Thomas Babington Macaulay Macaulay.

Critical, historical, and miscellaneous essays online

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418 LIFE AND WRITINGS OF ADDISON.

The merited reproof which Steele had received,
tliough softened by some kind and courteous expi-es-
sions, galled him bitterly. He replied with little fbix^e
and great acrimony ; but no rejoinder appeared. Ad-
dison was last hastening to his grave; and had, we
may well suppose, little disposition to prosecuto a
quarrel with an old friend. His complaint had ter-
minated in dropsy. He bore up long and manfully.
But at length he abandoned all hope, dismissed his
]>hysicians, and calmly prepai'ed liimself to die.

His worits he inti'usted to the care of Tickell, and
dedicated them a very few days before his death to
Craggs, in a letter written with the sweet and graceful
eloquence of a Saturday's Spectator. In this, his last
composition, he alluded to his approaching end in words
so mnnly, so cheerful, and so tender, that it is difficult
to read them without tears. At the same time he
earnestly reconunended the interests of Tickell to the
care of Craggs.

Within a few hours of the time at which this dedica-
tion was written, Addison sent to beg Gay, who was
then living by his wits about town, to come to Hol-
land House. Gay went, and was received with great
kindness. To his amazement his forgiveness was im-



whoro he represents as naked and defencelesSi when the Crown, by losing
this prerogative, would be less able to protect them against the power of a
House of Lords. Who forbears laughing when the Spanish Friar reprb-
sents little Dicky, under the person of Gomez, insulting the Colonel that
was able to fHgfat him out of bis wits with a single firown ? This Oom«z,
says he, flew upon him like a dragon, got him down, the Deyil being strong
in him, and gnve him bastinado on bastinado, and buffet on buffet, which
the poor Colonel, being prostrate, suffered with a most Christian patience.
The improbability of the fact never fails to raise mirth in the audience;
and one may venture to answer for a British House of Commons, if we may
guess, from its conduct hitherto, that it will scarce be either so tame or to
weak as our author supposes.**



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LIFE AND WHITINGS OF ADDISON. 419

plored by the dying man. Poor Gay, the most good-
natared and simple of mankind, could not imagine
what he had to forgive. There was, however, some
wrong, the remembrance of which weighed on Ad-
dison's mind, and which he declared himself anxious to
repair. He was in a state of extreme exhaustion ; and
the parting was doubtless a fiiendly one on both sides.
Gray supposed that some plan to serve him had been
in agitation at Court, and had been frustrated by
Addison's influence. Nor is this improbable. Gay
had paid assiduous court to the royal family. But in
the Queen's days he had been the eulogist of Boling-
broke, and was still connected with many Tories. It
is not strange that Addison, while heated by conflict,
should have thought himself justified in obstructing the
preferment of one whom he might regard as a political
enemy. Neither is it strange that, when reviewing his
whole Ufe, and earnestly scrutinising all his motives, he
should think that he had acted an unkind and ungen-
erous part, in using his power against a distressed man of
letters, who was as harmless and as helpless as a child.

One inference may be drawn &om this anecdote. It
iq)pears that Addison, on his deathbed, called himself
to a strict account, and was not at ease till he had
asked pardon for an injury which it was not even
suspected that he had committed, for an injury which
would have caused disquiet only to a veiy tender
conscience. Is it not then reasonable to infer that, if
he had really been guilty of forming a base conspiracy
against the fame and fortunes of a rival, he would have
expressed some remorse for so serious a crime ? But
it is unnecessary to multiply arguments and evidence
for the defence, when there is neither argument nor
evidence for the accusation.



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420 LIFE AND WmriNGS OK ADDISON.

The last moments of Addison were perfect!}'' sei'ene.
His interview with his son-in-law is universally known.
" See," he said, " how a Cliristian can die." The
piety of Addison was, in truth, of a singuhirly cheerful
character. The feeling which predominates in all liis
devotional writings is gratitude. God was to him the
allwise and allpowerful friend who liad watched over
his cradle with more than maternal tenderness ; who
had Ustened to his cries before they could form them-
selves in prayer ; who had preserved his youth from
the snares of vice ; who had made his cup run over
wijh worldly blessings ; who had doubled the value of
those blessings, by bestowing a thankfiil heart to enjoy
them, and dear friends to partake them ; who had
rebuked the waves of the Ligurian gulf, had purified
the autumnal air of the Cainpagna, and had restrained
the avalanches of Mont Cenis. Of the Psalms, his
&vourite was that which represents the Ruler of all
things under the endearing image of a sliepherd, whose
crook guides the flock safe, through gloomy and deso-
late glens, to meadows well watered and rich with
herbage. On that goodness to which he ascribed all
the happiness of his life, he relied in the hour of death
with the love which casteth out fear. He died on the
seventeenth of June 1719. He had just entered on hw
forty-eighth year.

His body lay in state in the Jerusalem Chamber, and
was borne thence to the Abbey at dead of night. The
choir sang a frmeral hymn. Bishop Atterbury, one of
tliose Tories who had loved and honoured the most
accomplished of the Whigs, met the corpse, and led
the procession by torchlight, round the shrine of Saint
Edward and the graves of the Plantagenets, to the
Chapel of Henry the Seventh. On the north side of



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LIFK AND WKITINGS OF \DDISON. 421

that Chapel, in the vault of the House of Albemarle,
the coffin of Addison lies next to the coffin of Mon-
tague. Yet a few months;, and the same moumep
passed again along the same aisle. The same sad an-
them was again chanted. The same vault was again
opened ; and the coffin of Craggs was placed close to
the coffin of Addison.

Many tributes were paid to the memory of Addison ;
but one alone is now remembered. Tickell bewailed
his friend in an elegy which would do honour to the
greatest name iii our literature, and which unites the
energy and magnificence of Dryden to the tendenaess
and purity of Cowper. This fine poem was prefixed
to a superb edition of Addison's works, which was pub-
lished, in 1721, by subscription. The names of the
subscribers proved how widely his fame had been
spread. That liis countrymen should be eager to
possess his writings, even in a costly form, is not won-
derful. But it is wonderful that, though English Htera-
ture was then little studied on the continent, Spanish
Grandees, Italian Prelates, Marshals of France, should
be found in the list. Among the most remarkable
names are those of the Queen of Sweden, of Prince
Eugene, of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, of the Dukes
of Parma, Modena, and Guastalla, of the Doge of
Genoa, of the Regent Orleans, and of Cardinal Du-
bois. We ought to add that this edition, though emi-
nently beautiful, is in some important points defective ;
nor, indeed, do we yet possess a complete collection of
Addison's writings.

It is strange that neither his opulent and noble
widow, nor any of his powerful and attached friends,
should have thought of placing even a simple tablet,
inscribed with his name, on thp walls of the Abbey.



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422 UFK AND WKITINGS OF ADDISOX.

It was not till three generations had laughed and wept
over his pages, that the omission was suppUed by the
public veneration. At length, in our own time, his
image, skilfully graven, appeared in Poet's Comer. It
represents him, as we can conceive him, clad in his
dressing gown, and freed from liis wig, stepping from
his parlour at Chekea into his trim little garden, with
the account of the Everlasting Club, or the Loves of
Hilpa and Shalum, just finished for the next day's
Spectator, in his hand. Such a mark of national re-
spect was due to the unsullied statesman, to the accom-
plished scholar, to the master of pure English elo-
quence, to the consummate painter of Ufe and manners.
It was due, above all, to the great satirist, who alone
knew how to use ridicule without abusing it, who,
without inflicting a wound, effected a great social
reform, and who reconciled wit and virtue, after a long
and disastrous separation, during which wit had been
led astray by profligacy, and virtue by fanaticism.



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BARfeRK^

{Edinburgh Review, April, 1844.)

This book has more than one title to our serious
attention. It is an appeal, solemnly made to posterity
by a man who played a conspicuous part in great events,
and who represents himself as deeply aggrieved by the
rash and malevolent censure of his contemporaries.
To such an appeal we shall always give ready audience.
We can perform no duty more useful to society, or more
agreeable to our own feelings, than that of making,
as iar as our power extends, reparation to the slandered
and persecute benefactors of mankind. We therefore
promptly took into our consideration this copious apol-
ogy for the life of Bertrand Bar^re. We have made
np our minds ; and we now purpose to do him, by the
blessing of God, full and signal justice.

It is to be observed that the appellant in this case
does not come into court alone. He is attended to the
bar of public opinion by two compurgators, who occupy
highly honourable stations. One of these is M. David
of Angers, Member of the Institute, an eminent sculp-
tor, and, if we have been rightly informed, a favourite
pupil, thotigh not a kinsman, of the painter who bore
the same name. The other, to whom we owe the bio-

i 3iimoire»de Bertrand Barhre; public par MM. Hifpolyte Carnot.
Slembre de la Chanabre des D^putds, et David d' Angers, Membre de
rinstitut: pr^c^d^ d*ane Notice Historique par H. Carmot. 4 toiiles.
Vnrin : 1848.



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424 BAR^KE.

graphical preface, is M. Hippolyte Camot, member of
the Chamber of Deputies, and son of the celebrated
Director. In the judgment of M. David and of M.
Hippolyte Carnot, Bardre was a deserving and an ill-
used man, a man who, though by no means faultless,
must yet, when due allowance is made for the force of
circumstances and the infirmity of human nature, be
considered as on the whole entitled to our esteem. It
will be for the public to determine, afler a full hearing,
whether the editors have, by thus connecting their
names with that of Bardre, raised his character or
lowered their own.

We are not conscious that, when we opened this
book, we were under the influence of any feeling likely
to pervert our judgment. Undoubtedly, we had long
entertained a most unfavorable opinion of Bar^re ; but
to this opinion we were not tied by any passion or by
any interest. Our dislike was a reasonable dislike, and
might have been removed by reason. Indeed our
expectation was, tliat these Memoirs would in some
measure clear Bardre's fame. That he could vindicate
himself from all the charges which had been brought
against him, we knew to be impossible ; and his editors
admit that he has not done so. But we thought it
highly probable that some grave accusations would be
refuted, and that many offences to which he would have
been forced to plead guilty would be greatly exten-
uated. We were not disposed to be severe. We were
fully aware that temptations such as those to which the
members of the Convention and of the Committee of
Public Safety were exposed must try severely the
strength of the firmest virtue. Indeed our inclination
has always been to r^ard with an indulgence, which to
some rigid moralists appears excessive, those faults into



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BARERE. 425

which gentle and noble spirits are sometimes hurried
by the excitement of conflict, by the maddening influ-
ence of sympathy, and by ill-regulated zeal for a pub-
lic cause.

With such feelings we read this book, and compari J
it \vith other accounts of the events in which Bardre
bore a part. It is now our duty to express the opinion
to which this investigation has led us.

Our opinion then is this: that Bardre approached
nearer than any person mentioned in history or fiction,
whether man or devil, to the idea of consuniimate and
universal depravity. In him the qualities which are
the proper objects of hatred, and the qualities which
are the proper objects of contempt, preserve an exquisite
and absolute harmony. In almost every particular sort
of wickedness he has liad rivals. His sensuality was
immoderate ; but this was a failing common to him
with many great and amiable men. There have been
many men as cowardly as he, some as, cruel, a few as
mean, a few as impudent. There mny also have been
as great liars, though we never met with them or read
of them. But when we put every thing together, sen-
suality, poltroonery, baseness, effrontery, mendacity,
barbarity, die result is something which in a novel we
should condemn as caricature, and to wliich, we ven-
ture to say, no parallel can be found in history.

It would be grossly unjust, we acknowledge, to try a
man situated as Bardre was by a severe standard. Nor
have we done so. We have formed our opinion of him
by comparing him, not with politicians of stainless
character, not with Chancellor D'Aguesseau, or General
Washington, or Mr. Wilberforce, or Earl Grey, but
with his own colleagues of the Mountain. That party
'uK^luded a considerable number of the worst men that



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426 BAuiRE.

ever lived ; but we see in it notliiiig like Bar^re. Com-
pared with him, Fouch^ seems honest ; Billaud seema
humane; Hubert seems to rise into dignity. Every
other cliief of a party, says M. Hippolyte Camot, has
found apologists : one set of men exalts the Girondists ;
another set justifies Danton ; a third deifies Robes-
pierre : but Bardre has remained without a defender.
We venture to suggest a very simple solution of tliis
phenomenon. All the other chiefs of parties had some
good qualities ; and Bardre had none. The genius,
courage, patriotism, and humanity of the Girondist
statesmen more than atoned for what was culpable in
their conduct, and should have protected them from
the insult of being compared with such a thing as
Barcre. Danton and Robespierre were indeed bad
men ; but in both of them some important parts of the
mind remained sound. Danton was brave and reso-
lute, fond of pleasure, of power, and of distinction, with
vehement passions, with lax principles, but with some
kind and manly fjcUngs, capable of great crimes, but
capable also of friendship and of compassion. He,
therefore, naturally finds admirers among persons of
bold and sanguine dispositions. Robespierre was a
vain, envious, and suspicious man, with a hard heart,
weak nerves, and a gloomy temper. But we cannot
with truth deny that he was, in the vulgar sense of the
word, disinterested, that his private life was correct, or
that he was sincerely zealous for his own system of
politics and morals. He, therefore, naturally finds ad-
mirers among honest but moody and bitter democrats.
If no class has taken the reputation of Barere under its
patronage, the reason is plain : Bardre had not a single
virtue, nor even the semblance of one.

It is true that he was not, as far as we are able to



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BARiiRE. 427

judge, originally of a savage disposition ; but this cir-
cumstance seems to us only to aggravate his guilt.
There are some unhappy men constitutionally prone to
the darker passions, men all whose blood is gall, and to
whom bitter words and harsh actions are as natural as
snarling and biting to a ferocious dog. To come into
the world with this wretched mental disease is a greater
calamity than to be bom blind or deaf. A man who,
having such a temper, keeps it in subjection, and con-
strains himself to behave habitually with justice and
humanity towards those who are in his power, seems to
us worthy of the highest admiration. There have been
instances of this self-command ; and they are among
the most signal triumphs of philosophy and religion.
On the other hand, a man who, having been blessed by
nature with a bland disposition, gradually brings him-
self to inflict misery on his fellow-creatures with indif-
ference, with satisfaction, and at length with a hideous
rapture, deserves to be regarded as a portent of wicked-
ness ; and such a man was Bardre. The history of his
downward progress is full of instruction. Weakness,
cowardice, and fickleness were born with him ; the best
quality which he received from nature was a good tem-
per. These, it is true, are not very promising mate-
rials ; yet, out of materials as unpromising, high senti-
ments of piety and of honour have sometimes made
martyrs and heroes. Rigid principles oflen do for
feeble minds what stays do for feeble bodies. But
BarSre had no principles at all. His character was
equally destitute of natural and of acquired strength.
Neither in the commerce of life, nor in books, did we
ever become acquainted \vith any mind so unstable, so
utterly destitute of tone, so incapable of independent
thought and earnest preference, so ready to take un-



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428 BARilRE.

pressions and so ready to lose them. He resembled
those creepers which must lean on something, and
which, as soon as their prop is removed, fell down in
utter helplessness. He could no more stand up, erect
and self-supported, in any cause, than the ivy can rear
itself like the oak, or the wild vine shoot to heaven
like the cedar of Lebanon. It is barely possible that,
luider good guidance and in fevourable circumstances*
such a man might have slipped through life without
discredit. But th^* unseaworthy craft, which even in
still water would have been in danger of going down
fiom its own rottenness, was launched on a raging
ocean, amidst a stoim in which a whole armada of gal-
lant ships was cast away. The weakest and most ser-
vile of human beings found himself on a sudden an
actor in a Revolution wliich convulsed tlie whole civ-
ilised world. At first he fell under the influence of
humane and moderate men, and talked the language
of humanity and moderation. But he soon found him-
self surrounded by fierce and resolute spirits, scared by
no danger and restrained by no scruple. He had to
choose whether he would be their victim or their
accompUce. His choice was soon made. He tasted
blood, and felt no loathing: he tasted it again, and
liked it well. Cruelty became with him, first a habit,
then a passion, at last a madness. So complete and
rapid was the degeneracy of his nature, that, within a
very few months after the time when he had palled for
a good-natured man, he had brought himself to look on
the despair and miseiy of his fellow-creatures with a
glee resembling that of the fiends whom Dante saw
watchuig the pool of seething pitch in Malebolge. He
had many associates in guilt ; but he distinguished
himself firom them all by the Bacchanalian exultation



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BARiCRK. 429

which he seemed to feel in the work of death. He
was drunk with innocent and noble blood, laughed and
shouted as he butchered, and howled strange songs and
reeled in strange dances amidst the carnage. Then
came a sudden and violent turn of fortune. The mis-
erable man was hurled down from the height of power
to hopeless ruin and infamy. The shock sobered him
at once. The iumes of liis honnble intoxication passed
away. But he was now so irrecoverably depraved that
the disciphne of adversity only drove him further into
wickedness. Ferocious vices, of which he had never
been suspected, had been developed in him by power.
Another class of vices, less hateful perhaps, but more
iespicable, was now developed in him by poverty and
disgrace. Having appalled the whole world by great
crimes perpetrated under the pretence of zeal for Kb-
erty, he became the meanest of all the tools of despo-
tism. It is not easy to settle the order of precedence
among his vices ; but we are inclined to think that his
baseness was, on the whole, a rarer and more marvel-
lous thing than his cruelty.

This is the view which we have long taken of Ha-
rare's character ; but, till we read these Memoirs, we
held our opinion with the diffidence which becomes a
judge who has only heard one side. The case seemed
strong, and in parts unanswerable : yet we did not
know what the accused party might have to say for
himself; and, not being much inclined to take our fel-
low-creatures either for angels of light or for angels of
darkness, we could not but feel some suspicion that his
oiFences had been exaggerated. That suspicion is now
at an end. The vindication is before us. It occupies
four volumes. It was the work of fcwty years. It
would be absurd to suppose that it does not refute '^very



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130 bar£;r£.

serious charge which admitted of refiitation. How
many serious charges, then, are here refuted ? Not
a single one. Most of tlie imputations which have
been thrown on Bardre he does not even notice. In
such cases, of course, judgment must go against him by
default. The fact is, that notliing can be more meagre
and uninteresting than his account of the great public
transactions in which he was engaged. He gives us
hardly a word of new information respecting the pro-
ceedings of the Conynittee of Public Safety ; and, by
way of compensation, tells us long stories about things
which happened before he emerged from obscimty, and
after he had again sunk into it. Nor is tliis the worst.
As soon as he ceases to write trifles, he begins to write
Hes ; and such lies I A man who has never been within
the tropics does not know what a thunderstorm means ;
a man who has never looked on Niagara has but a faint
idea of a cataract ; and he who has not read Barftre's
Memoirs may be said not to know what it is to lie.
Among the numerous classes which make up tlie great
genus Mendadum^ the Mendacium Vasoonieum^ or
Gascon lie, has, during some centuries, been highly es-
teemed as pecuharly circumstantial and peculiarly impu-
dent ; and, among the Mendacia VoBcordca^ the Menda-
cium Barerianum is, without doubt, the finest species.
It is indeed a superb variety, and quite throws into the
shade some Mendacia which we are used to regard >vith
admiration. The Mendacium Wraxallianum^ for ex-
ample, though by no means to be despised, will not
sustain the compaiison for a moment. Seriously, we
think that M. Hippolyte Camot is much to blame in this
matter. We can hardly suppose him to be worse read
than oui-selves in the history of the Convention, a his-
U\xy which must interest him deeply, not only as a



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BARfeRtU 481

Frenchman, but also as a son. He must, therefore, be
perfectly aware that many of the most important state-
ments which these volumes contain are falsehoods,
such as Comeille's Dorante, or Moliere's Scapin, or
Colin d'Harleville*s Monsieur de Crac would have been
ashamed to utter. We are far, indeed, from holding
M. Hippolyte Camot answerable for Barfire's want of
veracity ; but M. Hippolyte Camot has arranged these
Memoirs, has introduced them to the world by a lauda*
toy preface, has described them #s docurtients of great
historical value, and has illustrated them by notes. We
cannot but think that, by acting thus, he contracted
some obligations of which he does not seem to have been
at all aware ; and that he ought not to have suffered any
monstrous fiction to go forth under the sanction of his
name, without adding a line at the foot of the page for
the purpose of cautioning the reader.

We will content ourselves at present with pointing
crat two instances of Harare's wilful and deliberate men-
dacity ; namely, his account of the death of Marie An-
toinette, and his account of the death of the Girondists.
His account of tlie death of Marie Antoinette is as fol-
lows: — "Robespierre in his turn proposed that the
members of the Capet family should be banished, and
that Marie Antoinette should be brought to trial before
the Revolutionary Tribunal. He would have been
better employed in concerting military measures which
might have repaired our disasters in Belgium, and might
have arrested the progress of the enemies of the Revo-
lution in the west." — (Vol. ii. p. 312.)



Online LibraryThomas Babington Macaulay MacaulayCritical, historical, and miscellaneous essays → online text (page 32 of 84)