a rude,' demoture, to put on paper what I had heard, cratic'sphere, but she forgets that if she now but I must confess that, though not with gives way to her impulse, she will be again out considerable practice in that kind of within a month in prison, and she will therework, I failed completely. Beyond the by deprive herself of all possibility of ever

doing anything. Further, such impulsive ordinary stereotyped phrases about ty- action at the present time, when so many peoranny, obscurantism, “ the cursed bour- ple are in prison, is a bit of extreme egotism geoisie, exploitation" of the peasan

and a giving way to personal feeling. All the try, and the like, I could recall nothing. Their nervous system and their feeling of re

authorities are now alarmed and on the watch. My visitor spoke Russian during the in

venge are excited. Their fears are exaggerterview, but his dissertations were inter- ated. Every new attempt of the kind will not

only be quickly discovered and end in the people. A popular rising has, therefore, no ruin of those engaged in it, but it will at the chance of success, and if such a thing did hapsame time strengthen and keep up the pres. pen to succeed, the people in its present inent excitement among the authorities, and tellectual condition would 'gain nothing, and make them act more energetically against would simply fall into the hands of a dictator, those who have fallen into their hands. Is it or of capitalists, or of both. I do not deny not, then, extremely egotistical to give way to the possibility of an insurrection as the result personal feeling, and to disregard the fate of of a whole series of causes, but I am convinced hundreds who will suffer in consequence ? that it can be produced and guided only by Besides this, it will greatly injure the people elemental forces independently of artificial inby calling forth a series of repressive meas- fluences. He who can raise the spirit of such ures which have a prejudicial influence on the a popular movement and take advantage of it national life. That is the more evident side will alone gain by it, and his success or failof the question, but there is another side ure, so far as the people are concerned, will which may be called the principal one. Are depend on the degree of conscientiousness all problems solved accurately so as to admit of the leaders; for a popular revolution is an of no doubt? Surely experience is not alto- elemental force, and not a principle, or a logigether silent. What is the people? Not only cal conclusion, or a mathematical programme. are the problems not solved, but they are not Hence to raise Revolutionarity (Revolutionnost) accurately stated. Experience must lead to to the rank of a principle is in my opinion an doubt. The thing is that Russian Radicalism absurdity. Revolutionarity can exist only in is merely an abstract logical conclusion, the feelings of an individual man or in the founded on an untrustworthy basis of senti periodical outbursts of the masses. The ment and an ignorance of the nature and masses as an element do not possess the criti wants of the Russian people—ignorance of cal faculty, and at certain moments act by inthe conditions of its historical life and of man stinct. The individual is obliged to act acin general. So long as that specially practi- cording to the critical faculty, and ought not cal and partly theoretical information has not to construct his principles on elemental imbeen obtained, it is impossible to arrive at pulsions of the masses. Regarding the latter any conclusion, and still more impossible to as an historical and cultural' necessity, he begin any activity. That Russian Radicalism ought to content himself with the following does not know man in general and the Rus- programme : by the attentive study of the sian in particular--that is unquestionable. masses and of the separate units of which We know by experience that it wishes to im- they are composed, he should inoculate the pose on Russians foreign modes of thought separate units with consciousness and the and ideals which they are incapable of appro- critical faculty, avoiding all bias and instigapriating. It promises them a stork in heaven, tion, and introduce into the masses, in so far when they would much prefer a sparrow on as it is possible, the elements of human cul. earth. By à priori reasoning and from gen- ture. The rest should be left to the elabora. eral knowledge of human nature, we may con- tion of this material by the people. Further clude that every ignorant and ‘undeveloped' than this the part of intelligent units cannot man values most of all his own life, that the go. Every departure from this, so to say, sphere of his requirements is confined to natural programme, is as fatal to the intelli. food and a wife, and that anything higher than gent units and to the people as every departthese is unintelligible for him until they are ure from the laws of nature must be. Revolusatisfied, and until you develop in him human tionarity as a principle is an anomaly-a dignity and thought. Besides this, various transferring of instinct to the sphere of logic, social' misfortunes have brought down the that is to say, an unnatural union. But all wants of the Russian peasant to such a mini- that is general theory. There are no actors, mum, that firstly it requires very great want and those who remain should spare themto make him protest, and secondly it requires selves. Such a miserably small group cannot very small concessions to make him be silent do anything more in the direction which I reand tranquil. If the apparent emancipation of gard as the true one. It ought therefore to the serfs postponed popular insurrection for contract itself so as to form the nucleus of a several decades, it is evident that when serious future radical party, and in the meantime it attempts at insurrection are made in the ought to examine the surroundings in which future, it will be sufficient to diminish the it lives, study these surroundings and the peotaxes and increase a little the amount of ple, investigate the conditions and organizapeasant land, Small material concessions tion of civilised life, elaborate the foundation will induce them the more readily to deliver of a programme, increase as much as possible up the leaders and intelligent propagandists, the number of conscious and reflecting adepts and that will continue until there have been -not of children-and wait. Every revolucreated in the people a popular idea and more tionary pamphlet should be thrown into the or less human culture, which must be created fire. All that is nonsense and absurdity. not by books imported from abroad, not by Perhaps the time will soon come when it will incitement to revolt, but by gradual human be necessary to have a conscious-radicaldevelopment, and by influence in those places popular party, a genuine champion of popular where it is not completely excluded by_un- interests—not a mere phantom in the form of favorable circumstances. The times of Pug- an anachronism ; and such a party will not atcheff are past. The State has succeeded in then be found. It is necessary to create it, crushing the warlike, nomadic instincts of the and in the meantime to wait, working slowly

but surely in that direction. It is time to get rid of the charms of peasant surroundings, and to give up thinking about externals. These youthful outbursts without criticism lead to nothing but harm.”

Let us hope that Young Russia will soon come to perceive clearly the truth contained in the last sentence of this curious document.--Fortnightly Review.

VICTOR HUGO.

If there is a contemporary writer self to submit to the practice of self-rewhose language could do justice to Vic- straint instead of abandoning himself tor Hugo's genius, it is the great poet and absolutely to the volition of his genius. novel-writer himself. For it is alto In his latest poem he confesses the in. gether impossible to define it, and exact spired independence which rejects all definition is a thing of which Victor order or systematic relation, although Hugo is incapable. But it might be ap- he does not care to apologise for it, nor propriately indicated by those sonorous seeni conscious that it has been his invaphrases often so magnificently eloquent, riable habit. And we could wish too which may mean much or little, or noth- that he had condescended to be more ing at all, according as it pleases you to intelligible. It is true that it may not be interpret them. We can hardly doubt given to meaner mortals to plumb the that Victor Hugo generally understands depths in the mind of the Poet; and in himself; or at least that he has a clear the consciousness of his mission and his conception of the dominating idea which heaven-born gift it must sound to him is firing his imagination for the moment. like the profanity of ignorance, should But it is rarely easy to follow his chain of we pray him to be more prosaic. But, reasoning or his line of thought; and the after all, the noblest forms of poetry brain gets dazed and dazzled in the multi should surely come as a revelation which plication of his metaphors and illustra- may be brought home to the mind of tions. He is not content with expressing the many; not like the mystic mutterhis idea in a single far-fetched epigram. ings of the oracle, which can only be He exults in the exuberance of his warm vaguely interpreted by the initiated. fancy, and seems to fetch his illustra One must have a certain sense of pretions from the immensity of the Infinite sumption in calling attention to the in which his intellect is floating. His shortcomings of an extraordinary genius; greatest source of power is fatal to the but, at least, in the case of Victor Hugo, completeness and finish of his work. we may be free from any strong feeling For his mind is far too fervid, and its of the kind. These faults of his are too action far too rapid and impulsive. patent, and, we may add, too painfu!. Whatever his gifts and the virtues of his For we admire him so much, and have style, he has no strength of self-control, su often been delighted by his works, and no sense of proportion. When the that it is honest flattery rather than inspirit is moving in him it must have its gratitude, when we are indignant that he say, no matter how unfortunately timed should not have delighted us more. And may be the utterance; so that his poems we are angry for his sake as much as for have seldom either consistency or se our own, that he should not have stoopquence, and his fictions are marred by ed to go to school in his youth, when all manner of digressions. Victor Hugo he might have profited by the universal has good reason to believe in him- experience of his predecessors.

. We self, and we probably do him no in dare not say that he has wasted, but he justice in fancying that he is his own has certainly been reckless of opportunimost ardent worshipper. But it is a ties such as rarely fall to the lot of wripity that he had not shown some little ters. It is now five-and-fifty years since consideration for those simple rules of he published his first volume of poems; art which go so far to make the grandest it was some ten years later that he wrote reputations. He would occupy a very his 'Notre Dame de Paris,' which had different position with his contempora- been preceded by more than one reries, to say nothing of his standing in markable novel; and here we have this the temple of fame, had he taught him- veteran at the age of seventy-five giving

[ocr errors]

us a fresh instalment of the 'Légende loved country has fallen upon evil times. des Siècles '-a magnificent poem when But Hugo's party escapades and demoall is said—and promising not merely its cratic volubility have reacted on his litecompletion in due course, but the imme- rary career and his serious literary workdiate publication of several other works. manship. Political opinions fly to the

Victor Hugo is seventy-five, yet his head with him; he has preached the mental eye is not dimmed, nor is his principles of that pernicious gospel that bodily strength greatly abated. He the Communists of Paris translated into shows the same richness of fancy, the action. He has dreamed a perfection of same powerful grasp of grand ideas, the institutions that presupposed a perfectibisame originality of thought, and the lity of nature; and those of his countrysame susceptibility of feeling, as when men who have followed him, or dragged he wrote in what would have been the him with them, have still a long way to maturity of men of feebler stamina. go towards perfection. We cannot conThere is as much of youthful impetuosi- ceive that he has been blind to their ty, and as much of nervous vigor, as shortcomings; and it is probable that when he flashed out on the world in the their very faults or their crimes have 'Odes and Ballads.' And all the time tended to increase the exaltation of his he has been indefatigably occupied ; language. If his doctrines in their legiransacking strange store-houses of fan- timate application have sown the dratastic learning; tracing the mythology, gon's teeth,-if things turn out other the superstitions, the legends, and the than as they ought to do,--the more semi-mythical history of every race and that he is disappointed and disenchanted creed, till he has accumulated a store of in his heart, the more fondly he clings the peculiar treasure which he of all men to his illusions.

to his illusions. It is touching, in spite has the talent to use. But how much of of the unconscious self-satire of his writ. it has been unhappily misapplied so far ings, to see how firmly he has held to his as his own immortality is concerned ! fancies about his ideal Paris,—the salt Should he be spared, as we trust he of the earth, and the lamp of civilisation. may, to write those books which he pro- We are far from desiring to deny the mises, we know very nearly what we may claims of France on the friends of civiliexpect. They will abound in beauties sation and refinement; but Victor Huof no common order; they will be en- go's jealous and excessive exaggeration riched by rare thoughts and sublime is almost the only sign of senility about conceptions; they will show a generous him. Not that there is anything really sympathy with the sorrows of mankind, senile about that, for he felt and spoke and breathe ideal aspirations as to hu- equally extravagantly in the hot-headman perfectibility. But they will be ed fervor of his early youth. He is written in the style and shape that were perfectly happy making a speech to the formed thirty or forty years ago. They crowd on some subject that is touching will show the tyro in practical politics; every man of them closely ; when each and possibly the melancholy spectacle burning word falls like a firebrand on of a Titan in intellect laying himself the heap of inflammable materials that open to the ridicule of the premier-venu is piled all ready to his hand. of the pigmies. We may enjoy them entirely in his element, writing a glorifimore or less than others that have gone cation of his darling Lutetia in such a before, but that will be all. For this handbook as was given to the world on noble Légende des Siècles 'shows not the occasion of the last grand exhibition the slightest advance in art on its pre- there. But it would have been well for decessor or on the 'Châtiments'; and him, and well for his readers, had he his latest novel but one-'L'Homme blown off his sentimental hallucinations qui rit'-is more artistically faulty than by such occasional safety-valves, instead anything he has composed.

of leavening all his books with them; It has been unfortunate for his fame thus provoking our smiles when he that he has been so much of a French- would have had us most serious, by man in more ways than one. It seems blending the sublime with the ludicrous harsh to reproach a man with an excess and impossible. of patriotism, especially when his much At the same time, rather than be mis.

« ПредишнаНапред »