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withdraw from the paths of elegant and popular literature a considerable portion of those who from their talents, and situation in life, were likely, as long as the novelist felt they were an influential portion of his readers, to moderate his extravagancies and correct his taste.
Married women, too, in France are far more occupied either in society or in the direction of their husband's affairs than with us, and unmarried women, in respectable life, are kept more strictly and more retired.
Young men, then, and kept mistresses form a vast proportion of the admirers of works of fiction; and for these, consequently, a vast proportion of such works are written. They do not therefore express the manners or feelings of society; neither do they form those feelings and manners. In old times indeed they did both; because they were then written for a higher order of persons, who, determining the ideas and habits of their time, also represented them. But these persons are now more seriously employed. Popular literature is not always to be considered as an index of the national mind; and thus, strange as it may appear, it is because the French have become more serious, more instructed and more OCcupied, that their lighter literature has become less creditable to the public taste.
Neglect in promoting Community of Thought between the French and the English-A Rogue of Ability and an Honest Man without Ability-Titled IncapacityPrincipal Newspapers of Paris-The ConstitutionnelThe Journal des Débats-The Gazette de France-The Quotidienne-The National-M. Armand Carrel.
IN commencing this chapter, I am obliged to call attention to the melancholy fact, that we have had ministry after ministry, prating about the advantages of a French alliance, sending ambassadors to Paris, concocting treaties with France, and neglecting the only means of establishing that sound and solid treaty with the French people, which arises from a communication of thought an approximation towards sympathy in opinion.
The Duke of Richmond, a man of more activity and intelligence than his predecessors,
says, in a letter to Lord Althorpe :*—that the circulation of foreign newspapers in England and the transmission of English newspapers to foreign countries have hitherto furnished their sole remuneration to certain persons in the post office; and that if salaries were paid to these persons, such salaries would amount to £3500.
"It is," continues his Grace, "for the Treasury to "decide whether it should burthen the country with this "£3500 for no other purpose but supplying a few persons, "who wish to receive foreign journals in this country or English papers abroad, with an article of luxury.
"The circulation of foreign journals, in this country, and the transmission of English newspapers abroad, "has been from time immemorial the privilege of the "officers of the foreign post-office, and the proceeds "form the sole remuneration for official services to the "head of that office and fifteen clerks.
"If salaries were to be paid to those persons, the aggregate would not amount to less than £3500, and "it is for the Treasury to decide whether the revenue "shall be burthened with an additional charge to this "extent; and this not for the purpose of any general "advantage to the public at large, but solely for the re"lief of the few who are desirous of receiving foreign "journals in this country, or English papers abroad as an article of luxury.”
* See "
papers relating to the post-office."
What is this all that a minister, a cabinet minister, presiding over one of the most important state departments-is this all that he sees in the free circulation of the opinions of one country among the people of another?
The Duke of Richmond is a clever man; but were we to estimate his mind by the observation I have quoted, we should most assuredly deem it ill-qualified to use advantages and appreciate the nature of his situation.
Let us not quarrel with this nobleman for one inadvertance; but let me say a word or two here on the system which too often introduces into power men unworthy of being compared with him, and who are chosen-not from their talent, but their rank-to which, perhaps he himself notwithstanding his ability chiefly owed his elevation. I detest the cant which condemns men because they are of noble birth; but I also despise the mockery of selecting them merely for their pedigree.
You shudder, my countrymen, at the idea of a rogue being elevated to an important office in the state; and your feeling is honourable to the national character of England. But what is the difference between a rogue of ability, and an honest man without ability? why, just this: the one does as much good to himself as he can with as little harm to you; the other does you
incalculable injury without benefiting himself.
Besides, even let us suppose a political villain as bad as he can be; let us suppose that he plays in the funds, ruins the stockbrokers and provides for his relations-whom does he injure? -a few individuals of the present generation.
A fool, however-an honest fool, scatters more far and wide the effects of his non-intelligence; he insinuates his stupidity into all parts and branches of the state, into all corners and classes of society, into all interests, and into all opinions.
That stupidity affects the bread you eat, the clothes you wear, the books you read; and not only does it affect you, but your grandchildren's children; its dull shadow is cast far into futurity, and blights all things within its baleful reach.
Rank and wealth afford every advantage for acquiring knowledge; as such they should be valued and respected; so far the intelligent people of England-prime minister, whoever you may be !* will go with you. But you should not take the means for the end, or make a man a minister because he is a lord, any more than you should make a man a professor of mathematics because he has been left a case of astronomical instruments.
*This exhortation would, I need not say, be unnecessary, if addressed to the present Prime Minister.