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An essay by Thomas De Quincey


Title:     Charlemagne
Author: Thomas De Quincey [More Titles by De Quincey]

[FOOTNOTE: The History of Charlemagne; with a Sketch, and History of France from the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Rise of the Carlovingian Dynasty. By G.P.R. JAMES, Esq. VOL. II.]


History is sometimes treated under the splendid conception of 'philosophy teaching by example,' and sometimes as an 'old almanac;' and, agreeably to this latter estimate, we once heard a celebrated living professor of medicine, who has been since distinguished by royal favor, and honored with a title, making it his boast, that he had never charged his memory with one single historical fact; that, on the contrary, he had, out of profound contempt for a sort of knowledge so utterly without value in his eyes, anxiously sought to extirpate from his remembrance,--or, if that were impossible, to perplex and confound,--any relics of historical records which might happen to survive from his youthful studies. 'And I am happy to say,' added he, 'and it is consoling to have it in my power conscientiously to declare, that, although I have not been able to dismiss entirely from my mind some ridiculous fact about a succession of four great monarchies, (for human infirmity still clings to our best efforts, and will forever prevent our attaining perfection,) still I have happily succeeded in so far confounding all distinctions of things and persons, of time and of places, that I could not assign the era of any one transaction, as I humbly trust, within a thousand years. The whole vast series of history is become a wilderness to me; and my mind, as to all such absurd knowledge, under the blessing of Heaven, is pretty nearly a _tabula rasa_.' In this Gothic expression of self-congratulation upon the extent of his own ignorance, though doubtless founded upon what the Germans call an _einseitig_ or one-sided estimate, there was however that sort of truth which is apprehended only by strong minds, and such as naturally adhere to extreme courses. Certainly the blank knowledge of facts, which is all that most readers gather from their historical studies, is a mere deposition of rubbish without cohesion, and resting upon no basis of theory (that is, of general comprehensive survey) applied to the political development of nations, and accounting for the great stages of their internal movements. Rightly and profitably to understand history, it ought to be studied in as many ways as it may be written. History, as a composition, falls into three separate arrangements, obeying three distinct laws, and addressing itself to three distinct objects. Its first and humblest office is to deliver a naked unadorned exposition of public events and their circumstances. This form of history may be styled the purely Narrative; the second form is that which may be styled the Scenical; and the third the Philosophic. What is meant by Philosophic History, is well understood in our present advanced state of society; and few histories are written except in the simplest condition of human culture, which do not in part assume its functions, or which are content to rest their entire attraction upon the abstract interest of facts. The privileges of this form have, however, been greatly abused; and the truth of facts has been so much forced to bend before preconceived theories, whereas every valid theory ought to be abstracted from the facts, that Mr. Southey and others in this day have set themselves to decry the whole genus and class--as essentially at war with the very primary purposes of the art. But, under whatever name, it is evident that philosophy, or an investigation of the true moving forces in every great train and sequence of national events, and an exhibition of the motives and the moral consequences in their largest extent which have concurred with these events, cannot be omitted in any history above the level of a childish understanding. Mr. Southey himself will be found to illustrate this necessity by his practice, whilst assailing it in principle. As to the other mode of history--history treated scenically, it is upon the whole the most delightful to the reader, and the most susceptible of art and ornament in the hands of a skilful composer. The most celebrated specimen in this department is the Decline and Fall of Gibbon. And to this class may in part [Footnote 1] be referred the Historical Sketches of Voltaire. Histories of this class proceed upon principles of selection, presupposing in the reader a general knowledge of the great cardinal incidents, and bringing forward into especial notice those only which are susceptible of being treated with distinguished effect.

These are the three separate modes of treating history; each has its distinct purposes; and all must contribute to make up a comprehensive total of historical knowledge. The first furnishes the facts; the second opens a thousand opportunities for pictures of manners and national temper in every stage of their growth; whilst the third abstracts the political or the ethical moral, and unfolds the philosophy which knits the history of one nation to that of others, and exhibits the whole under their internal connection, as parts of one great process, carrying on the great economy of human improvement by many stages in many regions at one and the same time.

Pursued upon this comprehensive scale, the study of history is the study of human nature. But some have continued to reject it, not upon any objection to the quality of the knowledge gained--but simply on the ground of its limited extent; contending that in public and political transactions, such as compose the matter of history, human nature exhibits itself upon too narrow a scale and under too monotonous an aspect; that under different names, and in connection with different dates and regions, events virtually the same are continually revolving; that whatever novelty may strike the ear, in passages of history taken from periods widely remote, affects the names only, and circumstances that are extra-essential; that the passions meantime, the motives, and (allowing for difference of manners) the means even, are subject to no variety; that in ancient or in modern history there is no real accession made to our knowledge of human nature: but that all proceeds by cycles of endless repetition; and in fact that, according to the old complaint, 'there is nothing new under the sun.' It is not true that 'there is nothing new under the sun,' This is the complaint, as all men know, of a jaded voluptuary, seeking for a new pleasure and finding none, for reasons which lay in his own vitiated nature. Why did he seek for novelty? Because old pleasures had ceased to stimulate his exhausted organs; and that was reason enough why no new pleasure, had any been found, would operate as such for _him_. The weariness of spirit, and the poverty of pleasure which he bemoaned as belonging to our human condition, were not in reality _objective_, (as a German philosopher would express himself,) or laid in the nature of things, and thus pressing upon all alike, but _subjective_, that is to say, derived from the peculiar state and affections of his own organs for apprehending pleasure. Not the _apprehensibile_, but the _apprehendens_, was in fault--not the pleasures, or the dewy freshness of pleasures, had decayed, but the sensibilities of him who thus undertook to appraise them.

More truly, and more philosophically, it may be said that there is nothing old under the sun, no absolute repetition. It is the well-known doctrine of Leibnitz, [Footnote 2] that amongst the familiar objects of our daily experience, there is no perfect identity. All in external nature proceeds by endless variety. Infinite change, illimitable novelty, inexhaustible difference, these are the foundations upon which nature builds and ratifies her purpose of _individuality_--so indispensable, amongst a thousand other great uses, to the very elements of social distinctions and social rights, But for the endless circumstances of difference which characterize external objects, the rights of property, for instance, would have stood upon no certain basis, nor admitted of any general or comprehensive guarantee.

As with external objects, so with human actions; amidst their infinite approximations and affinities, they are separated by circumstances of never-ending diversity. History may furnish her striking correspondences, Biography her splendid parallels, Rome may in certain cases appear but the mirror of Athens, England of Rome,--and yet, after all, no character can be cited, no great transaction, no revolution of 'high-viced cities,' no catastrophe of nations, which, in the midst of its resemblances to distant correspondences in other ages, docs not include features of abundant distinction and individualizing characteristics, so many and so important, as to yield its own peculiar matter for philosophical meditation and its own separate moral. Rare is the case in history, or (to speak with suitable boldness) there is none, which does not involve circumstances capable to a learned eye, without any external aid from chronology, of referring it to its own age. The doctrine of Leibnitz, on the grounds of individuality in the objects of sense, may, in fact, be profitably extended to all the great political actions of mankind. Many pass, in a popular sense, for pure transcripts or duplicates of similar cases in past times; but, accurately speaking, none are such truly and substantially. Neither are the differences, by which they are severally marked and featured, interesting only to the curiosity or to the spirit of minute research. All public acts in the degree in which they are great and comprehensive, are steeped in living feelings, and saturated with the spirit of their own age; and the features of their individuality, that is, the circumstances which chiefly distinguish them from their nearest parallels in other times, and chiefly prevent them from lapsing into blank repetitions of the same identical case, are generally the very cardinal points, the organs, and the depositories which lodge whatever best expresses the temper and tendencies of the age to which they belong. So far are these special points of distinction from being slight or trivial, that in them _par excellence_ is gathered and concentrated, whatever a political philosopher would be best pleased to insulate and to converge within his field of view.

This, indeed, is evident upon consideration; and is in some sense implied in the very verbal enunciation of the proposition; _vi termini_, it should strike every man who reflects--that in great national transactions of different ages, so far resembling each other as to merit the description of _parallels_, all the circumstances of agreement--all those which compose the resemblance for the very reason that they are _common_ to both periods of time, specially and characteristically belong to neither. It is the differential, and not the common--the points of special dissimilitude, not those of general similitude--which manifestly must be looked to, for the philosophic valuation of the times or the people--for the adjudication of their peculiar claims in a comparison with other times and other people--and for the appraisement of the progress made, whether positively for its total amount, or relatively to itself, for its rate of advance at each separate stage.

It is in this way of critical examination, that comparison and the collation of apparent parallels, from being a pure amusement of ingenuity, rises to a philosophic labor, and that the study of History becomes at once dignified and in a most practical sense profitable. It is the opinion of the subtlest and the most combining (if not the most useful) philosopher whom England has produced, that a true knowledge of history confers the gift of prophecy; or that intelligently and sagaciously to have looked backwards, is potentially to have looked forwards. For example, he is of opinion that any student of the great English civil war in the reign of Charles I., who should duly have noted the signs precurrent and concurrent of those days, and should also have read the contemporary political pamphlets, coming thus prepared, could not have failed, after a corresponding study of the French literature from 1750 to 1788, and in particular, after collecting the general sense and temper of the French people from the _Cahiers_, (or codes of instruction transmitted by the electoral bodies to the members of the first National Assembly,) to foresee in clear succession the long career of revolutionary frenzy, which soon afterwards deluged Europe with tears and blood. This may perhaps be conceded, and without prejudice to the doctrine just now delivered, of endless diversity in political events. For it is certain that the political movements of nations obey everlasting laws, and travel through the stages of known cycles, which thus insure enough of resemblance to guarantee the general outline of a sagacious prophecy; whilst on the other hand, the times, the people, and the extraordinary minds which, in such critical eras, soon reveal themselves at the head of affairs, never fail of producing their appropriate and characteristic results of difference. Sameness enough there will always be to encourage the true political seer; with difference enough to confer upon each revolution its separate character and its peculiar interest.

All this is strikingly illustrated in the history of those great revolutionary events, which belong to the life and times of the Emperor Charlemagne. If any one period in history might be supposed to offer a barren and unprofitable picture of war, rapine, and bloodshed--unfeatured by characteristic differences, and unimproved by any peculiar moral, it is this section of the European annals. Removed from our present times by a thousand years, divided from us by the profound gulf of what we usually denominate the _dark ages_; placed, in fact, entirely upon the farther [Footnote 3] side of that great barrier--this period of history can hardly be expected to receive much light from contemporary documents in an age so generally illiterate. Not from national archives, or state papers, when diplomacy was so rare, when so large a proportion of its simple transactions was conducted by personal intercourse, and after the destruction wrought amongst its slender chancery of written memorials by the revolution of one entire millenium. Still less could we have reason to hope for much light from private memoirs at a period when the means of writing were as slenderly diffused as the motives; when the rare endowments, natural and acquired, for composing history could so seldom happen to coincide with the opportunities for obtaining accurate information; when the writers were so few, and the audience so limited and so widely dispersed, to which they could then profitably address themselves. With or without illustration, however, the age itself and its rapid succession of wars between barbarous and semi-barbarous tribes, might, if any one chapter in history, be presumed barren of either interest or instruction, wearisomely monotonous; and, by comparison with any parallel section from the records of other nations in the earliest stages of dawning civilization, offering no one feature of novelty beyond the names of the combatants, their local and chronological relations, and the peculiar accidents and unimportant circumstances of variety in the conduct or issue of the several battles which they fought.

Yet, in contradiction to all these very plausible presumptions, even this remote period teems with its own peculiar and separate instruction. It is the first great station, so to speak, which we reach after entering the portals of modern [Footnote 4] history. It presents us with the evolution and propagation of Christianity in its present central abodes; with the great march of civilization, and the gathering within the pale of that mighty agency for elevating human nature, and beneath the gentle yoke of the only true and beneficent religion, of the last rebellious recusants among the European family of nations. We meet also, in conjunction with the other steps of the vast humanizing process then going on, the earliest efforts at legislation--recording at the same time the barbarous condition of those for whom they were designed, and the anti-barbarous views and aspirations of the legislator in the midst of his condescensions to the infirmities of his subjects. Here also we meet with the elementary state, growing and as yet imperfectly rooted, of feudalism. Here, too, we behold in their incunabula, forming and arranging themselves under the pressure of circumstances, the existing kingdoms of Christendom. So far, then, from being a mere echo, or repetition, of other passages in history, the period of Charlemagne is rich and novel in its instruction, and almost (we might say) unique in the quality of that instruction. For here only perhaps we see the social system forming itself in the mine, and the very process, as it were, of crystallization going on beneath our eyes. Mr. James, therefore, may be regarded as not less fortunate in the choice of his subject, than meritorious in its treatment; indeed, his work is not so much the best, as the only history of Charlemagne which will hereafter be cited. For it reposes upon a far greater body of research and collation, than has hitherto been applied [Footnote 4] even in France to this interesting theme; and in effect it is the first account of the great emperor and his times which can, with a due valuation of the term, be complimented with the title of a _critical_ memoir. Charlemagne, 'the greatest man of the middle ages,' in the judgment of his present biographer, was born A. D. 742--seven years before his father assumed the _name_ of King. This date has been disputed: but, on the whole, we may take it as settled, upon various collateral computations, that the year now assigned is the true one. The place is less certain: but we do not think Mr. James warranted in saying that it is 'unknown.' If every thing is to be pronounced 'unknown,' for which there is no absolute proof of a kind to satisfy forensic rules of evidence, or which has ever been made a question for debate, in that case we may apply a sponge to the greater part of history before the era of printing.

Aix-la-Chapelle, Mr. James goes on to tell us, is _implied_ as the birth-place of one of the chief authorities. But our own impression is, that according to the general belief of succeeding ages, it was not Aix-la-Chapelle, but Ingelheim, a village near Mentz, to which that honor belonged. Some have supposed that Carlsburg, in Bavaria, was the true place of his birth; and, indeed, that it drew its name from that distinguished event. Frantzius, in particular, says, that in his day the castle of that place was still shown to travellers with the reverential interest attached to such a pretension. But, after all, he gives his own vote for Ingelheim; and it is singular that he does not so much as mention Aix-la-Chapelle. Of his education and his early years, Mr. James is of opinion that we know as little as of his birth-place. Certainly our information upon these particulars is neither full nor circumstantial; yet we know as much, perhaps, in these respects, of Charlemagne as of Napoleon Bonaparte. And remarkable enough it is, that not relatively, (or making allowances for the age,) but absolutely, Charlemagne was much more accomplished than Napoleon in the ordinary business of a _modern_ education; Charlemagne, in the middle of the 8th century, than Napoleon in the latter end of the 18th. Charlemagne was, in fact, the most accomplished man of his age; Napoleon a sciolist for any age. The tutor of Charlemagne was Peter of Pisa, a man eminent at that time for his attainments in literature (_in re grammatica_). From him it was that Charlemagne learned Latin and Greek; Greek in such a degree 'ut sufficienter intelligeret,' and Latin to the extent of using it familiarly and fluently in conversation. Now, as to the man of the 18th century, Greek was to him as much a sealed language as Chinese; and, even with regard to Latin, his own secretary doubts, upon one occasion, whether he were sufficiently master of it to translate Juvenal's expressive words of _Panem et Circenses_. Yet he had enjoyed the benefits of an education in a Royal College, in a country which regards itself self-complacently as at the head of civilization. Again, there is a pretty strong tradition, (which could hardly arise but upon some foundation,) that Charlemagne had cultivated the Arabic so far as to talk it; [Footnote 6] having no motive to that attainment more urgent than that political considerations made it eligible for him to undertake an expedition against those who could negotiate in no other language. Now, let it be considered how very much more powerful arguments there were in Napoleon's position for mastering the German and the English. His continental policy moved entirely upon the pivot of central Europe, that is, the German system of nations--the great federation of powers upon the Rhine and the Danube. And, as to England, his policy and his passions alike pointed in that direction as uniformly and as inevitably as the needle to the Pole: every morning, we are told, tossing aside the Paris journals as so many babbling echoes of his own public illusions, expressing rather what was desired, than what was probable, he required of his secretary that he should read off into French the leading newspapers of England. And many were the times when he started up in fury, and passionately taxed his interpreter with mistranslation; sometimes as softening the expressions, sometimes as over-coloring their violence. Evidently he lay at the mercy of one whom he knew to be wanting in honor, and who had it in his power, either by way of abetting any sinister views of his own, or in collusion with others, to suppress--to add--to garble--and in every possible way to color and distort what he was interpreting. Yet neither could this humiliating sense of dependency on the one hand, nor the instant pressure of political interest on the other, ever urge Napoleon to the effort of learning English in the first case, German or Spanish in the second. Charlemagne again cultivated most strenuously and successfully, as an accomplishment peculiarly belonging to the functions of his high station, the art and practice of eloquence; and he had this reward of his exertions--that he was accounted the most eloquent man of his age: 'totis viribus ad orationem exercendam conversus naturalem facundiam ita roboravit studio, ut praeter [l. _propter_] promptum ac profluens sermonis genus _facile aevi sui eloquentissimus crederetur.'

Turn to Bonaparte. It was a saying of his sycophants, that he sometimes spoke like a god, and sometimes worse than the feeblest of mortals. But, says one who knew him well,--the mortal I have often heard, unfortunately never yet the god. He who sent down this sneer to posterity, was at Napoleon's right hand on the most memorable occasion of his whole career--that cardinal occasion, as we may aptly term it, (for upon _that_ his whole fortunes hinged,) when he intruded violently upon the legislative body, dissolved the Directory and effected the revolution of the 18th Brumaire. That revolution it was which raised him to the Consular power; and by that revolution, considered in its manner and style, we may judge of Napoleon in several of his chief pretensions--courage, presence of mind, dignity, and eloquence; for then, if ever, these qualities were all in instant requisition; one word effectually urged by the antagonist parties, a breath, a gesture, a nod, suitably followed up, would have made the total difference between ruler of France and a traitor hurried away _a la lanterne_. It is true that the miserable imbecility of all who should have led the hostile parties, the irresolution and the quiet-loving temper of Moreau, the base timidity of Bernadotte, in fact, the total defect of heroic minds amongst the French of that day, neutralized the defects and more than compensated the blunders of Napoleon. But these were advantages that could not be depended on: a glass of brandy extraordinary might have emboldened the greatest poltroon to do that which, by once rousing a movement of popular enthusiasm, once making a beginning in that direction, would have precipitated the whole affair into hands which must have carried it far beyond the power of any party to control. Never, according to all human calculation, were eloquence and presence of mind so requisite: never was either so deplorably wanting. A passionate exposition of the national degradations inflicted by the imbecility of the Directors, an appeal to the Assembly as Frenchmen, contrasting the glories of 1796 with the humiliating campaigns that had followed, might, by connecting the new candidate for power with the public glory, and the existing rulers with all the dishonors which had settled on the French banners, have given an electric shock to the patriotism of the audience, such as would have been capable for the moment of absorbing their feelings as partisans. In a French assembly, movements of that nature, under a momentary impulse, are far from being uncommon. Here, then, if never before, and never again, the grandeur of the occasion demanded--almost, we might say, implored, and clamorously invoked, the effectual powers of eloquence and perfect self-possession. How was the occasion met? Let us turn to the actual scene, as painted in lively colors by a friend and an eye-witness: [Footnote 7]--'The accounts brought every instant to General Bonaparte determined him to enter the hall [of the Ancients] and take part in the debate. His entrance was hasty and in anger--no favorable prognostics of what he would say. The passage by which we entered led directly forward into the middle of the house; our backs were towards the door; Bonaparte had the President on his right; he could not see him quite in front. I found myself on the General's right; our clothes touched: Berthier was on his left.

'All the harangues composed for Bonaparte after the event differ from each other;--no miracle that. There was, in fact, none pronounced to the Ancients; unless a broken conversation with the President, carried on without nobleness, propriety, or dignity, may be called a speech. We heard only these words--"_Brothers in arms--frankness of a soldier_." The interrogatories of the President were clear. Nothing could be more confused or worse enounced, than the ambiguous and disjointed replies of Bonaparte. He spoke incoherently of volcanoes--secret agitations--victories--constitution violated. He found fault even with the 18th Fructidor, of which he had himself been the prime instigator and most powerful upholder.' [Not, reader, observe, from bold time-serving neglect of his own principles, but from absolute distraction of mind, and incoherency of purpose.] 'Then came _Caesar_--_Cromwell_--_Tyrant_'--[allusions which, of all others, were the most unseasonable for that crisis, and for his position.] 'He repeated several times--_I have no more than that to tell you_; and he had told them nothing. Then out came the words,--_Liberty, Equality:_ for these every one saw he had not come to St. Cloud. Then his action became animated, and we lost him--comprehending nothing beyond _18th Fructidor, 30 Prairial, hypocrites, intriguers; I am not so; I shall declare all; I will abdicate the power when the danger which threatens the Republic has passed_.' Then, after further instances of Napoleon's falsehood, and the self-contradictory movements of his disjointed babble, the secretary goes on thus: 'These interruptions, apostrophes, and interrogations, overwhelmed him; he believed himself lost. The disapprobation became more violent, and his discourse still more wanting in method and coherence. Sometimes he addressed the representatives, quite stultified; sometimes the military in the court,' [_i. e._ outside,] 'who were beyond hearing; then, without any transition, he spoke of the thunder of war--saying, _I am accompanied by the god of war and fortune_. The President then calmly observed to him that he found nothing, absolutely nothing, upon which they could deliberate; that all he had said was vague. _Explain yourself, unfold the plots into which you have been invited to enter_. Bonaparte repeated the same things; and in what style! No idea in truth can be formed of the whole scene, unless by those present. There was not the least order in all he stammered out (to speak sincerely) with the most inconceivable incoherence. Bonaparte was no orator. Perceiving the bad effect produced upon the meeting by this rhapsody, and the progressive confusion of the speaker, I whispered (pulling his coat gently at the same time)--'Retire, General, you no longer know what you are saying.' I made a sign to Berthier to second me in persuading him to leave the place; when suddenly, after stammering out a few words more, he turned round, saying, 'Let all who love me follow.' So ended this famous scene--in which, more than in any other upon record, eloquence and presence of mind were needful. And if it should be said that vagueness was not altogether the least eligible feature in a speech whose very purpose was to confuse, and to leave no room for answer, we reply--true; but then it was the vagueness of art, which promised to be serviceable, and that of preconcerted perplexity, not the vagueness of incoherence, and a rhapsody of utter contradiction. [Footnote 8]

What a contrast all this to the indefeasible majesty of Charlemagne--to his courage and presence of mind, which always rose with the occasion, and, above all, to his promptitude of winning eloquence, that _promptum ac praftuens genus sermonis_, which caused him to be accounted _evi sui eloquentissimus!_

Passing for a moment to minor accomplishments, we find that Charlemagne excelled in athletic and gymnastic exercises; he was a _pancratiast_. Bonaparte wanted those even which were essential to his own daily security. Charlemagne swam well; Bonaparte not at all. Charlemagne was a first-rate horseman even amongst the Franks; Napoleon rode ill originally, and no practice availed to give him a firm seat, a graceful equestrian deportment, or a skilful bridle hand. In a barbarous age the one possessed all the elegances and ornamental accomplishments of a gentleman; the other, in a most polished age, and in a nation of even false refinement, was the sole barbarian of his time; presenting, in his deficiencies, the picture of a low mechanic--and, in his positive qualities, the violence and brutality of a savage. [Footnote 9] Hence, by the way, the extreme folly of those who have attempted to trace a parallel between Napoleon and the first Caesar. The heaven-born Julius, as beyond all dispute the greatest man of ancient history in moral grandeur, and therefore raised unspeakably above comparison with one who was eminent, even amongst ordinary men, for the pettiness of his passions--so also, upon an intellectual trial, will be found to challenge pretty nearly an equal precedency. Meantime, allowing for the inequality of their advantages, even Caesar would not have disdained a comparison with Charlemagne. All the knowledge current in Rome, Athens, or Rhodes, at the period of Caesar's youth, the entire cycle of a nobleman's education in a republic where all noblemen were from their birth dedicated to public services, this--together with much and various knowledge peculiar to himself and his own separate objects--had Caesar mastered; whilst, in an age of science, and in a country where the fundamental science of mathematics was generally diffused in unrivalled perfection, it is well ascertained that Bonaparte's knowledge did not go beyond an elementary acquaintance with the first six books of Euclid; but, on the other hand, Charlemagne, even in that early age, was familiar with the intricate mathematics and the elaborate _computus_ of Practical Astronomy.

But these collations, it will be said, are upon questions not primarily affecting their peculiar functions. They are questions more or less extra-judicial. The true point of comparison is upon the talents of policy in the first place, and strategies in the second. A trial between two celebrated performers in these departments, is at any rate difficult; and much more so when they are separated by vast intervals of time. Allowances must be made, so many and so various; compensations or balances struck upon so many diversities of situation; there is so much difference in the modes of warfare--offensive and defensive; the financial means, the available alliances, and other resources, are with so much difficulty appraised--in order to raise ourselves to that station from which the whole question can be overlooked, that nothing short of a general acquaintance with the history, statistics, and diplomacy of the two periods, can lay a ground for the solid adjudication of so large a comparison. Meantime, in the absence of such an investigation, pursued upon a scale of suitable proportions, what if we should sketch a rapid outline [Greek Text: os en tupo pexilabeln] of its _elements_, (to speak by a metaphor borrowed from practical astronomy)--_i. e._ of the principal and most conspicuous points which its path would traverse? How much these two men, each central to a mighty system in his own days, how largely and essentially they differed--whether in kind or in degree of merit, will appear in the course even of the hastiest sketch. The circumstances in which they agreed, and that these were sufficient to challenge an inquiry into their characteristic differences, and to support the interest of such an inquiry, will probably be familiar to most readers, as among the common places of general history which survive even in the daily records of conversation. Few people can fail to know--that each of these memorable men stood at the head of a new era in European history, and of a great movement in the social development of nations; that each laid the foundations for a new dynasty in his own family, the one by building forwards upon a basis already formed by his two immediate progenitors, the other by dexterously applying to a great political crisis his own military preponderance; and finally, that each forfeited within a very brief period--the one in his own person, the other in the persons of his immediate descendants--the giddy ascent which he had mastered, and all the distinctions which it conferred; in short, that 'Time, which gave, did his own gifts confound ;' [Footnote 10] but with this mighty difference--that Time co-operated in the one case with extravagant folly in the individual, and in the other with the irresistible decrees of Providence.

Napoleon Bonaparte and Charlemagne were both, in a memorable degree, the favorites of fortune. It is true, that the latter found himself by inheritance in possession of a throne, which the other ascended by the fortunate use of his own military advantages. But the throne of Charlemagne had been recently won by his family, and in a way so nearly corresponding to that which was afterwards pursued by Napoleon, that in effect, considering how little this usurpation had been hallowed by time, the throne might in each case, if not won precisely on the same terms, be considered to be held by the same tenure. Charlemagne, not less than Napoleon, was the privileged child of revolution; he was required by the times, and indispensable to the crisis which had arisen for the Franks; and he was himself protected by the necessities to which he ministered. Clouds had risen, or were rising, at that era, on every quarter of France; from every side she was menaced by hostile demonstrations; and, without the counsels of a Charlemagne, and with an energy of action inferior to his, it is probable that she would have experienced misfortunes which, whilst they depressed herself, could not but have altered the destinies of Christendom for many ages to come. The resources of France, it is true, were immense; and, as regarded the positions of her enemies, they were admirably concentrated. But to be made available in the whole extent which the times demanded, it was essential that they should be wielded by a first-rate statesman, supported by a first-rate soldier. The statesman and the soldier were fortunately found united in the person of one man; and that man, by the rarest of combinations, the same who was clothed with the supreme power of the State. Less power, or power less harmonious, or power the most consummate, administered with less absolute skill, would doubtless have been found incompetent to struggle with the tempestuous assaults which then lowered over the entire frontier of France. It was natural, and, upon the known constitution of human nature, pretty nearly inevitable, that, in the course of the very extended warfare which followed, love for that glorious trade--so irritating and so contagious--should be largely developed in a mind as aspiring as Charlemagne's, and stirred by such generous sensibilities. Yet is it in no one instance recorded, that these sympathies with the pomp and circumstance of war, moved him to undertake so much as a single campaign, or an expedition which was not otherwise demanded by his judgment, or that they interfered even to bias or give an impulse to his judgment, where it had previously wavered. In every case he tried the force of negotiation before he appealed to arms; nay, sometimes he condescended so far in his love of peace, as to attempt purchasing with gold rights or concessions of expediency, which he knew himself in a situation amply to extort by arms. Nor where these courses were unavailing, and where peace was no longer to be maintained by any sacrifices, is it ever found that Charlemagne, in adopting the course of war, suffered himself to pursue it as an end valuable in and for itself. And yet _that_ is a result not uncommon; for a long and conscientious resistance to a measure originally tempting to the feelings, once being renounced as utterly unavailing, not seldom issues in a headlong surrender of the heart to purposes so violently thwarted for a time. And even as a means, war was such in the eyes of Charlemagne to something beyond the customary ends of victory and domestic security. Of all conquerors, whose history is known sufficiently to throw light upon their motives, Charlemagne is the only one who looked forward to the benefit of those he conquered, as a principal element amongst the fruits of conquest. 'Doubtless,' says his present biographer, 'to defend his own infringed territory, and to punish the aggressors, formed a part of his design; but, beyond that, he aimed at civilizing a people whose barbarism had been for centuries the curse of the neighboring countries, and at the same time communicating to the cruel savages, who shed the blood of their enemies less in the battle than in the sacrifice, the bland and mitigating spirit of the Christian religion.'

This applies more particularly and circumstantially to his Saxon campaigns; but the spirit of the remark is of general application. At that time a weak light of literature was beginning to diffuse improvement in Italy, in France, and in England. France, by situation, geographically and politically speaking, by the prodigious advantage which she enjoyed exclusively of an undivided government, and consequently of entire unity in her counsels, was peculiarly fitted for communicating the benefits of intellectual culture to the rest of the European continent, and for sustaining the great mission of civilizing conquest. Above all, as the great central depository of Christian knowledge, she seemed specially stationed by Providence as a martial apostle for carrying by the sword that mighty blessing, which, even in an earthly sense, Charlemagne could not but value as the best engine of civilization, to the potent infidel nations on her southern and eastern frontier. A vast revolution was at hand for Europe; all her tribes were destined to be fused in a new crucible, to be recast in happier moulds, and to form one family of enlightened nations, to compose one great collective brotherhood, united by the tie of a common faith and a common hope, and hereafter to be known to the rest of the world, and to proclaim this unity, under the comprehensive name of _Christendom_. Baptism therefore was the indispensable condition and forerunner of civilization; and from the peculiar ferocity and the sanguinary superstitions which disfigured the Pagan nations in Central Europe, of which the leaders and the nearest to France were the Saxons, and from the bigotry and arrogant intolerance of the Mahometan nations who menaced her Spanish frontier, it was evident that by the sword only it was possible that baptism should be effectually propagated. War, therefore, for the highest purposes of peace, became the present and instant policy of France; bloodshed for the sake of a religion the most benign; and desolation with a view to permanent security. The Frankish Emperor was thus invited to indulge in this most captivating of luxuries--in the royal tiger-hunt of war--as being also at this time, and for a special purpose, the sternest of duties. He had a special dispensation for wielding at times a barbarian and exterminating sword--but for the extermination of barbarism; and he was privileged to be in a single instance an Attila, in order that Attilas might no more arise. Simply as the enemies, bitter and perfidious of France, the Saxons were a legitimate object of war; as the standing enemies of civilization, who would neither receive it for themselves, nor tolerate its peaceable enjoyment in others, they and Charlemagne stood opposed to each other as it were by hostile instincts. And this most merciful of conquerors was fully justified in departing for once, and in such a quarrel, from his general rule of conduct; and for a paramount purpose of comprehensive service to all mankind, we entirely agree with Mr. James, that Charlemagne had a sufficient plea, and that he has been censured only by calumnious libellers, or by the feeble- minded, for applying a Roman severity of punishment to treachery continually repeated. The question is one purely of policy; and it may be, as Mr. James is disposed to think, that in point of judgment the emperor erred; but certainly the case was one of great difficulty; for the very infirmity even of maternal indulgence, if obstinately and continually abused, must find its ultimate limit; and we have no right to suppose that Charlemagne made his election for the harsher course without a violent self-conflict. His former conduct towards those very people, his infinite forbearance, his long-suffering, his monitory threats, all make it a duty to presume that he suffered the acutest pangs in deciding upon a vindictive punishment; that he adopted this course as being virtually by its consequences the least sanguinary; and finally, that if he erred, it was not through his heart, but by resisting its very strongest impulses.

It is remarkable that both Charlemagne and Bonaparte succeeded as by inheritance to one great element of their enormous power; each found, ready to his hands, that vast development of martial enthusiasm, upon which, as its first condition, their victorious career reposed. Each also found the great armory of resources opened, which such a spirit, diffused over so vast a territory, must in any age ensure. Of Charlemagne, in an age when as yet the use of infantry was but imperfectly known, it may be said symbollically, that he found the universal people, patrician and plebeian, chieftain and vassal, with the left foot [Footnote 11] in the stirrup--of Napoleon, in an age when the use of artillery was first understood, that he found every man standing to his gun. Both, in short, found war _in pro-cinctu_--both found the people whom they governed, willing to support the privations and sacrifices which war imposes; hungering and thirsting for its glories, its pomps and triumphs; entering even with lively sympathy of pleasure into its hardships and its trials; and thus, from within and from without, prepared for military purposes. So far both had the same good fortune; [Footnote 12] neither had much merit. The enthusiasm of Napoleon's days was the birth of republican sentiments, and built on a reaction of civic and patriotic ardor. In the very plenitude of their rage against kings, the French Republic were threatened with attack, and with the desolation of their capital by a banded crusade of kings; and they rose in frenzy to meet the aggressors. The Allied Powers had themselves kindled the popular excitement which provoked this vast development of martial power amongst the French, and first brought their own warlike strength within their own knowledge. In the days of Charlemagne the same martial character was the result of ancient habits and training, encouraged and effectually organized by the energy of the aspiring mayors of the palace, or great lieutenants of the Merovingian kings. But agreeing in this--that they were indebted to others for the martial spirit which they found, and that they turned to their account a power not created by themselves, Charlemagne and Napoleon differed, however, in the utmost possible extent as to the final application of their borrowed advantages. Napoleon applied them to purposes the very opposite of those which had originally given them birth. Nothing less than patriotic ardor in defence of what had at one time appeared to be the cause of civil liberty, could have availed to evoke those mighty hosts which gathered in the early years of the Revolution on the German and Italian frontiers of France. Yet were these hosts applied, under the perfect despotism of Napoleon, to the final extinction of liberty; and the armies of Jacobinism, who had gone forth on a mission of liberation for Europe, were at last employed in riveting the chains of their compatriots, and forging others for the greater part of Christendom. Far otherwise was the conduct of Charlemagne. The Frankish government, though we are not circumstantially acquainted with its forms, is known to have been tempered by a large infusion of popular influence. This is proved, as Mr. James observes, by the deposition of Chilperic--by the grand national assemblies of the Champ de Mars--and by other great historical facts. Now, the situation of Charlemagne, successor to a throne already firmly established, and in his own person a mighty amplifier of its glories, and a leader in whom the Franks had unlimited confidence, threw into his hands an unexampled power of modifying the popular restraints upon himself in any degree he might desire.

--'Nunquam libertas gratior exit, Quam sub rege pio'--

is the general doctrine. But as to the Franks, in particular, if they resembled their modern representatives in their most conspicuous moral feature, it would be more true to say, that the bribe and the almost magical seduction for _them_, capable of charming away their sternest resolutions, and of relaxing the hand of the patriot when grasping his noblest birthright, has ever lain in great military success, in the power of bringing victory to the national standards, and in continued offerings on the altar of public vanity. In _their_ estimate for above a thousand years, it has been found true that the harvest of a few splendid campaigns, reaped upon the fields of neighboring nations, far outweighs any amount of humbler blessings in the shape of civil and political privileges. Charlemagne as a conqueror, and by far the greatest illustrator of the Frankish name, might easily have conciliated their gratitude and admiration into a surrender of popular rights; or, profiting by his high situation, and the confidence reposed in him, he might have undermined their props; or, by a direct exertion of his power, he might have peremptorily resumed them. Slowly and surely, or summarily and with violence, this great emperor had the national privileges in his power. But the beneficence of his purposes required no such aggression on the rights of his subjects. War brought with it naturally some extension of power; and a military jurisdiction is necessarily armed with some discretionary license. But in the civil exercise of his authority, the emperor was content with the powers awarded to him by law and custom. His great schemes of policy were all of a nature to prepare his subjects for a condition of larger political influence; he could not in consistency be adverse to an end towards which he so anxiously prepared the means. And it is certain, that, although some German writers have attempted to fasten upon Charlemagne a charge of vexatious inquisition into the minor police of domestic life, and into petty details of economy below the majesty of his official character, even _their_ vigilance of research--sharpened by malice--has been unable to detect throughout his long reign, and in the hurry of sudden exigencies natural to a state of uninterrupted warfare and alarm, one single act of tyranny, personal revenge, or violation of the existing laws. Charlemagne, like Napoleon, had bitter enemies--some who were such to his government and his public purposes; some again to his person upon motives of private revenge. Tassilo, for example, the Duke of Bavaria, and Desiderius, the King of the Lombards, acted against him upon the bitterest instigations of feminine resentment; each of these princes conceiving himself concerned in a family quarrel, pursued the cause which he had adopted in the most ferocious spirit of revenge, and would undoubtedly have inflicted death upon Charlemagne, had he fallen into their power. Of this he must himself have been sensible; and yet, when the chance of war threw both of them into his power, he forbore to exercise even those rights of retaliation for their many provocations which the custom of that age sanctioned universally; he neither mutilated nor deprived them of sight. Confinement to religious seclusion was all that he inflicted; and in the case of Tassilo, where mercy could be more safely exercised, he pardoned him so often, that it became evident in what current his feelings ran, wherever the cruel necessities of the public service allowed him to indulge them.

In the conspiracy formed against him, upon the provocations offered to the Frankish nobility by his third wife, he showed the same spirit of excessive clemency,--a clemency which again reminds us of the first Caesar, and which was not merely parental, but often recalls to us the long-suffering and tenderness of spirit which belong to the infirmity of maternal affection. Here are no Palms, executed for no real offence known to the laws of his country, and without a trial such as any laws in any country would have conceded. No innocent D'Enghiens murdered, without the shadow of provocation, and purely on account of his own reversionary rights; not for doing or meditating wrong, but because the claims which unfortunately he inherited might by possibility become available in his person; not, therefore, even as an enemy by intention or premeditation; not even as an apparent competitor, but in the rare character of a competitor presumptive; one who might become an ideal competitor by the extinction of a whole family, and even then no substantial competitor until after a revolution in France, which must already have undermined the throne of Bonaparte. To his own subjects, and his own kinsmen, never did Charlemagne forget to be, in acts, as well as words, a parent. In his foreign relations, it is true, for one single purpose of effectual warning Charlemagne put forth a solitary trait of Roman harshness. This is the case which we have already noticed and defended; and, with a view to the comparison with Napoleon, remarkable enough it is, that the numbers sacrificed on this occasion are pretty nearly the same as on the celebrated massacre at Jaffa, perpetrated by Napoleon in council. [Footnote 13] In the Saxon, as in the Syrian massacre, the numbers were between four and five thousand; not that the numbers or the scale of the transaction can affect its principle, but it is well to know it, because then to its author, as now to us who sit as judges upon it, that circumstance cannot be supposed to have failed in drawing the very keenest attention to its previous consideration. A butchery, that was in a numerical sense so vast, cannot be supposed to have escaped its author in a hurry, or to be open to any of the usual palliations from precipitance or inattention. Charlemagne and Napoleon must equally be presumed to have regarded this act on all sides, to have weighed it in and for itself, and to have traversed by anticipation the whole sum of its consequences. In the one case we find a general, the leader of a _soi-disant_ Christian army, the representative of the 'most Christian' nation, and, as amongst infidels, specially charged with the duty of supporting the sanctity of Christian good faith, unfortunately pledged by his own most confidential and accredited agents, officers bearing on their persons the known ensigns of his _aides-de-camp_, to a comprehensive promise of mercy to a large body of Turkish troops, having arms in their hands, and otherwise well-disposed and well able to have made a desperate defence. This promise was peculiarly embarrassing; provisions ran short, and, to detain them as prisoners, would draw murmurs from his own troops, now suffering hardships themselves. On the other hand, to have turned them adrift would have insured their speedy re-appearance as active enemies to a diminished and debilitated army; for, as to sending them off by sea, that measure was impracticable, as well from want of shipping as from the presence of the English. Such was the dilemma, doubtless perplexing enough, but not more so than in ten thousand other cases, for which their own appropriate ten thousand remedies have been found. What was the issue? The entire body of gallant (many, doubtless, young and innocent) soldiers, disarmed upon the faith of a solemn guarantee from a Christian general, standing in the very steps of the noble (and the more noble, because bigoted) Crusaders, were all mowed down by the musketry of their thrice accursed enemy; and, by way of crowning treachery with treachery, some few who had swum off to a point of rock in the sea, were lured back to destruction under a second series of promises, violated almost at the very instant when uttered. A larger or more damnable murder does not stain the memory of any brigand, buccaneer, or pirate; nor has any army, Huns, Vandals, or Mogul Tartars, ever polluted itself by so base a perfidy; for, in this memorable tragedy, the whole army were accomplices.

Now, as to Charlemagne, he had tried the effect of forgiveness and lenity often in vain. Clemency was misinterpreted; it had been, and it would be, construed into conscious weakness. Under these circumstances, with a view, undoubtedly, to the final extinction of rebellions which involved infinite bloodshed on both sides, he permitted one trial to be made of a severe and sanguinary chastisement. It failed; insurrections proceeded as before, and it was not repeated. But the main difference in the principle of the two cases is this, that Charlemagne had exacted no penalty but one, which the laws of war in that age conferred, and even in this age the laws of allegiance. However bloody, therefore, this tragedy was no murder. It was a judicial punishment, built upon known acts and admitted laws, designed in mercy, consented to unwillingly, and finally repented. Lastly, instead of being one in a multitude of acts bearing the same character, it stood alone in a long career of intercourse with wild and ferocious nations, owning no control but that of the spear and sword.

Many are the points of comparison, and some of them remarkable enough, in the other circumstances of the two careers, separated by a thousand years. Both effected the passage of the Great St. Bernard; [Footnote 14] but the one in an age when mechanical forces, and the aids of art, were yet imperfectly developed; the other in an age when science had armed the arts of war and of locomotion with the fabulous powers of the Titans, and with the whole resources of a mighty nation at his immediate disposal. Both, by means of this extraordinary feat, achieved the conquest of Lombardy in a single hour; but Charlemagne, without once risking the original impression of this _coup d'eclat_; Napoleon, on the other hand, so entirely squandering and forfeiting his own success, that in the battle which followed he was at first utterly defeated, and but for the blunder of his enemy, and the sudden aid of an accomplished friend, irretrievably. Both suffered politically by the repudiation of a wife; but Charlemagne, under adequate provocation, and with no final result of evil; Bonaparte under heavy aggravations of ingratitude and indiscretion. Both assumed the character of a patron to learning and learned men; but Napoleon, in an age when knowledge of every kind was self-patronized--when no possible exertions of power could avail to crush it--and yet, under these circumstances, with utter insincerity. Charlemagne, on the other hand, at a time when the countenance of a powerful protector made the whole difference between revival and a long extinction--and what was still more to the purpose of doing honor to his memory, not merely in a spirit of sincerity, but of fervid activity. Not content with drawing counsel and aid from the cells of Northumberland, even the short time which he passed at Rome, he had 'collected a number of grammarians (that is _litterateurs_) and arithmeticians, the poor remains of the orators and philosophers of the past, and engaged them to accompany him from Italy to France.'

What resulted in each case from these great efforts and prodigious successes? Each failed in laying the foundations of any permanent inheritance to his own glory in his own family. But Bonaparte lived to lay in ruins even his personal interest in this great edifice of empire; and that entirely by his own desperate presumption, precipitance, and absolute defect of self-command. Charlemagne, on _his_ part, lost nothing of what he had gained: if his posterity did not long maintain the elevation to which he had raised them, _that_ did but the more proclaim the grandeur of the mind which had reared a colossal empire, that sunk under any powers inferior to his own. If the empire itself lost its unity, and divided into sections, even thus it did not lose the splendor and prosperity of its separate parts; and the praise remains entire--let succeeding princes, as conservators, have failed as much and as excusably as they might--that he erected the following splendid empire:--The whole of France and Belgium, with their natural boundaries of the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Ocean, the Mediterranean; to the south, Spain, between the Ebro and the Pyrenees; and to the north, the whole of Germany, up to the banks of the Elbe. Italy, as far as the Lower Calabria, was either governed by his son, or tributary to his crown; Dalmatia, Croatia, Liburnia, and Istria, (with the exception of the maritime cities,) were joined to the territories, which he had himself conquered, of Hungary and Bohemia. As far as the conflux of the Danube with the Teyss and the Save, the east of Europe acknowledged his power. Most of the Sclavonian tribes, between the Elbe and the Vistula, paid tribute and professed obedience; and Corsica, Sardinia, with the Balearic Islands, were dependent upon his possessions in Italy and Spain.

His moral were yet greater than his territorial conquests: In the eloquent language of his present historian, 'he snatched from darkness all the lands he conquered; and may be said to have added the whole of Germany to the world.' Wherever he moved, civilization followed his footsteps. What he conquered was emphatically the conquest of his own genius; and his vast empire was, in a peculiar sense, his own creation. And what, under general circumstances, would have exposed the hollowness and insufficiency of his establishment, was for him, in particular, the seal and attestation of his extraordinary grandeur of mind. His empire dissolved after he had departed; his dominions lost their cohesion, and slipped away from the nerveless hands which succeeded; a sufficient evidence--were there no other--that all the vast resources of the Frankish throne, wielded by imbecile minds, were inadequate to maintain that which, in the hands of a Charlemagne, they had availed to conquer and cement.




_In part_ we say, because in part also the characteristic differences of these works depend upon the particular mode of the narrative. For narration itself, as applied to history, admits of a triple arrangement--dogmatic, sceptical, and critical; dogmatic, which adopts the current records without examination; sceptical, as Horace Walpole's Richard III., Laing's Dissertation on Perkin Warbeck, or on the Gowrie Conspiracy, which expressly undertakes to probe and try the unsound parts of the story; and critical, which, after an examination of this nature, selects from the whole body of materials such as are coherent. There is besides another ground of difference in the quality of historical narratives, viz. between those which move by means of great public events, and those which (like the Caesars of Suetonius, and the French Memoirs), referring to such events as are already known, and keeping them in the background, crowd their foreground with those personal and domestic notices which we call anecdotes.


Leibnitz, (who was _twice_ in England,) when walking in Kensington Gardens with the Princess of Wales, whose admiration oscillated between this great countryman of her own, and Sir Isaac Newton, the corresponding idol of her adopted country, took occasion, from the beautiful scene about them, to explain in a lively way, and at the same time to illustrate and verify this favorite thesis: Turning to a gentleman in attendance upon her Royal Highness, he challenged him to produce two leaves from any tree or shrub, which should be exact duplicates or facsimiles of each other in those lines which variegate the surface. The challenge was accepted; but the result justified Leibnitz. It is in fact upon this infinite variety in the superficial lines of the human palm, that Palmistry is grounded, (or the science of divination by the hieroglyphics written on each man's hand,) and has its _prima facie_ justification. Were it otherwise, this mode of divination would not have even a _plausible_ sanction; for, without the inexhaustible varieties which are actually found in the combinations of these lines, and which give to each separate individual his own separate type, the same identical fortunes must be often repeated; and there would be no foundation for assigning to each his peculiar and characteristic destiny.


According to the general estimate of philosophical history, the _tenth_ century (or perhaps the tenth and the eleventh conjointly) must be regarded as the meridian, or the perfect midnight, of the dark ages.


It has repeatedly been made a question--at what era we are to date the transition from ancient to modern history. This question merits a separate dissertation. Meantime it is sufficient to say in this place--that Justinian in the 6th century will unanimously be referred to the ancient division, Charlemagne in the 8th to the modern. These then are two limits fixed in each direction; and somewhere between them must lie the frontier line. Now the era of Mahomet in the 7th century is evidently the exact and perfect line of demarcation; not only as pretty nearly bisecting the debatable ground, but also because the rise of the Mohammedan power, as operating so powerfully upon the Christian kingdoms of the south, and through them upon the whole of Christendom, at that time beginning to mould themselves and to knit, marks in the most eminent sense the birth of a new era.


Or, in fact, than is likely to manifest itself to an unlearned reader of Mr. James's own book; for he has omitted to load his margin with references to authorities in many scores of instances where he might, and perhaps where he ought, to have accredited his narrative by those indications of research.


'Arabice loquutum esse Aigolando Saracenorum regulo, Turpinus (the famous Archbishop) auctor est; nec id fide indignum. Dum enim in expeditione Hispanica praecipuam belli molem in illum vertit, facile temporis tractu notitiam linguae sibi comparare potuit.' FRANTZ. _Hist. Car. Mag._ That is, he had time sufficient for this acquisition, and a motive sufficient.


Not having the French original of Bourrienne's work, we are compelled to quote from Dr. Memes's translation, which, however, is everywhere incorrect, and in a degree absolutely astonishing; and, where not incorrect, offensive from vulgarisms or ludicrous expressions. Thus, he translates _un drole_, a droll fellow--wide as the poles from the true meaning, Again, the verb _devoir_, in all tenses, that eternal stumbling-block to bad French scholars, is uniformly mistranslated. As an instance of ignoble language, at p. 294, vol. I., he says, 'Josephine was delighted with the disposition of her _goodman_,' a word used only by underbred people. But of all the absurdities which disfigure the work, what follows is perhaps the most striking:--'Kleber,' he says, 'took a _precognition_ of the army,' p. 231, vol. I. A precognition! What Pagan ceremony may that be? Know, reader, that this monster of a word is a technical term of Scotch law; and even to the Scotch, excepting those few who know a little of law, absolutely unintelligible. In speaking thus harshly, we are far from meaning any thing unkind to Dr. M., whom, on the contrary, for his honorable sentiments in relation to the merits of Bonaparte, we greatly respect. But that as nothing to do with French translation--the condition of which, in this country, is perfectly scandalous.


Some people may fancy that this scene of that day's drama was got up merely to save appearances by a semblance of discussion, and that in effect it mattered not how the performance was conducted where all was scenical, and the ultimate reliance, after all, on the bayonet. But it is certain that this view is erroneous, and that the final decision of the soldiery, even up to the very moment of the crisis, was still doubtful. Some time after this exhibition, 'the hesitation reigning among the troops,' says Bourrienne, 'still continued.' And in reality it was a mere accident of pantomime, and a clap-trap of sentiment, which finally gave a sudden turn in Napoleon's favor to their wavering resolutions.


We have occasionally such expressions as--'When wild in woods _the noble savage_ ran.' These descriptions rest upon false conceptions; in fact, no such combination anywhere exists as a man having the training of a savage, or occupying the exposed and naked situation of a savage, who is at the same time in any moral sense at liberty to be noble-minded. Men are moulded by the circumstances in which they stand habitually; and the insecurity of savage life, by making it impossible to forego any sort of advantages, obliterates the very idea of honor. Hence, with all savages alike, the point of honor lies in treachery--in stratagem--and the utmost excess of what is dishonorable, according to the estimate of cultivated man.

NOTE 10.

Shakespeare's Sonnets.

NOTE 11.

Or perhaps the _right_, for the Prussian cavalry (who drew their custom from some regiments in the service of Gustavus Adolphus; and they again traditionally from others) are always trained to mount in this way.

NOTE 12.

It is painful to any man of honorable feelings that, whilst a great rival nation is pursuing the ennobling profession of arms, his own should be reproached contemptuously with a sordid dedication to commerce. However, on the one hand, things are not always as they seem; commerce has its ennobling effects, direct or indirect; war its barbarizing degradations. And, on the other hand, the facts even are not exactly as _prima facie_ they were supposed; for the truth is, that, in proportion to its total population, England had more men in arms during the last war than France. But, generally speaking, the case may be stated thus: the British nation is, by original constitution of mind, and by long enjoyment of liberty, a far nobler people than the French. And hence we see the reason and necessity that the French should, with a view to something like a final balance in the effect, be trained to a nobler profession. Compensations are every where produced or encouraged by nature and by Providence; and a nobler discipline in the one nation is doubtless some equilibrium to a nobler nature in the other.

NOTE 13.

_In council_, we say purposely and in candor; for the only pleas in palliation ever set up by Napoleon's apologists, are these two--_necessity_, the devil's plea, in the first place; secondly, that the guilt of the transaction, whether more or less, was divided between the general and his council.

NOTE 14.

And from the fact of that corps in Charlemagne's army, which effected the passage, having been commanded by his uncle, Duke Bernard, this mountain previously known as the _Mons_ Jovis, (and, by corruption, Mont le Joux,) very justly obtained the name which it still retains.

[The end]
Thomas De Quincey's essay: Charlemagne